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