Best Life Hacks for Family Road Trips

Our Japanese Auto Repair Blog

Best Life Hacks for Family Road Trips

Are you heading on a road trip this summer but are wondering how to survive a road trip with kids? Tired of hearing the road-trip staple “are we there yet?” Here are five life hacks for your next long road trip with your kids.

Bring a Backpack

Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, but a backpack full of toys on a road trip is a parent’s best friend! Try to throw in toys that aren’t messy (save that puzzle for the hotel room), but that can keep the kids engaged, like coloring books, travel board games, and maybe a Rubik’s cube or two. Hang the backpack on the seat in front of the child, and allow them to play peacefully to their heart’s content.

Play Team Games

In case the kids get bored of the backpack, have group games on hand! Scavenger hunts work well for longer trips or play games that require nothing but your eyes and some teamwork, like “I spy” or “20 Questions.” The road trip will be over before you know it!

Plan Out Those Pit Stops

You’ll have to stop for gas at some point, so why not stop someplace the whole family can enjoy! Spending half an hour at a local park or pit stop is an excellent way for your kids to stretch their legs and hopefully tire themselves out before you must hit the road again. Bringing a frisbee, a football, or a baseball and a glove to add some fun to the stop, but, aren’t required!

Go on Adventures

There’s no doubt you’ve seen billboards advertising some wacky things, like the World’s Largest Jellybean or the Smallest Castle in the United States. If you’ve got time, at least drive by whatever it is with your kids in tow! Not only does this give you and your kids some cool bragging rights or a cocktail party conversation starter for you, but it also gives you something to think about besides how long you have before you get to your destination.

Plan Your Timing

Plan to leave for your longer trips in the middle of the night so that the kids can stay asleep for most of the ride.
Before you go anywhere with your kids, awake or asleep, make sure your car is safe and running at its best with a trip to Greg’s Japanese Auto shop. We can get your car in tip-top shape and ready to hit the road with our many affordable services. Check us out online or call 1-800-79-GREGS to make an appointment.

Screen-Free Road Trip Activities for Kids

Screen-Free Road Trip Activities for Kids

Tablets, smart phones, and laptops can be incredibly helpful when traveling. They help keep young ones entertained on long trips, keeping them calm and happy when you are on the road. While these screens have their uses, it is a good idea to give your kids lots of screen-free time as well. Road trips can be a great opportunity to bond with your family instead of staring at a screen. Too much screen time can lead to the development of chronic headaches and attention disorders in young children, making it important to find screen-free road trip activities your whole family can enjoy.

Mad Libs

One of the oldest screen-free activities is still one of the most entertaining. Before your trip, pick up or download a variety of Mad Libs. You can find them on almost any topic you like, so you are sure to wind up with ones that match your child’s interests. Not only are they entertaining, but you can also use them to reinforce or teach the parts of speech to your children.

20 (or 10 or 5) Questions

This is a great way to pass the time and help your children add a range of descriptive words to their vocabulary. Simply pick a topic, such as cartoon characters, animals, or plants. One person picks a character, animal, etc., and everyone else takes turns asking questions about it to find out what it is.

Guess the Song

Make a playlist on your phone or iPod that contains songs everyone in your family likes. Put the playlist on shuffle and award points to family members that can guess the song that is playing the fastest. You can adapt this for younger children by adding nursery rhymes and other songs they enjoy.

Read or Enjoy Books on Tape

As long as no one gets car sick from reading, bring along a few books for private, quiet entertainment. Younger children may enjoy “find the image” books or activity books, with a story and some type of challenge You can also pick a story the whole family enjoys and listen to it on tape.

Travel Games

If you have two or more kids, pick up a few magnetic travel games. These can keep your children occupied for hours.

Once you figure out which screen-free activities you and your family may enjoy most, you should turn your focus to your car. Be sure to have it examined and fully inspected before heading out on the road to keep you and your family safe. Visit us at Greg’s Japanese Auto for all your servicing and maintenance needs. Our focus is on taking care of you and your car, wherever you are!

Who is Winning the Self-Driving Car Race

Who is Winning the Self-Driving Car Race?

Car companies have always been in heated competition, constantly trying to produce vehicles that outperform others in their class. Taking advantage of current trends and the latest technology is how these companies stay ahead. This includes the development of self-driving cars. When it comes to determining who is winning the self-driving car race, there are a few companies that are leading the pack.


Tesla is one of the best-known self-driving car companies, with its Autopilot project making repeated appearances in the news. Elon Musk is well-known for his determination and eagerness to push the envelope, which bodes well for the Autopilot. In the self-driving car race, data is key, and by just 2016, Tesla had already logged about 780 million miles of data. This much data is sure to give them a huge advantage.


While Tesla has brand recognition, Waymo has clear successes. Their cars have already driven over five million miles in 25 cities. Waymo also has an entire fleet of Chrysler minivans capable of navigating San Francisco streets. Their data shows an incredibly low rate of disengagement (incidents when a human engineer or driver had to manually control the steering wheel), especially when compared to the Tesla. California tests also resulted in fewer accidents than other companies; just three collisions in over 350,000 miles. Waymo’s goal is to begin a commercial passenger service using driverless vans by the end of 2018. If they achieve this goal, they could come out as the clear leader in the self-driving car race.


GM intends to launch a hailing ride project in 2019 using driverless cars. While they do not have the same real-world tests as Waymo, they do have a major investor. The extra cash invested into the company by SoftBank has allowed them to fully finance their self-driving car business. Another advantage GM has over the competition is their company-owned factory, just north of Detroit. This factory allows them to produce self-driving cars at a lower manufacturing cost, which is likely going to be reflected in the final sticker price.

Even cars that drive themselves require regular maintenance to perform well. Bring your vehicle, self-driving or otherwise, in to see us at Greg’s Japanese Auto. We have over 30 years of experience ensuring that drivers like you can continue to enjoy their vehicle’s strong performance on the road. Visit us online or give us a call to schedule your maintenance appointment today.

Best Road Trips from Seattle

Best Road Trips from Seattle for a Weekend Getaway

Taking weekend road trips from Seattle is a great way to unwind and recharge after a stressful week. They can also be the perfect chance to bond with friends, loved ones, or family members. Living in Seattle gives residents some fantastic options for weekend getaways, with a destination for almost every person. Here are just a few of the best road trips from Seattle.

Bainbridge Island

Located in Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island is a great getaway. You can arrange to stay for the day, or you can rent one of the beautiful cottages that line the shore on Airbnb. The island itself is filled with parks, gardens, and beautiful waterfront villages. Winslow is a highly recommended area, as it has numerous shops, dining options, wineries, and a distillery.

Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor is a short drive away, less than four hours, but once you are there, it feels like a whole new world. This adorable tiny hamlet gives those tired of the bustle of Seattle a small-town break. Visitors can walk along the beach, explore the tiny village, and enjoy some of the area’s best live music. There is a ferry from the mainland to Friday Harbor, so you can leave your car behind, saving some extra cash and enjoying the stunning scenery.


Westport is a beautiful beachside town with a lot for visitors to do. It is only a two and half hour drive away from midtown Seattle, making it a great choice for a day trip or for an extended stay. You can enjoy amazing seafood, including some of the best fish and chips in the region. Visitors can also get more involved in their food preparation, pulling crabs from the ocean for your dinner and picking local produce to use in your evening cocktails.

Mount Rainier

Individuals looking for a more athletic getaway option can visit Mount Rainier. The spot is also perfect for couples, friend groups, and families alike. In the middle of winter, the skiing options are incredible, with numerous trails for beginners and experts alike. The summer months are perfect for mountain climbing. You can easily find tours geared to individuals of all skill levels.

Before you head out for your Seattle road trip, be sure you bring your car into Greg’s Japanese Auto. Our skilled service technicians can inspect and detail your vehicle, getting it in the best possible condition. This guarantees your road trip goes off without a hitch, delays, or any fears about breakdowns in the middle of your weekend. Greg’s also offers a free 24/7 Nationwide Roadside Assistance Program with almost every service. Contact us by phone or visit us at any one of our locations in Western Washington today to learn more or to book your service appointment.


Image Credit: oneinchpunch/Shutterstock 

7 Affordable & Fun Family Road Trips

7 Affordable & Fun Family Road Trips

Taking fun family road trips is a great way to stay connected with your family, especially if school and work stress have interfered with other family time. Living in Seattle presents numerous options for destinations. Consider taking one of these best family road trips today.

1. Lake Chelan

Less than four hours away, Lake Chelan is a great destination for families with young kids. This is a sunny destination, with a ton of outdoor activities, including a tour of the nearby lakes and numerous festivals throughout the year.

2. Cle Elum

If you are searching for a destination filled with athletic, outdoor activities like biking, horseback riding, and boat rentals, Cle Elum is the perfect spot for you. You can also find a ton of family-friendly restaurants and indoor entertainment options as well, making it a great choice for families of all ages and sizes.

3. Copalis Beach

Families search for a quiet, beautiful spot without a ton of planned activities may want to consider Copalis Beach. Bring a stack of games, books, and crafts for the perfect bonding experience. Enjoy time on the beach, in a cozy cabin, or at one of the beautiful resorts in the area.

4. Vancouver

Families looking for an international experience may want to visit Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It is just a short ride away with a decent exchange rate. Special spots you must visit include the Kids Market in Granville Island, the Vancouver Aquarium, and Stanley Park.

5. Port Townsend

Port Townsend is a charming Victorian seaport, filled with galleries, boutiques, and fantastic dining options. There are parks, tours, and a science center, making it a fantastic destination for families with multiple kids and a vast array of interests.

6. Leavenworth

This is a great destination with a diverse range of activities, including walking tours, spa treatments, and a ton of places to hike. It is only about two hours away from Seattle, so you can go for the day or extend your stay for the weekend.

7. Olympic National Park

You and your whole family are going to love the beautiful beach, stunning rainforest, and hot springs that adorn this national park. Day hikes of varying lengths and skill levels can keep you busy and in shape.

Before you pack your family away for one of the many fun road trips from Seattle available to you, take your car into Greg’s Japanese Auto for servicing. Our friendly and efficient technicians can complete a full inspection of your car, taking time to ensure it is running well so you and your family can enjoy a safe adventure on the road. Greg’s also offers a free 24/7 Nationwide Roadside Assistance Program with almost every service. Contact us by phone or visit one of our locations in Western Washington to learn more.

How Often Should You Get Your Brakes Checked?

How Often Should You Get Your Brakes Checked?

Your vehicle’s brakes are its most important safety feature, designed to keep you and everyone else on the road safe. The entire braking system is deceptively complex, involving many parts that need to be checked and replaced often. Not many people know with absolute certainty when their systems are failing, or when an inspection is required. Keeping the following guidelines in mind lets know exactly when to bring your car in for a brake check.

Best Practices

Ideally, you should have your brakes inspected once every six months. Most people have this done at the same time as they have their tires rotated, so they don’t forget. If you cannot recall the last time a professional examined your braking system, you should arrange an appointment as soon as possible. Depending on the type of traffic you endure and how you drive your car, you may need inspections more frequently. This is why you should pay attention to the warning signs of a brake system failure. Every time you come in for a service or repair at Greg’s Japanese Auto you can get your brakes checked by their professionals.

Reduced Responsiveness or Pulling

One of the first signs that your brakes may be failing is reduced responsiveness, requiring you to apply more pressure to the pedal to achieve the same effect. In other cases, the vehicle may pull slightly to one side whenever you apply the brakes. It is important to bring your car in for an inspection as soon as you notice these signs, because they only get worse with time, leading to hazardous driving situations.


Steering wheel vibration going down hills or when braking at higher speeds is another sign that your brakes need to be examined. These vibrations or pulsations are caused by rotors that have been warped or damaged. Vehicle owners who drive in brake-heavy conditions, such as driving down steep hills, should have their brakes examined often.

Loud Sounds

If you notice any grinding or growling sounds when you press on the brake, it could mean that your pads have worn down or are failing. These sounds often happen as the metal from the worn-down brake grinds against other components in the car, damaging the rotors. Driving with your brakes in this condition for too long is a serious safety concern.

If you are wondering “where can I get a brake check near me?” contact us at Greg’s Japanese Auto. Our team of skilled technicians can examine your brake system, as well as complete many other maintenance and repair services. Visit us in-store today or call 800-79-GREGS where our friendly office staff can help you book an appointment.


Image Credit: Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock 

Signs Your Car's Oil Needs Changing

Signs Your Car’s Oil Needs Changing

Most car owners know when to perform routine maintenance tasks, such as having your tires rotated and your brakes inspected. When it comes to fluids, however, many have the same question: when should you get an oil change? While many manufacturers recommend specific intervals, everything from the environment to the type of traffic you typically endure can mean you need your oil changed much sooner. Being familiar with the signs you need an oil change is a crucial part of car ownership.

Strange Sounds and Smells

It is important to know when to get an oil change, as many of the warning signs can create driving hazards. Old oil that needs to be replaced burns differently than it did when it was fresh. As a result, the interior of your vehicle may start to smell like oil. Individuals with allergies or scent sensitivities may find this nauseating.

Waiting too long to have your oil changed can also result in loud engine sounds, as the car has to keep itself powered without fresh oil to keep these parts lubricated. Drivers and others on the road may hear knocking, rattling, and clunking sounds as the engine struggles to work.

Exhaust Smoke and Oil Color

In the colder months, most exhaust pipes emit a translucent smoke. This is because of the way the hot car exhaust reacts with the cold air. The rest of the time, your exhaust should be clear. If you notice that there is a lot of smoke coming from this area of your car, it means your oil needs to be replaced.

Another sign that you should replace your oil soon is the color of the oil itself. If it is dark, gritty, and dirty-looking, it is probably old oil and needs to be replaced. You can check this yourself using the oil drip stick. See your Owners Manual or any Greg’s Japanese Auto location would be glad to show you where it’s located.

It’s Been A While Since Your Last Change

If you can’t remember when your last oil change was, it is probably time to bring your car in for maintenance. Car experts recommend changing your oil once every six months or so, and even sooner if you drive it in warm conditions or in stop-and-go traffic.

Make sure you don’t just head to the closest oil change place for work on your car. Take the time to look for an auto shop with a great reputation. If you’re looking for places to get an oil change nearby, you can visit us at Greg’s Japanese Auto. Our friendly and experienced technicians can complete your oil change or any other type of vehicle maintenance quickly and effectively. Visit us in-store or contact our friendly office staff to book an appointment today.

Tips for Driving in the Rain in Washington

Tips for Driving in the Rain in Washington

Washington sees an average of 38.15 inches of precipitation per year, much of it being rain. This can lead to hazardous driving conditions, especially if your vehicle is not serviced correctly. While many people have been behind the wheel for years, learning how to drive in the rain is a special skill that can be honed over time. These safe driving tips are an excellent place to start.

Pay Attention to Depth

Make sure you pay attention to the depth of the water around you, especially during heavy rains. Driving in water that is too deep can cause your car to get stuck and can create several mechanical issues, including a stalled engine. As long as you can clearly see the markings on the road, it is safe to drive. Once they are completely covered by water, you need to find an alternate route.

Turn on Your Headlights

Whenever visibility is low, you should turn on your headlights. Even if it does not help you see any better while driving, it can help other cars spot you. If the rain becomes bad enough that you need to pull over and wait for it to lighten up, be sure to keep your headlights and four-way lights on.

Watch for Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning happens when your tires have more traction on the water than the road. As a result, you lose control of your vehicle as it grips the water instead of the solid concrete. Hydroplaning can happen with less than a twelfth of an inch of rain, so be careful and take it slow. If you do find yourself in this condition, steer straight and ease off the accelerator until you regain control.

Keep Your Vehicle in Good Condition

Vehicles in need of maintenance are dangerous on the road, regardless of weather. They become particularly hazardous in the rain, as you have to navigate unclear driving conditions while also maneuvering a car that is not functioning correctly. Regular maintenance also ensures that vital features, such as your windshield wipers and defogging mechanisms still work well.

Stay safe while driving in the rain by getting regular vehicle maintenance. At Greg’s Japanese Auto, we have years of experience with diagnostic and maintenance services. Our service advisors and technicians pride themselves on their dedication to the job, ensuring that each and every customer stays safe on the road. Greg’s offers additional protection on the road with their free 24-Hour Nationwide Roadside Assistance Program. All customers are eligible. If you are searching for ways to keep you and your family safe in poor driving conditions, contact us today to arrange for vehicle maintenance or to learn more.


Image Credit: Pierluigi.Palazzi/Shutterstock

Does Your Car Have a Timing Belt or Timing Chain?

Does Your Car Have a Timing Belt or Timing Chain?

Figuring out if your car has a timing chain vs. timing belt often makes a huge difference when budgeting repairs. While belts and chains both connect the crankshaft to the camshaft(s), they have different lifespans and are prone to varying types of damage. Learning more about each one ensures your car runs smoother for longer. Belts are smooth, rubber objects making the connection while chains resemble large, thick bicycle chains.

Timing Belts

Timing belts were popularized in the 1960s when Pontiac came out with the overhead cam. Modern belts are made of rubber, fiberglass, and Kevlar, giving them extra strength and ensuring the rotation is quiet. At a bare minimum, you should replace your timing belt once every 60,000 to 105,000 miles, depending on your vehicle’s model.

Rarely, your belt needs to be replaced before that time. Here is how you know it’s time to start thinking about replacing your timing belt:

  • Check your Owner’s Manual for the mileage interval that is recommended by the manufacturer
  • Check your Owner’s Manual for the time interval that is recommended by the manufacturer
  • Call Greg’s Japanese Auto to learn more

It is a good idea to bring your car in for vehicle maintenance when you replace your belts. Pulleys, water pumps, and belt tensioners often require replacement at the same time, and it is easier to have a service technician complete these repairs.

Timing Chains

Timing chains serve the same purpose as belts and generally last much longer. Some manufacturers suggest replacement after a pre-set number of miles, while others state they are good for the life of the car with regular oil changes. Timing chains can create catastrophic conditions when they break, damaging many other engine parts. In general, you should keep an eye out for these symptoms:

  • Engine misfires
  • Metal shavings in your oil
  • Loud rattling sounds when idling

Regardless of whether your vehicle has a timing belt or chain, you need to stay on top of replacement. Driving with an outdated belt or chain can lead to major repair when they break. If you are searching for vehicle maintenance, come visit us at Greg’s Japanese Auto. Our service advisors and technicians have years of experience and can take care of your car’s needs. Contact us today to learn more or to book an appointment to have your timing belt or timing chain replaced.


Image Credit: Corepics VOF/Shutterstock 

AC running in car

The Benefits of Your Climate Control System in the Winter

The climate control systems in your vehicle can help make the seasons easier to endure in Western Washington. Your focus is likely more on the heating component during the winter months, but it’s important to take care of the air conditioning system all year round. If you neglect the A/C for too long, it can stop working completely by the time summer comes around. Luckily, running the unit even during the winter can prolong the life of your car’s air conditioner.

Use Your Car’s A/C Regularly to Prevent Breakdown

You certainly wouldn’t want your car to be any colder than it already is on one of the chilliest winter days in Washington. You should still make a point to run the A/C on full blast for at least ten minutes or so every couple of weeks. The activity keeps a few different components of your A/C in good health. Luckily, you can run the A/C and then immediately turn the heater to warm to avoid making your car unnecessarily cold.

Keep Rubber Seals and Pipework in Good Condition

Keeping your climate control system active will help coolant circulate throughout the system. Long periods of inactivity can cause coolant to settle into one place, and the lack of flow might damage the system. The coolant contains a lubricant that helps keep all the parts of the system oiled. If those pieces don’t get lubricated, it might create cracks and leaks. These kinds of flaws in the air conditioning system make it easy for necessary elements like cooling gasses to escape. If your vehicle loses too much of the coolant, the air conditioner won’t get your car very cold when summer rolls around.

Avoid Moisture Buildup in Vents

Long periods of inactivity can cause moisture to settle and collect in the vents of your climate control system. This collected moisture might harbor mold and bacteria. Developing such a problem creates an unpleasant odor in your car and can even pose a health hazard. Drying out the air a little bit serves other purposes too.

Any moisture that collects in your air conditioner can also lead to fogged windows. A foggy windshield is annoying at best, and it can even cause dangerous vision impairment at the worst. If you’re having a hard time clearing moisture from your A/C system, it may be time to contact a professional mechanic.

Vehicle Maintenance in Western Washington

Greg’s Japanese Auto offers a wide array of services to make sure your car stays up and running through even the harshest Washingtonian winters. Come in to one of our 8 Western Washington locations today if you need maintenance or diagnostics for your car cooling system.


Image Credit: Pavel L Photo and Video/ Shutterstock

Greg’s Japanese Auto

Tired of auto repair shops that don't understand your car? Want a car mechanic who does? Come to Greg's Japanese Auto.

We only work on Japanese makes and models, and we have the experience and knowhow to give your car the service it deserves. Call us today to schedule your appointment.

Call Us Today

For quality service of your Japanese car model, rely on Greg's Japanese Auto Parts and Service. Call to schedule your appointment today at 1-800-794-7347.