With so many options to choose from, how do you know which brake rotors, pads and/or fluid is best for your vehicle? Step one is to look for guidance in your vehicle’s owner’s manual – and then find more details here.
Function of brake pads
When you push on your car brakes, calipers clamp the brake pads onto the rotors to reduce speed and then stop the vehicle. To do their job effectively, the pads must be able to absorb enough energy and heat. When there is too much wear and or heat, brake pad efficiency is reduced – and so is your stopping power.
Brake pad choices include:
- Ceramic, composed of ceramic materials; sometimes copper fibers
- Semi metallic, composed of steel wool and fibers; sometimes brass or copper
- Organic, composed of glass, rubber and resins
Your brake pads clamp down on the rotors (also called brake discs). The lug nuts hold both the rotors and wheel to the wheel hub. When pressure is applied to the brake rotors, it prevents the wheel from spinning – which means that your brake rotors are as important as the pads when it comes to safety.
You’ll need to make several decisions to choose the best rotors for your vehicle, including:
- Which material is best
- If you want drilled or slotted rotors
- If vented or non-vented rotors are better
- Whether you need a cryogenic treatment for your rotors or not
Most rotors are made from cast iron – more specifically, gray iron – because it disperses heat well, which is important to avoid overheating and brake fade. Meanwhile, racing and other high performance vehicles often use reinforced carbon rotors, similar to those used in airplanes. Carbon rotors need to reach a high temperature before becoming effective so are not good choices for the average car. Other high performance vehicles use ceramic rotors, an innovation first used in British railroad cars. Ceramic rotors are lighter in weight and are stable at high speeds and all temperatures. They are, however, more expensive.
Over time, rotors warp because of heat and usage. If you adjust the warpage through truing, this solves the problem – unless the rotors are too thin, or heat up and warp again. So, your options are to:
- Replace the rotors whenever needed
- Replace the rotors and then have them cryogenically treated
When cryogenically treated, rotors dissipate heat much more effectively and maintain their optimal (non-warped) shape for a longer period of time. This means that they need replaced much less often.
Beware of brake fade
Brake fade (the reduction in stopping power after repeated or sustained usage) occurs most often when you’re carrying a heavy load in your vehicle, traveling down a long steep hill or driving at higher speeds. Brake fade can happen in any vehicle that uses a friction braking system because of a build-up of heat, although drum brakes are more at risk since disc brakes can vent heat away more easily. Brake fade can take place in vehicles with braking systems in overall good condition, although regular maintenance can help to prevent this from happening to you. To avoid bad repercussions from brake fade:
1) When replacing your brakes, choose the highest quality that you can afford.
2) Watch for “green fade,” which happens when the resin applied to brakes by manufacturers begins to evaporate. This can create a period of time (say, the first 100 miles of usage) when you should be extra vigilant about effective braking.
3) When braking, tap your brakes instead of continually applying pressure.
4) Shift into a lower gear when driving downhill, rather than riding your brakes. Shifting to a lower gear tells the engine to maintain a safe speed.
5) Don’t try to go 70-0. Brake gradually over longer distances.
6) If you’ve gone through a period of heavy brake use, keep a longer distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, just in case.
7) Check your brake fluid regularly and change at least annually.
Choosing the best brake fluid
In the United States, there are four designations of brake fluid that meet the minimum Department of Transportation standards: DOT 3, DOT 4, DOT 5 and DOT 5.1. Each contains a mixture of chemicals with specified dry and wet boiling points. When your brake fluid has just been replaced (with a full bleed), this is called the “dry” boiling point temperature. As water finds its way into the system, the “wet” boiling temperature is the benchmark you should use. Here are more details about brake fluid options, but be sure to purchase one that meets the minimum recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.*
Editor’s note: Trust Advance Auto Parts for the best selection and values in brakes. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.
*Note: Silicone Brake Fluid is not compatible with Anti-Lock braking systems, and should be used only if recommended by the manufacturer. Always consult your owner’s manual first. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure warranties are not voided.
Our resident Gearhead tinkers with the highly anticipated new design of the Ford classic.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, is talking about the new 2015 Ford Mustang. On the one hand, I’m kind of wondering what the fuss is all about. You can still get the sweet 5.0-liter V8 with a manual transmission and more than 420 horsepower, so the apocalypse is definitely not upon us. And although the styling’s longer and leaner, with shades of Aston Martin from the rear three-quarter view, there’s still no doubt about what’s filling your rearview mirror when a 2015 Mustang comes up fast.
But on the other hand, enough has changed about the 2015 Mustang to get a lot of longtime fans worried, and understandably so. Folks are concerned that the soul of the car won’t be the same anymore, having run the twin gauntlets of technological progress and emissions regulations. They want to know that the essential stuff has been preserved. In short, they want the beloved Mustang to ride again, with the same untamed spirit as before.
So I thought to myself, why not do a 2015 Mustang Preview piece? After all, I’m the guy who couldn’t stop talking about how amazing the outgoing Mustang was; I even did a special retrospective piece on the 2014 Mustang GT, concluding that it “might just be considered the best Mustang ever when all’s said and done.” If anyone’s gonna look at the new sixth-generation Mustang with a critical eye, it’s crotchety old me. So let’s do it. Let’s go through a few 2015 Mustang headlines and talk about whether the new ‘Stang has got what it takes to make the faithful proud.
Three Letters: IRS
They stand for “Independent Rear Suspension,” and the 2015 Mustang’s got one for the first time in Mustang history. Yeah, I know, the SVT Cobra had one from 1999-2004, but you know what I mean. This is a big deal. For the first time, every Mustang will have a four-wheel independent suspension. If you don’t like it, hey guy, you’re just gonna have to deal.
Me? Believe it or not, I love it. I always believed that SVT Cobra foreshadowed an IRS across the line for the next generation, and in fact, Ford originally intended just that for the 2005-’14 Mustang. Cost concerns crept in, so they kicked the can down the road. But look, the writing’s been on the wall for a couple decades now. A solid rear axle’s great for the holeshot on a drag strip, but it’s a liability everywhere else — and if you don’t think Ford’s gonna have the 2015 Mustang ready to launch like a champ at the strip, you’re crazy. Otherwise, Mustang people like us will chew up the new ‘Stang and spit it out, and Ford knows it. So we’ll have our holeshots, you can bank on it, and we’ll also have the potential for world-class cornering, even when the pavement’s uneven. That’s what you call progress. I say bring it on.
Two Words: Mustang Turbo
There’ll be plenty of armchair heroes who bag on the new Mustang for offering a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine (with around 310 horsepower, by the way, if the rumors are to be believed). Here’s how you deal with this species: ask them for their thoughts on the Mustang SVO. The SVO, see, was offered from 1984-’86 with, you guessed it, a 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo engine. Actually, the 2.3 turbo appeared a few years earlier, but you’ll want to focus on the SVO, because it was legit, with up to 205 horsepower and a zero-to-60-mph sprint of 6.8 seconds that was awesome for the day. Point being, there’s a strong precedent for turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang performance; it’s not like Ford’s jumping the shark here. The engine of choice is obviously still the 5.0-liter V8, but don’t dismiss the turbo four — it’ll put down some solid times, in addition to getting the high EPA fuel economy ratings that Ford needs.
One Ford: A Mustang for the Modern World
The “One Ford” mission is to serve all major global markets with the same great products, and the 2015 Mustang is very much on board. For the first time, the Mustang was designed with European and other international customers in mind. That means the interior’s considerably more refined, with improved materials quality and more sports-car intimacy in the cockpit. It means the exterior’s got those Aston Martin affinities I mentioned earlier, though without sacrificing that essential Mustang character.
To me, this is the best of both worlds. The ‘Stang’s still got attitude, so we Americans should be happy. But now it’s got class, too, which makes it an intriguing option for folks who might otherwise get something like a BMW 3 Series. Detractors will complain that the previous Mustang was more “real” somehow, but I’m going to call them out right now. The truth is, the 2015 Mustang is every bit as real as before; it’s just got a few more manners now, and that’s only going to help Ford’s cause in the global marketplace.
Friends, I can’t think of a car this year that’s going to generate more conversation than the 2015 Mustang. What do y’all think about Ford’s new direction here? For or against?
Editor’s note: Got Mustang projects? Advance Auto Parts can help. We’ll get you back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
I love my wife. I love my kids. But I really love working in my garage. It’s the one place in my house that’s truly mine. Some people go to the office on a Saturday morning for peace and quiet. Some go to nature. I go to my garage.
In the movie Old School, Will Ferrell jokes about having a “big” weekend planned – accompanying his new bride to Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond. In another scene, he’s under the hood of “The Red Dragon” – a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am — removing the restrictor plate, getting his hands dirty, and beaming with pride when his wife remarks how loud it sounds.
Like Mr. Ferrell, given the choice, that’s where I’d rather be — in the driveway or in the garage, under the hood, doing some car maintenance.
Working in my garage is bigger than just me being a home mechanic, fixing something or improving it, even though that’s all it may look like to the casual observer. It’s the sense of satisfaction and well-being I derive through that work, in that place – my garage.
It’s knowing that I helped my neighbor replace the universal joint on his 15-year-old F150 when he got laid off and couldn’t afford to have the work done anywhere else. It’s knowing that my wife’s Town & Country minivan is going to start — even on the coldest mornings — when she turns the key at the crack of dawn and heads off to work. And it’s knowing that this home mechanic can walk into his garage, blindfolded or in the dark, and still put his hands on the tool he needs because everything has a place and is exactly where it should be.
That’s what my garage means to me. That’s why it’s my sanctuary — my very own man cave. I don’t get to spend nearly as much time as I’d like to there, making those few weekend hours I am there doing car maintenance that much more meaningful and important to my mental health.
I don’t spend a lot of time hanging out at my local parts counter. Sure, they’re nice enough and I like to hear about what my fellow home mechanics are working on and trade advice, but instead of sitting on a stool waiting for parts to be delivered or located, I’d rather be back in my garage, getting it done, and feeling good about doing it myself.
That’s one reason I jumped on the online parts ordering bandwagon early on. Ordering online and picking up in-store, or receiving them at my home liberates me from wondering and hoping the parts I want will be in stock and available when I need them. I don’t want to spend what little free time I have on a weekend searching for parts – that’s one aspect of being a home mechanic and tireless DIYer that I don’t like.
That’s also why my garage is well organized. I don’t want to waste time searching for tools when that time could be better spent actually using those tools. The key, I think, is to have a spot for everything, and to label it so you can put it back. Look into wall cabinets, rolling tool cabinets, or tool chests and decide what’s going to work best for you. In addition to being functional, my idea of the ideal garage is also one that looks good. I covered my entire garage floor with these interlocking tiles. Now it’s easier on my feet and knees, looks better, and stays cleaner.
As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. That’s why I’m headed back to the garage, that is, as soon as we get back from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It’s all about balance.
Editor’s note: Planning your weekend projects is easy with Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store, and get back to the garage—fast.
If the growth of LoweredLifestyle.com is any indicator of the growth of the lowered car / stance scene, then lowering cars for looks and performance is a trend that’s here to stay.
Advance Auto Parts first met up with Matt Phillips to talk about the stance scene two years ago. Since then, the Lowered Lifestyle Facebook page has grown in popularity to 100k+ likes with 10k+ people engaging with the page every week.
We reached out to Matt again for an update on the lowered car scene, the outstanding growth of his site and what he sees as the next big trend in lowered cars.
“We owe it all to our fans who’ve embraced the scene and made it what it is today,” says Matt. “There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not super impressed with the creativity of people out there. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone comes along and raises the bar.”
“Two years ago we were seeing a lot of perfect offsets and stretched tires. Most of what people were doing was fitting wider wheels to stock-bodied cars. Now we’re seeing motorsport-inspired over-fender kits from companies like Liberty Walk and Rocket Bunny.”
One of the most popular methods of lowering a car involves replacing the stock suspension with adjustable coilovers. However, a lowered car on coils can sometimes be a burden for daily drivers.
“Air suspension has come a long way,” says Matt. “Three years ago when I installed air on the Volvo, the system was basically set up for a compromise between ride and handling. The new Air Lift system we just installed on our GTI provides the best of both worlds. It’s competent performance suspension that doesn’t sacrifice ride quality.”
Air suspension allows owners to “air out,” which drops the vehicle to near ground level when parked. “The result is perfect fitment every time with instantaneous adjustability.”
When asked about the future of Lowered Lifestyle and the scene in general, Matt says this.
“It’s an exciting time, for sure. There are options for enthusiasts of virtually any make or model and at virtually any budget level. Great builds aren’t just for those with deep pockets.”
Any parting thoughts, Matt?
Editor’s note: If your car is lowered and you love it (or not) let us know in the comments below. And while you’re at it, hit up Advance Auto Parts for the best selection in parts and accessories.
If you’ve had your fill of zany Top Gear antics or the myriad of restoration shows hitting the tube, The Classic Car Show—presented by Sony Pictures Television—may be for you.
The 13-epsiode series will go deep into the exploration of some of the rarest—and most coveted—vehicles on the planet. Hosted by race car driver and model Jodie Kidd and Top Gear veteran Quentin Wilson, the show promises a wide variety of cars, high-end production values and key insights on some of these long-lost relics.
Here’s what the show’s PR has to say:
- A ground-breaking global TV series that provides unprecedented access to the iconic cars, personalities and glamorous events that underpin the classic car world
- Distributed for broadcast globally by Sony Pictures Television
- 13 x one-hour episodes presented by Jodie Kidd and Quentin Willson with a supporting cast of global A-list celebrities
- Tapping into a multi-billion dollar industry that has seen classic car values rise faster than fine art, gold and real estate
- Richly shot in gloss HD, The Classic Car Show will have movie production values, attitude and humour
- The series will be formally launched at MIPCOM in Cannes in October, with the first show airing in January 2015
As fans of classic cars from all eras, we’re excited to check this new show out. For more information, visit The Classic Car Show.
Editor’s note: What are some of your favorite car shows on TV? Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re like me, you probably went crazy a few years ago when you heard the Toyota 86 was about to drop. Known as the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ in the States, the hachi-roku (that’s “8-6″ in Japanese, kids) promised a return to the good old days when you could get a cool rear-drive sport coupe for a reasonable price. Of course, hachiroku itself is a reference to the iconic RWD Corolla coupes from the ’80s. With bloodlines like these, Toyota and Subaru couldn’t miss.
But they did. Hard. Because the modern-day hachiroku just doesn’t have enough muscle. The 2.0-liter boxer four under the hood is rated at 200 horsepower (I’ve seen 165 hp at the wheels) and a measly 151 lb-ft of torque. It makes some sporty noises when you wind it out, but there’s no force behind it. The FR-S and BRZ are not fast cars — and the target demographic loves fast cars.
So what’s a power-hungry FR-S or BRZ owner to do? Slap a turbo on it, brah! Here are two great kits that’ll turn your 86 into a monster right quick.
Turbocharging the Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ
If you’re one of those peeps who want mega aftermarket power, a turbo kit is obviously the way to go. The peak output you get with some of these kits is just explosive. Of course, you’re gonna use more oil, and in general you should be even more vigilant than usual about maintenance with a modified car. But a lot of folks have been running turbo setups on 86s for thousands of miles with no issues. It’s a robust foundation for your build. As a point of entry, check these two kits out.
FA20Club Stage 1 ($3,499)
FA20Club is one of the big names you see on the hachiroku boards, and for good reason: they pack a lot of value into their kits. This one here is their entry-level setup, which they say is “capable of up to 280whp without fuel mods.” That’s a cool 115-hp gain over stock power at the wheels, and if you think about the power-to-weight ratio that gives you, we’re talking Porsche Cayman territory. Not bad for a few grand.
Dynosty Turbo Build ($17,914)
Ready to roll up your sleeves? Let’s get serious and quintuple the price of the FA20Club kit with this well-regarded Dynosty setup. If you’re up for it, an easy 400+ whp can be yours, and that puts your hachiroku in rarefied territory indeed. See, these cars in stock form weigh in at about 2,800 pounds, maybe a little less. Now consider the new C7 Corvette, making 460 hp for 3,300 pounds. If you do the math, the 86 actually has a better power-to-weight ratio than the Vette. Maybe spending $45 grand or so on a Japanese sport coupe isn’t so silly after all.
Let’s Hit The Street
Are you sold on turbocharging as the answer? Anyone want to speak up for superchargers? Let me know in the comments you guys.
Editor’s note: Count on Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of performance parts and accessories. Get back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
My brother-in-law almost killed himself a short while back. How he escaped serious injury I don’t know, but he’s lucky he did. He’s a big-time turkey hunter and was getting his gear ready in preparation for being in the woods before dawn the next morning, for the first day of spring gobbler season. His final task was loading his ATV (you might call it a quad) into the bed of his pickup.
As he drove up the two short loading ramps he had made, his son called out to him. Thinking that the ATV ramps weren’t aligned or something was wrong, he hit the brakes, and then the throttle and the ATV flipped over backwards on him and they both landed on the ground. Luckily he was okay. He said it happened so fast, he still isn’t exactly sure what he did…and he still seems to be seeing stars.
I see lots of people around here hauling lawn tractors and ATVs in their pickup beds, particularly during deer and turkey seasons. I’ve even hauled my own a time or two, but am fortunate to have a trailer that’s low to the ground – and a set of loading ramps.
Given his accident, and how many other similar accidents happen – many of which have “bad idea” written all over them – I got to thinking about the safest way to load an ATV or tractor into a pickup bed, and learned a few things in the process. Here’s my unofficial list of how to “do it right” and avoid potential death, injury, property damage, or humiliation. If you have some tips or pointers, I’d love to hear those too.
1. Get ATV ramps – they are designed specifically for this purpose, unlike the scraps of lumber and cinderblocks lying around your garage. They make these aluminum ramps for a reason – safety. They’ll also make your loading and unloading a lot easier and less scary.
2. Make sure the loading ramps are securely fastened to the loading platform. Many of the accidents I’ve seen occur as the ATV nears the top of the ramps. The torque from the rear drive tire grabs the unsecured ramp and kicks it out, leaving only three wheels on the surface. You know what happens next.
3. Get aluminum ramps or a ramp kit with ramps using dimensional lumber that are long enough to reduce the angle of ascent or descent. ATV ramps that are too short, coupled with today’s truck beds that are higher off the ground, are a recipe for disaster because the incline you’re driving up or down is too steep, increasing the likelihood of a flip over. Consider ramp extensions instead. Also look for a spot from which to load that naturally reduces the angle because of the terrain – i.e. parking the truck in a dip and using the adjacent sloping terrain on which to place the ramps
4. Avoid sudden starts or stops, particularly midway through the loading or unloading process. The sudden weight transfer can cause the ATV to flip over.
5. Wear your helmet.
6. Know the weight of what you’re loading. This is important because wood or aluminum ramps are designed to safely hold only a certain amount of weight. Same goes for your truck’s tailgate.
Once your ATV or tractor is safely tucked in the truck bed, secure it well, to avoid watching it bounce away down the road in your rearview mirror. And, make sure it’s not pressing against the truck cab’s back window in case you stop short.
Finally, if you’re serious about hauling your ATV – and boat – and still having room left in the bed to store your gear, then check this loading system out. I didn’t even know it existed but think it’s a great idea.
Editor’s note: From ATV loading ramps to parts that keep your quad running right, Advance Auto Parts has what your ATV needs. Buy online, pick up in store.
First, check your owner’s manual to answer these questions:
- Is your vehicle designed to tow?
- If so, what is the maximum amount that you can safely tow?
If the answer to the first question is “yes,” then here is our overall recommendation:
- If your vehicle’s owner’s manual provides recommendations for severe-duty use, towing qualifies – and you should follow these guidelines carefully.
- This will include checking vehicle components and replacing them more often than is typical.
- Do not exceed maximum towing limits. When exceeded, it’s more likely that you’ll damage your vehicle and/or get into an accident.
If you plan to modify your towing vehicle to give it extra power or additional safety features, check your warranty. Will making these modifications void any warranties? If you’re purchasing a new vehicle to tow, ask the dealership about any towing or camping options that will be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
Also note that, even if you increase your engine’s power, this does not increase the maximum amount that can be safely towed by a particular vehicle.
Here are ten specific items to check each time you’re getting ready to tow (note: these are not being presented as the ONLY items that you should check, only some of the most important):
Test your brakes thoroughly before each trip. When towing, you need more stopping distance and so having brakes that are even slightly worn could be a hazard. When you’re towing, don’t ride the brakes; if you do, then you might overheat them and/or jackknife your vehicle. When driving downhill, drive at a reduced speed, using your brakes as necessary.
If you’re towing a trailer, some come with their own braking systems that need to be connected to your vehicle. Although it takes added skill to coordinate the braking systems, this system means less stress on the towing vehicle’s brakes.
Need help with any repairs? Find:
#2: Cooling system
Proactively prevent a meltdown. Your vehicle will get heated up by pulling an extra load so your cooling system needs to work optimally to safely tow. So, add the following to your checklist, replacing worn parts:
- Radiator, including hoses and fluids
- Water pump
- Thermostat and housing
- Cooling fan and its switch
#3: Hitching devices
Check the hitch ball regularly to make sure that it hasn’t loosened and is still firmly attached to the draw bar. Make sure that the coupler and hitch ball fit together snugly, and ensure that any tow bar used is parallel to the ground when the towed vehicle is attached.
Each piece of towing gear comes with towing capacity limits. Double check that the equipment you have is suitable for what you plan to tow.
Find the towing parts you need here.
#4: Safety chains
If your trailer becomes unhitched when you’re towing, the only thing keeping the two vehicles together will be your second line of defense: your safety chains, which are required.
Make sure that the chains you use are sufficient for whatever you’re towing. Light-duty trucks often use 5/16-inch thick chains, while medium-duty trucks often use half-inch thick chains, with heavy-duty trucks using 5/8-inch thick chains. When choosing what thickness to use, make sure that they will help keep the trailer from drifting, while still allowing it to turn easily with your towing vehicle.
Find an assortment of safety chains here.
#5: Springs and shock absorbers
Consider adding heavy-duty springs and the best shock absorbers you can buy and make sure that they are in good shape before each tow. Lighter-duty shocks can cause the towing vehicle to sag in the back while heavy-duty versions will help to keep your vehicle stable and level while towing. As a side bonus, they’ll also make the ride more comfortable.
Be sure to also check your hub bearings when doing your suspension check. While small in size, they can cause major problems when not optimal. If one falls off, the wheel can flip flop around, damaging the brakes and potentially even causing the wheel to become disconnected from your vehicle.
Tires with the correct load rating and proper inflation are important. A common mistake that people make is to check the tires on the truck that will be doing the towing – but not the tires on, say, a camper or trailer that is being towed. Do you have a spare tire for both your truck and for whatever you’re towing?
Blowouts are doubly dangerous when they occur during towing. If this happens, stay calm and get off the road as quickly as is safely possible. Here are tips for quick tire repairs to get you to the shop. Also find tire gauges, cleaners and more.
Perhaps your truck came prewired for trailer towing from the factory or maybe your preinstalled hitch already contains the necessary connector. Whether one of these is true or whether you needed to do your own trailer wiring, you need to make sure that nothing has short circuited before you tow.
And, even if you’ve just bought a new truck, one prewired for towing, you will still need to double check that the wiring is adequate enough to run both your truck lights and the trailer lights. You can’t always count on that to be true.
Find trailer adapters here.
Visibility can be a challenge when you’re towing something behind you. You can’t see the other vehicles as well, and they may not see your truck as well, either. Lights, including brake lights and turn signals, are even more crucial in these circumstances, so make sure that all are in good working order.
Consider using extended towing mirrors for increased visibility. You can choose replacement mirrors or wide-angle clip-on mirrors, so test options out to see what works best. Extended mirrors are especially valuable when towing a wide vehicle.
Note: because you’re carrying a heavier load, it will take longer to accelerate so be very aware of that if planning to pass another vehicle.
Here are options for your towing mirrors.
Check and replace fluids more often, including oil. The added weight inherent in towing adds stress to the towing vehicle, causing it to run hotter than normal.
Choose products carefully. Synthetic oil, although more expensive, has no carbon – and therefore can’t leave carbon deposits on your pistons or in the combustion chamber as regular motor oil can. It also makes sense to use synthetic transmission fluid.
Also check and change filters often for optimal performance.
Bonus towing information: The most important element in safe towing is you, the driver, so make sure that you:
- Get enough rest before starting to tow
- Feel confident backing up while the object being towed is attached; practice before starting on the road
- Take breaks when necessary to rest if going for a long haul
- Take turns more slowly when towing
- Leave enough safe distance for braking
- Have a fully stocked emergency kit with you at all times
- Have the right hand tools, specialty tools and work gloves that you need for unexpected repairs
Editor’s note: What tips would you add to our list? Leave a comment below! And as you plan your next trip or towing project, check out Advance Auto Parts for all the best in gear and supplies. Get back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
Today, the winner is clear: Henry Ford in Detroit, Michigan. But, in the early days of automobile manufacturing, the answer wasn’t so obvious – and, in fact, Alexander Winton and Cleveland, Ohio as the Motor City had the early edge.
A step back in time
In March 1897, Scottish immigrant Alexander Winton incorporated Winton Motor Car Company in Cleveland. In May 1897, Winton’s vehicle surged to new heights as it traveled 33.64 miles per hour around a Cleveland horse track. Even after this dazzling demonstration of power, though, people still doubted the durability of the automobile and Winton needed to find a way to convince them.
Reliability Run #1
A showman at heart, Winton decided to tackle a significant challenge to draw attention to his vehicle. On July 28, 1897, Winton and an employee left Cleveland for New York City, traveling 700 miles to prove the reliability of his vehicle. He arrived safely on August 7, after 78 hours and 43 hours of driving time. He didn’t get as much attention as he’d wanted, which was disappointing, but he stayed focused and created four more custom-built motor cars.
On March 24, 1898, he sold one of his vehicles – which might not sound like a big deal, except it was the first “American-made standard-model gasoline automobile” ever sold. He sold it to Robert Allison of Port Carbon, Pennsylvania for the astonishing sum of $1,000 (nearly $28,000 today) after Allison saw a Winton ad in Scientific American. That year, more than 100 Wintons were sold, making his company the largest manufacturer of gas-powered automobiles in the nation.
Reliability Run #2
On May 22, 1899, Winton began a five-day trip to New York, this time with a journalist who’d worked for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland before fighting in the Spanish American War, a man named Charles Shanks. A newspaper article predicted that “the automobile will doubtless become the most convenient mode of transport during the 20th century. The Plain Dealer is endeavoring to demonstrate the entire feasibility of this mode of locomotion.”
This trip generated the publicity Winton craved and boosted sales, with Winton selling 21 more vehicles during the rest of 1899. As for Shanks, he coined the term “automobile” on this journey, which is his lasting legacy.
Re-enactment: the 1997 Winton Centennial
In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine what a big adventure these Cleveland-to-New-York trips really were. But, to get somewhat of a sense, Advance Auto Parts talked to journalist Chris Jensen who, in 1997, participated in a re-enactment of the trip. At the time, Chris wrote for the Plain Dealer, the newspaper that sponsored the second reliability run in 1899. He recorded his 1997 adventures in that newspaper as he traveled to New York in an 1899 Winton.
Only three known 1899 Wintons exist today and Chris rode in one now belonging to the Frederick C. Crawford Auto Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland. The trip was reported in a series of articles in the Plain Dealer. He was the passenger in a vehicle driven by Charles “Charlie” F. Wake, one of Winton’s great-grandsons.
In the re-enactment, 13 other Wintons traveled alongside Chris’s vehicle, the newest being the 1922 model. “This showed how quickly automobiles evolved,” he says, “from the little putt-putt that we were in to Wintons that looked like real cars.”
The wheelbase of the 1899 Winton was only 69 inches, with an overall length of 104 inches. “That makes a Toyota Tercel,” Chris pointed out in an article, “with a 94-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 162 inches seem like a stretch limo.”
The vehicle boasted 8 horsepower and had a one-cylinder, 117-cubic-inch engine that was “banging away and it sounds like the world’s loudest smoker’s cough.”
During the trip, Chris and Charlie were perched up high on the tiny two-seater, on a tufted bench-like seat. Because the top of the vehicle didn’t offer any real protection, the men didn’t use it. “So, there was nothing between me and anything else, including the road,” Chris recalls. “When it rained, I got really, really wet.”
But, there was an upside. “Because we were going at a low speed,” Chris shares with Advance Auto parts, “at 15 to 20 miles per hour, I got to look closely at what was around me instead of zooming past. I got a new appreciation for the hills and how long it took to go both up and down.”
“Going downhill,” he adds, “was pretty interesting because there were basically no brakes. People have asked me, ‘If you were only going 15 miles per hour, what could go wrong?’ and the reality is that, with no real brakes and no seat belts, there is a lot that could go wrong. Picture yourself flying through the air at 15 to 20 miles per hour and crashing into a telephone pole.”
Fortunately, no such accidents happened during the re-enactment. “But,” Chris points out, “we traveled on good roads. Try to imagine people traveling along in mud and rocks and facing other challenges. Plus, the maps weren’t great and it wasn’t always clear, in the 1890s, where you were going. And, if they broke down, who was there to help with repairs?”
Any time the vehicle needed re-started, it needed cranked. “It took a fair amount of effort,” Chris says. “And, as you were driving, you needed to keep pouring oil into it, to keep the car moving along. The oil would drop out onto the ground as you went.” Where the oil was supposed to go: into three troughs that had tubes designed to drip the oil into the transmission, the engine and the differential. The steering happened via a tiller attached to the front wheels, a somewhat scary set-up. As for turning signals, brake lights and headlights, they didn’t exist.
Putting all into perspective
In spite of all of the modern devices that either didn’t yet exist or were sub-standard in the century vehicles from the 1890s and early 20th century, the Winton was the premiere choice of its day, the most powerful, the most technically advanced. Alexander Winton was king of the mountain, with Henry Ford someone whom Winton declined to hire in 1899 when given the chance.
In 1901, when several members of the wealthy Vanderbilt family chose to buy automobiles, they selected Winton vehicles. Winton, flush with his success, built a factory on the west side of Cleveland, at a time when most people building automobiles did so in their personal barns or garages.
Winton began competing in races, with his vehicles usually winning. In 1903, when Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson made the first-ever cross-country drive, he did so in a Winton. When Alice Ramsey became the first woman to drive cross country, she also chose a Winton.
A change is in the air
Although Wintons received praise, one early customer reportedly wasn’t impressed. When James Ward Packard complained about his new vehicle, Winton allegedly challenged him to do better, the result ultimately becoming the Packard automobile company.
Then there was the race of October 10, 1901.
Winton entered this race as the man to beat – with the automobile to beat. It’s unlikely that he worried too much about one of his competitors: Henry Ford. For the most part, Ford was known as the man who’d founded the floundering Detroit Automobile Company on August 5, 1899 – a company that failed on November 20, 1901 after building just 12 vehicles.
However, Winton’s automobile experienced mechanical difficulties at the 8-mile mark of this 10-mile race and Ford passed him up to win. After Ford’s win, people began ponying up for his next venture, the Henry Ford Company (founded on November 3, 1901, apparently in anticipation of the Detroit Automobile Company closing).
The next year, Winton was determined to beat Ford in a race. After all, the 1902 Winton Bullet reached speeds of 70 miles per hour, the unofficial land record. And, yet, Ford’s driver Barney Oldfield won the race – while Ford suffered another loss with the collapse of the Henry Ford Company on August 22, 1902. With funds in part raised from Oldfield’s win, Ford decided to finance a third automobile company: the Ford Motor Company.
Although Winton continued to build vehicles until 1924, his business slowly declined while Ford revolutionized manufacturing:
- In 1908, Ford came out with the affordable “Model T” or “Tin Lizzy” that made automobile buying possible for the middle class
- In the fall of 1913, Ford began operation of the world’s first moving assembly line for automobiles
- On January 5, 1914, Ford began paying his workers $5 per day, more than double the previous rate – and more than double what any other automobile company was paying. Job seekers flocked to become part of Ford Motor Company.
Derek E. Moore, the curator of transportation history at the Western Reserve Historical Society, points out that “Cleveland companies continued to manufacture higher quality automobiles, but they were higher priced and, so, a limited market. Therefore, fewer people bought from Cleveland than Detroit.”
As a point of comparison, in 1924:
- 2 million Fords were manufactured, with prices ranging from $295 ($4,041 in today’s dollars) to $685 ($9,384 in today’s dollars)
- Winton’s least expensive model cost $2,295 (comparable to $31,438); this is the last year of Winton’s automobile production and we know that, in 1922, he made only 690 vehicles
Interestingly enough, Derek says that Ford built his first assembly plant for the Model T, outside of Detroit, in Cleveland where the Cleveland Institute of Art is currently housed. “Ford would ship components to Cleveland, knowing that it was easier and cheaper to ship parts than fully built automobiles, and then the vehicles could be sold in the Cleveland area.”
You already know the rest of the story. Although Cleveland continued to play a significant role in automobile manufacturing and assembly, the title of Motor City ultimately went to Detroit, with its king named Henry Ford.