218 W. Elizabeth Avenue

Linden, NJ 07036


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UPDATED 12/9/20

Your #1 source for quality auto repair & service, in the Central NJ area!


Fair pricing and honest reliable service.

Please give us a call, we'll treat you right!


"Conveniently located across from the Linden NJ Train Station!"


We are especially convenient for residents who commute into Newark & New York!

Taking a trip? Get your car serviced while you're away, take the train to Newark airport!


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Convenient automotive service for Cranford NJ, Clark NJ, Westfield NJ, Garwood NJ, Elizabeth NJ, Edison NJ, Kenilworth NJ, Union NJ, Fords NJ,  Rahway NJ, Woodbridge NJ, Avenel NJ, Fords NJ, Colonia NJ, Iselin NJ, Carteret NJ, Scotch Plains NJ, Fanwood NJ, Mountainside NJ, Union NJ, Plainfield NJ, Roselle NJ, Roselle Park NJ, Watchung NJ, Warren NJ, New Providence NJ, Summit NJ, Berkeley Heights NJ residents!


Mart Cyclone parts washer. Oil fired. Very large model. Wasn't used all that much, and in excellent condition. Can be used to clean all types of parts. $3500.00. The paint around the bottom is coming off because that's where the cleaning solutions goes, otherwise in like new condition. Purchased new, and have all documentation. Can be seen anytime. Call: 908-862-9071 or email:

QUALITY AUTOMOTIVE REPAIR, conveniently located across from the Linden NJ Train Station! Great for commuters, as the train goes directly to Penn Station NY from Long Branch NJ!

We gladly perform oil changes! We're not as cheap as those "quick change" places, but we do quality work that you can rely on. We use the highest quality oil and filters. We've done many oil changes, where we've seen stripped out, leaking drain plugs, that the place before, never bothered to repair, so we did. You get what you pay for!


NEED BRAKES? Give us a call!

Quality brake repair, reasonable prices - Linden, NJ! 

Need a hitch? We sell and install the highest quality trailer hitches by the biggest names in the hitch market: Curt, Rigid, Reese, Draw-Tite     Back To Top^

Is your check engine light on? This is a warning that something is wrong with your car. In a lot of cases, it's something simple, and inexpensive to fix, but if left for too long, could cause other more expensive problems. In a lot of cases, you will notices the car not performing as normal. You need to nip this in the butt ASAP!

We can help! Honest, reliable auto repair service in Linden NJ. We can diagnose and repair the problem and get you on your way, reasonably and quickly.  

Engine Sensor Glossary:     Back To Top^

What Are Engine Sensors, and What Do They Do? 
The engine computer, or Electronic Control Module (ECM) and its associated sensors control almost every aspect of engine performance. The following glossary of terms defines 17 of the most common sensors and other components found on a modern, computer-controlled automobile.

Cars today are built better than years past, but that doesn't mean they don't need regular servicing!

They may not need a typical tune-up (spark plugs) till around 100K miles, but they still need regular servicing, such as transmission fluid changes (with the correct fluid), throttle body cleaning, brakes, air and cabin filters.

As your car starts approaching 100K miles, it's important to do the necessary servicing like a new timing belt if needed, spark pugs, PCV valve, belts, fluid replacements, and not letting these services go undone.

For instance, I've seen people let their spark plugs go to 140K miles, and the threads get so carboned up, that they get frozen in the head, and won't come out, without thousands of dollars worth of work. A broken timing belt, will destroy an engine. It's always best to get your car serviced regularly and have any problems found, fixed right away!

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During this COVID-19 period, automotive repairs shops are considered essential businesses, so we ARE OPEN here at BSE Automotive!

During this time, it may be easier to leave your car to get necessary repairs and maintenance done, and we're happy to help. Please call for an appointment!

      908-862-9071       Back To Top^

8 Things You Should Never do to Your Car

1: Put off the recommended maintenance. There's a reason the car manufacturer gives you that little book when you buy a car. It contains important maintenance guidelines for the age and mileage of your car. By following what it says, you can keep your car running smoothly and safely—and save on having to pay for big repairs later.

2: Ignore any warning lights. Most cars come with a check engine light and other warning lights. If any warning light goes off, it's time to take your car to a qualified mechanic ASAP.

3: Never change the air filter. A fresh air filter keeps your engine running smoothly and improves your car's fuel efficiency. Most manufacturers suggest you replace your filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. (Err on the lower side if you drive in dusty conditions or in stop-and-go circumstances.)

4: Never check your tires' air levels. Not having the right tire pressure makes for unsafe driving and reduced fuel efficiency. Most vehicles list tire pressure requirements on the driver side door post so you know how much air to give your tires.

5: Have an unqualified person work on your car. Take the time to find a qualified car mechanic. Keep in mind that you could qualify as "unqualified" if a repair is beyond your skill level. Check out our article on how to handle an auto repair for helpful tips on finding a qualified mechanic.

6: Leave keys in the ignition of an unattended car. This is one of the easiest ways to tempt car thieves - especially during the colder months of the year.

7: Run your gas tank down to empty. Doing so cuts the life of the fuel pump - and puts you at risk of running out before you get to a station.

8: Rarely wash your car. A thorough wash helps preserve the exterior of your car. That can ultimately help your car retain its resale value. A good wash is especially important during winter, when road salt does a number on cars.       Back To Top^

Ford to repair problematic PowerShift transmissions for free

Ford has instructed its U.S. dealers to repair troublesome Fiesta and Focus PowerShift dual-clutch transmissions for free, if any owners notify them of problems. The news comes after The Detroit Free Press published a story about how Ford was reportedly aware of the transmission problems even at the vehicles’ original launch. On July 17, Ford publicly challenged the conclusions made in the Freep article.

Owners have told of PowerShift transmissions “shuddering, slipping, jerking or hesitating” when changing gear, with premature wear or sudden or delayed acceleration as a result. Ford says sudden acceleration is not among the issues related to the DPS6 transmission in question, and that the shudder has to do with the original intent of targeting better fuel economy. Ford also acknowledged the Getrag-built transmissions have been prone to slipping into neutral, but says it is a separate issue related to a faulty control module and that the issues have only appeared after years of real-world use and were not present at original component testing and launch.

A memo from July 12, which is said to instruct dealers to “arrange to diagnose the vehicle and repair as necessary.” The repairs will be performed on vehicles dating from 2011 to 2017, and some of them will be out of factory warranty by now.

A PowerShift-related class-action lawsuit was launched in 2017, covering the cars of 1.9 million owners, and Ford settled the matter for $35 million. Now, a California court is re-evaluating the settlement on the grounds that it would not compensate enough owners.

How to Clear Up a Foggy Car Windshield

Car windows can quickly steam up in winter when moisture in the warm cabin air creates condensation.

To clear a foggy car windshield and/or windows, make sure your climate control system is in fresh-air mode (running it in recirculation mode will cause moisture to accumulate). And although it might seem counterintuitive, you should turn your car's air conditioning on. It will dehumidify the air, which will reduce the chances of a foggy car windshield. Plus setting it to a high temperature should keep the car toasty, too.       Back To Top^

New car technology may lead to sticker shock at repair shops

Back-up cameras and lane-departure warnings may help people drive more safely, but they also drive up newer vehicles’ repair bills, the American Automobile Association reported in a recent study.

And a driver need not have been in a crash to face a four-figure repair bill. Even something as innocuous as an unfortunately placed windshield chip can cost big money if it affects the performance of an on-board safety system, the auto club reported.

“It’s just unbelievable,” one body shop owner said about the complexity of repairing vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems.

The owner said he has spent thousands of dollars training his staff to work on such vehicles, and replacing parts is only one facet of such repairs.

“You have to set up targets for calibration, and every vehicle is different,” and repair of some systems must be referred to dealer shops because it involves technology that is proprietary to the vehicle manufacturers.

 “It is not unusual for windshields to get chipped or cracked, especially for drivers who commute on a daily basis

“This may be an eyesore, but when it falls in the line of sight of a camera or the driver, it becomes a safety issue that needs immediate attention by a facility qualified to work on these systems,” the report said.

Cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors built into bumpers, body panels, and even side mirrors are also vulnerable.

“While most drivers may not find themselves in a collision, these parts can easily be damaged when pulling out of a garage or bumping into objects.”

When a customer brings a vehicle to an independent repair shop and it has to refer some of the work to a dealer shop, that becomes a “sublet repair” that eats up most, if not all, of the profit.

And when a particular repair is referred to a dealer, “then they [customers] feel that you’re telling them you can’t fix their car.”

Calibration is the biggest obstacle for independent repair shops.

“I can’t even fix most of these now because of the reprogramming requirements,” said one owner. “You can fix it, but you can’t make it work.”

 As technology continues to evolve, drivers need to be better educated and more aware of their vehicles’ capabilities. This includes understanding how the vehicle systems work as well as how much repairs may cost if damaged.

With one in three Americans unable to afford even $500 in unexpected repairs, AAA strongly urges consumers to consider the potential repair costs of these advanced systems as well as perform an insurance policy review, the auto club said.

One shop owner said insurance so far has covered all of his shop’s customers technology-related windshield replacements, but his customers are often still on the hook for their policies deductibles.

“More and more cars are coming with other stuff on the windows besides the rear-view mirror.”

Manufacturers specify that any cameras or sensors associated with replacement glass need to be recalibrated, at a cost typically ranging between $150 and $230, and windshields have become significantly more expensive than they used to be.

In an article published during the summer, Consumer Reports also noted that road grime or winter’s ice and snow also can interfere with navigation systems’ performance, especially devices that rely on cameras.

While auto manufacturers are developing “self-cleaning” features for those systems, they are far from universal.

And like improper calibration, dirt, frost, or other interference may render safety systems inoperative or inaccurate.       Back To Top^

Toyota Recalls 2.4 Million Cars For Stalling Issues

A dangerous and potentially deadly stalling condition found to affect the Toyota Prius and Auris models has prompted the automaker to initiate a recall of over 2.4 million cars in a second effort to resolve a software issue that was supposedly fixed already.

An official statement released by the Toyota Motor Company on Oct. 5, 2018, indicates problems with certain 2010-2014 model year Prius and 2012-2014 Prius "V" models are sufficient enough to create concern for safety. In total, approximately 807,000 Prius cars in the United States are affected by programming that may improperly enter a fail-safe mode causing a loss of power.

This continues a legacy of large recalls that mark the Toyota Motor Company’s recent history; a potential fire hazard at the power window switch initiated a 7.4 million-vehicle recall in 2012 with 2.5 million U.S. cars affected which closely followed an accelerator configuration issue that affected millions more less than three years prior. However, this recall campaign is very different from those recall campaigns and raises significant questions in its own right; this isn’t the first time there has been a recall – for the exact same problem.

It’s been 13 years to the month since a 75,000-car recall was initiated for the exact same stalling condition in some of the 2004-2005 Prius models; a fail-safe mode activation disabled the gasoline engine and left drivers to coast off to safety with a limited-capacity electric operation. The NHTSA had received 68 reports of stall incidents that prompted the internal investigation that preceded the recall. To address this issue, a software patch was released as well as, in some cases, dealers would apply a water-proof grease to certain electrical connectors. The exact repair procedure this time around may vary by any number of factors that affect the versions of software installed in cars from the factory — but the same general approach is being used; Toyota is offering affected vehicle owners free reprogramming that includes the updated file patches at dealers in their service network.

Based on an analysis of the available information, a prudent Prius owner should ask themselves first and foremost if any current recall campaigns are applicable to them and, if so, following manufacturer-prescribed resolution process as deemed necessary. Information on recall campaigns for Toyota products can be found directly on their website by providing the web portal with your V.I.N. number.       Back To Top^

Towing 101 – What You Need To Know

The fact that anyone can hook up a trailer/boat/camper and tow it down the road can make professional drivers, insurance companies and the general public extremely nervous. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,  not without at least some basic knowledge.

Before you hook up that 34’ foot speed boat to your 1980’s era station wagon, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Know Your Weights

The first step to a safe towing operation is determining your weights – how much both the load you plan to tow weighs, and how much the vehicle is capable of towing.

Starting with the vehicle, you can often find this information printed on a metal plate or sticker on the vehicle itself. Typically, this plate/sticker is near the driver’s door and lists tire pressure, maximum towing weight and maximum payload. Write down the maximum towing and payload numbers.

Next, determine how much your load weighs. In the case of campers and boats, this information is also quite often found on the trailer itself on a similar metal plate like on the vehicle.

For trailers, you will often find the empty weight listed and will either need to weigh the load at a scale or have a pretty good idea how much cargo you are planning on carrying.

While every trailer is different, an example to use for reference is a 6’x12’ U-Haul cargo trailer. This four-wheel trailer (2×2) has a maximum capacity of 2,500 lbs of cargo. The average weight of an empty dresser is between 100-150 lbs depending on height and the wood it’s made from. On the heavy side, this trailer can tow around 16 dressers.

On the other hand, flatbed trailers can often haul upwards of 7,000 lbs depending on the number of axles. This is quite a bit when you consider the average ATV weighs between 350 and 400 lbs.

Putting The Numbers Together

Now that you know how much you plan to tow and how much the vehicle you plan to tow with is capable of towing, it is simple math right? Not exactly. There are some terms you also have to know, such as:

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the maximum amount of total weight the vehicle can handle including towing and payload. It is also the gross amount of weight the trailer is able to carry, including the weight of the trailer itself. So, a 7,000-pound trailer may be able to handle only 6,000 poundds, once you subtract the weight of the trailer.

Tongue Weight (TW) is the downward pressure on the ball by the trailer coupler (attachment part from the trailer, boat or camper).  Put too much weight on the ball, and your tow vehicle will raise in the front and the rear brakes will be overworked. If you have ever seen a vehicle towing and it is far from level, it is likely there is too much weight on the ball.

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) is the total mass of everything – including what you are towing, what you are putting in the cabin and the passenger’s weight along with fuel.

Adding this all together and matching it against the vehicles GCWR maximum will tell you whether you are being safe or not.

Towing Safety

If you have done your math correctly and everything you are towing/hauling is under the GCWR, then it is time to start the towing operation. There are several keys when hooking up a load that apply to everything (trailer, camper or a boat). These keys are:

On the Road

Finally, when out on the road, there are a variety of items you need to keep in mind. For starters, you have to adjust your driving habits to accommodate for the load you are towing.

This means no sharp turns, no sharp accelerations and no reckless driving.

When towing, you will want to do everything nice and slow. This means from a dead stop, you will want to slowly gain speed and likewise when slowing down, you will want to anticipate stopping and ease into it.

Also, when turning, make sure that your turns are as wide as you can make them. Glide through the curves and gradually bring the load along. The sharper you turn, the more volatile the load becomes and more likely it could sway out of control.

While towing doesn’t have to be extremely difficult, understanding the right way to tow can be the difference between a safe towing operation and a disaster. Follow these tips and you’ll keep yourself and others on the road safe.       Back To Top^

Rodents Are Feasting On Newer Cars' Soy-Based Wiring Insulation

In an effort to be more friendly to the environment, companies are making more and more automotive components out of renewable materials, such as soy or even cannabis. Unfortunately, a side effect of building cars out of edible materials is that rodents are eating them.

The use of soy in car parts is nothing new. Ford has been making seats out of a soybean-based foam for the past ten years. Ford also uses soy rather than petroleum for wire insulation. However, some owners have been running into unforeseen problems when rodents find their way into cars and eat the edible insulation.

Ford is not alone in suffering this problem. In 2016, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Toyota claiming the company should cover this type of damage after an owner was forced to pay around $1,500 to fix the chewed wiring in his 2012 Tundra under warranty.

"We think the addition of soy in the insulation has taken the episode of rats chewing through the wires through the roof," said an attorney, who is involved with the class-action lawsuit.

Toyota, however, denies that modern insulation is any more appealing to rodents than the old petroleum-based insulation. “Rodent damage to vehicle wiring occurs across the industry, and the issue is not brand- or model-specific. We are currently not aware of any scientific evidence that shows rodents are attracted to automotive wiring because of alleged soy-based content," the company retorted.

Toyota is correct that the problem is not limited to any particular brand or model. The use of renewable materials such as soy has spread across the entire automotive industry, which means that despite the class-action lawsuit applying only to owners of 2012 to 2016 Toyotas, similar issues could occur in pretty much any modern car.

Mouse infestations in vehicles, even those that are driven regularly, have been a problem for a long time. Mice chewing wires and causing electrical problems is nothing new. But now that soy has become popular as an insulation, instances of this type of problem appear to be on the rise.       Back To Top^

Honda Halting Accord Production for 11 Days Due to Slow Sales

 "Regardless of what this article says, I believe people just aren't stupid enough to want a 1.5 liter engine in a sedan!"

In spite of widespread acclaim from critics, endless industry awards, and Type R-chasing tunability, the 2018 Honda Accord just ain't selling. The previously-popular-as-hell midsize sedan is having such an underwhelming time at the dealerships that Honda is cutting back on its production, reports the Wall Street Journal.

According to a Honda spokesman speaking to WSJ, Accord production will be halted for a total of 11 days throughout the next several months in order to "focus on aligning production to current market conditions." These include two days a month from April to June followed by five days at the top of July. During those days, the Marysville, Ohio plant's 4,200 workers have the option of either taking vacation days, unpaid days, or coming to work so they can carrying out "other tasks." That break room microwave's not gonna clean itself, Gary. 

While it would be easy to blame the Accord's (and the entire sedan genre as a whole's) decline on those peskily popular crossovers—and make no mistake, they bear much of the guilt here—partial responsibility should be attributed to Honda's less-than-competitive lease deals. As it stands, Honda is offering $249 per month for 36 months with $3,199 down for a base model LX in California. Everything else being equal, a comparable Toyota Camry can be had for just $219 per month and $1,999 due at signing. I mean, unless you're a devout Honda lessee, it's not hard to see why the market is passing on the company's midsize sedan.

Accord inventory in America sat at a higher-than-average 104-day supply as of the beginning of March. In comparison, the average car in the U.S. is stocked just 70 days in advance. The planned stoppages will presumably bring the Accord's inventory down to a more, let's say, realistic level.        Back To Top^

Ford is recalling 1.4 million cars because the steering wheels can fall off

Ford is recalling 1.4 million vehicles because the steering wheels can become loose and even come off while driving.

The automaker says it is aware of two accidents and one injury that may have been caused by the problem.

The affected models are the Ford Fusion and the Lincoln MKZ, both from model years 2014-2018.

Ford said the problem is that a steering wheel bolt could come loose, which could cause the steering wheel to potentially detach.

A quick search of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s complaint database produces several worrisome stories from drivers.

“While driving on interstate, steering wheel came loose and car veered off interstate,” one driver from Harriman, Tennessee, told the NHTSA. “I regained control but steering wheel is still loose.”

Another driver shared a similar story.

“Got in my vehicle to drive it one day and my steering wheel was very loose,” the person wrote. “It wobbled on the column. Had to take it into a dealership. When they looked at it, said the bolt was loose enough to unscrew with your hand.”

The company also announced a recall of another 6,000 vehicles due to a risk of fire from a clutch pressure plate fracture. But all those recalled cars are manual transmission cars, which are not commonly sold. The affected models are 2013-16 Ford Focuses and 2013-15 Ford Fusions.

Models Affected:

The steering wheel recall applies to every version of the Fusion:

-Fusion S
-Fusion SE
-Hybrid S
-Hybrid SE
-Hybrid Titanium
-Energi SE
-Energi Titanium
-Fusion Sport
-Fusion Platinum
-Fusion Hybrid Platinum
-Fusion Energi Platinum

The recall also applies to every version of the Lincoln MKZ:

-Lincoln MKZ Premier
-Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Premier
-Lincoln MKZ Black Label      
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RELIABILITY GUIDE: What’s the Most Reliable Year of Honda Accord?

It’s generally accepted that the Honda Accord is one of the most reliable cars available, but according to the research from, there are good years and not so good years. If you’re in the market for a used Honda Accord, what are the years to look for, and which years should you avoid?

The Honda Accord is currently in the middle of its ninth generation, and debuted at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit as the Honda Accord Coupe Concept. The current generation went on sale in September of 2012 as a 2013 model. has a model year comparison of reliability information for the Honda Accord that stretches all the way back to 1979, when the Accord was in its very first generation. The key years we’ll focus on are current 2016 models back to the introduction of the seventh generation Accord that went on sale as a 2002 model year. is an online automotive complaint resource that uses graphs to show automotive defect patterns, based on complaint data that’s submitted by actual visitors to the site. The complaints are organized into groups with data published by vehicle, vehicle component, and specific problem.

The site also cross-references to NHTSA data to show the number of consumer complaints that align with those filed by site visitors.

SAFE BET: 2013 to Current (Ninth Generation Accord)

The current generation Accord — back to 2013 — has a low number of complaints at this point, with just 211 complaints reported. That volume of complaints is fairly insignificant, since Honda sold Accords at a rate of about 30,000 per month in 2013.

The other factor that the Ninth Generation Honda Accord has going for it is that the bulk of the complaints from that year (79) aren’t due to major mechanical issues, but concentrate more on interior accessory issues.

Further, almost 40 percent of the interior complaints about the 2013 Accord aren’t due to something broken or non-functioning, but because of uncomfortable seats.

CONSIDER CAREFULLY: 2008 to 2012 Honda Accord (Eighth Generation)

The greatest number of issues reported by respondents occurred in the eighth generation, Honda Accords built between 2008 and 2012. 2008 marked the highest number of complaints reported for any Honda Accord model year, all the way back to 1979 in the database, with 2,305 complaints reported for that model year.

Out of those 2,305 complaints, site visitors reported 1,268 issues focused on the brakes, and over a thousand of those complaints revolved around premature brake wear. The typical repair cost was about $228, and the average mileage when the complaints were reported was just 26,048.

CONSIDER ANOTHER CAR: 2002 to 2007 Honda Accord (Seventh Generation)

The Seventh Generation Honda Accord didn’t have as many complaints reported as the Eighth Generation, but the severity of those complaints makes this generation — and especially the 2003 model year — one to avoid.

That year, site visitors reported 1,617 issues to the site. The biggest concern is that the vast majority of those complaints (945, more than all the other complaints combined) centered around transmission issues.

In particular, site visitors were having considerable problems with complete transmission failures, issues that resulted in an average repair bill of $2,696. Visitors reported that those problems were occurring before 100,000 miles.

It’s interesting to note that the peaks of all the complaints for every generation of Accord are all within one year of that particular generation’s introduction, which may lend some credence to the idea of waiting a few years after a new model is introduced.       Back To Top^

Toyota Develops World's Most Thermally Efficient 2.0-Liter Engine

The engine is twice as thermally efficient as most other internal combustion engines.

The biggest problem with the internal combustion engine is that most of the energy generated by combustion is wasted as heat rather than converted propulsion for the vehicle. Toyota's new Dynamic Force Engine has made a breakthrough in thermal efficiency in being 40 percent efficient as a conventional engine and 41 percent efficient in hybrid form. Most internal combustion engines are only 20 percent thermally efficient. In addition to heat, the various systems required to run the engine all take energy that could potentially be put to use propelling the vehicle. In the Dynamic Force Engine, the sides of the pistons have been polished to a smooth mirror surface to reduce friction, with narrow grooves cross cut in it to improve scuff resistance. The cylinder head has been designed with a high-efficiency intake port. A high-power ignition coil is used to burn every last droplet of gas from the multi-hole direct injector. This engine uses a new version of Toyota's D-4S direct injection system, which has already been used on the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ twins for years.

Besides the obvious benefit of improved fuel economy, another major benefit of this engine is its enhanced torque. Not only does it produce more torque than the modern equivalent 2.0-liter engine, it begins generating that torque at a lower engine rpm. Horsepower numbers make flashy headlines, but high torque at low rpm is extremely useful in real-world driving, getting you off the line more quickly and easily.

Toyota has not yet said in what vehicles we can expect to see this engine equipped in the future. A fair bet may be anything economy-minded that currently runs a similarly sized engine, such as the Corolla.  Back To Top^

What Are Daytime Running Lights and Why Do I Need Them?

Daytime running lights help keep you safe, but there are a few things to know about this lighting system.

Have you ever been driving at dusk, in the rain, or after dark and seen a car go by without its headlights on? Maybe it was a black car and you noticed it at the last second. Ideally, cars would have a system that always turned the headlights on when needed, but for a variety of reasons, including cost, automakers don’t make headlights automatic in all cars. Even those vehicles that do have the feature usually have a way to disable it and go to an on/off function controlled by the driver. Daytime running lights (or DRLs) help with this problem of having completely dark cars being operated in low light conditions and are also intended to help in other circumstances.

DRLs were originally made popular in parts of the world where daylight can often be dim and short in duration. They work great as a way to identify the car using them to other cars on the road. Unlike headlights, they are not intended to illuminate the road ahead, and they don’t also have any rear marker lights. They are simply dim lights at the front of the vehicle.

In vehicles equipped with daytime running lights or DRLs, the system is automatic. They are intended to be on when the vehicle is driven without requiring any driver input. The way they work varies from automaker to automaker, and even from model to model. In nearly all the systems originally developed, they worked by using a lower power setting on already existing lights, typically the high beams. As time went on, many automakers have adopted DRLs as a sort of jewelry or brand identifier and LED bulbs are now popular.

Once enabled, DRLs are completely automatic and work without any need for driver involvement. They are usually on when the car is on, but some automakers, Subaru for example, enable them only when the vehicle is in a gear other than “Park.” When the headlights are turned on by the driver or the automatic system the vehicle is equipped with, the DRLs may stay on or turn off. Once the headlights are enabled they are no longer needed, except again, as a way to make the car look distinctive.

DRLs are pretty simple to understand and the reasons why they are used are hard to argue against. Yet some do. In fact, there are anti-DRL groups who lobby against them.  The main argument put forth is that they are not “effective.” Or not “necessary.” We won’t weigh in on the subject, but if there is some harm in having DRLs it is hard to understand what it might be. Canada has mandated all new cars have DRLs since 1989 and has fines for drivers not using them.

In some vehicles equipped with DRLs, the system can be disabled, perhaps to satisfy the naysayers, or perhaps for those who want to operate in stealth mode. If your vehicle’s DRLs are not working for some reason, or if just one is, the typical cause is a bulb having burned out. In many cars, the bulb is shared with another function, so try the other lights to see if you can identify the cause. Before you go too far into the troubleshooting process, we suggest a quick glance at the owner’s manual. They may just be in the off position or not enabled in the scenario you expect.       Back To Top^

Advertisements Are Coming to Your Car's Infotainment System

Imagine you are at a stop light on your way home after a long day at work. That taco joint ahead looks enticing. Before you can make up your mind, an ad comes up on your car's infotainment screen letting you know of an ongoing promotion: buy two tacos, get one free. That advertisement will soon be a reality thanks to a wireless location-based services provider.

A California tech firm is introducing an in-car advertising platform for cars which are connected to the web. Ads on the go may seem like a bad idea, after all, who wants to get distracted by yet another thing while on the road? The company promises to only display ads when the vehicle is stationary to ensure driver safety.

Relevant ads such as coupons and recommendations are delivered to customers based on information from the vehicle, including frequently traveled routes, destinations, and time of the day. As an example, drivers can be encouraged to pick up a discounted pizza on the way home or be alerted to sales at stores near their destination. In addition, when the vehicle is low on gas, the platform points out nearby stations along the driver's route, potentially with discount offers.

The company's other products are already in use by Ford, General Motors, Lexus, and Toyota. The 2018 Toyota Camry, for example, uses Scout GPS Link, a navigation application. Lexus models have been using the same app since 2016. Integrating the new ad platform with the existing tech will be simple as both are developed by The same company.

Automakers may be cautious before adopting the technology and drivers may not even like it at all. As autonomous vehicles become more common, however, in-car advertisements will be the norm. After all, what else will passengers do if not drive? Interacting with the vehicle's infotainment system to stay connected is one thing to keep you busy. Serving ads will just be another way for carmakers to generate continuous revenue, long after your car has been bought and paid for.       Back To Top^


Because like many other high-tech products today, motor oils are extremely difficult to understand—and unlike a smartphone, you can’t just take oil apart. Complicating matters further, when the GF-4 oil standard came out awhile back, it drastically reduced the zinc and phosphorus used in oil for anti-wear protection. While newer, roller-valvetrain Vettes from later C4s to C7s aren’t affected, it’s a serious concern for owners of earlier, flat-tappet-valvetrain models.

The Refining Process

Crude oil contains thousands of compounds. Thanks to refineries, companies are able to use different refining processes that turn crude oil into everyday items such as lubricating oils, fuels, plastics, and waxes.

How Crude Oil is Refined

Three major refinery processes—separation, conversion, and purification—turn crude oil into finished products.

Separation is a distillation process that uses a series of separation (or distillation) towers and heat to physically separate crude oil into its naturally occurring components.

In the separation towers, a furnace heats and vaporizes the crude oil. The vapor/liquid mix is fed into the bottom of the tower, where temps can reach 750 degrees (F). Components that are still liquid at those high temps become the tower’s bottom product. Components in vapor form rise up through a series of distillation stages. As the temps decrease, the components condense and end up in their predetermined spots. So the heavy stuff like “bottoms” (which becomes asphalt base) stays on the bottom, mid-weight stuff like gas oil and diesel distillate (which become gasoline and diesel) goes in the middle, and lightweight stuff like “light ends” (which becomes propane) goes to the top.

But gas oil and diesel distillate doesn’t just “become” the gasoline and diesel that we pump into our vehicles. That’s where conversion comes in.

Conversion processes take low-demand products like heavy oil and rearrange the molecules into high-demand products like gasoline. This is possible because all of the products in the refinery are based on hydrocarbons with carbon and hydrogen chains.

Special units called fluidized catalytic crackers (FCCs), cokers, and hydrocrackers are used to “cut” the heavy oil’s longer carbon chains into shorter chains, which converts heavier hydrocarbons into lighter ones like gasoline. Additionally, there are catalytic reformer and alkylation conversion processes that can put these chains together, and even change the form of the chains.

Other conversion processes include delayed cokers, which convert the heaviest vacuum tower components into other products, and catalytic reforming, which increases the octane number of gasoline blends.

The purification stage physically cleans unwanted substances out of the product. This is done by hydrotreating, a process that puts the product in contact with hydrogen, then uses heat and high pressure in the presence of a catalyst. The result is hydrogen sulfide—and desulfurized product. While sulphur is the main target, aromatic hydrocarbons and paraffin wax are removed too.

How Lube Distillates Become Base Oil

Now let’s narrow down the refining process to lubricants:

After crude oil passes through the separation towers, it’s sent to cracking units to break up the hydrocarbons’ long carbon chains. This creates a group of carbon compounds that have between 25 and 45 carbon atoms, called lube distillates.

Next comes processing, where solvent extraction, dewaxing, or hydrotreating is used:

The processing methods can vary, depending on the required quality of the finished base oil. For instance, a solvent extraction method is used for Group I oils, and a more advanced hydrocracking method is used for Group II and III oils.

Base oils that are more highly processed have a higher purity, a higher group number, higher performance, and, usually, a higher cost. We’ll have more on oil base-stock group numbers in a bit.

Oil Base Stocks and Additives

Carbon and hydrogen molecules known as hydrocarbons make up the foundation of mineral oils. Different types of hydrocarbon molecules have different characteristics, and some types are more desirable for creating motor oil than others.

The foundations of synthetic oils vary: Some are chemically altered mineral oils, while others are esters or polyalphaolefins.

Let’s separate these molecules into two groups—mineral base oils and synthetic base oils—and discuss their different characteristics.

Mineral Base Stocks

There are three main groups of mineral base oil:

The first are paraffinics, which may be further divided into two subgroups: normal paraffinics and iso-paraffinics.

Normal paraffinics are straight-chain hydrocarbons. Because they are waxy, iso-paraffinics are typically preferred. The latter contain side chains that improve the viscosity index. They also have better oxidation stability, all of which has earned them a reputation as being the best mineral lubricants.

Naphthenics have the characteristic of naphthenes—saturated hydrocarbons with molecules containing at least one closed ring of carbon atoms. Similar to ring compounds like aromatics (but lacking double bonds), naphthenics are considered better than aromatics, but inferior to paraffinics.

Aromatics are unsaturated molecules with one or more benzene rings. Because aromatics are undesirable for motor oils, they’re normally extracted, and only trace amounts are left after refining.

At the refinery, crude oil is converted into finished products via the separation, conversion, and purification processes.

Synthetic Base Stocks

There are several main groups of synthetic base oil used in automotive applications:

Polyalphaolefins (PAOs) are branched-chain, isoparaffinic hydrocarbons known as synthetic hydrocarbons. They’re similar to mineral hydrocarbons, but instead of being extracted like mineral oils, PAOs are manmade using a chemical process. The result is purer, uniformly sized molecules that are completely saturated—they have high oxidative and thermal stability, a high viscosity index, and a very low pour point. They’re also superior in extremely hot or cold temperatures. This highly versatile base stock is great as high-performance motor oil, and superior to mineral oil. The only downsides are a low solubility (which results in poor additive compatibility) and a high price.

Esters like diesters and polyol esters are branched synthetic hydrocarbons that are structurally similar to PAOs. The difference lies in an ester’s hydrocarbon molecules, which contain oxygen in the form of ester linkages. These linkages polarize the molecules, which results in esters having a higher flash point and lower volatility compared with PAOs. The polarity also helps esters “stick” to the engine’s metal surfaces, which gives them additional film strength and lower energy consumption. They’re also great detergents, more environmentally friendly, and they’re very flexible so engineers can build a specific oil for specific applications. Downsides are that esters can affect the elastomer material used in engine seals, and they can react if they come into contact with water. While esters were some of the first synthetic automotive oils, they’ve been surpassed by PAOs due to a PAO’s lower cost and ease of formulation.

Through advanced chemical processes, the new Group III+ base oils (which we’ll discuss shortly) can now be considered a “synthetic.”

Base-Stock Groups

As defined by the American Petroleum Institute (API), a base stock is “a lubricant component that is produced by a single manufacturer to the same specifications (independent of feed source or manufacturer’s location); that meets the same manufacturer’s specification; and that is identified by a unique formula, product identification number, or both.”

Base stocks are divided into five categories, or groups: Group I, Group II, Group III, Group IV, and Group V. Through a specific test method, each group has a different makeup of saturates, sulfur percentages, and viscosity index.

Group I: Base stocks that contain less than 90 percent saturates and/or greater than 0.03 percent sulphur, and have a viscosity index greater than or equal to 80 and less than 120.

Group II: Base stocks that contain greater than or equal to 90 percent saturates and less than or equal to 0.03 percent sulphur, and have a viscosity index greater than or equal to 80 and less than 120.

Group III: Base stocks that contain greater than or equal to 90 percent saturates and less than or equal to 0.03 percent sulphur, and have a viscosity index greater than or equal to 120.

Group IV: Base stocks are polyalphaolefins (PAO) with no unsaturated hydrocarbons or sulfur. PAOs may be interchanged without additional qualification testing, as long as the interchange PAO meets the original PAO manufacturer’s specs in physical and chemical properties.

The following key properties need to be met in the substituted stock:

1. Kinematic viscosity at 100, 40, and -40 degrees (C)

2. Viscosity index

3. Noack rating (volatility)

4. Pour point

5. Unsaturates

Group V: Base stocks that include all other base stocks not included in Group I, II, III, or IV. Group Vs like esters are typically used for creating oil additives.

Group III+ Base Stocks

While not currently included in the base-stock groups, III+ base stocks bridge the gap between the highly refined mineral Group III base stocks and the expensive, synthetic Group IV base stocks. They provide performance that’s above what normal mineral oils can give, yet they’re more affordable than the Group IV synthetics—and as you can imagine, they’re very popular these days. ExxonMobil’s Visom is an example of a Group III+ base stock.

Oil Additive Packages

Motor oil is made by combining base oil with a complex mixture of up to 15 additives. Generally speaking, there are two types of fluids that make up an additive package: a detergent-inhibitor package, and a viscosity-index improver.

Detergent Inhibitors

The detergent inhibitor (or DI) package is a mixture of performance additives that’s needed for an oil formulation.

Viscosity-Index Improvers

Viscosity-index improvers, as their name implies, improve a finished oil’s viscosity index. The key to VIIs is their large polymeric molecules: They coil up when cold, which makes little difference to the oil’s viscosity. But when hot, VIIs uncoil and stretch out, which reduces oil thinning—and increases the oil’s viscosity. That improved viscosity index allows manufacturers to create multi-viscosity oils.

Oil Viscosity, Weights, Properties, and Standards

At this point, you should have a basic understanding of how crude oil is refined into base stock, then combined with additives to create motor oil.

If your head hasn’t exploded at this point, relax—the hard part’s over. Now, let’s discuss some of the more hands-on aspects of motor oil: oil weights, single- and multi-grade oils, and industry standards.


When discussing the weight of a motor oil, we think of its “thickness.” But we’re really discussing viscosity. There are many different measurements and classifications for lubricant viscosity, and this topic gets complex in a hurry. But the core concept is pretty easy to understand.

Viscosity is defined as a physical measurement of a lubricant’s internal resistance to flow. Let’s use water and honey as examples: Water, which flows easily, has a low viscosity. Honey, which doesn’t flow easily, has a high viscosity.

There are several conditions that affect the viscosity of a lubricant in an engine: they include temperature, speed, and load.

The temperature of an engine’s operation changes the viscosity of a lubricant. Generally, when the temp goes up, viscosity goes down, and when the temp goes down, viscosity goes up.

The speed of an engine’s operation affects what viscosities can be used. The lubricant will need to flow well at high speeds, but it can’t be too thin at lower speeds or it won’t lubricate correctly.

The load of an engine’s operation also affects what viscosities can be used. Heavy loads can compress the lubricant film, so a higher viscosity may be needed to prevent damage. However, if the engine only sees normal load conditions, a lower viscosity may be adequate—and with less resistance, it can result in better fuel economy as well.

To determine the proper viscosity for your engine, you’ll need to account for its operating temperature and environment, rpm range, and types of loads experienced. The right viscosity should provide an adequate lubrication film at both high and low temperatures. It should also flow well at both high and low temps and operating speeds, and possess a film strength that stands up to light and extreme operating loads. If that seems like a tall order, it is.

Standard Oil-Testing Methods

Because today’s vehicles and ever-tightening regulations keep asking more of motor oils, manufacturers must continually improve their oils to meet that challenge. And that’s where advanced test methods come in. There are numerous oil-testing methods conducted by organizations such as ASTM International and SAE, as well as the oil manufacturers themselves. Here are a few examples of these tests:

The base number test measures a lubricant’s reserve alkalinity, which helps control acids created during the combustion process.

The flash point test determines the temp at which oil gives off vapors that can be ignited with a flame. As you can imagine, the higher the flash point, the better.

The pour point test finds the lowest temp at which the oil will flow, using a specific test method and measured in degrees F. The lower the pour point, the better.

The shear stability test measures how much viscosity oil loses during operation. After its viscosity is measured, oil is run through extreme shearing conditions. The viscosity is measured after testing, and the difference between the pre- and post-test oil viscosities determines the percentage of viscosity lost.

Viscosity tests measure the time it takes a lubricant to flow by gravity. Some viscosity tests include low-temperature cranking viscosity, low-temp pumping viscosity, and high-temp kinematic viscosity.

The viscosity index is a number that shows oil’s relative change of viscosity over a temp range. The higher the VI, the smaller the viscosity change over temperature, which is better.


Simple terms like “30 weight” come from the complex SAE J300 standard, which is a viscosity classification for engine oils. It classifies viscosity grades based on low-temp tests such as low-temp cranking viscosity and low-temp pumping viscosity, and high-temp tests such as kinematic viscosity at 100 degrees (C).

For example, a 0W viscosity grade has a 3.8 kinematic viscosity at 100 degrees, while a 50 viscosity grade has a 16.3 kinematic viscosity at the same temp. Or, simplified, the 0W is thin, while the 50 is thick.

Engine-oil weights are as follows:

Multi-Grade vs. Single-Grade Oil

In the early days, all cars used single-grade oils. However, today’s street vehicles overwhelmingly use multi-grades. Single-grade oils can still found in everything from racing cars to lawn tractors, but this type accounts for only a small portion of overall motor-oil production.

Multi-grade (or multi-viscosity) oils like 5W-30 use viscosity-index improvers (VIIs) that allow the oil to perform well in nearly all temperature ranges: A 5W-30 multi-grade oil provides the cold cranking protection of a 5W and the high temperature viscosity of a 30-weight oil in one—that is, it’s thin enough to flow in low-temp situations like cold startups, yet thick enough to protect in high-temp situations like extended high-rpm driving. Multi-grades also provide incremental fuel-economy savings over single-grade oils.

Single-grade (or single-viscosity) oils like 30 weight are just that, a single viscosity. They don’t use VIIs and, as such, aren’t recommended in certain climates (cold winters in the northeast, for example). While it used to be said that in favorable summer weather, a single-grade oil could provide better engine-bearing protection than a multi-grade, today’s advanced multi-grade oils provide much better protection and a much greater operating-temp range.

Note that a multi-grade oil is almost always the smart choice for your street-driven Corvette.

API/ILSAC Standards

The American Petroleum Institute (API) is a trade association that grades motor oils. The institute’s starburst graphic, which can be found on most quarts of oil, advertises that the oil meets the current engine-protection standard and fuel-economy requirements of ILSAC (more on that anon). API uses a two-letter service category designation that denotes the current performance standard.

ILSAC, the International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee, is a trade organization that works with vehicle manufacturers and commercial engine-oil producers, and is responsible for creating passenger-car engine-oil specifications. The API and ILSAC have worked cooperatively for years, and their ratings track on a parallel path. ILSAC uses a three-digit alphanumeric service-category designation that denotes the current performance standard.

Current API/ILSAC Oil Standards

(Note that the API also has an oil standard for diesel engines; the current, 2007-up standard is CJ-4.)

API’s SN standard was introduced in October 2010, and provides improved high-temp deposit protection for pistons, more-stringent sludge control, and seal compatibility. API SN with Resource Conserving matches ILSAC GF-5 by combining API SN performance with improved fuel economy, turbocharger protection, emission-control-system compatibility, and protection of engines operating on ethanol- containing fuels up to E85.

ILSAC’s GF-5 standard was also introduced in October 2010, and provides improved high-temp deposit protection for pistons and turbochargers, more-stringent sludge control, improved fuel economy, enhanced emission-control-system compatibility, seal compatibility, and protection of engines operating on ethanol-containing fuels up to E85.

Previous Oil Standards

Obsolete Oil Standards

Decoding an Oil Container

Many people have no idea how to read a quart of oil. Thankfully, API’s starburst and ILSAC’s “donut” make choosing the latest oil-standard spec easy.

The API starburst is usually found on the front of the bottle and reads, “AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE CERTIFIED FOR GASOLINE ENGINES.”

The ILSAC donut is usually found on the back of the bottle. We’ll use the current standard on a quart of 5W-30 oil: “API SERVICE SN SAE 5W-30 RESOURCE CONSERVING.”

The bottle may also show previous API specs that the oil also covers, as well as manufacturer specs such as “GM 6094M” and “GM 4718M.”

Picking up a name-brand offering with the current performance standards on the bottle is the best way to choose a quality oil. But look closely: On a recent trip to a big-box store, we found Mobil 1 Extended Performance “gold” 5-quart containers with the new SN standard, but the Mobil 1 “blue” 5-quart containers only had the SL standard.

Additives, Specialty Oils, and Flat-Tappet Protection

Since the beginning of the automobile and up to the early 1970s, drivers relied on mineral oil to protect their engines. Then came synthetics, with their superior protection qualities (and a few shortcomings, like making engine seals shrink). The oil companies learned from early mistakes, and made synthetics more user friendly. Today, oil engineers can spend their entire careers on developing new additive packages. Why is that important? Read on.

Oil Additives

You may be aware that many older engines used flat-tappet cams. And pre-1990s oils had high (1,000-plus ppm) levels of zinc and phosphorus (specifically, zinc dialkyldithiophosphates, or ZDDP), which provided the protection those flat-tappet engines needed.

But in the ’90s, ZDDP levels were reduced in an effort to better protect oxygen sensors and catalytic converters. The auto industry had largely moved to roller cams anyway, so the 800 parts-per-million limit of ZDDP worked fine with newer engines.

However, those ’90s oils’ ZDDP levels were too low to protect flat-tappet engines, and as the tales of engine wear appeared, the aftermarket exploded with ZDDP additives.

To this day there’s a dedicated additive following out there, and some enthusiasts even use diesel-specific oils in an attempt to better protect their valuable engines. But according to the experts we consulted, you shouldn’t use those additives (or diesel oils) in your Corvette.

Why? Oil is a delicate mixture, and adding ZDDP or other substances to your oil can upset that mix. For that reason, in most cases, running additives does more harm (in the form of wear) than good.

Brad Penn Lubricants’ Penn Grade 1 oil is made from high-quality Pennsylvania crude and contains high levels of ZDDP, making it ideal for early flat-tappet and roller engines.

Added-Protection Oils

If you’re concerned about protecting your Corvette’s flat-tappet engine, or just want a bit more protection for your late-model C4-C7, you have a few options:

1. Use Mobil 1’s 15-50. This heavier-weight oil offers increased ZDDP content, added film strength, and better high-temp protection. And even though it has around 1,200 ppm phosphorus and 1,300 ppm zinc, it’s still API certified, as this viscosity isn’t required to have the lower ZDDP level.

2. Use a “street/’strip” oil like Brad Penn Grade 1. Brad Penn, while not a household name, has a great reputation for producing quality oils. Pennsylvania-grade crude oil is known for high-quality base stocks and great film strengths. Grade 1 adds high ZDDP concentrations that, while not recommended for late-model vehicles, is said to provide outstanding protection for flat-tappet and roller engines alike. (Late-model owners should try Brad Penn’s FSGF synthetic, an API SN-level oil with excellent anti-wear properties and catalytic-converter/oxygen-sensor friendliness.)

3. Use an oil specifically for your engine type, like Driven Racing Oil’s LS30 synthetic for ’97-up LS-powered Corvettes. These high-tech mills have unique issues: lifters ticking during startup, PCV blow-by, roller-cam lobe wear, and lifter and bearing failure. Driven claims that LS30 provides optimum oil flow on startup, which eliminates lifter ticking. It also features a high-temp, high-shear blend that can withstand an LS’s high-temp, high-rpm environment. Its low volatility prevents PCV issues and oil consumption, and the high zinc content protects aggressive roller cams. LS30 can even keep the variable valve-timing system running smoothly in VVT engines like the ’14 Vette’s LT1. 3.

Break-in Oil

While new-vehicle owners can just take it easy for 500 miles then change the oil, engine builders must break in each new mill carefully. And break-in oils are carefully formulated with the right viscosity to seat the rings, as well as the right anti-wear additives that protect the cam and valvetrain, and minimize damaging metal particles created during break-in.

Flat-tappet-engine builders are typically conscientious about using a proper, high-ZDDP break-in oil like Brad Penn Grade 1 30-weight to protect internal components. However, some roller-motor owners mistakenly believe that their engines don’t need break-in oil. In reality, without a purpose-specific lubricant like Driven BR Break-In Oil, those roller mills will suffer the same particulate contamination—and potential bearing failures -that a flat-tappet engine would. So you ’87-up Corvette owners, take heed: If you’re rebuilding your roller Vette engine, break it in right!

Racing Oil

Racing oils are different from street oils, because the engines and operating environments are different.

Modern street engines typically operate in low-rpm, low-load environments, and many are overhead-cam designs—all of which requires fewer anti-wear additives. A large emphasis is placed on emissions, so the engines use EGRs and other emissions equipment, and require additional detergents. And because of ever -increasing drain intervals, additional acid neutralizers are necessary.

Race engines operate in high-rpm, high-temp environments, and many use flat-tappet cams and pushrods -which need more anti-wear additives and friction modifiers. Emissions controls typically aren’t used, so there’s less need for detergents. Racing oils are generally lower in viscosity (though many are still multi-viscosity types, like street oils), but have zinc, phosphorus, and moly levels beneficial for anti-wear protection. However, they’re designed for low-mileage use, with drain intervals usually before 500 miles.

Mineral vs. Synthetic: Which is Better?

Ah, the age-old “Should I use synthetic or mineral oil?” question.

Mineral oils should be used in special situations: Driving an ancient car, breaking in a new engine because your builder says it seats the rings better, etc.

Outside of that, you should always use a high-quality synthetic or synthetic-blend oil in your Corvette. And it doesn’t matter if your ride used conventional oil until now; switching to synthetic won’t cause any problems.

Today, we’re fortunate to enjoy the most advanced oil formulations ever made. Modern synthetics and synthetic blends provide superior protection, even when extending drain intervals to 7,500 miles in some GM vehicles.

They’re better at preventing engine wear, their purity and detergents keep the engine internals cleaner, and they control combustion- related acids better. They flow much faster in cold temps, and they don’t break down and form deposits in high-temp environments. They cool and seal better than ever before. Some have additive packages that can go 15,000 miles, and many even contribute to improved fuel economy. That, my friends, is called progress.

What used to be a hotly debated topic has turned into a no-brainer: Today’s synthetic oil technology makes it vastly superior to mineral oil, period.       Back To Top^

One of the biggest gripes about electric cars from many die-hard auto enthusiasts, aside from not having a manual transmission, is that EVs lose all oomph at higher speeds. While this is true, there's a very easy way to explain reason behind it: The lack of a transmission. Over the past two years, more original equipment manufacturers are dabbling in the world of transmissions for electrified cars, and it's going to change the very way many of us view EVs.

A first time visit to a Tesla showroom, showed a shrine to simplicity in the middle of the floor. A mixture of aluminum and rubber undressed for the world to see. The chassis was stripped down to expose just the floor pan and motor, showing just how everything worked. There was no cramped engine bay, no mess of hoses and plastic. Just metal.

Not only does this simplicity work for aesthetics, but it also works for serviceability. In theory, fewer moving parts in a vehicle means more efficiency. Small parasitic draws caused by engine accessories, thermal inefficiency, engine wear, altitude, and more are removed from the equation. Most importantly, less maintenance and breakable parts are needed in electric cars when compared side-by-side to a gasoline-powered equivalent. One of the most notable parts that is commonly missing from an electric car is something ever-so-common in any gas-guzzler: A transmission.

Simply put, most modern battery-powered cars just haven't had the need for additional gearing. Electric motors can typically spin upwards of 20,000 rpm, while gas-powered engines found in new cars typically rev far less than that. Thankfully, electric motors are extremely efficient powerhouses so the same amount of torque can be produced at 1 rpm as the motor makes spinning at 20,000 rpm. Using carefully calculated gear ratios, it becomes possible for a manufacturer to maximize efficiency for an electric car without using a transmission to change gears. Unfortunately, this also results in the overall top speed of the car being reduced in order to compensate for an evenly spaced amount of power.

Gasoline powered cars are approached slightly differently due to their power bands. Generally, a car running on petrol will have less efficient low-end ranges, meaning that less torque is made at 1,000 rpm than at 7,000 rpm. This torque curve is a resemblance of overall engine efficiency, indicating that a motor is less efficient lower RPMs as the driver requests heavier throttle to get up to speed, one of the reasons which hypermilers will quickly row through their lowest gears to get up to cruising speeds and out of an inefficient part of the power band. To combat a constant struggle for power and reduce wear on high-revving engines, engineers determined that a set of variable gear ratios would best enable a car to travel quickly at lower speeds while being able to efficiently operate at highway speeds as well. Thus, the transmission was born.

So if simplicity is the key to developing desirable electric cars, why add a layer of complexity with a transmission? Over time, simplicity becomes secondary to efficiency. The simple engines of yesteryear have been replaced with more fuel-efficient and powerful units, which, despite the technological advances made in the past decade, are beginning to be phased out in favor of electrified platforms. Now, manufacturers have found a way to make those electric motors even more efficient and appealing by bettering the range and usable power of EVs without increasing charge time or even battery capacity.

Companies like engineering firm GKN and renowned transmission-maker ZF have already been hard at work making this a reality. Using a transmission like GKN's eTwinsterX, an electric car is equipped with a secondary gear ratio. Using the second reduced ratio, the efficiency range of the vehicle is effectively widened, which means that it moves the top speed of the vehicle higher without spinning the electric motors faster or using more electricity. This is because the motor is spinning at lower RPMs, reducing the amount of current needed to drive the motor and significantly increasing range by maintaining the "sweet spot" areas of efficiency for longer periods of times. Additionally, range is improved at highway speeds by reducing parasitic losses due to aerodynamic drag, thanks to a more sustainable gear ratio.

It's very likely that Tesla has also begun to look into the production of a multi-gear transmission for its platforms, especially for its next-generation Roadster. During the unveiling of its all-electric Semi, Tesla also happened to show off its newest sports car which claimed not only an unheard of acceleration from zero-to-60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds, but also a top speed of over 250 mph. Both of these seem unachievable using a single speed gear ratio, which hints at an internal project developing a transmission for Tesla, something which would also explain the 620 miles of range in a seemingly small platform.

Though details on development have been slim, we know that both GKN and ZF have been working on different designs to integrate into vehicles before 2020, ZF even stating that one European manufacturer would be starting production using its units in 2018. In one of GKN's test mules, the company installed a 35 kWh battery to trial the efficiency of the transmission. Though no actual numbers were given, Peter Moelgg, the president of GKN's automotive engineering department, claimed that the company could help to "do better than 400-kilometer to 500-kilometer" (250 miles - 310 miles) of range.

As electric cars increase in popularity, development of these vehicles will also continue to increase. More efficient cars with longer ranges and shorter charge times are just the beginning of what is to come. Thankfully, with interest from manufacturers in the automotive industry fortifying the future of electric cars, it's just a matter of time before we begin to see drastic improvements.       Back To Top^

Ford may now know how carbon monoxide gets into Explorer Police Interceptors

An officer in Henderson, La., said she blacked out when she crashed her Ford Explorer Police Interceptor in April. Medical records state she suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. There have been other reports from police departments of carbon monoxide seeping into their cruisers, and other crashes as well. Now Ford thinks it may have determined the cause: unsealed holes drilled in the body of the vehicle for wiring of emergency lights and radios.

Ford is investigating the issue but isn't claiming responsibility, saying the modifications took place by other parties after the cars had been sold. The automaker acknowledges the holes as the source of the problem, though, and is paying to repair affected vehicles "regardless of age, mileage or aftermarket modifications made after purchase." The fix involves checking and sealing the rear of the vehicle, and updating air conditioning software to bring in more fresh air. Ford also says there have been reports of cracked engine manifolds, which it is checking for in police Explorers, but the company says this issue is unrelated to the carbon monoxide entering the cabin.

In the meantime, police departments are taking some vehicles off the road as they await repairs. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating 1.33 million civilian Ford Explorer SUVs over reports of exhaust odors that may be linked to crashes and injuries.       Back To Top^


AAA hired an independent lab to complete 4,000 miles of simulated driving to compare Top Tier gasoline with the cheaper blends. Their findings show that the additive packages in Top Tier gas resulted in fewer carbon deposits than those found in the non-Top Tier gasoline test.

The study also found that there were some secondary benefits to the better additive packages, including slightly better fuel economy and better drivability. The benefits are apparent, but do consumers really care?

The Top Tier gasoline specification was created by a group of automakers in 2004 in response to the minimum gasoline detergent standard introduced by the EPA in 1995. The EPA standard was designed to meet emissions targets but didn’t account for engine longevity. So, automakers created a new higher standard to prevent long-term issues such as clogged fuel injectors and contaminated combustion chambers.

Top Tier gasoline is widely available and can even be found at wholesale retailer Costco. Most gasoline comes from similar sources and is transported along the same pipelines until it reaches a local distributor. The distributor sells the gas to local stations and blends in an additive package based on the brand and specification. Some gasoline gets a very basic additive package but Top Tier gas gets a very specific package that has been tested to meet the Top Tier standards.

According to the AAA study, the non-Top Tier fuel caused carbon deposits that were 19 times higher than the deposits from the Top Tier fuel. They also saw better drivability and better fuel economy when the better fuel was used. Emissions were also reduced, likely due to the ban of metallic additives in Top Tier fuel.       Back To Top^

GM sued over excess emissions in Chevrolet Silverado & GMC Sierra Duramax Diesel

Fenner et al v General Motors LLC et al

The suit filed in Detroit's federal court yesterday alleges that GM illegally outfitted 705,000 pickups with defeat devices similar to those deployed by Volkswagen in 11 million cars worldwide, including 565,000 registered in the U.S. The suit covers 2011-2016 models of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Duramax Diesel.

Unlike the lawsuit filed earlier this week against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, this one comes from consumers, not the U.S. Department of Justice. It alleges that GM employed at least three defeat devices that allowed trucks to emit up to five times the legal limit of pollutants while on the road but to keep emissions within legal limits during regulatory tests. 

Fenner et al v General Motors LLC et al alleges that GM broke a number of racketeering and consumer protection laws. Plaintiffs seek a wide range of compensation, including payouts for lost resale value and buybacks of their vehicles. They're also seeking punitive damages against the automaker.

Interestingly, the suit also names German supplier Bosch as a defendant. If the case goes to trial, that could be significant, since Bosch was very closely linked to the Volkswagen scandal.

If you follow car news, it probably won't surprise you to learn that plaintiffs in the GM case are represented in part by Hagens Berman law firm, which has been a key player in the Dieselgate settlement and many other auto-related suits.

GM has issued a brief statement about the lawsuit that reads, in full:

"These claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves. The Duramax Diesel Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra comply with all U.S. EPA and CARB emissions regulations."

It's worth noting that this is one of at least two cases being brought by consumers against GM over its diesel vehicles - the other involving emissions in the Chevrolet Cruze diesel.

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General Motors returned to its roots, unveiling a renovated factory in Flint, Mich., that's considered to be the automaker's birthplace. Called the Durant-Dort Factory One, the site is where GM co-founder William Durant began his cart company in 1886.

The building, which had fallen into decay, is re-purposed as an events space with room for 300 people, offices, and the home of the extensive Kettering University archives, which date to the early days of the auto industry.

GM bought the factory in 2013 and spent $3 million to restore the exterior – including replacing more than 17,000 bricks. The second phase saw renovations to the interior, though that cost was not disclosed.

Factory One is located near the Flint River in the city's historic carriage district. The site dates to 1880, when it was part of a wool and cotton company. Durant leased it for his Flint Road Cart Company in 1886. Flint, which has fallen on hard times due to factory closures since its heyday when thousands of GM vehicles poured out of the city's facilities, is considered one of the cradles of the auto industry.

"The vehicle history here is really incredible," said the GM executive vice president of global product development, purchasing, and supply chain.

Interestingly, GM never actually owned the Durant-Dort facility until 2013 or made a vehicle there. But the company – backed by historians – says the site is its birthplace since Durant used his carriage building connections to advance Buick and Chevrolet. GM was founded in 1908.

The archives, will be open for anyone to use, as a tool for future auto leaders to learn from the past. One of the spotlight items is a letter a New York law firm suggesting the name of the company as General Motors. International Motors and United Motors were other candidates.

Though GM factory closures hit Flint hard, the automaker still employs about 7,200 workers in the area and has invested $2.8 billion since 2009 in its operations.       Back To Top^

Are NJ police enforcing the law against a behavior that drivers love to hate, vehicles hogging the left lane of a highway while a line of traffic backs up behind them?

Driver complaints and safety concerns about that behavior prompted a state law change in 2013 to increase the penalty for left lane bandits. But one reader asked if those drivers are getting ticketed for failing to "stay right and pass on the left."

"Unfortunately, that rule seems to not apply to many drivers in NJ who travel the Turnpike, Parkway, 287, I-78 and so on," he wrote. "I'm on the road more than 30,000 miles a year and I see it every day."

Q: Do police enforce the first rule of the road, to keep right and pass on the left?

A: Statistics from the state Judiciary show police wrote more summons last year for failure to observe traffic lanes than in the last five years.

There are two statutes that cover drivers who don't yield the left lane. Failure to observe traffic lanes resulted in the most tickets and carries enhanced penalties that were changed in August 2013. Fines rose from $50 and $200 to between $100 and $300. The new fines also impose a $50 surcharge on drivers, which pays for erecting more signs to remind drivers when they enter the state to keep right, except to pass. Those found guilty also receive two motor vehicle points.

Fines rose from $50 and $200 to between $100 and $300. The new fines also impose a $50 surcharge on drivers, which pays for erecting more signs to remind drivers when they enter the state to keep right, except to pass. Those found guilty also receive two motor vehicle points.

Last year, 41,758 summons were written under that statue, slightly more than the 38,690 tickets issued in 2015. Out of the tickets written last year, less than half -- or 13,577 -- resulted in a guilty plea or verdict, 17,439 were dismissed and 676 were ruled not guilty.

The numbers don't entirely add up with total tickets written because some tickets get merged or plea bargained to a different charge.

A sister law is failure to keep right. Fewer tickets -- 4,994 -- were issued for that violation last year. Of that total, 1,657 resulted in a guilty plea or verdict, 2,137 were dismissed and 54 were ruled not guilty.

During the last five years,  the most summons issued under that statute was 5,410 in 2013. The fine for violating that statute ranges from $50 to $200 and two motor vehicle points.

The National Motorists Association reminds drivers each June to practice lane courtesy with an annual campaign about the benefits of moving over.       Back To Top^

Hyundai, Kia recall 1.2 million vehicles to prevent premature engine failure

Hyundai and its South Korean sibling, Kia, are recalling nearly 1.2 million cars and crossovers from the 2011 to 2014 model years. Documents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the engines in some of those vehicles may have an increased likelihood of stalling, which could dramatically increase the risk of accidents.

The engines suffer from two problems, both of which stem from flawed manufacturing processes. NHTSA's defect report on the Kia vehicles affected by the recall explains that after the engines' crankshafts were machined, their oil passages may not have been completely cleared of metallic debris. Complicating matters is that the engines' crankpins were manufactured with uneven surfaces. 

Combined, the crankshaft debris and the roughness of the crankpins can keep oil from getting to an engine's connecting rod bearings, which can cause the bearings to wear out prematurely. That, in turn, can cause the bearings to fail, forcing the engine to stall.

The good news is that failure of the connecting rod bearings is rarely sudden, and drivers are almost always warned of the issue ahead of time by a very unusual banging noise coming from the engine compartment. (If you've ever had the experience, you know what we mean. It sounds a bit like a Terminator-sized Energizer bunny hopped up on triple espressos trying to break out of a prison cell.) 

Also good news: while engine failures have been reported by owners, Kia has received no news of accidents or injuries linked to the problem. (Hyundai's documents haven't yet been published.)

The recall affects 572,000 Hyundais and 618,160 Kia vehicles registered in the U.S., including:

-  2013-2014 Hyundai Sonata

-  2013-2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

-  2011-2014 Kia Optima

-  2012-2014 Kia Sorento

-  2011-2013 Kia Sportage

Hyundai owners should begin receiving recall notices in the mail around May 19. Kia owners can expect them a week or so later, around May 25. After receiving those notices, owners will be able to take their vehicles to their local dealerships, where mechanics will inspect the engine assembly and replace the affected parts, as necessary. The fix will be carried out at no charge to owners.

If you own one of these vehicles and have further questions, you're encouraged to call Hyundai customer service and ask about recall #162, or call Kia customer service and inquire about recall SC147.   Back To Top^

Chrysler recalls 5.7-liter Hemis with MDS built between 2009 and 2012.

Chrysler has recalled the timing chain assemblies in just over 50,000 5.7-liter Hemi-equipped Dodge Challengers, Dodge Chargers, and Chrysler 300C models built between 2009 and 2012. (SRT vehicles are not named in the recall, at least not yet.) All have the MDS feature with automatic transmission, and can encounter sudden, catastrophic engine damage when in fuel-saving mode.

Owners of affected cars report that the timing chain on 5.7-liter Hemi cars fails suddenly and without warning, in most cases at highway speed and in four-cylinder fuel-saving mode. (Six-speed manual cars are not affected because they are not equipped with MDS, which is Chrysler’s patented cylinder deactivation technology.)

Now that Chrysler has taken ownership of the timing chain defect, the blaming of customers has finally subsided. Dealers are handling the recall by replacing specific engine equipment under Customer Satisfaction Notification P01. The affected parts include the timing chain, timing chain guide, timing chain tensioner and spring, pick-up tube and o-ring, heater tube o-rings, and timing cover gasket. A known fault in the oil-control valve assembly for which an updated part exists (earlier versions have a filter screen that comes loose) are not currently approved for upgrade/update as part of the recall.

Not all is going smoothly with the recall of the timing chain defect. If your timing chain fails before you get your Hemi to the service department for the recall work, the repair may be drawn out over a much longer period of time due to an obscure provision in the repair procedure that hopes to ignore certain laws of physics. (It boils down to dealers wanting to double-bill the factory for one operation and being able to get away with it, while the factory hedges its bet that no damage actually took place.)

Chrysler policy on failed engines is this: Technicians may perform only the recall service work to the timing chain—irrespective of whether or not the chain has broken. They are required to reassemble the car, attempt to start it, and then once engine damage is subsequently confirmed can the engine be torn down (again) for the far more significant mechanical damage to be repaired.

As the 5.7-liter Hemi is an “interference” engine by design, it’s inevitable that piston-to-valve damage will occur if any attempt is made to start the vehicle after the timing chain breaks. And here’s the irony: The service procedure is to crank the engine as the first step in the diagnostic process—an act that locks in the engine damage before the first wrench is turned.

There are some interesting consequences to the recall. First, it appears that owners who have made engine modifications and have also experienced failure from the timing chain defect are not being covered under the warranty or the recall, in spite of the fact that the MDS system—not aftermarket parts—are the culprit. The lesson here: do not modify your automatic-equipped 2009-’12 Hemi under any circumstances while under the 100,000-mile power train warranty.

The second interesting thing is that disabling the MDS fuel-saver mode with an aftermarket tune appears to prevent the timing chain failure from happening. That’s also ironic, because saving the engine from damage in effect voids the warranty. In fact, anything you do on your own to fix it while waiting for the recall notice will void the warranty.

If your car falls under the recall and you haven’t had the warranty work done yet, but you still need to drive your car, it may be best to drive the car in manual auto-stick mode, which forces the computer out of MDS fuel-saver operation and into V-8 mode. Dealerships are saying Hemi cars with snapped timing chains and broken valves are coming in faster than running cars with recall notices, which should give you an idea for the severity of the problem. No word yet if Chrysler is paying for damaged cars that subsequently get in an accident as a result of engine failure.

To find out if your Chrysler vehicle is part of this recall or any other, click HERE, then click on “Your Vehicle,” select “Recall Information” from the pull-down menu, then enter your VIN number.       Back To Top^


Vehicle Identification Number Decoder. Get information about your car from the Vin Number!

License Plate Lookup. Search License Plate Records!



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Just a note on vehicles with security systems, where you need special key, which will only work with your car... MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A SPARE KEY! Keep an extra spare key (that you know works) in a safe dry place, away from heat, cell phones or magnetic fields (yes they are expensive, but can save a lot of grief). If you're having a problem with your security system, where your car won't start, and / or see a flashing green key light on your dash, a spare key will help rule out a faulty or corrupted key. Also if you lose your key, these keys are a lot more difficult to replace quickly. Most private mechanics do not have the specialized equipment necessary to reprogram your cars immobilization system.

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New Miami, Ohio ordered to repay $3,066,523 worth of tickets issued through the use of speed cameras.

New Miami, Ohio, is less than a square mile in size, with a population of just 2,249 people, according to the last U.S. census. And yet, thanks to an arrangement with camera-maker Blue Line Solutions (BLS), it's become a speeding-ticket cash cow. The arrangement between New Miami and BLS calls for the company to provide the town with free cameras, provided they are operated for a minimum of 100 hours per month—each. These cameras are mostly set up, according to the ruling, on U.S. 127, a major north-south highway that runs through New Miami. For every dollar in speeding-ticket revenue generated, New Miami keeps 65 percent, while BLS takes the rest. 

However, Village of New Miami Council Ordinance 1991 shows that "the small Butler County village created its own speeding law in 1991, allowing the village to charge speeding violations under a civil ordinance instead of under the state’s uniform traffic statute." Under the ordinance, "drivers caught speeding in New Miami would not be subjected to the state’s point system, which would suspend a driver who accrued 12 point violations in a two year period. As a result, insurance companies would not know the conduct of the drivers they cover." 

Basically, drivers would get a $95 civil fine in the mail with no notice to their insurance, cutting both the insurance companies and the justice system out of the loop—which, according to the Butler County Court of Common Pleas Judge, is a bit of a legal no-no:

"If the government has created an unconstitutional law/ordinance that has taken people's money without affording them the necessary due process protections, should not justice demand, and the law require, restitution of that money to the people? .... Once the complexities of the law are analyzed, the answer is simple: Yes."

BLS, it should be noted, will not be opening its wallet, as the camera maker had no say in how their cameras were used. New Miami, in other words, is about to write a very large check...or, rather, a very large number of small checks.       Back To Top^

Can you get a ticket in New Jersey for warming up your car?

Will the winter ritual of "warming up the car" in your driveway on a frigid morning land you in municipal court in New Jersey?

That question was posed after a Michigan driver received a summons for warming up his car in his driveway, which went viral after he took to social media to express anger over the ticket.

But the local Michigan law he was cited for violating and New Jersey's law are different and experts questioned if modern vehicles even need to warm-up for long periods of time.

Q: Is it really illegal to let your car warm up in your driveway when it's below 35 degrees?

A: The fast answer is no, under New Jersey environmental regulations that are intended to reduce air pollution and soot. But there are some conditions that vary depending on whether the vehicle is gas or diesel powered.

Here is what the state Department of Environmental Protection says is permitted:

All vehicles may idle for three minutes, but gasoline-powered vehicles may not idle for longer than three minutes, said a DEP spokesman.

If a diesel powered vehicle has been shut-off for three or more hours and it is 25 degrees or colder out, that vehicle may idle for 15 minutes straight. Idling laws can be enforced on public and private property.

However, the law is laced with some common sense provisions. The three-minute limit on idling doesn't apply to vehicles stuck in traffic. It also doesn't apply to vehicles idling while being repaired or undergoing state or federal inspection. 

"Naturally, we urge common sense in the enforcement of the provisions" Clearly, people need to run their cars to warm them up and to clear ice and snow."

Your chance of getting a summons for idling too long is slim, based on traffic summons figures from the state Judiciary. Drivers of passenger vehicles face a $100 fine and those driving commercial vehicles face a $250 fine for a first offense.

In 2016, 288 summons were issued statewide, up from the 276 summons written in 2015, according to the state judiciary.

That decreased from the 439 summons issued in 2014, which was the highest number written in the five years. The fewest were the 170 tickets issued in 2012.

A vehicle left idling on private property is not immune from enforcement under the law.

"According to the law, an officer can enter private property when he sees an engine idling longer than provided (for) by law," said the New Jersey Traffic Officers Association executive director and a retired police chief. "Police can enforce a violation committed in their presence without a warrant."

Idling laws also can be enforced by the DEP and county health officers.

A reason for New Jersey's law is because the state doesn't meet federal clean air standards and vehicle pollution is a leading cause of lung disease and asthma, according to the DEP. In the case of the Michigan town, the anti-idling law was intended to deter the theft of a running vehicle.

That crime fighting rationale has been used in New Jersey for police issuing a summons and, in one case, taking the keys out of a running vehicle left in a convenience store parking lot.

Except for the creature comfort of a vehicle that's as warm-as-toast on a frigid day, AAA experts said there is no mechanical reason to let it run for longer than three minutes.

"The best way to warm a modern engine is to start it and allow it to idle for 15 to 30 seconds while you fasten your seat belt and check the mirrors." said a AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman. "Naturally, a little longer idle time may be appropriate in the winter if you need to clear snow and ice from the windshield and other parts of the car. The three minutes permitted is more than enough time."

That gives oil and other lubricants enough time to coat moving parts in the engine and transmission, she said. Modern vehicles also warm-up faster and pollute less while being driven at reduced speeds for the first few miles before reaching operating temperature.       Back To Top^


The accountants want fewer cylinders. The engineers want smooth engines. The compromise? A good straight six. Let us explain.

The V8 engine has long ruled the world of luxury cars, thanks to glass-smooth grunt and a delicious howl under duress. But tightening fuel-economy regulations are encouraging the use of smaller piston counts, and on the standardized tests that automakers use for fuel-efficiency ratings, the average downsized, turbocharged V6 uses less fuel than an equally powerful V8. That may seem win-win, but don't be won over. Engineers don't fantasize about V6s - accountants do. The V6 layout has proliferated because it "packages well," a sexless industry term that's code for "easy to cram into a variety of engine compartments."

It's also incredibly easy to build a V6 from an existing V8. Jaguar, for example, doesn't even bother changing the outside dimensions of its block. The company's V6, available in every new Jag sold in the U.S., is simply its V8 with shorter cylinder heads and balancing weights on the crankshaft where the last two piston throws should be.

It works, but not without compromises. Like all V8-derived V6s, Jaguar's has a 90-degree angle between its cylinder banks. That works well for a V8, but it's the wrong angle for a six, because it means the engine will fire at uneven intervals, and odd-fire engines run rough and make terrible noises. A V6 will fire at perfectly spaced intervals (read: smoothly) with its banks splayed to 120 degrees, but that's too wide to fit in most cars. Halving that angle keeps the even firing order and, with a couple of crank counterweights, it allows for smooth running. Toyota's ubiquitous 3.5-liter V-6 is a 60, and it's as creamy as they come.

But a 60-degree six negates the economic advantage of basing the engine off an existing V8. So luxury brands tend to stick with the 90-degree architecture and apply various tricks to make it work for a V6. The big one is using split, offset crankpins. These are impossible to fully understand without a physics degree and a stiff drink, but in essence, they slightly offset opposing pistons, forcing them to move in such a way that the engine fires evenly. But these are difficult to engineer and expensive to manufacture. Plus, the 90-degree V6 usually has an engine-driven balance shaft to prevent the whole complicated mess from vibrating itself apart. All of this adds expense, hurts efficiency, and requires royalty payments to Rube Goldberg.

That complexity, however, masks the problem instead of solving it. The mass of the pistons moving up and down in an internal combustion engine creates enormous forces, which cause the engine to vibrate. The most effective way to reduce that vibration is to use the force of one piston to cancel out the force of another; in other words, as piston A moves in one direction (up), piston B moves in the exact opposite direction (down) at exactly the same time. But that's only possible for engines with an even number of pistons in a single plane, like an inline-four-cylinder. When you have an odd number of cylinders, as with an inline-three, the force moving in one direction (say, up) is almost always imbalanced compared with the force moving in the opposite direction (down). This makes the engine rock back and forth. Now think about a V6, which is essentially two three-cylinder engines joined at the crank-it's like having a pair of amped-up pit bulls on a shared leash. And that typically means a whole lot of unpleasant mechanical noise, to boot.

You can avoid the drama by arranging the pistons in one line. A straight-six doesn't need split crankpins, balance shafts, or big counterweights, because each of its cylinders has a twin that's doing the opposite thing, at the same time and in the same plane, canceling out the other's forces. That lack of internal dissonance gives the same perfect balance as a V12. There's a reason museum-piece marques like Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Aston Martin, and Alfa Romeo earned their reputations with inline-sixes.

At the moment, BMW remains the sole champion of the straight-six. Munich engineers admit that they regularly develop and test prototype V6s, per internal policy, but say the results don't come close to meeting company noise and harshness standards. Mercedes-Benz must not have such stringent benchmarks. Once renowned for its silken inline-sixes, Stuttgart phased out those engines and began building V6s out of its V8s during the dark, cost-cutting days of the marque's DaimlerChrysler ownership. As the sting of that failed merger continues to fade, so will the company's coarse, complex, 90-degree V6, which is being retired in favor of a 60-degree unit. This stopgap engine, which fits into the vee-focused packaging of Mercedes's current lineup, is noticeably smoother than the 90-degree unit, but its exhaust still sounds like Fran Drescher on Spanish fly—not the voice you want your luxury car to sing with.

That's likely one reason Mercedes is rumored to be developing a new family of inline-sixes. And because accountants, not engineers, usually run the show these days, you can be sure there's an economic incentive as well. As tightening fuel-economy standards encourage four- and six-cylinder engines where sixes and eights once lived, an inline layout becomes the norm and it makes financial sense to develop a modular family of inline-threes, fours, and sixes. Add the straight-six's other cost-savings (half as many cylinder heads, camshafts, and turbos), and suddenly, tougher emissions mandates have the unintended consequence of unifying the dreams of engineers and bean counters alike.      Back To Top^

Sears Sells the Craftsman Brand to Stanley Black & Decker for $900 Million

It could be the end of the line for Sears, Roebuck and Co., the legendary retailer that started out selling shovels and pickaxes to pioneers through its mail order catalog. Today, Sears announced that it was selling the Craftsman brand  for $900 million to Stanley Black & Decker.

For many consumers that have watched Sears degrade from a retail powerhouse to a slightly upgraded Dollar Store, the Craftsman brand was about the only reason left to ever enter a Sears location. With the sale to one of the brand’s chief competitors - Stanley Black & Decker - the end may be in sight for Sears.

Stanley will pay $525 million at closing, $250 million after three years, and make annual payments on new Craftsman sales for 15 years, the companies said in a statement Thursday. Sears will continue to sell Craftsman products at its stores. The license to Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears will be royalty-free for 15 years, and then generate 3 percent afterward.

The trouble for Sears is that you can only do a deal like this once, maybe twice if there’s any brand equity left in the Kenmore line of appliances. It’s also not a lot of money for a brand as legendary as Craftsman. New Britain, Connecticut-based Stanley Black & Decker just paid twice that much for the Irwin and Lenox brands of tools from Newell Brands, Inc. for $1.95 billion just a few months ago. Irwin tools hang in just about every tool aisle in the country, providing locking pliers, chisels and other hand tools, along with once hard-to-find tools like screw extractors and rounded bolt extractors. Lenox is a massive provider of cutting tools, saw blades and utility knives. Neither are as recognized as Craftsman.

Sears did allow some sales of its Craftsman branded tools at other retailers prior to the sale. Ace Hardware, for example, sold Craftsman tools in its stores. But that only accounted for about 10 percent of all of Craftsman’s retail sales in any given year. This deal blows that wide open. Stanley Black & Decker sells tools everywhere, from the last few remaining mom and pop lumber yards and auto parts stores, all the way up to major retailers like Home Depot. As soon as consumers know they can purchase a Craftsman tool without entering the depressing husk of a once-proud store like Sears, they’ll shop elsewhere.

It’s good news for American manufacturing, according to Stanley Black & Decker’s CEO. “To accommodate the future growth of Craftsman, we intend to expand our manufacturing footprint in the U.S.,” Stanley Chief Executive Officer James M. Loree said in the statement. “This will add jobs in the U.S., where we have increased our manufacturing headcount by 40 percent in the past three years.”       Back To Top^

Judge warns Volkswagen diesel owners to stop stripping their cars of parts

It appears that the "spirit of the law" may soon become the "letter of the law," as a  U.S. District Court Judge issued a warning to Volkswagen TDI owners to stop stripping their cars of parts before attempting to return them for a buyback. A few owners, have made waves in the past week or so with news that they're gutting their cars in order to sell the parts on the side.

The court-ordered buyback has very vague wording, only stating that cars "must be operable, meaning that it can be driven on its own engine power." That leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which in turn led to the stripping of cars. Some owners were simply trying to see how far they could push the word "operable."

At a court hearing, an attorney for Volkswagen specifically called out the story, saying that it "goes too far." A judge agreed, saying, "Clearly the purpose of the agreement by Volkswagen was to accept these cars in the condition that they were in as they were being driven on the road, and not to strip the cars." He said he would consider further action if necessary, though it's not clear exactly what that would be.

An attorney for the Federal Trade Commission said the organization is "absolutely against bad-faith behavior by consumers." He did go on to say that Volkswagen couldn't reject buybacks based on "the vehicle's superficial condition." If a vehicle has normal wear and tear, an owner should have no reason to be concerned.

Essentially, stop stripping your cars or risk the opportunity for Volkswagen to buy the car back. If this continues, expect stricter guidelines on what is and isn't an acceptable condition for a buyback.  Back To Top^

What You Should Know About Counterfeit Parts — and How You Can Avoid Them!

On November 2 at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, NV, U.S. Marshals seized alleged counterfeit aftermarket automotive parts being displayed and sold by six Chinese vendors. The parts infringed on patents and trademarks on products sold by Jeep accessory manufacturer Omix-ADA, which worked directly with SEMA to shut down the alleged counterfeiters.

The raids brought fresh attention to a growing problem in the automotive aftermarket industry: counterfeit and knock-off products.

Although it was big news during the show, industry insiders say the issue of counterfeit parts is hardly breaking news. Following the raids at the SEMA Show, Omix-ADA released an official statement:

“The company views counterfeiting and infringement as a serious and widespread problem in the aftermarket industry and one that can be combated through proper legal channels, and would encourage other members of the aftermarket industry to follow a similar path.”

A Spokesperson for Aeromotive has also seen an increase in counterfeited products, stating:

“The counterfeit product issue is growing,” he said. “It’s not just growing in volume with certain components, it’s growing with more components.”

Counterfeit vs. Knock-Off Products:

Counterfeit and knock-off are often used interchangeably; however, there’s a difference.

A knock-off part typically uses patented designs and technology, but usually stop short of using the original part’s name or logo. It is not sold as the original part.

Counterfeit products are usually passed off as the originals they copy, and are designed to intentionally confuse a customer.

How You Can Avoid Counterfeit Parts:

The issue of counterfeit parts isn’t just about corporate patents and trademarks. Counterfeit parts can under-perform, wear out prematurely, and outright fail. It can become a financial and safety issue for consumers who purchase the wrong parts.

You can have problems with not just the product not functioning properly, but you can have a fire.

SEMA  offered tips on how consumers can avoid counterfeit parts. The organization stressed the importance of purchasing only from reputable companies and authorized web retailers. SEMA has urged its member companies to provide a list of authorized dealers, but recommends buyers contact the manufacturer if there’s any doubt about the authenticity of a product.

Purchasing through reputed sales channels can reduce the risk of getting stuck with a counterfeit product,” a SEMA spokesperson said. “If the retailer is new or not well known, consumers should feel comfortable reaching out to the manufacturer to see whether their products are sold through that channel. It is better to take this step and confirm authenticity than to get stuck with a knock-off of inferior quality.”

Finally, compare prices before buying. If the price of a product is significantly lower through one distributor, you should be suspicious and do some further homework.

For its part, the aftermarket industry is also taking steps to make it harder for counterfeiters to succeed.

“SEMA encourages all our members to register their intellectual property with the appropriate government agencies,” SEMA said in an email statement. “New and useful inventions should be protected with patents. Brand names and logos should be registered as trademarks. When the company encounters a counterfeiting situation, it will be in a position to enforce its rights if it has taken these steps ahead of time.”

Many proactive companies have heeded that advice.

You can also look for legitimate aftermarket companies, like Omix-ADA, to aggressively enforce their rights. Although two companies were served subpoenas and shut down during the SEMA Show raid and four more companies received subpoenas and were shut down at the nearby AAPEX Show.       Back To Top^


Do you have the transmission fluid periodically replaced in your car? If not, you should!

Some cars are more difficult than others to do this on, as they don't have dip sticks, and require special equipment to remove and replace the fluid with the correct amount

Transmission fluid doesn't need to be changed as often as engine oil, but should be done on a regular basis. Your owners manual should have information on when it should be done.

One important thing to remember is that not all cars take the same fluid. On a lot of models, it's imperative to use original equipment fluid (for that vehicle) to prevent expensive transmission issues in the future.

There are several different ways to service transmissions. One way is to hook up a special machine to the cooler lines that removes all the transmission fluid, and replaces it with new fluid. This method is commonly used in the above mentioned vehicles that don't have dip sticks for checking the fluid level. This method replaces all the fluid, but is usually the most expensive way.

Another method is to remove the pan if it has one, replace the transmission filter and pan gasket, and refill the transmission.

Another method (which I recommended) is just to remove the drain plug if available and drain and replace the fluid.

With the last two methods though, you're only changing about 2/3's - 3/4's of the fluid, as some fluid still remains in the torque converter, and can't be easily removed.

The reason I prefer the last method is because it seems to be the most common way to do it on most vehicles, since most have drain plugs. Usually the filters are nothing more than a screen, which shouldn't really need replacing, and you're not disturbing the factory seal on the pan gasket, if equipped, but lastly, it's so easy to do, it can be done every 10 - 15 thousand miles. If you're doing it this often, it not that important that you're not changing all the fluid, as the fluid will always be fresh. Keeping fresh fluid in your transmission will greatly extend it's life by removing contaminants from wear. Also transmissions work hydraulically, which means they have rubber seals, and pistons under great oil pressure to apply clutch packs and bands. These seals harden with heat. New transmission fluid helps keep these seals pliable, and helps keep them from hardening, preventing slippage, creating more heat and damaging the clutches.       Back To Top^

Do car interiors turn toxic in the summer?

According to the experts, car interiors are actually toxic all year round. However, there are two times when the chemicals are at their highest levels: when the car is brand new, and in the summer. It makes sense that freshly manufactured materials would still carry some residue from their production, and that compounds would get released as the car's parts start to get used (seats being sat in, dashboard controls being touched, carpet being rubbed). These chemicals are what cause the "new car smell" that some people love and others can't stand. Over time, the excess levels of chemicals start to wear off. They're still there, but they're being released in much lower doses. This process is called "off-gassing." That is, until the summer. When it gets hot outside, some of these toxic fumes start to get stirred up and released again. That's because exposure to heat speeds up off-gassing, and so does exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun's rays.

There are so many chemicals in an average car, causing such a variety of problems, that there's no point in listing them all. Some experts say there are around 275 possible contaminants, with about 50 being the most prevalent. They can be broadly categorized, though. Vinyl, the cheap plastic-like upholstery material, is one of the very worst. Other offenders are formaldehyde, a preservative; flame retardants, which help protect the cars' occupants from the heat of the engine bay and exhaust; heavy metals and various plastics, which make up components such as the dashboard, door handles and armrests. The mildest symptoms of inhaling these chemicals are nausea and headaches, which many people might not even think is related to their new car. Over time, though, the prolonged exposure can cause problems with the central nervous system, hormones, memory loss and cancer, among other scare factors.       Back To Top^

Do Batteries Need Distilled Water?

Most batteries you see under the hoods of cars don't need water. Batteries these days are factory-sealed, so you never have to add anything to it.

Now, it may be that old-style batteries are more common in the RVs. And distilled water will never hurt, but even older batteries will do fine with tap water.

If you live in a part of the country that has excessively hard or alkaline water, you could consider using distilled water in the battery. Hard water contains lots of dissolved minerals, which I could shorten a battery's life. But I'm not even sure that could really matter.

Basically, if you ever need to add water to a battery, if distilled is easily available, use it, if not, don't sweat it!

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Ralph Nader Brokers Sale of a Corvair

It would be hard to imagine a more ironic request than Ralph Nader asking you to help sell a Corvair, but that is precisely the situation that Peter Koehler found himself in at our 2016 Induction Ceremony. Koehler, a noted Corvair collector, had displayed one of his many Corvairs at our 2016 Induction Ceremony for Nader’s Induction. After the ceremony, Nader presented Koehler with a very surprising request.

“I came to pick up my car and Ralph approached me”, Koehler said during a phone interview. Nader then asked Koehler if he could help him sell a Corvair. “That was the first I’d ever heard of (the car),” Koehler said. “I don’t think anybody in the (Corvair) hobby had a clue that Ralph Nader had a Corvair to sell!” Koehler wasted little time jumping on the chance to purchase the car. “Nobody else had ever been given the opportunity to buy the car. It was really just by happenstance that I was able to purchase it.”

The Corvair in question is a 1962 Monza 900 Sedan. The car’s first owner bought it brand new in 1962 at the age of 77. After she passed away, her daughter inherited the car and kept it until her death in 1984 at age 90. It was through the daughter’s estate that the car was donated to the American Museum of Tort Law, of which Ralph Nader is President.

“The previous owner was a fan of Ralph and his consumer advocacy”, Koehler said. “(The museum) picked the car up and hauled it up to Winsted, Connecticut, where it sat in a garage unused for a dozen years.” Following the Induction Ceremony, the two parties negotiated a fair purchase price for the vehicle and arranged for Koehler to come get the car. “I drove out there with my trusty Chevy pickup and flatbed trailer; 1,600 miles and 58 hours round trip”, Koehler said. “The car was not really able to move under its own power. Luckily my trailer has a winch, so I was able to hook up a chain and push a button to get it on the trailer and bring it home.”

After bringing the car back to Michigan, Koehler set about making it road-worthy again. According to Koehler, the car was already in need of service when it was put into storage, and lying dormant for years didn’t do it any favors. “They don’t get any better sitting around”, he said. “It’s not like a fine wine. The fuel system was total junk, the brake system was non-existent, and it did run, but it ran pretty badly.” Koehler enlisted the services of a fellow Corvair Club member to help him put the car back into service, which took a bit more time than he had originally planned. “We didn’t have time to do any body-work to it, so it still has all the ugliness that it had when I picked it up, but it’s structurally sound and (now) safe to operate.

Koehler hopes the car will help promote the Corvair hobby and its history. “I think because of the prominence, the car really should be displayed in a museum”, Koehler said. “It’s a unique vehicle, I think it’s good for the hobby and it’s good for the Corvair name.” The Automotive Hall of Fame happens to share Mr. Koehler’s opinion, and as such have agreed to display this Corvair in the Hall of Fame.      Back To Top^

Ways to Protect Your Car or Truck From Rust This Winter

There are a lot of things you can do to keep it at bay, though, and get your car through the coming winter unscathed

Now that manufacturers have outer body rust through warranties, you’d think that rust wasn’t a problem anymore, but just ask the owners of TJ-era Jeep Wranglers or the 150,000 2001 to 2004 Toyota Tacoma owners that had their trucks rust out from underneath them. Nissan Altima owners are also experiencing floors that completely rust out of the cars.

There are preventative measures you can take to slow the oxidation of even the most fragile cars and trucks.

Clean Your Drains:  Every single car has drains in various locations. They’re designed to keep water from collecting in places that are prone to rust. When drain holes get plugged with leaves, dirt and pine needles, they do exactly the opposite of the job they’re supposed to do, to the point that you’ll start to hear water sloshing around inside of doors and fenders.

You’ll have to find the drains in your specific car, but they’re usually along the bottom of the doors, in the floors, at the bottoms of fenders, and in the tailgate.

Pay attention to the drains in your sunroof, too. They’re usually at the forward corners.

Wash Your Car:  Automakers have made great strides in galvanizing sheet metal, but eventually dirt, mud, sand and salt will all conspire to wear away whatever protective finish is on your car. Your best defense is to keep the car clean.

We’re not suggesting you go outside and blast the car off with a hose in the middle of February. It’s uncomfortable, and frankly, with water restrictions the way they are now, it’s probably illegal in most communities.

There’s nothing wrong with a car wash, but we like the touch-free variety that use high-pressure water instead of cloth that can trap dirt and do more harm to the car’s finish than good.

Most decent car washes have an undercarriage wash as an option. For the extra two bucks, it’s well worth it to blast some warm water in the crevices of the car that you never see.

Try to hit the car wash once every couple of weeks, or after the roads have gone down to bare pavement. It will add decades to the life of your car.

Don’t Forget the Inside:  On the inside, the moisture and salt you track inside the car can leach through the carpets and sound deadening material to rust out the floor from the inside. Invest in a decent set of rubber floor mats that protect the floors from all that water and sodium or calcium chloride, and vacuum the interior regularly to keep sand from working its way through the carpet to the steel floor below.

Oil Undercoating:  There are still Vermont farmers driving around with trucks from the 1960s and 1970s that have survived decades of New England winters. It’s because they undercoat their trucks with oil. Old-timers would pressure-wash the underside of their trucks, fill up a Hudson sprayer with waste oil they’d drained out of their equipment the rest of the year, and coat the underbody with atomized oil, spraying inside doors, fenders and frame rails.

It’s the messiest job in the world, though, and probably not environmentally friendly. Smarter folks have been using bar and chain oil for chainsaws. It’s economical at about $5 a gallon, and it’s also got some adhesive properties so that it’ll stick to whatever you shoot it at, leaving behind a thin film of oil, rather than a drippy mess.

Waxoyl:  Unlike oil that can be eventually washed away from some surfaces, Waxoyl is a wax product that hardens and adheres to the underbody. You can buy Waxoyl from some suppliers, but find a trained shop to apply it for you that has the applicator wands that reach deep inside door panels and frame rails and spray 360 degrees at the end to ensure maximum coverage.       Back To Top^

Electrical Issues After Replacing The Battery


Late model vehicles have many computerized systems; in most cases, each system is under the basic control of its own computer (module). There can be more than twenty modules on each vehicle and many of these modules have some sort of "learned" memory, which may be lost when the battery is disconnected. This can cause something minor, like the clock to lose its time, but it can also lead to engine stalling or even a failed smog inspection.


In order to avoid this issue, it has become more and more critical that power is supplied to the electrical system while the battery is disconnected, for any reason, including replacement.

Luckily, there are many "memory saving" devices available that can be connected to the cigarette lighter or the OBDII diagnostic connector. When used correctly, these devices can supply enough power to the modules while the battery is disconnected so they don't lose their memory.

Be sure to follow all manufacturer directions if you use any of these "memory saving" devices. Most of these devices use a small battery to supply power. Opening a door or turning the ignition on with the main battery disconnected can cause the battery in the device to lose power as well.

Examples of how different modules can be affected by loss of battery power:

Finding the solution to electrical issues associated with battery replacement:

If you're experiencing electrical issues immediately after a battery replacement or disconnect, make sure the battery cables were reattached and tightened down properly. Herculean strength isn't necessary, but the cables should be snug and not move around or come off of the battery posts. You can also check your owner’s manual for any procedures or drive cycles you can perform to "teach" the car functions it may have lost while the battery was disconnected. If both of those are performed and you're still experiencing issues, your car may require a *special computer to re-initialize the modules that lost memory. *Some cars require the computer to be "flashed" or reprogrammed so that the charging system recognizes the new battery, and doesn't over charge it, since it learned over time to compensate for the weaker battery.

No start or car is stalling after battery replacement:

In general, it’s not uncommon for late model vehicles to stall after the battery has gone dead or has been disconnected and as we just learned from my friend last Saturday, with a no start your first step should be to make sure those terminals are clean, attached, and tightened!

Another tried-and-tested solution to a no start includes using your car’s spare key to start the car. If this does happen to work, you should take your car back to the dealership and have them reprogram your normal key.

If none of these work and your car still isn’t starting, it could come down underlying issues with your vehicle’s starter, ignition switch, immobilizer system, or the neutral safety switch.

The engine computer has a basic idle speed control setting for when the engine is new. As you drive the car, deposits build up on the throttle body, which restricts the air-flow and reduces the idle speed. The engine control computer compensates for this by opening the idle air bypass valve to achieve the correct idle speed. The computer stores this new bypass valve position in its memory. Over time, this can become a fairly substantial adjustment, but the change occurs so gradually, you will never notice it happening.

Unfortunately, when the battery is disconnected, some late model vehicles will lose this learned idle position, which will cause the vehicle to stall.

You can try one or both of these procedures try to correct stalling:

Clean the deposits built up on the throttle body (Throttle Body Service) using aerosol brake cleaner and a shop towel. This will allow the default idle air bypass valve value to function correctly. The idle learn procedure will begin again as it did when the vehicle was new. Some basic repair knowledge may be necessary to complete this procedure.

You can also perform the following procedure to try to force the engine computer to quickly relearn the necessary bypass valve position when stalling occurs:

  1. Warm the engine, but hold your foot on the throttle as necessary to keep the engine running.

  2. With the transmission in Park, slowly release the throttle so that the engine will idle on its own. You may have to work at this a bit.

  3. Let the engine idle on its own for about one minute.

  4. Continue to let the engine idle and with your foot on the brake, place the transmission in Drive and let the engine idle for another minute.

  5. Continue to let the engine idle with your foot on the brake and the transmission in Drive. Turn the A/C on and let the engine idle for another minute with the A/C compressor running.

  6. Turn the ignition off and wait a minute.       Back To Top^

Intake and exhaust valves are precision components used for sealing the combustion chamber and controlling the gas exchange process in internal engines?

They are designed according to engine application with regard to special load cases like temperature, corrosion, wear resistance and mechanical loads from dynamics and combustion pressure.

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Weird Traffic Laws from Each of the 50 US States

There are some strange laws in this country when it comes to motor vehicles. Some are well-intentioned but fail, other are just outdated:

Alabama – There’s no mention as to where this law originated, but in Alabama it’s illegal to drive a car while blindfolded. Thank goodness one state had the foresight to get that law on the books.

Alaska – It’s illegal to tie a dog to your car roof, but there’s no mention of the hood or the trunk lid, or of cats, weasels, lizards or any other household pet.

Arkansas – Don’t drive over to the Sonic late at night and try and get the waitress’s attention by honking your car horn, because in Little Rock it’s against the law to do so anywhere that serves cold drinks or sandwiches after 9 p.m.

California – Ancient, but still on the books: It’s against the law for women to drive in a housecoat,  it’s illegal in Eureka to use the road as a bed, while in Glendale, it’s illegal to jump from a car going over 65 mph. 64 mph is so much safer.

Colorado – It’s illegal to drive a black car on a Sunday in Denver.

Connecticut – it’s illegal to hunt from a car, even if it’s painted orange.

Delaware – “R” rated movies shall not be shown at drive-in theaters.

Florida – By law, you must feed the parking meter if you tie an elephant, goat or alligator to it. Of course, if you tie the goat and the alligator to the meter at the same time, you may return to find the goat missing.

Georgia – As you’re driving through Marietta, keep an eye on what type of vehicle that you’re following. You see, It’s illegal to spit from a car or bus, but there’s no law prohibiting spitting from  a truck. There’s no driving through playgrounds in Georgia, but it is kind of fun.

Hawaii – Hawaiians must believe that any hazard must be stationary because it’s against the law for any vehicle in motion to use its hazard lights.

Idaho – Clearly there’s an impression in the City of Idaho Falls that Senior Citizens over the age of 88 must lose all sense of balance, as it’s  forbidden for them to ride a motorcycle in that town. And over in Coeur d’Alene,  police officers must honk their horn or flash their lights and wait at least three minutes before breaking up any romantic car-based goings-on.

Kansas – You can’t transport dead poultry in parts of Topeka, which has to make you wonder what goes on in the back of a KFC. Thirty days in jail provide a deterrent to any  tire screachers  in Derby, Kansas.

Kentucky – It’s illegal for your pet to molest a vehicle in Fort Thomas. Exactly what’s meant by “molest” is not outlined, so we’ll have to leave it to our imaginations.

Louisiana – Another leftover from a by-gone area that needs to come of the books: a woman’s husband is required by law to walk in front of the car waving a flag as she drives it.

Maine – It’s illegal to buy a car on a Sunday. Maybe they should hook-up with Indiana and create a Saturday “Powerball” kind of car sale.

Maryland – While driving through Rockville, it’s best to keep your windows up and your mouth shut. It’s a misdemeanor to swear from a vehicle in that city.

Massachusetts – You cannot drive with a gorilla in your backseat. Apparently they’re okay in the front, except for their bad habit of constantly changing the radio stations.

Michigan – It’s against the law to sit in the middle of the street and read a newspaper. Kindles and iPads have avoided the law through a technological loophole.

Minnesota – You can be charged as a public nuisance if your truck in that leaves mud, dirt or sticky substances on the road in Minnetonka. You’d think a place with Tonka in its would be more truck-friendly.

Mississippi – In Oxford, it’s illegal to honk your horn because it might scare nearby horses, not to mention wake the blacksmith, the chimney sweep, and the steeplejack.

Missouri – You can’t honk someone else’s car horn in University City, Missouri, which just seems like some decency to me.

Montana –  You can’t drive a herd of livestock numbering more than 10 on an interstate highway (!) unless the livestock is preceded and followed by flagmen escorts for the purpose of warning other highway users.

Nebraska – By law, drivers on mountains should drive with caution near the right edge of the highway, even though there are no mountains in Nebraska. I figure this is one of those “just in case” laws should a 1,400 foot volcano grow out of a cornfield like one did in Mexico.

Nevada – It’s illegal to ride a camel on the highway. Of course it is.

New Hampshire – It’s against the law to inhale bus fumes with the intent of inducing euphoria, If you’ve ever lived in New Hampshire, you’d understand.

New Jersey – If you have been convicted of driving while intoxicated, you may never again apply for personalized license plates. Maybe assigning them the license plate “Drunk Driver” might be more effective.

New Mexico – It’s illegal for cab drivers to reach out and pull potential customers into their taxis. At least for the time being, Uber drivers are exempt.

New York – It’s against the law to disrobe in your car in the beach town of Sag Harbor, Long Island.

North Carolina – In Dunn, North Carolina, they have it all covered. It’s illegal to play in traffic, drive on the sidewalk, or drive through a cemetery. Apparently streets are still okay, though.

North Dakota – It’s more about what’s not illegal here: Drivers can use a hand-held cell phone while driving, there’s no law covering drug-impaired driving, no motorcycle helmet law or rear seat belt law for adults,

Ohio – It’s illegal to run out of gas in Youngstown. Also, Roller-skaters and cars cannot share the road in Canton, Ohio. Who has right-of-way is not clear.

Oklahoma – It’s illegal to read a comic book while driving. There’s no mention in the law about graphic novels.

Oregon – By law, you must yield to pedestrians when driving on the sidewalk. After all, it’s their tax dollars that paid for the sidewalk. Do not leave your car door open longer than necessary and don’t use your car to prove physical endurance on an Oregon road, as they are both frowned upon and illegal.

Pennsylvania –When driving on a country road at night, you must stop every mile and set off flares or other warning signals and then allow 10 minutes for livestock to clear the road

Rhode Island – It’s illegal to ride a horse on a highway for the purpose of racing or testing the speed of the horse. Apparently all other uses of a horse on the road is a-okay.

South Carolina – It’s unlawful to store trash in your vehicle in Hilton Head. Why? Rats. Aren’t you sorry you asked?

South Dakota – You only need to be 14 years old to get your license in South Dakota.

Tennessee – It’s illegal to shoot any game other than whales from a moving vehicle. That explains why the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga just installed bullet-proof glass.

Texas – You must have windshield wipers to register a car, although having a windshield is optional.

Utah – By law, birds have the right of way on all highways. After all, it’s their tax money that pays for the highways.

Vermont – It’s illegal for cars to backfire in Rutland. It might wake someone up.

Virginia – Women are prohibited from driving a car on Main Street unless her husband is walking in front of the car waving a red flag

Washington – A motorist with criminal intentions must stop at the city limits and telephone the chief of police as he is entering the town. But if the caller is a criminal, how can they trust what they tell the cops?

West Virginia ­- It’s legal to eat road kill. Yep, just disgusting.

Wisconsin – It’s against the law for a person to ride a bicycle with their hands off the handlebars. Clearly an effort to crackdown on bicycle riding scofflaws.

Wyoming – If you open a gate over a road, river, stream or ditch, you’d better close it behind you or risk a $750 fine.       Back To Top^

Why The Straight-Six Engine Is Making A Comeback

The V8 engine has long ruled the world of luxury cars, thanks to glass-smooth grunt and a delicious howl under duress. But tightening fuel-economy regulations are encouraging the use of smaller piston counts, and on the standardized tests that automakers use for fuel-efficiency ratings, the average downsized, turbocharged V6 uses less fuel than an equally powerful V8. That may seem win-win, but don't be won over. Engineers don't fantasize about V6s—accountants do. The V6 layout has proliferated because it "packages well," a sexless industry term that's code for "easy to cram into a variety of engine compartments."

It's also incredibly easy to build a V6 from an existing V8. Jaguar, for example, doesn't even bother changing the outside dimensions of its block. The company's V6, available in every new Jag sold in the U.S., is simply its V8 with shorter cylinder heads and balancing weights on the crankshaft where the last two piston throws should be.

It works, but not without compromises. Like all V8-derived V6s, Jaguar's has a 90-degree angle between its cylinder banks. That works well for a V8, but it's the wrong angle for a six, because it means the engine will fire at uneven intervals, and odd-fire engines run rough and make terrible noises. A V6 will fire at perfectly spaced intervals (read: smoothly) with its banks splayed to 120 degrees, but that's too wide to fit in most cars. Halving that angle keeps the even firing order and, with a couple of crank counterweights, it allows for smooth running. Toyota's ubiquitous 3.5-liter V-6 is a 60, and it's as creamy as they come.

But a 60-degree six negates the economic advantage of basing the engine off an existing V8. So luxury brands tend to stick with the 90-degree architecture and apply various tricks to make it work for a V6. The big one is using split, offset crankpins. These are impossible to fully understand without a physics degree and a stiff drink, but in essence, they slightly offset opposing pistons, forcing them to move in such a way that the engine fires evenly. But these are difficult to engineer and expensive to manufacture. Plus, the 90-degree V6 usually has an engine-driven balance shaft to prevent the whole complicated mess from vibrating itself apart. All of this adds expense, and hurts efficiency.

That complexity, however, masks the problem instead of solving it. The mass of the pistons moving up and down in an internal combustion engine creates enormous forces, which cause the engine to vibrate. The most effective way to reduce that vibration is to use the force of one piston to cancel out the force of another; in other words, as piston A moves in one direction (up), piston B moves in the exact opposite direction (down) at exactly the same time. But that's only possible for engines with an even number of pistons in a single plane, like an inline-four-cylinder. When you have an odd number of cylinders, as with an inline-three, the force moving in one direction (say, up) is almost always imbalanced compared with the force moving in the opposite direction (down). This makes the engine rock back and forth. Now think about a V6, which is essentially two three-cylinder engines joined at the crank—it's like having a pair of amped-up pit bulls on a shared leash. And that typically means a whole lot of unpleasant mechanical noise, to boot.

You can avoid the drama by arranging the pistons in one line. A straight-six doesn't need split crankpins, balance shafts, or big counterweights, because each of its cylinders has a twin that's doing the opposite thing, at the same time and in the same plane, canceling out the other's forces. That lack of internal dissonance gives the same perfect balance as a V12. There's a reason museum-piece marques like Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Aston Martin, and Alfa Romeo earned their reputations with inline-sixes.

You can avoid the drama by arranging the pistons in one line. A straight-six doesn't need split crankpins, balance shafts, or big counterweights, because each of its cylinders has a twin that's doing the opposite thing, at the same time and in the same plane, canceling out the other's forces. That lack of internal dissonance gives the same perfect balance as a V12. There's a reason museum-piece marques like Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Aston Martin, and Alfa Romeo earned their reputations with inline-sixes.

That's likely one reason Mercedes is rumored to be developing a new family of inline-sixes. And because accountants, not engineers, usually run the show these days, you can be sure there's an economic incentive as well. As tightening fuel-economy standards encourage four- and six-cylinder engines where sixes and eights once lived, an inline layout becomes the norm and it makes financial sense to develop a modular family of inline-threes, fours, and sixes. Add the straight-six's other cost-savings (half as many cylinder heads, camshafts, and turbos), and suddenly, tougher emissions mandates have the unintended consequence of unifying the dreams of engineers and bean counters alike.        Back To Top^


not only saves you money, it also hones your skills as a metalworker. By practicing how, you’ll better understand your own equipment.

Tossing away dull drill bits is a terrible waste of money, especially if you already have the tools required to bring them back to life. Improve your abilities and save a trip to the store as well!


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Why Are My Tires Wearing Unevenly?

Your tires play a vital role in giving you a safe and smooth ride, helping you stop quickly and letting you steer accurately. Visually checking your tires for uneven tire wear on a regular basis will alert you to problems that could result in an accident-causing blowout.

Irregular tire wear, either across the tire tread or around the circumference of the tire, is an indication that there may a problem that needs to be fixed.

Causes of uneven tire wear:

Bad wheel alignment: The wheels are independently attached to your car by a complex suspension system with multiple interconnected links and many adjustment points. Each adjustment must be set to the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure that your tires are properly aligned. If these parts are worn, as mentioned below, proper alignment will be impossible. A bad alignment adjustment may result in many different patterns of irregular tire wear.

Worn out suspension parts: Worn out and loose suspension parts, like inner and outer tie rod ends, and ball joints, bushings are not only causes of improper tire wear, but are also extremely dangerous, and can cause you to loose control of your car if they should break. It's also important to use high quality parts for the same reason. Shocks and struts that aren't working properly can also cause premature tire wear, as well as premature wear of the above components.

Improper tire inflation : Under-inflated or over-inflated tires can cause irregular tire wear across the width of the tire tread. If your tire shows more wear in the center of the tread than at the two sides, it has been over inflated. If the two sides of the tread are worn more than the center, the tire was under inflated. Proper inflation according to your owner’s manual recommendations will prevent the irregular wear from continuing. The best way to avoid this problem is to check your tire pressure once a month and adjust it accordingly. As an added bonus, properly inflated tires will help maximize your gas mileage.

Unbalanced wheels:  Uneven tire wear also happens when your wheel and tire assembly is not balanced. Any unbalance can cause vibration; the wheel and tire don’t rotate smoothly about the axle and may hop up and down or wobble from side-to-side as it rotates. The solution is to have a mechanic statically and dynamically balance your wheel and tire assemblies.

Bent wheels or broken wheelsNormal driving hazards, like potholes, may bend a steel wheel rim or in the case of alloy wheels, may cause a crack to form in a portion of the wheel. Either instance may cause a vibration in the tire as it rotates, resulting in irregular tire tread wear. A wheel inspection by a mechanic can tell you if this is the cause of your irregular tire wear.

Preventing uneven tire wear:  The best way to prevent uneven tire wear is to check the pressure in your tires monthly, of they seem low, rotate your tires every other oil change, periodically have your wheels aligned and suspension checked, visually inspect your tires regularly.       Back To Top^

Why Independent Repair Shops Win

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the efforts being made by new car dealers to capture a greater share of the repair and service market. It’s no secret that with new car price margins slipping and fierce competition, the service department must now contribute a greater share of the profits for the dealership to survive. This means that new car dealers will put a lot of their advertising dollars targeting customers that traditionally went to independent repair shops. And they will largely compete on price. And while the financial meltdown a few years back caused a ton of dealers to go under, make no mistake. The dealers that are left are a lot stronger. And many of them “get it” in terms of customer service and of course, price.

In addition to the new car dealer, independents see competition from all sectors of the industry. Years back, there were muffler shops, transmission shops, brake shops, tire stores and tune-up shops. Today, every sector of the auto service and repair industry is a total car care facility. Everyone now wants to copy the business model of the independent repair shop.

The majority of independent repair shops do not have a nationally branded logo on their buildings. They cannot compete head to head and offer all the amenities that may be found at a new car dealer or national chain store. Independents don’t have the financial means to advertise to masses of people and their market reach is usually within a radius of no more than 5–10 miles. Yet, year after year, every survey indicates that the independent repair shop is the preferred choice of the motoring public.

Independent repair shops will continue to have the edge because they have something unique that sets them apart: the shop owner’s culture and mindset. Shop owners simply have what money cannot buy. They have passion for what they do, they establish strong roots in the community and they take care of their customers as if they were taking care of family. Shop owners are also in the trenches every day, ensuring that their culture and legacy is never compromised.

Business is business, and the motoring public is fair game. There will no doubt be winners and losers as the entire repair and service industry continues to compete for their share of the market. But, while the big guys compete on price and fringe benefits, the independent repair shops will do what they have always done: dedicate their lives to ensure that each and every customer is taken care of as if they were family. Back To Top^

Honda patents 11-speed, 3-clutch transmission

In an effort to improve fuel economy, automakers are stuffing transmissions with as many gears as possible. General Motors fitted the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with a 10-speed automatic, while the 2017 Ford F-150 will have a variation of the same transmission. Last year, Ford filed a patent for an 11-speed automatic transmission, and now Honda is following suit with its own 11-speed gearbox that will use three – three! – clutches instead of just two.

Uncovered by AutoGuide, the patent describes a transmission with eleven gears that utilizes three clutches, with the third somehow reducing the drop in torque that occurs with a shift on a dual-clutch transmission. The result would be a two-fer of improved fuel economy and quicker gear changes. It's not clear how many shafts would be in the transmission – dual-clutches use a pair – or how exactly it is laid out.

As it's just in the patent stage, we don't know what type of vehicle would use the 11-speed transmission, or even if Honda will end up making it. Honda could place the high-tech gearbox into a small, fuel-efficient car like the Fit to further improve fuel efficiency or into a larger vehicle like the Pilot that desperately needs a fuel-efficiency boost. The transmission would also have applications in sporty models since it.       Back To Top^

INSURANCE: New Safety Equipment Could Raise Your Premiums, Here’s Why:

New safety technologies can reduce accident rates, but your insurance costs may be going up, not down, because of them.

Although it would seem intuitive that the $1,695 EyeSight active safety package on a new Subaru Forester would save a customer money on their auto insurance, it may not.

The Subaru system includes Forward Collision Prevention and Emergency Auto-Braking. These systems were proven in a study by IIHS to reduce the chances one will be in an accident, and logic follows, that will save money on repairs and medical bills overall.

Yet in some states, a new Subaru owner who buys this expensive technology may not enjoy any savings on their auto insurance. In fact, pricey safety systems may be causing insurance rates to climb due to the high cost to repair and service the high-tech systems.       Back To Top^


Much ink has been spilled concerning the death of the sedan, and more will be spilled here. The latest sales numbers augur poorly for the humble three-box form. According to the charts, the mid-size car used to represent 16 percent of the light-vehicle market. As of the first part of 2016, that share is down to about 13 percent.

Meanwhile, the small SUV has picked up the slack, growing from 10 percent of the market to 14 percent over the same period. The reported causes seem pretty obvious. Historically low gas prices are back, but the retrograde notion that all SUVs drive and perform like trucks is fading. Also pushing the shift: Higher ride heights give drivers more confidence on the road; bigger vehicles offer more storage space and a greater feeling of safety; and more-efficient powertrains have reduced the mpg delta between cars and SUVs, even if gas prices aren’t the overwhelming consideration they were three years ago.

There’s something else at play, though. The nascent aspect of the crossover gives designers more leeway to experiment. The mini-crossover segment, for example, is a riot of forms and styles and expressions of brand cues. The Jeep Renegade has little in common stylistically with the Honda HR-V, lashed together in the same segment. They are for different people.

Conversely, the Chevrolet Cruze, looks conventionally similar to the Hyundai Elantra. They’re all the same loaves of bread. And it’s hardly better in the mid-size-sedan class.

The competition has been so fierce in sedan segments as to make all regress toward the mean—similar interior options, similar performance, similar trunk space, simi­larly sober styles. The last big innovation in mid-size sedans was the “coupe-like” roof of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata. Now most mid-sizers have extended rooflines.

The sedan may be benchmarking itself out of existence. Add in the social aspect—i.e., the sedan is the car your dad drove—and the call of the crossover seems seductive. But the benefits of the sedan are many, and many of them are dynamic.  Let’s not let the sedan be the new minivan.        Back To Top^

What Happens If You Put the Wrong Fuel in Your Car?

Does your car need regular fuel or premium? Gas or diesel?

The results vary wildly from case to case, but you need to be careful about what kind of fuel you put in your car and be aware of what effects your actions might have. Putting the wrong fuel in your car is a surprisingly common mistake.

Due to the different types of nozzles used for gas and diesel fuel at stations, its usually kind of difficult to mix them up, but mistakes do happen. If you realized your mistake (diesel in a gas car), the important thing is to stop driving the car. Parking and turning off the engine will limit the damage that will occur. Otherwise, the car will use up the remainder of the gas in the tank and eventually shut down, since gas engines can’t combust diesel.

What you need to do is drain the tank and fuel lines, fuel rails and injectors of the diesel fuel. You can try to do this yourself, but a mechanic will be better suited to handle this kind of work. Usually, there’s no permanent damage.

What Happens When You Put Gas in a Diesel Car?

Going the other way around is far more harmful and dangerous for your car. Diesel is not only a fuel, but serves as a lubricant as well, so you can really damage the fuel-injector pump by using gasoline instead of diesel.

That’s not the only thing that can go wrong. Diesel and gasoline have different combustion properties, meaning that gas would detonate much earlier in a diesel engine. As a result, you’ll get misfires and knocking that will require certain parts of the engine to be repaired, rebuilt or replaced, which will be expensive.

If you discovered that you accidentally put diesel into your gas-powered car, you need to stop running the engine immediately and get a tow to a mechanic.

What Happens When You Put E85 in a Gasoline Car?

Some pumps are labeled as E85. E85 is a fuel that has a much higher blend of ethanol. Some cars, labeled as flex-fuel vehicles or FFV can switch between E85 and normal pump gas without any issues, but if you accidentally fill your non-FFV car with E85, you may notice some issues.

For starters, you’d at least get a check engine light, but you can top off the rest of your tank with regular gas and ride it out. “One time misfueling should not cause any long-term damage. Even that light will cycle off once the fuel mixture issue has been resolved. Accidentally fueling with extra ethanol is not like a diesel misfueling that automatically shuts down the vehicle, requires service and expensive maintenance. Consumers are usually able to navigate the issue with little issue.

So if you’ve accidentally put E85 into your gas car, top it up with regular gas a few times and ride it out.

What Happens When You Put Premium Fuel in a Car that Doesn’t Need It?

Some people think that using Premium in a vehicle that doesn’t need it will turn their car into an asphalt-eating monster. Sorry, but nothing significant will happen. In some cases, like while towing or in hot, dry weather you might see a slight benefit, but due to the engine computers adjusting their timing automatically to compensate for the increased octane levels, no damage or noticeable benefits will occur.

What Happens When You Put Regular Gas in a Car that Needs Premium?

On the other hand, using lower octane fuel in a car that calls for premium can cause some serious internal damage. You’ll likely notice the spark knock, which is best described as a sort of a high-pitched pinging or rattling noise. Fortunately, the engine computers can adjust timing to limit the amount of damage caused, but you’ll definitely notice reduced performance and worse fuel economy. Switch back to premium fuel as soon as you can, because all that spark knock can cause long-term damage.       Back To Top^

Why is my check engine light on?

When the light comes on, one or more diagnostic trouble codes (DTC) are stored in the engine control module. These DTCs remain even if the light goes out. To address a Check Engine Light problem, the DTCs are retrieved and the appropriate troubleshooting information is followed in order to determine the problem.

Every vehicle manufactured in the U.S. has to first pass an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) test called the Federal Test Procedure. This sets the acceptable limits of wear and/or failure for the emission control system—i.e., what conditions will ultimately cause a Check Engine Light to illuminate. These standards are closely regulated. If the emission control system is faulty and the vehicle is polluting the air, the Check Engine Light illuminates to alert the driver of this condition. (Note: A vehicle in this condition would fail an emissions inspection or smog check.)

Don't confuse the Check Engine Light with the maintenance or service light. These lights illuminate when a routine service is due. They are usually triggered by mileage, gallons of gasoline consumed, or some other type of vehicle-use measurement.

The Four Most Common Check Engine Light Scenarios and What to Do:

The Check Engine Light is blinking or flickers.
If the Check Engine Light comes on in the city but goes off on the freeway, then the fault is present during city driving conditions. Pay attention to whether or not the vehicle runs or drives any differently when the Check Engine Light illuminates. If vehicle performance does change, drive the car as little as possible and take it to be checked by a service professional as soon as possible. If there is no change in vehicle performance, you can drive home, but have it inspected as soon as possible. In this condition, you run a risk of the vehicle dying or not starting.

The Check Engine Light comes on and stays on.
If the Check Engine Light illuminates constantly during driving with no noticeable driving or performance problems, there is a permanent fault in the emission control system. When this happens, the computer that controls the emission system usually has a backup program that runs while the fault is present. (These backup programs are often referred to as "limp home" mode programs.) You should get the vehicle serviced as soon as possible, but in most cases, the vehicle will continue to operate, though you run a risk of it dying or not starting.

The Check Engine Light illuminates, stays on, and there are performance problems.
This means that a vital component of your emission control and engine management system has a serious problem. It usually involves a component or system needed for the vehicle to run at all. In most cases, drive the vehicle as little as possible. In many cases, the vehicle is not safe to drive at all—it could stop or stall out at any moment. It is best to pull over to a safe place and have the vehicle towed to an automotive diagnostician for a thorough inspection and repair.

The Check Engine Light light comes on and blinks in a steady pattern while driving.
Don't confuse this steady pulsing of the Check Engine Light light (usually one or more flashes per second) with a flicker (see above). The Check Engine Light may stay on steadily or it may flash when the vehicle is accelerated. This is very serious. There is a severe failure of the emission control system that is causing the engine to misfire to the point that the catalytic converter is damaged each time the Check Engine Light flashes. It may mean that the catalytic converter is overheating to the point that it will glow red or, in extreme cases, start a fire on the underside of the vehicle. Immediately pull over to a safe place and have your vehicle towed to an automotive diagnostician for repair. Vehicles can be severely damaged and even destroyed by fire if this condition is ignored for too long.
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Cars are pretty good today... They're built pretty well, are very reliable, and don't break down as much as they used to. Unfortunately, it seems that this causes people not to give much thought to basic car maintenance. Oil still needs to be changed, transmission fluid, air filters, tired need rotating, brakes wear out, and even suspension and steering gear need to be checked from time to time. Just because a car doesn't need a tune up for 100K miles doesn't mean it's a "drive and forget" till a dash light come on...       Back To Top^

Mazda Will Use its Engines to Make its Cars Handle Better

Mazda explained that how we drive is essentially three steps. The first step is making an input, whether it’s steering, throttle or brakes. The second step is that the car responds to that action, and more often than not, it isn’t 100 percent perfect. As a result, the driver has to make an adjustment, the third step. This is called the feedback loop. Sometimes you have to make big corrections, and depending on the speed of the vehicle, that adjustment may need to be done quickly. Those adjustments may even need finer and smaller inputs afterwards.

The result of all this is an unnatural, back and forth motion on the steering wheel, or jerky acceleration and braking. Sometimes this isn’t very noticeable to the driver, but for other people in the car or objects, it’s easy to see and feel. Additionally, all these extra inputs can reduce the driver’s confidence and connection to the vehicle.

Mazda wants to change all of this. The idea is to reduce the time between input and making an adjustment. They also want the adjustments the driver makes to be smooth and not jerky. And of course, because this is Mazda and not a luxury company, it needs to be done without additional hardware that could make the car heavier.

Introducing G-Vectoring Control (GVC)

They’ve come up with something called G-Vectoring Control. It’s software that can give the driver a good sense of what their initial action resulted in, and then needs a clear and very small adjustment afterwards. It’s also one of the first processes that utilize the engine to enhance handling.

Here’s how it works: when you make your steering input, the car will reduce the engine torque ever so slightly. This shifts the weight to the front wheels, giving them extra grip and a more responsive turn. From there the driver can make their minute adjustments, but if they maintain a steady steering angle, the car will then recover that reduced engine torque, which will shift weight towards the back of the vehicle, which improves stability through the turn.

Does it Work?

The effect is very subtle. It was tested it thoroughly in a number of ways and needed to be extra sensitive to what we were doing and how it affected the driving process. As a passenger it was easier to see that the driver was “sawing” the steering wheel less with the system active. As a driver, it was hard to detect a significant difference until we drove the car in situations with limited grip, first wet pavement and then gravel. In those circumstances, it was clearer that the car required fewer inputs to keep steady despite the fear of limited traction. It gives a better sense of confidence behind the wheel, and allows the driver to predict what the car will do with each input.

The engine only limits a small amount of torque, up to 15 lb-ft, which results in a difference of less than 0.01 g of force. It’s not perceptible to the driver in the way that other brake-vectoring systems are. Mazda believes that those other systems are far less natural, while its process is more driver-focused.

Using the Engine to Improve Handling

In fact, Mazda’s system is so unique because it uses engine braking instead of traditional brakes. The reason for that is because brakes are both less predictable and take too long to spring into action. The engine braking happens in about a quarter of a second, a delay that is hard to detect by human standards.

It’s a uniquely Mazda thing to do, using the engine to enhance cornering and driving dynamics. This is the automaker that brings us the “Driving Matters” slogan and adheres to the philosophy of Jinba-Ittai: a feeling of unity between driver and vehicle. The automaker strives to have their cars become an extension of the driver, making them as natural and as fun to drive as possible. This makes sense with the more exciting and sport-focused Mazda MX-5 roadster, but the Japanese automaker wants to make even its mainstream products like the Mazda6 and Mazda3 engaging.

The Mazda6 will be the first vehicle to get this software, as part of its 2017 Model Year changes. Mazda promises that the rest of the Mazda lineup will get this technology too.

In a time where automakers are investigating self-driving cars, semi-autonomous features and tons of driver assistance systems, Mazda is still introducing enhancements that improve the feeling of driving for the person behind the wheel.       Back To Top^

Have We Reached Peak Engine?

Sometime in the latter 1970s, we reached peak carburetor. By that I mean the carburetor on the average family sedan, squeezed by the vise of new regulations, achieved its zenith in complexity and parts count. Take the Rochester Quadrajet as an example. Initially an elegant four-barrel design with smaller primaries for quicker part-throttle response and efficient cruising, and larger secondary's for ample wide-open roar, it was the mainstay of fuel metering on GM cars for more than a decade after its introduction in 1965.

But by 1975, control devices, pushrods, and cams were growing on it like boils. There were hot-idle compensators, timed canister purge ports, air-valve dashpots, aneroid metering rod assemblies, and thermostatic coils. Pressed by the safety crusaders and the EPA (established in 1970), GM even gave the Q-jet electronic controls, trying to make it cleaner when cold, more reliable when hot, safer in a rollover, and less stinky when doing nothing at all. As a result, a relatively simple and effective Bernoullian device for atomizing fuel at an appropriate ratio to the incoming air finished its days looking like a steam-powered candy striper. Baffled mechanics like to call it the “Quadrajunk.”

But even the best carburetor couldn’t deliver the change society was demanding from the automobile, and the industry eventually switched to injection en masse. Briefly, the top of the engine became a simpler place as carbs gave way to fuel rails. However, massive triumphal success cutting the local scourges of smog and soot has only given way to a new societal urgency to attack the global scourge of carbon dioxide. The only way to reduce CO2 is to burn less fuel, so the engine is being pushed to increasingly tortured lengths to find efficiency. The question is, are we now reaching peak engine?

 Porsche recently did a tech presentation for new 991.2 generation of turbocharged 911 ­ Carreras. The MA2, as Porsche calls the 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six that becomes the base engine in the 911, features a host of electromechanical widgets intended to save fuel, drip by drop. Electronic control of the oil pump reduces engine load when high pressure isn’t needed. A two-stage water pump speeds the engine up to temperature for emissions and delivers only “need-based cooling” to reduce parasitic losses. A new polymer oil pan saves 4.4 pounds while being durable enough to survive the entire engine being dropped on it from a height of several feet. The assembled camshafts drive high-pressure pumps to deliver fuel to the injectors at up to 3625 psi and are the heart of a glorious temple of expensive, fine-tolerance machining.

Electric vehicles have issues, from range to weight to cost to consumer acceptance, and their ubiquity may be a decade or two off. But the internal-combustion engine seems to be in danger of collapsing under the weight of its own Gordian complexity. Some examples of engine development gone bonkers: Volvo’s turbo- and supercharged 2.0-liter four, Audi’s triple-­boosted 3.0-liter diesel V-6 with twin ­turbos and an electric supercharger, and Ford’s 10R80 10-speed transmission for the F-150, which has a wide enough ratio spread to keep the engine revs below 1400 rpm in the EPA economy cycles,  dual-injection systems, water injection, several quad-turbo engines, and, from Volkswagen, a 1.5-liter four with an exotic variable-geometry turbo and cylinder deactivation, which means it runs as a two-cylinder because, you know, two is the new four and four is the new 12. More systems, more software, and more of the engine experience simulated through sound generators and robo controls.

Well, if this is indeed peak engine, don’t be too downcast. It’s been a good run, and tremendous simplification may be on its way. Yes, electric motors, whoopee, but then again, weren’t you just complaining that cars are too dang complicated to work on anymore?        Back To Top^

It is now official, the first death at the hands of an autonomous vehicle has happened.

The accident occurred last month outside of Williston, Florida and we are only now hearing the details about the incident because the NHTSA has stated that it's investigating the matter. The vehicle involved was the Tesla Model S featuring the semi-autonomous Autopilot feature. As Tesla was quick to point out, despite working fairly well, the system is in its Beta mode and there are disclaimers that warn drivers to keep hands on the wheel and stay alert.

The driver behind the wheel was Ohio resident Joshua Brown, whose obituary mentions that he was a Navy SEAL who founded his own tech company. As a tech enthusiast, Brown was a fan of the Tesla and nicknamed his Model S “Tessy.” He is even responsible for posting a viral video showcasing how Autopilot kept his car from being hit by a merging truck. Horribly, the accident that claimed Brown’s life occurred under similar conditions as the near miss he had recorded only a month prior. The Model S was traveling in the opposite direction as the semi-truck that it struck. When the semi-truck made a left turn, the sensors on the Model S failed to recognize the tall edge of the trailer and according to Tesla, were blinded by the lighting in the area.

As a result, the Model S did not brake and proceeded to crash. This isn’t the first time that Tesla’s sensors have failed to notice a tall yet dangerous obstacle. Since the Model S failed to stop, it drove underneath the trailer, ripping off the top end of the car. It then continued rolling, smashed through two fences, hit a power pole, and rotated counter clockwise before coming to a stop. Brown died at the scene. Despite the tragedy, there is a silver lining. As Tesla pointed out, this is the first fatality to occur in over 130 million miles of autonomous driving. Meanwhile, cars piloted by humans tend to cause one death per 94 million miles. Hopefully automakers motivated to keep drivers safe will further refine their systems to make autonomous cars even safer.     Back To Top^

Why High Octane Fuel Is More Expensive Than Regular Gas

Knocking. It’s the very last thing that any car owner wants to hear coming from under the hood of their new sports car. As most of you may know, engine knock is just another way of saying pre-ignition, which is when the gasoline in your engine explodes before the intended ignition time. Not only does this sap the car of power but it can be extremely damaging to an engine. Luckily most cars today have sensors which and help reduce this as it happens.

Engineers design engines to work under certain parameters and deviating can cause damage. To understand what causes pre-ignition, we first have to look at the environmental factors that exist within an engine that makes the fuel/air mixture explode. Obviously the spark plug is the main catalyst, but the high pressure and heat helps. That’s why engines that place the fuel/air mixture under high pressure, such as those with forced induction or high compression ratios, are more prone to experiencing knock. That’s where octane comes into play. Contrary to popular belief, getting fuel with a higher octane rating does nothing to make your car faster. Instead, it actually makes it harder for the gasoline to explode, which in turn prevents knock.

The association between high octane and fast cars was made because most high performance machines have engines that are under a lot of stress. To prevent pre-ignition, a fuel with a higher octane rating is required. Back in the day, putting a low-octane fuel into a high performance engine with high octane needs was a recipe for engine knock, but most modern cars have computers to make them idiot proof. For example, if the owner of a McLaren 650S puts a low octane gas into their turbocharged machine, the computer will sense that and change ignition timing accordingly. This means that the engine is preserved but horsepower is lost until that tank of gas is used up and the proper fuel is put in. In this sense, yes, high-octane fuel will make a fast car faster.

Thing is, this is only because the motor is not holding itself back. On the other hand, putting high-octane fuel into a car that doesn’t require it will do nothing to increase the amount of horsepower being sent out of the crankshaft. Nowadays, it seems like more cars are getting their once unburdened engines replaced with motors that are smaller and produce more horsepower. This downsizing trend helps fuel economy, but given the knack for these engines to be turbocharged, they aren’t exactly saving consumers much money on fuel. The reason for this is that they require premium fuel to keep things under control with the added pressure from the turbochargers, and premium fuel is expensive.

In 1996, only 20% of cars required premium fuel but today, that number has risen to 50%. True to the market, the price of premium fuel has risen as well. In 1995, the price premium for high-octane gas was 18-19 cents per gallon more than standard fuel. The gap remained that way all the way until 2005, but subsequent years saw a leap in price. In 2011, the gap had risen to 25 cents over standard gasoline and now in 2016, it has risen to an average price difference of 47 cents. The reason behind this isn’t necessarily that gas stations want to reap the benefits of seeing more cars on the road that require better fuel, although marketing high octane fuel as better is partially to blame.

Instead, the issue is that production is still skewed towards churning out more low octane fuel, driving prices for high-octane gas even higher. As it turns out, many gas stations are actually losing money by paying as much as $1 extra per gallon for premium fuel while keeping their prices at the average 47 cent price hike. For the time being, things are likely to get worse as more forced induction engines, like Volkswagen’s insanely boosted 450 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder, make their way onto roads worldwide. The shortage will cause a hike in price temporarily, but it won't last. Gas companies aren’t stupid, so once demand us high enough, high-octane fuel production will begin to catch up.     Back To Top^

SAFETY: Stop Driving Your Takata-Airbag-Equipped Honda, Says The US To Some Owners

The Takata airbag recall is old news. It seems there is a steady stream of new vehicles being added, but everyone is still driving until the necessary replacement parts are available. That’s about to change as the US government is warning owners of select Hondas and Acuras to stop driving immediately.

The recall was issued over Takata air bag inflators that can explode during a crash and send debris directly at the driver’s face. Due to the size of the recall, there simply aren’t enough replacement parts to fix every car on the spot so repairs are happening piecemeal.

This is the largest recall in US history with an estimated 70 million vehicles affected by 2019. The problem surfaces when a combination of time, moisture, and high temperatures degrade the propellant in the inflators.

It puts those who live in certain areas of the country at higher risk. Florida, Texas, and Gulf Coast residents where humidity is very high stand a greater chance of experiencing a defective air bag inflator.

There have been injuries and deaths as a result of the airbag defect, but it was not deemed serious enough to tell consumers to stop driving affected cars. Now, the government has changed its tune.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just released an adjustment to their original recommendations affecting certain Hondas and Acuras. The reason is that new data suggests some inflators have as much as a 50 percent chance of exploding during a crash. That’s serious enough to tell people to stop driving.

In all, this new warning applies to 313,000 vehicles. The list of affected vehicles includes the 2001-2002 Honda Civic and Accord, 2002-2003 Acura TL, 2002 Honda CR-V and Odyssey, 2003 Acura CL, and 2003 Honda Pilot.

These vehicles were originally recalled in 2008 and 2011, but not everyone bothered to act on the recall. Honda says that 70 percent of the vehicles in this group were already repaired, but they’re still looking to get those last 313,000 cars fixed.

According to Automotive News, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “Folks should not drive these vehicles unless they are going straight to a dealer to have them repaired immediately, free of charge.”

There have been 10 reported deaths in the US due to Takata ruptures. Of those deaths, eight of them were vehicles in this highly risky group. It’s a serious issue.

Find out if your car is affected by the Takata recall or any other recall by heading to

Brexit & the auto industry     Back To Top^

Last week, voters across the United Kingdom trudged to the polls to determine whether the UK should remain a part of the European Union or go it alone. When the ballots were counted, 52 percent had opted for independence.

After a brief, shocked pause, panic ensued.

Financial markets collapsed. Politicians began shifting blame. Scotland and Northern Ireland began planning their own separations from England. Even pro-"Brexit" officials began backing away from their promises of a new, allegedly glorious Britain, awash in money and free of immigrants.

All of that is best discussed elsewhere. What really matters here is: how will Britain's departure from the EU affect the auto industry? Here are a few of the big points to consider:

1. UK automakers could face big losses. Roughly 1.5 million vehicles are made in the UK each year, and 80 percent are exported, with most going to Europe. Those vehicles could be slapped with a 10 percent tariff, reducing interest from consumers and slashing profits for automakers. Jaguar Land Rover, for example, could see annual profits tumble by 1 billion pounds (currently, $1.3 billion, but stay tuned).

2. GM and Ford stand to lose, too. Since their European sales are tied to the pound, devaluation of the pound could cut into annual profits. For every 1-percent drop in the pound, GM could lose $25 million, with Ford losing $48 million.

3. European brands won't have an easy go of it, either. Depending on how negotiations between the UK and EU pan out during the divorce proceedings, Euro brands like Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz could see tariffs levied on their own vehicles once they cross the English Channel. Because the UK is Europe's second-largest auto market after Germany, that could take a big bite out of profits.

4. The UK auto market will shrink, at least in the near term. Due to the uncertainty that Brexit has caused, UK car sales are expected to fall 120,000 this year and 400,000 in 2017 and again in 2018. For a market that moves between 2 million and 3 million vehicles per year, that's a substantial reduction.

5. British automakers could be forced to up their efficiency game. Most car companies that sell vehicles in the EU are being held to stricter emissions standards starting in 2021. The UK negotiated a break for its automakers, but after the UK's withdrawal from the EU, that agreement could be in danger.     Back To Top^


Hail. It’s not just small pebbles of ice falling from the sky. No, hail can cause immense damage to homes, businesses, and of course, cars and trucks. But how bad is the damage, really? Well, to give you an idea, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is reporting that bigger-than-baseball-size hail, exactly what struck Texas a few weeks ago and which shattered windows, busted the roofs, and dinged the bodies of many vehicles, causes millions in insurance payouts.

This updated report claims that “2011 and 2014 were the costliest years for hail-related claims in the US during the 2008-14 study period.” All told, total payouts for that period amounted to an estimated $7.26 billion. In 2011 the total amount in payouts was $948.3 million, while in 2014 that figure rose $968.9 million. According to IIHS, "the analysis excluded any hail storms that accompanied tornadoes, since it isn’t possible using the Highway Loss Data Institute’s (HLDI) data to determine which weather event caused the damage that led to the claim. Motorcycle claims were also excluded." A total of 31 insurance companies contributed data to the study.

What's more, those companies’ exposure represents 87 percent of the comprehensive coverage in HLDI’s database. But which US states had the highest hail-claim frequencies? Check out the data below and be sure to read the full report about the high cost of hail.

1. South Dakota
2. Nebraska
3. Oklahoma
4. Kansas
5. Wyoming
6. Montana
7. Colorado
8. Missouri
9. Iowa
10. Texas      
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When It Comes To The Most Expensive Cars To Maintain, Germany Has Everyone Beat.

A national company that  does repair work and maintenance on a lot of cars, decided to harness its data to author a study on the most and least expensive cars to maintain. A  shocker, BMW came in atop the list of the most expensive cars to maintain. They estimates 10-year maintenance costs at $17,800, almost exactly $5,000 more than second place Mercedes-Benz ($12,900).

Luxury German automakers dominated the top five, with Audi coming in at fifth place on the most expensive cars to maintain list at $12,400/10 years. All the way at the bottom was Toyota, with the Japanese automotive giant’s cars estimated to cost owners only $5,500 in maintenance over 10 years. The cheapest car to maintain is the Toyota Prius ($4,300/10 years) followed by the Kia Soul ($4,700/10 years). Toyota cars took three of the five top spots for cheapest maintenance costs over 10 years. They  also looked at which cars cost the most to maintain over 10 years, with the Chrysler Sebring taking the top spot there ($17,100/10 years). American automakers unsurprisingly dominated this category, placing eight cars in the top 20.

In addition to the cost estimates the site also looked into unusually common issues per model as well as which brands and models are least likely to start. While a lot of these results line up with conventional wisdom—German cars are more expensive to maintain than Japanese cars—they are still fascinating to pore over, especially if you’re in the market for a used or car.     Back To Top^




10 basic points to think of when dealing with your mechanic:
(From Mechanic Adviser)     Back To Top^

1) Clean out your car- Mechanics have to get used to working in cramped spaces, which can be difficult and frustrating. If you're a slob who doesn't bother to clean out their car, you're only complicating the situation for your mechanic. Your mechanic shouldn't have to move 14 empty Red Bull cans to get under your dashboard. Plus it's just gross.

2) Don't try to watch them work on your car - You wouldn't want someone standing over your shoulder while you prepare the week's TPS reports, would you? Give your mechanic the space to properly perform their job. No one wants to be scrutinized while they work, especially when it's work that can oftentimes be frustrating by itself. Unless you're an apprentice, don't try to watch.

3) Don't automatically distrust - A segment of dishonest mechanics gives the entire industry a bad reputation. But don't let the bad apples taint your perception of everyone. Trust the person you're doing business with until you can't. Afford them the same respect as you would to anyone in a similar profession, they just want the opportunity to prove you right.

4) Share your positive experiences - When a mechanic has done a great job for you, let everyone know. Submit a review on the appropriate sites, recommend your friends and family, and let the management of the shop know how satisfied you are. The industry isn't used to customers sharing their success stories, since the negative experiences tend to take center stage.

5) If you don't understand how to do car repairs, don't try to do them yourself - Saving a buck is always good, but you need to know what you don't know. If you have no automotive experience and aren't very handy, don't try to repair your own transmission. Mechanics frequently deal with people who have tried to fix problems themselves, and only made them worse. This goes for friends who claim to know how to work on cars as well.

6) Understand that it's a business - For some reason, there are customers who assume that mechanics should do work for free, ignoring the fact that if they do, they won't be able to pay their own bills. Shop overhead isn't cheap. Automotive repair is a business, and while some shops offer free diagnoses, and other excellent discounts, it's important to remember that you're exchanging money for services, and that you need to respect that dynamic.

7) Tell them the symptoms, not the diagnosis - When bringing your car in after it's started having problems, let your mechanic know the car's symptoms. What is the car doing? Don't tell them what you want them to replace, unless you're willing to accept full responsibility in the case that you're wrong. A properly trained mechanic will not only be able to determine what is causing your car's issues, they will also point out other problems you may not have noticed.

8) Don't get mad if they have to adjust your seat - It can be annoying when you get your car back after it's been worked on and the seat has been moved, but different people are different sizes. In order to drive your vehicle into the bay, a mechanic may need to adjust your seat, and unless he or she is able to mark exactly where your seat was before it was moved, which is an absurd expectation, they will leave the seat in the last position. This is a crazy thing to complain about.

9) Take care of your car - A well-maintained car is much easier to work on for a mechanic, and much cheaper for you. A car that has been neglected and abused is much more difficult to work on, since the problems are more extensive and entrenched. It's like going to the doctor after you've been eating only sticks of butter for 10 years, the problems are harder and more difficult to fix.

10) Come back - If everything has been done properly and you've been treated well and charged a fair price, there is no bigger compliment you can give your mechanic and shop than repeat business. This is also the best way to build and foster a relationship with a mechanic that you can trust for years, which is more valuable than most people realize.


Tips on fixing a rock chip:    Back To Top^

First, get touch-up paint at your local car dealership using your vehicle's VIN, which will cost roughly $15-20 for a tube of touch-up. Next, clean the rock chip with rubbing alcohol or another wax remover to ensure the best possible bond between the paint and the bare metal. While you let the chip air dry after cleaning, take out the paint bottle and give it a good shake for 10-15 seconds for even pigment distribution. Then, unscrew the paint brush from the bottle, and disperse one drop into the reservoir of the fine painting pen. Close the paint bottle for now, then lightly tap the pen to help the paint fall into the tube. You'll notice the touch-up will not drip out of the tiny tube without it being placed in the chip during use. Next, fill the chip up with thin layers of paint, allowing each coat to dry for a few minutes before adding another if necessary. The goal is to fill the chip up slowly, and allow time for shrinkage as it dries.

Now that the chip is slightly overfull to allow for shrinkage, clean the pen by pouring rubbing alcohol in the reservoir and using the supplied pipe cleaner to push the alcohol through. This may need to be done a few times, especially if you're changing colors from car to car. Although some paints are pre-mixed with clear coat type protection, if you decide to add it separately, repeat the same process, but add a clear coat to the remaining 20% of the chip, and slightly overfill it once again to allow for shrinkage.

Once the paint chip is protected and fully cured overnight, be sure to add your favorite wax or sealant to help repel water and minimize the chances of seeing rust down the road. The size and depth of the chip will dictate the amount of paint used, and the time required for the job. But remember, this is considered a band-aid in hopes of protecting your paint from future rust, and if done correctly, can also help hide those unsightly rock chips.


Uber is in the sub-prime auto business     Back To Top^

Company needs drivers badly, offers high-fee leases

Uber is having a hard time finding enough people with cars willing to work for them.

To solve that problem, the company has raised $1 billion to start Xchange Leasing, a sub-prime lender with the sole purpose of getting poor people into new cars so they can drive for the ride-hailing service.

If you've got a license and are willing to drive, Uber will hook you up with a new car, no matter how bad your credit. To make sure you make your payments, though, Uber will automatically deduct them weekly from what you earn as a driver. If you don't drive enough, or you fail to make your lease payment, Xchange has folks to take the car back.

As for the terms, well, here's what Mark Williams, a lecturer at Boston University's business school told Bloomberg News: "The terms, the way they're proposed, are predatory and are very much driven toward profiting off drivers."

Uber, which is now valued at $62.5 billion, can only make money if tens of thousands of people sign up as drivers. That's because 50 percent of Uber drivers quit after just six months.

Xchange wants to address that by striking deals with automakers and Wall Street backers to lease 100,000 cars to new Uber drivers. Uber says they are providing a pathway for poor people to buy a new car.

Unfortunately, Xchange Leasing sounds more like a payday-loan racket built into a company store. The lease increases the company's control over the driver, who Uber still insists is nothing more than an "independent" contractor.

How is someone independent when Uber controls access to customers, sets the billing rates, demands a minimum number of hours and owns the car and the predatory lease on it?

Some amoral, Ayn Rand-loving sociopaths in Silicon Valley will insist that drivers should know what they are doing when they sign up. After all, the terms of service are sufficiently explanatory.

But here's the truth about human beings: not all of us are equally-well educated, and not everyone understands lease terms. We know from exploitative lending practices throughout history that poor people are the most likely to be suckered, often because they are so desperate to escape poverty that they will try almost anything. 

Uber initially claimed to be part of the "sharing" economy, a marketing term that masks the unsavory nature of these exploitative business plans. But as we learn more about what companies like Uber must do to enrich the venture capitalists who back them, it becomes clear that old-fashioned exploitation of the desperate is at the heart of the enterprise.

Companies can throw around words like innovation all they want, but if recruitment means taking advantage of the desperate, then there's something wrong. Sometimes people forget that not everything that is shiny and new is necessarily good.

Ditch that Roof Rack and See Your Fuel Economy Soar.     Back To Top^

Just as most SUVs never go off-road (about 90 percent of them), most roof racks spend nearly their entire lives naked, but you’re paying for the privilege of having it. Just as the unnecessary all-wheel-drive on your bitchin’ Trailmaker robs fuel economy, so too does the rack, by increasing your car’s aerodynamic profile.
This stuff has actually been quantified. Lawrence Berkeley National Labs
did a study that accused roof racks of consuming 100 million gallons of fuel in 2015, or 0.8 percent of all car and light truck gasoline consumption. The impact will probably get worse, because the accessory is proving popular, whether or not anyone actually needs to carry stuff or not.

The Berkeley study found that the rack’s drag impact can be anywhere from zero to 25 percent. And collectively, by mounting roof racks we’ll use 0.00001 percent of the time, we will, by 2040, be erasing fuel gains amounting to six times the savings from the fuel-cell cars on the road, and 40 percent of the battery electrics.
The smart thing would be to have the rack in place only when you’re using it, but most people don’t bother taking them off. How many people do you see driving around locally with those huge storage pods on the roof? It would help if manufacturers made them easy to mount and dismount, the researchers say. They also like the idea of requiring they be labeled for their energy consumption.
Along these same lines is
a report that tested the effects of a rack, unloaded and with a mountain bike on the roof of a very efficient economy car (a ’98 Geo Metro/Firefly with a one-liter engine and a five-speed). The Metro went from 55 mpg (with no rack) to 40 (with the rack and the bike). “I would never have predicted the fuel-economy hit would be so big,” says the self-proclaimed fuel-economy geek who runs the site. A friend tried using the rack on his Toyota Yaris and got even more dramatic results.

Obviously, the smart move is not to carry stuff in the car unnecessarily. You don’t need to be driving around in August with a giant bag of sand in the trunk.
And while we’re at it, we might as well address the old “windows up, windows down” controversy. On a hot day, is it better to drive with the air conditioner off but the windows open, or vice versa?  
A 2004 Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) study (conducted in a General Motors wind tunnel, and on a desert track), concluded the windows up, air-on scenario is usually more fuel efficient (even though the AC has its own penalty). The effect is speed dependent, though. Above 55 mph (and why are you driving so fast?) there’s a 20-percent efficiency penalty for having the windows down. At 25 mph around town? Leave the windows down and switch off the AC.
Some other ways to become a fuel-economy champ:

> Drive efficiently. The jackrabbit starts, and jerky braking cause you to waste fuel.

> Keep your car in tune. People glaze over when you tell them about the importance of tire pressure, but it’s critical, too (a 3.3 percent economy gain is possibly with proper inflation). Michelins product category manager, suggests checking out your tire pressure every time you go on a long trip. This used to require you buy an inexpensive item called a “tire gauge,” that some Americans probably don’t know how to use these days (it’s not hard). But fortunately,  many modern cars make it easy for you by making tire pressure a menu item on the in-car computer. You will get a readout of the pressure on all four tires, though you may have to check with the tire maker (or the owner’s manual, if the original equipment rubber is still on there) to see what the numbers should be. There's more: a badly tuned engine can cost you four percent in fuel economy. If you’re driving around with the check engine light on, indicating a bad oxygen sensor, the impact can be as high as 40 percent.

 > Combine trips. It’s just common sense.
> Buy a more fuel-efficient car. As a country we’re going in the opposite direction, even as gas prices are climbing again.

Your brand new car might not be completely new after all.    Back To Top^

Buying a brand new car is an exciting experience. Most buyers go in with the expectation that the car is fresh off the factory line, but that may not always be the case. New cars can get damaged in transit or on the dealer lot, and in many cases the dealer is not required to tell you if any repairs have been completed.

The manufacturer tries its best to get a new car to its intended buyer in perfect condition, but there are many opportunities along the way for damage. The cars are usually loaded up on a transport trailer to go to their next destination. If the cars are sold in the same country, they may only use over-the-road transport, but if they need to travel an ocean they are loaded into containers or into a transport vessel.

Once a car reaches its intended port, it is moved across the port to be loaded onto a truck and transported to a dealer lot. All of these steps have potential for damage, which can be inflicted from loading and unloading or even a third party. If the issues are minor, the cars can be pulled off to the side and repaired once they arrive at port and then sent along to the dealer.

After reaching the dealer lot, there are opportunities for the cars to be damaged from being moved around the lot or from other cars that are driven around them. If a car gets damaged on the dealer lot, it is usually repaired and can still be sold as new. The dealer that completed the repair is not required to disclose that repairs have been completed if the amount of damage falls below a certain threshold.

Most states set a threshold of three to six percent of the MSRP as the required amount for disclosure to a buyer. California seems to be one of the more consumer-friendly states in this regard, as it sets the threshold at only three percent, while states like Georgia set a separate limit of $500 for repainting alongside a five-percent disclosure limit. In most cases, dealers will disclose any damage that seems significant but many times they will just stick the car on the lot without any warning.

The best way to protect yourself is to carefully inspect your potential new car for any damage and explicitly ask the dealer if any repairs or touch-ups have been completed. Some states require the dealer to disclose repairs of any amount the customer asks, so it is a good idea to always pose the question.

Top 5 Reasons Why Your Car Is Vibrating:   Back To Top^

It’s a common rule that cars should run smoothly on a flat road, at any speed. However, if you’ve owned a car long enough, chances are great that your vehicle has developed some vibration issues. It’s one of those annoying car problems that tend to start out quietly and gradually, and are subtle enough for you to miss noticing them, or ignore them.

Don’t underestimate the issue, however. As with any wear-and-tear car problem, it’s highly likely that the shaking and wobbling will progress over time. Before you even know it, you just might find yourself driving on a beautiful sunny day, with a nice road ahead of you – realizing suddenly that your car sounds like it’s going to fall apart at any minute.

Do not wait for this to happen, because you will have to cash out for costly repairs if you don’t address the issue.

Diagnosing and discovering the cause of car trouble is already half the job done. If your car is starting to shake and show its age, you might want to check out our top five common culprits behind your car’s vibration, and learn how to troubleshoot the problem before it’s too late.

Tire Problems

Tires are one of the most common causes of car vibrations. One of the possible issues you might be dealing with in this context are out-of-balance tires. Your problems won’t be noticeable at slow speeds, but the shaking will intensify as you accelerate to 55-60 miles per hour. The steering wheel, or even the entire car, will start to vibrate. The tires will also wear in a distinctive way, so check whether any flat spots have developed around the tire. If the damage is too big, you might have to replace the tire. If not, having the tire rebalanced should do the trick.

If your car has larger tires, similar symptoms can actually signal that they are underinflated. Fix the problem by restoring the tire to the air pressure specified by the manufacturer.

The vibrations might also be the result of uneven tire wear. Inspect the tread on your tires, and if you notice that it’s wearing down more on one side than the other, you should rotate the tires to ensure even tire wear.

One way to avoid future tire related issues is to learn how to read the tread pattern – check your tires regularly and you will be able to spot signs of trouble in time.

The Wheels are Out-of-Balance

Vibrations caused by wheels are usually felt through the steering wheel. One of the possible culprits for this might be worn or damaged wheel bearings. Though they should generally last for the whole lifetime of your vehicle, as with any other mechanical part, they can go out at any time, for a number of reasons.

Another thing to look for are the tie rod ends or ball joints. If the steering wheel feels ordinary while you’re driving straight but starts to shake around a curve, this may signal worn out tie rod ends. If, however, your steering wheel shakes while you’re driving straight but stops when you’re making a curve, this may be a sign that a ball joint should be replaced.

Wheel runout might be yet another cause of car vibrations. The term refers to any deviation from a truly circular spin and it’s measured with a dial indicator. This wheel issue might result in either up and down vibrations or a sideways, wobbly motion in a wheel.

Engine Problems

If your car’s engine isn’t getting enough oxygen, fuel, or spark that is needed for it to run smoothly, you’ll probably notice that the vibration is coming from the engine compartment. This issue manifests through jerks and shaking when your vehicle increases in speed, or rumbles within a specific speed range.

To get ahold of this problem, you should check the spark plugs and install a new set if the old ones are worn out. Don’t forget to inspect the state of the fuel and air filters as well: if they are clogged or dirty, the engine will be deprived of the necessary fuel or oxygen. To prevent this from happening, be sure to change them regularly.

If, on the other hand, your car’s vibration issues are not related to any particular speed but occur when you stop at a red light or you park with the engine on, then the engine mounts might be worn out or damaged, and need to be replaced.

Brake Issues

If you have noticed vibrations when you apply the brakes, it’s highly likely you’re dealing with a worn out or warped brake rotor. If this is the case, you’ll get shaking through your steering wheel while you’re braking, or a pulsing feeling directly through your brake pedal. Be sure to have the rotor checked and skimmed, or replaced completely.

A worn out or rusted brake caliper pin is another reason, but it usually affects only older cars. You will probably feel your steering wheel start to vibrate around 50 miles per hour if this is the reason behind the vibrations. As you increase your speed, this will intensify and you’ll sense a burning smell when you stop.

Keep in mind that, in terms of safety, the car’s braking system is one of the most important systems in a vehicle. It is susceptible to wear and tear, so be sure you’re keeping it in good condition by checking brake pads, rotors and all the other brake system components routinely and timely.

Axle Problems

If your vehicle has suffered a collision or some other accident recently, it may be that your axle was bent or damaged. In that case, you will notice that the vibrations occur as you increase your speed – they will intensify the faster you drive.

A closely related problem in this context is that of the driveshaft / U-joints, a mechanical component which transmits engine power to the rear or front axles (depending whether you drive a rear-wheel-drive or a front-wheel-drive vehicle).

If your car seems to bounce up and down in the front (in FWD vehicles), and you notice vibration and a crackling noise coming from that part, you may be dealing with a worn out or broken constant velocity joint (CV joint). The solution is to repair and fit the CV joints or replace the driveshaft entirely. On the other hand, if your car seems to bounce up and down in the rear end (in RWD vehicles), and you notice the vibration intensifies as you slow down from a high speed, you may be dealing with worn out universal joints (U-joints) on driveshaft. In this case, either the U-joints or the entire driveshaft need replacement.

Facts to Keep in Mind:

The five reasons outlined in this article are the most common, but not the only possible culprits behind your car’s vibration issues.

The fact is that no one knows your car as well as you do. If there are some unusual noises, shaking or jerking – you’ll be the first to notice them. Learn how to listen to your car and don’t ignore the warning signals.

Don’t let the occasional vibrations develop to the point where each ride becomes a nerve-racking experience. Be sure to act promptly, and, if in doubt, always consult a car repair technician for professional advice.

Toyota and Dean Kamen re-launch iBOT balancing wheelchair.   Back To Top^

Toyota used the occasion of the Paralyzed Veterans of America's 70th Annual Convention to show off a new iBOT wheelchair designed in collaboration with DEKA Research and Development. If the machine reminds you a little of the Segway, it should. DEKA is the company founded by Dean Kamen, creator of the two-wheeled, self-balancing electric device.

As you might expect, then, the latest version of Kamen's iBOT is capable of balancing on two of its wheels. But it can also climb stairs, raise from a seated position to a six-foot standing position, and move across varied terrain, including grass and dirt. This is the second generation of iBOT, the first having ended production in 2009 due in part to its high cost of $25,000. There's no word on pricing for the new reborn iBot.

Under the terms of DEKA and Toyota's agreement, the Japanese automaker "will license balancing technologies held by DEKA and its affiliate for medical rehabilitative therapy and potentially other purposes." We doubt it will have anything to do with actual cars – unless perhaps something that's deployed out of a hatchback – but such an agreement could still lead to some interesting developments.

What is the difference between diesel and  gasoline?   Back To Top^

Gasoline and diesel fuel both are products that are made from crude oil. When a barrel of crude oil comes into the refinery, it's distilled into its heavier and lighter components.

The lighter stuff is used to make gasoline. The next-heaviest stuff becomes jet fuel. After that on the scale comes diesel. And below that is the stuff they use to fuel ships, and run power plants.

So, gasoline is lighter, less dense, more flammable and more volatile. When you spray gasoline into a cylinder, it starts to vaporize immediately, so that as soon as the spark plug fires, the gasoline detonates and powers the engine.

Diesel fuel is heavier, denser, less flammable and less volatile. So in order to detonate it, it has to be compressed in a cylinder to a very high pressure and temperature, at which point it detonates without a spark.

The upside of diesel fuel is that, because it's denser, it has more energy per gallon. That's one reason why diesel-powered vehicles get more miles per gallon.

The downside is that diesel fuel requires a very-high-compression engine, which is more expensive to build. And because it relies on temperature to detonate, diesel engines traditionally have more trouble starting in cold temperatures.

How To Pick The Right Motor Oil For Your Car   Back To Top^

It might seem simple to pick engine oil for your car. You just look for the starburst symbol that indicates the oil has been tested and meets the standards of the American Petroleum Institute (API). In addition, there's a 2-character service designation on the container. API's latest service standard is "SL." SL refers to a group of laboratory and engine tests, including the latest series for control of high-temperature deposits. Your third task is to pick the viscosity (thickness) that's suitable for the temperatures your vehicle normally operates in (check your owners manual), and you're done. Well, not quite. There's a whole lot more to the story than that.

These are the labels you'll find on every container of reputable motor oil. The API donut on the right tells you if the oil meets the current SL service rating (C for diesel engines). It also provides the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) viscosity number and tells you if the oil has passed the Energy Conserving test. The starburst symbol on the left indicates that the oil has passed the tests listed for SL service.

Is oil really the lifeblood of an engine? That's a long-popular analogy, but it's really not an accurate description. Blood carries nutrients to cells, but it's air that carries fuel—the "nutrition"—for an engine. However, without oil to lubricate and cool moving parts, keep them clean and help to seal the pistons in the cylinders, the engine would run for only a matter of seconds, then seize. So, yes, oil is important.

Oil is so important that we want no less than the best the engine can get—for a good low price, of course. Now, what if you could custom-blend the oil so it had exactly the characteristics you believe that your vehicle needs for the type of driving you do?

Sounds pretty neat, and we were given the opportunity to do just that at the Valvoline lab in Lexington, Ky. When we were finished, we had an oil we thought would be just right for upcoming summer weather in short-trip driving around the New York City area.

That was our one shot at playing lubricant scientist, but the experience produced only enough oil for a top-up. So at the next oil change, we'll have to pick from an off-the-shelf assortment--like everyone else. But we think we'll do a better job of selection now, thanks to a short course in engine oil blending from Valvoline Technical Director Thomas Smith. Here's what we learned.


Viscosity (a fluid's resistance to flow) is rated at 0° F (represented by the number preceding the "W" [for Winter]) and at 212° F (represented by the second number in the viscosity designation). So 10W-30 oil has less viscosity when cold and hot than does 20W-50. Motor oil thins as it heats and thickens as it cools. So, with the right additives to help it resist thinning too much, an oil can be rated for one viscosity when cold, another when hot. The more resistant it is to thinning, the higher the second number (10W-40 versus 10W-30, for example) and that's good. Within reason, thicker oil generally seals better and maintains a better film of lubrication between moving parts.

At the low-temperature end, oil has to be resistant to thickening so that it flows more easily to all the moving parts in your engine. Also, if the oil is too thick the engine requires more energy to turn the crankshaft, which is partly submerged in a bath of oil. Excessive thickness can make it harder to start the engine, which reduces fuel economy. A 5W oil is typically what's recommended for winter use. However, synthetic oils can be formulated to flow even more easily when cold, so they are able to pass tests that meet the 0W rating.

Once the engine is running, the oil heats up. The second number in the viscosity rating--the "40" in 10W-40, for example--tells you that the oil will stay thicker at high temperatures than one with a lower second number--the "30" in 10W-30, for example. What's really important is that you use the oil viscosity your car's owner's manual recommends.

Why So Many Oils?

Look on the shelves in auto parts stores and you'll see oils labeled for all kinds of specific purposes: high-tech engines, new cars, higher-mileage vehicles, heavy-duty/off-road SUVs. In addition, you'll see a wide selection of viscosities. If you read your owner's manual, you'll know what the car manufacturer recommends for a brand-new vehicle. The manual may include a reference to Energy Conserving oils, which simply means that the oil has passed a lab test against a reference oil. It's no guarantee of better fuel economy, but most of the leading brands have at least some viscosities that are so labeled. Let's take a look at the different types.

Premium Conventional Oil: This is the standard new-car oil. All leading brands have one for service level SL, available in several viscosities. The carmakers usually specify a 5W-20 or 5W-30 oil, particularly for lower temperatures, with a 10W-30 oil as optional, particularly for higher ambient temperatures. These three ratings cover just about every light-duty vehicle on the road. Even more important, though, is changing the oil and filter regularly. A 4000 miles/4 months interval is good practice. The absolute minimum is twice a year. If your car has an electronic oil-change indicator on the instrument cluster, don't exceed its warning.

Full Synthetic Oil: The oils made for high-tech engines, whether in a Chevy Corvette or Mercedes-Benz, are full synthetics. If these oils pass stringent special tests (indicated by their labeling), it means they have superior, longer-lasting performance in all the critical areas, from viscosity index to protection against deposits. They flow better at low temperatures and maintain peak lubricity at high temperatures. So why shouldn't everyone use them? Answer: These oils are expensive and not every engine needs them. In fact, there may be some features that your car's engine needs that the synthetics don't have. Again, follow your owner's manual.

Synthetic Blend Oil: These have a dose of synthetic oil mixed with organic oil, and overall are formulated to provide protection for somewhat heavier loads and high temperatures. This generally means they're less volatile, so they evaporate far less, which reduces oil loss (and increases fuel economy). They're popular with drivers of pickups/SUVs who want the high-load protection. And they're a lot less expensive than full synthetics, maybe just pennies more than a premium conventional oil

Higher Mileage Oil: Today's vehicles last longer, and if you like the idea of paying off the car and running the mileage well into six figures, you have another oil choice, those formulated for higher-mileage vehicles. Almost two-thirds of the vehicles on the road have more than 75,000 miles on the odometer. So the oil refiners have identified this as an area of customer interest, and have new oils they're recommending for these vehicles.

When your car or light truck/SUV is somewhat older and has considerably more mileage, you may notice a few oil stains on the garage floor. It's about this time that you need to add a quart more often than when the vehicle was new. Crankshaft seals may have hardened and lost their flexibility, so they leak (particularly at low temperatures) and may crack. The higher-mileage oils are formulated with seal conditioners that flow into the pores of the seals to restore their shape and increase their flexibility. In most cases, rubber seals are designed to swell just enough to stop leaks. But the oil refiners pick their "reswelling" ingredients carefully. Valvoline showed us the performance data of one good seal conditioner that swelled most seal materials, but actually reduced swelling of one type that tended to swell excessively from the ingredients found in some other engine oils.

You also may have noticed some loss of performance and engine smoothness as a result of engine wear on your higher-mileage vehicle. These higher-mileage oils also have somewhat higher viscosities. (Even if the numbers on the container don't indicate it, there's a fairly wide range for each viscosity rating and the higher-mileage oils sit at the top of each range.) They also may have more viscosity-index improvers in them. The result? They seal piston-to-cylinder clearances better, and won't squeeze out as readily from the larger engine bearing clearances. They also may have a higher dose of anti-wear additives to try to slow the wear process.

If you have an older vehicle, all of these features may mean more to you than what you might get from a full synthetic, and at a fraction the price.

Beyond that, there's plenty more to the oil story. Read on.

Viscosity Index

Resistance to thinning with increasing temperature is called viscosity index. And although a higher second number is good, the oil also has to be robust. That is, it must be able to last for thousands of miles until the next oil change. For example, oil tends to lose viscosity from shear, the sliding motion between close-fitted metal surfaces of moving parts such as bearings. So resistance to viscosity loss (shear stability) is necessary to enable the oil to maintain the lubricating film between those parts.

Unlike antifreeze, 95 percent of which is made up of one base chemical (typically ethylene glycol), petroleum-type engine oil contains a mixture of several different types of base oil, some more expensive than others. Oil companies typically pick from a selection of five groups, each of which is produced in a different way and in different viscosities. The more expensive groups are more highly processed, in some cases with methods that produce a lubricant that can be classified as a synthetic. The so-called full synthetics contain chemicals that may be derived from petroleum but they're altered so much that they're not considered natural oil anymore. Our custom blend contained 10 percent polyalphaolefins (PAO), the type of chemical that's often the primary ingredient in a full synthetic.

The base oil package in any oil makes up anywhere from 70 to 95 percent of the mix, the rest comprised of additives. Does that mean an oil with just 70 percent base oils is better than one with 95 percent. No, because some of the base oils have natural characteristics or ones that derive from their processing, which reduces or eliminates the need for additives. And although some additives make important contributions to lubrication, by themselves don't necessarily have great lubricity.

The ingredients in an additive package differ in cost, as we said, but price is just one factor. Some work better in certain combinations of base oils, and some of the less-expensive base oils are a good choice for a blend because of the way they perform with popular additives. Bottom line: every motor oil has a recipe. Refiners come up with a list of objectives based on the needs of their customers (the carmakers, for example) and formulate oil to meet those goals as best they can.

Now, keeping an oil from thinning as it gets hot while it takes a beating from engine operation is one thing. But it's also important to keep oil from getting too thick. Using premium base oils for low volatility--to prevent evaporation--is one approach. Evaporation of the base oil package not only increases oil consumption, it results in thicker oil (which decreases fuel economy).

Oil Additives

Use of additives is another approach to improving and maintaining oil performance. High engine temperatures combine with moisture, combustion byproducts (including unburned gasoline), rust, corrosion, engine wear particles and oxygen to produce sludge and varnish. The additives not only assist oil in maintaining good lubrication, they also help minimize sludge and varnish, and any damage from their formation. Here are the categories of key additive ingredients and why they're important:

• Viscosity-index improvers: Reduce the oil's tendency to thin with increasing temperature.

• Detergents: Unlike the household type, they don't scrub engine surfaces. They do remove some deposits, primarily solids. But their main purpose is to keep the surfaces clean by inhibiting the formation of high-temperature deposits, rust and corrosion.

• Dispersants: Disperse solid particles, keeping them in solution, so they don't come together to form sludge, varnish and acids. Some additives work both as detergents and dispersants.

• Anti-wear agents: There are times when the lubricating film breaks down, so the anti-wear agents have to protect the metal surfaces. A zinc and phosphorus compound called ZDDP is a long-used favorite, along with other phosphorus (and sulphur) compounds. If you musts know, ZDDP stand for zinc diakyl dithiophosphate.

• Friction modifiers: These aren't the same as antiwear agents. They reduce engine friction and, so, can improve fuel economy. Graphite, molybdenum and other compounds are used.

• Pour-point depressants: Just because the 0° F viscosity rating is low doesn't mean the oil will flow readily at low temperatures. Oil contains wax particles that can congeal and reduce flow, so these additives are used to prevent it.

• Antioxidants: With engine temperatures being pushed up for better emissions control, the antioxidants are needed to prevent oxidation (and, therefore, thickening) of oil. Some of the additives that perform other functions also serve this purpose, such as the anti-wear agents.

• Foam inhibitors: The crankshaft whipping through the oil in the pan causes foaming. Oil foam is not as effective a lubricant as a full-liquid stream, so the inhibitors are used to cause the foam bubbles to collapse.

• Rust/corrosion inhibitors: Protect metal parts from acids and moisture.

More Is Not Better

You can't necessarily improve an oil by putting in more additives. In fact, you can make things worse. For example, sulphur compounds have anti-wear, antioxidation characteristics, but they can reduce fuel economy and affect catalytic converter operation. Too much of a particular detergent could affect the anti-wear balance. Too much of a specific dispersant could affect catalyst performance and reduce fuel economy. Anti-wear and friction-reducing additives also may have ingredients (such as sulphur) that could affect catalyst performance.

There's a lot of pressure on the oil industry to reduce sulphur content in oil as well as gasoline. But the industry's resistance is understandable when you consider the delicate balancing act it must perform with each revolution of your car's engine.

Hawaii is first state to sue Takata.   Back To Top^

Hawaii became the first state to sue Takata Corp. alleging the company knowingly sold potentially defective airbags in a suit filed May 13. The state also claims Takata covered up data showing the airbags were a danger and then delayed recalling them.

Hawaii also named Honda Motor Co., which owns part of Takata, and Honda's US affiliates, American Honda Motor Co., and Honda of America Manufacturing Inc.,
in the complaint.

The state claims Takata switched to lower-cost ammonium nitrate for its airbag inflators, despite internal testing that the propellant was "unpredictable and prone to explode." Hawaii, which brought the suit through its Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Office of Consumer Protection, is seeking the maximum civil penalty of $10,000 per violation. It also wants Takata to make restitution to owners, run an educational campaign to spur owners to get their cars fixed, and repay profits made from the faulty airbags.

Faulty Takata airbags have killed 13 people and are estimated to have injured more than a 100 more. NHTSA says 28.8 million vehicles with the airbags have been recalled, and
potentially 40 million more may need to be recalled.

Should N.J. ditch the front license plate requirement?   Back To Top^

Is it time for New Jersey to join Pennsylvania and eliminate a law requiring a front license plate on vehicles? A Central Jersey lawmaker thinks it's time to become a one-plate state.

There are 19 states that don't require front license plates, which also includes neighboring Delaware. State Senator Samuel Thompson, R-Monmouth, Middlesex, has proposed a bill to make New Jersey number 20 to ditch the front plate.

Thompson said the idea came from some of his constituents who were concerned about the extra cost for an additional license plate. New Jersey had 6.8 million vehicles registered in 2014.

"Look at the number of cars and the number of plates issued, it's a fair amount of money," Thompson said. "We're looking for ways to economize."

State Motor Vehicle Commission spokesman Mairin Bellack declined to comment about the legislation or if the MVC has considered a change in the past. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators supports two license plates on vehicles.

The use of two license plates has been around since 1925, primarily to make identification easier for police, enforcement cameras and license plate readers, said a 2012 Texas A&M Transportation Institute study comparing the advantages of requiring single or dual license plates.

Arguments against requiring two license plates include the extra cost, which is passed on the vehicle owner, ruining the aesthetics of the vehicle, especially higher-end cars, and issues mounting a front plate on a vehicle that isn't equipped for it, the study said.

The use of two license plates has been around since 1925, primarily to make identification easier for police, enforcement cameras and license plate readers, said a 2012 Texas A&M Transportation Institute study comparing the advantages of requiring single or dual license plates.

Arguments against requiring two license plates include the extra cost, which is passed on the vehicle owner, ruining the aesthetics of the vehicle, especially higher-end cars, and issues mounting a front plate on a vehicle that isn't equipped for it, the study said.

The use of two license plates has been around since 1925, primarily to make identification easier for police, enforcement cameras and license plate readers, said a 2012 Texas A&M Transportation Institute study comparing the advantages of requiring single or dual license plates.

Arguments against requiring two license plates include the extra cost, which is passed on the vehicle owner, ruining the aesthetics of the vehicle, especially higher-end cars, and issues mounting a front plate on a vehicle that isn't equipped for it, the study said.

How Simple Reinforcement Makes Sand Strong Enough to Hold a Car.   Back To Top^

If you try to think up a list of materials used in construction, chances are it will include things like concrete, and cement, and iron rebar. Sure, those are all important, but one of the most plentiful and under appreciated building materials is right beneath your feet even if you aren't inside a building. We're talking dirt. 

If you've ever built a sandcastle or shoveled a mound of soil you'll know first hand that neither of these materials is particularly rigid or strong in the way we tend to think of our buildings. They shift and crumble into squishy piles, especially when they've got something sitting on top of them. But this doesn't always have to be the case. As YouTuber Practical Engineering explains, you can do a lot to strengthen up some soil just by adding a few flat layers of material for reinforcement: 

By layering in something like a wire mess—or even a paper towel if you're just building a small cube of sand—you can help fight off soil's tendency to slip sideways the way it would while it's sliding down a slope. And it works on a bigger scale too. Those concrete paneled walls you often see off to the side of the highway? That's a pretty face on the outside of a dirt construction that could stand on its own. So don't underestimate what you can do if you're just willing to get down and dirty. 

Subaru Boxer highlights from the past 50 years.   Back To Top^

If there are two things for which Subarus are known, they're surely all-wheel drive and the boxer engine. In fact the Japanese automaker has made some 15 million vehicles with AWD by now, but even more – over 16 million – with its signature horizontally opposed engines.

Relatively obscure, the boxer or “flat” engine is essentially the same as a V setup, but with 180 degrees between the two cylinder banks. It sits lower in the engine bay and offers a lower center of gravity to the benefit of the vehicle's handling, and Subaru says the design makes its cars safer. True boxers with opposing cylinders oscillating in unison don't require balancing shafts, either. But they can be noisier and less refined, especially with fewer than six cylinders.

Karl Benz (of Mercedes fame) patented the design in 1896, and several automakers have employed it over the decades since. Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Citroën, Chevy, Ford, and Volkswagen have all used boxer engines. So did Tatra, Tucker, and Panhard. Ferrari used a flat-twelve in its Berlinetta Boxer and Testarossa lines as well. But few have embraced the design quite as emphatically as Porsche and Subaru.

Like Porsche, Subaru employs both four- and six-cylinder boxers, and has for many years. Subaru's first boxer-powered car was the 1000, which hit the scene on May 14, 1966. Which means Subaru has been producing its boxer engines for 50 years, and by now every model it makes (save for some obscure JDM kei cars) features that signature design. So to mark the occasion, we've gone back through the archives to revisit our favorite boxer-powered models in the company's history.

Were U.S. interstates really designed as runways?   Back To Top^

The frequently repeated "fact" that United States highways were designed to work as emergency runways is little more than an urban legend, despite its prevalence (a lot of people seem to know about it) and its longevity (no one seems to know when it actually originated, but it can be traced to legislation that dates back to the 1940s). At first glance, the idea seems like both common sense and a total head-scratcher. Of course a military plane should be able to land on a nice, wide road in an emergency! But then what about all the roads that are too curvy or too hilly or have an otherwise unsuitable landing surface? And what about the cars and trucks that are probably already on the highway with no way of being warned of this emergency?

The people who originally thought up this urban legend accounted for some of those questions. For example, the whole road isn't supposed to be suitable for emergency runway use; just one mile out of every five miles. This ratio is supposedly enough to account for turns, elevation changes and densely populated areas. And like all good urban legends, this one does have a historical basis. The one-in-five-mile rule actually goes back to misinterpretations or misquotations of the Defense Highway Act of 1941, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, depending on the source

Though all three of these laws are real, none actually contain such language. The Defense Highway Act provided flight strips, mostly for military use, that were near highways. The first Federal-Aid Highway Act came close to including another flight strip program but ultimately did not, and it wasn't part of the second Federal-Aid Highway Act, either.

So no such law has ever been passed, and furthermore, such a strategy wouldn't be practical. Since using a highway as a runway would only happen in the kind of unprecedented theoretical emergency in which planes wouldn't even have time to divert to the closest commercial airport, there's absolutely no way local law enforcement could close and clear the highways quickly enough to provide a safe emergency landing.

What's the plan, then, if there's ever an emergency that requires airborne planes that are unable to reach their destinations to land immediately? Small municipal and private airports are the most obvious solution. Military bases are another option. There are actually little-used and little-known (that is, not for public commercial travel) runways all over the place that are a logical location for an emergency plane landing in a war or terrorist situation.

License plate reader van disguised as Google Maps car.

Philly cops caught using imposter as surveillance car.   Back To Top^

A simple tweet from a security researcher about an out-of-place SUV with contradictory markings helped expose a bizarre Google Maps imposter vehicle hiding surveillance equipment on the streets of Philadelphia this week.

On May 11, Matt Blaze walked by an odd vehicle that had suspicious-looking
Google Maps stickers. Plus the vehicle was registered to the City of Philadelphia and had a Pennsylvania State Police placard in the window. It was also fitted with license plate readers – the controversial technology used by law enforcement to automatically record and track thousands of vehicle movements. These movements are then stored in police databanks, with very few protocols for who can access those files.

Anyone else may have missed this oddity, but Blaze just happens to be an associate professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania. He tweeted a picture of the vehicle, which exposed a surveillance scheme that would make any modern city dweller queasy.

"The fact that Google would almost certainly be unhappy about this aside, this is a terrible disguise," Blaze followed up on Twitter. "It just calls MORE attention to it." Which makes sense. Most people don't know what license plate readers look like, and probably wouldn't notice a plain city vehicle – but they might notice this bad imposter.

Pennsylvania State Police tweeted back that the vehicle wasn't one of theirs, despite the markings and registration. A trooper with PA police also stated it wasn't theirs. But Pennsylvania State Police admitted by late afternoon Thursday that the mystery SUV was indeed part of their fleet, but denied knowing anything about the Google Maps decals. They are investigating how the stickers got on the SUV and claims they have since been removed. Google is also launching its own investigation into the matter.

License plate readers aren't used by just state police. Last year, a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the ACLU revealed that the US Justice Department was storing hundreds of millions of license plate tracking files. These license plate readers have  incredible abilities  to track people's movements.

How To Adjust Your Mirrors to Avoid Blind Spots:   Back To Top^

For the past few years, various carmakers have been offering blind-spot detection systems for their cars’ side mirrors. Often complex, these systems employ cameras or radar to scan the adjoining lanes for vehicles that may have disappeared from view.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) published a paper in 1995 suggesting how outside mirrors could be adjusted to eliminate blind spots. The paper advocates adjusting the mirrors so far outward that the viewing angle of the side mirrors just overlaps that of the cabin’s rearview mirror. This can be disorienting for drivers used to seeing the flanks of their own car in the side mirrors. But when correctly positioned, the mirrors negate a car’s blind spots. This obviates the need to glance over your shoulder to safely change lanes as well as the need for an expensive blind-spot warning system.

The only problem is getting used to the SAE-recommended mirror positions. The cabin’s rearview mirror is used to keep an eye on what is coming up from behind, while the outside mirrors reflect the area outside the view of the inside rearview mirror.

Those who have switched to the SAE’s approach swear by it, however, some drivers can’t adjust to not using the outside mirrors to see directly behind the car and miss being able to see their own car in the side mirrors. To them we say, “Have fun filling out those accident reports.”

 This Miata Is Made From Cannabis!   Back To Top^

If one genius Florida resident has his way, we'll all be driving carbon-negative cannabis cars on the highway, er, high way, by 2025. Bruce Michael Dietzen is the hero behind the Renew, a sports car with a Mazda Miata chassis and custom body made from three-ply woven hemp. Beyond the organic vibes, the lines of this green machine look pretty good, too.

Dietzen is the second man to produce a vehicle from the cannabis plant. The first? Henry Ford. Back in 1941, Ford experimented with hemp-based constructions, along with soy, flax and resin compounds, to create the world's first hemp ride. Ford took it one step further by having that eco-friendly car run on hemp fuel. The result, according to Dietzen, was a car that is "three times greener than today's electric vehicles."

Since growing hemp is illegal in Florida, Dietzen sourced his materials from China, noting about 100 pounds of the stuff go into each body. While it may look like traditional fiberglass or steel, the hemp shell of the car is approximately 10 times more resilient than steel, a fact that Dietzen nails home in a video by literally hammering the hood with his fist. Because hemp shells are also significantly lighter than fiberglass, the car weighs 2,800 pounds and has a fantastic power-to-weight ratio, when you factor in the 525-HP LS drive train from Flyin' Miata. If he's able to enter production, Dietzen also wants to offer a 2,500-pound, 255-HP model with a turbo, and an electric-only model.

The cost to get this prototype up and running hovers around $200,000, though Dietzen thinks that will drop if the line sees mass fabrication. For now, the first green machine sips biofuel whipped up from repurposed agricultural waste, allegedly running with a sliver of the carbon footprint current EVs generate. The car's currently touring the country so Dietzen and a filmmaker can produce a docu-series about the benefits of cannabis plants. The hope? The trip will convince legislators that legalization of the plant can help save the world. A video from the company's website shows it's already swung through Colorado, perhaps the most fitting state for such a vehicle.

Ready to fire up an order and get rolling on a weed car of your very own? Renew is fielding orders now, though since each one is a one-off, you'll have a wait to receive your cannabis chariot. In the meantime, here's a video of Dietzen cruising around Key West in his creation.

New Patent From Honda:   Back To Top^

A basic rule of engine design states that the displacement of a cylinder is equal to the engine's total displacement divided by its cylinder count. Honda, according to a recently surfaced Japanese patent, is looking to break that rule with an engine containing cylinders of different sizes. We've done our best to translate it from patent-ese.

The idea is that different-sized combustion chambers give more flexibility when any combination of cylinders are deactivated, or rested. Because the different numbers can be combined in various ways, it provides more and smaller increments than would an engine with equal-displacement cylinders. Take a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, for example. Following the golden displacement rule, each of the four cylinders has a volume of 500 cc, giving displacement increments of 500 cc when any cylinder is deactivated. But suppose instead that the four cylinders displace 300, 425, 600, and 675 cc, respectively. This would give the engine 15 available displacements instead of just four, and the spacing between each option would be far less than 500cc.

As a result, those different virtual displacements would provide more adjustment between power and efficiency than a cylinder-deactivation system can on a conventional engine. Honda's patent describes cylinders with equal bore size, with the displacement from cylinder to cylinder varying based on the crank throw radius – the longer the throw, the longer the stroke and the larger the displacement of that particular combustion chamber.

The patent describes how the cylinder sizes would need to be arranged to spread the load on the crankshaft and presumably limit vibration that would be introduced by the different pulse magnitudes. If we're interpreting things correctly, the largest cylinder (the one with the longest crank throw radius) sits in the middle of the bank with the smaller ones alternating on either side as they decrease in displacement.

This concept is described for multi-cylinder inline and V-type engines of various sizes. The patent was filed in March of 2014 and published in January of this year. Whether or not this arrangement will reach production is of course unknown, but the advantages in terms of both efficiency and power seem promising.

From Road and Track:   Back To Top^

As I rolled into the hotel parking lot, not-so-fresh from a miserable 96-mile sportbike ride in conditions varying from "light rain" to "Helen Hunt watching a cow fly by the windshield of a pickup," I saw what I thought was a Ferrari 365 Berlinetta Boxer, and I stopped dead in the middle of the road to get a better look. Turns out that it wasn't a Boxer; rather, it was a 308 Quattrovalvole in that two-tone "Boxer" paint scheme that recently made a reappearance of sorts on the 458 Speciale.

Turns out that the 308QV owner was part of the group I was meeting for dinner that night. The next day, I joined him for a quick drive around some rural Ohio two-lanes. "The car really comes alive on roads like this," he noted. I had to agree. In fact, by the end of the night I had authentic used-Ferrari fever, of the sort that only affects me every 10 years or so.

I have a friend with plenty of experience working on mid-engined Ferraris, and over the years he's owned more than a few 308s. Typically he buys them in the mid-$20,000 range, fixes what needs fixing, and sells them in the high 30s or low 40s. I haven't seen a 308 in his shop for a few years, so I figured I'd take a look at the classifieds and see what I could get for under 50 grand. Most of the 308s sold here were targa tops thanks to the pernicious influence of the otherwise outstanding show Magnum, P.I., but I've always been more fond of the Berlinetta steel-roof coupes. Surely I could get a decent Quattrovalvole coupe for 50 grand?

If you've looked at vintage Ferrari pricing lately, then you're already laughing out loud at my ignorance. The entry point for a well-maintained 308 GTSi eight-valve car is $65k. A QV GTB coupe? I found four. One was listed at $135,000. Another was $160,000 or best offer. The other two just said, "Inquire for pricing," as if they were 250GTOs stored in hermetically sealed bubbles or something.

"Of course," one of my dinner companions had remarked the night before, "a 250GTO was once just a used car." The same is true of the front-engined Daytona coupe and convertible, which used to litter the back page of Road & Track classifieds for about the same price as a new Corvette but which now regularly threaten the million-dollar mark. That wasn't supposed to happen to the 308GT4 Dino and its descendants, which were built and sold in numbers far exceeding any other Ferrari in history. Not only are they common, but they're also pretty slow; my wife's Cobb-tuned Fiesta ST will cheerfully dust any V8 Ferrari from the era that isn't wearing flared fenders and a GTO badge. 

You can make almost exactly the same arguments regarding the Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2, which sold in unprecedented numbers during the Eighties and which can't stay in front of a Toyota Camry V6. Yet air-cooled 911s, even the crummy ones, are currently selling for unheard-of prices. Ten years ago, I passed up all sorts of 911SCs for 11 or 12 grand. Those same cars are now selling for $30,000. Carreras with the G50 transmission are doubling that. And if a 1984 Porsche with 100,000 miles on it is worth 60 grand, surely the Ferrari from the same era is worth more. 

A lot of people are calling the current surge in sports-car pricing a "bubble."  It has all the hallmarks of a traditional asset-price bubble like the one that ravaged the Ferrari-spectator market 30 years ago. Everything costs more than it did five years ago, and that includes stuff that has typically been sale-proof, like early Testarossas and 550 Maranellos. Any day now, somebody is going to pay six figures for a maintenance-deferred 348ts Targa. If I recall my youthful readings of the King James Bible correctly, the minute the check clears on the aforementioned 348 deal, the sky will turn dark and the oceans will turn to blood. And not a minute too soon.

All of that being said, I can't help but note the fact that none of the prices paid for classic Ferraris at the height of the previous "speculator bubble" would be anything but a staggeringly brilliant investment by today's standards. Anybody who was "stupid" enough to pay six million bucks for a GTO back then can get five or six times that much for it now. As an investment, you'd have been better off buying stock in Apple, but not even the most fascinating securities portfolio gets invited to Goodwood or Monterey. So the old saying might be right: You can't pay too much for a Ferrari or an air-cooled Porsche. You can only buy it a little too soon. Fifty years from now, even my ragged-out, low-option '95 Porsche 993, veteran of a thousand autocrosses, impromptu freeway races, and full-throttle runs through the Hocking Hills, will be worth an embarrassing amount of money. Thank God I won't be around to have to make the choice between selling and keeping it.

There's just one little problem with the above scenario: It makes the assumption that a generation still unborn will care about cars in general and gasoline-powered cars from before their birth in particular. Do you, the statistically average 50-year-old, well-educated, car-savvy reader of this magazine, give much of a damn about Hupmobiles or Hispano-Suizas? How about accordions? Do you like accordions? They were once the most popular musical instrument in America, but you can't give them away now. So what makes us think that the middle-aged man of the year 2067 will care about your Ferrari 308 or my Fender Custom Shop Jazzmaster? 

Certainly there will be some market adjustment the very minute that the median Baby Boomer can't actually get in and operate a sports car of any type, and another market adjustment when they start dying or disappearing into the nursing homes. My compatriots in Generation X just don't have as much wealth as our parents did, and we won't be falling over ourselves to bid for your father's Ferrari 355 or Porsche 964 RS America. We'll be facing medical bills of our own.

Some of that will be balanced out by Gen-Xers in finance or tech or law who have been waiting their whole lives to build a real-life diorama of those "Justification For Higher Education" posters that everybody put up in their dorms, but I don't think there will be enough demand to support current value levels for all those cars that the Boomers own. So if you manage to live another 20 or 30 years, you might have a chance to buy a Countach for under a quarter-million bucks. Lucky you! Wait until you try to parallel park it. 

In the short term, however, I don't see prices for mid-engined Ferraris and air-cooled Porsches going anywhere but up. Which means that now is the time to buy. Go ahead and pull the trigger on that Rosso Corsa 308GTSi that you've wanted ever since you saw Tom Selleck driving one on television. Fire up the home-equity line of credit and add an '88 Carrera Coupe to the fleet. Try to pick one without the ridiculous Turbo-Look package, not that anybody short of Larry Ellison can afford a Turbo-Look nowadays. The worst thing that can happen is that you don't make money on the car. I have a lot of experience not making money on cars, and I can confidently say that there are worse things that could happen in this world than not getting all of your money back 10 years from now.

The best thing that could happen, and the most likely thing, is that you could find yourself driving a great road in your childhood dream car, just the way you always imagined it. The sun is shining, there's no traffic between you and the next 30 miles of S-curves, and you have the whole day to enjoy yourself. If you can have enough of those days, the financial aspect of it won't matter much. It's possible that you'll lose money in the long run. On the other hand, it's absolutely certain that in the long run we'll all be dead. It's also absolutely certain that my friend in that 308QV ended his weekend feeling exuberantly and thoroughly alive. What's that worth, to him, to me, to you?


Inside the tricky engineering that helps guardrails from impaling cars.   Back To Top^

Unless they're nosing into one, most drivers don't think much about guardrails. But a claimed increase in the number of accidents in which guardrails have impaled cars has recently vaulted the roadside protectors into the news. 

Fingers are pointed at Trinity Industries, a Dallas, Texas, company that supplies guardrails and other roadside safety installations. The company altered the design of a part it sells nationwide. But, according to one study, the new part is four times as likely as its predecessor to be involved in a fatal accident. Several states across the U.S. have banned further installation of Trinity's device.

The part in question is an end terminal. When you picture a guardrail, you prob­ably picture a W-beam. These wavy barriers are the most common type of guardrail, resembling a "W" turned sideways when viewed end-on. They're designed to deform and absorb collision energy without pushing the vehicle back onto the roadway. If struck on its end, a W-beam would slice into a car like a spear. The end terminal is supposed to prevent that. Here's how three common types of end terminals work—or are supposed to:

1. ET-Plus

The guardrail-end treatment at the center of the controversy is a device called ET-Plus. It has a blunt face that caps the end of a W-beam guardrail. Developed by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and produced by Trinity under license, the ET-Plus is a flat steel plate that is designed to slide along the W-beam upon impact, absorbing energy and guiding the rail away from the vehicle in a flat ribbon. The concern is that the new, narrower design might prevent the end terminal from traveling along the rail, and that it would instead bind up and impale cars.


2. Slotted Rail Terminal

The Slotted Rail Terminal, also developed by TTI, uses horizontal gaps in the W-beam itself that effectively divide the beam into four sections. Upon impact, the beam bends out of the way in a controlled manner, absorbing energy.



3. Wyoming Box-beam End Terminal

The Wyoming Box-beam End Terminal system uses a series of square box-sections instead of W-beams that collapse over one another to absorb energy.

But the best guardrail is always the one that's never used. "You don't want to indiscriminately line roadways with guardrail," says Roger Bligh, a civil engineer with TTI. "If there's a reasonable runoff recovery area out there, then we want a driver to have that opportunity rather than striking a guardrail. We generally use a guardrail only when striking it is going to be less severe than striking another obstacle or hazard that might be on the roadside." Today, virtually everything along major roads, from the slope of drainage ditches to the presence of cushions and breakaway signage, is designed to put the driver back in control of his vehicle long before he hits a guardrail. But if you have to hit one, it's still best not to do so end-on.


It shouldn't surprise anyone that roof racks are a drag, in the literal sense. Adding components that disrupt the flow of air past your vehicle is going to hurt your fuel economy a little bit, right? And compared to the convenience of being able to throw your bikes or other outdoor gear up there to save room for people and cargo inside the vehicle, it's a small price to pay. A new study, though, shows that roof racks are responsible for nearly one percent (0.8 percent, to be precise) of fuel consumption by light duty vehicles in the US.

That's 100 million gallons of gasoline last year alone dedicated to pushing roof racks through the air. Depending on the configuration, roof racks can hurt a vehicle's fuel economy by as much as 25 percent.

And it's about to get worse, according to Yuche Chen of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Alan Meier of Berkeley Lab, the authors of the study published in
Energy Policy. The use of roof racks is expected to climb 200 percent by 2040. Roof racks, both loaded and unloaded, are expected to use six times the amount energy fuel cell vehicles are expected to save, and 40 percent of fuel savings from EVs.

So, what should we do about it? The authors say, "These results suggest that some fuel-saving policies should focus on reducing the number of vehicles driving with empty racks." While manufacturers are able to create more aerodynamic racks, requiring energy labeling on roof racks could effect more change. Ideally, racks could be designed for easier removal when not in use. While the researchers call implementing government policy to minimize the usage of empty roof racks "admittedly extreme," they say it could, in combination with better design, save 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline between now and 2040.

According to the EPA's calculations, that's almost 11.8 million tons of CO2 emissions, or the amount 86,717 of today's cars would emit in the US over those 26 years. Is that worth the price of government meddling to you? Read more in the press release below.

Berkeley Lab study finds roof racks responsible for almost 1 percent of national fuel consumption.

As you get ready to hit the road this summer, with the kids loaded inside and the bikes strapped to the roof of your car, you may want to stop and consider that the roof rack on your car may be costing you as much as 25 percent more in gas.

In the first study of its kind, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researcher Alan Meier, working with Yuche Chen of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, have estimated the fuel consumption penalty of this popular and fast-growing vehicle add-on. They found that in 2015, roof racks nationwide were responsible for 0.8 percent of light-duty vehicle fuel consumption, or 100 million gallons of gasoline.

Their study was published recently in the journal Energy Policy in a paper titled "Fuel consumption impacts of auto roof racks." In addition to projecting the fuel consumption penalty into 2040, at which time usage of roof racks is estimated to increase by about 200 percent in the United States, they also calculated how effective various policy and technology measures would be at mitigating the penalty.

"I've always been intrigued by energy consumption that was somehow overlooked or ignored because, for example, it wasn't in the test procedure," Meier said. "In this case the fuel consumption of vehicles with after-market accessories isn't captured in the test procedure."

Use of roof racks requires vehicles to expend more energy due to aerodynamic drag. While there have been studies of their impact on individual vehicles—depending on the configuration, the fuel consumption penalty can be 0 to 25 percent on passenger cars—this is the first study to estimate impacts at the national level. Moreover, use of roof racks is projected to increase given national travel trends.

"A national perspective is still needed to justify policy actions," the authors write. "For comparison, the additional fuel consumption caused by roof racks is about six times larger than anticipated fuel savings from fuel cell vehicles and 40 percent of anticipated fuel savings from battery electric vehicles in 2040."

Meier and Chen used a bottom-up approach to collect data, including using online forums and crowd sourcing as data collection sources. For example, roof rack usage rate estimates were based on nationwide highway video surveys conducted by the authors and workers recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk.

"It was a way of doing a national survey on the cheap," Meier said. "We considered using some other sources, like toll booths, but we found the quality wasn't good enough to figure out what was on the roofs."

They also created an energy inventory model that included rack usage rates, vehicle stock, vehicle miles traveled through 2040, and vehicle-level roof rack fuel consumption penalties. They considered roof racks both loaded and unloaded. (See photos.)

The researchers then conducted a sensitivity analysis to understand how the national fuel consumption penalty would change with varying inputs, for example, whether vehicles are driven on the highway or not and whether racks are loaded or not. They found that unloaded cross roof racks (with crosspieces, as pictured) driven on the highway was the scenario that made the biggest difference; this is because the total miles traveled with unloaded racks is four to eight times higher than that for loaded racks.

"These results suggest that some fuel-saving policies should focus on reducing the number of vehicles driving with empty racks," the researchers write.

So next they analyzed the impact of possible policy, technology, and behavior changes. For example, manufacturers have found that it is possible to make roof racks with greatly improved aerodynamics. A policy to require energy labeling of roof racks could spur greater changes, the researchers note.

Even greater energy savings would come from removing roof racks when not in use. Meier notes that they could be designed so as to be easier to remove. The researchers estimated that a government policy to minimize unloaded roof racks (admittedly extreme) in combination with more energy-efficient designs would result in cumulative savings of the equivalent of 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline over the next 26 years.

Chen conducted research as a graduate student at UC Davis and Meier conducted some of this research while at the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center.

Is cheap gas bad for your car?   Back To Top^

Gasoline is expensive and you're looking for every way possible to save money at the pump. You already shy away from premium fuel, knowing that your car doesn't require it. You'd like to save a few pennies per gallon more by going to an off-brand gas station. But you can't get rid of the nagging fear: Is the cheap gas going to damage your car's engine?

Because of the advances in engine technology, a car's onboard computer is able to adjust for the inevitable variations in fuel, so most drivers won't notice a drop off in performance between different brands of fuel, from the most additive-rich gas sold by the major brands to the bare-bones stuff at your corner quickie mart.

Still, spending a few extra pennies per gallon might provide peace of mind to someone who just purchased a new car and wants to keep it as long as possible. People with older cars might not be as concerned about their engine's longevity. They can buy the less expensive gas and still be OK.

Recipes for Performance — at a Price
But this doesn't mean that all gas is the same, even though it starts out that way. The fuel from different filling stations comes from a common source: the "base gas" from a refinery. Workers there mix additives mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency into the base gas in order to clean a car's engine and reduce emissions. Then, the different gas companies — both off-brand and major brands — put their own additive packages in the gas to further boost both cleaning and performance.

A key difference is that the major brands put more additives in their gas and claim to have some secret ingredients. This extra shot of additives provides an additional level of cleaning and protection for your engine.

But is this extra helping of additives, which jacks up the price, really necessary? And, if you don't use more expensive, extra-additive gas, how soon will your engine's performance suffer?

"It's not like any of the fuels are totally junk," says John Nielsen, director of engineering and repair for the AAA. "If you buy gas from Bob's Bargain Basement gas station because that's all that's available, it won't hurt your car," he says.

The real difference is the amount of additives that are in the gas, Nielsen says. More additives essentially afford more protection — but they also cost more.

Some automakers and oil companies believe that the amount of government-required additives isn't enough to protect engines. They have created a Top Tier gasoline designation. It means that those gasoline brands sell fuels that provide more and better additives.

Nielsen recommends that drivers look in their car's owner's manual to see what the carmaker recommends and, when possible, follow that guideline. People who are still concerned about gasoline quality can ask a specific oil company if it has performed independent testing to substantiate its claims.

Selling the Secret Sauce in Gasoline:
The major oil companies spend millions of dollars convincing buyers that their gas is superior by creating ads that feature smiling cartoon cars, lab-coated nerds and sooty engine valves. Buy Shell's nitrogen-enriched gas, for instance, and you won't get a buildup of "gunk" in your engine, company advertising promises.

Is all this just a marketing gimmick?

"I am a Ph.D. chemist, a nerdy guy who wears a white coat," says Jim Macias, Shell Oil Company's fuels marketing manager. "We really believe there are differences in fuels. We can see it, feel it and measure it."

Macias says the gunk caused by fuels with insufficient additives can foul fuel injectors and even trigger "Check Engine" lights in as few as 10,000 miles.

But not everyone is keen to talk about gasoline quality and whether additives really make the difference.

The Skeptics and Their Tests:
The Auto Club's Steve Mazor was more forthcoming, and has some interesting results from a blind test he did on three samples of gasoline from both major and independent gas stations.

"We tested emissions, fuel economy and performance and we could not tell the difference," he says.

Mazor believes that the driving public has outdated notions about gas. Twenty years ago, only premium fuel had detergents in it. Back then, it was beneficial to occasionally buy a tank of high-test gas to clean the engine. Then, he says, "regulations were very lax and there was little enforcement. But all that has changed."

Likewise, Randy Stephens, chief engineer for Toyota's Avalon, isn't wholly convinced by the claims of engine protection afforded by higher-priced gas. He says fuel experts at his company study the effects of different brands of gas on the Toyota engines. Automotive engineers disassemble engines after 10,000 miles of running them on different brands of gas to see if there is a difference.

"Honestly, in the 10 years I've been in charge of Avalon, I've never seen one come back with any sort of deposit issue," Stephens says.

Top 10 Everyday Car Technologies That Came From Racing:   Back To Top^

Watching car racing, whether it's Formula One, NASCAR or dirt track, is adrenaline pumping and fun. Hopping into your Honda Fit or Toyota Corolla and tearing down the road (safely, of course) keeps the fun going. Oh, you don't think so? Actually, those two little economy cars have more in common with race cars than you might think and we're not talking about tuned or tricked out Fits or Corollas. Right out of the factory, car racing technology has influenced production cars in some surprising ways.

Car racing teams have always sought to build the fastest and best-performing cars possible. They've enlisted some of the top car designers and engineers to help with the job. When car racing has a breakthrough, it is almost always applicable in some form to mass-produced cars. As a result, race technology has influenced many of the components of the car sitting in your driveway -- from the basic engine design, to the position of the ignition, and even the rearview mirror.

As it turns out, you don't have to go much further than your own garage to have a race car experience. To find out the top 10 racing technologies that might be in your car.

1 - TRANSMISSIONS: Most drivers in the United States use automatic transmissions, which makes cruising around town worlds apart from a hard-shifting lap on a Formula One track. But, the purpose of a transmission in a race car and a road car are the same: it translates the engine's power to the car's wheels. While an automatic transmission shifts gears with no input from the driver (other than the initial selection of Drive), a manual transmission lets the driver control the flow of power from the engine to the wheels. Race car drivers want the control of a manual transmission, but the manual process can be too slow and prone to human error.

Enter Direct-Shift Gearboxes (DSG) and clutchless manual transmissions. Both of these types of gearboxes are racing technology that allows drivers to shift gears quickly and make sure that they shift into the correct gear.

DSGs actually work like two transmissions: one dials in the odd numbered gears and one dials in the even numbered gears. Because there are two transmissions, the next needed gear is always "on deck" which makes the DSG faster than a manual transmission. DSGs also don't use a clutch pedal, which makes them faster than a conventional manual, and less prone to driver error. DSGs are a fun addition to road cars (right now they are mainly seen on sporty Audi and Volkswagen models) because they allow drivers the fun of a manual without the hassle of a clutch pedal.

Similarly, clutchless manuals, or automatic transmissions with a manual mode take the idea of engine control without a clutch pedal and sequential shifting and put it into production cars. These systems are becoming more common on passenger cars with automatic transmissions; however, they're not as fast-shifting as DSGs. Basically, they're automatic transmissions that allow the driver to select when the car changes gears, but the driver doesn't have to use a clutch pedal. Similar to racing transmissions, these systems allow drivers to shift only in sequence. On a manual transmission, the driver can shift gears out of order -- going from first to third -- either intentionally or by mistake. Doing it by mistake can spell disaster in a race, so race cars have Sequential Manual Transmissions (SMTs). SMTs only shift in order: from first, to second, to third, and so on. Automatic transmissions with manual modes do the same thing -- they put the control of the engine in the hands of the driver while minimizing error.

2 - TIME SAVERS: You shouldn't try to steal someone's Porsche, but if you do, here's a tip: the ignition is on the left side of the steering wheel. It's an odd placement for most people -- just ask all the would-be Porsche buyers who've been embarrassed on test drives -- but it's a nod to Porsche's racing heritage. In racing, every second counts. With a left hand ignition, drivers can start the car and shift into first gear almost simultaneously, allowing them to get going that much faster than the competition.

But what's faster than turning a key (and easier than doing it with your left hand) is push button ignition. A number of production cars are using this racing technology, which starts the car at the touch of a button, not the turn of a key. There are a number of variations to the push button systems. BMW, for example, has drivers insert the key into a slot before pushing the button -- this makes sure that the driver is actually intending to start the car. Others, like Infiniti, have an electronic fob that communicates with the car. When someone carrying the fob approaches the car, the car doors are instructed to unlock -- no more fumbling with your keys. When the car detects that the fob is inside the vehicle, the button is activated and will start the car when pushed -- similar to many race cars.

3 - SUSPENSIONS: You might not think about your car's suspension (until you go over a particularly deep pothole), but its one area where racing technology has translated almost directly to production cars. In car racing, it's best to have all four tires maintain contact with the track. That makes the car more stable and makes sure that all the power the engine creates is helping to move the car along.

Like most production cars, race cars use independent suspensions. These suspensions allow each wheel to move without affecting the movement of the other wheels. Formula One cars use multi-link suspensions, while NASCAR cars tend to use MacPherson struts. Both suspension types are available on a number of production cars.

So, why doesn't your car handle like a race car? While the suspension types may be the same, the adjustment of a NASCAR or Formula One suspension is completely different than the suspension adjustment on your car. In a race car, the suspension has to keep the car stable through turns that generate more force than a production car could handle, as well as extreme acceleration and stopping. Before you go out and adjust your suspension to mimic a race car's capabilities, remember you car has specialized suspension adjustments too: It's adjusted to balance comfort with performance. Comfort doesn't enter the equation for most race car suspensions.

4 - TIRES: Most drivers don't think about their tires until they get a flat. That's a shame, because tires are what connect the car to the road and keep the driver in control. Car racing teams understand that. That's why they use high performance tires tailored to their particular form of racing. Technology from those specialized tires has trickled down to production cars.

You've probably noticed that the tires on your car have grooves in them. These groves allow the tire to channel things like water, or even snow and slush, away from the car. If you have off-road or all-terrain tires on your car, the grooves are likely very deep and the rubber very bumpy. That type of tire gives the car teeth that can grip uneven or loose surfaces. If you have a sports car, the tires likely have a fewer number of grooves and the grooves are typically shallower. That allows more of the tire's rubber to maintain contact with the road, making the car handle better. All of these innovations and the development of different tire types came from racing.

Like most racing technologies, high-performance racing tire technology has been translated into production cars for everyday use. For example, F1 and NASCAR cars use tires with very soft rubber. That rubber gets sticky when it's heated, which helps hold the car to the track. While that may sound great, don't go buy a set of racing tires just yet. That softer rubber has a short wear life -- you'll notice that a race car gets several new sets of tires over the course of a single race -- while the tires on most production cars are designed to last for many tens of thousands of miles. Many basic tire designs have evolved from racing innovations, but once again, production cars have put it to everyday use.

5 - BRAKES: Unless you've been in a cheesy action movie, the brakes on your car are likely drama-free. Race car brakes are built with the same drama-free goal, but when stopping a car going more than 200 miles an hour, the stakes are much higher. Racing engineers have designed brakes that provide sure stops under extreme circumstances and those designs have made their way onto road cars.

Disc brakes started appearing on race cars in the 1950s. Racing teams liked them because they were powerful and easier to maintain than the prior drum brake design. Disc brakes are also easier to keep cool. When brakes stop a car, they generate a lot of friction and heat. That heat actually reduces the stopping power of the brakes. Disc brakes can be vented, which allows the heat to dissipate. Now, all but a few cars have disc brakes on at least their front wheels -- most have disc brakes on all four corners.

Racing technology keeps bounding ahead. While most production cars have cast iron disc brakes, race cars use materials that are lighter and often more durable. Ceramic disc brakes have been used on race cars for some time, and are now showing up as options on some luxury sports cars. Many racing teams have also started using super light and super strong brakes made from carbon. That's a technology that won't show up on production cars for some time -- it's currently very expensive.

6 - AIR INTAKE: Car racing is full of breathless excitement -- but not for the engines. Car engines need to breathe freely and easily for best performance, just like you do when you're exercising. Since car engines create power through combustion, getting enough air is vital. They won't work without it. The more air that gets into an engine, the better it will breathe. Also, engines give their best performance when the air they receive is cold. The cold air thickens the air/fuel mixture the engine burns, which allows the engine to get more energy out of it. Enhancements like superchargers and ram air intakes are designed just for that purpose.

Surprisingly, superchargers aren't allowed on NASCAR or Formula One race cars; however, they are used on dragsters. One of the more widely known drag racing organizations is the National Hotrod Association. While NASCAR and Formula One technology produces cars that are built for speed and handling, dragsters are built for one thing: straight-line speed. As drag racers have used superchargers and ram air intakes to improve the way engines breathe, automakers have adapted the technology for production cars.

Although a few production cars do use superchargers and short ram air intakes, these components tend to be aftermarket parts enthusiasts themselves add to cars. Automakers use the same principals on some production performance cars. You've probably seen cars that look like they have nostrils or openings of various shapes and sizes on their hoods. Those are called hood scoops, and they allow more cold air into the engine compartment. Although they don't force air into the engine as quickly as a supercharger or a ram air system, they do bring more air in to cool the engine and improve performance.

7 - DUEL OVERHEAD CAMSHAFTS: The last time you went car shopping, you probably had a salesperson tell you the car you're considering had a Dual Overhead Cam engine, or you saw "DOHC" in a car's brochure. But what does that really mean?

To get the real specifics, you should read How Car Engines Work. But, in short, engines have valves that open and close to let air in and exhaust out. A camshaft, or cam, opens and closes the vales. If you have two cams on your engine, or dual cams, the valves can be open and shut more rapidly, allowing for better performance. This type of engine design first appeared on race cars in the early 1900s, and is still one of the most popular engine designs today, appearing in lots of production cars.

8 - EXTERIOR DESIGN: You may have guessed from the number 5 item on our list that exterior components on cars, like hood scoops, often have performance purposes. That goes double for race cars. Whether in NASCAR, Formula One or drag racing, everything on the outside of a race car serves a purpose, and that purpose isn't to look good.

Still, because we associate the smooth, flowing shapes of race cars with power, performance and glamour, these designs are often translated in production cars. Racing teams, and race car designers, were some of the first to use wind tunnel testing to create the most aerodynamic shapes. Because race cars go so fast, race car engineers and designers created spoilers and air dams to keep the cars stable at speed. Those aerodynamic components looked so good on race cars that automakers soon got into the game and have now added them to many production cars -- in a slightly toned-down form, of course.

9 - NEW MATERIALS: One of the reasons race cars are able to post such blistering track times is because they are so light. Of course, it's easy for a race team build a lightweight car when it doesn't need to haul more than one person or even have a full interior. But race car designers have utilized lightweight materials to help make their cars fast. Of course, it's not enough for the materials to be lightweight -- otherwise, race cars would all be made of paper. Race cars operate under extreme stress, so every material in them needs to be strong.

One of the most high-tech materials in race cars is carbon fiber. Formula One race car bodies are almost entirely made out of carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is extremely light and strong, and it's starting to appear (in small amounts) on production cars, mainly as decorative accessories. Because it's so light, carbon fiber could radically increase fuel economy in production cars. The problem: It's too expensive to use on most cars.

Aluminum is another lightweight, yet strong material that's often used in racecars, primarily for the engine block. Thanks to racing, aluminum engine blocks have been in production cars for some time now, but some automakers are beginning to use aluminum for select exterior body panels, too. In fact, aluminum hoods are becoming more common now than ever before. Since aluminum isn't as expensive as carbon fiber, aluminum components have been able to find their way onto production cars a little faster than the more expensive carbon fiber parts. Car manufacturers like aluminum because it lightens the car, which improves fuel economy, and doesn't take a toll on performance or durability.

10 - SAFETY: Car racing is all about blistering speed, gutsy driving, unlimited power, and -- the most advanced safety equipment in the world? It's true. Because car racing demands extreme performance, it also demands extreme safety. Luckily, for those of us who aren't race car drivers, that safety technology is also deeply ingrained into our everyday cars. In fact, it's so closely tied together that you might not even associate it with car racing at all.

The most important piece of safety technology is one you can't even see. All race cars are built around a structure that protects the driver. In open wheel racing -- like Indy Car racing or Formula One racing -- the car's body is made of strong carbon fiber, designed to protect the driver during an impact. In NASCAR and drag racing, a roll cage protects the driver. The roll cage is a network of steel tubes that absorbs impacts, protecting the driver. The same principles that go into NASCAR roll cages go into production car safety cages. Production car safety cages are well-hidden beneath the carpet, headliner material, door trim and other interior features that race cars simply don't have.

Want to know one more everyday safety feature that came from racing? It's a component that every car has, but you probably wouldn't expect that it has a race car origin: Your car's rearview mirror. In the early 1900s race car drivers discovered that they could use mirrors to spot the competition approaching behind them. Ever since, rearview mirrors have become an invaluable safety tool for millions of drivers. It's a pretty ho-hum piece of car tech, but like a lot of everyday car technology, it has a racing pedigree.

CAR FIRES:   Back To Top^

There's rarely a single cause for any given car fire, even if an investigator can trace all the way back to the incident that sparked the blaze. It's more likely that there was a combination of causes: human causes, mechanical causes, and chemical causes, and they all worked together to create an incredibly dangerous situation. In other words, once a vehicle's on fire, any number of additional factors can (and will) complicate things. Knowing what those factors are can potentially help a car owner avoid a dangerous situation, but there are no guarantees. And the most important thing to remember is that once a vehicle is ablaze, it really doesn't matter what caused it -- your car is on fire. Don't worry about whether the engine was overheating or what fluid you might have spilled (although that information might be useful later, for insurance purposes or to help an auto manufacturer fix a potential flaw). Right now, it's imperative that you get out fast and get as far away from the car as possible. A small car fire isn't going to stay small for long, and any combination of the initial causes (or complications) we'll discuss in this article will quickly make the situation much, much worse. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that vehicle fires account for about 20 percent of all reported fires, so it's worth knowing how to reduce some of the risk in your own car or truck.

A design flaw in a vehicle usually isn't going to cause a car fire on its own, because there's no on/off switch for lighting a vehicle ablaze. Design flaws, however, can make conditions really ripe for a fire, and sometimes even create conditions in which an eventual fire is inevitable. Usually, the manufacturers catch on to these situations before incidents become widespread. They issue recalls to get the dangerous cars off the street and fix the problems, because no car maker wants to be known for combusting its customers. Like all automobile fires, a design flaw is only the first step leading to a blaze. Not all design flaws result in a fire, but any number of problems can make a fire a lot more likely. Though some recent incidents will be used as specific examples on the following pages, it's worth noting that every major auto manufacturer (and plenty of the smaller ones, too) has recalled a vehicle due to a fire hazard.
Human error probably isn't going to be the direct cause of a fire in your vehicle -- after all, being lazy isn't quite the same as striking a match and igniting a wick that goes into the gas tank. But if you're sloppy about maintenance, your car is going to be a lot more dangerous, in general, and the increased likelihood of a car fire is just part of the greater risks you're taking. It's true, forgetting or neglecting to properly take care of your car can indirectly lead to a vicious fire. That's because if you let broken parts, leaky seals, or faulty wiring go without repairs, it'll make your car a lot more hospitable to the conditions that cause a fire. An engine with a bad gasket is more likely to drip hazardous (and flammable) fluids. Frayed wiring is more likely to spark and make contact with flammable materials. Isn't it better to know if your car is a potential deathtrap? Just pop the hood every now and then and take a cursory look around.

Depending on the impact site, a car crash can even spark a car fire. Most vehicles' crumple zones are designed pretty well, so the sheet metal absorbs the force of a blow and protects internal, dangerous spots like the engine, the battery and even the gas tank. But really, there's not actually that much of a barrier there, so a hard enough hit is likely to cause fluid leaks and spillage, as well as heat and smoke. And, as we know, high heat and spilled fluids create perfect conditions for a fire. Since it's hard for occupants of a crashed vehicle to see the extent of the damage while they're still inside, the threat of a fire might not be immediately apparent; however, it's always best to get away from a damaged car as soon as possible. Consider yourself lucky if you're not trapped inside a crashed vehicle -- even if it does go up in flames, at least you're a safe distance away.

Arson -- the criminal act of setting a fire. Now, why would anyone deliberately set a car on fire, anyway? It could be to cover up a theft, or to cover up the evidence of another crime. It could be old fashioned vandalism, too, wrecking something just for the sake of wrecking it. Or it could be insurance fraud. And there are probably several more reasons, but that's best left to the criminal masterminds. It's worth noting that it's pretty easy to set a car on fire -- perhaps doing it without being detected is a challenge, but actually igniting a car blaze is simple. An arsonist can use any combination of catalysts, causes on this list (and more) to start the fire -- and a skilled auto arsonist can sometimes get away with it, too. After all, the physical evidence is a smoldering mess. We aren't advocating this by any means, but we are saying that an arsonist is yet another reason your car might be ablaze.

Not long after the Tesla Model S was awarded the unofficial title of "the safest car ever" by the media (and by Tesla Motors), a Tesla Model S caught fire in the fall of 2013. That's never good, of course, but for Tesla, it was especially bad. The company had implied numerous times that its fully electric Model S was all but immune to the battery-related problems that have plagued hybrid cars and EVs of the past. Alas, a Model S traveling at high speeds hit a piece of debris that punctured the car's battery, and the battery behaved like any other battery would: it ignited.

Throughout 2011 and 2012, the Chevy Volt made headlines when a bunch of test vehicles caught fire during impact testing. Federal regulators determined that in most of these cases, leaking coolant interacted with the damaged batteries to spark the blaze, and General Motors was able to come up with a fix that satisfied government safety officials. Concerns about hybrid and electric batteries go way back, though, and there are new potential risks with each new design. It might be a while before the safety concerns from these high profile incidents fade from the public consciousness.

Overheating catalytic converters are a fire risk that's often overlooked, but think about it: One of the consistently hottest parts of your car runs the entire length of the vehicle -- the exhaust system. Catalytic converters usually overheat because they are working too hard to burn off more exhaust pollutants than they're designed to process. In other words, if the car's engine isn't operating efficiently (due to worn spark plugs or any number of other adverse conditions), it doesn't burn the fuel properly, and a lot of extra stuff ends up in the exhaust system. The cat then has to work extra hard to do its job, which makes it even hotter than usual. An overworked (or clogged) catalytic converter can easily go from its normal operating temperature range of about 1,200 to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit (648.9 to 871.1 degrees Celsius) to up over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093.3 degrees Celsius). This causes long-term damage not only to the cat itself, but to the car's surrounding parts. The car's designed to withstand the cat's normal temps, but it can't consistently cope with temperatures several hundred degrees higher. If the catalytic converter gets hot enough, it could ignite the cabin insulation and carpeting right through the heat shields and metal floor pan.

An engine that overheats and causes a car to catch on fire is an especially good example of how one problem can lead to another. A car's engine probably won't overheat enough to simply burst into flames all on its own. But what can happen (and pretty easily, by the way), is an engine can overheat and make the internal fluids, like oil and coolant, rise to dangerous temperatures and begin to spill out of their designated areas of circulation. When that happens, they drip, drizzle and spurt throughout the engine bay and onto the exhaust system, landing on other hot parts, where they can easily ignite and spread.

In some cases, like the late-2012 recall of about 90,000 Ford cars equipped with a specific EcoBoost powertrain, an engine that overheats is sometimes a design flaw that's fixable with a software update -- modifying the car's computer to help keep engine temperatures at a safer (lower temperature) threshold. Generally, though, an overheating engine requires mechanical attention. There's often a leaky seal or gasket, or the radiator isn't working properly, or any number of other things. If your car's engine is constantly overheating ... well, that's not a symptom to ignore.

The average car or truck has a number of flammable and highly dangerous fluids under the hood: gasoline or diesel fuel, engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid and even engine coolant. All of those fluids are circulating when the car is on, and all of them can catch fire pretty easily if their lines, hoses or reservoirs take a hit. So even though one of the car's vital liquids is unlikely to start spewing or dripping out of nowhere -- generally, something else has to go wrong first -- the fact that all of these fluids are flammable to begin with is a problem in and of itself. Combined with another aggravating factor, like a car crash or a failed part, the result could be a fire. Though such a blaze is most likely to start in the engine bay, where all of these dangerous liquids are concentrated, keep in mind that some of them, like fuel and brake fluid, are moved along the entire length of the car.

Electrical system failures take the second spot on the list because they're the second most common cause of car fires. Car batteries are problematic, and not just the hybrid and all-electric vehicle battery pack types we've already discussed. A typical car's standard battery is capable of causing plenty of trouble. The battery's charging cycles can cause explosive hydrogen gas to build up in the engine bay, and the electrical current the battery provides (along with faulty or loose wiring) can produce sparks that can quickly ignite a fluid drip or leaked vapors. The electrical system's hazards aren't confined to the area under the hood, either. Electrical wiring runs throughout the entire car; through channels, into doors, under the carpet and through powered and heated seats, just to name a few places where a stray, unnoticed frayed wire could cause havoc.

Leaks in the fuel system are the most common cause of vehicle fires, so that's why they take the top spot on our list. As we've already seen, any number of complicating factors can cause a fuel leak, but they're tricky because fuel leaks can also arise on their own and with very little warning. A fuel system leak is really dangerous. We've already discussed that a lot of a car's fluids have corrosive, poisonous and flammable properties, but gasoline is among the worst. Gasoline at a temperature of just 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius) or above can quickly catch fire from a simple spark. It happens all the time in a running car, after all, but it's contained by the engine. And gasoline that reaches 495 degrees Fahrenheit (257.2 degrees Celsius) will ignite by itself. It's easy to see how fuel dripping onto hot metal and plastic parts can cause a fast-spreading fire. The best way to reduce chances of a fuel system fire is to make sure the car is properly maintained and to keep it out of the situations we've already described. And if you ever smell gas in or around your car, find and fix the leak immediately!

It's important to keep your battery maintained! Terminals must be removed periodically and cleaned, also the top of the battery should be wiped clean... Any dirt and grime on the top of the battery will conduct electricity, which will travel between the negative side to the positive side and slowly discharge your battery!


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We sell replacement side view mirrors for most makes and models of cars!

Call NOW! Installation available! 908-862-9071


Do you need tires?   Back To Top^

We have connections to get great prices on tires for your car, mounted & balanced with new valves! Next time you need tires, give us a call for a quote! 908-862-9071

Conveniently located Across from the Linden Train Station for Linden NJ, Clark NJ, Cranford NJ, Westfield NJ, Roselle NJ, Roselle Park NJ, Elizabeth NJ, Mountainside NJ, Watchung NJ, Springfield NJ, Union NJ, New Providence NJ, Berkeley Heights NJ, Avenel NJ, Fords NJ, Carteret NJ, Colonia NJ, Iselin NJ, Rahway NJ, Edison NJ, Woodbridge NJ, Fanwood NJ, Scotch Plains NJ, Garwood NJ, Colonia NJ residents.




When Duct Tape just won't cut it -- Give us a call! LOL!

Most cars have timing belts, and they have to be replaced around 100K miles...Check your owners manual! It's extremely important to do this at the recommended time. We only use factory original parts (unlike other shops) when we do this work, as failure of lower cost parts can cause catastrophic damage. At this time is when you replace the water pump, thermostat, antifreeze, cam and crankshaft seals if needed, tensioners and pulleys. Usually about this time, it's also time to do a tune up, plugs, PCV valve, serpentine belt, check hoses.   Back To Top^

BSE Automotive, 218 W. Elizabeth Ave, Linden, NJ (corner of Lumber St.) 908-862-9071

Brake Service, Muffler Repair, CV Joints, Radiator Repair, Tune Up, General Automotive Maintenance, Car Repair, Auto Repair, Cooling System Service, Timing Belt Replacement, Water Pump Repair, Carburetor Repair, Replace Serpentine Belts, Check Engine Light On, Transmission Service, Ball Joints, Rear Ends & Differentials Rebuilt & Serviced, U Joints Replaced, Front End Work, Steering, Rack & Pinion Service, Power Steering Repaired, Clutches Replaced. We Sell Aftermarket Auto Parts, Radiators, Batteries, Side View Mirrors, Head Lamp Assemblies, Tail Lamp Assemblies, Hoods, Fenders, Bumpers, Trailer Hitches! 908-862-9071

Conveniently located Across from the Linden Train Station for Linden NJ, Clark NJ, Cranford NJ, Westfield NJ, Roselle NJ, Roselle Park NJ, Elizabeth NJ, Mountainside NJ, Watchung NJ, Springfield NJ, Union NJ, New Providence NJ, Berkeley Heights NJ, Avenel NJ, Fords NJ, Carteret NJ, Colonia NJ, Iselin NJ, Rahway NJ, Edison NJ, Woodbridge NJ, Fanwood NJ, Scotch Plains NJ, Garwood NJ, Colonia NJ residents.

We replace CV joints and front wheel drive axles!

Quality and Honesty with fair prices!


Cabin filter replacement is one of the biggest scams and money makers for the many quick change oil change chain shops out there! They change your oil real cheap (and who knows what they are putting back), then tell you that you need to change your cabin filter, and give you some crazy price, sometimes over $100! These filters should be changed from time to time, but are usually very easy to change, and don't cost that much aftermarket...

The cabin air filter, a feature found on most late-model vehicles, cleans the air that comes into the interior through the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. It catches dust, pollen and other airborne material that can make riding in a car unpleasant, particularly if you have allergies or other respiratory problems.

Recommendations on when it should be replaced vary by manufacturer — some say every 12,000 or 15,000 miles, others longer — and how often can depend on how much you drive and where. Check the maintenance schedule in your owner's manual. If you drive in heavy traffic in an urban area that has poor air quality, you could need to replace the filter annually or even more often. However, that also could be true in a desert climate where there is a lot of dust.

Some signs that you need a new cabin air filter are reduced air flow through your HVAC system, such as when you crank up the fan too high and you get more noise than results. Another is persistent bad odors. Even if you don't have these warnings, you should have the filter checked at least once a year, and you may be able to do that yourself.

Many cabin air filters are located behind the glove box and are easily accessible by freeing the glove box from its fasteners (instructions should be in the owner's manual). Others are located under the dashboard and may not be easy to reach, or under the hood where fresh air enters the HVAC system. Some of these filters are expensive, as in $50 or more at dealerships, so you could save money by buying a replacement at a parts store and doing it yourself.

If a dealership service department or repair shop recommends you get a new cabin air filter, ask to see the current one. Depending on how long the filter has been in service, you might be shocked at what you see: leaves, twigs, insects, soot and grime that literally cover the entire surface that comes in contact with incoming air. You'll know it's time for a new cabin air filter.

Tire Pressure   Back To Top^

Tires are one of the most overlooked parts of a car. According the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), only one out of 10 drivers checks his or her tire pressure correctly, compared with almost seven out of 10 who wash their cars regularly. But the truth is that an under-inflated, over-inflated, worn down or misaligned tire can be extremely dangerous, particularly in hot summer weather.

Tire pressure changes with the rising temperatures -- approximately one to two PSI (pounds per square inch) for every 10-degree increase in outside air temperature. Consult your owner's manual or the tag on the side of your drivers door, to see what your tire pressure should be and check it with a hand pressure gauge or just let your service shop do it for you.

An under-inflated tire bulges outward and puts undo pressure on the sidewalls of the tire. With enough heat and pressure, that tire eventually will blow. An over-inflated tire, on the other hand, makes less contact with the road and can lead to hydroplaning in wet conditions.

Use the penny trick to see if you still have enough tread on your tires. Stick a penny in the tread, and if Lincoln's head disappears, you're good.

And don't forget about your spare! There's no point in having a spare tire if your spare is in worse condition than the rest. Make sure the spare is properly inflated and has ample tread depth.

Keeping Cool   Back To Top^

The key to engine longevity is keeping the engine cool and well lubricated. We're going to talk about the radiator and coolant soon, but first you need to check the hoses and belts. The hoses connected to the radiator help move coolant to and from the engine block, and the belts (in some cases) run the fan that helps cool the system further, as well as run the water pump. If the hoses crack or the belts snap, the engine will quickly overheat, leaving you stranded.

Check hoses for cracks, leaks and loose connections. Hoses should be firm, never soft and malleable. Hoses suffer from a slow deterioration process called electrochemical degradation (ECD) that eats away at rubber hose material from the inside. The most vulnerable parts of the hose are those nearest to clamps where the hose connects to the radiator or the engine.

Belts can also be visually checked for cracks and damage. Take note if the belt looks excessively slick or smooth. Check the belt to make sure that the material hasn't started separating into different layers. Experts say the risk of belt failure rises dramatically after 36,000 miles (57,936 kilometers).

Cars are designed to run hot, but there's a limit to how hot they should run. A combustion engine is most efficient at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius). But if an engine is allowed to get too hot, moving metal parts can actually start to melt and fuse together, causing a variety of internal problems for your engine, piston rings lose tension and not performing as they should resulting in loss of compression and large amounts of oil consumption, heads and blocks warping -- and, you guessed it, a hefty repair bill, in most cases requiring engine replacement.

Luckily, all modern cars have an ingenious cooling system that uses a chemical coolant, called antifreeze, and a series of pumps, hoses, thermostats and fans to keep the car at its optimal running temperature. But any problems with this system -- low coolant levels, cracked hoses, stuck thermostat, loose or broken belts, a leak in the radiator or even a loose or missing radiator cap can cause your car to overheat and break down.

The summertime is tough on cooling systems. Sitting in traffic on a hot day is one of the quickest ways to overheat your car. This is because there's no air flowing across the engine to help keep it cool. A well-tuned cooling system can take long idles in hot weather, but if you have low coolant levels or a busted fan belt (on vehicles where the belt either drives the fan or water pump), your engine temperature is going to go up -- and fast. Most cars today have electric fans, which are controlled by a temperature switch on the engine. If either the switch fails or the fans fail, your car can also overheat. If you have a CHECK ENGINE light on, always have it looked into immediately! A lot of cars today have water pumps, which are driven by the timing belt, and not the "fan" belt, which is a slang term for this type of application. This is why it's important to always replace the water pump when replacing the timing belt, so you're getting a new water pump every 100K miles or so, virtually eliminating any problems there, providing you use a good quality water pump. A faulty water pump can also cause premature timing belt failure, which is another reason to replace the pump.

Another weak spot in your cooling system is the Thermostat. I recommend always changing the thermostat whenever the radiator or water pump is replaced, or a new timing belt is installed. Also, from personal experience, I recommend using a factory (original equipment) thermostat, when ever possible. I've seen too many failures from aftermarket thermostats... If using aftermarket, I prefer Gates or Standard. Stay away from Motorad thermostats sold by Autozone, and others... You're just asking for trouble!

Check under the hood and make sure that your coolant levels are fine. The general rule is to change your coolant at least every two years. Coolant should be added as a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water. You can even buy premixed coolant so you don't have to bother with the measurements. When ever possible, try to use distilled water.

If you see a small puddle of coolant under your car when it's been parked for a while, then you have a coolant leak. Take it to the service station as soon as you can to get your system checked out.

Is one of your tires slowly losing air pressure? Most likely, you've picked up a nail. The nail acts as a plug, but not very effectively, which is why the leak is very slow. Continuing to drive like this can cause the nail or object to come out, causing you to lose all your air quickly, or cause the the leak to get worse. This is VERY common, but also very easy to repair. We can quickly and inexpensively plug your tire correctly and permanently, before the leak gets worse, and leaves you with a flat somewhere! Give us a call.  908-862-9071.

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The summertime is notorious for sudden, violent thunderstorms. When buckets of water are beating against your windshield, you need wipers that really work. Even more so at night, when a rain storm can decrease visibility to 15 or 20 feet in front of your vehicle.

Winter can be tough on windshield wipers. Ice, snow, salt and extreme temperatures make cracks and tears in the rubber that lower the effectiveness of the wipers. If your wipers are leaving visible streaks or take several passes to clear away light rain, they need to be replaced.

When replacing a wiper blade, it's better to replace the whole blade, not just the rubber part. Go to an auto parts store and they'll be able to give you the right blades for your make, model and year. If you've never replaced wiper blades before, it can be a little tricky. Just take your time, read the instructions carefully and everything should work out. It's also a good idea to observe the way your original wiper blades were attached. This may prove more valuable than anything printed on the new wiper blade box. At BSE Automotive, we can do this for you as well!

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From AOL: We all know what "new car smell" is, right? It's the smell of the interior of, well, a new car. Most people like it and some people like it so much that they buy new-car-smell sprays and air fresheners that make the interiors of their cars smell new until they're old enough to be towed off to the junkyard. But is it possible that new car smell could also make you sick? A lot of people think so. There have been studies suggesting that at least a few of the chemicals that give a car that fresh-off-the-dealer's-lot odor may be toxic and not all of them go away as the car gets older. But before we can answer the question of whether new car smell is or isn't toxic, we have a more important question to answer: What exactly is new car smell made of, anyway?

That's a tough question to answer. We can start by asking just what it is that we think we're smelling when we climb into a brand new car interior. Some people think it smells like leather, but only luxury car interiors contain much in the way of actual leather and new car smell can even be found in economy cars. Other people think it smells a bit like plastic, but good plastic, not the cheap kind that $1.99 toys are made out of. Some people think it smells like ... well, a whole lot of different chemicals.

That last group is closest to the mark. There really are a whole lot of chemicals making up the interior of a car and some of them release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the car's interior, a process that has the somewhat unpleasant sounding name "outgassing." It's these VOCs that produce new car smell, though some of them produce no odor at all. Some of these volatile chemicals, like ethyl benzene and formaldehyde, are also found in paints and glues, and they can cause problems like dizziness, headache, allergies or even cancer when inhaled in large enough quantities or for long enough periods of time. Some people have compared inhaling new car smell to glue sniffing or even sick-building syndrome.

But are there enough of these compounds in new car smell to make a fresh car interior truly unhealthy or would they require more exposure than the average driver is likely to get to them? The best way to find out is -- you guessed it -- to do a scientific study. Let's talk about a couple of the studies that have been done and what they've found out.

Questions about the toxicity of new car smell aren't new. Neither are studies aimed at determining whether it's a problem you should be seriously worried about. Probably the most recent of these studies was conducted in February of 2012 by a non-profit group called the Ecology Center. Their "Model Year 2011/2012 Guide to New Vehicles" (which you can download in PDF format here: is unequivocal on the issue: "These chemicals in new car smell can be harmful when inhaled or ingested and may lead to severe health impacts such as birth defects, learning disabilities and cancer. Since the average American spends more than 1.5 hours in a car every day, toxic chemical exposure inside vehicles is becoming a major source of potential indoor air pollution." Whoa! That's enough to make you want to wear a gas mask until your car's old enough for the warranty to expire! But before you decide to buy only used cars for the rest of your driving life, they add that "some cars are better than others. Toxic chemicals are not required to make indoor auto parts, and some manufacturers have begun to phase them out."

Okay, let's name some names. Which cars does the Ecology Center believe have the healthiest interiors? Their top five picks, starting with the healthiest, are the 2012 Honda Civic, 2011 Toyota Prius, the 2011 Honda CR-Z, the 2011 Nissan Cube and the 2012 Acura RDX. Check their PDF to see the rest of the top ten. The two cars with the least healthy interiors, according to the Ecology Center, are the 2011 Chrysler 200 S and, in last place, the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. Honda wins as having the line of cars with the healthiest interiors overall. The report concentrates on the presence of bromine (used in flame retardants), chlorine, and lead, grouping other volatile organic chemicals in a single category in their rankings. The report includes a list of hundreds of popular cars manufactured from 2006 to the present and lists the amount of each of these substances present in each car's interior.

Fortunately, a lot of the volatile chemicals in a car's interior go away over time -- that's why they call it "new car smell" -- but they don't go away completely and they can come back on hot days when the higher temperatures increase the rate of outgassing. One thing you can do to combat this process on hot days is to roll down the windows rather than using the air conditioner, letting fresh air circulate into the car and releasing the volatile compounds into the air outside (which isn't necessarily good for the air outside, but it's certainly better than being closed up in a car full of toxic fumes). You can also park your car in the shade, so it will stay reasonably cool.

Not all studies done over the years have agreed that new car smell is a danger to automobile occupants. A 2007 study conducted at the Technical University of Munich in Germany concluded that the chemical compounds released inside a car might at worst exacerbate allergies, but don't pose any other significant threats to human health. The study was conducted by collecting air samples from the interiors of new cars and three-year-old cars placed under 14,000 watts of lights, which generated interior temperatures up to 150-degree Fahrenheit (65.6-degree Celsius), a lot hotter than the average car is likely to become under ordinary conditions. They then exposed human, mouse and hamster cells to these samples to look for toxic effects. None were found. The researchers concluded that new car smell isn't toxic. However, the researchers also admitted that if the air inside an office building were found to have the same chemical content as the air samples found in the cars, the building would be declared to have sick-building syndrome and the workers would be sent home until it had been cured.

So in a sense both studies agree: Automobile interiors contain poisonous chemicals. But the Ecology Center feels that these chemicals represent a health threat to occupants and the German researchers do not. In the end, you'll just have to choose which study you want to take seriously. And maybe roll down your windows a bit more than you usually do to let the bad air out.

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If you notice the battery light come on in your car, it's imperative to have it checked out ASAP, as the car will run with a defective alternator, but only for a short time till the battery runs too low, and you will get stuck. Most cars today, require more energy to keep running, and once the battery voltage gets too low, it won't have enough of the power that the vehicle requires to run.

While an alternator is a relatively simple component containing only a few parts, it plays a critical role in any vehicle's operation. Essentially it turns the mechanical energy of the engine's rotating crank shaft into electricity through induction. Wires within the alternator cut through a magnetic field; this in turn induces electrical current, which is regulated by a voltage regulator (usually inside the alternator). That current is used to power your car's accessories, which can be anything from headlights to the electro-hydraulic lifts on a snow plow. The alternator also keeps the battery fully charged, providing the power it needs to start the car.

Because the alternator is connected to (and critical for) other vehicle systems, any mechanical auto problems can have an affect on its function and have an affect on diagnosing car problems.

Within the instrument cluster of most cars built in the last decade is a warning light dedicated to signaling an alternator issue. In most cases the light is shaped like a battery, though some show "ALT" or "GEN," meaning alternator or generator, respectively. Many people see this light and instinctively think they have a battery problem, which is symptom that will be covered later, but that's not really why the light goes on.

This light is linked to computer systems within the car monitoring the voltage output of the alternator. If the alternator's output goes below or above a pre-set limit then the dash light comes on. Once the output is within range the light remains unlit. In the early stages of alternator problems the light can seem to flicker -- on for just a second and then off again. Or maybe it lights up only when accessories are activated. For instance, let's say its nighttime and the headlights are on and everything is working just fine. Then it begins to rain. As you flick on the windshield wipers the warning light comes on. Turn off the wipers and it goes away. While that may initially seem like an aggravating problem, the warning light is doing its job exactly.

Most alternators have an output between 13 and 14.5 volts that they try to maintain at a constant level. As more power is demanded by the headlights, the windshield wipers, your radio, the heated seats, the rear window defroster and so on, the alternator needs to work harder to maintain the necessary voltage. If your car's alternator is not working to its full potential, or demands are placed on it that it can no longer meet, the voltage will either go above or below the set level and switch on the warning light. Since the alternator supplies the vehicle's electrical needs, when it begins to lose its potential so do the accessories that draw on that electricity. Drivers may begin to experience erratic symptoms ranging from dimming or extremely bright headlights and dash lights, to speedometers and tachometers that simply stop working for no reason, even dash lights acting erratically. Other accessories, like heated seats or power windows may experience a slowdown as well.

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Own a car long enough and there's a good chance you'll develop auto problems of some nature. And one of the most common and most bothersome problems is vibration. What's more, it often creeps up on you gradually and subtly -- until one day you find yourself wondering how you ever put up with such an annoyance.

Perhaps then you asked yourself, what does it mean if my car is vibrating? While there's no substitute for the assessment of someone with an extensive automotive background, you can develop a good feel yourself for diagnosing car problems that are relatively common, such as vibrations.

The fix could be something relatively cheap and simple, like a tire rotation or balance. Or it could signal more serious auto problems -- something more costly, like steering or suspension issues.

Diagnosing car trouble in its early stages may seem like a hassle at first, but you have to remember that it can often save you from bigger car trouble (and bigger repair bills) down the road.

Sometimes a shake or shudder could emanate from the engine compartment, if the engine isn't getting enough air, fuel or spark that it needs to run smoothly.

Symptoms that might indicate such an engine-related case of the shakes include the following:

> Shudder or jerking occurs during acceleration.
> Staccato shaking, as if over a highway "rumble strip," within a specific speed range.
> Car starts and drives fine for a while, but later begins to shake.

These symptoms could be signaling that it's time for a new set of spark plugs, vacuum leak. If the plugs are fine, it could be that the spark plug wires need to be checked (are they connected in the proper order?) or replacing, or a faulty ignition circuit... usually something like this will trigger a check engine light

Our vehicles are full of reciprocating, rotating parts that have to fall within certain measurements, or tolerances, in order to perform properly.

If an axle gets bent -- which is actually quite easy to do in a collision or other mishap -- it will create a jostle of a ride afterward. With this problem, the vibrating often picks up in intensity the faster you drive.

A related problem would be that the driveshaft also needs inspection. This rapidly spinning part transfers engine power to the rear axles and wheels in rear-wheel drive vehicles. If it's bent, shaking may result.

Worn-out constant velocity (CV) joints fall under the same category. If the "boots" -- those rubber, accordion-like coverings around the ends of the drive axles -- are intact, clamps are secure, and no lubricant is seeping out, chances are they're not the problem. But if the boots are torn, that means dirt and dust and road filth is getting in and damaging the joints. For front-wheel drive cars, toasted CV joints mean you'll be buying new drive axles, too.

Do those bad vibrations appear or intensify when you apply the brakes? If so, there's a strong possibility that your car is tooling about with a warped brake rotor, or rotors.

The rotor is the shiny, silver disc-shaped component on vehicles with a disc brake system. The rotor can get bent out of shape due to heavy wear and tear -- basically, overheating from more stopping than that particular rotor can handle. Instead of being uniformly flat all the way across, a deformed rotor is raised or lowered on part of its surface. The calipers and brake pads, which squeeze the brake rotors to make the car stop, can't get an even grip on a warped rotor. Hence, vibration.

Often, you'll feel your car vibrating directly through your steering wheel. And one seemingly logical thing to guess is that an alignment issue might be the culprit.

One or more wheels may suffer from excessive "play," or wobbliness, at the hub itself. The diagnosis and cure for this is pretty involved, as it could point to any of a number of issues. First, let's just assume that each wheel is fastened securely to its hub with properly torqued lug nuts.

With that out of the way, the solution to a shaky wheel might entail replacing the wheel bearings. On most modern vehicles, wheel bearings are meant to last the life of the car or truck. But as you may already know, if you subject your vehicle to worse-than-typical wear-and-tear (off-roading, extremely hard driving, high mileage, flooding), it's not unheard-of for bearings to wear out.

Another thing to look for is "runout." This is the term that describes how much a wheel deviates from a perfectly circular rotation when it is spun. Wheel technicians use precision instruments to determine if runout on any particular wheel exceeds half an inch. Much of the time -- but not all the time -- the solution is a new wheel.

Other sources of wiggling, wobbly wheels include the tie-rod ends or ball joints. If they're worn out, they'll allow too much play in the wheel. At driving speeds, this translates to annoying vibration.

Wheels / tires prove to be a common culprit when tracking down reasons for why a car is vibrating. Also related... DIRT!!!... Yes... Mud in you wheels can really raise havoc after getting stuck in the mud. At least this is a simple fix.

Bad shocks, particularly the rear shocks, where there's less weight, can cause your tires to "bounce" while driving.

Tires are the #`1 source of your car's moving vibrations.

The full list of ways in which tire issues can contribute to your vehicular shake, rattle and roll is a long one. But here are just some of the major ones:

> Car vibrates at certain speeds -- requires tire balance.
> Tires have separated tread -- requires tire replacement.
> Uneven tire wear -- requires tire rotation (check shocks & alignment).
Tires that are "out of round" and roll unevenly - requires tire replacement.

Sometimes it isn't the tires, but rather the wheels they're wrapped around that cause your car or truck to vibrate when driven. Watch out for potholes and sloppy road repairs which can both be equally hazardous to your wheels.

BSE Automotive - Linden, NJ - 908-862-9071

Honest - Quality - Reliable Auto Repair!

Our rates... Just kidding! We have very reasonable rates, fair prices! Call to make an appointment. We'll look your car over, let you know what's wrong, and give you an honest and fair price on what it will cost to repair!

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We sell aftermarket body parts and crash parts! Fenders, hoods, fan assemblies,  bumpers & bumper covers, headlamps, tail lamps, signal lamps, side view mirrors, radiators, condensers, heater cores, door regulators, auto glass, header panels, trailer hitches,  and more!

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GREAT deals on Batteries! We sell and install!

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BSE Automotive
Quality, Honest, Reliable Automotive Repair in Linden, NJ.
Conveniently located across from the Linden Train Station.
Give us a call... You'll be glad you did!
218 W. Elizabeth Ave. (corner of Lumber St.)

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Windshields... We install new windshields & autoglass!

Very high quality installations! Fair prices!

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We sell and install new HEAD LAMPS on most cars and trucks!

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We sell and install automotive radiators and service cooling systems!

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We sell and install TAIL LAMPS for most makes and models of cars!

Call today for your needs! Great prices! 908-862-9071

BSE Automotive - Linden, NJ  

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BSE Automotive gladly serving all of NJ: Absecon, Adelphia, Allamuchy, Allendale, Allenhurst, Allentown, Allenwood, Alloway, Alpine, Andover, Annandale, Asbury, Asbury Park, Atco, Atlantic City, Atlantic Highlands, Audubon, Augusta, Avalon, Avenel, Avon By The Sea, Baptistown, Barnegat, Barnegat Light, Barrington, Basking Ridge, Bass River, Bayonne, Bayville, Beach Haven, Beachwood, Bedminster, Belford, Belle Mead, Belleville, Bellmawr, Belmar, Belvidere, Bergenfield, Berkeley, Berkeley Heights, Berlin, Bernards, Bernardsville, Beverly, Birmingham, Blackwood, Blairstown, Blawenburg, Bloomfield, Bloomingdale, Bloomsbury, Bogota, Boonton, Bordentown, Bound Brook, Bradley Beach, Branchville, Brick, Bridgeport, Bridgeton, Bridgewater, Brielle, Brigantine, Broadway, Brookside, Browns Mills, Budd Lake, Buena, Burlington, Butler, Buttzville, Caldwell, Califon, Camden, Cape May, Cape May Court House, Cape May Point, Carlstadt, Carteret, Cedar Brook, Cedar Grove, Cedar Knolls, Cedarville, Changewater, Chatham, Chatsworth, Cherry Hill, Chester, Clark, Clarksboro, Clarksburg, Clayton, Clementon, Cliffside Park, Cliffwood, Clifton, Clinton, Closter, Collingswood, Cologne, Colonia, Colts Neck, Columbia, Columbus, Cookstown, Cranbury, Cranford, Cream Ridge, Cresskill, Crosswicks, Dayton, Deal, Deepwater, Deerfield Street, Delaware, Delmont, Demarest, Dennisville, Denville, Dividing Creek, Dorchester, Dorothy, Dover, Downe, Dumont, Dunellen, East Amwell, East Brunswick, East Hanover, East Orange, East Rutherford, Eatontown, Edgewater, Edison, Egg Harbor City, Egg Harbor Township, Elizabeth, Elmer, Elmwood Park, Elwood, Magnolia, Emerson, Englewood, Englewood Cliffs, Englishtown, Essex Fells, Estell Manor, Ewan, Fair Haven, Fair Lawn, Fairfield, Fairton, Fairview, Fanwood, Far Hills, Farmingdale, Flagtown, Flanders, Flemington, Florence, Florham Park, Fords, Forked River, Fort Lee, Fort Monmouth, Fortescue, Franklin, Franklin Lakes, Franklin Park, Franklinville, Freehold, Frenchtown, Garfield, Garwood, Gibbsboro, Gibbstown, Gillette, Gladstone, Glassboro, Glasser, Glen Gardner, Glen Ridge, Glen Rock, Glendora, Glenwood, Gloucester City, Goshen, Great Meadows, Great Meadows-Vienna, Green Creek, Green Village, Greendell, Greenwich, Grenloch, Hackensack, Hackettstown, Haddon Heights, Haddonfield, Hainesport, Haledon, Hamburg, Hammonton, Hampton, Hancocks Bridge, Hardyston, Harrington Park, Harrison, Harrisonville, Hasbrouck Heights, Haskell, Haworth, Hawthorne, Hazlet, Heislerville, Helmetta, Hewitt, Hibernia, High Bridge, Highland Lakes, Highland Park, Highlands, Hightstown, Hillsdale, Hillside, Ho Ho Kus, Ho-Ho-Kus, Hoboken, Holmdel, Hopatcong, Hope, Hopewell, Howell, Imlaystown, Ironia, Irvington, Iselin, Island Heights, Jackson, Jamesburg, Jersey City, Jobstown, Johnsonburg, Juliustown, Keansburg, Kearny, Keasbey, Kendall Park, Kenilworth, Kenvil, Keyport, Kingston, Lafayette, Lake Hiawatha, Lake Hopatcong, Lakehurst, Lakewood, Lambertville, Landing, 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Auto Repair, Brake Repair, Muffler Repair, Radiator Repair, Car Repair, Windshield Repair, Tune-Up. We also sell and install trailer hitches!