Car gift ideas for the auto enthusiast – or ‘practicalist’ – on your list

Forget the bling, bling this holiday season and opt for some vroom! vroom! You can say “Happy Holidays” with a gift that makes anyone’s daily commute or holiday travels more pleasant, practical or fun.

BMW Performance Driving School Lime Rock Park

BMW Performance Driving School Lime Rock Park

Here are nine gift ideas to give or put on your wish list this holiday season:  

Performance Driving School Experience. Whether the person on your list already owns a high-performance vehicle or just dreams about one, a performance driving course can be a unique gift this season for the auto aficionado. From the legendary Bob Bundurant’s Racing School in Phoenix to BMW’s Performance Driving School in Greenville, S.C. and even a ladies-only option at Barber Motorsports in Birmingham, Ala., the recipient will learn better handling and driving techniques, not to mention have a whole lot of fun. Packages and pricing vary depending on the vehicle and the duration of the class.

Car seat warmers. If your car doesn’t come equipped already, help you or your friend’s tush stay toasty all winter long. There are do-it-yourself kits for the more adventurous on your list, or you can check with your favorite auto repair shop (hint, hint, that’s us!).

Tile key finderFor the absent-minded. Tile aims to reunite the absent-minded you with your frequently misplaced belongings, from the TV remote and car keys to guitars and bikes. You simply attach the tile, a small Bluetooth tag, and use the accompanying app on your phone to track it. Tile does not need to be charged and is supposed to last about a year.

High-tech stocking stuffer. Everyone will be talking about the Bungajungle Neutron 6. The what? The small magnet that secures your smart devices to the dash.Watch the video to learn more.

Grill ornaments. Make a statement with a pewter grill ornament. Put Buddha or an American eagle in the driver’s seat when you hit the road. See all the designs by visiting The Grommet.

Emergency kit. This is the practical gift. Not everyone thinks to carry a roadside emergency kit in their car. Show how much you care for your gift recipient with a gift that will help keep him or her protected in an emergency.

Heated ice scraper. There’s no better luxury than a heated ice scraper when it’s below 32 degrees!

car charm

Trunk organizer. Although not the most exciting gift on our list, it’s get high marks for practicality. Keep that stuff that you throw in the back of your car and your groceries from falling over and rolling all around the trunk.

Car charmer. Okay, we couldn’t resist a little bling. Find a rearview mirror car charmer and many more personalized car accessories at

We wish you happy shopping and happy holidays. We thank you for being a loyal customer and we’re looking forward to assisting you with all your car care needs in 2017.

Happy Holidays from Hong Kong Auto!



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Our top 8 picks for fun family car trip games

Car travel games for the whole family

Here are our 8 ideas for fun car games to keep the kids entertained during your holiday travel.

For many families, the holidays are synonymous with long car rides to Grandma’s, Aunt Sally’s and Cousin Bob’s.

And even though iPads, portable DVD players and portable video games go a long way to keeping the troops entertained, you can also use old-fashioned car games to liven up the ride and create an opportune bonding time with your kids.

Here are Hong Kong Auto Service’s top game picks for family fun:

1) Who’s Driving The Car
Everyone picks a car in the distance and makes up a story about who they think is driving the car. For example, if you see a beige minivan, one player might say, “The person driving that car is a mother of twins.” The next player might say, “And she has dark brown hair.” The next player might add, “Her sister’s family lives in Ohio, and she’s taking them a lot of presents.” The next player might add, “And the kids are in the backseat sleeping (in their carseats).” You go around the group and craft the story until you pass the car. Then you see how close you were to being “right.”

2) Name That Tune
In the spirit of the classic game show by the same name: Hit the scan button on your car radio. The first person to guess the name of the song gets a point. If the guesser knows the singer, band or composer, he or she gets one point. If he or she knows the song name and artist, that’s worth three points.

3) License Plates
This is a great way to reinforce your kids’ knowledge of the 50 states. Using black-and-white U.S. map printouts, each player colors in a state with a crayon after spotting its license plate. Get advanced by requiring players to name each state’s capital, too.

4) Alphabet Game
Each player attempts to find the letters of the alphabet, in order, on road signs, buildings and other stationary objects. Some families count words on passing vehicles – some rules those out. The word must begin with the letter. For example, a player looking for an “S” would be delighted to spot a stop sign. The player must call out the letter and the word when they see it, and no two players can claim the same word on the same sign. Competition really heats up when you’re looking for Js and Xs! The first player to work their way through the alphabet wins.

5) Counting Cows
Players count the cows on their side of the car. Pass a cemetery and call out “your cows are buried” to force the other players to lose their cows. Distracting each other is OK, too. Mix it up a bit by adding a white horse as a bonus. For older kids, settle a tie-breaker by asking players to name all the things made from cow’s milk: cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc.

6) Virtual Hide and Seek
Imagine yourself in a particular place in your home. The cool thing is, unlike the real game, you can be any size (think Alice in Wonderland), so any location is fair game: the kitchen junk drawer, the garbage disposal, the toilet (remember the Ty-D-bol man?). Other players ask yes/no questions, such as “are you in the laundry room?” until your location is narrowed. Children will love this game because they can use their imaginations to create hiding places they’d never be able to use in actuality.

7) Scavenger Hunt
Each player receives a list of items to locate along the road. The first player who spots all items on the list wins. Difficulty level can be adjusted to include kids of all ages and customized for each trip—city, suburban or rural—and feature such items as a flashing red light, dog, playground, church, statue, silo or tractor. Don’t have time to create your own scavenger hunt list? Google “scavenger hunt clues for the car,” and you’ll find oodles of ready-to-print lists.

8) Tell a Tale
Let the creative juices flow! The first player starts telling a story to the others. At any point, the narrator stops talking (even mid-sentence) and the second player must pick up the tale. Each player continues building the story until it reaches a logical (or illogical) conclusion.


Does your vehicle need an oil change or other service before you head out of town? Schedule an appointment now — and learn why we recommend coming in a week or more before your trip.

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Hitting the road this holiday season? How to make sure your car is ready for the trip

wheel-alignmentThanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays on the highway. Whether you’re heading north to Wisconsin or west to Iowa, make sure your car is up to the task. Nothing puts a damper on a holiday trip like an unexpected breakdown.

Practical Items First – Scheduling

For your own benefit, we recommend scheduling your pre-trip inspection one to two weeks in advance. Why?

  • You’ll avoid the holiday rush, and we’ll be able to schedule your appointment at your convenience.
  • You’ll ensure there’s plenty of time for any repairs to be completed before you need to leave on your trip.
  • You’ll avoid stress related to any parts delays. In most cases, we can get the parts we need the same day. But every once in awhile, a part has to be ordered and is 1-2 days away.
  • You’ll have time to drive the vehicle locally for a few days to ensure everything is A-OK.

The Pre-Trip Checklist

When you ask Hong Kong Auto Service to inspect your vehicle before you head out on your trip, we’ll give it the preemptive physical it needs for safe and worry-free travels. Here’s a list of what we evaluate for you:

  • Air Filter: Your engine air filter also is important because it saves you money on gas. For every gallon of gas you burn, your car will filter and use 12,000 gallons of air. If the filter needs to be changed, you’ll notice the fuel savings (or loss) on your trip.
  • Belts and Hoses: The stress of a long road trip and traveling a few hundred miles can push weak or worn belts and hoses past their breaking point. Are your belts and hoses cracked or loose? Do you hear any whining from the car when you first start it? We’ll inspect your belts and hosts for any warning signs of trouble ahead.
  • Brakes: We highly recommend a brake inspection to make sure there’s plenty of brake pads/shoes left and that the vehicle is ready to stop on a dime. Are you hearing any squeaking or grinding from the brakes? Is there excessive brake dust? Is the pedal too soft or too hard? Is the brake fluid low?
  • Lighting: We’ll check your vehicle lighting to make sure there are no burned out bulbs you’re not aware of – headlights, taillights, brake lights, license plate lights and turn signals.
  • Oil Change: When is your next oil change due? Will you be able to complete your trip before it’s due? If not, have it taken care of before you go.
  • Tires: We’ll evaluate your tires for tread wear, proper inflation and overall condition. Is it time to rotate your tires or balance the wheels? Is there enough tread, and is it wearing evenly? Is there any evidence of dry-rotting or cracking?
  • Wheel Alignment, Shocks & Struts: Your steering and suspension are key to vehicle comfort and safety. Does you car pull to one side when driving? Does the car dip when you brake? Does it handle bumps and potholes well, or does it bounce all over the road?
  • Wiper Blades: It’s easy to forget about wiper blades until a rainy or snowy day, when we’re driving down the highway and trying to see through streaks on the windshield or withstand the scraping of a wiper blade well past its prime. We’ll check the condition of your blades for you and make sure you’re ready for everything from a sprinkle to a snowstorm.

If you haven’t been to see us for more than three months or 3,000 miles, contact us to schedule that pre-trip inspection this week. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Being haunted by car noises? Take our Halloween quiz to find out how to banish the ghosts and goblins

Scary car noises and what might be causing themIt’s that time of year when we welcome the cool fall air, relish the colorful leaves…and start to be haunted by vehicle noises that, somehow, weren’t there all summer long.

It’s okay! There’s no need to be spooked by scary sounds lurking under your hood. At Hong Kong Auto Service, we can drive away the most frightening or annoying groaning, grinding, clunking and high-pitched screeches.

Take our Halloween quiz to find out what the source of noise in your car might be:

1) SCREECH! You hear high-pitched screeching from the front or back wheels or every time you brake. Is it?

A) A build up of brake dust.

B) The brake pad indicators indicating the pads are worn. 

C) Your kids’ iPod pumping sounds from a new music scene into your speakers.

D) Both A and B.

The answer is D. This screeching or even squealing can be caused by the brake-wear indicators or by brake dust or corrosion on the rotors.

Best thing to do: Schedule an appointment with Hong Kong Auto Service. While you’re not likely to suddenly lose your braking capabilities, also you’re probably not getting optimum stopping performance, either. It’s best to have the system inspected so you know exactly what’s going on and why. If you are in need of new brake pads, you’ll want to address that before they wear out and begin digging into the rotors, which can quickly mean they’ll need to be replaced, too.

2) AH, THAT’S SO SHRILLLLL! There’s a shrill piercing sound coming from the engine when the vehicle is first started. Is it?

A) The shrieking of a varmint that’s moving in under the hood for the winter.

B) The idle control valve trying to warm up in the cooler mornings.

C) A serpentine or drive belt.

D) None of the above.

The answer is C. It could be the belts, the tensioners that help hold the belts in place, or the bearings on the idler pulley, which helps keep the belts in position.

Best thing to do: Make an appointment to have your vehicle inspected. It could be something as simple as tightening the belt, or it could help you prevent something more serious. For example, if the serpentine belt is severely worn and breaks or slips off the tensioner and pulleys, the car accessories will run on battery power only and can only last as long as the battery. Then your car will stall, and you’ll be stuck roadside.

3) EEE ER EEE ER! When you sound this out, it sounds eerily similar to creaking bed springs. Is it?

A) Shocks.

B) Struts.

C) Coil or leaf springs.

D) Complaints from the hydraulic suspension your kids had installed for your birthday.

The answer is B. This is most likely a strut issue.

Best thing to do: Have Hong Kong Auto Service inspect your car so we know for sure. While a strut issue isn’t likely to leave you stranded, worn struts almost always mean wheel alignment issues and premature tire wear. In severe cases, the front end will nose dive when the car stops. Struts dampen the force when your car hits a pothole or uneven road surface and when you stop rapidly. If they are worn or broken, they can’t dampen the oscillation, and the energy is absorbed somewhere else in the suspension system. This unwanted energy will start to take its toll on bushings, ball joints and other suspension components, causing them to wear out faster.

4) PING, PING, RATTLE. Although lighter and not menacing, this constant rattle can be very annoying. Is it?

A) Your kid’s Tin Man costume for Halloween rattling around in the trunk.

B) A loose heat shield.

C) A loose or missing exhaust clamp.

D) Both B and C.

The answer is D. It’s likely a loose heat shield or exhaust clamp.

Best thing to do: Breathe a sigh of relief! There’s little danger here, and it should be a low-cost repair. Stop by Hong Kong Auto Service at your convenience or schedule an appointment, and we can take care of this pesky rattle for you.

If you’re being haunted by any of these or other scary sounds, we’re here to help you ward them off before they result in costly repairs or an untimely breakdown. Call on Hong Kong Auto Service to help make sure your vehicle is running boo-tifully this Halloween season!

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Why outfit your foreign car with winter tires?

Installing snow tires on your import automobile is a hot idea for the cold weather. While you’re probably not going to drive your BMW on the Bavarian Alps any time soon, your vehicle equipped with snow tires will be able to easily handle any snow-covered roads in Wilmette.

We understand the appeal of “all-season tires”: No shelling out the bucks for four more tires, and no seasonal wheel changes.**Buying new tires_ iStock_000044475538_Medium

But a number of foreign car makers recommend snow tires in their owner’s manuals, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, MINI, Toyota and Volvo. And we’ve witnessed first-hand how our customers who drive European and Japanese cars can benefit from snow tires.

Here are two key reasons why:

  • Winter tire treads grip ice and snow better by using raised blocks of tread that are designed to channel snow, ice, slush or water away from the tire’s surface. This design also improves “bite” in situations in which traction has been compromised by snow or slush build-up on the road surface. Plus, snow tires also feature razor-thin grooves within the tread that permit improved contact between the tires and wet road surfaces.
  • Rubber compounds used for performance and all-season tires start to feel a chill at a mere 45°F by stiffening, which decreases a tire’s gripping ability. The softer compounds used in winter tires, however, allow them to remain flexible even in extremely low temperatures.

 Tire-buying tips
Convinced snow tires are the way to go? At Hong Kong Auto, we can help you select a quality set of winter tires for your vehicle and your driving needs. But if you want to get a jump start on the research, we recommend:

  • Buying four matching tires. Installing winter tires only on the drive wheels will result in unpredictable handling and might be dangerous.
  • Considering a second set of wheels. This will save remounting the tires each season. Instead, you simply swap out the wheel/tire sets. If you purchase a set of inexpensive steel wheels for permanent winter duty, it also protects your expensive alloy wheels from the harsh, salty winter.
  • Installing your snow tires around Thanksgiving and then back to all-season in late March or early April. You want to have your snow tires on the car before the first snowfall. That’s hard to predict! But as the temperature nears 45 degrees, the all-season tires grow stiffer. And in the spring, warmer temps compromise the softer rubber of the winter tires.
  • Store off-season tires in a cool, dry area out of sunlight. Consider wrapping them in black plastic bags to reduce oxidation.

Are you ready to invest in winter tires for your European or Asian car? Stop in today or make an appointment, and we can help you prepare for the first snowfall of the season.

** Keep in mind that having two sets of tires isn’t doubling the expense, it’s halving the wear. You’ll have twice the number of tires but buy new ones half as often.



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You can crack the dashboard lights code

Q. I am worried my college-age students might not recognize the warning lights on the dashboard or not pay attention to them at all. Can you provide me with a quick guide to dashboard lights?  

A. As your kids head off to college, it is important to “school” them on what all the dashboard lights mean so they don’t get stranded on the road. Tell them when a dashboard light is displayed it’s like an emoticon for the car. The light can signal that the car is in distress or needs preventive maintenance.


Dashboard lights are like emoticons for the car. These lights can signal if your car needs preventive maintenance or auto repair.

When a dashboard light comes on, your young motorists need to know how critical a particular warning light is and whether they need to:

  • Pull over ASAP.
  • Keep driving but head directly to an auto repair shop.
  • Keep driving and schedule an appointment for service at their earliest opportunity.

All those green, orange, blue or red illuminated symbols might seem like ancient hieroglyphics to your college drivers, so we’ve prepared a mini guide to help prepare even the most disinterested driver with some behind-the-wheel know-how.

You’ve been warned
Be aware a light might function differently depending on the situation. For example, a flashing check engine light is a sure-fire signal to get that car into a service facility immediately. However, a constantly illuminated check engine light will buy you more time until you can make an appointment with Hong Kong Auto.

When these lights come on, you should pull over safely ASAP:

  • Engine Temperature/Coolant Light (A hot set of wheels is a cool thing; an overheated engine is not.)
  • Oil Pressure (This is a potentially engine-frying hazard.)
  • Powertrain Malfunction (Something might be amiss with your transmission. Indicates either a malfunction or a high transmission temperature.)

When these lights come on, you should head directly to an auto repair shop:

  • Battery or Alternator (A power outage can be enraging, and your car may not restart if you pull over and turn the engine off.)
  • Flashing Check Engine Light (This is more critical than the Check Engine Light staying on steady.)
  • If a combination of warning lights are displayed or if your dashboard lights up like a holiday tree.

 When these lights come on, you should schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience:

  • Brake Light (Stopping when you want to is such a great feeling.)
  • Tire Pressure Monitor (Underinflated tires not only compromise safety, they slurp gas.)
  • Parking Brake (A constantly illuminated one of these could mean more than just an engaged parking brake.)
  • Airbag (Only a crash test dummy would risk faulty airbags.)
  • Traction Control
  • Bulb Failure (There’s a reason the roads suddenly seem darker at night.)
  • Tire Rotation (Passed your 7,000-mile mark?)

It’s also a good idea for young drivers to review non-warning dashboard lights, such as those indicating whether high beams (often blue), fog lights (many times green) or blinking hazard lights are engaged or if the cruise control is on or if the doors, hood or trunk are open. Ditto for traction control and four-wheel drive indicators.

Study the owner’s manual
Don’t fret if you don’t know what every dashboard light symbol means. Today’s cars have so many different warning lights that it’s almost impossible to know what these all mean. Encourage your young drivers to know the important indicator lights, and for the rest, they should look them up. The best place to look for a symbol is the owner’s manual which always should be kept in the car, not at home.

Stop in for a complete auto repair checkup at Hong Kong Auto before your kids off to college.


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What are the real costs of buying a new car?

Should you repair your aging vehicle or bite the bullet and buy a new car? When weighing the options, it’s easy to get lost in a daydream about owning a brand new car.

What are the true costs of a new car vs. maintaining your current ride? You might be shocked and may not want to take on that monthly car payment again.

The average new car price has jumped in recent years. Kelly Blue Book analysts reported earlier this year the estimated average transaction price for U.S. light vehicles as $34,428 in December 2015. That’s a $297 (0.9%) jump vs. the same period the previous year.


Even the most expensive repair bills for an old car can’t outweigh the cost of depreciation on a new one.

Could it be that new car smell is giving off a serious odor, after all?

At Hong Kong Auto, we want you fully informed as you weigh this important decision. We urge you to check out these resources for details on the trust cost of a new car:

We would like to help you make an informed decision by calculating the cost of gas for your current vehicle so that you can see if keeping it vs. the cost of a new or used car payment makes sense.  We’ll help you prioritize necessary repairs and offer expert advice including deciding whether to buy that new car or repair your current one.

Remember, when you choose Hong Kong Auto, we can help you determine if trading in that gas guzzler  or older car is worth it.




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