Diagnostic Tips When Air Conditioning Isn’t Working

Cool inviting blue waterWhen summertime hits, repairs to your car’s A/C system get moved up the to-do list – fast. Here are some tips to guide you through the diagnostic process, along with information about when to replace the A/C compressor or recharge the A/C system.

Not sure why your air conditioning isn’t working? Try this test first to see if the clutch is engaging the A/C compressor:

• Turn on your A/C and fans to the max setting.
• Is the clutch engaging?

If not, use a voltmeter to see if the compressor is receiving voltage.

• If there is voltage, the clutch may be bad. Replacement of the clutch and/or compressor may be necessary.
• If there is no voltage, there may not be sufficient refrigerant in the system to engage the low pressure cut off switch that cycles the compressor.

If it seems likely that there isn’t enough refrigerant in the system, the typical culprit is a leak. Next steps include:

• Use a manifold gauge to check the high and low side pressures in the system.

Are they set within the recommended ranges provided in your owner’s/repair manual?

• Check the following for a tight and secure fit:

o   Front seal of compressor

o   All system fittings

o   Hose manifolds on compressor

o   All system hose crimps

o   Schrader valves

o   O-rings found on compressor pressure switches

• Use a UV A/C leak detector kit to find leaks, including in the condenser and evaporator.

Man looking at a smoking engine in his carImportant note

If you need to replace your A/C compressor, you will also need to replace your:

• Accumulator and/or dryer
• Expansion device

You will also want to conduct a full flush of the system for optimal performance. Some vehicles also require a replacement of the condenser to eliminate all debris from the A/C system.

Car air conditioning recharging

The EPA provides detailed information about the process and regulations. You can read them in full or use the summary we’ve provided below.

When recharging, there are two main options:

1)   Top off with refrigerant

2)   Empty/evacuate the system and recharge/refill the system

Although each can be effective, they are both temporary fixes if any A/C leaks still exist. And, if you have an older vehicle, what’s leaking is CFC-12 (Freon), an expensive refrigerant that is no longer manufactured in the United States because of concerns about the ozone layer. The cost of replacing CFC-12 will make it more economical, in most cases, to fix any leaks first.

Top-off versus evacuation and recharge

A top-off is cheaper, faster and simpler. However, any impurities in the refrigerant remain unless you choose the recharge process, which involves:

  • Removing any remaining refrigerant
  • Purifying the refrigerant using recycling equipment, recharging it into the vehicle and then topping if off, as necessary

Plus, the recharging allows you to be more precise. When topping off refrigerant, you can determine the optimal amount (say, 2.2 pounds) by looking in your owner’s manual. However, there is no precise way to know how much refrigerant is currently in a vehicle, making topping off an estimate at best. If the A/C system is accidentally overcharged, newer cars usually have a feature that causes the system to shut down in hot weather. With a recharge, you can be precise.

toolsTo find a leak

If only a small amount of refrigerant appears to be left, you will need to add up to a few ounces. If the refrigerant has less pressure than 50 pounds per square inch, the EPA says more refrigerant is needed.  (Note that at least 1 to 1.5 pounds of refrigerant is needed to test cooling capabilities.) The EPA recommends the use of an electronic leak detector that is Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J1627 certified.

It is possible to have pinpoint-sized leaks that are very difficult to find, even with the best equipment. These tiny leaks cause slow leakage but the A/C system may seem to lose its cooling capabilities virtually all at once. If so, it’s likely that your vehicle has a system that shuts off once refrigerant drops below a certain level.

The EPA does not require that refrigerant be removed and cleaned before car air conditioning recharging takes place. To get more information, call 800-296-1996. The EPA also does not require that leak repairs be done before refrigerant is added, although states and/or localities can require this.

State-level agencies

Here are listings of state-level environmental agencies in alphabetical order. You can search the appropriate agency to find information for your state and/or contact them to ask them a specific question.

Another useful tool is the Gateway to State Resource Locators, where you can narrow your questions down by broad type and then enter your zip code and further filter down the type of information you need.

Streamlined option

If you decide to just add refrigerant, A/C Pro is a solution to consider. With this product, you simply locate the low-pressure connection point and use the A/C Pro gauge to measure the system’s pressure. If low, you can refill by pulling the trigger on the product’s nozzle and monitor pressure via their pressure gauge device, making sure that you don’t overfill. Convenient features include the reusable trigger and the extra-long (24-inch) hose. The product also contains a sealant that helps stop leaks on hoses, gaskets and o-rings.

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of A/C parts and more. Get back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in just 30 minutes!

Spotlight – The Exotic Car Show 2014

We recount one of the year’s most colorful car shows.

For three days each April, the picturesque town of Celebration, Florida (a master-planned community developed by Disney in 1994) is taken over by melodious exhaust notes produced by some of the finest and most expensive exotic cars sold today.

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski.

This exotic car show begins with two track days at Daytona International Speedway, where owners can drive their exotic cars around the 31 degree banks of the world famous Tri-Oval. Several race-prepped cars were on display at the show, which was a treat to see, and hear.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Celebration resident Allen Wong brought his amazing Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 out for the day, which is always a treat for locals and visitors alike.

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski.

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski.

Allen’s wasn’t the only 0-60-in-less-than-3-seconds Aventador in attendance. We counted three total with one of the two Verde Fannus/Ithaca (Lamborghini’s way of saying green) Aventadors spitting flames and splitting eardrums down Celebration’s otherwise quiet Front St.

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski.

Photo credit: Taylor Shenuski.

Movie cars and more

One of the ways that Celebration Exotic Car Festival sets itself apart from similar exotic car shows is via the inclusion of rare and one-of-a-kind movie cars.

Participants this year included the Lamborghini Countach from The Cannonball Run, the Lamborghini Diablo from Dumb and Dumber (both Lambos are owned by event organizer Jeff Ippoliti), a Back to the Future DeLorean and, new this year, a shredder drone from the Battleship.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Members of the Rebel Alliance were also in attendance, presumably reviewing plans for Project: Orange Harvest, the code name for the Star Wars-themed land coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

As you can see, they didn’t show up empty handed. Luke’s Landspeeder easily qualifies as exotic!

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Making a difference with Make-a-Wish

The Celebration Exotic Car show is organized by brothers Jeff and Jim Ippoliti and is run by volunteers with 100% of net proceeds benefiting children’s charities.

Since 2004, the Celebration Exotic Car Festival has donated over $1,000,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Special Olympics, Champions for Children, Give Kids the World, Forty Carrots Family Center and the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital.

The festival also contributes to Parkinson’s research via contributions made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

What are your favorite exotic or movie cars? Let us know in the comments below.

Editor’s note: Even if your ride is not as pretty as some of the exotic beauties here, you’ll still find all the best in parts, tools and accessories at Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.

Does Dad like cars? Don’t let him miss this road trip!

Ford Model TGrab Dad and head out to Motor Muster this weekend for Father’s Day!

With winter in the rearview, it’s time to get behind the wheel and just drive! So, put June 14-15 on your calendar and “Dearborn, Michigan” in your GPS, and head for the Motor Muster event at Greenfield Village:

“Gearheads, diehard car lovers, auto geeks—this is your weekend at Greenfield Village.

Make your way to a vintage auto enthusiast’s dream destination: From glamorous classics of the 1930s to brawny muscle cars of the 1970s, Greenfield Village hosts more than 500 gleaming examples.

Motor Muster celebrates one of the grandest and most innovative eras of American automotive history—1933-1976. For the entire weekend, the streets and lawns of Greenfield Village will be filled with hundreds of classic cars, vintage trucks, motorcycles, military vehicles, bicycles—even a fire engine or two. They’ll all be here, from brawny muscle cars to the straight-out-of-the-showroom cars you and your parents grew up with. Stroll the grounds and meet the owners who lavish attention on these wonders of rolling history. There’s the Saturday night cruise, too, and a live early 1960s dance show with dancing in the streets ’til 9pm. A one-of-a-kind event for cars and the people who love them.”

Don’t leave Greenfield Village without visiting Thomas Edison’s laboratory or the bicycle shop where the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Both of these buildings were taken apart and brought to Greenfield Village where they were reconstructed.

While you’re there

Adjacent to Greenfield Village is the Henry Ford Museum, which is the home of Driving America: the World’s Premier Automotive Exhibition. Historic vehicles in this exhibition range from Henry Ford’s first vehicle (the 1896 Quadricycle) to the limousine that President John F. Kennedy rode when he was assassinated. The museum contains touchscreens throughout so you can discover more about the vehicles, a smart card so you can “compile and transfer your own digital collection for online viewing later” and a test that determines the best car for your personality.The Henry Ford

From May 17-August 17, you can see a special exhibit on loan from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, titled “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power.” The Henry Ford Museum is also planning a $15 million exhibit, called Racing in America, and you can discover more about this grassroots effort. The museum is also the departure point for the Ford Rouge Factory tour, a 1917 factory that at one time employed 100,000 workers.

Located next door to the Henry Ford Museum is the Automotive Hall of Fame, where people who have contributed to the industry are honored. You’ll also see a 65-long mural of historic auto-related people and moments, a full-sized replica of the first gasoline-powered car and more.

Drive a dozen more miles

And you’ll find yourself in Detroit, at the original Ford assembly plant, now known as the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant National Historic Landmark. You can tour this 1904 factory where Henry Ford designed the Model T and built the first 12,000 of the Tin Lizzies before the advent of Ford’s moving assembly line. You can see early Ford vehicles, as well.

Greenfield VillageWhen this plant first opened, it took workers 12 hours to build one car, which sold for $850. By the time this plant closed (replaced by the much larger and more well-known Highland Park Model T plant, where 12 million Tin Lizzies were built), assembly time plunged to 12 minutes and, the cost, to $260. Work days dropped at Ford from ten hours to eight hours and wages skyrocketed from 30 cents an hour to $5 a day.

If you find yourself on I-94 while in Detroit, near the Metro Airport, you’ll probably notice the Uniroyal Giant Tire that was originally created as a Ferris wheel attraction for the World Fair, held in New York in 1964 and 1965. Ninety-six people could fit into the wheel at the fair and it needed a 100-horsepower motor to operate. Altogether, more than one million people rode in this tire before it became a stationary landmark. In 1994, neon lighting was added to the tire, along with a new hubcap. In 2003, Uniroyal invested an incredible $1 million to renovate its well-known landmark.

What would you recommend for a Dearborn/Detroit road trip? Leave your recommendations in the comments below.

Editor’s note: Dad, if you’re reading this, it’s time to drop some serious hints! Advance Auto Parts can help with great deals on premium parts, tools, accessories and more. Buy online, pick up in store–in 30 minutes!

People and Their Cars video

Car videoHere at the DIY Garage, we revel in finding and sharing cool car content. Check out this informative video that showcases some telling stats on America’s enduring love for its automobiles.

 

Check it out:

 

According to CJ Pony Parts, who created the video:

The average American driver spends 600 hours per year behind the wheel. That’s a significant chunk of our lives – in total, we’ll spend 5 years driving in our lifetimes – and it has caused many of us to grow emotionally attached to these vehicles. Cars do more than just get us from point A to point B; they get us there safely, sometimes in style, and we get to know all of their little quirks and features.

Because of this, a quarter of us name our cars, and even if we don’t actually attach a name to the vehicle we drive, 40% of us attach a personality to it. We even assign our cars a gender – 32% of the cars on the road are “female,” while 16% are “male.”

Maybe this affection towards the vehicles we drive explains why we spend so much money on them. We spend, on average, 14.5% of our income on car parts and service, and that doesn’t include the $1560 we spend per year on fuel. Still, for a means of transportation that will take us 798,000 miles over the course of a lifetime.

DVD review: car racing documentary Weekend of a Champion

Car FilmThe lost Roman Polanski classic finds a whole new audience.

It’s tempting to give Roman Polanski all the credit for the utterly engrossing release of Weekend of a Champion, a new re-cut version of his 1972 film chronicling Formula One legend Jackie Stewart’s victory at the 1971 Monaco Grand Prix. But there’s more at work here than just a great director’s hand.

The dark, grainy picture quality — par for the course at the time — imbues every scene with the gravity of nostalgia, even when Stewart is simply explaining the art of high-speed cornering over breakfast in his hotel room, clad only in a pair of briefs. That’s an advantage Polanski’s film didn’t have when it debuted at the 1972 Berlin Film Festival. Incidentally, it’s also why we are all kicking ourselves for not having thought of Instagram.

Still, there are undoubtedly strokes of artistic genius in this Weekend of a Champion, out this week on DVD with its touching new epilogue in which the now-seventysomething director and subject, friends for most of their lives, offer their reflections.

One is the way in which Polanski, a motorsports enthusiast who lacks expert knowledge, inserts himself into the narrative. As Stewart talks about car control while clad only in his underwear, it’s Polanski himself who’s across the breakfast table, standing in for the audience as a sponge for Stewart’s vast insight. Earlier, the two men park themselves at a curbside location on the iconic Monaco circuit, watching other racers take practice laps while Stewart informs a rapt Polanski what they should be doing, and where they’re coming up short.

Polanski is the perfect foil for his chatty and endearingly at-ease friend, at once naive about the finer points of racing and immensely wise about what it takes to tell a good story. Had he shot the film as a traditional documentary, remaining behind the camera at all times, it would have been a considerably less engaging affair.

Another Polanski signature is his artist’s eye for detail. For instance, as Stewart sits in his car in pit lane, preparing to go out for a practice lap, the camera lingers on the driver’s feet while he works the three pedals like a surgeon with his tools — clutch in, clutch out, now right toe on the brake, heel on the gas, left foot clutching simultaneously. This is a technique known as “heel-and-toe downshifting,” and it’s a lost art today now that automatic transmissions rule the Formula One roost. But in the moment, Polanski knew enough to know that this little dress-rehearsal highlighted a crucial element of championship racing. Without it, one loses precious time in each corner; it was one of many highly refined skills that a racecar driver in 1971 had to master in order to stand a chance.Car Film 2

Most filmmakers would have focused on Stewart himself, or perhaps his pit crew as they prepared the car, but Polanski knew there was more taking place in front of him that mattered. And he found it. Beyond its instant credibility as the work of a legendary director, Weekend of a Champion makes for surprisingly modern entertainment. With its hand-held camerawork and ad hoc exchanges, the film comes across as a precursor of sorts to reality TV. But unlike that fundamentally contrived medium, Champion provides a fascinating window into a long-lost era of relative authenticity, one in which world-class athletes weren’t yet separated from us by layers of management and years of coddling.

Jackie Stewart was doubtless a global superstar, but in Polanski’s portrayal, at least, he is also eminently likeable and down-to-earth, a humble Scottish chap with the wry perspective of someone who knows how blessed he is to be here. We, too, are blessed for being exposed to this work more than 40 years after the fact.

The early ’70s may have been “very trendy,” as the two men agree in the epilogue, but here they also serve as an interesting counterpoint to the cynicism that dominates our age. There’s something to be said for approaching the world with a sense of wonderment and possibility; with Polanski and Stewart as messengers, one can’t help but watch and listen closely.

Weekend of a Champion is available on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of MPI Media.

Check out a clip:

It’s coming…Google’s driverless car

Google driverless car

Photo credit: John Green

If you’re a Sci-fi fan, the concept of the driverless car is nothing new. But, seeing it actually happen in real-time is a completely different thing.

It turns out that Google’s driverless vehicles have now logged close to 700,000 miles in autonomous driving. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and has probably saved the company at least a few thousand dollars in coffee and caffeine pills alone. But there are many other potential benefits to be had.

Mercury News reporter Gary Richards had this to say about his recent test drive:

“Google’s grand experiment picked me up at home in West San Jose and ferried me to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Later other cars took me and numerous other media types on a 25-minute tour of city streets.

There were two Google workers along for each trip, but for the most part, there were no hands on the steering wheel.

Got that? No hands. The car made a few abrupt moves into left-turn lanes. And once it shuddered at another turn when a nearby bus seemed to confuse the onboard computers.”

Safety is a primary concern and selling point of the vehicles. “We actually haven’t had any at-fault accidents while the car is in self-driving mode,” said Google spokeswoman Katelin Jabbari. “The only at-fault accident was caused while a driver was in control.”

To tackle that, Google has packed these vehicles with $150K in specialized equipment, which includes a radar system with a price tag of $70K alone. All these gadgets enable the car to generate a 3-D map of its surroundings and can detect other vehicles, pedestrians and other things that lay in its path.

Per that, we still don’t know how much these cars are going to cost, but one can imagine. Stay tuned for more on that aspect.

For now, check out Gary Richards’ full review.

 

 

The Cost of Car Ownership Declines, says AAA

Car ownershipIt’s music to our ears over here at Advance HQ.

But is it true that owning and operating your car has gotten cheaper? So says a new AAA study.

 AAA released the results of its annual Your Driving Costs study today, revealing a 2.7 percent decrease in the cost to own and operate a sedan in the U.S. The average cost fell 1.64 cents to 59.2 cents per mile, or $8,876 per year, based upon 15,000 miles of annual driving.

“Despite increases in maintenance and registration fees, American motorists are experiencing an overall decrease in the cost to own and operate a vehicle,” said John Nielsen, AAA Managing Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “A large decrease in fuel costs, [plus] lower tire, insurance and depreciation expenses are saving owners more than one and a half cents on every mile they drive.”

Here at AAP HQ, we wondered about the fuel costs part of it…do they really seem lower? It turns out that while gas prices haven’t actually tanked, overall they are less than they were in last year’s study, says AAA. Per that, we’ll take what we can get.

The study covers aspects such as fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance and more. You can read more about the study and download the 2014 Your Driving Costs brochure, courtesy of AAA.

And, don’t miss out on great tips for saving gas that you can easily put in place before hitting the road this summer.

 

Car news from around the web: Quirky Futuristic Cars

Euronews offers up a video of some of the wildest car designs found at the Geneva Motor Show 2014:

In just 2:31, you’ll see:

  • Wazuma GT, a motorbike/car/Batmobile mixture with a “Jaguar 4.0 litre supercharged V8 engine [that] achieves 375 horsepower and 387 pound-feet of torque.”
  • Fleche Rouge (Red Arrow), a car designed like an airplane; “700 kilograms of this red racer runs on a 4 cylinder 1.6 litre engine,” the same as the Citroen DS3.
  • Toyota’s FV2, where drivers lean forward to move the vehicle forward, lean back to reverse and steer by moving the vehicle side by side. If car color matters to you, check out another unique feature.
  • Nissan’s Black Glider, inspired by the ZEOD RC Le Mans racer, gives out zero emissions from twin on-board motors.
  • Volkswagen’s XL1, the most fuel efficient car on the planet at 313 miles per gallon, produces only 24g/km of CO2 emissions, which Volkswagen touts as a new benchmark.
  • Mansory’s car modification that boasts 0-to-100 in 4.4 seconds.

How to flip cars real good

If you’re a fan of car chase movies, you’ll want to read Car and Driver’s The Inside Story of the Academy Award–Winning Car Inversion Device, Or: How to Flip Cars Real Good. The article shares how 11-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner John Frazier practices the “mad science of movie mayhem” in an area that’s “filled with pick-a-part junkyards, ticky-tack indoor swap meets, and manufacturing businesses better off being ignored by OSHA.”

Frazier pneumatically flips cars up to 20 feet in altitude with “as much acrobatic spectacle as possible without necessarily modifying the car.” He has about two dozen car flippers that he rents out for $200 a day (one week minimum), not counting the cost of union labor required to operate the devices.

Transformation of cool cars

If you’re a fan of any of these movies, shows or cars:

  • Back to the Future’s Delorean
  • ·       Ghostbuster’s Ecto-1
  • ·       Herbie
  • ·       Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine
  • ·       The Partridge Family bus
  • ·       Ninja Mutant Turtle’s Party Wagon

then be sure to check out how Canadian illustrator Darren Rawlings turns these pop culture icons into Transformer Autobots in Mashable’s If Pop Culture’s Coolest Cars Were ‘Transformers.’

Good luck with THAT

No matter how many contests exist, there’s always room for another good one. Here, site visitors got to vote on the greatest road sign of all-time. The first place winner, one that shows a convoluted, virtually impossible-to-understand roadway graphic with the words “Good Luck” written below, received 30% of the votes (fourth photo if you scroll down).

The second place winner received almost 20% of the votes: Left Turn Under the Following 26 Conditions (tenth photo), and the third place winner, “No Outlet,” received 17% of the votes (first photo).

They’re all worth a look. Each winner received no prize “other than the obvious bragging rights associated with finding the most mind-boggling sign known to man … or at least out of the signs found this time around.”

Horseless e-Carriage coming to the Big Apple

For more than 100 years, couples visiting New York City have enjoyed romantic rides in a horse and carriage–but that may be coming to an end because of congestion issues and concerns about the horses. If so, the replacement may be an electric carriage with old-fashioned styling.

This vehicle seats eight and can reach 30 miles per hour, traveling about 100 miles before needing recharged.

What’s the quirkiest or weirdest car you’ve ever driven or seen? Let us know!

Editor’s note: Whether your ride’s from a salvage yard or a Sci-Fi flick, Advance Auto Parts has you covered, with a wide range of quality auto parts, tools and accessories. Buy online, pick up in store.

Going to Extremes: Cars From All Over the Spectrum

Lamborghini Veneno. Photo credit: Automobili Lamborghini.

Lamborghini Veneno. Photo credit: Automobili Lamborghini.

As human beings, we all love to noodle over what’s the biggest, what’s the highest, what’s the fastest, what’s the most expensive. That urge is what has kept the Guinness Book of World Records in business for nearly sixty years to date. Per that, we decided to pull together a few lists of extreme cars. Read on to see what we found…

Most expensive cars in the world

For this info, we turned to DigitalTrends.com’s article, Dream wheels: The top ten most expensive cars in the world (March 2014). The good news is that, if you can spare $845,000, then you can own the cheapest car on this list: the Porsche 918 Spyder. This hybrid boasts 887 horsepower, enough to go 0-60 in 2.8 seconds. “For comparison,” the article reads, “that’s faster than the money you’ll have to plunk down for this thing can leave your bank account.”

At the top of this list is the Lamborghini Veneno at $4 million – but, even if you had that kind of dough, all three cars have already been sold. If you can scrounge together another 500k, though, you still have a shot at one of the nine roadsters. Digital Trends calls the Lamborghini Veneno “simply jaw-dropping,” also with 0-60 capabilities, which is “probably faster than sound can leave your body during a terrified scream.”

Ten cheapest cars

Assuming that not everyone will have the $845,000 needed for the Porsche, we decided to include Jalopnik.com’s list of The Ten Cheapest Cars Ever Sold. The cheapest car available in the United States right now (says this December 2013 article) is the Nissan Versa at $12,780.

There are cheaper cars in this list, but these prices correspond to the release dates of the vehicles so:

  • Yes, a 2007 KIA would have been free – but the catch was that you needed to buy a 2008 KIA at the same time.
  • And, yes. A Ford Model T was a great bargain at $3,895 in 1923 but. That was more than 90 years ago.
  • Even cheaper than a Model T was the Banner Boy Buckboard at $3,152 – but that photo kind of reminds me of my Big Wheel.

 

Rolls Royce 2013. Photo credit: Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited.

Rolls Royce 2013. Photo credit: Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited.

Big daddies

The “car guys” at Zeroto60Times.com who write for “car guys” decided to define the largest cars as the longest, listing the top 50 in production today (2014 cars in the list). Is it any surprise that the top three are all Rolls?

  • 2013 Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase: 239.8 inches
  • 2013 Rolls-Royce Phantom Sedan: 230 inches
  • 2013 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe: 220.9 inches

Those cars, though, don’t hold a candle to the 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 sedan at the astonishing length of 244.8 inches and the 2005 Maybach Exelro Coup at 245.3 inches.

Little dudes

As all good videos should, this one needs no introduction and is worth every minute.

Debate about the world’s fastest car

Autosaur.com has published what they call Fastest Car in The World: The ultimate guide (April 2014), where they examine claims of speed and provide their perspectives. They also clarify that, when talking about the fastest car in the world, they are meaning the fastest production car in the world. Otherwise, the Thrust SSC, a “jet-propelled car-rocket which broke the speed of sound and reached 763 mph (1,228 km/hr)” would have set the record on October 15, 1997.

As an aside, this article is worth reading for the photos alone.

Tortoise, not the hare

In The Ten Slowest Cars That You Can Buy (October 2013), Jalopnik determines the slowest car by the time it takes to go 0-60 – and the slowest car is also, not surprisingly, the smallest car: the Peel P50. That’s because it goes to 60 mph . . . um, well, never. It tends to top out at about 35 mph.

In fact, you have to go to the fourth slowest car to find one that can go 60 mph – and that’s its maximum speed: the MIA Electric Car.

Oddballs

This post wouldn’t be complete without a look at some of the world’s strangest vehicles – and, for that, we turn to DarkRoastedBlend.com. Although written in 2007, this is an in-depth look at some very peculiar looking vehicles, complete with excellent photos and offbeat commentary:

• Part 1: The World’s Strangest Vehicles
• Part 2: The World’s Strangest Vehicles
• Part 3: The World’s Strangest Vehicles
• Part 4: The World’s Strangest Vehicles

 

Editor’s note: What are the most extreme vehicles you’ve seen or driven? Let us know here.

Oh, the horror…the story of monster trucks!

Shotgun Harry. Photo credit: International Monster Truck Museum.

Shotgun Harry. Photo credit: International Monster Truck Museum.

“A monster truck is fascinating because it can go anywhere—and over anything in its path. Here are trucks that typically weigh 10,000 pounds or more, jumping 25 to 30 feet in the air and performing long jumps upwards of 200 feet. This defies expectations, gravity, and the laws of physics.” (Jeff Cook, President and Founder of the International Monster Truck Museum & Hall of Fame)

If you’re a diehard fan, then names Allen Pezo, Dan Patrick, Scott Stephens, Gary Porter and Army Armstrong may ring a bell, especially as each was inducted into the International Monster Truck Museum’s Hall of Fame on November 9, 2013–during its third annual induction ceremony. Pezo had the most votes, while Stephens and Porter tied for second.

The International Monster Truck Museum (IMTM) & Hall of Fame was created in 2010 with the “mission of collecting and archiving the history of the monster truck sport and related aspects of the high performance aftermarket, focusing upon capturing history from the surviving pioneers and legends.” Each year, the IMTM will also honor accomplished people who contribute significantly to monster trucks by inducting them into the hall of fame.

This museum is different from many others in that, although it does house early versions of monster trucks, it is also recording “history” as it happens, archiving photos and data of modern trucks – rather than waiting 25 years and then seeking out the information. Here’s the breakdown:

Typically, there are three to four classic monster trucks on display at any given time in the museum, along with memorabilia and other historical items. Meanwhile, the website contains excellent resources, including a monster database of vehicles and relevant info surrounding each vehicle; here are three examples:

• Aaron’s All-American Dream Machine, a vehicle that set a world speed record of 96.80 mph in March 2012

• King Kong, belonging to Jeff Dane, one of the sport’s early celebrities

• Bob Chandler’s Bigfoot, the original car crusher

The site also includes driver profiles and loads of photos.

How it all got started

“Really,” Jeff Cook says, “one thing just led to another. There is a large museum complex in Auburn, including the National Military History Center, and the founder is a friend of mine. I was visiting him one day when he asked me if there was a museum yet for monster trucks and I said ‘no.’ We weren’t sure if we could pull one off but we got together with others in the industry and we were successful.”

“We have some early trucks in the museum,” Jeff adds, “which are now the dinosaurs of the racing world. They started out big and heavy, with real pickup bodies, as people competed to have the biggest truck on the block.”

Bigfoot. Photo credit: International Monster Truck Museum.

Bigfoot. Photo credit: International Monster Truck Museum.

And, just as “one thing led to another” in the creation of the IMTM, one thing led to another in the development of monster trucking itself. Here’s what happened.

Early days of monster trucking

No one sat up one day and decided to invent a monster truck. Instead, people gradually began modifying their pickup trucks and competing in truck pulling and mud bogging events. This then evolved into competitions (informal and then more formalized) to create the biggest truck.

People and trucks (with 48-inch-in-diameter wheels) that rose to attention included:

•          Bob Chandler: Bigfoot

•          Everett Jasmer: USA-1

•          Fred Shafer and Jack Willman, Sr.: Bear Foot

•          Jeff Dane: King Kong

Not surprisingly, all of these men – along with Dan Degrasso – were in the first group to be placed in the IMTM’s hall of fame.

In April 1981, Chandler used Bigfoot to drive over and crush cars, planning to use the results as a promotional tool for his business. He then repeated the performance in the Pontiac Silverdome in 1982; this time, the vehicle had tires of 66 inches in diameter. Around this time, the phrase “monster truck” was born. As other people began using 66-inch tires on their vehicles, the vehicles themselves became heavier, ranging from 13,000 to 20,000 pounds each, with super-sized suspension.

Was Chandler the first to perform the car crushing feat? It depends upon whom you ask. Some cite Dane as the first, late in the 1970s, while others believe someone else entirely was the first. What is true is that Chandler has the earliest video and that the Monster Truck Racing Association recognizes him as the first to perform this stunt.

In 1985, monster truck racing began, typically single-elimination races on obstacle courses. As people began to race, the heaviness of early monster trucks worked against them, so they began strategizing over how to lighten their loads and to boost their power, using fiberglass for truck bodies. In 1989, Jack Willman created a vehicle that only weighed 9,000 pounds, a significant reduction.

Monster Truck Racing Association

Goliath. Photo credit: International Monster Truck Museum.

Goliath. Photo credit: International Monster Truck Museum.

The Monster Truck Racing Association (MTRA) formed in 1988, setting safety standards. “We pride ourselves on being the safest motor sport, considering the number of events, for both participants and spectators,” says Marty Garza, director of communications for MTRA. “I credit that to the foresight of people in the association who proactively brainstorm for solutions for potential problems, rather than being reactive after an issue has happened. We risk being called alarmists, but we have a safety record that is unmatched.”

Five years later, in 1993, freestyle exhibitions began to appear at racing events for drivers to show off their fancy moves; in 2000 freestyling became a competition event.

“Part of the appeal of monster trucks,” says Marty, “is the unpredictability of the sport. Freestyling, for example, brings with it an X Games type of excitement. The height of the trucks, the amount of noise that monster trucking creates – well, it just appeals to the senses as it’s shockingly loud and highly energizing.”

Who are the fans?

Monster Truck Racing Association Online stated in 2010 that more than a million people attend monster truck events annually, with demographics matching those of people who buy pickup trucks. That makes perfect sense.

Then, according to Media Life Magazine in 2010: “Motorsports do bring in some moms and kids, but the majority of attendees are young male gearheads. The crowds are roughly two-thirds male, and more than 75 percent are age 44 or younger.”

Later in the article, though, a statistic shows greater female enjoyment of the events; according to Scarborough Research, when looking at adults who have attended a monster truck event within the past 12 months:

•          57% are males

•          43% are females

Wondering about ages?

•          22%: ages 18-24

•          28%: 25-34

•          27%: 35-44

•          15%: 45-54

•          6%: 55-64

•          2%: 65+

Income?

•          15%: below $25,000

•          22%: $25,000-$39,000

•          11%: $40,000-$49,000

•          17%: $50,000-$74,999

•          15%: $75,000-$99,999

•          12%: $100,000-$149,000

•          8%: $150,000 and up

Jeff Cook brings up another point about demographics: that children also attend monster truck events. “You see grandparents, parents and kids,” he says. “Events tend to be family oriented in that you see all ages and everyone seems to get something out of it.”

Predator. Photo credit: International Monster Truck Museum.

Predator. Photo credit: International Monster Truck Museum.

In fact, Jeff himself was one of those kids who was fascinated by big vehicles. “I was always wanting to put bigger tires on my toys,” he says, “and then I saw Bigfoot. I told my father that I wanted a truck like that someday and that I thought we should build one. Videos just don’t do monster trucks justice. You need to see them in action, in person, to see these massive vehicles going 60 to 80 mph as they do their stunts.”

The future of the sport

“All of this attention to monster trucks has boggled our minds. Ten to fifteen years ago, it seemed like nobody even knew what a monster truck was. We thought attention to events would slow down and top out, but people continue to get more and more performance out of their vehicles, with better technology and bigger stunts.

In other racing sports, vehicles are fragile, but monsters are durable. They can roll over, crash – and then keep going. So the drivers keep pushing the envelope, running it to the edge, especially since fiberglass truck bodies of today can be fixed much more easily. Monster truck racing, though, is still more of a bragging rights race. I think it will someday turn into racing for money, with more racing series and more corporate sponsors.” (Jeff Cook)