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!

Car + Culture: Appreciating Car Design in Miami

Carlos Segura has a hard time walking by a parked car without stopping. While most of us don’t even glance at the Fords, Hondas, and Cadillacs dotting the road, Segura will look them up and down like it’s his job. Because, in a way, it is.

Segura is founder of cartype.com, a blog focused on new and classic car design, emblems, and history. A designer by trade, his obsession with the beautiful, functional details of automotive design and typography runs deep. In our latest Car + Culture story we follow Segura as he tells us why he loves car design and shares the story of how Cartype was born. Miami locals, get ready to see some familiar sights.

How Lowriders Became a Lasting Part of American Culture

lowrider history

With outrageous paint, high-end interiors, and hydraulics to adjust the ride height or even make them hop, you can’t ignore the modern lowrider. This thriving automotive subculture has been around for decades, and even pre-dates the Chevrolet Corvette. Some of you are probably familiar with lowriders, but you might not know about the fascinating history and engineering behind these unique custom vehicles.

Let’s take a look at how lowriders have become a part of American culture.

How it all started

lowrider history

Lowriders got their start back in the day, just after World War II. The post-WWII economic boom of the ’50s created a perfect storm of a lot of young people with surplus cash and a large used car market just waiting to be picked over.

The hot rod craze was just blowing up, and the custom car scene emerged as a separate subculture. Rather than stripping down the weight and increasing horsepower, custom cars were all about bright paint and unique modifications, including a lower than factory height. This was accomplished with cut springs and smaller diameter tires. Interestingly, the first lowered cars of the custom scene were only dropped up front. The rear was factory ride height, giving them quite a rake.

Like many American trends, the epicenter of the lowrider craze was LA and can even be traced to a few streets in East LA. Hollywood types started buying up fancy custom cars, while the Chicano kids of Whittier Boulevard turned to the junkyards for upgrade parts and were first to drop the rear by adding cement bags or bricks in the trunk. Soon, enthusiasts formed clubs and cruised the streets as a low and slow mobile car show.

Counter-culture clash

lowrider history

Now, there were some who weren’t on board with the lowrider trend, and they decided to put a stop to these unusual cars through legislation. Lowriders became illegal when any part of the fender sat below the wheel rim. Traffic citations in the name of safety were thought to be enough to deter potential lowriders.

But LA car customizer Ron Aguirre came up with a solution to this problem by placing a piston between a spring and the frame. Sitting inside the vehicle, he could adjust the ride height from pavement scraping to factory legal in just a few seconds. Aguirre had created hydraulics.

The trend grows up

lowrider history

Lowriders adapted to a new style in the early 1960s. The lower, longer, and wider cars became perfect candidates for customization. The Chevrolet Impala was a favorite even back then, due to more than just its good looks. With a relatively small x-frame underneath and massive fenders, the Imp can accept all kinds of wheels and has plenty of space for hiding hydraulic components. It’s a blank canvas waiting for personalization.

Speaking of, in the ’70s, lowrider enthusiasts began adding huge hand-painted murals to their vehicles. While this added another custom touch of cool, it was unfortunately also applied to the full-size van trend of the era. While it looks odd today, the large vans did provide ample space for family, religious, or fantasy mural scenes, while widening lowrider appeal.

Lowriders have diversified over the years, adding rockabilly, rat rod, and women’s Pachuca styles. They’re arguably more popular than ever, even though they may still run into problems in some states when it comes time for inspection.

The lowrider’s rebel attitude ties into car culture as a whole, while remaining a unique piece of Americana. In fact, it’s so unique that someone with a Ph.D. wrote about it. So for a great, in-depth account of 60+ years of lowrider history, check out this book by Charles Tatum.

What do you think about the lowrider style? Tell us in the comments.

Why You Need to Consider Your Floor Mat

As you probably already know, mats and liners are a rather simple cover for a vehicle’s floor and footwell area, protecting the carpet from the dusty, snowy, and muddy outside world that gets tracked in by your shoes.

We can’t blame you if you’re thinking, “Floor mats. I put my feet on them. Who cares?” But as a vehicle owner, you should care. And here’s why.

car floor mats

You need the protection

These simple mats that you beat with your feet are a surprisingly important part of basic maintenance. Rather than staining the carpet, the floor mat takes your abuse instead. This is especially true in areas with terrible winters. That frozen slush you track into your ride will eventually melt, and with no carpet protection, it’s going straight to the floor pan to cause rust.

They’re an easy way to customize your ride (and maintain its value)

If you ever plan to resell your vehicle, a stained carpet can reduce resale value. A savvy buyer will know that rust may lurk underneath, and the rest of them will think it just looks bad.

Aesthetics aren’t just for resale value, though. If you’re the owner of stained vehicle carpets, new mats are a cheap and effective way to refresh your car’s interior.

Floor liners are a little different from floor mats and are a good option for Snow Belt dwellers, parents, and commuters who eat many a meal on the road. Liners are laser-cut plastic that exactly match the floor pan and footwell areas of your vehicle. Spill an entire Big Gulp, and it won’t damage the carpet, as the liner’s grooves and channels catch and hold it all. If they get nasty, just pull them out and hose off. You can’t do that with your carpet.

Your Floor Mat Options

car floor mats

Replacing your old trashed mats can be a bit complicated with all the options out there. You can hit up the dealer, where replacements will cost you roughly $200 to $300. That’s a lot of cash for something that looks like it should be 40 bucks, tops.

Many companies produce generic mats and liners designed for universal fit. Those are about as sexy as a brown paper grocery bag, but at least they work. They start around $10 each, or about $30 for a more upscale set of four with carpeting in strategic areas of the rubber mat. That’s not a bad deal for protection that looks decent. For best results with universal mats, measure the space they will cover before purchase, to ensure they will lie flat. Also, look for a grippy surface on the back as it helps keep the mat out from under the pedals.

If you’re a superfan of the local team, or just have an obsession with a favorite childhood cartoon, themed floor mats can add a custom touch. From pro and college football, MLB and NASCAR, to old-school Warner Bros characters, there’s a floor mat set for every type of enthusiast.

Of course, if you’re looking for something a little higher end, Porsche makes a nice set of carbon-fiber floor mats for a totally reasonable $895. You don’t need to make that mortgage payment, right?

If your vehicle is running unprotected carpet, look into a set of mats or liners soon. This affordable item can make your vehicle more livable—and nicer looking—for many miles down the road.

Have your floor mats helped you out by keeping your vehicle clean? Do you have a favorite brand? Tell us in the comments.

How to Extend Your Transmission’s Life

Coaxing the maximum life out of your vehicle’s transmission isn’t difficult if you follow some simple yet proven advice. True, the transmission is one of the most expensive parts on a vehicle to fix or replace, but knowing how to take care of your transmission and what potential warning signs to watch for can help you realize years of trouble-free performance and big savings.

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Maintenance intervals, driving style, vehicle make and manufacturer, and even geography where the vehicle is driven most frequently all can impact a transmission’s life expectancy. Do you routinely stomp on the gas or tow heavy loads up and down mountains? If so, you’re asking a lot from your transmission. While it’s impossible to predict exactly how many miles a transmission will last—some have gone more than 300,000—there are steps you can take to help prolong its life.

Signs Your Transmission May be Failing

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Being a smart DIYer means knowing the warning signs associated with different problems (or knowing how to look it up online!) that often indicate a transmission isn’t functioning properly. Taking corrective action now may help prevent a full-blown transmission failure later. Become the “transmission whisperer” and listen for these following signals that something may be wrong:

  • Hesitation: A noticeable delay when the transmission shifts from one gear to the next, rough shifts between gears, or continually switches between gears.
  • Discolored or burned-smelling fluid: Transmission fluid that’s very dark and/or smells burned when you remove the dipstick to check it.
  • An illuminated check engine light: Could be accompanied by a delay in shifting—use an on-board diagnostic (OBD) reader to determine what the trouble is.
  • Strong odors: A burning odor when towing, carrying heavy cargo, or driving in hilly terrain could be the result of the transmission being overworked and overheating.

But that’s not all! The transmission may be your problem when you notice:

  • Slow acceleration
  • Reduced fuel mileage
  • Fluid leaks
  • Grinding noises or shaking
  • Whirring sounds when in neutral or in gear
  • Slipping gears
  • A dragging clutch (in manual transmissions)

Getting the Most Out of Your Transmission

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Granted, no transmission lasts forever (though some try), but regular maintenance can keep your car on the road for many years and miles without ever experiencing any transmission problems. Ignore the maintenance, however, and an automatic transmission can fail in as few as 75,000 miles, leaving you with costly repairs, and in some cases, a voided warranty.

A typical transmission service includes:

  • Replacing the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) roughly every 40,000 miles, depending on the OEM’s recommended schedule. Learn how to perform this relatively simple, inexpensive procedure yourself.
  • Upgrading to a synthetic transmission fluid (if appropriate for the vehicle)
  • Adjusting transmission bands every 60,000 miles (such as on an older car or heavy-duty pickup)
  • Checking the fluid level often and refilling it to the proper level when it’s low.
  • Using the ATF specified by the vehicle manufacturer and never mixing different types of transmission fluids.
  • Replacing the transmission filter or screen based on the vehicle manufacturer’s mileage and/or time intervals.
  • Cleaning the transmission pan’s magnet(s) to remove metal fragments it has trapped.
  • Using a transmission conditioning product to help restore performance and fix small leaks.

Keeping Your Transmission in Top Running Condition

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With proper maintenance, most drivers can expect their transmissions to last well over the 150,000-mile mark and beyond. The key to longevity is spending a little money now on preventive maintenance, instead of a lot of money later on rebuilding or replacing the transmission.

What’s the most mileage you’ve ever coaxed out of a transmission? What are your tips and tricks for extending transmission life?

Forgotten Fluids: Checking and Maintaining Lesser-Known Vehicle Fluids

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/hardchessesandyou

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/hardchessesandyou

You’ve probably heard a saying similar to this: just like your body, your car needs fluids to keep going. That’s a truth many of us car owners grew up knowing. But we want to be more specific here—your vehicle also needs the right fluids; fluid chambers filled to the proper level; and fluids and filters changed based on the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Not as catchy, sure, but equally true.

Most DIYers know that ignoring fluid levels and fluid-change intervals virtually guarantees that a mechanical breakdown and shortened vehicle life are in your car’s not-too-distant future. Engine oil and coolant are probably the two fluids most vehicle owners think of, hear about, and check most frequently, but there are several other fluids just as vital to a vehicle’s operation and longevity that many drivers inadvertently overlook. Here, we take you through those lesser-known fluids and how to check them.

Automatic Transmission Fluid

Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) lubricates and protects the transmission’s complex gears and also contains detergents that trap potentially destructive contaminants, holding onto them until they’re removed during a transmission fluid change. For the transmission to work properly, the right type of transmission fluid has to be used (there are many, and they are highly dependent on vehicle manufacturer specifications) and it has to be maintained at the proper level. Your car will tell you the ATF needs changing when you notice it is missing gears, its fuel economy is getting worse, or it revs up inconsistently.

How to check automatic transmission fluid

Consult your vehicle owner’s manual to locate the transmission fluid dipstick and for instructions on how to check the fluid level. Based on manufacturer, there could be differences in whether the fluid level should be checked when the vehicle is hot or cold, while it’s in park or neutral, and while it’s running or turned off.

The recommended transmission fluid change interval varies from vehicle to vehicle, and can also depend on whether synthetic or conventional ATF is being used. Consult your vehicle owner’s manual for the proper change interval—it could be as often as every 30,000 miles or as infrequently as every 100,000 miles. And while you’re at it, determine whether the maintenance schedule calls for changing the transmission fluid filter at the same time. A sure indication that the transmission fluid needs to be changed is if it’s dark or smells burned.

Brake Fluid

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Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/moto_club4ag

Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means it attracts moisture. And moisture in brake fluid is a very destructive contaminant—it will corrode brake parts and eventually lead to system failure. The change interval, based on time and/or mileage, and specific type of brake fluid—there’s DOT 3, 4, 5 and even 5.1—is important, and like most vehicle fluids, dependent on vehicle manufacturer specifications found online or in the owner’s manual.

How to check brake fluid

The reason the under-hood, brake-fluid reservoir on most vehicles is usually see-through is so that it can be checked at a glance, without removing the cap and introducing atmospheric moisture into the fluid. There will be “minimum” and “maximum” levels indicated. The fluid level should be in between. If the brake fluid looks dark brown and dirty it needs to be changed as well.

Washer Fluid

Washer fluid is one of those fluids that you don’t know is low or empty until you need it and it’s not there. It’s also an important safety item, particularly in cold-weather climates where road slush and salt can quickly coat the windshield, instantly obscuring a driver’s vision. Washer fluid doesn’t need to be changed, mainly because it’s used and replaced frequently, but in cold-weather climates it’s important to ensure that the fluid won’t freeze. Most commercially available washer fluids are pre-mixed and won’t freeze so long as you don’t add water to them.

How to check windshield washer fluid

In most vehicles, washer fluid is blue and housed in a white plastic tank. Look on the side of the tank to see if the fluid level falls between the recommended levels, or open the cap covering the tank to check the fluid level.

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering used to be an expensive add-on option for older vehicles, but today, nearly every vehicle comes equipped with it as a standard feature, making it much easier to turn the steering wheel without feeling as though you’re doing an upper-body workout. The system depends on a power steering pump and power steering fluid, and if you’ve ever turned the wheel and heard a loud groaning or moaning sound under the hood, chances are the power steering fluid was low. How often or even whether power steering fluid ever needs to be changed is vehicle-specific, but it always needs to be maintained at the proper level to prevent damage to the power steering pump and so that the vehicle can be steered properly.

How to check power steering fluid

If you can’t find the power steering fluid reservoir, consult the owner’s manual for its location. It’ll either be an opaque tank where you can see the fluid level through the tank’s side, or the tank will have a removable cap and dipstick, possibly with a “hot” or “cold” marking indicating where the fluid level should be based on the engine temperature. Add the right amount, and the right type of power steering fluid.

Differential, Transfer Case, and Transaxle Fluids

Depending on the type of vehicle you’re driving, and possibly whether it’s all-wheel, four-wheel or front-wheel drive, there are other fluids related to the vehicle’s drivetrain (the system that transfers power between the engine, transmission, axles, and wheels) that you may not be aware of but that need to be checked and maintained. Once again, consult your owner’s manual or ask your trusted mechanic if your vehicle has these components, how to check their fluids, and when those fluids need to be changed.

Fluids Can’t Be Ignored

Fluids are a vehicle’s lifeblood and your vehicle is an expensive asset. Fluid maintenance is one of the easiest and most important ways you can protect it and help ensure miles and years of trouble-free driving.

Did we miss any important fluids? Do you have questions about any of the fluids we listed? Let us know in the comments.

 

Car + Culture: The Story Behind Houston’s Food Trucks

Food truck culture has exploded in popularity in the past few years, with adventurous chefs trying their hand at every type of cuisine you could imagine, from sushi burritos to Turkish pizza. You’ll find the trucks circled up at local weekend events or parked outside your office just in time for the lunch rush. People now use them for food at weddings too! There’s good reason for the food truck’s popularity: the food is often delicious and cheap, and a restaurant with wheels is as convenient a meal as you can get.

Marco Novo owns Chef Units, a Houston-based business that makes the food trucks you know, love, and maybe even follow on Instagram. In our latest Car + Culture video, we see how his team takes your standard truck and turns it into a roving kitchen. Shout out to Houston locals, you might spot some food truck favorites in the video too.

Announcing: The 2016 Garage Games

The Advance Auto Parts Garage Games are upon us! Check out all the possible games below and join us in the competition. To enter, just choose a game(s), take a photo or video of your performance (depending on the game you enter), and post it on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #AdvanceGames2016 . Or upload it directly at http://bit.ly/AdvanceGames2016 (and check out current entries at that page as well)!

You could win an Advance Auto Parts Gift Card valued up to $100, plus the admiration of thousands, well, at least your best friends. Play, share and win!

2016 Advance Auto Parts Garage Games

Are you ready to play? To enter, post the video or photo of your performance on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #AdvanceGames2016 or upload it directly at http://bit.ly/AdvanceGames2016.

So, What Is a Trickle Charger?

trickle charger

Trickle chargers, also called battery maintainers, can come in handy if you have a struggling car battery or when it’s time to dust off the long-garaged cars or recreational vehicles like boats, jet skis, RVs, motorcycles, and golf carts. Even though you may be ready to hit the road (or water), it doesn’t mean your vehicle’s battery is.

There’s an easy way to prevent battery failure when you’re storing vehicles for a while, however. Read on for some expert advice about battery maintenance and how these trickle chargers work.

First, about your batteries

All batteries self-discharge, which is a decrease in power over time. Motorcycle batteries, for example, self-discharge 1% every day, even when not in use. The same goes for car batteries: keep a car stored in the garage for a couple months and you might not have enough battery juice to start it. A car’s alternator does the job of maintaining a healthy battery, but it won’t recharge a dead battery. That’s where a trickle charger comes into play. Basically, trickle chargers help the battery maintain power and stop self-discharge.

Even when not in use, a battery still gradually loses power.

How trickle chargers workhow a trickle charger works

Trickle chargers use electricity to replenish batteries at the same rate as the self-discharge. The energy is transferred in a “trickle,” thus the name. We recommend that you use a trickle charger that shuts off automatically, or goes in “float” mode, when your battery is fully charged; otherwise, you need to monitor your battery and unplug the charger when you have enough power. A trickle charger can overcharge and damage your battery if you leave it on for too long, so don’t forget about it!

The “low and slow” method provided by a trickle charger results in a more thorough, reliable charge and longer battery life.

Low and slow wins the race

A quick jump charge from your neighbor or tow station may get your vehicle running, but it comes at a high cost to your battery by prematurely wearing it out. The “low and slow” method provided by a trickle charger results in a more thorough, reliable charge and longer battery life.

trickle charger for atvs

Battery storage and maintenance tips

A trickle charger is just one tool you can use to maintain your vehicle’s battery life. To ensure you don’t end up stranded on the road or lake, you can also follow these steps:

  • Store your battery or vehicle in a cool location protected from extreme temperatures and changes.
  • Use a battery with the correct amperage needed for your vehicle. Consult your owner’s manual.
  • Reduce vibrations by tightening the battery’s hold-down clamps when in use.
  • Accidents happen, but try to avoid deep-discharging, aka “killing/draining,” your battery (by leaving on your vehicle’s lights for example).
  • Never keep a battery dead for long periods of time.
  • Keep your battery fully charged as often as possible.

So, do you use a trickle charger to help with keeping your battery powered? Let us know in the comments.