Five Racing Technologies You Might Find in Your Passenger Car

Timeline showing racing technology milestones

There’s an old joke that auto racing was invented at the same time as the second car. Racing has always been popular with enthusiasts and engineers alike. And not just because it’s exciting, but because it’s been the proving ground for new technologies. The racetrack has spawned many ideas in automotive history that performance and sometimes even passenger cars have adopted. There are many examples, but here are six of the best:

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Don’t Leave Home Without These Emergency Car Kit Essentials

You’ve probably found yourself on the side of the road at some point, unless you’re extraordinarily lucky. It always pays to be prepared. Keeping a few basics in your trunk can help you get out of most of these automotive problems. If you can fix the simple problems yourself, then you won’t have to waste time sitting around, waiting for roadside assistance to show up.

Here are some essentials to keep in your trunk:

Spare Tire, Tire Iron, and Jack

A flat tire is the most common cause to leave you stranded on the side of the road. These days, you’re pretty lucky if your car comes with a full size spare. Most cars at least come with the “donut” style temporary spare. If you’re buying a used car, or recently bought one, you’ll want to make sure it still has the spare, jack, and lug wrench that came with the car. Otherwise you should consider getting replacements.

Even though you don’t go around driving on your temporary spare (or, at least I hope you don’t), it can eventually wear out, due to dry rot. Periodically check the sidewalls of your spare for cracking to catch dry rot.

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Scary Signs You Need to Change Your Headlights before Halloween

Fog’s drifting in. There’s ghosts and monsters creeping down your street. Dark days lie ahead. Soon, the world will be engulfed in gloom.

Or it’s just Halloween and it’s about to start getting dark a lot earlier. In the next couple weeks, we get the one-two punch of Halloween and the end of daylight saving time. On November 5, we’ll all turn our clocks back (at least as long as we remember to – you’ll recognize the people who didn’t when they show up an hour late for work on the sixth).

There’s nothing we can do to make the days any longer or your evening commute any brighter, but, by checking your headlights, you can at least make sure you’ll be able to see and be seen on the road. You might even want to check up on your car’s lights sooner rather than later. After all, you’ll have to be on the lookout for all the trick-or-treaters on your block this Halloween.

Here are some scary signs that your headlights have about as much life in them as a zombie.

Faded/Cloudy Headlight Lenses

Are your headlights cloudier than a dark and stormy night, or scratched up worse than a werewolf’s latest victim? Road debris and salt can scratch up headlight lenses over time. The lenses can become  discolored and turn yellow. That not only makes your car look bad, but it decreases the distance and brightness of your beams, making it harder to see.

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11 Common Jeep Problems & Complaints You Need to Know

Exasperated owners may say “it’s a Jeep thing,” but the truth is, every car or truck you can think of has its own unique quirks and issues and Jeeps are no exception.  That being said, Jeepers are known to run into certain problems time and again. In fact, the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee have been singled out by Consumer Reports as the least reliable vehicles in their respective classes, and the Renegade made their top 10 Least Reliable Cars list.

Of course, I don’t want to discourage anyone from driving a Jeep. When you want a Jeep, there really is no substitute. But knowing what pitfalls might lie ahead can help you be ready to deal with problems as they arise. So, to help you out, here are some common issues that affect Jeeps and some tips on how to fix or even prevent them.

1. The Death Wobble

Death Wobble is probably the most infamous problem in the Jeep community. At high speeds, especially after hitting a bump, the steering wheel may start the shake and vibrate violently, to the point that some drivers report that the Jeep becomes hard to handle. Usually, if you slow down or stop, the wobble will go away. Despite the scary name, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reports that there have been no fatal accidents associated with the condition. You can see a close up example of what death wobble looks like, in this video:

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Did a Tax on Chicken Change the Pickup Truck Industry?

Subaru Brat in a Brook with a Bridge Featured in Background
Subaru Brat Created as an Attempt to Circumvent the “Chicken Tax”

 

It sure did. A German tax on imported chicken from the 1960s is still affecting where and how trucks are built and what trucks are available in the US – even though the original German tax has expired! International trade is complex and the results can be strange. Cheap chicken in the ‘60s is the reason you can’t get a Ford Ranger in the US today.

Why was there a Tax on Chicken in the ’60s?

Following World War II, US chicken farms became extremely productive, bringing down the price of chicken not only in the US, but in Europe. Cheap imported chicken led West Germans to eat 23% more chicken than before. That was great news for German chicken eaters and American chicken farmers, but bad news for German chicken farmers, who couldn’t produce chicken cheap enough to compete. In 1961, to keep German chicken farmers from going out of business, Germany imposed a tax on imported chicken. France, in a similar situation, followed suit.

The tariff became a point of contention between the US and Germany. German Prime Minister Konrad Adenauer later reported that most of his conversations with President Kennedy were about chicken.

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Signs & Symptoms of Failing Shocks & Stuts

Your shocks and struts can wear over time. The rate of wear will depend on the driving conditions where you live, but generally shocks last about 50,000 to 80,000 miles. Shocks are important to the overall safety of your vehicle. They help keep the tires in contact with the road, giving you the traction to accelerate, stop, and steer as necessary. They also keep your ride smooth and in control.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to check if your shocks need to be replaced. There are some telltale signs that your shocks may be wearing out, some visual signs to look for, and a simple test you can do yourself to decide if you need to replace your shocks.

Signs Your Shocks Are Going Bad

  • Your ride will start to feel rougher or more bouncy than before.
  • You may hear a rattling or creaking sound when you drive over bumps.
  • Brake dive, acceleration squat, and the body roll.
  • Loss of traction and increased stopping distances
  • Uneven tire wear including cupped indentations or bald spots

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Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Bearing

How do you know if you have a bad wheel hub or bearing? There are number of symptoms that can indicate a bearing or hub problem. They include:

  • Grinding noises coming from the wheels
  • Sounds of clicking, popping, or snapping from the wheels
  • Steering that feels loose or sloppy
  • Steering wheel vibrations that get worse at higher speeds
  • Roughness or difficulty rolling in neutral gear
  • Pulling to one side when you use the brakes
  • Unusual or uneven tire wear on one side
  • Lit up ABS dashboard light– on many cars the anti-lock brake system sensor is built into the hub

What Can Go Wrong With a Wheel Hub?

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