Posts tagged ‘car’

Lock Your Car Better With Your Chin

By Chad Upton

I think everybody has done it. You’re walking away after parking your car and you can’t remember if you locked it. You turn around to lock it and you’re too far away – or – maybe your car has remote start and you want to warm it before you leave work in the winter. You can see it in the parking lot, but you’re too far away.

There is something that may help.

If you push the car remote against your skin, and then press the button, your body will act like a giant antenna to extend the signal. I don’t know how safe this is, but it works.

I first heard about this a few years ago and I was in disbelief, until I tried it. Not only does it work, according to New Scientist, it can almost double the range of your key fob.

When I first heard about it, I was told to push it against my chin. It turns out you can push it again your arms or other body parts too. It relies on a principle called capacitive coupling, the same principle that the capacitors on electronic circuit boards rely on.

This doesn’t work for all types of radio frequency remotes, it works best with relatively low frequency signals with rapidly changing currents, which is what many car remotes use.

You may have heard that the iPhone 4 is having signal issues when the exterior antenna is touched in a certain way and you may be wondering why it has the opposite affect on the iPhone. The difference between the iPhone problem and capacitive coupling is that there is no insulator between the transmitter and your body with the iPhone, but with your car remote, the plastic case acts like an insulator. Again, this is precisely how capacitors on circuit boards work — two conductors are separated by an insulator.

It should be noted that some car remotes may use a different frequencies and types of signals, so you’ll have to test yours to see if it works for you.

Big thanks to Max Surguy for reminding me about this one, such a great tip!

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Sources: New Scientist

Photo: nailkennedy (cc)

July 9, 2010 at 5:00 am 5 comments

Trap Doors on Car Bumpers

From satellite navigation to chilled cup holders, modern cars are full of high-tech developments that get you from point A to point B without getting lost and with colder refreshments. Overall, car technology has improved the handling, efficiency, style, safety, comfort and entertainment of our cars.

There are even high-tech bumpers out there. If you see bumpers with three or four dimples aligned across the back bumper, those are likely sensors for the backup warning system.

If you see small rectangular patches, that’s what this secret is about. They’re actually pretty low-tech, but still cool.

Even if your car doesn’t have them, maybe you’ve noticed them on other cars while you’re sitting at a red light (they may be found on front and/or rear bumpers).

They look like trap doors that cartoon characters fall through long after the audience spots them and screams at their television to warn the carbon impaired being of the obvious hazard and their impending doom. In reality, they cover anchor points where you can insert a towing eye (aka “tow hook”).

Check your car out during the summer and if you need them in the winter, you’ll know if they’re there. The towing eye is usually stored with the spare tire and/or jack and it screws in behind these covers.

bumper patch open tow hook eye door

Like all of the secrets on this site, there will be somebody reading who already knows this one — that’s cool, you can brag (or complain) about it in the comments, or retweet it and say you knew this, “like 10 years ago.”

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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July 6, 2010 at 5:00 am 3 comments

Diesel Fuel Nozzles Don’t Fit in Standard Fuel Cars

Diesel cars are not popular in North America. But, diesel engines are fairly popular in pickup trucks and are becoming more popular in North American cars.

Although they have a limited history in America, foreign car manufacturers sell many diesel models in Europe.

Diesel engines are generally very efficient and that behind their new found demand. As diesel becomes more popular, you will likely see more diesel pumps.

This is good if you have a diesel car, potentially bad if you don’t. Diesel pumps present a slight risk to your standard gasoline vehicle — you do not want to put diesel fuel in a car that uses standard unleaded fuel.

Standard engines use spark plugs to burn the fuel, diesel engines use pressure and heat to cause a reaction in diesel fuel. That means standard engines will not burn diesel fuel. If you inadvertently put diesel in an unleaded car, the engine will stop very quickly. It’s not usually a total loss, the fuel system will have to be cleaned, filters will need to be changed and the whole process can cost as much as $600.

But, there is an easy way to avoid this costly mistake. First, diesel fuel dispensers are usually clearly marked with text and with a special color handle (the color varies by station).

Second, the nozzle on the end of a diesel fuel pump is slightly larger than a standard fuel nozzle. That means it won’t fit in your car’s gas hole, at least not that way you’re used to a pump nozzle fitting. If you notice that the nozzle isn’t going as far in as it usually does, check the pump, you might be holding a diesel trigger.

This same principle was used in the 80s when we transitioned from leaded to unleaded fuel. Leaded fuel nozzles wouldn’t not fit in unleaded gas holes.

Checkout some other gas related Broken Secrets:

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Answer Bag, WTSP, Dixon Nozzles (PDF)

Photo: teachernz (cc)

June 9, 2010 at 5:00 am 3 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

Warm Your Car Up Faster

My friend Todd told me about this secret many years ago. He has rebuilt more cars in his suburban home garage than anyone I know.

I met Todd at my first part time job, we used to work early weekend mornings during high school. I was too young to have a driver’s license, so my dedicated parents would always drive me.

That was before remote starters, so I would usually start the car a few minutes before leaving. Actually, that’s not true — my Dad was usually the one starting the car a few minutes before I was ready to leave, which was about 10 minutes after I told him I would be ready to leave.

It didn’t make much difference to the car — it was still cold for at least half the trip. On the rare occasion that I started the car, I would turn the heater to its hottest setting and turn the fan to full blast. That’s actually the slowest way to warm the car, so lets talk more about the fastest way. (more…)

February 24, 2010 at 1:09 am 35 comments

Sarcastic Secret: The Left Lane is for Passing

This is another one of those things that shouldn’t be a secret, but every time I go on the highway it seems like nobody knows about it.

I assume all my readers are perfectly safe drivers, only driving in the left lane when they need to pass another car, or in gridlock when proper traffic flow isn’t possible anyway. But if you know someone who blocks the left lane then you can share this with them as a subtle hint. Oh, and if someone shared this with you, they probably think you hate left lane bandits just as much as them.

We are constantly reminded by highway signs that say, “slower traffic keep right.” But, it’s not just the law, it’s common courtesy — we all need to share the road.

Keeping the left lane clear is important. Not just because it’s the other driver’s right to pass you, but because it is safer. When everyone plays by the same road rules, then everything is more predictable, there are fewer surprises and fewer accidents — that’s why these laws exist, they’re not just for fun.

One of these laws, at least in North America, is to pass on the left. If everyone did this, you would never have a car approach you from behind on your right side. Which, isn’t a big deal if you’re going to make a planned lane change, if you didn’t notice the car approach then you would see them when you check your blind spot anyway. But, if you need to make an emergency maneuver, it’s nice to be able to count on the fact that nobody will be there and you’ve got a safe “Plan B.” (more…)

February 4, 2010 at 12:41 am 2 comments

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