Spring Clean Your Car

This was a rough winter if you lived anywhere in the Northeast or Midwest.

But, it looks like we’re finally coming out of the cold and snow and into spring. Baseball’s started and April Showers are in full force.

With the nicer weather, you might be in the midst of Spring Cleaning your house. As you’re organizing the garage and landscaping the yard, don’t neglect your car or truck.

Winter weather takes a heavy toll on our vehicles. The extreme cold and fluctuations in temperatures can damage or weaken important parts. Salt and deicing fluid used for the roads can deteriorate metals and paint. And all the mud and sand on your boots are bad for your interior.

So, as you start to emerge from hibernation, here are some easy and practical things you can do to Spring Clean your car.

Reduce Your Salt Intake

The salt and deicing solution that kept you from slipping off the roads in February can cause major body damage if not properly cleaned. Its chemical and abrasive qualities can eat away and rust metal, damage paint or take a small scratch and make it worse.

Courtesy of garysautomotive.com

Courtesy of garysautomotive.com

One of the easiest things to do to prevent rust and salt damage is to wash your car. Be sure to use as high-powered a sprayer as possible and get into all the cracks. These are the places where the salt will accumulate and cause the most damage.

The one place that most people forget to clean is the undercarriage. Closest the road, the undercarriage receives the full brunt of winter salt.

An easy way to wash under your car, one that spares your knees and back, is to use a lawn sprinkler.

Leave the sprinkler under the car for a few hours until you sense that all the chemicals and salt have been removed.

I’m Rubber, You’re Glue

Rubber doesn’t do well in extreme temperatures. Very hot and very cold can stretch, crack or tear rubber parts.

This is a big problem when many seals, belts, tires and other parts of your car are made of rubber.

Courtesy of midwestperformancecars.com

Courtesy of midwestperformancecars.com

If you’re good at DIY repairs and can work your way around an engine, check over all your rubber parts. If not, take your car to a trusted mechanic and have them do it. Look for small cracks or wearing. These could be signs of more damage or that the part is about to fail.

CARCHEX - over-inflated-tire-textFor your tires, check the pressure. You should be doing this regularly anyways, but it’s especially important when the seasons shift. The warmer air will cause your tires to inflate. Over inflated tires can cause reduced fuel economy and be more easily damaged when you hit a pothole caused by winter ice.

Leave the Sand for the Beach

Just as the salt and sand damage the outside of your car, anything you track in on your boots gets ground into the carpet or seats.

Courtesy of gm-trucks.com

Courtesy of gm-trucks.com

Now that it’s warm enough to vacuum without getting frostbite, take the time to thoroughly clean the inside of your vehicle. Take out and wash, if possible, any floor mats. Don’t forget about your trunk where you might have stored shovels or bags of sand or kitty litter.

While you’re at it, use some vinyl or leather cleaner to clear your dash and seats of any built up dust or grime. This will also help seal them against the strong UV rays and heat of the summer sun.

With these few simple Spring Cleaning tips, you can get your car shining again and be proud to cruise the boardwalk this summer.


Understanding Your Green Car Options

As we approach St. Patrick’s Day, we turn our attention to everything green.

Green hats. Green shirts. Green beer. Green Cars.

Well, not that kind of green car. We’re talking about environmentally friendly gas-sippers that will save you money every time you’re at the pump (if you have to fill up at all).

With more categories of green cars than ever to choose from, we’ve put together a list of the most prominent to help you understand your choices.

Fuel-efficient gas models

For years, Detroit struggled to produce fuel-efficient vehicles. Heavy trucks (think Hummer) and huge family station wagons resulted in gas-guzzlers dominating the roads.

But, the rising cost of oil combined with the emergence of concern for the environment prompted action. By 2016, American-made cars will have a mandated fuel efficiency of 34.5 mpg on average. This rises to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

The emergence of hybrid and electric vehicles will go a long way to meeting these requirements. But, gas powered vehicles are also becoming more efficient than their predecessors.

Honda’s CR-Z and Scion’s iQ lead the way in this category. They average a combined fuel economy (highway and city driving) of 37 mpg.

If you need something a little sportier or larger, the Audi A3 diesel, Ford Fiesta SFE and Honda Fit wagon come in just behind, averaging 36 mpg.

Audi A3

Audi A3

(Photo Credit)

Gas-electric hybrids

In 2000, the Toyota Prius launched the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) revolution. With a combination electric/internal combustion engine, it could run on batteries when needed, but still have the peace of mind of a combustion engine for power and travel distance.

Last year, over 452,000 HEVs were sold in the United States. Almost all manufacturers have produced HEVs, including luxury brands such as BMW, Lexus and Mercedes. In fact, HEVs come in all model lines, from compact to the Chevy Tahoe.

The Prius still leads this pack when it comes to fuel efficiency, averaging a combined 50 mpg.

Toyota Prius hybrid

Toyota Prius

(Photo Credit)

Plug-in hybrids

A more advanced version of its HEV cousins, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) can recharge its batteries by plugging in to a conventional power outlet. These cars can run exclusively on electricity, but still retain a combustion engine in case of full battery discharge.

The Chevrolet Volt is one of the most popular PHEV models. Toyota has released a plug-in Prius as well. They both get approximately 60 mpg. And if you’re searching for a more luxurious plug-in, Cadillac just released the ELR in 2014.

2014 Cadillac ELR

2014 Cadillac ELR

(Photo Credit)

All electric

Once considered a dream, the electric car is now a reality. With no internal combustion engine, these vehicles are propelled by battery power only. If you need to “fill up,” all you need to do is plug the car into an electrical outlet.

What keeps many people from purchasing an all-electric vehicle is the concern over range and power. At the moment, most all electric vehicles have a range of between 50-100 miles. This means that you can drive that many miles before having to plug-in and recharge your car.

However, the Tesla Roadster and Model S boast both significantly longer ranges and extreme power. Their range is between 244-300 miles/charge. And, the new dual-motor Model S can go from 0-60 mph in just 3.2 seconds. That’s comparable to a Ferrari, McLaren or Lamborghini.

Fuel cell vehicles

Fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) might be the next big thing in green cars. A step beyond all-electrics, FCVs rely on hydrogen to power their engines. This produces emissions of only water and air.

Toyota is about to release the first mass-produced FCV with the Mirai. What still remains to be seen is how quickly the fueling infrastructure of hydrogen stations can be built up to support these futuristic vehicles.

Toyota Mirai

Toyota Mirai

(Photo Credit)


Valentine’s Day Gifts for Car Lovers

car valentinue(Photo Credit)

Valentine’s Day is Saturday. Once again, we’re all scrambling to get the perfect gift for that special someone.

You could always go the traditional route with flowers, chocolates, stuffed animal and a romantic candle-lit dinner for two.

But what if your Valentine loves his/her car as much as they love you? We’ve put together a few Valentine’s Day gift ideas for the gearhead in your life. Enjoy!

Love Is in the Details

Valentine’s Day comes in the middle of winter, when most of us haven’t washed or vacuumed our cars in months. Why would we when it’s 20-degrees outside and there’s bound to be more salt on the roads next week?

Treat your gearhead to an all-inclusive car detailing session. We’re talking the Ultra-King-Deluxe package. Wash, wax, polish, retouching, vinyl, vacuum, leather, chrome, shampoo, mats, undercarriage, under the hood…you name it.

Make that car look downright desirable and sexy. How happy and confident will the driver be with the best looking car in the neighborhood?

happy driver(Photo Credit)

Drive of a Lifetime

Is your Valentine a big racing fan? Do they marvel at the speed and power of NASCAR and wish that, if only for a day, they too could lean into turn four?

If so, check out one of the many different fantasy-driving options, such as the Richard Petty Driving Experience. They could learn from a crew chief how to master the track and then get behind the wheel of a 600hp stock car for 40 laps at some of NASCAR’s most legendary venues.

richard petty driving experience(Photo Credit)

If they aren’t up for actually putting the pedal to the metal, you could send them for a ride-along and let the professional ferry them around the track at 160mph.

Car Décor

Bring the power and style of your favorite vehicle inside your home. And no, we’re not talking about driving through the front door. There are many artistic options for automotive home décor.

There’s the engine block coffee table.

engine-block-coffee-table(Photo Credit)

The engine block table/wine rack.

bmw-engine-block-coffee-table-1(Photo Credit)

Mustang or Corvette pool tables.

Corvette-Pool-Table(Photo Credit)

pool table 2(Photo Credit)

And don’t forget the classic…the car bed.

Car bed 1(Photo Credit)

car bed 2(Photo Credit)

 Popping the Question

If you’ve decided to make Valentine’s Day extra romantic and finally pop the question to your gearhead, why not go the extra mile and do it with a ring designed to look like a wheel?

tire ring 1(Photo Credit)

You can find customized rings to fit your significant other’s car company preference. Are they a Ford or a Chevy person?

car ring 2(Photo Credit)

car ring 3(Photo Credit)

Or maybe they’re more of an import, German driving machine type.

car ring 4(Photo Credit)

 

Whatever you decide to give for Valentine’s Day, just remember that flowers and chocolates will be gone in a week. Your car will be around for years to come.

valentine's baby(Photo Credit)


North American International Auto Show Recap

auto show logo 2(Photo Credit)

Last month, car manufacturers from around the globe gathered in Detroit to share their latest, greatest vehicles at the North American International Auto Show.

As you know, the past decade has been rocky for the automotive industry, especially Detroit’s Big 3 of Chrysler, Ford and GM. But, this year’s show seemed to signify a bounce back for the industry. Along with falling gas prices, there was a newfound sense of optimism on the show floor. Attendance even hit a 12-year high.

And the show was more diverse than ever, with electrics, hybrids, muscle cars, trucks and something we’re not quite sure what it is.

Here’s a recap of what you may have missed and what you can look forward to seeing on the roads this year and in the years to come.

Car and Truck of the Year

A year after Chevy swept the Car and Truck of the Year awards with the Stingray and Silverado, this year’s winners were a split decision.

Volkswagen took home Car of the Year honors with its Golf model, beating out the Ford Mustang and Hyundai Genesis. The Ford F-150 was crowned Truck/Utility of the Year, edging out the Chevrolet Colorado and Lincoln MKC.

2016-volkswagen-golf-r-55_800x0w

Volkswagen Golf named Car of the Year

(Photo Credit)

Return of the American Supercar

Last year’s Ford Mustang brought back some much-needed edge and style to the classic franchise. But Ford wasn’t satisfied with simply one re-design.

This year, it unveiled a beautiful new 2017 GT supercar. As you can see in the video below, its style and power is good enough to rival anything coming out of Europe. But if you want one, you’ll have to wait until next year and probably shell out over $150,000.

Japanese Automakers Push Pickup Trucks

With Ford and Chevy winning for best truck in back-to-back years, Japanese automakers like Nissan and Toyota were eager to improve their pickup game.

Nissan introduced its new Titan XD model at the show. As you can see, in an apparent attempt to gain market share in the full-size pickup market, its style is very similar to the F-150.

Toyota unveiled a new generation of Tacoma trucks. These new midsized pickups are Toyota’s best effort to remain in the top spot after recent gains by GM.

Toyota Tacoma

Toyota introduces new Tacoma pickups

(Photo Credit)

Electrics and Hybrids

Even as gas prices continue to fall, automakers are betting big on electric, hybrid or alternate fuel vehicles.

The public got a first look at the new Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid. GM has come a long way in just over a decade, from buying back its original electric cars for scrap to leading the way with new electric technologies.

Maybe the most intriguing hybrid of the show was the 2016 Acura NSX. This sleek sports car boasts both a twin-turbocharged V6 and three electric motors. The result is supercar speed with hybrid gas mileage.

2016 Acura NSX

The 2016 Acura NSX, a hybrid supercar

(Photo Credit)

What Is It?

The oddest concept unveiled at the show might have been the Toyota FV2.

Part scooter, part Segway, part 3-wheeler and part skateboard, this concept vehicle defied easy characterization. What we do know is that it has no steering wheel and that it’s supposed to be like guiding a sled down a snowy hill. You can get a full feeling of what might be the future of transportation in the video below.


Winter Driving Myths

There are real automotive mechanics and then there are “mechanics.” You know, the ones who can do a few repairs in the driveway, but who think they’re in a NASCAR pit crew. They spout off half-truths about maintenance and repair issues that they heard third-hand from someone or that their grandfather told them 50 years ago when cars were much simpler machines.

Much of the time, their “advice” is harmless. But sometimes, listening to these wannabe Crew Chiefs can actually damage your vehicle or put you in danger behind the wheel.

Here are three myths you might hear about winter driving, and the truth behind them.

Let Your Car Warm Up Before Driving

This is one you always hear. The conventional wisdom is that on cold days, you need to let your car warm up 5-10 minutes before driving. The thought is that your engine, oil, transmission and other essential parts under the hood need to be warm in order to safely drive.

This is simply not true.

Think about it for a minute. Your engine, when fully warm, operates at several hundred degrees. No matter if it’s summer or winter, it takes a few minutes to get to that temperature.

But you don’t let your car warm up in summer, do you? So why would a change of 30-50 degrees in external temperature make that much of a difference on how your engine performs?

It doesn’t.

The only things you’re doing when you let your car warm up in the winter are:

1. Wasting gas.
2. Inviting thieves to steal your vehicle.
3. Making yourself feel better with a nice, toasty interior.

Your car will drive fine without being warmed up as long as you don’t peel out and stress the engine before it gets to normal operating temperature (something you shouldn’t do at any time of year).

car_exhaust(Photo Credit)

Snow Tires

Some people try to convince you that you need different tires for every season.

There is some legitimacy to this line of thinking. But, unless you live in someplace like Rochester, NY, Green Bay, WI or Tahoe, chances are the all-season tires you have will be fine for the winter months.

The major difference between all-season tires and snow (or winter) tires is the type of rubber used. Winter tires are made with rubber that doesn’t harden in colder temperatures. So, they remain flush with the road, giving you better traction in cold, icy or snowy conditions.

But for most of us, it just doesn’t get that cold or snow that much for the investment in winter tires to be worth it. The one exception would be if you have high-performance or racing tires. These do need to be changed out in colder months.

For the rest of us, as long as we keep our tires properly inflated (check them when cold once a week), make sure that the treads are in good condition (use a quarter to check on tread depth) and drive with caution in bad weather, all-season tires should work just fine this or any winter.

Snow_Chain_Honda(Photo Credit)

Use Hot Water to De-Ice The Windshield

No one likes de-icing a car. All the scraping…back and forth, back and forth. It takes forever, it’s cold, you’re half awake and have to get to work. There has to be an easier way, right?

Whatever you do, DON’T follow the advice of pouring hot or boiling water across your windshield and other windows. The massive and sudden temperature change will put large thermodynamic stresses on the glass, possibly resulting in cracking or even shattering.

The water could also seep down your windows or into your locks, damaging electrical systems. Or, worse yet, it could refreeze before you get a chance to dry it off, leaving you no way to open your doors or unlock your vehicle.

icy-windshield(Photo Credit)

 

As with most things, a little common sense about driving in winter goes a long way. And if you still have questions, please, contact your local trained mechanic for an educated opinion on the best course of action.


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