Posts Tagged ‘Automotive’

Heather HunterHundreds of high school students across America compete for the opportunity to represent their state in the 65th Annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Challenge

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 1, 2014) – Innovation and ingenuity will be on display at locations across the country this spring as the brightest young automotive minds from coast-to-coast will gather to compete for millions of dollars in scholarships in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition. This year marks the 65th anniversary of the prestigious event, as well as 30 years AAA has been involved in the Student Auto Skills competition; Ford Motor Company began its partnership with the competition 20 years ago.

The 2014 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Challenge State Hands-On competitions will commence Tuesday, April 15 in Birmingham, Ala. and continue across the country through May 15. Top teams from each state advance to the national finals at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. June 8 – 10. At the national finals, champions from each state will vie for millions of dollars in scholarships, automotive equipment and   a trip to the Wood Brothers Racing facility where the students and instructor will work on race cars and learn from top automotive engineers.

Below are the dates and locations of 2014 FORD AAA State Hands-On Competitions:

  • Birmingham, Ala. – Tuesday, April 15
  • Okmulgee, Okla.  – Thursday, April 17
  • Kansas City, Mo./Kan. – Thursday, April 17
  • Warren, Mich. – Wednesday, April 23
  • Milford, Neb. – Thursday, April 24
  • Indianapolis, Ind. – Friday, April 25
  • Atlanta, Ga. – Friday, April 25
  • Little Rock, Ark. – Friday, April 25
  • Anchorage, Alaska. – Friday, April 25
  • Baltimore, Md.  – Saturday, April 26
  • Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday, April 26
  • Jackson, Miss. – Tuesday, April 29
  • Atco, N.J. – Wednesday, April 30
  • Charlotte, N.C./S.C. – Thursday, May 1
  • Cheyenne, Wyo. – Thursday, May, 1
  • Bridgeport, W.Va. – Thursday, May 1
  • Sandy, Utah – Thursday, May 1
  • Nashville, Tenn. – Thursday, May 1
  • Sioux Falls, S.D. – Thursday, May 1
  • Warwick, R.I.  – Thursday, May 1
  • Helena, Mont. – Thursday, May 1
  • Alexandria, La.  – Thursday, May 1
  • La Porte, Texas – Friday, May 2
  • West Fargo, N.D. – Friday, May 2
  • Richmond, Va. – Saturday, May 3
  • Epping, N.H./Maine/Vt. – Saturday, May 3
  • Albuquerque, N.M. – Saturday, May 3
  • Renton, Wash. – Tuesday, May 6
  • Mequon, Wis. – Wednesday, May 7
  • Bethlehem, Pa. – Wednesday, May 7
  • Chanhassen, Minn. – Wednesday, May 7
  • Independence, Ohio – Thursday, May 8
  • Norwood, Mass. – Thursday, May 8
  • Sparta, Ky. – Thursday, May 8
  • Gresham, Ore. – Friday, May 9
  • Lisle, Ill. – Friday, May 9
  • Nampa, Idaho – Friday, May 9
  • South Windsor, Conn. – Friday, May 9
  • Danville, Calif. – Friday, May 9
  • Pomona, Calif. – Friday, May 9
  • Avondale, Ariz. – Friday, May 9
  • Denver, Colo. – Saturday, May 10
  • Morrisville, N.Y. – Tuesday, May 13
  • Ankeny, Iowa – Tuesday, May 13
  • Dover, Del. – Tuesday, May 13
  • Sanford, Fla. – Wednesday, May 14
  • Sparks, Nev. – Thursday, May 15

At the State Hands-On Competition, teams will race against the clock to correctly diagnose and repair a deliberately “bugged” 2014 Ford Fiesta SE. A combination an online written exam and hands-on competition scores determine each state’s championship team that will compete in the national finals. For additional details on 2014 State Hands-On Competition locations and dates, visit AutoSkills.AAA.com.

The Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition is open to 11th and 12th grade students in secondary schools and colleges across the country that offer courses in automotive technology. Teams competing in the State Hands-On Competitions represent the 10 teams that scored highest on a statewide online written exam, administered at the beginning of the competition in January.

The Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition enables many of its participants to embark on promising careers in the automotive repair industry to help fuel the rising demand for well-trained technicians that can repair both computer and mechanical components in today’s advanced vehicles.  Both the national and the state-wide competitions are organized with the support of AAA and Ford personnel, local automotive instructors and the AAA Approved Auto Repair program, a free public service AAA performs to identify quality repair facilities throughout the country.

About Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills

Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills is a nationwide automotive technology competition that offers   millions of dollars in scholarships and prizes to high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing careers as automotive service technicians.  Approximately 13,000 students from across the U.S. compete for the chance to represent their school and state in the National Finals. The competition tests students’ automotive knowledge, workmanship and problem-solving abilities. For additional information on the competition, visit http://autoskills.aaa.com/.

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 181,000 employees and 65 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit corporate.ford.com.

About AAA

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.

Heather HunterNew study conducted by the AAA Automotive Research Center shows electric vehicle driving range can be nearly 60 percent lower in extreme cold and 33 percent lower in extreme heat.

ORLANDO, Fla., (March 20, 2014) – Electric Vehicles (EVs) are energy efficient and environmentally-friendly with the added benefit of reducing fuel costs for motorists. But, just as motorists need to know how far the gas in their tank will take them, EV drivers need to be aware of how far their vehicle can travel on a single charge. According to new AAA research conducted with the AAA Automotive Research Center in Southern California, electric vehicle range can be reduced by an average of 57 percent based on the temperature outside.

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“Electric motors provide smooth operation, strong acceleration, require less maintenance than internal combustion engines, and for many motorists offer a cost effective option,” said John Nielsen, managing director, AAA Automotive Engineering and Repair. “However, EV drivers need to carefully monitor driving range in hot and cold weather.”

To better understand the impact of climate on electric vehicle batteries, AAA conducted a simulation to measure the driving range of three fully-electric vehicles in cold, moderate and hot weather. Temperature made a big difference in driving range for all three EVs.

Vehicles were tested for city driving to mimic stop-and-go traffic, and to better compare with EPA ratings listed on the window sticker. The average EV battery range in AAA’s test was 105 miles at 75°F, but dropped 57 percent to 43 miles when the temperature was held steady at 20°F. Warm temperatures were less stressful on battery range, but still delivered a lower average of 69 miles per full charge at 95°F.

AAA performed testing between December 2013 and January 2014. Each vehicle completed a driving cycle for moderate, hot and cold climates following standard EPA-DOE test procedures. The vehicles were fully charged and then “driven” on a dynamometer in a climate-controlled room until the battery was fully exhausted.

AAA has initiated several projects including mobile recharging units and EV charging stations to support members who drive electric vehicles. EVs provide owners with many benefits, but every motorist needs to be aware of conditions that can impact vehicle driving range. EV drivers need to plan carefully in hot and cold weather. Mapping tools such as the AAA TripTik® Travel Planner pinpoint charging stations to keep motorists on the go.

Additional information regarding AAA’s electric vehicle testing is available on the AAA NewsRoom.

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, 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 PritchettMembers can now access their AAA membership conveniently from the home screen on their iPhone® or iPod touch®

ORLANDO, Fla., (July 17, 2013) – AAA members can now add their AAA membership card to Passbook on any iOS 6.0, iPhone or iPod touch device through the AAA Mobile app. With a touch of the “Add to Passbook” button, users’ can display their AAA membership card electronically.

“AAA Mobile provides convenient solutions to members on the go. The Passbook capability is just one more way AAA is addressing market trends and member needs and expectations in new and innovative ways,” says AAA Managing Director of Mobile Products and Commercial Markets Jeff Green.

To add a AAA membership card to Passbook users need to download the AAA Mobile app from the App Store and enter their membership information. Once the card displays, tap “Add to Passbook.”  AAA Mobile is available to all mobile users; however some services and benefits are only available to AAA members such as roadside assistance and discounts.

Along with the digital AAA membership card, AAA Mobile offers digital access to services, such as mapping and gas price comparison, as well as member-exclusive benefits including location-based roadside assistance and discounts. The AAA Mobile app, available for iPhone and iPod touch, as well as iPad and Android smartphones is the perfect companion for any member.

AAA urges motorists to minimize distractions behind the wheel by not using wireless devices, such as cell phones with mobile applications, while driving.

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 at AAA.com.

Ginnie PritchettNation’s largest motor club recognizes best in service with annual award  

ORLANDO, Fla., (June 26, 2013) – AAA honored four roadside assistance companies with the 2013 AAA/CAA Service Providers of Excellence gold-level award during its annual Automotive Conference in San Diego. These award-winning businesses were selected by a panel of AAA/CAA club executives and judged on service excellence, innovative business practices, and community involvement.  They are:

  • Elite Auto Services LLC – Pataskala, OH; AAA Ohio Auto Club
  • Guilford Texaco Inc. – Guilford, CT; AAA Southern New England
  • Wind-n-Sea Towing – San Diego, CA; Automobile Club of Southern California
  • Remorquage Asselin & Dion Inc. – Sherbrooke, Québec; CAA Québec

“This group is committed to the everyday rescue efforts put forth 29 million times annually on behalf of stranded AAA and CAA motorists and we are pleased to honor them with this award,” said AAA Roadside Programs and Benefits Director Doug McLendon. “Since this job carries with it inherent dangers, AAA reminds all motorists to give roadside responders room to work. Slow down and or move over when you encounter flashing lights at the roadside so these highway heroes can perform their job safely.”

The gold-level winners were chosen from 320 road service companies nominated by AAA and CAA clubs in North America. Gold-level winners were honored during the June AAA Automotive conference, and will be commemorated in the AAA display at the International Towing & Recovery Museum and Hall of Fame in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Sponsors of the event include AAA business partners and Preferred Suppliers who provide an expansive list of benefits and discounts to AAA affiliates. Gold-level sponsors include  Club Assist, Lexus, and Santander/Sovereign Bank, with AW Direct being a silver-level sponsor. Bronze sponsors include Cintas, Ford, I Drive Safely, Knapheide, Midway Ford, Miller Industries, Mitchell 1, NAPA, SSCS Digital Dispatch, Sokolis Group fuel management, and Unifirst.

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.

Ginnie Pritchett50 teams battled for national title and nearly $12 million in scholarships at 64th annual auto technology showdown that cultivates industry’s next generation of talent.

DEARBORN, Mich. (June 11, 2013) – America’s top young automotive minds were on display today in Dearborn, as two-student teams representing all 50 states engaged in a race against the clock – and one another – in an effort earn the title National Champion at the 64th annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals at Ford World Headquarters.

Additional Resources

When the dust settled, the duo of Logan Boyle and Cody Collins from Vale High School in Vale, Ore. claimed the crown of America’s top auto technicians, registering the day’s top score under the guidance of instructor Drew Barnes.

“From connected cars to alternative fuels, automotive technology is advancing at a faster pace than we have ever seen and tomorrow’s technicians need to be savvy, innovative and eager,” said Marshall L. Doney, AAA Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “The Ford/AAA Auto Skills competition develops future technicians who will ensure motorists will receive access to quality repair.”

With nearly $12 million dollars in scholarship prizes in the balance, state winners gathered today in Dearborn to solve “real world” automotive challenges – both digital and mechanical – in a timed competition that required a quick mind and steady hands as top auto students worked with wrenches and computers alike.   With automotive sales up across the board, and new and innovative technologies becoming a bigger part of the manufacturing process, the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition is shaping the next generation of auto technicians who will work on these vehicles.

“Ford is proud to play a role in developing the technicians of tomorrow,” said Steve DeAngelis, Ford’s Global Manager of Technical Support Operations. “It’s a challenging, ever-evolving industry out there and Ford is committed to providing the best, most comprehensive training possible and part of that is providing unique opportunities like our partnership with AAA on this exciting annual competition.  We share our congratulations with today’s winners and all the attendees – they worked hard to get here.”

Beginning with a shotgun start, the student competitors (all paired in two-person teams) raced to their vehicles to review a work order that challenged them to diagnose and repair a number of purposefully placed “bugs” ranging from digital to mechanical and electrical. Once the repairs were completed, it was a race to shut the hood, fire up the engine and steer the vehicle across the finish line – where a scrutinizing judging team awaited.

To earn the National Title, Vale High School earned a “perfect car” score by flawlessly repairing all the “bugs” without any demerits. Combined with the results of a written examination taken on June 10, their score allowed them to hoist the trophy as national champions.

The top-10 placing teams for the 2013 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals were:

State High School City Student Student Instructor
1 . Oregon Vale High School Vale Logan Boyle Cody Collins Drew Barnes
2. Virginia Fauquier High School Warrenton Samuel Eleazer Matthew Jacobs Harlan Freeman
3. Maryland Eastern Technical High School Essex Anthony Critcher Brik Wisniewski Eldridge Watts
4. Illinois Addison Trail High School Addison Roman Flores Ashten Reich Keith Santini
5. Hawaii Maui High School Kahului Mitchell Borge Lawrence Paet Shannon Rowe
6. Kentucky Lee County Area Technology Center Beattyville Bradley Creech Corey Lykins John Lucas
7. Oklahoma Eastern Oklahoma County Technology  Center Choctaw Nicholas Brown Ryan Jackson Jim Lafevers
8. Kansas Newton High School Newton Kenton Bliss Titus Minkevitch Robert Ziegler
9. Arizona Marana High School Tucson Evan Cloutier Kevin Reich Donald Zell
10. Connecticut Platt Technical High School Milford Giorgio Favia Michael Tracz Kirk Stankiewicz

In addition to scholarships, the National Champion Oregon team will enjoy an immersive, weeklong job shadow experience with 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and his Wood Brothers Racing team, as they prepare the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion car for the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach, Fla. – the famous site of Bayne’s spectacular win at age 20.

About Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills
The Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills is a nationwide automotive technology competition that offers nearly $12 million in scholarships and prizes to high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing careers as automotive service technicians.  More than 13,000 students from across the U.S. compete for the chance to represent their school and state in the National Finals. The competition tests students’ automotive knowledge, workmanship and problem-solving abilities. For additional information on the competition, visit http://autoskills.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.”

Every spring gas prices seem to skyrocket to the highest prices of the year. Why does this happen? In explanation, we hear the experts say that many of the refineries are “down for maintenance while transitioning from winter-blend to summer-blend gasoline,” but what does this mean?

The difference between summer- and winter-blend gasoline involves the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) of the fuel. RVP is a measure of how easily the fuel evaporates at a given temperature. The more volatile a gasoline (higher RVP), the easier it evaporates.

Winter-blend fuel has a higher RVP because the fuel must be able to evaporate at low temperatures for the engine to operate properly, especially when the engine is cold. If the RVP is too low on a frigid day, the vehicle will be hard to start and once started, will run rough.

Summer-blend gasoline has a lower RVP to prevent excessive evaporation when outside temperatures rise. Reducing the volatility of summer gas decreases emissions that can contribute to unhealthy ozone and smog levels. A lower RVP also helps prevent drivability problems such as vapor lock on hot days, especially in older vehicles.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says conventional summer-blend gasoline contains 1.7 percent more energy than winter-blend gas, which is one reason why gas mileage is slightly better in the summer. However, the summer-blend is also more expensive to produce, and that cost is passed on to the motorist.

The switch between the two fuels happens twice a year, once in the fall (to winter-blend) and again in the spring (to summer-blend). The changeover requires significant work at refineries, so oil companies schedule their maintenance for those times when they will already be “down” for the blend switches.

As a consumer, the main thing to understand is that there are real reasons for the switch from winter- to summer-blend fuel, even if it results in some pain at the pump.

Ginnie PritchettMotorists’ smart key learning curve results in risky and costly lesson

ORLANDO, Fla., (March 06, 2013) – Even as the technology, security and convenience of automobile “smart keys” evolve, AAA finds motorists are not keeping pace and are frequently outsmarted by their “smart” keys.  In 2012, AAA came to the rescue of over four million members who locked themselves out of their vehicles, a number that has dropped little in the past five years; even as use of smart keys has increased.  First available in luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes and Lexus, almost all automakers now offer the smart key  as standard or optional equipment within their fleet of vehicles. As a modern convenience, transponder fobs allow motorists to enter and start their vehicle key-free.

“Traditional car keys will likely become obsolete and be replaced by technologies offering even greater security and convenience,” said John Nielsen, AAA Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Motorists will need to adapt with the technology to avoid the hassle and expense of smart key replacements.”

While new smart key features provide long list of conveniences, including remote start and stored driver profiles, motorists unfamiliar with operating keyless fobs can face risky situations and lockouts. Forgetting to turn off the car before exiting the vehicle, or not knowing how to quickly shut down the engine in an emergency, has proven to be a problem for some. And, for those systems with remote start capability, it is critical that motorists never start the vehicle in an enclosed space where engine exhaust gasses containing poisonous carbon monoxide can be trapped – with potentially fatal consequences.

Just as motorists adjust to smart key features, they may be surprised to learn that smartphones may soon be an option to replace their car key altogether. Electric vehicles from Chevrolet and Nissan today have special mobile apps that can be used to monitor and control many of their basic functions.  And, Hyundai recently unveiled a more advanced concept that allows motorists to enter and start a vehicle using a specially-configured smartphone that can then interface with the vehicle to provide additional functions and services. Some of this technology could be seen in vehicles as soon as 2015.

The greater conveniences and features of modern car keys do not come cheap and require more maintenance. The purchase price of vehicles that offer modern key technology are higher, the fob battery must be changed periodically and it can cost hundreds of dollars to buy, cut and program a new or replacement key.

“The cost to replace a transponder key runs around $100, and replacement smart keys can cost several hundred dollars depending on the make and model,” continued Nielsen. “Many newer keys must be programmed by a dealer or locksmith with special electronic equipment and accesses to highly confidential codes that are required to service the vehicle security system.

AAA recommends motorists take special care of their transponder and smart keys. Here are some steps that can help prevent danger, loss or damage of vehicle keys, and limit the replacement cost in the event a key is misplaced:

  • Familiarize yourself with the full capability of your smart key and know what to do in an emergency situation
  • Become comfortable with the features of the smart key in a safe environment
  • To avoid keyless-entry remote or smart key failure, replace the key/fob battery every 2 years or when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer or the in-car low battery warning system.
  • Don’t expose your keyless-entry remote or smart key to harsh elements – especially water.
  • Obtain a spare key and store it in a safe location for emergency use only.

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