Car Care Resolutions

So, how are your resolutions going? It’s been a few months, and those New Year’s resolutions may have fallen to the wayside. While that unused gym membership wasn’t cheap, neglecting your vehicle’s maintenance can be really costly. April is National Car Care Month, and a great way to get back into a schedule that works.

Here are a few tips from the Car Care Council.

  1. Regular oil changes. Remember, we do not have sloppily built engines running junk oil anymore. Today’s precision machining, tighter build tolerances, and high-tech oil allow longer intervals between oil changes. Still, it does need to be changed on time. Check your owner’s manual for recommendations, and go with a name brand oil filter.
  2. Get the brakes checked. The only thing stopping your vehicle is friction. Eventually, the brakes will wear out, and obviously, that is bad. You can’t tell by the squeal anymore, as some quiet compounds do not have a wear indicator. Don’t wait until metal is grinding on metal. Have a professional examine the brake system.
  3. gas capMake sure your gas cap is tight, every time. The gas tank is part of the emissions system, and a lose gas cap allows vapors to escape. This will not only cost you money as your gas evaporates from the tank, but also trigger that annoying “check engine” light. Turn it ‘til it clicks, and remember not to top up the tank. When the gas pump shuts off, the tank is full.
  4. Check your air pressure. Tires need to be properly inflated for several reasons. Tires that are low on air deform, causing decreased gas mileage, increased tire wear, and poor grip. Save money all around by ensuring your tires are at the proper pressure. Check the sticker on the door jamb, or on the sidewall of the tire for recommendations.
  5. Get an alignment. If you let go of the steering wheel while driving, does your vehicle pull to one side? Does the steering feel sloppy compared to new, or is there odd wear on your tires? If so, have the suspension looked at by a professional. The alignment should be checked every year, and it is very affordable preventative maintenance. A proper alignment will save gas and your tires.
  6. Have any leaks checked out by a mechanic. It might be something cheap and simple like an oil pan gasket leak. Don’t ignore it and keep adding fluid. Eventually something will fail. Remember, a leaking head gasket is not that expensive to replace. Ignoring it and cracking the cylinder head will be quite a bit more costly.

This is far from a comprehensive list, and a professional mechanic is your best source for advising you on regular vehicle maintenance. If you do not have a mechanic, add that to your list of resolutions for National Car Care Month. Or invest in an online manual from Haynes.com to learn how to Do It Yourself.

The Physics of Driving

Getting behind the wheel of a car involves a variety of thoughts. Drivers consider their destination, the route they will take, how weather, traffic, and construction projects may impact their arrival time, whether their seat, steering wheel and mirrors are properly adjusted and whether they have everything they need to bring with them. They may also worry about their seat belts, passengers, and what music is playing.

Very few people realize that by sitting in the driver’s seat, they are engaging in an exercise in physics.

Within a few weeks of beginning to drive, the act becomes almost rote.  We don’t have to think about how much pressure to apply to the accelerator to get a smooth ride or how soon we need to begin braking as we approach a stop sign.  The more years we spend on the road the less conscious thought we need to give to monitoring our distance to other cars, maintaining a consistent speed, or even how to navigate in weather that changes the amount of friction on the road, i.e., rain, ice, and snow.

Every one of these actions is physics in action.  Newton’s Laws of Motion, kinetic energy, velocity, mass, and force are all integral parts of operating a moving vehicle in a street or highway full of other moving vehicles; we just don’t stop to consider it.

Think back to the basic physics you learned in school.

First Law of Motion

“An object in motion stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.”  In one word: inertia.  Cars won’t move unless you apply enough force to overcome the mass. While the engine does most of the work by converting fuel into energy (another form of physics), drivers have to guide the process by turning off the parking brake (reducing inertia), starting the engine, and applying enough force to the accelerator to make the car move.  Keeping that force going is what keeps cars moving.

Crash-Tested Volvo C30 ElectricThe other side of the equation is all the steps involved in stopping a car, thus overcoming the “object in motion” part of the law.  And, unfortunately, without a seat belt, a driver or passenger in a car that is suddenly stopped by a crash may find that they don’t have anything stopping them from continuing forward, usually resulting in them flying forward through the windshield.

Other Laws

Driving a car is full of examples of how physics works. It’s a wonder that more teachers don’t use that as an incentive to get kids excited about learning this combination of science and math.  Resources for science teachers are available at www.lessonplanet.com/lesson-plans/science.

Here are some of the other basic principles of physics at work in an average car ride:

  • Newton’s Second Law of Motion – Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object).
  • Newton’s Third Law of Motion – For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction
  • Law of the Conservation of Energy – energy cannot be created or destroyed
  • Momentum
  • Impulse
  • Force
  • Mass
  • Acceleration

Some of these factor more into crashes and crash prevention than into the driving of a car. Others can explain why it takes so much time for a line of cars to accelerate after the traffic light turns green or why you have to speed up in order to pass a car that was already going slower than you.

If you want to understand driving at a deeper level, learn some physics.

Toyota & GM Recall Thousands of Cars

Rocking consumer headlines of late is the news that Toyota & GM have recalled thousands of cars. Consumers are used to hearing about recalls. It has even come to be expected. But when there are thousands of cars being recalled, that is when blood starts to boil and worries start to mount. Read on for a look at why the cars are being recalled and what this could mean for the two automotive giants.

2007 Pontiac G5GM Identified an Ignition Switch Defect

On February 25, 2014, General Motors made the announcement that they were aware of an ignition switch flaw that moves into the off position and turns engines off during operation. General Motors discovered that there were a total of 31 crashes and 13 deaths as a result of this faulty operation. As a result, GM has said that there are over 1.62 million cars worldwide that are affected by this issue. Just two weeks prior, GM had recalled almost 780,000 cars, including 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts and 2007 Pontiac G5 sedans and coupes.

Toyota Recalls Caused by Traction Control Malfunction

GM isn’t alone in recalling their vehicles due to malfunctioning equipment. Toyota recalled approximately 261,000 pick-up trucks and sports utility vehicles due to malfunctioning traction control. The vehicles affected include the 2012-2013 Lexus RX 350, the 2012 Toyota RAV4 and the 2012-2013 Toyota Tacoma. Toyota has been investigating this issue since July 2012, with the largest recall coming this month.

The Repercussions of the Recalls

With thousands of cars and trucks being recalled, brand names come into question. Consumers could decide not to purchase their cars from that manufacturer in the future. In addition, consumers could become frustrated and angry with having to worry about these defective vehicles that they spent their hard-earned cash on. Why many recalls cannot be foreseen, it is vital that consumers do their homework and check into manufacturer history to see how often recalls such as these are performed. By going with an auto manufacturer with a good track record, you are less likely to purchase or lease a car, truck or van that will not malfunction or be recalled.

The Bottom Line

Only time will tell if this recall is isolated to just a few types of vehicles or is more widespread. Customers should keep their eye open for consumer recalls that apply to their vehicle. This especially applies to individuals who just purchased or leased a new vehicle in 2012 or 2013.

Best New Cars for 2014

The New Year means more than alcoholic benders and resolutions you won’t keep. It’s all about horsepower, more mileage, better designs, and more luxury. Here are the best new cars of 2014.

Sport

The slick-looking seventh generation Chevrolet Corvette debuts for 2014. The Stingray name returns, as does the LT-1 v8, although this time without the dreaded Opti-Spark. With 450 horsepower and an optional Z51 performance suspension, the Corvette continues to dominate the performance bargain market. And yes, the haters will finally shut up, as this ‘vette has a refined interior within that new stealth fighter body.

2014 mazda 6Sedan

The Mazda 6 is new in 2014, and is the can of Redbull this segment needs. While most midsize family sedans have the driving charisma of a hovercraft, the 6 is from the company that makes the MX-5 Miata, and it shows. Massive fender flares and long sexy curves, 19-inch wheels, a slick and refined interior, all wrapped around great driving dynamics. If you’re going to have a soul crushing commute, make the drive less terrible with the Mazda 6.

Luxury

The big news this year is in entry level luxury, with the new Mercedes-Benz CLA. Starting at just under $30,000, the Bavarian compact shows that cheap doesn’t have to suck. Interestingly, the CLA has already started eating into Camry and Accord sales. While the CLA offers less tech gadgets and legroom, it is competing as a midsize due to it being a cheap Mercedes-Benz. You may not be able to fit all the groceries from Whole Foods, but you’ll feel so much richer than the plebeian in the Camry.

SUV

Land Rover arguably makes the best off-road vehicles in the world, this side of a military Humvee. The new 2014 Range Rover Sport continues the British icon’s legendary ability with two supercharged engines, a v6 and v8, offering 340 and 510 horsepower. While the Sport is smaller, and some would say less capable, than the top-of-the-line Range Rover, it also starts $20,000 cheaper. Land Rover calls it a “driver’s car,” but this car can tackle racing up Pike’s Peak and shopping in SoHo in the same day.

Truck

Back in the ‘90s, Ford’s fastest vehicle was not the Mustang, but the F-150 Lightning. The new 2014 F-150 Tremor can’t keep pace with the current Mustang, but it is very quick for a truck. The new single cab, short bed full size offers a 3.5L EcoBoost v6 putting out 365 horsepower. That’s one pony for each day of the year! The Tremor also comes with sweet 20-inch wheels and unique graphics package. For those interested in a truck without the usual truck drawbacks, the Tremor is for you. (see video below)

Economy

The new Mitsubishi Mirage is on no one’s list of desirable cars, yet this car matters. It’s tiny and cheap, with a hilariously underpowered three cylinder engine offering an amazing 44 mpg. While you might be stuck staring at the Fisher-Price styled interior, think of this ultra light weight $12,000 car as the spiritual successor of the original Beetle. Cheap is groovy, man.

 

Lemon Laws for cars

Buyer’s remorse is common enough in a consumer society, but what happens when someone invests their hard-earned money in a car, truck, or motorcycle that fails to perform properly? This is the reason states have “lemon laws.”

Back in 1975 the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provided protection for Americans who purchased cars or other vehicles that fail to meet performance and quality standards. Every state now has its own set of laws and acts that protect car buyers and, while each has its own name, they are collectively referred to as lemon laws.

lemonA lemon law usually addresses failures on the part of the manufacturer of the vehicle.  The Federal law covers mechanical failure or breakdown and holds the manufacturer liable not only for the cost of repairing or replacing the car, SUV, or other vehicle, but for the legal costs of plaintiff. State laws also usually provide such obligations.

In the sale of a vehicle, there are warranties given to the purchaser. Written warranties outline the guarantees the manufacture makes to the buyer. Implied warranties are a minimal standard guaranteeing that a car is fit for use. In general, a car that is sold without any warranty, on an “as is” agreement, is not covered under lemon laws at the federal or state level.

Since these laws vary from state to state, any car shopper needs to be aware of their specific jurisdiction, such as whether or not their state has lemon law protections for used or leased cars or only for new car purchases.  Car owners should check with a local lawyer, check recall lists, contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), or view research the Center for Auto Safety.

Who Will Win ALMS

It is the final season for the American Le Mans Series. Founded in 1999, the series has had a storied and exciting past, but in 2014 it will merge with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series to form the United Sports Car Racing Series.  The champions crowned by ALMS at the end of the 2013 series will be the last.  Everyone wonders, who those winners will be. Can reigning champion Scott Tucker win a fourth time? Who will win in GTC where only four points separate the top drivers?  Below is a look at the championship races in all categories.

muscle milk driver klaus grafP1

The team championship for the P1 class has already been locked up.  Muscle Milk Pickett Racing has earned enough points to secure a repeat championship. Muscle Milk teammates Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr have also repeated as champions in the drivers competition. The remaining two races of the season will likely only increase their point leads.

P2

Over in the P2 classification the numbers are closer, but it still seems clear that Level 5 Motorsports will earn a fourth straight team title. In the driver’s championship race things are a bit title.  Only 14 points separate the top four drivers. Most followers are betting on Level 5 to win the driver’s trophy for a fourth year in a row, the only question is which of the three top drivers, Marino Franchitti, Guy Cosmo or Scott Tucker will finish at the top of the podium.  Scott Sharp of Extreme Speed Motorsports also has the chance to jump from fourth to first, though that it is considered less likely.

PC

In this classification there are six team competing for the championship and five have one at least one race.  In fact, only 20 points separate the top four teams. Last year’s champion CORE Autosport is currently in second place, only eight points behind PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, so really it’s anyone’s game.  Same with the driver’s championship where 23 points separate leader Mike Guasch (120 points) from #5 place Chris Cummings (97 points) with Colin Braun (112 points) in second and Jonathan Bennett and Tristan Nunuz tied at 100 points.

GT

Last year’s team winner, Corvette Racing has tied up the 2013 championship with a 38 point lead over BMW Team RLL. Drivers Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen have a 13 point lead over Dirk Muller and an 18 lead over Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner (the latter shared the 2012 title).

GTC

Flying Lizard Motorsports currently has a 10 point lead over last year’s winning team, Alex Job Racing, giving them the edge in the championship race. 2012 driver champion Cooper MacNeil is currently tied with Jeroen Bleekemolen, but they only have a four pont lead over Nelson Canache Jr and Spencer Pumpelly who are tied for second. Both teams have won several races this season, so it will depend who wins at the final two events.

Southwest Law, Highways and Byways

Both Arizona and Nevada share some striking similarities, as well as some vast differences. The similarities are perhaps greater, however, as they also characterize the states, and make them part of a unique configuration that’s known as the southwest. Native peoples have occupied the lands for thousands of years, making up a large part of the rich history here. In Phoenix, where the canal system is based on something the Hohokam constructed hundreds of years ago, there are signs everywhere of human presence that predated the origins of the city proper. In Nevada, the history is very similar, where there are multiple cultures making up the cities, themselves based on older civilizations.

The characterization of the southwest as a young place in terms of the history of the country, then, is perhaps rather unfair. Or perhaps it simply points out some blind spots in the history of place. In the grand scheme of things, then, any law firm that’s local would be considered young. In terms of the age of the state of Arizona, which was incorporated in the 1880s, and entering into statehood in 1912, a law firm that can be considered local would have lived through many of the changes that the state has weathered while constructing its own identity in the national and international arena.

Like Nevada, Arizona ‘s identity is still in flux, and still something that’s constantly under construction. Arizona as a whole often reflects that iconic bird, the Phoenix, which gave its legend to the city. The bird is engulfed in flames, and rises out of its own ashes, and that’s an apt metaphor for the southwest. In the same way that an Arizona law firm’s interests and areas of focus become entwined with the needs of the community, a firm like Veriti Consulting Las Vegas would also become connected to the community in the Silver State. It will be interesting to see how the future of law might tie the states together, just as they have been linked to a remarkable and fascinating past.

Avoiding Hazards When Driving in Cold Weather

snowFor some people, driving in snow and navigating on icy roads is second nature, they grew up this kind of environment, and it is one in which they are familiar.  I however grew up in the Southwestern desert city of Phoenix, Arizona.  So as my first winter approached after I had moved to Chicago, I was a bit nervous.  My Chevy Tracker, not a Chevrolet Cavalier, repair manual offered tips on the engine and the battery, but some of the other aspects of cold weather driving I had to live and learn, not without advice however, from those who knew what to expect.

My first experience with driving in snow, was not bad…as the snow had just started falling.  I was on the Dan Ryan Freeway heading home one night and there were light flurries.  The most that this did was to affect my sight, as the snow and the wind caused the flurries to swirl and I struggled to just not become hypnotized.  However, when the snow really began to fall I consulted the Chevrolet pickup repair manual for items that I was in need of.

When driving in cold weather it is good to have a backup of supplies, such as extra hats and gloves.  As well as traction mats, bags of sand or kitty litter, for extra weight as well as for use getting out of snowed in situations, and of course, the ever necessary window scraper.  A GMC pickup repair manual I had read, also suggested that once you are finished driving through snow and slush, it is good to wash out the wheels of your vehicle with a high pressured hose.  The accumulation of snow, slush and debris may cause your vehicle to ‘vibrate’ as you drive, adding to the potentially hazardous road situations.  All of these tips helped me out on that first, and very scary winter driving on the streets of the city of Chicago.

Buying a Motorcycle

motorcycleThey are two-wheeled, meaning they can get around traffic more easily than motor vehicles. Their engines are of a smaller capacity than those of most cars, but they pack a powerful punch. Meaning you’ll go as far as a car can take you, and as fast, if not faster, for less. There being much less machinery to take care of than in a car, a bike is generally easier and less expensive to maintain. Plus they are much more adrenaline-inducing to drive than other kinds of vehicles – unless you are involved with motorsports of course! These are just a few of the reasons that make many Americans opt to buy motorcycles rather than a car.

But some add a bike after having initially purchased cars not necessarily for their functionality, rather for fun rides over the weekend. Whipping a fat Harley-Davidson on the open freeways has been an American pastime for decades and for this reason a good number of motocycle clubs exist. The temptation to speed through the open country with nothing more than a four-stroke engine and a half-face helmet between you and the world is one many have found too sweet to resist. On top of the feeling of freedom they offer, bikes have long been a fashion statement. For this reason customizing bikes has become part and parcel of biking culture, not just in the USA, but around the world.

With the rising gas prices and the economic conundrum America is still grappling with, more Americans are using motorbikes to commute to work, not just for weekend escapades. It has been proven statistically that for this reason more Americans now than at any point in history, have bikes and use them regularly. Biking is particularly handy for those working in towns as they also save on parking fees.

Now that the pros of biking are becoming more and more apparent, you may be thinking of saving up for your own pair of wheels. Peachy. But before you eventually head out to a dealership you might want to think about one or two things. First, of course you’ll want to sign yourself up for a couple of lessons from a reputable driving school. Having done that you’ll need to take the riding test and get yourself properly licensed. Now you can go sniffing around for your bike and you will immediately realize that you’re faced with a choice between new and second-hand. Each of these options has its merits and demerits. A used motorcycle will obviously be cheaper, and you will feel less pain (emotionally, not physically) when you crash it into things. However, cheap may end up being expensive in the long run as you grapple with the costs of motorcycle maintenance and repair. But even when it breaks down, that presents an opportunity for you to learn the innards of your bike. This is important as in future you can save yourself heaps of cash by being able to detect and fix minor issues instead of visiting a mechanic.

Motorcycles come in an infinite number of flavors, from racing bikes to street bikes to cruisers to mopeds. Some of these have their appearance and performance tuned for racing while others are mere eye candy. As a beginner you will want to go for a less powerful motorcycle (between 50 and 200cc engine capacity) while you get the hang of riding.

The Best Auto Racing Video Games and Phone Apps

gamesAs technology develops and video games become more and more realistic, auto racing video games have only become better and more realistic. They’ve gone from a past time enjoyed by a select few, to an enjoyment that millions of people take part in across consoles, styles, titles, and topics.

From there, we can deduce a few of the best and most popular games of all time, and what are out currently, and see just what auto racing games and apps are truly popular and worthwhile for millions of people out there today.

Gran Turismo

Gran Turismo has sold 60 million copies, making it one of the most popular racing games in history, but it’s still going strong today. With a PlayStation console that features customizable cars, interesting and unique tracks, and many demos and mods to choose from, Gran Turismo is very much accessible for people of all ages and background who are looking for gaming’s best racing offering on the market.

Midnight Club

Midnight Club is a game that can cross platforms and be played on multiple different technologies, and it’s got the option to drive both cars and motorcycles. It’s got interesting and visually appealing interfaces, with story lines that create an awesome and unique racing game that has thus far been popular, but surprisingly under-appreciated for what it entails and provides the gamer.

MarioKart

A bit of a non-traditional video game, MarioKart is one of the classics, with a great deal of attention paid to the Mario heroes like Yoshi, Koopa, Bowser, and of course, Mario and Luigi themselves. This classic keeps reinventing itself, and provides for players an amazing bit of nostalgia while still being a genuinely fun racing game to play today on SNES, XBox, or a variety of other platforms and gaming consoles.

Real Racing

Unique to the iPhone and other mobile phones and tablets, Real Racing provides a great customizable racing game that really strives to give a realistic quality to racing, and allows you to choose your own adventures with more than 45 vehicle options and all the capability you have come to expect from the iPhone, iTunes, and the App Store.

Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto is still a classic, and even though it’s evolved and innovated through the sale of more than 100 million units over time, it’s still as strong as ever. GTA not only broke record sales marks, but it provides a non-traditional look at racing, crime, and even missions that involve sometimes morally questionable deals. For people looking for the best and most unique, GTA is the way to go!

Need For Speed

Like GTA, Need For Speed is one of the most popular racing games on the planet, and has continued to develop a wonderful following online and on various consoles. It provides realistic cars, tracks, and racing seasons with fans and more, and uses intricate graphics to really bring a realistic feel to racing online.

Mitchell Carpenter covers gaming and software for a variety of tech sites and blogs.  He also writes about software for sites like www.clickpointsoftware.com as well as news sites.

 

photo by: kevin dooley