How to Replace Your Alternator

If your car or truck won’t hold a charge, you probably need a new alternator. Luckily, replacing your alternator is one of the simplest tasks in automotive maintenance. Below, we will show you the few simple steps you need to take to get the job done right, the first time.

Step 1

Start the alternator swap-out by disconnecting both battery cables from the battery. Then remove the wires and cables from the back of the alternator. Then remove the two alternator retaining bolts. The bolts are really long and you’ll be cranking for a long time. If there was ever a time to invest in an air-powered ratchet, this is it. The bolts are usually different lengths, so note where each bolt came from. With the bolts removed, lift out the old alternator and drop in the new one. Then reverse the procedure to reinstall. Below are some pictures with a few instructions.

Disconnect the cables from the alternator

Depress the latch clip on the electrical connector going to the voltage regulator and wiggle it out. Then loosen the locknut to the “BAT” cable and remove the ring terminal.

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Rotate the belt tension-er (if equipped) or loosen the ‘tensioning’ bolt near the alternator. Then slide the belt off the alternator pulley.

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Until next time, friends!

Sources: WikiHow, The Family Handyman & Google Source


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How to Replace Your Car's Radiator

Say you’re cruising along and notice a strange whiff of something. It’s an unnaturally sweet and puzzling odor. But after you round the next corner, it’s gone. As the road straightens out again, it’s back. Within a few more miles, that whiff of sweetness has become cloyingly overwhelming. Soon, it’s clear what the problem is: That stench is coolant, leaking from under your hood. Sure enough, before you manage to scoot home, the temperature gauge starts to creep upward and small curls of steam are peeking out of the grille. After letting things cool off for a half-hour, you gingerly open the hood, expecting to see something obvious, like a loose cap or a split hose.

Now it is time to replace your car’s radiator. Follow these steps and you’ll be home free with a nice, cool engine to get you from point a to point b.

1 Consider the parts you will need for this job and make a list.
Depending on how thorough you would like to be and/or your budget, this list can vary. The main shopping list contains the radiator and coolant. As necessary you may need hoses, hose clamps, various nuts and bolts, or a thermostat.
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2 Take a look at the hoses and connections to and from the radiator. Squeeze the hoses to check for deterioration. If any hoses are swollen near the hose clamps or have soft spots or cracks, replace them. Replace hose clamps if they bind or will not tighten. Replace the thermostat since it’s cheap and your draining the coolant already
3 If you feel a crunching sensation when you squeeze the hoses you probably have rust in the cooling system. The system will need to be flushed before filling with new coolant. There are kits to do this at your local auto part store, but if you would rather do it yourself follow this procedure:
  • Drain old coolant into appropriate container for disposal.(most radiators have a drain plug on the bottom)
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  • Locate and remove the thermostat.
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  • Insert garden hose into where upper coolant hose enters engine.
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  • Remove the coolant reservoir and flush it with water.
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  • Drain all water and re-install thermostat and reservoir.
  • 670px-Change-a-Car-Radiator-Step-3Bullet7
4 Now that you have your parts and (if necessary) have flushed your cooling system, you are ready to begin! If you haven’t already, drain old coolant into appropriate container for disposal (most radiators have a drain plug on the bottom) and remove thermostat.
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5 Locate and disconnect all hoses leading to radiator. Use penetrating oil on all hose clamps to avoid breakage/stripping. In some cars, there may be a transmission fluid cooler built into the radiator. If there are hoses running from the radiator from the transmission, be careful to catch the trans fluid that drops when you disconnect those lines (don’t reuse that fluid either). Be careful with all fluids as they are very toxic.
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6 Locate and disconnect the fan motor electrical connector and any other electrical connectors. Usually it is necessary to remove the fan assembly in order to remove the radiator. It should be bolted to the radiator directly. Use penetrating oil on bolts to avoid stripping/breakage!
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7 Look at your radiator. There should be no hoses, electrical connectors, and it should have sufficient clearance to be removed. If not, study the layout and think before disassembling anything else.
670px-Change-a-Car-Radiator-Step-7
8 If it looks like you are a go, look at how your radiator is attached to your car. Usually there are braces bolted to the frame on top, and the bottom rests on rubber feet within an indentation. Remove the top braces (Use penetrating oil on bolts to avoid stripping/breakage!) and pull upwards on the radiator. If it comes out, congratulations! If not, don’t yank or pry. Study it and find the other bolts.
670px-Change-a-Car-Radiator-Step-8
9 Installation is the reverse of disassemble. Remember not to over tighten hose clamps. Go over everything you took off in your head! If you forget the fan motor connector or a tiny water pump bypass hose you can waste a lot of effort and time.
670px-Change-a-Car-Radiator-Step-9
10 When everything has been assembled, refill the cooling system with coolant. To do this remove the cap from the radiator, fill until coolant is visible but a few inches below cap level. Start the engine (Don’t rev or accelerate), the coolant level will lower as the engine sucks in coolant, continue to fill with coolant until the level stabilizes then install and tighten the cap. Lastly, fill the coolant reservoir with coolant to the appropriate level. If transmission fluid was spilled, check trans fluid level and add NEW trans fluid if necessary.
670px-Change-a-Car-Radiator-Step-10
You’re Done!
We hope this helps! Happy Holidays, everyone!
Sources: WikiHow – Mechanics.com –


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2014 Chevrolet Corvette – return of the Stingray

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Wooo! I am beyond excited for the return of the Corvette Stingray! When I was young, our neighbor had a candy apple red, 76 Corvette Stingray and I fell in love. The vette’ has always held a special place in my heart, but the Stingray, well, the Stingray is my Mona Lisa. Isn’t she lovely.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

The 2014 Corvette Stingray is the most powerful standard model ever. This bad lady posses an estimated 460 horsepower and 450 lb.-ft. of torque. She can scorch the road too, going from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds and achieve more than 1g in cornering grip. Oh and she doesn’t sip too much gas either, the most fuel efficient Corvette ever getting an EPA-estimated 29 MPG.

“Like the ’63 Sting Ray, the best Corvettes embodied performance leadership, delivering cutting-edge technologies, breathtaking design and awe-inspiring driving experiences,” said GM North America President Mark Reuss. “The all-new Corvette goes farther than ever, thanks to today’s advancements in design, technology and engineering.”

Here are some notes from Chevrolet.com:

The all-new Corvette Stingray shares only two parts with the previous generation. It incorporates an all-new frame structure and chassis, a new powertrain and supporting technologies, as well as completely new exterior and interior designs. Highlights include:

  • An interior that includes real carbon fiber, aluminum and hand-wrapped leather materials, two new seat choices – each featuring a lightweight magnesium frame for exceptional support – and dual eight-inch configurable driver/infotainment screens
  • Advanced driver technologies, including a five-position Drive Mode Selector that tailors 12 vehicle attributes to the fit the driver’s environment and a new seven-speed manual transmission with Active Rev Matching that anticipates gear selections and matches engine speed for perfect shifts every time
  • An all-new 6.2L LT1 V-8 engine combines advanced technologies, including direct injection, Active Fuel Management, continuously variable valve timing and an advanced combustion system that delivers more power while using less fuel
  • Lightweight materials, including a carbon fiber hood and roof panel; composite fenders, doors and rear quarter panels; carbon-nano composite underbody panels and a new aluminum frame help shift weight rearward for an optimal 50/50 weight balance that supports a world-class power-to-weight ratio
  • A sculptured exterior features advanced high-intensity discharge and light-emitting diode lighting and racing-proven aerodynamics that balance low drag for efficiency and performance elements for improved stability and track capability
  • Track-capable Z51 Performance Package including: an electronic limited-slip differential, dry-sump oiling system, integral brake, differential and transmission cooling, as well as a unique aero package that further improves high-speed stability

Needless to say again, I am excited. Now, I am on a mission to come up with $62,000 to get the Z51 version. If you would like to learn more about the new Stingray, check out this great video here. You can go on a biometric test drive. It’s a lot of fun!

Until next time friends!


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US Government Offically Exits General Motors

Friends, here is a post from Automotive.com that we would like to share today. Discussing our government officially selling the last of their shares of General Motors stock on December 9th. We’re going to keep our political thoughts to ourselves here on this blog, but Automotive.com wrote a great blog post:

The Obama administration unloaded its remaining shares of GM stock Monday, signaling the beginning of a new era for the now-booming American car company.

The event marks the end of names like “Government Motors” and removes the stigma associated with the controversial auto industry bailout. This may boost consumer perception of the brand and ultimately increase sales. Also, GM will now be able to pay dividends on its common stock and get rid of government pay restrictions for top executives.

GM issued a statement responding to the historic development, calling the end of government ownership “just one chapter” in GM’s turnaround process.

“We will always be grateful for the second chance extended to us and we are doing our best to make the most of it,” the statement read. “Today is not dramatically different from the hundreds of preceding days during which we have worked to make GM a company our country can be proud of again.”

The statement came from GM CEO Dan Akerson–very soon to be former CEO as of today’s announcement–who thanked Treasury officials once he heard the announcement. “Continued investments, innovation, and job creation are just some of the “returns” of a healthy GM and domestic auto industry. Our work continues uninterrupted, and we will keep our sights squarely on our customers and transforming the way we do business,” the statement continued.

The government exit occurred, well, earlier than earlier than expected. A year ago, it was estimated that the government would sell off all shares by April 2014. Recently, this date was pushed up to December 31 of this year.

Many estimates, including one from the Center for Automotive Research, say that the GM bailout saved 1.2 million jobs. It is also estimated that the government lost $10.5 billion on its investment in GM.

Sources: Automotive.com


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The Biggest Automotive Innovations in the Last 10 Years

Automobiles have come a long way in the last few years. From almost useable voice control to cars that can basically drive themselves. Each year, the industry continues to release new technology and some pretty stellar innovations that make driving safer and just plain fun.

Anti-collision systems

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Car systems that can detect eminent frontal collisions and stop themselves to avoid accidents are becoming increasingly popular in the auto industry. Although anti-collision systems have been around for a while to at least some degree, Subaru’s new EyeSight for their Legacy and Outback models has been billed as the “most affordable” of this type of innovation. EyeSight reportedly applies brakes when the vehicle is traveling under 19 miles per hour and it detects an object in its path.

Self-driving vehicles

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Pictured Above: Ford’s Self-driving Car

Let’s be realistic here. We are not right around the corner to be driven by our cars, self-driving vehicles aren’t ready for a mass-market launch at this point. However, their development has been a hot topic in the automobile industry for the past several years. It appears that Google is leading the charge for cars that will supposedly help avoid accidents and reduce traffic congestion resulting from human error. In fact, Google’s home state California just passed a bill legalizing self-driving cars. We’ll keep an eye on this development in the near future. Cadillac is now joining Google on the forefront of self-driving vehicles. You can read more about it here.

Backup cameras

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I am sure we all know someone who has backed up over something in their giant SUV because the driver can’t see that low behind them with their mirrors. Or how often has a truck driver backed into a low-sitting post or mailbox for the same reason? With backup cameras becoming the standard for many new models, these types of hiccups will lessen.

Smartphone integration

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Pictured Above: BMW Connected Drive

Millions of people have adopted smartphones as their on-the-go communication and computing devices. It’s not surprising that automakers have begun to include technology that allows for seamless car and smartphone integration. BMW, Ford and Toyota all offer functionality that projects smartphone interfaces onto the car’s dashboard. Chevy even has added a Siri button to some of their new models.

Widespread adoption of more fuel-friendly models

Although electric and hybrid car concepts have been around for decades, the past few years has solidified fuel-friendly driving as a focus of many models. Even the large automakers have begun to shift emphasis to more fuel-friendly varieties of its vehicles. For example, flex-fuel models are more prevalent.

Sources: Car & Driver, Macgasm, Cnet & TechnologyReview

Holiday Gifts for your Mechanic

Tis’ the season for giving! I thought I would share some of our favorite holiday gifts for our mechanic and hands on friends out there in the blogosphere. I won’t overload you with 10 different products, but here are three great deals that go through the 15th of December.

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We have tons of other specials going on for the holidays right now as well. If you would like to view all of our specials, you can click here, or sign up for our email list and we’ll send them to you weekly.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!



10 Best Motorycles for 2014

It is a sad day for those who us who have been loyal Sons of Anarchy fans for the past 6 years. I could go on a long rant about everything that has happened and my thoughts on the series finale that we will be watching tonight, but I won’t. In honor of the series finale I am going to share with you, my 10 favorite buys for motorcycles in 2014. We’ll count down from 10 to 1 to keep the suspense like our friend Kurt Sutter does in SOA.

10. Star Bolt

Price: Starts at $7990

The Japanese bike builders are never shy about emulating American cruisers, but this time Star (Yamaha’s cruiser division) has not only cloned the legendary Harley-Davidson Sportster, but somehow improved on the American classic. The new Bolt is an entry-level cruiser bike that targets the Harley Iron 883. But the Bolt’s 942-cc twin delivers more torque, so it’s probably slightly quicker than the Harley. There’s more suspension travel, as well, so there’s a definitive ride quality advantage too. And at just under eight grand, the Bolt costs about $400 less than the Iron 883. It’s one of the best deals out there for an affordable, classically styled cruiser.

9. Indian Chief Classic

Price: Starting at $18,999

Remaking an icon is a risky business. You can tarnish the name of something that was once great. This time, the team at Polaris did it right. Isn’t she beautiful?

To start, they developed an enormous 111-cubic-inch V-twin. This bad boy boasts a respectable 119 lb-ft of torque. The engineers dressed the motor in a new frame and gorgeous retro bodywork.

The new Indian bikes are available in three models: the Classic, Vintage, and Chieftain. And while it might be hard to look at a nearly $20,000 motorcycle as a good value, in the world of cruisers, the Indians offer a lot of standard equipment for the price. For instance, full leather seats and saddlebags come standard on the Vintage model, and a power windshield comes standard on the Chieftain‚ all though those two cost more than the Classic. All bikes come with keyless starting.

8. Yamaha FZ-09

Price: Starting at $7990

It’s usually the bikes that have been on the market for a while that tend to be the best values. Not in this case. The new FZ-09 costs around $800 less than the outgoing model, and it gets better. The new Yamaha also undercuts the competition by more than a grand, making the FZ-09 one of the best deals of the year.

Beyond the money, this is one fun-to-ride and tough-looking machine. The new 850-cc triple belts out 115 hp and enough torque to have you squirting through traffic. As fun as the FZ-09 is in the canyons, it doesn’t beat the rider up on city streets‚Äîthe suspension is on the soft side, which we appreciate.

7. Victor Cross Roads 8-Ball

Price: Starting at $15,999

In our opinion, this is the best deal you’re going to get on a new Victory bike. These blacked-out models look sinister because there’s nearly no chrome on them at all. We like the look, and, in the case of the new Cross Roads 8-Ball, it saves two full grand over the standard model. And the riding experience is no different than any other Cross Roads, because under the tank is the same torquey 106-cubic-inch V-Twin paired to a six-speed.

The Cross Roads is one the purest bagger-style cruisers around‚Äîthere is no windshield or extra bodywork, just a couple of hard, lockable saddlebags. If you’ve got a few extra dollars in your wallet, there are plenty of Victory accessories that can help the 8-Ball stand out at the local Sunday biker spot.

6. Kawasaki Ninja 1000

Price: Starting at $11,999

The new Ninja 1000 could be called a crossover sportbike. Yes, it’s an aggressively styled, hyper-quick sportbike, but it’s also mellow enough in temperament to appeal to the everyday rider or weekend tourer. The Ninja 1000’s 125-hp motor is an animal‚Äîbuilt to provide serious back-road thrills. Good thing, then, that this bike comes standard with the same three-mode traction control system as Kawasaki’s top-level ZX-14R, as well as ABS. Getting that level of technology on a bike under twelve grand is bargain. Best of all, the Ninja 1000 can be optioned with hard saddlebags, so this sportbike can handle many long miles just like a real sport tourer.

5. Ducati 899 Panigale

Price: Starting at $14,995

Ducati’s heroic and hard-edged 1199 Panigale superbike is a monster that delivers nearly 200 hp of nearly racing bike performance on a track. It also costs just shy of $20,000. Opt for the even more focused R model and that price tag moves up to nearly $30,000. But the new 899 Panigale brings a taste of that performance down to where many more wallets can enjoy the fun.

The 898-cc twin still belts out nearly 150 hp—plenty on any back road. The smaller Panigale borrows from the chassis of the larger bike and packs many of the advanced technical features too, including traction control, switchable engine tuning maps, a ride-by-wire throttle, and more. When you consider the engineering, the tech, and the Ducati racing pedigree, fifteen grand for a top-flight Italian sport bike is a descent value.

4. Harley-Davidson Sportster Superlow

Price: Starting at $8249

For many bikers, the only ride worth owning has the name Harley-Davidson stamped on the side of the fuel tank. There’s an authenticity to the brand that can’t be duplicated. Unfortunately, many of the more elaborate bikes in Harley’s stable are quite expensive. But way down at the bottom of the range is the Sportster Superlow, an entry-level cruiser that still delivers the Harley experience.

The Superlow, as the name suggests, has the lowest seat height (27.4 inches) in the Sportster range. It’s about a half-inch closer to the ground than other Sportsters. That makes it a great bike for new or shorter riders. The Superlow might be the least expensive Harley, but it still benefits from a host of improvements for the brand’s 2014 model year, including a larger and more powerful braking system with optional ABS. And the best part about owning a Harley is that there are plenty of custom parts available to make the bike your own.

3. Victory Judge

Available in Gloss Black, Sunset Red, or Suede Nuclear Sunset for 2014, the Judge’s retro muscle car looks are sleek and inspired. Victory listened to customers who complained about the ergonomics on the original Judge and added some ergonomic refinements a couple years back, such as bringing the bars back to meet the rider and moving foot controls rearward as well.

Its 1731cc Freedom V-twin gives you 113 ft.-lbs of torque for the taking. It also boasts a 6-speed overdrive transmission, so you won’t get up into 5th, leaving you wishing you had one more gear. This is retro done right.

2. Star VMAX

Price: Starting at $17,990

So what’s the big deal about the VMAX? Just, you know, the fact that it’s a 1679cc V4-powered beast that makes 174 hp and can do 0 to 60 in a mere 2.5 seconds. It boasts a 30.5-inch seat height, just like the Ducati Diavel. Pricing is similar to the Diavel Dark, but at least a grand less than the other Diavel variants. The Diavel is its closest competition, and like the Duc, its madly futuristic style is polarizing. No matter how we ultimately feel about individual designs themselves, we love it when manufacturers make bikes that don’t look like anything else on the road

1. Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle (VRSCF)

Price: Starting at $15,489

Powered by the 1247cc Revolution V-twin, that makes 122 hp with 86 ft.-lbs of torque, this bike was made for the drag strip. Since its introduction, the V-Rod has divided fans of The Motor Company. Its styling is a clear and modern departure from the venerable classic styling for which H-D is known worldwide, and that engine … well, that engine is also in a liquid-cooled class of its own.

We’ll throw in one more for good measure!

Confederate X132 Hellcat

Price: Starting at $55,000
Featuring the 2,163cc X132 Copperhead engine, with a claimed 132 hp and 150 ft.-lbs of torque, and only weighing in at 500 lbs., this thing is a weapon. Innovative lightweight features including carbon fiber wheels make this monster possible. On a list full of performance machines that will turn heads for various reasons, this is clearly the one to beat — but it’ll cost you.
Sources: Motorcycle Week, Popular Mechanics, Complex, and StreetFiend
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10 Tips For Driving in the Snow

Buurrrr! We have been blasted with snow and ice for the past week. Personally, I can’t stand cold weather, I know some of you like it, though. Today we’re going to be talking about driving safe in winter conditions.

Take it Slow

Make this your mantra: ice and snow, take it slow. When snow is covering the road, reduce your speed, accelerate slowly and steer gently. Keeping your speed down will help prevent spin-outs and keep your vehicle safe on the road.

Don’t Rely on Technology

Your vehicle may be equipped with all-wheel drive, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes, but no technology can guarantee your safety on icy roads. Safety devices are designed to enhance safe driving techniques, not compensate for a lack of them.

Leave Home Early

When weather conditions are poor, give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination safely. If weather conditions are extremely hazardous, consider postponing your trip.

Use Headlights

Headlights allow other drivers to see you more easily, especially in blustery weather. If you have an older vehicle with yellowish pitted headlights, you may want to consider upgrading to newer, clearer headlights for improved visibility. Always make sure your headlights and taillights are clear of snow.

Learn to Use Brakes Efficiently

Slamming on the brakes in snowy weather is a sure-fire way to spin out of control. Instead, anticipate slowdowns and coast for as long as possible. When you do need to use your brakes, tap them gently.

Watch for “Black Ice”

One of winter’s worst hazards is transparent ice on the roadway, or “black ice.” Black ice is clear, almost invisible ice that may appear to be a harmless puddle or may be impossible to see at all. It is tremendously slick.

Keep a look out for ice on guardrails and ditches, as this may be a sign of icy road conditions. If you hit a patch of black ice, take your foot off the gas pedal and don’t tap your brakes. Once your tires regain traction, reduce your speed and stay alert.

Identify Hazardous Roads

If you use the same roads often, identify danger zones and learn to avoid them. If a house on a certain corner has an automatic lawn sprinkler that sprays water onto the street in freezing weather, consider taking an alternate route in the winter.

Clear Line of Sight

If you can’t see clearly out of your windows or mirrors, you can’t drive safely. Clean the inside of your windows, replace windshield wiper blades, set rear-view mirrors and make sure your windshield washer fluid has anti-ice fluid.

Buy Winter Tires

When driving in snowy or icy conditions, equipping your vehicle with winter tires is essential. Without an adequate amount of traction, your tires will have a difficult time holding the road. So-called ‘all season’ tires aren’t always snow-safe. Winter tires that meet tire-industry snow traction standards have a snowflake symbol etched on the sidewall.


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Winterizing Your Car

If you’re one of the lucky people who live in Florida, Arizona or Sunny Southern California, this post may not concern you. The rest of us however, have to deal with mother nature’s punishment…winter.

These tips can help you get through the cold months ahead.

1. Get the right kind of oil change. Are you approaching the time for a 30,000-mile full service for your vehicle? Among other things, the service should include an oil change, and the oil used should have the right viscosity for your vehicle at this time of year. You owners manual should have the right type of oil for you to use during all weather conditions.

2. Make sure you can see. Check your wiper blades. When was the last time you changed them? They only last around one year. Fill up your windshield washer reservoir with windshield washer fluid. Make sure to also check that your heater and defroster are working properly so you can keep the windshield clear.

3. Check your battery. During the winter months is when your battery’s connection posts get the most corrosion. If your battery is more than three years old, have a certified repair shop test its ability to hold a charge.

4. Look at your belts and hoses. When you have that full service done on your vehicle, make sure the belts and hoses get checked for wear and tear. Cold weather can beat up on your belts and hoses.

5. Check your tire pressure. Your tires must be properly inflated to ensure you’ll have the best possible traction as you drive along — and traction is often severely jeopardized in wet, snowy or icy conditions. The air pressure in your tires has likely dropped as the weather has gotten colder, so it’s important to see where things stand now. Your owner’s manual will tell you what your target tire pressure should be.

6. Think about switching to snow tires. If you live in a hilly place that gets a lot of snow and ice then you might want to improve traction even more by investing in winter tires and using them over the next few months instead of your usual all-season tires.

7. Do you have four-wheel drive? If so, it’s important to check the status of your four-wheel-drive system and be sure it’s working correctly — especially because most drivers don’t use their 4WD systems in the pleasant summer months. Be sure that the system engages and disengages easily.

8. Get the antifreeze mixture just right. Aim for having a 50-50 mix of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your radiator. This will prevent the mixture from freezing even at very cold temperatures.

9. Prepare an emergency kit. Store this stuff in your trunk during the winter months, especially if a road trip is in your future:

  • a blanket
  • extra boots and gloves
  • an extra set of warm clothes
  • extra water and food, including hard candies
  • an ice scraper
  • a small shovel
  • a flashlight
  • windshield washer fluid
  • windshield wipers
  • flares
  • jumper cables
  • a tool kit
  • tire chains
  • a tire gauge
  • a spare tire with air in it
  • tire-changing equipment
  • a first-aid kit
  • paper towels
  • a bag of abrasive material such as sand, salt or non-clumping kitty litter, which can provide additional traction if a tire gets stuck in snow.
  • Also, keep the gas tank as full as you can to prevent the gas lines from freezing.


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Why to Add a Cat Back Exhaust System

Here is another post for you go-fasters, drag racers and those of us that like that deep growl flowing out of our exhaust pipes. We don’t want an exhaust system that makes car alarms go manic or requires the girlfriend to wear earplugs. Upgrading your exhaust lets you hear the best underneath your hood. To us gear heads, that is a beautiful noise. You can legally upgrade your exhaust to gain power and efficiency. However, federal emissions regulations won’t permit just any exhaust system. One upgrade that’s almost universally permissible is in the exhaust system downstream of the second oxygen sensor. That sensor is always located right after the catalytic converter, we refer to these systems as “cat-back.”

How Exhaust Works

The exhaust system is basically a long funnel to expel spent gases from the combustion process. The gases dump from individual cylinders into the exhaust manifold. On cars with a V-type or boxer engine, there are two manifolds, one on either side of the engine block. Inline engines have only one manifold. The manifold’s snakelike tubes collect the gases and, on newer cars, send them down a pipe (or two if it’s a dual exhaust) and into the catalytic converters. The catalytic converter is a major component responsible for reducing emissions. At the front half of the cat is a reduction catalyst which uses platinum and rhodium to remove NOx emissions. In the second half, the cat burns carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. The result? Up to 90 percent of these damaging gases never reach the sky. But cats won’t scavenge this stuff until they reach operating temperature. So automakers mount them as close to the exhaust manifold as possible to capture engine heat quickly.

After the cat, the exhaust travels on to the resonators and mufflers to cancel sound. Without mufflers, your car would be as loud as a Sprint Cup Car. Cat-back systems often include new middle pipes, resonators and mufflers, and are often less restrictive (less back-pressure) so they can build more power and make better noises, too.

What’s Legal

In the good but smoggy old days before emissions standards, you could freely modify your exhaust, as long as the local constabulary didn’t object to the noise. Times have changed; California’s strict smog regulations have influenced the nation. Aftermarket speed parts built for newer vehicles are almost all 49-state-compliant. In the Golden State, they must pass stricter California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards. So, unless you own a smog-exempt car (1975 or older in California), it’s verboten to modify anything that might change the emissions profile. And that’s why the most common exhaust modification is a cat-back system.

Here are a few images that explain how it all works:

When it comes time to find the right exhaust system for your vehicle you have a lot of options. There are hundreds of websites out there, filled with posts from guys and gals that have put cat back systems on their rides. You can also go down to your local performance shop and talk to the experts. We always recommend knowing all of the facts before you purchase and install.

If you want to install your new cat back exhaust system yourself, here is a video with step by step instructions:

Sources: Car & Driver, Summit Racing, Engine World, and NMRA.com


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