AC Retrofit

Brought to you by: Patrick Parish – Capitol Air Conditioning If your old R12 Air Conditioning system has failed, a retrofit to R134a may be the best answer. This site documents what is generally involved – parts, procedures, etc. – whether you plan to tackle this yourself or have a professional do it for you.Includes a whole series of steps involved for retrofit in general, as well as separate pages for retrofit issues unique to Acura, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, and Volvo News source: Patrick Parish/Capitol Air Conditioning

Mini Van Features

Top 10 Features Every Minivan Should HaveBy EditorsWhen you’ve got a family and an active lifestyle, nothing’s more practical than a minivan. But some vans are more practical than others. To help out with your decision-making process, we’ve put together a list of the 10 features we consider the most important to have in these family-centered vehicles, plus some bonus goodies. We’ve eliminated basics like rear air-conditioning controls and dual sliding doors that are standard fare on most, if not all, modern-day minivans, and concentrated on more recent innovations that you won’t find in every van on the market. The features are arranged in no particular order. We’ve listed the minivans that are available with each feature – either as standard equipment or as a factory option. News source: Adjustable pedals or telescoping steering wheel: People come in all sizes, and in order to be a sane parent, you’ve got to be able to find a safe, comfortable position behind the wheel. Adjustable pedals are a big help for those of shorter stature, as they allow you to bring the pedals closer without having to move the entire seat forward. A telescoping steering wheel performs much the same function (you’re moving the wheel closer or farther from your body), but even taller adults will find that it allows them to tailor a driving position to their liking. In an ideal world, minivans would include both features, but for now, several models offer one or the other.Minivans with adjustable pedals: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Mercury Monterey, Nissan QuestMinivans with a telescoping steering wheel: Mazda 5, Toyota Sienna In-floor storage: When you need a place to store groceries to keep them from baking in the sun or rolling around the rear cargo area, or extra storage space for children’s toys, you can simply lift the cover on an in-floor storage cubby and place the items inside. This keeps items from being strewn around or lost, frees up precious floor space, and makes for a safer riding environment. If you need a large flat space for carrying cargo, simply open the storage cubbies and fold the second- and third-row seats into them. Simple, easy and effective!Minivans that have it: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey Conversation mirror: This politely named overhead convex mirror is actually a parental spyglass that allows the driver to see what’s going on in every seating position in the van. Without turning around and looking away from the road, a flustered parent can discover exactly who is instigating border warfare in the third row, or can accurately aim a swat into the second row without swiveling her head.Minivans that have it: Ford Freestar, Kia Sedona, Hyundai Entourage, Mercury Monterey, Toyota Sienna Fold-flat third-row seat: Do you like the idea of having to remove heavy third-row seats and cart them into your garage every time you need some extra cargo space? Neither do we. Fortunately, most, if not all, manufacturers offer a third-row seat that folds neatly into the floor, providing a flat load surface. Many offer a 60/40-split design for their seat, which provides additional flexibility for larger families: Someone can sit on one section of the seat, while the other has been dropped into the floor to accommodate cargo.Minivans with a single-piece fold-flat third-row seat:Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Ford Freestar, Mazda 5, Mazda MPV, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn RelayMinivans with a 60/40-split fold-flat third-row seat: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Toyota Sienna Tire-pressure warning system: Your tires provide the only connection between your minivan and the road. If they’re not properly inflated, your minivan won’t handle as well and your ability to steer around potential accident situations will be reduced. Additionally, underinflated tires are more susceptible to blowouts should they pick up a nail. When you’re taking care of small children, checking the tire pressure may not be the first thing on your mind. However, if your van has a tire-pressure warning system, you’ll be alerted if the tire pressure falls too far below the factory specification.Additionally, some minivans are fitted with run-flat tires, whose stiffer sidewalls allow them to support the vehicle’s weight, even after a tire has lost most or all of its pressure. This comes in handy in remote areas, as a minivan can be driven up to 50 miles (at up to 55 mph) in the event of a blowout. Of note is the Michelin PAX run-flat tire system used on Honda’s Odyssey and Nissan’s Quest. This system requires specially sized wheels and a rubber donut inside the tire, and is often far more hassle if a tire needs replacing, due to added cost and complexity. The Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey offer a lower-cost alternative to run-flats – self-sealing tires. Self-sealing tires have an extra lining coated with a puncture sealant that can permanently seal small punctures from nails and bolts without any human intervention.Minivans with tire-pressure warning systems: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Toyota SiennaMinivans with self-sealing tires: Ford Freestar, Mercury MontereyMinivans with run-flat tires: Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna Reconfigurable second-row seats: Even if you’ve got a van with a fold-flat third-row seat, there are times when you may want to reposition the second-row captain’s chairs to form a bench seat or make way for bulky cargo. Reconfigurable second-row seats are fore/aft-adjustable, so you can decide how to divide up the legroom between the second and third rows. Honda’s Odyssey offers a pop-up center seat for the second row as well as full adjustability, making the second row capable of seating three instead of only two. Toyota’s Sienna also offers fully adjustable second-row seats, but in practice, its seats aren’t as easy to reconfigure into a bench (fortunately, Toyota offers an eight-passenger model for those who truly need a bench in the second row). An interesting system of note is the Stow ‘n Go system for the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country. This offers covered spaces in the floor to fold the second- and third-row seats into. When not in use, these cubbies can be used for storage. The downside is that the second-row chairs in the Chrysler minivans are not fore/aft adjustable.Minivans with seats that adjust side to side and fore/aft: Honda Odyssey, Mazda MPV, Toyota SiennaMinivans with seats that adjust fore/aft only: Ford Freestar, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest Reverse-sensing system or rearview camera: Backing out of the driveway or a parking space is no easy feat in a large vehicle, particularly when rear passengers’ heads are obstructing your rearward view. Reverse-sensing systems employ bumper-mounted sensors that use radar to locate objects, pets and people in the way of the vehicle. Audible beeps of varying intensity let the driver know how close he/she is to an object before it’s too late. These sensors also prove their worth when you’re attempting to parallel park in a tight space. Although reverse-sensing systems are quite effective, they’re still no substitute for actually being able to see what’s behind you. Some manufacturers have a solution to this problem: Equip a minivan with a navigation system, and a tiny bumper-mounted camera will project an image of what’s behind you onto the nav screen when the van is in reverse. Though costly, this is a neat feature that quickly becomes hard to live without. You can also find parking sensors (for both the front and rear) and rearview cameras on the aftermarket.Minivans with a reverse-sensing system: Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn Relay Minivans with a rearview camera:Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna Side curtain airbags for all three rows: Side curtain airbags protect occupants’ heads in the event of a side-impact collision or rollover. Although they’re fairly common among today’s new passenger cars, full-length coverage (for all three rows of seating) is a recent development among minivans and large-capacity SUVs. If you’re the type of parent who requires maximum peace of mind, you’ll want to make sure you get a minivan with this feature.Minivans that have it: Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Mazda 5, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna Traction and stability control: Traction control is a simple feature that allows for more confident low-speed maneuvers on slippery roads or in muddy parking lots at the soccer field. When one of the tires begins to spin and lose traction, the system intervenes by applying the brakes and/or reducing engine power to that wheel and smoothly redirecting it to the wheel(s) that have grip. Stability control goes beyond traction control and helps in higher-speed situations by employing sensors to monitor how closely your vehicle’s path matches your intended path based on steering, throttle and brake inputs. When appropriate, such a system can apply braking forces to individual wheels and/or reduce engine power to prevent dangerous skids. It’s especially useful on slippery roads.Minivans that have traction control: Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Mazda MPV, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn Relay, Toyota SiennaMinivans that have stability control: Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn Relay, Toyota Sienna Side window sunshades: This feature is just starting to creep into minivans after being offered for years in many luxury sedans. These power sunshades open and close at the touch of a button, offering occupants protection from the sun, especially useful for infants and younger children. Without this option, most parents resort to suction cup devices that don’t work as well and look cheap. If your child rides in a car seat in the second row, this is an especially handy feature to have.Minivans that have it: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna Bonus featuresSo we’ve told you the features we think are essential for every minivan, but what if you have a flexible budget that enables you to create the ultimate minivan? Well, here are some features that we don’t consider necessities but are nonetheless enjoyable additions to a family vehicle.115-volt power outlet: Don’t let the voltage rating throw you off – we’re talking about a standard two-prong household outlet. That means you can plug in the PlayStation 3 or the portable camp stove without using an adapter (the kind you’d need for the usual 12-volt power points). It doesn’t get any more convenient than this.Minivans that have it: Buick Terraza, Saturn RelayPower-down rear side windows:Even with all the room to spread out, life in the back of a minivan can become uncomfortably warm at times. In the past, sliding side doors mandated fixed glass in the second row, leaving the “ventable” third-row windows as the only source of fresh air. Some manufacturers, however, have broken free of this limitation. They offer power-down side windows in the second row of their minivans, allowing passengers to enjoy a fresh breeze.Minivans that have it: Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Mazda MPV, Toyota SiennaPower rear liftgate:What at first sounds like an extravagance turns out to be very convenient, especially when you approach the van with groceries in one arm and a child in the other. Simply press a button on the remote or yank on the exterior handle, and a power-operated liftgate will open under its own strength. Stow the groceries in the cargo bay, hit the button again, and go about your business. Like we said, very convenient.Minivans that have it: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna Rear DVD entertainment system: Although there’s plenty to be said for spending quality time together during a road trip, those hours can get mighty long, even for the closest of families. Having the option to pop in a cartoon for the kids or a movie for everyone to enjoy (except the driver, of course) can make long-distance adventures much more relaxing. And since these systems come with wireless headphones, the kids can watch the movie while the adults listen to the radio.Minivans that have it:Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Mazda 5, Mazda MPV, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn Relay, Toyota SiennaCenter folding storage tray: This simple feature is nothing more than a tray with cupholders that fits between the front captain’s chairs, but the parents on the staff love it. Why? Simply put, it can easily accommodate the spoils of a trip through the drive-thru, or provide the perfect resting place for a bag or a purse. In the event that you need to get to the rear seats to comfort a baby or break up a territorial dispute, simply fold down the tray and walk through to the back. Some manufacturers try to increase storage capacity by offering a larger, removable center console unit in this space, but these typically require two hands and some elbow grease to remove, so you’ll find yourself having to climb over them when you’re in a hurry – and that isn’t very convenient.Minivans that have it:Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Toyota SiennaNavigation system: Writing down directions or printing them off the Internet seems simple enough, but when you have a lot to carry or are in a rush, those directions can easily become misplaced. Also, written or printed directions can distract you from your driving by forcing you to check the paper and then look for the corresponding street signs. A navigation system helps avoid undue stress caused by complicated or misplaced directions. It also keeps you focused on your driving by telling you where and when to turn.Minivans that have it:Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Mazda 5, Nissan Quest, Saturn Relay, Toyota SiennaDVD changer: Most vehicles today offer the option of an in-dash, six-CD changer to cut down on the frequency with which the driver has to change a CD. Now, the option of a dual six-CD/DVD changer is being offered in some minivans. This allows parents to load DVDs into the changer and not worry about switching discs while driving, and risk hearing, “Are we there yet?” from the children in the backseat.Minivans that have it:Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan, Hyundai Entourage, Kia SedonaOnboard hard drive: Like cassettes and CDs when they first appeared, MP3s are emerging as the favored music format of today. GM was thinking of this when it introduced the option of a 40-gigabyte removable hard drive for its line of minivans, called the PhatNoise system. With this feature, you can store thousands of music MP3 files and several dozen movie files to the hard drive, and have them all accessible and searchable from inside your minivan. This feature eliminates the need to constantly switch CDs or DVDs, allowing you to concentrate on driving and keeping things hassle-free for the entire family at the same time. Worth noting is the addition of auxiliary inputs to the stereo in many new minivans. This feature allows an external hard drive, such as an MP3 player, to be connected to the stereo, allowing for much the same hassle-free use as an onboard hard drive.Minivans with onboard hard drives:Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn RelayMinivans with auxiliary inputs:Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, Nissan Quest, Saturn Relay, Toyota Sienna

Keys and locks

Recently an excessive number of failures on lock,switch and pinions on ignition switchs are being caused by an excessive amount of unnecessary junk on the key ring also be sure to lube the cylinders mainly on vehicles with remote unlock they are not used until needed and then they are either impossible or difficult to turn

Self Parking BMW

Following the trend of human control giving way to automation, BMW has developed an automated parking system that lets its vehicles park themselves. With a push of a button, your Bimmer will slot itself into the garage while you watch from outside. The Mercedes S-Class and some Lexus models also have parking assistance systems, but the driver must remain in the vehicle in order to use them. According to Wired News, BMW plans to make remote control parking available within 3 years.ADVERTISEMENT To set up the system, you’ll install a reflective lens against the wall at the head of the parking space. A cam mounted on your BMW’s front windshield will measure the distance and angle of the car relative to the lens. The car uses information from the sensors to calculate an entry trajectory, then navigates the vehicle into its parking spot.This advanced parking assistance system builds on existing BMW technology such as park distance control , which uses ultrasonic sensors to help you judge the distance from your car to other cars and to unseen objects when you’re parking. Parking assistance will use the same sensors to brake and steer around objects in the car’s trajectory. News source: Extreme Tech

Danica to NASCAR

Danica tells to NASCAR BUT…..: Danica Patrick’s father clarified his stance today: While he wants the Indy-car driver to switch to NASCAR; she’s not so interested even though her contract with Rahal Letterman Racing is set to expire at the end of the season. “I’d be a fool not to want her there, and if you were her father you would, too,” T.J. Patrick said after his comments last weekend ignited a media frenzy. “But it’s not my decision . . . and I don’t believe she wants to do (NASCAR). She wants to stay here (in the IRL), she wants to run Indy, she wants to win the Indy 500. That’s her goal.” Danica Patrick has been unavailable for comment. T.J. Patrick said he spoke to Danica on Monday so she understood what he told a reporter working for the Tribune Co.[Ed Hinton Orlando Sentinel/Chicago Tribune”> “She kind of laughed and said, ‘What did you do?’ ” he said. “It’s gotten blown out of proportion so much. No one said a thing when I went with her to the NASCAR race in Phoenix (in April). She talked with (NASCAR team owner) Jack Roush and stuck her head inside Kurt Busch’s car. No one said a thing.”(Indianapolis Star) BUT: A season’s worth of setbacks and upcoming free agent status has IRL IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick thinking about something she never gave that much thought to – NASCAR. “It’s important for me to know what’s out there and who is interested in me and who will give me the best chance to win,” she told USA TODAY in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where she will be presenter at the ESPY Awards being taped tonight. “NASCAR is so big, how can you ignore it?” Patrick, 24, says it’s been a “frustrating” and “confusing” season as Rahal Letterman Racing has struggled mightily. A year after capturing three poles and leading the Indy 500, Patrick has struggled along with her team’s two other drivers who only have two top-five finishes among them. “My priorities haven’t changed,” says Patrick, whose contract is up at the end of the season. “I still want to be a winning IndyCar driver. If I’m given an opportunity to drive for an IndyCar team and win races, I’m going to do it.” But if the right opportunity isn’t there, she has her eye on NASCAR. “I think I’m capable to taking on the challenge, but it would have to be with the right team and with the right deal,” she said. “Then I would consider it. Until then, I’m investigating what the interest level is.”(USA Today)and MORE: Danica Patrick might one day drive in NASCAR, but she doesn’t expect it will be next year. “I wouldn’t say it was that big of a chance (of going) next year, but I’d say it’s a fairly larger chance in the future,” she said Tuesday from Los Angeles. Patrick also said her father, T.J., was within his right as her manager to investigate options in NASCAR, which was what he did Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.Indianapolis Star)(7-12-20FYI Danica is staying with the Indy cars but is switching teams to Andretti-Green I think this is unfair to Rahal-Letterman as they gave her a start I hope she wins a race before the end of the season News source: Jayskis Silly seaso Site


If you drive an American-brand car, you probably (and quite reasonably) assume it was built here in the USA — just as an import car would (you’d think) have been manufactured in a different country.But don’t always judge a book by its cover … or in this case, by the name on the fender.Your “import” car could have been built right here in the United States — and by American workers. And that “domestic” model your neighbor just bought might very well have been assembled outside the USA — by non-American workers.Or to make matters even more confusing, it might have been built in both places. News source: AOL Autos Maybe the body was built here, but the engine or transmission came from outside the United States. The car itself could even be a kind of hybrid — although not the gas-electric kind. Perhaps it shares its mechanical underthings (chassis, suspension bits, etc.) with an import-brand car. Or maybe it’s an import in name only — a domestic-built model re-sold by another automaker under its own brand name.To give you a better understanding of where some of the more popular cars on U.S. roads are built, here are some interesting things to consider:- The best-selling passenger car in the United States is a Japanese-brand car, the Toyota Camry. But the “imported” Camry is actually built in America — at Toyota’s plant in Kentucky.- Ford’s best-selling F-Series pickup, meanwhile, is built at a plant in Cuautitlán Izcalli, Mexico, as well as in other plants throughout North America.- GM’s popular Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon SUVs are also assembled south of the border — at GM’s Toluca, Mexico, plant.- German automaker BMW has a large assembly plant in Spartanburg, S.C., where the 3 Series sport sedan, Z4 roadster and X5 sport-ute are built — by American, not German, workers.- Honda has six facilities in Ohio — including plants in Anna, East Liberty and Marysville. The Accord, Civic and Element SUV sold here are built stateside — not somewhere in the Pacific Rim.Does It Matter?Now that you have digested all of that, let’s take a look at some of the partnerships that have helped change the definition of what a domestic or import car really is.- GM has bought engines from Japanese automakers — and GM has sold its highly regarded hydra-matic transmissions to car companies all over the world; ditto its Harrison AC systems.- For a number of years, GM was partnered with Toyota — and models like the Toyota Corolla and Geo/Chevy Prizm where essentially the same car. Just as the Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe are today.Were those cars imports — or domestics? Let’s take a look at some others:- Ford is partnered with Mazda; both the Ranger pickup and Escape SUV have sheet metal cousins in the Mazda B-Series pickup and Tribute SUV.- Ford uses technology acquired/licensed from Toyota in its hybrid vehicles, making its hybrid Escape SUV a true hybrid — of parts, that is. And then you have the Volvo S80 and Ford Five Hundred, which share their DNA (and many parts).- Even the popular Chrysler 300 isn’t what you might think. It shares its underlying platform (but not its engines) with the Mercedes E-Class sedan … bet you didn’t know that one.At this point I’m sure you get the picture … a car isn’t always what it says it is.Whether vehicles from the Big Three are assembled partially or completely in Mexico, Michigan or someplace in between doesn’t make them any less “American.” But the flip side of that coin is that import-brand cars assembled entirely (or nearly so) in the United States, by American workers, are arguably just as “domestic.”So that begs the question, if an American car is made outside the country and an import car is made here, should you consider both of them American?

Flooded Vehicles

You didn’t have to live in a flooded area to deal with flood damage. Many had to find another ride to work today after their cars went underwater in yesterday’s storm. We went to the spot many of those cars ended up: the mechanic.It’s is a scene all too familiar in Savannah today. Leftovers from the floods, cars which are now boats.”I can kind of smooth it over, pat them on the back, that’s about it,” said Duane Miller of Ward’s Towing. “There’s nothing you can say to someone who’s been flooded.””At one point, it did come as a surprise,” Tony Parrish of Parrish Auto Repair told us. “Now every year, it’s: when is this going to come? Not if, when.”Parrish says after 27 years on the job, this is just another day in Savannah. His lot is already full with more flooded cars on the way.”When you ingest water through the intake system, it will bend the connecting rods and at that point the engine’s shot,” explained Parrish. “You have to rebuild it or replace it.”In most cars, he’ll check the air filter and spark plugs for water damage, and then try to start it.He blames impatient and uninformed drivers starting their engines in high waters for the rush of business.”The best thing to do in deep water is leave it,” he advised. “Don’t try to move it. Leave it, call the wrecker, let them get it out.”That way, you may have wet floors, and waterlogged cup holders, but cleaning is a lot cheaper than fixing an engine, which Parrish told us can cost $3,000 to $4,000, adding, “That’s an expensive ride home”Parrish knows exactly how much damage was done to a car just by looking at it. Once the water hits the bottom of the dash, it’s a total loss.But someone else’s loss is Parrish’s gain. “Every cloud has a silver lining. It’s bad for the customer and good for our industry.”An industry which will be very busy for the next few weeks. Parrish says he expects to fix up to 30 flooded cars this year. That’s means $50,000 to $60,000 in additional business, thanks to the weather.Reported by: Andrew Davis, [email protected] News source: WTOC Channel !! Savannah GA


While market excitement for corn-based ethanol’s use as an alternative fuel for vehicles abounds, Prudential Equity Group analyst Michael Bruynesteyn said he sees little medium to long-term advantage for Big Three automakers.In a recent report, the analyst estimated approximately 900,000 unit sales in 2006 of vehicles enabled for E85 (a blend of 15% Fuel and 85% ethanol), mostly by Ford Motor (nyse: F – news – people ), General Motors (nyse: GM – news – people ) and Daimlerchrysler. While he called the advantages for corporate average fuel economy, or “CAFÉ,” clear, the analyst noted that the companies may also see a good public relations opportunity. “Much like Toyota burnished its image with its push into hybrids, the domestic original equipment manufacturers may be able to generate some goodwill with customers by taking the lead on E85 vehicles, although quantifying that benefit is difficult,” said Bruynestyn.If true demand for E85 vehicles materializes or increased production of E85-equipped vehicles is encouraged by the government, “domestic automakers should initially benefit more than their import and transplant peers,” said the analyst. However, it won’t be difficult for other automakers to follow suit, he said, leading him to estimate that short-term advantages for Ford, GM, and Daimlerchrysler could evaporate in approximately two years.Currently, less than 5% of U.S. gas stations sell E85, the analyst said News source:

Premium Yes or No

Buying premium gas is like taking vitamins – you can’t always feel the difference and yet you know it’s the right thing to do. But as gas prices climb, paying the extra dime per gallon for premium is like adding insult to injury. Eventually, the thought is bound to jump into your head: Do I really need to pop for premium? News source: Until about 15 years ago, if a car called for premium gas and you pumped in regular, the car began to knock and ping and even vibrate. But that was before they essentially put a laptop under the hood of the automobile, said Dr. Loren Beard, senior manager of Environmental and Energy Planning, for Daimler Chrysler. Now, sensors take readings and tune the engine as you drive by adjusting the timing for whatever fuel you put in the tank. The result is that a car that calls for the mid-grade Fuel will usually run on regular without knocking, Beard said. However, its performance will suffer slightly. How much? It will be perhaps a half-second slower going from zero to 60 mph. Volvo cars call for “premium fuel [91 octane or better”> for optimum performance and fuel economy,” said Wayne Baldwin, product/segment manager for the S60/S80. “However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using 87 octane, as the knock sensors and engine management system ‘protect’ the engine from knocking.”Baldwin, a former rally driver who competed in SCCA Pro Rally events, said that engines have changed a lot in the past 15 years. “Cars built before 1990 probably do not have knock sensors and many brands back then relied on high-compression ratios for the best performance. Today [performance comes from”> electronically controlled spark curves, turbos, variable valve timing, supercharging and knock sensors.”Issues of performance aside, Baldwin said you should never use Fuel that causes your car to knock. “Constant knocking or detonation is a real bad thing for engines,” he said.When choosing what grade of Fuel to use, Steve Mazor, principal auto engineer for the Auto Club of Southern California, said it is important to read the owner’s manual carefully. The key is to figure out whether premium Fuel is “required” or “recommended.” If it is recommended then a driver could opt to use a lower grade of gas, if they were willing to accept slightly reduced performance and fuel economy. However, Mazor added, “We don’t recommend that people switch down. Let’s say you switch down to regular, and you have to accelerate to avoid an accident and it doesn’t accelerate fast enough. The Auto Club can’t be responsible for causing that situation.” has a Volvo S40 in its fleet, so we consulted the owner’s manual to see the exact phrasing in regard to fuel requirements. It said, “Volvo engines are designed for optimum performance on unleaded premium Fuel with an AKI (Anti Knock Index) of 91 or above. The minimum octane requirement is AKI 87.” It appears that Volvo is making a recommendation for premium gas but is not requiring it.In’s forums, debates abound over the pros and cons of using different fuel grades. One member even suggested there was only one type of Fuel, no difference – except for price – between regular and premium. Other members recommended using premium gas even if the manual called for regular. We put this question to Mazor and Beard.Mazor: “All this does is do a very good job of draining your wallet. People used to put in a tank of premium to get ‘the good stuff’ to help their engines stay clean. But now they put detergents in all grades so it doesn’t really get you anything.”Beard: “If you have car designed to run on 87 [octane”>, it doesn’t help to run it on higher-octane-level gas. But there are several exceptions.” He said that the 3.5-liter Chrysler engines are designed to run on mid-grade gas (89 octane) and it allows them to advertise a certain peak horsepower. However, it will run well on regular gas. “The difference is very small,” he said.Interestingly, Mazor noted that at some gas stations, there are only two grades of gas. However, they blend the regular and premium at the pump to produce the mid-grade Fuel. This allows them to have only two underground tanks for the gas storage.In Edmunds’ forums some drivers expressed concern about the quality of gas sold at independent gas stations and advised sticking to the so-called “name” brands of Fuel. “Typically the only difference is the additive package they put in the gas,” Beard said. The additive package is often put into the gas as the tanker is filled up at the refinery. A common additive is a detergent agent. “The law requires a certain level of detergents in Fuel. Shell, for example, is putting in more detergent. – Whether that has a measurable effect to the driver is debatable.”Detergents have a marked effect on engine deposits. “If you take apart a modern engine that has been running on a modern fuel, and compare this to an old engine that was running on old gas, you can see an obvious difference,” Mazor said.The biggest difference between today’s gas and the gas sold 15 years ago is the removal of lead. Taking out the lead, and developing effective catalytic converters to more completely burn emissions, have radically cut pollution.The major oil companies each have a magical-sounding name for their Fuel and tout its superiority over other brands. The difference is the additives or the amount of detergent added to the gas that comes from the refinery. The benefit of these additive packages is lost to most drivers, who simply fill up at the gas station with the cheapest prices or the one for which they carry a credit card.Does a gas expert like Beard have a preference when buying gas? “I just watch the light on the dash. After it has been on for a day I get nervous and go to the closest station available

Shady Mechanics

Sometimes you take the lid off a topic and find that you have opened an unexpected can of worms.The response was overwhelming to my column last week about my honest auto mechanic, John, who found that as an independent mechanic, he could not compete with the ever-increasing competition from car dealership repair shops. Among the auto repair rip-off horror stories and the auto mechanic recommendations I received from readers, there was one letter that stopped me in my tracks.It was from a reader who signed his e-mail with only one name — Bill. Bill’s correspondence described to me a murky world that few outsiders have ever been privy to. He outlined the unscrupulous details of his experiences as a mechanic for unethical repair shops.Of course, Bill can only describe the practices of the establishments he worked for. Certainly, every business has its own policies and procedures, and not all can be lumped into the same unsavory stew. With that in mind, let’s consider the information that Bill imparts. It’s food for thought: “I am now retired, but when I worked as a mechanic at large repair shops, we were told not to make problems when we were checking out vehicles, but we were told to find problems. Then we were told to be sure to ‘talk up’ what the damage could be to the customer’s car if the problems we found were not taken care of.””There was a kickback from whatever work we recommended that the customer had done. However, most of the money from this kickback was given to the mechanic in charge at the shop. If people came in for a ‘checkup’ and we told the shop foreman that we found nothing wrong with the car, he told us to look again and try to find something.””There were many times when I saw other mechanics doing shady things — like not doing required maintenance when they were supposed to. This was because usually we were forced to work on two or three cars at a time because someone else had promised that the cars would be done.””And while the labor rate was high, we were only paid a small portion of that rate; the shop got the rest.””I just wanted to say that you had a legitimate complaint when you wrote about trying to find an honest mechanic.” — Bill.I don’t know about you, but from now on, if I take my car into a repair shop and they start “talking up” the dangers of issues I didn’t come in for, they will be looking at the backside of my car driving off into the sunset before they have time to put a period at the end of their sentence. News source: Woman Motorist

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