Archive for June, 2011
Very few people contemplate doing the servicing of their cars themselves – the technology involved these days is beyond most of us, and both maintenance plans (including insurance against component failure) and the resale value of a car can be seriously affected if we can’t prove that it was serviced regularly by specialist mechanics etc. Nevertheless, it’s important to do certain things to help avoid maintenance costs being compounded by unnecessary repair costs.
Everybody knows to regularly check that the oil and radiator water levels are correct, but the same applies to the brake fluid and battery water (unless you have the non-refillable type). Most people also remember to check the air-pressure in their tyres from time to time, but whenever you refuel it’s also a good time to inspect the treads for uneven wear – this and any leaks you might notice need to be reported to your service agent a.s.a.p.
Don’t let your car idle for long periods of time: besides wasting fuel, it’s possible that the oil pressure won’t be strong enough for oil to get everywhere in the engine that it would normally be getting to, and where there isn’t sufficient lubrication there’ll be increased wear. Excessive idling can also result in dirty engines/oil which is damaging. And keep the revs down, accelerating slowly during the first 15 minutes or so after starting up, until the engine is warm and the lubricants are as and where they should be.
Careful driving can also extend the life of your car’s tyres. Naturally wheelspin should be avoided. Both quick acceleration and sharp braking shorten the lifespan of a tyre. Of course, both under- or over-inflation are a no-no, and just as you try to avoid riding over potholes, you should also endeavour not to rub up against pavements or drive over curbs.
You should wax your car once a year at least. Sure regular washing is good, but it isn’t enough in the protection of the bodywork. Nicks and scratches to the paint should be touched up before rust can develop. And a similar thing applies to the inside of the car: sometimes a good vacuum is insufficient; the seats of your car needs to be properly cleaned occasionally at least, and leather needs to be treated every few years so as not to dry out and crack.
Much has been said and done about electric-powered cars being the way of the future, but still we’re held back by the limitations of batteries having to be recharged too frequently and the frustrations involved in developing compact electric motors with the power to rival that of similar-sized combustion engines. In the short- to medium-term we could well be looking more to alternative ways to fuel combustion engines, fuels that are less costly than the petrol and diesel which contribute in no small way to the Earth’s unhealthy pollution levels and which are made from oil that could run out in 50 years or so if existing consumption patterns continue.
While hybrid vehicles involving a combination of petrol and electric engines are certainly better than 100% petrol engines in terms of using less petrol and causing less pollution, they aren’t sufficiently successful to pose a long-term solution. Bio-fuels (ethanol and biodiesel) have proved viable to some degree, but the extent to which large expanses of crops would be required for a level of fuel production high enough to satisfy global demand is probably unattainable.
Perhaps the future lies in propane and/or natural gas which present fossil fuel alternatives to petrol and diesel that result in less pollution and less greenhouse gases. However some scientists believe that the answer to “sustainability mobility” lies in fuel cells powered by hydrogen gas which can be obtained from natural methane gas. In fact, hydrogen can be produced from fossil fuels such as coal, or by way of nuclear power or hydropower, and an attraction of using pure hydrogen is that emits nothing in the way of air pollution.
The annual international showcasing of futuristic motor vehicle design in the USA and Canada has culminated in the victories of Jaguar, Lotus and VW at the 2011 North American Concept Car of the Year Awards in Detroit this month. Jaguar won top honours for both Concept Car of the Year and Most Significant Concept Vehicle of 2011 with its C-X75, Lotus won the award for 2011 Production Preview Vehicle of the Year with its Eterne, and the Volkswagen Bulli was voted the best Concept ‘Truck’ in the competition.
The VW Bulli is a much more compact, more affordable version of the company’s Microbus. A six-seater, the Bulli was built to accommodate electric, petrol and diesel engines, with its many features including a full-length glass roof – no talk of a production model just yet. The 5-litre V8 Lotus Eterne, positioned as “the ultimate four-door sports car” and boasting a top speed of over 300km/hr, was recently approved for production and is expected to sell for around £235 000. Whereas the C-X75 is a beautiful all-wheel-drive hybrid supercar powered by a small four-cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine combined with two electric motors, which Jaguar intends to put into limited production and sell for close to £1-million come 2013.
The Jag’s main competition for the title of Concept Car of the Year came from the Audi Quattro, the Mazda Shinari and Porsche’s 918 RSR Hybrid, with other cars that have people talking loudest or longest following the North American and European motor shows held thus far in 2011 include the Alfa Romeo 4C Concept and the Mini Rocketman Concept.
Many car owners routinely polish away minor scuffs and scratches to the paintwork of our cars, yet few of us adopt the same DIY approach to the inside. It’s amazing how easy it is to rejuvenate or repair some parts of a car interior, with the carpet being a prime example…
Invariably some of the muck that we bring into the car on the soles of our shoes or which we accidentally drop onto the floor can get under or around the mats and into the carpets to the extent that a vacuum won’t suffice in getting things looking good again – particularly in the event of a stain, say, or perhaps worst of all, if there’s carpet hair that is burnt or missing due to somebody dropping a cigarette that’s still alight.
If the carpet is stained you can try soaking the affected part in a shampoo or stronger cleaning agent. If that doesn’t work you’ll need to consider cutting away the affected hair (using a razor blade or a very sharp small pair of scissors) and filling the hole with hair that you can cut from a part of the carpet that nobody usually gets to see, such as under the seats or under the dashboard.
The same sort of hair “transplants” can also be used to remedy any other holes, such as those caused by a burn… After collecting a pile of carpet hair cuttings, ensure that the hole in the carpet is clean by way of trimming and discarding the stained (or burnt) hair around the circumference of the hole while being careful not to cut through the carpet board under the hair. Put a little suitable glue into the hole, generously sprinkle the hair cuttings into and onto it, allow the glue to dry, and then tidy up by way of a “haircut” and vacuum.
Sure, in some cases a damaged carpet is so stained or burnt as to be irreparable. But many seemingly ruined carpets can be made to look nearly as good as new!
Over a quarter of a century since it first rolled off Ford’s production line in Port Elizabeth, the Bantam bakkie remains unique to South Africa. It isn’t made anywhere else in the world, and being locally manufactured means lower purchase prices for Cars for sale and more readily available, more easily-affordable parts for this half-ton pick-up.
Available from just under R102 000 to just over R141 000 (including VAT), the Bantam options include a choice of three engines – 1.3i and 1.6.i petrol and the 1.4 TDCi – with air-conditioning and an audio system standard with three of the four models. Services every 15 000km cost around a grand each…
It’s not going to break any records in the 0-to-100km acceleration stakes. Top speed is way under 200km/hr. But fuel economy and range is good, as is the torque. And it’s a reliable little car… sorry, bakkie. Actually, many buy the Bantam instead of a car in the 110-to-150K price range, particularly given its versatility and especially if you buy a canopy and one or two other accessories such as a roof rack for the surfboards and bike rack for the, er, bikes…
The turbo-charger and fuel injection system of the 1.4T DCi combine to make for 50kW at 4000rpm – read pretty powerful for its size – while still returning good figures when it comes to average fuel consumption. And the top-of the range five-speed manual Bantam 1.6i XLT comes with alloy wheels, colour-coded front bumber, radio/CD, air-con, immobiliser, power steering, central locking, sliding rear window, 14-inch alloy wheels, power mirrors, electric windows – and Accelerometer Pilot Control, which makes for low engine noise.
A car that can keep tabs on the occupant’s health could pave the way for all sorts of possibilities, and Ford’s advances in this area include a car seat developed to monitor the driver’s heartbeat. Unobtrusive sensors in the backrest of the seat can detect the electrical impulses of the heart through most forms of clothing such that data can be analysed by an on-board computer or by medical experts at a remote location, and there are now moves to develop things further to the point of providing the driver with real-time health information that could prevent an accident and save a life in the event of an imminent heart attack.
The news of Ford engineers’ latest achievement in collaboration with RWTH Aachen University in Germany comes just days after an announcement regarding the progress the auto manufacturer has made in the area of cars that can “talk” to each… Using technology such as Wi-Fi or dedicated short-range communications, it’s widely felt that cars which can communicate with each other and the environment will prove particularly useful when visibility is poor or when the driver’s view of the road ahead (or of a car about to shoot a red light) is obscured for whatever reason, and that they are sure to help reduce the incidence of collisions on the road.
At a much more advanced stage of development is Ford’s family of electrified cars. Following the launch of the Transit Connect Electric small commercial van in 2010, the Focus Electric is due to come onto the market in late 2011 and the plans are for five of Ford’s electrified vehicles to be introduced in the USA by 2012 and in Europe by 2013. Among the forthcoming attractions will be the lithium-ion battery and plug-in C-MAX hybrids.
And one of the stand-outs at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit was the Vertrek concept car, which many see as the thinking that Ford wishes to introduce to the SUV market. Stylish design, lots of luggage space and a 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine equipped with Ford’s Auto Start-Stop technology that could prove to be best in its class when it comes to fuel economy.