Interior Modifications: Part One.

In part one of this two-part series, we look at interior modifications that improve the driver’s performance and comfort.

So you’ve got your engine putting out the power, your suspension/wheels/tires are dialed in, brakes are beefed up and the body is done. Now it’s time to turn your attention to the interior. With your ride’s notably increased performance and handling capabilities come increased responsibilities for the interior. Specifically, keeping the driver securely in place during high-performance driving, providing him with an effective interface between the car and himself, and monitoring additional engine parameters, such as turbo boost.

In the first installment of this two-part series we address seats and steering wheels, two important components that can optimize the performance of the most critical component in the car – the driver.

Get a hold of yourself

Now that you’ve got the more capable suspension and stickier tires, you don’t want to be sliding around in your seat while you’re unraveling your favorite twisty mountain road or taking part in a high-performance driving event, such as an autocross or a track day. A well-bolstered sport seat is key to holding your butt (and the rest of your body) securely in place while you’re enjoying your car’s athletic handling. It’s also a safety benefit, as you can better concentrate on the task at hand rather than having the steering wheel double as a grab handle as you try to prevent yourself from hip-checking the center console.

There are basically two types of performance seats, fixed back and reclining back. As the name implies, the fixed back seats are non-adjustable for recline. Advantages of a fixed-back seat include an abundance of lateral support and excellent compatibility with five- and even six-point racing harnesses. Fixed seats tend to be the choice of those whose car sees more racing duty than daily driver duty. Going with a reclining seat means you’ll enjoy greater comfort, much easier ingress and egress, easier rear seat access and considerably greater compatibility with stock seat belts. Reclining sport seats provide a nice balance between high-performance driving support and daily driver livability.

Recaro fixed back seat in a Porsche 911

Recaro fixed back seat in a Porsche 911

There are a number of companies to choose from when selecting a sport seat, such as Corbeau, Procar, Recaro and Sparco. Recaro seats in particular have been found as either standard or optional equipment in various high-performance cars over the years, ranging from Fords to Mitsubishis to Porsches. That said, all these manufacturers offer well built, comfortable and supportive seats for a wide array of applications.

Steering you right

Unless your car is over 20 years old, it probably has an airbag-equipped steering wheel. As such, you may choose to keep it in place for the added safety factor. That said, some enthusiasts prefer to swap out that original equipment wheel for an aftermarket unit. A few reasons are that a smaller than stock diameter wheel provides slightly quicker turning, a rim wrapped in leather, suede or Alcantara (artificial but very convincing suede) gives a more tactile grip, and an aftermarket wheel usually looks at least ten times better than that typically blocky stock affair.

Momo steering wheel in a Mazda Miata

Momo steering wheel in a Mazda Miata

Just as with the wheels you wrap your tires around, the wheel you wrap your hands around comes in a dizzying array of brands and styles. Check out the sites of Momo, Grant and Nardi and you’ll see what we mean. We prefer the classic three-spoke racing style with a traditional, non-sculpted rim, but your personal preference may dictate otherwise. Given the rather large amount of time you spend using the steering wheel, the importance of selecting one with the right overall diameter, ideal rim thickness and preferred grip cannot be overstated. As such, we suggest going “hands-on” and checking out the wheel (or wheels) you’re interested in at the store in addition to researching them out on-line. As they say in the car selling business, “the feel of the wheel can seal the deal.”


Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts is ready to help with a large selection of quality parts and accessories. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

April is Car Care Month and its theme is: “Be Car Care Aware”

Advance Auto PartsIf you take away only one message from the April 2013 Car Care Month campaign, it should be that there are significant benefits of regular car maintenance and repair.

In 2012, at community-based vehicle inspections held across the country in April and October, a full 77% of inspected vehicles needed service or parts. The biggest car maintenance issues uncovered were:

  • 22% of the cars needed their oil changed
  • 20% of the cars had problems with their cooling systems
  • 18% of the cars needed brake services

Other issues found included:

  • 8% of the vehicles had the “check engine light” on
  • 19% of the vehicles needed new air filters
  • 14% of the vehicles needed at least one belt changed
  • 11% of the vehicles needed maintenance with the battery cables, clamps and/or terminals
  • 10% of the batteries in the vehicles were not properly held down

For even more service and parts issues uncovered, see “Three Out of Four Cars Need Service.”

Car Care Council offers plenty of car care tips

To keep your vehicle running well during Car Care Month and throughout the year, the Car Care Council has identified the 10 most important car maintenance priorities. And if you, like a growing number of Americans, want to be more “green” in your driving habits, here are tips to increased green driving, even if you can’t buy a new, more environmentally-friendly car right now. Ready to go even greener? Here are tips on what’s the newest, latest and greatest in green car technology.

With that, we look forward to seeing you on the road this driving season!

Editor’s note: To get service reminders, car care tips, recall alerts, and help in finding the right mechanic, sign up for an Advance Auto Parts account. For info on the best parts and tools for your maintenance and repair projects, visit the Advance Auto Parts store nearest you.


Fluids, hoses and a little more peace of mind

hood up fixing carHey friends, this time out, we’re gonna delve into the so-called brains of the operation—the car engine. Well, not the engine itself per se, but some of the things that will contribute to its sustained health.

But don’t worry and crinkle your face like my wife does when I try to smoke a cigar inside. What I’m gonna suggest today is just common-sense maintenance, and it’s mostly based around checking your fluids and hoses.

Fluids and Hoses

As you know, your car has a lot of fluids running through it. As your body needs water, your car needs engine oil and coolant, among other things, to keep its engine running smoothly and not too hot. So it’s always a good idea to make sure those fluids are not only at the right levels—and not leaking.

High operating temperatures for your car, particularly during seasonal travel, means more use of your air conditioner and an even stronger need to keep your engine well lubricated.

And as with tire pressure, all checks should be done while your car is cold. This is VERY important because hot fluids can burn you.

First of all, make sure they’re topped off. With coolant it, just means unscrewing the top and making sure the level is where it should be according to a line on the tank, and with oil it means pulling out the dipstick, wiping it down with a rag and sticking it back in. When you pull it out, it should be at or above the line marked on the stick. If it’s too low, add a quart. Your owner’s manual will tell you what kind you need. This is a very simple bit of basic car maintenance and it’s a good idea to check every time you fill your tank.

Also look under your hood and check for leaks. Squeeze the rubber radiator hoses and make sure they’ve got some give to them. If they’re hard and brittle, or worse yet, cracked, they should be replaced. It’s an easy job and it’s far preferable to breaking down on the side of the road when you’re headed out to the lake with the family.

What Do You Carry?

Make sure you have plenty of windshield wiper fluid. Even if it’s not raining, you need to be able to see clearly. Plus, when bugs get stuck to your windshield, your spouse may get antsy…my wife does.

Also make sure that you have a spare tire in your car that’s properly inflated, and you’ve got all the equipment needed should you need to change a tire by the side of the road. Read through the section of your owner’s manual to make sure you have all the necessary equipment and get a feel for what it takes to do it. It’s also a good idea to keep some basics in your car for emergencies: a blanket, a bottle of water, an extra bottle of radiator fluid and windshield wiper fluid.

As I like to tell my friends, get to know your car a little. Become a little familiar with the engine bay and check things out and it will not only save you money and hassle, but will give you something you just can’t put a price on: peace of mind.

Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries a wide selection of hoses, fluids and other quality auto parts. Get back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store…in 30 minutes.


Summer’s almost gone – now let’s hit the road!

Man oh man, has this been a quick summer. I’m not worried. In fact, now that most folks are getting back into their routines, I’m thinking it’s a good time to actually hit the road. It’ll be less hot (hopefully) and far less crowded out there, and that’s never a bad thing.

If you plan on still hitting the road, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First off, even if you’re not a seasoned mechanic, it’s good to know a little about how your car works and how to do basic maintenance. It helps build your confidence during summer travel, and let’s face it: It never hurts to get your hands dirty. When I met her, my wife didn’t know a dipstick from a lipstick, but she’s paid attention to my tips and I’ve taught her some basic car maintenance. She feels more confident and feels more confident on the road. Heed this, ladies. The more you know, the better prepared you will be when it comes time to bring your car in for service. You’re a lot less likely to get ripped off, too.

End-of-Summer Driving

Traveling is stressful enough. You don’t need a breakdown. Keeping an eye on some basic things and adhering to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule will keep your car or truck running smoothly and best of all, keep you from breaking down. Bear in mind that none of these things equate to rocket science. The suggestions I make are important, but also easy to do.

Tire Pressure

The first thing I’m gonna cover is checking tire pressure, because it’s not only vital to your car’s health, but easy to do. Your tires are, after all, your car’s connection with the road, so it’s very important to keep the pressure correct and even. Low tires can affect the car’s handling, wear unevenly and need more frequent replacement but also negatively affect your fuel mileage. This affects not only your wallet but the environment. And if your wife is anything like mine, she’ll appreciate both saving money and doing something good for mother earth.

First, check what your pressure is supposed to be. This information will be in two places: in the owner’s manual and on a sticker on the body of the car behind the driver’s door, measured in psi (pounds per square inch). The psi may be different for the front and rear tires.

Get yourself a tire gauge (shouldn’t be more than $15; I’m partial to the simple digital LED models) and keep it in your glove compartment. Unscrew the rubber cap over the air nozzle on the tire and stick the gauge over it firmly and straight. You’ll hear a quick hiss as a tiny bit of air comes out, but if you stick the gauge on correctly it will stop after about a second.

Read the number on the gauge, pull it off and then do it again. It takes a couple times to do it right before you get the handle of it. Do it for all four tires. If any of them is off by more than 2-3 psi, put some air in and then recheck. You can fill the air at any gas station.

Most importantly, make sure to do this first thing in the morning. The heat of the day and particularly driving will inflate your tires a little and you want to check them when they’re cold. And get in the habit of doing this every few weeks, as tires naturally lose some air pressure. Maintaining the right air pressure is not only good for the car but it’s key to safe driving, particularly driving in the summer.


Remember: Drive safely, enjoy your travels, and check back for more basic car maintenance tips.


Editor’s note: Car maintenance is easy at Advance Auto Parts. We carry a wide selection of quality auto parts, from tire gauges to car brakes, car batteries and more.