Why You Should Rotate Your Tires

What is tire rotation?

To start, tire rotation is when you change the location of each tire.  You keep the same tires and just move them around.  This helps extend the life of each tire.

Why should I rotate my tires?

The short answer is that your tires wear at different rates.  Relocating tires that experience more wear to spots where they’ll experience less wear (and vice versa) can give you the maximum life out of each tire.  That’s better than letting an individual tire wear out quickly, requiring you to replace it more often.

Why do tires wear at different rates?

You might think they would wear out at the same rate, since they go the same distance over the same roads.  Well, actually, they don’t necessarily all go the same distance.  In a turn, the outside wheel covers more distance.  Since we drive on the right hand side in the United States, left hand turns take longer.  That means our left tires cover more distance than the right ones, so they wear faster.  If you live somewhere where driving on the left side is the norm, your right wheels will wear faster.

The other factor affecting tire wear is the weight on top of the tires.  The engine is the heaviest thing in your car, and in the vast majority of cars, it’s located at the front.  That means the front tires get pushed harder against the road than the rear tires.  That also wears them faster.

The front wheels also have the duty of steering.  When steering, the tires turn across the ground, which scrapes off some of the rubber surface.  That also speeds up the wear on the front tires.

Continue Reading

Why Hasn’t Civic Mileage Improved in 20 Years?

If you look at the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel mileage estimates for the 1994 Honda Civic and the 2014 Civic, you’ll see very little improvement.  To make sure we’re comparing apples to apples, let’s look at base-level sedans with a four-speed automatic.  You’ll see that when the 1994 was released, it tested at 29 miles per gallon in city driving, 36 mpg in highway driving, and 32 mpg combined.  The 2014 tested at 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 33 mpg combined.  With 20 years of technological innovation and rising gas prices, the Civic only gets one more mile per gallon of gas.  How can that be?

Certainly the car has gotten heavier over the years, and more technology has been added which can mean more drain on the fuel.  But actually, if we dig in a bit deeper, we’ll discover that the Civic has made a bigger improvement than you might think at first.  The problem is that in the above comparison, we weren’t really comparing apples to apples, because in 2008, the EPA changed the way fuel mileage is calculated.  The Civic has gotten better, but the test has gotten harder.

Continue Reading

Why Is My Power Steering Making Noise This Winter?

Whining or squealing noises from your power steering system are common problems in cold weather.  What causes this?  Is your power steering simply fed up with the bad weather?  I know I do a lot of whining and squealing through January and February.  Actually, though, these noises can indicate problems with your power steering.  Fortunately, these problems are usually pretty easy to fix.

First of all, how do you know if the problem is with your power steering?  Well, simply put, you’ll notice the sound gets worse when you’re turning.  The sound could be coming either from your belt slipping on the power steering pulley, or from the power steering pump itself.

Your serpentine belt or accessory belt is made of rubber, which becomes less pliable when it’s cold.  The stiffer belt has a harder time getting a good grip on the pulleys, and the belt might slip over the pulley a bit.  That will cause a squealing noise.  Now, that’s somewhat typical in cold weather, and will be worse the colder it is.  It may not represent a huge problem, but you might want to check your belt anyway.  Belts get stiffer with age anyway, so a newer belt might keep its pliability better in the cold.  If your belt looks stiff or cracked, you should probably replace it with a new one.

Continue Reading

Why Your Gas Mileage Gets Worse in Winter & What to Do About It

poor gas mileage in winter

Cold weather can take a real toll on your gas mileage.  As I pointed out in an earlier post about winter gas prices, gas companies sell a different fuel blend in the winter, which produces less power.  That’s not the whole story, though.  There are a number of other reasons why you have to gas up more once it gets cold out.

The Impact of Frigid Temperature on Your Auto

The first is that your engine has to work harder in the cold.  First of all, the oil that lubricates your engine gets thicker when it’s cold, which means there’s more friction on the moving engine parts.  You also probably use more electric accessories during the winter.  Think of your heating fan, lights, defrosters, windshield wipers, and all the other parts that draw on the battery.  You run a lot of these more often in the winter.  That drains the battery (which already drains more easily in cold conditions) and means the alternator has to work harder.

The grip of your tires also contributes to your fuel use.  As tires roll, they actually flex a bit to make a contact patch with the road.  That helps you get more grip.  Rubber gets stiffer in the cold, so it doesn’t flex as well.  That means they’ll have a smaller contact patch on the road and less grip.  That means you have to use more power just to get going.  If your wheels slip, then you’re really wasting power.  The engine’s pushing but you aren’t getting anywhere.

Continue Reading

Why do Car Batteries Die in Cold Weather?

cars covered in winter snow

Imagine this. It’s the coldest day all year.  You go out to start your car so it can warm up.  When you turn the key, maybe the starter runs for a couple seconds and quits.  Maybe it doesn’t even try at all.  If you live in a cold climate, this has probably happened to you.  Why do batteries go dead in cold weather?  Is it just bad luck?  Is the electricity frozen?  What’s going on?

As it turns out there are a number of factors that make winter especially tough on your car battery.  Batteries don’t discharge as well in cold weather, they don’t charge as well in the cold, and you probably put more demand on the battery in the winter.

The Science Behind Batteries Dying in the Cold

A car battery works through a chemical reaction.  There are plates of lead dioxide and plates of lead, immersed in sulphuric acid that’s diluted with water.  The sulphuric acid breaks up into hydrogen, with a positive charge (basically, it’s short an electron), and sulfate with a negative charge (it has extra electrons).  The hydrogen reacts with the lead dioxide and more sulphuric acid to form lead sulfate and water.  In that process it has to take on an electron to make up for the one the hydrogen was short of.

Continue Reading

What Does the Letter in General Motors’ Body Styles Mean?

GM X Body Style
General Motors X Body Style

General Motors uses letter codes to signify which chassis layout, or body type, the vehicle has. This is useful since GM consists of many different makes such as Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Buick, and Cadillac. Many of these brands share platform types with each other. It isn’t some secret, alphabetic code that GM fans are privileged to. It is really quite simple. Each platform has changed somewhat over the years so we’ll walk through them in more or less chronological order.

 

The Early Years

GM started with just four platforms: the A, B, C, and D bodies. In the beginning, A and B were both for full size cars. A body models included the Chevy Superior, the Oldsmobile 60, and most Pontiacs. The B Body was used for the Buick Century among others. GM decided it didn’t make sense to have two platforms for full size cars so the A body was discontinued and the B Body became the standard for full sized cars in 1959. GM continued to use the B body designation for full size, rear-wheel drive cars until 1996. The Chevy Bel Air, Buick LeSabre, Chevy Impala, and Pontiac Bonneville were all built on the B body platform in this era.

In 1931, GM Introduced the C body. The C body would continue as a long wheelbase RWD car until 1984. The C body was essentially a lengthened version of the B body. The Pontiac Torpedo, Buick LaSalle, and Oldsmobile 90 were built on this platform.

The D body was used from 1936 to 1996 for GM’s biggest cars, like the Cadillac Fleetwood Limo and the Buick Limited.

Continue Reading

Why do Gas Prices Go Down in the Winter?

IMG_20130428_065835

Gas prices always seem to be lower in the winter than in the summer.  All the things that make gas prices rise and fall can be pretty convoluted, and a lot of factors play into seasonal price differences.  There’s higher demand in the summer, with people going on vacations, and generally getting out more and doing more driving.  The biggest factor that makes gas cost more in the summer is that the gasoline is actually different.Continue Reading