Dear Car Coach: What does the five-star crash test rating really mean? I know that the dealer is pushing this as I’m looking at a new Nissan, but I want to make the best choice, and is a four-star good enough? – K.O., Clarence

Dear K.O.: When it comes to safety, its important to look for the safest car you can find. You can always replace cars – but you can’t replace people.
The five-star rating system based on the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) rates vehicles to determine crash-worthiness and rollover safety. The safety ratings are gathered during controlled crash and rollover tests conducted at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s research facilities.
The five-star ratings system was initiated in 1978 to measure the level of increased safety for vehicle occupants in frontal crashes. Side crash rating results were added with the 1997 model year vehicles and rollover assessments with 2001 models. This is a program that encourages manufacturers to voluntarily design safer vehicles by giving them safety ratings that can be used by consumers to compare vehicles when shopping for a new car.
It’s simple: More stars equal safer cars. Five stars indicate the highest safety rating and one star the lowest. While the safety feature ratings may differ among vehicles, all automobiles must first meet federal standards.
Each year, NHTSA rates a sample of new vehicles that are predicted to have high sales volume, those that have been structurally redesigned, or those with improved safety equipment. Tested vehicles are purchased from dealerships across the country; the vehicles are not supplied directly to NHTSA by the manufacturer, a common misconception.
For the 2011 model year, NHTSA estimates 60 percent of the light vehicle fleet will be rated. Though NHTSA is unable to rate every car, all vehicles sold in the U.S. must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Starting with 2011 models, NHTSA has introduced tougher tests and rigorous new five-star ratings that provide more information about vehicle safety and crash avoidance technologies. Because of the more stringent tests, ratings for 2011 and newer vehicles should not be compared to ratings for 1990-2010 models. Overall vehicle score and frontal crash ratings should ONLY be compared to other vehicles of similar size and weight.
Five-star safety ratings can be found on and are posted on the Monroney labels (window stickers) that are required to be displayed on all new vehicles. Also check out
Dear Car Coach: My car isn’t looking so hot anymore, I like it to look good, but it sits outside. Should I go to a paint shop or what? – E.B., Kenmore

Dear E.B.: Before you spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars at the paint shop, try Delta Sonic’s “Sonic Resurface” service. It can bring your car’s exterior back to life for a fraction of the cost.
The detail shop technicians will make your car look like new with this revolutionary process. Sonic Resurface virtually erases scratches on most surfaces. It takes only minutes and provides long-lasting results.
So what causes this type of damage? Most car scratches cut into the car’s clear coat, but don’t gouge into the paint layer. Bushes, tree branches, keys and fingernails around the door handles can cause these kinds of scratches.
Everyday weather can leave interesting gifts on our autos: acid rain, tree sap, bird droppings and bee spots. When you see these gifts, remove them from your paint as soon as you can. Left in place, they can etch paint and release surface contaminants that eat away at paint. It can be difficult to repair such areas after etching has occurred.
Keys and belt buckles can cause deep scratches down to the base (color) coat or primer. Unfortunately, they cannot be removed nor can they be made to look less noticeable. That’s when it’s time to get Sonic Resurfacing from the pros.
Restore the original luster of your paint by removing scratches from the clear coat. It is possible to take an average-looking car and bring it to show-car brilliance. Sonic Resurfacing virtually erases scratches on most surfaces.
Buffing out the clear coat on a car can result in your auto looking utterly spectacular.
The biggest benefit to polishing and waxing your car is maintaining the value of the vehicle and increasing your pride in ownership.
If your car sits outside, then this is a great option to improve the value and appearance of your vehicle. Check out