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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."

If you've ever dreamed of flying high in a craft made famous during the daring missions of World War II, you now have a chance to do it.

The B-17 Aluminum Overcast Tour kicks off on Aug. 16 in Waukegan, Illinois. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) will bring a fully-functional B-17G to Waukegan National Airport for ground-based walk-around tours, and hourly mission flights through Aug. 18. 

The Aluminum Overcast is a beautifully restored B-17 Flying Fortress that's been a staple of air shows for many years. Based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the plane will tour the eastern half of the U.S. through November, with ticket sales supporting the ongoing maintenance and operations cost for one of the last 10 remaining B-17's in the world that are still airworthy.

Flight tickets can be ordered online via the EAA website.

Square Enix Collective will bring Circuit Superstars, to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC in 2020.

Circuit Superstars combines arcade-style racing with a more realistic driving model that enables new players to jump in and race, but sets a high skill ceiling for serious players looking to set the fastest laps possible. It will feature a range of on- and off-road racing categories – from rally, GT, classic cars and even trucks – all in a unique and gorgeous visual style.

Original Fire Games is a six-person team, originally started by three siblings from Mexico (Carolina, Carlos and Alberto Mastretta). Together they have a combined total of 14 years in game development, as well as more than 15 accumulated years of real motor racing experience – and it’s this experience they’ve drawn from to make an accessible game with a realistic edge.

“Over the last three decades we have seen a fascinating evolution of racing games,” says Carolina Mastretta, Director & Producer at Original Fire Games. “And these days, we can drive almost any type of car on amazing recreations of the best tracks in the world. However, we believe it’s time to try something different, and we want to do this by reviving a style that pioneered the racing genre decades ago.”

Phil Elliott, Director of Indie Publishing at Square Enix (and avid racing fan) is excited to be bringing Original Fire’s debut game on board. “Here at Square Enix Collective, we’ve been hoping to find a great racing game for some time – and we’re so happy to be working on Circuit Superstars. It’s one of those rare games that has charm and style, but also an edge to the handling that makes you strive to get better with each lap you drive.”

When it comes to vehicle maintenance and repairs, even the smallest task can seem daunting if you don't know what you're doing. Auto maintenance and repairs take practice, knowledge, and experience -- so it's okay if you don't know what to do right away. But if you're looking to become handier and tackle some basic repair tasks on your own, take a look at these few tips to help you get started.

Inspect Your Vehicle Regularly

One of the most important things you should do, whether you plan on making repairs yourself or not, is inspect your vehicle on a regular basis. By assessing the various components of your vehicle, you can learn more about how the car works, which parts go where, and you'll spot signs of damage. Looking at your car and seeing signs of wear and tear or damage is important because you'll then know if maintenance or repairs need to be done. And you can get a better feel for when routine maintenance, like an oil change or tire rotation, needs to be done. So take a detailed look at your vehicle regularly to stay on top of problems.

Do Some Research

If you're new to auto repairs, then it's essential that you take the time to do some research. You should start by reading your vehicle's manual, which will tell you about various components and when routine maintenance tasks should be completed. After that, consider checking out YouTube videos or reading through Internet forums for detailed information and instructions regarding various repairs. As long as your vehicle is pretty common, there's bound to be a lot of information about it on the Internet. So do some basic research to expand your knowledge before tackling any repair tasks.

Be Prepared

When it comes time to finally work on your vehicle, you need to be prepared. This means having your workspace set up and having the right tools. You'll need some basic tools, like a jack stand and a torque wrench, and a large, even space to park your car on. Make sure you clear plenty of space so you have room to get around your vehicle with ease. You should also keep some baggies and sharpies on hand so you can label parts and keep them organized as you're taking them off or replacing them. Being prepared with the basics will help you get off to a good start.

With there being about 5.5 million car accidents every year in the U.S., you may find your vehicle damaged sooner than you'd think. So with these few basic tips for beginners, you'll be well on your way to performing simple maintenance and repair tasks in no time.

Wednesday, May 22 2019 13:52

GM Introduces New Carbon Fiber Truck Bed

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General Motors has announced they will be beginning regular production of a carbon-fiber cargo bed in the 2019 GMC Sierra Denali and Sierra AT4. This material has not been regularly used in automotive production before and GM hopes to apply it to other vehicle models in the future.

While vehicles rely on a lot of materials and substances to be manufactured and run properly, like steel, aluminum, and oil, which is produced in more than four billion metric tons around the world every year, carbon fiber is a durable and lightweight material that is typically not used in vehicles. But with more and more regulations regarding fuel economy being introduced, GM and other automakers are having to find ways to make their larger vehicles, like trucks, more efficient.

Truck beds are typically steel and even though stainless steel can contain more than 60% post-industrial recycled material, it's still quite heavy. Switching to the CarbonPro cargo bed will shave off 62 pounds compared to traditional steel. Furthermore, when the ability to get rid of bed liners is considered, almost 100 pounds can be lost. And although it's much lighter, it still has the same impact resistance of steel.

Not only is the new cargo bed lighter, but it can be designed differently too -- the carbon fiber can be produced with molded floor cavities to help secure motorcycles safely and add extra room for cargo.

GM has been fighting the high cost of carbon fiber by using a combination of as many as 13 different materials to help improve the fuel economy of their vehicles, as well as driving performance and the overall quietness of the truck.

Experimenting with different methods, GM has found a new way to use bonding and adhesion methods to work with the expensive material -- and the automaker plans to continue working on refining the method.

According to Mark Voss, engineering group manager for GM's pickup boxes, GM had to do a lot more development and testing that is usually needed for a standard steel bed -- GM has been working on the carbon fiber box for about eight years.

"Steel boxes have been around for 100 years; you don't have to do that level of developmental work on a steel box. Once you do the production design, you validate it [by the] normal process," Voss explained.

And during tests of their new product, GM was able to show just how much better the new bed is than steel options and even Ford's choice of aluminum. GM put their work to the test, throwing sledgehammers and cinder blocks onto the carbon fiber bed, their own pickup trucks with steel beds, and the F-150. Unfortunately for Ford, some of the objects pierced right through the F-120 bed. GM engineers recorded the tests, showing that the carbon fiber beds were barely impacted by the heavy objects.

With there being about six million car accidents every year, automakers are always striving to make their vehicles more durable and safe. And the use of carbon fiber for new truck beds will increase durability, safety, and sustainability all at once.

The world's largest supplier of auto-parts is teaming up with a leading fuel-cell stack maker to create the technology that will be key to the automotive industry's greener future. Last month, German supplier Bosch announced that it will co-develop polymer-electrolyte membrane fuel cells with Swedish manufacturer Powercell.

Once the two companies create this sustainable technology, Bosch will manufacture the fuel cells under a global license. According to a statement emailed to Bloomberg, the stack will become a part of Bosch's lineup of fuel-cell products and is expected to be launched by 2022 at the latest.

The basic premise of fuel-cell technology is that they turn hydrogen into electricity. For years, hydrogen fuel cells have been celebrated as a potential replacement for less sustainable energy cultivation methods, including the 2.5 million miles of pipeline that transfer fuel products from source to market in the United States. Although the technology promises minimal environmental impact from its simple emittance of water vapor, high costs and a lack of infrastructure have made it difficult for the cells to gain major traction.

Before Bosch's recent announcement, Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. were the biggest fuel-cell backers in the industry. Toyota alone is projected to produce about 11 million vehicles in 2023 and has already started incorporating fuel cell technology into its large trucks. Now that Bosch is in the game, the future of hydrogen fuel cells is looking a bit different.

Bosch predicts that as much as 20% of global electric vehicles will use hydrogen fuel cells by 2030. Bosch needs to reduce the costs of fuel cell systems and, in particular, the pricey stacks to make this growth possible.

According to Dr. Stefan Hartung, Bosch associate director and chairman of the Mobility Solutions division, commercializing the technology will be a driving force in decreasing the costs for hydrogen fuel. Commercializing the technology for passenger cars and trucks will certainly be an essential step in the United States, as there is a shortage of hydrogen filling infrastructure in the country.

Efforts from U.S. lawmakers are also aimed at making sustainable cars a more viable option for production and purchase. In early April, a bipartisan coalition introduced the Driving America Forward Act in Congress with the support of at least 60 organizations that included automakers, electric vehicle suppliers, and environmental organizations. If enacted, the legislation will extend the one-time federal tax credit for buyers of electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Currently, the credits an automaker receives begin to phase out during the calendar year after it sells 200,000 electric cars and/or plug-in hybrids. Tesla hit that mark last year, causing its federal tax break to drop on July 1 and expire completely at the end of 2019. General Motors, an industry powerhouse headed by a female CEO who is among the 27 women leading Fortune 500 companies, also reached 200,0000 electric vehicle sales last year and will soon face a similar loss in tax breaks.

The Act would allow purchasers of an additional 400,000 vehicles per manufacturer to be eligible for a slightly smaller one-time tax credit. Once it reaches 600,000 qualifying vehicle sales, the credit would drop more and phase out after six months. The bill would also extend the hydrogen fuel cell credit through 2028, providing manufacturers and buyers with even more incentive for eco-friendly cars.

According to industry sources, losing the tax credits would stifle developments in the electric vehicle market. With initiatives such as Bosch's recent fuel-cell partnership with Powercell, the market can't afford interference with potential advancements.

Not only can Bosch's fuel-cell technology help the environment, but its existing portfolio can help make the roads safer. Bosch already has fuel cell components that include control units with sensors, a safety-focused tool that could reduce the 40,100 people who were killed in car accidents in 2017.

If you own a vehicle, you should understand the importance of keeping it clean and properly maintained. Simple maintenance tasks can help you keep your car in pristine shape, saving you time and money down the line. And seeing as how something like a good cleaning can remove about 70% to 90% of the plugged ash in your truck's DPF, there are a lot of simple maintenance tasks you should be doing regularly. Let's take a look at a few of these tips so you can keep your car in good shape.

Check Your Fluids

One of the easiest things you can do to keep your car in good condition is checking and changing the fluids regularly. Your engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluids should all be checked as needed for your car. If you fail to refill or replace fluids as stated in your vehicle's manual, your car could run into some serious problems. While stainless steel pipes can last more than 100 years, fluids in your car can get dirty and sludge-like, causing the vehicle to have to work harder to run. So changing the fluids regularly will ensure your car can run smoothly.

Get New Windshield Wipers

Your windshield should be kept clean and clear so you can see properly. After all, visibility is a key component of being able to drive safely. This is why you should consider not only cleaning your windshield, but replacing your windshield wipers, too. A lot of dirt and debris can accumulate on your windshield, which can hinder your ability to see -- removing this buildup is as simple as using some glass cleaner and a paper towel. And if you have old and ripped windshield wipers, you're not going to be able to properly see when it's raining or snowing. Replacing your wipers is a low-cost and easy task that can make a big difference when you're on the road.

Keep Your Engine Clean

If you don't fully understand the inner workings of your car, that's totally fine -- you can still keep the exterior of your engine clean and in good condition. While many people focus on keeping the exterior of their vehicle in good shape, especially with the possibility of it taking up to 100 small pushes before a dent can be removed, the condition of the exterior of your engine is important as well. Debris like grease and dirt can buildup and can do quite a bit of damage if not taken care of. So invest in a good cleaner (The Rock Father™ likes Tub 'O Towels) and give your engine a gentle but thorough cleaning.

Tub 'O Towels

All of these tasks can be done quickly and easily, even if you have little to no experience working on cars. So if you have been slacking on your car maintenance, consider completing these tasks to keep your vehicle in good shape.

Top Photo: Dinocar by Ryan McGuire

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