Digital License Plates -The Future of Vehicle Identification

Testing has begun in California on a new tech innovation that could completely change vehicle registration in the future – digital license plates. While they will initially be an optional accessory that vehicle owners purchase from dealers, if testing goes well, they could eventually replace those familiar government issued metal plates.

The new digital plates, developed by a company called Reviver Auto,  utilizes a technology similar to that used by the Amazon for its Kindle E-reader. According to the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento is first city to test the new digital license plates on 24 of the city’s fleet vehicles. The units will have the capability to display public service announcements, amber alerts, and other similar types of information.

The California DMV plans to offer the new plates through dealers in conjunction with Reviver Auto. Vehicle owners who opt for the digital plate will be able to register their vehicles electronically, eliminating the need to put updated sticker tags on their plates each year.

The digital plates offer particular advantages for fleet managers, who can collect real-time information from fleet vehicles including on-road tracking.  The digital plates can be configured to display personal messages or even mini-billboard advertising, which displays only when the vehicle comes to a stop.

A security advantage that digital license plates offer fleet owners and drivers is that in the event of theft, the plate can tell both the owner and law enforcement the location of the vehicle. The digital plates are engineered with tamper-resistant and anti-theft features.

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the digital plates will first be sold at dealerships in California and Arizona. Next, they will be available in Nevada, Maryland and Pennsylvania before going overseas to be tested in Dubai.

For private consumers who want the technology the price is steep. They cost $699 for individual consumers, plus installation, along with a monthly fee of about $7.

Beware the Dangers of Distracted Drivers

Distracted DriversSchool is out and summer is here! That means more people are out on the road, making plans, and driving while distracted. Not only do we all need to be on the alert for distracted drivers, we need to make sure we avoid becoming one. As people depend on their smart phones for looking up information and connecting with friends, the temptation to use the phone and drive is overwhelming. Unfortunately, no matter how adept someone thinks they are at using their cell phone, driving requires 100 PERCENT of a driver’s attention. Driving while distracted can be fatal!

On average, it takes about five seconds to send or read a text message. That might not seem very long, but did you know that at 55 miles per hour a car travels the length of a football field during that five second interval? A lot can happen during the five seconds of that distracted driver’s journey, including a life-changing accident.

Here are some practical ideas to help you avoid becoming a distracted driver:

Mute it. Take a moment before pulling out of your parking spot to silence your phone. Once you are on the road, it will be easier to keep your mind off of your phone if it is not humming, vibrating, or otherwise beckoning you.

Stash it. Putting your phone in your purse, glovebox, or storage console is another way to help reduce the odds that you will be distracted by it.

No peaking. A lot of drivers like to sneak a quick look at their phones while stopped at a red light. The problem with this is that if you are not looking at the light, you will not know when it changes.

Tell people. Let everyone you call or text with know that you have a strict “no phone” policy while you are driving. That way you will not have to worry about someone thinking you are ignoring them.

Pull over. If it cannot wait make sure to pull over before using your phone. There are usually plenty of parking lots around that provide a great place to stop and do what you need to do.

Plan ahead. Before you press the ignition button or turn the key, do what you need to do. Let mom know you are leaving. Type your destination into your GPS app. Whatever you feel you need to do, do not do it as you are pulling out onto the street.

While everyone likes to save time by multi-tasking, it is important to understand that multi-tasking on the road too often means becoming a distracted driver. The time saved could turn into a life lost – in just an instant. Stay off the phone and stay safe!

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your Options

Tire Code Part 3: Load Index, Speed Rating, and M+S Designation

When shopping for tires, you can learn a lot about a particular tire by looking at the uniform tire code imprinted on the tire. This code not only identifies the tire, it also provides useful information about the tire. Previously we looked at type of tire and section width, next we discussed at aspect ratio, tire construction and wheel diameter. With this post, we complete our series with a look at last three parts of the uniform tire code: load index, speed rating, and M + S designation.

Performance Index
The tire performance index is displayed after the wheel diameter, and represents the tire’s load and speed ratings.

Common Speed Ratings

Letter L M N P Q R S T U H V
Max. MPH 75 81 87 93 99 106 112 118 124 130 149

All-Season Tires with Mud and Snow Designation
When a tire has M+S on it, that means that it meets the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) guidelines for a mud and snow tire. Similar markings for this include MS, M&S, and M/S. In order for a tire to receive the Mud and Snow designation, it must meet specific RMA geometric requirements.

A tire with the correct tire load index for your vehicle means you that your tires are made to handle the weight of your vehicle. The speed rating shows the maximum speed your tires can handle, which tends to be more important in countries with roadways that are not subject to speed limitations. Whether or not the mud and snow designation is important will depend on the climate in which you live and drive.

Once you’ve purchased your new tires, it is important to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended specifications to assure safety and best vehicle performance. Selecting a dependable, quality tire is just the beginning. Maintaining the proper tire pressure will help you extend the life of your tires .

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your Options

 

Tire ShoppingTire Code Part 2:  Aspect Ratio, Tire Construction, and Wheel Diameter

It is important to familiarize yourself with the differences between the many available tire types when shopping for new tires. In this three-part series, we are looking at the tire code that is imprinted on all tires. Each part of the tire code alpha-numeric sequence identifies something about the tire. Being able to interpret that code can help you choose the best tires for you.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio of a tire is calculated by dividing a tire’s section height by its section width when the tire is:

  • inflated to proper air pressure
  • mounted on the approved measuring rim
  • under no load

The aspect ratio affects steering stability. Generally, the shorter the sidewall, or the lower the aspect ratio, the less time it takes to relay the steering input from the wheel to the tire, for faster steering response. Aspect ratio also affects the tread contact patch. A low-profile tire typically produces a wider tread contact patch. This wider tread contact patch creates a firmer footprint that provides improved cornering traction.

Tire Construction

The construction of the tire is identified by the letter following the aspect ratio. The most common designation is R, which stands for radial construction. Other, less common construction types for modern passenger cars may include D for bias ply construction and B for belted tires.

Wheel Diameter

The number following the construction code indicates the size of the wheel that the tire will fit in inches. Tire sizes on most vehicles begin at 13-inches and go up to 18-inches. Custom package wheels can be 22-inches or even larger.

An important sizing calculation in tire fitting, aspect ratio should be considered with wheel diameter for the best tire and wheel combinations. Lower aspect ratio typically indicates a high performance tire, with better lateral stability. Most of the new tires will be marked R for radial construction, however if you are replacing old tires, you may see the D or B designations.

When considering aspect ratio, tire construction, and wheel diameter, you should always select your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended specifications to assure safe and optimal tire performance. Just as choosing a dependable, quality tire is important, it also necessary to choose one that is developed for the best performance given the weight and design of your vehicle.

Next Up: Tire Code Part 3:  Load Index, Speed Rating, and Use Designation.

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your Options

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your OptionsShopping for tires can be a little overwhelming with the wide range of styles and choices that are available. It is important to choose the right tire for your vehicle and the type of driving you do in order to get the best safety, performance, and gas mileage from your vehicle. So, how do you go about choosing the right tires?

Getting to know the differences between the many tire types that are out there is a great place to start. In this three-part series, we will look at the tire code that is imprinted on all tires. Each part of the tire code alpha-numeric sequence tells you something about the tire. Understanding that code can help you find the right tires.

Tire Code Part One: Tire Type and Section Width

Type of Tire

The type of tire and it’s intended use are indicated by the first letter in the code. Letter designations include P for passenger vehicles, T for temporary spare, LT for light truck metric, C for commercial, and ST for special trailer service.

Section Width

Following the tire type letter is the section width of the tire, which is listed in millimeters. This is the widest point from sidewall-to-sidewall, so a larger number indicates a wider tire.

The proper size and tire type are important to assure safety and the best tire performance. Buying a quality tire will not guarantee the best performance if the tire is not made to accommodate the weight and design of your vehicle. Also, since tire size is a factor in the calculations of the computerized functions of today’s vehicles, it is essential to install the recommended tire size.

Next Up: Tire Code Part 2:  Aspect Ratio, Tire Construction, and Wheel Diameter

The Road Salt Assault

Washes are Important Now for Removing Road Salt

road saltRoad salt is a necessary evil. It is great for preventing accidents and keeping roadways safe. Salt lowers the freezing/melting point of water, making it a fast and inexpensive way to melt slippery snow and ice on the road. The problem is that salt is also a highly corrosive element, and its affects can be extremely damaging to your vehicle.

Road salt exposure throughout the winter can wreak havoc on the metal components of your car. Most vehicles have an exposed underbody, so most salt damage occurs underneath the car, where it goes visually undetected. Rust on essential parts of your vehicle can leave you with huge problems ranging from brake system leaks to frame damage. While your rubber tires will suffer little or no damage from salt, your wheels are highly vulnerable, since the metal areas of your car are most at risk for salt damage.

Thankfully the coatings and paint finishes used in today’s automotive manufacturing do a much better job of providing protection against salt damage. And since the process of salt leading to corrosion and rust takes awhile, you have time to undo salt damage potential.

The best way to protect your car from road salt corrosion is to take it in for regular washings during the winter months . Base the frequency of your car washings on how much salt and road sludge it is exposed to on a regular basis. If you have really expensive wheels, consider swapping them out it the winter months, since salt is particularly hard on chrome.

For further protection, make it part of your fall routine to wax your vehicle. Waxing seasonally will make your washes more effective.

What Happened to My Heating System?

car heating system

Two Likely Reasons Why Your Car Heating System is Giving You the Cold Shoulder

You dust the snow off your vehicle and scrape the ice from the windshield. After letting your engine warm up for the usual amount of time, you turn up the thermostat, anticipating that warm, comforting heat. But then it hits you – a blast of cold air. You wonder, what happened to my car’s heating system?

How the Car Heating System Works

Your car heating system depends on an essential element called the heater core. The heater core acts as a heat exchanger, distributing heat into the cabin of the car. The car’s engine provides the original source for this heat, which increases as the engine operates.

Heat is conveyed from the engine to the heater core by way of a liquid called coolant. Coolant serves a dual purpose in that it first pumps through the engine to cool it and protect it from overheating, and then recycles the heat it removes by sending it into the radiator and circulating it to the heater core.

At least this is what happens if the heating system is functioning as it should.

Two Common Heating System Problems

If your car’s heater is blowing cold air, there are two issues that are often to blame:

  1. The coolant is not properly flowing through the heater core
  2. The air from the blower motor is not being directed through the heater core

In the case of coolant flow issues, the problem can often be attributed to a plugged heater core.

If the problem is air flow, it could be a malfunctioning, or stuck blend door. These doors are  flaps inside the ducts that open and close to allow heat or stop heat from coming through the vents into the passenger compartment.

If your car is not warming up to you, take it in to your auto pro to have it checked for these issues.

Tire Pressure: Seeing the Light on a Cold Truth

Tire Pressure Cold TemperatureDoes it seems like you have been seeing your tire pressure monitoring system light illuminating a little more frequently lately? If so, you can probably blame one simple reason – the cold.

In order to understand how cold effects your TPMS, it is necessary to how your TPMS works. The system use sensors technology to alert drivers when tire pressure in one of the tires goes below a predetermined level. When tire pressure in one or more of your tires drops, the light comes on.

Since ambient air pressure decreases in frigid temperatures, the air pressure in a tire goes down 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. This is why drivers typically see the TPMS light illuminate more frequently.

It is important to check your tire pressure when the tires are cold. Why? Once you hit the road, friction will cause the tires to heat up, increasing the pressure within the tire. Checking the tire pressure after you have been driving awhile may give an inaccurately high pressure reading.

Proper tire inflation is always important, but it is especially critical in the cold winter months when weather conditions make driving more hazardous. Tire pressure is important because:

  • Low tire pressure can make a vehicle handle poorly
  • Tires tend to wear out much faster when they are not properly inflated
  • Under inflated tires tend to overheat, which could lead to a blowout
  • Low tire pressure reduces gas mileage and costs you money

Check the pressure of your tires monthly. In order to obtain the most accurate pressure level, wait until tires have cooled – about 30 minutes after parking – or check the pressure first thing in the morning.

 

Resolve to Take Better Care of Your Vehicle and Tires

auto_care_resolutionsLet’s face it, we tend to take our ride for granted. For the most part it is always there, ready to take us wherever and whenever we need to go. We only think about taking care of it when there is an obvious problem, like a flat tire or a dead battery. The problem with this approach is that it is not good for your car, and it can be very risky for the safety of you and your passengers. Why not make 2018 the year you resolve to make vehicle maintenance a priority? Regular auto and tire maintenance not only make sense for protecting and prolonging the life of your vehicle and tires, it also means you’ll be safer on the road.

Check Tire Pressure & Tread Depth

Make it a point to check your tire pressure at least once a month. You can find the proper pressure for your vehicle’s tires listed in your owner’s manual. Keep in mind that the maximum pressure is not the same as the recommended pressure.  Don’t forget to also check the pressure of your spare tire.

You also should check the tread depth on your tires two or three times a year. The penny test is a simple way to gauge your tread depth. Hold a penny so you can read “In God We Trust” across the top. Insert it into five different sections of the tire and look at Lincoln’s head.  If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are excessively worn, and it is time for a new set of tires. If Abe’s head is covered to about the forehead hairline, the tread is in good shape and you probably do not need new tires.

Tire Balancing & Rotation

Tire balancing and rotation should be part of your regular service. Tire balancing provides a smooth ride and assures even tire wear by properly adjusting the wheel weight distribution around the vehicle. Tire rotation is an important maintenance step that will greatly extend the life of your tires. Manufacturers have specific recommendations, so it is advisable to refer to your owner’s manual tire rotation guidelines to ensure proper tread wear.

Stick to a Regular Maintenance Schedule

To keep your car running properly and performing at peak levels, it is essential to stay up-to-date with recommended regular maintenance services. Like us, our vehicles need regular check-ups to maintain good health and catch potential problems before they become serious issues. The following is a list of typical services – consult your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s recommended services and frequency.

  • Coolant Flush and Replacement
  • Oil Change
  • Fluid Checks – Power Steering and Brake
  • Brake Inspection
  • Check Belts & Hoses
  • Filters – Air and Fuel
  • Battery & Cables
  • Lights
  • Exhaust System
  • Windshield Washer Fluid & Wiper Blades

Establishing a regular care routine allows you to drive with confidence knowing that you are traveling safely where ever the road takes you. You will also get to enjoy your vehicle and tire investment much longer.

Happy Holidays!

If there is anything I love as much as vehicles and tires, it’s the holiday season. With that in mind you can imagine how delighted I am to find any combination of cars and Christmas! I recently happened upon a real treasure trove of holiday automotive artwork on the classic auto enthusiast website, Petrolicious. In honor of the season, I wanted to share some of these beautiful paintings.

Automotive Scenes

Image Courtesy of Petrolicious.com

So, who is the artist behind these amazing images? I was intrigued by the question and looked up Ken Ebert. He is an American artist from the Bronx, New York City. At an early age he developed tremendous talent as a painter, as well as an affinity for automotive street scenes.

Automotive Scenes

Image Courtesy of Petrolicious.com

In 1965, Ken Eberts was recruited by the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan to join a design team working on the design of several new vehicles. A year later he worked for Lockheed Aircraft on the design of a new aircraft.

Automotive Scenes

Image Courtesy of Petrolicious.com

A few years later he focused his career solely on painting, and began showing his artwork at shows and galleries. Using techniques he developed using watercolors and gouache, he was able to realistically portray chrome, glass, and leather in amazing, life-like detail.

Automotive Services

Image Courtesy of Petrolicious.com

Throughout his career, Ken Ebert produced a multitude of works used to promote high profile auto industry events, and his work is included in several important museums. Today, Ken Ebert continues to paint automotive scenes as a prestigious and award-winning artist.

To see more of Ken Ebert’s work, check out the Petrolicious blog post, or look up his work on Google.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and the happiest holiday season!