Archive for October, 2017|Monthly archive page

Don’t Be Spooked By Basic Car Care

While Halloween is a scary time of year, vehicle owners don’t need to be spooked about basic car care. The non-profit Car Care Council recommends motorists follow a preventative vehicle maintenance plan to help take away the fear of unexpected breakdowns and frightening repair costs.

“Getting an oil change should never be scary; having wipers replaced should not be horrifying; and asking a professional automotive technician questions should not make someone shake in fear,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “With a quick visit to, motorists will find free online tools from the Car Care Council to help take the fear out of auto care.”

The Car Care Council’s online custom service schedule and email reminder service can help car owners be more responsible and remember to include auto care in their busy schedules. This easy-to-use resource is free-of-charge and can be personalized to help make auto care more convenient and economical. The council also has a general service schedule that can be printed and followed. Drivers should be sure to consult their vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations by the carmaker.

Motorists can order a free copy of the council’s Car Care Guide at Available in English and Spanish, the popular guide uses easy-to-understand language and includes descriptions of major vehicle systems, questions to ask a professional technician, and a checklist to remind drivers what vehicle systems need to be maintained and when service or repair should be performed. Special sections on fuel economy and environmental awareness show drivers how to get better gas mileage and make their vehicle more environmentally friendly.

The Car Care Council’s video entitled “Auto Service and Repair: What to Expect” helps drivers become more comfortable with the auto service and repair process, providing valuable information on such topics as finding the right auto repair facility, what to expect at the shop and what questions to ask. The video also covers the real truth about consumer rights and the manufacturer’s warranty. View the video online at

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Power Wagon wins ‘bone stock’ rally

2017 RAM Power Wagon has won the Bone Stock Award at the all-female Rebelle Rally for the second straight year.

In all, 36 two-woman teams competed in the rally for seven days over a 750-mile precision course laid out – on-road and off – between Lake Tahoe, Nevada and the Imperial Sand Dunes in California.

Only 11 of the competitors’ trucks were eligible for the Bone Stock award, given to a team driving a vehicle driven “exactly as delivered from the factory,” according to an FCA release. Non-factory tires were allowed, but only in factory-issued size.

The members of winning Team 4 Corners – which was sponsored and supported by RAM Truck – were Nena Barlow of Sedona, Arizona, and Chris Mayne of Chaville, France. They finished second overall, finishing only two points behind the winners’ 1,177 point total, and on original factory tires (Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac).

Rally founder Emily Miller, an off-road racing veteran, said her vision for the Rebelle “was to create an event that rewards intelligence, proper planning and attention to detail.” No GPS is allowed, and no pre-running. Speed doesn’t win; accuracy does.

“The rally is not for cars, but a true test of stock trucks,” said Miller, who was the first U.S. woman to finish on the podium of the decades-old, 2,500-km all-female Gazelle Rally in Morocco.

Barlow, who finished third in the Rebelle Rally last year, said her Power Wagon was the only vehicle powerful enough and with enough clearance to make it to the top of Oldsmobile Hill in the famous Glamis Sand Dunes portion of the event.

Lights Out? Check Vehicle Lighting

Fall is here and its arrival means fewer hours of daylight and upcoming holiday travel. Before hitting the road, it is a wise idea to make sure your vehicle’s lights are in proper working order, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

“Lights play a critical role in safe driving, as the chance of an accident increases if you can’t see or be seen,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “From the driver’s seat you may not notice a light that isn’t working, so inspect all of your car’s lights and replace those that are out.”

Lights are normal wear items that require periodic inspection and replacement. The vehicle lighting system provides nighttime visibility; signals and alerts other drivers; and supplies light for viewing instruments and the vehicle’s interior. In addition to replacing dimming, rapidly blinking and non-functioning lights, the following tips can help keep you safe:

  • Keep headlights, tail lights and signal lights clean. External dirt and debris can dim operational lights from being seen by others.
  • Make sure that your headlights are properly aimed. Misaimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce your ability to see the road.
  • If there is any doubt on whether or not your headlights should be on, turn them on. Lights not only help you see better in early twilight, they also make it easier for other drivers to see you.
  • Don’t overdrive your headlights; you should be able to stop inside the illuminated area, otherwise you are creating a blind crash area in front of your vehicle.

“Some states have laws that require the headlights to be on with the wipers,” said White. “Keeping your vehicle’s lights properly cared for and replacing wiper blades periodically will help ensure a safer ride, keeping the road ahead well-lit and giving you a clear view.”

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Don't Put Your Keys Between Your Fingers for Self-Defense

Even if they haven’t gone so far as to get formal self-defense training, many people (particularly women) have considered what strategies they’d deploy if they were attacked by a stranger. A popular thought is that one would use an object on your person as a weapon of defense—like keys, for instance.

The technique known as “The Wolverine”—wherein you put your keys between your fingers, ready to jab an assailant—is widely known, but according to self-defense instructors, it’s also not a great approach. The belief that putting your keys between your fingers will make your hand into a deadlier weapon is so common a misconception, in fact, that every self-defense expert we spoke with said that they had at some point dispelled the myth for a student. But as Gabrielle Rubin, founder of self defense course Female Awareness, tells us, even if you’re starting out with less-than-ideal strategies in mind, “I love that you’re thinking of something.” Here’s some more effective ideas to keep you safe—and yes, some of them still involve your keys:

Put Your Keys On Something to Give You Reach

The problem with the keys-in-hand gambit, Rubin points out, is that if you’re at the point where you’re trying to jab at someone with your fist, they’re already closer than you want. She suggested putting your keys on something called a kubaton, which is a kind of keychain based on a small bamboo weapon that can be used to hit your assailant (and also keep track of your keys). It’s both a weapon if they get near you, and a handle you can hang onto while beating them with the weight of the keys themselves.

“I put it on a carabiner,” says Rubin, “So if I was to hold them and swing them on the carabiner, I could swing them like a nunchuck.”

Another option would be attaching your keys to a lanyard or chain, for optimal swinging, though this is assuming you’re rivaling a janitor with your key collection.

Hold the Keys In a Way That Won’t Hurt You

Putting your keys between your fingers may be reminiscent of a wild animal or your favorite Marvel action hero, but the potential for damage to your own hand is high. Matan Gavish, founder of Krav Maga Academy, tells us that holding your keys this way will likely cause more problems for you than your assailant.

“First, the metal jagged area of the key can easily cause damage to the skin between the fingers when being used violently,” he wrote. “Sharp pain like that can lead to opening of the fingers which will immediately reduce the effectiveness of any strike.”

The base of the key hitting the inside of your hand after impact would also be painful, he added, all of which means you might drops your keys, leaving them vulnerable to a bad guy scooping them up. (And you’d be locked out of the house.) However, Gavish does note that if you have to throw a big ring of keys in someone’s face to get away, that’s an option.

He also suggests that if you must use your keys to fight, try “closing a fist around it with the sharp edge coming out the bottom or pinky side.”

Images via Matan Gavish.

To Jab or To Pound

When it comes to using your keys, consider how you would want to use them. Rubin boiled the available techniques down to two factors: “hit bone, poke flesh.” If you’re holding your keys like Gavish suggested above, you’re poking. Go for the eyes, throat, solar plexus and groin. If you’re holding them as more of a club, you want to hit them in places with a lot of bones. Striking someone in the hand is always far more painful than the forearm, for example, which is generally protected by fleshy muscles.

Chris Moran from JKD NYC also shared some photos for an effective strike, and though he didn’t have quite as harsh a critique of the Wolverine, he did say that the technique limits a person “to striking in punching mechanics.” He suggested two ways to hold your keys depending on many you have, and then coming down on an assailant like you’re “drawing a ‘X’ with your hand for attacking.”

(L) Small key collection, (R) Big key collection/Images via Chris Moran.

The overall message is that keys can be used as a weapon in a confrontation, but some tactics are much more effective than others, and the most widely-publicized method may actually be counterproductive for your safety.

The simple idea of “I’ll use my keys!” is tied to what Rubin calls the “illusion of safety”; lots of people are afraid to carry more serious self-defense devices, because they fear they’ll be turned against them. Also, most of us would rather just not think about the upsetting prospect of being attacks. But if someone is close enough to poke with your keys, you’re probably better off pulling their hair, scratching with your fingernails, and going for their eyes. Also, she points out that scratching someone “gets their DNA.”

Hmm, wonder why no one wants to think about all this.


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The Demon's Speed-Limited Drag Radial Tires Make it Slower Than the Cherokee Trackhawk

The Dodge Challenger Demon’s tires are basically street-legal Nitto drag radials. We already know the rubber will start cracking under 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but it turns out there’s another side-effect of using a super-soft compound with barely any tread: A limited top speed.

The Demon is electronically limited to 168 mph thanks to the standard Nitto tires, making it the slowest car in the Hellcat family. Both the Hellcat Challenger and Charger have top speeds around 200 mph, while the Cherokee Trackhawk tops out at around 180 mph.

But, as Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained tells us, the Demon wasn’t built for top speed—it was built to annihilate the quarter mile. Top speed stability is sacrificed for longitudinal grip provided by the 315-section width rear Nittos, making the wheelie launches and sub 10-second quarter-mile times possible.

Fenske goes on to say that with a set of high speed-rated tires and the speed-limiter removed, the Demon could theoretically hit 200. Hopefully an owner will make that happen soon.

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Add tech or no?

Ralph Gilles, Head of Design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, took an interesting question to the ‘net Tuesday to seek a little input from the Mopar community – and anybody else who wants to weigh in.

His question is about handheld technology, rather than body work. Obviously there is some debate going on within the company as to how much tech to build-in to future vehicles, and how much to leave to the buyer’s discretion and imagination.

Do consumers want built-in tech in all its factory installed glory – and rigid finality? (You know how hard it is to find just a matching bezel for the console when you replace just a radio). Or do we prefer to add our own tech, post-purchase, so we can customize our ride to our heart’s content, putting the stamp of our own personality on an important living space?

FCA interior design concept

Gilles, who posted his question on Instagram and later Tweeted it from his account there, too, put it this way: “When a tight budget (or not) is a consideration, bring your own tech or pay extra to enjoy a built-in system with replicated/projected view of apps on your smart devices? Thx.”

Within the hour he had more than 300 responses and likes. That number could add a few zeros if younger buyers notice the question.

Obviously the second option — letting the customer decide — is already being introduced by FCA, to some degree, as evidenced in the leak this week of the 2019 Jeep Wrangler JL customer handbook. According to the manual, four generic ‘AUX’ switches have been added to the new Wrangler’s console, which have no dedicated function. They’re there to give buyers factory-installed dash controls for whatever after-market auxiliary devices they want to add, be they a winch, light bars, beverage cooler or underbody illumination.

And then there is the “brought in” technology, as Gilles puts it: the phones, tablets, screens, music playback and whatever other technological developments are coming that we haven’t imagined yet. Whatever they are, they now seem to arrive unexpectedly with nearly instantaneous consumer adoption – which is a little difficult to plan for. Do we want those devices embedded in the dash, or do we want “dedicated perches” carved out of the interior so we can add our own (as shown in the concept photo above), as Gilles asks?

You can see what a problem this presents to an industry that has to design interiors today and order parts next month for vehicles that won’t reach showrooms until 2020. If there still are showrooms. Or will we be placing our orders online from a virtual reality visor in our living rooms?

This has to be a design struggle going on at all the OEMs. Gilles might share one day and tell us what he and his team learned after going public with the question.

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WATCH: Help Your Teen Be a Smarter Driver

Is your teen learning to drive? AAA can help with these resources, plus a video with tips to help you gauge whether they’re ready.

Teaching your child how to drive can be a daunting task, but it’s important to help teens improve their skills, judgment and experience. Parental involvement and stricter limits on driving can significantly reduce risky driving behavior during a driver’s first 12 to 18 months behind the wheel, according to the National Institutes of Health.

AAA has several resources to help parents and teens navigate through this important time. Here are a few to consider.

Build your tool kit.
Parents and teens can try Teaching Your Teens to Drive, an interactive program that slowly introduces teens to the world of driving. A handbook and DVD contain lessons for you and your teen, such as vehicle control, freeway and night driving, and maneuvering in traffic. This is a handy resource to use before your child gets behind the wheel.

Prepare for hazards.
For new drivers, recognizing and avoiding driving hazards is important. This computer program helps teens achieve Zero Errors Driving (ZED) by teaching them to scan, spot and act to avoid hazards in various scenarios. Driver-ZED uses real video footage in highway, country, city and work zone settings.

Agree to succeed.
When you and your teen agree on certain expectations, put it in writing. AAA’s Parent-Teen Driving Agreement encourages parents and teens to discuss and establish privileges, responsibilities, rules and consequences. The checklist will help your teen progress from one privilege, such as driving at night, to the next. Fill out this agreement, sign it and post it in a place where it will be visible to everyone.

Trim package upgrades Pacifica

This week Chrysler dealers begin taking orders for an appearance package that significantly alters the presence of the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica.

Called the S Appearance Package, the $595 option adds black wheels and shaded exterior accents, black seats, and great swaths of black trim elements inside and out.


Depending on your point of view, the changes either impart a formal limousine look to the family hauler, or some serious urban attitude. Either way, the option will likely prove popular with buyers (and their kids) who want to differentiate their vans from rest of the candy-colored horde idling on the street in front of school.

Here’s the full list of what goes dark with the S Package: 18-inch wheels with a Black Noise finish are standard with the package, but can be upgraded to 20-inchers; seats are black, with an ‘S’ logo on the fronts; most interior trim pieces are black, including the headliner, visors, center console, A-pillar trim and front overhead console.

There are black accents on the steering wheel, instrument panel, interior door trim and exterior Chrysler wing badges. A black roof rack is optional to provide that final frisson of all-murdered-out.

The 20-inch wheels add an additional $995 to the price of the S Package. The package can be ordered now but will not be appearing in showrooms for another few months because Windsor Assembly is down for a minor retooling until the end of October.

Also changed for 2018 is the addition of 4G LTE Wi-Fi, which will be available at a later date.

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Westbound I-696 to shut down between I-94, I-75 for construction in Spring 2018

A $90 million construction project will shut down westbound I-696 between I-94 and I-75 in Spring 2018.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced Wednesday due to poor condition the freeway must undergo concrete replacement on this stretch in Macomb County. Some bridges over I-696 will under maintenance work, too. The construction is scheduled to begin in Spring 2018 and is expected to be completed by late 2018.

MDOT said this project must be completed while funding remains available and before the nearby I-75 modernization project gets underway. The transportation department fears a delay in action would push the start of this I-696 construction project to 2024.

According to MDOT, I-696 carries about 150,000 vehicles a day through Macomb County

How this affects drivers

For starters, forget traveling on westbound I-696 between I-94 and I-75. The suggested freeway detour for westbound I-94 traffic which normally would merge onto westbound I-696 is for traffic to remain on westbound I-94 until reaching I-75 in Detroit. Then drivers can travel northbound on I-75 until it hooks up with westbound I-696.

Eastbound I-696 will remain open between I-75 and I-94 for the duration of construction.

MDOT is holding a public meeting Tuesday, Oct. 24 to discuss further details about this construction project.

How to Identify a Flood Damaged Vehicle

Following one of the worst hurricane seasons in years and record-setting rainfall in many areas of the country, flooding has taken its toll on vehicles. It is important for those considering the purchase of a used vehicle to be car care aware and check for signs of water intrusion or contamination, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

“Purchasing a used vehicle and later learning it has been flood damaged can be very problematic and lead to costly issues down the road. Worst yet, these vehicles can be unhealthy to occupy because of mold and bacteria growing in the carpet and ventilation system,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

The Car Care Council and the Car Care Professionals Network (CCPN), a network of professional automotive service providers, say it all comes down to how much water the vehicle took in and where it can be reached and together recommend taking the following steps to determine if a vehicle has been flood damaged:

  • Take the sniff test. Close all the windows and doors and let the car sit for about five minutes then crack open a door and sniff. Mildew and mold have very distinctive smells and it doesn’t take long for that smell to present itself.
  • Try the touch test. Get some paper towels and press them against the low spots in the carpet. The paper towels will draw the moisture out and reveal if the carpet is wet under the surface. Some carpets can be several inches thick to insulate from heat and sound. If the paper towel becomes wet it could mean water has gotten into the car.
  • Investigate the interior. Look under the seats and dash for corrosion and rust and look for exposed metal that is untreated. There are metal springs under the front seats that are usually not painted. If they are rusted that is a sign the interior has been wet. Look for mud and debris in places it does not belong.
  • Inspect the instrument panel. Turn on the key and perform a bulb test. Make sure every bulb lights up. If a system has an issue, removing the warning bulb can hide it. Many times vehicles that have flooded have malfunctions in their anti-brake and air bag systems. Ensuring the light comes on and then goes out after the bulb test is an indicator that the system is on and has no active faults.
  • Take it to a professional. Let a service and repair technician inspect your vehicle. They can raise the car and look underneath to see if there is any mud, sticks or rocks in the suspension. A professional can check the oil in the differentials to make sure they contain no water in them. Spend a few dollars to have it looked over to give you piece of mind.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit