Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Car Ride Games - Part 1

            Long rides in the car can vary within a large spectrum of  entertaining and exciting to painfully dull. The accompanying passengers, final destination, and length of the journey can all play a factor in quality of the ride. Provided below are a list of some popular road trip games to help pass the time.

1.)  Color Hunt – At the beginning of the trip each player chooses an uncommon type of color ( pink, yellow, orange, purple, ect.).  To avoid confusion try to avoid some of the odd or ambiguous colors such as scarlet or lavender. Throughout the trip players keep track of how many cars they see painted the color they have chosen and receive a point for each one.
ALTERNATE RULES 1: Players can steal points from one another if they spot and call a car of another passengers color.
ALTERNATE RULES 2:  One person chooses a color. The other passengers continuously count out loud each time they see a car (or object) of that color. Whomever counts the 10th / 20th / or any other predetermined number wins!

2.)  Secret License Plate Message - Pretend  each license plate contains a secret message and try to decipher it. For example  “ETE 830” could stand for “Elephant Tamer Enthusiast 8 days a week 30 hours a day.”

3.)   Fortunately, Unfortunately: One passenger shares a statement beginning with the word, “fortunately.” Another passenger then follows the statement with the word “Unfortunately.” For example one passenger might start by saying “Fortunately, I packed everyone lunch before we left.” and another might follow up with “Unfortunately, a bear broke into the house and ate all of it.” Have fun with the phrases and try making up some absurd combinations.

4.)  Buzz Word – At the start of the trip determine a word or a mixture of words that will be forbidden for the remainder of the trip. (Choose common words such as “Mom” or “Dad”, the more common the word the more difficult and entertaining the game becomes.)
ADDITIONAL RULE: Hand out 10 paper clips or other markers to each player. Whenever someone says a Buzz Word, the first player to exclaims “BUZZ!”  gets to take a paperclip (or marker) from the offender.  

That's all for now. Check in later when we continue our list of automotive entertainment.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What to do when your car fails an emission test

So, you failed an emission test. You can no longer register your vehicle or receive your emissions compliance sticker until the test is passed...Or can you?

First let's see what happens next for most people. That is, figuring out the one or many problem reasons why the car did not pass and have them repaired. Then, return to the emissions test facility and hope you pass the second time. However, locating and repairing the problems within your car does not always go so smoothly; leaving you to bounce back and forth between test station and repair facility, spending lots of time and money.

So how can you save yourself from potential endless loop of repairs and test? How about with a loophole in the system. For states that require periodic emissions tests, you cannot drive your car unless it has passed the test or has met “waiver” requirements.

This waiver allows some vehicles to pass an emissions test even though they have not fully met all the applicable emissions requirements. However, the waiver is not exactly fair to all those who do take the proper steps to pass the test.

Waivers were created to help drivers who can afford to bounce back and forth between test station and repair shop and pay for all the repairs required to pass. Waivers give credit to those who apply and spend a designated fixed dollar amount on repairs, thus resulting in an automatic pass.
Fixed dollar waiver amounts vary from state to state and my model year of the vehicle. Limits can vary between as little as $75 to as much as $450. It is best to ask the testing facility to confirm the correct waiver amount.

Improving Your Odds of Passing
In an effort to save yourself the time and money associated with failing the emissions test, it is in your best interest to improve odds of passing it in the first place. There are several easy steps you can take prior to increase your odds. The first is step is to maintain a clean vehicle. Keeping all aspects of your vehicle clean, especially your engine, is the is a great step towards passing the emissions test. Changing spark plugs, air filters, fuel filters, PCV valves and oil regularly or just before the test can help you pass. Additionally, filling your tank with premium gasoline can help boost octane and help lower emissions. Finally, make sure your vehicle is at normal operating temperature before you take the test. Heating the car up will heat up the oxygen sensor and catalytic converter to minimize emissions.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tips for Saving Fuel

  • Check your air filter. A clean air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10%, while dirty air filter restricts the flow of air into the engine, which harms performance and economy. Air filters are easy to check and change; remove the filter and hold it up to the sun. If you can't see light coming through it, you need a new one.
  • Keeping your tires inflated properly and your engine running right is critical to efficient motoring. Make sure your tires are well aligned, since poor alignment not only causes tires to wear out more quickly, but also forces your engine to work harder. Be sure to pump up your tires, since deflated tires have more rolling resistance, which means you need to burn more gas to keep your car moving.A properly maintained engine with emission control systems can improve mileage by up to 4%, so be sure to tune up your engine periodically.
  • Make sure your gas cap isn't broken or missing. Escaping fumes not only hurt fuel economy, but release smog-causing compounds into the air. 
  • Drive more slowly and smoothly; avoid jack-rabbit start/stops, full-throttle acceleration, and jerky driving. Riding with your foot on the brake pedal will not only wear out brake pads (which will cost you at the maintenance shop), but can also increase gas consumption by as much as 35%. Most vehicles are most efficient when cruising in their top gear at a relatively low speed due to wind resistance. However, do not idle your car, as it both wastes gas and causes pollution.
  • Lighten up the load on your car and try not to drive with too much luggage or people; for every 100 extra pounds carried around, your vehicle loses 1 to 2% in fuel efficiency. 
  • Shut off the air conditioner and use open windows instead at lower speeds. At higher speeds (such as on the highway), the A/C may be more efficient due to wind resistance.

Picture courtesy: http://www.thedailygreen.com/cm/thedailygreen/images/PV/car-save-gas-lg.jpg

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hybrid, Diesel, or Electric?

Gas not only costs a hefty sum over the years, but it is also a detriment to the environment. Thus, many consumers are trying to go green and make their way into the hybrid, diesel, or electric car markets. Overall, the kind of car you choose should depend on how much you drive and how you drive.
  • Hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius are cars that use both electric and gas motors, and generally get better gas mileage. Hybrid cars are best for city driving or in high-traffic expressways, since the stop-and-go motion and braking recharges the battery that powers the electric motor and they can maintain fuel efficiency at slower speeds than diesels
  • Battery-electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf use electric motors to propel the car. These are best used in big cities that are concentrated with charging stations, seeing that range limitations will keep you relatively close to home. For longer trips (such as weekend and holiday getaways), plug-in hybrid or extended range electric vehicles have a secondary power source to provide additional range once the electric battery is depleted.
  • Diesel cars such as the Volkswagen Jetta TDI run on diesel engines, which typically return better fuel economy than gas engine. Diesel cars are best for high-mileage driving, especially on the highway, due to extra features such as improved sound deadening and aerodynamic active grille shutters. They also have the best trade-in values.
If you do not drive that often (less than 7,500 miles/year), you should stay with gasoline cars because the savings on fuel wouldn't be enough to cover the premium you'll pay for a hybrid or diesel car. 

How to Winterize your Car

Next Sunday is the first day of winter. As you could tell by our past few articles, that means a change of climate not just for you, but for you car as well! 
  • Engine oil. A drop in outside temperature influences the internal temperature of your engine as well. Particularly if you live where temperatures can get below freezing, you want thinner, less viscous oil (for example, moving from 10W-40 grade oil to 5W-30). You can refer to your car manual for further information
  • Engine coolant. The coolant protects against both overheating and corrosion. Make sure your coolant is a proper mix of antifreeze and water (about 60% coolant with ethylene glycol to 40% water).
  • Car battery. Battery capacity is reduced by cold weather, even up to 50%. Have your battery, cables, terminals, and fluids inspected before the cold weather sets in, especially if you have an older car. Check the cables for cracks and breaks, make sure the terminal isn't loose, and refill the battery fluid with distilled water if the level is below the bottom of the cap.
  • Tires. Have your tires rotated and inspected, since they will be mixing with the snow, sleet, an ice. Check the tire pressure, which is particularly important for the winter to maintain better traction (you can refer to the owner's manual for the appropriate tire pressure). Consider buying a set of snow tires to change into only for the winter season if you live in an extreme-weather area, and change back into regular tires in the spring for better fuel efficiency and handling.
  • Windshield. Visibility accounts for 90% of driver reaction, and can be impaired during winter months due to precipitation and salt buildup. Make sure to check the condition of your windshield wiper blades and wiper fluid reservoir. To clear off cold, heavy grime, select a washer fluid with an antifreeze solution (note that some can be harsh and may cause paint damage).
  • Stock your car. Being stranded by the side of the road can be dangerous, and having these items available in your car is highly recommended: blanket, jumper cables, flashlight, chains, first-aid kit, small knife, flares, energy bars, watergloves, small shovel, waterproof matches, and ice scraper.
picture courtesy: http://www.longbeachautodetail.com/files/2012/12/winter_car.jpg

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    How to Put On Tire Chains

    If you live in a snowy climate or plan on going on a vacation in the mountains, chances are that you're going to need tire chains. Even drivers who are experienced with driving in snow and icy conditions must have tire chains to maintain traction and stay in control on mountain roads and highways. 
    1. Make sure your tire chains fit your tires. Most tire chain packaging have a guide that indicate the appropriate types of tires, and stores and markets where chains are sold have guides (or helpful employees!) as well. Never use chains that are too large or too small for your tires.
    2. Lay the chains flat near the tire and remove all twists and tangles. Arrange the chains so that the side with sharp open hooks is facing down and away from the tire. If the hooks facing up, they will eventually face towards the tire and cause damage.
    3. On one end of the chains, identify the "C" hook and the bow lever. 
    4. Drive the car onto the chain by slowly and carefully rolling over the edge. The bow lever side should be on the outer side of the tire, and the "C" hook should be on the inner side. Stop when you have the connecting part of the chains just in front of the tire when the wheels stop, so you can adjust them.
    5. Go to the front and insert the bow lever through the chain link. Pull back on the bow lever to tighten the chains. Pull it again past the next link, and release. 
    6. After it is hooked, check the chains for a good, tight fit and make sure that they are centered on the tire, with the same number of free links on the inside and outside. If a hand can be slipped between the tire and the side/center chain, then it is too loose.
    7. After installation, try driving with the chains for half a mile, stop, and re-tigheten if necessary.
    Picture courtesy: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cc/Snow_Chain_Honda.jpg

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Protecting Your Car From Morning Frost

    It happens when you least expect it. You have the guts to get yourself out of bed in the morning, leave the warm safety of your blankets, and enter the freezing world outside only to have your car look like a popsicle when you're ready to go. Little did you know that while you were comfortably sleeping in your toasty bed, your car was out in the cold winter air, exposed to frigid temperatures all night long. Give it some love and give it some time, after all, you can't get to work driving an igloo.

    Here are some tips to defrost your exposed automobile during the winter:

    Park it in a garage!

    Yeah, this seems like a no-brainer. Find a garage. Borrow your friend's garage. Borrow your neighbor's garage. Keep in mind that it's advised, but not required, that you tell your friend or neighbor about your plans. If you don't, at least make them some pancakes when you show up asking for them to kindly open their garage door. This is the most surefire way to prevent your car from freezing over.

    Park in a garage-like place!

    Ok, so you don't have a generous friend or neighbor with an open space in their comfy personal parking lot. That's fine. Imitation is the best form of flattery. Stop mopping around wishing you had a garage and start adopting the mindset of a poser. Forget those fancy garage owners! Nature is your garage! If you park your car in an enclosed space, protected from wind, the chances that your car will be frosted over in the morning greatly decrease. This can be anywhere from an alleyway, to the middle of a grove of trees. Find shelter! Think of it as returning to your basic caveman instincts.

    Spend Money!

    That's right. The best things in life aren't free. Spend a little on your frostbitten vehicle and buy it a sweater to cuddle up in. It's the least you can do. Enough with the bling, your car looks coolest when not encased in ice. There are many products out there: from windshield protectors, with flashy names like 'Winter Warrior' and 'Motor Trend', to complete car jackets. Your car will thank you for buying it something nice by not freezing your butt off when you try to get to work.

    Stop being lazy!

    And bust out a squeegee and some cold water. It's time to swallow your pride and scrape off the ice like a true arctic commuter. But take it easy hotshot, using warm or hot water to melt away the ice will most likely cause your windows to crack. (It's called thermal expansion. Check it out.) Also, if you are still in the cash spending mood, there are special solutions for beating the frost without breaking your windshield. You can also mix water with vinegar for an extra potent ice-melting potion. So just suck it up and let everyone see you in your pajamas, bravely battling the elements. Who knows, if you scrape off enough, you might be able to throw a good snowball or two at your arrogant garage-owning buddies.

    Photo c/o: https://plus.google.com/u/0/110072237719234546165/posts/TKsxGCYTg4M

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    More tips to keep your car in shape

    So far we have covered a few large scale tips to help preserve your car. While there are still many more steps that can be taken to keep your car in tip-top shape, let's cover a few smaller details that can sometimes be overlooked. As mentioned in our previous article regarding auto cleanliness, the following tips follow the same theme.

    1.      Preserve Door and Window Seals:
    Reliable door and window seals are a must during the rainy season. Additionally, a poor seal can also lead to noisy wind whistles during driving. Maintaining door and window seals is an easily overlooked aspect of maintaining our cars. Luckily seals are easy to preserve. Wipe a rubber protectant (such as Armor-All) or silicone on the door and window weatherstripping. Avoid using oil based products such as WD-40 because oil can damage the rubber and worsen your problems. In particularly cold weather, well preserved weatherstripping can help prevent the likelihood of your door sticking to its rubber seal, a common cause of damage to the rubber.

    2.      Don't Let Bad Weatherstripping Worsen
    If bad weatherstripping is leaking water into the interior of your car it is best to address the issue as soon as possible. Decided whether you can fix a small leak with a brush-on seam sealer or the stripping needs to be replaced. If there are loose sections in the door trim you can re-secure them with trim adhesive. Torn or worn sections of weatherstripping can be preserved with special calking and foam inserts found in automotive stores. If you decide to replace the stripping be sure to buy stripping that is shaped for the model of your car. For information on the proper weatherstripping profile consult your dealership, website, or local automotive store.

    3.      Maintain Your Leather
    While leather seats are quite durable and require little maintenance throughout the years, they eventually collect dirt. When seats become dry and soiled they can begin to crack and tear, and if this problem is not addressed it can quickly lead to a slippery slope of deteriorating leather. Use a leather cleaner to remove dirt and stains. Then, apply a leather protectant formulated for leather car upholstery. Leather protectants and sealers can make cleaning easier in the future. Furthermore, applying a leather conditioner can help keep your leather soft. 

    4.      Maintain Your Upholstry
    If your seats are a fabric upholstery you can use the household upholstery cleaners. Use a clean cloth to wipe away foam and scrub the fabric. Applying a fabric protectant, such as Scotchguard, will make seats more resistant to dirt and stains and make them easier to clean in the long run. Be sure to test your product in an inconspicuous area to be sure it does not discolor your fabric.

    5.      Place A Towel and Plastic Under Baby Seats
    Let's face it, if you have children chances are car upholstery and leather will get soiled. All manners of food and liquids can accumulate under baby seats and permanently stain upholstery. Furthermore, maintaining car seats may be the last thing on your mind at the end of the day. Luckily, this can be avoided by simply placing a sheet of heavy plastic (e.g. a garbage bag) and an absorbent towel under the seat first. Then when your children graduate from college you might consider removing the protective barrier to reveal a nice clean car seat.

    Thanks for reading and check back shortly for more automotive insight!

    Thursday, October 24, 2013

    Fixing up vs Buying New

    Some might say that the best way to save money on cars is to keep and care for the ol' clunker and drive it until the drops. However, after some point, this becomes untrue; the money you save from not buying a new car is being eaten up by the costs associated with keeping the old one on the road. Whether to fix up or buy new is up to you, but here are some points to help you make an informed decision.

    For fixing up:
    • Except for the most disastrous of damages, repairs are almost always cheaper than buying an entirely new car. You might be able to buy a used car for a few thousand dollars, but keep in mind that a used car comes with its own set of issues.
    • Insurance premiums, registration fees, and personal-property taxes go up with new cars, and your financial situation might not be ideal.
    • New cars depreciate drastically within its first couple years on the road. Your old car has already taken the hit.
    • Everyone has a little sentimental attachment to their old cars. Perhaps it was your dream car, or your first car, or a gift from a beloved family member; your car can be like an old friend, associated with unforgettable memories of journeys long gone, and that can be something that is difficult to give up.
    For buying a new car:
    • You don't have to worry about future breakdowns, or at least not for a while. 
    • Trips to the mechanic cost you not only a hefty sum of money, but it also eats away at time better spent on work, friends, and family.
    • You're tired of your old car and ready for a change. Perhaps it looks like it's scratched and banged up like it's gone through a war, or it rattles like it's about to fall apart at the next trip to the store, or you have to bang on A/C to get it to work. 
    • You want something safer, since new cars come the the most up-to-date safety features and equipment (side airbags, tire-pressure monitors, electronic stability control, and more). 
    • A nicer looking car might could potentially boost your credibility in the eyes of your clients, for certain professions such as lawyers or salesmen.

    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    How To Protect Your Aluminum Wheels

                Wheels come in many different size, shapes, colors, and prices. However, what most people forget about when maintaining their car is maintaining their wheels. Keeping your wheels clean and corrosion free is just as important as maintain other parts of your car.
                Most original equipment manufacture's aluminum wheels are painted with a clear coat for corrosion resistance. To maintain this clear coat you can used any wax product that is formulated for base coats or clear coat finished. Additionally, there are specially formulated waxes designed for alloy wheels. However, DO NOT use any wax or polish that contains abrasives. The abrasives in chrome polish, rubbing compound, and restorative waxes will scratch and dull the clear coat on aluminum wheels.
                For those of you whose wheels are not as new as you'd like them to be, don't fret. There are wheel polish kits that can help restore dirty and rusted rims. Using a fine steel wool brush, wheel polishing compound, and a little bit of elbow grease you can remove surface oxide and anything that is remaining of the old clear coat finish. Once your wheels are looking shiny and clean you can re-apply a durable clear coat epoxy or paint, thus protecting your wheels from future damage.
                Road debris and salts can quickly corrode and pit unprotected aluminum wheels. Over extended durations of exposure, corrosion can cause more permanent irreversible damage to the wheels. Using some sort of wax, sealer or paint can protect your wheels from the elements.
                Another problem that may not seem so apparent to owners is aluminum wheels' ability to “weld” itself to another piece of metal. When Aluminum is in contact with a steel brake or drum rotor, the difference in metal compositions can lead to an electrolytic corrosion. As a result the aluminum literally becomes stuck to the steel wherever it comes in contact for a long period of time. This is really not an issue that should concern you on a daily basis as it can take quite a long time to occur. Furthermore, OEMs usually apply a clear coat on the aluminum that prevents this from happening. Another alternative to prevent electrolysis is to apply a light coat of silicone or synthetic break grease to the back of the wheel where it comes in contact with the rotor or drum.
                Ultimately, taking a little time to touch up your wheels now and then can save you the trouble of unsightly rusted and dirty wheels. 

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    All About Motor Oil

    What type of motor oil is best for my engine?
                The short answer to this question is, the type specified by the vehicle manufacturer in your owner's manual. For most passenger vehicles, almost any oil that meets the American Petroleum Institute's ratings can suffice, be they synthetic or petroleum based. However, there are many reasons why one might choose a certain oil viscosity over another.

    Oil Viscosity
                The oil viscosity required by vehicles depends on the climate the vehicle is being driven in. For example if your car is constantly in very hot weather a slightly thicker oil may be suggested to stand up against the heat. Conversely, a thick oil would not be recommended in colder climates where it may be more prone to freezing. Most new engines today require a multi-viscosity oil. This means  the oil is a mixture of both thin oil and thick oil. Because there is a mixture of oil viscosity they are more suited for all-round driving. Some options for multi-viscosity oils are listed here, from less thick to more thick, [5W-30], [10W-30], [10W-40], [20W-40].
                Lighter oils such as [ 5W-30 ] contain friction reducing additives that help improve fuel economy and also allow the oil to quickly reach critical upper valve-train components when a cold engine is first started. It is important for this lighter oil to quickly reach engine components because engine wear is most prominent during cold temperature starts.
                Thicker oils such as [40w] work well in very hot weather or engines that sustain a long period of drive time. The thicker oil can hold up better under high temperatures, increases oil pressure and reduces oil consumption in high mileage engines.

    Synthetic Oils
                For the most effective protection, durability and all around performance, synthetic oils are recommended. However, because these oils are man-made and not refined from petroleum their superior performance comes at a slightly higher price.
                Synthetic oils can withstand higher operating temperatures, up to 450 degrees, compared to petroleum based oils, which only operate up to 300 degrees. Therefore, synthetics are well suited for high output engines and turbo applications.
                Conversely, synthetics work just as well at sub zero temperatures. Where ordinary oils would normally freeze at 40 or 50 degrees below zero, synthetics flow freely making them easier for cold starts. There is no need to worry about engine wear as the synthetic oil can quickly provide upper valve-train lubrication.
                Another strong selling point of synthetic oils is their ability to resist oxidation and viscosity breakdown. As a result oil change intervals can be safely extended without break down or sludge up. However, one should note that failing to follow the Original Equipment Manufacture's scheduled change intervals could void the vehicles warranty.
                Ultimately the premium-priced oil is best for turbocharged or supercharged engines, performance or high output engines, vehicles used for towing, vehicles operated in extremely hot or cold climates, or those who want superior lubrication and protection.