Weekly auto rail, with tips on your commute, Car Q&A with Junior Damato and more.

Tip of the Week

The daily commute to work can be a time of hassle and frustration, especially for the 35 percent of U.S. commuters who are on the road longer than 30 minutes each way to work. It's not surprising that commuters look for any opportunity to make their travels both shorter and more enjoyable. Follow these tips to improve your commute, whether it's 10 minutes or 90 minutes:

- Use a GPS device. Having a GPS is handy because commutes are always full of surprises. If a traffic jam or an accident blocks the roads you normally use, a GPS is a great way to quickly find an alternate route so you can make it to work on time.

- Bring your favorite hot beverage with. The No. 1 thing that matters most to commuters in the morning is a cup of coffee or tea (even before their smart phones), a recent survey shows.

- Consider carpooling with co-workers, neighbors or your spouse. It's a great way to save gas money as well as spend some time relaxing since drivers and passengers can rotate.

- Listen to the news or talk radio during your commute. You may not have time to sip coffee and read the newspaper during the week, but that doesn't mean you can't keep up with the news.

- ARA

The List

Here are the most affordable small cars of the year, according to usnews.rankingsandreviews.com:

1. 2011 Ford Fiesta
2. 2011 Honda Civic
3. 2011 Honda Fit

Did You Know

The Chevrolet Volt electric car is now hitting showrooms. The Volt costs about $41,000, and you’ll be eligible for a tax credit.

Car Q&A

Q: I own a 1998 Ford Ranger XLT four-by-four with a 3.0 engine and five-speed manual transmission. I bought it with 115,000 miles on the odometer. The problem is that the truck will seldom go into four-wheel low, and if it does, it takes a lot of trying to get it back out. Any suggestions?

A: The four-by-four transfer system is not complicated. There is a switch on the dash that operates a small electric motor on the transfer case. The small electric motor is a common problem. The technician will take the motor off the and manually turn the transfer case in all positions to verify there is no binding. A fluid change is also a good idea. 

- Junior Damato, Talking Cars columnist

GateHouse News Service