Posts Tagged ‘Automotive Engineering’

Ellen Edmonds Contact TileSeventy percent of U.S. drivers at risk for costly, dangerous rust damage

ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 21, 2017) – As the end of winter approaches, millions of Americans will face pricey vehicle repairs from rust damage caused by chemicals used to de-ice roadways. According to a new AAA survey, U.S. drivers paid an estimated $15.4 billion in rust repairs caused by de-icing methods over the last five years, or approximately $3 billion annually. AAA warns drivers, especially the 70 percent (150 million) who live in areas affected by snow and ice, to take action to prevent dangerous rust-related vehicle damage to brake lines, fuel tanks, exhaust systems and other critical vehicle components.

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“While the application of de-icing salts and solutions is critical to keeping our nation’s roadways safe every winter, it’s important that drivers pay attention to warning signs that their vehicle may be suffering from rust-related damage,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “This can be much more than a cosmetic issue, it can also create serious safety issues for drivers by impacting brake lines, exhaust systems, fuel tanks and electrical connections.”

AAA strongly urges drivers who experience any of the following vehicle malfunctions to immediately move the vehicle off the road to a safe location and have it towed to a trusted repair facility.

  • In-dash warning lights for brakes and other critical systems.
  • A “spongey” or soft feeling when applying pressure to the brake pedal.
  • An unusually loud exhaust sound or the smell of fumes in or around the vehicle.
  • The prominent smell of gasoline or diesel fuel when the vehicle is parked or running.

In recent years, many state and local transportation departments have shifted from using rock salt to liquid de-icers to combat ice and snow on the roadways. These newer alternatives are more effective than traditional salt because they can be applied before a snowstorm, have a lower freezing point and melt ice and snow faster. However, these same characteristics can be even more damaging to vehicles since the chemicals remain in liquid form longer and are more likely to coat components and seep into cracks and crevices where corrosion can accelerate.

“In the last five years, 22 million U.S. drivers have experienced rust damage to their cars due to salt and liquid de-icers,” continued Nielsen. “In addition to the safety risk, repairs to fix these problems are often costly, averaging almost $500 per occurrence.”

While some rust damage is unavoidable, AAA recommends drivers take the following preventative steps in order to reduce the possibility of vehicle damage:

  • When possible, limit driving immediately before, during and after winter storms when salt and de-icing solutions are being applied and are at their highest concentrations.
  • Frequently wash your vehicle, paying particular attention to the undercarriage. This will loosen, dissolve and neutralize road salts. Many drive-through car washes offer an undercarriage rinse as an option.
  • Always use a high-quality car wash solution, not a household dish detergent that will strip the wax from your vehicle.
  • Repair any body damage and touch up paint scratches and chips that expose bare metal which could lead to rust.
  • Before the start of winter, thoroughly wash and clean your vehicle prior to the start of winter and apply a coat of wax to protect the finish.
  • Give the entire vehicle and undercarriage one last cleaning in the spring. Any deposits left over from winter can continue to cause corrosion year-round if not properly removed.

Pothole damage is another concern for drivers, as snow and ice melt and roadways begin to crumble. A new AAA survey found that nearly 30 million U.S. drivers experienced pothole damage significant enough to require repair in 2016, with repair bills ranging from under $250 to more than $1000. To address this issue, AAA believes that more funding is needed to keep pace with critical repairs and ongoing maintenance of the nation’s roadways.

When pothole or rust damage occurs, it is imperative to choose a reputable repair facility. The AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) network includes nearly 7,000 facilities which have met AAA’s high standards, including, certifications, technical training, cleanliness, insurance requirements, rigorous inspections and customer satisfaction. AAA members are eligible for special benefits such as priority service, a 24-month/24,000-mile warranty, discounts, free inspections, dispute resolution assistance and more. To locate an AAR shop in your area, visit AAA.com/AutoRepair.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

ErinSteppAAA Tests Reveal Automatic Emergency Braking Systems Vary Significantly

ORLANDO, Fla (August 24, 2016) – New test results from AAA reveal that automatic emergency braking systems — the safety technology that will soon be standard equipment on 99 percent of vehicles — vary widely in design and performance. All the systems tested by AAA are designed to apply the brakes when a driver fails to engage, however, those that are designed to prevent crashes reduced vehicle speeds by nearly twice that of those designed to lessen crash severity. While any reduction in speed offers a significant safety benefit to drivers, AAA warns that automatic braking systems are not all designed to prevent collisions and urges consumers to fully understand system limitations before getting behind the wheel.

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“AAA found that two-thirds of Americans familiar with the technology believe that automatic emergency braking systems are designed to avoid crashes without driver intervention,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “The reality is that today’s systems vary greatly in performance, and many are not designed to stop a moving car.”

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA evaluated five 2016 model-year vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking systems for performance within system limitations and in real-world driving scenarios that were designed to push the technology’s limits. Systems were tested and compared based on the capabilities and limitations stated in the owner’s manuals and grouped into two categories — those designed to slow or stop the vehicle enough to prevent crashes, and those designed to slow the vehicle to lessen crash severity. After more than 70 trials, tests reveal:

  • In terms of overall speed reduction, the systems designed to prevent crashes reduced vehicle speeds by twice that of systems that are designed to only lessen crash severity (79 percent speed reduction vs. 40 percent speed reduction).
  • With speed differentials of under 30 mph, systems designed to prevent crashes successfully avoided collisions in 60 percent of test scenarios.
    • Surprisingly, the systems designed to only lessen crash severity were able to completely avoid crashes in nearly one-third (33 percent) of test scenarios.
  • When pushed beyond stated system limitations and proposed federal requirements, the variation among systems became more pronounced.
    • When traveling at 45 mph and approaching a static vehicle, the systems designed to prevent crashes reduced speeds by 74 percent overall and avoided crashes in 40 percent of scenarios. In contrast, systems designed to lessen crash severity were only able to reduce vehicle speed by 9 percent overall.

“Automatic emergency braking systems have the potential to drastically reduce the risk of injury from a crash,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “When traveling at 30 mph, a speed reduction of just 10 mph can reduce the energy of crash impact by more than 50 percent.”

In addition to the independent testing, AAA surveyed U.S. drivers to understand consumer purchase habits and trust of automatic emergency braking systems. Results reveal:

  • Nine percent of U.S. drivers currently have automatic emergency braking on their vehicle.
  • Nearly 40 percent of U.S. drivers want automatic emergency braking on their next vehicle.
    • Men are more likely to want an automatic emergency braking system in their next vehicle (42 percent) than female drivers (35 percent).
  • Two out of five U.S. drivers trust automatic emergency braking to work.
    • Drivers who currently own a vehicle equipped with automatic emergency braking system are more likely to trust it to work (71 percent) compared to drivers that have not experienced the technology (41 percent).

“When shopping for a new vehicle, AAA recommends considering one equipped with an automatic emergency braking system,” continued Nielsen. “However, with the proliferation of vehicle technology, it’s more important than ever for drivers to fully understand their vehicle’s capabilities and limitations before driving off the dealer lot.”

For its potential to reduce crash severity, 20 automakers representing 99 percent of vehicle sales have committed to making automatic emergency braking systems standard on all new vehicles by 2022. The U.S. Department of Transportation said this voluntary agreement will make the safety feature available on new cars up to three years sooner than could be achieved through the formal regulatory process. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions, which automatic emergency braking systems are designed to mitigate, result in nearly 2,000 fatalities and more than 500,000 injuries annually. Currently, 10 percent of new vehicles have automatic emergency braking as standard equipment, and more than half of new vehicles offer the feature as an option.

AAA’s testing of automatic emergency braking systems was conducted on a closed course at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Using instrumented vehicles and a state-of the-art robotic “soft car” that allowed for collisions without vehicle damage, AAA collected vehicle separation, speed and deceleration data in a variety of crash scenarios designed to mirror real-world driving conditions. The testing was designed to build on previous testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. For additional information, visit NewsRoom.AAA.com.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

ErinSteppDespite fear, AAA survey reveals that experience with vehicle technology leads to trust

ORLANDO, Fla. (March 1, 2016) – Three out of four U.S. drivers report feeling  “afraid” to ride in a self-driving car, according to a new survey from AAA. With today’s heightened focus on autonomous vehicles, this fear poses a potential concern to the automotive industry as consumers may be reluctant to fully embrace the self-driving car. Despite this significant fear, AAA also found that drivers who own vehicles equipped with semi-autonomous features are, on average, 75 percent more likely to trust the technology than those that do not own it, suggesting that gradual experience with these advanced features can ease consumer fears.

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“With the rapid advancement towards autonomous vehicles, American drivers may be hesitant to give up full control,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “What Americans may not realize is that the building blocks towards self-driving cars are already in today’s vehicles and the technology is constantly improving and well-trusted by those who have experienced it.”

While only one-in-five Americans say they would trust an autonomous vehicle to drive itself, AAA’s survey revealed that consumer demand for semi-autonomous vehicle technology is high. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of American drivers report wanting at least one of the following technologies on their next vehicle: automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking technology or lane-keeping assist.

Among drivers who want these features on their next vehicle, AAA found their primary motivation to be safety (84 percent), followed by convenience (64 percent), reducing stress (46 percent) and wanting the latest technology (30 percent).

  • Baby Boomers are more likely to cite safety as a reason they want semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle (89 percent) than Millennials (78 percent).
  • Millennials are more likely to cite convenience (75 percent) and wanting the latest technology (36 percent) compared to older generations.
  • Women are more likely to cite reducing stress as a reason for wanting the technology (50 percent) than men (42 percent)

AAA’s survey also offered insights into why many Americans shy away from advanced vehicle technology.  Among those who do not want semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle, drivers cite trusting their driving skills more than the technology (84 percent), feeling the technology is too new and unproven (60 percent), not wanting to pay extra for it (57 percent), not knowing enough about the technology (50 percent) and finding it annoying (45 percent) as the top reasons.

  • Millennials (63 percent) and Gen-Xers (62 percent) are more likely to cite not wanting to pay extra for semi-autonomous technology, compared to Baby Boomers (49 percent).
  • One-in-four female drivers (23 percent) cite feeling the technology is too complicated to use as a reason for not wanting the technology in their next vehicle, compared to 12 percent of male drivers.

“While six-in-10 drivers want semi-autonomous technology in their next vehicle, there are still 40 percent of Americans that are either undecided or reluctant to purchase these features,” continued Nielsen. “It’s clear that education is the key to addressing consumer hesitation towards these features and AAA’s on-going effort to evaluate vehicle technologies, highlighting both the benefits and limitations, is designed to help drivers make informed choices.”

Full survey results, including consumer trust and purchase intentions of individual features and infographics can be found at NewsRoom.AAA.com. AAA provides free vehicle reviews and localized pricing information at AAA.com/AutoBuying.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Erin SteppNew AAA survey reveals three out of four American drivers park incorrectly*

ORLANDO, Fla. (December 10, 2015) – This holiday season, as parking lots at shopping malls fill with millions of vehicles, AAA warns drivers to avoid a common parking lot mistake. According to a new survey, more than three quarters (76 percent) of U.S. drivers most frequently park their vehicle by pulling forward into a parking spot, rather than backing in, a riskier practice that driving experts warn leaves pedestrians more vulnerable when a driver later reverses from the spot and into the traffic lane.

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“Recognizing that American parking habits differ from much of the world, automakers are increasingly adding technology to vehicles that is designed to address rear visibility concerns,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “However, AAA’s testing of these systems reveals significant shortcomings when used in real-world conditions and Americans should rely more on driving skills than technology.”

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA tested rear cross traffic alert systems, designed to alert drivers to traffic passing behind a reversing vehicle, and found significant system limitations exist when parked between larger vehicles, such as SUVs or minivans.  In this common parking lot scenario, the tested systems failed to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles and other vehicles at alarming rates:

  • A passing motorcycle was not detected by the systems in 48 percent of tests.
  • The systems failed to detect a bicycle passing behind the vehicle 40 percent of the time.
  • The systems failed to detect a passing vehicle 30 percent of the time.
  • While not all systems are designed to detect pedestrians, the technology failed to detect pedestrians 60 percent of the time.

“AAA’s independent testing showed that rear cross traffic alert systems failed to work effectively in several test vehicles,” cautioned Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “It’s critical that drivers reverse slowly and use this technology as an aid to, not a substitute for, safe driving.”

Previous AAA testing of rear-view camera systems, required on all new vehicles by 2018, revealed significant consumer benefits including increased visibility of the rear blind zone by an average of 46 percent.  However, it’s important to note that no system shows 100 percent of the space behind a vehicle and that rain, snow or slush can impede camera visibility.

“When it comes to parking, the majority of American drivers are on the naughty list this year,” continued Nielsen. “Pulling out of a parking spot, instead of reversing, is an easy way to increase safety and visibility in busy parking lots this holiday season.”

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

 

*AAA recommends that drivers reverse into parking spaces whenever possible, except where prohibited by law or parking lot restrictions. When faced with angled parking, drivers should follow the flow of traffic and pull forward into the parking space.

Heather Hunter

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  • AAA surveyed its network of AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities to identify the maintenance items frequently missed by motorists.
  • Eighty-eight percent of repair shops find that drivers miss brake fluid maintenance, but only 35 percent find vehicles are behind on their oil changes.

ORLANDO, Fla., (October 2, 2014) – Changes in maintenance schedules due to advanced vehicle and fluid technology have changed vehicle service needs. Most motorists manage oil-change services appropriately but miss other critical maintenance items, according to a survey of AAA’s nationwide network of Approved Auto Repair shops.

Eighty-eight percent of repair shops find that motorists frequently skip brake fluid service. Other commonly missed items noted by repair providers include proper battery checks (82 percent), transmission fluid maintenance (81 percent), tire maintenance (78 percent) and engine coolant (77 percent).

“The expansion of onboard maintenance reminder systems – which often cover oil-change services – appears to help consumers stay on track with oil maintenance,” John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Many important services that are not typically detailed by those systems are often missed by consumers.”

In the past, vehicle maintenance needs were relatively simple and consistent across automakers. Today’s engineering advancements require less maintenance at less frequent intervals. Examples include oil-change intervals now recommended at 5,000 to 10,000 or more miles, transmission fluids designed to last 100,000 miles and sealed batteries that never need to have fluid added. Even with these advancements, vehicles still require routine services that are important to maintaining the performance and safety of the vehicle.

“Poor maintenance of brake fluid is a critical safety concern. All brake fluid attracts moisture, which can cause the fluid to perform poorly. Lack of maintenance can lead to contaminated fluid, corroded parts and increased stopping distance,” says Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering. “Motorists may not be aware of maintenance requirements for brake fluid, or their vehicle’s manufacturer may not recommend a specific interval for replacing the fluid.”

To ensure your vehicle is properly maintained, AAA recommends that motorists:

  • Read the maintenance requirements set by your car’s manufacturer in the owner’s manual. There is no longer a “standard” maintenance schedule for vehicle services – including brake fluid. Each automaker has different requirements, making your owner’s manual the most accurate resource.
  • Inspect brakes as recommended in your owner’s manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, pulling, noises while braking or longer stopping distance. Correct minor brake problems promptly. Check your owner’s manual to see if the brake fluid should be changed at a specific interval. If no interval is specified for brake fluid service, AAA suggests flushing the system every two years or anytime the brake system is serviced.
  • Follow the recommendations of in-vehicle maintenance reminders, as they have the best information to determine maintenance needs for your vehicle because they account for how you actually drive. However, many reminder systems do not specifically cover maintenance operations that need to be performed on a time or mileage basis – such as brake fluid and coolant flushes or timing-belt replacement.
  • Enlist the help of a trusted repair provider to keep vehicle maintenance on track. Quality repair shops will help motorists schedule and budget for necessary maintenance services. Find a quality repair provider through AAA’s Approved repair network by visiting AAA.com.

Additional information on AAA’s recommendations for proper vehicle maintenance is available on the AAA Newsroom and AAA’s YouTube channel. AAA’s network of more than 7,000 Approved Auto Repair providers is listed on AAA.com.  AAA members can receive a free maintenance inspection anytime they have work performed at any of these locations.

AAA continually conducts proprietary research to better understand implications of automotive technology, design and functionality for consumers.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Research yields up to seven percent mpg improvement and CO2 reduction

  • AAA tested three vehicles equipped with automatic stop-start systems using the EPA’s “urban” driving cycle. With the automatic stop-start system engaged, the vehicles delivered improved fuel economy of up to seven percent over tests with the automatic stop-start technology disengaged.
  • Based on these findings, these systems can improve fuel economy, saving motorists up to $179 in annual fuel costs, based upon driving 15,000 miles a year in a vehicle that gets 20 mpg with fuel prices at $3.65 per gallon.

 

Heather Hunter

ORLANDO, Fla., (July 24, 2014) – New research from AAA shows that automatic stop-start automotive technology delivers a significant fuel economy benefit. Test results indicated that automatic stop-start systems provide a five percent to seven percent improvement in fuel economy and reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared with tests conducted on the same vehicle with the automatic stop-start system disabled.

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“Up to seven percent improved fuel economy can mean a $179 annual fuel savings* for consumers,” says Greg Brannon, Director of AAA’s Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations team. “The technology requires only minor adjustment for motorists – automatic stop-start technology is simply applied to standard combustion engines.”

Automatic stop-start systems turn off the engine when the vehicle is at a complete stop − such as in traffic or at a stoplight. When the driver releases the brake or the clutch, the engine starts and moves forward. While the engine is stopped, systems and gadgets run on power from the vehicle’s battery. The feature most often deploys in city driving scenarios – versus highway operation – and may feel slightly different to motorists until they become accustomed to the automatic stop-start sensation. The benefits, however, will not be realized if the feature is turned off.

AAA put three automatic stop-start vehicles through the Environmental Protection Agency’s “urban” cycle, which simulates a commuting trip covering 11.04 miles at an average speed of 21.2 miles-per-hour. The simulation is part urban driving – including frequent stops – and part highway driving. This test was selected to ensure that the stop-start systems had an opportunity to work as they would on a normal commute. A 2013 Ford Fusion, a 2014 Mercedes Benz CLS550 and a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu were tested. The AAA research was conducted with the Auto Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center.

Automatic stop-start vehicles are still new to North American motorists, and drivers may not be familiar with the features and benefits of this technology. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have set standards to increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy levels to 54.5 (approximately 40 window sticker) miles per gallon by 2025, giving automakers further incentive to escalate fuel-saving technologies. Navigant Research’s 2013 automatic stop-start vehicles assessment projects that only 500,000 of the vehicles sold in the United States in 2013 included an automatic stop-start system, but that number could exceed seven million by 2022.

The study is part of AAA’s Driving Fuel Efficiency series, which also includes the electric vehicle climate study and future fuel-economy studies.

AAA’s Automotive Engineering team conducts proprietary research to better understand consumer implications of automotive technology, design and functionality.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

About AAA’s Driving Fuel Efficiency Series: From driving tips that increase gas mileage to the latest fuel-saving automotive technology, AAA’s Driving Fuel Efficiency series will reveal research findings and expert advice to help motorists make educated driving decisions.

*Fuel savings are based on driving 15,000 miles a year in a vehicle that averages 20 mpg with fuel prices at $3.65 per gallon. These savings do not include other factors relative to ownership costs of vehicles equipped with automatic stop-start systems, such as potentially higher costs to replace the upgraded battery or starter typically used in these vehicles.

Ginnie PritchettAAA, the nation’s largest motor club, shares useful tips for drivers during Car Care Month

ORLANDO, Fla., (October 1, 2013) – October is Car Care Month and AAA is reminding drivers about the importance of properly maintaining their vehicles. There are a few simple things every driver can do to make sure their car is ready for the road.

“Learning how to handle common maintenance issues is beneficial to anyone who gets behind the wheel,” said John Nielsen, managing director of AAA Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Proper maintenance can extend the life of your vehicle and help prevent costly repairs.”

Below are four simple car care practices AAA recommends every motorist perform on a regular basis:

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Check the Air and Wear of Your Tires

83% of American do not know how to properly inflate their tires, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association. The pressure on all tires—including the spare— should be checked monthly, with a quality gauge when the tires are cold. Proper pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker most often located on the driver-side door jamb. Do not use the pressure stamped on the sidewall of the tire. Note that the pressure levels on some cars are different for the front and rear tires.

Check the tread depth on each tire by placing a quarter upside down in the tread grooves. If the top of Washington’s head is exposed at any point, it’s time to start shopping for new tires. Also, look for uneven tire wear when checking the tread. This can be an indication of suspension, wheel balance or alignment problems that need to be addressed.

Every driver at some point deals with a flat tire. Click here for a step-by-step video that shows how to prepare for and repair or replace a flat tire.

Ensure Your Car Battery is Properly Charged

Extreme temperatures break down car batteries internally and can accelerate the rate of corrosion on battery terminals, leading to insufficient electrical power and the risk of being stranded without warning.

At every oil change, check the battery cables and ensure they are securely attached to the terminals. Clean the terminals if there are signs of corrosion. Disconnecting the cables to clean the hidden areas where they contact the battery terminals is the best way to remove external corrosion.  Most car batteries have a three to five year service life, depending on local climate and vehicle usage patterns. If your battery is getting old, have it tested at a AAA Approved Auto Repair shop or by using AAA Mobile Battery Service to determine if it needs to be replaced.

Keep Those Wipers Working

Inspect the wiper blades monthly. Check to see if they are worn, cracked or rigid with age.  Damaged wiper blades won’t adequately remove debris, compromising the driver’s vision and safety. The life of a rubber insert is typically six to 12 months depending on its exposure to heat, dirt, sunlight, acid rain, and ozone.  Streaking and chattering are common clues that the rubber is breaking down and a replacement is needed.  Click here to learn more.

The windshield washer fluid reservoir should be checked monthly. Top it off with a solution formulated to aid in the removal of insects or other debris. In winter, use a solution that will not freeze at low temperatures. Also, test the washer spray nozzles for proper operation and aim before leaving on a trip.

Work with a Local Repair Shop You Trust

Every car requires routine maintenance and repair. The best time to find a mechanic or auto repair shop is before you need one. Start by asking friends and family for recommendations of repair shops and mechanics. Visit www.aaa.com/repair to find nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, take your vehicle to your top candidate shop for routine maintenance. While there, talk with the employees and take a look at the facility and consider the following questions:

  • Does the facility have up to date equipment?
  • Were you offered a written estimate?
  • Does the shop offer a nationwide warranty on parts and labor?
  • Are customer areas clean, comfortable and well organized?

Click here for more on finding the right automotive repair shop for you.

When having your car serviced, follow the factory recommended maintenance schedule to avoid under- or over-maintaining your vehicle.  Oil changes, tire rotations, changing transmission fluid, and replacing an air filter are the types of routine maintenance recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. The maintenance schedule for these services and more can be found in the vehicle owner’s manual.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Ginnie PritchettAAA alerts drivers that extreme summer heat can push vehicles to limits if not properly maintained

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ORLANDO, Fla., (July 25, 2013) – With temperatures soaring to record highs around the country, AAA cautions motorists not to underestimate the ways in which extreme heat can wreak havoc on vehicles.  With an estimated eight million automobiles in need of AAA’s roadside assistance this summer, heat will take its toll on vehicles and their occupants.

“Prolonged exposure to high temperatures is not only a threat to passengers, but a vehicle concern as well,” said John Nielsen, AAA Managing Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Knowing the dangers and preparing your vehicle for extreme heat can help keep your vehicle running smoothly during the hot summer months.”

To keep your vehicle running smoothly this summer AAA recommends motorists address the following common heat-related car problems:

Over-Heating Engine

Automobile engines work extra hard in the summer, and it is the cooling system’s job to protect the engine from overheating. In addition, additives in the coolant protect the radiator and internal engine components against wear and corrosion. Without proper cooling system maintenance, the odds of long term engine damage, and a summer time boil over, definitely increase.

Over time, engine coolant becomes contaminated and its protective additives are depleted. That’s why the system should be flushed and the coolant replaced periodically as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Older coolants required changing every two years or 24,000 miles, but most modern formulations are good for at least five years and 50,000 miles, and many do not require replacement until approximately 100,000 miles. See the owner’s manual or maintenance booklet to determine the service interval appropriate for a vehicle.

Between flushes, make sure the coolant is filled to the proper levels by checking the overflow reservoir. If necessary, top off the reservoir with a 50/50 mix of water and the coolant type specified by the vehicle manufacturer. CAUTION! – Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot – boiling coolant under pressure could cause serious burns.

Other fluids help keep vehicles running cool as well. Most vehicle fluids don’t just lubricate, they also serve as coolants by helping carry heat away from critical components. When fluid levels are low, this cooling effect is reduced, and the possibility of overheating increases. Drivers to should check all vehicle fluids including motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid and brake fluid to ensure they are filled to the appropriate levels. If any fluids need to be topped off, be sure to use the type of fluid specified in the owner’s manual.

Battery Failure Due to Heat and Vibration

Heat and vibration are a battery’s two worst enemies, leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure. While drivers cannot do much about the heat, they can make sure their battery is securely mounted in place to minimize vibration.

If a car’s battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to have it tested by a trained technician to determine how much longer it will last. This test can be performed at any AAA Approved Auto Repair facility, or AAA members can request a AAA Mobile Battery Service technician come to them and test their battery free of charge. Should the battery need replacement, the technician can usually replace it immediately on location. For more information on the AAA Mobile Battery Service visit AAA.com/Battery.

Blown Tire

Driving on under-inflated tires not only affects the handling and braking of a vehicle, it also can cause tires to overheat and increase the likelihood of a blowout. This problem becomes even more of a concern when road temperatures are extremely high.

Tires should be checked when the car has not been driven recently, and they should be inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer—not the number molded into the tire sidewall. Recommended tire pressures can be found in the owner’s manual or on a tire information sticker normally located on the driver’s door jamb. Drivers also should inspect the tire treads for adequate depth and any signs of uneven wear that might indicate a suspension or alignment problem.

Air Conditioning Failure

During extreme summer heat, a properly operating air conditioning system can be more than just a pleasant convenience. If a car’s air conditioning is not maintaining the interior temperature as well as it did in the past, it may mean the refrigerant level is low or there is another problem. Have the air conditioning system checked by a certified technician.

Many automotive climate control systems today are equipped with a cabin filter that prevents outside debris from entering. If present, this filter should be inspected and replaced as needed to ensure maximum airflow and cooling during the summer months.

If you think your vehicle is experiencing problems due to the extreme summer heat, have it checked out by a trained automotive technician. The AAA Approved Auto Repair program is a free public service that helps motorists identify high-quality auto repair facilities they can trust to work on their vehicle. AAA Approved Auto Repair shops must meet stringent professional standards and maintain an ongoing customer satisfaction rating of 90 percent or better. To locate a nearby AAA-approved repair shop visit AAA.com/Repair.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Now in development, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication systems use a GPS receiver, a radio/antenna and a computer to share automobile location and movement information with other V2V-equipped vehicles up to a quarter mile away. That information is then analyzed and used to alert the driver to potentially hazardous situations. Warnings can be provided in a variety of ways, including sounds, visual icons, control feedback and seat vibrations.

More advanced systems may also employ vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications that allow the car to receive driving condition information from traffic lights, road signs or even the highway itself. Common notifications might include traffic congestion, speed limits, or height restrictions on bridges and tunnels. The combination of V2V and V2XI technology is often referred to as V2X.

When V2X capabilities are integrated with advanced driver assistance systems, the vehicle could take control of the brakes and/or steering to avoid a collision if a driver fails to react in time. Unexpected emergency situations combined with ineffective driver reactions result in millions of crashes every year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration projects that V2X systems could help prevent up to 81 percent of collisions involving drivers not impaired by drugs or alcohol. As V2X-equipped vehicles begin to appear on our roadways, shared information could also be used to smooth traffic flow, reduce congestion, improve fuel economy and cut emissions.

Automakers, technology providers, research institutes and governmental agencies are all engaged in developing V2V and V2I technology. The Department of Transportation is expected to decide some time in 2013 whether V2X systems should be among the safety features built into our vehicles. Given its potential benefits, there is a good possibility your next new car will employ V2X communications to help you be a better driver.

Gasoline or Compressed Natural Gas?

June 10th, 2013 by AAA

Consumers face competing priorities in making automotive decisions. They want to save money on fuel, and they appreciate protecting the environment by reducing greenhouse gases, but their primary concerns are most often cost and convenience. An example is the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as an automotive fuel, which offers both advantages and challenges.

An August 2012 AAA study found 39 percent of AAA members were interested in vehicles that used two or more fuel sources, such as gasoline-electric hybrids or “bi-fuel” vehicles such as those that can run on either gasoline or CNG. However, trade-offs that include higher vehicle prices and limited refueling options are holding them back.

“Consumers want to make the right decision for the environment, but they also need that decision to be economically sound,” says AAA’s Managing Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair John Nielson. “Vehicles powered by alternative fuels such as CNG have the potential to meet those requirements, but the extent of the benefits varies with the vehicle and how it is used.”

CNG is up to 40 percent less expensive than gasoline for the equivalent amount of energy. On the other hand, converting a vehicle to run on CNG can cost $10,000 or more, an expense that can take years to recover in fuel savings. CNG fueling stations are also rare in most areas and unavailable in others. The Department of Energy says there are just 578 public CNG fueling stations in the U.S.

Most CNG vehicles on the road today are large trucks that get relatively poor fuel economy and travel tens of thousands of miles per year. Under these conditions, the time needed to recover the higher price of a CNG vehicle can be as little as two years, with ongoing fuel cost savings thereafter. As a result, most current CNG vehicles operate in commercial service, and large fleets often install a private CNG fueling station to meet their vehicle fueling needs.

The only CNG vehicle currently targeted at the average motorists is the Honda Civic Natural Gas – a dedicated CNG vehicle with no provision to use gasoline as a backup. With a list price of $26,465, the Natural Gas costs $5650 more than a comparable gasoline-powered Civic. In addition, the lower energy content of CNG combined with limited storage tank space gives the Civic Natural Gas a driving range of just 190 miles versus nearly 400 miles for a gasoline Civic.

“CNG vehicles can make sense and save money in some commercial applications,” says Nielsen. “However, for the average consumer, the added cost and greater inconvenience of using CNG to power a passenger car doesn’t pencil out right now – although that could change in the future.”

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