What’s News: Ford knew about transmission issues

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Ford Motor Co. knowingly launched two low-priced, fuel-efficient cars with defective transmissions and continued selling the troubled Focus and Fiesta despite thousands of complaints and an avalanche of repairs, a Free Press investigation found.

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The cars, many of which randomly lose power on freeways and have unexpectedly bolted into intersections, were put on sale in 2010-11 as the nation emerged from the Great Recession. At least 1.5 million remain on the road and continue to torment their owners — and Ford.

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The Future of Cars – Steel Or Silicon? (Part 1)

Steel or Silicon

Donald Trump seems to think the future of car production in this country is all about controlling the price of steel and aluminium, but it might come down to silicon instead. This first article will cover what’s happening in the US. Part 2 will go into the changes in Asia and elsewhere.

How long has computer technology been linked to cars? Amazingly, an automated navigation device was first placed in a car in the 1930s, but it mainly consisted of a map on a roll. As you journeyed along the road, you could adjust the dial and travel along the map. Presumably if you traveled the other way along the road, you could adjust the dial the other way. (The real problem was if you went on a road that wasn’t important enough to have one of these maps.)

The first SatNav as we would understand it happened in 1985 with the Etak Navigator. Like most tech at the time the drive was stored on a cassette tape. It still didn’t give you directions; it showed you what the road should be like according to the records. The city of LA could only be stored in four cassettes. The first SatNav with a voice to guide you was created by Mazda in 1990.

Surprisingly, a radios wasn’t even stock in most cars during the 1960 but it didn’t take long to go from radio to 8-track, to cassette. The first Compact Disc device installed in a car was the CD-X in 1984. We can’t find a record of which manufacturer first to install a mobile download system, but it was sometime around the beginnings of 2010.

look-out-of-the-window-2121134_1920We are so used to opening our windows electronically that we rarely think of it as technology at all. The power window seems to go back all the way to 1947 to the Cadillac Fleetwood. However the system was not (still is not) fool-proof. Power windows have produced injuries and even fatalities when obstacles got caught up in the window.

The early concern was that a power window wouldn’t go down if a car became submerged, thereby preventing occupants from being able to equalize pressure and open the door. But think about trying to crank down a manual window while your car sinks slowly into the murky darkness and water pours in on you…truth be told you are best off to keep a device nearby that can smash your window out.

The US government is trying to make these windows safer with items like a lockout switch but safety campaigners warn that injuries can still occur. See the Wikipedia article on Power Windows. As regards automatic sunroofs, well there are so many different types that they deserve an article on their own.

Of course self-driving (AVs) might seem an obvious thing to talk about next, but at this time they’re only for display purposes. The Aptiv for instance although operating in Las Vegas has a real human behind the wheel and the same thing with the Chevy Bolt.

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Power assisted steering comes from 1951 from a Chrysler model, this however used hydraulics. The first electrical power steering was created for the Porsche 911 in 1963. The great advantage for electrics over hydraulics in the lack of wires making it much more efficient and less likely to overheat.

So “The Donald’s” efforts to promote jobs in the legacy American Auto Industry with heavy metal will have some impact on frame-and-body but there’s already a lot more going on inside the automotive brain, which could be a better source of jobs.

 

Do you check your car?

 

Auto ChecksIn checking your car I’m not referring to whether it is locked and the windows are down, I mean all sorts of checks

Right Insurer Checks

You can look up a vehicle’s history on several sites on the internet, using either the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) or the US license plate and the state. After you have found your car’s history (which may involve a small fee depending on who you chose) you can generally choose which plan you wish to subscribe to.

There is a choice between an easy scan and in-depth analysis, including finding out if the car has been involved in an accident, been reported lost or stolen and so on.

These types of organization use government offices and law enforcement agencies (not just state police but also national police etc.) as well as service and repair garage registries. Many of the American check websites will also work for Canadian cars.

Pre-purchase Checks

When buying a car you want to run the same checks as above plus check the price against the average for that specific vehicle in your state. Websites like Truecar.com will compare your car against the same make, model, year that have sold in your area recently.

You can also obtain reviews of what it feels like to drive that car, though nothing replaces a personal test drive. After all, you need to think about leg room, head room, visibility, and comfort. Only checking it yourself will determine if the vehicle is right for you. (If you have a child make sure that “back seat” actually fits your child’s car seat.)

It seems ludicrous to look at new cars in the dark but if you work during the day you may have been left with little choice. The only solution to this would be to bring a flashlight with you and make your inspection as thorough as it can be. Bringing someone else with you who can also check (or getting them to see the car in the daytime, though not necessarily buying the car for you) may also be recommended, though it could be a way to fall out with friends, LOL.

What’s easier and better than doing all this yourself? Buying a pre-purchase inspection from an independent source like our sponsor, TireKickers.biz. They will use a trained mechanic to inspect the car mechanically, test drive it, and run the history for you, then provide a report that interprets all this and establishes an evidence-based value using Kelly Blue Book. Without that can you really know that you’re paying the right price or buying a safe vehicle?

Glove Box Checks

Items you should keep in your glove box (or somewhere easy to find in your car) include; proof of insurance and your vehicle registration. It’s also a good idea to keep emergency medication such as a backup inhaler or EpiPen. Bandaids, sunglasses or sunscreen, tire pressure gauge, a bandanna, small emergency kit, small grooming kit, gum or mints, and if you’re really in our tribe…ninja throwing stars!

Pre-trip Checks

Another reason to check your car is when you are going on a long journey in which case phrases like “anti-freeze and coolants,” “dipstick and locking wheel nut” are referred to, which may be difficult for the driver who isn’t that aware of equipment or technology to know what items are being talked about.beautiful-1845572_1920

Here’s a link to pre-trip check page on our site, but read on below for some basics:

Coolant is designed to keep your car from over-heating while anti-freeze stops the window washing fluid and other liquids from freezing in cold weather.

No, a locking wheel nut isn’t a slam against your ability to drive (that’s a loose nut behind the wheel), it’s actually on the tire, more specifically it is used to lock and unlock the hubs.

A dip stick (also not an insult) is used to check oil quality in the vehicle and is one of the many things that need to be examined before going on long journeys, as indeed are having coolant (depending on the temperature) and having a locking wheel nut.

Though being paranoid is not a good as a lifestyle, making sure that you are covered and you aren’t being ripped off is a good thing. Really, is making every precaution against breaking down paranoid or just best practice? Even if you resist being overly regimented in life this is one of those areas where a little extra effort can save you from saying, “If only…”

 

Top Picks in Cars for Families in 2019

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When you have a family, you need a car that is roomy, comfortable, and safe. You want your children to have their own space to avoid those screaming fights and for the baby seat to buckle in with ease. So, what are the top picks for 2019? Here is a rundown of cars that are ideal for families in minivans and SUVs.

What Makes a Car Ideal?

You want to make sure that your vehicle is equipped with at least the standard features and that others are available should you choose. These features should include a rear camera, lane stay assist, and Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), among others.

family-932245_1920Safety testing is one of the most important parts of choosing any vehicle for your family. You want to know how it fares in an accident and how safe your family will be. Make sure you check the safety ranking for each vehicle that you look at. Specifics like crash rating and overall rating are a good place to start.

Convenience and Technology almost go hand in hand nowadays. Make sure that the vehicle you choose has the features you want or the option to add them. This can include things like remote start, remote door access, smartphone connections, touchless entry, heated seating, and more.

Following is the list of top family cars as rated by Kelly Blue Book, Cars.com, and Parents.com.

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Minivans

 

Honda Odyssey

With its top rate technology for safer driving including CMBS, Road Departure Mitigation System (RDM), Blind Spot Information System, and multi-angle rear camera, it is no wonder it has received Kelly Blue Book’s minivan best buy award. With ample seating allowing up to eight passengers and options for a rear entertainment center, your children will be happy and give you fewer distractions.

 

Chrysler Pacifica

The Chrysler Pacifica gives you the technology you are looking for and the comfort you need. This hybrid minivan has the safety features to help keep you safe like all around camera, Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) and adaptive cruise control. It also provides seven-passenger seating with stowaway seats for all of those necessities. It also has the option of dual entertainment screens and connection to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Again, keeping your children occupied while you stay in control.

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SUVs

 

Subaru Forester

The Subaru Forester has standard-on-all safety features that include EyeSight to monitor traffic. It also features optimized cruise control, lane assist technology, and automatic pre-collision braking with full braking capabilities. It has memory seating for up to five drivers and adjusts to their preferences upon entering the car. The Forester also has different entertainment packages to choose from and space for the extra cargo you may be transporting to and from the game.

 

Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V gives you room and style in one package. With convenient features like automatic adjusting wipers that sense the speed of the rain and adjust accordingly to hands-free rear entry, you will be hard pressed to find something you don’t like. Some of its safety features include lane change sensors that sense if cars are close when changing lanes, reverse sensors, multi-angle rear camera, and smart entry. The CR-V also comes with CMBS, RDM, lane assist, and adaptive cruise control. With plenty of space and stow away seats, you will be ready to go where ever the road calls.

 

Chevrolet Traverse

The Chevy Traverse gives you the comfort you want and the size that you need for a big family. With seating for eight, this SUV gives you convenience with hands-free rear entry, easy-slide seating, and hidden storage. It includes sixteen different safety features like forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, lane keep assisting, rear vision camera and alert, lane change assist and backup assist, among others. It also comes with connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to keep your children entertained and get you safely where you need to go.

 

Volkswagen Atlas

The Volkswagen Atlas comes with seating for seven and stowaway seats for comfort no matter how big your family is. The Atlas also comes with hands-free rear entry, remote doors, driver memory for four drivers, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay, and remote start. The safety features on the Atlas include pedestrian monitoring, overhead view camera, adaptive cruise control, LKAS, and blight spot detection, light assist, and rear traffic alert. The Volkswagen Atlas gives you space, comfort, and safety you need for your family’s road trips.

 

 

Best of the Web: GM version of puncture proof tire

Michelin and General Motors have teamed up to literally reinvent the wheel with a new generation of high-tech airless tires.

The automotive companies’ Uptis (Unique Puncture-proof Tire System) prototype grabbed headlines after it was presented at the Movin’On Summit on sustainable mobility in Montreal this week.

It doesn’t have a traditional sidewall and carries a load by the top via a resin-embedded fiberglass material that Michelin already has 50 patents for, according to Car and Driver.

Original story to see pic

The Pros and Cons of Garages

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Many of us practically live in our car, which means the front door of our house is actually the garage door. The big exceptions are those who live in apartments and those who live further off the beaten track.

Not so Humble Origins

The tradition of a garage is as old as the car itself, as it began with wealthy people to store vehicles out of the weather. In the beginning, only the rich had cars and it was natural to keep them like they had the horses it replaced, in a stable where the maintenance, care and well, waste could be handled by household employees. So the first garages were repurposed “carriage houses”.

Apart from having money what kind of people would have a carriage house? Well, it depends on how you define one. If you think of it as a cart shed, then anyone with a horse or donkey probably had one. We’re not talking about people in slum areas, but everyone else. The posher ones had living space for staff and no doubt the first garages used the sleeping quarters for chauffeurs.

Modern racing fans know of pit row where cars pit-in for service, but we probably don’t think about the source of the name, which is a pit you dug in your garage so your chauffeur can perform regular maintenance on your vehicle. Now we use hydraulic lifts of course.

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The Evolution of the Garage

Garages haven’t changed much with one big exception–where they are in relation to the rest of your house. Most houses now have an attached garage. The big advantage is that you can drive right up to, and really into, your abode without getting out in the weather.

Of course, it goes without saying that you need some sort of shelter for a convertible but there are some advantages for any vehicle. Garaging your vehicle keeps its exterior in better condition, prolongs the paint job, and reduces creature infestations like mice in the engine or yellow jackets in the air intake.

Are there any disadvantages to an attached garage? There must be. How many of us park in front of our garage and use it as a large storage facility. You can try to make the garage double for storage of things and cars, but things like ladders pose a bigger threat to your paint job than the weather outside.

An attached garage also either takes up room from your house (under the roof) or from your yard. Most of us have come to accept the loss of front green space and perhaps even consider it an advantage to have less mowing to do. Still, the modern house, with it’s living quarters tucked behind an amorphous garage is less conducive to a neighborhood feel than say, a wraparound porch.

If you’ve ever lived in a situation where you needed to walk outside for a bit, in order to get in your car, you notice how much the air wakes you up in the morning. You might also notice a lack of smell. Cars have a lot of chemicals, etc. that can gather in the sale air of a garage. The material used for the car such as diesel and anti-freeze also whiff a bit. If you don’t use the car a rust smell will also develop. Many people might prefer these kinds of odors further from the house.

Note: Now that some of us have remote start on their cars, it’s a good idea to make sure the garage door is up before starting your car. That carbon monoxide is dangerous. Then there is the smell. A number of older cars smell especially diesel cars.

Safety

Another big advantage to a garage is the safety factor. Garages are thought by insurers to a safer place to keep a car than say the street. For an insurer, it’s all about managing risk in any case. Your pride and joy might not be perfectly safe in a garage but it is better than the alternatives. Many single people feel personally safer walking into a garage attached to their house than walking outside to get in their car.

Whatever you choose, and garage placement may not be a big factor in choosing where you live, there are some plusses and minuses to having a garage. It’s worth giving some thought to.

A Quick Guide to Car Performance Testing

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We’ve all probably seen those episodes of Mythbusters where they show the intense force that can result from something as simple as a car crash. That’s why it’s wild so many people don’t fully understand how cars are tested for safety or performance overall.

In 2016 there were 272.48 million cars registered in the United States, and that is a huge chunk of the population buying and driving cars. Obviously, cars are a lot safer than the vehicles we were driving 100 years ago, and that is definitely due to laws concerning safety performance.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

The need for motor vehicle safety standards came to light in the 1960s. In fact, we weren’t even required to have seat belts as a standard safety feature in cars until 1968. Now, seat belts feel like such an ingrained and necessary part of cars that it’s unbelievable they have only been around for the last fifty years or so.

Once it became a requirement for cars to meet certain standards and safety minimums, companies started performing their own crash safety tests to help maintain their standards.

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Crash Safety Tests

These crash safety tests have grown more intense over the years to make sure that people are protected from all sorts of issues. Whenever you talk safety, you’re looking at things like:

  • How to prevent accidents
  • How to minimize the severity of the damage
  • How to prevent secondary damage

You never know what can go wrong in a car accident as it isn’t always as simple as a fender bender. There can be pile-ups, rolls, and more cause an accident to be fatal. No company wants their car to put people at risk because of faulty airbags or poor design.

If a car is unlikely to be hit, but when it is hit from the side it flips easily on its top and pours gas on the passengers, well, that’s not a safe car.

The best way to crash test a vehicle is by putting it through the wringer. These cars that show up on the market have often faced all sorts of abuse and disaster to make certain it adds no unnecessary risks or danger to the drivers.

Car manufacturers want to test every aspect of cars through production to make sure they needle out any potential issues. They don’t want customers having to complain about a problem after the car is on the market. It goes without saying that it’s more expensive to fix a problem after you’ve sold a hundred thousand units.

A lot of car testing is done in Death Valley, California. Car companies have actually received express permission to crash test cars in Death Valley National Park. It is a great remote area for companies to do this so bystanders aren’t hurt.

Both the structural design of a car and applied safety systems can really contribute to safety. Crash tests are meant to help show what would happen to a car in different events and it shows what parts are structurally weak and need to be fixed.

Side Note: An example of a post-design safety system is a two-pound plastic plate which Canadian Ford Pintos included, which radically reduced the chance of gas tank puncture when rear-ended.

Often these days crash test dummies are used to demonstrate the impact a crash would have on a human being. This is to help discover what protections might be needed to make the car safer for passengers. Crash test dummies are meant to mimic real people and employ advanced designs to lead to proper results of the impact.

Crash Test Ratings

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives out crash test ratings based on a scale of one to five stars. How it rates cars is based on a number of certain factors. Tests that are included in these ratings are a front crash test, side crash test, and rollover crash tests.

The crash test rating involves aspects of all the results from multiple crash tests. Included are results based on damage sustained by crash test dummies such as neck extension or other potential injuries. Multiple injuries are counted as well, data is taken from all parts of the body.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also has its own vehicle safety ratings that impact how cars are manufactured. Their determination for crashworthiness is similar to the NHTSA, though focuses on a few different aspects. The testing is a bit more hardcore than with the NHTSA to help ensure safety.

Conclusion

Crash test ratings have helped improve the quality of cars produced over the years. Now it is an important part of car production to make sure that cars protect passengers as much as possible.

When it is time to go buy a car there are many ways to take a look at how safe they really are. You can check the car safety ratings and even watch the crash testing videos if you think that would reassure you.

Human Error and the Crash

 

car-accident-2789841_1920People worry about the rise of self-driving cars but it seems like most people struggle to negotiate the road with normal cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 94% are due to dangerous choices or errors which people make when they are behind the wheel. Whether they are blatantly dangerous or are revealed to be so after hindsight must be worth looking into though.

The statistics divide things into “distracted driving,” “drunken driving,” or “driving while drowsy.” Possibly a crash might be caused by a combination of factors which no one can get to the bottom of. Some of which might be natural, such as ice on the road, stormy winds etc. Certainly, there are days when it pays to be more vigilant.

The errors can be divided into five types:

  • Recognition error
  • Decision error
  • Performance error
  • Non-performance error
  • Other

Distraction is usually regarded as a recognition error. Deciding to speed or do another illegal maneuver or not anticipating what other drivers will do is known as decision error. Performance error is losing control of the vehicle or pushing the car too far. Non-performance is another name for drowsiness and falling asleep. 8% of car accidents were caused by miscellaneous human error or “other”.

drink-driving-808790_1920Something which seems on the rise is drugged driving. There are warning signs of drunk or stoned driving you might watch out for, such as a driver weaving in and out of the traffic. Or it may be that a driver goes far too slowly, though that could be down to a number of factors, the weaving is more obvious a sign.

The problem with many drivers is that driving consists of many tiny micro-tasks which all need to be obeyed to keep the car on the road. If something changes then there could be a problem. It may be something the brain has yet to process or it could be something that is making the person behave in a reckless manner.

Teens age drivers are most likely to behave irresponsibly, and they win high insurance premiums as their only prize. It’s likely a combination of being less experienced drivers (not knowing how to react to a situation) and less experienced decision makers.

So what can you do to reduce the risk? Well, you’ve likely heard a lot of ideas that, while technically sound, are really difficult to carry out. Things like:

  • Never drive with someone to distract you?
  • Never drive late at night?

You can’t really avoid every situation that is inherently unsafe. Perhaps the bigger shift needs to happen in our thinking. Many people don’t think they are doing anything which might cause an accident, and that’s when it gets you.

Although self-driving is said to wipe out death by human error it is unlikely to be widespread any time soon. The same can be said for laws about what lanes trucks use, or sensors to detect pedestrians. The kicker has pondered these efforts before and we generally recommend actually trying things out before making sweeping changes because computers have yet to prove themselves as better decision makers than humans in the driving seat.

Street Racing

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For many people, the idea of street racing creates bad vibes especially if it’s an illegal event. As an event, it precedes cars by several centuries as there were many illegal horse races and chariot races on the roads before the invention of the motor car.

The heyday for street racing was in the 1960s with a race that should have taken place at Woodward Avenue Drag Strip in Detroit, Michigan. However, because the racecourse was often unavailable the organizers took it to public roads instead. This was only the beginning of their problems.

Organizing Chaos

The consensus among street race organizers is that it’s best to avoid the busier areas of the city and suburbs. This might have to do with safety or it possibly could have something to do with not getting caught!

Apart from that, there seems to be a whole spectrum of how an event can be held. Some are almost spontaneous; others are planned precisely over several months-it all depends on who the organizers are.

hot-rod-875524_1920However, it comes together and despite the best planning things can still go wrong. In an event in Southern California in 2018, several bystanders were killed as well as a number of the drivers. One of those killed was to a nineteen-year-old returning from Disneyland.

As for the money aspect, the amount of money being bet on these events is staggering. It’s a ready-made audience of gamblers.

As well as racing another activity bet on is the “side-show” or “takeover,” which refers to a crowd of cars associated with the organizers who will block a junction just ahead of the racers coming through. As the racing cars need to get as close to each other as they can, crashes often occur. Side bets get placed on that as well. Basically when it comes to street racing “High Stakes” is measured in peoples’ lives.

Law Enforcement Response

The police are trying to fix the problem using a special task force but they face challenges including that they are likely to suffer assault while physically attempting to break up events. Even when they do raid a race they may find the ringleaders are elsewhere, remember that it is a virtual event too. The task force must look at the big picture.

With modern social media and the ability to generate flash mobs many, it can tough for police to prevent a race. Organizers have plenty of incentive to keep it up too, because there’s a lot of money in it, as we’ll return to in a moment.

Modifications

Race organizers sometimes move to a whole new area where police haven’t had a chance to prepare. An event in Sweden was covered by filmmaker Stephanie Benini who used a reality TV style way of broadcasting to focus on the event itself. The video shows a number of police cars at the scene. The whole thing lasted nine hours, between 11pm and 8am and police weren’t able to shut it down.

If racing weren’t dangerous enough inherently, experts viewing the movie footage have observed some of the cars have been massively upgraded. One Volvo, for example, has rear tires in the film that don’t match any Volvo being sold on forecourts. Maybe improper customization will play a part in future street races and future race accidents.

Even though it is an illegal event the organizers tried to be as sensible as they could be, closing down roads for the racers. But as stated above, the danger aspect cannot be removed completely.

Legal Races

As an interesting side note, racing returned to Woodward in 2018. Here’s a story on the topic.