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Four Ways That Your Relationship With Your Car Changes Once You Own It

Changes inbound!

Owning your first car is a big milestone. In addition to all of the paperwork and bills that come with having your name on the pink slip, there’s also a lot of unspoken responsibility that’s vastly different from driving a lease—or your parent’s car.

There’s no single unified manual to car ownership, so it can be difficult to appreciate how much your sense of responsibility changes once you finally sit behind the wheel of your first car. The financial weight of your driving habits will likely set in as soon as you have to visit the garage over something dumb (every driver has), but your appreciation for the fact that this is YOUR car might not set in until later.

To that end, let’s reflect on the fun, stressful, and strange ways driving changes once you finally own your own car. Starting with:

It Becomes Impossible to Avoid Giving It a Name (Even a Dumb One)

On paper, naming a car sounds pointless. After all, cars are machines that are built to serve specific purposes, right? Naming a car doesn’t make any more sense than naming a houseplant or a Roomba.

As it turns out, Americans love to totally name those things too. A 2019 survey by Bosch Automotive found over 56% of Americans name their vehicles, and that number has likely grown in the last two years—especially among Americans who were socially distancing at home with only their cars for companionship. While naming cars might seem obnoxious to the uninitiated, it’s a fun expression of the natural human desire to pack bond, or build relationships with useful inanimate objects by giving them human qualities.

Once you own your own car, the urge to do that gets stronger and stronger. After all, this is YOUR car! Why not christen it with a new name, like some newborn 6,000-pound metal child?

A quick note: you are allowed to change your car’s name whenever you want. That’s a #LIFEHACK for everyone who’s named theirs Khaleesi. 

Fast-Food Wrappers Become a Hot Button Issue

Everyone’s been guilty of some greasy car dining at some point in time. Whether it’s the result of a 2 a.m. restaurant run or a schedule that doesn’t allow for staying still during lunch, leaving fast-food wrappers in the back seat of a car is just one of those things that give it a “lived-in” feel, like the first time you have to fix the plumbing in a new home, or when a new cat surprises you with its first dead bird.

Once you own your car, however, that relationship starts to change. Trash building up in the passenger seat feels like some great karmic burden you carry with you everywhere. Fast food smells start to feel like they’ll be trapped in your seats FOREVER. Friends who ask to eat in the backseat of your car feel like they’re littering in a national park.

Sure, plenty of people eat in their car, and virtually no driver is going to maintain that dealership-fresh interior. However, once you actually own your car, it becomes a lot harder to think of it as just being a mobile trash receptacle.

Dings Go From “Stressful” to “End of the World”

Nobody likes getting their car dinged. Whether it comes from an overly narrow parking space or another driver, each little scratch can be a headache. Even if it’s completely covered by your car’s warranty, each one can still feel like it has all of the stress of a mini-car crash, complete with a lasting visual reminder on your hood, trunk, or doors.

Once you own your car, however, these dings start to feel personal. Each one seems to linger in your car’s paint job like a festering wound, calling back painful memories each time you open that door. Beyond all of the literary tragedy that comes from having your paint job scratched, they’re a reminder you’ll have to do something about it eventually, which is never a fun thing to think about.

You Learn to Be Picky With Mechanics

When you’re driving your parents’ car, you might not think about your car’s maintenance beyond just replacing flat tires and dropping it off for the occasional oil change. Once you’re in charge of your own car, however, you learn to get picky about which garage you trust for repairs.

Not all garages are created equal, and the dealership isn’t always going to offer you the best price on repairs, especially if your vehicle is out of warranty. This means that the mechanic you choose can have significant input on how long your car runs, and how expensive it will be to keep running. Once you own a car, you’re effectively responsible for keeping it on the road, and that means you’ll start caring a lot about how much your mechanic actually helps you.

Over time, you’ll find yourself asking questions like, “What do you recommend bringing the car in for service next?” and “What warranties do you offer for labor and parts?”. You might even start to view the search for a good mechanic like dating, which is fine in a “is this person the right fit?” sense and not a “romance with expensive dinner” one.

Finding a reliable mechanic is an important part of car ownership, but there’s no need to wine-and-dine them.

How has your relationship with your car changed since you bought it?

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Different Types of Car Tires: Which Is Right for You?

Choosing the right type of tire is key.

Whether you go with Michelin, Goodyear, or Bridgestone, choosing the right type of tire for the weather, the vehicle, and road conditions are crucial for driving enjoyment, performance, and safety. You’ll want to look for tires that have a long-lasting tread life and reliable all-season traction as well as provide a smooth ride.

There are three basic categories of tires: all-season, summer, and winter. Within those categories, there are a variety of sub-categories. Let’s start with the basics:

All-Season Tires
All-season tires, like the name says, deliver comfort, handling, and all-season traction on the highway. They provide good all-around performance but are not outstanding in any specific area. They have asymmetrical tread patterns and grooves that help in wet weather. The name can be misleading, though, as “all-season” doesn’t necessarily mean “all” seasons in all areas. They work fine in places with mild winters, but they’re not built to handle heavy snow and harsh winter conditions.

Within the all-season category, you’ll find all-season touring tires and all-season passenger tires. All-season touring tires offer lower noise and better handling for a quiet and comfortable ride. With an asymmetrical tread pattern, they have more responsive handling than a standard tire and are built for performance sport and sedan vehicles.

All-season passenger tires have a smoother ride and longer life than most tires. They have grooves, a multi-purpose tread, and are made with harder rubber. Hard rubber gets even harder in cold conditions (making traction ability drop), which is what makes them a bad idea for cold conditions.

Summer Tires
Summer tires work well for handling and braking on wet or dry roads. They deliver high performance in good weather but are not recommended for harsh weather conditions or off-road driving. The special tread pattern helps to prevent hydroplaning. Since the treads are so flexible, they’re subject to cracking in cold weather.

Snow/Winter Tires

Snow tires, also called winter tires, are specially designed for winter conditions. They have more grip, traction, and control than a typical summer tire or all-season tire. The tread has lots of small cuts (called sipes) that create tiny edges. This provides more traction since they can grip and grab onto slush and wet road conditions. They’re designed for the rubber to stay softer in very cold weather (unlike a summer tire), which gives a better grip and braking ability.

Performance Tires
Performance tires are not just for exotic sports cars. With increased handling and better cornering, you’ll have the feel of driving something fast and exotic. They come in performance, high performance, ultra-performance, and competition. Additionally, they’re wider and have a shallow tread. This gives a low-profile look as well as better traction and road contact.

Truck Tires
Truck tires come in highway, performance, all-terrain, and off-road varieties. Highway truck tires are durable and grippy with enhanced tread patterns that provide a smooth ride in all seasons. Performance truck tires, similar to highway tires, have the ability to handle higher speeds and offer excellent braking in all types of road and weather conditions. All-Terrain truck tires have larger treads with multi-patterns. This helps handling conditions such as sand, gravel, and light mud. Off-road, or mud terrain, truck tires have very large tread patterns that can handle heavy mud, deep snow, and other aggressive weather conditions.

Are you in the market for new car or truck tires? If you’re in the Parker, Colorado area, give Bighorn Automotive a call. They can handle tire repairs and replacements for cars, trucks, SUVs, four-wheelers, and other off-road vehicles.

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Keep Your Car Running Smoothly By Sticking to a Car Maintenance Schedule

Nobody likes calling a tow truck.

Most people don’t think about their car’s maintenance schedule until a repair light comes on. While it’s easy to push mechanic trips to the back of your mind, it’s generally pretty stressful to discover car problems on the highway. Although it’s not always fun to think about, staying on top of your car’s maintenance needs saves you plenty of time, money, and energy in the long term. In addition to avoiding nasty surprises while driving, sticking to a factory-recommended schedule also extends your car’s life and helps it retain better resell value if you decide to take it in.

We sat down with our friends at Bighorn Automotive to figure out a maintenance schedule that will keep your car running smoothly without having to spend every weekend at the garage!

Before we start, it’s worth talking about the factory-recommended schedule that’s hiding somewhere in the owner’s manual of your car. While these timelines are designed for a car being stored and driven in tested, optimal circumstances, every driver is unique. Some items like rubber gaskets, tires, and windshield wiper blades can wear out at vastly different times depending on their use. These parts—nicknamed consumables by mechanics—should be checked at regular intervals. If you stick to mechanic-suggested timeframes for different services, you should almost always be able to catch and wear on these parts long before it has the chance to escalate into problems.

With that aside, let’s take a look at the recommended schedule for different services.

Oil and Oil Filter: Every 5,000-10,000 Miles

Both your oil and oil filter needs to be changed pretty frequently compared to other parts of your car. It never hurts to be proactive about getting your oil changed, as engines will slowly accumulate loose bits of metal, dirt, and carbon that can end up in your car’s oil, increasing wear on the engine. Don’t slack off on this one: start making plans once that “oil change” alert pops up.

Air Filter: Every 15,000-30,000 Miles

The timing of this maintenance can vary dramatically based on where you park your car and how much you use it. Cars that drive (or park) in dusty places will see a much faster buildup of filter-clogging particulates. Clogged air filters can greatly hamper your car’s performance, like an engine that has trouble “breathing” won’t be able to function as effectively.

Brake Fluid: Every 20,00-45,000 Miles

Normally, your brake fluid is engaged through a self-contained hydraulic system. Over time, however, brake fluid can become contaminated by water, which alters its composition and lowers the point at which it evaporates. Over time, this watered-down brake fluid turns to gas, which compresses and results in a “squishy” brake pedal. Bleeding out the fluid in your brake system and replacing it will keep your brakes working when they’re supposed to.

Fuel Filter: Every 30,000 Miles

Good news: It’s easy to tell when your fuel filter is clogged! Bad news: You usually find out when your engine stops running. These ensure that engines can run smoothly, and gunk accumulating in your fuel filter will run your engine rough before it stops working altogether. Avoid this problem by replacing your fuel filter EVERY 30,000 miles!

Battery: Every Five Years

Plenty of different factors affect your battery, so the exact replacement distance can vary from car to car. Remember, batteries are designed to be worn out, and this will be reflected in your car’s warranty, which covers batteries by time and not mileage. The average lifespan of a battery is between four and five years, which is around 50,000 miles for the average driver.

Brake Pads: Every 50,000 Miles

Just like batteries, brake pads are designed to wear out over time and be replaced. Just remember to get them checked regularly because you generally don’t want to find out about any braking issues when pulling up to an intersection. Brake pads will also make a screeching sound when they start to wear thin. Like any other car-related screeching noise, get it checked ASAP.

Spark Plugs: Every 100,000 Miles

Spark plugs are especially important to replace because they’re a core component of your car’s ignition system. Without a reliable spark plug, your car can have trouble starting. That means that it’s a good idea to listen to any “check engine” lights that appear, as degrading spark plugs are a common reason for this. Most new cars use iridium spark plugs, which have a lifespan of roughly 100,000 miles. Cheaper copper spark plugs, however, generally need to be replaced every 30,000 miles.

How religious are you with your car maintenance?

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What to Know Before Gifting a Car for Valentine’s Day

Gifting a car requires more than slapping a bow on the hood and handing over the keys.

If you’re planning on giving your sweetheart a car for Valentine’s Day this year, know that there’s a lot of paperwork and financial information required beforehand. It’s a great (and grand) gesture, but know that this is a gift that’s far less simple than a box of chocolates.

Pay Off Any Loans
First things first, you’ll have to own the new car lock, stock, and barrel or finish paying off any existing auto loans before giving it as a gift.

Be Aware of a Gift Tax
You may have to pay a gift tax depending on the value of the car. If the car’s fair market value is less than $15,000 (the maximum the IRS allows as a gift as of 2019) when you give it away, you will not have to worry about taxes, but if it’s more than that, you will. For example, if the car is worth $30,000, you will have to pay a gift tax on the extra $15,000.

Transfer the Title
In the state of Colorado, you have 60 days upon the transfer of a motor vehicle to have the new owner either register the vehicle or present the certificate of title with an application for title to their county of residence.

Be Sure the Recipient Can Afford the Upkeep
A car is a generous gift, but it comes with the need for insurance and maintenance—all of which add up over time. If you don’t plan on footing these bills, make sure that the recipient views the gesture as a blessing—not a curse.

Make Sure the Car Is a Good Fit
Would you gift a vintage Volkswagen Beetle to someone who lives a rural, outdoorsy lifestyle? Probably not. It may help to take your sweetheart to a car dealership for a day of test drives to see what size and type of vehicle work best for them and their needs.

If you’re planning on giving a car as a gift this Valentine’s Day, make sure you come to Bighorn Automotive in Parker, Colorado, for any automotive repairs and maintenance needs.

What kind of car would you gladly receive from your sweetheart?

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Winter is Coming. Are Your Tires Ready?

Are You Prepared for the Icy Roads?

Colorado winters feel like they sneak up on you. One day, you’re outdoors grilling in flip-flops, and the next, you’re outdoors grilling in flip-flops while a blizzard hits. Unfortunately, Colorado winter’s aren’t all skiing and blizzard barbecues. All of the extra snow means driving in some pretty tricky (and occasionally unsafe) conditions. There’s a noticeable uptick in traffic accidents once it starts snowing, and it’s not hard to see why. Snow means increased braking distance, less handling on the roads, and decreased visibility. 

With the snowier parts of winter fast approaching, this is a good time to outfit your car with snow tires. There’s a popular misconception that snow tires don’t do much to your vehicle’s handling, but that’s only true if you live in consistently temperate climates. Having a set of snow tires significantly increases your car’s safety during the winter months. Let’s explore how!

First of all, it’s worth identifying the difference between snow tires (sometimes called winter tires) and their all-season counterparts. True to their name, all-season tires are designed to be driven during all seasons, and they make some compromises in order to do so. All-season tires are made of harder rubber and feature tread patterns designed to increase traction on most concrete surfaces. This makes them reliable for consistently driving on concrete or asphalt in temperatures above 40 degrees. 

Once you put all-season tires on icy roads, however, they show a noticeable decrease in traction. Harder rubber is more prone to skidding on ice and can see a decrease in responsiveness when dealing with cold temperatures. In fact, all-season tires tend to require almost 3x the braking distance when stopping on snow or ice. If you’re trying to react to sudden changes in the road, that braking distance can mean the difference between a clean stop and a collision. 

Conversely, snow tires are made of a softer rubber that allows for better handling in winter conditions. This rubber stays flexible at lower temperatures, meaning that it doesn’t suffer from the same skidding that all-season tires can. Additionally, these tires feature specialized tread patterns that are designed to provide maximum traction against ice, improving handling and braking. 

If you feel like you’ll benefit from having good winter tires, you’re probably right. A solid set costs a lot less than a car accident, with the added benefit of not being a car accident. Just because Colorado can feel like a year-round winter wonderland doesn’t mean that these tires should be used in summer, however. If you switch to winter tires, make sure that you switch back once the summer rolls around to ensure that they don’t wear down. 

If you need any work done on your tires, then Bighorn Automotive has you covered. Our expert mechanics are here to keep your car in perfect condition for the winter at fair, affordable prices! Swing by Bighorn Automotive today to see what we can do for you!

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Best All-Wheel-Drive Vehicles to Pick Up Used

Coloradans love their all-wheel-drive automotives—especially after a surprise snowstorm.

Perhaps it’s clever marketing, or maybe we don’t all have a car-person in our lives, but for some reason, we’re all under the impression that all-wheel-drive is necessary for surviving Colorado winters. However, as we’ve discussed before, the real secret to getting around—regardless of drivetrain orientation—is your tires. Seriously, I can’t stress it enough. A rear-wheel-drive sports sedan with winter tires will always outperform anything with summer or worn all-season tires, even a Subaru.

Yet, some still prefer the all-wheel-drive peace-of-mind, or maybe you want to have an AWD with winter tires beast. So if that’s you, and you just can’t live without all four wheels getting power, here are some of the best vehicles to snag used:

Buick Anything

If you can look beyond the brand and focus on the present, the new Buick lineup is actually a really good value. It was recently ranked by Consumer Reports as the third most reliable brand (behind Lexus and Toyota) and, you guessed it, most of their lineup offers all-wheel-drive. Couple that with the fact that they’re comfortable, utilitarian, and they drop like rocks in value once they’re a year or two old, making them perfect for picking up used. If GM left the Opel badge on them, you know you’d buy it.

 

Audi A4 Quattro

The Audi Quattro has long been the choice of mountain goers who want something that’s sporty and luxurious. Purchase a service warranty (Audis aren’t necessarily cheap to fix), then hit the road.

 

Ford Fusion AWD 

Crossovers are the new black, meaning used AWD cars can be picked up for much less. I’ve always been a fan of the fusion for its comfort and Aston-Martin-like front grille.

 

Lexus RX 350 AWD

Okay, if you must go for a crossover and you want something luxurious, go with the Lexus RX. Not only do you get that Lexus reliability and all-wheel-drive, but I once found a 2015 with 46k miles (nothing for a Lexus) for $27,500 and that’s much more affordable than the sticker price of a brand-new RX.

 

Subaru Impreza Base Model

Don’t get me wrong, the WRX and its high-powered big brother, the STI, are legendary cars but they are in demand. Then, everyone wants the room of the Forester, but do they really use it? That leaves us with the Legacy and the Impreza, and between the two, I’d take the Impreza. Sure it’s smaller, but you can get a hatchback and that’s way more useful than the slightly larger legacy.

What are your thoughts? I know there are many more out there, but we want to hear about your experiences? Let us know in the comments below!

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Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Winter Weather

We’ve got some tips to help keep your vehicle running in good shape over the winter.

From snow, sleet, and ice to zero-degree temperatures, winter weather really takes its toll on our vehicles. Unless you have a garage (and even if you do), there are some steps you’ll want to take to make sure your car or truck stays reliable and trouble-free over the winter … even if you’d rather just stay inside your nice warm house.

Checklist for Winterizing a Vehicle

  • Check and change the windshield wiper blades. Installing new winter wipers will keep ice from forming on the blades and cracking them.

  • Keep the washer fluid full and replace it often. It’s also a good idea to add antifreeze. Antifreeze prevents the liquid from freezing.

  • Make sure the rear window defroster is working. During warm weather, this usually gets overlooked. Staying on top of this will prevent any unforeseen issues when you’re in a hurry and need to see where you’re going.
  • Lubricate the door and trunk locks with silicone spray to prevent freezing.

  • Check and maintain tire pressure. Do this frequently as changes can happen in colder weather. Change to snow tires if you live in an area that gets lots of snow and ice.

  • Always keep the gas tank at least half full.

  • Check the battery, brakes, and things like belts, hoses, and spark plugs for cracks, corrosion, or low fluid.

  • Use the correct engine oil for the temperature. Some manufacturers suggest using oil specifically designed for winter weather.

  • Wax the exterior to protect the paint from sleet, ice, and salt on the roads.

  • Keep a winter safety kit in your car. Items you might want to put in it include a blanket, flares, matches, ice scraper, flashlight, jumper cables, antifreeze, and an extra jacket, hat, and gloves. If you happen to break down, you’ll be able to stay warm and possibly get your vehicle back up and running. At the very least, you’ll be able to alert other cars with the flares.
  • Finally, it’s always a good idea to schedule a service appointment with your local dealership or auto shop to make sure everything is A-okay for winter weather.

Do you have a winterizing routine for your vehicle? Did we miss any important tips? Let us know in the comments.

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These Practical 4×4 Upgrades Are All You Need to Hit the Trail

4×4 Colorado

Our great state affords some of the most beautiful and challenging 4×4 trails in the world, and the cool thing is that you don’t really need that special of a rig to explore them. Now, I’m not saying you don’t have to be an experienced off-roader or that you should try to tackle the trails alone. We always advise that you operate your vehicle within its limits, do as much research as you can, watch the weather, prepare for the unexpected, and go with a group of people who know what they’re doing, but a two-door Jeep Wrangler can handle most of the trails you throw at it – albeit, with a few simple modifications.

So, here are a few things you can do that’ll make your 4×4 ready to handle anything.

Tires

Like racing on a track or driving in the snow, tires are critical to your vehicle’s off-road performance. In Colorado, you never know what you might encounter and at higher elevations, it’s quite possible to encounter patches of snow and mud, so you want to make sure you have a good off-road tire that can handle it. For a little extra ground clearance, you can generally opt for a slightly larger diameter tire. Research your particular vehicle’s forums to see what others are doing and talk to your local auto shop about installation.

Hi-Lift Jack

A quick search on YouTube will show you just how useful a hi-lift jack can be, and you don’t want to hit the hard stuff without it. At $40-$80, they’re reasonably affordable, too.

Tow Straps

Anybody looking to travel off the pavement should have a set of heavy duty tow straps. Whether it’s your rig that needs a tug or you come across someone on the trail who needs help, having a set of tow straps nearby is a must.

Spare Tire

Most 4×4 vehicles come equipped with a full-size spare – which if you upgrade your tires, you shouldn’t forget. In Colorado, there are a lot of sharp rocks that could potentially puncture a tire.

Survival

Unlike hiking, you have room to bring survival supplies, meaning extra fuel, water, first-aid, food, fire-source, etc. Hey, it can’t hurt to bring that stuff, right?

Lift (Optional)

Some people don’t need it, others do a little one to two or even the full six inches. Whatever your ambitions are, you don’t need much in the way of a lift to get by. If you want to crawl some serious rocks, though, you’ll need some serious clearance.

What are your thoughts? Any experienced off-roaders out there want to share their tips? Let us know in the comments section!

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Picking the Right Local Mechanic Can Save You Money on Car Repairs

Save money by going local!


Choosing the right garage to service your car is a serious decision. Not only do they come with different skillsets and price tags, but picking the right auto service provider can have a substantial impact on your car’s lifespan. This means that picking a reputable garage is important. Multiple studies have shown that skilled garages actually cost less, both in individual service costs and long-term car health. Shady garages often feature both substandard service and additional price points designed to squeeze customers for tacked-on hidden charges. Ultimately, you stand to save a lot of money by picking the right local garage.

Repairing a car without shopping around local garages means that you’ll likely have to pay for expensive brand-specific replacements. This is because inexperienced or shady garages will simply order whatever parts are listed in the manual without properly assessing what the car needs. Ultimately, it’s the customer who ends up covering most of the cost of these supplies.

Skilled local mechanics know to be more proactive about the parts needed for a repair. As they do not have to follow the same strict protocols as dealerships, their foremost goal is finding the part that works best for your car. This can include generic parts, but also include refurbished or aftermarket car components as well. Multiple studies have shown no meaningful difference in quality between brand-specific car parts and their generic replacements.

Some shady garages will price their entire business model around sneaky upsells. This means that their mechanics are financially encouraged to tack on extra costs that are outside of the car’s warranty or service agreement. If an individual component is damaged, it’s not unheard of for these places to aggressively push for completely replacing it instead of repairing it. Some garages also hide their process behind service managers who handle the intake and estimations for repairs, which means that you may not talk to an actual mechanic. This lack of direct communication with the people who will be actually servicing your car means that it’s easier for unnecessary maintenance and charges to sneak into your repair contract.

A good mechanic is local first and foremost to their customers. Most garages start from scratch and spend years building up their relationships with clients. This means that trying to tack on unscrupulous costs to their repairs can quickly lose business. Additionally, reputable local garages will have you speak directly to the person servicing your car. Doing this means you can expect more direct and honest assessments of what repairs will be needed and how much they will cost.

There are a few steps you can take to make sure that a garage is reputable. First, check if its mechanics have Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Certification. ASE Certification shows that the mechanics meet a certain standard of care in their practice. Additionally, go with your gut feeling. If something feels suspicious or shady, there’s likely a reason for it. Above all else, make sure to communicate with any potential mechanics that you’re looking to routinely use for service. Skilled mechanics will have direct answers to your questions that go beyond simply demanding that you bring your car in.

At the end of the day, local mechanics are held accountable to their communities. Good repair shops stay in business by cultivating good relationships with the people around them. This means that local mechanics can suffer pretty severe damage to their reputations by trying to tack on hidden fees or servicing cars haphazardly.

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