Tracy Talks: Back-to-school shopping for pens, clothes, cars
by Anne Marie Fuller
Jul 26, 2013 | 2491 views | 0 0 comments | 129 129 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Is it my imagination, or does the school year seems to come sooner each summer?

Each new school year begins roughly the same: with excitement, smiles and great expectation. This past weekend, my family did the usual back-to-school supply shopping. The list included backpacks, pens and paper — and a car.

Having a new driver in the family has changed things a bit for this new school year.

With everything else to worry about, buying a lemon hardly makes the list.

Bryan Bentley, a local 16-year automotive master technician, offered some tips on how one can avoid simple mistakes and red flags when searching for a new or used car.

"Many cars can appear to be in better condition than they really are," Bentley said. "I worked on one car, after it was purchased, that had major frame damage from an accident that was not reported. The people that bought the car didn’t know about the accident, and sadly this can be a common problem."

He warned against highly modified cars.

"I would also advise people to stay away from cars with excessive after-market parts and components," Bentley added. "These items can affect vehicle control, ride quality and overall operating safety."

Wouldn’t it be easier just to always have a mechanic ready to go? Someone to give you that needed technical advice, when you think you have found that perfect car.

I asked Bryan what his top five helpful hints would be for first-time car shoppers. Here’s what he said:

No. 5: Check all car resources, such as DMV and the like. Make sure to have the vehicle inspected by a certified technician, which will save you money in the long run. Also, if the color or paint has visible variations, this could be a red flag that the vehicle has had body work done — possibly because of an accident.

No. 4: Ask about documentation for the vehicle — the more the merrier. Know the history of the vehicle. Look for service history records, including what was done, when and where. Also check for any warranties.

No. 3: When you test drive the car, it should run smoothly. Check to see if the steering wheel shakes, and listen for any excessive knocking or creaks when going over bumps. Check for vibration or shaking during braking. These could indicate worn or broken suspension components.

No. 2: Pay attention to any dash lights that appear, even briefly. Some warning lights could mean costly repairs.

No. 1: Check the overall condition. Does the vehicle have mismatched parts? Avoid having an "I can fix that" attitude. A few issues can rack up quite a bill.

<b>A Boys and Girls Club fundraiser set to music</b>

On Sunday, July 28, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tracy will host a gospel benefit concert, "The Reason Why We Sing," from 6 to 8 p.m. at 753 W. Lowell Ave.

The goal of the benefit is to encourage troubled teenagers to leave behind their insecurities and self doubt. 

A $5 donation is appreciated. The club is raising money to create a recording studio at the Lowell Avenue clubhouse for members who have shown musical potential. 

Anne Marie Fuller is the television host of "Helpful Hints with Anne Marie," which can be seen on Cable Channel 26 at 7 p.m. Fridays. She is also the chairwoman of the Tracy Arts Commission. Contact her at

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