Cars and Conversation - Advance Auto Parts Blog

Celebrate America Recycles Day — November 15, 2014

Are you doing your part to reduce waste? We salute America Recycles Day!

As part of the Keep America Beautiful program, America Recycles Day is a nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the US. Every year on or around November 15, America Recycles Day event organizers like you can serve to educate neighbors, friends and colleagues through events nationwide.

One way to help the environment as you tackle those car maintenance projects is to recycle your used batteries and motor oil. Advance is here to help. Just visit your nearby Advance Auto Parts store for more details.*

 

Recycling Flyer

*Free services available on most automotive vehicles, most locations, unless prohibited by law.  Services may not be available at all stores due to select local community ordinances. Contact your local Advance Auto Parts store for complete details.

Exclusive 2014 SEMA Show Highlights

The 2014 SEMA Show was a big success…and Advance was there! See what our Street Talker has to say about the happenings.

It’s Friday at the 2014 SEMA Show, and that can only mean one thing: if we want more custom-built automotive craziness, we’ll have to wait till next year. Yes, SEMA 2014 (Nov. 4-7) has officially reached an end, and we were there for every bit of it, roaming the floors of the Las Vegas Convention Center and doing endless double-takes at all of the fine modified metal on display.

We’d spend thousands of words telling you about every single car at the show, but something tells us you don’t have that kind of time. Here’s the next best thing, then — a list of our top three favorite cars from SEMA 2014. This is Street Talk, of course, so they’re gonna have a stance, and their engines are gonna make a whole lot of power. That still doesn’t narrow it down very much—which, by the way, is what makes SEMA so amazing—but here are the three rides that we just can’t get out of our heads.

BMW M4 Vorsteiner GTRS4Vorsteiner GTRS4

What happens when you take a BMW M4 and slap the sickest widebody kit on it that you can imagine? That’s what Southern California tuning outfit Vorsteiner set out to discover, and the result is the Vorsteiner GTRS4, which caused one of the biggest stirs this year. The front fenders are four inches wider than stock, and the rears gain a ridiculous seven inches. Those bulbous rear haunches actually remind us a bit of a widebody Porsche 911. The GTRS4 rides on 20-inch wheels that wear 345-width tires in back (almost as wide as a Dodge Viper), and its height-adjustable suspension aims to improve the M4’s somewhat brittle ride without sacrificing any of BMW’s stock adaptive suspension features. Under the hood, the 425-horsepower M4 arguably didn’t need any improvement whatsoever, but Vorsteiner cranked the volume to 550 hp just for good measure.

Galpin Auto Sports Ford MustangGalpin Auto Sports Ford Mustang

There’s an argument to be made that the 707-hp 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat has stolen a bit of the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang’s thunder. After all, the Mustang currently tops out at “only” 435 hp with the GT’s 5.0-liter V8. But Ford’s biggest dealership — Van Nuys, CA-based Galpin — has an Auto Sports tuner division of some repute, and their team whipped a black 2015 Mustang GT into a 725-hp monster for SEMA duty. The power comes courtesy of a Whipple supercharger, and the Galpin crew also threw in a window in the hood so you can admire it, along with gold wheels and gold interior trim. The best part is, Galpin Auto Sports has a history of offering such modifications to customers, and it looks like this package will be available in the near future.

Kia K900Kia K900 High Performance

This creation, on the other hand, will likely never be available for purchase, but it’s a tantalizing glimpse of what the luxurious K900 could be. Thanks to novel rear-mounted Garrett twin turbochargers that are visible through a viewport in the trunk, the High Performance K900 maintains the regular car’s 5.0-liter V8 configuration under the hood, but the turbos turn up the wick from 420 hp to an astonishing 650 hp. To tighten up the K900’s languid suspension, Kia paired Eibach lowering springs with 21-inch wheels, giving the car a pretty mean stance in the process. Ksport brakes with 15-inch rotors and eight-piston calipers top off this tasty package. Now, if only Kia would offer a high-performance K900 from the factory; then we’d be getting somewhere.Kia K900 interior

What caught your eye?

You read all the SEMA news this week, right? What are your Top 3 cars from the 2014 SEMA Show? Let us know in the comments.

 

Editor’s note: Whether you attended SEMA, or are just living vicariously through our blog post, Advance Auto Parts has the parts to keep your fantasy ride running right all year round.

James Hetfield’s Black Pearl to appear at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show

James Hetfield Black PearlMetallica front-man’s prized possession to turn heads at the LA Auto Show later this month.

The award-winning Black Pearl is coming to the Los Angeles Auto Show this November. Built from the ground up and designed by Metallica’s James Hetfield and world renowned custom car builder Rick Dore, the Black Pearl has been turning heads at shows all around the United States for the past year, and is coming home to California to appear at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show November 18th through 30th.

“It is a real honor to have the Black Pearl included in this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show,” enthuses Dore in anticipation of the show. “The Black Pearl is one of those things that – we initially had been taking other vehicles and cutting and pasting, making you own prototype in a way,” explains Hetfield. “This one we actually started from scratch. We started with a ’48 Jag and basically tried to work it, work it down to frame and build it up from scratch from a drawing. It took it to a whole new level of car building: from a drawing.” Metallica James Hetfield

With its fastback roof and sleek lines, the Black Pearl was inspired by some of the early concept cars of the 1930’s, while the chassis is based off of a 1948 Jaguar. The body was completely hand built and shaped by Marcel and Luc De Lay under the direction of Rick Dore, who’s Rick Dore Kustoms built the rest of the project before the lustrous black finish was applied by Daryl Hollenbeck. In the past year the ‘Pearl has made award winning appearances at The Grand National Roadster Show, winning the 2014 Al Slonaker, Blackie Gejelan and George Barris Kustom awards and The Goodguys, winning Mother’s Custom of the Year and Best In Show, and was shown at The Quail and A Motor Sports Gathering, amongst others. 

The Los Angeles Auto Show is open to the public November 21st through November 30th. For admission info and tickets, visit www.laautoshow.com.

Baby, it’s cold outside! Pros and cons about heated seats for cars

Car seatsWhen cars were first invented, rides in them could be downright chilly, especially during winter months. After all, these early-model vehicles were open bodied, so wind could whip around drivers and passengers alike as rain, snow and/or sleet fell freely upon their heads. Glass windshields started to appear around 1907, breaking some of the wind, and motorists bundled up and put gas lamps in their cars to create some radiated heat. But, still! It was cold.

At the 13th National Automobile Show in New York, a mass production car debuted that was fully enclosed: the Hudson “Twenty,” which was produced in Detroit, starting on July 3, 1909. Because this car was a warmer ride, 4,000 vehicles sold that year – this in spite of the cost of nearly $1,000 (about $26,000 in today’s dollars; remember that car financing wasn’t typically available to buyers). In 1910, Hudson built nearly 6,500 of these cars to continue to meet demand and, by 1925, Hudson was the third largest US car manufacturer behind Ford and Chevrolet.

Although an enclosed car was warmer than an open-bodied one, traveling was still a cold proposition in the winter. Enterprising people tried to recycle exhaust fumes into their vehicles to benefit from small amounts of interior heat. This doesn’t sound like a particularly safe idea, though, and it couldn’t have smelled great, either. In 1929, a hot air heater was available in the Ford Model A. It took a while to fire up and it provided inconsistent engine-generated heat, but it had to be safer than inhaling exhaust fumes. In 1933, Ford installed the first in-dash heating unit: gas powered.

Meanwhile, General Motors created a heater that used redirected engine coolant, debuting the first modern heater core in 1930. Although improvements are continually being made in the auto world, including with heaters, this 1930 model is still the basis of what’s being used today.

Heated seats

Although car heaters made driving far more comfortable, a heated seat would provide targeted heat to one particular body part – and that was an appealing idea to many. It’s reported in many places online that General Motors (GM) tested car seat heaters in 1939 on select models, but no additional details or sources seem to be available. But, GM clearly was a pioneer in the heated seat effort, with Robert Ballard of GM credited with the first patent. He applied for his patent in 1951 and was issued #2,698,893 in 1955. See pictures and detailed text of his patent here.

In 1966, the Cadillac Deville came with the option of heated seats, along with two other luxury innovations: headrests and an AM/FM stereo radio. This option more closely resembled heating pads for the seats, rather than today’s more sophisticated options, but at least they were warm. Here’s a photo of the temperature controls.

Who gets credit for the first “real” heated seats? Saab, although the initial goal was to minimize backaches, which would lead to more pleasurable traveling – which would make for safer driving, according to Saab. The original press release reassured car owners that the heating system was not affected by dampness or water, causing Jalopnik to have this bit of fun: I like the “not affected by dampness” part in there, because that’s automaker code for “Go ahead and wet your pants! You won’t die! Enjoy!”

Let’s talk about safety

In a 2011 article in The Legal Examiner, it was stated that approximately 30% of cars on the road today come with heated seats. Edmunds.com states it in a different way: that nearly 300 models of cars come with seat warmers today.

There is no doubt that they provide comfort in the cold months. However, although manufacturers typically list that these heaters max out between 86 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit, temps can sometimes reach 150 degrees. Third degree burns can develop in about ten minutes when temperatures reach 120 degrees, and people with diabetes, neuropathy and/or other paralysis issues may not have the ability to sense danger in time to shut off the heater.

Toasted skin syndrome is an actual condition that, according to the Chicago Tribune in 2013 “results when the backs of your legs, thighs and buttocks become darkened and discolored after too much time snuggled into a heated seat. Yes, your Fanny Fryer accessory package literally could tan your hide.”

The article goes on to say that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Society of Automotive Engineers alike have formed “what can only be called crack teams to get to the bottom of it all and forge safety standards.”

It’s easy – all too easy – to joke about seat warmer challenges but results can be quite serious. The integrity of the burned skin, The Legal Examiner article states, could be compromised permanently – and this is not a theoretical issue, with numerous people already receiving significant burns from car seat heaters.

Heated seat repairs

If you decide that the benefit of more targeted heat is worth potential risks, and your heated seats aren’t functioning properly, then here is a checklist to guide you through troubleshooting, repairs and replacement.*

Question: who wants to tear apart their car seats to diagnose a heated seat problem?

Answer: nobody.

Fortunately, there are plenty of potential problems and fixes to try first, including:

  • Check for and fix blown fuses. Does that solve the problem?
  • Make sure that the plug connecting the seat to the wiring is free from corrosion or dirt. Using a voltmeter, make sure that at least 12 volts exist on each side of the switch.

Still having a problem? Pull out your car manual to see where the thermistor is located. Has it shifted? If so, then that shift probably burned out the heating wire. Burn spots in the car’s fabric indicate the likelihood of this issue. If that’s the case, you’ll need to replace or solder bad wire.

Let’s say that none of this helps. You then should use an ohmmeter to see which section of the heating element is causing a problem (knowing that the answer might be “all”). If you decide to replace the unit:

  • Detach any wires from the seat.
  • Remove the seat from the car.
  • Disassemble the seat, separating the back and base, and removing the cushion and leather from the base.
  • Replace all heated seats parts, including the heating element and the wiring.
  • Put the seat together again.
  • Reconnect the wiring.

Editor’s note: What are your thoughts about and experiences with heated car seats? What questions do you have? Please leave your comments below. And, check out Advance Auto Parts for the best in savings and selection.

 

*Always consult your owner’s manual first. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure warranties are not voided.

Crucial Cars: Toyota Tundra

Toyota TndraFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this installment, our favorite neighborhood mechanic talks through Toyota’s colossal contribution to the full-size truck market.

 If you had told a pickup truck driver in the mid 1970s or ‘80s that Toyota would one day introduce a full-size pickup in the U.S. that would compete with the “traditional” full-size pickup brands—Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and GMC—they probably would have laughed you out of the room. And if you’d also told them that just such a truck would be produced in Texas—where bigger is always better, particularly when it comes to pickups, and hats—they would have known you were crazy for sure. Toyota, after all, was better known then for its gas-sipping, compact cars, as well as its compact Tacoma and mid-size T100 pickups.

Fast forward to 2013 when the full-size Toyota Tundra was the sixth best-selling pickup in America. My how times, attitudes, and even Toyota trucks, have changed.

First introduced in the U.S. in 1999 as a 2000 model year to replace the T100, Toyota’s Tundra was named Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year in both 2000 and 2008. The first-generation Tundras spanned from 1999 to 2006, and with the availability of a 4.7-liter V-8 producing 245 horsepower, were viewed by the industry as the first real foreign threat to the domestic full-size pickup truck market. Tundra’s image among hardcore pickup enthusiasts, however, was still that of a smaller, slightly car-like pickup that wasn’t really up to competing with full-size American pickups just yet, particularly in the area of towing capacity.

That all changed with the second generation, a slightly larger Tundra introduced in 2006 with an available 5.7-liter V-8 engine, towing capacity of 10,000-plus pounds and payload capacity of more than a ton. To illustrate the 2015 Tundra’s towing capacity, since that is such an important consideration for pickup owners, Toyota highlights the 2015 Tundra’s powerful stats in reviewing its latest model online.

“381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, a 6-speed automatic transmission, plus a standard Tow Package with added engine and transmission oil coolers equal heavy-duty towing capability. Add Double Overhead Cams (DOHC), a 32-valve head design and Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing, and you get a drivetrain that can tow a space shuttle.”

And yeah, it really did tow a space shuttle.

With an MSRP starting at $29,020, the 2015 Tundra backs up its powerful persona with design features that make it a truck suitable for work, play and family. Tundra’s high-tech and driver friendly. Consider the Limited Premium Package with an illuminated entry system and front and rear sonar that help drivers park. Also available on the 2015 model year is a dizzying array of available interior packages and custom features, such as the Entune™ Multimedia Bundle, consisting of an AM/FM/CD player with MP3 capability, 6.1-inch touch-screen display, auxiliary jack, USB 2.0 port, iPod connectivity, control, and hands-free phone capability.

First Generation Toyota Tundra

First Generation Toyota Tundra

The Tundra is particularly well-known and lauded for its passenger-friendly cab. A recent review by Edmunds described the Tundra CrewMax’s interior as “enormous, featuring excellent legroom and a rear seat that not only slides but reclines as well.”

When you can move and recline a rear truck seat – that’s a lot of room.

Cab configurations for the newest Tundra include a regular cab, Double Cab with four, forward-hinged doors, and the previously mentioned CrewMax with even more room and four doors. Either a six-and-a-half-foot bed or an eight-foot bed are available with the regular and Double Cab models, while the only bed option available with the CrewMax model is a five-and-a-half-foot bed.

One potential downside with the Tundra is its lower fuel economy, which is EPA estimated at 15 and 19 MPG for 2015. But, with the recent trend in lower gas prices, that fuel economy might not be as big a concern as it once was for many drivers.

And while we’re talking numbers, consider this not-so-well-known fact—Tundra wasn’t always named Tundra. When it was first introduced, the Tundra’s “concept” or “show” truck models were named the Toyota T150. Sound like another pickup truck you might be familiar with? Yeah, Ford thought so too, and threatened to sue Toyota unless the name was changed.

Given Toyota trucks’ enduring popularity in the U.S. – first with the T100 and Tacoma, along with the Tundra’s more recent introduction – parts for the Tundra, or any Toyota truck for that matter, are widely available and offer endless options for just about anything you want to do to your Toyota truck, whether new or old-school.

My favorite part about the 2015 Tundra, however, just might be Toyota’s creativity in naming several available colors, including “blue ribbon metallic,” “sunset bronze mica,” or my favorite—”attitude black metallic.” I wonder how that’s different from just plain old black, which is also an available color, minus the “plain old” descriptors of course.

Editor’s note: Whether you’re customizing or cleaning your Tundra, Advance Auto Parts has a top selection of parts and supplies. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.

Top 10 vehicle accessories for camping, fishing and hunting trips

Cargo haulingIn many parts of the country, fall is the ideal time to pack up the truck and trailer and head out on a hunting, fishing, or camping adventure. I like to do it all, and often head to a nearby state or national park, or to a friend’s farm where there’s acreage and an ideal spot for camping in the woods.

At the very least, this is an annual trip, and one I’ve taken so many times that I don’t even need to look at a list to confirm I’ve packed everything. Over the years, I’ve found tools and accessories—sometimes the hard way—that have made my trips and cargo hauling a little easier by increasing the convenience factor.

Here you’ll find a list of my top 10 favorite trip accessories.

1. Magnetic key case – My ’95 F150 had four-wheel drive, but it didn’t have remote keyless entry or a keypad, which wasn’t a problem until I locked the keys in the cab on a camping trip in the mountains. I know have a magnetic key holder hidden on all my vehicles to prevent future lockouts.

2. Liquid transfer tanks – Whether it’s for the snowmobiles, the UTVs and ATVs, dirt bikes, generator, or a combination of all of the above, one of us always has a liquid transfer tank in the truck bed so we can keep all of our fun fueled up throughout the weekend.

3. Pet partition – Road trip or camping trip, Charlie and Oscar are two dogs who like to ride. I love their company too, but I don’t want them jumping from seat to seat, getting hair everywhere, or trying to get into the food I have packed while we’re traveling. Plus, I want to keep them safer in the event I stop short, so I contain them to the rear cargo area with a pet partition.

4. Roof-mounted cargo rack or hitch-mounted cargo tray – There’s rarely enough room inside the vehicle for everything we need to take, particularly if it’s a longer holiday weekend or weeklong trip, so I gave myself some extra carrying capacity. Depending on what I need to haul, I stow the gear on the roof in a cargo rack or on a tray off the rear hitch, secure it, and go.

5. Weather-resistant cargo bags – These save the day when traveling through snow or rain – and they look a lot classier than having everything stowed in plastic garbage bags.

6. Cargo net – If you’re hauling gear in a truck bed or trailer and are worried about it blowing away once you’re up to speed, invest in a cargo net. It’s a lot safer, and cheaper, than having to go out and replace whatever you just lost to the side of the road.

7. Straps – Extra carrying capacity comes with the responsibility to other drivers that the load is properly secured. I like ratcheting tie-down straps because they get nice and snug and give me confidence that my load isn’t going to shift or fly away. For organizing gear – including sleeping bags, extension cords and hoses – I use Velcro straps that keep everything from becoming a tangled mess.

8. Mounts – I use my UTV everywhere and for everything, whether it’s work or play-related, and it’s trailered behind me on almost every camping or hunting trip. I found the easiest and safest way to haul things on it, whether it’s a weedeater or a gun, is with a mount that attaches to the roll bar.

9. Cooler – Inside the truck, I got tired of messing with ice to keep my drinks and snacks cool when traveling from home to the campsite. I solved that problem with a 12V cooler that plugs into my dash and does the work for me, with an added bonus of keeping warm food at temperature too.

10. 12V Heater – I only use this for emergencies now, but there was a brief period of time when my car’s blower motor went out in November and I relied on this little heat source to do the trick until I could get the motor fixed.

What are your must-have accessories when headed out on a camping trip to the woods or a road trip to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving?

Editor’s note: Make your next trip easier with vehicle accessories that provide extra room, comfort, or security. Advance Auto Parts can help. Buy online, pick up in store, in 30 minutes.

 

Pet Transportation – Top Tips for a Safe Trip

Booster seat for dogs

Our DIY Mom covers the basics of transporting your pets.

As a working mom, I’m always on the go, and that means I don’t have much time to spend at home with Bootsie, my beloved miniature labradoodle. But I spend plenty of time behind the wheel, so that got me to thinking:

Why can’t Bootsie come along for the ride?

The answer is, she can — and believe you me, she does. Now that she’s used to it, her little curly-wurly tail starts wagging whenever she hears the jingle of car keys. But there was a learning curve for me, because I had to figure out on my own how to keep us safe and sound at speed. Here are the three most important lessons I picked up along the way.

Secure Your Pet

My top concern when I’m traveling with my pet is to make sure she’s secured for the duration of the ride. I know folks have these romantic ideas about pickup trucks with dogs roaming freely in the back, but the truth is, that’s pretty dangerous — not only for the dog, but also for cars and people in the vicinity if the dog (poor thing) happens to be thrown out by a sudden stop. Responsible pet owners know that you’ve got to have some sort of special seat or harness that keeps your little munchkin in one place (and out of your way). For dogs under 30 pounds like my Bootsie, a booster seat is a great solution, and it keeps your upholstery clean, too. If you want to give your pet a little more room to groove while still maintaining your personal space, a pet partition will do the trick, though it’s less protective from the pet’s point of view.

Save Your Seats

As much as we love our furry friends, we know they can do a number on automotive upholstery if they’re left to their own devices. Especially for larger dogs that won’t fit in a booster seat, it makes sense to invest in some kind of a seat protector. I like the kind that covers the whole rear bench, seatbacks and all. You can get a quilted cover, too, for enhanced comfort. Both are claw- and bite-resistant, and you can even hose off the quilted one as required.

Keep Fido Fed

On longer car trips, you know you’re going to get hungry, right? Well, don’t forget that your pet gets hungry, too, and there aren’t many Doggie Drive-Thrus next to the highway. That means you have to be prepared, and it starts with a portable food container. I like this 8-cup model because it’s compact and easy to stow, and it also includes two dishes so you don’t have to bring them separately. If your pup’s got a bigger appetite, there’s a 36-cup container that features built-in food and water dishes. Now, if you’re like me, the idea of bringing a water dish in the car conjures up images of catastrophic spills. That’s why I’m a big fan of this 3-quart water carrier — it’s got a nifty reservoir that only makes a little water available at a time, and because the bowl’s part of the structure, it can’t be flipped over. That’s a win for both you and your pet.

Your Turn

Those are the best tips I’ve got, but I’m still learning. Do you have any suggestions for safe and successful pet travel? Let us know in the comments!

Editor’s note: Keep those cuties safe and secure on the road. Advance Auto Parts can help, with great savings and selection. Got a big trip coming up? Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

 

Top 10 Winter Prep Tips for Your Vehicle

Windshield WipersUse this checklist to avoid getting left out in the cold.

Don’t make winter any harder than it has to be – on yourself or your vehicle. To keep your car running reliably this winter, spend a little time on preventive maintenance before that chill in the air turns into a polar vortex.

Here’s a checklist of 10 important maintenance items to take care of now, so your vehicle can take care of you later. While you may be familiar with several, there may be some surprises on the list.

1. Radiator cap – while it’s a simple and inexpensive part, the radiator cap plays a critically important role in your heating and cooling system – not the least of which is keeping the antifreeze in your vehicle, where it should be. A leaking radiator cap can cause the engine to overheat and allow antifreeze to leak, neither of which are good scenarios for winter-weather driving. Take a close look around the radiator cap for signs of leaking fluid. To be on the safe side, if the vehicle radiator cap is several years old, replace it with a new one. The five or six bucks you may invest are well worth the peace of mind and performance you get in return. There is a lot more information available about a radiator cap’s importance.

2. Thermostat – another inexpensive, yet critically important component of your vehicle heating and cooling system is the thermostat. If it’s not functioning properly, you might find yourself without heat. That’s because thermostats can fail, particularly if the coolant hasn’t been changed regularly and corrosion has appeared. Change the thermostat, and change your odds having a warm interior all winter long.

3. Undercar – your vehicle ground clearance could decrease this winter, but only because the road surface might be rising up to meet you in the form of snow drifts or boulder-like chunks of snow and ice. Take a quick look under your car and search for any loose plastic panels related to aerodynamics that might have come loose and are dangling, as well as any exhaust system parts that look like they’re hanging particularly low.

4. Tire Pressure – temperatures aren’t the only thing going down in winter. For every 10-degree drop in air pressure, it’s estimated that tire pressure decreases by one pound. In a tire that’s only supposed to hold 35 pounds of pressure, colder temperatures can translate to a significant tire-pressure deficit. Underinflated tires wear faster, hurt fuel economy, and can reduce handling and traction. Check them with a tire pressure gauge.

5. Headlights – even if they haven’t burned out, it may be time to replace them. Did you know that headlight bulbs dim over time? Couple that with the haze that may have developed on your plastic headlight covers and you could be driving with significantly less light, and reduced down road vision. Change your headlights and restore your headlight covers, and see further.

6. Oil – if you’re not using synthetic oil, consider switching. It flows more freely at lower temperatures, making for easier starts and less engine wear.

7. Tire Tread Depth – tires that are showing their age with the telltale sign of little to no remaining tread depth aren’t a good way to head into winter. Tires are your first line of defense when it comes to gaining traction in snow and ice, and worn tires make that job harder. Take a minute to measure your tire tread depth.

8. Windshield deicer – decrease the amount of time you’re out in the cold, trying to scrape your windshield, and increase your visibility with windshield deicer. To see clearly, you need an ice-free windshield, and this is the quickest way to get it.

9. Antifreeze – not only will it help prevent heating and cooling system corrosion in every season, antifreeze also protects your engine in frigid temperatures, if it’s at the proper level and strength. And that’s not all. Having the proper level of antifreeze is a must have if you want the level of heat you’ve come to expect.

10. Emergency Kit – even a new or well-maintained vehicle can experience trouble, and if it does let you down, you should be prepared with an emergency kit to help see you through in case you’re stranded for a few minutes or even a few hours.

As an experienced driver and quite possibly someone who’s pretty seasoned at working on their own vehicle, you’re probably already familiar with the usual suspects that can cause winter driving problems. Even so, it doesn’t hurt for a quick review of your battery and  windshield wipers as the final step in your winter driving preparation checklist.

Chances are, you and your vehicle will get through winter just fine. All it takes is a little time and commitment in the garage now, instead of wishing you had later on.

Editor’s note: Drive safe and warm this winter with parts and accessories from Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store, in 30 minutes.

Top Vehicles with Retro Styling – Part 2

Dodge Challenger logoIn this exclusive sequel, we explore more contemporary vehicles designed with a nod to the old-school. 

Why do so many people like newer cars with retro styling? Maybe it’s because the vehicle in question is part of a great memory they have. It could also be that the original vehicle had an impressive reputation for good looks or performance and today’s buyers are hoping to recapture those attributes with the modern model. Whatever the reasons, vehicle manufacturers seem to like these retro styles as much as drivers do, particularly when they hit on a winning combination that results in soaring sales.

In the first installment of Top Vehicles with Retro Styling,we looked at several models whose looks borrowed heavily from their ancestors. Since there’s no shortage of retro-styled vehicles that are new today or that debuted within the last several years, we decided to examine a few more.

Chevy HHRChevy HHR – the acronym stands for “Heritage High Roof.” Chevy’s HHR was available in model years 2005 through 2011, and if it looks strikingly familiar, it’s probably because you’re thinking about Chrysler’s PT Cruiser. According to a review in Popular Mechanics, the HHR was also designed by the PT Cruiser’s designer after he and an auto industry executive both left GM for Chrysler. On its “discontinued vehicle page,” Chevy touts the HHR’s best-in-class fuel economy at 32 mpg, resulting in more than 500 miles between fill ups. For a retro wagon like the HHR, one would expect Chevy to be highlighting the HHR’s retro good looks or other appealing features instead of staid fuel mileage.

Chevy SSRChevy SSR – Chevy was obviously having a “thing” in naming its retro models with three-letter acronyms back in the early 2000s. Their Super Sport Roadster supposedly took its looks from a 1950’s-era Chevy pickup. It featured a folding hard top and tonneau cover, weighed in at nearly two-and-a-half tons and was powered by an eight-cylinder, 300 horsepower engine. The SSR was available from 2003 to 2006. Sadly, or gloriously, depending on your view, it was included on Time magazine’s list of The 50 Worst Cars of All Time.

Plymouth ProwlerPlymouth Prowler – From 1997 through 2001, the Prowler was the baddest looking vehicle on new car dealers’ lots. Less than 12,000 were sold throughout all the model years and there were none produced for the 1998 model year. While the Prowler drew rave reviews for its radical looks and nod to 1950’s-era hot rodding, it drew an equally strong criticism for being powered by a measly V-6. The Prowler was Plymouth’s last new model before the brand disappeared altogether, and it too made Time’s list of The 50 Worst Cars of All Time.

Pontiac GTO 2004Pontiac GTO – This one’s a bit of an oddball. If you’re going to name a car after a hardcore, ever-popular muscle car from the ‘60s, shouldn’t that new retro car at least look a little like its proud papa? Yeah, someone forgot to mention that to Pontiac, and therein lies the biggest disappointment with the 2004-2006 GTO – it looks like an unassuming family sedan. Surprisingly, underneath that sleepy exterior was a 350-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 and a six-speed manual transmission. But as we all know, when it comes to cars, looks do matter.

Dodge ChallengerDodge Challenger – Unlike the folks over at GM with their GTO, when Chrysler introduced the “new” Challenger in 2008, they embraced the Dodge Challenger’s original muscle-car-good-lucks from the 1970 through 1974 model years. From the hood scoops to the front grill and four headlights, the new Challengers look decidedly similar to their old-school counterparts. Those street-tough looks are backed up by some serious power in the Challenger’s top-of-the-line model that features a 6.4-liter V-8 and 470 horsepower.

Given the public’s love affair with retro-styled new vehicles, the aforementioned models most certainly won’t be the last that we see appearing on the showroom floor. Who knows? In another 50 years, maybe we’ll see a new, retro-styled Tesla Model S that borrows some from the original looks sported by its ancient ancestor.

Read Top Vehicles with Retro Styling, Part 1.

Editor’s note: Keep your ride looking good and running right with parts and accessories from Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store, in 30 minutes.

 

Crucial Cars: Mazda MX-5 Miata

Mazda MX-5 MiataFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this installment, our lovable Gearhead from Gearhead’s Garage discusses the Mazda MX-5 Miata’s iconic past and previews the all-new 2016 Miata.

If you know me, you know that horsepower’s usually what gets me going. And I mean lots of it. Tire-smoking V8s. Twelve-second quarter-miles. These days I’m thinking lustful thoughts about the new 650-hp Corvette Z06. That’s where my head’s at by default.

But occasionally I make exceptions, and the Mazda MX-5 Miata might be the most notable one. We’re talking about a tiny Japanese roadster that started out with 116 hp and still doesn’t even have 170. Like everyone who loves sports cars, though, I love the Miata. With rear-wheel drive and the Lord’s own manual shifter, it’s like an extension of your body on a winding road. There’s a new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata just around the corner, but before we get to that, let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane and remember where Mazda’s one-of-a-kind ragtop came from.

First Generation Miata First Generation

Code-named “NA” and distinguished by its pop-up headlights, the original Miata (1990-’97) took the world by storm with its proper sports-car handling, Japanese reliability and downright reasonable pricing. Like I said, the base 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine made just 116 hp, and the updated 1.8-liter four-cylinder (’94-’97) only gained about 15 hp, depending on the exact year. But the Miata’s painstakingly tuned exhaust system sounded nice and throaty, and that perfect shifter and rear-drive athleticism made it the darling of critics and consumers alike. Plus, the manual folding top couldn’t have been easier to operate. Even today, there are still plenty of first-gen Miatas for sale, at bargain prices and with many more years of service to offer.

Second generation Mazda MiataSecond Generation

The “NB” Miata (1999-2005) basically kept the NA’s 1.8-liter four, bumping output slightly to 140 horses. Speed still wasn’t the Miata’s thing. But fixed headlights and swoopier styling gave it a more contemporary look, and the overhauled interior offered additional luxuries, including a Bose stereo. Like the original, the NB Miata is widely available on the pre-owned market at very appealing prices. But the one I want is the Mazdaspeed Miata, which was sold for 2004-’05 only with a 178-hp turbo four that finally gave the car a proper sense of urgency. Man, what a motor! It’s night and day compared to the regular one, and there’s hardly any turbo lag, which is amazing given how long ago they designed it. Don’t tell Mazda, but the Mazdaspeed Miata is actually a better car than the third-gen model, which was never offered in Mazdaspeed trim.

Third generation Mazda Third Generation

The current Miata is about to be supplanted by the new 2016 model, but it’s had a solid run. Blessed with a new 2.0-liter four making up to 167 hp (you’ll want the version introduced in 2009, with its higher redline and sportier performance), the “NC” Miata was the first to offer genuinely respectable acceleration in base form. It was also bigger and heavier, but not by too much, and thankfully it retained the car’s traditional handling excellence despite deviating from the script with a different suspension design. An unconventional offering was the “PRHT” retractable-hardtop version, which added just 70 pounds to the curb weight but still seemed like overkill, in my opinion, for an elemental little roadster. Overall, the NC Miata was a cute and capable update to the Miata line, but if you ask me, it didn’t really move the needle, especially compared to the NB Mazdaspeed Miata.

2016 Mazda MiataWhat’s Next

Hopefully, that’s where the all-new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata comes in. We don’t know much about its specifications yet, although the word’s out that it’ll have a more fuel-efficient 2.0-liter four. But we do know what it looks like, and whoo boy, that styling’s definitely moving the needle for me. You wouldn’t call this new Miata “cute.” It’s more like a cross between a Honda S2000 and a BMW Z3, and that goes for the sleek, high-quality interior, too. In case it’s not clear, that’s high praise. To me, the 2016 Mazda Miata looks like a real, no-apologies sports car; it’s the first one I’ve actually longed for just based on appearances. I also like that it’s going to be about 300 pounds lighter, which hopefully means it’ll be the quickest base Miata yet. Now, will they finally do another Mazdaspeed Miata after more than a decade? I hope so. But meanwhile, the 2016 Miata looks like a pretty satisfying consolation prize. One thing’s for certain: Mazda’s best-selling roadster won’t stop being a Crucial Car anytime soon.

 

Editor’s note: ready for your next Miata maintenance project? Count on Advance Auto Parts for the best in parts and accessories. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.