By Chuck Mai, AAA
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) undertook testing to answer a common motorist question: Is it more fuel efficient to drive with the windows up and the air-conditioning on or with the windows down and the AC off?
The answer is … well, it depends. Variable factors include vehicle speed, ambient temperature, and AC duty cycle (what setting is used). In general:
• The power requirement of AC is relatively constant representing roughly a six to seven percent reduction in fuel economy at 60 mph.
• Driving with the windows down results in more aerodynamic drag than with the windows up. Drag increases exponentially with speed -– it takes approximately five times the power to propel a vehicle at 80 mph as it does as 40 mph.
This means that every vehicle design has a “crossover” speed at which using AC with the windows up is more efficient than driving with the windows down and AC off.
To answer the question, ORNL performed on-road and dynamometer testing of a 2009 Ford Explorer and Toyota Corolla. The ambient lab temperature was set to 95 degrees, the air conditioning set to medium (50 percent duty cycle), and the vehicles were tested between speeds of 40 mph and 80 mph.
In general, there is no fuel economy penalty from using the AC at highway speeds compared with having the windows rolled down and the AC off.
At a medium AC setting, the crossover point for each vehicle was nominally around 60 mph. If the AC is set to run more than the tested 50 percent duty cycle, the crossover speed would also be higher.
Overall, fuel consumption at highway speeds with medium AC is about six to seven percent more than driving with the windows up and AC off. However, in hot weather that certainly is not a comfortable alternative.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Leaving on vacation? Good for you – have fun! But if you’re like me, the doubts start creeping in just after leaving home, just after I have passed that imaginary point of no return, when going back to the house is no longer a viable option.
Did I lock the front door? Did we turn off the coffee-maker? Is the dog inside or outside?
You think somebody will break in while we’re gone? Well, I can’t help you with the first three questions but here are a few tips to help you on number four.
Close and lock all house and garage windows and doors. Use slide locks on sliding glass doors.
Leave blinds and curtains in their normal position so that your house doesn’t have a closed-down, unlived-in look.
Resist the urge to discuss your trip with acquaintances or on social media sites.
Have a friend pick-up your mail or have the post office stop it. Same with newspapers.
Have a trusted friend or neighbor check on your house occasionally and tell them who to contact in case of emergency and what your contact info will be while you’re gone.
Set lights and radios on automatic on/off timers.
If you’ll be away for an extended period, arrange to have your lawn mowed.
Never leave keys under doormats, in flowerpots or in any of the usual “hiding places.”
Make sure your homeowner insurance policy is up-to-date.
Here’s a new one: burglars lately have been discovered locating potential targets at the airport by reading address information on luggage tags. If possible, use your business address or purchase tag covers to protect personal information.
Now, turn off the oven and the iron and get out there. Your vacation’s waiting.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
We count on our cars to get us where we need to go, but can our cars count on us to return the favor? Here’s a list of five common maintenance mistakes we make, compiled by AAA’s Auto Repair experts.
When you’re sick, you don’t ask a stranger to diagnose you or recommend treatment options, and the same is true for your car. Yet, we often hear of people who use online self-help forums in an effort to avoid paying a diagnostic fee and save money. However, these forums frequently lead to motorists buying parts based on the recommendations of strangers, resulting in unnecessary repairs that exceed the cost of the diagnostic fee they were trying to avoid in the first place.
Not establishing a repair shop relationship
Get to know an auto repair facility and service advisor who knows you and your vehicle. By establishing this relationship, you’ll have someone to turn to for routine maintenance or emergency repairs and you’ll know they have your best interests in mind. AAA visits, evaluates and approves auto repair shops in Oklahoma. This information is available to members and non-members alike, free, at AAA.com.
When you hear an unusual noise coming from under your hood, don’t turn up your radio to drown it out. Instead, give your trusted technician a call and schedule a service appointment as soon as possible. Squeaking, grinding or thumping could indicate a serious brake, engine or suspension malfunction. Ignore an abnormal noise for too long and you could end up seeing an abnormal repair bill.
Not addressing leaks
From brake fluid to coolant, consumers often overlook liquids leaking from their rides. Motorists may dismiss an oil leak by topping off low fluid, for example. However, leaking oil can drip onto suspension components and melt rubber on contact, which ultimately can lead to costly suspension repairs. If there’s a puddle in your parking spot, take the time to figure out what’s leaking.
Spending money without knowing why
Have you ever paid for a vehicle “repair,” but didn’t know why? Consumers sometimes spend money on maintenance or repairs without understanding what they paid for and why they needed it, especially if they don’t feel a difference in the way their vehicle performs after the work has been completed. Don’t be shy – take time to ask questions about the services being performed and the money you’re investing in your vehicle.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Thinking about taking a family vacation this summer? Choosing and planning can be half the fun.
There are many short, fun, exciting, family-oriented and inexpensive vacation destinations within Oklahoma – and AAA Oklahoma is the first to point them out in AAA’s Oklahoma TourBook travel guide – but sometimes families want options. Planning a trip the whole family will enjoy is easier when you let AAA’s travel professionals help point the way with expert recommendations.
To select their top picks for key family travel destinations, AAA editors became kids again. With an eye toward finding options for kids from tots to teens, they visited and played at countless attractions touted as kid-friendly — many designated as AAA GEMs, offering a Great Experience for Members — along with notable restaurants and events. This family-friendly content is available in AAA’s popular digital and printed travel guides for select destinations.
The key to a successful family vacation is planning activities that are fun and exciting for every member of your group, recognizing that what’s exciting to a 6-year-old can differ from what appeals to teens. Recommendations from AAA’s travel editors help make these distinctions, ensuring easier travel planning and memorable vacation experiences.
AAA’s Top Picks for Kids are currently available for 19 U.S. cities coast to coast, including New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Selections are separated into categories that include options for kids under 13, teens, and kids of all ages.
AAA editors’ Top Picks for Kids can be found in the AAA.com Travel Guides, the downloadable AAA eTourBook guides available at AAA.com/ebooks and the printed AAA TourBook guides available to members free at full-service AAA Oklahoma offices.
FOR EXAMPLE: AAA Editors’ Top Picks for Kids – MIAMI
Miami Seaquarium: At this AAA GEM attraction, kids enjoy the antics of Salty the sea lion, Flipper the dolphin and Lolita the killer whale. Between-show activities include saltwater exhibits with sea turtles and reef fish. There’s even a pirate ship playground with water guns and a spiral slide.
Monkey Jungle: What could be more fun than a whole park filled with monkeys? A fenced-in path through this subtropical forest keeps humans and monkeys safely separate while allowing visitors to get really close to these wonderful animals.
Duck Tours South Beach: If you want to tour South Beach and get a taste of its rich Art Deco legacy without hearing choruses of “I’m bored,” hop on an amphibious vehicle. The entertaining and educational 90-minute excursion concludes with a big splash into Biscayne Bay.
La Carreta Restaurant: Enjoy a delicious introduction to home-style Cuban cuisine, a big part of the Miami experience, at this local institution on Little Havana’s Calle Ocho (8th Street). Sample charbroiled meats and chicken-and-rice dishes, and snap a family photo with the giant metal chicken outside.
Beaches: You’re in Florida after all. Miami Beach is the obvious choice, particularly if you are staying there. There is also nearby Key Biscayne with its two public beaches: Crandon Park – a 2-mile stretch of sand noted for its calm waters and rental cabanas – and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, with its postcard-worthy historic lighthouse.
Everglades National Park: Drive down to South Florida’s wilderness jewel, a AAA GEM attraction. This endangered “River of Grass” is a haven for birds as well as alligators, snakes, turtles and manatees. Drive the 38 miles from the entrance to the Flamingo Visitor Center and enjoy the views from your car. Trailheads radiate out from the road at several spots, inviting short hikes. A thrilling high-speed way to explore the park is by airboat ride, offered at Everglades Alligator Farm and Everglades Safari Park.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
We’ve all heard about the growing list of previously-free things for which some airlines now charge, such as legroom, luggage, snacks, blankets, etc. Who knew all those frills and extras cost so much? And although I have heard rumors that at least one airline is thinking about charging more for an actual seat, don’t believe it. It’s more likely they’ll give you a discount for agreeing to stand all the way from here to Timbuktu.
Now, it seems hotels have taken a page out of the airlines’ playbook.
Extra fees at hotels generated an estimated $1.95 billion in 2012, a record, according to the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.
Fees for things like Wi-Fi, room safes and early check-in. And then there are the so-called resort fees for items such as use of the fitness center, newspapers and “free” coffee in your room.
The problem is, most of the time, travelers didn’t find out about these hidden fees until they checked in. No fair, said the Federal Trade Commission. Last fall the agency sent letters to 22 major hotel chains telling them to cut it out.
So, what may very well happen is hotels will raise their room rates to cover these kinds of things. But at least travelers will be able to compare apples to apples when shopping for accommodations.
In the meantime, choose hotels that incorporate amenities into their room rates. For example, Courtyard by Marriott and Hampton Hotels include Wi-Fi and fitness center usage in their standard prices. Hampton offers a free hot breakfast.
Consider using the hotel’s business center computers. Wi-Fi is often free.
Finally, tie a caution flag onto your room’s mini-bar handle. Some unscrupulous hoteliers charge restocking fees even if you just open the mini-bar’s door or move things around in there.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
With more than 125 million vehicles on the roadway and Americans relying on their cars for nearly every part of their life, one of the most stressful things a motorist can encounter is a sudden breakdown. In 2012, AAA received more than 28 million roadside assistance calls. While 58 percent of those breakdowns could be resolved at the roadside by AAA technicians, nearly 12 million vehicles needed to be towed to a local repair shop for further help.
What to Do When Your Vehicle Breaks Down on a Roadway
If the car is clearly experiencing a problem but can still be driven a short distance, drive to a safe location such as a parking lot. If the vehicle stops running but still has coasting momentum, guide it to the far right shoulder as far off the road as possible while remaining on level ground. Turn on the emergency flashers to alert other motorists.
If the car cannot get completely off the roadway, switch on the safety/emergency flashers and consider leaving the vehicle and moving to a safer location. Occupants should not remain in a vehicle if there is a possibility it may be struck by other traffic. For the same reason, it is generally not a good idea to attempt to push a disabled car off the road.
Drivers and passengers should exit a broken down car on the side away from traffic if at all possible. Use extreme caution and watch for oncoming vehicles, especially at night or in bad weather when visibility is limited. While waiting for help, never stand directly behind or in front of the disabled vehicle.
In addition to turning on a vehicle’s emergency flashers, drivers can signal other motorists that they have a problem by raising the car hood, tying a brightly colored handkerchief or scarf to the antenna or door handle, or setting out flares, warning triangles or emergency beacons. These signals can help other drivers recognize there is a problem and hopefully prompt them to slow down, move over to allow more room and proceed with caution as they pass.
Once the driver and passengers are in a safe location, request assistance from a roadside assistance provider. Make note of surroundings, landmarks, buildings or road signs to help relay your location. This is why as you are traveling Interstates, always keep track of where you are by paying attention to mile marker numbers.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Here in Oklahoma, we love our oil. So do our cars – especially fresh, clean oil. But knowing when to change your oil can be slippery business.
To get an idea, consult your owner’s manual, probably one of the least-read books ever printed. (Hint: it’s in your glove compartment.) The OM will tell you what’s best for your particular model vehicle. Bear in mind, those recommendations are for normal driving conditions. If you regularly drive in stop-and-go traffic, at prolonged higher speeds, in extreme temperatures or in dusty or muddy conditions, you may need to change your oil more frequently.
The motor oil lubricates the moving parts in your vehicle. Without it, these parts would rub together and eventually melt due to the friction. The oil also helps clean off the buildup that commonly occurs in a combustion engine and suspends contaminates and residue.
Oil viscosity is the extent to which oil resists the tendency to flow at different temperature ranges. This varies from vehicle to vehicle, so it’s important to use the correct oil viscosity to operate your engine at optimum efficiency.
Premium conventional motor oil is the industry standard with the typical recommendation for oil changes ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 miles.
Synthetic blended oils are designed for vehicles driven in extreme conditions because it holds its viscosity better. While used most often in high-tech engines, synthetic oil can actually be used in any vehicle. It provides superior protection and contains additives that prevent the buildup of the sludge that accumulates after lots of severe driving.
Without a doubt, changing your oil is the single most important thing you can do for your engine.
John Saucier, of Midwest City, was a legend at the Ponca City Grand Prix, among the best to ever compete there in its more than 25 years.
Bill Stengle, of Enid, didn’t run at Ponca, but he did make build and drive midget racers, and he enjoyed motorcycles. He raised a son, however, who DID race at Ponca City.
I saw John race many times while growing up in Ponca. But it wasn’t until years later, when I returned to The Oklahoman, that we became friends, all because of one column I wrote recalling the PC Grand Prix. He thanked me “for the memories” and gave me an update on some of the drivers I had mentioned.
I never met Bill, but I saw his son, Jim, race a few times in Ponca City. Jim and I became close friends while I was living in Enid. We met through my association with others in the Sports Car Club of America and we both were members of the Enid A.M. Ambucs.
Jim was the only guy I ever knew who had a Corvette … in his attic. Disassembled, of course. I wouldn’t have believed it if his wife, Dixie, hadn’t gotten him to show me when my wife, Becky, and I visited them one night. Dang if it wasn’t true.
John died Jan. 25 at age 74, I’m sad to say. Scott Munn of The Oklahoman noted that John won 28 SCCA championships and was a member of the organization for 55 years. Scott said John was the only person to race in each of the 26 Ponca City Grand Prix events.
Jim’s dad, Bill, died Jan. 11 at age 95. His obituary included points about his innovative, mechanical abilities, such as this: “For extra income, he began drilling water wells with a rig he built himself.” That takes some skill, for sure.
Both men had served in the military, both men had loving families, both men were well respected and both were extremely talented.
I’m proud to say I knew John and I know Bill’s family. All because of shared interested in racing that has circled the track for many years.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
As car-makers add more and more electronic distractions to new cars (giving traffic safety folks fits), they are also, thankfully, making cars safer.
Cameras and Sensors
John Paul, AAA’s Car Doctor, reports Subaru has introduced something they call the EyeSight system that uses a 3-D camera mounted at the top of the windshield, giving drivers a panoramic view of the road.
Honda has a device that gives the driver a view of the right side blind spot of the vehicle when the right turn signal is activated.
Mercedes-Benz has a new system called Collision Prevention Assist, available on M-Class SUVs, that uses radar sensors which monitor the distance from the SUV to a vehicle in front of it as well as to stationary roadway objects. If CPA detects an imminent collision, it sounds a warning and flashes a light.
Volvo has taken this idea a step further by autonomously hitting the brakes if it detects a low-speed crash is about to occur.
And don’t think it’s just the luxury cars offering these exciting new technologies. The latest Chevy Malibu has a forward collision alert and lane departure warning system.
About a quarter of a million people fall asleep at the wheel every day in the U.S. Good thing car-makers have systems in development that can watch us. Most use in-car cameras that keep track of what your eye lids are doing as well as absence of steering wheel movements. If they note something wrong, it sounds an alarm, vibrates the seat or tugs on the seat belt to alert the driver.
Here’s an idea from the past – from the 1948 Tucker Torpedo to be exact: headlights that move in the direction the car is turning. A growing number of vehicles have what they’re calling adaptive headlights. Good for illuminating dark curves.
Some car-makers are adding light amplification and infrared cameras that not only allow drivers to see more at night, they also identify and warn drivers of pedestrians and critters by the side of the road.
One of the most exciting new technologies is vehicle-to-vehicle communication. The idea that cars can talk to each other, while monitoring the roadway and overall driving environment, will make driving safer and less stressful. Car doc John Paul says these systems could warn drivers of slow-moving traffic, roadwork, traffic lights, school zones and weather conditions.
And by now, you’ve probably heard about Google’s driver-less cars that have received the go-ahead in several states. But wait – maybe a Massachusetts company is on the right track … or maybe the right altitude. They have created a flying car.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Statistics show that car thieves prefer older vehicles. Surprised?
People tend to think that older cars are of little interest to those sneaky ol’ car thieves because of their low retail value. But there are two reasons why older vehicles are so often on the bad guys’ hit parade: 1) Most vehicles are stolen for their parts, not for the vehicle itself, and used auto parts that many vehicles can use are in big demand, especially now that so many of us are keeping our cars longer; 2) older cars typically aren’t equipped with the sophisticated locks and security systems of newer models.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the top ten stolen vehicles in Oklahoma are:
1) 1994 Chevy pickup (full size)
2) 2006 Ford pickup (full size)
3) 1996 Honda Accord
4) 2001 Dodge pickup (full size)
5) 2000 Honda Civic
6) 1994 GMC pickup (full size)
7) 2002 Ford Explorer
8) 1998 Chevy pickup (small size)
9) 1995 Ford Mustang
10) 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee
So, you might want to consider keeping comprehensive insurance coverage (covers theft) on that 1988 Dodge Horizon you’re driving. You’ll at least have some payout if your car is stolen, and the coverage isn’t likely to alter your insurance rates dramatically.