Bertha Benz and the First Road Trip

We passed Memorial Day, the kickoff to summer and road trip season. AAA estimated that over 41 million Americans would hit the road over Memorial Day Weekend. Have you ever stopped to wonder who took the first road trip? Well, we have Bertha Benz to thank. She was the first person to drive a car from one place to some place else – the original road trip.

bertha benz 1970
Bertha Benz, 1870 (18 years prior to her legendary roadtrip)

The Car

You may have noticed that Bertha Benz shares a name with one of the biggest car companies in the world. She was the wife of automotive inventor Karl Benz. Karl was working on the world’s first gasoline powered car (with a little bit of financial help from Bertha’s dowry), later dubbed the Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

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Green Car Repair Tips for Earth Day

Sunday April 22 is Earth Day, but it’s always a good time to think about your impact on the world you live in. One of the great things about our cars and trucks is that we can take them out of the city to go enjoy the scenery all around us, whether you’re headed to a national park, the local lake, a camp site, or out on trails. Of course, if you have a favorite spot off the beaten path, you’ll want to preserve it so you can keep using, and maybe your kids and grandkids can too, someday. Offroaders know they have take good care of the trails so everyone can keep using them. That’s why so many offroading groups organize trail clean up events around the country from Michigan to the Pacific Northwest to the Southwest.

If you’re not an offroader, or you’re just looking for another way to take care of the environment, what are some other ways to keep things green with your car? Well, it turns out that maintaining your car and doing it right is the green thing to do.

Scientific American cites a study done by Toyota that found that 28 percent of the carbon emissions in a car’s lifecycle come from the manufacturing process, and the remainder is from driving. Maintaining your old car can be better for the environment than buying a new car, even one with better fuel mileage.

Here’s some repairs you can do keep things clean and some tips for how to make your repairs more environmentally friendly.

Car Maintenance to Reduce Emissions and Save Gas

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It’s Time to Test Your Shocks and Struts; Do You Know How?

How are your roads this time of year? Winter can do a number on the roads, and spring seems to be prime time for potholes. You might be noticing that the roads are a lot rougher, and your car’s ride might be losing its smoothness too. Potholes are hard on your shocks and struts, after all. This might just be the ideal time to get some new shocks or struts, but how do you know if you need them? Our mechanic Andrew can show you what to look for and how to check. Read on for more info about shocks and struts.

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12 Daring Women Who Changed Racing History

When you think of women in racing, you probably think of today’s big names like Danica Patrick or Courtney Force. March was International Women’s month, but it’s always a good time to honor some of the women who paved the way in motorsports, as well as the female drivers out there winning races today.

Helle Nice

You might think that women are only now breaking into the boys’ club of racing, but there have been women on the rack nearly as long as there’s been racing. Case in point: Helle Nice who was dubbed “the Queen of Speed” after winning the Grand Prix Féminin in 1929.

Nice had been a dancer until she injured her knee skiing. She did the natural thing and switched to auto-racing. Nice was the subject of a 2004 biography titled Bugatti Queen.

Helle Nice in Brazil, 1936. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Kay Petre

Kay Petre drove in many races in the 1930s, including finishing the 1934 24 Hours of Le Mans with teammate Dorothy Champney. As ESPN points out, Petre stood 4’10”, but that didn’t stop her from racing a 10.5 Liter V12 (you can see pictures over at Silodrome). She just had to attach wooden blocks to the pedals so she could reach. She briefly held a Ladies Land Speed record with that car at over 134 miles per hour. Petre retired from racing after suffering serious injuries in a crash. That didn’t keep her away from the automotive world, though. She went on to design fabric patterns for the original Mini.

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Why Won’t My Car Start?

We depend on our cars to always be there when we need them. That’s why it can be such a shock when you turn the key and your car doesn’t start. If that happens to you, don’t panic. A lot of times the problem is relatively simple to fix. To figure out what’s going on, pay careful attention to what happens when you turn the key.

Click what happens when you turn the key to jump down to your specific issue:

 

Nothing Happens When I Turn the Key

Say you turn the key and nothing at all happens. Dead silence—no dash lights, no interior lights. That means your car’s systems aren’t getting any power from the battery. The most likely culprit is a dead battery, but before you spring for a new one, you should check that your battery connections are good. Check by hand that the terminals are tight on the battery. If they feel loose, tighten the nut on the side of the terminal. If they feel tight, but there’s a lot of corrosion and buildup, that might reduce the effectiveness of your battery. You might want to take the terminals off the battery posts and carefully clean the posts and terminals. Often you can get the terminals clean enough just using a wire brush, but this video will show you a more thorough procedure to keep your terminals cleaner long-term:

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Do I Need Premium Gas?

Gas station Does your car recommend you use premium gas? Or if it doesn’t, when you’re pumping your regular gas, do you ever wonder if you would get a boost by paying for high-test? Or have you ever had an old-school car guy tell you that you need to run premium sometimes to clean out your gas tank?

There’s a lot of confusion out there about premium gas, what it’s good for, and who does or doesn’t need it. So, let’s clear things up once and for all.

Why Do Some Cars Use Premium Gas?

Some cars either recommend that you use premium gas or require it. Many cars will have a sticker inside the fuel door that tells you if it recommends or requires premium gas. You can always check your owner’s manual.

So why would you need premium gas? Cars that call for premium gas tend to either have high compression engines or forced induction (supercharging or turbocharging). That means that the fuel and air is under very high pressure in the combustion chamber. That’s one way to make a high-powered engine.

High compression and forced induction introduce their own complications. High pressure (along with heat building up in the engine) can cause the gas to combust before it should. That’s called pre-ignition, detonation, or engine knocking. Knocking can cause damage to engine components, especially if it recurs over a long time. You can recognize knocking as a metal-on-metal “pinging” sound under the hood.

You may have noticed the different octane ratings on the fuel pump: usually numbers like 87 for regular, 89 for mid-grade, and 92 (or thereabouts) for premium. A higher octane rating means that the gas is less likely to pre-ignite.

Which Cars Require Premium?

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Why Does My Tire Pressure Light Come On When It’s Cold?

low tire pressure light symbol
Low tire pressure light.           Photo by Machalov is licensed under CC BY 3.0

It’s a bitter cold morning in January. You start your car and this icon lights up on your dashboard. It’s the low tire pressure light. What’s wrong? How did your tire go flat over night? And do you need to get air?

What the Light Means

Cars built after 2008 are required to have sensors in the tire that measure the tire’s air pressure. The light comes on if the pressure in your tire drops to 25% below the recommended pressure, according to Edmunds. How Stuff Works points out that the sensor can be off by as much as two pounds per square inch, but that’s far from enough to make your tire 25% low. If the light comes on then your tires are probably too soft. That can cause tire squealing, poor handling, and increased tire wear.

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