Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How To Drive a Manual/Stick Shift Car

Learning to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission can be an intimidating task to both seasoned and new drivers alike. Approximately 6.5% of new vehicles sold in America feature stick-shift gearboxes. Vehicles with manual transmissions come in all shapes and sizes, from small economy cars, to massive work trucks, to high-speed sports cars. For those who would like to experience what it’s like to drive a stick shift car, we’ve outlined the basics for you below. Reading this blog is no substitute for hands-on learning, so as with anything you try, be sure you give yourself ample amount of time to practice.

Start by practicing with the car turned off. Familiarize yourself with the vehicle’s controls. Leaving the emergency or parking brake engaged, familiarize yourself with the clutch. Get a feel for using your left foot to operate the clutch since in a vehicle with an automatic transmission your left foot doesn’t have a job. Get acquainted with the gear shifter. Press the gas pedal and the clutch and move the shifter to get a feel for the different gears. Your reverse gear will also be an option controlled by this shifter.

When you feel comfortable in knowing where the gears are, test them out with a little off-road training. Find a level area, like an empty parking lot, to practice in. Once you are comfortably seated with your seatbelt fastened, it is time to start the car. If the car is neutral, you can start it just as you would an automatic. If it is starting in gear, you’ll need to depress the clutch before you start it. When the vehicle is running, press the clutch to the floor, put the shifter in first gear, and slowly let the clutch pedal up while at the same time applying your other foot to the gas pedal. The car will begin to move and the more you let up on the clutch, the faster it will move in that gear.  When the car is revving high in the first gear, it is time to change gears, and you will repeat this process and shift up as needed according to your speed. You will also down-shift the same way, applying the brake and clutch to slow down.

Once you feel comfortable with your parking lot training, you’re ready to try the real road. Start on a less populated road and leave ample space between you and other cars. As you practice and become more experienced, driving a manual car will become second nature to you. Good luck!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tips for Safe Nighttime Driving

Daylight Savings Time ends soon which for a lot of drivers will mean a much darker commute on their way home from work. You may not have given it a lot of thought, but driving at night or in the dark poses several unique driving dangers as compared to driving on a sunny afternoon. Aside from just having limited visibility at night, most drivers are generally more fatigued at night, making it substantially more difficult to concentrate on the road ahead. We’ve compiled a few tips below to help you drive safer at night.

·         Don’t be afraid to use your headlights. Even at dusk or at times when you think you can see fine without them, turn your headlights on. There’s no harm in doing so. Not only will this increase your visibility, but it will also help other drivers see your car as well.

·         Make sure all of your lights work. Check beyond your headlights. Make sure taillights, brake lights, and fog lights are all working properly and not burned out before your next nighttime commute.

·         Maintain a further following distance. Increase your distance behind another car by about five seconds longer than you would during the day to give you more time to respond. This will make it easier to spot and avoid road hazards at night.

·         Put down the cell phone. Really, put it down. You shouldn’t be texting or trying to dial phone numbers at any point at which you are driving, but it is especially important to avoid using your cell phone at night. Driving distractions like this are only magnified and worse at night.

·         Keep your eyes moving. Driving at night, especially on roads that are not heavily populated with traffic, can leave you in an autonomous state. Scan the road in front of you and look for flashes of light in hard to see places, such as at the top or a hill or around a curve. This could signal the headlights of an approaching car or could be the reflection of an animal crossing the road.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Join Nimnicht Buick GMC in Giving the ‘Gift of Life’

Did you know that one pint of blood can save up to three lives? Whether the cause is a car accident, a much needed surgery, or another medical emergency, every two seconds someone in the United States is in need of a live-saving blood donation. You can help save lives right here in our community by participating in our upcoming Blood Drive.

The Blood Alliance Bloodmobile will be available to take your life-saving donation at Nimnicht Buick GMC on Philips Highway in Jacksonville this Wednesday, October 17, 2012. The Bloodmobile will be at Nimnicht Buick GMC from 11:30 am until 2:30 pm. Each time you register to donate blood from August 29, 2012 through January 18, 2013, you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win a brand new Buick Verano, compliments of Nimnicht Buick GMC.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Valerie Sowers at or call (904) 425-6363. Thank you for your continued support of our community.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Common Car Seat Installation Mistakes

You may think that anyone capable of reading an instruction manual can install a child safety seat into a car with ease. However, as some statistics pointed out, nearly three out of four car seats on the road today are not installed properly. Car seat installation should be a required course for parenthood, but to save you some time, we’ve complied some of the most common car seat installation mistakes that can cause unsafe driving conditions for your little passengers.

·         Incorrect Harness Clip Position – The clip that snaps the harness straps together over a child’s chest are often left in an improper position, sometimes due to parents/caregivers being in a rush or just not realizing that the placement of this clip truly does make a difference in their child’s safety. The proper position for this retainer clip is at armpit left. It should never be placed over the abdomen.

·         Use of Incorrect Harness Strap Slot – Most car seats manufactured today give the option of three sets of slots to fit the harness straps through that can be adjusted as the child grows. For infants that still require a rear-facing seat, you’ll want to choose the slot located at or below your child’s shoulders. When your little passenger is ready for a forward-facing seat, choosing the slots located at or above the child’s shoulders will provide the best fit.

·         Wobbly Car Seat – When the car seat itself is secured by a seat belt it should not move more than an inch from side to side or front to back. If your vehicle has leather seats, it’s also a good idea to put a towel under the seat. Not only will it help protect the car’s leather upholstery, but it will also help the car seat from slipping on the slick seating surface.

·         Unrestricting Harness Strap – The harness straps on a car seat should not be loose. If there is any type of slack when you pinch the strap at your child’s shoulders, the straps need to be tightened.

·         Booster Seat and Seat Belt Placement – For young children that are big enough to fit in booster seats, harness straps become a thing of the past and a ‘big-kid’ seat belt is the only restraint used. The shoulder belt should never lie across a child’s neck or face. Instead, the shoulder and chest should be snugly secured.  The lap belt should fit securely across the upper thighs rather than the stomach.

Be sure to always read the instruction manuals for both your vehicle and the car seat you are using. You can never be too careful or cautious with your precious cargo.


Friday, October 5, 2012

How To Make Your Next Road Trip More Enjoyable

The annual family road trip is a tradition engrained in the American dream. But the romance fades pretty quickly as you edge into the third hour on the freeway. Here are some guidelines for making a lengthy road trip more bearable, and maybe even fun.

Plan it Right – Make sure that you are leaving with plenty of time to reach your destination. You want to allow for lots of bathroom breaks, refueling and snack runs. If you are crunched for time, you will be less likely to stop to stretch or switch drivers.

Sleep on it - The best tool in your road trip toolbox is a good night’s sleep. You should be well-rested before embarking on your journey, and this goes for resting along the way, too. Consider planning your hotel stays in advance so that you have a room waiting for you at the end of an 8-hour drive.

Share the load - If you have another driver in the car, put them to good use. A couple of hours behind the wheel can cause muscle fatigue, especially if you don’t have cruise control. Make a plan to switch the driver at a certain city so that you aren’t insisting you’re still ‘good to go’. Stick to the plan and let each driver have a chance to stretch out and relax before the next shift.

Pit Stops are Your Friend - Don’t get obsessed with ‘making good time’. The best time is the one you have on the journey, and there is nothing more important than staying alert and focused on road. Stop every hour or two; at least to stretch or grab a snack. You may be surprised at the new places you find along the way.

Snacking on the Road - While we wouldn’t advise eating a hearty meal behind the wheel, it is a good idea to have something to nibble on.  Healthy snacks like trail mix, bananas and carrots are easy to eat on-the-go, and provide the kind of nutrients you need. Avoid anything that will send you on a sugar crash; it’s not worth the initial high.

Put the Kids on Auto Pilot: While road games are fun, a really long drive can make for cranky kids. Make sure you’ve got plenty of books and activities onboard so that each child has some personal time to themselves. Interacting with the same people for 400 miles can be grating, even for a kindergartener. Along this vein, a portable DVD player and personal gaming devices can be a life saver, and don’t forget the headphones.

Stack the Jukebox – Listening to your favorite songs can make the ride seem a lot shorter. Try tuning your iPod or satellite radio in to some talk programs or comedy. You can even download audio books onto your music player and listen to a book that you’ve never had time to read.

Avoid Sugary Drinks – Bring water and juices, but avoid soda and energy drinks that are loaded down with lots of sugar. Drinking plenty of water will not only keep you hydrated and healthy, it will also make you stop more often for bathroom breaks… another opportunity to stretch those muscles!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Safety Tips for Car Trips with Your Dog

Many of us treat our pets like family. The idea of being separated from our four-legged children for more than a few hours is not an option for some. The next time you head out to run errands, take a trip, or just go for a leisure ride with your dog, keep the following safety tips in mind:

·         Never allow a dog to sit in the lap of the vehicle driver. In the event that your airbag deploys, the impact could seriously injury your dog, or worse.

·         Never allow a dog to hang outside the window. While dogs seem to enjoy this, it puts them in an unsafe situation. Roadside debris, rocks, and bugs have the potential to fly up and hit your dog in the face. Also, your dog could be sent flying out of your car if you hit a bump or pothole.

·         Bring a chew toy. Some dogs get sick during car rides. If a situation arises where you must bring your furry companion along, bring a chew toy to keep the dog distracted. It will help time go by quicker for the dog as well.

·         Never allow a dog to sit in a truck bed. Unless you are securing your dog in a special crate that is securely tied down, the bed of a truck is one of the most dangerous places for a dog to be. An auto accident or the dog’s own free will can send him tumbling out of the truck, causing injury.

·         Pack fresh water and food for your dog. Dogs normally get excited about car rides and pant heavily as a result. The panting makes them thirsty. Having fresh water available will help calm the dog down and make for a more comfortable ride for him.

·         Use a safety harness (like the one in the photo above, photo courtesy of If you are going to properly secure your dog in your vehicle, use a dog safety harness rather than a regular neck collar. Using a collar as a way to restrain your dog in the car has the possibility to cause strangulation.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you take your dog for a car ride. Doing so can create a less stressful and more comfortable ride for the both of you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Follow the Four B’s to Get Your Car Ready for Fall

The end of September welcomes the official start of fall. The arrival of fall brings cooler temperatures, greater chances of precipitation, and less than ideal driving conditions. Before bad weather strikes, get your car ready for fall by following the four B’s: brakes, batteries, belts, and blades.

Brakes – As we have mentioned before, the brake system is arguably the most important safety system on your vehicle. A properly functioning brake system helps you maintain control of your vehicle and keeps everyone inside the car safe. Naturally your brakes are going to wear out as they are used every time you drive. A noise when the brake pedal is pressed and the repetitive need to add brake fluid to the master cylinder are warning signs that your brakes may need replaced. Have your brakes checked and if it the brake pads that need replaced, you can follow the steps we listed in an earlier blog to help you do this at home.

Batteries – Summer heat can takes its toll on the life of your battery. Replacing a battery in fall is much more appealing than having one fail in winter. Using professional equipment is only way to accurately test your battery’s strength. Visit your mechanic to have your battery tested.

Belts – You’re almost guaranteed to be left stranded if a belt or hose on your car snaps or leaks. Check for cracks or thinning in belts. Also look for flaws on all hoses as well.

Blades – Worn windshield wiper blades can’t clear your view on rainy or foggy mornings. Avoid having limited visibility on the road by replacing wiper blades before fall weather hits.

Be prepared for changing weather conditions and how they will affect your vehicle. Remember, it’s much less costly to avoid car problems with proper maintenance than it is to replace a whole car system.