Every week Ask AutoGuide provides iron-clad vehicle-shopping advice to distressed, confused or otherwise bewildered consumers. Whether they’re in the market for a family-friendly crossover or something that’s good in winter weather, the Oracles of all things automotive have been there to lend some helping hands. But this week they’re taking a slightly different approach.
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Front-wheel drive dominates today’s automotive landscape, powering everything from subcompact hatchbacks to full-size SUVs. However, it wasn’t always this way. Back in the day rear-wheel drive was king, but over the last 30-odd years carmakers have made a dramatic shift from back to front. Why the flip-flop? No, they weren’t impersonating John Kerry; in reality, they didn’t have a choice.
Last week we explained the basics of motor oil, from viscosity to additives and everything in between. Now it’s time to tackle a much more contentious issue: synthetic versus conventional. Which lubricant should you use in your vehicle? Is the extra protection afforded by man-made oil worth the added expense?
It’s a cliché analogy, but oil really is the lifeblood of a vehicle’s powertrain. Without its friction-cutting properties engines would literally grind to a halt, failing in spectacular fashion. Connecting rods would punch holes in blocks, camshafts would pulverize themselves and bearing inserts would spin like the blades of a jet turbine.
What’s old is new again. It seems like every clever idea or radical invention has already been thought of, existing in government patent archives or a 15th century sketch from Leonardo da Vinci. Retro design is a prime automotive example of this, but it’s not the only one. Ethanol is a promising transportation fuel of the future, just as it was a century ago.
Top 10 Automotive Stories of 2012
With a heavy heart the staff of AutoGuide.com say goodbye to 2012, along with its triumphs and tragedies. We await the New Year with open arms, and welcome its promise of a better world.
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2012 was a year of the dragon, and it proved to be the stuff of legend, but thankfully it wasn’t a fire-breather. The Mayans were flat-out wrong; their doomsday prophecy was about as accurate as Bernie Madoff’s promise of a sound investment opportunity.
Still, the year brought other significant stories. Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland discovered a subatomic particle consistent with the legendary Higgs boson. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, passed away, and in a brutal political battle Barack Obama won a second term as president of the United States.
Of course the automotive industry made its share of headlines throughout the year. Here’s a rundown of the Top 10 stories from the past 12 months.
Oil companies and gas-station chains love to boast about their fuels, how they burn the cleanest or deliver the most miles per gallon. But can these claims ever be validated? How is the average consumer supposed to figure out what’s best for their vehicle? At least one kind of fuel cuts through the marketing malarkey. Top Tier gasoline is engineered to a higher standard.
Anyone that’s ever topped off their tank or filled up a jerry can knows gasoline comes in different grades, from regular unleaded to pricey premium. Each “flavor” has a number that corresponds to its octane level, but what does this mean? What is octane and what role does it play? AutoGuide reached out to experts in the fuels field for answers.
When it’s time to top-off the tank, drivers are confronted with a dizzying variety of choices at the pump. There’s premium gasoline, mid-grade, regular and – depending on where you live – some even offer ultra-high octane, with a rating of 94 or above.
With oil passing the $100/barrel mark on Thursday, analysts are warning that a gallon of gasoline could soon cost as much as $5 this summer.
“If this thing escalates and there’s a good chance that there’d be a shift in supplies, $5 gas isn’t out of the question,” said Darin Newsom, an analyst at energy firm DTN told USA Today.
With major oil companies pulling out of Libya, the 15th largest crude oil exporter in the world, oil futures contracts are trading at levels not seen since October of 2008. While countries like Saudi Arabia could theoretically pick up the slack, the disruptions will still cause a spike in prices. Other factors like increased demand as the weather warms up, and the constantly increasing demand from China, could see average gas prices continue to rise.
[Source: USA Today]
With the epic Gulf spill, courtesy of BP, oil has been thrust into the spotlight – and frankly, it’s been getting a bad rap. Let’s not forget about all the great things oil does for us – although it’s pretty hard while you’re watching birds and baby dolphins wash up on the beaches.
The Daily Green has broken down what a barrel of oil that holds 44 gallons of crude turns into, and illustrated what happens to it. Basically, you get 18.56 gallons of gasoline, 10.31 gallons of diesel and 4.07 gallons of jet fuel. The other seven gallons are allocated to the “Other Products” category – but what these mystery products?
For starters, petroleum is used to make plastics. But a few things you may not have been aware of include antifreeze, anesthetics, synthetic rubber and glycerin. To keep food fresh as well as make medicines, you’ll find petroleum-based ingredients listed on the label. You’ll even find it in house and car paint and laundry detergent. Another surprising fact for you: according to Energy Information Administration, making the above products consumes more than 1 million barrels of oil per day.
Yes, we are very dependent on oil, although there are more electric and hybrid vehicles on the road. What’s clear is that it’s going to be awhile before we can get this monkey off our backs. Do you think the oil spill will force companies and governments to find crude oil alternatives or will things carry on as before?
[Source: Ride Lust]