Summer Detailing

 

 

1. Prevent UV Damage to Paintwork

As you know, the sun’s rays are what make the beautiful people of the world so tan. What it also does is penetrate and weaken your car’s clear coat layer. Over time, this can lead to complete degradation and harm the pigment layer of your paintwork, causing discoloration or fading. Either way, it’s not fun. Plus it’s easily preventable with a sealant or wax. Before summer hits, I recommend sealing with a long lasting paint sealant ASAP to stay ahead of the game. If you do so now, exterior UV damage simply wont happen.

2. Prepare For Interior UV Damage

Those of you with leather seats already know how hot the sun can get on a bright day. What you might not know is that not all car windows have UV protection – meaning your dashboard, seats, and other exposed surfaces are getting damaged by the sun. While it may not be visible right away, overtime the sun can discolor and crack softer interior surfaces such as plastic, vinyl, and leather. It looks terrible and fixing it means a costly and time consuming leather restoration process (gluing, respraying, etc.). Do your interior a favor and condition each surface before the heat shows up. Remember, don’t use a dressing, as these just coat the surface rather than providing nutrients.

3. Reverse Fading Exterior Plastic

Similar to UVs damaging your paintwork, your plastic trim can pay quite the price come summer time. If you haven’t noticed before, take a picture in spring time, then again in the fall – summer will have gradually lightened any dark plastic exterior surface that wasn’t protected. Fortunately, most of these effects are easily fixed with a conditioner. If you seal the surfaces with a plastic sealant before summer, you’ll have to do much less upkeep come August and September.

4. Stop Tires From Cracking

When left untreated, tires begin to fade and crack much like the other exterior surfaces of your vehicle. Unfortunately, tires are a deep black, attracting sunlight anyway they can. Also, being rubber, they’re much more susceptible to damage and discoloration. To prevent cracking and fading (which is reversible), use a tire conditioner (not a dressing) at least twice a month to keep the surface looking rich and natural. You may think it’s unnoticeable, but you’d be surprised how much the quality of your tires can be enhanced just by a quick 2 minute application.

5. Get Rid Of Mutilated Bug Carcases

Bugs and heat go together much like one of those annoying vuvuzelas at a game your favorite team happens to be losing. As if you weren’t upset enough, some goof has to go off piercing your ear drums? Well, not so similarly, bugs smash into your car while your driving and then the sun happens to cook them. Yum. In all seriousness, these bug splats can begin to etch the surface if heat is allowed to cake them on – and the longer they’re on, the harder they are to remove. The bottom line here is to provide a barrier of protection specifically against the little buggers, and when they do come in contact with your car, get them off sooner rather than later with a detail spray.

As you now know, these detailing tips are only suggestions based on common occurrences come summer. It’s important to know that any problems you run into are preventable with the right car care products, and at the end of the day the fact remains that we all experience unique issues that require equally unique detailing solutions

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How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by an Mechanic

 

5 Ways to Avoid Getting Scammed by an Auto Mechanic

When your car breaks down, you want to get it fixed and back on the road right away. Most of us rely heavily on our car, and being without it for even a single day is a big inconvenience.

When you do suffer an unexpected breakdown, you depend on a mechanic to fix your car properly and charge you fairly for parts and labor. Unfortunately, some mechanics are less than honest, and you need to keep your eyes open and wits about you to avoid getting taken for a ride. Here are some tips you can use to avoid car repair rip-offs.

1. Insist that the Mechanic Gives You an Up-Front Estimate

Never drop your car off at the mechanic and give them carte blanche to fix your car. Instead, ask the mechanic to evaluate the vehicle while you’re there and give you an estimate of the repair bill.

It’s also a good idea to insist that the mechanic call you and get your permission if the actual cost is more than the estimate you were given. This is the best way to avoid being overcharged, and the heads-up will give you a chance to make an intelligent and informed decision.

2. Ask the Mechanic for Your Old Parts

Some dishonest mechanics will charge for parts replacements they never actually performed. The best way to expose this scam and avoid this kind of rip-off is to always insist on taking your old parts with you after servicing.

When your mechanic calls to tell you which parts need to be replaced, let them know you will want the old parts. That could be enough to discourage a less-than-ethical auto mechanic from overcharging you on parts.

3. Brush Up on Basic Auto Mechanics

It’s much harder for a shady mechanic to rip-off customers who know their way around a car. If you don’t know which end of the dipstick goes into the engine, that dishonest mechanic will see you coming a mile away. Taking the time to learn about your car and how it works is the best way to protect yourself.

You don’t have to take an automotive class to gain this knowledge. Just grab your owner’s manual, open the hood and familiarize yourself with the parts you see. The more you know, the harder it will be to get ripped off.

4. Ask Friends and Family for Mechanic Referrals

The best defence against getting ripped-off by a mechanic is to find one you can trust. If you do not have a regular mechanic, ask family, friends and coworkers who they use and if they’re happy with the service they receive.

The best mechanics rely on word-of-mouth to get new customers. They know that treating drivers fairly is the best long-term business strategy, and they work hard to provide good value and excellent car repairs for everyone they work with.

5. Double-Check the Price of New Auto Parts

If the price of a replacement part seems unreasonably high, call the dealer or check online to make sure it’s correct. Some mechanics try to inflate their bills by overcharging customers for parts, so checking prices independently is the best way to protect yourself.

Don’t be afraid to confront the mechanic if you think you’ve been overcharged for parts. You have a right to quality service and fair prices whenever you get your car repaired.

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Winter Detailing

 

Winter detailing is all about prevention. Ideally one should clean their vehicle as often as possible to ensure no build-up of road salt on painted surfaces. The longer road salt stays on a vehicle’s surface, the more time the salt has to eat away at your wax’s protective elements. Taking advantage of warmer temperatures to wax your vehicle with durable car wax or paint sealant will ensure minimal loss of protection throughout the season. During winter it is also crucially important to minimize contact with the paint. What this means is DO NOT remove snow from your vehicle’s painted surfaces with an ice scraper or brush. This is one of the most damaging things you can do to your vehicle, which can result in heavy swirling and scratching of your paint. Using some sort of heating element or hot water will safely melt the snow without damaging your paint.

If you must remove the snow on your vehicle, use a microfiber towel and gently and slowly use downwards motions, starting at the top of the vehicle and moving downwards with each stroke. This ensures you are not introducing dirt from the bottom of the vehicle to the upper portions of the vehicle.

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Width Matters: Part 2

While wheel weight might affect the performance of your car, wheel size can affect both the performance and the safety of your car. This article could frankly save your life or the life of someone near to you.

 

Unfortunately, there are a number of enthusiasts out there that by following typical forum/magazine myths about wheel sizing, have put us all in danger. Many of these myths have been around for literally decades.

 

“You see, what I’ve found is that if enough people say something long enough and loud enough, everyone begins to accept it as fact even if it’s not necessarily true.”

 

This is certainly true of the general rules of wheel size selection that you get on forums and even in magazines.

 

Here are some of the myths you probably have been led to believe:

 

  • Larger rims with lower profile tires handle better
  • Wider tires give better grip and thus better handling

Both of these are (for almost all enthusiasts) entirely incorrect.

 

In this particular article, we’re going to discuss wheel width. Next time we will talk about wheel diameter.

 

“But how could this be? Of course wider wheels handle better! The tire is wider so you’ve got more rubber on the road!” I hear cried from a member of the peanut gallery.

 

Another member of the forum certified expert crowd shouts: “All supercars have super wide tires and low profile tires, if they’re doing it – of course it works!”

 

Unfortunately, both are only true in limited circumstances, and for most people reading this, they’re never true.

 

The point that both of these claims miss is that the cars they are looking to and learning from, were designed with those wheel sizes in mind, before hand. It’s not so much that wider tires do not give more grip – it’s that if you do not also have the suspension to match, you may actually be creating a very dangerous situation indeed.

 

Think about it, have you ever seen a factory tuned car that came with significantly wider wheels or significantly larger wheels? You may have seen an inch or just over added, but no factory tuner worth their salt has ever gone much more than that – without also altering the suspension.

 

The primary reason, is fitting a car with a wheel or tire combo that has a different offset or width will affect camber, toe, and caster angles in the suspension. Lowering a car will also have a similar effect. These changes have significant impact on the handling of the car and can even make it downright unstable.

 

Even where the alignment is corrected, there can be significant changes in the scrub radius of the vehicle and unfortunately, in almost all production cars, scrub radius cannot be directly adjusted.

 

In order to compensate for the change in the suspension geometry you introduced with the new size wheels, you would need to completely revisit the suspension geometry and this would require extensive modifications in most cases, far outside the resources of the average home mechanic. To correctly address these changes, you would literally need access to an alignment rack and the ability to fabricate custom control arms, and other suspension pieces.

 

Danger of Wheel Width

 

Which brings me to the first main point of this article. Given most people’s suspension tuning abilities and resources – straying far from the original tire and rim size will result in worsened handling and acceleration. In some cases, even downright dangerous handling characteristics at the limit , or in the event of a tire blow out or single wheel brake failure.

 

I’ll go ahead and brace myself for the “but Nathan!s”, but stick with me and I’ll explain why getting this point will put you miles ahead of everyone else on the street – and even save you a good bit of money and possibly even your life.

 

Wheel Width

 

Simply put, this is where everyone goes wrong. The actual tire width isn’t as important as the OFFSET of the wheel in this case however. Small changes in tire width are sometimes acceptable, though they still alter scrub radius, a key figure that determines how stable your car is, or isn’t at the limit.

 

You see, in order to fit wider wheels, typically folks use smaller offset wheels to accomplish this. The lower the offset, the closer the wheel face is to the hub. The opposite applies for those who fit larger offset wheels to push the tire edge out towards the fender.

 

In both cases, the scrub radius of the car is altered. It either becomes smaller or larger. Both can create dramatically different handling characteristics at the limit, and for the street especially, all of those are highly undesirable.

 

Symptoms of modified scrub radius include the tendency for the steering wheel to ‘rip’ out of the hands of the driver during hard braking or turning. The wheels will also tend to react violently to imperfections in the road surface, especially when being pushed.

 

Aside from safety, it should also be noted that given a stock suspension setup, or a simply lowered one, you will not gain any additional rubber on the road

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Think for a moment about an inflated balloon. When it is sitting on a table, there is no weight on the balloon and the air pressure inside the balloon is constant. If you let air out of the balloon, more of the balloon will touch the table. If you put more air in, less and less will touch the table. Think of that as tire pressure. Then, apply pressure with your hand. You’ll notice that you get more balloon on the table, the harder you press.

 

The point of this illustration is to illustrate that the rubber on the road is mostly a function of air pressure and weight on the tire. The actual tire size matters minimally.

 

Disclaimer: Tires are infinitely more complex than a balloon. While the physics are at the very basic level the same, due to the complex construction of a tire, the basic physics are not a great model of what happens in the real world. It would take an extremely complicated simulator to even approach accurate predictions of tire width’s effect on a car especially at the limit. That said, the suspension geometry argument holds water. Contact patch is a little more debatable but from the data I’ve seen and from first hand experience, it seems that wider tires give more contact patch to a point, but then it goes backwards (less grip). It also is not easy to model or predict. The best method to find out if you’re competing is TRIAL AND ERROR, period. There’s no free lunch or general rule here. If you are not competing, then the advice given in this article is probably as close to accurate as it can be.

 

How can that be? Well, when a vehicle is sitting at rest (easiest to illustrate) , regardless of the size of the tire, the same amount of tire will be in touch with the ground, given the same vehicle weight and tire pressure. The only difference will be the SHAPE of the contact patch. This is an oversimplification and yes there are other factors such as tire construction that play a role – but stick with me.

 

Wider wheels will give you a more rectangular patch, while thinner wheels will give you a narrow yet longer more square patch. The thinner wheels will therefore be better (and of course there are extremes in both cases) for straight line acceleration and braking. The wider ones, because of the direction of the forces on the tire tread in the corners, will be better for cornering at the expense of some straight line acceleration. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple for say road racing as whatever gains you get in cornering, you’ll probably give up in the ability to get back on the throttle early. Something you would need to test and tune for sure, no guaranteed rule of thumb there.

 

In other words, wider wheels do not always net an increase in actual grip, but they can under the right circumstances with the correct suspension to go with.

 

As a matter of fact, the number one place you can pick up GRIP is in the tire tread and compound you choose. A 6″ wide tire, if it is appropriately sized and chosen for the application can handle over 1g of force if you use the right tire. You do not need a 14″ wide tire to achieve that kind of grip.

 

We’ll talk at another time about other ways that grip can be increased, just know for now that raw grip is not directly (and sometimes not at all) related to the width of the tire. Especially when we’re dealing with modified production cars.

 

As a bonus, thinner wheels tend to be lighter as well. You can gain a lot of wheel and tire weight by going wider.

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Wheel Weight Slows You Down: Part 1

Wheels are wheels right? Just pick whatever wheels look sweet on your ride and you’re off. Oh, and the bigger they are – the better, right?

 

Unfortunately, wheels are one of the major places that many enthusiasts completely ruin their car’s potential performance. They have an enormous impact on ride quality, acceleration, handling, and also to a smaller degree, braking.

 

Choosing the correct size and paying careful attention to weight will improve your car’s ride and ability to tear it up at the track and on the street.

 

Wheel weight is one factor that many enthusiasts are aware of. However, I still see so many people picking wheels for their car that weigh a LOT. Some enthusiasts select the right wheel, but blow it on the size they chose to run.

 

Let’s talk about weight first and then we’ll talk about one of the more controversial and surprising topics of wheel size in the next part.

 

Why does wheel weight matter? Wheel weight, if nothing else, is part of the vehicle’s weight and will need to be carried along with the car’s mass everywhere it goes. It Is one of the cheaper and easier items to change on a car, especially when it comes to weight. It’s free to lose weight by removing items, but replacing components with lighter weight parts is usually expensive. Wheels, are multipurpose items and they can usually be the source of quite a few pounds of weight loss at a much better value than carbon fiber hoods and the like.

 

They are also a special sort of weight. Wheels turn (obviously) and therefore they are rotational weight. If you pick up a 30lb weight it may feel a little heavy in your hands. However, if you attach that same weight to a piece of chain or rope and begin to swing it, you’ll find out quite quickly that it is much harder to spin a 30lb weight than to simply hold it. It is also requires more and more energy the further out you let that weight slide from you. So, if you spin a 30lb weight on a 2ft piece of chain, it’s a lot easier than even a 3 ft section of chain.

 

The same goes for your car. A 30lb weight sitting on the floor is easier for your engine to pull down the road than a 30lb spinning wheel is.

 

It’s not as simple as saying (as some people do) that a lb off the wheels is worth 2x, or even 10x what a lb off the interior of the car is worth. The reasons are complex. For one, the weight of the wheel is distributed over a large area. Some aftermarket wheels have quite a lot of their weight focused at the center of the wheel (at the hub of the wheel), whereas others may have more of their weight focused on the rim of the wheel. It all depends on the material, construction, and style of the rim you’re using.

 

Also, the weight of the tires and where that weight is relative to the center of the wheel, is also important. We’ll talk more about that when we talk about sizing. For now, just understand that the further the weight is from the center of the wheel, the more it matters.

 

Now, the wheel is also one other special type of weight, which is UNsprung weight. On your car, there are two types of weight. One is sprung (or held up by the springs), the other is unsprung weight. Which, in most cars includes things like the brakes, the control arms, the wheels, tires, and so forth.

 

UNsprung weight is another complicated topic so I’ll try to keep it simple for this discussion. As you drive down the road, the road is pushing up and down on the suspension (the car is also doing the same, but let’s save that discussion for high school physics class). Other forces are at work too, when you corner for example, the weight transfer from turning puts a force on the suspension and relieves a force on the opposite side.

 

The suspension (aptly the springs and shocks) have to control both the weight of the car, and the unsprung components of the car. The lighter either component is, the easier job they have.

 

When you reduce the wheel weight, for example, whenever a wheel moves, the spring can more easily bring that wheel back to where it needs to be. In effect, it has a similar effect of fitting stiffer suspension springs or dampers. The reason is that the wheel has momentum wherever it’s traveling. Momentum is the objects desire to keep moving in a certain direction unless another force acts upon it.

 

Momentum is best ‘felt’ or demonstrated by thinking about pushing a light grocery cart and then trying to stop, versus pushing a several hundred pound cart and trying to stop. The heavier object has more momentum and is therefore harder to control.

 

Handling is all about controlling weight. Sway bars help control weight transfer, springs help control weight transfer, shocks control weight  and help absorb shock.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t have the space to go much deeper here. However, hopefully you’re starting to understand at least at the most basic level why wheel weight is important.

 

The bottom line is, the lighter your wheels (preferably with the majority of their weight focused at the center of the wheel), the easier your suspension can keep the tires planted firmly on the ground.

 

Lighter wheels also allow more torque to be available to push the car down the road. Turning a wheel requires TORQUE, so in smaller engines, lighter wheels really do make a difference.

 

There are two other side effects of lighter wheels that I don’t have time to talk about much here: better gas mileage (in the city only, no effect on highway mileage), better ride quality. The first comes from there being less weight to spin up every time you run through the gears. We’re not talking about huge MPG gains here, but I’ve seen 1-2mpg in the city before on certain vehicles. The other comes from the suspensions ability to respond to road imperfections better, and, the wheels’ weight is less significant so it upsets the chassis less when it moves around. It’s kind of like having a big sack of cement in the trunk versus your laptop – one actually makes the car feel different, the other does not.

 

Finally, lighter wheels can be stopped faster. In the real world, you may see a slight decrease in stopping distance (as-in, slight), and a slight decrease in the amount of heat you see at the brake rotor due to less energy being absorbed thanks to your lighter wheels.

 

In closing, whenever choosing parts for the unsprung portion of your car, always try to minimize weight whenever possible. There are some times when an increase in unsprung weight can be warranted, but as a general rule – the lighter, the better.

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