Stuck? It’s all in the manual.

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For most cars, there is a manual that shows you how to keep them ticking. I’m speaking of a car repair manual, not an owner’s manual. The car repair manual shouldn’t be confused with the manual that comes from the manufacturer which is usually kept in the glove compartment, forgotten until you get a light on your dash. I’m speaking of a book to consult because you own that type of car—even before something has had a chance to go wrong.

The goal is to be thorough:

  • How to take the car apart and put it back right
  • How to figure out what might be wrong
  • Give you the information to decide if you can take it on yourself or should seek a professional

One of the big names in the car manual arena is Haynes, covering 300 different makes of car and 130 makes of motorcycle. While there are technical manuals aimed at professional and semi-pro mechanics, Haines targets the amateur, do it yourself, owner.

Haines manuals began with the humblest of starts—when he bought an Austin 7 for £15, the equivalent of $160 today and wrote his first article about it. In that first article, Haynes wrote more about building special parts for the car rather than maintenance as such. For his first actual guide, Haynes chose not to write about the Austin Healey Sprite; an open top sports car which ceased being made in 1971. Clearly, he was our type of car guy.

John Haynes wrote yet one more car book while doing National Service with the Royal Airforce. National Service was a common occurrence for people in their 20s during the early 1950s. He didn’t launch his publishing house, J. H. Haynes & Co. Limited, until 1960.

The books concerned themselves with covering the whole process of repair step by step. The original work was created using a steel duplicator, also known as a mimeograph, which is similar to what you might find in a teachers resource room at a local grade school. A useful bit of kit, but not created for manufacturing of books. As they became more commercially successful, more conventional means of printing were found.

The Haines manuals have been written in 15 different languages. If this seems quite small, think about trying to translate a technical manual, especially if techniques of service and maintenance differ in the countries involved. Another problem is that some components may be unavailable in specific areas. Haynes is now owned by the Chilton Company, who started their business writing cycling magazines and is now one of the largest publishing companies in the world.

You can find repair manuals on various items of automobile equipment such as battery chargers, GPS and even trailers. There are a number of websites you can search for the right manual, which kinds of begs the question why you shouldn’t just search for what is going wrong with your car. Still, people like manuals and many can be obtained for free, sometimes in the form of PDFs.

Due to the amount of litigation involved, car manuals have become larger and larger. This may be a problem if you want to find the information quickly.

It would be a shame if the manual, whether the manufacturer’s manual or one created by aficionados of the car were suddenly removed. The act of publishing a manual kind of shows that people are taking interest in the “technical feat” of building a car, much more than several pages on the internet.

If it weren’t adding something to the owner’s experience manufacturers would surely give up on producing their owner’s manual just to save the money. As for Haynes, the aficionado’s manual is like a nice set of tools. It says you care about your vehicle enough to be personally involved with it. Hopefully car lovers continue to buy them, and hopefully, guys like Haines keep making them.

Naming Cars

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Op-Ed by Staff

So, imagine you have created a car, what more do you need? Well, the first thing you need is a name. Perhaps the only thing harder to name is a new drug. It’s quite hard to come up something which doesn’t sound rude in a different language and of course, you always want something which sells the car and the brand. It’s a hard slog and it doesn’t always work.

The idea of looking to future might seem a given, but a car called the Futurama bombed terribly. It may not have just been the name, the design was awful too.

nash-835986_1920When it comes to naming your car company it tends to be mostly surnames such as Cadillac and Honda, but having said that it needs to be the right kind of surname. Fortunately, Emil Jellinik didn’t try this, preferring to name a car after his daughter Mercedes. There was a car designer called Benz though; Carl Benz. I hope Mercedes didn’t have to marry one of Benz’s relatives to keep the company; things would become difficult for her.

In some ways it is similar to naming an individual, you want something with a bit of tradition but you want something that suggests that you’ve thought about your decision too. In the end, you might have to see it before you know what you want to call it.

Many cars are named after concepts like Honda Accord, Chevrolet Agile and Caprice and so on. It’s a bit of moot point whether people want to be capricious, but people tend to want to show accord or show agility, at least in their car driving.sunbeam-835969_1920.jpg

An original way to come up with a car is to shorten a word or phrase. The Versa, for example, which apparently is short for versatile space (though there is a river and a pop band too, as well as a Roman word). You could come up with a car called Techni or Revo, couldn’t you?

Each make of car creates a specific brand and so the names might be quite similar. Lamborghini uses Spanish terms, many of which are used in bullfighting, such as Aventador (a fighting bull) and Estoque, a matador’s sword. Obviously, terms like matador and toreador are too obvious. Vauxhall, however, have used the Picador, which is a bullfighter on horseback, so Lamborghini can’t take that.

Peugeot has numbers like 3008 and 107. Why do the numbers always have zeros though? I think it’s due to small numbers feeling less stressful, hence too why the number always starts with 1,2 or 3. It’s just a theory though.

renault-1671405_1920A popular theme might be to look at mythology. Clio is the muse of history, there is both a Honda Clio (sold in Japan) and a Renault Clio. The Honda Phateon may be named after the son of the God of fire or an old name for a carriage, it’s difficult to tell. There’s a great deal of mythology about but it might be wise to look at a successful mythological figure, look at Zeus rather than Icarus. And they tend to look at Greek mythology rather than anything too obscure.

Another thing you might want to stay away from is excessively long names. Ford left the minivan market entirely in 2008, then came back with a series of cargo vans called Transit Connect. They doubled down on the chaos by offering a dozen different sizes, packages, and designs without tweaking the name at all. Is this a Transit Connect XT? LT? XLT? No, I want the big one? Oh, the titanium? No the big one…

Yep, try not to confuse your customers. That’s a no-no.

So to sum up:

  1. Give it a human name if it works as a car.
  2. Or try naming it after a concept.
  3. A shorter word hasn’t been tried much.
  4. Come up with a group of names so you came more than one car.
  5. Try plundering mythology.

Now all you need is a new type of car…

 

Why We Hate Parking So Much

 

girl-923101_1920What generates about 29 billion dollars for the US every year?

No, it’s not the manufacturer of a certain car but the habit of needing somewhere to park them. It may be one of the first things you learn on in your driving test, but that doesn’t mean everyone likes to do it, and we feel like the butt of some joke when we can’t do it right.

It is strange to talk about “parking growth areas” but that’s the term used by people who have to study these trends. States like California have noticed an increase in the rate of increased need. That’s a tongue twister.

Most parking lots exist for employees, but not by a large margin. There is also student parking, airport parking, stadium parking, and parking to shop at the mall. Any building which is constantly visited needs somewhere to people to park. But then again, so do various gardens, national parks and so on. The most dreaded of all parking is “ON THE STREET.”

It comes as no surprise that the parking meter was an American invention although it wasn’t created by someone in New York or Los Angeles but for Oklahoma City. The name parking meter is a corruption of the brand name of the first parking meter, the “Park-O-Meter.” Surprisingly, Park-O-Meter didn’t take off as a business model, probably because the metered spots were in a lot, rather than kerbside parking spaces as we tend to see it today. The also charged 5 cents to park for 15 minutes, which seems cheap until you learn that this is the equivalent of a dollar in today’s parking.

The problem of cars being parked in the wrong place is as old as cars themselves. The parking clamp, or Denver Boot, was another American invention. Strangely enough, it was invented by Frank Marugg, a violinist who performed at the Denver Sympathy Orchestra. Exactly what a violinist knows about keeping vehicles secure remains a mystery. The first Boots were made of steel but were later changed to aluminum. There are now various versions of clamps across the world.

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Valet parking is hardly new, but the idea that your car can park itself is gaining traction. Despite the idea that self-driving seems in its infancy a huge amount of money has been invested in self-parking (AKA autonomous parking). Cars parking themselves will somehow mix with cars being parked by humans. Predictably, regardless of how successful self-parking cars are unto themselves, the interaction between them and traditional, driver parked cars could cause issues.

Parking is tricky for some folks. Others hate driving past their destination to an unsavory alley with a faint urine smell, only to walk several blocks in the rain back to your destination. Perhaps the real reason why parking is hated so much is that people own cars to see wide open spaces and beautiful scenery. The parking garage is loathed by most but is a necessary evil if you want to explore a town or a city. So it looks like we’re stuck with it.

 

The Car as a Commodity

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For many people, a car is not a means of transportation; it is a commodity. You may have pondered a vehicle as an investment, in recent years, instead of a loan being financed against your house, many people have used their car as collateral. But in order to think of it as a commodity you’d have to consider three things:

  • Is it an asset or a liability?
  • What’s its current value vs cost
  • What’s the likelihood of future appreciation or depreciation?

Asset or Liability?

We’re car people here at the Kicker, not certified financial advisors. So let’s take a moment to state the obvious—the purpose of this post is to get you thinking about the impact your car has on your finances and some smart moves you might choose to make regarding your car.

That said, every physical asset is also a liability. Vehicles are status symbols, toys, and a source of joy, but they’re primarily a tool you use to transport yourself and your loved one’s places you need to go. Often if you don’t have a car you can’t earn an income. So its an asset. It can also break down or you can get into an accident which could cost you a lot of money and leave you’re physically injured.

Current Value vs Cost?

This consideration includes getting a good deal on a car purchase, but it’s more than that. Fuel economy is a big thing to think about. Do you really need a truck for your daily driver or would it be better to get an old truck to drive mainly on weekends and a smaller daily driver?

Do you need a car at all? Sometimes in a city, with rideshare, bus lines, mass transit and all. You might be better off with a minimal investment for your occasional use. Maybe buy something older that you don’t rely heavily on so you aren’t stuck in a bad way if it breaks down occasionally.

Maybe your needs warrant buying new to get a low maintenance car, that’s safe and reliable.

Retained Value?

But do you need a brand new car or a classic car? What happens to the price of a used car?

Imagine that there is a brand new car, a used car about 5 years old and a classic car from the 1960s. For them to be the same price, the used car might be low mileage and luxury vehicle. A lot of the value of a new car is the warranties offered to the first owner. Sometimes special financing is available on a new vehicle. Maybe the brand new car isn’t popular and is discounted to make room for the next year model. Generally, a slightly used car will have a much better value for the price.

But what about the classic car? Of course, mileage, service history, condition, and popularity really come into play with the classic car. Well, that would also need to be a good make and comparatively well-serviced. For the classic car having not much mileage on the clock may be a disadvantage, it could indicate a history of sitting broken. It can also be bad for cars to sit if not properly stored. A considerable amount of mileage would be expected and wouldn’t do much with the price of the vehicle.

The used car and the classic car may have the problem with obtaining parts in common, with the difficulties tending to stack up with the classic car. Another point in the used car’s favor is that it would probably not break down, but the classic car may break down all the time.

The classic car is the car almost like a commodity in one respect, not bought to be used, but as a status symbol and perhaps the most likely to gain value. Of course, if you actually use the classic car as a family car it won’t retain its value as well as if it’s babied.

How it usually stacks up:

The real problem with the new car is that its value decreases extremely quickly. A car can lose 10% of its value simply through being driven home. That’s a big hurdle to overcome. The sales price is only one factor, however, and very soon the used car and the classic car will be the more expensive to maintain so the carrying costs are higher.

When you factor purchase price and carrying cost (likelihood it’ll break down and cost to fix), plus cost to operate, it’s not looking good for the future of these three vehicles. Which is the best choice?

It always comes down to your needs and intended use. Most of us need a slightly used car, with a fair upfront price and spread the expensive maintenance over the next few years. However, if you buy a lemon you’ll regret it, so have your car inspected.

You might ask when these three cars will be the same price again.

Certainly not when they are sold for scrap. The classic car has a much higher scrap value – the parts are novel, the standard of the interior much more likely to be worth preserving. Certainly, it will be a long time before the new car is scrapped, but when it does there will be nothing remarkable about the parts.

So which car would you have?

 

Surprising Glove Compartments

We wanted to name this “Past, Present, and Future of Glove Compartments” but it was a bit long and some of what we ran into was surprising. For example, the future of glove compartments is not a sure thing.

We take the idea of a glove compartment for granted, most people knowing it as an area to the left of the dashboard in front of the passenger’s chair. It is not known as the glove compartment in all areas of the US though, the other names being a cubby hole and around the Rocky Mountains the jockey box. The strangest name must be the torpedo compartment, maybe due to being an ideal spot for a villain to hide a torpedo release button? Brits call it a cubby box by the way.

 

But where does the whole thing of a glove compartment come from? Well it should be obvious that it dates back to when gloves were a prime piece of equipment for the driver. With a rough steering wheel which got oily or hot, gloves were seen as useful to keep the hands cool and clean.

The first use of the term is thanks to a racing driver, Dorothy Levitt who is believed to have used a glove compartment, but it was in a different position than we find it today. The location of the glove compartment was to be found under the driver’s chair and was a just a set of drawers, presumably used for storing more than one set of gloves. The driver’s chair was raised higher than today’s chairs and there was no passenger’s chair next to the driver’s chair. There were no trunks in early cars; the storage was in hampers or baskets. The term “trunk” may have come from a huge box used to store certain equipment in the car.

The alterations to what was stored in the glove compartment came as early as the 1930s. No one would use them to store gloves at this stage.  It has been more often used as an area to store valuables or just to show you had valuables that you could afford to keep in a car.  In modern days these luxuries have included laptops and mobiles as well as Sat-Navs. Or you may keep documents associated with your vehicle.

And it seemed like a no-brainer to keep the glove compartment near the dashboard so you wouldn’t need to go under your seat to find anything and could also make the seat lower.  The weirdest thing that has been kept in the glove compartment would seem to be tiny dogs, though personally, I would worry about how much room they would have.

So why do we think the humble glove compartment might actually be dwindling in popularity. Many cars, even luxury cars do not come with glove compartments. It seems that a sizeable amount of the vehicle owning public don’t use the space at all, 25% prefer to keep the space empty.

If you don’t have a glove box you will likely need alternate solutions to your storage needs. Kelly on Hative.com has loads of creative ways to store things in your car if that’s your challenge.

Of course, another reason you might need more storage in your car is that you have too much CRAP in there. In that case, we bring you Aby of Simplify101.com with ideas about the best way to clean out your glove box. Starting with this quote:

First, clear everything out of the glove compartment and load it into a portable storage container. Take your bucket of stuff inside to a flat surface (I used the kitchen table) and sort like with like. Toss out the things you don’t need (like old ketchup packets) and find a new home for items you need but not in your car.

Which should leave you with the bare essentials and a few extras. Nationwide insurance suggests the following list of must-haves:

  • Medical information.
  • Emergency contact numbers.
  • Pen and paper.
  • Proof of insurance.
  • Owner’s manual and maintenance schedule.

We have a couple luxury items to add to that list, of course, but it’s enough of a topic to rate it’s own post soon. If you’re a traditionalist and actually want to store gloves in there, here’s a set that come well recommended.

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Autodromo Slingback Driving Gloves

The glove compartment could be an area ripe for innovation though, with car space being at a premium.

As we’ve recommended before, if you have an old cell phone on pay as you go, you could keep it in the glove box so you can use the GPS location to find your car if it’s every stollen.

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According to Thrillist, the 1957 Eldorado Baughm by Cadillac came with a cocktail set for the glove compartment. Perhaps a better concept would be an area to keep drinks cool.

If you have any ideas about what the glove compartment could be used for or maybe what a replacement for this cubicle could be please comment below. All innovations have to begin somewhere, after all.

 

Auto Testing

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When you hear the words new car testing, what probably flashes to mind are dramatic videos of cars deliberately smashed against walls in a closed facility with a number of dummies inside. In reality, this is only one of the many tests cars go through before entering the market.

Post premarket auto tests are carried out in “the real world” to see how the car, including its components (paintwork, engine, etc) cope with the vigorous conditions; mud, fording streams, icy conditions and so on.

car-1242080_1920The actual number of tests that a manufacturer takes a car on is a closely guarded secret, but it is known that they use places like Death Valley or a test track in the mountains of Germany in order to see how the car operates. The testers are interested in how the car accelerates and, perhaps more importantly to us as drivers, how it brakes. Generally, they are looking for how the car handles on these extreme roads and this driving routine.

Driving smoothness in what most people might feel are unsmooth conditions is important. Although it would be impossible to remove all the bumps and jolts it is up to the designers the minimize discomfort.

Comfort is another aspect that people tend to need to think about. If the front seats or the back seats do not feel right some redesigning might be needed. Then there’s the problem of leaks, either air leaks or fluid leaks might need to be looked at. Is there a likelihood of something further along the line? Your prototype is your opportunity to address problems before they get truly expensive, which is when it’s gone into production.

Although unfamiliar to most of us, the industry refers to this as “rig and component level testing.” Think of the rig as another name for the chassis or body and the components as everything else. More precisely, rig testing works out exactly how durable and sensitive the chassis is to certain stimuli, and component testing focuses on individual elements and how they work together.

Some tests require the car to be built but others can be accomplished through computer simulations. Jaguar, for instance, uses computer simulation as a good way to save money. Why build a car that will be considered unsafe? Many people have heard of Computer Aided Design or CAD but the car industry is more reliant on CAE or Computer Aided Engineering. Simulation is hardly a new use of computers but as technology increases the number of virtual tests also increases.

Perhaps the single most important car feature, after safety, is fuel economy. Despite all the projections about miles per gallon, someone has to actually drive the car far enough to establish the actual number. Until recently, cars haven’t been very efficient in this respect, but car buyers are starting demand better efficiency even in luxury sedans and trucks. The need to save energy and fuel prices changes things.

There is so much testing involved in automobile manufacturing that is a wonder that any car ever goes into production at all. Perhaps more startling is the number of high profile recalls of cars in recent years given the rigorous testing designed to make the cars safer. Still, with all the money involved, and all the possibilities of what could go wrong, testing is an important step in the process.