Posts filed under ‘Automotive’

LEGO is the Largest Tire Manufacturer

By Chad Upton | Editor

One of the oldest tire manufacturers is Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, founded in 1898 in Akron, Ohio.

A couple years later, Firestone Tires and Rubber Company was also founded in Akron. It’s unclear why both companies formed in the same city, but there’s no question they were the kings of the tire world for over 75 years.

Tire Comparison

If you ask someone which company makes the most tires, they’re likely going to answer Goodyear or Firestone. Goodyear does have one Guinness World Record, although it’s for fuel economy. But, the company that produces the most tires is LEGO.

It seems reasonable once you think about it, but the number of tires they product is absolutely stagering. The first LEGO set with tires shipped in 1962 and that set was one of the top sellers in 1967 with 820,400 units sold. In fact, nearly half of all current LEGO sets include a tire of some kind. That adds up to about 318 million tires per year or 12 tires every second.

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Sources: lego.com, guinness world records, wikipedia (firestone, goodyear)

February 19, 2013 at 2:00 am 2 comments

How to Read the Numbers and Letters on Car Tires

By Chad Upton | Editor

The weather is starting to change in many parts of the world so this may be when you start to look at new tires for your car.

Tire specs can be confusing, but it’s just like replacing a vehicle fuse, light bulb or most other car parts — you look at the model number or specifications of the current one and you try to find another one just like it. The confusing part about tires is that you have more options; slightly different sizes, treads and styles are likely compatible with your wheels.

Understanding what the numbers mean will help you make the best decision about new tires.

Because the tread and maintenance of your tires is so important to your safety, fuel economy, and performance, it’s very important that you buy tires that are suitable for your climate and performance needs. (more…)

April 6, 2012 at 2:00 am 7 comments

Japan: Where the Streets Have No Names

By Chad Upton | Editor

The U2 song, “Where the Streets Have No Name” refers to the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the streets actually do have names. Bono wishes they didn’t have names because they can be used to determine the class and religion of some people.

In Japan; however, a majority of the streets do not have names.

So, how do you find a location? Instead of the streets being named, the blocks between the streets are numbered.

The houses and units inside a block are also numbered. The blocks are inside a named district, the district is within a city or town. So, other than the block numbers and street names, it’s quite similar to the Western address system.

In Japan, directions to a location often include references to visual landmarks or subway stations. The block numbers could also be good for driving directions; if someone told you to turn right at the end of block 4, you’d see block 4 on a utility pole and know that the next turn is yours. In the Western system, you rarely know when your street is next, unless you’re in one of the few cities that are built on a perfect grid and have incrementally named streets.

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Sources: songfacts, goabroad.com, Wikipedia (Japanese Address System)

July 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm 5 comments

The President’s Limo Carries a Supply of the President’s Blood

By Chad Upton | Editor

My car is well equipped for typical roadside issues. I’ve got jumper cables, a flashlight, gloves, tools, snacks and a space pen for writing notes on Earth’s coldest days.

The space pen is probably extreme, but that’s nothing compared to the US President’s limo.

It’s officially known as “The Presidential State Car” and unofficially known as “Cadillac One”, a reference to the naming convention of presidential aircraft like Airforce One. It’s a custom built vehicle, based on a heavy duty truck chassis, which can carry a lot of weight, much of which comes from heavy armor to protect the occupants from gunfire and explosives.

The passenger compartment is hermetically sealed to protect against chemical attacks and includes its own oxygen supply and fire fighting system. There are two driver vision enhancement systems that allow the driver to see in complete darkness and see through thick smoke.

The doors do not open by simply pulling on the doorhandles, apparently only the secret service knows exactly how to unlatch the doors. None of the windows roll down, except for the driver’s, which drops just enough to pass a big mac through.

With its top speed of 60 mph (96.5 km/h), it’s not going to win any car races, but that’s not bad considering the estimated 15,000 lbs this tank weighs. That’s part of the reason it has heavy duty truck tires that are re-enforced with bulletproof kevlar.

There is a full communications and command center on board, along with multiple weapons. In the event that the president gets badly wounded, there is even a backup supply of his own blood on board.

I assume it has a space pen too.

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Sources: Wikipedia, Popular Mechanics, Jalopnik, Telegraph

Photo: Wikimedia (cc)

April 18, 2011 at 2:00 am 2 comments

How to Clean Up a Leaking Battery

By Chad Upton | Editor

Most household batteries are “alkaline” batteries. Under normal use, they’re relatively safe and stable. But, they are prone to leaking potassium hydroxide when the conditions are right.

Some causes of leaks are:

  • Trying to recharge disposable cells
  • Mixing battery types (ex. alkaline with nickel-cadmium)
  • Mixing new batteries with old ones
  • Heat
  • Damp environments
  • Leaving batteries installed during long term storage

These conditions put strain on the batteries in different ways that can cause them to leak. This leaky material is often called “Battery Acid” although in the case of alkaline batteries, it’s actually not acidic at all — it’s basic (the opposite of acidic on the pH scale).

But, it’s still a corrosive material that can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation. Additionally, if a battery leaks inside your electronics, this crystalized material can corrode the electronics and prevent them from functioning properly.

To clean it up you’ll want the following:

  • Eye protection
  • Skin/hand protection (gloves)
  • Face mask
  • Neutralizing acid (lemon juice or vinegar)
  • Q-tips, Paper towel and/or disposable rag

The key thing to remember is that you don’t want to come in contact with the potassium hydroxide, so use a Q-tip to wipe the material away from the batteries. If you have trouble cleaning it off of battery contacts in electronics, you may try a drop of neutralizing acid on the end of the Q-tip.

If the battery is an acid battery, such as a car or marine battery, you can use baking soda (an alkaline) to neutralize the acid (ie. don’t use lemon juice or vinegar in this case).

For information about battery disposal, see: How to Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste

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Sources: Wikipedia (Alkaline Battery, Alkaline, pH)

February 23, 2011 at 2:00 am 1 comment

How to Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste

By Chad Upton | Editor

Every home has things that should NOT go in the trash. Yet, many people don’t know what to do with them or even what some of these items are.

Some examples are:

  • batteries
  • compact fluorescent light bulbs
  • paints and stains
  • pesticides and herbicides
  • fertilizers and poisons
  • cleaners and disinfectants
  • car fluids
  • medicines and prescription drugs

The main concern is that when many of these hazardous materials make it to landfills, they will eventually leech into our water supply and have potentially dangerous consequences.

Many large retailers such as Lowe’s, Radio Shack, Best Buy, Sam’s Club, Whole Foods and many others will accept certain types of batteries, Ni-Cad and Car Batteries being the most popular types accepted. Some retailers, like Home Depot and Lowe’s, will also accept compact fluorescent light bulbs.

For most other hazardous materials, you’ll likely need to go to your city’s drop off depot. Sometimes this service is paid for by your taxes, other cities charge a usage fee depending on what you’re dropping off.

A great site to help you find a nearby retailer or city depot to recycle or safely dispose of some of these items is earth911.com. You tell it what hazardous material you have and where you are, it will try to tell you the nearest place you can take it. I got really good results for everything I tried.

For medicines, check out this previous post: How to Dispose of Medicine.

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Sources: Oregon Live, Earth 911City of Toronto

January 3, 2011 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Why Some Cars Have Fake Convertible Roofs

By Chad Upton | Editor

Have you ever seen a car that appears to be a convertible, but you’re almost certain that car is not available as a convertible? Chances are, you were looking at a “landau” car.

Large sedans, town cars and of course hearses are popular cars for Landau conversions, although the occasional sport sedan or midsized car is fashioned with it too. I say “conversions,” because there are no mainstream automobile manufacturers who currently offers this option. In the past, the Detroit automakers offered it on some vehicles from the 1960s through the 1990s. To understand why, we have to go back a century.

Cars replaced horse drawn carriages as the way to travel long distances. Convertible carriages were named “Landau” carriages after the city of Landau (Germany), where convertible carriages were first produced. Landau carriages typically had soft tops that were stored behind the passenger seats and deployed to cover the back, top and sides of passengers for privacy and protection from uncomfortable weather — this exact feature is still evident on contemporary baby carriages (aka strollers, buggies, prams, push chairs). (more…)

November 22, 2010 at 3:00 am 4 comments

Chewing Sunflower Seeds Can Help You Stay Awake

By Kaye Nemec

We’ve all been there: we’re driving late at night, determined to make it to our final destination, growing more tired with each passing mile. We roll our windows down, turn up the radio’s volume, gulp down caffeine — anything to keep our eyelids from dropping.

Drowsy driving is a dangerous situation. In fact, studies show that it can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Of course the best solution would be to pull over and get some rest. But if you have no choice and really need to keep on driving, try chewing sunflower seeds to stay awake.

Eating sunflower seeds (with shells) is not an easy task. The act of using your teeth to crack the seed, figuring out how to remove the seed from the shell and successfully discarding the shell, not to mention eating the seed, will keep your brain focused. Be sure to have an empty cup or bottle handy to spit the shells into or your car will be a mess when you finally get to your destination.  Grabbing a healthy drink to go with the seeds is a good idea too, they are certainly a salty snack and will leave you feeling pretty thirsty.

Mastering the art of eating sunflower seeds “hands free” can take a little time, so if you’re not quite there yet I recommend a few practice sessions at home before taking this trick out on the road. The point is to keep your mind active and alert, but not to be so distracted that you’re unable to focus on safe driving.

Want to kill two birds with one stone? At your next pit stop, get a package of SumSeeds.  They’re a brand of sunflower seeds infused with caffeine, taurine, lysine and ginseng. They come in four flavors; original, salt & pepper, honey BBQ and dill pickle. If your local store doesn’t carry them, you can get them from Amazon.

In addition to the mental concentration and energy it takes to eat sunflower seeds, their nutritional value will also help improve your overall health and wellness. Unlike the sugars and refined carbohydrates often found in common “pick me up” snacks, sunflower seeds are packed with healthy fats, protein and fiber.

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Sources: Wikihow.com,  AAAFoundation.org, SUMSEEDS.com, Sunflowernsa.com

Photo: photofarmer (cc)

September 22, 2010 at 5:00 am 4 comments

How Does Information Get On a CARFAX Report?

By Chad Upton | Editor

It’s not unusual for somebody to completely destroy their car and walk away unharmed.

This happens because newer cars are designed to crumple on impact, just like a bike helmet made from dense foam. The frame, hood and even the power train components absorb the energy from the impact in order to help protect the occupants. Of course, air bags may also deploy, which protect the occupants from hitting hard surfaces inside the vehicle.

When an insurance company declares a car as a “total loss” it means they are not going to pay to fix the car; although, they may sell the vehicle to somebody who plans to use it for spare parts. That person may then fix the car and try to sell it.

Unfortunately, a car that has been in a major accident may have hidden safety and reliability problems. So, if you’re buying a used car, you’ll want to know its history.

If you’ve ever looked at a used car, you’ve probably come across CARFAX.

It’s a service that provides historical information about used cars. For $35 or less, you can enter the VIN (vehicle identification number) of a used car and get a report about its ownership, accident history, mileage discrepancies, lemon status, flood damage, fleet use (taxi, police…etc) and many other things the seller may not want you to know.

I think this is a great idea, but I’ve always wondered how they get all the information.

hd car dvr

I was talking to a guy that runs an auto body shop, so I asked him. He said that he has done work on cars that were nearly totaled and the information did not show up on CARFAX; he had also done minor work that has shown up.

He said that CARFAX buys info from insurance companies and other sources. Some insurance companies have a non-disclosure agreement, where they will not disclose information about your car and its accidents while other insurance companies are willing to sell that information to make money.

I verified this information with CARFAX and it’s true. CARFAX gets information from thousands of sources and has over 6 billion records on file. They have deals with motor vehicle bureaus in every US State and Canadian Province, where they get information about mileage, flood damage, titles, lemon buybacks, accidents, thefts, liens and ownership transfers.

They also get information from auto auctions, car dealers, repair and service facilities, rental companies, state inspection stations, fire departments, law enforcement, car manufacturers, import/export companies and many others. That’s not to say that all companies of these types provide this information, but many do.

In some cases, they have mutually beneficial relationships. For example, car dealers may provide information about vehicles they service, but they may also request information about used cars that they want to take as trade-ins, buy at auctions or sell to their customers.

In any case, CARFAX warns that they may not always have all of the information, since there are many sources that they do not have access to. In 2005, they had 6,100 sources of information. Now, they have grown  to over 34,000 sources.

CARFAX does provide a couple of free services that may be worth while if you’re purchasing a used car. The Lemon Check is one of them. This free service, will tell you if the car you’re about to buy was ever declared a lemon, meaning it was serviced for the same problem 3 times and bought back from the owner by the manufacturer. You definitely want to avoid a lemon.

You can also perform a record check with CARFAX for free. This will tell you how many records they have on file for the VIN you entered. If you’re thinking about buying a CARFAX report, you should try this free option first to see if it’s worth buying the report about the car you’re interested in.

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Sources: CARFAX (Data Sources) MSN, MyVin

Photo: Ian Hampton (cc), jasonbolonski (cc)

August 23, 2010 at 5:00 am 45 comments

Cars Built Since 2008 Have Tire Pressure Warning Lights

By Chad Upton | Editor

Last week, I was driving behind a car with a tire that was nearly flat. The tire was so low, it was almost riding on the rims.

At the next red light, I waved at the driver and they opened their window. They put their cell phone down while I told them about the tire. They were surprised, thanked me and went back to talking on their phone. Even though there was a service station across the street, where they could have easily added air or at least checked the tire, they drove off like nothing was wrong.

I was shocked.

Apparently, some people don’t understand how dangerous a flat tire can be, not to mention the poor gas mileage and possible damage to your wheel. In fact, it’s not just this person. 33% of drivers don’t know what the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) warning light is when it lights up on their dashboard.

Since 2008, all cars in the US are required to have a tire pressure monitoring system. Many cars, especially luxury cars and SUVs, have had them for longer, but the importance of these systems became clear during the Bridgestone/Firestone Tire debacle in the year 2000. Some sources report there may have been as many as 250 deaths and 3000 catastrophic injuries from under-inflated tires and that tire pressure monitoring systems could have saved lives and reduced injuries.

The tire pressure monitoring system will illuminate an icon on your instrument cluster when the pressure in any tire drops more than 25% below the recommended inflation level. The icon is a cross section of a bulging tire with an exclamation point inside of it.

Some cars have more advanced systems that will identify which tire is under-inflated. The more advanced systems can also tell you if a tire is over-inflated and when it is just a warning that can be addressed soon or if it is an emergency that requires immediate attention.

As the seasons change and the weather gets warmer or cooler, tire pressure changes too — that’s a good time to pay extra attention to tire pressure. If your vehicle warns you of a tire pressure problem, you should pull over to check the tires. This could really be a life saver, especially if you’re driving at highway speeds when the light comes on.

Whether you have this light or not, you should check your tire pressure regularly, and especially if they’re bulging. Most service stations have an air compressor to fill your tires, many of these are equipped with a pressure gauge that you can use without turning on the compressor (which costs money in some cases). Otherwise, the service station may be able to lend you a gauge.

On the inside of the driver’s door frame, there is usually a sticker that indicates the proper tire pressure for your vehicle. If not, check your manual.

Your manual will also tell you how to calibrate the tire pressure monitoring system. If your system is capable of telling you which tire is improperly inflated and you check the pressure in that tire, only to find that it is perfect, then your tires were probably rotated without calibrating the system to match the new tire locations.

Some systems use wireless sensors on each wheel, these are known as direct measurement systems and they are more expensive. The other main type of system relies on the ABS sensors to determine that one wheel is turning at a slightly different speed, indicating it is low. This system is cheaper, but it only works when the vehicle is in motion.

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Sources: Jalopnik, Firestone Tire Recall, USA Today, NHTSA

Photo: jronaldlee (cc),  dimmerswitch (cc)

August 13, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments

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