How to Buy a Used Car or Truck in Alberta

One of the more common questions I get asked is about buying used vehicles. If you’re currently planning on buying a used car in Alberta, the last thing you want to do is rush your decision. Making a hasty, uninformed decision can lead to a wide variety of issues down the line. That’s why I’ve put together this procedure for buying a used car in Alberta. Use the procedures and do it like a pro!

Choose a Car, SUV or Truck That’s Right for You

  1. Decide on Your Budget. Naturally, one of the main considerations when you’re buying a car, new or used, is cost. And although it’s fun and exciting to start car shopping, financial experts advise that you decide on a budget first. A rule of thumb is that all your vehicle expenses should not exceed 10-15% of your take-home income
  2. Consider Your Lifestyle. Buying a used cars in Alberta could be your first big deal, it’s important to think carefully about what type of vehicle is best for you. Do you need a compact car that gets great mileage? A pickup truck or SUV for hauling sports gear, musical instruments, or lumber around town? Or just a reliable sedan to get you to and from work, your friends’ houses, and the shopping mall?
  3. Think About What You Really Need. Now, turn your attention to the bells and whistles. If you can live without amenities like a rear camera, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port, voice commands, or dual-zone automatic climate control, then you’ll be able to shave quite a bit of money off your investment.
  4. Check out a list of amenities and ask yourself which ones you really need, and which aren’t as necessary.

Your Choices to Purchase the Vehicle From

You can buy a used car from a dealership, private seller, friends or family, or online broker in Alberta. The provider you go with does NOT affect the process you need to follow to carry out your purchase.

  1. Dealer. You’ll usually pay more if you shop with a dealer because there’s less risk involved, and it can be more convenient.
  2. Private seller. You may pay less with a private seller, but it can take more time to compare cars and there’s a higher chance that you’ll end up with a lemon.
  3. Broker. You can easily compare prices with an online broker, but it may be more difficult to know if you’re shopping with a legitimate seller when you settle on a price.
  4. Friend or family. Same rules apply as above

Check the Vehicle History

Vehicle history. An automotive business operator must disclose vehicle history in writing to the consumer before purchase. This includes answers to the following:

  1. Was the vehicle ever bought back by the manufacturer?
  2. Was the vehicle ever damaged by fire?
  3. Was the vehicle ever damaged by flooding?
  4. Was the vehicle ever used as a police or emergency vehicle?
  5. Was the vehicle ever used as a taxi or limo?
  6. Was the vehicle ever owned by a vehicle rental business or used as a rental vehicle?
  7. Was the vehicle ever declared a salvage vehicle in Alberta, or the equivalent under another jurisdiction?
  8. Was the vehicle ever declared a non-repairable vehicle in Alberta, or the equivalent under another jurisdiction?
  9. Was the vehicle ever declared an unsafe vehicle in Alberta, or the equivalent under another jurisdiction?
  10. Was the vehicle ever in need of repairs that cost more than $3,000 including parts and labour due to an incident or collision? If yes, the total cost to complete the repairs.
  11. Was the vehicle previously registered in a different jurisdiction immediately prior to the business operator acquiring it? If yes, name the province/country.
  12. If the vehicle was registered in another jurisdiction immediately prior to the business operator acquiring it, was it required to be inspected prior to being registered in Alberta? If yes, did the vehicle pass or fail any inspections?

Questions You Can Ask The Seller of a Vehicle Before Viewing It

When you contact the seller, here are a few things you can ask.

  1. Ask for history repairs and maintenance done to the vehicle. Does the owner have any invoices? 
  2. Ask if the vehicle was involved in any collisions.
  3. Ask how long they owned the vehicle.

Take precautions to protect yourself. Research the process and potential risks of buying used vehicles.

  1. Check reliable resources, such as the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) for information about purchasing used vehicles in AlbertaAblerta.
  2. Make sure the seller has valid ID and proof that they own the vehicle.
  3. Contact a registry agent or AMA to get a vehicle information report, which describes the vehicle’s registration history in Alberta. Get a personal property lien search from a registry agent, based on the vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). A Carfax vehicle history report is also recommended.
  4. Liens. A lien on a vehicle is when a creditor lends money to a debtor taking the vehicle as security. This means that if the debtor defaults on the loan payments, the creditor has a right to repossess the vehicle and sell it to recover the money owed. It is best practice for an automotive business selling a vehicle to pay out any liens prior to a consumer purchasing it, however it is always worth checking on the lien status before purchasing a vehicle. AMVIC-licensed businesses must pay out all liens on a vehicle within seven days after it is sold to a consumer.

What to Look for When Taking the Vehicle on a Road Test

Next you want to try to car out to see what it’s like to drive. Here are some things to look for.

  1. Take notes of any warning lights staying on.
  2. Take notes of any abnormal noises on a cold start-up and when hot at higher speeds 
  3. Abnormal smoke from the exhaust tail pipe.
  4. Inspect the car body for dents, signs of rust, ripples or signs of repainting which might indicate recent bodywork. Another tip I suggest is look at the body lines. Does the hood and fenders have equal spacing? Any of these signs suggest that bodywork has been done and that the vehicle could have been in a collision.
  5. Vehicle interior. Look for damage to the upholstery, trunk, and dash.
  6. Tires. Make sure the tires have tread and are in good condition.
  7. Engine, brakes, and steering function. Check that the engine runs smoothly and the car brakes and turns easily.
  8. Electrical systems. Make sure all the electrical systems are working properly, including lights, power windows, sunroof, heated seats, power locks and more.
  9. Heating/cooling systems. Verify that air conditioning and cooling systems work.
  10. Confirm that miscellaneous parts are in good working order including wipers, gauges, speedometer, odometer, and radio.

Get a Pre-Purchase of Safety Inspection

Get a Pre-Purchase or Safety inspection of the vehicle from a reliable and trusted vehicle inspection facility. ALWAYS. It does not matter who you are buying the vehicle from, everyone has good intentions. But do they really know the current health of the vehicle? 

Fill in the Bill of Sale for the Vehicle

The documents required when buying a used car in Alberta varies between private sellers and dealerships. Buying a used car in Alberta from a private seller. You’ll need a standard bill of sale, which is an original document that certifies the transfer of property. The bill of sale must include:

  1. The buyer’s and seller’s name and address
  2. The vehicle identification number (VIN)
  3. Make, model/series, style, colour, and year
  4. Cost of the car
  5. Signature from the buyer and seller

What is Examined During a Brake Inspection

We always do a visual inspection on your brakes during routine maintenance tasks such as changing tires or changing oil. This will let you know whether there is sufficient brake pad remaining left to safely operate your vehicle or if anything is obviously visually wrong with your brake system.

Sometimes though, there are reasons to suspect that there might be something amiss with the brakes because of one of the following abnormal observations during use:

  • Vibrations of the car or through the steering wheel during braking
  • Warning lights such as the Brake Light, ABS lights or traction control warnings
  • Unusual sounds during braking

If your vehicle is exhibiting any of those symptoms, we recommend a more thorough diagnostic brake inspection. These inspections are inexpensive (generally in the $80-$90 range at our shop), and will give you a much better idea of any safety concerns for your vehicle, and also give your more information about how expensive any repairs might be. This will allow you to make an informed decision about whether it is more cost-effective to repair or if it’s time to start to consider replacing your vehicle.

Have you ever wondered what a brake inspection involves? Here is what we do at our shop.

Diagnostic Brake Inspections at Access Automotive

  1. Test Drive (Road Test)

Before we even begin inspecting your brakes, we want to make sure that they’re working properly and safely by doing a road test. driving them around for about 10 minutes or so. This lets the service technician confirm any reported symptoms, both under initial starting conditions when the rotors are cold, and also when the rotors have warmed up after use. 

F1 brake rotors heating up under testing

The technician  will look for any brake warning lights illuminating and will listen for any unusual noises coming from your vehicle’s brake system.car when you press down on the brake pedal. We also confirm any warning lights related to the braking system.

2. Brake Fluid inspection Check

Brake Fluid Reservoir

After returning to the shop, we inspect the brake fluid, both for level and condition. Although there are several different tests you can do on the brake fluid (copper assay, moisture test, conductivity tests), we find them to be inconclusive and wasteful. Our process is to look at the Master Cylinder for leaks and check the colour of the fluid against our samples on a drip tray.

We then put the car on a hoist for better access to the wheels and brake components. The technician will then inspect each wheel brake caliper  individually for leaks. If there are no issues found during this step, we move onto the next part of the process.

3. Initial Visual Inspection

As we remove the wheels, although this may not directly affect the brakes, we inspect the wheel bearings, hub and lug nut holes for excessive wear or movement.

Next up, we visually inspect each component in order to determine whether there are any signs of wear or damage. 90% of the vehicles we work with have disc brakes, and the rest of this article will refer to a disc brake inspection. During the inspection we look at:

  1. Brakes pad wear:  We are looking for at least 2 to 3 mm material remaining  in the brake pad for them to be considered safe, but additionally we are looking for uneven wear of the brake pads which might indicate seized callipers  or some other mechanical issue with the brake assembly.
  2. Callipers: We are looking for proper piston function (smooth operation of the brake caliper pistons and sliding pins).
  3. Rotors: Primarily we are examining the rotors for abnormal marks (burn marks or corrosion). We also sometimes measure runout (how warped they are) if we think it’s close to a 0.004 inch deviation (maximum deviation before we find that problems start to occur), but in obvious cases of rotor warping we would skip an exact measurement to save you the diagnostic fee.
  4. Look for cracked rubber brake hoses (long term could use a video)
  5. Undercarriage inspection

Finally, we raise the vehicle higher  to inspect  all the steel brake lines from the Master Cylinder to the rear of the vehicle for leaks and corrosion.

Sometimes the inspection turns out to be a easy repair.   small rock can wedge between the rotor and the caliper in the brakes which does not cost any more than the inspection to fix.

Sometimes though we find that the callipers are seized up, the rotors are warped and the brake pads are unevenly worn and replacement of the full assembly is warranted for safe operation. In that case we can help you to decide whether you’re better off replacing the brakes, or if the overall condition of the vehicle warrants moving on to another vehicle.

Summer Vehicle Maintenance Tips

Summer Car Maintenance Recommended for Edmonton

Now that COVID restrictions are being removed, lots of people are looking to hit the road again. Want to make your summer driving experience hassle free? Here are some suggestions:

Get a vehicle inspection done. 

There isn’t one part of the vehicle that is not equally important for summer time as in other seasons. Brakes, battery, engine, cooling system, all ride control components etc. need to be operating as designed.

The best way to maximize your chances of your vehicle making your summer trips hassle free is to do a vehicle inspection ahead of time. We recommend at least two weeks in advance of your trip in case you find some unexpected repairs that need to be performed.

Pay attention to your vehicle’s Air Conditioning

Beat the heat by ensuring your vehicle’s Air Conditioning (A/C) system is working at peak efficiency, especially if you have black leather seats! While A/C systems are built to not leak, they aren’t leak-proof. Here are some of the warning signs of trouble:

  1. The system isn’t cooling to the desired temperatures
  2. The system makes loud or unusual noises when turned on
  3. There are unusual odours coming from the vents
  4. Water appears on the floor mats
  5. The vehicle overheats, stalls or idles roughly when the system is turned on
  6. The blower doesn’t work when the a/c is turned on
  7. The defroster doesn’t work.

If you encounter any of these symptoms bring your vehicle in for an a/c system inspection and analysis.

Complete deferred maintenance items

Be sure to take care of general maintenance items for carefree summer motoring. An example would be the Cabin Filter. Do you really want to have smelly or no air coming from your vents on a long road trip? Just change it before it causes more potential problems. If your oil is due for a change, then getting it done before hitting the road is also highly recommended.

Check on the items you have in your car for convenience, safety and emergencies in the summer

Summer means time to make some changes. Bust out the t-shirts and shorts and enjoy the sun. You should also do a check of what you bring along with you in the car – no need for that snowbrush! Here are the essentials you should keep inside your car during the hot summer months.

  1. Water
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Phone Charger
  4. First Aid Kit
  5. Jumper Cables
  6. Snacks
  7. Flashlight
  8. Emergency Money
  9. Multi-tool Device / Swiss Army Knife
  10. Tow Rope

You may never have an emergency, but in the event that something happens, you will be prepared.

When should you change from Winter Tires to Summer Tires in Edmonton

Summer Tire Tread next to a Winter Tire Tread

A tricky question that I get asked anytime there is unseasonably warm temperatures in   March is whether it’s a good idea to switch over from winter to summer tires yet?

Like many automotive maintenance items, the answer we always give is: “it depends”.

Edmonton weather can be all over the place in spring

The average daily high temperature in Edmonton in March rises from -1 degree Celcius on March 1st to +7 degree Celsius on March 31. Since summer tires start to perform better than winters at +7 degrees, generally we recommend waiting until April. In unseasonably warm years though (such as 2021) in some cases it does make sense to switch over a bit early.

Factors to consider when deciding when to switch your vehicle over to summer tires

Questions we like to ask include:

  • How aggressive a driver are you?
  • Do you have an all-wheel  or 4-wheel drive vehicle
  • Do you often work from home?
  • How often do you go out for groceries or shopping?
  • Do you have other urgent maintenance to do on your vehicle?
  • Do you frequently have to chauffeur kids or family around to activities or appointments
  • Are there known intersections you often drive through that have slippery conditions with new snow
  • Do you have all-season tires to put on for the summer, or true summer tires
  • Do you have 7 mm of tread or more  remaining on your summer tires?
  • Are you going to be driving to BC on major highways such as Highway 3 or Highway 5

In general, the more aggressively you drive, the more often you drive and the more dangerous intersections you drive through, the less we recommend switching over to summer tires early. Also, if you are going to be driving in BC, keep in mind that driving without winter tires can result in a fine before March 31 on certain highways.

On the other hand, if you often work from home, you don’t drive to the store every day and you switch over to an all-season tire, then we can recommend beating the spring crush and switching your tires over a little earlier, especially if you have to drop by the car repair shop to do some maintenance anyway.

Even if you’re a candidate to switch your tires over a bit earlier, as a rule of thumb, we like to see a full week of warm weather in the forecast in mid-March before we generally recommend swapping tires. If we hit a few hotter days then don’t sweat it – a week of warm weather is not going to appreciably reduce the life of your winter tires.

Access Automotive Recommended Summer Tires

If you need new tires, here are our current top picks:

For trucks I like the Michelin LTX M/S which I recommend as the best value pick, the best performance pick and the best combination of value and performance. It is a great All-Weather tire that I use on my own truck all year round.

For cars I recommend the Michelin Primacy MXV4 for summer tires, both as the best performance and best value tire.

Tips to Prepare for Winter Driving

Edmonton Fuel Saving Tips for Winter Driving Featured Image

Fall will be upon us before you know it, and with that is getting prepared for the challenging driving conditions that come with living in Edmonton!

Fuel Consumption Soars in cold weather – sometimes by as much as 50%. That’s hard on your wallet and hard on the environment

Warm Up By Driving

Once a vehicle is running, the best way to warm it up is to drive it. With computer-controlled, fuel-injected engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before driving away. Anything more simply wastes fuel.

Besides, more than the engine needs to be warmed up. So do the wheel bearings, steering, transmission and tires, and that can only happen when the vehicle is moving. For a typical vehicle, it takes at least 5 km of driving to warm everything up.

Although it is important to drive away as soon as possible after a cold start (but not before the windows are defrosted), you should avoid high speeds and rapid acceleration for the first 5 kilometres or so. The goal is to bring the whole car up to peak operating temperature as quickly as possible while maximizing fuel economy.

Use an automatic timer to switch on your block heater two hours before you plan to drive your vehicle. This is all the time needed to warm the engine.

Snow and vehicle weight.

You already know that extra weight increases fuel consumption. Snow building up in wheel wells and under bumpers adds weight and rubs against tires, further increasing rolling resistance. And snow piled on top of the vehicle increases drag and vehicle weight. For safety as well as fuel economy, clear snow off your vehicle before you drive away.

To prevent your windows from fogging up, open a window as soon as you enter the vehicle. Clear snow from the air intake on top of the hood. Otherwise, the defroster will draw moisture into the system and fog the windshield.

Tire Inflation

Your tires need special attention during winter. Cold temperatures decrease the air pressure in tires. Each tire that is under-inflated by 2 psi (14kPa) causes a 1% increase in fuel consumption. Check tire pressures regularly, and especially after a sharp drop in temperature. Before adding air to your tires let some air out of each valve and blow some air out of the hose. This prevents moisture from gathering in the valve, where it can freeze and cause the valve to leak. If possible use your own tire gauge, since the gauges built into air pumps are often inaccurate or missing.

Snow Tires vs. All Season Radials

For some Canadian drivers, all-season tires are sufficient for winter driving. Tires that do not have the ‘3 peaked mountain snowflake symbol’  may provide safe performance in most weather conditions, but are not designed for snow or ice-covered roads. If your roads are regularly snow-covered, snow tires will improve traction, reduce slippage and improve safety and save fuel. All-season tires do not provide the same grip below -15° C.

Take It Easy

One last tip for winter driving – take it easy. The more your vehicle slips and slides and spins its wheels, the more fuel you waste and the more you increase the chance of an accident. And we can all do with a little less stress!!

Load up safely for your next road trip

Edmonton road trip packing and preparation tips

Pack your car with safety and convenience

Anyone who has ever packed a car for a road trip knows that loading properly lies somewhere between science and art. As the last item is loaded, you can judge your packing success by how accessible items are as the kids ask them

Loading your car safely doesn’t mean stuffing everything but the kitchen sink into the trunk and hoping for the best. Proper loading requires careful planning and a lot of common sense.

Consider the following:

Can your vehicle handle the load

This is very important to consider, especially when pulling a trailer. If you’re not sure how much your vehicle can handle, ask your automotive technician for advice. Overloading can affect your car’s handling, stability and could damage your suspension.

Preparing your vehicle for the road ahead

  1. A tune-up is in order, especially for long excursions. The last thing you want on vacation is a breakdown that could have been prevented by simple maintenance
  2. Make sure your brakes are in good working order. Having that extra load in your trunk or with a trailer, will demand more from your brake system
  3. Make sure your headlights are property adjusted. Loading your trunk can cause the front end of your vehicle to raise slightly. You don’t want to blind oncoming drivers.

Loading up

  1. First and foremost, plan your packing! You don’t want the kids’ toys and travel games underneath the luggage. Ensure that items you will need along the way are easily accessible (this includes the spare tire, jack and first aid kit)!
  2. If you own a vehicle like a station wagon or mini-van, with an open cargo area, make sure none of the items packed could become dangerous projectiles in the event of an abrupt stop.
  3. Visibility is essential – don’t overfill and limit the driver’s ability to see out of the windows.

Checklist

A checklist is extremely valuable before you hit the road. Here are a few items you may want to add to your own personal list

  1. Make sure the spare tire is properly inflated
    1. Extra litre of oil
    2. Spare anti-freeze mixture
    3. First-aid kit
    4. Emergency road kit
    5. Maps and AMA Triptiks
    6. Your AMA membership card

Alternatives

If you have a lot of stuff to pack, a small travel trailer might be a good idea

  1. Consider using a car-top carrier. But remember that loading up top will alter your vehicle’s handling. Be careful around bends in the road and when taking sharper turns. Make sure that you follow the manufacturers instructions. Securely fasten all latches and knobs when transporting. Pack roof top boxes with the concentration of the weight in the middle. Periodically remove the carrier for cleaning, lubrication and inspection.
  2. When transporting anything on top of your vehicle, always be aware of overhead clearance. Make sure all mounting points are securely fastened.
  3. If the 2-door hatchback you own just isn’t going to handle the family, the dog and all the luggage, consider renting a larger vehicle for your trip. It could take a great deal of unnecessary frustration out of your vacation. Contact your local AMA club for great car rental rates.

COVID-19 Policies and Procedures

To our valued clients regarding COVID-19, 

We are OPEN and here to help! 

We are taking precautions to keep our clients safe – picking up and delivering cars from your work/home with repairs, sanitizing high touch areas in cars, sanitizing the office frequently, and asking our clients to use our key-drop so you don’t even need to enter our shop. We take Visa, Mastercard payments over the phone or E-Transfer through email. Give us a call if you have any questions. 

With everything going on, we wanted you to know that we are here to help. We are open and continuing to service vehicles and we are committed to taking precautions to keep our clients safe. You can get your car fixed without ever needing to enter our shop. Here’s how:

  • Vehicle Pick Up and Delivery: Get your car repaired without ever leaving home. Access Automotive will pick up your car from work or home and drop it off to you when it’s done, for no-charge. If time permits. 
  • Pay from Home: Pay from your mobile device or your computer. Give us a call and pay over the phone. No need to come in to pay.
  • No Contact Key Drop: We have a secure Key-Drop beside our front door. You can drop your key inside the Key-drop so you do not need to come in contact with anyone.
  • Disinfecting Keys and Car: Upon receiving your keys, we will wipe all keys down with a disinfecting wipe (as a precaution). While our staff works on your vehicle, they will be wearing safety gloves the entire time. Once the work is done on your vehicle, we will disinfect any high-touch areas, such as the steering wheel, gear shift, and door handles.  Before giving you your key back, we will disinfect the key.
  • Sanitizing the Office: We are sanitizing the office, front counter, door handles, and bathroom very regularly to reduce the spread of germs.
  • Phone and Email Communication: We will be in contact with you via phone and email so that you know exactly what is going on with the service to your vehicle and can approve any work that is done. No need to wait at the shop.

Have questions? Or want to schedule an appointment? Give us a call at 780 484 1194 and we’d be more than happy to help.

Stay safe and wash your hands – we’ll get through this together! 😊

*Some restrictions apply to the no-charge vehicle pickup. Call for more details.*

Wishing you health and happiness,

Rob Music
Access Automotive
780 484 1194

Don’t Make Compost on Your Vehicle

unsplash-logoMihai Surdu

Leaves, twigs and other organic matter can cause havoc with gutters on your house—and the same on your vehicle. Quite often when we open and hoods on vehicles, we see the air plenum (or called air cowl) below your windshield built up with this debris. This can cause all sorts of concerns. First, this will eventually plug your Heating / Air Conditioning drain tube. The drain tube vents all the moisture and condensation in the HVAC system. Also, you will receive less air movement from your air vents because of the clogged air plenum. So, open your hood and check the vents under the windshield. It only takes a few minutes to clean.

5 Tips for Car Spring Maintenance

Edmonton Car Maintenance Spring Tips

Spring is in full swing and summer is just around the corner. Here are a few things that we like to do to make sure your vehicle is in the best shape possible.

1. Find out if you need an oil change and check your fluids

Your engine in your vehicle does the same job as the muscles in your body. You wouldn’t think to starve your muscles. How would you get anywhere? Well, that goes the same for the engine in your vehicle – and the rest of the systems that need fluids!  Don’t starve it of clean oil! If you don’t know how to check the fluids, we’ll show you!

2. Change or rotate your tires

Your front tires do all the steering and cornering. This adds tremendous wear to the edges of the tires. You could have plenty of tread in the middle and nothing on the edges. If you don’t want to buy 2 tires every 2 years, you should be rotating them front to back every 10,000 to 12,000 km.

3. Clean Your Car Interior

Okay, winter is now over and you haven’t cleaned the interior. Trust me, I know it’s harder to clean it when it’s -20c. I now will provide you with three reasons to get it done pronto.

  1. Prevent Excess Wear and Tear. When you neglect to clean the inside of your car, your vehicle’s interior surfaces could start to develop excess wear and tear.
  2. Avoid Health Issues. Whenever you get behind the wheel of your car, you will enter a closed environment. If your vehicle is filled with dust and dirt, these particles could create poor air quality in the interior of your vehicle. Keeping the interior of your car clean will help you avoid allergies and other problems that can be associated with poor indoor air quality. By reducing stress, a clean car interior can also promote your mental health, as well.
  3. Increase Driving Safety. If your car’s windshield, windows, and side mirrors are covered in grime or debris, they will affect your ability to see your surroundings as you drive.       

4. Inspect Your Wiper Blades

There is nothing more dangerous than trying to drive a vehicle in the rain, and the wiper blades are smearing, streaking or chattering. In this country, they don’t last long. Get your visibility back to 100%.

5. Inspect Your Brakes

You really don’t want to find out that your vehicles’ brake system isn’t working 100% on your first road trip or vacation. The hot weather could cause a new set of problems than winter. I recommend you enjoy the open road and hot weather stress-free. The cost of missing a vacation or trip could be huge!

At Access Automotive we do a 50-point spring inspection along with your oil change to keep your car from developing any unexpected concerns, keeping your long-term repair bills lower and helping to prevent the inconvenience of a break-down on your summer road trip.

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