What Is Your Car Trying to Tell You?

What Is Your Car Trying to Tell You?

Six one-dollar bills fanned out on a table with a red key chain with a black and silver vehicle key on top of the bills

Regular vehicle maintenance can help you avoid expensive repairs. Photo credit: UF/IFAS Northwest District

A car is one of the biggest investments we will make. With proper car maintenance, you can increase safety, improve performance, and save money in the long run. According to AAA, big improvements in powertrain technology, lubricant, and rust prevention have led to improvements in automobile reliability, longevity, and durability. With proper care, almost any car can make it well past the 100,000-mile mark.

• Do some research and purchase a safe, reliable vehicle
• Stick to the recommended car maintenance schedule
• Buy high quality parts:  engine oil, battery, tires, etc.
• Keep your car clean, inside and out
• Know what to look for if your car is beginning to show signs of trouble

You know your car, and, therefore, you are the best judge of when it’s acting differently. There are signs your car may exhibit that will warn you of a potential problem. It could be a light, a sound, or an unusual smell. Consumer Reports recommends at the first sign of trouble, you should take your car to a reliable mechanic.

Lights that appear on your dashboard are connected to sensors that monitor everything your car does. If your car senses that something isn’t quite right, the computer will use these lights to tell you what it is. If any of these lights appear, your mechanic will be able to hook up your vehicle to a diagnostic scan tool to identify the trouble and find out exactly what’s prompting the light to turn on.
Pay attention to these warning lights, as they could indicate a problem with your vehicle:
• Check Engine
• Check Oil/Oil Level Low
• Oil Pressure Low

You know your car and the sounds it normally makes, but new or different sounds can be a sign of trouble. These sounds can be a clue to what’s going on under the hood. GEICO Insurance offers a list of these sounds and their possible causes.

Sounds and Possible Causes

  • A sound like a coin rattling inside a tin can: Could be a loose lug nut inside the hub cap.
  • Brakes squealing or grinding: Your brake pads or shoes might need to be replaced. Pads may be worn, and the sound is metal on metal.
  • A snapping, popping, or clicking sound when you turn a corner: One or both of the constant velocity (CV) joints on your front axle could need to be replaced.
  • A rhythmic squeak that speeds up as you accelerate: This could indicate a problem with the universal joints (U-joints) in the driveshaft.
  • A howling, whining, or even “singing” sound: Bearings, which are small metal balls that help parts rotate smoothly, may not be properly working.
  • A rhythmic clunking, tapping, or banging from under the hood: This could indicate a problem with valves, pistons, or connecting rods. Rough, bumpy motions could be caused by faulty spark plugs, clogged fuel lines, or a bad fuel filter.
  • A squealing sound from under the hood at start-up or when accelerating: This sound could be caused by worn or loose accessory belts for the power steering pump, air conditioner compressor, alternator, or the serpentine belt.

Toxic gases such as carbon monoxide are contained in a car’s exhaust system. If you smell a foul or strong smell while inside your car, this may be a sign of a serious problem. You should have it checked by a mechanic as soon as possible. If oil or coolant is leaking, this may mean hazardous exhaust gases are entering the interior of your car.
The smell of rubber burning could be a signal that your car’s drive belts or accessory belts underneath the hood are damaged, worn, or loose. These belts will need to be replaced as soon as possible to prevent more problems.

Smoke can come from the front or back of your car. Smoke coming from beneath the car’s hood most likely means your engine is overheating, and you should bring it to a mechanic right away. The color of the smoke coming out of your exhaust pipe can give you a clue about what may be going on inside your engine.

Blue Smoke: This could mean oil is escaping from somewhere within the engine and is being burned along with the gasoline. If you see blue smoke, your mechanic should look for damaged or worn seals in the engine.

White Smoke: May mean antifreeze or water condensation may have mixed in with the gasoline. You should have it checked out as soon as possible.

Mechanics agree that preventive maintenance, including regular oil changes and belt replacement, can help to extend the life of your car. Car maintenance can be an inconvenience that requires time, planning, and effort. But, in the long run, the benefits of driving a safe car outweigh the cost and aggravation.

For more information on how to save money by properly maintaining your car, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

AAA: https://magazine.northeast.aaa.com/daily/life/cars-trucks/benefits-maintaining-vehicle/
Consumer Reports: https://www.consumerreports.org/car-repair-maintenance/make-your-car-last-200-000-miles/
GEICO: https://www.geico.com/more/driving/auto/auto-care/car-noises/?utm_source=geico&utm_medium=email&utm_content=newsletter&utm_campaign=feb2018

New Year’s Health Observances

New Year’s Health Observances

January 24th is Global Belly Laugh Day!

Store aisle with 5-shelf racks of calendars for sale.

Make health and wellness a part of your calendar and daily routine.
Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District

Each year, we celebrate many holidays, but there are also many observances and commemorations scheduled throughout the calendar year. Some are odd, like National Science Fiction Day, Word Nerd Day, and even National Dinosaur Day. Others serve as a good opportunity to raise awareness about important health topics and remind us to take control of our health.

Celebrating the new year means leaving the past behind, making positive changes, and the continuation of success and happiness. National observances such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Family Health History Day, and World AIDS Day help us come together to spread awareness and show support for each other.

Organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and American Lung Association have created nationwide awareness month campaigns to draw attention to some of the leading causes of death in America. Other observances, such as Take a Loved One to the Doctor Month from the Florida Department of Health, encourage people to take charge of their own health and to urge their loved ones to do the same.

So, as you are looking forward to the new year, make health and wellness a part of your calendar and daily routine.

UF/IFAS Extension wishes you and your family a year fully loaded with happiness, prosperity, and health.
To learn more about health observances and how to encourage your loved ones to take control of their health, contact Laurie Osgood, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Gadsden County, (850) 875-7255, or osgoodlb@ufl.edu

Beware of Holiday Scams

Beware of Holiday Scams

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… for Criminals, Thieves and Scammers

Red and green Christmas tree ornaments in a clear bowl

Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District

This holiday season scammers and identity thieves are hoping to take advantage of shoppers who may be too preoccupied with travel, gift-buying, and festivities to notice. Therefore, during the holidays, it is even more important to remain vigilant while shopping in stores or online.

More people are turning to online shopping for their holiday gifts. The National Retail Federation forecasts consumers to spend about $721 billion this holiday season.  However, this increase in online spending comes with a greater risk for thieves to steal your money or your identity.

Here are some common holiday scams and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim:

Deals That Are Too Good to Be True –while shopping online keep the old adage in mind, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. During the holidays, shoppers are looking for huge deals, and scammers know it. These thieves often set up websites that appear to be legitimate, just to steal your personal information and/or to download a virus onto your computer.

It is important to make sure any site in which you shop contains an HTTPS security designation. Another simple way to know if the website is authentic is to look for the padlock symbol that appears in the address bar of the retailer. Here is an example of an Amazon online address bar.

Holiday Phishing Scams – Around the holidays, beware of emails pretending to be sent from familiar companies like FedEx or UPS. These emails claim to provide links for package tracking information. These links, once clicked on, will either steal your personal information or download a virus onto your computer. Remember, if you receive an email from someone you don’t know or weren’t expecting an email from, you should never click on links. Also, make sure you are using current antivirus software on your computer.

Identity Theft and ATM Skimmers

In Store Shopping:
    • Being vigilant is key to protecting yourself during the holiday season. Thieves target shoppers who are either struggling with packages and bags or those who are unaware of their surroundings. Thieves see this as an opportunity to steal your wallet or credit card numbers.
    • When using an ATM or other key pads, make sure to check for skimming devices that thieves install on ATMs and other card readers. These skimmers are placed over the existing key pad in order to access your account. It is also advised to cover the keypad when entering your pin number while purchasing items or getting money from an ATM
    • After each purchase, take time to put your credit card back into your wallet. Also, it may be worthwhile to purchase an RFID-blocking wallet. These wallets are designed to shield your credit card information from RFID readers and skimmers..
 Online Shopping:
  • When shopping online, experts advise consumers to use credit cards instead of debit cards. In case of fraud, both payments types can be disputed, however debit card payments are automatically deducted from your bank account. Therefore, it may take longer to get your money back.

Gift Cards– Gift cards are a great idea for people on our shopping list. However, a record number of retail stores are closing their doors, so you should consider the retailer’s financial situation before buying a gift card. If the retailer closes or declares bankruptcy, the recipient may not be able to use the gift card.

Package Delivery Theft- Having packages delivered to our homes makes us a target for thieves who case neighborhoods and even follow delivery trucks looking for packages sitting on porches. There are ways to prevent this from happening to you. You can have your packages delivered to their office, a local pick-up area, like a UPS Store or try to schedule delivery times when someone will be home, if possible. Online shoppers can also set up tracking notifications, to know when an item is delivered.

Charitable Giving Tips – Give to charities wisely. At this time of year, we all want to give to charities that pull on our heart strings. But beware of giving money to charities that are fake or irresponsible. Do your research to make sure to support the many legitimate and deserving charities that can use our help during the holidays.

The 2018 Consumer Protection Guide – This guide provides more information about protecting yourself as a consumer, including online identity theft, charity scams, item recalls and more.

The holiday season brings out the best and worst in people. Therefore, you should be vigilant because the holidays are a lucrative time of year for thieves and scammers who are trying their hardest to get into your bank account.

For more tips on how to keep your identity safe and avoid holiday scams, contact Laurie Osgood, UF/IFAS Extension, Gadsden County at Osgoodlb@ufl.edu  or call (850) 875-7255.


Don’t Let A Tick Ruin Your Summer!

Don’t Let A Tick Ruin Your Summer!

Check for ticks after being outside.
Photo source: http://photos.ifas.ufl.edu

Does the mere thought of ticks make you feel itchy all over? Ticks are not a fun thing to talk about, but we can’t ignore them. Ticks can pose a real threat to your outdoor summer fun. Here in the Florida Panhandle, you can find ticks all year-long. But ticks are the most active in warm weather, from April through September.

There are many varieties of ticks in the world, but only a few spread disease to people. Of the ticks that can be found in North Florida, the black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick, is the most dangerous because it is the primary vector of Lyme disease in humans. Learn more about the black-legged tick.

Symptoms of a Tick Bite

According to the UF/IFAS Extension’s Department of Entomology and Nematology guidebook, Pests In and Around the Southern Home, the most common symptoms associated with tick bites are rash, fever, chills, aches, and pains. If you have been bitten by a tick that carries Lyme disease, a bullseye-shaped rash may appear within 3-30 days. This circular rash usually appears before you experience fever or any other symptoms.

Although the rash tends to show up in most Lyme disease cases, it doesn’t always develop at the spot where you were bitten. If you’ve been bitten by a tick and are suffering from any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor ASAP. They will evaluate the tick bite and decide the best treatment option for you. However, in most cases, when the tick is removed, these symptoms should subside within 24 hours.  For more information, visit Ticks & Disease in Florida.

Checking Yourself and Your Family for Ticks

Ticks can be very small and hard to see. It is important to routinely check for ticks on all members of your family, including your pets. Examine your clothes, gear, and pets thoroughly after spending time outside. Experts advise us to wear light-colored clothing and closed-toe shoes when outside. Make sure to check your legs and ankles first, then move up your body. It’s important to remember that ticks are especially fond of warm areas on the body, so don’t forget to check all head and body hair, under your arms, the inside and outside of your ears and inside your belly button. Use a hand-held mirror for the best view of these spots on your body.

What is the Safest Way to Remove a Tick?

If you find a tick attached to your skin, don’t panic! It is important to remove the tick as soon as you spot it. The best way to remove the whole tick is with a pair of tweezers. Avoid twisting or yanking on the tick too quickly; this may cause some of the tick to remain attached to your skin. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the site with soap, water, and rubbing alcohol.

Some believe the best way to remove a tick is by coating it with nail polish or petroleum jelly, causing the tick to detach itself from the skin. However, tweezers remain the quickest and safest way to remove the entire tick that is attached to the skin.

Preventing Ticks in Your Yard and On Your Pets

Check pets regularly for ticks.
Photo source: Pam Nobles

Our own backyard can be high-risk tick zones. We can help rid our yards of ticks by removing old trash and excess leaves, clearing tall grass, and mowing the lawn frequently. This is important especially around walkways, gardens, and the areas used for family activity.

Once you have protected your yard from ticks, don’t forget about your family pet. Adult ticks can attach themselves to your pet, who, unknowingly, bring these pests into your home. Once inside, they can easily spread disease to you or your family. You can defend your pets from these nuisances by talking to your veterinarian about the tick protective products they recommend for your pet.

To learn more about ticks and tick bites, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) website for a comprehensive guide to all tickborne diseases in the United States.  



March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month


According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. Colorectal cancer affects all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people ages 50 and older. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer.html


Cancer Screening Saves Lives!

The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 50. Colorectal cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms, initially – which makes it much more important to get screened regularly. Make sure to talk to your doctor about when you should begin cancer screenings, how often, and which test is right for you. 



What Can You Do To Reduce These Risks?

  • Get regular screening starting at age 50
  • Encourage your family members and friends over age 50 to get screened.
  • Don’t smoke
  • Be physically active
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber, while avoiding high fat foods


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides fact sheets with more information about colorectal and other cancers. To learn more, visit https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/index.htm.

To learn more about colorectal cancer education and prevention efforts in your community, visit the Florida Department of Health at http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/cancer/colon-cancer/index.html or contact them at (850) 245-4330.

For more information about UF/IFAS Family and Consumer Sciences Program with the Gadsden County Extension, please contact Laurie Osgood at (850) 875-7255.