Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Which do I need; 4x4, AWD, FWD, RWD?

This is a great little article about that will help you understand the:

Different Types of Automotive Drivetrains

Contributing Writer - Kay Zetkin
Are you considering the type of drivetrain for your next vehicle? Are you torn between choosing a front-wheel drive or a rear-wheel drive? Or do you think you need an all-wheel drive more? Nowadays, the automotive marketplace offers a lot of drivetrain choices that it could be quite confusing for buyers.

The drivetrain of a vehicle is the system that connects the engines into the wheels. Its configuration is designed according to various kinds of driving conditions and the choices of wheels to be powered by the engine or driven. Choosing which drivetrain you will use is an essential decision when you are in the process of selecting another vehicle.

There are six different types of drivetrain technologies and they all work differently. By initially knowing and understanding them, you could have a more guided decision on which drivetrain you want for your next car.
Front-wheel drive or FWD – a vehicle with front-wheel drive system means that it sends all its engine power into the two front wheels. This gives the effect that FWD pulls the car down into the road. The transmission, engine and the powertrain are all located in the vehicle’s front and thus, there is more passenger space in the cabin. This type of drivetrain has a reduced complexity since all of its components are close to each other. It may also mean that you will not worry about too much maintenance costs.

In general, by handling a FWD vehicle you can reasonably expect stability, predictability and its dependability during the winter season. Since the vehicle’s major weight is concentrated in the front, driven wheels, it increases the traction. Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima are first-rate examples of FWD vehicles.

Rear-wheel drive or RWD – this was once the automobiles’ standard driveline. Having a vehicle with a rear-wheel drive systems means that the engine power is concentrated on the two rear wheels. This gives out the effect that the vehicle is being pushed down the road by its two rear wheels. Having a vehicle with RWD configuration is not advisable for winter tractions although most of them feature some type of stability control or traction that helps overcome this disadvantage.
Despite this fact, RWD vehicles are usually well-balanced and they offer superior braking and handling for driving buffs. The Lexus IS Series, BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G35 are among the best examples of RWD vehicles.

All-wheel Drive or AWD – this is among the roster of most sophisticated and modern drivelines available nowadays. All of the vehicle’s four wheels are powered by the engine. It has fluid-filled differentials or gears and advanced electronics which enable it to send power equally to the four wheels or transfer torque into the wheels/wheel with most traction. The AWD system is very much advanced by modern engineering and they are nearly seamless for a driver.

Vehicles with AWD configuration can be designed also with a bias to either the front or rear wheels. As such, the driving dynamics are very much improved. Unlike 4WD vehicles, AWD vehicles offer vast and highly improved capability for winter driving on slippery and wet roads. Subaru Legacy, Acura RL and BMW X5 are among the best examples of AWD.
Full – time Four-wheel drive or 4WD – this system has a similarity with the AWD but it is typically more robust because of its built is designed serious off-road driving. The Lexus LX Series, Land Rover Range Rover and the Hummer H2 are great examples of this type of drivetrain.

Part-time All-wheel drive or Part time AWD – this vehicle is essentially a two-wheel drive. Its driveline configuration sends power only to either of the two front or rear wheels until there is a need for additional traction. It can become an AWD only for a limited time. It is effective to prevent complete loss of traction but is generally not recommended for heavy off-road drives. The Toyota RAV4 AWD and Honda CR-V AWD are examples of the part-time AWD.

Part-time four-wheel drive or Part-time 4WD – this kind of drivetrain systems usually sends engine power into the rear wheels, always. Once there is a loss of traction, the power is sent to all the four wheels by a hydraulic, mechanical or electrical switching system. It cannot be used often on dry pavements since the mechanicals could become damaged. The Chevrolet Avalanche 4WD, Nissan Titan 4WD and Jeep Wrangler are among the examples of the Part-time 4WD.
Kay Zetkin writes information about everything on wheels. Get help in selecting automotive Drivetrains that will suit your driving requirements at http://drivetrain-direct.com/ .

Article borrowed from: http://articles.webraydian.com/Different-Types-of-Automotive-Drivetrains-article32193.html

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How much should I pay for my new car?

Looking to buy a new car? Great!

Here are a few things that will help as you work toward this major purchase.

You will notice as you go to car dealerships that in every new car there is a sticker with information about what is included in that vehicle. This info sheet is called a "Maroni Sticker" it is against the law for a car to be on the lot without one. It is named after a US Senator, Almer Stillwell "Mike" Monroney, from Oklahoma. Maroni sponsored the Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958, which made this disclosure of vehicle information required by all law on new vehicles. This helps people from getting ripped off. Anyhow, the history aside this sticker gives the MSRP or Manufactures Suggested Retail Price. This is how much the dealership would love to sell the car for. This would give them quite a bit of gross profit. However this is not what you should pay for a car. As an educated consumer what you want to pay is the true market value. The true market value is what other people across th US are paying for that vehicle. Where to find it? Go to: http://www.edmunds.com/new-cars/ Find the year make and model of what you've decided to buy and print off the page. Don't forget to select the options that you want because this will affect the price. But once you have done this print it off and bring it with you car shopping.

When you get to the dealership you can expect a few things. First, you'll be greeted, welcomed to the dealership. The salesman will ask you some questions to try to determine the best fit for you and your budget. You will already know what you want so this step should be easy. Remember that the Salesman is pretty educated with his line of cars (At least he should be!) So don't be afraid to look at another vehicle that may actually be a better fit.

Okay, so you've gone to the dealership, the salesman has found the vehicle you want and you have test driven it. The salesman should ask you to buy it, (if he's any good) and then he'll take you inside to do things like evaluate your trade, find out your down payment and then you'll be presented with the price the dealer wants to sell you the car for. Now you can go back and forth and argue the numbers of you can make the process a whole lot easier on everybody, including yourself and present the page you printed off of Edmunds.com. Tell  your salesman that you would like to pay the true market value for the car. He will be surprised you are so prepared and will present the info to his sales manager, who 9 times out of 10 will agree and the negotiations will be much less painful.

Then your trade will be factored in as well as a down payment (initial investment as they may call it) and you can go from there to finance to work out the details and at that point you can purchase Gap protection or extended warranties, etc.

But you can be assured if you do this that you will be paying a fair price for the car. Now if the car you end up falling in love with is not the one you that you had originally thought you wanted simply ask your salesman to take you to Edmunds.com to find the true market value to the vehicle you will be buying.

Is your car ready for a long trip?

Car check list before a long trip

A long trip is a serious exam for your car. Even a small problem such as a worn wiper, out-of-balance tire or improper alignment may turn your trip into a nightmare. Here, you can find simple tips on how to prepare your vehicle for a trip including illustrated checklist. However, this checklist does not include many other important items such as brakes and suspension components that may only be inspected by a mechanic in a garage. Book an appointment with your dealer or a mechanic well before your trip. Ask for one of those maintenance packages with an oil change, tire rotation and mechanical inspection. Don't leave it for a last moment, do it few days before your trip.

• Under the hood 
• Engine oil 
• Transmission fluid 
• Engine coolant 
• Battery 
• Other items 
• Tires
• Steering and suspension components
• CV-boots
• Lights and mirrors
• Spare tire, wheel wrench and the jack
• What worth to take in a long trip
• Consider GPS Navigation System

Check your car Owner's Manual

Have a look in your vehicle's owner's manual - It's the best source of useful information. From how to use overdrive when towing a trailer to how to change the tire and where is the jack located - it's all in there. Also, you may find out the proper tire pressure and how to change a headlight bulb, where is the transmission dipstick located, and a lot more.

Under the hood

Check the engine oil
Many engine problems are initially caused by simply lack of oil changes. If your next oil change is due soon, definitely do it before a trip.
To check the engine oil, place the car on a flat surface, warm up and stop the engine. Wait for a minute allowing the oil to pour down the oil pan. Locate the oil dipstick - usually it has some kind of bright color handle that indicates "ENGINE OIL". Pull the dipstick out, wipe it with a clean rug or a paper towel and insert it back fully. Pull it out again and check the level - it should be close to the "FULL" mark on the dipstick. If the oil appears too black - it definitely needs to be changed. If the level is low, you can top it up using the same type of oil as you already have in the engine.

Automatic Transmission fluid
Long trip with a full load will be another exam for your automatic transmission. If your transmission fluid change due soon change it before a trip.
How to check the transmission fluid: Warm up the car. Place the car on a level surface. Set the hand brake. With the shifter lever in Parking position and the engine idling [the procedure may vary on certain models, refer to the owner's manual] pull the automatic transmission fluid dipstick, wipe it and insert it back fully. Pull it again and check the fluid level and condition. Conventional transmission fluid has red or pinkish-red color when it's new. Over the time under high temperature and load, the transmission fluid loses its qualities and oxidizes becoming more brownish. If it appears too dark it's better to change it, especially if you going to tow a trailer. If the trailer is very heavy, consider installing additional transmission fluid cooler.

Engine antifreeze (coolant)
Check the engine antifreeze (coolant) level in the overflow tank - it's visible from outside. The level should be between "Min" and "Max" marks. (Don't open the radiator cap when the engine is hot!) If the antifreeze level is well below the minimum, look for possible leaks. Any leaks should be fixed before a trip - lack of coolant on the road may cause engine to overheat which may cause serious damage. If it's lower just a bit, you can simply top it up using recommended for your car type of antifreeze mixed 50/50 with water.

Unfortunately, there is no way to tell when the battery will die - sometimes it happens unexpectedly with no prior signs. However, if you feel that cranking speed is slower than before, the battery is probably close to its end. Usually the new battery may last from 2 to 5 years so if your battery is 4 - 5 years old, it might be a good idea to replace it before a trip. Check the battery condition visually. If you see any acid leaks, cracks or any other damage - replace the battery. Make sure the battery terminals are tight and not corroded. Corroded terminals will cause many troubles.

Other items to check under the hood
Look at the drive (serpentine) belt (in the picture), if it appears cracked or glazed, or has any other damage - replace it before a trip. Check the brake fluid, power steering fluid and make sure to top up the windshield washer reservoir with all-season windshield washer fluid. If you don't remember when last time you changed the air filter, change it now. Dirty air filter will cause lack of power and excessive fuel consumption. Look for anything irregular - leaks, loose clamps, kinked hoses, etc.

Check the tires

Check the tire pressure. Recommended pressure is indicated on the manufacturer's label, which usually located in the driver's door opening or in the glove box. Some German cars have this label in the backside of gas tank lid. You also can find it in the owner's manual. If you feel vibration at cruising speed - have your tires balanced. There is a safe limit of the tread wear. If the tire is worn below this limit, it's unsafe to drive. Refer to the result of mechanical inspection. Uneven tire wear indicates alignment problem.

Suspension and steering components

A steering and suspension of your car is something that you need to rely on in a long trip. Unfortunately, it only can be properly inspected in a repair shop. Here are just a few signs of possible problems: Having any vibration, irregular noise, knocking while driving over bumps? - Have your car inspected; there is definitely some problem.
Look inside the wheel arches (look at the picture)- do all four struts (shock absorbers) appear dry? If any of them is leaking oil - it should be replaced before a trip. Once it will be short on oil, the car will start bouncing like a boat and any road roughness can throw the car out of the road.
Does the car "wander" from side to side at highway speed? Is the steering wheel out of center? Does the car pull aside? - Check the wheel alignment. Improper wheel alignment may easily cause a car to skid at a high speed.

CV joint boots

All front wheel drive and many of four-wheel drive vehicles have CV joints (Constant Velocity joint), that are used to transfer the torque to the front wheels. CV joints are greased inside and sealed by a rubber boot that unfortunately tends to break sometimes. Once it breaks, the grease comes out and the whole CV joint may become inoperative in a short period of time due to lack of lubrication. CV joints are located on the inner side of each of the front wheels. You can check CV joint boots visually looking inside the front wheel arch from the front of the car with the wheel turned outside. The boot should be dry. If it's damaged, you will see grease splashed all over the area. Sometimes it might be difficult to see. When you bring your car into a garage for an inspection, a mechanic can inspect the CV joints more closely. If the boot is damaged, it needs to be replaced before a trip.

Lights and other electrical equipment

Check the horn, wipers and all the lights. A couple of spare bulbs (one for the headlight, one for the back) may be helpful. Replace the wipers if they don't clean the windshield perfectly. If you still have the original wipers installed, you can replace just rubber refills; they cost just a few bucks and can be purchased from a dealer. Check the windshield washer operation. Make sure your heater / air conditioner works properly. Have a broken or cracked rear view mirror? - Fix it before a trip.

Spare tire, wheel wrench and the jack

Check the spare tire pressure. If it's full-size (the same size as the others tires) spare, the pressure should be the same as in the other tires. If it's a small temporary use tire, the proper pressure is indicated on the sidewall of the tire; usually it's 50 - 60 psi. Check the owner's manual for exact data. If your car has a spare tire secured underneath, make sure it can be easily removed - the mechanism may be rusted through. Check if the jack is still operable. If you have wheel locks installed, make sure you have the key and the wrench to open the wheel nuts.

Basic emergency kit for your car

A basic emergency kit for your car can include:
- Jumper wires
- Tire sealer-inflator can
- Tire gauge
- Couple of rags and work gloves
- Flashlight
- Simple tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers and set of most common sockets.
Consider also a spare headlight bulb and a couple of fuses, bottles of engine oil, windshield washer fluid and antifreeze, an emergency stop sign or flares, a duct tape, an electrical tape, spare ignition key, etc.
Don't forget your personal emergency kit with First Aid kit and items like a blanket, a bottle of water, couple of energy bars, etc.

Consider GPS Navigation System

If you like long car journeys, this small piece of equipment can save you a lot of hassle. I travel by car a lot and time and time again I was thankful for having this small device. Not only it can show you the route and estimate your arrival time, it also can direct you to the nearest gas station, coffee shop, park or many other points of interest.
To See article in it's original context click here. 

How Often Do You Need To Change Your Oil?

Estimates vary as to when you need to change the motor oil in your car. Which numbers are right?
By Alison Lakin, Associate Editor

Oil change time intervals rely on a number of mitigating factors that determine when one should get their vehicle's oil changed. It seems like every person you ask has a different answer for how often engine oil should be changed. Knowing which factors affect the cleanliness of your oil can help you make an informed choice as to when you'll need to get around to changing it. 

Where To Start

A good jumping off point would be to look at your owner's manual, which will probably supply a number between 5,000 and 7,500 miles. The manufacturer actually built the car, and as such should be viewed as the highest order when it comes to maintenance advice. Though, manufacturer recommendations are based on ideal driving conditions - driving short distances, never over the speed limit, that kind of thing - something the average driver would be hard-pressed to accomplish. As such, you’re better off using the “severe conditions” maintenance schedule, which will have you changing your oil roughly every 3,000 miles.

What Affects Oil Change Intervals

So, once you've uncovered the carmaker's estimated oil change mileage, there are a few issues that need to be reviewed to adjust that estimate. Hard driving is a major wear and tear factor in determining the mileage amount for an oil change. If you're driving in a lot in extreme conditions (both hot and cold), stop-and-go traffic, towing a trailer or hanging out on dusty roads, you must change your oil more frequently.

Conversely, and perhaps obviously, if you're not driving very much, you'll be able to get away with longer periods in between oil changes. This is a situation when you wouldn't need to change your oil as regularly and could stick closer to the manufacturer's suggestion. But remember, it is good to change the 'black gold' in your car even if you don't drive it that much, and when you do so we also recommend a high-quality oil filter, as this is every bit as important as the quality of oil itself.

If your car has been around the block a couple of times, oil changes should be at increasingly more frequent intervals compared to how often you changed it when your car was new. This is due to "blowby": compressed fuel and air that has leaked into the engine's crankcase. Over time, soot and grime builds up on the rings, making them slightly permeable and resulting in contaminated oil that needs to be changed more regularly. Synthetic oil is recommended for longer engine life and better engine performance.

Though having to only change your oil every 7,500 miles is something we would all prefer, 3,000 to 5,000 miles are numbers more representative of actual driving conditions. By erring on the side of caution, you'll help to extend the life of your car. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Next Car

My next car has been a tough choice and I am not sure I'm completely there yet but I sure feel close. I fell in love with the Mini Cooper but the price kills me. Searching for something more in my budget has been a task. I love the look of the hatchback. This probably stems from my first car, which was a 1992 Ford Escort Wagon. It had the hatchback, roof racks and was really convenient. Even though I loved that little 5 speed manual transmission and it's amazing gas mileage I am past that model and having been drawn to a few vehicles from this century.

Following the Mini possibility, I landed on the idea of a Kia Rio5 Sport. The Kia warranty was appealing and the price tag too; about half what the Mini goes for. Then I started working for Mazda. That's when I was introduced to the Mazda 2. Now I must clairify that it is not simply that I work for Mazda that I now want to own one. The Mazda 2 had to win me over and this took some effort. At first I thought it looked a little silly and was pretty small but comparing it to the Toyota Yaris and other compacts I realized that it had an equally good warranty as well as more space and features.

It comes standard with traction and stability control which will keep me from fish-tailing and spinning out. It also has the available roof rack, which is a must for my next car. Then there is the gas mileage; 29 city, 35 highway with the manual transmission that I want. That gas mileage would be nice, especially since I work 25 miles away from home. The Mazda2 also comes with steering wheel controls for the radio and cruise control. I got used to those in my Buick Rendezvous and my Saab. I'd hate to give those features up. The only down side is a lack of blue tooth integration. However, to solve this dilema a quick purchase of a Motorola T305 will take care of that need. But back to the real important things, like the roof rack. I can just picture my next Christmas tree atop my Mazda2 or my next couch or other large random piece of furniture acquired with the assistance of Craigslist.

So, the decision is almost made; what's left: Which Color? and will my 3 year old forgive me for not buying the truck that I was talking about and his heart is set on?

(Click the photo to review the Mazda2 yourself at Mazdausa.com)