Fill ’er up…

We do it every day, fill up the car with gas or diesel. But it might be worthwhile looking at gas stations themselves. Many are owned by the big names such as Shell and Gulf, and fair number of the smaller names have gone under.

What we commonly call a “gas station” in the US is more technically called a “Filling Station” as the idea was to supply automobiles with whatever sort of fuel or lubricant they needed—be it gas or deasil, oil, and yes, Propane.

They became known a little later as service stations when they were combined with small mechanic shops to provide basic tire and engine repair functions. Later still, the service portion was remodelled to include snacks and beverages, which came at a high mark-up because they were convenient. This was, of course, called a convenience store.

A Little About Gas Station Design

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filling_station

Filling stations typically offer one of three types of service to their customers: full service, minimum service or self-service.

Full service An attendant or gas jockey operates the pumps, often wipes the windshield, and sometimes checks the vehicle’s oil level and tire pressure, then collects payment and perhaps a small tip.

Minimum service An attendant operates the pumps. This is often required due to legislation that prohibits customers from operating the pumps.

Oregon and New Jersey forbid you to pump your own gas.

Self service The customer performs all required service. Signs informing the customer of filling procedures and cautions are displayed on each pump. Customers can still enter a store or go to a booth to give payment to a person.

Unmanned Using cardlock (or pay-at-the-pump) system, these are completely unstaffed.

The First Gas Stations

The first filling station in the US (and also the world) was built in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1905 at 420 South Theresa Avenue. (The 2nd was in Seattle, WA. BTW). You could get your hands-on fuel prior to that, but it was an add-on to an existing business—like a dry goods or general store. When Henry Ford made the automobile a middle-class purchase the need for a boutique store became obvious. By 1909 a third station was built in Altoona, Pennsylvania. But none of these stations would have looked quite right to the modern eye.

The first “drive-in” station came December 1, 1913 when Gulf Refining Company built it in Pittsburgh, PA.

Historic Gas Stations

In America, when you think gas, you probably think of Texas. There’s an obvious reason why, the oil boon from the start to the middle of the 20th century. The Oil Boom moved Texas from a rural state with lots of ranches to a largely industrial state where petroleum dependent manufacturing could be near the source. Texans depend so much on gas for daily living- so much so that they are known as the “oil patch community” and many of the towns located throughout the state are known as “oil towns.”

Additionally, several oil patch museums are located within the State which are no doubt worth seeking out for anyone with an interest in how Texas became so prosperous. Here are a few examples of Lone-Star States historic gas stations.

The Old Sinclair Station was built in 1933, an interesting part of the façade are the wood-sash windows (metal ones are much more common nowadays). It exemplifies Spanish Colonial architecture service stations which at one time could be found all over the US. These have become increasingly rare, unfortunately.

Schauer Filling Station

The Schauer Filling Station, completed in 1929, can be found in Houston. It consists of a blue bungalow with a wide veranda (where the gas pumps used to be). The building has fallen on hard times, described in 2013 as being in a ruinous condition. Scavengers have been salvaging parts off without asking. It has since been listed as a national historic site, which will hopefully attract someone willing to restore the building, or at least prevent further pilfering.

Jenkins-Harvey Super Service Station

The Jenkins-Harvey Super Service Station and Factory was also built in 1929 and has an Art Deco style with various foliage designs. It was built by local architect James P. Baugh and funded by local businessman Samuel A Lindsey. The gas pumps were removed in the 1980s but it is still in relatively good conditions, probably due to how much concrete is in its construction.

The Phillips 66 gas station in McClean, Texas has a gabled roof and has a general Tudor revival style, as well as a front chimney. Unfortunately, this specific one was completely remodeled in 1991 but still bears some of its old style.

Gas Station Memorabilia

Dino

Not only do gas stations themselves offer an interesting history but sometimes it’s the logos, mascots or other paraphernalia associated with them. Sinclair Gas was associated with a green dinosaur for instance called Dino which can still be found throughout the US. Other mascots included a figure looking at a flame wearing white with the message “Happy Motoring” on their top (Esso), a beaver with a red hat (Buc-ee’s, which also run convenience stores and fast food restaurants) and a blue X with a long nose (Idex; the mascot’s name is Idekkun). There are too many mascots to mention them all here, but generally speaking they are all quite colorful in order to get drivers attention.

Winter Car Care

There are so many difficulties with the cold weather. Here are a few tips from your friends at The Kicker.

Dirt!

The salt on the road makes cars become dirty quicker. It is recommended that you constantly wipe your lights with a cloth – 40% of luminosity is lost on gritted roads, according to a road safety charity. It may also mean that your registration plate becomes obscured. So it is important to wipe it down before you leave your house.

Battery

Is your battery fairly new? Cold is hard on batteries and it’s also the worst time to get stranded in a car that won’t start. The battery should be changed every three years. If your car battery is beginning to age it means your car will take longer to start or not start at all.

New batteries can hold their temperature thanks to a substance called “liquid electrolyte solution.” A battery will only totally freeze when the temperature becomes really icy but the colder temperatures mean that transfer of power that occurs in a battery is slowed down and as a result you will have difficulty in starting up.

Also, because people tend to use their lights more at this time of year the battery is drained more; using the windshield wipers and the radio can also have an effect.

Signs of a Bad Battery:

There will be noticeable signs that you have a flat battery when you start the engine up such as not hearing anything when you place the key in the ignition or hearing a whining sound but no motor. Other signs may be that the ignition lights fail to work, or the central locking fails to unlock.

Your engine may be started by jump leads if there is no other way, but it should only be used if there is no other way. You might also carry a portable battery this time of year which allows you to jump you car or the car of a stranger in need.

Be prepared:

It may be life or death to ensure that the tires aren’t worn. If you drive on country roads more than average you may need some snow tires.

What’s important too is to have a survival kit in your car, such a blanket, hot thermos and so on in case you break down. You will need warm clothing for you and all the passengers in the car as well as a shovel and a torch.

Do you need to change the coolant? The coolant needs to be changed every 2-5 years, the exact time is dependent on the coolant used and the type of car.

Another vital part of winter car care is checking the car has been serviced recently. Although most cars need a service every twelve months all cars are different. It’s best to have your car serviced before the worst of winter occurs, if you can.

Wipers

Make sure your wipers work effectively – maybe wipe them with a clean cloth. But if the wipers seem to be stuck it is best to heat the car up. Applying water, which is too hot may crack your windows, so take care. It’s important by law to ensure the windshield washer is full of fluid.

If your car is cold all the time it means that your car will consume more fuel. The car should take 30 seconds to a minute to warm up. If your car takes longer to warm up it should possibly be kept in a garage.

Hopefully these tips can protect you from the worst of the wintry harm out there.

How To Cope With Car Judders And Jolts

A car which judders and jolts is not marketable, but then again nor is one which moves in absolute silence. This explains a law in February 2018 which made it illegal for electric and hybrid cars to be silent when traveling at low speed.

Silent Cars

The legislation was needed because there is hardly any engine noise, generally the only sound you hear is the sound of tires against the road. There is still debate on whether to use a pretend engine noise or some beeping sound. Porsche went for a Sports car sound.

Ford at the time wondered if police cars could be excused from the law if they needed to creep up on suspects. Although this may help the police or security services a bit, police cars tend to have a look about them, one which not making a noise wouldn’t disguise. It is not clear who the person at Ford made this suggestion.

Noises

If you hear any noise when driving its advisable to see a mechanic as quickly as possible, but here’s a short guide.

Squeaking, especially high-pitched, when breaking, means that you should inspect the brakes as they may need to be changed.

If there is clunking, or crunching noise, then there is a problem with the suspension. Your car may also feel unstable and tires may wear quicker than usual if not fixed.

If there’s a groaning noise which gets louder and maybe higher pitched it is due to your bearings. It is best to see a mechanic as quickly as possible.

The sound of ticking is not that unusual in cold weather. However, if it continues it may be something in the engine and is worth investigating.

A hissing sound around the engine suggests a leak somewhere; this must be checked as soon as. A shrieking sound meanwhile in the engine may be serpent belt, which could be age?

A click clack in the wheels suggests that the constant velocity joints in the front wheels need replacing.

Hearing rattling is a common complaint, so you need more information in order to diagnose a problem. It may possibly be a combustion problem, if so, it should be heard when accelerating. If it gets worse, it becomes a hammering noise. Look too at the ignition. Try switching to the gasoline to higher octane.

A howling sound is the differential which leads to work gears.

A slapping sound is a flat tire which should be changed.

If your gear stick makes a grinding noise it suggests that it’s worn out and needs to be fixed.

A banging from an exhaust pipe is known as backfiring. It is due to unspent fuel being ejected from the valves only to ignite in the tailpipe. If you hear a similar noise in the engine it may be something burnt there, or it may be due to spark plugs.

Beware especially of any noise that occurs when you turn a corner. There’s certainly axle trouble.

No wonder every driver hates it when a sound occurs, but if you can fix it quickly then all to the good.

Tesla Cars – Their Success Continues

Tesla seems to have a different way of selling than its rivals. They speak of being mission-focused, consumer-focused and giving a consistent experience, but how does it stack up?

There is certainly expansion occuring, not only in the US but also they are building factories in China and Germany. But why have they reached such lofty heights?

Despite various models, such as the Roadster, Model S and Model X they seem more than a car company. With (according to CNN) revenue valued at 24.6 billion, they are also a hardware and software company.

There are other authorities which speak well of Tesla – the Owner Satisfaction Survey in 2017, run by Consumer Reports, placed them highest. The survey looked into such variables as the driving experience, comfort and value amongst other items.

These cars are in majority sold online, selling cars directly to the customers instead of using dealerships. Their showrooms are in malls and places with high footfall instead of the regular out of town places. There is remote diagnosis and even remote repair so no need to visit the customer. Relying on mobile technology they don’t make a profit on service.

The prototypes of the Tesla were revealed in July 2006 in Santa Monica to 350 invited guests. It was certainly about quality, not quantity.

A loan from the US Department of Energy in January 2010 of a massive 465 million dollars was certainly good for business. It was repaid in 2013 in full. Tesla has been developing its technology in an environmentally friendly way ever since.

Surprisingly, the patents aren’t heavily protected but can be used by other companies. As a sidenote, the number of patents registered is certainly a sign that it’s a technology company with a emphasis on the internet; most car companies have only the odd patent. While they are flexible with their patents, there are several trade secrets of Tesla which do remain private.

If you wish to let Tesla self-drive, there is an autopilot program available. If you wish to drive it yourself reviews of the cars talk about a “feeling of acceleration” in addition to “ride quality.”

There is some controversy as to whether it is actually “self-driving,” the car still needs to be supervised. The Tesla can handle various automatic tasks such as lane centering, lane changes, self-parking and summoning cars from a parking space or a garage. It all sounds pretty cool.

20% of all electric cars were produced by Tesla, which given the strong Japanese and German electric car market this is quite an achievement. So in the grand scheme of all cars made in the world, Tesla has a tiny piece, however in an apples to apple comparison to similar cars produced they are a big fish in their tiny pond.

So, are you self-driving or are you supervising the driving? In September 2020 someone was charged with driving over 90mph, it appears both “passengers” where asleep. According to the authorities these support systems are meant to be complementary, the human behind the wheel is ultimately responsible.

Despite this differentiation from how other car makers sell their cars, there is a huge amount of choice with a Tesla. The sky is the limit—did you know they were developing a space program as well?

What Bad Steering May Mean

If your car pulls to one side that means that the alignment of the wheels is off-you should get your wheels aligned as soon as you get new tires. This is known as a torque steer. It is rather dangerous so it is important to fix.

A “memory steer” is when the car seems to continue in the same direction when you release the wheel instead of coming back to true. You might be a lack of air in the tires or worn out parts like suspension or steer.

Should the car move forward in reverse on a hill, this is a sign that gravity is more powerful than your car’s idle. The idle is set according to the vehicle’s specs, but as the car ages it can lose power. Having the idle set too high burns extra gas at stop lights so just make sure your mechanic is setting it to factory specs and hold the brake and apply some gas when on a hill. Don’t shift to reverse and then let the car be pulled forward because you might damage the engine.

Side Note: It may seem ridiculous but it’s worth mentioning–You can still drive with the handbrake pulled if you have enough throttle. DON’T! Driving with the brakes on damages your brakes as well as your transmission so it is not recommended.

Steering Rack Issues

A steering rack is another name for the rack and pinion steering system and consists of universal joints, main and intermediate shafts; the central unit is the part that receives information. The steering rack when it wears out can cause a considerable hazard. If you have an older car that seems to always have an alignment issue, have your mechanic check the steering rack.

When the tilt function of the wheel doesn’t work the wheel cannot be positioned correctly. Again, it is because of the steering rack.

Does the wheel seem to wobble to and fro of its own volition? If so, it is impossible to drive as well as highly dangerous—call your mechanic immediately. It takes a few days to replace a steering rack.

When it’s not the Steering Rack:

Another condition to watch out for is needing to make a large turn in order to make the car move forward, it is not safe at all. The power steering or an associated mechanism could be breaking down.

If the steering wheel feels quite tight and is harder to turn than usual it could just be that it needs more power steering fluid. (These are cars without electrical power steering). Other signs to watch out for are groaning sounds, especially while turning and a smell of burning oil, or maybe a squeaking sound. If the fluid is changed constantly this will prevent the problem somewhat.

A clunking or grinding noise may indicate that the steering rack is constantly rubbing against metal. It’s due to the steering rack wearing out, where seeing a mechanic comes in.

It could however be due to “struts” which are connected to the steering rods. Because replacing the steering rack is so expensive it is vital to get it right.

When Steering Problems Occur

After discovering a problem, you should attempt to get off the road as quickly as possible but make sure also it is safe to do so.

Another symptom to keep an eye out for is that the steering wheel feels lose and doesn’t seem to return to the center. The vehicle might seem unstable and you may not be able to keep it in the right lane. With a bad steering system every obstacle such as a pothole becomes twice as hard to negotiate. So take any sound or maneuverability issue as serious and get it to a mechanic ASAP.

Is Your Car Ready For Fall Driving?

Cooler weather is finally here. You’ve brought out your sweaters and jackets and stored your summer attire. Your wardrobe is all set to enjoy the crisp, cool days but what about your vehicle? Is your car ready for cooler-weather driving?

If you’re not sure if your vehicle’s ready or aren’t sure what needs to be done, here are a few things you’ll want to take care of before you hit the open roads this fall.

How to Get Your Car Ready for Fall Driving

1. Give Your Car a Bath

Chances are your summer driving routes took you to a beach, at least once. Whether it’s sand from a freshwater lake or salt from the ocean air, you’ll want to rinse it off before you start any fall road trips. The salt, sand, and other grime from summer drives can collect on the vehicle’s undercarriage. If left on too long, it can cause corrosion.

To prevent this from happening, rinse all of the salt and other grime off your car. A garden hose can be just as effective as a car wash.

2. Check Tire Pressure

Did you know that every time the temperature fluctuates 10 degrees your tire pressure changes as much as one pound per square inch? This means that when the temperature changes you want to check tire pressure.

If you’re not sure what is recommended for your vehicle, optimal tire pressure will be listed in the owner’s manual. You can also look your vehicle up online or ask a mechanic if the manual is lost.

3. Replace Windshield Wiper Blades

You might not have to replace the windshield wiper blades if they weren’t used during heavy spring and summer downpours. However, if you spent a lot of time parked at the beach the salt air can corrode the rubber blades.

It is recommended that you change the blades every six months. Drivers in colder climates may want to plan on replacing them every fall. The last thing you want is to find out your windshield wipers aren’t effective in the middle of a rain or snowstorm.

4. Check the Oil and Filter

Checking your oil levels should be a part of your regular car maintenance. Depending on the type of oil used, mileage, and driving conditions, it might not need to be changed. If it’s measuring low and still looks clear, it’s okay to just add to the existing oil.

If it’s time to change the oil, often to a lighter-weight one, you also want to replace the filter. Lighter oils are often recommended for fall driving since it can help the engine perform more efficiently in cooler temperatures. A new filter can do what a dirty one can’t; keep the oil clean and debris out of the engine.

5. Change the Air Filter

The air filter is an important component and it’s often overlooked. It prevents dust and other small impurities from entering the cylinders’ combustion chambers. This can lower fuel efficiency and reduce engine performance. Like your oil filter, it should be changed every six months.

6. Flush the Cooling System

Your vehicle’s cooling system should be flushed and refilled every 2-years or 24,000 miles. It’s part of good car maintenance and an easy item to add to your spring car maintenance checklist.

You will need a radiator cleaning product to flush away oil, grease, and collected sediment. After flushing the radiator, refill with a mixture of water and coolant. The percentage of water and coolant will depend on the climate. Severe climates require a higher mixture of coolant than water.

7. Check the Spark Plugs and Battery

This is something you should already be doing regularly. Checking the battery and connections helps ensure that you won’t be stranded. Make sure that the connections are tight and that there aren’t any signs of corrosion. You also want to make sure that the battery housing is solid.

The final thing you want to do before heading off on your first fall drive of the season is to clean out the car’s interior.

Building Up A Car Toolkit and Other Car Equipment.

You know the old adage, there’s two kinds of people in the world…well it seems to be the case when it comes to keeping gear in your car so you’re prepared for a breakdown. Either they keep nothing at all except the number to roadside assistance, or they keep enough to survive a zombie apocalypse.

So, we’re dedicating this post to the middle ground. Honestly what should you keep in your car in case of emergency.

Starting with a car toolkit.

No need to have a second kit for your motorcycle if you only drive one or the other—just adjust the size to fit motorcycle and move it back and forth. Then again you may need different tools and it’s a lot easier to just store this in your vehicle and not have to remember to move it.

A mobile car toolkit should include such items as screwdrivers, hex keys, a socket set, two sets of pliers-both adjustable and locking, wire cutters, ratchet straps, tire gauge, zip ties and duct tape.

  • Hex keys, AKA Allen wrenches, come in a range of sizes, it is vital to find the right hex key for your job. We recommend getting a folding hex key set like the one pictured here because hex keys tend to wander off or fall in tiny cracks.
  • Socket sets are used for the tightening and loosening of fasteners. It should be noted that they come in a range of sizes, but not all sizes are needed.
  • Rachet straps are tie-down straps used to tie down equipment or cargo so as to keep construction materials in place. They need to be both tough and flexible to do their jobs.

Don’t overspend on a mobile tool kit for a couple reasons. First you may want to hand off the kit in a pinch or it could get stollen. Second some expensive kits come with items like a pull handle or swivel castors, which are useful but an expensive kit will include nonessential items which actually makes in harder to find the right item on a dark and rainy night—which when you tend to break down.

You’ll also need miscellaneous items like a first aid kits, work gloves and so on.

A garage automotive toolkit is another story:

One of the best ways to keep your mobile car kit small is to outfit your garage with a larger kit for home repairs. Don’t overspend on this tool kit either. Even modest kits sometimes have two hundred pieces (bit handles, wrenches, hammers, hacksaws and so on). Ask yourself if you really need that much stuff.

To do any serious work you’ll need a floorjack to keep a car in the air. It’s vital that you obtain a jack designed for the specific capacity to the car. If you have a light car you may be able to lift the car with an aluminum jack. It’s advisable to seek help if you are unsure on the weight of your car.

When you do get under a car you will need some jack stands which have a pyramid like shape. To work on the underside of a car you will also need a creeper-an item to rest your back on. Wheel chocks are also needed to keep the automobile in place.

The list seems to go on and on – jump starters, pressure gauges, possibly an oil drain pan to change your oil. It is important to take into account the proper regulations for disposing of chemicals if you’re going to perform many maintenance tasks.

If you want to check the electric current in a car you will also need an item called a multimeter.

Without some kind of budget the amount you will spend could go through the roof. Consider which items you cannot live without, either on safety grounds or to do the work properly.

You can try to stick to one type of tool, but honestly it never seems to go that way. Someone will give you a duplicate for Christmas, or the wrong brand, etc. So if you just let go of the idea of matching tools you’re free to take advantage of our favorite pro tip.

Pro Tip: Go around to all your friends who like to wrench and ask their advice about tools. They’ll often have extra tools they can donate to your cause when they find out you’re just starting out.

In this as with everything else, research is everything.

High Mileage Doesn’t have to Mean Low Value

So you have a car and you want to drive it, but that’s the rub – the more you drive the sooner it wears out. Well, the reality may not be so dire. Below are a few words on how to maintain your car to make it go further.

A car with a number of miles on the clock can cause problems, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that a car needs to be replaced after say, 100,000 miles. In truth, it’s all about maintenance; you might be able to get your run-around to reach 200,000 miles or more.

The idea that your car cannot go above 100,000 miles is so engrained in the car industry that odometers in the 1960s and the 1970s only went up to 99,999. If you went any further, the count would reset. Irreputable dealers used to get a coat hanger up under the dash roll the odometer forward until it reset and then act as though it’s a low mileage car.

Nowadays we see it different.

People don’t like buying high mileage cars, but it doesn’t mean that this type of car cannot hold its value if looked after correctly. You just need to watch over things like the automatic transmission, battery and tread, especially after a long journey.

Recommendations for making a car last include fixing any problem which comes up immediately. Most drivers do ignore problems and they can come back to bite you. So if you see a warning light or hear a strange noise remember to check it out or get a mechanic to check it out.

Although many people don’t like being tied to the maintenance manual it’s a good idea to follow recommendation on when to check the tire pressure or looking at fluids such as oil and water.

It’s essential to keep the car clean, as foreign bodies such as road salt can damage your car. Most people don’t drive their car respectfully and this can also cause difficulty to a high mileage cars. This includes doing things like not using the brake or clutch too violently, after all you want it to last.

As with any car it is essential to have the right insurance and breakdown cover, especially if you are travelling long distances. No car is safe from breakdown, so it’s best to be careful with a well-used vehicle.

Ways of Jumping Your Car

In the winter it’s important to that everything is working as normal. If it is not, you might walk out to your car one morning and find it doesn’t start. It’s especially likely on a very cold morning. There could be another reason for the drained battery, such as the lights being left on it, but whatever the reason, car batteries do get run down.

Warning! Not all Cars are Alike!

A word of warning though, it is vital that you check the procedure in your manual carefully before attempting it. What follows is merely a guideline, because auto makers sometimes crowd the battery into a space that won’t allow you to access both posts. So, you may need to verify the exact procedure for your model of car.

Also worth noting, you would not jump start an electric car, but if you are attempting to jump a car with an electric car, you’ll need to follow the specific directions for that vehicle.

Before attempting to jump a car make sure the battery isn’t completely dry, frozen, corroded, leaking, or damaged.

Never let the metal leads touch each other, and never hold the leads by the metal parts.

Procedure

Boosting a car battery (also known as a safety jump) is done by attaching red and black cables correctly. You may think that both sides of the dead battery should be attached to the live battery in the other car but if you do that it will cause an explosion.

  • First, clamp the plus (red) wire to the dead car battery by clipping it onto the metallic + post (aka terminal) at least 30cm up the post from the battery top.
  • Second, connect the plus (red) wire to the donor car (the live battery) by clipping it onto the metallic + post (aka terminal) at least 30cm up the post from the battery top.
  • Third, clamp the black, negative wire to the dead car battery in similar fashion.
  • Forth, clamp the black, negative wire to the live (donor car) battery.

You then start the engine of the car, obviously the donor car, and let it idle and feed electricity to the dead car’s battery for a few minutes. The car with the dead battery will not start straight away after a boost; it is more like a car starting in cold weather. If it still doesn’t start you may need to start pushing it, or revving the engine on the giving car.

There is a possibility for complications for the car which is being boosted, such as having their battery drained. It could even cause some kind of electrical issue with your battery. It is vital that you check the procedure carefully before attempting it.

The Electrical Charge Gauge

In some cars the dashboard may have a gauge for the alternator. This gauge will indicate what you might think of as electrical pressure (not a technical term), when a boost is taking place. These could be found in various places such as near the radio slot or on the “side pillar” near the driver. It is similar in looks to the speedometer. Functionally, most of the time you’ll easily start the car and not engage with this gauge, but if you aren’t able to start your car this gauge may help in diagnosis.

Turbo Chargers

Then there is the turbocharger. It consists of two small fans, one called the turbine and one called the compressor. To make things simple, a turbocharger steels the energy found in a crankshaft. Not all cars and trucks have turbochargers as they are rough on your fuel economy. They also make the engine much more complex than it would be otherwise.

Turbochargers are more typically found in sports cars, and race cars, but if you have one it makes it harder to get a jump.

Here’s The official Recommendation from The Kicker—carry a portable jumper with you, to avoid needing to jump a stranger’s vehicle engine to engine.

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.