Studded Tires: Time to take them Off!

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The reason states require removal of studded tires is two-fold:

  • It destroys roads incurring greater repair bills
  • The lead from the studs and asphalt dust are hazardous to your health

There are two dates that matter, the date range when studded tires are allowed and the date when they are prohibited. The idea is that bad weather can last later in some years than others. Some states do choose to make a special provision, like Georgia, which only allows studs some years but generally prohibits them.

Most states that allow studs provide a little flexibility by having a second date after the allowed date range that represents when it’s actually prohibited. That’s the date when they’re going to start handing out fines.

States that prohibit Studded Tires entirely (obviously not needed):
Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, and Texas.

States that prohibit Studded Tires entirely (that surprised us):
Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

Below is the best information we could find about studded tires by state. This information comes from Washington State Department of Transportation–be sure to look up your local state Department of Transportation. Also, some cities have statutes that are different than the state. According to AAA.com most states begin passing out fines for driving with studded tires on April 2nd.

StuddedTireChart

The Peak and Decline of Route 66

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To find the hay day of Route 66, we need to find out when the song Get Your Kicks On Route 66 was composed. Most people attribute it to Chuck Berry, though covers have also been done by Perry Como, Them and The Rolling Stones. There has been a myriad of versions. However n, t many people know the first version was recorded in 1946 by the King Cole Trio (which featured Nat King Cole and was created about a year before by Bobby Troupe.

Unsurprisingly, the idea of the song came from a road trip across America using the infamous route. Troup wanted to write about the Route 40, to begin with but was persuaded to write about the Route 66 instead. (It seems strange if he was on the Route 40 to write about the Route 66 as they go to different places. Such is the story of songwriting I suppose.)

This post isn’t about how the road inspired the song but how the road has sadly declined since the song was written. It’s understandable. Nothing lasts forever, and roads are more fragile than they seem.travel-2463912_1920

Since a route is really a collection of shorter roads chained up, some of those shorter roads rose and fell in need or popularity. So they swapped them in and out which had an impact. For example, in 1930 parts of Route 66 was shifted east to fit in with what would become the Interstate-55. In Downton St. Luis MO, Route 66 went down Market Street and up Manchester Road but this was changed. In the 1960’s Route 66 abandoned Oatman in the Black Mountains, in effect killing its main thoroughfare. There were too many alternations to list them all.

It seems the decline of the Route comes down to the signing of the Interstate Highway Act by Dwight D Eisenhower in 1956. The whole purpose of the act was to create improved highways, based on Eisenhower’s experiences with the autobahns of Germany. The route that Route 66 just wasn’t direct enough, and it made more sense to bypass slow city streets and chain up the bypasses.

route-66-2472502_1920It would be a long process; however, taking until the late 60s before most of Interstate-40 was completed as far as New Mexico. Although there were plans to turn the section between St Louis and Oklahoma into “Interstate-66” it never came to fruition. The final nail in Route 66’s coffin didn’t come until 1985 with the decertification of the road by the American Association of State Highway and Transport Officials.

The American Autobahn dream didn’t happen either. Business execs and travelling salesmen began to fly instead and the fascination with seeing this great land for yourself, one diner/motel/ local attraction at a time declined. For those who did want ground travel as a past time made due with “little” Interstate highways.

The loss of tourism for the little towns was nothing short of disastrous. Once glorious Route 66 became littered with empty gas stations and abandoned small towns. Sadly, much of Route 66 stopped being road completely, becoming wild. Others were turned into what are known as “sidewalk roads” in other words roads only suitable for hikers.

friends-1255442_1920Nowadays people travel sections of Route 66 for nostalgia even if they never travelled the route when it was open. Route 66 embodied a spirit of pride in America that’s been niche partitioned out of the way by business. When you travel slower you see more, and some would argue, that you live more. It would be sad to think that airplanes and highways helped disconnect Americans from the heartbeat of their national identity. Hopefully, the decline of Route 66 is not a harbinger of a larger sense of American culture.

There is hope of course. Workampers and Newmads are showing a greater interest in exploring life on the road. Perhaps soon we’ll see fall in love again, with small towns, fields of grain, unique bridges, and giant balls of string. We can hope.

 

Is High-Performance Exhaust Necessary?

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Is High-Performance Exhaust Necessary?

“High-performance exhaust” certainly sounds like one of the must-have muscle car accessories, but is it necessary? That depends on what you’re using your car for. Let’s take a look at what exactly these Mustang parts do. An exhaust system provides a path for exhaust gases to escape (basically the lungs of the machine). The quality of an exhaust system controls how well your car “breathes” so when it’s subpar, vehicles might be using a lot of power simply to expel gases, power that might be better used elsewhere.

It’s true that a high-performance exhaust system can free up some engine power to increase performance. How much higher performance? Well, simply adding a high-performance system won’t turn a 200 horsepower car into a 600 horsepower speed machine. However, it can be advantageous to racers.

The Superficial Effect

The word “superficial” gets a bad rap, but everyone wants their vehicle not only to perform superbly but look good while doing it. Adding an upgraded or modified exhaust system can create that deep rumble that is reminiscent of pro race cars. However, don’t go solely by sound. The higher-end exhaust systems only slightly increase the aggressive note of the exhaust, but that’s actually a sign of a better system. Many high-performance systems also add to the looks of a car by using shined mufflers.

The Way it Bends

There are two ways an exhaust pipe might bend, and it’s critical to know the difference. The traditional “crush-bend” is what’s used in the factory and might also be found in some after-market exhaust systems. These pipes have an accordion-like look which unfortunately decreases the amount of gas flow. Anything that takes up space in the pipe, including a seemingly meaningless crinkle, slows gas and negatively impacts performance.

The more highly desired mandrel bend is completely smooth and allows for the best gas flow. The diameter of the pipe is consistent throughout, which means higher performance. When considering upgrading to a higher performance system, making sure a pipe is mandrel is the first thing to check.

What’s It Made Of?

The type of pipe is just the first consideration. Chances are your pony’s factory pipe is made of steel – which can deteriorate after a few years. A high-quality system uses aluminized steel that is stronger, less prone to deteriorate, and can provide years of high performance. Another option is stainless steel which is more expensive but lasts much longer than even aluminized steel.

Do I Need It?

Whether or not you “need” a high-performance system depends wholly on what you use your Mustang for and how often. Racers and car show regulars can definitely benefit from increased performance. However, for the average driver whose Pony has never seen a race track, it’s probably not worth it.

 

The Rise of Route 66

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By Paul Wimsett

A blog like the Kicker is about transportation and that’s a bigger topic than just vehicles. The greatest roads in the world predate the car by several centuries. And the road which would become Route 66 (at least in part) is (or was) certainly one of the world’s greatest roads. The famous shield logos were put up only a year after the Route 66 became operational.

The origins amazingly go back to hunting trails going back as far as 9,000 BC which in turn were used by later explorers in search of gold. Its next incarnation would be a wagon road as Lieutenant Edward Beale set down markers (the fact that he needed to do this would suggest that the “track” was more or less invisible in parts.Wimsett_route 66a.jpg

Instead of wagons, the preferred method of travel in the 1880s was the train. Even these would follow similar routes as the later Route 66. But it’s not until the Twentieth Century that it was rechristened an “ocean to ocean highway” and became a paved road. The group who had the privilege to build (or rebuild) this great route were the Corps of Topographical Engineers.

But who exactly were the Corps of Topographical Engineers? They were a strange body in many ways, firstly because they consisted entirely of officers. As well as mapping regions they also helped design lighthouses, harbors and navigational routes including lake and creek surveys and boundary and railroad surveys.

Unlike modern highways, which were developed as part of the war effort to act as impromptu runways, a route like route 66 was a deliberate effort to cobble together a path across country by linking up existing roadways. Often routes meandered overtime as needs and opportunities changed. Apart from staying roughly along the 35th Parallel route 66 would change too. During paving, someone decided the road would go through Peoria instead of Bloomington. The old trail was abandoned between Oklahoma City to Amarillo as the Postal Highway had already had already been developed.

Wimsett_Route 66_chain-of-rocks-bridge_1920That’s not to say that elements of original dirt track can’t be found, try looking to the north of Cajon today. It’s a genuine part of the pre-highway history of the USA.

But the road was still not suitable for two lanes of traffic so a number of changes would have to be made. After lobbying the American Association of State Highways the contract was won by Cyrus Avery and John Woodruff. But they decided that the old name; “National Old Trails Road” wasn’t the best name for a legendary road.

The name “Route 66” seems only for alliterative purposes, there being no Route 65 or 67. On November 11, 1926 the new name for the road was confirmed and the acclaimed Route 66 was born. In turn the road would be promoted by the US 66 Highway Association. Its promotions were adverts in magazines and distributed souvenirs.

The main feature as regarding promotions seems to be the International Transcontinental Footrace or, as the journalists named it, the Bunion Derby with a huge $25,000 grand prize. It seemed that, whether walking or in vehicle, everyone wanted to be part of the Route 66’s history.

The story of Route 66’s further rise to fame and eventual decline will be told in a later blog.

#10 Car DIY: Handle Car Body Damage Yourself

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

Clearly, if you’ve got an insurance claim to file then you need to run everything through the insurance. However, sometimes there’s some parking lot damage that you don’t notice right away, or someone didn’t leave you a note. On occasion, insurance cuts you a check and you have a better use for the money than fixing some cosmetic issues on a car that’s not as new as it once was.

If you’ve decided not to get something professionally repaired its likely small enough that you might be able to fix it yourself. That’s a win/win, keep the money and still get a better-looking car.

Know How:

See the hack below for some crazy shortcuts that often reduce the appearance of damage to almost invisible.

EDC/Hack:

You can buy car wax at any automotive store and you’d be shocked how many sins it can wipe away. Simply apply with one clean rag and wipe off with another. Superficial scratches can catch the light and make damage seem large. Shadows can appear as dents. If the paint and metal aren’t actually damaged simply buffing out the scratches will improve your appearance dramatically.

Another trick we’ve heard of, but not had a chance to try yet is taking a common house plunger to medium-sized dents. We’ve used some of the commercially available dent removal options with mixed results. Honestly, anything that starts with the words, “drill a whole,” is something you want to live with or pay a pro.

 

 

#9 Car DIY: Value of a Dash Cam

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

 

You never know when you’re going to need a dash cam. In the early days, go cams were the rage, strapped skateboards, and duct taped to helmets to capture your crazy stunts. Now they are vital in our legal state of the union to help you tell your side of the story. Here’s a video of a fake accident in England by a team of hustlers. If you watch this and don’t order a dash cam, then you probably never will.

(https://youtu.be/zAczz3nYuh4 Video Link)

Know How:

Follow the instructions that come with the one you buy. Heres a link to a couple that have nice features. The key is to know what’s important to you feature-wise. Do you want battery life, recording quality, hard drive space, external memory slots, etc. The features we’ll point out is twin cameras facing front and back, and some sort of inertia crash detection.

Apeman wins on bang for the buck.

This one has got to be the least obtrusive if you find that you can live without an in-car recording of your passengers.

EDC/Hack:

You can turn an old cell phone into a dash cam. It has all the right stuff—two way camera, GPS, memory, etc. All you need is one of the many apps available on the market. As an added bonus you can easily find mounts because they’re standard sized. There are quite a number of apps so try this link or this link to compare.

 

#8 Car DIY: Escape a Sinking Car

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

The unlikely event of a water landing when driving a vehicle doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Unlike the duck and cover method of avoiding nuclear explosion you were tot in school, it actually can save your life to know how to escape a submerged vehicle. Assuming you were wearing your seatbelt so you weren’t knocked unconscious when your vehicle struck the surface of the water, you will have a little time before your car sinks—but not long.

The challenge is that the water pushing against the door will make it impossible to open the door. You’ll need to let the water in so that the pressure inside and out is equalized. Clearly, if you aren’t a professional free diver you’ll want to exit the car before it sinks too far, but the less air in the car the faster it will sink. Then there’s the whole needing to breathe. Bottom line, evacuate the vehicle swiftly without panicking.

Know How:

Roll a window down. Don’t freak out when it’s cold and you can’t do much until it’s full. Breathe while you still can. Then remove your seat belt. Visibility may be bad after the car is full of muddy water so make your preparations quickly. Still better to keep your seatbelt on until the rush of water is done—unless you need to get your kid out of a complicated car seat.

If you can’t roll down the window, because the water shorted your power systems, use a special device to break the window by striking it near a corner. It’s actually not easy to break a car window and there’s a good chance that you’re going to cut your hand. So plan on cutting your hand—it’s better than drowning.

EDC/Hack:

If you don’t have one of the many devices we recommend below for smashing car windows, you can remove your headrest and use you metal legs.

#7 Car DIY: Get Cheaper Extended Warranties on Used Cars

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

Your new car warranty probably ran out at 3 years or 36,000 miles. It’s a good idea to purchase an extended warranty after that time, provided you can get it cheaper than through a dealership.

Your dad probably drummed it into your head, “Never buy a used car warranty…” We’ll dad was right—mostly. When you purchase a vehicle you have an opportunity to roll the cost of a warranty into the loan for the vehicle. It’s like buying the fridge with the house. It’s easy on the pocketbook compared to going separately to buy the exact fridge you want, until you realize you’re paying for the fridge for the next 30 years.

We’re no financial advisors so do what you think is best. BUT the real reason to avoid buying the warranties are these. You are paying a heavy markup to the guy/gal who is already making a commission on selling you a car. So you’re paying more and you are paying someone for insurance against them screwing you over. “Here, this is a good car, but in case it’s not, why don’t you pay us extra to fix it.” It’s just not a sensible thing to do.

Know How:

If you are interested in a warranty on your used car, see our hack for a link to purchase a used car warranty independent of a dealership.

EDC/Hack:

The standard markup on a warranty is at least $1,000. Here’s a better option. Call around to pre-purchase inspection services and find one that can sell an extended warranty. Warranty companies love to sell through them because these are the guys helping you establish the quality and value of the vehicle. You’re less likely to need one if an inspector is willing to sell it to you and since they aren’t salesmen, they offer them at a much lower cost. Here’s a link to one such inspection service.

#5 Car DIY: Handle a Check Engine Light

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

Don’t ignore check engine lights. I know it seems like it’s either going to be something really expensive or an annoying thing you have to pay to find out is nothing. What doesn’t come to mind, and should, is if you’re in danger of an engine failure that could make your vehicle unsafe.

Know How:

There are some ways to check the codes which may be included in your owners manual, but check the hack section for an easy way to know exactly what’s wrong in simple English.

EDC/Hack:

Check out the FIXD device. It’ll plug into any car made after 1996 and tell an app on your cell phone what’s up with your engine. Beyond peace of mind, being able to do your own diagnostic saves you money with your mechanic.

 

 

#4 Car DIY: Handle Cold Weather

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

Don’t wait for bad weather is upon you to prepare. Set it in your calendar, depending on where you live. In mild climates, it can go on a list of actions you take whenever you turn the clocks back in fall. Here are some helpful links:

Know How:

When snow and ice are upon you, you’ll need some kind of liquid deicer or salt for your driveway and sidewalks. You’ll need a good plastic snow shovel with a flat blade. Metal flat bladed shovels damage the concrete of your driveway. Salt can wear out your car, but it can be used strategically and it can be a necessary evil.

Use a broom to knock off extra snow from windshield and windows. Don’t leave snow on your roof as this chunks fly off at speed and can cause accidents. Work from top to bottom for best efficiency.

Use a scraper, which you can store in your car.

If your door locks get frozen shut you need heat. There are devices on the market like this one that applies heat where you need it. Or see the hack section for a quick trick.

Also, check in the gadget section below for our recommendation for cold weather EDC (post link)

EDC/Hack:

One trick to ice scrapers is getting the right angle and trying both shoving it and pulling it to see which suits your needs.

To open a frozen lock, use hand sanitizer. The high alcohol content lowers the temperature at which water freezes just like salt does, but isn’t corrosive. It’s cheap and available in portable bottles.