Spoilers are a popular accessory for many car enthusiasts. On top of being stylish, many people believe they can improve a car’s speed and aerodynamics. Here’s what the science says.
How spoilers work
The spoiler’s effect comes from the same physical laws that drive aviation, but it works in the opposite direction. While an airplane wing lifts the aircraft as it accelerates, the spoiler on a car exerts a downward force, pressing the vehicle downward and improving traction. It also decreases the drag arising from air turbulence at the vehicle’s rear.
The spoiler’s aerodynamic effect is indisputable. But its effectiveness is proportional to speed. For example, a Formula 1 racing car benefits most from a spoiler because it’s lightweight and frequently exceeds 185 miles per hour.
Cars intended for consumer use are much heavier and subject to legal speed limits. For these types of vehicles, the downward thrust effect of a spoiler is negligible. However, spoilers reduce drag, which helps reduce fuel consumption. This effect is especially true if the manufacturer installed the spoiler and tested it in a wind tunnel, which is often the case for high-end cars.
How to clean your tires and wheels
Cleaning your vehicle’s tires and wheels does more than make your car look good. Manufacturers recommend cleaning your tires every other week. Cleaning removes brake dust, rotor shavings, and road salt, all of which can shorten the lifespan of your tires. Here’s how to properly clean your car’s tires and wheels.
What you’ll need
Have these products ready to go:
• Bucket and warm water
• Clean cloths
• Hose and spray nozzle
• Medium-bristled brush
• Dish soap
Step 1: Rinse
Wash the tires one at a time to keep the surface wet while you work. Get rid of any loose dirt with a quick spray of your hose. Spray from various angles to remove the most debris from the wheels.
Step 2: Wash the tires
Work on the tires first because the dirty water will soil the wheels. Scrub the tires with a brush, warm water, and dish soap. Allow the soapy water to soften the grime on the tires before rinsing. Repeat this step if necessary and rinse out your brush when finished.
Step 3: Wash the rims
Wash the rims using the brush, warm water, and dish soap. Use an old toothbrush to get into tight areas. Repeat if necessary. After rinsing, thoroughly dry the wheel and the tires with a clean cloth.
With shiny tires and wheels, your car is in showroom shape, and you’ll give your tires a few more miles on the road.
Is it safe for young children to sit in the front seat?
Although it may seem logical to place your young child in the front seat of your car to keep an eye on them, you might want to think again.
The back seat is safest
While legislation varies throughout North America, the safest place for your child is the back seat, away from active airbags. In a head-on collision, the front airbag will restrain the head and abdomen of an adult. When a child sits in the passenger seat, the airbag deploys at head level, potentially causing severe neck and head injuries. The sheer force of airbag deployment is enough to harm a child seriously.
Today, many vehicles are equipped with a mechanism that momentarily deactivates the passenger-side airbag if a child is sitting there. If your car doesn’t have this feature, and you must put your child in the front seat, make sure to move the front seat as far back from the airbag deployment zone as possible. You may also want to consider permanently deactivating the airbag.
Correctly using a car seat is one of the best steps you can take to protect your child in a crash.
Fleet managers turn to electric cars
Hertz recently inked a deal to buy 65,000 electric vehicles from startup Polestar over five years. The city of Houston, meanwhile, purchased a hundred electrics to replace aging gas autos, and Amazon wants to put 100,000 battery-powered delivery trucks on the road.
Wondering why these cars are so popular with fleets? Let’s take a spin.
Up front, adopting electrical vehicles may boost a company’s sustainability, which, in turn, could help with branding. However, the benefits of EVs for fleets run far deeper than marketing.
Wakefield Research polled 300 fleet managers and found that 44 percent believed that electric vehicles will reduce fuel costs. While charging an electric vehicle isn’t free, it’s currently cheaper to fill a battery than a gas tank.
EVs are potentially easier to maintain. With combustion engines, you have to worry about not just gasoline, but also oil and spark plugs, both non-issues with electric cars. Pretty much all combustion vehicles need transmission fluid, while many (but not all) electric vehicles skip transmissions altogether, making fluid unnecessary.
Moving parts are also prone to breaking down, and repairs can be costly. If a transmission goes out, you’ll have to shell out thousands to replace it. Cracked cylinder heads and rusted exhaust systems, among other things, also cost hefty sums to repair. Ultimately, Wakefield Research reports that 85 percent of current EV owners reported that traditional vehicles are more expensive to maintain.
With fewer moving engine/transmission parts, electric cars can relieve potential headaches. Still, this doesn’t mean that EVs provide a free ride. Upfront costs for electric vehicles are typically higher. And while batteries often last hundreds of thousands of miles, they do lose capacity over time and are expensive to replace. Charging times can also stretch on for hours.
Still, all told, electric cars offer a compelling option for fleet managers.
What to do when your engine overheats
Your dashboard temperature light is on, and there’s steam coming from under the hood — sure signs that your engine is overheating. When that happens, you need to act quickly to prevent permanent damage to your vehicle. Here’s what to do when your engine overheats.
Turn off the AC and turn up the heat
If your air conditioner is working, turn it off. The AC puts a lot of stress on the engine. Then turn the car’s heater on full blast. The heater will cool the engine by sucking hot air from the motor and blowing it into the cabin. You may sweat a bit, but it could save your car.
Pull over and stop the engine
Find a safe place to pull over and turn your hazard lights on. Stop the engine and wait at least 15 minutes until lifting the hood. Watch the dashboard temperature gauge to determine when the engine has cooled to normal levels.
If you have spare coolant in your vehicle, top up the reservoir. Adding water will do the trick in an emergency, but you’ll have to drive slowly to avoid overheating again.
Get to a mechanic
Start your engine and drive slowly to your nearest automotive repair shop. If the engine overheats again, pull over and let it cool.
An overheating engine needs a professional repair. A mechanic can determine the cause of your problem and get you back on the road.
4 signs your car needs a little TLC
As your thoughts turn to summer adventures and road trips, it’s important to make sure your vehicle is safe to drive. Here are a few signs your car could use a tune-up.
1. You see an engine warning light
If the engine warning lights flash on your dashboard, don’t ignore them. Amber lights will alert you to simple problems, such as a loose spark plug, while red lights indicate more serious issues, such as an oil leak. Engine warning lights may also indicate when your car is due for an oil change.
2. You hear weird noises
Strange sounds coming from your car can signify there’s a problem. Noises may begin quietly and get louder as the problem gets worse. Turn off the radio while you’re driving and listen for sounds like squeaking or grinding. These noises could indicate your car has a loose belt, low power steering fluid, or unbalanced tires.
3. You notice strange smells
If you notice an unusual odor, it may mean there’s a problem with your car. An unpleasant smell can indicate there’s an issue with your exhaust system, elec¬trical components, tires, or brakes. All these problems require immediate attention from a mechanic.
4. You see or smell smoke
Smoke coming from your engine or exhaust pipe could be a sign that your radiator is overheating or that you have a problem with your head gasket. These are urgent issues that could ruin your car’s engine.
If you want to be safe on the road, give your car the care and attention it needs. An automotive professional can help you maintain your vehicle and make repairs before they become major problems.
How green are electric vehicles?
Although purchasing an electric car is generally associated with being environmentally friendly, some consumers doubt it. Here are some facts to set the record straight.
Fuel consumption alone doesn’t define a car’s environmental impact. In fact, the car’s entire life cycle must be considered, from the extraction of materials used in its manufacture to the car’s ultimate disposal.
The amount of energy and resources required to manufacture the vehicle and to power it is an essential ecological consideration. Moreover, the vehicle’s weight, mileage, and recyclability must also be considered.
Striking a balance
Studies show that manufacturing electric vehicles creates more pollution than manufacturing gasoline-powered cars. However, once the car reaches a specific mileage, this disadvantage gets canceled out. This is especially true in countries, states, and provinces that produce and use renewable energy from such sources as solar panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric dams.
The most ecological choice
Although not a cure-all as some would describe them, electric cars are a more climate-friendly option than conventional vehicles. That said, you can help reduce your environmental impact by making lifestyle choices like carpooling and using public transit whenever possible.