BendPak Blog

Transform Your Garage with a Gunmetal Gray Car Lift

November 23rd, 2016

Since we announced the BendPak color shift from blue to Gunmetal Gray, we’ve gotten a huge response over the web. We didn’t make this choice blindly, of course; we spent months gathering opinions from customers and distributors, and overwhelmingly, the public call was for us to make the change to Gunmetal Gray. So, who are we to argue? We’re excited about this change because it marks a new chapter in BendPak’s storied history as one of the most successful and longest-running car lift manufacturers in the world.

While a minority out there has been hesitant to accept the change to Gunmetal Gray, we’re sure that when people see what these beautiful lifts look like in their garages, they’ll lose their fears very quickly. To help that process along, we’ve taken some four-post lift photos our customers sent us recently and digitally changed the lifts from blue to Gunmetal Gray. Hopefully this demonstrates why we’re making the change.

The overall contrast in this garage—comparing the two pictures below—is very clear. The original blue pops out and leaves a very obvious visual footprint in the garage. When you compare this to the effect of the Gunmetal Gray, you see the latter is much more at home in the shop. The BendPak blue will always have a place in our hearts, but it’s shocking how cleverly the Gunmetal Gray blends with the DeLoreans. We think the new color also lends itself better for showrooms. If you’re displaying a rare or classic car, like a DeLorean, you want a solid, functional car lift that looks great but doesn’t draw attention to itself.

DeLorean on blue BendPak two-post car lift

DeLorean on Gunmetal Gray BendPak two-post car lift

In the shots below, notice how your eye is quickly drawn to the vehicles. In the past, when we were a younger and smaller company, we liked the extra attention on ourselves. Now that we’ve made our mark in the industry and you folks know that BendPak stands for the utmost in quality and reliability, we trust our name alone makes the difference for our customers—more than any color ever could—and that’s something that’s never going to change.

Yellow car under and white car over on blue BendPak four-post car lift

Yellow car under and white car over on Gunmetal Gray BendPak four-post car lift

Yet another great example why Gunmetal Gray is a better color for servicing and displaying classic custom rebuilds. The original car lift nearly pops off the page; in fact, the vibrant blue appears almost as prominent as the car itself. That’s not necessarily what you want if you’re into classic builds. The Gunmetal Gray version, in our opinion, is much sleeker and sexier, especially because it helps emphasize the car. The individual who sent us this photo was initially skeptical but pleased with the result when we showed him what his garage would look like in the new color scheme. Can’t say we’re surprised!

Red classic car on blue BendPak four-post lift

Red classic car on Gunmetal Gray BendPak four-post lift

The Camaro-lover in this last example has two beautiful cars that look great on our blue lift. With Gunmetal Gray, it’s clear BendPak is moving itself out of the limelight. Typical garage environments don’t necessarily demand a bright blue car lift to announce itself at all times, but if you do want the blue, we will be retaining it for special orders. That means there will be an extra service fee, but we always do our best to accommodate everyone’s preferences.

Blue Chevy Camaro under and red Chevy Camaro over on blue BendPak four-post car lift

Blue Chevy Camaro under and red Chevy Camaro over on Gunmetal Gray BendPak four-post car lift

Inside Look: Everything You Need to Know about the RP-50FC Oil Filter Crusher

November 21st, 2016

Ranger Products RP-50FC important features
The first feature we look at in an oil filter crusher is how easily it flattens metal filter casings. The RP-50FC oil filter crusher applies 25 tons of force, so it even works on thick, stubborn truck filters that can cause trouble for lesser machines. The other important thing we need to look at is how much oil is actually drained out. This is where a lot of small businesses can get into trouble. Our crusher gets 95% of residual oil out of the filter, and it gravity drains the oil runoff into a collection bin beneath the crushing compartment. Because the RP-50FC is so powerful, it takes about 8 seconds to crush most cans down to 20% of their original size. We’re also proud of safety features like the automatic shutoff if the compartment door is opened during operation, as well as the convenient foot-pedal controls, which add versatility to how you control all major operations.

Man operating Ranger Products RP-50FC Oil Filter Crusher

The development process
Oil filter casings are a common byproduct of every quick-lube station and repair shop, no matter what kind of work they do. Before the crushing process, these oil filters are filled with up to 10 oz. of waste oil, even if they’ve been gravity-drained. Therefore, these filters are considered hazardous waste and need to be properly handled and disposed of by licensed transporters, which is expensive and totally on the shop owner to pay for. The RP-50FC ensures your oil-heavy filters are flattened, emptied and totally reduced to scrap metal. In other words, using the RP-50FC means these casings will no longer be considered hazardous waste. If you’re not using a good filter, and there’s still waste oil in there after crushing, your whole businesses gets smacked with huge government fines, in addition to any standard disposal fees. Some especially strict laws have recently sprung up in California, but it’s everywhere, really. These fines are serious: up to $10,000 per violation per day. Our crusher gives you great peace of mind, so you don’t have to stress about it. The best part is that the RP-50FC pays for itself. All the used oil you’ve collected can also be repurposed or recycled, so now you have separate oil and metal casings that can actually earn you profit just for doing your job.

Improvements from past models
We need to make sure that we’re offering bigger and better versions of our existing products whenever a need for them exists. Our previous model, the RP-20FC oil filter crusher, is still great for flattening common oil filter casings and paint cans, but the RP-50FC is bigger, offers more than twice the crushing power and comes with a built-in stand. Some of those larger oil filters, like ones you see on commercial trucks and transport vehicles, are pretty robust, and we wanted to make sure we provide a machine that will handle those products flawlessly.

Saving time and money
Foot pedal for Ranger Products RP-50FC oil filter crusherIt’s a no-brainer, honestly. Under the definition of “solid waste,” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that “recycled hazardous scrap metal is a solid waste when disposed of or recycled.” However, untrained or uncrushed filters contain too much oil to qualify for the scrap metal exemption. There are few options for disposing of non-terne plated filters (most commonly used).

  • The generator could crush the oil filter using the most appropriate crushing method to force excess residual oil from the filter. As a best operating practice, the EPA recommends that used oil filters are crushed to ensure that all free-flowing oil is removed and to make certain the crushed filters qualify for the hazardous scrap metal recycling exemption. The used oil and metal casings can then be recycled and sold for profit.
  • Alternately, puncture and hot-drain to remove the oil. This means puncturing the filter anti-drain back valve or the filter dome end and draining the filter above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (preferably near engine operating temperature) for a minimum of 12 hour to remove the oil. The used oil filters are then exempt from the hazardous waste regulations. The used oil and metal casings can then be recycled and sold for profit.
  • Pay exorbitant fees to have the used oil filters collected as hazardous waste.
  • Gravity drain the used filters by tipping them upside down and letting the oil slowly drain. In this method they are still considered hazardous waste. Costly collection fees will still apply.

With heightened awareness and scrutiny regarding the disposal of used oil filters, many processing facilities won’t even accept uncrushed filter casings anymore. Another plus for mechanics is anyone can get trained on these machines in a matter of minutes. You put the filter in, close the door to the compartment and depress the green button. If you let go, the process stops. The oil that gets squeezed out is automatically collected through a flexible tube, so virtually every aspect of the oil removal and collection process is handled for you.

These Car Lift Safety Tips Could Save Your Life

November 18th, 2016

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a good mechanic. Despite our skills—sometimes—experience is our downfall. We think we can get away with little mistakes here and there, and we hope they don’t catch up to us. It’s called being lucky, and we’re usually lucky more than we’re unlucky. So yes, almost every mechanic has a story about a narrow escape(s). But there are also the costly mistakes, and it’s our job to help you prevent them.

The last time we wrote about cable inspections and two-post safety, we received a lot of positive feedback from well-meaning folks who admitted they hadn’t been keeping up with things. That’s inspiring to us, so we’re back with a few shop safety MUSTS to keep you healthy and profitable for many years to come.

The overhead safety switch / shutoff bar
The overhead bar serves a critical purpose. Because the lift arms can only rise when the power unit button is manually—and continuously—depressed, the shutoff bar kills electrical flow to the power unit if touched by the roof of any vehicle. Obviously a useful tool for keeping your vehicle from smashing into the overhead bar or going through the roof (only a slight exaggeration).

BendPak Gunmetal Gray asymmetrical two-post lift showing overhead shutoff safety bar

BendPak XPR-10AS two-post lift with overhead shutoff bar

That shutoff bar you rarely pay attention to is there to protect you in the event of emergencies. It prevents your vehicle from smashing into the upper cross beam and literally going through the roof. With a properly working shutoff bar, heavy trucks and SUVs might not make it to the lift’s max extension. In other words, taller vehicles need to be stopped before the arms have completely risen. Operators who disable this bar in order to get a couple extra inches of lift, even if they’re very careful, are taking life-threatening risks. A large vehicle could get its roof crushed or else compromise the integrity of the lift. However, even when properly installed, the bar only works if you follow this next step…

BendPak Gunmetal Gray asymmetrical two-post lift showing overhead shutoff safety bar

Using the proper lifting points keeps vehicles balanced, even with loaded flatbeds.

Car should be properly positioned at all times on two-post lift
Basic auto mechanic safety protocol is too often ignored. We all know that vehicles positioned over a two-post lift should have all four lift pads positioned under the vehicle at the manufacturer’s recommended lifting points. We all know this to be true, but too often we leave cars parked in compromising positions (e.g., letting the vehicle rest on the floor with uneven or improper pad placement). BendPak makes the finest car lifts out there. That doesn’t mean we think you should cut corners on safety. Things can still go wrong:

– Someone thinks the lift pads are properly set and depresses the lift button, causing an unbalanced lift.
– You might forget that the pads weren’t set before operating the lift.
– An electrical/wiring issue might inadvertently raise the lift. In this case, an unevenly lifted vehicle might not trip the overhead shutoff bar, which would be a total nightmare.

Frame cradle pads / truck adapter kits
two-post-auto-lift-frame-cradleOf all the items on our list, this one is one of the hardest pills for us to swallow, and the precaution we repeat the most often. For whatever reason, a number of lift operators simply refuse to use the necessary frame cradle pads when hoisting certain trucks and SUVs. At least on some level, we see why this is happening. People want faster turnover, and they can sometimes “get away” without the truck adapters. Two problems. One, car lift manufacturers are not liable for damages that occur due to improper usage of the lift. You’re in no way legally covered for doing something—excuse our language—stupid. Some people seem to have a problem with this and try to shift the blame on the machine when they do something wrong. BendPak and the other car lift companies out there don’t make truck adapter sets just for the heck of it; these are vital tools you need to have in your shop if you’re lifting trucks and SUVs with raised suspensions or further recessed underbellies.

Daily cable inspections
We’ve written about cable inspections and safety before, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that those daily cable inspections may seem like a minor nuisance, but so does using a turn signal 100% of the time, coming to a complete stop before making a right on red, adhering to the speed limit, etc. We sometimes “get away” with skipping these little things, and nobody’s perfect. Still, a cable inspection may reveal a poorly lubricated line, which is easy to fix. Stray threads or dry sheaves cause friction, and that causes severe damage to your lift components. Bad! Take a look at your cable system at the start or end of every day, whichever works for you.

wire-rope-41-638

Also, if you ever notice that your safety locks do not engage simultaneously, you may have cables that are out of sync. Resynchronize your cables before attempted further lift. Do not lift or lower a vehicle in an attempt to sync or adjust cables if it is unsafe to do so.

Electrical Tip
It’s recommended that you install your power unit on the passenger side of an asymmetrical two-post lift. This is purely for convenience, but virtually all operators benefit from this common installation practice. By doing so, operators are able to position (drive) the vehicle between the two-post lift columns, position the arms from that side, and then move to the passenger side to position the arms and operate the lift. Eliminating the need to walk back to the driver side to perform operations saves time and just makes sense. (Plus, experienced mechanics will think you’re ridiculous if you don’t install your power unit this way).

If possible, cut the power to your car lifts and other major shop appliances at the end of each work day. If this is not an option for you at home or in the shop, be sure you never leave vehicles in a compromised position when loading or setting up a lift.

BendPak Recreates Color Scheme for Brand New Look

November 7th, 2016

gray2Santa Paula, California – November 2016 – When BendPak designed its earliest car lift models, they were painted Burgundy to match the tastes of that era. Years later, in the late 1980s, the company redesigned its brand and color scheme with the brilliant “BendPak blue” that defines their look today. This bold blue has helped solidify BendPak’s reputation and brand and has become a staple in the automotive aftermarket. After nearly three decades, BendPak intends to reinvent its colors to keep their brand evolving and relevant.

BendPak is updating from their classic blue to what they anticipate will become the next color staple that the automotive industry will come to adopt: a gunmetal gray with white and yellow accents. The look will remain consistent across all of BendPak’s car lift models.

gray1

“Our bold blue made BendPak the most recognizable car lift brand in the industry, but everyone around the world has adopted the same look,” said Jeff Kritzer, BendPak Sr. Vice President of Sales and Marketing. The company recognizes bright blue-colored lifts can contrast with certain franchise, business or residential livery colors.

That’s not to say the design is meant to make BendPak more invisible in garages. The color scheme update is part of a marketing trend in BendPak to let the company name sell itself rather than force brand recognition through slogans and colors. “We surveyed both our dealer and customer base, and the overwhelming majority felt the new color scheme adds a touch of class,” Kritzer stated.

The company believes this change in direction offers a message of strength and is part of their commitment to keep expanding into new markets. BendPak President Don Henthorn said, “BendPak is going to look as modern as any new technology that’s out there. We’re growing as a company, and the BendPak name is what people really want to see on their equipment to know they’re buying the best.”

Want to know more about BendPak’s change to Gunmetal Gray? First check out our BendPak Going Gunmetal Gray FAQ page or email hello@bendpak.com to get in touch with a BendPak representative today!

The DIY Winter Car Repair and Maintenance Guide

October 31st, 2016

A few years ago, a bunch of DIY’ers were asked about how much they save by doing their own repairs. They told researchers they save hundreds or thousands of dollars each year on regular maintenance and car repairs. Not surprising! While some jobs are best left to professionals, there are certain things you don’t need to lean on the shop to do for you. However, trickier jobs that involve work on the engine, exhaust system, shocks or suspension might not be manageable without a lot of experience or a buddy you trust. Regardless of your experience level, we’re approaching the end of fall, which means this is a great time to learn a few tricks to get your car ready for the months ahead.

In 2014-15, the areas marked in red got pummeled by snow. Is your car ready for it?

In 2014-15, the areas marked in red got pummeled by snow. Is your car ready for it?

With true/meteorological winter about a month away, a lot of people will be flocking to their local auto shops for some basic tune-ups, fluid checks, brake/wheel work, etc. If you live in a warm-to-moderate climate, you may still face the occasional cold front or winter storm. Winter, as you know, is unpredictable. Case-in-point: the winter of 2014-15 produced an unprecedented weather report for the country, with the West experiencing unusually warm temperatures while the East got blasted by cold and snow. Parts of Southern Canada and the U.S. were hit by an ice storm that took out the power for hundreds of thousands of residents. The year before, most of the country found itself chilled at one point or another. Snow and freezing temperatures remain possible in Florida, Texas, California, etc. Therefore, we think winter car checks should be considered non-negotiable for just about everyone.

Even knocking off a few items on this list at will save hundreds in costs at the shop. While some definitely require more experience than others, here are a few basic home maintenance jobs and repairs that you can do yourself, just in time for winter.

His head is showing = get new tire

His head is showing = get new tire

Tires, tires, tires
Difficulty: Easy
We put tires first on this list because it affects most winter drivers—less so if you live in warm-weather states. In general, tire pressure drops 1 psi for every 10-degree drop in temperature. Because under-inflated tires heat up during use and put undue stress on the tire structure, visually inspect your tires whenever the temperature changes significantly. As a rule of thumb, take an official pressure reading at least once a month. If you notice the telltale bulging at the sides of the tire, the cold weather may be causing your tire to deflate. Inflating your tires isn’t really a “repair,” per se, but it’s necessary preventative care.

If you’ve been driving around on your tires for a while, and especially if they’ve been under or over-inflated for an extended period of time, the old penny trick is a good test for tire wear. If you stick a penny in the tire tread and can see all of Honest Abe’s head, your tread is worn and your tires won’t be reliable in adverse weather. All-weather or cold weather tires are always advised for the winter months ahead.

Air filters
Difficulty: Easy
When a mechanic changes your air filter, you’re paying a premium for cheap parts and easy labor that you can do yourself quickly and efficiently. Even if they tell you during a routine winter tune-up and inspection that your filters need to be changed, you’re not going to break your car by waiting a few days to order and install the part yourself. Tire and auto shops will often boast that they can change your air filters in less than 10 minutes. Sure, but so can you for about 10 dollars. This step-by-step guide on changing your air filter is useful, but don’t be intimidated if you don’t have compressed air. If you don’t have a ton of accumulation in your air filter housing, wiping it down or even washing it with soap and water will do the trick. Just make sure the filter housing is dry before putting it back in your car.

Oil change
Difficulty: Medium
This one has people split in terms of ease-of-handling. While vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Tacoma make the DIY experience a lot friendlier, Porsche, the Ford Fusion and a number of other muscle/sport cars (to reference a few) have reputations for being time-consumers when it comes to oil changes. There’s a nice thread on easy/difficult vehicles to do oil changes on that is especially useful if you’re looking for a good DIY car-buying guide. Generally, if you’re ready for a bit of a mess and have all the right materials, you’ll get through your oil change without much fuss. By the way, if you’re new to vehicular DIY jobs in general, consider a Wrangler for your first fixer-upper.

Your complete oil change assembly kit

Your complete oil change assembly kit

The downside to doing your own oil changes is that you might not save much buying your oil filter and oil, and for some people, it’s not worth the time and hassle. If you really don’t like the idea of doing your own oil, don’t fret. No one will blame you for outsourcing the work. Our advice: oil changes shouldn’t cost more than $40 – $70 (the upper range for high-performance synthetic oil), so be sure you don’t overpay if you get your oil changed at a shop.

Adding Coolant / Radiator flush
Difficulty: Medium
Adding coolant is easy: open the coolant reservoir cap when your car is off and cool, and pour in the coolant. We’ll get to the more involved radiator flush in a minute. Especially as winter approaches, everyone needs to make sure their coolant has the right mixture of antifreeze, but too much can cause problems with fluid circulation and over-heating. A 50/50 ratio of coolant-to-water is most common. Extreme cold weather may call for a 70/30 mixture, but the added antifreeze makes it more difficult for your engine to cool. Conversely, more water helps the engine cool but reduces vehicle efficiency in cold weather. Your engine sensors are likely calibrated to give readings at the 50/50 mixture, so don’t mess with that unless you contact your vehicle’s manufacturer and find out if it’s safe.

We’re rating the radiator flush “medium,” but that’s more due to safety precautions you need to take rather than the actual difficulty of the task at hand. Every couple of years, your radiator will need a good flushing. The process is similar to an oil change, in terms of the draining that takes place. Car and Driver put together a great video that covers the basics, but we have to say… if you’re putting out a DIY guide, safety first! He should be wearing gloves. And so should you, if you’re flushing your radiator.

Spark plugs
Difficulty: Easy
If you have two hands, 30 minutes, $50 and recently put another 30,000 miles on your vehicle, you qualify for a DIY spark plug change! (Note: some spark plugs are rated for more mileage.) The trickiest part about this job is that spark plugs need to be replaced in the right order. Only change one at a time, and reattach the wire to each before moving on to the next. This is one of those great repairs to do at home because of how easy it is and how cheap the parts are relative to what you’ll pay in a shop. Shops charge between $115 – $240, so it’s a real head-scratcher why people pay for something so cheap and easy to do themselves.

Brake pads
Difficulty: Medium – Hard
This is the most difficult DIY cost-saver on our list because a lot can go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are more steps involved, including jacks and stands or a car lift. Brake pad changes require a serious understanding of your vehicle. You need to be able to look at your brake rotors and see if they need a resurfacing, which requires a professional brake lathe machine. Of course, you could always buy new rotors at $25 – $40 per rotor, which isn’t terribly expensive. The steps involved in this repair take the lingo to the next level, so if a phrase such as, “Compress the brake piston. Get out your C-clamp and put the end with the screw on it against the piston with the other end on the back of the caliper assembly,” has you flummoxed, don’t even bother. Take your brakes to the shop. With the money you saved doing the other repairs on this list, you’ll still be looking at one of the lowest repair totals of your driving life. Still, brake pads are not too difficult once you know what you’re doing, and you’ll save a lot of money changing them on your own; put this on your personal to-do list and set a goal, something like, “By next Christmas, I’ll be able to change my own brake pads.”

If you have questions or an article you’d like to see, drop us a comment! In the meantime, check out our shop equipment if you’re getting serious about taking your DIY skills to the next level or want to expand your shop’s capabilities with the best auto service equipment in the business.

How Can I Avoid Fees for Used Oil and Filter Disposal?

October 27th, 2016

If you want to skip this article and read the official government code, Title 40, Chapter I, Subchapter I, Part 279, you’ll learn everything there is to know about used oil disposal and recycling. For the rest of us, this article will serve as a brief guide to what you need to know about disposing of used oil and oil filters.

The oil change “discount”
saleMaybe you’ve had this happen to you: a sign is plastered outside your local quick-lube service: “Half off your next oil change!”—a seemingly great deal. You take in your car, stand in line in the lobby area and eyeball the chemically enhanced air fresheners that never actually smell like “New Car.” (What is that smell, anyway?) Finally, they ring up your tab, and it’s at least twice what you expected to pay. You smile knowingly and say, “Sorry, I think you forgot to add my coupon.” The guy behind the counter looks over his glasses and says, “Nope, that’s right.” Maybe he kindly explains that the hidden fees are related to waste disposal efforts for used oil. Maybe he just burps and blows bubbles with his gum.

Much to some people’s surprise, the fine print on certain so-called coupons and discounts on oil changes comes with baggage in form of extra fees. Most of these fees go toward the disposal of used oil. It’s not uncommon for half the cost of every oil change to be a cost-share with the business to cover EPA and state disposal fees.

Why are there fees?
Regulatory fees are in place to protect the environment and ensure bad stuff doesn’t get into our water, land, air, etc. To put things into perspective, the used oil from your last oil change is enough to contaminate one million gallons of water. Yikes! Now, it’s not BendPak’s official stance to get you riled up about the costs of doing business, because frankly there’s a way to turn all these regulations to your advantage and make a profit. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Government agencies consider free-flowing oil to be hazardous waste
PENTAX ImageIn addition to federal EPA regulations, individual states can craft their own laws around waste disposal. California has recently tightened its shop oil regulations, and by “tightened” we mean imposed more punitive fees for businesses that improperly try to dispose of waste oil products.

Effective October 2016 (hey, that means the laws are in effect now), any oil filters that the government collects that have not been crushed, punctured and/or drained of oil will be subject to additional charges and fees than days past. Not only that, the government reserves the right to change a business’s generator status from “small quantity” to “large quantity,” which means heavier regulations and fees on top of heavier regulations and fees for all future filter disposals. Double yikes! It’s not just California: all 50 states have evolving laws around this. Fortunately, when oil filters are crushed and their oil is removed, you wind up with two items to recycle and/or re-purpose, often at a profit: the filters and the oil.

DIY’ers rejoice
walmartWhile it’s mainly the shops that stand to benefit financially for oil and filter recycling, individual DIY’ers need not worry about being fined for doing their own oil changes. In fact, stores like Wal-Mart, as well as most auto shops, will take your unwanted oil waste off your hands free of charge. Auto shops may be especially keen on this, as the collected oil can be re-purposed in different ways. Some shops keep their oil in-house and use it to power waste oil heating devices.

Oil filter crushers solve every business’s problem
If your shop regularly works with oil waste, there’s no reason not to have an oil filter crusher. We at BendPak / Ranger make a particularly good one with the RP-50FC Oil Filter Crusher. The most important feature of any crusher is how much oil it removes as it flattens the filters. The RP-50FC, for instance, efficiently removes 95% of residual oil. If you already have an oil filter crusher that doesn’t get the oil out to your state and federal governments’ complete satisfaction, you’re going to get fined, and your crusher will become a useless expenditure against your bottom line. As you should already know, the government will show no leniency when it comes to fee collection.

When oil filters are recycled, they are no longer considered hazardous waste. Steel producers will gladly re-purpose them as scrap feed. The waste oil itself can be re-purposed or re-refined into usable oil, avoiding hazardous waste fees, as well as the higher costs of constantly buying virgin oil. Some shops efficiently re-refine the same oil over and over again. There’s no limit on how many times oil can be re-refined, and re-refined oil is just as good as virgin oil.

When all is said and done, with an oil filter crusher, you no longer have to worry about paying exorbitant disposal fees. You’ll also be able to offer more competitive price points and draw a better profit from your customers because you won’t be paying half your profit to the government. So fret not, oil shops and DIY’ers. With the right attitude and plan in place, you’ll never have to pay hazardous waste disposal fees again. Cheers to that!

The Worst Car Lifts Ever Built

October 7th, 2016

We searched the Internet to find the worst car lifts ever built, and they come from all over this great nation of ours. Seriously, folks. Buy a real car lift before you attempt to replicate any of these hilarious-yet-stupid makeshift heaps of beautiful junk.

1. 101 Ways to Use a Lead Pipe You Found Sticking out of the Ground
Keep an eye on the back-right chassis corner when he lifts it up. It totally doesn’t scare us one bit.

2. Do Away with Pesky One-Touch Button Controls
Ancient man probably lifted his chariots this way. Ancient man also had a life expectancy of 35 years.

block-lift

3. “I’m Not Saying It FELL… I Feel Like You Aren’t Listening.”
We shared this photo with our engineers, sales team and customer service reps, and no one is in total agreement on this one. Is it Photoshopped? Is the bed supposed to be… bolted on? Someone help us out here.

broken-lift

4. But… they said I should use frame cradle pads on my truck!

We’re all about the frame cradle pads. But, did we say smash them against the vehicle chassis, nowhere near the lifting point, without using the necessary truck adapter set? How long do you think it took for them to go from “well, it’s still crushing the frame, better lift it higher,” to whatever the opposite of that thought is?

lift-points

5. “Honey, Your Car is on the Fritz Again. Grab my Log. And my Really Big Stick. And My Tractor. No, the other Tractor.” 

We’ve probably said all we need to say.

log-lift

6. Just in Time for Halloween

This looks like something you’d see in a zombie movie when they try to rebuild society using PVC pipe and duct tape. Someone get this guy a scissor lift, please.

pipe-lift

7. Caught Playing Transformers on the Side of the Road

Never mind that the truck is perfectly capable of towing the car. Ignore the incredibly unsafe center of gravity this rig creates. Forget about the immense effort, timing and planning it must have taken to get it up there in the first place. Let us focus on the achievement. Let us argue over whether they called the police or got pulled over. And yes, let us remember the time two grown men tried to make a real-life Transformer out of their cars. In the rain. We give thanks to the person who pulled over to capture this moment.

roadside

8. 50% Ramps, 5% Blood Alcohol, 100% Worst Car Lift Ever Built

We’re not saying it’s Redneck. Someone else said that.

This link will take you to a place where you can rest your eyes. If you have more crazy car lifts that you think represent the worst ever built, share them with us, and we’ll all have a laugh.

5 Ways to Wiggle out of Life and Finally Work in the Garage this Weekend

September 30th, 2016

Men, there’s something about that period of time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving that gets kind of… repetitive. The holiday season is still a ways off, the weather is suffering from an identity crisis and the work week is really starting to drone. Your motorcycle has been covered on a parking lift in the garage all summer. Your Corvette’s suspension needs a little tuning. The Honda needs an oil change. Your Camry’s spoiler has graffiti all over it and needs a paint job because Camrys with spoilers are super sweet, you keep telling yourself. Basically, you need a reason to get out of all that life stuff they’re making you do and chill in the garage. If they can’t handle that, doesn’t matter, ‘cos they’ll have no idea where you are or what you’re doing. When you can’t find another way out, here’s how to get it done without getting caught.

  1. Call in sick

Level of difficulty: Easy
Risk of getting caught: Low – Medium

screen-shot-2014-11-09-at-6-00-40-pm-1024x417

The old Ferris Bueller routine. Of course, this only works as a “weekend getaway” if you actually work on the weekend, but you can always choose to extend your weekend into Friday or Monday. It’s easy to pull this one off; most of us have done it at one point or another. A simple email or phone call is all it takes. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t even need to “sound sick,” and you should never provide excessive detail. Don’t make up a long story you have to stick to, remember and defend later.

Hi [Manager/Supervisor],

I woke up with a sore throat and have a doctor appointment this afternoon. I won’t be able to make it in today but expect to be back Monday. Thanks.

The less you say, the better. If you don’t have any sick days to use, this probably isn’t the best option, but those sick days are yours, so you might as well use ‘em! (Just hope you don’t need those days in case you actually get sick.)

The beauty of the call-in, especially if it’s a weekday, is that most distractions are avoided: friends and family all assume you’re at work, and the kids are at school, so no one is there to bother you. Still, we’re calling this a medium-risk operation because your story may depend on a few factors. If you live alone or manage to get everyone out of the house, it should be no sweat. If you’re married, hopefully the wife understands and lets you have the day without offering a list of life chores she feels you might as well accomplish if you’re going to be home, anyway.

If you need to hide this little thing from everyone, spouse included, you run a few extra risks. For one, your wife loves you (hopefully) and might come home at lunch to check up on you. She might even take off early. It’s not like you’re cheating (hopefully), but it won’t look good if she hears Toby Keith blasting halfway down the block and finds her supposedly sick hubby happily covered in grease and oil. Low places, indeed.

For an easy operation, however, the sick day is a classic for a reason. It’s easy to pull off and probably won’t carry many risks. Whatever you do, just don’t over-explain yourself at the start. Think how you are when you’re truly sick: you don’t say much, life sucks and you hate everything. Channel the rage, men. Channel the rage.

  1. Arrange a sleepover or playhouse-type for the kids

Level of difficulty: Easy
Risk of getting caught: Low

It might be that your partner is totally cool with whatever you do in your free time. That’s why you married her, right? But those kids! They’re needy, loud, unpredictable and gosh, we just love ‘em! We’d do anything for them, of course. So why not get them out of the house while also being the cool dad? That’s two dad wins right there. This one’s easy to set up, but it may take some planning. Getting a parent you trust to host a sleepover isn’t really a big deal, and you’ll have an extended period of peace to get things done in the garage. Life is on hold when the kids are away. Holding your brand new, zinc-plated steel coil over spanner wrench, that is.

As an alternative to the sleepover, look to the playhouse for escape! If there’s another parent who can supervise the rug rats as they run around Chuck-E-Cheese, for instance, they’ll get to sip watered-down light beer and nibble on the yellow-stained cardboard they pass off for cheese pizza until those repetitive, goofball songs blasting out of an old set of dying speakers jammed inside four or five horrifying human-sized animatronic dolls actually start to sound like something that resembles real music. If you need to close this deal badly, offer to pay for the whole thing and offer to supervise the next favor. Of course, it might be that your kids are old enough to handle themselves without adult supervision. A simple drive out and back, and you’re golden!

Yeah, nothing creepy about that.

Yeah, nothing creepy about that.

This one’s low-risk because you’re not really sneaking out of anything. However, we could increase that risk to medium if it’s actually your turn to chaperone. If this is the case, we recommend hitting the sick button. Use whatever’s realistic for you: if you’re prone to migraines, fake migraines. Sore throats, green tummies, locked bathrooms, etc. are all good options to sell the falsehood. Just know how much time you have to work with and don’t get caught under the car, or you’re in the doghouse for a long, long time.

  1. All-day spa treatment & massage for the wife

Level of difficulty: Low
Risk of getting caught: None

The only downsides to getting the wife out of the house this way are (1) it costs a bit of money, and (2) you have to align your garage time precisely with when she goes. At the same time, you can always use your gift to her as leverage for getting time alone in the garage. You can’t get “caught” when you’re not lying, so there’s no risk involved here. We don’t recommend framing to your beloved that you need her out of the house so you can get some time to yourself, obviously. Just enjoy the husband points and play it off like it’s all a loving token of your appreciation. There are certainly worse things than this, gentlemen.

  1. Just fall off the grid

Level of difficulty: Medium
Risk of getting caught: Medium

This may be our personal favorite. Falling off the grid is the easiest thing to do in the age of the smart phone. At first glance, it seems difficult. For one, people assume you’re available on your phone 24/7, 365. If you don’t answer, they might get suspicious, offended, worried, etc. Two, it’s just kind of hard to keep away from the tech that surrounds us because it freaking surrounds us. But here’s how to fall off without being caught.

Option 1: Turn off message receipts on your phone. If people can see what time you open their texts, don’t open their texts! Alternatively, just turn off that feature in your settings menu, or it will be obvious that you’re ignoring them. Like how you know last week’s Tinder date who blew you off last night without a word isn’t “just seeing this text now” because you can see she certainly opened it two days ago and posted random stuff all last night on Facebook from the bars when she said just two days ago how she was all excited to hang out with you but you know what forget it you don’t need her anyway she’s not even that hot so it’s totally whatever just tell the truth you know? We’re not getting off topic, are we? Naaaaw.

jokerOption 2:  Turn your phone off. Simple if you have the discipline, or you can invest in this Kickstarter campaign aimed at getting people off their phones by literally locking them (the phones, not the people) in a timed lock-box for a set period of time. The horror, though, of being without your phone for several hours at a time.

Option 3: Tell people you dropped your phone in the toilet and had to dry it out all day in a bag of rice. “Works great now, Dad!”

Option 4: Likewise, maybe you “left it in an Uber,” and the driver “took a few hours longer than you thought” to get it back to you. If you’re gonna fib, keep it short, simple and ultra-believable.

  1. Plan to attend a group outing and bail out last-minute

Level of difficulty: Hard
Risk of getting caught: Medium – High

This is where you get to play Ocean’s 11 with everybody you know. Maybe that’s intimidating. Maybe it’s the most exciting thing since sliced bread. Either way, this method is not the recommended path to take if any others are available. If we’re being totally honest, though, sometimes enough is enough. Last week you visited the in-laws; the week before was your cousin’s wedding; the week before that you had a family vacation to the Dells; the week before that you tried to get some work done, but your youngest came down with the flu and required constant attention. Etc. Etc. Etc. You know how it goes. The world is always playing hardball with your time, so sometimes you need to play a little hardball back to settle the score.

The risks here are substantial. If you can’t get out of it, you’re gonna look like the big jerk who always tries to bail last-minute on your commitments, which, let’s face it, you sort of are doing, but let’s not think about that right now. Let’s just work on getting your plan sealed like the valve chamber in your car lift’s hydraulic cylinder: no leaks.

First, make sure the event is something your partner/kids/friends won’t cancel as a result of you bailing on them. Day trips are the best events to bail on because you can always make it up later that evening. Letting less than 24 hours pass between the thing you were supposed to do and the make-up event is the smart approach. You’ll come off as still being interested and engaged, and ultimately, there’s less risk of you damaging your personal relationships. There is one very important detail to consider, however: whether you say you’re going to be out of the house or at home at the time you bail. There’s pros and cons to each choice, so you’ll have to decide which fits your situation.

Staying in-house

“Sorry man, my grandma’s coming over, and she’s like, ancient, so I can’t get out of it.” If someone swings by your house, you’re going to have some ‘splainin’ to do, especially if your garage door is open and your feet are sticking out from under your portable car lift. Good luck redeeming yourself from that one. On the other hand, if you’re home, it might be less of a problem to be spotted because you’re right where you said you’d be. Up to you to work out the kinks.

Going elsewhere

This is tricky because you’re not going to be where you said you’d be. If you’re spotted at home, game over. On the other hand, people are less likely to be in the area if they don’t think you’re around. No one’s going to make that last-ditch effort to show up at your doorstep and try to convince you to come out.

pinocchio_lyingThe above scenarios work with friends, but what about escaping family? They’re in your house, after all, and are pretty hip to everything you have tried, are trying or might try to do. Lying to family is risky and less advised for many reasons, but among them is the fact that you don’t want to set a bad example for your kids. You also don’t want a suspicious wife. Like we said, if you’re making the decision to play hardball, you need to go all out. No halvsies.

  1. Don’t use your friends as an excuse. Friends stick up for you no matter what, and they’ll gladly place a well-timed call to get you out of a jam. You know that thing people do when they want out of a bad date, so they have their friend call with an emergency that requires their immediate attention? Yeah, basically just never do that. It’ll create and/or reinforce the idea that your friends take precedence over your family.
  1. Use work as an excuse. Nothing is sure but death and taxes, right? Your work is your livelihood and takes precedence over virtually every social call outside weddings, funerals, birthdays and anniversaries. You can’t pull on this string all the time, or the thick, wooly sweater that is your lie will unravel and leave you naked and exposed. So what should you say? It really depends on the situation.

For the office employee: “Ugh, my boss needs me to come into the office for a major project. If I don’t show, I’ll never get that promotion.”

For the teacher: “The entire curriculum is changing and I have to make new lesson plans to accommodate. This is ridiculous. They treat us so bad there.”

For the salesman: “I forgot about a mandatory training on a new product. I can’t miss it. I’m so sorry.”

You get the idea. Again, you probably only get one work-related excuse per year if you really want to stay under the radar, so fib wisely.

Word to the wise
If you’ve ever watched Jerry Springer, he ends each episode with a “Final Thought,” a reflection on life, love and/or relationships. The moment stands in stark contrast to the rest of the show because it’s quiet, kind and everyone keeps their clothes on. Here’s our “Final Thought” moment. Lying your way through life is the way to unhappiness and sets you out on a pattern of selfish behaviors that compromise your character, as well as your relationships. Sometimes we need to get away with little things here and there for our own sanity, but don’t overly abuse the light-hearted advice we’re offering to the point it has a damaging impact on your life. That being said, definitely find some time to work on your car this weekend. You’ve earned it.

Auto Industry, You Need Millennial Buyers More Than They Need You

September 28th, 2016

Chapter 1: To Catch a Millennial
cranky_old_manThere’s a myth going around these days that Millennials just need to “grow up” and face the facts of life when it comes to cars. Business Insider recently published a pretty scathing piece against Millennials that sounds like it came straight from the mouth of your cranky grandfather who missed his mid-day nap.

The piece argues that previous generations had to put up with the inconveniences of car ownership and doggone it so should the kids. So let’s put this all-too-common refrain into perspective before getting into why the Gen-X’ers and Baby Boomers who own the dealerships and auto shops need Millennials more than Millennials need them.

First of all, it’s really, really unfair to tell college students and those entering the workforce to “get over” the cost of vehicle ownership. It’s more than just offensive to people’s life situations: it’s bad logic. Let’s pretend for a minute that, like a majority of Americans, we’re not car fanatics, and we don’t know cars inside and out. For most people, car ownership isn’t about custom designs, greater horsepower, racing shocks, etc. It’s about getting to and from work without spending a fortune. Virtually every urban center has some form of public transportation (sorry L.A., you tried), and it’s much easier and cheaper to get a monthly pass for the train than it is to suffer long commutes and traffic congestion, in addition to gas and maintenance costs. The extra “freedom” a car offers may not be worth the financial burden to those who can get around using one on a daily basis. Given that a massive swath of the Millennial population lives in cities with public transportation access, it’s weird to call them whiners and complainers just for being cost-conscious.

Perhaps the article’s strangest moment is when it states, “Buying a car… is like setting money on fire and throwing it down a hole. But that’s the way it has always been,” and then goes on to accuse Millennials of veering away from this terrible, money-sucking trend. The whole “in my day we walked ten miles to school and liked it” routine is simply beyond parody at this point. Aren’t Baby Boomers the “smart” generation that knows how to save? Wouldn’t they applaud a young decision-maker who wants to save up for less costly endeavors, whatever they may be? Could we say this is about buyers’ rights, and Millennials are just tired of being taken advantage of?

You might be wondering why we’re being so hard on the older generation. After all, BendPak is an establishment business that deals mostly with middle-aged crowds. The reason is that while we’ve been supplying customers with quality car lifts and shop equipment for half a century, there are new buyers in town (Millennials) that are not always convinced that they should be buying. Simply put, the people we sell to need to be selling to them. This article will examine how the auto industry needs to adjust its methods to attract Millennial buyers.

Chapter 2: Remember LILLLP: Low Interest, Long Loans, Low Payments
young-woman-with-keys-sliderWe’ll uh… work on that acronym. First things first, we mentioned that Millennials in urban centers aren’t really in the car market. This is true, but ultimately, there are still plenty of young, enthusiastic car buyers outside those markets. The catch is that they’re not buying unless they can get low monthly payments. We’re talking 70+ month loans. We’ll have to monitor how much this loan length increases in the years to come, but loans are getting longer as payments shrink. If you’re in the business of selling cars, Millennials are a fairly large market, with 35% of loan originations coming from buyers in the 18 – 35 age range. Smart financing is so important to dealers looking to capture on this newer, more finicky demographic.

Millennial car buyers have also shown an interest in buying when interest rates are low. Low payments, low interest rates. Combined with the extended loan periods, this sounds like a “have your cake and eat it, too,” scenario, but many of these loans are relatively small and are being used to pay off less expensive used cars. The Millenial trend is to wait; more young people are living at home for longer periods of time, and they’re taking their time getting out of the house and making big purchases, like cars. This isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing; it’s just the way it is. They’ll wait for the low interest rate and the good loan to appear if it isn’t offered at the moment.

Last but certainly not least, the smart dealership needs to use low-pressure sales tactics to attract Millennials to their businesses. Anyone willing to wait on making a big purchase is going to be turned off by an aggressive sales strategy. Don’t be pushy, but do be patient. Younger buyers are more likely to shop around. Be the bigger, better, more with-it dealer and it will pay off in the end. Remember: LILLLP. Keep in mind that if you do decide to play it old-school, Millennials will just cut you out altogether and do their shopping online, so there’s that.

Chapter 3: Your Marketing Stinks!
A recent NerdWallet survey found that 43% of Millennials surveyed found owning a car to be a hassle. This isn’t the most scientific study ever conducted, to be sure, but it’s a peek into the Millennial mindset. The appropriate industry response is as much a question for top-level marketers as it is for the dealerships. If Toyota, Ford and Chevy want to sell to the next generation, they need to meet them where they’re at and convince the young folks that purchasing their particular brand will ensure a virtually hassle-free experience.

who_why-copy

As previously mentioned, if the marketing isn’t convincing—or even if it is—Millennials have shown a willingness to delay major purchases. For industry insiders, it’s simply not good enough to throw up both hands and say, “Well, that’s just not the way all this works,” because that’s a sure-fire way to lose customers, as well as the respect of potential clientele. We should be asking young buyers, “What would make you more willing to buy a car in the next 6-12 months?” Not a radical idea in terms of salesmanship, and there are certainly companies that are going to great lengths to reach Millennials.

eco-friendly-carNissan is one example of a company staying ahead of the curve. They ran their own survey and found that 76% of Millennials questioned wanted an eco-friendly car. It should be no coincidence that a Sustainability page is prominently placed on their website. If you follow that link, there’s no flashing neon sign that says, “Millennials Look Here.” They simply cater to what Millennials are looking for: environmentally friendly, zero-emission, more safety features, etc.

When it comes to better marketing to Millennials, the truly forward-thinking folks out there are jumping on social media. Honda even ran a Snapchat filter with the slogan, “They see me rollin.” Their own social media manager acknowledged this is a new sort of advertising that’s necessary to reach younger buyers, and not everyone in the industry is comfortable “going there.”

If you’re still not convinced that reaching Millennials for business requires new tactics, you’d do well to take the advice of MaryLeigh Bliss, chief content officer at Ypulse, a Millennial-oriented research group, when she says, “It’s not as appealing to [Millennials] as it was to previous generations to own a car made to ‘show off.’” Millennials make up the largest generation that’s ever existed, so the auto industry needs to be sure it’s doing what it can to attract the next generation of big-time shoppers.

millennials-want

Chapter 4: I can’t. Even. (Do basic repairs.)
The scene opens on a warm summer day. A gray-haired father in his earlier 50s is having “the talk” with his 16-year-old son. (Not the talk you’re thinking of.)

Dad: Son, now that you have a license, I need to show you how to change a tire in case you get a flat. It’s important to be able to learn to take care of yourself. I won’t always be here t–

Son: No, Dad! Ugh! I can’t even right now!

Dad raises his fists to the heavens.

 Dad: SNAPCHAAAAAAAAAAAAT!

THE END

car-happy So in what was perhaps the worst representation of father/son relations since Shakespeare, we just presented an all-too-common scenario in the American household. Millennials are much less knowledgeable than their parents about cars. If you think back on what we covered in Chapters 1 and 2, Millennials are actually more cost-conscious and careful about making big purchases than previous generations. So, if 1 + 1 = 2, Millennials would be doing DIY work like there’s no tomorrow, right? Whatever cultural spin (i.e. they’re lazy) you want to put on it, 1 + 1 = 4 for Millennials who want to save money while not doing their own repairs. If you run a business, big or small, you should smell the money grab on this one.

As discussed earlier, Millennials make trust-based decisions. They’re not likely to give repeat business if they feel like they’re “just a number.” One way to get business is to make sure Millennials trust you enough come to you when something happens with their vehicle. To build that trust, it’s a great idea to offer customer education classes and workshops once in a while. Teach young people how to change a tire, do their own oil and establish a vehicle maintenance schedule. There’s so much power in that, and you don’t have to be a major establishment to make it happen. Not to mention, it’s not a cost-heavy deal, and it only takes a few hours of your time.

Since it’s 2016, no matter the size of your shop, there’s no excuse to not have a website. When people Google the nearest car repair shops in your region, they’re going to get a list of shops, a Yelp page and the actual websites of the local companies, among other ads and listings. If you’re second on a list of the “Ten Best Auto Shops in Pasadena, CA” but don’t have a website, you look unavailable and suspicious to younger shoppers. You should have a personalized, well-designed site that you’re willing to put a little money into doing the right way. And just to reiterate, don’t just make the crappiest-looking web page you can and think that’s enough. If your layout, spelling and contact information isn’t professionally handled, you risk doing harm to your business by looking lazy. So in other words, the Millennials we may criticize for being ignorant about their cars will be just as critical of a company with a sloppy online presence. It goes a long way if potential customers, young and old, can easily access your hours of operation, contact info, parking information, deals you’re running, etc. A good website will also help you compete with the larger establishment chains (e.g., Firestone). At the end of the day, we don’t want to see our lovely four-post lifts go to waste in empty garages and service bays across the country.

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Chapter 5: Making Up
For the record, we think Business Insider and its author are both great. We just happen to disagree with this idea that there’s something “wrong” or “broken” about the Millennial generation. It’s a complex world: there was the Great Recession, cars are expensive and most members of this demographic are in their 20s, still figuring out who they want to be. Tap into their mindsets, market accordingly and help them along rather than criticize them. You’ll probably make more money along the way.

8 Awesome Things for your Car and Garage that need to be on your Holiday Wish List

September 21st, 2016

You don’t have to be a DIY’er to enjoy the amazing car tech of 2016. In fact, of the eight wish list items featured here, only a couple of them are really geared at the DIY community. Sometimes you need a break from “doing it yourself,” and you just want the tech to do all the work for you. More importantly, it’s never too early to think about the holiday season, so this list is just in time to get you thinking… and saving. BendPak auto service equipment makes a great gift, but we’ll keep ourselves out of the equation.

We kept a few things in mind when making this list:

Keep it classy, not trashy
We tried not to include the *cheapest* items out there. Like, come on. TREAT YOURSELF. (Note: if the wish list item we like is too expensive, there are always other models of the same concept you can look into.)

Never a phone charger
For whatever reason, cutesy phone chargers seem to be the latest craze in car tech. At the end of the day, charging your batteries isn’t really much more exciting than doing your laundry (guess it depends on the laundry, but we digress).

R2D2-phone-charger

Stupid

It genuinely makes life better
If you put this wish list item in your vehicle or use it while driving/working, it should measurably improve your life. It should be cool (i.e., not just a phone charger).

  1. The Automatic Pro 3G Car Adapter
$129.95
There are quite a few engine diagnostic tools out there, some of which are relatively inexpensive, some of which have neat features, such as a driving coach, fuel efficiency tracking, car locator, dashboard indicator diagnostics, and more. As an alternative, Hum is an interesting OBD reader that features a lower sticker price but requires a monthly subscription fee. The Automatic Pro really caught our eye due to just how much stuff it has available to you.
Automatic Pro screenshots

Automatic Pro screenshots

We like just about everything about this car adapter. Their website is clean, easy-to-navigate and helpful in directing you to the app’s purpose and features. There are dozens of integrated apps to choose from: parking locator, car/driver tracker (for the teen driver in your life), gas mileage recorder and more. Plus, the app design is among the most user-friendly made up to this point, and in 2016 (going into 2017), convenience is the name of the game. Even if you never thought you’d need something like this, the clean design makes it so, so appealing. In the event that your check engine light turns on unexpectedly, the Automatic Pro provides an easy-to-read diagnostic on your phone screen.

In the age of augmented reality (not talking about Pokemon Go), we can literally point our phones at our cars, and our phone can tell us how to conduct a repair, or they can explain the function of a certain feature. This is the direction car tech needs to take, and we love it. For a neat example of augmented reality,

For a neat example of augmented reality that’s unrelated to the Automatic Pro (but in the same ballpark), see the video below:

The Automatic Pro isn’t quite at this level of user-to-world interaction, but it’s getting us close. It’s an awesome tool that will keep you connected to your vehicle in a way that’s non-intrusive and feels fun.

  1. Wide Angle HD Car Dash Cam by TaoTronics

$55.99

Is a full-HD dash cam a bit excessive? Obviously not. When you’re in an accident or become a victim of insurance fraud, you want full proof and evidence of what went down. While there are certainly more expensive options out there, we tried to think big-picture with this one. First off, the 30 fps, 150-degree camera angle is crystal-clear and offers a full view of the road. It looks great at night, as you can see in the video above, and it contains a microphone for full sound recording. Its accident detection feature will lock in data from being overwritten, so there’s no risk of losing that crucial moment due to mindless technology. More expensive options don’t really offer much more by way of features, although some, like the Garmin Dash Cam 20, let you take still images (but the Garmin costs $244.95).

Perhaps the biggest reason to go with a less expensive dash cam model is the fact that a single dash cam only protects you from one angle: what happens if you get bumped in the rear? You can buy two of these babies for a little over $100. Place one in the front and one in the back, and you’re covered for just about everything the road can throw at you.

  1. Torras Aluminum Magnet Center Console
Torras sticks right to your dashboard

Torras sticks right to your dashboard

$20.00
Okay, so this one is a little more on the budget side, granted, but there’s just something so insanely practical about a magnetic center console that we felt it belongs on this list. There are a number of devices out there designed to keep your phone from sliding all over the car (e.g., sticky pads, seat gap fillers), and most of them are a bit on the tacky side. You know what no one ever said? “That sleek, almost invisible magnet that lets you position your phone upright is just too ugly.” The Torras magnet console features a slim base with an attached magnetic plate; a magnet that’s essentially flat sticks to the back of your phone, and it works through a case, as well. What Torras offers is simple and effective. There are a few color options: gold, red and gray, so you can kind of blend your device in with the look of your car. Plus, for 20 bucks, it’s the perfect grab-bag gift at work. Looks like somebody’s doing Secret Santa this holiday season, right? Just look at you, participating socially in things…

  1. TrapTap – Wireless Legal Speed Trap Detector
TrapTap can be virtually invisible in your car

TrapTap can be virtually invisible in your car

$83.00
While we do include an amazing trap/radar/laser detector further down on this list, the TrapTap is an affordable device that does something a little different. If you’re not quite ready to drop a few hundred on a top-end radar detector, the TrapTap offers some unique middle ground. It doesn’t actually detect radar and laser devices, but rather contains a community-driven database of highly ticketed zones across the world. School zones, red light cameras, speed traps, etc. can all be added to the database to help out both you and your fellow drivers. Because it doesn’t actually look for radar or lasers, you’re on your own if you get unlucky on the road, away from the designated trap zones. Still, for the price, you’re getting heads-up access to those high-percentage pull-over zones, and that’s worth the price of admission. If you already have a radar detector that doesn’t recognize the trap zones, this is a great purchase that will get you into the 21st century of car tech without costing you an arm and a leg. Not to mention, it’s barely bigger than a quarter and sticks to just about any surface you can think of. Thanks, TrapTap!

  1. Hudly – Full Color Heads-Up Display for All Cars & Phone Apps

$249.00

Unfortunately, it’s hard to exactly know how to feel about Eric Lee’s labor of love. He and his company Hudly recently launched a Kickstarter for this awesome-looking HUD phone display but only raised about half of their goal before the pledge period expired. We’re not sure where this leaves Hudly or the company, but we’ll update here as information becomes available.

Hudly looks like a better version of what’s out there: the glass projection screen is completely transparent, and it can be placed just out of your driving line-of-sight. It sits similar to most GPS or phone setups, except the display is prominently featured on your windshield. Hudly plugs into your OBD2 port and uses your car battery for power, so it never needs charging. The full-color display just amazing, futuristic and sure to impress you and everyone who sees it. Voice control lets you text back or make calls hands-free, and you can see the screen display without turning your head. This thing is pretty underground at this point, so you’ll earn bonus points for getting into cool tech at the ground level.

  1. Escort Passport 9500ix Radar Detector

$297.98
Arguably one of the better radar/laser detectors out there, this Escort device offers the full suite of ticket prevention. While TrapTap (mentioned above) is certainly useful and budget-friendly for identifying speed traps and red light cameras, the 9500ix does all that plus full radar detection, false alarm prevention, comprehensive laser detection and an AutoLearn “artificial intelligence” feature that supposedly makes its detecting abilities better and more accurate the more you use it.

escort

The Escort 9500ix. Nice, right?

Escort is a top name in radar detection at the moment, so you’re paying for the premium quality and name-brand recognition, as well. The voice alerts are a little clearer than the other brands, the display is simple and to-the-point… we could go on here, it’s just one of those “this is it” devices. Heck, it even looks sexier than the other designs out there. If you have the cash to spend, this is the radar detector to shoot for.

  1. QuickJack

QuickJack is one of the sleekest, most awesome aftermarket car items around. It’s safer and easier to set up than jack stands, more affordable than a full-size car lift is being celebrated worldwide for doing exactly what it says it does: operators touch a button and bam, QuickJack is up 20” in 30 seconds; the safety locks automatically engage; the integrated hydraulic flow divider makes darn sure it never collapses on you.

quickjack-portable-car-lift-assembly

People really are excited about the QuickJack portable car lift system. We recommend you check it out, and if you own a shop or fancy yourself a DIY guy or gal, you’re going to love what QuickJack offers. Its made from the same people who engineer BendPak car lifts, so quality and issue is never in question. And just like that, our self-promoting plug is over.

  1. RaceDeck

Okay DIY’ers, we’re saving the last one especially for you! RaceDeck is not one of those gifts you go and buy for just anyone. This flooring is for the serious garage professional or DIY enthusiast. If that’s you and you’ve never heard of RaceDeck, you’re about to have your mind blown. Click here to commence mind-blowing.

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If you work on vehicles from home and your garage is what you would call your own personal getaway, RaceDeck is your high-end, one-stop shop for gorgeous flooring designs that personalize your garage space. The graphite flooring is 100% chemical-resistant, waterproof and comes in several state-of-the-art designs. Let’s face it, you’re not getting RaceDeck flooring because it’s waterproof; you’re getting it because you want to turn your garage space into a destination, a place to hang out with friends, relax, sneak that morning cigarette away from the wife, work on your cars, bikes, trucks or all of the above. The RaceDeck website does a fantastic job of showcasing the product, and whoever owns the garages in which RaceDeck does their photo shoots must be very happy. In terms of price, it all depends on the size of your garage, but it’s possible to outfit most garages for a few hundred dollars.

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