Cars and Conversation - Advance Auto Parts Blog

Checking in with Lowered Lifestyle – 2 years later

Photo by: Alex White

Photo by: Alex White

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.”

Photo by: Kendra Aceto

Photo by: Kendra Aceto

“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.

Photo by:  Colton Mantolino

Photo by: Colton Mantolino

“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.”

photo by: Mike Raffia

photo by: Mike Raffia

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?

“Live low.”

Thanks 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.

 

Coming soon: The Classic Car Show

The Classic Car Show 2Globally televised show to feature rare beauties and cult classics—premiering in early 2015.

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.

Classic Car Show 2

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

Jodie KiddAs 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!

Make Your FR-S or BRZ As Fast As It Should Be

Scion FR-s

Scion FR-S

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

Subaru BRZ

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.

Loading Your ATV for Transport — a Cautionary Tale

Quad ATVMy 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.

 

 

 

 

Towing information: 10 maintenance tips before you tow

Recreational vehicles on the highwayEven when you have a vehicle built with towing capacity, there’s still plenty to check and double-check before you get on the road.

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.

Towing checklist

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):

#1: Brakes

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:

  1. Radiator, including hoses and fluids
  2. Water pump
  3. Thermostat and housing
  4. Cooling fan and its switch

Here are:

#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.

Here are:

#6: Tires

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.

mechanic working on a vehicle#7: Wiring

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.

#8: Visibility

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.

Find:

#9: Mirrors

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.

#10: Fluids

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.

Order motor oil and filters here.

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.

 

 

Cleveland vs. Detroit: a race to Motor City

1899_Winton

Photo credit: Crawford Auto Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

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.

Photo credit: Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum.

Photo credit: Crawford Auto Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

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.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - 1968: shows Henry Ford (1863-1947)Henry Ford surges ahead

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.

Happy 4th from Advance!

Photo by Requel Legaspino.

Photo by Requel Legaspino.

We wish you and yours a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday.

(And, a long weekend chock full of blazing DIY-projects!)

—The Advance Team

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!

The Top 3 Minivans for Your Family

Phot credit: De Swert Nicolas.

Phot credit: De Swert Nicolas.

As a mom who knows a thing or two about cars, I can only shake my head when I see yet another growing family squeezing into a three-row crossover SUV. There’s a better solution out there, folks, and it’s called the minivan. Whereas those crossovers have conventional rear doors and cumbersome seat-sliding mechanisms for third-row access, minivans have dual sliding doors that make ingress and egress a cinch. Plus, they don’t ride as high, which makes them easier to load — and when you do load them up, you’ll find they can hold nearly twice as much stuff as many crossovers.

I’m telling you, moms across the country need to band together and get a minivan movement going. When it comes to family vehicles, function should be more important than form, am I right ladies? Moms know best, and minivans are undoubtedly the best vehicle type for families who need more than two rows.

Let me tell you about the three best minivans on the market today.

 

2014 Honda Odyssey1. 2014 Honda Odyssey

If you read car reviews, you’ll hear a lot about how the Odyssey has “sporty handling” or something like that. Let’s be honest: no one buys a minivan for the way it handles, whatever that even means. But the Odyssey does have a carlike feel from the driver seat, at least, and that’s no mean feat considering how large it is — the maximum cargo capacity is 148 cubic feet, dwarfing the Ford Explorer’s 80 cubes. The 2014 Honda Odyssey also comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth streaming audio for your phone, and even a rearview camera. And its 248-horsepower V6 is rated at 28 mpg on the highway, making it considerably more fuel-efficient than most V6-powered crossovers.

2014 Toyota Sienna2. 2014 Toyota Sienna

The Sienna is similar to the Odyssey in many ways, but it’s got a trump card that sets it apart: optional all-wheel drive. That’s a pretty big deal, because all-weather capability is something that clinches a lot of sales for crossover SUVs. With the Sienna, you can enjoy a minivan’s superior versatility along with the security of AWD. It’s also got the best engine in the business, a 3.5-liter V6 that can really whisk this van along. If you’re looking for entertainment options, the 2014 Toyota Sienna offers a nifty split-screen monitor that flips down from the ceiling and allows two different inputs (a video game and a DVD, say) to display at the same time.

2014 Mazda5 13. 2014 Mazda5

Here’s a dark horse candidate for moms who think the Odyssey and Sienna are just too darn big. With three rows and six genuinely usable seats, the 2014 Mazda5 is a real-deal minivan, yet it’s barely larger than a compact crossover SUV. That makes it super simple to park and maneuver around town. On the fuel-economy front, it gets the same 28 mpg as the Odyssey on the highway, but it trounces the bigger van with up to 22 mpg in the city. You can even get a six-speed manual transmission if you ask nicely. If a full-size minivan just doesn’t fit your lifestyle, the Mazda5 is a great alternative.

What Do You Drive?

Do you all drive any of these minivans? Got a different family vehicle that you really swear by? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Editor’s note: Got a minivan in your driveway? You’ll find the best in parts and accessories at Advance Auto Parts. Get back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 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.