Car Maintenance And The Theory Test – Part One

Knowing where to find certain features on a vehicle, and how to maintain them, has become part-and-parcel of the driving theory test and practical driving exam. It is therefore essential that you know your stuff.

Being able to know the difference between your car battery and your car bonnet will prove significant when it comes to answering test questions and taking your practical driving exam.

In your theory test you may be asked a question regarding a vehicle’s battery. Would you know what to do if the battery was flat in order to get the car started again?

Before you begin your practical driving exam the instructor will lift the car bonnet and randomly select two features that you will need to identify. Your instructor could ask you how to check the oil level, so knowledge of vehicle maintenance is certainly worth having.

Basic Vehicle Maintenance

Part one of this series covers basic vehicle maintenance. Any number of questions could emerge in your theory test relating to vehicle maintenance, but here’s a list of the most common themes covered in the exam regarding vehicle maintenance:

· Lights

· Brakes

· Steering

· Exhaust systems

· Seat belts

· Demisters

· Wipers Washers

What You Need To Know

· How all lights and indicators function

· How your windscreen wipers and windows operate

· How to monitor exhaust emissions

· Know how to check seats, seatbelts and head restraints

Further to the items above, you also need to familiarise yourself with all the warning displays on your vehicle instrument panel. It’s not uncommon to encounter questions on the theory test related to a vehicle’s dashboard panel.

When starting a car, if there is a problem with the vehicle, your instrument panel will indicate the source of the problem. It could be a low oil level for example, so as part of your theory test and practical driving exam you would need to know how to add oil to a vehicle.

Tyres are also another common theme when it comes to vehicle maintenance. Knowing your tyre pressures and being able to identify when a tyre is so worn that it needs changing, could be the difference in passing your theory test and practical driving exam.

For instance, do you know what the legal tread limit is for a tyre used on a car being driven on the road? Well, now is the time to find out…

You will also need to know what impact damaged tyres could have on the rest of a vehicle. For example, under-inflated or over-inflated tyres will affect steering performance and braking capabilities.

That concludes part one of this series… Watch this space for part two!!!

Drift Car on a Budget – Part 1, Choosing Your Car

So you’re interested in drifting and want to start competing. Well before you can begin to compete you need to have a car that can compete.

This can be a problem. If you where anything like me when I started out, you don’t have the cash to build a Formula D level slide machine. So what do you do? Well, do what I did; build a drift car on a budget!

The first step is finding a good platform to start with. This can be a challenge with all the different cars that are used in the drifting world. But I have a few solid rules that you can follow that will help make your decision a lot easier.

First, you will want something driftable. By saying driftable, I’m talking about how it needs to have the essential characteristics of a drift car. You will NEED to find a car that has rear wheel drive (RWD), and a manual transmission. Don’t go out and find something with a automatic transmission or for some reason front wheel drive (FWD) and say “I can just do a tranny swap” or “I can do a RWD conversion”. DON’T! This is NOT WORTH THE EFFORT, PERIOD! The purpose is to build a drift car for as cheap as possible and as quick as possible so that you can be on the track drifting as soon as possible.

Second, you want it to be cheap. I set a budget of $1000. I know plenty of people that found a car for less but they got lucky. I set my budget of $1000 for a running driving car that I could build into something that would be competitive. Along with the price of the car being cheap, you want parts to be cheap. You want a vehicle that has a strong aftermarket following and an abundance of spare parts that are easy to find and cheap.

And third, you will want a vehicle you aren’t in love with. In the world of drifting, you will make mistakes, you will have accidents, and you will crash. Therefore you want something that you will be willing to take to the edge and past in order to improve your skills. Too many times I’ve seen people that are afraid to push themselves and there car because they’re afraid of crashing. To be able to learn and improve you can’t be thinking about crashing, you need to be thinking about how you can better your technique. You can’t be afraid of crashing, it’s inevitable so deal with it.

I chose a 1992 Nissan 240sx for several reasons. They’re cheap, they have a huge aftermarket following, parts from other Nissans are bolt-on upgrades, and the 2.4L DOHC (KA24DE) engine is tough and loaded with torque.

Cars I would recommend are the Nissan 240sx S13 and S14, Mazda Miata MX-5 (any year), Toyota Supra (I recommend the older body style of the early 90s), Mazda Rx7, and the Toyota Cressida. Or if your into domestics you can go with the Ford Mustang, or any other cheap abundant RWD car.

Up next “Drift Car On A Budget: Part 2, The Essential Mods”.

First Automobile Works (FAW) – China’s Aggressive Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Manufacturer – Part 1

China FAW Group Corporation is currently billed as the number one automobile maker in China, and is also one of the oldest in the industry, dating back to 1953. FAW Group, or more commonly know as simply FAW, has a wide-ranging base of products, from passenger cars, mini (utility) vehicles, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks, to commercial trucks, buses and coaches.

FAW also makes components and parts such as wheel rims, truck axles, engine parts and pumps. In recent years, FAW also entered several joint ventures with Toyota and other manufacturers in other countries such as Russia. In fact, its joint venture with Toyota became the reason for the existence of the Toyota Prius. Toyota also produced the Vios and Corolla models through a partnership with FAW’s Tianjin unit. Aside from that, FAW also worked with Volkswagen AG and came up with a high-tech production facility that produces large numbers of cars every year. The company has now grown to become the China FAW Group Corporation from its humble beginnings as a truck maker, and from 1953 up to the present, it has remained at the forefront of China’s car industry. Until now, it maintains its truck market but has expanded and is offering high-quality cars to other markets as well.

Another market that First Automobile Works is currently tapping is the clean car market. The industry has yet to grow, but First Automobile Works is working hard to achieve its goals in the clean car segment. Aside from its continuous efforts in improving sales and production of its current market offerings, the company is also paying attention to the production and development of hybrid cars.

FAW and Toyota Collaboration

One of the most popular and significant advancements in the clean car industry is the Toyota Prius, a heavily marketed hybrid car produced by Toyota in collaboration with FAW. Produced a few years back, the Prius was released in China after Toyota and FAW entered a 50-50 partnership venture. The Prius is a 1.5L vehicle and consumes 40.5% less fuel than the 1.6L gasoline vehicle Toyota Corolla. Recently Toyota announced that its latest generation Toyota Prius will start selling in China in 2010. Despite the Prius’ relatively high price tag (up to 280,000 yuan or US$41,000,) Toyota has reason to be optimistic with expected consumer incentives by China’s central government to spur sales of clean cars including electric and hybrids. Source: gasgoo.com.

China’s automobile industry is very ripe for the introduction of hybrid cars. With the Chinese government wholly supportive and with the subsidies being offered to taxi fleets as well as tax benefits offered to consumers who patronize clean cars, car manufacturers such as FAW and Toyota recognize that there is no better time to introduce hybrid cars to the Chinese market than now. These efforts to further the development of clean cars aim to reduce pollution and relieve oil shortage problems being experienced not just in China but all over the world. Nonetheless, the Toyota and FAW partnership is also planning to release about 400,000 compact, medium, and high-end buses and sedans by the year 2010 to the Chinese market.

More hybrid cars are being planned for release under FAW brand. In fact, the entire FAW Group is expected to release around 1,600 hybrid cars before the year 2012 ends. During the same timeframe, the company is hoping to produce 800 hybrid buses. Most of the hybrid cars are planned to have hybrid engine technologies sourced from Japan’s top car makers. Its hybrid vehicle products produced together with Toyota are expected to hit the global market since Toyota aims to distribute said products globally. These upcoming clean cars will be produced at a special hybrid car facility. FAW has also shown its determination to see the said project through to the end by increasing its investments. There is surely a lot to wait for from FAW.

We’ll look at FAW’s work in hybrid buses in Part 2.

Tips to Finding A Pre-Owned Hybrid Car – Part 1

It’s no secret that hybrid vehicles cost more than their gas-only counterparts. Unfortunately, the price of a shiny new eco-friendly, fuel saving green machine is more than many can afford. Combine that expense with the fact that gas prices are fast approaching $4 per gallon, and you’ve got a lot of people searching for used hybrid cars.

The good news is a high quality, pre-owned hybrid car can still be found if you know where to look. This series of articles will review several resources that will get you off on the right foot. Some are fairly obvious, but often overlooked (i.e. local classifieds, local car dealer websites). Others you might never have considered (i.e. Craigslist.org). If you have a specific pre-owned hybrid auto in mind, sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to locate it.

Hello eBay!

One of my favorite places to search for used hybrid cars is on eBay Motors. In fact, I’ve purchased my last 4 vehicles there, including my current Highlander. If you’ve never tried it, the following link will take you to the starting page for finding a used hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle on eBay Motors.

You have to be careful when you shop for any used car, and that really holds true online and on eBay, where in most cases you won’t have an opportunity to see or drive the car your bidding on. There will be times when you will find a car on this online auction site, and the price will seem almost too good to be true. In most cases, there are reasons why some used cars are thousands below similar ones. Often, these are cars with salvage titles, where the extent of prior damage reached a point that a clean/clear title could no longer be issued.

As an example, I just viewed a 2007 Prius with under 10,000 miles, GPS, navigation, BluTooth, Xenon lights, a back up camera – and an incredible Buy It Now price of only $18,000. Guess what? Yep, a salvage title. There are lots of great cars on eBay Motors…but you have to read descriptions carefully and always contact the seller before bidding if you have any questions.

When I search for hybrid cars on eBay, I try to include the negative keyword “salvage” to make sure it is not listed in the title or description of the vehicle. This can sometimes have the opposite effect, for example if the seller writes, “this vehicle has a clean title…not a salvage title.”. For the most part though, it simply removes the hybrid cars that have received significant damage in an accident. Even though these cars may have been fully repaired, I prefer to buy mine with a clean title.