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December 2011

December 21, 2011

How to Prep your Vehicle Engine Hoses for Winter Driving

ROAD & TRAVEL Car Care: Winter Engine Check
No motorist relishes the inconvenience and hazard of being stranded on the road. Yet, year after year, the nation's motoring clubs echo the same service call reports.

These organizations respond to more than 50 million annual customer calls, and they estimate one-fifth could be avoided if car owners inspected tires, belts and hoses, and had them replaced before they failed unexpectedly.

The Gates Corporation, the auto aftermarket's leading supplier of engine belts and hoses, says at least 30 percent of all belts and hoses are changed at failure, rather than on a preventive maintenance basis.

To help motorists avoid car problems this winter, Gates advises some simple cooling system preventive maintenance procedures to ask your service technician to perform this fall. Full Story

December 20, 2011

2012 Minivan Buyer's Guide

2012 Minivan Buyer's Guide by Martha Hindes

by Martha Hindes

Road & Travel Magazine Names the Honda Odyssey
2012 International Minivan of the Year

And the winner is...

We all know the reputation minivans have, don't we? And the mountain of fodder they've regularly contributed to Grade B stand up comics. You've probably heard variations on the themes. The much maligned mom-mobile that comes with the territory after a first trip to the maternity ward. The blah transport anyone from six to 16 can't wait to grow out of. The hippo on wheels that dominates the high speed lane, in perpetually slow motion.

In testing minivans for Road & Travel Magazine's 2012 Minivan Buyer's Guide we quickly understood just how much these vehicles can offer, and why they have become a smug symbol of smarts in a world often dominated by left brain, lead footed road warriors. During test drives, we kept finding some of the most inventive ideas ever thought of for vehicles. We discovered there's as much cargo space as provided by a pickup truck bed -- and all of it inside and protected from the rain. And we learned minivans no longer lag along on underfunded engine power but at times can blow the doors off some unsuspecting competition when jumping away from a red light.

2012 International Minivan of the Year - Honda OdysseyDespite fierce rivalry from inventive competitors, we choose the 2012 Honda Odyssey as International Minivan of the Year in the minivan variety pack challenge. Not only is its appearance updated and handsome, and it handles well with authority, but we're still recalling the wealth of ingenious add-ons that kick it over the top.

See pricing and specs for all 2012 minivans at    Full Story

December 19, 2011

Tips for Planning a Volunteer Vacation

Volunteering Vacation Time

How can you make a difference? It's easy - by donating your time while visiting a destination in need of your help. It's been dubbed "voluntourism," and it's sweeping the nation.

"Imagine the face of a lion cub looking up at you waiting to be fed at a reserve in South Africa"

According to the Travel Industry Association, 25 percent of travelers say they're currently interested in taking a volunteer or service-based vacation.

Whether its students spending spring break in a third world country, or families traveling just one state over, there are options and opportunities for people of all ages and walks of life to make a difference. With this increased interest in voluntourism, it's important that travelers know how to pick the right volunteer opportunity for them.

Before jumping into helping others, help yourself by asking the following questions recommended by i-to-i, a meaningful travel provider - Click here for all tips.

December 16, 2011

2012 Kia Sedona Road Test Review

2012 Kia Sedona Road Test Review by Martha Hindes

by Martha Hindes

Sometimes nothing hits the mark as much as an adage. Someone, somewhere sized up a situation and put a distinctive spin on the result. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," is one. Or how about the story of Goldilocks and the porridge that was "just right." In spite of some assessments by armchair quarterbacks, those are two of the sayings that could apply to the 2012 Kia Sedona minivan.

In the ever mutating landscape of new cars and trucks, having something that really works and stays that way can be seen as lacking interest. Or that a vehicle was relegated to the background in favor of something new and dramatic. But consumers looking for a solid performer don't always need to be teased with the latest and greatest. Sometimes, it's one that fills a need with consistency: A reason perhaps that the 2012 Sedona is one of the most researched on the market.

According to some consumer tracking services, Sedona comes in third when potential buyers scrutinize 2012 minivans they're thinking of buying. That's not background noise on the current minivan stage. It tends to show that people on a budget want a good buy, even if its exterior look is a few years older, but still solidly and spaciously designed. Full Review

December 15, 2011

2012 Chrysler Town & Country Minivan Road Test

2012 Chrysler Town & Country Minivan Road Test Review by Martha Hindes

by Martha Hindes

If you think of Dodge's Grand Caravan minivan as comparable to a jeans-clad, bike-riding adolescent, then its sibling -- the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country -- would have to be the new high school grad dressed for a senior prom. Sure they're related. But what a difference a few years -- or a few thousand dollars -- can make.

Upgrading is no stranger to the automotive world. Vehicles across the board have been moving from basic to brimming with amenities for decades now. So it's a natural transition to have a version loaded with features available for those who want to step up to premium. And having a different brand name solidifies the status.

Like its kin, the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country benefits from its makeover a model year earlier that introduced some heavyweight changes in powertrain, performance and handling. Replacing less powerful and less efficient engines is the new award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 in all models, that generates an ambitious 283-horsepower. All new suspension tuning and a new six-speed automatic trans with manual mode gives the T&C the kind of kick necessary to be seriously considered for its driving ability along with people and cargo capacities.

Safety gets high marks, with blind spot and cross traffic systems available to warn of traffic dangers. Fuel economy miser helps earn mileage ratings of 17/25. Fuel economy is boosted with "Stow 'n Place" roof rail bow storage that eliminates wind drag when those cross beams aren't needed. Full review

December 14, 2011

Car and Hotel Safety Tips When Traveling

Hotel Safety Tips

The first and most obvious tip to safeguarding your automobile is to remove all valuable items which can be seen. That means things like packages, bags, radar detectors, cell phones, cameras and audio/video equipment. Either place these items in your trunk or take them with you. Once inside the hotel, you can use a safe to store your valuables. Also, double-check and make sure to roll up all of the windows and lock your vehicle.

Once you get to your room, keep these tips in mind:

• Keep the room door locked, especially deadbolts.

• Do not let anyone in your room without properly identifying them first. Use the door's peep hole, if there's any question concerning the person's identity, ring the front desk as soon as possible.

• Safeguard your room key at all times. Do not give your key to others. Do not leave your key in the room or in the door.

• Find the location of the two exits nearest your room. Also, count the number of doors between your room and the nearest exit so you will have a reference point if the hallway is smoky. Locate alarms and extinguishers in your area. Look out the window and note height and surroundings for reference.

• When you hear an alarm, don't investigate. If you smell smoke, immediately notify the hotel operator. Read all tips here.

December 13, 2011

Mazda's 2012 Mazda5 Road Test Review

2012 Mazda Mazda5 Road Test Revew by Bob Plunkett

by Bob Plunkett

We're streaking along Silver Strand Boulevard, pitched on the Coronado sand strip separating tranquil water in San Diego Bay from turbulent Pacific surf, while steering a rather sporty rendition of a miniature minivan from Mazda, that "Zoom-Zoom" brand steeped in the production of fun-to-drive cars.

Labeled as the 2012 Mazda5 (the digit represents the summation of cabin portals including two swing-out doors for front seats, two side sliders plus a hatchback lid at the tail), Mazda's mini-minivan in new generational format for 2012 is marketed as a multi-activity vehicle (MAV).

The compact platform of Mazda's pavement-hugging and curve-craving Mazda3 four-door sedan supports the wedge-shaped structure of a tall little wagon rigged with the sliding side doors of a minivan and a long cabin lined with three pairs of adjustable flip-and-fold seats with 16 different configurations for a capacity of anywhere from two to six passengers.

The new mini-minivan rolls on sporty 17-inch alloy wheels and rides on a chassis of exceptional rigidity with a broad track and extended wheelbase for stability. Full article

December 12, 2011

2012 Nissan Quest Minivan Road Test Review

2012 Nissan Quest Minivan Road Test Review by Martha Hindes - 2012 Minivan Buyer's Guide

by Martha Hindes

Would you really expect a minivan -- of all things -- to feel like you were driving a car? Aren't they rather like roadworthy versions of Tele-Tubbies that waddle when they drive? Don't try telling that to anyone who's had seat time in Nissan's 2012 Quest. You're likely to get an ear full in an instant.

Nissan spent the previous year reinventing its extremely capable minivan, toning and tucking its sheet metal exterior to enliven the look that carries over for 2012. A restyled, muscular face gives a sense of command and authority. The resulting sculpture-like profile is surrounded with a sweep of privacy glass

That wasn't what caught our attention as we punched the "Start" button once the keyless entry let us inside. After a few minutes on flat Michigan roads, it became obvious. This was really a sedan masquerading as a minivan. No heavy feeling behind the wheel. No sense of drag on curves or lag during acceleration. Heck, without cargo or a load of passengers, we almost forgot we were driving a minivan. We estimate it would have fared well with those additions anyway. That authority in the front drive Quest comes from Nissan’s 3.5-liter, 260-horsepower V6, with variable speed transmission.

Inside, we were spoiled with the upscale SL edition provided by Nissan for testing. The handsome beige interior highlighted with burled wood-look trim, felt downright toney and helped create that enjoyable sedan feel. Heated seats on the first blustery late fall day felt wonderful. And an advanced air purifier system to filter out allergens and odors should satisfy any sensitive nose. Full Review

December 09, 2011

2012 Dodge Caravan Road Test Review

2012 Dodge Caravan Minivan Road Test Review by Martha Hindes

by Martha Hindes

It's been almost 30 years since Dodge's Grand Caravan launched a truly original segment in the automotive world, addressing a need people probably didn't realize they had. Back then, few if any knew what a minivan was all about, or how it could accommodate those needs. Jump to 2012 and there are answers all over the map. But one question remains. Does the minivan originator still lead?

The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is a totally different breed than the original that offered sensible utility for five. Since then, Caravan grew legs and added the appropriate "Grand" description to show off its stretched, more usable space for seven, and morphed from plebeian to downright pleasurable in its driving experience rating.

Along with its up-market Chrysler Town & Country cousin, the Grand Caravan got a major redo this year, along with almost every other competitive minivan out there. That brought it interior refinements along with a new single powertrain to replace three previous ones. For the 2012 model year, Dodge adds an R/T version to spike up the sporty side, with performance suspension, special 17-inch aluminum wheels and a knockout black leather interior with red stitching. Crew and R/T editions gain standard remote start, power liftgate and security alarm. Full review

December 08, 2011

2012 Toyota Sienna Road Test Review

2012 Toyota Sienna Minivan Road Test Review by Martha Hindes

by Martha Hindes

In the choice between quick updates versus stable staples, minivans definitely would not be considered the short order variety. Unlike its vehicle cousins that can opt for sometimes fleeting fashion trends a year at a time, minivans tend to follow the patterns of life instead. Like Toyota's 2012 Sienna, most have become so well designed and purpose built there's little room to shoehorn in changes without messing up something that works.

This is Toyota's third generation version of the sometimes revered mom, pop and progeny mobile, so it's not new at the game. Instead, Toyota has had lots of time to finesse it into a well balanced offering of people mover, cargo carrier, travel pro and even spunky drive -- depending on powertrain traits. And it hasn't forgotten that family transport is intended to coddle and caress our most important legacy.

As a result Toyota built on its history with last year's first major overhaul of the Sienna in a half-dozen years. For 2012, it retains those sleeker, more polished lines and sportier driving punch while concentrating on fine tuning comfort and convenience amenities.

In typical minivan fashion, Sienna retains the typical low-slung look that announces its easy access level for people or packages. But a revised front grille design sweeps back through headlamp fixtures for a more energetic flow of motion. Full road test review.