Category Archives: Automotive
When you last saw your car, it was a twisted mess being towed away from the scene of the accident. Now it’s weeks later and the car is parked in the driveway of a body shop. All you have to do is write a check and the car is yours again. But how do you know that everything under the surface has really been fixed correctly?
One key to getting your car fixed right is choosing a reliable shop in the first place. But you should still inspect the work performed before you drive away. To better understand what to look for, here are some insider tips from several knowledgeable veterans of the body shop business.
Have a Clear Understanding Up Front
The process of having your car fixed right starts when you drop it off, says Aaron Schulenburg, executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists. Be clear on what the shop is going to fix and how it will do the repair. Get everything in writing. Ask about the shop’s warranty on its work. When you return, review the paperwork to confirm that the shop did the repairs correctly.
“A reputable repair facility will go through everything with you, walk you through all the steps they took,” Schulenburg says. “Good shops will even touch up bolts under the hood that have been scratched while being repaired.”
Clean Car Is a Must
Appearances matter. When you pick up your car, it should have been washed, cleaned and vacuumed, says John Mallette, owner of Burke Auto Body and Paint, in Long Beach, California. There should be no dirt or dust in the car and definitely no old parts in the trunk. Mallette says he even tries to wash down the engine compartment before he hands over the keys.
It can be a challenge to return a clean car to a customer, says Mike O’Connell, owner of Golden Hammer Auto Body in Los Angeles. With all the dust from sanding, he says, “body shops are the dirtiest places on earth.” He says his workers take precautions to keep the cars clean by using paper and masking tape to protect different areas. And then they carefully wash the car before the customer comes to pick it up.
If the car’s general appearance passes muster, take a close look at the area that was repaired. Mallette recommends looking for gaps between body panels first. If the gaps are obviously uneven, that’s a telltale sign of panels not being aligned correctly. Schulenburg says owners should make sure the doors open and close properly with good alignment.
Our car keys have an uncanny ability to get lost inside coat pockets or underneath couch cushions — or to disappear altogether. Prior to the 1990s, this wasn’t a big deal. You could get a spare key at any hardware store or locksmith shop, not to mention at the car dealership, of course. But because it was easy to copy a key, it was also easy for a thief to steal your car. These days, advances in key technology have made vehicles more difficult to steal, but the price has been costlier key replacements.
Here’s a rundown of what you’ll face in the way of cost if you have to replace your key, along with some alternatives that could lower the bill. The prices quoted here are for Santa Monica, California, and West Los Angeles, an area where an hour of labor at an auto dealership can cost more than $100. Labor costs in your region may vary.
Basic Keys and Fob
A basic car key, which was common up until the mid-to late-1990s, has no security feature other than its unique cut. The shank, which is the long metal part of the key, has cuts and grooves like a house key. It’s easy to copy these keys. A locksmith doesn’t need any extra equipment: He can use the same machine he uses to cut other keys.
A basic key will cost about $3 at a locksmith. The only benefit of having the job done at the dealership would be to get the automaker’s branding on the head of the key. A Honda dealership near the Edmunds office charges about $12 for a basic key.
On most modern cars, an electronic key fob (also known as a remote or transmitter) is an integral part of the key set. At the dealership, the cost of replacing an electronic fob can range from $50-$90, depending on the automaker or complexity of the design. All fobs need to be programmed. Some dealerships will do it for free, while others will charge a half hour to an hour of labor.
There is a way around this fee, however. Most fobs can be programmed with a specific combination of button presses on the remote and key turns in the ignition. Some owner’s manuals will show you how to do it, and you can also find this information online.
Finally, there are aftermarket fobs that you can purchase online or from a locksmith. Like most aftermarket products, the quality will vary, but they are a less expensive alternative if you’ve lost your fob.
After the mid- to late-1990s, manufacturers began placing a transponder chip in the plastic head of the key. The chip emits a signal to a receiver in the ignition. If this “immobilizer” detects the wrong signal — meaning that the wrong key is in the ignition — the vehicle will not start.
A transponder key’s shank is either a basic key or a laser-cut key (more on laser-cut keys later). The major difference between a basic key and a transponder key is that the chip in the transponder key must be programmed before it can start the vehicle. All dealerships have the machines necessary to program the key. Some might program it for free, but others will charge up to an hour of labor. Most auto locksmiths should also have these machines.
A member of the Dodge Challenger owners’ forum was buying a new car from a dealer and noticed green valve-stem caps on all four tires. The salesman told him that the tires had been filled with nitrogen, which would keep the tire pressure and temperature more consistent and that it would prevent tire rot from the inside out. It wasn’t a free add-on, though. The “nitrogen upgrade” was a $69 item on the supplemental window sticker. Another forum member later posted that his dealer was charging $179 for this same “upgrade.”
Some dealerships and tire stores claim that filling your tires with nitrogen will save you money on gas while offering better performance than air. But a closer look reveals that nitrogen has few benefits and much higher costs. For starters, a typical nitrogen fill-up will cost you about $6 per tire.
The Get Nitrogen Institute Web site says that with nitrogen tire inflation, drivers will note improvements in a vehicle’s handling, fuel efficiency and tire life. All this is achieved through better tire-pressure retention, improved fuel economy and cooler-running tire temperatures, the institute says.
This sounds great in theory but let’s take a closer look at each of those claims.
- Better tire-pressure retention: Over time, a tire will gradually lose pressure. Changes in temperature will accelerate this. The general rule of thumb is a loss of 1 psi for every 10-degree rise or fall in temperature. The institute says that nitrogen has a more stable pressure, since it has larger molecules than oxygen that are less likely to seep through the permeable tire walls.In 2006, Consumer Reports conducted a year-long study to determine how much air loss was experienced in tires filled with nitrogen versus those filled with air. The results showed that nitrogen did reduce pressure loss over time, but it was only a 1.3 psi difference from air-filled tires. Among 31 pairs of tires, the average loss of air-filled tires was 3.5 psi from the initial 30 psi setting. Nitrogen-filled tires lost an average of 2.2 psi from the initial setting. Nitrogen won the test, but not by a significant margin.
- Improved fuel economy: The EPA says that under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. The theory is that since nitrogen loses pressure at a slower rate than air, you are more likely to be at the correct psi and therefore get better fuel economy.If you are proactive and check your tire pressure at least once a month, you can offset this difference with free air, and you won’t need expensive nitrogen. We think this invalidates the “better fuel economy with nitrogen” argument.
When faced with replacing a windshield, many car owners default to the lowest-price option. But if you take this route and are in a serious accident, your decision could cost you your life.
An incorrectly installed windshield could pop out in an accident, allowing the roof to cave in and crush the car’s occupants. Furthermore, when the front airbags deploy, they exert a tremendous force on the windshield and will blow out one that is not firmly glued in place.
“There are a lot of schlock operators” installing windshields, says Debra Levy, president of the Auto Glass Safety Council, which offers certification for installers. She says using original manufacturer’s glass is a plus, but choosing a good installer is even more important. To find a certified shop, visit Safewindshields.org and type your ZIP code into the box at the top of the page. Certification is valuable because it keeps installers up to date on advances in adhesives and changing automotive designs.
David Beck, one of two technicians at Windshield Express, near Salt Lake City, installs eight windshields a day and has been working in the auto glass business for 18 years. Beck agrees that certification is important and warns that there are many “tailgaters” — installers with no brick-and-mortar shop — who quickly “slam” windshields into cars with little regard for safety. They don’t handle the windshield correctly, don’t use the proper adhesives and leave the car unsafe for driving and prone to rusting and leaks.
“The thing I wish that drivers knew was that the windshield is the No. 1 safety restraint in your vehicle,” Beck says. The windshield is two sheets of glass held together by an inner layer of strong vinyl. When the windshield breaks, the vinyl holds the glass in place rather than allowing the shards to fall into the car and cut the occupants.
The windshield is a layer of protection that “keeps you inside the car and things out of the car,” Beck says. “This is not the place to cut corners on and go with the cheapest price.”
Steve Mazor, the Auto Club of Southern California’s chief automotive engineer, adds that if the windshield isn’t strong enough and an occupant is thrown from a speeding car, “the odds of survival are much less.” Thirty percent of all fatalities, he says, are due to people being ejected from the car.
An investigation by the ABC News program 20/20 on windshield safety shows technicians incorrectly installing windshields by not wearing gloves. The grease from their hands prevents the adhesives from bonding correctly, Beck explains. Another error that 20/20 caught was technicians failing to use all the necessary bonding agents, such as primer.
When you are looking for a good windshield installer, Levy recommends calling three shops and asking a few qualifying questions beyond just price and certification.
Levy says to ask the shops if they use original equipment glass, which is usually of higher quality and fits better. Also, she suggested asking how long the car should sit after the installation is complete. “If they say you can take the car right away, you should run in the opposite direction,” Levy says. A car should sit at least one hour before being driven and sometimes up to 12 hours, she says.
Beck says if you take your car to a dealership for a windshield replacement, it will just subcontract the job to a glass shop and then mark up the price about 30 percent. He recommends going directly to the glass shop to save money. However, when a car is new, the dealership might be the only place to stock the glass, as was the case for a 2011 Infiniti M56 Edmunds long-term test car where the windshield replacement cost $1,300.
Miniature sensors that regulate automobile performance are designed in a very particular way to operate properly while housed directly on moving automobile tires. They need to have the sensitivity to pick up measurements while in motion and the durability to withstand the elements.
Tire pressure is the unsung hero of automobile performance. When inflated to the proper pressure, tires are the exact shape that the designers intended. As air pressure decreases, the tires need more energy to move. Drivers can easily forget to maintain their tire pressure in the day-to-day routine of moving from one place to another. Punctures can take place and go completely unnoticed. That is why having an onboard sensor that alerts the driver when it’s time to add more air makes all the difference. Creating these sensors requires careful consideration of all the fine details, and simulation provides the tools for finding just the right design.
Tire Pressure Sensors Shape Driving Experience
One consequence of low tire pressure is a significant reduction in fuel economy. Additionally, vehicles running on low tires can add tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere over time. Low tire pressure can also make it hard for the vehicle to stop, or cause the car to slip on wet surfaces. Automakers are generally required to attach pressure monitoring sensors to wheels that inform drivers if a tire falls below the intended pressure, and Schrader Electronics is currently the global market leader in tire pressure monitoring technology.
Schrader Electronics manufactures 45 million sensors annually and provides sensors to leading automotive companies including GM, Ford, and Mercedes. For a sensor to survive road conditions throughout the life of a vehicle, reliability and durability are key. Consideration is given to shock, vibration, pressure, humidity, temperature, and various dynamic forces when designing for the necessary functions, geometry, and materials. Christabel Evans, an engineer with the Schrader Electronics mechanical design team, has been using finite element analysis (FEA) and multiphysics simulation to build successful, efficient tire sensors for all kinds of vehicles.
Designing Better Sensors with FEA
The Hi-Speed Snap-In Tire Pressure Monitoring Sensor, shown in Figure 1, is a frequently-used product at Schrader that mounts directly on the wheel assembly and measures tire pressure—even when the car is in motion. When the tire pressure decreases too much, a warning goes off, alerting the driver that it is time to stop and re-inflate the tire.
The global automotive industry has been growing constantly. Technologies such as connected transport, smart driver experience, improved battery management systems and better fuel efficiency are reforming the automotive industry.Innovation never stops!
Automotive manufacturers are required to work in uncertain conditions with increasing complexity as a result of wide range of products available to the customer, changing technologies, increasing pressure to innovate, environmental concerns and globalization.
Engineers are constantly under pressure to develop products that are future-proof. Hence, it is vital to bring the right expertise together that can combine multiple engineeringdisciplinesto handle challenging applications that lead to faster production.
Simulation-based engineeringhelps develop the products in a risk-free environment. This is a faster and more cost effective way to test the products when the expectations are high and failure can be disastrous.Simulation is the key to shorteningtime tomarket as it will accelerate the workflow from design to prototype.
COMSOL Multiphysics enables automotive engineersto accurately investigate design concept to production and fully benefit from the virtual prototyping capabilities that it offers. With COMSOL Multiphysics engineers can couple electromagnetics with heat transfer, structural mechanics, fluid flow, and other physical phenomena, allowing them to accuratelysolve real world problems.
A thermoelectric cooler application is one of 50 app examples available with COMSOL Multiphysics. The user may test different geometries, thermocouple configurations, and material selection in order to determine the ideal cooler option for a specific configuration or an optimized design for best performance.
Researchers working within the automotive industry have used COMSOL Multiphysicsto study corrosion in automotive parts found in car paneling, for example. Simulation helpsresearchers investigate electrochemical reactions on the surface of the rivet, analyze decay in sheet metal, and understand the effects of geometry in the corrosion process.
More recently, an investigation into the cause of the accident that killed the actor Paul Walker revealed that the Porsche Carrera GT in which he was riding had nine-year-old tires. The California Highway Patrol noted that the tires’ age might have compromised their drivability and handling characteristics, according to the Los Angeles Times.
These incidents illustrate not only the potential danger of buying used tires but also the perils of driving on aging tires — including those that have never spent a day on the road.
For years, people have relied on a tire’s tread depth to determine its condition. But the rubber compounds in a tire deteriorate with time, regardless of the condition of the tread. An old tire poses a safety hazard.
For some people, old tires might never be an issue. If you drive a typical number of miles, somewhere around 12,000-15,000 miles annually, a tire’s tread will wear out in three to four years, long before the rubber compound does. But if you only drive 6,000 miles a year, or have a car that you only drive on weekends, aging tires could be an issue. The age warning also applies to spare tires and “new” tires that have never been used but are old.
What Happens to a Tire as It Ages?
Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, Inc., compares an aging tire to an old rubber band. “If you take a rubber band that’s been sitting around a long time and stretch it, you will start to see cracks in the rubber,” says Kane, whose organization is involved in research, analysis and advocacy on safety matters for the public and clients including attorneys, engineering firms, supplier companies, media and government.
That’s essentially what happens to a tire that’s put on a vehicle and driven. Cracks in the rubber begin to develop over time. They may appear on the surface and inside the tire as well. This cracking can eventually cause the steel belts in the tread to separate from the rest of the tire. An animation on the Safety Research & Strategies Web site shows how this happens. Improper maintenance and heat accelerate the process.
Every tire that’s on the road long enough will succumb to age. Tires that are rated for higher mileage have “anti-ozinant” chemical compounds built into the rubber that will slow the aging process, but nothing stops the effects of time on rubber, says Doug Gervin, Michelin’s director of product marketing for passenger cars and light trucks.
We hear it all the time: “Where can I find a good car mechanic?” In the past, word of mouth was probably the best way to find an auto repair shop that would do the job right and charge a fair price. But now, a good mechanic might be only a few mouse clicks or touchscreen taps away.
Crowdsourced review sites have greatly simplified the search. Here are a few tips on how to work these sites to find a good car mechanic in your area. Keep in mind that this isn’t an exact science. Sometimes a highly rated shop might disappoint, but at least you can tilt the odds in your favor.
Yelp.com describes itself as a site that “connects people with great businesses,” whether that’s a hot new restaurant or a top-notch dentist. And, luckily for car owners, it also has auto repair reviews. The site is free and has a mobile version, plus apps for Android and Apple mobile devices.
We’ve had good experiences with Yelp recommendations as we looked for a mechanic to work on Edmunds’ long-term 1996 Lexus ES 300, which is the subject of our Debt-Free Car Project. With our new long-term vehicles, we tend to use dealerships exclusively. But because containing costs is important for the Lexus project, we’ve used Yelp four times to locate independent mechanics. Of the four, we would go back to three of them. We’ve found Yelp to be the most useful site, thanks to its review volume and convenience.
Here are a few tips to help you narrow down your mechanic search. Type “auto repair” into the search field and enter your ZIP code. You can filter the results based on distance, most reviewed and highest rated. The goal should be to find a place that strikes a balance between a good rating and a substantial number of reviews. For example, a place may have a glowing review, but if it’s the only review, that customer’s experience might not be the same as yours. Or worse, it could be a misleading review from an employee or business owner.
Yelp has an algorithm that helps it spot misleading reviews, but sometimes they can slip by undetected. That’s why it is important not to put too much stock in one review. Instead, see what patterns emerge after you’ve read numerous reviews. Look for reviews that are specific and give plenty of details about the users’ experiences.
Sometimes, the owner of an establishment will reply to a review. This response can either be a thank you to someone for a good review or a defense or apology if the review was a negative one. Either way, we consider a thoughtful reply a good sign — particularly in response to a negative review. It shows that the business cares about its reputation.
The worldwide market for trucks industry is widely divided into two sectors:
• The First: Europe, North America, Japan & other industrialized East Asian nations
• The Second: BRIC countries & other emerging markets which are highly cost conscious and experiencing faster growth.
The developed markets have always been characterised by high level of environmental regulations and increasing demand for sophisticated technological improvements.
However, with the growing competition in emerging markets, the increasing demand for quality, features & services is now playing a pivotal role in intensifying industry dynamics. The customer demands are driving the shift from merely being low-cost solutions towards higher value, heavier trucks, aftermarket sales & latest innovations.
For the global truck industry, the latest growing trend in the segment of Innovative products is “Introduction of Telematics-enabled services”.
Globally, telematics technology is expected to become a standard automotive equipment by 2020.
Till now, the Indian telematics market has grown at a steady pace owing to factors like early adoption, upgradation of infrastructure and government regulations. After 2010, companies like Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra and TATA have ventured into the telematics business. But, in the coming years, with the increase in awareness level, the growth of Telematics industry is a necessity. It has to happen.
In India, Heavy commercial vehicles (HCVs) have accounted for majority of the market share till now. However, with the increasing need for fleet management, Medium Commercial vehicles (MCVs) are also expected to register significant growth in telematics market over the coming years.
India’s Commercial Vehicles Telematics Market will exhibit rapid growth in the coming years. Initiatives like Toyota’s “Toyota Connect” for cars, “Tata SkoolMan” for school buses, “Tata FleetMan”, Eicher Drive Telematics, JCB’s “Livelink” and Mahindra & Mahindra’s “Digisense” from the major CV players of India prove that our market is placed in the right direction for growth in the Telematics segment.
The vehicle OEMs and telematics suppliers are upbeat about the increasing demand as awareness is on the rise with government involvement on passenger safety. With policy initiatives by central and local government, a prerequisite of 400,000 new buses is required by 2017. Such Initiatives, rising fuel prices and minimal profit margins in transportation industry are forcing the fleet operators to gain an edge through adoption of features such as vehicle tracking, route calculation, checks on fuel pilferage and other telematics capabilities.
As per the experts, the Indian Vehicle Tracking Market is set to double in size by 2017 and the India Commercial Vehicles Telematics Market installed base is projected to reach 1.4 million by 2022.
With factors such as increasing awareness level, potential market & policy initiatives, market is today in the right direction for growth in all segments. OEMs are creating new products and in parallel with market consolidation through M&A taking place, the foundation for Telematics industry is strengthening.
In layman’s term, engine of a commercial vehicle is synonymous to the heart in a human body. Everybody knows that it needs to stay healthy with appropriate rest time, also considering the base load and the peak load. Yet, it is one of the most abused organ too. Similar is the case with the “engines” – irrespective of the category of commercial vehicle.
Further, engine development is a process which has never stopped since it’s existence. It’s a cult community of geeks, designers, manufacturers, integrators and testers. Process seems simple – create hypothesis, develop, validate, iterate, re-validate, test, iterate… However, professionals follow this seemingly simple process and dedicate their lives to create dent in the sky with the “ New Engine Technology”.
Trucks and buses are predominantly powered by heavy duty diesel engines. However, Modern diesel engines are lighter and more powerful, fuel efficient and environment-friendly. Today there are two proven approaches to gear up for the change when India is staring at BSIV.
• Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) after-treatment approach
• Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) with diesel oxidation catalyst or open filter
Which approach to work upon is driven by a number of objectives “Overall cost over the service life of a vehicle and the closely related factor of efficiency in transportation.” However, most of us are aware that the later objective in India through the lens of on-ground practical efficiency was being managed by “Overloading” against OEMs recommendations.
In today’s time, the focus is also on further reduction in fuel consumption, e.g. by means of downsizing and downspeeding or evaluating alternate fuels. These changes affect component stress in the valve train system. To keep the engine affordable, components should be kept simple. Further complexity comes into play with the combustion chamber and maintenance of temperatures, charge cycles and electrification. To top it all, service life requirements need to be taken care of, considering how price sensitive the Indian market is.
So primary question is in the hands of engine R&D experts. When they begin, they first have to choose the approach to develop on. Answer comes from the market itself, which market is the engine being developed for? What is the outlook of the buyer? Has the buyer started to attach higher importance to overall cost of ownership? What is the infrastructure of the country?
In India, fuel cost is said to contribute to almost 50-60 per cent of operating costs, and SCR delivers better fuel efficiency compared to cooled EGR + DOC / open filter. This moves the needle favour of SCR in the Indian context, especially when viewed through the lens of lower risk on engine durability, emissions durability and better fuel economy. Is BSIV expected to change the game play? This is out there for industry professionals such as yourself to debate & decide and also charter the next course of action with the “Indian Automotive Heart AKA engine”