Posts tagged ‘Automotive’

Sarcastic Secret: Signal Lights

By Chad Upton

Tickers, blinkers, indicators and flashers. They have many names, but only one purpose: to let people know your car is about to change course.

In most vehicles, a lever on the steering column moves up or down to activate flashing lights on either side of the car.

I suspect a lot of people don’t even know their car has such lights, but they’ve been standard on cars since cars.

Maybe it’s a confusing concept, so I’ll try to explain it in a straight forward manner: if you’re about to turn your steering wheel, put these lights on first.

I find that some people use signal lights like the horn. They know they’re there, but they only use them when they need you to move.

Most vehicles also have a way to put all four blinkers on at the same time. The vehicle manual may refer to these as “four way flashers” or “hazard lights” but a lot of people know these as “park anywhere lights.” Their understanding of this feature is, when you want to double park, park in a fire lane or any other no parking zone, these flashing lights give you temporary immunity from parking regulations.

In all seriousness, signal lights first appeared on cars in 1907, but weren’t patented until 1938. Some cars from the 1920s to 1950s used solid (non-blinking) retractable lights on the sides of the car, called a trafficators.

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Source: Wikipeda (Signal Lights)

Photo: Wikimedia (gnu free)

July 23, 2010 at 5:00 am 10 comments

Why do Some Cars Have Blue Headlights?

Traditionally, cars have had yellowish headlights. Now, many cars have light blue colored headlights. Some cars come with those headlights from the factory and other times, owners will install similar systems or similar looking systems.

The factory blue headlights are known as HID (high intensity discharge) headlights. Just like the name describes, they’re brighter than normal halogen headlights.

Traditional lights heat a small metal filament to produce light while HID lights create a plasma discharge arc between two tungsten electrodes. It is this plasma discharge that creates the blue color. But, this technology is not new, it’s very similar to the bright lights that illuminate stadiums and roadways.

The brightness is the main advantage of these lights. Like rear fog lights, these headlights were popularized in Europe where fog, rain and curvy roads create demanding driving conditions. Because HID lights are brighter, they penetrate fog, rain and snow better than halogen lights — an advantage when the conditions are not ideal.

HID headlights are also more energy efficient than halogens, which isn’t a major concern in vehicles right now, but as we move to battery powered cars that will become very important — the less power accessories consume, the further the vehicle can drive on a single charge. (more…)

April 2, 2010 at 12:46 am 12 comments

The Ideal Vehicle Speed for Best Fuel Economy

The precise number varies by car and environmental conditions, but the sweet spot is generally between 40-60 mph (65-95 km/h). Most small and medium size cars get the best mileage at about 50 mph (80 km/h).

A lot of factors affect the fuel economy of your car. Some of them don’t vary much with speed, such as the resistance of the engine pumps and accessories. Other factors, like the size of the frontal area and the drag coefficient create increasing resistance with speed.

The faster you drive, the more energy is needed to overcome the aerodynamic resistance of the car. Up to 40 mph, that isn’t really even a factor. So, if you’re driving a box then your best fuel economy is likely closer to 40 mph than 50. If you’re driving a teardrop shaped eco-car, then you’re likely closer to 60 mph. Of course, engine size and other factors are involved too. (more…)

February 25, 2010 at 12:01 am 5 comments

How Mechanics Keep Their Hands Clean

It’s pretty simple, they don’t get them dirty in the first place.

Imagine how dirty our feet would be if we walked around in bare feet. Socks and shoes keep our feet clean. Professionals who work with their hands wear gloves for the same reason. At the end of the day, take off the gloves and your hands are clean.

Work gloves in most homes consist of gardening and rubber cleaning gloves. But why stop there? Pickup a box of latex gloves, they’re great for all kinds of dirty jobs such as:

  • Painting
  • Automotive repairs
  • Cleaning the garage
  • Organizing the attic
  • Caulking and other home maintenance

Latex gloves are extremely cheap, they’re disposable and they don’t reduce dexterity like thick rubber gloves.

If you’ve ever seen a race-car garage, they’re usually immaculate. So are the mechanic’s hands.

There are even specialized gloves for mechanics. Frankly, if you’ve been paying attention at your local hardware store, work gloves have become very advanced and extremely specialized. I’ve made a short list of some specific types of job specific gloves that are available, along with an amazon link if you want to check them out:

Some of the electrician’s gloves are made from Kevlar to prevent cuts from sharp wires.  The carpenter’s gloves reduce splinters and vibration when hammering.

I have a good pair of work gloves and a box of latex gloves. I wear the work gloves when I’m working in my garage. They keep my hands clean and free of cuts when I’m doing manly stuff. I find the latex gloves really great for spray painting outdoor furniture and other items, since I always get spray paint on my index finger, which usually lasts for at least a week.

Depending on your needs, many of these gloves are even available in insulted, wind proof and water proof versions.

BrokenSecrets.com

December 18, 2009 at 12:20 am 4 comments

Idling a Cold Engine Is GOOD For The Environment

You may notice when you start a cold vehicle, its exhaust is visible at first and disappears after a few minutes. Here’s why.

Technically, modern vehicles do not require much warm up time before you can drive them; advanced lubricants and materials allow the vehicles to be driven shortly after a cold weather start. Of course, you may want to warm your car for your comfort and surprisingly, to reduce emissions.

This is not intuitive, unless you understand the emission control systems on modern vehicles.

The first system is called Exhaust Gas Recirculation, and it’s probably obvious from the name: it routes exhaust gases back into the engine. The vehicle computer system monitors and controls this process to lower the amount of Nitrogen Oxides, precursors to smog and acid rain, that are created in the engine and then expelled from the tailpipe. Depending on your vehicle, this system will not operate in certain conditions, for example: low engine temperatures.

Vehicles also have a component in their exhaust system that converts various pollutants into less harmful gases with various catalysts. That conversion occurs in the catalytic converter, and that chemical reaction doesn’t happen when the catalytic converter is cold.

According to WP, some catalytic converters can take up to thirty-minutes to reach ideal operating temperature. That isn’t to suggest you should wait that long before driving your car — there are countermeasures in many cars that make it effective long before that.

When your car is at idle, it uses less gas and releases less pollution than when you are driving it. Getting your emission system to an effective point before driving it helps reduce overall emissions. For my car, it take about 3-5 minutes before the exhaust is invisible and that’s about how long it takes to clear the snow anyway. It’s not an exact science and it varies by car and by temperature.

BrokenSecrets.com

Sources:  WP, WP, WP, EPA, GM

Photo: steveyb (Creative Commons)

December 14, 2009 at 12:53 am 2 comments

Rear Fog Lights

Most North American cars have one set of bright lights on the back, of course those are the brake lights.  But some American cars and most European cars have other bright lights on the rear: rear fog lights.Rear fog light on an Audi

If you’re not familiar with this concept, then you probably assumed their lights were malfunctioning or their break lights were “stuck.”

Rear fog lights make it much easier for the vehicle behind you to see your car when fog, rain or snow is heavy.

Some rear fog lights are a pair of lights mounted low on the rear bumper.  Other cars have a single light, mounted near the driver’s side rear turn signal.

There are debates about the validity of rear fog lights.  Some claim they can be confused with brake lights, others agree but believe that is still safer than not seeing the vehicle until it is too late.

In the photo of the instrument cluster, the icon on the left is the front fog light indicator and on the right is the rear fog light indicator.

Some cars have separate switches for front and rear fogs, other cars have one switch that activates both.

Studies have shown that in North America more people inappropriately use their fog lamps in dry weather than use them properly in poor weather

BrokenSecrets.com

Photo Credit: mroach (Creative Commons)

Sources: DriveAndStayAlive.com Wikipedia SAE

December 1, 2009 at 1:35 am 2 comments


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