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Archive for the ‘Car Parts’ Category

Keyless Entry: Convenience or Invitation to Hackers?

December 21st, 2011

Keyless entry

The following thoughts are occasioned by a recent trip to Boston, during which I drove my nephew’s Mazda CX-9. Beautiful car, with all the goodies, including keyless entry and auto-start. My first thought was how hackable that thing was.

Hacking keyless entry to unlock and start cars has become all the rage, even in Africa. A rash of car thefts in Rustenburg, S.A., was caused by thieves using “a universal remote available on the black market that allegedly opens about 50% of the latest cars available on the market.”

The more sophisticated keyless car systems get, the more vulnerabilities they seem to offer. Bad boys can hack your smartphone pretty easily, and Apple’s voice-command Siri can be hacked to start your car with a proxy server. Media players are now a target:

Earlier this year, researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the University of Washington hid a Trojan on a CD, which, once inserted into the stereo, gave them access to the vehicle’s full computer system. And this past summer, researchers at the Black Hat Security Conference demonstrated a proof-of-concept hack in which they hacked into a car’s security system using a text message.

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Five Things You Should Never Say to a Mechanic

November 8th, 2011
Car mechanic

Do you trust your mechanic?

If you own a car, you should know a mechanic.

Sure, car owners can abuse their rides, neglect maintenance and hope things are OK. When cars don’t get the attention they need, though, they have a nasty habit of eventually striking back by draining their owners’ bank accounts. Cars don’t thrive on neglect.

Fluids, brakes, drivetrain components, electronics and engine mechanics are all parts of a precision system that must work in perfect harmony to maintain performance and longevity in a car.

If you wait on maintenance and don’t have an established relationship with a good mechanic when your car starts giving you problems, be careful what you say when bringing your vehicle to a shop you’ve never visited. If you value your money at all, be absolutely sure you don’t say anything like this:

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Honda’s Troubles Multiply with Thailand Floods

October 31st, 2011

Flooded Hondas

Maybe you’ve been watching the photos coming out of Thailand. This one is of Honda’s underwater assembly plant near Bangkok, which is likely to be out of commission for up to 6 months, affecting 3 percent of global output.

And who can forget the pictures from the earthquake/tsunami disaster in March that humbled Honda big-time? Plus the strong yen, which has contributed to Honda’s recent announcement of quarterly profit falling 56 percent. U.S. sales dropped 22.3 percent, and revenue from nearly all regions was down.

The company is really taking it on the chin—and this at a time when U.S. auto sales are predicted to rise. Other companies, like Toyota, have also been affected by the floods, and there are all kinds of supply chain shortages.

We’ve written before about Honda’s 2.5 million recalls and how Consumer Reports dissed the Civic. Now the bad press about the car has forced Honda to move up its efforts to redo the cheapened Civic, to sometime in 2013. By which time, the damage may have multiplied.

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New Winter Driving Tech: Worth It?

October 21st, 2011

Frozen car

For the first 10 or so years of my winter driving career, my cars were equipped with nothing more than a slow-working heater and, maybe, a rear defroster.

That made for some cold driving experiences and often required some extra time outside scraping the windows clear before hunkering down in the driver’s seat wearing a down coat and puffy gloves. (It’s amazing what a 10-degree snowy night will do to a car!)

In the years since, I’ve moved up in the world to the point where I now have a garage, which I believe is the most essential piece of the winter driving puzzle. Incredible inventions, those garages. I also discovered heated seats, which back in the day I would have said I would never need. Now I can never not have them.

I was reminded of all this while reading a piece on MSN called “5 Techie Features for Winter Driving.” Are these overkill, pointless gadgets or the next things we won’t be able to live without? Read on and leave your opinion!

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Cubans Can Now Buy and Sell Post-Revolution Cars

October 6th, 2011

Cuban cars

We’ve all seen the photos of crumbling buildings, bad streets and 1950s cars that have been made, somehow, to survive.

Like all these old cars, the economy in Cuba has been crumbling and disintegrating over the years, yet manages to hang on. Now, as of October 1, a new law permits buying and selling of post-1959 cars by the general public, which likely encourage many of the owners of pre-1959 cars to trade them in on newer ones. There are also agricultural and small business reforms.

The owners of old cars may or may not benefit in terms of resales. But the economy surely will—and it’s about time.

This move finally opens a market closed for 50 years to U.S. auto companies and parts suppliers (to repair the old cars). It permits trading of the old cars, some of which are classics, some of which will come to the U.S. We’ll show you a few more pix after the break.

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Finally, a Jeep Wrangler Pickup—in Kit Form

July 22nd, 2011

Jeep Wrangler JK-8

The Mopar Division of Chrysler has come up with a kit called the JK-8 that converts the four-door Wrangler Unlimited into a pickup. Jeep owners have been seeking a pickup model for a long time.

After all, who uses the back seat of a Jeep for anything but hauling dogs, jerry cans and trash?

Jeep finally got the message that such a kit could help fill the small-pickup hole in the market, with off-road capability to boot. Mopar’s kit ($5,499) transforms your Wrangler Unlimited (base price, $25,545) into a very cool machine for transporting Honda generators, La-Z-Boy recliners, beer kegs and other necessaries.

The problem is you’re looking at $32,000 big bucks, plus installation, which can be done by a “motivated do-it-yourselfer” or, better, by a Jeep dealer. “The kit consists of new body panels that make up the pickup bed, a new bulkhead behind the front seats, new B-pillars, roll bar extensions, and a removable fiberglass roof.” Welding and painting are required.

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Should’ve Seen This Coming: Digital Steering Wheel On the Way?

June 13th, 2011

Touchscreen steering wheelNote to inventors of the world: Not everything needs to go digital.

Yes, we appreciate digital music players instead of the old-school Walkmans. Digital television signals are a nice replacement for analog. Replacing in-car audio controls with touch-screen digital interfaces is less necessary, but I suppose I can be convinced.

I’m feeling pretty good, though, about current steering wheel technology. Surely no one would think the humble yet effective steering wheel should go digital, right?

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Car Accessories, Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Parts, Car Safety, General Chat

Green Update–>2012 Prius V to Arrive This Fall

May 17th, 2011

Prius V profile

Despite battery shortages, the new stretched Prius will be in showrooms this fall, as scheduled. The new car does not have third-row seating, though the European Prius Plus will as it gains space by using lithium-ion batteries, plus saving weight.

The big problem with this car—er, wagon, as the EPA will classify it—is that it’s still only a five-passenger car, like the present Prius though with better legroom and more cargo space.

So why isn’t the U.S. getting the seven-seat model? With 25,000 orders for the new cars already in hand, Toyota probably feels it made a good decision. But many buyers would kill for the third-row seating. See, for example, the comments (scroll down) on this story.

As a guess, it’s probably because Toyota can’t produce enough lithium-ion batteries (the Prius has used nickel-metal-hydride batteries since 1997) to fulfill U.S. market needs. And the appeal of much greater (by 50 percent) cargo space over the present car will suck in more than a few buyers.

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Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Parts, Cars Coming Soon, Foreign Cars, General Chat, Hybrid Cars

Goodbye Spark Plugs, Hello Laser Ignition!

April 27th, 2011

Spark plug

Almost two years ago we reported that Ford was working to develop a laser ignition system to replace traditional spark plugs.

At the time, we said that Ford would have the technology ready within two years, but the last we heard about it was in an August 2010 story that said laser ignition would show up in Ford vehicles “within the next few years.”

Perhaps Ford’s development process has been more resource-consuming than originally thought. Whatever the reason for the delay, Ford’s big moment of innovation is about to be overshadowed by a group in Japan, which will present its laser ignition research at a conference next month in Baltimore.

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April Fool’s Jokes from VW, Chrysler and Honda

April 1st, 2011

Don't touch that horn button!

You probably thought April Fool’s jokes were limited to kids and other adolescents. Turns out the auto companies have gotten in on the act. No, they aren’t doing dumb stuff like gluing coins to floormats or what one kid reported:

Get a balloon and put it on the tailpipe of a truck, ferrari, etc. (Make sure the car isn’t already on!) Then get in it and have your parents start it up and it will pop. It will sound like the tire popped.

The carmakers are playing for bigger stakes. Volkswagen has wired some of its new Jetta models so that if you blow the horn, the engine may shut off. A recall of some 71,000 cars is in progress and will fix your car so that next time the horn causes the engine to stall, a voice calls out, “April Fool!”

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