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A Brief History of the Tire

July 28th, 2016
The tire is such a commonplace item -- it's on every car, every truck, every bicycle, every aircraft. It's easy to not give the tire a second thought, but like every other technology, the tire has an interesting history of advances and failures. 
 
In the 19th century, carriages and wagons used steel strips for "tires" on their wheels, with the punishing sort of ride that you'd expect. In later years, they were shod with strips of natural rubber, which was an improvement but was still problematic. Solid rubber still rode pretty rough, and the natural, uncured rubber would get gummy in hot weather and shrink and harden in cold temperatures. Charles Goodyear was able to help with the invention of vul ...[more]
  Posted in: Tire 101

What's Leaking From My Car?

July 14th, 2016
You go out to your car, start it up, pull out of your parking space and see a puddle of...something...where you were parked a moment ago. This is never a good feeling. What could it be? 
 
Fortunately, some automotive fluids are dyed different colors to make this a little easier to narrow down. 
 
Does it appear to be water? Were you recently running your A/C? Chances are that's just condensation from the A/C system, which drips out through a rubber tube and is perfectly normal. No worries there. 
 
For years, antifreeze was dyed a bright green to make it easy to identify. Today, other antifreeze formulations can be colored pink or orange, but it's still not hard to figure out -- antifreeze has a swe ...[more]
  Posted in: Auto Repair 101

A/C Problems Demystified

June 30th, 2016

Believe it or not, the A/C system in your vehicle is fairly simple in principle and design. Like your refrigerator, it operates on a cycle of compression and expansion of a gas, known as refrigerant. The compressor turns the gas into a liquid, and as the gas evaporates it provides cooling. Like your refrigerator, its main components are: 
 
  • Compressor
  • Condenser 
  • Receiver/dryer
  • Thermostatic expansion valve
  • Evaporator
  • Refrigerant
  • Blower 
The good news is most automotive A/C systems have become very robust and reliable compared to cars from a generation ago. Most of the time, poor performance is due to low refrigerant levels due to lea ...[more]
  Posted in: Auto Repair 101

So You Get A Flat Tire...What Now?

June 16th, 2016

Flat TireNobody ever looks forward to a flat tire, and nobody ever says "well, that was a really good time" after having one. You can at least minimize the damage to your tire and danger to yourself, though.

Flats vs Blowouts

If you get a blowout, you'll know about it right away. Sometimes the tire can fail dramatically, with a bang as loud as a shotgun going off. Other times, it might just be a loss of air and a sudden change in your car's handling, followed by vibration, noise and a pull to one side. If it's a front tire that fails, your car might be a real handful to drive until you can get to a stop.

In either case, your first job is to pull off the road as quickly (but safely!) as you can. Don't jam on the brakes or make any sudden mo ...[more]

  Posted in: Tire 101

Regular, Synthetic or Blend...What Kind of Oil Do I Need?

May 26th, 2016

At one time, there were only a couple of choices for motor oil. Today, that is no longer the case, and hasn't been for quite some time. Here's a quick breakdown of what you need to consider when it's time for an oil change:

  • Viscosity: Viscosity is how thick your oil is, and how it retains its pour properties at various temperatures. In this respect, synthetic oil is far superior. Conventional oils will thicken in cold weather and thin out when very hot, while the viscosity of synthetic is much more uniform. Check your owner's manual -- many newer models require a thinner, lower-viscosity oil, which also helps the engine run more efficiently. Viscosity is expressed as a numerical value -- the lower the number, the thinner the oil. Many are designed to work a ...[more]
  Posted in: Auto Repair 101

The Latest in Green Tech Innovations for Tires

May 12th, 2016

When it comes to your car, oil isn't the only thing there's a finite supply of. Rubber has its limits too, and it's estimated by 2020, the supply of natural rubber in the world may be outstripped by demand. And of course, tires require a great deal of oil to produce as well. Tire manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to innovate and conserve resources in tire production. Here are some recent advances:

  • Dandelions: Yes, those humble yellow flowers you try to eliminate from your yard. Dandelions actually contain a minute amount of latex in their milky oil, and research shows they can actually produce about as much latex, pound-for-pound, as rubber plants. German scientists have cultivated 1-foot-tall dandelions for just this purpose. This isn't a new development, either -- in WWII, Amer ...[more]
  Posted in: Tire 101

4 Things About Tires You May Not Have Known

April 28th, 2016

Tires all look sort of the same…round and black…and people tend to think tires don’t change much over the years. That’s really not true, though – engineers and designers are constantly working on advances in tire designs for more miles, better fuel economy and better performance.

Here’s a rundown of current trends in tire technology you may not have been aware of:

  • Tall, skinny tires are coming back. If you’ve ever ridden a beach cruiser bike vs. a racing bike, you know that skinny tires have lower rolling resistance. Carmakers are going in that direction, too – the BMW i3 electric/plug-in hybrid uses Bridgestone Ecopia tires, with higher inflation pressure and a taller, skinnier profile. Tall, skinny tires also redu ...[more]
  Posted in: Tire 101

Cars That Last 250,000 Miles or More

April 14th, 2016

If you’re old enough, you probably remember the cars from the late 70s and early 80s that weren’t good for much more than 120,000 miles before they started to develop real problems and were junkyard bound. Today, thanks to improvements in design, metallurgy, manufacturing techniques and machining, those days are over and it’s not at all unusual to see vehicles with well over 200,000 miles on the odometer and still running strong.

Here’s a quick rundown of some vehicles to consider which have a track record of being good for 250k miles or more:

  • Toyota Corolla: Probably not a surprise to fans of Toyotas, the simple, no-frills Corolla hasn’t changed much since the early 00s…but Toyota’s approach to the tried-and-true Corolla ...[more]
  Posted in: Auto Repair 101

Self-Inflating Tires…Soon To Be A Reality?

March 31st, 2016

Driving around on underinflated tires is just a bad idea all the way around. Underinflated tires increase a car’s rolling resistance, meaning a drop in fuel efficiency since it takes more energy to move the vehicle down the road.

A single tire that’s down by ten pounds of air means a 3.3 percent drop in fuel economy…multiply that by all four tires, and you can figure on giving up ten percent of your gas mileage. The added friction and rolling resistance also means more heat is generated, and heat is the enemy of the internal structure of a tire. That heat will damage a tire to the point of failure. Studies show that underinflated tires are a full 25 percent more likely to fail, and at least half of one-car accidents involve a tire problem as a factor. And still, it’s estimated ...[more]

  Posted in: Tire 101

Questions You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Ask Your Auto Repair Tech

March 17th, 2016

Often, drivers are mystified by how their cars actually work. It’s to be expected. Even an older car is a complex machine with many sub-assemblies that all work together to move it down the road.Car questions? Ask them!

As a result, drivers tend to be a little intimidated by auto repair and often tend to not inform themselves by asking the necessary questions of a tech or a garage. Too often, that ends up being a big mistake. Here are some examples of the kinds of things you really should know before any auto repair work starts:

  • Does your shop work on any kind of vehicle? Of course, most shops can service a product from GM, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and the other leading makes. Some makes, however, require a lot more training and experience, o ...[more]
  Posted in: Auto Repair 101
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