What You Should Know About Spark Plugs, Their Adjustment, and Their Replacement


Mechanics adjusting spark plugs

Spark plugs are inside every gasoline car engine, but most vehicle owners know little about these small but vital engine parts. Knowing more about their operation, maintenance and replacement is one key to making sure your engine runs well. Below is more information about spark plugs, how you can check them for proper adjustment and functioning, and how to know when it is time to replace them.

The Purpose of Spark Plugs

The basic operation of an internal combustion engine, which describes your car's gasoline motor, is not particularly complex. The motor first mixes gasoline and air in small quantities and then ignites the mixture inside a cylinder with an electrical spark.

As the hot gases from the explosion expand, they push a piston, which in turn is linked to a shaft that transfers power to the transmission and ultimately the wheels. This process occurs thousands of times per minute, but for it all to work, the source of the sparks, the spark plugs, must fire consistently.

The Anatomy of a Spark Plug

Spark plugs are constructed of an insulating material and a metallic conductor. At the top end of the plug, the tips connect to the spark-plug wires and send an electrical current down the interior of the plug to the electrodes. There are two electrodes separated by a small gap; as the current approaches the end of one electrode, it effectively "jumps" across the gap to the opposite electrode and creates a visible spark.

The Spark-Plug Gap

One of the key factors that makes a spark plug work well, or not, is the size of the gap between the electrodes. If the gap is too small, the spark will likely be too weak and cause the engine to run poorly or with poor efficiency. However, if the spark plug gap is too large, the spark is unlikely to consistently "jump" across the long distance between electrodes, thus leading to a rough-running engine or one that doesn't run at all.

Fortunately, spark-plug gaps can be easily adjusted by mechanics, including many amateur do-ityourselfers. A spark-plug gap gauge both measures and adjusts the gap and is inexpensive and simple to use.

There are different types of gap gauges, but they all basically function the same way; simply locate the recommended gap for the spark plugs in your vehicle and then insert the gauge edge into the gap and measure the distance between the electrodes.

Should the gap be too narrow, the mechanic will gently pry the gap apart with the gauge. On the other hand, should the gap be too wide, it can be narrowed by the mechanic's squeezing the electrodes closer together with a tool or pushing the bottom electrode down onto a tabletop.

Replacement of a Spark Plug

Spark plugs undergo a remarkable amount of stress because they experience electrical currents of tens of thousands of volts, hundreds of degrees of heat, and constant vibration. Eventually, all spark plugs will wear out and need to be replaced. Knowing when a spark plug needs replacing is sometimes a matter of knowing the lifespan in terms of miles, but the presence of certain engine symptoms can provide clues. Here are some things that can help you know when it's time to install new spark plugs:

  • Difficulty starting the engine, especially during a cold start
  • Poor running or idling at any point
  • Lack of acceleration when pedal is pushed
  • High fuel consumption unexplained by other factors

If your car is experiencing problems that lead you to believe your car's spark plugs need replacing, then contact a qualified automotive technician for assistance. They can perform spark-plug replacements and offer sound guidance about other plug-related issues.

If you find that the issue isn't with the spark plugs, and you end up deciding to get a new car, consider donating your old car to Newgate School, which teaches disadvantaged young adults auto mechanics skills. 

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Beyond The Oil Change: 3 Important Car Maintenance Tasks


Car that needs maintenance

Every car owner knows regular oil changes are an expected part of vehicle ownership, and most are also aware of other necessary tasks that need to be done, including tire, brake, and battery replacement. However, there are several other important maintenance tasks besides these. Many of these other tasks are just as critical as oil changes.

While each specific make and model has its own maintenance schedule, many of the following tasks are common across all vehicles. Below are three maintenance items you should be aware of and address as needed to protect your substantial investment.

Air Filter Replacement

Just like any device that burns a fuel to produce energy, your car depends on oxygen to complete the combustion cycle. However, the air coming from the road is often full of dust and debris and can cause damage to the internal parts of your engine if it enters in this state. Your car contains an air filter that removes the contaminants that could harm your vehicle; this filter is a simple component that is usually made of paper and is placed in its own special compartment between the intake and motor.

Over time, this filter becomes clogged as the engine continues to draw air from the outside. If you ignore a clogged filter, the lack of adequate airflow will cause your engine to run poorly and cost you extra money at the gas pump. Should you continue to ignore your air filter, it will eventually disintegrate and admit harmful debris into the engine directly.

As with all maintenance tasks, it is important to check your owner's manual to see when replacement is warranted. However, most air filters should be visually examined for signs of excessive debris at every oil change; if it looks dirty, then it probably needs to be tossed and a new one installed. They aren't expensive, and it is well worth the low cost to replace a clogged filter.

Engine Coolant Replacement

The coolant in your car serves a critical role by preventing your engine from overheating. The liquid, which consists of a mixture of water and special chemicals, absorbs heat from the motor and releases the heat when it enters the radiator. If anything disrupts this cycle, heat levels will build beyond an acceptable limit and cause significant engine damage.

Engine coolant needs replacement on a regular basis; newer vehicles may not need fresh coolant more often than every 100,000 miles, but this can vary depending on the make and model. If you fail to replace the coolant as necessary, then it will eventually stop readily absorbing heat and could allow engine temperatures to rise to dangerous levels.

In addition, coolant also accumulates more particles as time passes; these particles consist of minute bits and pieces of metal as well as other small debris. While these particles may be largely harmless, there is a possibility they can clog internal lines and block areas of the motor off from the coolant. Obviously, this could be destructive to your engine, so be sure to follow whatever written guidelines are in place for your specific vehicle and replace the coolant as specified.

Timing Belt Replacement

When a car engine runs, a lot of internal moving parts must move exactly in sync for the engine to function. For example, multiple valves allow fuel to enter the motor while other valves permit exhaust to leave. The timing belt is connected to each of these parts and keeps everything moving in rhythm. It is important to know that not all vehicles contain timing belts; some use what is known as a timing chain, but the function is the same.

Unfortunately, timing belts are made of rubber and will eventually wear out and break. Should this occur, there is a high likelihood that unsynchronized parts inside the engine will collide and create catastrophic damage. In fact, the damage can be so substantial that engine replacement is often the only remedy.

It goes without saying that timing belt replacement is critical and should not be ignored. Each vehicle has its own schedule for timing belt replacement, but generally, it's performed once every 100,000 miles. Your vehicle's owner's manual should tell you when replacement is necessary.

Also, keep in mind that timing belt replacement is usually quite extensive and will necessitate a mechanic's assistance, so be sure to consult a reliable automotive specialist for help.

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Commercial Car Wash Vs. Self Car Wash: Which Should You Choose?


Car being washedEvery month or so, it's time to give your car a good wash. But the question arises: should you wash your car at home or in a commercial car wash?

Commercial car washes and self car washes each offer different advantages and drawbacks. Here are several factors to consider.

Quality of the Wash

Washing your car yourself has some drawbacks. Your hose simply doesn't generate enough water pressure to remove tough dirt. Also, the towels, rags, and sponges you use can spread particles that scratch your car's paint.

But are commercial car washes actually more effective than self car washes? Commercial car washes offer many thorough washing options, from in-bay automatic machines to tunnel wash systems. One drawback is the water spots sometimes left behind by commercial air dryers.

Commercial car washes are typically stronger and more comprehensive than self car washes. However, washing your car by hand lets you address all the little details that a quick commercial car wash might ignore.

Impact on the Car

In the past, many people thought commercial car washes harmed their cars. They feared that the harsh brushing could damage a car's finish. Fortunately, modern improvements to commercial car wash equipment reduce the likelihood of car damage. Many car washes use softer brushes and devices that spray water rather than directly touching the car.

Washing your car yourself can lead to damage. Some people make the mistake of using dishwashing detergent, which can leave residue and remove wax. Plus, if you wash your car in direct sunlight, you can burn spots in the paint.

You're probably less likely to harm your car if you use a commercial car wash, as long as you choose a car wash without rough brushes.

Impact on the Environment

When you wash your car yourself, the water runs down your driveway and into your storm drain. Metals and sediment from your car travel through this water, polluting the water and endangering wildlife. On the other hand, commercial car washes trap these contaminants in a drain. The contaminants are then removed by a water treatment system.

Thus, commercial car washes are safer for the environment than self car washes.


Basic commercial car washes cost between $5 and $30. The price increases based on other services, including vacuuming, waxing, and detailing. More expensive companies are mobile car wash services that bring their equipment to your home. While commercial car wash costs usually aren't astronomical, they can add up over time.

Washing your car on your own is very affordable. You do need to pay for the equipment, such as the soap, sponges, and microfiber cloth. Your water bill may increase slightly, depending on how much water you use to rinse your car. However, in the long run, self car washes are still cheaper than commercial car washes.


A commercial car wash takes about 10 minutes, while a self car wash can take up to an hour. No matter which automatic wash you choose, it's sure to save you time and hassle.

When all the factors are weighed, commercial car washes are generally your better option. However, they can be costly and they lack a certain personal touch. It's probably a good idea to rotate between commercial washing and hand washing.

If you want an option that's a cross between the two, a self-serve car wash is a good bet. You park your car in a station, where you can pay for soap and a water rinse. You may even be able to choose options like car vacuums and wax. You then do the washing work yourself.

Make sure to wash your car about once a month to keep it clean and attractive. If it's time to trade in your car, donate it to Newgate School.   Your car provides our responsible students with hands-on automotive training.

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Maintaining Your Windshield: A Timeline


Your windshield is one of the most important safety devices in your car. Not only does it shield you from the wind, but it protects you from flying debris. It also keeps you inside the car during a car accident, protecting you from injury.

However, your windshield requires some work on your part. Follow this timeline to keep it in top condition.Windshield care for your vehicle

Weekly: Clean Your Windshield

Streaks and stains on your windshield impact visibility, so it's important to clean your windshield as often as possible. Fortunately, the cleaning process is simple:

  1. Spray half your windshield's exterior with glass cleaner. Wipe it with a microfiber rag in a straight, up-and-down motion.
  2. Wipe the same half again in a straight, right-to-left motion.
  3. Repeat on the other side of your windshield.
  4. With a new microfiber rag, move your hand in a circular motion until you've buffed the entire windshield.
  5. Now it's time to clean the windshield interior. Put some towels on the dashboard to shield it from the spray.
  6. Spray a few squirts of windshield cleaner on a scrub pad, and a few squirts on the windshield itself. Wipe one half of the interior windshield in a straight, up-and-down motion.
  7. Repeat for the other half of the windshield.
  8. Wipe off any remaining glass cleaner with a dry microfiber rag.

This process ensures that you cover every inch of the windshield without leaving streaks behind. If your windshield needs a touchup, use the provided squeegee at the gas station each time you gas up.

Every Few Months: Top Off Windshield Wiper Fluid

Your windshield wiper fluid cleans dirt and bugs from your windshield as you drive. However, you don't want to run out of it when you need it most-so make sure the windshield wiper fluid level remains high.

Check your windshield wiper fluid level at least every few months. You should also check it during times when you use it more often, such as periods of rainy weather. You can find the fluid reservoir by looking under your hood for a symbol that looks like windshield wipers. The reservoir should have a line indicating how high to fill it.

Add more fluid by unscrewing the cap and placing a funnel over the reservoir's opening. Pour windshield wiper fluid through the funnel until the fluid level reaches the fill line. Finally, replace the cap.

Every Year: Replace Windshield Wipers

If your wiper blades leave streaks on your windshield or if they make loud noises, it's time to replace them. An auto mechanic can install fresh wiper blades.

As Needed: Get Cracks and Chips Repaired

A chip or crack in your windshield isn't just unsightly. It can compromise the integrity of your windshield glass, putting your safety at risk. You may be able to fix tiny chips with an at-home repair kit. But to ensure the highest quality repairs, your best bet is to take it to an auto repair shop. Many car insurance plans cover crack or chip repair and replacement.

Auto repair shops can typically repair chips that are an inch or smaller in diameter or cracks that are three inches long or less. For larger, more complex chips and cracks, you may need to get your windshield replaced. This also applies if the chip or crack is near the end of the windshield, where it could compromise the windshield's integrity.

An auto mechanic can evaluate your windshield and determine whether repair or replacement is required. You can't afford to neglect your windshield, so follow this timeline to keep it clean and intact.

Keep reading our blog for more car care advice. If you'd like to donate your old car, contact us today.

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Your Vehicle Has Served You Well for Many Years


But as the New Year approaches, you're thinking of finally achieving your goal to buy a new vehicle.
One of your most important decisions is which year of vehicle to purchase, especially if you’re leaning towards a used car instead of a new one. If you don't get a new car, how old of a car should you buy? Here are some benefits and drawbacks of buying a car from different time periods.

You may be able to find a reliable car from the 1990s, but buying a car from this time period has some risks.
The car may be nearing the end of its life cycle, so you may end up with the same problems you incurred with your old vehicle. Depending on its mileage and how it's been treated over the years are critical to determining how it will last into the future.  If you find a car that's been driven hundreds of thousands of miles with little maintenance, you may end up spending as much on repairs as the vehicles cost. 
Plus, keep in mind that it can be difficult to find replacement parts for cars from the 1990s. These cars' repairs are most likely no longer covered by a warranty either.
Also, a 1990s car might not have all the safety features you're looking for. After all, side airbags and anti-lock brakes didn't become common until the late 1990s. Dual airbags weren't federally mandated until 1998.
In conclusion, if you are purchasing a car from the 1990's you are taking some risks that are inherent to vehicles of that age. There are many cars out there that have had exceptional care, and have reasonable miles. Find one of these!  It is best to test drive the car and listen for suspicious noises, abnormal tire wear, and weak suspensions.  These are signals that you may have to invest in future repairs.

If you plan to buy a car from the 2000s, make sure it has been cared for over the years. It is a good idea to look online to learn about known problems for certain models.  Regular maintenance is probably the most important indicator of the car's longevity—perhaps even more important than age or mileage. Thus, make sure you get an inspection on the car before you buy it. Especially important in the northern states is to inspect the bottom side of the car for rust.  Safety items such as brake lines run underneath the car and are susceptible to failure from exposure to salt found on roadways.
There are plenty of cars from the 2000s that are still in great shape. You just need to do your homework to make sure you're getting a solid deal.

2013 to 2016
Many people consider this the "sweet spot" of car buying. Various auto experts recommend that you buy a car that's two or three years old. Many believe that this range of used cars, two- and three-year-old cars are the most reliable.
Cars lose most of their value during their first three years on the road. That means that a two- or three-year-old car provides the best return per dollar spent. Thus, you can afford a better make and model that offers more features than you would if you bought a new car. A consideration many car buyers overlook is that used cars are less expensive to insure.

The major benefit to buying a new car is that it should last for many years. You will be in control of the maintenance history from day one, therefore will have a huge impact on the car's life span.  Car experts say that today's cars can easily drive 100,000 miles without major problems. Another benefit of new cars is that you can choose the latest features, such as heated and ventilated seats, panoramic sunroofs, and voice activation.
You'll likely pay much more for a new car than you would for a car that's just a year or two old. Along with the cost of your car payments, don't forget about taxes and fees, registration, and gas and maintenance costs.  So, if you are looking for a new vehicle, consider making your purchase when new models are arriving at the dealerships.  Year-end closeout pricing, coupled with low financing and warranty can make a new vehicle the right choice for you.

In summary, your budget will determine your personal preferences. If you are opting for a good used car, make sure you get it inspected before you buy.
If you wish to avoid the hassle of trading or selling your old vehicle, consider donating it to Newgate School where it can be refurbished and put back on the road.

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What Are Safety and Emission Inspections and Do I Need One in Minnesota?


You may have heard the term "safety and emission check," but you're not sure exactly what it entails. Safety inspections are a way to ensure that all the vehicles on the road are safe and not likely to cause harm. Similarly, emission inspections make sure vehicles aren't emitting chemicals that harm the air.

Many U.S. states require safety and/or emission inspections every year or every other year. A mechanic shop must be certified to perform state inspections. Here's how they work.

Safety Inspections

When you bring your car in for a safety inspection, mechanics check many different parts of your car to make sure they're working properly. They might check:

  • Brakes
  • Tires and wheels
  • Bulbs, lamps, and reflectors
  • Windshield wipers
  • Mirrors
  • Seat belts
  • The exhaust system
  • The steering wheel and horn
  • Window tinting and coating
  • Gas caps

If the mechanic notices any major problems with a part, he or she will ask you to get that part repaired or replaced. This is important for protecting both you and other drivers. For example, if your brake pads are worn down, it might take you longer to brake. This could cause you to get in an accident, which would harm both you and other drivers. Thus, you'll need to replace your brake pads as soon as possible.

Once you pass the safety inspection, the mechanic will give you a sticker to place on your car's window. This shows law enforcement officers that your car is safe to drive.

Emission Inspections

Certain states require regular emission inspections to protect the air and the environment. If your state requires you to get an emission inspection, you must visit a mechanic certified to perform emission inspections. Mechanics test your car's exhaust system for unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides.

If your car fails the emission inspection, your car might have a problem that requires repair. This could include:

  • A malfunctioning ignition system
  • A faulty oxygen sensor
  • An injector leak
  • A vacuum leak
  • A malfunctioning air injection system
  • A defective valve or gas cap
  • Problems with the emission control system
  • Worn spark plugs and wires
  • A faulty carburetor or fuel injection unit

You'll need to have a mechanic fix these problems to lower your car's harmful emissions.

Do I Need a Safety and Emissions Inspection in Minnesota?

Minnesota does not currently require regular safety checks for personal vehicles. You do need to get regular safety checks if you have a commercial vehicle. This is classified as a vehicle that carries 16 or more people, transports hazardous materials, or weighs over 26,000 pounds.

If you don't need a regular safety inspection to register your vehicle, you should still make sure your car is performing at its best. If you haven't had your car checked in a few years, bring it in to a mechanic for a thorough inspection.

Minnesota required emissions inspections from 1991 to 1999 because the Twin Cities did not meet federal air quality standards. But in 1999, Minnesota's air status was reclassified. Emission testing is not currently required in Minnesota.

Even though you don't need to get regular emissions inspections, you can still do your part to cut down on emissions. For example, you could ride public transportation or carpool instead of driving every day. You should also have a mechanic check that your car's engine, electrical systems, and fuel and air filters are performing properly.

New cars have better safety and air quality than older cars. Replacing your aging car with a new one can help protect you, other drivers, and the air. If you're ready to turn in your old car, consider donating it to Newgate School.


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What Transportation Assistance Is and Why It’s Important


Think back to your last bad day at work. Perhaps you slept through your alarm. You rushed to get ready, hopped into your car, and then hit bumper-to-bumper traffic. When you finally arrived at work, your boss was furious at your tardiness. Your clients left multiple voicemails and emails for you to return immediately. You were putting out figurative fires all day long, then you drove home.

Now, imagine you didn't have a car. Imagine that the only house you could afford to rent is so far from work that public transportation involves a two-hour round-trip commute. Your income, which is low, prevents you from being able to purchase your own automobile. Lastly, imagine that you have children who you want to be able to drop off and pick up from school.

With these transportation barriers, you may find it difficult to get yourself to work on time, handle your daily tasks, and still accomplish everything by the end of the day. Your employment opportunities may even be limited to the neighborhood where you live. How can you break out of this cycle? Below, we discuss how transportation assistance programs provide a solution.

How Transportation Assistance Programs Work and Who They Benefit

This alternative, bad day scenario is a common one for many people in the US. Transportation to and from work fundamentally helps them show up on time, which can allow them to retain consistent employment and pay their bills. Without reliable transportation, low-income people risk losing their jobs and limiting their earning potential. It's a major obstacle to financial stability.  

Transportation assistance programs offer a great solution. These nonprofit, government-funded, or charitable organizations offer low-cost or free vehicles to people experiencing financial hardship. In some cases, they also provide free repairs for a specific period of time.

To benefit from transportation assistance programs, applicants have to meet certain income standards. They also need to find a nonprofit organization, government agency, or charity whose mission is to help them.

For example, some transportation assistance programs focus on giving restored cars exclusively to military veterans. Other programs offer transportation assistance to victims of natural disasters or domestic violence. Some programs only help the elderly, the medically needy, or the homeless.

However, the vast majority of transportation assistance programs are geared toward helping the working poor. With a free or affordable vehicle, low-income workers not only get transportation to and from work but they also have the ability to travel farther from home, opening up their overall employment opportunities. Over time, these efforts can break the cycle of poverty in rural and inner-city areas where public transportation is limited or nonexistent.

How You Can Join Transportation Assistance Efforts

Transportation assistance programs rely on car donations. When you donate your car, these organizations fix them up and then give them to qualified individuals two to three times a month.

If you're interested in combating poverty in your area, donate an older vehicle to a local transportation assistance program. In addition to giving a low-income family much-needed transportation, you will also receive a sizeable tax deduction for this donation.

The Newgate School runs Wheels for Women, a transportation assistance program for single mothers in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties.

We select low-maintenance models from the vehicle donations we receive; use them to train low-income young adults in auto mechanics; and provide them to single, working mothers as a means of reliable transportation. Our program has helped countless moms get to work, keep their jobs, and bring their kids to school. If you're interested in donating your car to us, contact us today at contact@newgateschool.org.

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Which Type of Gas Does Your Car Need?


You've probably heard that most cars run with regular gas. But when you pull up to the pump at your local gas station you see several different grades of gas and even different types of fuel. You might wonder why these different types and grades exist.

Using the right fuel type and grade is important because using the wrong fuel could potentially harm your car's engine.

Different Fuel Types

Most cars run on gasoline, a refined petroleum distillate. Gasoline makes up the majority of options at your local gas station. However, there are other types of fuel as well.

Diesel is a different type of fuel obtained from crude oil. Some gas stations offer biodiesel, which comes from vegetable oil. Diesel is more expensive than gasoline, but it allows you to drive longer distances. It only works on vehicles designed to run on diesel fuel. If you use gasoline in a diesel engine damage will likely occur as gasoline does not ignite properly and burns too quickly resulting in very low power output of the diesel engine.

Today, many vehicles are built to run on alternative fuels. E85 is the most popular and is a blend of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol. It is less expensive than gasoline but leads to lower miles per gallon. There should be a decal or label on your car identifying that it is E85 compatible (also known as flex fuel).

Other alternative fuels include liquefied petroleum gas, compressed natural gas, and liquid nitrogen. However, most vehicles are not built to accept these fuels.

Electric cars are gaining popularity. They run on electricity rather than gas. Before these cars can drive, the operator needs to be sure the battery is sufficiently charged. Some hybrid models use both a gasoline engine and an electric engine to power the vehicle. The combination is set up to allow the car to run as efficiently as possible.

How Gas Grades Work

Now that you understand the different fuel sources, let's explore the different fuel grades. But first you need to understand why these different grades exist.

As you look at the different gas grades at the gas station, you'll notice that each grade has a number. This number is the octane rating, which measures how resistant the gasoline is to pre-ignition. When your gas ignites prematurely, you'll hear a rattling or knocking sound. This usually means you have used a lower octane rated gasoline than is recommended for your car. The higher the octane rating, the more resistant the gas is to pre-ignition. Most cars are designed to combat the effects of pre-ignition.

Differences Between Gas Grades

Most cars' engines are built to withstand pre-ignition. Thus, regular gas is a perfectly acceptable choice. Some luxury and high performance cars are equipped with higher compression engines, which are more likely to experience pre-ignition. These cars likely require a premium grade of gas. It is important that you read your owners' manual to confirm the octane rating required for your car. You should follow the factory recommendation, especially during the warranty period.

Choosing the wrong fuel type or grade can be a waste of money and could damage your car's engine. Manufacturers have spent significant testing time to determine the best fuel rating for your vehicle. The best bet for any car is to follow the manufacturer's recommendation when choosing the correct fuel for your car.

Read through the rest of our blogs to learn more about car maintenance, or, if your old car is on its way out, consider donating it to Newgate School.

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Are Manual Cars on Their Way Out?


You love the power and control of driving a stick shift car. But you wonder if you're the only one. All around you, people are trading in their manual cars for automatics.

Are manual cars disappearing? Yes and no. Let's look at some reasons why manual car sales have declined, and let's also explore some reasons why manual cars may stick around longer than we think.

The Case for the Disappearing Manual Car

If you suspect that sales of manual cars have declined over the years, you would be right. In 1980, 35% of cars manufactured in North America were manual. In 2014, just 10% were.

There are various reasons for this decline:

  • Improvements to automatic cars. In the past, manual cars often enjoyed better fuel efficiency, control, and performance. Today, updates to automatic cars have helped them meet and sometimes even surpass manual cars in these categories.
  • Manual vs Automatic transmission cars. For standard vehicles, the manual transmission models have historically been less expensive than automatics. People who have to operate their cars in city traffic prefer automatic transmissions because of frequency of stop and go traffic.
  • Drivability of automatic cars. Many teenagers learning to drive for the first time prefer learning with automatic cars. People who don't particularly enjoy driving also enjoy a less stressful driving option. People who prefer manual cars may have family members who don't know how to drive manual cars. Thus, they decide to purchase automatic cars for their family.

These reasons have caused manual car sales to decline. But is the manual car gone for good?

The Case for the Immortal Manual Car

Despite the strong reasons why automatic car sales have eclipsed sales of manual cars, these vehicles are still around. In fact, there were more stick shift sales in 2012 than there were in the years since 2006. The main reason why manual cars are still in demand is simple: people enjoy driving them.

Many people who have driven manual cars their whole driving lives don't want to switch to automatic. They feel that manual cars give them a better sense of control in different driving situations. They find driving manual cars exciting and driving automatic cars uninteresting and dull. They may feel that their manual car has better fuel efficiency and performance than an automatic car does, although this idea isn't necessarily true depending on the vehicle.

There are a couple of other perks to choosing manual cars as well. Since fewer and fewer people learn how to drive manual cars, your friends are less likely to borrow your manual car. It may also make people less likely to steal your car, since they may not know how to drive it.

Because of these reasons, people continue to purchase manual cars. Many car manufacturers have paid attention to the demand and continue to produce various car models with manual transmissions.

Should You Trade In Your Manual Car?

With all these reasons in front of you, is it time to give away your manual car and buy an automatic car? If you're holding on to your manual car only because you believe it gives you better fuel economy and performance, you may want to explore other car possibilities. There are many automatic cars available with performance that rivals that of manual cars. Do some research and figure out which car has all the features that meet your needs.

If you want to keep your manual car simply because you prefer driving it, there's no reason to give it up. Manual cars are still on the market for similar prices as automatic cars.

If you do decide to give away your manual car, donate it to Newgate School. We use donated cars to teach career skills to low-income adults.

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Want Your MPG? 10 Factors That Affect Fuel Economy


One of the biggest selling points for new cars is their fuel economy. But even fuel-efficient cars can get fewer miles per gallon (MPG) under specific conditions.

So how do you maximize your car's fuel economy? Numerous factors alter how your car uses fuel, making the engine more or less efficient. These factors include how you drive as well as how you maintain your car.

In this blog, we list five driving habits and five physical vehicle characteristics that may reduce your MPG.

How Your Driving Affects Fuel Economy

The way you drive can affect your arrival times, physical safety, and gas mileage. The following five habits can have a distinct impact on your MPG. 

1. Excessive Short Trips

Your engine works at its most efficient after it warms up. When you mainly travel in short trips, your car does not have time to warm up fully and, therefore, uses more fuel overall.

2. Frequent Cold Weather Travel

During cold weather, your car engine takes even longer to warm up and so spends less time at the desired temperature for fuel efficiency. Reduce the effect that cold weather has on your MPG by following the guidelines in our blog "Way to Winterize: 8 Steps to Prepare Your Car for Cold Weather."

Keep in mind, letting your car idle to warm up actually wastes fuel rather than improving gas mileage.

3. Heavy Braking or Acceleration

Aggressive driving forces your car to switch gears at a faster rate than is optimal for fuel efficiency. EPA testing indicates that frequent, heavy braking and quick acceleration could reduce your fuel economy by as much as 33% during highway driving.

4. High Vehicle Weight or Towing Weight

When your car is loaded down, your engine has to work harder. This extra weight may come from a cargo or bike rack, heavy interior load, or trailer.

5. Speeding

It's no secret that a speeding ticket can cost you money, but the act of speeding can also use gas more quickly. When you drive 80 MPH or faster, you create higher air resistance, decreasing your fuel economy.

How Your Vehicle's Condition Alters Gas Mileage

When your engine doesn't run smoothly, your car may use more gas than usual. Physical characteristics such as those below can affect fuel economy.

1. Fuel Injector Problems

Fuel injectors control how much gas goes into the engine. A leak or other injector problem may reduce the amount of fuel reaching the engine, forcing your car to run less efficiently.

2. Oil Type

Motor oil reduces the friction in your engine and can make up to a 12% difference in your gas mileage. For your best fuel performance, use a synthetic friction-reducing option.

3. Poor Maintenance

When your car's maintenance is neglected, all of the systems run less efficiently, including those directly linked to fuel economy. For example, a clogged air filter can affect engine performance and, by extension, fuel usage.

4. Spark Plug Issues

Misfires in your spark plugs can cause problems with overall fuel usage. When the engine doesn't get enough combustion power, your fuel economy is reduced.

5. Tire or Alignment Problems

When your tires begin to wear out or your wheels go out of alignment, they may pull against the motion of the vehicle. This additional strain can reduce your gas mileage. Keep your tires inflated properly, replace worn out tires, and have your alignment checked as needed.

Pay attention to your driving habits and the health of your car to optimize the way you use fuel.

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Way to Winterize: 8 Steps to Prepare Your Car for Cold Weather


As the weather changes, your car's functionality may change too. To ensure that your car maintains its fuel efficiency, performance, and safety, you must take steps to winterize the vehicle.

Most vehicle owners find that the best time to prepare their vehicles for winter is at the start or at the middle of the fall season, before temperatures drop and stay low for months at a time.

In this blog, we list eight important steps in winterizing your car.

1. Change the Oil

Your engine relies on oil to run smoothly. When the weather gets cold, oil can thicken and gum up the works. Your car may need a different type of oil in the winter months to maintain optimal performance. Opt for a high-quality, winter-friendly oil to keep your engine running efficiently.

2. Check the Tire Pressure

At the end of summer or the beginning of fall, make checking your tire pressure a regular part of your maintenance routine. When the weather gets cold, the pressure in your tires can drop, reducing your traction on slick roads. Keep your tires inflated to the manufacturer's recommended pressure to ensure safe driving and precise handling.

3. Consider a Tire Change

If you live in an area with heavy snowfall, consider switching out your current set of tires for snow tires. Snow tires are designed to stay flexible in cold weather. This characteristic ensures that snow tires grip the road more effectively. If you don't want to switch over to snow tires, make sure that you have snow chains that are in good condition and that you know how to use them.

4. Have the Battery Inspected

A cold spell can weaken your battery. If your car battery is three years old or older, take your car in and have the mechanic test the battery strength. If your battery is weak, it could die when the cold weather strikes. Replace the battery to avoid jump-starting in the snow or becoming stranded.

5. Put Together a Winter Kit

In the summer, you may keep water bottles, sunscreen, and a basic emergency in your car. In the winter, you should expand your kit. Include a snow shovel, snow scraper, extra coat, blankets, and tire chains. You may also want to carry extra coolant, antifreeze, and washer fluid. As you expand your kit, take the time to replace any medical or automotive supplies you used up over the summer.

6. Replace the Windshield Wiper Blades

Visibility is particularly essential during the winter. Most windshield wiper blades last about a year. Autumn is a great time to replace your wipers each year since it usually represents a lull between spring and summer rain and winter snow.

7. Schedule a Belt Assessment

Cold makes materials more brittle and, therefore, more likely to break. When you go in for your oil change, have your belts and hoses looked at by a mechanic. Normal wear and tear can turn into a major problem with the help of low temperatures so it's better to handle replacements before the winter.

8. Top Off All Fluids

In addition to your oil change, you'll probably need to switch your fluids over to low-temperature varieties. Check your coolant, antifreeze, and windshield wiper fluid levels in the beginning or middle of fall. Top off each fluid with a version that won't freeze when it gets cold.

Use this list to ensure that your daily commute, holiday travels, and routine errands aren't interrupted when the temperature begins to fall. Consult with a mechanic and read over your owner's manual for specific recommendations for your make and model.

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Dirty Car Upholstery? Clean It in 4 Steps


Your car is essential. It gets you to work, the grocery store, doctor's appointments, and wherever else you need to go. If you have kids, you probably use your car even more often as you drive them to all of their school events and activities.

As great as your car is, with all this running around, it can get dirty quickly, especially if you have pets or kids. You may not love sitting on a grease-covered seat multiple times every day. If you need to give your car's fabric-upholstered seats a good cleaning, keep reading. This blog can teach you how to do the job.

1. Prepare

First, pick a warm, sunny day to wash your seats. That way, the sun will dry the seats for you when you're done cleaning. Next, clean out your car. If you have booster seats, papers, or other objects laying around on the seats, get rid of them so that you can get your work done.

Before washing the seats, you'll need to remove any debris, like hair, crumbs, and lint. A vacuum is the best tool for the job. Use a handheld vacuum or a hose-and-brush attachment on your regular vacuum. Make sure to get into the cracks so that nothing gets left behind.

2. Find or Make a Cleaning Solution

You have several options for what to use to clean the fabric. You can always buy a product specifically made for cleaning fabric, or you can make your own solution. Be warned that while making your own solution is cheaper, it may not be as strong as a store-bought cleaner, though most car seats will not need harsh chemicals anyway.

If you want to make your own fabric cleaner, you have several options. Basically, you need to make a soap and water solution. People have had success with dish soap, laundry detergent, and even shaved pieces from a bar of hand soap. Whichever kind of soap you use, mix it with hot water. Use about a tablespoon of soap per cup of water.

Put whatever solution you buy or make in a spray bottle. Before you start cleaning, spray a little bit on an inconspicuous piece of upholstery so you can see if it will discolor or damage your car seat. If it looks okay, you can move on to the next step.

3. Spray and Scrub

Spray down whichever seat you want to start cleaning first. However, don't be too enthusiastic-if the seat gets soaked, it may get moldy. You don't want to wet the seat through. Just get the top layer of cloth wet.

Once you've finished spraying, grab a scrubbing brush with soft bristles. Don't grab a stiff one, or you could hurt your upholstery. Using short strokes, scrub the car seat, focusing on any areas that are particularly stained or dirty.

The soap and dirt will bubble up as you scrub. Use a wet microfiber rag or towel to wipe off the grime and rinse the area, then use a clean, dry microfiber towel to wipe off any extra water. Once you've finished the seat you started with, you can spray and scrub the next one.

4. Let It Dry

Once you've finished scrubbing and wiping your seats, they will still be damp. This dampness is fine-- after all, you picked a sunny day to do this chore, remember? Just leave your windows down and let the sun do its job.


If you take the time to clean your car's seats, you'll have a much more enjoyable time driving. To learn more about taking care of your car so that it stays in great shape, read more of our blog posts.

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4 Instances of Maintenance Neglect That Can Harm Your Car


You use your car quite a bit. For every commute, road trip, or errand run, you hop in your car and go on your merry way. But an unexpected problem can easily throw a wrench into your routine or plans, causing frustration and stress. Oftentimes, these unplanned issues come from neglected maintenance and repairs.

To keep your car in good shape, avoid the four following mistakes. Ignoring necessary maintenance can be dangerous and eventually lead to worse problems.

1. Overlooking Tire Care

For the safety of yourself and your passengers, it's imperative that you regularly care for your tires. Bald tires can be especially dangerous during inclement weather, as the surface of the tire doesn't provide enough traction to keep you safely on the road. Be sure to check the tread regularly so you know when your tires need to be replaced.

You can do this easily with a penny. Simply press the edge of the penny into the tread with Lincoln's head facing downwards. If you can see his entire head, it may be time to change your tires. Until then, get your tires rotated every six months or so to prolong the life of your tires and allow an even wear on the tires.

Also, ensure your tire pressure is up to par. Over- or underinflated tires can be dangerous. You can find the suggested tire pressure for your car in your owner's manual, and you can use a tire pressure gauge to check the pressure. If you need a little air, use an air pump at your local gas station.

2. Ignoring the Fluids

Most car owners know how important oil is for a car, but it's not the only automotive fluid you need to worry about. Consult your owner's manual to find out when your brake or transmission fluid needs to be changed and when your oil, coolant, and other fluids should be replaced. If you take your car in for regular maintenance, your mechanic can also warn you when a fluid needs to be changed.

If you neglect to change the fluids, a small issue can easily become large and expensive over time. Failing to change the fluids can even damage your engine so badly that you need to replace it entirely, which can be costly.

3. Letting Dirt Build Up on Your Car

Washing your car does more than restore it to its shining glory. Giving it a good scrub every now and then can protect your paint job from problems like rust, oxidized paint, and corrosion. If it's too cold outside to wash your car yourself, run it through an automated car wash to rinse off road salt and dirt.

4. Ignoring Signs of Trouble

As the owner of your car, you know your car better than anyone else. You know how it sounds, smells, and feels as you drive it. If your vehicle starts to make a small, odd noise, don't ignore it. If it suddenly struggles to make it up a hill it usually handles easily, don't brush it off. When you notice something different about your car, take note of it and consult a trusted mechanic to ensure it's not a concern.

If the check engine light comes on, don't disregard it, even if your car seems fine. You may need a part replaced, and letting it be can lead to more expensive and extensive issues.


Don't ignore regular maintenance; keep a careful eye on your vehicle and set up a care routine for your car. Check your tires and fluids, and don't brush aside the dashboard warning lights. And if you're worried something is wrong but don't know what, be sure to consult a specialist instead of shrugging it off.

However, if your car looks like it may be on its last legs, or if you're thinking of getting a new car, consider donating your car to Newgate School. Doing so can allow young adults to learn how to maintain and repair cars and pursue a career in the industry.

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Is It Time to Retire Your Old Car?


Are you trying to squeeze a few more miles out of your old, unreliable car? Many people hold on to old cars because they enjoy not having a car payment. Others hesitate to buy a new car because they don't think they will qualify for a decent car loan.

Despite the reasons you are putting off retiring your old car, there will come a time when it is necessary. The decision shouldn't be made lightly. You and your family's safety could be at risk if you continue to use an old, unreliable vehicle.

Here are some signs that it's time to replace your car.

The Car Isn't Safe

Are you nervous that your car will break down every time you drive it? If so, you should consider buying a safer vehicle. Unreliable cars could leave you or your family stranded by the roadside. Older cars can also cause accidents because of a system malfunction. When you drive an unsafe vehicle, you not only put your safety at risk but also the safety of other drivers as well.

If you notice jerking movements while driving your vehicle, or the speed of your vehicle randomly slows, it may be time to get a new car.

The Cost of Repairs Exceeds Your Vehicle's Value

If you are frequently taking your car to the shop for repairs to avoid buying a new car, you may be wasting money. Sometimes, frequent or costly repairs end up being more expensive than buying a new car.

Some car models are known to be less trouble than others. You may be able to avoid similar problems in the future by researching reliable car models before purchasing a new vehicle.

The Fuel Tank Drains Quickly  

Car manufacturers are constantly improving fuel efficiency in newer cars, whereas older cars tend to have poorer fuel economy.

Identify the fuel efficiency of your current vehicle. If you are spending more money on fuel than you would on a new car payment each month, consider buying a more fuel-efficient car. Otherwise, you will likely waste money by frequently fueling your vehicle.

The Car Doesn't Work With Your Current Lifestyle

There are many changes in life that may require a new vehicle. For example, the old beater car you used to commute to work with may not be the best car for you to take your family on a road trip. Other life events may include a new addition to your family, all of your children moving away, a new job, or losing a car in an accident.

The Service Engine Light is Frequently On

If you have started to ignore the lit service engine light because it's always on, you may need to retire your old car. The service engine light on many cars can be checked to determine any necessary repairs. However, if repairs are made and the light remains lit, the light may be failing to function properly. Such a failure will not allow your vehicle to alert you when there are serious problems with your engine.

You may also have other dashboard lights that remain lit in your car. If so, seek the help of a mechanic. If he or she can't fix the problem, consider looking for a new car.

The Vehicle's Current Safety Features Are Outdated

Modern vehicles are much safer than older vehicles. Most new car models have safety technologies and features that can even decrease your chances of getting in an accident. Some features warn the driver of hazards; other features can automatically stop a car to avoid an accident.

Here are some examples of safety features included in many newer vehicles:

  • Rear Back-up camera
  • Electronic stability control (ESC)
  • Curtain airbags
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Blind-spot monitoring

Consider buying a new car to take advantage of these beneficial safety features. Even if you don't buy a brand new car, many cars built within the last five years still have many of these safety features.

If you noticed one or more of these signs, consider donating your old car to Newgate School. Not only will you benefit from a new car, but the students at Newgate will have an opportunity to learn from the damages on your old car.

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Going on a Road Trip? 7 Things to Have a Mechanic Check Before You Go


When you think of your upcoming road trip, you want to picture a clear blue sky and miles of open road. You don't want to think about your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere.

To ensure your car stays in top form throughout your trip, take your car to a mechanic at least three weeks before you go. Ask your mechanic to check the following.

1. Tires

A tire blowout is one of the most common car problems during a long trip. Ask your mechanic to look for tears or punctures in your tires that could cause your tire to lose air.

Similarly, worn tires make it difficult to stop. As your tire tread wears down over time, your tires might struggle to stop your car, especially in rain or snow.

A mechanic can determine how much tread is left in your tires and let you know if you need to replace them. Experts recommend that you replace your tires if they have a tire depth of 4/32 inches or less.

2. Brakes

Just as worn tires make it difficult to stop, worn brake pads can make braking scary and dangerous. Brake pads may require replacement at anywhere between 25,000 and 70,000 miles. The time to replace them depends on factors such as your vehicle make and model and your driving style. Have your mechanic check the brake pads and determine whether to replace them.

Let your mechanic know if you've noticed any issues with your brakes, such as funny noises. It's better to address any issues now rather than dealing with problems during your long drive.

3. Battery

Most car batteries last around three years. If your battery is older than three years or you've had any problems starting your car, it's probably time to get a new battery.

However, some battery problems can be repaired. Have the mechanic check the battery for problems such as corrosion, leaks, and a swollen battery case.

4. Fluids

You know the importance of changing your oil. But there are other types of fluid you should get checked as well. These include:

  • Brake fluid
  • Coolant
  • Power steering fluid
  • Radiator coolant
  • Transmission fluid
  • Windshield washer fluid

Having the proper level of these fluids can help you avoid mechanical problems.

5. Lights and Wipers

Have the mechanic check whether your headlights and tail lights are functioning fully. If you're driving in the evening, dim headlights can be dangerous-and illegal.

Malfunctioning wipers can also impact your visibility. If your wiper blades make noise or just don't do their job, it's time to get them replaced.

6. Air Filter

Your car's air filter keeps particles and debris from entering your engine. If it becomes clogged, it can no longer do its job. Ask your mechanic to check it and clean it if necessary.

7. Air Conditioning

A malfunctioning air conditioning system can make a summer road trip miserable. Possible problems include:

  • Clogged air filter
  • Blown fuse
  • Bad clutch
  • Leak

Have your mechanic repair any issues now, so you can stay comfortable during your hours in the car.


Make sure to set an appointment with your mechanic a few weeks before you leave. You shouldn't have to delay your trip because of a major problem that needs repair.

Right before your trip, check your tire pressure and your fluid levels. Also make sure you have a spare tire and an emergency kit that includes food, medical supplies, and a blanket. Join a roadside assistance program, or at least find out who you can call if you get in a pinch.

Call a mechanic today and enjoy a safe trip!

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Considering Donating Your Car? Understand How Your Donation Benefits Others


Are you ready to buy a new car? Great! Now the question is what to do with the car you currently own.

If your car is repairable and has a reasonable amount of miles, donating your car is a great way to go. Donating can benefit you and benefit an automotive school like Newgate School in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Schools like Newgate use your donated car, van, or truck like a textbook. Students learn automotive repair skills directly from the vehicles.

You will receive charitable deductions on your donation. If you donate to a charity that actually uses the car in its mission, you can receive the highest deduction available, a fair market tax deduction.

But perhaps the biggest advantage to donating your car is the benefits it provides others. In this blog, we’ll tell you exactly how donating your car can benefit other individuals. Read on to discover why you should donate your vehicle rather than sell it.

Your Donated Car Provides Youth With Educational Opportunities

Automotive schools, like Newgate School, accept donated cars and use them to provide young adults with educational opportunities. Depending on their circumstances, some low-income young adults may not have the opportunity to receive a higher education.

However, your donated car provides them with a key material they need to learn auto body and mechanical repair skills. Over a course of 18 months or so, students in these programs will learn basic skills they need to become apprentices in the auto repair industry. These vocational skills allow them to be more successful as they pursue a career in automotive work.

You’ll find Newgate School graduates employed as mechanics at a cement pump manufacturer and at the airport support vehicle maintenance shop. You’ll meet them painting small jets, repairing bus engines, or painting fire trucks. You’ll see them at your local mechanic shops, too. They’re everywhere, thanks to Minnesotans helping Minnesotans.

Your Donated Car Assists Single Mothers in Need

Once students repair your donated car, the vehicle’s usefulness continues to grow. Many donated, repaired vehicles are given to single mothers who struggle with their circumstances. Many of these mothers are trying to become self-sufficient, but they may lack the resources to do so.

To receive a donated, repaired vehicle, a single mother must meet a few requirements:

  • She must be a single mother with one or more dependent, school-aged children.
  • She needs to have a full-time job that she has held for at least six months.
  • Her annual income must be less than $35,000.
  • She must have proof of car insurance to protect the vehicle.
  • She cannot own any other vehicles.

If a woman meets these requirements, she can apply to receive a complimentary vehicle that allows her to more easily support herself and her children. While not every applicant is chosen to receive a vehicle, those who do are able to be more self-sufficient.

Your Donated Car Can Aid Your Community

Minnesota has only a few locally based charities that take car donations, but many national charities collect cars here and send the proceeds outside of the state. Consider the location of the charity’s headquarters before you donate.

At Newgate School, all proceeds from the sale of donated and/or refurbished vehicles stay right here in Minnesota. Minnesotans helping Minnesotans—what a good thing!

Some car donation programs open up opportunities for folks struggling to make a future for themselves. Some haven’t performed well in traditional schools. Others are immigrants who find English challenging but respond well to hands-on automotive training. Some are young military veterans, some injured, who need job skills to re-enter civilian life. And there are others whose lack of skills has limited their potential earnings to minimum wage.

These low-income young people thrive in tuition-free automotive career schools. The possible ways your donated car assists your community are truly endless.

Ready to Donate Your Vehicle?

As outlined above, donating your car not only benefits you greatly, but it also benefits others around you. To get started with the donation process, get in touch with a representative from Newgate School. We accept cars of any make, model, and year as long as the vehicle is in repairable condition.

When you donate your car, you truly do impact the lives of other people. Choose to donate your vehicle and see just how much this choice can benefit your entire community. 

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What You Need to Know About Taxes After Donating Your Car


What You Need to Know About Taxes After Donating Your Car

There are many benefits you can receive after donating a car. Along with knowing you’ve helped another person, you will also be eligible to receive a tax deduction. If you are interested in receiving a tax deduction after donating your car, you will need to do some homework in order to get the deduction.

Here are some tasks you will need to complete to receive your tax deduction.

Find a Charity

First, find one or several possible charities where you could donate your vehicle. Ask coworkers, friends, family, and neighbors, or you might try your favorite mechanic for a reference. Be sure to search online, too.

Once you have found the name of a charity, look at its website. Then call the charity and ask for the transportation manager. Tell him or her about the vehicle you wish to donate, and ask how the charity will use your vehicle. The use is the key to learning what deductions you can expect.

Determine the Value of Your Vehicle

If your car is worth more than $500, the value of your car will depend on what your chosen charity plans to do with the vehicle. However, you can expect a minimum deduction of $500 when you donate any vehicle.

If a charity plans to sell your donated vehicle, then your deduction is the gross proceeds the charity will make from the sale. Once a charity sells your car, they will send you the receipt of the purchase, indicating the amount you can claim on your deduction. This receipt must contain the following information:

  • The gross proceeds from the sale
  • The date the car sold
  • A statement that says that your deduction can’t exceed the gross proceeds
  • A statement that says the car was sold between unrelated parties in an arm’s length transaction

Your chosen charity must provide you with the receipt and statements within 30 days after the car sold.

If your chosen charity doesn’t sell donated cars as part of its mission, you can use your car’s fair market value. You will use this same method to value your car if the charity donates your car for less than it’s worth or intends to use your vehicle. If your car qualifies under one of these circumstances, you will need a statement from your chosen charity verifying the use of your car.

Keep in mind that you are responsible to provide documentation if the IRS decides to audit your donation.

Complete Necessary Paperwork

One of the most common situations that the IRS chooses to audit is no-cash donations, which are donations that don’t involve giving money. Donors should keep detailed documentation as evidence after they donate a car.

Every donor will need to document the following information:

  • The name and address of the chosen charity
  • The date the vehicle was donated
  • A description of the vehicle
  • An acknowledgement from the charity

In addition to this documentation, people who donate cars that are worth more than $500 also need to fill out Form 8283, Section A. If a car is worth more than $5,000, the donor needs to fill out Form 8283, Section B. Cars that are worth more than $5,000 and meet one of the exceptions listed above will also need a written appraisal.  

Transfer the Title

The IRS usually recommends that donors personally transfer the title of car to the charity to avoid any confusion in the future. Most states require an individual to fill out a form through the state’s department of motor vehicles. This department will provide the donor with a statement that proves that the vehicle was donated.

Before you give your car to the charity, remove the license plate to avoid any potential liabilities. Also, make a copy of the car’s title for your records, and take pictures of your car before the donation.

Once you are ready to donate your car, ask the charity you’ve selected if they offer a towing or pickup service. If not, consider driving your car to the charity. You can help the charity save money on the donation by avoiding pickup or towing services.  

If you need assistance donating your car, the IRS does provide help. Visit www.irs.gov for more information regarding vehicle donation. Most charities also provide assistance to donors. Consult the charity you’ve selected if you have further questions about donating your vehicle.

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7 Steps to Prepare Your Car for Donation


Vehicle donation represents one of the best ways to dispose of a car that no longer works for your lifestyle or needs without creating unnecessary waste. While the requirements for each form of donation differ, you can take these seven steps to prepare your car (and yourself) for the donation.

1. Check Your Charity’s Requirements
A charity which refurbishes and resells car parts will have different requirements than an automotive school. Check with your charity to get a checklist of any paperwork, repairs, and preparations required. You’ll find many common requirements on this list. However, it’s always a good idea to go over your charity’s policies so you know how the car will be transported, what paperwork to expect, and how your car will be used.

2. Find the Title and Prepare the Paperwork
Regardless of charity type, you will likely need to produce the title before donating the car. Put together a folder of important paperwork, including the title, title transfer form, and any accident history for the vehicle. If you still make payments on your car, you must complete a lien release form to transfer the loan to your charity. Check with your organization to see if they accept cars with liens on them. Fill out your paperwork carefully, as the DMV does not accept title forms with errors.

3. Have a Basic Checkup
If you are donating directly to a church or a person in need, consider having a basic inspection performed. Check the condition of basic components, such as the windows, wipers, lights, brakes, and tires. Double-check the condition requirements of your charity, and make any repairs accordingly. While many scrap charities take inoperable vehicles, charities that provide second-hand vehicles to those in need may ask you to perform simple maintenance tasks beforehand if you can.

4. Perform Any Needed Cleaning
Similarly, evaluate the cleanliness of your car and the purpose it will serve after donating. If you’re donating to a local cause, consider performing some standard cleaning before turning your car over. Remember, you do not need to deep-clean the vehicle unless required by the charity. Many organizations, such as automotive schools, perform and teach these cleaning methods after you donate the car.

5. Put Any and All Keys Together
For many car donation charities, all you need to donate is the car, the title, and the keys. Put all the keys you have, including a remote key fob if you have one, together on a single key ring. To help you keep track of the keys, keep them in the same place as your paperwork.

6. Remove All Personal Belongings
The last thing your charity wants is to end up with a pair of your sunglasses and a pack of gum along with your car. During your cleaning, give your car a once-over to ensure that you have removed all personal items. Be sure to check under the seats, floor mats, and dashboard for any hidden personal items.

7. Wait Until After the Donation to Cancel the Insurance
Your last step when donating a car is canceling the insurance. While the title still belongs to you, you should maintain your usual insurance to avoid any legal complications. Do not remove your license tags or cancel your insurance until you drop your car off or have your car picked up and the transfer is complete. Return your tags to your local DMV along with the relevant paperwork. Questions about our donation program? Contact a staff member here at the Newgate School to get answers to your specific questions. Perform these tasks so that when you donate your vehicle, you can do so without wondering if you left something behind or neglected to finish a piece of paperwork.

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