Our Forefixers: The Winter Innovators

Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stop today’s drivers from getting somewhere sunny and bright! Nope, we’re not referring to the delivery route of your friendly neighborhood USPS worker. We’re talking about cold-weather-fighting automotive inventions like winter tires and all-wheel drive, which let motorists go wherever they want regardless of the season.

But where did these inventions come from? Here are the origin stories of some of winter’s most essential features.

Tires

Source | Imthaz Ahamed/Unsplash

Winter Tires

Picture this: it’s a frosty winter’s night in Finland in 1934, and horse-drawn carts are still a common sight. The cars of the time are nowhere near as well-built as today’s, and slush and ice on the roads only make being behind the wheel even scarier.

Enter Nokian, who recognized the need for a tire suited to frozen climates. The company first designed cold-resistant rubber for delivery trucks that had no choice but to drive on the white stuff. The tires featured a never-before-seen type of asymmetrical tread pattern that went sideways to bite into snow. Two years later, it was adapted for passenger vehicles, allowing all drivers to keep cool in slippery situations.

Ferdinand Porsche

Ferdinand Porsche

 

All-Wheel Drive

He created the Volkswagen Beetle, the world’s first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, as well as the first mid-engine, rear-wheel drive race car—so, we have to ask, was there anything Ferdinand Porsche couldn’t do?

Apparently not! While working for pioneering car manufacturer Jacob Lohner & Co., Porsche also invented the first automobile powered by all four wheels. Did we forget to tell you that the aforementioned hybrid had individual electric hub motors on each wheel, driven by an onboard engine-powered generator? This unique model was debuted at the Paris Auto Salon in 1900. Now, Porsche offers all-wheel drive on everything from Cayennes to 911s.

Saab

Source | Saab

Heated Seats

Keeping your tush toasty in the middle of February is as easy as flicking a switch, thanks to heated seats. This wasn’t the case until 1972, when the feature was made standard on a few of the models, like the 95, 96, and 99 sedans, offered by now sadly defunct Swedish automaker Saab. (According to one legend, the innovation came about in an attempt to alleviate a Saab executive’s back pain.) Unfortunately for the owners of those first vehicles, sitting in the hot seat wasn’t optional, because the function turned on automatically when the interior dipped below a certain predetermined temperature whether they liked it or not.

Do you know of any forefixers who changed the way we drive in winter? Share what you know below.

I didn’t know they sold that!

Advance Auto Parts opened its doors in 1932 in Roanoke, Virginia, back when driving was still in its early days and you could buy parts for just a quarter. Our stores have changed over the years, but did you know we used to sell quirky items like pickles, chocolate covered cashews, and toys during the Holidays? In the spirit of our upcoming 85th anniversary, we invite you to look through our fine inventory below.

Yes, those are lucky fox tails hanging on a string for sale.

Hello, welcome to Advance. Yes, those are indeed fox tails hanging on a string for sale.

Advance’s Unique Items

Step inside and take a gander. Would a lucky fox tail to hang on your radio aerial interest you? How about a new, state-of-the-art washer and dryer to make laundry a breeze? Does your little one enjoy toys? We carry remote control cars and trucks that “Santa” would be proud to deliver. We also have handcrafted dolls and tea sets for more sophisticated play time.

Toys for all ages. Did your child make the

Toys for all ages. Did your child make the “nice list” this year?

For drivers, we have everything you need to make your road trips more enjoyable. Choose from one of our many highly-regarded brands of cigarettes for a relaxing smoke. Hungry? Try our proprietary chocolate covered cashews—they are delicious! Not a sweets person? No problem. Snack on our tasty beef jerky, perfect for those late-night trips when the service stations are closed.

You will be amazed of the savings you will realize here, and at all times you are assured of courteous, intelligent service.

You will be amazed by how much you will save here, and at all times you are assured of courteous, intelligent service.

Make sure you bring back something for the home as well! How can you pass up on our highly modern kitchen appliances? We stock refrigerators, ice chests, dish washers (a miracle of an invention), gas and electric cook tops, and much more. Stop in any time. Remember, you must be satisfied or your money is cheerfully refunded.

aap0696_couponbooklet_1972_d

Was there anything on this list that you wished we still carried? Did you ever receive a toy from Advance as a child? Share your comment below!

Racing for the Total Newb

Do you want to go racing, but only lack the race car and professional license? That’s okay! While NASCAR won’t allow you on-track just yet, there are plenty of ways for the total beginner to get out there and hit the redline, safely and affordably. If it’s time to put away your racing video games for the real thing, head to one of these local events to get your adrenaline fix.

Drag Racing

Source | Andy Jensen

Drag racing

By far the most affordable way to transform your daily driver into a race car is to visit your local drag strip. Quarter mile and eighth-mile tracks are scattered across the country, and most will have a “test and tune” session every week or two. Wait for the green light, gas it, and get to the finish as quickly as possible. The first one down the track wins, then make adjustments to tire pressure or suspension settings, and head out for another, faster pass. An entire evening of racing can run as little as $15, with zero additional equipment needed if your car is safe and not incredibly quick. Still in high school and driving mom’s 1989 Ford Escort? That’s okay, just bring your license and insurance, and you’re all set to go racing.

Autocross

If straight line racing isn’t your thing, look into autocross. Typically taking place in closed parking lots, the “track” is an improvised course that can be unique and challenging every single time, unlike most other race formats. The goal is to finish as quickly as possible, but getting there requires a smart and smooth driver rather than a high horsepower mega-dollar car. If you aren’t a member, you’ll have to pay the slightly higher entry fee of roughly $50, but that’s still a great deal for hours of fun and a learning experience. You’ll need a helmet. You can borrow a loaner from the track, but good helmets that meet safety standards are also affordable.

Autocross

Source | Andy Jensen

Track day

Track days take place on America’s various road courses, and will have different rules according to the club running the event. In general, you’re looking at high speeds on technical tracks with elevation changes, hairpins, and off-camber turns. High Performance Driving Events are high-speed learning experiences. While they aren’t technically races, HPDE is a great way to go all out on a road course. Track Night is another friendly event for the total beginner, and you can opt for instruction here too.

Chump Car

“Real racing. Real tracks. Real cheap cars.” You’ve seen Laguna Seca and Daytona on TV, now it’s time to race on them in total beaters. Chump Car turns junk into race cars in a throwback to when private teams were able to go out and win a weekend race. This will cost a bit, as your race car will need a cage and other safety equipment, but it can be done for just a few grand, which is a bargain to field a car in an endurance race series. 24 Hours of LeMons similarly flogs cheap beaters, but with even more flair.

Race school

If you don’t care about trophies and just want to go fast, look into the various forms of race schools. Xtreme Xperience gives classroom instruction, followed by laps in an exotic supercar with a pro race driver giving tips on how to go faster in every section of track. Step up to a real race car for just $200 with Driving101. Real NASCAR race cars and pit crews provide an extra touch of realism as you pretend to be Kevin Harvick at 170 mph. Last, if you really want to learn to drive fast, sign up for a class at Bondurant Race School. You’ll learn advanced techniques in Vipers, Hellcats, and open wheel racers.

Good advice for all race formats is to have a car in good working condition. If you feel the need to spend money on upgraded parts, start with the best tires and brakes you can afford. Finally, remember to relax and just have fun your first time out. Next time, focus on trying to set a new personal best time, but the point is to get out there and get started.

Have any advice for first-timers? Let’s hear it.

Road Trip: The 5 Biggest Holiday Light Displays in America

‘Tis the season for holiday light tours, where you can view thousands of twinkling lights and giant, animated reindeer from the comfort of your automobile. Whether you find these roadside displays beautiful or as tacky as a plastic leg lamp, they’ve become a much-loved tradition. Here’s a look at five of the biggest, most festive, holiday light events from across the country.

lights-photo

1. Oglebay Festival of Lights – Wheeling, WV

Hosted by the Oglebay Resort, the Festival of Lights is one of the biggest holiday lights displays in the country. The six-mile drive boasts more than a million LED lights across 300 acres. Cruise beneath the 300-foot Rainbow Tunnel, view a Peanuts display donated by the family of Charles Schulz, and wonder at the 60-foot-tall candles set in a poinsettia wreath.

2. Bright Nights at Forest Park – Springfield, MA

The number of cars that have visited Bright Nights at Forest Park since its inception in 1995 could stretch from Springfield, Massachusetts to California. But don’t let that discourage you from visiting! Enjoy three miles of lights, featuring a Victorian village, Jurassic Park, and Seussland, along with displays for Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.

3. East Peoria Festival of Lights – East Peoria, IL

The East Peoria Festival of Lights kicks off with a parade of eye-popping floats in late November. The lighted floats are then on drive-through display, along with other animated scenes, in nearby Folepi’s Winter Wonderland. The largest float is a 160-foot steam engine featuring 65,000 lights. Other favorites include a steam-breathing Chinese dragon, the Star Trek “Enterprise,” and a larger-than life team of clydesdale horses pulling a wagon.

4. Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park – Spanaway, WA

Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park is a cooperative effort between local schools and the county’s parks and recreation department. The annual display is in its 22nd year and is one of the largest displays of its kind in the northwest. Visitors will “ooh” and “aah” at nearly 300 light displays as they wind their way along the two-mile drive. Scenes with a giant dog and a ship sailed by a crew of elves will delight all ages.

5. Christmas in the Smokies – Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN

(Update: Some of this area is currently suffering from damage from wildfires. Please hope the best for the people who are rebuilding there and make sure to visit their website for updates on recovery efforts.)

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are well-known for their bright lights and attractions, not to mention stellar views of the Great Smoky Mountains. They also spend November through February, draped in mile-after-mile of twinkling holiday lights. Gatlinburg recently spent more than $1.6 million to enhance their holiday displays and convert to LED lights. (The city now powers the full 120-day celebration with what it previously cost for three days.) Expect displays evoking winter romance and nature with Gatlinburg’s Winter Magic, and don’t miss the centerpiece of Pigeon Forge’s Winterfest, the aptly named Patriot Park.

What to know

  • Take a moment to review each festival’s posted guidelines, which may include requests to dim your headlights so visitors can fully appreciate the displays.
  • If you want to linger at a display, pull to the side to allow others to pass.
  • To avoid the long lines, visit during weeknights and earlier or later in the evening.
  • Watch for discounted tickets and special events associated with each festival.

Does your area host a drive-through, holiday lights festival that would make Clark Griswold salivate? Leave us a comment with all the details.

 

 

Our Forefixers: The Lighting Innovators

Just as TV is enjoying a unrivaled era of quality programming, the automotive industry is experiencing a golden age of lighting. Today, manufacturers use everything from halogen to LED technology in order to illuminate the road, brighten the cabin, and make vehicles more visible to other drivers. But early in their history, headlamps were little more than acetylene lanterns (like those used in the early days of mining). Brake lights didn’t even exist.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and learn more about three people who were instrumental in getting auto lighting to where it is now.

James Allison

This American entrepreneur invented the first headlight assembly. Allison was a co-founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Prest-O-Lite, a company originally specializing in concentrated acetylene gas. The chemical compound was used to fuel portable lamps popular with miners because of its resistance to wind and rain, and for the same reason was adapted for use on vehicles in the late 1880s. A pressurized acetylene-filled canister would feed out to an opening in front of a reflecting mirror, similar to a modern headlight lens housing. Activating a switch inside the cabin caused a spark to ignite the brightly burning gas. Before that, such as on the world’s first production automobile, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, there was simply no formal lighting hardware available.

John Voevodsky

It turns out a psychologist, not an engineer, was responsible for inventing the Center High Mount Stop Lamp—otherwise known as the third brake light—in 1974. Californian John Voevodsky was researching car accidents and set up a study in which a portion of a group of San Francisco city taxis was outfitted with an additional brake light at the base of the back window. At the end of 10 months, they discovered that the cabs sporting the extra bit of equipment had 60.6 percent fewer rear-end collisions than those without. The third brake light was born.

HID headlight

Robert Reiling

While high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights didn’t appear in North America until 1991 via the BMW 7 Series full-size luxury sedan, the first successful example was actually developed in 1962 by a man named Robert Reiling. He improved upon earlier designs and created a reliable gas-discharge lighting system that formed the basis for contemporary HIDs. Two tungsten electrodes inside a bulb produce a powerful electric charge, which interacts with xenon gas and metal salts present to produce plasma, together creating the signature intense light.

Did we miss any vehicle lighting Forefixers? Share what you know in the comments.

Holiday Recap: Our Favorite Community Posts

We’re lucky to have a dedicated community of DIYers here at Advance. In fact, our customers and Team Members always seem to have great stories to share and tips to teach each other. Since Thanksgiving is all about getting together and giving thanks, we’re sharing our five favorite community stories from 2016. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. Happy Thanksgiving!

Our First Cars: Three Revs for High School Cars

Advance Auto Parts | Our First Cars

 

National Motorcycle Day: Our Favorite Rides

We Celebrate National Motorcycle Day

Car + Culture: Going Off-Road in Albuquerque

Off-roading in Albuquerque

Advance Dads: Tamekia Richardson’s Dad Had Some Tricks Up His Sleeve

Father's Day - Tamekia Richardson

2016 Patrick Long Pro-Am Kart Race: Making a Difference for All Children’s Hospital

ProAm Racing_Go kart 2

 

Giving Thanks for Automotive Experiences

With Thanksgiving and the holidays around the corner, our Store Team Members are giving thanks. We asked them to share the automotive experiences for which they’re most grateful, and we were truly inspired by what has shaped their paths. Whether it was learning how to work on cars from family members or mentors, interacting with customers at the store, or teaching others how to DIY, these stories demonstrate the genuine spirit of the season. Read on to see what they’re thankful for.

Photo Credit: denlinkbarmann/Flickr

Photo Credit: denlinkbarmann

From Wesley Mathis — Murray, KY

My dad has been gone from this world for three years this January, and I am so indebted to him and the life lessons that he taught me over the years. I remember my dad working on Mom’s car and his trucks to keep them in top shape. Dad showed me how to do everything on a car, from changing oil to a camshaft to even obsolete tasks such as replacing points and condensers in a distributor. The most important life lesson, however, that my dad taught me applies to both cars and life in general. I remember one spring in the 1980s while we were working on the hydraulic hoist on a 1967 Chevy C60, my dad was looking down on me with his prematurely aged skin from years of working in the sun as a farmer and his button-up blue shirt that he always wore, saying, “Son, it is shameful to be lazy. To hire for a job that you are capable of doing yourself is just wasteful and lazy. One will always take more time than money; take that time to figure out the problem and repair it.” That advice from a 10th-grade dropout (because he had to work on the family farm) I have found works with everything in life, everything from my 1970 Chevelle SS to marriage.

From Patsy Langston — Dothan, AL

I have worked in automotive parts, service, body shop and paint for over 38 years. In all of that time I have to say I am most thankful for the lives that have crossed paths with mine. I have met some of the most wonderful people you could meet being in this business and have made lifelong friends. I have worked for and with people who have deeply inspired my life, met a few famous people, shared automotive nightmares and laughs, and laughed about the nightmares. All in all I couldn’t see myself enjoying anything so much and am thankful for the people who have been a part of it.

From Brian Sandeen — Machesney Park, IL

I was one of those people who grew up in a family where we never took care of our own vehicles. My parents were the type who always took their cars to the dealership for repairs, oil changes, etc., or replaced a vehicle every two years or so. When I began working for Advance in 2009, I had very little if any experience working on cars. I got this job because of my previous background dealing with computer-part numbers in a warehouse, and at that time I took the job just for something to do as I was a full-time parent.

Since then, my wealth of automotive knowledge has grown. Things that I couldn’t do seven years ago is now second nature. Having this job has taught me how to maintain my own vehicles, from the minor maintenance such as oil changes to major work such as changing an alternator, starter, doing brake jobs, and so on. I was able to practically rebuild the front end of our van thanks to what I have learned working for this company. I am thankful for the general manager at store 8138 in Kingwood, Texas, who took a chance on me and hired me. If it wasn’t for that opportunity, I wouldn’t have learned what I have over these last few years.

From Danita Bachman — Powell, WY

I am most thankful for everything my dad taught me, from the simple check your oil and tires to changing and repacking bearing and overhauling engines. It made me what I am today, a proud manager of a Carquest / Advance Auto Parts store. Now my dad isn’t able to even walk or use his hands, but I still do everything that it takes to keep our vehicles on the road and safe. I am thankful for the opportunities Carquest and Advance have given me, and I truly love every day I am here. Love to all my fellow managers and employees.

From Jim Nelson — Patchogue, NY

Thirty-five years ago I worked in an auto-parts store that had a repair shop as part of the operation. The service manager quit, and I was asked to run the shop. I had no experience running a shop, but I had two mechanics who had previously owned and run shops. They taught me the ins and outs of running a shop as well as where and how all parts functioned on the vehicle. I learned more in those three years than I have in the last 30 years. I will be forever grateful to those two men.

I learned more in those three years than I have in the last 30 years.

From Mario Ortiz — Houston, TX

I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Youngest of eight children. I have four brothers and three sisters all with interests in cars, a few more so than the others. Growing up with fairly modest means, I remember going to the parts yards with my father, who was always working on something. Anxious to help however I could, I would constantly point or pick up parts at the local pick-a-part yard asking, “Is this what you need?” It amazed me how my father could look at what I picked up and in an instant reply, “No, that only fits a 1974 model.” I was bitten by the car bug at an early age and proudly carry the affliction as I have now been in the automotive parts and supplies industry for over 25 years. I love teaching a new generation of car enthusiasts about parts and how to best take care of their car, as it recalls so many fond memories of a father we dearly miss.

A warm thanks to our Team Members who contributed their wonderful stories. Do you have fond automotive memories you’re thankful for? Share your stories in the comments.

How to Protect a Car from Winter Road Treatments

Winter is coming. Many of us have already started switching on the heater immediately after start-up and impatiently waiting for warm air. The season takes a toll on us, no doubt, but it’s equally harsh on our vehicles. Preparing for winter is an important part of car ownership, and as DIYers, we can’t forget about a particular aspect of winter that causes damage: road treatments.

Since avoiding the roads isn’t much of an option for us, here are some tips on how to protect your car’s exterior from the winter grime.

Winter wheels

Source | Martin_Cathrae

Why the mess?

State and local road services scatter salt or coal ash on the road in order to promote ice melt and increase grip during slick conditions. That’s great, but both ingredients are terrible for exposed metal parts. Drivers knew this way back in the Ford Model T days and liberally applied used motor oil to the chassis. It somewhat worked for preventing rust but made quite a mess. Used oil coatings are illegal in many places now and today’s solutions are far superior.

Keep it clean

First, it’s easier to keep a clean vehicle rust-free. Wash your ride as often as it needs, especially after driving through salt and ice-melt treatments. Use a high-quality car-wash soap and lint-free mitt, being sure to get everything off the paint and out of the wheel wells. If it’s too cold to get out and spray on your own, pay a few bucks and run the vehicle through a touchless-type car wash. It’s cheap, takes only a few minutes, and will do the trick in a pinch.

Wax on

Wax is a great product to have on your paint year round but especially so in winter. Rather than just a UV barrier in the summer, wax acts as an additional layer of protection between your paint and clear coat and the nasty grime on the road. Like a plumber wearing heavy-duty gloves, it’s protection used for a reason. Use a good-quality carnauba wax before the first snowfall and road treatments for the best protection, and reapply every three months or after every car wash.

Knock it off!

If you drive at all during harsh weather conditions, some grit and grime will make it through the above layers of defense and get stuck to your paint. It’s best not to let it sit, as gunk left for days or weeks can start to weaken the clear coat or can scratch the paint when finally cleaned off. A clay bar, a detailing favorite of the show-car crowd, can help out your daily driver. Clay bars are just what they sound like: a bar of clay that is carefully glided over a lubricated painted surface. The clay is gritty at the microscopic level and acts as a deep-cleaning paint treatment, removing any stuck-on particles and even imperfections in the paint. Kits are affordable, simple to use, and provide stunning results.

Be on guard

Every few weeks, take a quick look at your vehicle, watching for any chips in the paint or exposed metal. Most manufacturers offer touch-up paint (here’s how to apply it) in factory colors that covers rock chips and prevents rust. Have a good look at the underside at every oil change and use a rust-eating solution with a properly prepared undercoating spray to prevent damage for years. If you switch to snow tires for the winter, it may be worth investing in powder coating the wheels, which makes them nearly impervious to road grime and corrosion.

Just a small investment of time and a few dollars of preventative maintenance will help keep your vehicle clean this winter and potentially save you thousands in maintenance costs or lost depreciation.

Let us know how you winterize your ride in the comments below.

When Speed Perks Members Meet NFL Pros

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We’re big fans of getting together with our customers to talk cars. It’s always a good time, and some of the stories that get shared… well, let’s just say we’ve all made a few DIY mistakes. Our parties are such a blast that a few NFL legends, including Terry Bradshaw and Barry Sanders, wanted in on the action this time around. So we said, sure, come on by.

Did we mention we also had food trucks on hand, plus games, autograph stations, and some seriously cool giveaways to celebrate this tailgate party? Check out what happened at three lucky stores around the country when customers, Speed Perks Members, Store Team Members, and NFL Pros got together at our events around the country.

Speed Perks Members had an exclusive invite to this event. If you’re not a member, join today. (It’s free!)

Thanks to Castrol for making these parties happen.

 

Celebrating 15 Million Speed Perks Members

When we started Speed Perks two years ago, we couldn’t have imagined that we’d hit 15 million members. Thanks to you, we’ve done it! To join us in the celebration, take a look at what our dedicated community of drivers have achieved.

Speed Perks 15 million member Infographic

We’re blown away by how much work our Speed Perks Members do on their cars. Without a doubt, they’re the kind of DIYers we’d like to have as neighbors. If you’re not a member, join now!