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Crucial Cars: Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry photoFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this installment, the Mechanic Next Door showcases the midsize miracle that is the Toyota Camry.

32 years later and the Toyota Camry is still battling it out with its arch-nemesis Honda Accord.

First introduced in the U.S. in 1983 to replace the rear-wheel drive Corona, Camry was Toyota’s answer to the Honda Accord’s steadily growing U.S. popularity. The Accord had already been available in the U.S. for seven years when Camry entered the market and one of the ways Toyota helped set the Camry apart from that competition was by making the Camry larger and more powerful. The first Camry’s wheelbase was nearly half a foot longer than Accord’s and had about seven percent more horsepower.

But it would take Camry nearly 14 years to jump ahead of Accord in retail sales, a feat it accomplished in 1997 when it also became the best-selling car in the U.S. The two have traded places numerous times in the years since even as many other Toyota cars were added to the lineup.

Even today, Camry is still compared to Accord, but Nissan’s Altima and Hyundai’s Sonata have been added to the list, as seen on Toyota’s 2015 Camry website. It’s a perplexing comparison, from a consumer’s point of view, in that there’s very little differentiation between the four models and certainly nothing that makes Camry a clear winner or standout in any one of the more than 25 categories. Perhaps that was Toyota’s intention – to position Camry as Accord’s equal and as a solid choice among the numerous Toyota cars, trucks and SUV’s available today.

Camry, like other Toyota cars, has changed with the times, undergoing a redesign approximately every five years. That first Camry’s 2-liter, four-cylinder engine cranked out 92 horsepower compared to today’s 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that delivers 268 horsepower. The V-6’s availability wasn’t an option on Camrys until 1988 when all-wheel drive also became available.Toyota Camry Trunk photo

As Camry grew in popularity, and size, it also increased its reputation for ride comfort, luxury and delivering a quite ride – attributes that helped the 1992 Camry serve as the model for Toyota’s 1992 Lexus ES 300. Even today Toyota still carefully focuses on and promotes Camry’s quite-ride factor, highlighting the 2015 model’s “vortex generators” on the exterior that are designed to smooth turbulent air, increasing efficiency and reducing cabin noise.

Today’s Camry offers seven different models to choose from – LE, SE, XSE, XLE, Hybrid LE, Hybrid SE, and Hybrid XLE. The two models Camry lovers won’t find, however, are the two-door model and the station wagon, both having been discontinued in 1997.

With a base MSRP of $22,970 and 25/35 estimated miles per gallon, Camry’s 2015 design is promoted as bold and aggressive. An available sport-mesh grill, LED headlights and daytime running lights, 18-inch alloy wheels and dual chrome-tipped exhaust are paired with a sporty interior to give it that look. An interior – or “cockpit that’s ready for the fast lane,” as Toyota describes it on some models – features sport seats, moon roof, and paddle shifters mounted to the back of the steering wheel that enable the six-speed automatic to be shifted manually.Toyota Camry Interior photo

Technology designed to enhance driver convenience and comfort is an integral part of Camry’s interior. The Entune® App Suite enables drivers and passenger to perform a wide variety of activities – including access Pandora and iHeartRadio, make dinner reservations or even purchase movie tickets. The wireless charging feature enables Qi-compatible electronic devices to recharge simply by being placed on the non-slip surface.

On the road, Toyota helps drivers keep Camry’s 268 horsepower under control with a wider track, taut suspension, recalibrated springs, shocks and sway bars, and optimized Electric Power Steering as part of a sport handling package.

Safety features abound on the 2015 Camry and include a blind spot monitor, backup camera, lane departure alert, tire pressure monitor, and cruise control that automatically monitors the preset distance between the vehicle and the one in front and adjusts speed accordingly. Also helping protect passengers inside the Camry are 10 airbags – including knee airbags – Whiplash-Injury Lessening (WIL) seats, and several safety systems – including one that connects drivers with Toyota’s 24/7 call center in the event of an emergency, stolen vehicle or need for roadside assistance.

The Toyota Camry has traveled a long way in its 32 years in the U.S. and continues to gain in popularity while garnering strong reviews. For a nostalgic look back, here’s where it all began with one of the earlier Camry’s in 1986 with Toyota parts that look a lot simpler than today’s complex machines.

Editor’s note: Camry? Accord? Whatever camp you fall into, you can rely on Advance Auto Parts for the car parts and supplies you need to maintain your vehicle right. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.

CES 2015 — NVIDIA unveils superchip for smartphones…and cars

Nvidia Tegra X1The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is underway in Las Vegas, offering up an exciting array of car-related gadgets and gizmos to techies and car enthusiasts of all stripes.

One of the show’s top attractions so far is a new superchip for cars from visual computing leader Nvidia.

On Sunday, NVIDIA announced the Tegra X1 processor, which CEO Jen-Hsun Huang described as a tiny workhorse for smartphones and cars. The Santa Clara, CA, company aims to push into the automotive market with chips for vehicles’ driver-assistance and entertainment systems as they become as complex in their way as PCs and tablets.

Huang also unveiled two new technologies for cars using the Tegra X1. Automakers could use NVIDIA’s Drive PX platform to push advanced driver-assistance systems a step closer to self-driving cars. The PX system can scan dozens of images a second using cameras and sensors around a vehicle and actually learn to categorize these images so it can more easily recognize them, Huang said. The technology would help a car assist drivers to avoid crashes or, eventually, take over all driving responsibilities.

Huang also unveiled Drive CX, a system that uses the Tegra chip to provide souped-up graphics and infotainment displays inside vehicles. He said cars will soon have many more touchscreen displays and NVIDIA wants to provide the technology to make those displays graphically stunning and powerful enough to create real-time navigation maps in 3D.

Visit CNET to read the full story.

Cheers to 2015!

Happy New Year 2015 car photoAll of us at the DIY Garage wish you and yours a safe and Happy New Year.

Now, let’s get those resolutions in high gear—and those projects underway.

Ford trademarks “EcoBeast”

Ford EcoBoost Logo

As recently reported by Motrolix, Ford has made formal moves to trademark the name “EcoBeast,” an obvious reference to its massively successful EcoBoost engine line.

Filed this past week with the US Patent and Trademark Office, the application falls under the “automobiles and automobile engines” category within Goods and Services.

Here are some more details:

Ford EcoBeast trademark applicationFor the uninitiated, Ford’s EcoBoost engine can be found in its ever-popular F-150 trucks, and is known for its unique combination of power and fuel economy. It’s no surprise that “EcoBeast” has been used for some time as a nick-name by Ford enthusiasts, but what makes this new move by the company even more interesting is what comes next. Will Ford use EcoBeast as the moniker for a new line of mammoth pick-ups? A concept car? A higher-end line of engines?

Or, will the Ford Motor Company just let the trademark languish into obscurity as so many other massive corporations have done before, just to ensure no one else can use it.

What do you think?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Read the full story at Motrolix.

Merry Christmas
from the DIY Garage

Santa Claus Christmas carWe wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season 2014.

The DIY Garage Team

Photo essay of the Lone Star Le Mans 2014

It’s one thing to read about the Lone Star Le Mans race, or to watch the competition on television – and something else entirely to be up close and personal at the actual event. We know that plenty of our readers would love to have gone but couldn’t, so we’re bringing you the next best thing: exclusive photos, published nowhere else but on our blog, brought to you by Mike Raffia of Lowered Lifestyle.

The race was held on the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on September 19-20, 2014. The circuit length is 3.4 miles, with a race duration of 2 hours, 45 minutes. Results of the 2014 race can be found here.

Now, back to the photos. Mike – a 22-year-old photographer from Tampa, Florida – developed a love of motorsports when he was only five years old. He’s worked for years learning how to shoot motorsport photos from the perspective of the audience and now covers top racing events for various enthusiast sites. He currently travels around the country photographing races and hopes to someday shoot races around the world – and show the next generation the thrill of being a true motorsports fan.

Here are some of Mike’s photos, plus the thoughts he shared with Advance Auto Parts.

Turner Motorsports Final race car

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

“The yellow and blue car above,” Mike says, “represents the end of an era of Turner Motorsports in the IMSA / Rolex / Grand-Am world. While they weren’t part of the World Endurance Championship racing later in the day at the Circuit of the Americas, they were in the IMSA race during the day. Then the team announced they’ll be leaving this series.”

Ferrari 458 car

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

“The Krohn Racing Ferrari 458 is incredibly easy to spot and the plain uncluttered livery presents a chance to shoot a racecar that really looks quite close to the road going alternative. This is one of my absolute favorite shots I’ve grabbed of any race all year. I love seeing the Texas hillside in the background reminding me why I liked this track so much in the first place. Since this was grabbed right before the restart of the race following the red flag due to rain, Mother Nature added her own touch with the mist trailing away behind the car, lit by the chasing car just perfectly.”

car racing at night photo

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

“Capturing racing at night at the best lit track isn’t an easy task. Seeking out the perfect spot to shoot without flash was the main goal for me here, but well-lit spots were few and far between the rented construction lighting. I wanted to see the brakes glowing and, in the case of this race, I wanted to grab the shine of the rain-soaked tarmac as the drivers worked to avoid spots not yet dried out.”

car rounding corner

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

“Aston, Ferrari and Prototype all in one spot would usually be quite chaotic as the drivers round the corners and fight for position down the straight, but this time they had worked it out and formed a single line to make this shot. I particularly enjoyed shooting the Aston here because of the classic Gulf livery that beckons to the IMSA cars of years ago.”

Lone Star LeMan

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

“As a road racing obsessed enthusiast, I often get caught up in getting the turns and the motion in the shots, but you cannot ignore the power of a flat out straightaway blast that this prototype and GT car are about to embark on. Shooting down this straight is a view that no spectator has been able to enjoy and that alone can often make for a unique photo that really gives the audience a behind the scenes feel.”

Audi e-tron race car

Photo credit: Mike Raffia

“The Audi e-tron cars are really the cars that I flew from Florida to Texas to see on the track. I didn’t take a photo of every car driving by but, every time an Audi came by, I had to. They make an incredibly airy sound. Audi’s philosophy is that noise is wasted energy, and they’ve proven that theory right.”

Did you attend the Lone Star Le Mans this year? If so, what did you think? What photo in this post really grabbed your attention – and why? Post a comment below.

 

Motor Oil: What Do the Numbers Really Mean?

Our Mechanic Next door delves into the origins and meaning of motor oil viscosity grades.

“220. 221. Whatever it takes.”

motor oil 1

That infamous line of reasoning worked for Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) in the 1983 hit movie Mr. Mom, so it should work for you, too, when it comes to selecting the right motor oil grade, right? Simply pick a number? Wrong! Just like with electricity, when it comes to car oil, numbers matter – especially if you want to protect your engine.

Oil “weights” or grades – such as 10W-30 – are actually a numerical coding system developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to grade oils based on their viscosity. Viscosity is the state of being viscous, which according to Merriam-Webster, describes “a liquid being thick or sticky, not flowing easily.”

Viscosity is measured by the how long it takes a specific amount of oil to flow through a specific-sized opening at a specific temperature. The longer the oil takes to flow through, the higher the viscosity. The tool used to conduct that test – if you really want to impress others with your motor oil and physics knowledge – is a viscometer.

Think of pouring pancake syrup from the bottle – at warmer temperatures, the syrup pours fast and easy, while at colder temperatures, it’s thicker and more difficult to get flowing. The same can be said for oil.

The particular challenge with motor oil, however, is that automotive engines need engine oil to be both thin and free flowing when temperatures are freezing and the engine is cold, but thick when it’s hot out and the engine has reached operating temperature. That’s where multi-weight or multi-grade oils enter the picture and why they were created.American Petroleum Institute

SAE’s J300 standard, first published in 1911 and revised numerous times since, classifies oil into 11 viscosity grades – 0W, 5W, 10W, 15W, 20W, 25W, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 – with the “W” signifying “winter,” not weight. Oils first received this “W” designation from SAE in the 1950s. The lower the number preceding the W, the lower the temperature for which the oil is rated. Those winter numbers were modified further after a rash of catastrophic engine failures in the early 1980s. Unusually cold weather in the U.S. and Europe caused oil to gel. When this occurred, the engine would still start, but it couldn’t pull the gelled oil out of the oil pan, resulting in the failures. As a result, SAE added a low-temperature test to measure pumping viscosity as well, and indicated this oil with the W specification.

Back to the idea of multi-weight oils. A popular oil, such as 10W-30, actually performs like two oils in one when it comes to engine lubrication. At colder temperatures it is and delivers a 10W-grade oil performance, while at higher temperatures it is and performs like a 30-grade oil – according to SAE’s standards and tests – providing engine protection at both ends of the temperature spectrum, which is important since engines have to operate in a range of temperatures. Think of it this way – that SAE 30 oil you might use in your riding mower has the same viscosity as the 10W-30 oil in your vehicle, but only at 210°, the maximum temperature that SAE requires. The difference arises at colder temperatures where the SAE 30 oil can’t perform, necessitating some enhancements that make it a multi-grade oil. At those lower temperatures, that’s where the 10W oil and its characteristics come into play.

Oil’s desired performance characteristics at varied temperatures, as specified by SAE, are achieved through the addition of Viscosity improvers (VI) or modifiers that increase the oil’s viscosity as temperatures rise. The result is oil that performs and provides engine lubrication no matter what the temperature.

The good news for drivers is that they don’t need to be an engineer or chemist to know which car oil to use, and they don’t have to change their oil grade whenever the temperature changes. Simply follow the motor oil grade recommended by the vehicle manufacturer for optimal engine protection in all types of weather.

oil sealIt’s important to note that SAE also has a coding system for gear oil, such that used in a manual transmission, and that it’s different than the ratings for engine oil. So if there’s a bottle of 85W-140 oil sitting on the barn or garage shelf gathering dust, don’t put it in your engine.

And finally, when choosing an oil, look for one with the American Petroleum Institute “donut” seal on the bottle. It indicates that the oil meets API performance standards.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for great deals on Oil Change Specials and more. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.

 

 

Mustang: The First 50 Years DVD review

Mustang 50 Years DVD reviewIf you know me, you know I love Mustangs. Probably more than any other car on the road. And if you know Mustangs, you know that the original muscle car just turned 50. Like a lot of Mustang fans, I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic about that. Today’s Mustang is fantastic, of course, but I can remember so many outstanding Mustangs that came before it. To fully appreciate what the modern Mustang has become, you’ve got to look at the entire body of work.

That’s why I was so excited to come across Mustang: The First 50 Years, a new documentary that’s sold as a two-DVD set. With a running time of two hours and 30 minutes, Mustang really gets into the details of each of the first five Mustang generations, unearthing a bunch of interesting facts in the process. Did you know, for example, that the Mustang was going to be called “Cougar” until right before it began production? At the last minute, the marketing folks decided that a wild horse was a better fit than a killer cat, so they shelved “Cougar” until it reappeared on Mercury’s version of the first-gen Mustang. The documentary is full of neat little anecdotes like that, and even old Mustang guys like me will end up learning a thing or two.

I’ll tell you another thing the film got me thinking about: my favorite Mustangs ever. There’s a number of interviews with both enthusiasts and Ford insiders, and the question “What’s your favorite Mustang?” is a frequent one. The 1965 Shelby GT350 is a popular answer, and I get that — it’s fast, rare and beautiful — but these days I find myself gravitating toward a couple of the later first-gen models. The 1971 Mach 1 has aggressive, over-the-top styling that I love, and you could get it with the 429-cubic-inch Cobra Jet V8, so that’s one of ‘em. The other is the 1969-’70 Boss 429, which has basically the same 7.0-liter V8 and fastback styling that’s right up there with the best you’ll ever see. If I had my druthers (in other words, if I had just a few more coins in my piggy bank), both of those would be in my garage. The film takes you through every meaningful Mustang for the past six decades, including some great vintage driving footage, so you’ll have ample opportunity to reflect on your top picks.2015 Ford Mustang

I should shut up now and let you go enjoy the show, but before I sign off, I want to share one more thing that I really enjoyed. At the end of the second DVD, you’re gonna want to keep watching through the credits, because what’s waiting on the other side is a treasure trove of old Mustang television commercials. It’s really fascinating to see how car ads have evolved over time. I’m guessing a long take of the new 2015 Mustang driving on sand dunes alongside a prancing white stallion wouldn’t really resonate with current shoppers, but it made sense to the Ford team in the ’80s, and that’s just one highlight among many. You really get a sense of how significant it is for one car to be successful for 50 years and counting. Mustang: The First 50 Years made me feel especially proud to be a Mustang fan, and I bet it’ll do the same for you.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve seen the film. I’d love to get a conversation going about some of the history behind this classic car.

Keep Your Racing Edge – Even During Parenthood

Mustang and DadI got two grown kids of my own, and thankfully they’re out of the house. (You can’t count on that these days.) Now that we’re empty-nesters, I can drive whatever I want, and believe me, I do. But back when the kids were around, I had to make some compromises. Being a car guy through and through, it wasn’t the easiest adjustment to make.

I made it, though, and today I want to tell you that story. In a nutshell, what I realized was that you can make family vehicles fun if you try — and you don’t have to get rid of your pride and joy in the garage, either. Here are my tips for keeping that racing edge, even with the young ‘uns around.

  1. Choose Your Family Car Wisely

When it’s time to get a bigger car for family duty, the first thing you gotta do is make sure it’s fun to drive. Trust me, if you end up with some cheesy crossover SUV that hates fun, you’re gonna be mad at the world every time you start it up. So shop around, do your due diligence, and get a family rig that puts a smile on your face. If I were buying right now, my first choice would be the Dodge Durango R/T with its big 5.7-liter V8 and engaging rear-wheel-drive handling. You could go smaller with a Mazda CX-5 or Ford Escape crossovers, both of which have a real sporty feel, or you could even go bigger with the Mazda CX-9. But skip the boring stuff, okay? And for godsakes, don’t get a minivan.

  1. Accessorize

Advance Auto Parts has a whole bunch of accessories for any kind of ride, and that includes family-mobiles. Let me give you a few examples of how you can spice things up. A great place to start is the exhaust — throw a MagnaFlow performance muffler on there and check out the sweet rumble you get when you put your foot down. Any car guy will tell you that a K&N performance air filter gives you a little shot in the arm as far as both horsepower and fuel economy are concerned. Tell you what, just check out AAP’s whole collection of performance parts and see what fits your budget. Remember, the way the car comes from the dealership is just the beginning; you can customize it any way you please and maximize the fun factor, even with family-oriented rides.

  1. Don’t Sell Your Sports Car

Here’s my last bit of advice: if you’ve got an automotive baby in the garage, don’t sell it unless you absolutely need the cash. Because here’s the thing — if your kids grow up around a great sports car or muscle car, that’s how they’re gonna follow in your footsteps and be car enthusiasts themselves. Take your kids out for rides, and show ‘em how to install that air filter or exhaust. As a parent, you get to shape your kids’ interests from the earliest days, and if you ask me, that’s right when they should start spending some quality time with you in the garage.

Your Thoughts

Have you gone down this road as a car enthusiast and a parent? Are you about to start? Tell me some other ways that you think parents can keep their racing edge.

 

Editor’s note: Dad, if you’ve still got racing in your blood, hit up Advance Auto Parts for great deals on racing accessories and more. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Crucial Cars: Chevrolet Silverado

Chevy SilveradoFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this installment, our Mechanic Next Door explores one of the most stylish trucks on the block, the Chevy Silverado

 

Pickup trucks aren’t just for work anymore, and haven’t been for some time. That’s not to say they’re no longer being used for work – because they’re just as popular on the jobsite as ever. In modern pickups, however, drivers can be just as comfortable and stylish rolling up to valet parking wearing a black tie as they can pulling in to the jobsite in a hard hat, safety vest and steel toes.

This delicate balance of work and play, of style versus function, convenience or necessity is clearly evident in one of America’s best-selling trucks – the Chevy Silverado 1500.

First introduced in 1998 for the ’99 model year, the Chevy Silverado was a follow up to Chevy trucks’ successful C/K pickup line and built on GM’s long success with pickup trucks – dating back to its first model in 1930. 1998 wasn’t the Silverado name’s debut, however, as it had made an appearance previously. Chevy used Silverado as a trim line name for both its Suburban and C/K pickup truck models from ’75 through ’99.

The Silverado is now enjoying its third generation, and still building and improving on the success of generations one and two, which ran from 1999 – 2006 and 2007 – 2013, respectively. The 2015 model is hauling some exciting new additions, without losing many of the features responsible for Silverado’s nearly universal appeal.

Bragging rights are always a good place to begin, and the “firsts” or “mosts” that Chevy lays claim to with the new 2015 Silverado include:

• the most fuel-efficient gas V8 pickup truck ever (with the 5.3-liter engine)

• the most powerful engine available in a half-ton pickup

• the first truck to include 4G LTE WiFi connectivity

Power

Because it’s a truck, size matters, and Chevy’s able to make its “most powerful engine” claim thanks to the 6.2-liter V-8 option churning out 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque for a towing capacity of 12,000 pounds. Yeah, that’s six tons. If that’s too beefy for some drivers’ tastes, other available options include a 5.3-liter V-8 producing 355 HP and 383 lb.-ft. of torque or the base engine – a 4.3 liter V-6 with 285 HP and 305 lb.-ft. torque. Paired with these powerplants is a six-speed automatic transmission.

The mid-range 5.3-liter version is the engine that enables Chevy to make the “most fuel-efficient V-8” claim, delivering 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

Style

A big change that catches Chevy Silverado up with its competitors is the addition of the High Country trim line, which is now the top level available on the Silverado and places it in a similar class with other truck manufacturers’ trim lines, including F150’s King Ranch, Ram’s Laramie and GMC Sierra’s Denali (which as most truck aficionados know is a twin to Silverado, at least mechanically.)

Convenience

Pickups, whether they’re four-wheel drive or not, are getting taller, in part due to increased wheel sizes (which, by the way, are available in 17’s, 18’s and 20’s on the new Silverado). Drivers, however, aren’t experiencing a corresponding increase in body height, which makes Chevy’s addition of its CornerStep rear bumper a big convenience factor whether trying to grab something out of the bed or simply fasten a tonneau. And an available spray-in bedliner eliminates the need to secure this work in the aftermarket, protects the bed, and reduces the annoyance factor that comes with things sliding and banging around back there.

Up front, there are three available cab configurations – a regular two-door cab, a double cab featuring four forward-opening doors, and a crew cab. The double cab is available only with the standard six-and-a-half-foot bed (which still makes for a nearly 20-foot long vehicle) while the crew cabs come with either the standard or short (5.8 ft.) box and the regular cab is available with either a long bed at eight feet or the standard box.Chevy Silverado Truck

Safety

In the safety department, Silverado is the first pickup to receive the 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score for Safety – the highest ranking – since NHTSA changed the program requirements in 2011. Helping deliver on that safety promise is a rear-vision camera, forward collision avoidance system, lane departure warning, six airbags, daytime running lights, ABS, and a “safety alert driver’s seat” that vibrates when an alert is generated by Silverado’s crash-avoidance systems.

All of this power, convenience, safety and style come with a price, however, and that price doesn’t look too painful when one considers that Chevy’s MSRP is $26,105 for a base model. Add on some “must-haves” however – including four-wheel drive and that High Country trim package – and tire kickers find themselves staring down a price of more than $54,000 the way that reviewers from Car and Driver did.

Because it’s been around for so long and there are still so many on the road, Silverado parts for repairs are readily available. At the same time, there are almost as many accessories for customizing a Silverado as there are color and option choices available on new ones.

And as a final thought, who can forget the song that has become synonymous with the Silverado, and all Chevy Trucks for that matter? Yes, Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock,” used in Chevy commercials for more than a decade – and guaranteed to be in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for the best in parts, accessories and more. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.