The Story Behind Today’s Car Wheels

Vanity Fair dot com

It’s something we see every day and take for granted, but in reality, the car wheel is a result of several decades’ worth of engineering and redesign.

The basics design of the wheel hasn’t altered much since the beginning—central hub with spokes or rods radiating out to a circular tire support surface. The reason hubs have spokes is simply to save weight and keep the vehicle as light as possible. The heavier the wheel, the more uncomfortable the travel, especially when the car has to break.

httpcar-part.comWheelexp dot HTMLThe basic parts of a wheel are…the Hub (or center disc), Lug, Spoke, Rim (or outer lip), Barrel, Tire, and Valve Stem.

In the very center of the hub may be a center bore or a center cap but either will be surrounded by lug holes for bolts to fit through. Of course, securing the wheel to your vehicle are lug nuts. Exactly why lug nuts are called lug nuts is a bit of a mystery. Handles are sometimes known as lugs, but these aren’t exactly handled? If you have any information about this let us know.

Around the edge of the wheel is the tire. It seems that tires go back to the very first gas-powered car in 1888. Before then tires used for carts and steam engines were metallic, and amazingly most people felt that pneumatic tires were as revolutionary as the horseless carriage itself. As with the spokes it is all about keeping the weight down as much as possible.

Strangely, given the usefulness of the pneumatic tires, they didn’t catch on for another seven years. Finally, a car featured in the automobile race from Paris to Bordeaux used pneumatic tires. These cities are only about 400 miles apart but at the time cars routinely broke down, making this race an “endurance race.” The pneumatic tires performed well, keeping the car moving, and garnered the attention they deserved.

car-932455_1920Although we now associate tires with having a tread or a specific pattern the idea of incorporating this into a tire’s design didn’t start until 1920. Nowadays it is possible to know who made a tire simply from the tread alone.

While tires quickly took on the look we’re accustomed to seeing they didn’t start making them from synthetic rubber until about 1931. At that time Du Pont industrialized the manufacturer of the rubber, similar to the way that Henry Ford had industrialized the manufacturer the main chassis of the car a few decades earlier. Everything was moving to make the whole process of creating a car more efficient.

Miraculous and ubiquitous as the car modern rubber car tire is, their Achilles heel is obvious–when they become flat they no longer function. To combat this problem, Michelin first invented a “semi-bullet-proof” tire in 1935, which was ultimately too expensive for all but military and bank armored cars. Then in 1958 Chrysler and Goodyear teamed up to create an interlining that prevented blow-outs. In 1972 Dunlop launched their version with the Total Mobility Tyre which became their TD/Denloc tire. Eventually, the Modern run-flat tires were born.

The strategy of most of these tires is to either an inner lining that is “self-sealing” or to insert an inner ring capable of carrying the car’s weight. The latter solution is more rugged and preferred for “armored” vehicles, where weight is an issue.

The only real solution when encountering a flat is to change the wheel. For decades the answer was to carry a “spare,” but in more recent times the practice of carrying an entire replacement tire has morphed into small “donut” tire suitable for only a short distance. This saves valuable weight (and therefore fuel cost) and takes up less room in the trunk. Most recently new cars are selling without a spare of any kind because people hate changing their own tires and prefer roadside assistance.

Not only are car wheels important for getting your around, but they are also intimately involved with the braking system, but that’s a story for another day. Just know that properly working wheels may save your life.


Thanksgiving Weekend: The #1 Day for Auto Crashes


The single day with the most collisions isn’t a heavy drinking holiday.

crash-1308575__340Sadly, the title of “deadliest day of the year” is actually Thanksgiving. Over 500 Americans are killed every Thanksgiving, and that doesn’t include the thousands of others who are injured. Compare that to 102 fatal accidents, which is the daily average on any other given day. While fortunately, most collisions (even on Thanksgiving) don’t result in a fatality, the resulting damage—to people and their vehicles alike—can be extensive.

You’re much more likely to get into a minor fender bender rather than a deadly accident when making a mad dash for that forgotten bag of cranberries en route to your family’s big event. While everyone involved in the minor accident may be okay, the same might not be true of your vehicle. Even a seemingly small tap can cause massive body and bumper damage, especially to a collectible car.

After the turkey’s carved, the stretchy pants are being tested and the pumpkin pie is devoured, you still have one last challenge: Get your car repaired as quickly and beautifully as possible before the next holiday creeps up.

And You Thought the Turducken Would be the Worst Part of the Weekend

isolated-964385__340Since Thanksgiving is a magnet for crashes, that means you can expect a long wait to get into a quality body shop than normal. Plus, many shops are generous with holiday time off. While you’re number 20 in line for a paintless dent removal procedure, you’re having to tool around town with a busted taillight or massive dent. Rely on a local body shop that puts the “customer” back into customer service.

You deserve a collision repair shop that offers free walk-in estimates, a reasonable turnaround time, and friendly, knowledgeable staff who’s seen it all before. Seek out a shop with state of the art technology including computerized paint matching so nobody can tell your car’s paint job is anything but the factory original. Mix in a lifetime guarantee on services and the ability to check your car’s status online, and suddenly that Thanksgiving collision is just a bad memory (kind of like your aunt’s “special” stuffing that just never pans out).

Giving Thanks for Fast Fixes

transport-3146193__340Collisions big and small both deserve an expert touch. From window and glass replacement to custom paint jobs, trust your ride to only the best. Don’t settle for a shop that doesn’t offer rental car assistance or specialize in express repair services. Auto body work is part skill, part talent and part having the right technology at hand. However, once your ride is back in tip-top shape, why stop there? Treat yourself to a little holiday indulgence.

Splurge on some detailing or have a pro install an auto accessory you’ve had your eye on. Get that “slightly off” alignment and suspension taken care of, or repair that torn seat cushion that keeps snagging on your gym clothes. From wheel repairs to headlamp restoration, getting your car in its best shape before the winter months doesn’t just make you feel better, it optimizes your safety on the road. After all, Christmas and New Year’s Eve might not be the deadliest time of year to be on the road, but they’re right around the corner and very close runners-up.



The Car and the Male and Female Thing


CompareIf you want to lose a girl, go on about cars. If you really want to lose a girl, take her to a motor show.

This seems to be the general image of the whole guy/gal thing. The whole idea of the testosterone-fuelled alpha male going on about cars for the fan of the hot rod, people like Chip Foose and Chris Jacobs. A car is not just something to get in to drive from A to B, it is a show that you are wealthy to the lady of your choice. It is what makes the great male who he is, or so it would seem.

Pitching these type of shows on sports channels seems to be the way to go, like Caffeine and Octane, found on the NBC Sports Network. Okay, there is something sporty about fast cars but this show is also going for those who like style. Not the usual macho audience, you might think. Though given the car theme calling it ‘Beer and Octane’ would send a bad message.

Why are cars macho though? You can almost hear the barroom arguments around this question. One side drawing a connection between a hot rod and his other favorite anatomy, while the other pushes the stereotype that women can’t park. This discussion could get a bit heated if it carries on too long.

It could be that the macho audience isn’t necessarily the one to advertise to, despite how it might come across on the small screen or on the billboards. With a family audience, it doesn’t always help to show the man in charge. An anecdotal study by the magazine Auto Trader showed that 92% of the viewers felt most of the ads were far too masculine,  the actual word might have been “hyper-masculine,” so maybe the advertisers haven’t picked up on how we really are? They might be better off showing more females behind the wheel, especially in family situations. If there’s a disconnect with your audience, the problem isn’t with your audience.

Speaking of surveys, there are many surveys done which show that women still want men to be in attractive cars, maybe they’re more attracted to the car? Well, one study had women choose between the same man–one in a Bentley and another in a beat-up Ford Fiesta–and most liked him better in the Bentley. The University of Cardiff in the U.K. conducted the study, but it might be a no-brainer, really…

When the study was repeated with men, the results were unclear. The popularity of an attractive woman seemed unaffected by the type of car she sat in. Maybe the guys just wanted to drive the vehicle themselves? It’s possible.


The Mini – From Paper to Production


By Paul Wimsett

What is the spark that brings a car into existence? Well, it’s probably the same as everything else. Someone is daydreaming and wonders “wouldn’t it be great if…?” And as the case with ideas, many of them go nowhere. And once in a while ideas really fly.

Take the Mini. It seems such an obvious design for a small car that we can’t imagine a time without it. But the problems with the small size meant that it probably needed a great deal of working out.  The solution of a “transverse engine front wheel drive” seems like nonsense to most people, so let’s break it down.

Transverse engine – having the engine facing the same way as the way you’re traveling.

Front wheel drive – having the engine drive the front wheels only.

These seem rather obvious but the Beetle for example has an engine that is at right angles to the way you’re traveling – it does make sense in a smaller car – and there could be a world where a Mini would have a four-wheel drive, only it would probably cost more. It’s all about coming up with the perfect vehicle.

mini-458330_1920The best part of these features is that it allows more room for both the luggage and the passengers, space is a premium in smaller vehicles. Whether there was an “Aha!” moment with the Mini it is difficult to say, but creating the right engine and the right drive seems to be part of it.

Once you create a brand of car you can develop it. The Countryman is a new version of the Mini which is all about advanced technology and better use of space. Because of the shape of the Mini there cannot be endless supplies of space in a vehicle and technology can only improve the vehicle so far. But these are marketable ways of changing the brand and creating a better vehicle to drive.

Speaking of marketing…

The best thing to happen to the Mini was the 1960’s. The number of celebrities that seemed to come out in favor of the Mini – George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Steve McQueen, and Mick Jagger improved its reputation by miles. It didn’t seem to be about luxury travel, it seemed to be all creating a British car that got you from A to B.

There have been failures too…

The first being the Issogonis. Created in 1959 one of the points you’d notice is that it looks look like a small Ford car rather than a Mini. There were some problems with this type of car, not least the strange name. The most pressing would be that it was hard to get at the engine. Maybe this was due to reducing a fairly big car’s design into a small car-the engine just didn’t quite fit in the same way. But there are always pitfalls in car production.

It seems now that the Mini is impossible to replace in the affections of the public, in spite of the fact that it is now made by an Anglo-German company. Still, you can’t expect everything to stay the same.

The Complicated World of Power Steering


Most of us think we know what power steering is – some kind of additional help needed to steer – but it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. It is all about making the whole process of steering easier. Without power assist, a car needs a great amount of pressure to steer it. Having some assistance means it is less of a strain.

Oddly enough the physical weight of the vehicle impacts how hard it is to force those tires to move sideways instead of rolling forward. Therefore, the reasons behind power steering come from the fact that cars and trucks are getting heavier and heavier, making them in turn difficult to manoeuver. The good news is that we haven’t run into any studies which suggest that drivers have become weaker.

What is the power behind power steering? Quite simply, hydraulics. But it’s too simple to stop there. For one thing, you need the engine on to use hydraulics. Without that the hydraulics actually work against the driver has to muscle the works of that system on top of shoving the tire against the friction of the rubber and road. The answer to that is to create a system that lets the car operate manually when there isn’t the power to the hydraulics. The way to switch between manual and power steering needs to be thought out in the design phase, every car uses a slightly different system.

The physical item which operates the power steering is known as an actuator. It’s basically a cylinder which moves thanks to hydraulics.

The Most Recent Advances:

Most recent improvements chalk up to tweaks to what already worked, BUT one advanced type of power steering has immerged–called “drive by wire” (also known as “steer by wire” or “brake by wire”) Created for off-road vehicles to make them less likely to break down due to jarring. The problem with this type of steering is that might be possible to hack from an outside force. But it can also be controlled by game controllers and laptops given the right type of alterations. Because you don’t need as many physical components as the usual type of power steering you cut down on weight. There are different systems in place for braking, parking and so on in these kinds of vehicles.


Brief History:

Surprisingly power steering dates back to the very early days of the automobile. In 1876, a carriage builder named Jeantaud created a special type of steering operation where the wheels operated in parallel. These pieces are now known as the Pitman and the Idler arms and are found in all vehicles. Without them no steering – manual or otherwise – could take place.

Prior to this gear, drivers were forced to apply so much pressure to the wheel that they struggled to judge the right steering pressure to the speed at which they moved. Often the result was vehicle tip at relatively low speed.old-1184126__340

The creation of a steering gear meant less pressure on the steering wheel. The steering gear used by Henry Ford didn’t become the pattern for later designs, probably because the worm gear is ultimately a better design. The worm (steering) gear got it’s name from worm roller it drove.

Power steering by computer also goes back further than you might think; to be precise a Toyota Cressida built in 1985. It was called by the complicated name of Progressive Power Rack and Pinion Steering, making it sound more like a streetcar than an automobile.

In Conclusion:

Perhaps the most surprising thing about power steering is that not all cars have it. It seems that it is still a luxury to some drivers.


Diesel Trucks Chevrolet vs. Ford Head to Head


Ford VS Chevy

(At the Kicker, we try to be agnostic about car brands. So while we’ll stop short of endorsing one over another in most cases, we do enjoy a good apples-to-apples comparison. PS Don’t forget to set your clocks back this Sunday!)

You know you’re going diesel for your next rig, and chances are you probably already have a pretty strong affinity for either Chevy or Ford. However, in the name of fairness and injecting a little variety into your life, find out just who comes out on top in the Chevy vs. Ford Wars: Diesel Edition. You might be surprised by some of the perks one make offers over another—and it might just be enough to lure you over the fence to the other side.

Even before dipping into the performance side of things, consider that Isuzu makes Chevy diesel trucks and Ford makes Ford trucks. Take that information and interpret it how you will, but some “purists” think this is a sign that Ford is the winner already—but not so fast. There are so many other considerations, like block and head materials as well as battery configuration.


Pop the Hood

When it comes to cylinder configuration, it’s a clear tie: Both vehicles boast a 90-degree V8 engine. Both make their head material out of aluminum, too, and this race is closer than anyone expected. However, things get shaken up a bit with the block material. Ford opts for compacted graphite iron while Chevy goes for cast iron. According to some, compacted graphite iron is stronger than cast iron, but of course, cast iron is a more classic (and proven) material.

With injection type, both Chevy and Ford use a Bosch Common Rail system (29,000 psi), making the race even more neck and neck. And that valve configuration? Both feature OHV 4 valves per cylinder. What about battery configuration? Chevy has a single 730 CCA battery while Ford ponies up a Dual 12-volt 750 CCA battery.


Pushing the Limits

The max torque reported for Ford is 677 with a max horsepower of 333. Chevy ups the ante with 671 max torque, but 360 horses. The most heavy duty of Fords, the F350, can haul 22,700 pounds with a fifth wheel and the Chevy Silverado 3500HD can carry an astounding 23,000 pounds with a fifth wheel. However, Ford offers a range of gear options while Chevy only has the 3.73 gear ratio available.

With engine displacement, Ford offers a 6.7-liter power stroke and Chevy is right on their heels with a 6.6-liter power stroke. Complete with a 3.9-inch bore for Chevy and a 4.06-inch bore for Ford, the engine comparison is really too close to call. For some, the stroke makes all the difference, and Ford offers 4.25 inches at a 16.2:1 ratio while Chevy has 3.9 inches and a 16.8:1 ratio.

Which one is the winner? As you can see, each one reigns supreme in different areas, so it really depends on personal preference, what you’ll be using your rig for and just how much hauling will be done. No matter which direction you head, keep in mind that a great way to up performance is to install a performance air filter or cold air intake—both of which will give your diesel engine the extra oxygen it craves.