Converting Ambulances?!

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There are many vehicles which can be converted to ambulances. Though modern readers probably envision a large van, believe it or not only a few decades ago they used station wagons. Most ambulances these days start off life as an ambulance though they’re built on a van frame. The only real reason to alter a vehicle to an ambulance would be if you were transporting it to a foreign nation that didn’t have a local manufacturer, and then it is relatively simple to just get an old ambulance and save all the effort of converting.

ambulance-168279_1920So if converting a van seems a fruitless task what about ambulance cars? They are more widely known as a non-transporting EMS vehicle, or perhaps “rapid response vehicle.” In other words, they are a way to get the doctor to the scene of an accident. In Germany, they are also known as “Physician Cars” though clearly when you translate that into English it conjures images of a luxury vehicle a well-paid doctor might use might drive for day to day use.

They convert vehicles like the Renault Scenic, maybe due to the ease of size. The problem again that they are generally bought from the supplier as ambulances, though it goes without saying that the supplier needs to work out how best the vehicle will work as an ambulance car.

As for motorcycles you might need to change the traction control to deal with the new use. You also need foot shields, hand guards and fairing protectors. To clarify “fairings” are extra structures used to aid streamlining of the vehicle. The biggest noticeable change is the color, as ambulance motorcycles are never black; they are by and large a luminous yellow shade.

What about the other way around? How do you convert an ambulance into a regular type of vehicle?

First things first, licensing requirements vary state to state. Some states go off the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and once something was born an ambulance it will always be one. Therefore you can turn it into anything you want for all anyone cares, but you still have to acquire the proper license to drive it. You need to make sure that you are licensed to drive such a vehicle.

What to turn an ambulance into? Good question. There aren’t that many other uses really, it’s too small for freight for instance. Possible other ideas would be a furniture truck or a catering van.

ambulance-2214593_1920However, one of the most common uses for an old ambulance is a camper van. The big draw here is that it’s a high-end van, with upgraded load capacity, and best of all, it’s already wired for the additional electric needs of a camper. You’ll need to do some additional outlets and such but it’s a lot less work than starting from a basic van. No doubt you also have to add some kind of oven, some beds, and the odd table.

Another good point about an ambulance is that it already has a backup battery which is a lifesaver if you are stuck in the middle of nowhere. You may also be able to repurpose built-in overhead lighting and heating, as well as cupboards.

You may have to change the insurance if you want to alter the purpose of a vehicle, as a camper van is classed as HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle), whereas an ambulance is not. The distinction here is that an ambulance would have a commercial vehicle policy in addition to regular coverage. A camper van is hauling a lot of expensive equipment that you own like microwave, toaster ovens, etc.

It will be quite interesting to drive. An ambulance has a number of buttons on the dashboard that you don’t find in regular camper vans. Removing the sirens might also be something the law requires when privately owned.

This is probably a gold mine; after all, there are many ambulances for sale. But like with any gold mine it involves a certain amount of spade work. Still, you might be able to get brilliant vacations and even money from selling such vehicles on sites such as eBay. In a crowded market, it helps to have new ideas.

Narrow Streets and Gridlock

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You are beeping your horn; you are impatient to get to work. You are stuck in a bit of congestion. Would it surprise you to learn you may have caused some of this congestion yourself?

To explain, gridlock is a traffic condition that effects intersecting streets (or as the people who live there tend to know them as, blocks). The drivers on each road cannot move because the space they could move to is taken up by a vehicle that is blocking their way, but then that vehicle is being blocked in by another vehicle and so on, seemingly forever.

Luckily, the gridlock can be removed by trying to squeeze the cars (generally turning them slightly) so there is some room for a car to exit. As with all puzzles it only works if all components work together. It’s a life-sized version of the childhood game concentration.

It’s fairly easy to fix though with a simple box junction and a pair of traffic lights and everyone following the proper rule of box junctions (a box junction without traffic lights might fix the congestion problem but might cause even more problems on the rood). This will ensure that at least one exit is free at any one time.

traffic-jam-688566_1920Maintaining Order:

This is why “blocking the box” has become such a crime. In New York it is subject to a $90 penalty. In Virginia Beach, it is even more; $200.

The box junction has been around for about 50 years, starting in the UK but spreading around the world.

The concept that bigger cars have such difficulty getting anywhere is generally why smaller cars are seen as better on city streets, they just find it easier to maneuver in problems like this. The more trucks in gridlock the harder the problem and trucks are the number one seller in America.

Sat-Nav to the Rescue?

Satellite Navigation actually can make the problem worse also. Some systems will look at the raw data of where traffic is and what speed it’s moving, and then direct vehicles onto side streets that aren’t designed for heavy flow. When it does this with a semi-truck or something pulling a trailer the narrower streets in the older section of town can create a blockage. The other thing about narrow streets is that traffic can only go one way and that means it will take you longer to get to your destination. Sometimes street parking of local vehicles blocks sightlines making it impossible to turn around when you miss a turn.

As well as squeezing through road junctions, cars and trucks have to squeeze under arches. In dire situations a special “truck route” is created, often on a less congested roadway, in order to move truck and bus traffic off car routes and direct them to archways at least 14 feet high. These routes require more maintenance, of course, and are unpopular with neighborhoods sometimes. No matter what this is a costly solution, but can be the only way out of trouble for some older cities.

Not Only Narrow Roads:

It is not only narrow roads that might be a problem in an urban idyll, but also crooked roads. When roads are meant for pedestrians there’s no impetus for them to be straight at all, hence why many historic towns have roads which curve all over the place. It gives a pleasant view when driving, but also makes it more stressful.

A recent trend to give bikes the right of way, so as to make them a popular option to cars has narrowed many roads through the implementation of bike lanes. Portland Oregon, for example, has turned entire roads over to bike only in an effort to embrace and encourage the use of pedal power. They have officially decided that there state road budget will consider the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians over cars.

The move is controversial for three big reasons:

  • Motorists pay road taxes, license fees, where cyclists do not.
  • Motorists must be trained and licensed to use the roads where cyclists do not.
  • Motorists are frequently stopped by police or caught on traffic cams when there is a problem and cyclists in Portland seem to drive with flagrant impunity.

The combination of these three factors has caused Portlanders to label bike riders as “the Spandex Mafia.”

Narrow bridges can also cause serious problems, even if it is a relatively new bridge. Many were just not created for traffic. But this is the way that cities were created, it’s a headache to put right, but it gives the planners something to occupy their day.

The Car Propping Up the US

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Op-Ed by A.R. Bunch and Paul Wimsett

The car industry has long been considered too big to fail in America. The car manufacturers employ tens of thousands of mostly union members, not to mention sales, marketing, and transportation to market. Clearly, if no one buys cars it would seem self-evident that the steel industry and the petroleum industry would be greatly affected, but economists say the impact can be felt as far afield as healthcare and agriculture.

The news cycle has been dominated by recent political wrangling over keeping the parts and components of cars domestically manufactured as well, from haggling with Canada over steel, to haggling with Mexico over assembly, to threatening tariff wars with China over parts.

They’ve Been Connected from the Start:

The direct tie between the American Economy and automobile manufacturer was first recognized in the 1940s as “Fordism”, the phrase invented by Antonio Gramsci, a Marxist philosopher. Ford had the idea to pay workers more money $5 a day (the equivalent of $90 today). The first effect was actually to decrease the city population as more people moved to suburban areas. Motorized transport, in general, made the population more portable, allowing working-class citizens access to opportunity and freedom.

Recent Historical Context:

A quick check of recent history confirms that when the economy dives it takes the car industry with it. Take the housing, bank, and stock market crash of 2008 for example. In that year alone around 52,000 workers in the automobile industry became unemployed. So what happened to those people?

Most states do not have that many automobile workers. So most of those job losses were in states such as Michigan. When unemployment happened to people here the only answer seemed to be to leave the state entirely. Between the years of 2001 and 2009, Michigan lost the equivalent of one resident every nine minutes (or 465,000 people), the equivalent of a small town. Luckily this wasn’t a permanent fixture the state did recover if only a little way.

Predictions of the Near Future:

If a drop in car sales impacts the economy and vice versa then even a slight drop in car sales is an indicator of potential economic disaster.

That is why the industry starts getting rattled if there seems to be a drop in car sales, which might be happening right now in 2018. 2015 and 2016 recorded sales years for new cars, when the NADA released its forecast for 2017 & 2018. The 2017 number was 17.1 million, a modest plateauing in sales, which they pretty much hit. Their 2018 number was only 16.7 million, a 2% drop from 2017 sales numbers.

Why the negativity? One could point to the end of the impact of the Cash for Clunkers government buyback. Fear over rising fuel prices, rising interest rates, and the rise in vehicle sticker prices. In reality, though, millennials aren’t buying cars the way previous generations did. Remote work has become attractive, especially in younger workers.

There is good news for the economy on the whole and gas prices have been fairly stable. However, many of the unfilled jobs are in blue collar jobs which means until they’re filled people aren’t driving to work. The job growth is primarily in areas which can be done remotely. In many ways, as the car and the economy go hand in glove, gas prices will continue to be the key indicator to watch.

What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

But look at it like this: There are 226 assembly plants in America. If they all were to disappear tomorrow the effect would be catastrophic.

But not all the impacts of the motor car are economic. Currently, about 85% of American people drive to their jobs on their own. The effect of this is not only financial, something you must do to earn money; it also has a distancing effect on our fellow humans. As we spend several hours behind the wheel trying to get to and from work each day, many people are struggling to feel like they’re more than just part of a large machine.

This is why we at the Kicker have long encouraged the commuting public to remember the romance we once had with our car. If we can fall in love with the experience of driving again, and keep buying cars, we can keep our economy strong and free.

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

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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.