Considering an Alternative Fuel Vehicle In Chesapeake?

There is a clear and vocal demand in Chesapeake and nationally for a reduction in air pollution and our dependence on fossil fuels. This is what is driving the Virginia market for alternative fuel vehicles. There are a number of these vehicles on Chesapeake area roads today, and many more being developed. Yet each of these vehicles has its own advantages and disadvantages. Chesapeake motorists should learn what these advantages and disadvantages are before running out and purchasing one of these alternative fuel vehicles at your nearest Chesapeake dealership.

Chesapeake car owners should carefully research the car care before buying an alternative vehicle, as it may or may not coincide with the standards for gasoline vehicles. You should look at costs and fuel economy as well: these vehicles may help save our environment here in Chesapeake, but that might not represent a savings to your wallet. You’ll need to decide what you can afford, and what will work for your lifestyle. Also, your choice of vehicle may be affected by what fuels are available in your Chesapeake area. Switching to an alternative fuel vehicle is not a bad decision, but it should be a carefully considered one.

Flex Fuel Vehicles
Flex fuel vehicles can run on gasoline or on a combination of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Because of the 85% ethanol content, this fuel is commonly called E85 in Virginia.

Ethanol is made from corn. So flex fuel vehicles lessen our dependency on fossil fuels. But they also raise the price of corn, which is a basic foodstuff in some areas of the world. Whether replacing fossil fuels with corn is a good idea is hotly contested right now.

Flex fuel vehicles do have lower harmful exhaust emissions than gasoline-powered vehicles. And in Chesapeake, E85 is usually lower in cost than regular gasoline. When gasoline prices fall in Virginia, however, they can drop below the price of E85. This is to Chesapeake car owners’ advantage, since the vehicle can run on either fuel, but it negates the benefits of lowered exhaust emissions and lower consumption of fossil fuels.

One piece of West Service Center, Inc. auto advice before we move on: do not put E85 into your van unless it has an engine designed for flex fuels. Because of the high ethanol content in E85, engines need special seals and gaskets to function properly on this fuel. Running an ordinary engine with E85 can lead to gas leaks and fires.

Diesel
Diesel engines are nothing new on Virginia expressways, and many get great gas mileage. Diesel fuel can now be made from vegetable oil and other renewable sources. A diesel fuel made from algae will soon be on the market in Chesapeake.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is less expensive than gasoline in Chesapeake and burns more cleanly. Also, gasoline engines can be adapted to run on compressed natural gas, and many natural gas vehicles are already on Suffolk roads. You can even install a special pump in your home gas line to use to fuel your vehicle. If you are interested in converting your gasoline engine to run on CNG in Chesapeake, ask your West Service Center, Inc. service specialist about it.

On the other hand, an engine running on natural gas is not as powerful as one running on gasoline, and it will get lower gas mileage. Also, the tank you need to store natural gas is large—it takes up nearly the entire trunk of your car. Further, refueling stations are still few and far between in some Virginia areas, or even unavailable, in many parts of the country.

Hydrogen
Another alternative fuel that has enjoyed a lot of hype in Chesapeake is the hydrogen cell. The natural appeal is that the only exhaust is water vapor. In other words, hydrogen represents a truly clean-burning fuel. But hydrogen vehicles won’t come into widespread use until refueling stations become widely available here in Chesapeake and around the country.

Electric Vehicles
Electric vehicles were all the rage in Virginia some years ago. But their limitations were quickly realized by Chesapeake auto owners. These vehicles won’t come into their own until we find ways to improve their batteries. Currently, the cars have a short range before their power runs out, and can only be realistically used close to home. However, they are easy to recharge, since they can be plugged in at home, and there are many researchers working on improving the battery technology in these vehicles. They may yet be the vehicles of the future.

Hybrids
Hybrids have been one of the most successful alternative fuel vehicles here in Chesapeake and throughout the county. A hybrid gets its name because it has both a gas or diesel engine and an electric motor.

There are two types of hybrids. The full-hybrid relies on the electric motor for power, but the gas (or diesel) engine generates power for the battery. Thus, while still consuming fossil fuels, it uses less of them than a standard automobile, and also reduces harmful pollutants. Also, it overcomes the range problem of the strictly electric vehicle.

In a mild hybrid, the electric motor assists the gas or diesel engine in powering the car. Thus, it uses more gasoline or diesel than full hybrids and has higher emissions. But mild hybrids are available in larger body models like full-size pickups and SUV’s.

A Note of Caution about Hybrid and Electric Vehicles
One last note before we leave the subject of alternative fuel vehicles. The battery in an electric or hybrid vehicle is not as tame as the one in a standard vehicle. They carry enough voltage to kill you. These are not do-it-yourself vehicles when it comes to preventive maintenance or car care. Only a trained technician should work under their hoods.

Lease Or Buy?

Lease? Or buy? These are the options for Chesapeake car financing. It’s always a tough question for Chesapeake car owners. But here is some info that’ll help you make an informed decision.

If you buy, you’ll pay the full cost of the car, with maybe an initial down payment, then monthly payments on the balance that pays down the loan principal, and the finance charge.

Chesapeake car owners who lease, finance the portion of the cost of the car that’s used up during the term of the lease. You’ll pay some money up front; fees, security deposit, first month’s payment and maybe a capital reduction. The monthly payments include a depreciation cost and a finance charge. When the lease is up, you return the car to your local Chesapeake area dealership. 

So how do Chesapeake car owners decide?

First, how much do you have for a down payment? A lease usually requires a smaller down.

How much monthly payment can you afford? Again, lease payments will be much lower for any given down payment.

A lease needs requires better credit, so that’s a factor.

How long will you keep the car? Chesapeake car owners who keep their cars around for a while will pay less if they buy. But just two or three years? Then leasing is the way to go.

West Service Center, Inc.
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420

If your car might suffer a ding or two, like, say a work truck would, then buying’s better. The Chesapeake auto leasing company will want their vehicle back at the lease end in tip top shape, and if repairs are needed, you’ll pay.

How many miles do you drive in and around the Portsmouth area? Important to consider because leases have a mileage limit, and if you go over, you pay a hefty charge per mile when the lease is up. So high mileage Virginia car owners should definitely buy.

Will the car be used in your Chesapeake business? Check with your Chesapeake accountant, but both financing options have different tax benefits, depending on your circumstances.

Over the short term, leasing is much cheaper for Chesapeake car owners. Medium term, leasing and buying costs are about the same. Over the long haul, leasing always costs more in Virginia.

Leases may sound a bit complicated, and the typical lease decision weighs more on the monthly payment, rather than price. So sometimes Chesapeake leasers may pay on a higher purchase price than a buyer would.

Here is a tip: If the Chesapeake salesman asks if you’ll be leasing or buying, say you’re not sure yet. Make your best deal, then look at your Chesapeake financing options.

Here’s another: With a buy or a lease, if you total the car, you’ll owe the full amount of the loan, or the balance of the lease payments, and usually, it’s less than the car’s fair Chesapeake market value  – and that’s all your Virginia auto insurance company will pay. But ask your Chesapeake agent about gap insurance, which pays the difference between fair market value and what you owe. Big consideration for a lease.

Remember, you have to return your leased vehicle in excellent condition, and may need to do all the auto maker’s recommended service and maintenance, or face penalties. So see your local service professional at your Chesapeake auto repair shop  or West Service Center, Inc. on a regular basis, get the required work done and save the service records. It’s well worth it.

Protecting Your van From Theft In Chesapeake Virginia

Every car in Chesapeake Virginia is at risk for theft. So it’s up to us to make our cars a less appealing target and more of a challenge – hopefully sending potential thieves to look elsewhere.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends a layered approach to protecting vehicles:

  1. Common sense
  2. Visible and audible devices
  3. Immobilizing devices
  4. Tracking devices

Let’s review each of these. First, common sense: you would be surprised how many vehicles are stolen from Chesapeake Virginia where the keys were left in the ignition with the doors unlocked. Always take your keys, and lock the doors. In fact, in some places it’s against the law to leave a vehicle unattended with the keys in the ignition.

And don’t leave spare keys in the car or hide them outside – because a thief will find them. Try to park in well-lit areas that have a lot of foot traffic. If possible, park near the end of a row and near a light. Back your car into a parking space or your driveway to make your car more visible to passersby and harder for a thief to work under the hood without being seen.

Remember to roll up your windows completely and avoid leaving your car in public lots for a long time. If you park in a lot that has an attendant, only give them the ignition key.

Keep valuables out of sight: purses, wallets, cell phones, clothes and even change are attractive “smash-and-grab” targets. And pay to have your Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, etched into your windows – it makes your car less attractive to a thief who wants to send your car to a chop shop.

There are lots of visible and audible devices available. A steering wheel lock is highly visible and will deter some thieves. Loud alarms can alert you and others that your vehicle is being tampered with. But if your alarm does go off, be careful. Observe what’s going on; get descriptions of suspicious people and vehicles, including license plate numbers.

Now, if you catch a thief in the act, call 911 but don’t approach the person. Your safety is more important than the car.

And here’s a great one – immobilizing devices. They actually shut off your car’s electrical or fuel supply. So without a key, or knowing where the hidden switch is located, a thief can’t drive your car away.

Finally, you can also get a tracking device that allows police to track your car down and recover it quickly.

Remember, where you live, work and drive around Chesapeake Virginia has a great impact on your decisions. If you’re in an area with high theft rates, you may want to spend more money on security systems. And check with your Chesapeake Virginia auto insurance company to see if they offer discounts for adding any of these items.

Of course, the common sense suggestions from West Service Center, Inc. don’t cost anything and go a long way toward keeping your car safe from thieves. Take a look at the attached video auto tip from AutoNetTV.

Come see us for practical advice on keeping your van safe.
West Service Center, Inc.
904 Cavalier Blvd, Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
Call us at 757-487-4420

Are There Blind Spots In Chesapeake Virginia?

Everyone in Chesapeake Virginia has blind spots – and no, I’m not talking about the fact that you really don’t sing like Jessica Simpson. I mean the areas of the road that you can’t see when you’re driving around Chesapeake.

First let’s talk about our own blinds spots, and then we can talk about others…

To begin, we can greatly reduce our blind spots by properly adjusting our mirrors to give the widest coverage possible. Make the adjustments in your van before you start to drive.

First, adjust your rear view mirror to give the best possible view directly to the rear of your car. You don’t need it to get a better view of either side of the car, the kids in the back seat or your dazzling smile. The rear view mirror should look to the rear.

Next, lean your head until it almost touches the driver’s side window. Adjust your side mirror so that you can just barely see the side of your car.

West Service Center, Inc.
We’re on 904 Cavalier Blvd in Chesapeake, Virginia (23323)
Call us to make an appointment at 757-487-4420.

Now, lean your head to the middle of the car and adjust the outside mirror so that you can barely see the right side of the car.

With your mirrors adjusted this way, you’ll have maximum coverage. Of course driving is a dynamic process – things change every second. So it’s wise to take a quick look to the side when passing to make sure that another vehicle hasn’t moved into an area you couldn’t see in your mirrors.

Depending on the kind of vehicle you drive (van?), you may still have some blind spots. All vehicles have an area behind them that’s blind when backing up. The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the blind spot. A pick up or SUV can hide a small child – an RV, bus or tractor-trailer can hide an entire vehicle. So be careful around our Chesapeake streets!

As you drive around the Chesapeake area, avoid staying in other diver’s blind spots. You can’t count on them to be watching their mirrors and looking out for you.

Let’s talk about safely sharing the road with heavy trucks and buses. In crashes involving a truck and car, the car causes about 40 percent of the accidents. But 78 percent of the fatalities are with the car. The laws of physics are against the smaller vehicle, so it pays to take extra precautions around trucks and buses.

Heavy vehicles have huge blind spots: to the rear, on both sides and up front. They also can’t maneuver like a car. They take twice as long to stop and need twice as much space as you do in your van or other type of car. You need to keep wide margins when driving around one of these big rigs.

Here are some tips for passing a heavy vehicle in the Chesapeake area:

  • Avoid the blind spots. If you can’t see the driver’s face in one of his mirrors or in a window, he cannot see you!
  • Don’t follow too close. If you can’t see one of the truck’s mirrors, you’re too close.
  • Make sure there is plenty of room to pass. Trucks are long and take time to get around. If you’re on one of our local Chesapeake Virginia two way highways, wait for a passing zone.
  • Don’t linger when passing. Because the blind spots are so big on the sides, you want to get through them quickly. If you can’t pass quickly, drop back.
  • Pass on the left whenever possible. A trucks’ blind spot is much larger on the right.
  • Be attentive and wear your seat belts while driving anywhere around Chesapeake, even short drives.
  • Don’t be aggressive when driving around trucks. Because of their size, they appear to be going slower than they really are. Cutting it short around a truck could be disastrous.
  • Use your turn signals when starting to pass. Once you can see the full truck in your rear view mirror, it’s safe to signal and move over. Don’t cut it short or slow quickly when you pull in front of a truck.
  • Be careful passing a truck at an intersection. Trucks need to turn wide to maneuver through city streets. Squeezing between a truck and the curb could put your car in the Chesapeake body shop. Look for the truck’s turn signals.

We at West Service Center, Inc. want you to watch those blind spots – but feel free to sing in the shower all you want.