Why Aluminum Alloy Wheels Crack

 

Alloy Wheels

There are a number of reasons your aluminum alloy wheels may crack. One of the most common is “hot cracking,” which is the result of high-temperatures during the welding process. Also called hot fissuring, solidification cracking, hot shortness and liquation cracking, it’s ugly and annoying, but it can be avoided. When arc welding is employed, cracking can be eliminated. Aluminum welding gets you started on the wrong foot from the beginning—even if you avoid hot cracking, hydrogen cracking (aka cold cracking) might show up.

Cold cracking can happen when welding low alloy steels and carbon steels. Depending on the type of aluminum you’re using, you might become the victim of cold or hot cracking and, either way, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of this conundrum. When dealing with hot cracking, you need to consider three major issues: The alloy chemistry, appropriateness of the filler alloy, and choosing the best joint decision.

Picking the Right Alloy Additions

To sidestep hot cracking, consider four potential alloy additions: Silicon, copper, magnesium and magnesium silicide. By including trace amounts of one of these elements, which is common, cracking is more likely to occur. The “chemistry” of the alloy, which is dependent upon which additions are used and how much, can be a major factor in cracking. Silicon is the most crack-resistant, followed by a magnesium/silicone hybrid, but all fillers can be crack-resistant if used in the right amount.

To get the best results and resist cracking, it’s best to completely avoid very crack-sensitive materials that are also considered non-weldable. Picking the right filler or addition, while considered the crack sensitivity ranges, is step two. You should pinpoint a filler with a solidification point that’s similar to (or below) that of the base material. Edge preparation choice, root gap to allow for the filler addition, and the creation of a “weld metal chemistry” that’s suitable is also paramount.

Preparing for a Crack-Free Future

Choosing the right filler is just part of the process; you also need to choose one that has additions of grain refiners (i.e. zirconium or titanium). This will best prevent cracks, and complements the makeup of the materials. The actual welding process itself can also be a literal breaking point—utilize the highest welding speed because the faster it’s done, the faster the cooling rate. Basically, the least amount of time you spend in the “hot cracking temperature spectrum,” the better.

When welding, tap into your skill set and use assembling techniques that cut down on restraint, minimize stress and product the cleanest welds possible. A pressure application on the joint during welding can also help to prevent cracks from forming. Generally speaking, sometimes aluminum base alloys are difficult to weld at best—especially for those who aren’t exceptionally well-versed in the properties of the materials. Sometimes arc welding just isn’t possible, and that’s when mechanically joining parts via bolting or riveting is the best approach. No matter which avenue is taken, remember that cracking isn’t “just something you have to live with.” It can be addressed, but it takes knowing the materials and some serious skills to avoid it.

Digital Side Mirrors

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Op-Ed by Andy Bunch

You may have heard that digital side mirrors are coming. This is a loose interpretation of equipment automakers have been tossing onto concept cars or adding to limited runs of super-luxury vehicles these last few years. However, most of us who cover the car business have been skeptical. Edison once had his people come up with an electric pen.

Does the world really need one more doodad that must be better because it relies on technology rather than simple physics?

We’ll Lexus has announced that they’re ready to put them into production on their full line of cars and the US is evaluating them for safety, so someones pushing hard for them. My real question was echoed by Stephen Williams in his September article on the topic, entitled “Digital Side Mirrors Become a Production Reality, but You Can’t Get Your Hands on One Just Yet.

“…replacing side mirrors with two 5-inch screens located at the base of the vehicle’s A-pillar is an extra measure of radical….But how much do we really see in our side-view mirrors?”

I’d put his question more as a statement, “it better do something really great if you’re going to continue to train people not to look outside there own car.

Williams eventual support can be summed up in four words, “Bike lanes & night vision.”

But there are other potential advantages. The cameras are designed to be less affected by rain and to reduce road noise. The screens can replace ones already employed for side impact warnings and parking assistance. On the whole, drivers report them as more intuitive than other center-column backup camera screens.

Bottom line they show a wider angle, which has long been a desire of many drivers. How many times do you see people fasten extra mirrors onto their side mirrors, especially when towing a trailer?  Well, that issue could be a thing of the past. These mirrors could add zooming in and out to the adjustments you already make to accommodate the height and taste of the individual driver.

It’s likely these cameras will succeed in gaining mainstream use as early as 2019.

Here’s some video, see for yourself:

The Problem with Cars at Christmas

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Looking at yuletide and seeing problems doesn’t seem quite right but as a car driver, you need to be practical. As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder you are much more likely to succumb to drowsiness in your vehicle. This is something all drivers should take seriously.

Starting with Mindset:

We know what you’re thinking, “Bah humbug!”

But knock it off for two minutes and we’ll make it easy for you with a quick list of what might make your commuting more difficult and a couple ideas to make it better.

Instead of thinking like a Grinch, think like a super-hero. Not only are problems more likely, but the situations can become more drastic, more quickly than in other seasons. This is your chance to be the one who’s ready, who makes safety look easy, and who protects the family.

Distractions:

Maybe you are full of holiday cheer. Maybe you love all the fancy decorations you drive past. Maybe you don’t but the person in front of you does. We’ll get back to road conditions in a minute, but it’s important to start off a list like this with the fact that you need more following distance between you and the car in front of you than ever.

Having a flask of hot coffee in the car will also give you a bit of a pick-me-up in a freezing cold day.

It’s not ALL about the Weather:

Many people start getting terrible quality of sleep in the fall. Sunlight, temperature, and activity level all affect the quality and quantity of sleep. Heck, you can sleep too much and become groggier, especially if you’re resorting to a sleep aid.

With the retail season in full swing, most of us are busy at work. Most of us are shopping whenever we can fit it in. AND let’s face it, holiday traffic sucks. Now is the worst time to drive groggy.

This is why it is important to get enough sleep and maybe not work too hard (though this could be easier said than done in the Christmas period). Iron and Vitamin D supplements might help.

Don’t Get Sick:

It’s hard to drive when you’re sick. Running nose, headache, and the dreaded sneeze can really do a number on your ability to operate a car safely. Get lots of sleep (see above), and take vitamin C. Try elderberry extract, ginger tea, and don’t neglect hand washing.

plough-1814954_1920The Effects of COLD Weather:

It might not just be you that’s sluggish in the cold, by the way. Cold makes it harder to start your car in the morning. Believe it or not, this is due to oil being slightly thicker in cold weather and the battery taking slightly longer to react.

The best thing you can do about this is to leave extra time for your journey to start up the engine and scrape your windows. If you do find that you’re getting a late start, just call into work and make amends up front. Most employers we’ve encountered may grumble, but they’d rather have you late than dead.

Visibility:

Some places get fog, others get glint from the sun off ice cycles. The sun comes in at a lower angle and can create a lot of glare…if you live somewhere the sun shines in the winter.

One of the biggest issues we warn of about this time every year is not fully cleaning your windshield. It takes two seconds longer to scrape the whole thing than to try to guess which part you won’t need to see through on your way to work. You may need to apply de-icer to the windscreens and other windows. Chemically speaking, this is known as propylene glycol. The alcohol in the substance is what makes the ice melt.

Road Conditions:

When it comes to de-icing roads this may be done with salt (usually rock salt) spread by dumper truck or snow plow. It may not pure salt – it may be mixed with sand or gravel, or indeed both.

On the west coast, plowing and de-icing are generally done by the state transportation crews. In the Northeast U.S., it’s more common for private individuals to own a plow or attachment to clear roads the community resources don’t get to quickly enough. (One of our writers brags about always trying to buy a house near such an individual so he isn’t late to work in the winters.)

Back to the rock salt on the roads, because it’s not all that reliable, there is a threshold where it will not work at all; the snow will stay on the roads. This is when the temperature goes below -18°C. There are other problems with salt as it is toxic to many plants and animals. This is why calcium chloride or magnesium chloride works better; they create something that has a lower freezing point than salt water.

The best solution in bad weather, or at least the first few days of bad weather, is to work from home. It can create stress of its own, but it beats dying.

If your boss resists letting you work remotely as him/her if you can do it on a trial basis. Then just make sure to make that your most productive day all month. When your boss sees that its safer and more productive you have a 40% chance of doing it again in the next bad weather situation. (BTW in our experience %60 of all bosses are so against remote work that they’d rather you come in late, work slow, and leave early. Yes that’s stupid!)

The problem with remote working is how are you going to do your Christmas shopping? That’s what the internet is for, eh?

The Final Word:

Be sure to carry traction devices and a winter safety kit. You don’t want to break down in the winter with no blanket or flares. Also, make sure to carry a cell phone, even if you just buy some minutes for a pay as you go plan. It’s a good idea to get your car, especially the tires checked before the really bad stuff sets in.

 

Peace and Cars

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(BTW: It’s a Pearl Harbor Day. Don’t forget to take a moment and reflect on the men and women who stand between us and danger.)

Many of us find driving very relaxing. Though it shouldn’t be a place to doze off, being behind the wheel of a car should be a relatively peaceful experience where you can forget your current woes, maybe listen to some classical music or light pop? (Of course, if you love rock-n-roll peace of mind might not be how you relax in the first place.) Something like a comic song or a discussion from talk radio might also distract, but it’s important not to forget the road altogether! Obviously stay alert, or accidents happen.

If you don’t want to employ the radio to drown out road noise you can try some gentle driving techniques make a car quieter but this means you take longer in reach your destination! There needs to be a better way.

You may have noticed that, in general, cars are getting quieter with each new model. The Green City project has spent some time trying to figure out how to make cars quieter for those inside or outside, in order to promote a more peaceful coexistence of cars in dense urban areas. They promoted an idea about reducing the sound in cities by changing tire design and adding more sound cancellation tech to new cars.

The problem is that you can’t really do much with the wind and the vibration that moving at speed is all about. It costs money to make an active difference, mechanically, though many car companies seem to be making some progress. Adding cost is a big obstacle.

So that brings us back to needing to cover up the sound. Try a download of something like whale music. Seriously, some folks swear by it. Not of fan of watery mammals? Then maybe an extract of spoken meditation will suit? Not something to make you sleep, just something to make you more comfortable.

Okay, OKAY! We have a real answer and its cheap, simple, and won’t slow down your commute. To explain it we need to look at one simple reality. Folks either find driving relaxing or stressful. Even more promising, most of us would probably say it depends on the day. So we just need to examine the forces that make it stressful one day and the polar opposite the next.

#1 Change the Situation:

Clearly, there’s a difference between a drive on a country road and sitting in traffic on the way to work. Not much you can do about your destination, right? Well, you can plan ahead. Leave a bit early and find something totally self-indulgent to do with the time you have by getting there early. Maybe sit in a coffee shop or look for a new pleasure read. Whatever it is, just make sure it’s something you can look forward to enough to jump in your car a bit ahead of the last minute.

Speaking of last minutes. Don’t add to your stress by having to make up time. You’re literally making your commute more stressful and it’s entirely in your hands to prevent it. It’s your fault you’re late and that’s good news!

#2 Examine your Options:

Whether the car doesn’t do precisely what you want, or the other drivers seem to be working hard to wreck your day, it doesn’t seem a place to relax. Well, have you checked into mass transit? We’re big fans of personal cars here, but frankly, it’s not worth dying for. If driving to work is shortening your life, consider taking a bus or train for all or part of your commute. You might save on parking and stress, and you can use the time to read or catch up on social media.

Carpooling is another way to possibly save money and time can pass more quickly when you have someone to chat with.

#3 Examine your Company:

On the opposite side of the coin from carpooling is the dreaded school run. Driving with kids can be the not-relaxing kind of conversation. You’re the adult AND the driver–it’s going to land on you to set rules and train your passengers to help not hinder.

Here are some helpful tips: getting into a routine, try to let your children know you need to concentrate on the road, not them. Try a book on CD that the whole family can get into. Or get them headphones.

If reasonable arguments aren’t working pull rank. Don’t let your kids do things that make you not like them. Remember if you battle out the rules on the way to school picking them up will be easier, not harder. Also, remember that they’ll be driving in a few years and modeling the priority of taking it seriously is going to pay off very soon.

#4 Try Silence:

Having the car in perfect quiet can act as a detox to your routine, until the next time you have to make the school run or head to a work presentation. If the rest of your life is stressful, try thinking about your time in a car as a single activity worthy of your full attention. There’s a meditation in the simple operation of the multi-thousand-pound beast surrounding you. It’s your job to at that moment to get yourself and everyone around you to their destination safely. if the rest of your life is so hectic, you may soon begin to yearn for the simplicity of driving alone in the quiet.

#5 It’s a choice:

At the end of the day, all these tips revolve around taking charge of your perspective. If you don’t like our commute, change it. If you absolutely can’t change anything else, try changing your attitude.

Many of these problems revolve around the theme of not being where you want to be. Not being at home, or being stuck in a traffic jam. Make a choice to remember that the journey is more important than the destination. It’s not just about being there instead of here, it’s about how well you do where you are right now. You can only impact the here and now. Don’t lose out on opportunities to do something well now because you wish you were somewhere else.

Whatever problem your mind is drifting back to, won’t be solved by obsessing on it. You will be home soon, or relatively soon. It’ll be fixed in a short while.

 

 

The Truth about Renting a Car

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If you need to rent a car you’ve probably either taken a trip or had an accident. When you take a trip, and you’re footing the bill, you probably have some control over the type of car you get but when the insurance company is supplying a replacement vehicle you may discover how little input you get.

Driving a car you are not used to can be tricky, especially if it’s manual when you’re accustomed to automatic. Another curveball can come when the rental is five or eight years newer than you’ve ever driven. Many of the new bells and whistles, like autonomous driving or keyless entry, have an adjustment period.

So do what most folks never do when negotiating your insurance rate and research what the rental clause actually covers. One of our writers recently activated the loaner vehicle clause in his insurance during repairs and discovered that a “mid-sized” car is actually tiny and has only three doors.

Most Overlooked Thing

It’s important also to make note that you will need to give the car back not only when the car is fixed but alternatively when the car is considered non-repairable by the mechanic in question. It is therefore vital that you make any contingency plans (looking for cars, etc.,) while you still have access to a vehicle. While most people are optimistic that something might be done by the garage. It’s just that not having a car makes it much more difficult to shop for another car one.

Some of the more strange but somehow frequent issues while using a rental include that you’re more likely to lose your keys, you won’t recall your license plate number if you need to fill out paperwork, and not being able to fit your child’s car seat into it. Granted, these are not world-ending issues, but they stress your day if you don’t think ahead a little.

When traveling, most people default to big brands such as Hertz or Enterprise. In reality, you might be better off doing some digging on the internet to find a local company. Why choose a name you are unfamiliar with in a foreign town? Well, you might find a better deal for one thing. You might also get some good local advice, like “there is no parking for large cars in our town so we recommend our small cars” or “gas here is cheap, so why not use the largest option you can.”

If you must use an international company trying to reach a local branch directly When you reserve through the national switchboard or website you get the official rate. The local office may be slow at the time and ready to talk deals. They may also advise you on the best places in the area to visit. (PS going local is always good advice, flowers, for example, are always cheaper local than national.)

Another Tip

If you happen to be traveling you may note that airport rental companies are more expensive. This includes services that come pick you up at the airport. So one technique is to hire a rideshare to a close by the hotel. Then stand in the lobby and order your rental car delivered there. The price per day is generally worth the effort. Do a little research though because occasionally you’ll find an airport where they competition is intense and drives prices even lower than elsewhere.

Renting Trucks?

It might surprise you to know that trucks are rented a great deal more than cars, especially by huge companies. Penske and U-Haul, for example, can be found everywhere helping people move.

For those not looking to move house, but simply trying to haul a piece of equipment or load of bark dust, for example, you can often rent a pick-up truck, the most common rented vehicle of all.

A group of antique scavengers, known as “pickers,” often rent trucks instead of buying their own. This allows them to drive a more economical car while on the hunt around the country and only bring in a truck to move something big. Money is always tight when you are running a business, it seems.

There seem to be two kinds of people when it comes to rental car treatment. The more famous kind, abuse the daylights out of it, but surprisingly most people use kid gloves. Partially because we want to avoid any fees for nicks and scratches, and partially because most people treat things they don’t own with respect. If you do create a particular mess it could be worth a vacuum to avoid spending money. If you scratched the paint somehow, consider getting a little wax and buffing it out. Many tiny cosmetic issues disappear when they don’t catch the light.

Whatever your reason for renting a car it can feel good to get back behind the wheel of something you own. Life seems much more normal.