Archive for August, 2007

Friday Five: Fictional Cars

Friday, August 24th, 2007

With the Transformers movie having come out earlier this summer, fictional cars are very much on my brain. But what fictional cars would you include in the top five? And should you limit them to cars that have appeared in movies, or are cars from books okay? For this week’s Friday Five, I offer Fictional Cars.

  1. The Batmobile: It’s evolved over the years, of course, from the comic books through the television series to the current version - did you know the first one in the comics was actually RED? - which has been described as a Lamborghini crossed with Hummer. Still, with its introduction in 1940, it’s probably the longest-lived fictional car.
  2. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: This car was featured in a children’s book written by none other than Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, before it made it to the big screen as a cheesy musical. If you have kids, and haven’t introduced them to this story, you should, because it’s a timeless combination of gadgets and good times.
  3. Christine: Leave it to Stephen King to give us a 1958 Plymouth Fury with a soul and a taste for murder. But then, it shouldn’t be surprising - after all, this is the same man who turned a clown into a representation of evil, incarnate.
  4. The General Lee: With it’s horn rigged to play Dixie and its drivers two of the best known “good ol’ boys” ever to grace the airwaves, who can forget this car from The Dukes of Hazzard, a Dodge Charger with a controversial Confederate flag painted on it? I’m betting as many boys tuned in just to see the car scenes as they did to catch a glimpse of Daisy Duke.
  5. KITT: Let’s be honest, it is not David Hasselhoff’s performance that got anyone hooked on Knight Rider; it was KITT, the sleek black Pontiac Trans Am that could navigate around any obstacle, help capture the bad guys, and then pause to steal the show with a snappy punchline or snarky retort.

Your turn: These are five of my favorite fictional cars. What are yours? Are you a fan of Herbie, or should the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo, have been in this list? Would Optimus Prime or the Bumblebee, or even Lightning McQueen from Cars make your list? Tell me in comments.

Tech Thursday: OverDrive

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

If you’re like me, you know that your car has overdrive, because there’s a button for it, and you have a general idea of what it does, but you’re not really sure you could explain it to someone else. For this week’s Technology Thursday, I offer a quick-and-dirty explanation of overdrive, as it’s commonly used.

Basically, overdrive (aka OD) is the highest gear in your transmission. Automatic transmissions have three speeds plus overdrive, which allows the engine to use a lower rpm than “normal” for any given road speed, which in turn offers better fuel efficiency, and sometimes quieter driving on highways.

When overdrive is switched on, it allows the engine to move into OD mode after a specific speed threshold is met (usually around 45 mph), and when it is off, the lower gears are the only options available. Generally speaking, it should only be used in normal driving conditions when you’re driving faster than 45 mph.

While overdrive is on, the transmission will automatically move into third gear when there is more load, and back to OD when there is less. For this reason, driving up steep grades, or towing a trailer can cause the transmission to shift back and forth between third and OD, as if “hunting” for the right place. In these cases, and if you need to use the brakes frequently (like when you’re driving downhill), it’s best to turn overdrive off.

Women on Wheels: Women on Wheels

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

That’s not a double headline, really. This week’s Women on Wheels is actually the organization Women on Wheels, a group devoted to female motorcycle enthusiasts.

Their mission statement is:

To unite all women motorcycle enthusiasts for recreation, education, mutual support, recognition, and to promote a positive image of motorcycling.

I have to admit that I’m not a particular fan of motorcycles, having seen too many friends with serious leg injuries because of bike accidents, but if you are going to ride, being a well informed rider is the way to go.

WOW, as the organization is sometimes known, was started in 1982, in California, but it now has members and chapters all over North America, with over 3500 members ranging in age from their teens to their eighties.

Their website has information on how to join, as well as section on memorials, event listings, and information about their bimonthly magazine, “The Wheeler.”

Tuesday Top Five: Tool Kits

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

It goes without saying that a tool kit should be in the trunk of every car, especially if you’re going on a long trip, or frequently find yourself on back roads where service stations - or other drivers - are few and far between. Here are our suggestions for five essential elements of your in-car tool kit:

  1. Flashlight: because roadside emergencies don’t always happen when the sun is shining.
  2. Jack: and not just the free one that came with your car. If you spend about $50 you can get a sturdy jack that doesn’t rely on a perfectly flat surface to work correctly.
  3. Lug Wrench: make sure it’s one that fits the lug nuts on your car.
  4. Screw Drivers: you’d be surprised at how useful a set of screw drivers can be.
  5. Socket Wrench: no auto tool kit should be without one. Ever.
  6. Bonus (because we couldn’t stop at just five): Pliers. For grabbing almost anything, pliers are essential.

Your turn: What would you add? What would you remove?

Business Monday: Dodge/Chrysler is Starry Eyed?

Monday, August 20th, 2007

Today’s news item involves the web-sales policy at Dodge and Chrysler. It seems that several of their dealers are up in arms because only those dealerships with a five-star rating are getting referrals from the corporate website. Translation: if you go to Dodge’s website and pop in your zip code, you may get listings for more than one Dodge dealership in your area, but clicking on them will only take you to the storefront for the actual dealership if that dealer has a five-star rating.

According to AutoNews, Dodge/Chrysler says that their website was created for those dealers who achieved five star status (based on sales numbers and customer service rankings), but that they’re re-evaluating.

Dealers who don’t have five-star status say the policy not only hurts them, because they don’t get referrals, but also has the potential to hurt Dodge and Chrysler, because there are potential customers who aren’t being directed to the dealer that may actually be closest to them, just the closest five-star dealer.

(Unsurprisingly, most of the five-star dealers have no problem with the current policy.)

Your thoughts: Is this policy fair? What do you think?

Friday Five: Driving Under the Influence…Of Food

Friday, August 17th, 2007

While researching an article about heated cup holders, I came across an interesting list that I thought I’d share here. Apparently, even though they’re not officially tracked by insurance companies, there are a significant number of accidents cause by eating while driving.

This week, then, I give you five of the most dangerous non-alcoholic foods (and beverages) that people consume while driving.

  1. Coffee: This should surprise no one. It’s hot, it’s liquid, and even those sip-through lids don’t keep every drop inside the cup where it belongs.
  2. Soup/Chili: Personally I’ve never eaten soup while driving, or chili for that matter, but, like coffee it can easily splash. Because chili and some soups can be greasy, there’s also the problem of permanent staining to the upholstery, as well as your clothing.
  3. Hamburgers: Like chili, there’s a grease factor, like coffee, there’s a heat factor. Add to that the fact that you can’t set a burger in the cup holder, so you end up driving one-handed.
  4. Filled doughnuts: Sticky jelly and cream coat your hands, and the steering wheel, as well as forcing one-handed driving.
  5. Chocolate: See above. It not only melts, but it’s also got enough grease to leave permanent evidence behind.

Your turn: Have you ever been involved in a DWE (driving while eating) accident? What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten in a car?

Tech Thursday: Chill Zone

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

It was 103 degrees with high humidity where I live yesterday, so you’ll have to forgive me for posting about Dodge’s “Chill Zone” technology, which is a standard feature of the 2008 Dodge Avenger, at all trim levels, among other models from that maker.

If you’ve missed the recent news about the survey Dodge conducted as part of the marketing campaign for this, the information you need is this: 26% of Americans don’t use their glove compartment at all, 72% do use it, but not for actual gloves, and most Americans keep things like insurance info, sunglasses, tissues and flashlights in the glove box.

Enter Dodge. They’ve added a compartment to the lower front of the glove box, and chilled it with dedicated a/c vents. It can hold up to four standard soda cans, and keep them cool for you.

Now, I’m all for having cold beverages during long, hot summer drives, but I have to wonder if anyone is ever going to make a chilled glove box that is capable of holding and cooling a standard 17.5 oz. bottle of water.

Women on Wheels: Spotlight on Lorraine Schultz

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

This week’s Woman on Wheels is Lorraine Schultz, founder of the Women’s Automotive Association, International (WAAI).

Ms. Schultz started the organization to help the development of women as leaders in the automotive industry, and is currently the “ambassador at large” of AskPatty.com, a website devoted to given women a safe place to ask questions about cars - everything from how to fix problems, to how to approach car dealers.

According to her bio at AskPatty.com, Schultz began her automotive industry career with the acquisition of an interest in the Detroit Model Bureau, which supplied talent for various auto shows. She next became the executive director for the AutoLeather Guild of America, where she spent 19 years, traveling all over the world as part of her job.

In 1999, Ms. Schultz was instrumental in the return of the Automotive Hall of Fame Distinguished Service awards being presented to women, for the first time since 1945.

In addition to working with AskPatty.com, Ms. Schultz is the executive director for the WAAI, and a member of the Board of Directors of both the Automotive Hall of Fame and Ferris State University.

Shipping a Car Overseas

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

A few years ago my other half and I were almost relocated from California to England. As part of the process, we investigated the cost of shipping our Subaru Forester across the pond. We learned that if you live near a major port, it’s not that expensive, and that you’re actually allowed to pack the vehicle full (since it’s going in a container, anyway).

For this week’s Top-Ten Tuesday, I’m referring you all to

CanuckAbroad’s Article on Shipping Cars Overseas because it covers pretty much every point I’d planned to discuss.

In the end, we declined the relocation, because we had pets we didn’t want to quarantine, and because we didn’t really want to be that far apart for six months to a year, but the information was still valuable.

Give Volkswagen a Hand

Monday, August 13th, 2007

Hand it in … hand it over … put your hands up … hands off … hands in your pocket … raise your hands … hands across the water … hand-y … cold hands, warm heart … many hands make light work … hand out … empty handed … off-hand … under-handed … put your hands together … gotta hand it to ya … left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing … hand-out … hands off … wash my hands of … hand over fist … left-handed compliment … play the hand you’re dealt … wringing her hands … hand-me-downs … one hand washes the other … helping hands … Cool Hand Luke … it’s in your hands … it’s out of my hands … a bird in the hand … the sound of one hand clapping … I wanna hold your hand …

Friday Five: Turn Up the Music

Friday, August 10th, 2007

I have fond memories of the ancient 8-track player in my uncle’s beat up old Ford pick-up truck. It wasn’t an original part of the truck; he added it, but summer memories are all tied up in trips to the beach with that thing cranking out tunes.

These days, of course, we’re all more likely to plug in an mp3 player or a cd, than any kind of tape (I recently reviewed a new car that had a cassette deck in it, and had to pause and shake my head. Who even owns tapes any more?), and many of us are listening to HD radio, if not satellite, when we do resort to getting our motoring music via airwaves.

So I’ve been thinking tonight about music and cars lately, and I’ve come up with five songs ABOUT cars to share with you today.

  1. Fun Fun Fun, The Beach Boys

    Well she got her daddy’s car
    And she cruised through the hamburger stand now
    Seems she forgot all about the library
    Like she told her old man now
    And with the radio blasting
    Goes cruising just as fast as she can now

    And she’ll have fun fun fun
    til her daddy takes the t-bird away
    (fun fun fun til her daddy takes the t-bird away)

  2. Paradise by the Dashboard Light, Meat Loaf

    I remember every little thing
    As if it happened only yesterday
    Parking by the lake
    And there was not another car in sight
    And I never had a girl
    Looking any better than you did
    And all the kids at school
    They were wishing they were me that night

    And now our bodies are oh so close and tight
    It never felt so good, it never felt so right
    And we’re glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
    C’mon! Hold on tight!
    C’mon! Hold on tight!

    Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night
    I can see paradise by the dashboard light

  3. Little Red Corvette, Prince

    I guess I should’ve known by the way U parked your car sideways
    That it wouldn’t last
    See, U’re the kinda person that believes in makin’ out once
    Love ‘em and leave ‘em fast
    I guess I must be dumb cuz U had a pocket full of horses
    Trojan and some of them used
    But it was Saturday night, I guess that makes it all right
    And U say - “What have I got 2 lose?”

    And honey, I say Little Red Corvette
    Baby, U’re much 2 fast (Oh)
    Little Red Corvette
    U need a love that’s gonna last

  4. Mustang Sally, Wilson Pickett

    Mustang Sally, think you better slow your mustang down.
    Mustang Sally, think you better slow your mustang down.
    You been running all over the town now.
    Oh! I guess I’ll have to put your flat feet on the ground.

    All you want to do is ride around Sally, ride, Sally, ride.
    All you want to do is ride around Sally, ride, Sally, ride.
    All you want to do is ride around Sally, ride, Sally, ride.

  5. Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car, Billy Ocean

    Who’s that lady
    Coming down the road
    Who’s that lady
    Who’s that woman
    Walking through my door
    What’s the score
    I’ll be the sun
    Shining on you
    Hey Cinderella
    Step in your shoe
    I’ll be your non-stop lover
    Get it while you can
    Your non-stop miracle
    I’m your man

    Get outta my dreams
    Get in to my car
    Get outta my dream
    Get in to the back seat baby
    Get in to my car
    Beep Beep, yeah
    Get outta my mind
    Get in to my life
    Ooooooh
    Oh I said hey (Hey) you (You)
    Get in to my car

  6. Pink Cadillac, Bruce Springsteen

    You may think Im fooling
    For the foolish things I do
    You may wonder how come I love you
    When you get on my nerves like you do
    Well baby, you know you bug me
    There aint no secret about that
    Well come on over here and hug me
    And, baby, Ill spill the facts
    Well, honey it aint your money
    Cause baby I got plenty of that

    I love you for your pink cadillac
    Crushed velvet seats
    Riding in the back, oozing down the street
    Waving to the girls
    Feeling out of sight
    Spending all my money on a saturday night
    Honey, I just wonder what you do there in back of your pink cadillac
    Pink cadillac

Your Turn: What are your favorite car songs? For that matter, which ones do you completely hate?

Traction Control

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never completely understood the difference between traction control and stability control, especially since some cars have both, some have one or the other, and some don’t have either. I looked it up, recently, and thought I’d share.

First, it’s important to understand traction control and stability control are not the same thing. Typically, at least on newer cars, traction control is an electro-hydraulic system designed to prevent traction-loss under excessive steering or throttling by the driver.
To do this, it shares actuators and sensors with the anti-lock braking system.

There is a list, actually, of what traction control can do:

  1. Brake wheels (one or more)
  2. Suppress the spark to the cylinders (one or more)
  3. Reduce the fuel supply to the cylinders (again, one or more)
  4. On drive-by-wire cars, it can close the throttle
  5. On turbo-charged cars, it can actuate the boost control solenoid to reduce boost, which in turn reduces engine power

That’s all very well and good, but how does it apply to actual driving? Here are some examples:

  • On street vehicles, traction control helps regulate throttle input to prevent spinning when accelerating in snow or on wet pavement.
  • In race cars, it allows the greatest amount of acceleration possible without wheel spin, and maintains an optimum slip angle when drivers accelerate out of a turn.
  • Off road, traction control can be used with or in place of mechanical locking differential, slowing spinning wheels with quick bursts of brake pressure, and providing more torque to non-spinning wheels, which makes controlling the vehicle easier.
  • While cornering, helps prevent front-wheel drive cars from reaching the point where the wheels can’t steer and drive, or, if the wheels do lose their gripping ability, it can help keep the car stable. (In rear-wheel-drive cars, it can prevent oversteer.)

Traction control, by the way, can trace it’s roots all the way back to Positraction, a kind of limited slip differential used in older high-powered cars with rear wheel drive.

It should, however, never be taken for granted or allowed to encourage driving in dangerous conditions.

Women on Wheels: Spotlight on Sara Christian

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Quick question: Who was the first woman to drive for NASCAR?

If you answered “Sara Christian” you either paid attention to the title of this post, or you really know your racing history.

Inducted into the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame in 2004, Christian was only part of NASCAR in 1949 and 1950, but there are a lot of key events associated with her name.

To start, she won the title Woman Driver of the Year from the United States Drivers Association in 1949. That same year, she drove in NASCAR’s first race at Charlotte Speedway on June 19th 1949, after placing 13th in the qualification race, driving a #71 Ford that her husband, Frank Christian, owned. She let fellow racer Bob Flock drive it for part of the race, after the engine in his own car died on the 38th lap. The Ford overheated, but Flock finished in 14th place.

Three weeks later, Sara’s competitors in the second race at the Daytona Beach Road Course included Louise Smith and Bob Flock’s sister Ethel Mobley. She finished 18th of 28, but her presence marked the first time three women drove in the same race, and the first time a married couple competed in a NASCAR race. (Her husband Frank finished sixth, in his only start.)

Two months after that, Christan faced Mobley and Smith again, and that race - the fourth at Langhorn Speedway, became the LAST race to include three drivers. It was also the first time a woman achieved a top-ten finish, and the winner of the race, Curtis Turner, invited Sara to share the victory lane.

In her last race, the only one she entered in 1950, Sara placed 14th at Hamburg Speedway in New York.

Sara Christian died in 1980.

Safety First!

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Read any auto review, and safety features will be given almost as much attention as engine specs. Either the array of safety systems is lauded, or the lack thereof is denigrated, and sometimes mocked. In either case, the message is clear: driving fast is cool, but getting there in one piece is cooler.

This, then, is a list of ten features or systems that protect us as we’re zooming from point a to point b, or beyond:

  1. AirbagsThey prevent you from crashing into the steering wheel (and impaling yourself on the steering column) and also prevent severe cranial injuries. The newest versions are set to “depower” themselves - reduce power after they’re activated - to keep them from causing injuries while preventing fatalaties.
  2. Computers Whether they’re the powerful type of computer that aid in the design and manufacture of our cars, or the mini-processors on board, without which many other safety features wouldn’t work, computers are a crucial component of safe driving.
  3. Deformable Structure We’re past the days, for the most part, when a survivable crash ended in fatality because the hood of the car ripped off and cut through the windshield, or any other such grisly results, and this is largely because deformable structure allows the car itself to absorb the energy of impact, and not pass it on to the driver.
  4. Disc Brakes Not only do they allow cars to make 60 - 0mph stops, something old-school drum brakes couldn’t always do more than a couple times in a row without over heating, disc brakes also allow us to have anti-lock braking systems, and are a vital component of stability and traction control.
  5. Divided Highways Driving is simply safer with divided highways, and statistics support this - comparisons based on total numbers of traveled miles show that there are 70% fewer fatalities on divided roads than on old two-lane bidirectional ones.
  6. DUI Laws While drunk or (otherwise chemically) altered drivers still account for about a third of fatal driving accidents, that’s down from a 50% statistic from 1982. Across the country, DUI laws have been getting tougher - but critics think they’re still not strict enough.
  7. Quick Emergency Response Skilled rescue workers arriving on-scene quickly may not be something drivers can control, but because of EMTs and fast-response teams, less than one percent of the 6 million or so traffic accidents that occur annually end in death.
  8. Stability Control Electronic Stability Control, whether it’s known by a set of initials (ESC, DSC, etc.) or a fancy name (”Stabilitrak”) is what helps keep all four tires touching the pavement. It’s controlled by computers, not drivers, so it can’t make panic and make a wrong decision, which is always a plus.
  9. Seatbelts When I was a kid, my mother had a rule that the car didn’t move until everyone was buckled in. Thankfully, I’m an only child, so this didn’t take long. The point however is that all the cool technology in the world cannot keep you alive if you’re flying through the windshield. Buckle up!
  10. Tires Good quality, well-maintained, pneumatic steel-belted radial tires may well be the most important safety feature there is. Why? Because at any given moment it’s a patch of rubber about the size of an adult hand that is actually in contact with the road. Without tires, disc brakes are useless, and stability control non-existent. Also, keeping the pressure correct helps maximize fuel economy.
  11. Your Turn: My list comes from a week of research, and years of riding in, driving, and owning cars. What would you add to this list? What would you remove?

Cerberus Names New Chrysler CEO

Monday, August 6th, 2007

If you follow the business operations of the auto industry at all, you know that a corporation called Cerberus has taken over the reins at Chrysler. They’ve just named Bob Nardelli CEO, and he along with former CEO Tom LaSorda were part of a press conference today in which LaSorda pledged his support of both Chrysler and Nardelli.

In addition, Nardelli endorsed the recovery and restructuring plan which LaSorda had launched in February, and both men met with United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger, and Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove, both of whom represented employee’s concerns over the new management.

While Tom LaSorda is supporting Nardelli, however, his former second-in-command, COO Eric Ridenour has chosen to leave the company, resigning after a 23-year tenure.

Industry analysts were somewhat surprised by the naming of Bob Nardelli to the top-spot, calling his appointment an interesting choice, and expressing doubts about his ability to give Chrysler what it needs. As well, many find it unsettling that this is the second time in the past year that an American automaker has named an outsider as leader. The first time was when Ford Motor Co. hired Alan Mulally from Boeing.

Bob Nardelli is a former senior executive at General Electric, and was criticized for excessive payroll and severance packages, though credited for overhauling the technology and purchasing systems at Home Depot.

About Automotive Blogger

Some people use their automobiles only to get from Point A to Point B. You know there's more than that. You get mad when someone makes a remark about your car that's less than flattering. You get riled when a cool car is destroyed in a straight-to-video movie. You realize when a new car doesn't deserve it's name of a great car of the past. When you see someone driving a boring vehicle, you feel sorry for them. You know it's not the destination that counts - it's the journey. Welcome home gearheads. Welcome home, car freaks. Welcome to the site that fuels your automotive obsession - AutomotiveBlogger.net

Automotive Blogger Author(s)
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Automotive Channel Posts

  • Friday Five: Fictional Cars
    With the Transformers movie having come out earlier this summer, fictional cars are very much on my brain. But what fictional cars would you include in the top five? And should you limit them to cars [...]
  • Tech Thursday: OverDrive
    If you're like me, you know that your car has overdrive, because there's a button for it, and you have a general idea of what it does, but you're not really sure you could explain it to someone else. [...]
  • Women on Wheels: Women on Wheels
    That's not a double headline, really. This week's Women on Wheels is actually the organization Women on Wheels, a group devoted to female motorcycle enthusiasts. Their mission statement is: To [...]
  • Tuesday Top Five: Tool Kits
    It goes without saying that a tool kit should be in the trunk of every car, especially if you're going on a long trip, or frequently find yourself on back roads where service stations - or other [...]
  • Business Monday: Dodge/Chrysler is Starry Eyed?
    Today's news item involves the web-sales policy at Dodge and Chrysler. It seems that several of their dealers are up in arms because only those dealerships with a five-star rating are getting [...]
  • Friday Five: Driving Under the Influence...Of Food
    While researching an article about heated cup holders, I came across an interesting list that I thought I'd share here. Apparently, even though they're not officially tracked by insurance companies, [...]
  • Tech Thursday: Chill Zone
    It was 103 degrees with high humidity where I live yesterday, so you'll have to forgive me for posting about Dodge's "Chill Zone" technology, which is a standard feature of the 2008 Dodge Avenger, at [...]
  • Women on Wheels: Spotlight on Lorraine Schultz
    This week's Woman on Wheels is Lorraine Schultz, founder of the Women's Automotive Association, International (WAAI). Ms. Schultz started the organization to help the development of women as [...]
  • Shipping a Car Overseas
    A few years ago my other half and I were almost relocated from California to England. As part of the process, we investigated the cost of shipping our Subaru Forester across the pond. We learned that [...]
  • Give Volkswagen a Hand
    Hand it in ... hand it over ... put your hands up ... hands off ... hands in your pocket ... raise your hands ... hands across the water ... hand-y ... cold hands, warm heart ... many hands make [...]

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