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As the summertime looms, the urge to get out and explore the world is growing. Many of us abhor staying in one place; we'd rather look toward the next great adventure away from our houses. When going on vacation, there are several different modes of transportation to consider. Flying on a plane still remains the most popular but many enjoy going by boat or even train.

However, many travelers enjoy loading up their vehicles and heading out on the open road. In fact, between 22% and 39% of all vacations take the form of a road trip.

Even though most auto shops are still open in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown, more and more car enthusiasts are finding ways to fill their extra free time. In fact, British automotive publisher Haynes has seen a stark increase in the number of car manual sales since the kingdom adopted social distancing measures to stop the spread of coronavirus. Sales have surged by over 54% as more people begin to work on their own vehicles. While similar reports have yet to be seen in the United States, there's no doubt that DIY car enthusiasts are going to work on their pet projects under COVID-19 procedures.

Are you trying to learn how to fix your own car? Rely on these tips to stay safe and feel more productive.

"Car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, and teenage boys are twice as likely to die as teenage girls," according to The Washington Post and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With such grim statistics, it is no wonder that parents fret over teaching their teenagers to drive. With some care and planning, parents can teach kids how to drive and do it with confidence. Follow these tips from the experts for peace of mind.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit home for millions as it has evolved into serious business over the past few weeks in North America.

The virus known as COVID-19 has forced the world indoors, with individuals and families scrambling to adjust to what’s become our new normal. Federal and international guidelines broadcast over social media can read like a mother’s list of commands: "Wash your hands! Don’t touch your face! Stay indoors and work at home!" Businesses of all sizes are bracing for losses, with schools, houses of worship, and sports leagues closing down overnight. What has become an international crisis seems far beyond our control, unlike so much of our technologically-driven society.

Speaking of technology: cars have become the final frontier -- the last thing standing between people and the outside world. With the uncertainty surrounding the virus and knowing that anyone is at risk of transmitting it, retreating to your car while you look for food or essential supplies allows you to practice social distancing and (if it’s clean enough) maintain a controlled zone that keeps you and others safe. Over the last decade, technological advancements in vehicles -- including Bluetooth, streaming services, and Wi-Fi can help make your car feel like home.

Bluetooth

This wireless tool has been a staple of electronic communications since the 2000s and has been the catalyst for both public events and private time. This technology exists in cars, especially those built in the last decade-plus, and has quickly replaced the AUX cord as the remote connection device of the time period. With smartphones becoming the telecommunications standard, and with state laws prohibiting distracted driving, it’s become paramount to create safe and comfortable environments to still use your phone while behind the wheel.

Bluetooth allows for the driver to connect remotely with their phone and perform a number of tasks, such as play music, run a GPS, and make phone calls. While many newer cars have the technology pre-installed and simply require a connection with an existing phone, older vehicles may need inexpensive add-ons, such as universal Bluetooth kits or car adapters.

Streaming Services

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and newly launched Disney+ have become ubiquitous as the video-on-demand experience has evolved from DVD and Blu-ray players in minivans to backseat passengers keeping themselves busy with hours’ worth of entertainment at their fingertips.

If you have children, quarantining can be more challenging – considering how school and work schedules have evaporated and with the pandemic’s full extent still unknown. As you would at home, a smart idea for making your car-ride experience more enjoyable is providing your children with portable, on-demand devices such as tablets and smartphones equipped with the streaming services (and potential child restrictions) of your choice.

In addition, you can use Bluetooth to amplify the sound and turn your car into a movie theater. With the right sound coming from the speaker, your child can have an all-encompassing experience that will add more value to an inevitable car ride to the nearest store that still has hand sanitizer or toilet paper.

Wi-Fi

In newer cars, Wi-Fi hotspots have emerged as a way to use the internet without spending valuable amounts of data. General Motors, for example, has made it standard amongst its brands. However, if this is not the case for your car, consider utilizing a Wi-Fi hotspot on your phone, which could open up options for further internet connection.

Using Wi-Fi in your car opens up the other two aforementioned technologies while providing a steady connection in your vehicle. If you have children, this wireless connection can keep them company during long breaks. If you’re single or have a partner who's along for the ride, in-car Wi-Fi gives your bank account a break by allowing you to alleviate unnecessary data usage.

Considering how much technology has affected society, car Wi-Fi can also make for a more creative way to stay “indoors” while outside the house. If you’re willing, turn on the car and use Wi-Fi to have a movie night -- battery permitting. The way cars have worked throughout history, it’s not surprising that people would want a respite from the deluge of horrific pandemic updates. Using car Wi-Fi to have a movie night is relatively safe, provided everyone is healthy.

The ‘Internet of Things’

As the internet becomes more essential to our existence, so have the capabilities to connect to the internet. The Internet of Things (IoT) is defined as the various ways our devices connect to the internet. Items such as phones, computers, and televisions are good examples, but more advanced options include wireless headphones, wearable fitness devices, remote monitors, and more.

As it applies to vehicles, IoT has major capabilities. Most new cars are equipped to be IoT-friendly. This has implications for using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other digital technologies. And as our society adjusts to our new wired future, our most universal devices are stepping up to the plate. By the end of 2020, IoT capabilities will be present in more than 250 million vehicles.

Some other examples of this breakthrough include automotive IoT, which aims to make driving a more perfect endeavor with features such as automotive cameras (which aid the driver when they are reversing the car, for example), radar, and in-car GPS. Many utilize traffic patterns through internet technologies, whether from your phone or from outside sources, to ensure the driver has a safe ride.

Bonus: Cleanliness

The coronavirus pandemic has created inconveniences for everyone, from billion-dollar corporations to everyday workers and their loved ones. With our cars becoming more of a safe harbor than usual due to the outbreak, it’s imperative to remain vigilant and be one step ahead of the spread.

HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) air purifiers can come in handy in combating airborne particles, especially considering how the COVID-19 virus can remain in the air for up to three hours. Trust in name-brand purifiers used by major companies like Toyota (Plasmacluster from Sharp is a good example). Devices such as HEPA are CDC-approved for a minimum defense mechanism against coronaviruses.

Other car companies such as Jaguar and Yanfeng have adapted ultraviolet light to kill various airborne germs. These should be used with caution, however, especially considering the effects of UV and UV-C rays on the human body. Car disinfectants and odor eliminators, while more traditional, can at least mitigate the risks. That said, they cannot be guaranteed to actually kill the major flu viruses -- but they do help maintain a safer and cleaner car experience.

With the virus reaching its most powerful form in North America, people can maintain their cars as a viable safe space for quarantining. Technological improvements and advances such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, streaming services, and cleanliness measures can make your method of transportation a safe haven. With these advancements, you can take care of your health and well-being along the way.

Pictured top: Apple CarPlay

Friday, March 13 2020 13:42

Cars or Trucks: Which One is Safer?

When it comes to choosing between a car or a truck, safety concerns are often at the forefront of buyer’s minds. However, is one safer than the other and which is better for families? To help make this decision simpler here is what you need to know about the differences between cars and trucks.

Comparing Safety Features

Over 15.5 million trucks operate on roads daily, when combined with cars, the combined number of vehicles on the roads can reach 115 million every day in the United States. With so many other drivers to share the road with, having a safe vehicle can help give you peace of mind while driving. However, when trying to decide between a car or truck there are a couple of key points to consider.

Trucks:

Trucks have a couple of significant pros that bear mention. Firstly, in a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it was found that heavier vehicles tend to push lighter ones during impact. This results in a lower amount of force being put on the occupants in the heavier vehicle. Because trucks tend to be larger and heavier than cars, this is a point to their side. Additionally, trucks now benefit from many of the same safety features that cars do such as automatic braking, crumple zones, and improved airbags.

Size is also something that can benefit trucks. In the event of a side impact with a car, only the lower bumper will make contact with the truck’s frame. This is opposed to a truck colliding with a car in which the higher bumper could hit nearly halfway up the door. Depending on the force of the impact, this could be devastating for the car’s passengers.

Cars:

Small cars are the fastest-growing category in the U.S. auto industry. When it comes to front end collisions, where windshields provide nearly 45% of the structural integrity of the cabin — and in a rollover up to 60% — small cars rank high. This, in addition to the improved front end and side airbags, helps to make small cars some of the safest vehicles on the road. In the newest IIHS Top Safety Picks for 2020, four cars made the cut for Top Safety Pick+ while 14 made the cut for Top Safety Pick. As of now, no trucks have been added to their lists.

Also, cars are also much less likely to flip or rollover, making them more ideal in single-vehicle accidents. It’s only when they’re faced with a much larger vehicle that their safety level decreases.

Weight and Size

While the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 features a widened truck bed, it weighs nearly 450 pounds less than previous models. This has helped to boost the Silverado’s fuel efficiency, making it more appealing to money-conscious buyers. Generally, the rule of thumb is that lighter vehicles will get better gas mileage. While this is certainly a plus for more lightweight cars, Chevrolet proves that trucks can be just as efficient. Furthermore, lighter vehicles tend to be easier to maneuver away from collisions or during inclement weather. The major trade-off here is that lightweight vehicles also tend to have increased noise and vibration. This is because there is less weight to dampen the sounds and movement that would otherwise have been hidden.

On the other hand, heavy vehicles, as mentioned above, can be beneficial during accidents; however, the trade-off here is maneuverability and gas mileage. Unless you’re planning on using a truck for hauling large trailers, it’s probably best to spring for a lighter weight alternative.

Families vs Individuals

So, now that we’ve seen the pros and cons of safety, weight, and size, let’s consider which vehicles are best for families and individuals. While the ultimate choice will be up to personal taste, both cars and trucks can make excellent family vehicles.

Trucks today are quite spacious with many seating up to five people comfortably. While cars also have standard seating for five, trucks can be beneficial for families that enjoy driving vacations and day trips. They can also be used for hauling all of your kid’s dirty sports gear without worrying about it getting all over the interior. While we usually wouldn’t think of them as family vehicles they certainly can pull their weight in that area.

On the other hand, cars can have similar benefits for families, and allow for slightly easier maneuvering if you’re not familiar with larger vehicles. Most have ample trunk space for school bags and sports gear, while still allowing passengers enough space to be comfortable.

On an individual level, whether you decide to buy a car or truck will come down to what you are looking to get out of your vehicle. If you need a heavy-duty vehicle for work or if you enjoy outdoor excursions, trucks may be something to consider. However, if you’re looking to a simple, yet reliable vehicle for driving around town, cars are always a safe bet.

Furthermore, cars tend to be more prevalent in urban areas, whereas trucks seen more frequently in rural areas. Where you live could also play a factor in which vehicle you decide is right for you.

Shop Around

While investing in a safe vehicle is important, what’s even more important is investing in a vehicle that you’ll love. If you enjoy driving trucks, take time to speak with different dealers and shop different truck brands before resigning to buy a car. Both cars and trucks have their pros and cons, both can make great family vehicles, and both can help keep you safe on the roads in different ways. While some features might be a must-have, make sure to explore every avenue before making a final decision.

At the end of the day, both cars and trucks can be fun to drive safe choices. If you’re currently in the market for a new vehicle, take a moment to shop around your local area and test drive both to see which one you enjoy most. You may even end up falling in love with a vehicle that you ever would have considered otherwise.

In the latest episode of ExtremeTerrain’s Throttle Out YouTube video series, host Merideth Evasew wrenches on a brand-new Jeep Wrangler JLU Rubicon, adding some functional and stylish Jeep parts from Deegan 38 and Teraflex.

Adding Jeep armor, lighting, recovery gear, and a big set of wheels & tires, Merideth guides you through her build process, explaining special features and benefits as well as her reasons for the parts she selected. After an overview of the build and all its components, Merideth takes the JL Rubicon for its maiden voyage to further demonstrate the road friendliness of the Teraflex suspension and 37” mud-terrain tires.

Monday, November 11 2019 07:49

What Should You Do If Your Car Gets Damaged?

Unfortunately, most car owners will have to deal with some degree of damage to their car at some point in their life. The average number of car accidents in the U.S. every year is a whopping six million. When it does happen, it can be hard to know exactly what steps you should take. Should you go through your auto insurance? Should you try to fix the damage yourself? Here are a few tips you can use if you ever find yourself with damage to your car.

Most Americans tend to rely on personal vehicles, rather than public transportation, to get from point A to point B. With nearly 6 million cars sold each year in the United States, it's no surprise that the majority of teens will obtain their driver's licenses as soon as possible. More often than not, U.S. adults wouldn't even consider forgoing vehicle ownership.

So it can be particularly devastating when you head out to leave for work, school, or a social engagement and discover that your car isn't where you left it. It's not that you've forgotten where you parked, either. Unfortunately, your car's been stolen.

It might be your worst nightmare, particularly if you keep valuables or irreplaceable items in your car's interior. While up to 20% of all insurance claims are related to water damage of some kind, vehicle theft is sometimes a problem that cannot be fixed. Worse yet, a purloined vehicle might be more common than you think -- especially if you live in certain areas. Last year, there were an estimated 748,841 vehicle thefts throughout the United States.

The metro area with the most stolen vehicles in 2018 was Albuquerque, with a theft rate of 780.2 vehicles per 100,000 residents. Rounding out the top five cities with the highest vehicle rates were Anchorage, Alaska; Bakersfield, California; Pueblo, Colorado; and Modesto, California. By far, California had the greatest number of vehicle theft-ridden cities, with 15 metro areas within the top 40 list compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Nearly all of the metro areas listed are located in the southern or western portions of the United States -- and, not surprisingly, most areas listed also have higher rates of other property crimes.

Although the average vehicle will have three owners in its lifetime, most of us don't expect to give up ownership unwillingly. And while the Dodge Charger HEMI, Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, Infiniti Q50 and QX80, and GMC Sierra 1500 top the list of most frequently stolen vehicles in the nation, the reality is that any car can be taken without your consent or knowledge. Of course, parking in well-lit areas, installing alarm systems and vehicle tracking devices, and locking your steering wheel can keep your car from being stolen in the first place. But failing that, there are a few steps you should always take.

First, you'll want to call the police and file a report. You'll need this stolen vehicle report in order to file any kind of insurance claim. It's best to provide law enforcement with as much information as possible, including the car's make and model, year, color, VIN and license plate number, any identifying characteristics, and GPS information, if applicable. You'll then want to contact your car insurance company. If you have a comprehensive car insurance policy, you'll be covered -- but even if you don't, you'll still need to let your insurer know your vehicle was stolen. That way, you'll be protected if property is damaged or someone becomes injured after your car has been taken. Make sure that all details are consistent between this insurance claim and your police report, as your insurer will likely launch an investigation to make sure everything lines up before paying out for a stolen vehicle. And if your car is leased or you have some sort of financing set up, you'll also need to notify the company; in most cases, the insurer will pay the lender so that you won't still be responsible for making payments on your stolen vehicle.

If you have any valuables in your car, you might want to file separate claims for these items. The three most-valuable commodities shipped in the U.S. include machinery, electronics, and other vehicles. While you're probably not shipping warehouse materials, your laptop, GPS, and other electronic devices might be covered by insurance.

Although you have some control over where you park (and where you live), you may not always be able to stop vehicle theft despite your best efforts. To minimize loss, make it a habit to keep no valuable items in your car, purchase comprehensive car insurance, and invest in security features that could drive thieves away. And if your vehicle is stolen, make sure to follow the steps outlined above to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Although these events can feel violating, thinking ahead and being prepared can make them a bit less devastating.

You've been thinking about it for a while, and now you've decided to take the leap: you're buying a motorcycle. Chances are you're used to hearing all the statistics at this point about the dangers of motorcycles -- after all, it's true that they can be dangerous. However, motorcycle safety is actually on the rise in recent years, with the number of fatal motorcycle accidents in 2017 dropping 3% from the year before. If you're ready to buy a motorcycle, here are a few things you'll want to know as a beginner.

Do Your Homework

Before you even get to the shop, you'll want to do your homework on the different types of motorcycles available. There are a greater number of varieties, makes, and models than most people assume. Having a basic understanding of the types that are available will help you be prepared for when you start your shopping. Additionally, be sure to practice on multiple types of bikes. This will help you better learn the basics of riding a motorcycle as safely as possible.

Pick Out Your Preferences

Once you've tested out a few different styles of motorcycle, figure out what feels best for you and your personal preferences. Everyone has their own favorites when it comes to motorcycles, and you should look for bikes that compliment your riding preferences and personal style tastes. Check online reviews as well; you might uncover some issues or benefits with particular makes and models this way.

If you ride your motorcycle for work, you might also be able to get a tax break. Consider the area in which you live and whether or not this aspect of buying a motorcycle could benefit you. If you're self-employed, talking to a CPA can help you discover more options that can keep money in your wallet.

New vs. Used?

If you're looking to buy a motorcycle on a budget, buying used could be an appealing option. However, be careful if you're looking for a used bike instead of a new one -- used motorcycles, just like used cars, are more likely to have serious issues that make them less safe to ride. The safest possible option is to buy new, but not all budgets are suited to buying a brand new vehicle, so at least do your due diligence to make sure you're being as safe as possible. Certified pre-owned options are your second-best option if you're unable

Plenty of people ride motorcycles for both normal transportation and as part of a growing hobby. What kind of motorcycle are you looking to purchase, and what do you look for in a bike before you buy? Consider these safety options before you

In a single year in Texas, there was one person killed every two hours in a car accident, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Unfortunately, when it comes to young children, their lives can be in danger even when the vehicle is not moving.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015 but accidental pediatric heatstroke has become far too common, as well. Since 1988, 818 children have died from pediatric vehicular heatstroke, which occurs when a child's body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. As of October 2019, there have been 51 pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths.

Few people would argue that ride sharing platforms rely on drivers to operate. But Uber maintains that its drivers aren't a central part of its business operations -- and that the company won't need to start classifying its workers as employees, regardless of what a new bill passed in California might say.

The passage of bill AB5, which further clarifies a 2018 California Supreme Court ruling that outlines a test used for employee classification, should theoretically have companies like Uber shaking in their boots. But according to Uber's top lawyer, its drivers will remain independent contractors -- meaning that they won't be given benefits and that the company can continue to shirk liability in a number of situations.

According to the 2018 ruling, workers are considered employees if they perform duties that are under a company's control; if the work they do is essential to the company's business; and if they do not have independent enterprises within that given trade. Interestingly, the company maintains that the drivers who pick up customers for Uber are somehow not integral to the organization's operations. According to chief legal officer for the company, the "drivers' work is outside the usual course of Uber's business, which is serving as a technology platform for several different types of digital marketplaces."

Whether anyone will buy that argument is a different story. Previously, Uber has noted that classifying their drivers as actual employees would completely change ride sharing as a whole, eliminating the flexibility of their current business model. They'd supposedly have to force shifts on drivers and hire fewer of them, along with restricting them from working during certain hours or in specific areas. Those claims have been debunked by California Labor Federation spokesperson Steve Smith, who pointed out to a local ABC news affiliate that there's nothing in the labor code that would prohibit driver flexibility and added that this line of thinking is nothing more than a "corporate scare tactic."

Furthermore, the company seems to want to have it both ways. Uber may protest that its drivers aren't an essential part of its business model, but the company also recently argued that its driver roster should be regarded as a closely guarded trade secret. Although over 85% of misappropriation cases involve the business partner or employee of a trade secret owner, this scenario played out a bit differently. When the leader of an academic project requested the names of Uber drivers from Chicago officials in 2018, the Freedom of Information Act request was denied on the grounds that releasing this information “would cause competitive harm specifically by allowing their competitors to target and 'poach' their drivers." A Loyola University Chicago business school assistant professor requested the information again this year, maintaining that the information should be publicly accessible considering that drivers are licensed by the city. And while the average citizen can easily look up taxi vehicles and their license holders, that same access is not granted for cases involving holders of ride hailing licenses.

According to documents acquired by Bloomberg, ride hailing companies are worried about drivers abandoning one platform for another; the potential for poaching would increase if those names became public, according to Uber, along with other safety liabilities. But -- depending on the state -- ride hailing companies cannot demand exclusivity from their drivers, as this is yet another point that would likely force Uber to reclassify their independent contractors as employees. That would make drivers "under the company's control," which falls in line with the first point of the bill recently passed in California. But judging by how important the identities of Uber drivers seem to be, many are skeptical that the company will be able to convince anyone that their role in the business structure is anything but essential.

Still, West is confident that Uber will win out in the end. In a conference call with media, the chief legal officer explained that they'd have no problem complying with the necessary criteria: "Just because the test is hard does not mean we will not be able to pass it. We continue to believe that drivers are properly classified as independent... We expect we will continue to respond to claims of misclassification in arbitration and in court, as necessary, just as we do now."

The 1999-2004 Ford Mustang is a popular choice for modders, with many car enthusiasts jumping in on the go-to budget platform for those with the itch to go fast in a straight line or on the slalom. 

Often referred to as the "New Edge" Mustangs, these cars are part of the SN95 platform, which spanned production from 1994-2004. Now, American Muscle has assembled what its calling "The Definitive High-Horsepower New Edge Mustang Tech Guide" — a complete listing for anyone looking to build "a beastly and reliable New Edge Mustang."

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