7 Car Designer Modern Times

Every car is first dreamt in the head of a car designer and penned down on paper before engineers understand the concept and head to manufacturing units. Though car design is not as technical as engineering, it is not just about lines, forms and colors either. Aerodynamics, speed, functionality, appearance, understanding customer needs… there are indeed a lot of factors that go into a car design process. Hence every car designer has a great responsibility of imagining the future of transportation and shaping it responsibly.

Though car designers are not household names like the car brands they created, they are one of the most respected people in the automotive industry. The automotive industry has seen a lot of car designers over the years, one time wonders, designers who were the stars of their time and visionaries who will always be looked upon by other designers, creators and innovators. Here is a tribute from Launchpad Academy to those Top 10 Car Designers whom we think were/are the rulers of the car design world.

1. Giorgetto Giugiaro

Giorgetto Giugiaro

It is a shame if we don’t give the first place to Giorgetto Giugiaro, who is in fact the Car Designer of the Century! An inspiration to generations of designers, this legend didn’t just design 160 cars but also designed motorbikes, cameras and watches!
Country: Italy
Major Companies: Alfa Romeo, BMW, Bugatti, Fiat, Lamborghini, Maserati, SEAT and more
Notable Works: BMW M1, Fiat 850 Spider, DeLorean DMC12, Lotus Esprit and more
Known For: Introduced the Folded Paper concept

BMW M1 by Giugiaro

2. Batista Pininfarina

Battista Pininfarina

One of the greatest design firms (which Mahindra is planning to acquire) Pininfarina was founded by this famous car designer. Carrying the legacy of his design firm along with his son Sergio Pininfarina, he is most known for his post-war Ferraris.
Country: Italy
Major Companies: Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Fiat, Maserati, Peugeot and more
Notable Works: Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, Ferrari Dino 246, Cisitalia 202 and more
Known For: His distinctly Italian designs and hailed as the father of modern auto design

Ferrari Dino 246 GT

3. Marcello Gandini

Marcello Gandini

Marcello Gandini stands unique amongst car designers as he lived by a design philosophy which focused more on practicality, design architecture, construction, assembly and mechanics of a car rather than its looks.
Country: Italy
Major Companies: Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and more
Notable Works: Lamborghini Miura, Lamborghini Countach, Lancia Stratos Zero and more
Known For: His angular, sharp designs and introduction of Scissor Door concept

Lamborghini Countach

4. Ian Callum

Ian Callum

A graduate from the prestigious Royal College of Art in London, Ian Callum is one of the most celebrated car designers till date. He is currently the Director of Design for Jaguar Cars and is highly accredited for Jaguar’s renaissance through his design leadership.
Country: Born in Scotland, British by nationality
Major Companies: Aston Martin, Ford and Jaguar
Notable Works: Jaguar XK, XF, XJ, F-Type and more
Known For: His design leadership at Jaguar Cars

Jaguar F Type

5. Walter De Silva

Walter De Silva

He is the Head of Design at Volkswagen and responsible for design overview of all the Volkswagen car brands including Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, Skoda, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti! Probably the car designer with the highest responsibility in this list!
Country: Italy
Major Companies: Alfa Romeo, Audi, Lamborghini, SEAT, Volkswagen and more
Notable Works: Audi R8, Audi A5 Coupe, Lamborghini Egoista and more
Known For: His experience and versatility to design cheap cars like SEAT to luxury cars like Audi

Audi R8

6. Peter Stevens

Peter Stevens

Two words, McLaren F1! A student of Royal College of Art in London, Peter Stevens’ legacy goes beyond McLaren F1. From 2005, he is also the Consultant Director of Design for Mahindra and Mahindra by the way!
Country: United Kingdom
Major Companies: BMW, Lamborghini, Lotus, McLaren, Subaru and more
Notable Works: McLaren F1, Lotus Elan, Lotus Esprit (Re-design) and more
Known For: His clean, beautiful lines and modern classics

McLaren F1

7. Chris Bangle

Chris Bangle

Probably the most controversial car designer in this list! Chris Bangle was BMW’s Chief of Design and was criticized the most when he dumped BMW’s 50 years of design philosophy down the drain! So much that employees of BMW took part in an online poll to get him fired!
Country: United States of America
Major Companies: Fiat, Opel and BMW
Notable Works: BMW M3, BMW Z4 Coupe and BMW Gina
Known For: His outrageous design philosophy and the infamous Bangle Butt


5 Tips on How to Get The Best Deal on a Car Loan

To get the best loan deal, you need to do your homework. Here are five things you should do:

1. Check your credit reports.

Get a report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Use the website annualcreditreport.com, which was set up by the federal government for this purpose.

“You want to check all three because you don’t know which one the lender will use and you want to give yourself time to fix any mistakes,” explained Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education for Credit.com. “I found a mistake when I went to buy a car a few years ago, and if I hadn’t straightened it out, it would have cost me a lot of money.”

Detweiler suggests that you also check your credit score. The interest rates you’ll be offered – if you can get a loan at all – will be based on your score.

You can get your credit score for free from a number of sites, such as Credit.com, CreditKarma and CreditSesame. Some credit card issuers also provide it. This will not be the exact same score the lender uses, but it will give you a good idea of where you stand.

2. Shop around for the best rate.

You shop around to get a good deal on your new vehicle, so why wouldn’t you shop around for the loan to pay for it? Most people don’t. They go to the dealer without doing any homework.

“That just means you have a target painted on your back,” said Liz Weston, personal finance columnist and author of the book, “Deal with Your Debt.” “Bad things are going to happen to you when you haven’t done your research and you don’t have your loan lined up before you start shopping for a car.”

Eight out of 10 car buyers finance at the dealership, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending. Maybe it’s the convenience or the lure of ads that offer incredibly low-interest rates. Just remember, those super-low rates are only for customers with excellent credit scores.

Credit unions and community banks are the best place to start. They typically offer the best rates on car loans.

“A lot of people just assume they’re getting the best rate and terms from the dealer, and that’s the last assumption you should make,” Weston said. “You can apply for that loan, have it all set up, and then pull the plug at the last minute, if the dealer’s offer is better.”

3. Choose the shortest loan you can afford. 

As cars have become more expensive, car loans have gotten longer. You can now finance that new set of wheels for seven, eight or possibly nine years. The longer term reduces the monthly payment, but it will also drive up your total cost.

“You definitely pay more in the long run because these long loans typically have high-interest rates,” cautioned Mike Quincy with Consumer Reports Autos. “Try to limit your car loan to about 48 months. That’s the optimal amount of time you should pay for your car.”

Yes, that means a higher monthly payment, but you’ll get out of debt faster.

The Federal Trade Commission has a worksheet that helps you compare different financing offers with different terms.

4. Beware of the yo-yo finance scam. 

You sign all the paperwork, get the keys to your shiny new car and drive it home, assuming the deal is done. A few days or weeks later, someone from the dealership calls and says they were unable to get the financing approved at the agreed-upon price.

You must return the car to the dealership, they say, or negotiate a new loan at a higher interest rate. If you don’t, you could lose your deposit and trade-in, and you may even be charged a rental fee for the time you had the vehicle. Faced with this situation, most people cave.

How can they do this?

“Most dealers, don’t consider the sale final until the money is in their account and that could be anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days,” said Chris Kulka, senior vice president at the Center For Responsible Lending.

Chances are this was disclosed somewhere in all the paperwork you signed in the dealer’s financing office.

“The only way to protect yourself is to either get your financing elsewhere or tell the dealer that you’re not going to take the car until the financing is deemed final,” Kulka said.

The trade association for automobile dealers said: “The National Automobile Dealers Association is not aware of any credible evidence which indicates that fraudulent ‘yo-yo’ transactions are prevalent in today’s marketplace and none was presented to the Federal Trade Commission when it thoroughly examined this issue during a series of motor vehicle roundtables in 2011.”

5. Don’t get hung-up on the monthly payment.

A lot of people assume that if they can afford the monthly payment, they got a good deal on the car.

“That’s a huge mistake,” said Jack Gillis, author of “The Car Book 2014.”

Buying a new car typically involves three different negotiations. There’s the price of the vehicle, the value of your trade-in and the financing. And they need to be kept separate.

“If you just look at the monthly payment, you’ll have no idea what you’re being charged for the car, you won’t really know what you’re getting for your old vehicle and you won’t know what the interest rate really is,” Gillis warned. “The artificially low monthly payment will disguise the fact that you’re paying more than you should for the car and financing and getting less than you could for your trade-in.”

The salesperson will probably ask how much you can afford to pay each month – they’re trained to do that. Gillis says there’s no need to answer.

Keep in mind: If you are pre-approved for the loan before you head to the dealership, you can concentrate on haggling for the lowest price for the car and highest amount for your trade-in without the added pressure of negotiating the interest rate and other details of your loan.

The Ultimate Dream Cars

Everyone has dream cars, whether they’re wildly impractical souped-up supercars or classic testaments to automotive engineering. Imagine you wake up in the morning with a new car in your driveway. What would it be? Don’t worry about gas, insurance, practicality, even availability. The Car Fairy will take care of every bit of it. What do you want more than anything else?
  1. McLaren P1

The McLaren P1 is often credited as being the car that incited today’s hybrid hypercar boom. Technically, it started production the same year as Porsche 918, but McLaren beat Porsche to market and around the race track. With 903 horses, the McLAren hits 60 mph in 2.9 seconds on the way to a 233 mph top speed.

2. Aston Martin One-77

  • Probably the worst name of any Aston Martin ever, but maybe that’s what you get for letting your engineers go no-holds-barred designing the fastest, most expensive Aston Martin in history. The name is a reference to it’s one-to-one (kg to horsepower) power-to-weight ratio and the 77 units produced. The One-77 would run right with a Carrera GT, McLaren SLR, or Reventon in any acceleration contest.

    3. Lamborghini Reventon

  • Only 20 cars were produced during the Reventon’s production run in 2008, making this one of the rarest dream cars out there. At $1.3 million, it was the most expensive Lamborghini ever produced when it was new, a title it held until the all-carbon Sesto Elemento came along three years later.

    4. Ferrari LaFerrari

  • The top offering in Ferrari’s stable right now. The LaFerrari’s hybrid drivetrain puts out 949 horsepower, and will slingshot the car to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds. It’ll probably hit 100 mph in less time than it takes you to read this sentence. If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it – assuming Ferrari will even sell you one.

    5. Koenigsegg Regera

With a unique 1,500-horsepower hybrid drivetrain, the Regera is currently the world’s most powerful production car, by far its most powerful hybrid, probably the hardest accelerating vehicle of all time from 60 to 200 mph, and should actually get better gas mileage than your average family car. It’s going to take a lot of savings on gas to offset the Koni’s $1.8 million price tag, but nobody said hypercars had to make sense.

Plus and Minus Sizing Your Tires

So, you want to put beautiful new 19” rims on your car. Or maybe you want to go down to 16” rims for snow tires. You go to the tire shop and the guy there tells you all about something called “Plus Sizing,” which determines what tire size you can put on your new wheels. Here’s what you need to know to keep up with the tire guys.

Going to larger wheels and tires is called “upsizing”, while moving to a smaller size is “downsizing.” Both have pros and cons associated with them, and the reasons one would upsize are generally different from the reasons to downsize.

Why Upsize?

Upsizing is most often done for looks and performance benefits. Larger wheels are undeniably striking, and there is no more effective way to change the look of a car than by putting larger wheels on it.

As for performance; according to Car And Driver, putting on larger wheels up to 18” will positively affect cornering grip, braking performance, ride comfort and steering feel, while negatively impacting acceleration and fuel economy due to the greater weight of larger wheels.

At 19” and beyond, the testers found that the positive effects started to go away, while acceleration and fuel economy got worse.

Why Downsize?

For the most part, downsizing is great for that second set of winter tires. Snow tires tend to become much more expensive at sizes larger than 17”. In addition, the narrower the tire, the more effective it tends to be on snow and ice. So if you have 18” or 19” wheels and want an extra set of wheels for snow tires, it’s often a good idea to go down to 17” or 16” wheels for the winter set, which will give you better winter performance at a lower price.

Overall Diameter Is the Key

Here’s the basic issue: Your speedometer, odometer, traction control, torque and gearing settings are all based on the distance that your tire travels over one complete revolution, which is determined by the outside diameter of the tire-and-wheel assembly.

A tire with a different outside diameter will travel a different distance over that one revolution with a different amount of torque.

So, when changing the diameter of your rims, you must make sure that the new wheel and tire assembly keeps the same overall diameter as the old, or your speedometer will be showing you the wrong speed and your traction control settings will be off.

This becomes confusing, because tire sizes are measured by the inside diameter, that is, an R17 tire is sized to fit onto a rim with a 17” outside diameter. The outside diameter of the tire, also known as the standing height is determined by how much sidewall it has, called the aspect height.

Gain an Inch, Lose an Inch:

In order to keep the same outside diameter, when you gain an inch of rim size, say, from 17” to 18”, you must lose an inch in the standing height of the tire, and vice versa. This is why 22”or 24” rims have those low-profile tires that look like thick rubber bands. To determine the proper size requires a bit of math, because the aspect height is expressed in tire sizes as a percentage of the width, a percentage called the aspect ratio.

On a tire that is sized at 225/55/16, for example, the 225 represents the width of the tire in millimeters, which is easy enough to visualize. The 55, on the other hand, represents the ratio of the width to the height; that is, the aspect ratio is 55% of the 225 mm width, or 123.75 mm.

To get the standing height of the tire, one must multiply the aspect height by two, (for the top and bottom sidewalls) and add the 16” inside diameter of the tire. After converting from millimeters to inches, (25.4 mm to the inch) this yields a standing height of approximately 25.74 inches. Once you have the standing height of the old tire, you must then match it on the new tire.

A Bit of Math

So the math goes like this:

  • Multiply the width by the aspect ratio expressed as a decimal. (225 x 0.55 = 123.75)
  • Convert the aspect height to inches. (123.75 / 25.4 = 4.87)
  • Multiply the aspect height by 2. (4.87 x 2 = 9.74)
  • Add the inside diameter of the tire. (16 + 9.74 = 25.74)
  • Rinse and repeat for the size of the new tire.

So if I were to upsize to a 17” wheel and keep the width of the tires the same at 225mm, and the aspect ratio the same, the new 225/55/17 tire would have a standing height of 26.74 inches, and my speedometer would be off by more than 2 miles per hour. What I need in order to keep the correct size is a 225/50/17. If I were to also change width, say, from 225 to 245mm, then what I would need is a 245/45/17.

Did I say it was a bit of math? Perhaps it’s just a bit more than a bit. Don’t worry, that’s what computers are for, which is why I use a Tire Size Calculator Plug in the old and new tire sizes and an app will give you the difference between them and tell you what the new size will do to your speedometer readings.

In general, you want the tires to have less than 1% difference. Ideally, you want less than 0.5% difference. Or you can just trust your tire professional, but with the added confidence of knowing what the heck they’re talking about. Knowing is, after all, half the battle. Happy driving!

How to Drive in Fog

Driving through thick patches of fog can be treacherous. Even with a pair of quality fog lights leading the way, it can still seem like you’re maneuvering with a blindfold on. When you happen across a bit of fog, it’s recommended to use the following precautions. Slow down to a speed that matches the conditions. Be sure to turn on your lights, but do not use your high beams. Leave a lot of space between yourself and the people in front of you. Keep an eye on your speedometer because people often become disoriented and speed up unintentionally. Drive in the slow lane so that you can pull off onto the shoulder in case of an emergency stop. Minimize your distractions by turning down the radio and turning off your cell phone. Set your windshield wipers to intermittent and run your defroster periodically. Lastly, if the fog becomes too dense to continue, pull completely off onto the shoulder, turn on your emergency blinkers and wait for the mist to lift.

The only effective way to drive through dense fog is to angle the light downward onto the road, so that it avoids running right into the reflective water droplets. Typically, fog hovers about 12″–18″ above the road’s surface. Fog lights mount low on your front bumper, and cast a wide beam of light down onto the road. That way, the light gets lower than the fog, and you’re able to see clearer and drive safer. What’s more, in order to keep the light from extending above the level of your bumper, the beams of light are cut off at the top (imagine an Oreo cookie that’s been divided in half).

How your fog lights are aimed is extremely important. If they’re angled too high, their light will just shoot right up into the mist—not to mention right into the eyes of oncoming motorists. If they’re angled too low, then their range is greatly reduced, and you won’t be able to see far enough ahead. Thankfully, the Society of Automotive Engineers (S.A.E.) has taken the guess work out of aiming fog lights by developing a standard system. Here’s how it works:

  • Mount the fog lights on the front of your vehicle between 10″–14″ up from the ground.
  • Park your vehicle 25′ away from a flat wall, like a garage door or the side of a building. You’ll want to make sure that the ground is level so that the results are accurate.
  • Measure the height from the center of the lamp to the ground. Use that same measurement to draw a line on the wall with some chalk.
  • Turn on the fog lights, and take a look at where the light hits on the wall. The tops of the beams should be 4″ below the line you drew.

A properly aimed set of fog lights not only gives you better visibility, it’s also good roadway etiquette. Misaligned fog lights can shoot right into the eyes of oncoming drivers, and no one wants blinded motorist on the road, especially on stormy nights.

After the initial alignment, periodically check to make sure that the lights are still aimed correctly. Since fog lights mount so low to the ground, they are at greater risk of being knocked out of position.

A number of well-respected companies craft quality fog lights, including Hella, PIAA and KC HiLites.

Driving Lights

Safe driving is dependent on our ability to react to any situation, but we can only respond to what we can see. Low beams and high beams are our first line of defense against poor visibility, but often their range falls short. Driving lights pick up the slack. They’re designed to boost the intensity and range of your high beams, showering the roadway with brilliant light. When we can see clearly, we’re able to rapidly respond to whatever may come our way.

If you think about it, driving lights give you the power to peer into the future. All their extra light reveals the road that lies ahead of you, and you can use that knowledge of upcoming conditions to plan your next course of action. Without the foresight that driving lights deliver, your ability to respond to hazards is greatly diminished. Because of this special characteristic, driving lights are most effective for nighttime highway driving because of the higher cruising speeds.

Driving lights generate beams that are more focused than fog lights because they’re engineered to travel farther in advance of your vehicle. As such, correctly aiming them is crucial to improve your own visibility while avoiding blinding other motorists. Follow these S.A.E. tips to properly align your driving lights.

  • Mount your driving lights on the front of your vehicle 14″–30″ up from the ground.
  • Park 25′ away from a flat wall, like a garage door or the side of a building. Level ground gives you the most accurate results.
  • Measure the distance from the center of your driving light down to the pavement, and mark that distance on the wall with chalk.
  • Flip on the lights and find the center of the hot spot, which is the intense inner circle of the beam. Tilt the driving light so that the center of the hot spot is 1 ½” below the mark you made in the wall.

Night ridingWhile there is little variation in the beam pattern of fog lights, driving lights come in a number of different styles that are optimized for specific driving conditions.

Normal Driving Light Pattern

This standard pattern increases the range and brightness of your vehicle’s high beams. It’s designed for higher nighttime cruising speeds, and it helps you clearly see signs and hazards long before your normal high beams.

Euro Light Beam Pattern

This pattern is designed to produce an exceptionally strong beam of light with wider coverage than the normal pattern. In fact, it projects its beam up to 1,500′ away at a width of 250′. The beams are angled upward and to the right, illuminating the side of the road and making it much easier to see street signs and pedestrians.

Cornering Light Beam Pattern

This beam pattern is designed to improve your front and side vision, especially for winding roads, tight curves and cornering. Plus, you can get an intelligent lighting system that automatically senses when you’re driving around a bend and turns on a fill light to illuminate the curve.

Pencil Light Beam Pattern

This pattern puts out a powerful, narrow and extremely long stream of light that’s designed for reaching maximum distances. The range for a single beam can extend up to 2,500′ long by 120′ feet wide. Because of their power, pencil beam lights are recommended for off-road and racing use.

The Guide to Off-Road Lights

Off-road use only!Hitting the road at night, in storms or in fog can be quite hazardous. Doing the same thing when there isn’t even any pavement below your wheels is an entirely different matter. You must be able to see where you’re going at all times. But, no ordinary lights can handle the harsh environment of life on the trail. Everything must be built stronger, tougher and more resilient in order to survive. In other words, what works for city slickers just won’t cut it out in the country, but you can get special off-road lights.

Off-road lights are a lot like auxiliary lights. They come in your choice of fog lights or driving lights and in a wide range of beam patterns, too. Unlike normal auxiliary lights, off-road lights are built to different standards:

  • Tougher Materials
  • Robust Weatherproofing
  • Size and Mounting

Tougher Materials

Off-road lighting durabilityBecause off-road lights must be able to endure anything that Mother Nature can throw at them, they are crafted from heavyweight materials. Some are tougher than others, so you’ll want to get a set of off-road lights that matches how hard you work or play in the dirt.

  • ABS Plastic (Tough): ABS plastic has long been a staple ingredient in the automotive parts industry because it’s quite strong, impervious to rust and easy to shape. If you’re into the occasional adventure, off-roading lights that are made from ABS plastic are an excellent choice.
  • Aluminum (Tougher): For strength, durability and resilience that’s a step above ABS plastic, aluminum is the way to go. An all-metal light is better equipped to survive off-roading hazards, such as run-ins with low-hanging branches and scrapes with boulders. Aluminum off-road lights is recommended for off-roaders who regularly hit the dusty trails.
  • Steel (Toughest): The same material with the strength to support skyscrapers is available to safeguard and protect your off-road lights. In fact, there is no tougher material than steel when it comes to shielding your off-road lights. It’s the only choice for back country adventurers who push their trips to the extreme.

Robust Weatherproofing

When you head out into the backcountry, you expose your vehicle to harsh conditions that just do not arise when you’re on city roads. You’re not very likely to run into a mud bog in the middle of Main St, or drive through a sand storm while commuting to work on the freeway. As such, off-road lights have to be built to a higher standard of ruggedness than normal auxiliary lights.

Sealed for all weatherproofingA quality off-road light will be sealed against its most common elemental enemies: water, mud and sand. Also, the wiring harnesses for many off-road lights are insulated to prevent short circuiting. Plus, the light covers are thicker and sturdier to deflect kicked up rocks, gravel and other airborne debris. For the finishing touch, most off-road lights have a tough wire mesh shield to ward off larger hazards.

Size and Mounting

When there are no streets, there are no street lights to help illuminate your path. Even if there’s a full moon out, it’s hardly bright enough to make driving over dirt roads safe. To compensate for the natural darkness of the frontier, off-road lights come in larger sizes than auxiliary lights. You can get lights that are just about 10″ in diameter, which is big enough to make even the darkest stretch of road seem like daytime.

Besides being built larger, off-road lights are also designed for greater mounting flexibility. They can bolt to your bumper, your grille guard, your light bar, your headache rack or even the top of your roll cage. Normal auxiliary lights are strictly limited when it comes to installation because state laws regulate the maximum mounting height. Off-road lights are not bound by these same laws, so you can attach them wherever you please. However, it is not legal in most states to use your off-road lights unless you actually are off-road. Besides, you should keep protective covers over your off-road lights for an extra line of defense when you’re not using them.

Audi R8: a review by Autoportal.com

The latest marvel to be created by the German giants, Audi, the R8, is definitely one car to look out for. The R8 is an automobile miracle from Audi and that there is no car to compete with the R8, currently.


The R8 is a sports car, with a body, designed so perfectly, it seems too good to be true. When viewed from the front, the most striking feature is the radiator grille, which has aggressive horizontal lines across it, giving it a firm feel. The curves on the bonnet are so smooth, it is difficult to imagine that it has been made of metal, and the curves extend seamlessly to the roof and side profile. The side profile is prominent with its ASF(Audi Space Frame), which is so marvelously created, it is difficult to take eyes off it. The rear profile is also equally outstanding, with the name R8, being fixed at the back. The R8 is a two-door wonder, and it is touted to be the best handling car, till now, with use of lightweight materials, aerodynamic designing and engineering.

Also Check about Tata Zica Price in India Specification, Photos, Mileage



As with the cabin of any other Audi car, the cabin of the R8 is not traditional, but looks more futuristic. The three-spoke steering wheel, with the company logo bedecking it, looks classy. Another interesting aspect of this steering wheel is that the controls on it are kept to a minimum, to avoid distractions, unlike most other cars, where the steering wheel is surrounded by various controls and instruments. The upholstery is made of the finest quality leather. The paddle shifters behind the steering wheel look fabulous, as do the pedals at the back. The stick for the Steptronic looks mesmerizing, with the contrasting metal finish, against the black color, inside. The smaller aspects like AC, radio and heater are unarguably the best in class.

Engine, mileage, variants

The R8 is available in 5 petrol variants, with two petrol mills having a displacement of 4163 cc and three petrol mills having a displacement of 5204 cc. The former variants give a mileage of 8.06 km/l, while the latter three give a mileage of 9.8 km/l. All the variants come with automatic Steptronic transmission, for increased fuel efficiency.  The fuel tank capacity is a massive 75 liters. The 2 variants, which have 4.2 liter V8 FSI engine, give out a peak power of 423.8 bhp and top torque of 430 Nm.  The other 3 variants, which are fitted with 5.2 liter, V10 FSI motors, give out a peak power of 517.6 bhp and a high torque of 530 Nm.

Price, color

The price of the Audi R8 ranges between 1.71 -2.90 crores and the R8 is sold in 11 colors in India.

Also check Mahindra Xylo on carsexpert.in and Honda India Bikes at Bikeportal.in and Auto Expo 2016 on Facebook

7 Car Maintance Myths

Here are seven widespread myths on auto upkeep you shouldn’t blindly follow:

Myth: Engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles. Wrong. Follow the advice in the owner’s manual and ignore the self-serving pleas from oil companies and quick-lube shops. Under normal driving conditions, most vehicles can travel 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. Changing oil more often certainly won’t harm an engine, just waste money. But if you do a lot of stop-and-go driving, trailer-towing, or traveling through mountainous or dusty areas, 3,000 miles between oil changes is a good idea.

Myth: Flush the coolant with every oil change. Most owner manuals recommend changing the coolant every five years or 60,000 miles. But check for a leak if the coolant reservoir is low despite repeatedly topping it off.

Myth: Inflate tires to the pressure shown on the tire’s sidewall. The psi figure on the side of the tire is the maximum pressure the tire will hold safely. If you’re looking for the automaker’s recommended pressure that balances braking, handling, gas mileage, and ride comfort, it’s usually on a sticker on the driver-side doorjamb, in the glove box, or on the fuel-filler door.

Myth: If regular-grade fuel is good, premium must be better. Another expensive mistake. Most vehicles run fine on regular-grade fuel (87 octane). Filling these cars with premium won’t cause damage, but it won’t improve performance, either. Higher-octane fuels are less likely to create pre-ignition problems, so they’re usually used in hotter-running, high-compression engines.

Myth: Warm up your car for several minutes before driving. Outdated advice. Driving the car is the fastest way to warm up a modern engine, and the sooner it warms up, the sooner it delivers the best mileage and performance. And don’t rev the engine during the first few miles.

Myth: Wash your car with dishwashing or laundry detergent. No, not really. Detergents strip off a car’s wax finish. Pay a little extra and stick with the car-wash liquid, which cleans without removing wax.

Myth: A battery will recharge after a jump start in only a few minutes of driving. Not even close. It can take hours of driving to give the battery a full charge, especially in the winter. Heated seats, music systems, and other accessories draw so much power that the alternator has little left to recharge the battery. You can check to see if the battery will still hold a charge by having a load test at a gas station. If it can, several hours may be needed on a battery charger to give the battery a full charge.

Ford’s Retiring J Mays is an Auto Design Rock Star

In the auto industry, designers are rock stars. GM’s Harley Earl, Ford’s E.T. Gregorie and Chrysler’s Virgil Exner left a legacy we still see in today’s cars.


Among the current generation, GM’s Ed Welburn, Ford’s J Mays and BMW’s Adrian van Hooydonk are closely watched and often copied.

On Nov. 5, Ford announced Mays’ retirement.

Finishing his career as a Ford group vice president and chief creative officer, Mays graduated from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., in 1980. His first job was with Audi, where he influenced the 80 and 100 models.

His 1991 Avus concept led to the TT sports car and set the shape for a generation of Audis.

Yet it was Mays’ collaboration with Freeman Thomas while running Volkswagen’s design center in Simi Valley, Calif., that made him famous. The future-retro Concept 1, shown at the 1994 Detroit auto show, became the New Beetle. Ford came calling in 1997 when Mays became the automaker’s global vice president of design.

Ford years

Mays quickly put his skills for modernizing classics to work.

The reborn Ford Thunderbird almost could have been designed at VW’s studios. It was followed by the retro Forty-Nine and Fairlane concepts, the latter evolving into the boxy Flex crossover.

Other memorable concepts include the Shelby GR-1 (a new-age Shelby Daytona), 427 (influenced first-gen Fusion) Ford GT (clone of the LeMans-winning GT40) and Mustang coupe (previewed 2005 edition).

Production cars under his tenure were hit or miss. The Shelby GT500, Ford Fiesta, F-150 and Fusion were grand slams. The Ford 500, Lincoln Blackwood and Lincoln MKT, not so much.

But it’s the overall themes that set Mays apart.

Last decade, domestic Fords had bold chrome grilles, while international models were more understated. Ford CEO Alan Mulally desired uniform global design under his “One Ford” plan. The result is the fluid, muscular designs with Aston Martin grilles that span the globe. Although unfinished, Lincoln’s evolving design language — as seen on the MKZ — appears headed for success.

Mays also oversaw Ford’s luxury brands that brought us the Aston Martin DB9, Volvo C30, Jaguar XK8 and Land Rover LR3.

In transition

“The bold and sophisticated design language that J Mays pioneered will be visible for years to come in Ford vehicles and the auto industry overall,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s chief operating officer. “In addition to his talent as a world-class designer, J has brought together one of the most talented design teams in the business.”

Ford’s design operations are in good hands. The release that announced Mays’ retirement named his replacement: Moray Callum.

Currently executive director of design for The Americas, and brother of Jaguar design chief Ian Callum, Moray spent 2001-06 with Mazda and has been deeply involved in the current range of Ford Motor Co. vehicles. He’s a safe bet with considerable talent.

As with most design chiefs, Mays has had profound influence on the vehicles we drive. His greatest legacy will always be found on the roads.

Casey Williams, Star corresponden

The road between automobiles and fashion is short.

Designer John Varvatos with namesake Chrysler 300, which brought his vision for a luxury sedan. This inspired Chrysler’s designers along the way, according to automotive journalist Casey Williams. “We’re all designers,” said Brandon Faurute, head of Chrysler Design. “We look at fashion industry, product design, architecture; we’re inspired by many different things. Fashion designers look outside of their industry as well.”

In the 1970s, Lincoln worked with Bill Blass and Cartier on the Mark V. In 1999, designer Marc Newson conspired with Ford to create the 021C, a compact dressed like an iMac.

A recent trend conference and special Chrysler collaboration illustrate the latest inspiration.

Ford seeks influence

In June, Ford invited trendsetters to Dearborn, Mich., for a conversation about design’s influence on consumer products and how innovation is a prerequisite for survival.

Guests included American designer Kenneth Cole, author Clayton Christensen and Gadi Amit, founder of NewDeal Design.

Speaking with Ford CEO Mark Fields, Cole said, “Where I have credentials here is that I am a purveyor of the original form of transportation — it’s what you wear on your feet.”

He continued to expand on the virtues of innovation.

“If you don’t have a platform that has the ability to respond to the unpredictable, then you won’t survive because nobody today has the ability to anticipate all the innovation and creativity that is happening.”

That sentiment resonates with a car company that has survived through so much.

Fields sought another perspective from Christensen, who said, “An innovative person has developed to ask the right questions, and if you’ve got that, getting the answer is pretty straightforward.”

Automobile designers now are asking what drivers in the future will want.

What technology will turn them on? How should cars be styled? What killer app could kill Ford?

According to Gadi Amit, good design catches your attention, sets expectations, stirs your soul and ultimately delivers what it promises.

That’s true of an iPhone, Eames lounge vhair, Mont Blanc pen or MOMO steering wheel.

A Mustang looks like it will go fast — just as a Kenneth Cole shoe looks comfortable.

Working with Varvatos

One of Chrysler’s most successful fashion collaborations was with the John Varvatos edition Chrysler 300. Its namesake brought his vision for a luxury sedan, inspiring Chrysler’s designers along the way.

“We’re all designers,” said Brandon Faurute, head of Chrysler Design. “We look at fashion industry, product design, architecture; we’re inspired by many different things. Fashion designers look outside of their industry as well.”

These interactions led to inspired design.

“On the exterior, we developed a titanium finish that was inspired by Varvatos’ cologne bottle,” continued Faurute. “It took the car from having brightwork and spun into something much more sophisticated. You know you’re driving something special.”

Working with fashion leaders expands thoughts, but the pace in Detroit would frustrate most New York designers.

“We went to Varvatos’ studio to see the fashion world influence,” said La Shirl Turner, Advanced Color & Trim Design, Chrysler. “Autos and fashion have the same fit with materials, but (fashion designers) work at a faster pace. It takes longer to introduce new materials in cars because of durability testing. With his help, we created a new metallic look for the leather and unique stitching.”

Automobiles are art that just happen to go 100 mph and consume billions of dollars getting to market.

There’s much to learn by looking outside of Detroit for inspiration.

Top 10 Car Design Software for Absolute Beginners

Are you looking for car design software that won’t intimidate you as a non-experienced designer?

If you are having a dilemma on where to start, it is now the perfect moment to set your worries aside. We bring you the latest software available for automotive designing. Here are the best, both free and premium, tools for newbies.

10. AutoCAD Revit LT Suite

AutoCAD Revit LT SuiteThis is a premium software which you can buy for $1,300 or rent for $75 per month. It will give you helpful tools for 3D product designing. You can easily assemble automotive parts because the software is now more simplified compared to the previous versions. Premium subscription will also entitle you to an outstanding support for beginners.

9. 3Ds Max

3Ds MaxAnother software brought to you by AutoDesk is the 3Ds Max. This software costs $3,675 but you can rent it for $195 per month. It features sophisticated and realistic 3D simulations, allowing you to simulate man-made and natural forces against your design. Subscription also online training materials for starters.

8. SketchBook Designer

SketchBook DesignerIf you plan to draw your concept designs first, then you need to have this software. Adobe Photoshop users will feel more comfortable with this because it features paint tools and vectors. You can add layers, styles, and masks as well. This premium software costs less than $500.

7. DrawBerry (Mac)

DrawBerry (Mac)Macintosh users can use this free software as a starting step in car designs. It is a powerful tool which gives you unlimited possibilities with vector drawings. It features simple and user-friendly interface with more promising development. You can create both complicated and simple designs with the use of this software.

6. Rhinoceros

RhinocerosYou can try this software for free or you can buy it for $1,300 – $1,700. The latest Rhino software features enhanced 3D designing tools that guarantee high quality designs. It is also compatible with 3D printing and digital fabrication in case you need to create a physical model of your design. You can also access its wide array of tutorials online.

5. Lightwave

LightwaveAnother popular car designing software is the LightWave which you can try for a month or buy for $1,500. It features standard modeling tools together with numerous 3D packages. You can also create highly detailed car surfaces with the software’s nodal system. Absolute beginners will also benefit from its real-time online support.


CATIA V6When it comes to solid modeling and car design surfacing, you can always rely on CATIA. V6 is their latest release and you can get both price quote and software trials by contacting Dassault Systemes. You can reverse engineer any designs to remodel its surfaces and create new prototypes. Dassault Systemes also provide online resources for new users of CATIA.

3. Google SketchUp

Google SketchUpThis free software can be used to create different 3D automotive designs. It features simple tools that can make outstanding 3D images like structures and car models. You can even save your project in several formats such as PNG, JPG, TIFF, and BMB. There are also unlimited user-based resources available online, allowing beginners to easily learn the tricks of car designing.

2. Adobe Photoshop

Adobe PhotoshopIt may sound absurd once you hear Adobe Photoshop for car designing but nevertheless, newbie 3D designers can take big steps by using this software. It cost less than $700 yet features a lot of tool sets for image editing and 3D modeling. The advantage of using Photoshop is the unlimited resources available online. Newbies can quickly access step-by-step tutorials on how to create car models using Photoshop.

1. Blender

BlenderBlender is an open source 3D designing tool which gathers excellent rating from both users and software developers. It features tons of tool sets, options, and designing functions to cater all your needs. You can even download extra features made by advanced users or you can develop your own in the future. Because it is open source software, you can easily access unlimited support from experts and other users.

Top Design Trend for Cars

Whether its clothing, home decor, or your favourite cuisine, trends fall in and out fashion fast. Cars are no exception. In the past, trendy design cues such as flared wings and portholes graced our rides. What can we expect to see in the future when it comes to car design? We asked the pros – leading car designers at the Canadian International Auto Show – for their input on the latest design trends driving the automotive world.

1. Upgraded paint

Say goodbye to high gloss paint. Designers agree the hottest colour for a car is white, but stay ahead of the curve by adding more depth and vibrancy with metallic or candy finishes. It’s all the rage, but keep in mind those finishes cost extra cash.

2. Big Wheels

Remember when 15-inch wheels were standard? Now, bigger is better when it comes to wheels. “Designers always like the big wheels,” admits Kevin George, exterior designer of the Ford Edge concept. Check out the massive 22-inch back wheels on this special edition Chevy Corvette Stingray.

3. Bedazzling headlights

Headlamps on a car are like jewellery on a woman. These bedazzled lights on the Jaguar C-X17 concept add serious bling. “Headlamps always signify a high-end level of technology. You think that everything under the skin of the car is also advanced,” says Sandy Boyes, Chief Designer – Interiors, Jaguar.

4. Simplified interiors

Driving interior design is simplicity. In the past, cabins resembled the cockpit of an airplane. “Today, it’s the streamlined, uncluttered message that seems to resonate with people. Its inviting. It makes you think like you can’t do anything wrong – you’re not going to break it,” says Ford’s in-house “futurist” Sheryl Connelly.

5. Fewer manuals

Say goodbye to the manual transmission, its going the way of the dinosaurs. Replacing the sporty stick are dual-clutch transmissions, nine-speed automatics, and paddle shifters. “The joy of driving is lost on a lot of people that are stuck in congestion, traffic and global gridlock,” says Connelly.

5 Most Influental Car Designer

 1. WALTER DE’SILVA (59, Italian)
Head of design, Volkswagen Group
Key cars: Audi R8 and A5, 2009 VW Scirocco and 2012 Jetta
Walter De Silva Illustration

While other big design chiefs have been shedding brands (Ed Welburn at General Motors and J Mays at Ford), de’Silva — as the top designer at the acquisitive VW Group — has been busy adding them, the latest being Porsche. This brings his tally to eight consumer marques — Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat, Skoda, and VW — representing some 6.3 million sales in 2009.
De’Silva made his name with Alfa Romeo and the beautifully proportioned 156 sedan and Sportwagon of the late 1990s, with their simple curves and hidden rear door handles. Switching to the VW Group in 1999, he added excitement to Spanish brand Seat with the Salsa and Tango concepts and the production Leon and Altea before bringing Audi more curves, fuller volumes, and gapey-grilled “emotional design” starting in 2002. The current TT, A5, A6, and R8 are his work, and all have been critical and commercial successes.
As head of VW Group design since 2007, de’Silva has turned his attention to overhauling the VW brand and replacing its rather clumsy, chrome-faced, large grilles with slimmer, subtler ones, epitomized by the new Jetta and the Scirocco (which is not sold in the States). The only blip in his track record was the weakly retro 2006 Lamborghini Miura tribute concept. That aside, the breadth of designs, brands, segments, consistent sales, and internal and external influence has been astonishing. As auto analyst Max Warburton puts it, “Investors are increasingly trying to determine which company is going to be the most consistent at delivering hit products.” In de’Silva, the VW Group has found its hit machine.
2. SHIRO NAKAMURA (60, Japanese)
Senior VP and chief creative officer of design, Nissan
Key cars: Nissan Cube and 350Z, Infiniti FX45 and Essence
Shiro Nakamura Illustration

Nakamura is the man who put Japanese car design on the map after decades of copycat designs. Headhunted from under-the-radar Isuzu in 1999, he oversaw an onslaught of radical concepts and high-selling production cars as part of Carlos Ghosn’s Nissan Revival Plan. Included in the list are, from Nissan, the Cube, the 350Z, the Murano, the Juke, and, in Europe, various Micras and the Qashqai, as well as the FX45 and the Essence concept for Infiniti. Key to his success is not only his ability and work ethic — he allegedly often works twelve hours per day from a chauffeur-driven GT-R — but also his skill and willingness to communicate his designs’ relevance internally and externally and his global experience (he studied at Art Center in the United States and has worked in Europe and Japan). Bonus fun fact: Nakamura was a jazz bass player before embarking on his career in the car industry.
Design director, BMW Group
Key cars: 2004 BMW 6-series, X6, Vision EfficientDynamics
Adrian Van Hooydonk Illustration

A BMW man through and through, van Hooydonk joined the company in 1992 and was thoroughly involved with Chris Bangle and his highly controversial, but also very influential, flame-surfacing design language. Busier and more complex exterior surfacing has cropped up across the car industry since their work first appeared and remains prevalent today. He followed in Bangle’s footsteps to become BMW’s design director in 2004 and became head of Group design, including Mini and Rolls-Royce, when his mentor stepped down in 2009. Beyond cars, van Hooydonk “gets” the bigger design picture — he was director of BMW’s product consultancy, DesignworksUSA in California, for three years. BMW’s current mainstream car designs have been toned down under his watch, but this brand and designer have a very bright future and are still capable of producing stunning cars like the Z4 and the Vision EfficientDynamics concept.
4. J MAYS (56, American)
Global design VP and chief creative officer, Ford
Key cars: Audi Avus, VW Concept 1, 2005 Ford Mustang
J Mays Illustration

Ten years ago, Mays was responsible for eight brands: Aston Martin, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury, and Volvo. With Volvo’s sale to Geely earlier this year and Mercury’s announced demise, the only brands left are Ford and Lincoln. Still, those two marques represent some 4.5 million vehicles annually, and globally Ford is in better overall design shape than it’s been for decades, due in no small part to Mays’s direction and execution of the One Ford global policy — the acclaimed European Fiesta’s entry into the U.S. market is just one example. Add in his legacy of successful concepts — the 1991 Audi Avus led to the TT and the 1994 VW Concept 1 to the new VW Beetle — his ability to nurture (and poach) design talent to work with him (Martin Smith, Freeman Thomas, Peter Horbury, Laurens van den Acker), plus thoroughbred production-car designs like the Land Rover LR3 and the Aston Martin DB9, and you have a man who still wields heavyweight clout.
4. ED WELBURN (59, American)
VP of global design, General Motors
Key cars: GM Autonomy, 2010 Chevrolet Camaro
Ed Welburn Illustration

Welburn is only the sixth person to serve as head of design in the history of General Motors and, in 2005, he became the first to hold the newly created position of global design VP. Five years later, he oversees ten design centers in eight countries and a team of some 1500 people. GM’s brand portfolio may have shrunk in 2009, but Welburn has marshaled significant changes in aesthetics and quality for the brands that are left in America, with Buick (Enclave, LaCrosse), Cadillac (CTS), Chevrolet (Malibu, Camaro), and even GMC (Granite concept), plus others around the world. Before all this, he also led the excellent GM Autonomy and Hy-wire fuel-cell projects as director of advanced design. Big job, (relatively) low profile.

5 Grestest Car Designer

The Ten Greatest Car Designers Working Today

5.) Walter de Silva

Why he’s so good: Volkswagen is vying to be the largest car companies in the world with excellent brand management, innovation, cheapness, and production efficiencies. But Volkswagen Automotive Group also has head designer Walter de Silva to thank for their progress. He’s kept their cars looking beautiful and distinct from one another, even though many of their pedestrian offerings share the same underlying platforms.

This is the man who can make people think about buying a SEAT when it’s nothing but a cheap VW, and then turn around and pen the Audi R8. He’s a legend.

Photo Credit: Otis Blank

The Ten Greatest Car Designers Working Today

4.) Henrik Fisker

Why he’s so good: Let’s just take a look at a selection from the Danish car designer’s resume to see why people love this man.

Aston Martin DB9
Aston Martin V8 Vanquish
Fisker Karma

Few car designers can so successfully make classic designs that still comply with today’s constrictive safety standards and few have done so well as Fisker.

Photo Credit: Otis Blank

The Ten Greatest Car Designers Working Today

3.) Ian Callum

Why he’s so good: The head man for Jaguar, Callum can draw cars that are as gorgeous as Fisker’s, but he’s also extremely successful in managing a staff and a brand. He got his start with Ford in ’79, contributing to the RS200 and the Escort Cosworth, then he went on to racecars at TWR and Nissan. Then he went to Jag, stating by making the X-Type palatable with the X-Type station wagon, and you know the rest from there.

Photo Credit: Otis Blank

The Ten Greatest Car Designers Working Today

2.) Jason Castriota

Why he’s so good: Born in White Plains, New York, and raised in Greenwich Connecticut, Jason Castriota is one of the best designers America has produced in a long time. He dropped out of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena to get an internship at Pininfarina. There he got obsessed with aerodynamics, making the Ferrari 599, the P4/5, the Maserati GranTurismo, and the Maserati Birdcage concept, surely one of the most gorgeous cars of the last few decades. He went on to Bertone from there and is now making the cars at SCC not look like junky kit cars, but sexy spacecruisers from the future.

The Ten Greatest Car Designers Working Today

1.) Peter Schreyer

Why he’s so good: The German car designer made his name at Audi and Volkswagen, working on their late ‘90s revival. He can put his name next to the TT, the remarkably clean A6 and A3, and he was part of the team that did the new Beetle.

Most importantly, however, is his move to Kia in 2006. It’s Schreyer who made the little Korean cars look not like crapy knockoffs a half-step ahead of Chinese copyright-infringers, but rather classy, desirable machines. You might actually buy a Kia now. That was unthinkable before Schreyer moved in.

There has been no more momentous turnaround in design than Schreyer’s mass-market design work, making him the best car designer working today.

Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove

5 Tips to Get You Started in Vehicle Wrap Design

Many vehicle wraps are made of large, printed vinyl stickers that are applied to the surface of the vehicle. However, designing these effective ads can be a little complex. Any designer who decides to undertake a vehicle wrap project should at least be at an intermediate skill level with standard graphic design programs and do their research before they jump into it.

Below, we’ll discuss the basic process for designing print-ready vehicle wrap files and how to deliver them to your client. Let’s get started.

1. Gather information


Before you even start designing anything, you need to obtain an accurate template. It’s crucial to create the designs on an accurate template file of your client’s vehicle in order to be able to create a design that is to scale and as print-ready as possible. Vehicle wrap files can be large and complex and some vehicle wrap printers will charge your client up to $75/hour or $250 total for any fixes.

Ideally, your client will provide you with template files of the the car’s blueprint up front. If not, they can purchase them for you at car blueprint templates websites like this one or ask their vehicle wrap printer to provide them with one. Please note that templates files purchased online will not always be 100% accurate, since each vehicle may have slight irregularities on the surface.

Next, find out which vehicle printing company the client is using and what their specifications are. Each vehicle wrap printing company may have different file requirements or printing processes, so it’s important to gather as much information as possible before you even start designing.

Lastly, ask your client to provide you with high quality photos of their vehicle and to let you know which car model it is. Ask if there any irregularities on the cars surface that may be different than existing templates.

2. Gather inspiration


Now that you have all the technical information ready to go, it’s time to start thinking about how to turn your client’s vehicle wrap dream into a reality! Let’s assume that they already have a logo and advertising copy ready to go. You should be asking them about what type of vehicle wrap designs they like.

While it’s not recommended, many clients love photos in the vehicle wrap design. If that’s what they want, very high resolution images need to be obtained and purchased. You’ll need to agree on a budget for stock photos.

It’s always a good idea to keep a vehicle wrap design simple, especially if it’s an ad for your client’s business. Your client’s vehicle may be going 65mph on the freeway, so you’ll need to make sure that the brand’s message can be read in seconds.

Here’s a cool vehicle wrap Pinterest board and design gallery to get you started.

3. Create the design


Vehicle wrap mockup tutorial by Thomas Baekdal.

Now that you’ve obtained photos of your client’s vehicle, you can use them to quickly sketch out your design. You can also create the design in the template files, but many designers find it easier to Photoshop the design on a photo of the vehicle first. It won’t be a 100% match for how it will look on the real car, but it will make it easier to visualize how graphics look when they meet at corners and rounded surfaces of the car. Follow this great tutorial on how to do it (this tutorial is great too).

Make sure that any mockup you create can be easily recreated or applied to the template files before you show it to your client. Mockups are great for showing your client how the design could look in real life and for getting their approval for the final design. However, it’s important to manage their expectations appropriately by showing them designs that can be  implemented in real life, not ones that just look good in Photoshop.

4. Apply the design to the template


Vehicle wrap tutorial from mr-clipart.com/

Vehicle wrap print files can be created in either Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop. At 99designs, we prefer that our designers deliver Adobe Illustrator files in vehicle wrap handovers, since some vehicle wrap printers only accept vector files for printing.

Many vehicle printers accept both PSD and AI files, though. Click here to view some short tutorials on how to apply a vehicle wrap design to a template file using either vector or raster programs.

Basic things to consider:

  • Set your document color mode to CMYK
  • One way to create the design to scale is to use 1:10 ratio
  • Set the document ppi to 720
  • Use high resolution photos/raster images if they’re part of the design
  • Convert all fonts to outlines
  • Label and organize each part into separate layers and make sure that each graphic has it’s own sublayer.
  • Add 5-10 in bleeds to each piece of the template. The design will have to wrap around objects like the edges of doors, and adding extra bleed will help the design grip to the car.

5. Deliver the files


Vehicle wrap design by Richard Andersen.

Provide your client with either .ai or .psd files, in addition to an uncompressed .tiff file of the vehicle wrap. Makes sure that they know the name or own a license to all fonts used in your design.

If any photos or other raster images were used in the design, include the raw photo file as well so that the vehicle wrap people can use it if they need to adjust your files. For a more detailed example of file specifications, check this vehicle wrap printer’s file specifications.

Vehicle wrap projects can be a challenge, but it can be one of the most rewarding examples of watching your designs come to life on a big, fast-moving object.

Race Car Design Tips

General Aerodynamic Principals


A simple definition of aerodynamics is the study of the flow of air around and through a vehicle, primarily if it is in motion. To understand this flow, you can visualize a car moving through the air. As we all know, it takes some energy to move the car through the air, and this energy is used to overcome a force called Drag.

Drag, in vehicle aerodynamics, is comprised primarily of two forces. Frontal pressure is caused by the air attempting to flow around the front of the car. As millions of air molecules approach the front grill of the car, they begin to compress, and in doing so raise the air pressure in front of the car. At the same time, the air molecules travelling along the sides of the car are at atmospheric pressure, a lower pressure compared to the molecules at the front of the car.

Just like an air tank, if the valve to the lower pressure atmosphere outside the tank is opened, the air molecules will naturally flow to the lower pressure area, eventually equalizing the pressure inside and outside the tank. The same rules apply to cars. The compressed molecules of air naturally seek a way out of the high pressure zone in front of the car, and they find it around the sides, top and bottom of the car. See the diagram below.

Diagram of 'Front Pressure'

Rear vacuum (a non-technical term, but very descriptive) is caused by the “hole” left in the air as the car passes through it. To visualize this, imagine a bus driving down a road. The blocky shape of the bus punches a big hole in the air, with the air rushing around the body, as mentioned above. At speeds above a crawl, the space directly behind the bus is “empty” or like a vacuum. This empty area is a result of the air molecules not being able to fill the hole as quickly as the bus can make it. The air molecules attempt to fill in to this area, but the bus is always one step ahead, and as a result, a continuous vacuum sucks in the opposite direction of the bus. This inability to fill the hole left by the bus is technically called Flow detachment. See the diagram below.

Diagram of 'Rear Vacuum'

Flow detachment applies only to the “rear vacuum” portion of the drag equation, and it is really about giving the air molecules time to follow the contours of a car’s bodywork, and to fill the hole left by the vehicle, it’s tires, it’s suspension and protrusions (ie. mirrors, roll bars). If you have witnessed the Le Mans race cars, you will have seen how the tails of these cars tend to extend well back of the rear wheels, and narrow when viewed from the side or top. This extra bodywork allows the air molecules to converge back into the vaccum smoothly along the body into the hole left by the car’s cockpit, and front area, instead of having to suddenly fill a large empty space.

The reason keeping flow attachment is so important is that the force created by the vacuum far exceeds that created by frontal pressure, and this can be attributed to the Turbulence created by the detachment.

Turbulence generally affects the “rear vacuum” portion of the drag equation, but if we look at a protrusion from the race car such as a mirror, we see a compounding effect. For instance, the air flow detaches from the flat side of the mirror, which of course faces toward the back of the car. The turbulence created by this detachment can then affect the air flow to parts of the car which lie behind the mirror. Intake ducts, for instance, function best when the air entering them flows smoothly. Therefore, the entire length of the car really needs to be optimized (within reason) to provide the least amount of turbulence at high speed. See diagram below (Light green indicates a vacuum-type area behind mirror):

Diagram of turbulence behind mirror

Lift (or Downforce)

One term very often heard in race car circles is Downforce. Downforce is the same as the lift experienced by airplane wings, only it acts to press down, instead of lifting up. Every object travelling through air creates either a lifting or downforce situation. Race cars, of course use things like inverted wings to force the car down onto the track, increasing traction. The average street car however tends to create lift. This is because the car body shape itself generates a low pressure area above itself.

How does a car generate this low pressure area? According to Bernoulli, the man who defined the basic rules of fluid dynamics, for a given volume of air, the higher the speed the air molecules are travelling, the lower the pressure becomes. Likewise, for a given volume of air, the lower the speed of the air molecules, the higher the pressure becomes. This of course only applies to air in motion across a still body, or to a vehicle in motion, moving through still air.

When we discussed Frontal Pressure, above, we said that the air pressure was high as the air rammed into the front grill of the car. What is really happening is that the air slows down as it approaches the front of the car, and as a result more molecules are packed into a smaller space. Once the air Stagnates at the point in front of the car, it seeks a lower pressure area, such as the sides, top and bottom of the car.

Now, as the air flows over the hood of the car, it’s loses pressure, but when it reaches the windscreen, it again comes up against a barrier, and briefly reaches a higher pressure. The lower pressure area above the hood of the car creates a small lifting force that acts upon the area of the hood (Sort of like trying to suck the hood off the car). The higher pressure area in front of the windscreen creates a small (or not so small) downforce. This is akin to pressing down on the windshield.

Where most road cars get into trouble is the fact that there is a large surface area on top of the car’s roof. As the higher pressure air in front of the wind screen travels over the windscreen, it accellerates, causing the pressure to drop. This lower pressure literally lifts on the car’s roof as the air passes over it. Worse still, once the air makes it’s way to the rear window, the notch created by the window dropping down to the trunk leaves a vacuum, or low pressure space that the air is not able to fill properly. The flow is said to detach and the resulting lower pressure creates lift that then acts upon the surface area of the trunk. This can be seen in old 1950’s racing sedans, where the driver would feel the car becoming “light” in the rear when travelling at high speeds. See the diagram below.

Diagram of lift and downforce from overbody flow

Not to be forgotten, the underside of the car is also responsible for creating lift or downforce. If a car’s front end is lower than the rear end, then the widening gap between the underside and the road creates a vacuum, or low pressure area, and therefore “suction” that equates to downforce. The lower front of the car effectively restricts the air flow under the car. See the diagram below.

Diagram of downforce generated by raked underbody

So, as you can see, the airflow over a car is filled with high and low pressure areas, the sum of which indicate that the car body either naturally creates lift or downforce.

Drag Coefficient

The shape of a car, as the aerodynamic theory above suggests, is largely responsible for how much drag the car has. Ideally, the car body should:

    • Have a small grill, to minimize frontal pressure.
    • Have minimal ground clearance below the grill, to minimize air flow under the car.
    • Have a steeply raked windshield to avoid pressure build up in front.
    • Have a “Fastback” style rear window and deck, to permit the air flow to stay attached.
    • Have a converging “Tail” to keep the air flow attached.
    • Have a slightly raked underside, to create low pressure under the car, in concert with the fact that the minimal ground clearance mentioned above allows even less air flow under the car.

If it sounds like we’ve just described a sports car, you’re right. In truth though, to be ideal, a car body would be shaped like a tear drop, as even the best sports cars experience some flow detachment. However, tear drop shapes are not condusive to the area where a car operates, and that is close to the ground. Airplanes don’t have this limitation, and therefore teardrop shapes work.

What all these “ideal” attributes stack up to is called the Drag coefficient (Cd). The best road cars today manage a Cd of about 0.28. Formula 1 cars, with their wings and open wheels (a massive drag component) manage a minimum of about 0.75.

If we consider that a flat plate has a Cd of about 1.0, an F1 car really seems inefficient, but what an F1 car lacks in aerodynamic drag efficiency, it makes up for in downforce and horsepower.

Frontal Area

Drag coefficient, by itself is only useful in determining how “Slippery” a vehicle is. To understand the full picture, we need to take into account the frontal area of the vehicle. One of those new aerodynamic semi-trailer trucks may have a relatively low Cd, but when looked at directly from the front of the truck, you realize just how big the Frontal Area really is.

It is by combining the Cd with the Frontal area that we arrive at the actual drag induced by the vehicle.

Aerodynamic Devices


Scoops, or positive pressure intakes, are useful when high volume air flow is desireable and almost every type of race car makes use of these devices. They work on the principle that the air flow compresses inside an “air box”, when subjected to a constant flow of air. The air box has an opening that permits an adequate volume of air to enter, and the expanding air box itself slows the air flow to increase the pressure inside the box. See the diagram below:

NACA Ducts

NACA ducts are useful when air needs to be drawn into an area which isn’t exposed to the direct air flow the scoop has access to. Quite often you will see NACA ducts along the sides of a car. The NACA duct takes advantage of the Boundary layer, a layer of slow moving air that “clings” to the bodywork of the car, especially where the bodywork flattens, or does not accellerate or decellerate the air flow. Areas like the roof and side body panels are good examples. The longer the roof or body panels, the thicker the layer becomes (a source of drag that grows as the layer thickens too).

Anyway, the NACA duct scavenges this slower moving area by means of a specially shaped intake. The intake shape, shown below, drops in toward the inside of the bodywork, and this draws the slow moving air into the opening at the end of the NACA duct. Vorticies are also generated by the “walls” of the duct shape, aiding in the scavenging. The shape and depth change of the duct are critical for proper operation.

Typical uses for NACA ducts include engine air intakes and cooling.


Spoilers are used primarily on sedan-type race cars. They act like barriers to air flow, in order to build up higher air pressure in front of the spoiler. This is useful, because as mentioned previously, a sedan car tends to become “Light” in the rear end as the low pressure area above the trunk lifts the rear end of the car. See the diagram below:

Front air dams are also a form of spoiler, only their purpose is to restrict the air flow from going under the car.


Probably the most popular form of aerodynamic aid is the wing. Wings perform very efficiently, generating lots of downforce for a small penalty in drag. Spoiler are not nearly as efficient, but because of their practicality and simplicity, spoilers are used a lot on sedans.

The wing works by differentiating pressure on the top and bottom surface of the wing. As mentioned previously, the higher the speed of a given volume of air, the lower the pressure of that air, and vice-versa. What a wing does is make the air passing under it travel a larger distance than the air passing over it (in race car applications). Because air molecules approaching the leading edge of the wing are forced to separate, some going over the top of the wing, and some going under the bottom, they are forced to travel differing distances in order to “Meet up” again at the trailing edge of the wing. This is part of Bernoulli’s theory.

What happens is that the lower pressure area under the wing allows the higher pressure area above the wing to “push” down on the wing, and hence the car it’s mounted to. See the diagram below:

Wings, by their design require that there be no obstruction between the bottom of the wing and the road surface, for them to be most effective. So mounting a wing above a trunk lid limits the effectiveness.

Aerodynamic Design Tips

  • Cover Open wheels. Open wheels create a great deal of drag and air flow turbulence, similar to the diagram of the mirror above. Full covering bodywork is probably the best solution, if legal by regulations, but if partial bodywork is permitted, placing a converging fairing behind the wheel provides maximum benefit.
  • Minimize Frontal Area. It’s no coincidence that Formula 1 cars are very narrow. It is usually much easier to reduce FA (frontal area) than the Cd (Drag coefficient), and top speed and accelleration will be that much better.
  • Converge Bodywork Slowly. Bodywork which quickly converges or is simply truncated, forces the air flow into turbulence, and generates a great deal of drag. As mentioned above, it also can affect aerodynamic devices and bodywork further behind on the car body.
  • Use Spoilers. Spoilers are widely used on sedan type cars such as NASCAR stock cars. These aerodynamic aids produce downforce by creating a “dam” at the rear lip of the trunk. This dam works in a similar fashion to the windshield, only it creates higher pressure in the area above the trunk.
  • Use Wings. Wings are the inverted version of what you find on aircraft. They work very efficiently, and in less aggressive forms generate more downforce than drag, so they are loved in many racing circles. Wings are not generally seen in concert with spoilers, as they both occupy similar locations, and defeat each other’s purpose.
  • Use Front Air Dams. Air dams at the front of the car restrict the flow of air reaching the underside of the car. This creates a lower pressure area under the car, effectively providing downforce.
  • Use Aerodynamics to Assist Car Operation. Using car bodywork to direct airflow into sidepods, for instance, permits more efficient (ie. smaller FA) sidepods. Quite often, with some for-thought, you can gain an advantage over a competitor by these small dual purpose techniques. Another useful technique is to use the natural high and low pressure areas created by the bodywork to perform functions. For instance, Mercedes, back in the 1950s placed radiator outlets in the low pressure zone behind the driver. The air inlet pressure which fed the radiator became less critical, as the low pressure outlet area literally sucked air through the radiator.

    A useful high pressure area is in front of the car, and to make full use of this area, the nose of the car is often slanted downward. This allows the higher air pressure to push down on the nose of the car, increasing grip. It also has the advantage of permitting greater driver visibility.

  • Keep Protrusions Away From The Bodywork. The smooth airflow achieved by proper bodywork design can be messed up quite easily if a protrusion such as a mirror is too close to it. Many people will design very aerodynamic mounts for the mirror, but will fail to place the mirror itself far enough from the bodywork.
  • Rake the chassis. The chassis, as mentioned in the aerodynamics theory section above, is capable of being slightly lower to the ground in the front than in the rear. The lower “Nose” of the car reduces the volume of air able to pass under the car, and the higher “Tail” of the car creates a vacuum effect which lowers the air pressure.
  • Cover Exposed Wishbones. Exposed wishbones (on open wheel cars) are usually made from circular steel tube, to save cost. However, these circular tubes generate turbulence. It would be much better to use oval tubing, or a tube fairing that creates an oval shape over top of the round tubing. See diagram below:

Oval vs. Round Tubing diagram

10 tips for aspiring car designers by Patrick Lecharpy and Luciano Bove

1 – The design industry of today

Renault Twizy - Clay model PL: Today’s design world is much more complex: students need to be internationally open. Even if the history of design is traditionally centered on Europe and United States, the future will have no boundaries.

This is an extremely important aspect, as you will be involved in international design environments. Competition will be open worldwide and not just among three or four design schools in Europe or in the States.

Things are evolving very quickly: in emerging countries like India, today it is possible to find competences that could not be found just five years ago.

Luciano Bove on the Twizy at-SPD MilanLB: I had the chance to attend the Art Center College of Design in 1984, and I came back and started working in Italy in 1989. Three years later I began teaching car design.

Back then, the first European design schools were just opening, conscious of the importance of providing a transportation design specific education, in competition with the long established schools in the United States and in Japan.

Today we have a lot of new design schools and in emerging countries like China there are also a few State universities offering transportation design courses: they are doing extremely well in a very short period of time.

When I started teaching in Italy, we launched the first transportation design department in Turin, and it took us almost eight years to reach a very high quality. Today design schools in China have managed to achieve a remarkable results in just three years.

Today competition is much, much higher.

2 – Open mindness

Renault Twizy Concept - Design Sketch PL: Sometimes it’s difficult for young creatives to realize they don’t work alone: the basis of creativity lies in the designer’s personality, however while in the past this could have been enough, it is not enough today.

In the professional world it usually takes 4 to 5 years to young designers in order to be operational within a team. During this period they are requested to interact with different competencies and mindsets.

It is important to find the right balance between having a strong personality and a charismatic attitude – which are necessary to build a creative mind – while being open minded towards diversity and not being too egocentric.

LB: In order to get a job in the car design industry you’ll need to be able to integrate in a team a lot faster than it used to be back in my times.

Renault Twizy Concept - Design SketchToday students cannot focus solely on sketching and rendering ability – which are still essential skills; they have to become manager of themselves in order to be able to manage projects and be autonomous.

If you want to survive in this competitive field, you need to be open to everything during all your career, not just during the time spent at school and internships.

3 – Teamwork

PL: Don’t forget: automotive design is teamwork. It’s difficult for us designer – especially when we are young – to accept we are not at the center of the universe.

Being proud of yourself and having your own ideas are necessary aspects, but a vehicle is so complex that it will never be only your own success.

4 – Time management

LB: Having good drawing and modeling skills is essential, but the most important thing – as a student and as a future designer or design manager – is being able to respect deadlines.

Renault Twizy presentation at SPD - Luciano BoveWhen you are in design school, you are not much concerned about time. You want to be the best, so it is important to show the teacher or the client a very good sketch or a perfect model.

But when you are in the real world and you are facing a deadline, it’s quite different.

And often the most talented and artistic designers are the ones who have the most difficulties.

However, this difficulty can be reversed and time can become your best friend when seen in a constructive way: it can motivate you and can help you to find the best solutions given the constraints and the tools you have at your disposal.

PL: [In order to succeed] you need to make a proper analysis first, and then ideas will come quickly. After that, you have to carefully choose one clear idea and go for it. Don’t spend too much time tuning the idea or trying to deliver perfect quality.

5 – Selling ideas and presenting projects

PL: The cleverness of a new concept is obviously the most important aspect of a design project, but often young designers underestimate the importance of selling their work – whether to a teacher or to a final customer.

Renault Twizy - Design Review

A new product will not produce emotions spontaneously: you’ll have to make people react emotionally and this is a very important aspect of a designer’s job.

For example, during business meetings you will face very busy top managers and it is crucial to catch their attention by creating an “advertising” on screen, better if with a short story behind, with some music and a scenario: if you manage to do it, then you “have won half the battle”.

When presenting a project to a teacher or to an interviewer, focus on one or two messages, and no more. Don’t get “everywhere”: be focused, choose and be efficient.

6 – Making design decisions

Renault Twizy - Color and TrimPL: When you create a new product or concept you need to think about what it is for and what it is not for, what you want to achieve and what you don’t want to achieve.

Making these choices will allow you to create something that gives answers to specific questions.

Don’t try to solve all problems, make choices, even if this can be difficult for designers. If you are able to make the right choices you will create a successful product, otherwise you are very likely to end with an average result.

7 – Hand modeling

Renault Twizy - Clay modelLB: Today with digital CAD models we can arrive up to 90% of the product. When you have milled a model and you put your hands on it, you will always find out areas that need changes; and when you apply a layer of paint on it, sometimes you’ll realize that reflections are not as you had imagined.

In those cases you’ll have to sculpt and work with clay: it is still a very special, artistic aspect of a designer’s talent that computers simply can’t do.

8 – Honest design

PL: Don’t over-promise by design, be honest with your customers. Don’t design a car that looks fast if it isn’t.

9. Being Curious

PL: We don’t have to overestimate our role of designers: we have the ability of visualizing ideas by sketching and prototyping, while engineers, market researchers, managers have different yet very important skills.

When you start you usually have little knowledge of these fields, and that’s something you can develop with time.

As a designer you’ll need to be curious and look at everything: engineering basics, international trends, fashion, graphic design, customer satisfaction. This will allow you to understand enough to put the elements together and to concretize the ideas.

10 – Training creativity

PL: Creativity is not spontaneous. Like every other skill, creativity needs to be trained during the whole life.

We thank Patrick and Luciano for their time and for the these precious tips!

Hybrid Myths and Theory Of Operations

Common Myths

I have assembled some common myths that you might have heard.

Hybrid cars need to be plugged in to charge them

You’ll hear this one a lot. It is an old wives tale repeated by people who have no idea what they are talking about.

Maybe they are thinking about all electric cars. A new breed of “plug-in” hybrids can improve gas mileage but they also have a gasoline engine to power the car when the battery runs out.

Hybrid cars get over 70 MPG!

Again, this is false, most hybrids have EPA mile per gallon city estimates in the 30’s to 50’s best case.

The Hybrid’s rechargeable battery only lasts for 2 years!

Unlike standard car batteries, the eco-friendly rechargeable hybrid batteries usually come with an 8 year/200,000 mile warranty and are designed to last that long too.

If I run out of gas, I can keep driving on the electric motor!

Hybrid cars rely on the gas engine most of the time and their electric motors might function for a short time if you run out of gas, but unless the gas engine is on and charging your hybrid electric battery, it will totally discharge. But on the flip side, if your electric motor quits working, your gas motor will run on its own and still allow you to drive the car as a normal car.

Hybrid Theory Of Operation – 4 Driving Modes

Hybrid cars operate differently depending on the driving mode. We can divide your typical driving into 4 different modes. Knowing how your hybrid vehicle operates under each mode is crucial to getting the most gas mileage and minimizing emissions output. Of course the car makers don’t tell you this, they just make it sound like you always get super high gas mileage no matter how you drive, but that may not be the case. Here are the 4 hybrid vehicle driving modes and their theory of operation:

Full Stop:

At a full stop, like at a red traffic light or stop sign, the gas engine usually shuts off to eliminate idling and reduce emissions. The electric motor is now ready to propel the car when push on the gas pedal. In crowded cities with lots of stop and go traffic this can save you a lot of fuel.

Initial acceleration from a stop:

Starting from a stop, the electric motor assists in accelerating your car using power from the battery pack. In downtown stop and go traffic you save the most fuel with hybrids, unlike regular cars where you burn the most fuel. The gas engine turns on and off as needed while you drive. Rapid acceleration will still hurt your gas mileage, just like a regular car.

Highway Driving:

This is where the fuel efficiency of a hybrid vehicle is different than a regular car. You get lower mileage on the highway than in the city. The reason is that in this driving mode the car is typically powered only by the gas engine, which may be charging your electric motor battery pack at the same time. So the electric motor is not typically contributing during highway driving, meaning your hybrid is just another gas powered car at highway speeds. Some hybrids get slightly better highway mileage than their non-hybrid counterpart because they are able to use a smaller, more efficient gasoline engine since the electric motor can assist for passing/acceleration. Also, many hybrids have continuously variable transmissions that allows the engine to operate at optimal RPM. If you are a highway commuter that drives an hour to work each way on the open highway with no stop and go traffic, a hybrid vehicle will probably offer you little fuel savings.

Braking, Coasting and Deceleration:

When you brake or coast, kinetic energy gets converted to electric energy instead of being wasted as heat like in standard car. This is accomplished by using the electric motor as a generator to charge the battery pack. This process of charging the battery is known as regenerative braking. Keep in mind that hard braking requires the normal friction brakes as well so to get the best fuel efficiency you should brake smoothly.

How Do You Save Money When Buying New Hybrid Cars?

You save money when buying a hybrid the same way that you save money buying a regular car. We recommend that you read our Buying a New Car in 5 Quick Steps article or read our full car buying guide in addition to the information on this page.

hybrid plugged inReal World Sighting of Plugged In Hybrid

If you decide on a new hybrid car, your goal is to make sure you aren’t getting screwed with ridiculous “market adjustments.” A “market adjustment” is simply an additional dealer profit sticker added next to the MSRP stickers. We recommend that you get quotes from high quality quote sites. Make sure to get multiple, competitive quotes to keep the dealers in line and save the most money. These sites offer you free new car price quotes and new car dealer invoice prices. We recommend that if the hybrid car that you are interested in has a non-hybrid sister model (e.g. Civic vs. Civic Hybrid) or a non-hybrid close competitor (e.g. Prius vs. Ford Focus), you should request a quote for both. Having a quote for the non-hybrid model will show you how much extra you are paying for the hybrid technology. Then you can decide if the gas money savings are worth the extra cost.

Tips for Car Loan

How to Avoid a Higher Interest Rate in Your Next Car Loan

Buying a car can be a daunting and intimidating task with tricks and traps at every turn.  Car buyers often spend countless hours researching the best vehicles, comparing key features, and ultimately finding the best deals.  But when it comes to financing their new vehicle, car buyers are often left in the dark as to what constitutes a good car loan and what abusive practices to avoid.

To help car buyers navigate the murky waters of a new car loan, we have come up with the following quick tips that should help you secure a more affordable car loan next time you step on a car dealer’s lot.

Car Loan Tip

Run Your Credit Report

Before embarking in your car buying journey, request your credit report from the three credit bureaus.  You can request your credit report for free once a year by visiting annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.  Your credit report will give you a glimpse of your creditworthiness and inform you of any possible shortcomings.  Knowing of all this before stepping into a dealership will guard you from the most aggressive selling tactics and help you walk away when the financing offered is not in your best interest.

Car Loan Warning Be careful to avoid paid credit reporting services.  Only annualcreditreport.com is authorized to request a free credit report for you under the law. Paid credit reporting services often carry hidden fees and undisclosed costs.
Car Loan Tip

Visit Your Nearest Bank or Credit Union To Get A Quote

Once you have your credit report handy and a have a good idea of what type of car and price range you are looking for, head over to your nearest bank or credit union to see what kind of interest rates they are offering on their car loans. In some cases, particularly if you already know exactly what vehicle you want to purchase, the bank or credit union may pre-approve you, thus letting you know exactly what interest rate and monthly payments you should expect in your car loan.

Car Loan Warning Be sure to shop around and to compare rates. Visit more than one financial institution to get a quote and to find out what interest rates they are offering on their loans. This will give you a better idea if you are getting a good deal or not.
Car Loan Tip

Negotiate for a Better Rate

Despite the loans offered directly by banks and credit unions, eight out of every 10 car buyers finance their vehicle through a car dealer. Whether it is the convenience offered or simply the marketing tactics deployed, if you find yourself behind closed-doors in the finance and insurance department of a car dealer be ready to negotiate for the lowest interest rate possible without feeling intimidated. Knowing your credit history and the loan rates offered directly from banks and credit unions in your area will definitely give you the upper-hand in getting the best car loan possible, but remain weary of any interest rate markups added on by the dealer. While a car dealer may initially originate your loan, it often attempts to sell the loan to a third-party lender for a profit. This profit is made by arbitrarily raising the interest rate of your car loan. If the interest rate offered by the dealer is higher than what you anticipated, just ask for the desired interest rate and renegotiate.

Car Loan Warning Try to avoid any add-on products offered by the dealer. Products such as vehicle service contracts, guaranteed auto protection insurance, credit life and disability insurance, and many others are often overpriced and unnecessary. Car dealers often sell these products to raise the cost of their loans and increase their profit margins. If you really need any of those add-on products, try to purchase them outside the dealership for much cheaper.

Other Things to Consider:


Comparison Shop Online: The internet has made it a lot easier for consumers to compare car prices and loan rates online. Start your research there before you head out to the dealership.

“Yo-Yo” scams: “Yo-yo” scams or “spot deliveries” occur when a car buyer drives away with the vehicle without finalizing sale. Once home, the dealer will call back the buyer claiming that it was unable to fund the loan at the agreed-upon terms. The buyer must then return the car to the dealer and often renegotiate the loan at a higher interest rate than one agreed-upon before.

“Buy Here and Pay Here” Dealers: “Buy Here Pay Here” dealerships typically finance used auto loans in-house to borrowers with no or poor credit. The average APR is usually much higher than a bank or credit union loan. The car loans made by these dealers are often unsustainable and lead to a high rate of repossessions.

Take Your Time: The average consumer spends 45 minutes with the finance and insurance department at the dealer (only 27 minutes if they take a test drive), so take your time to consider your lending options and don’t feel pressured to sign the dotted line. You have the right to take the entire paperwork home before agreeing to the loan.

Don’t Get Caught In The Monthly Payment Trap: Dealers will often attempt to mask the true cost of their loans by focusing on the monthly payments. Be sure to compare the total cost of all the loans offered and to choose the one that is less costly to you in the long run.

Auto Loan Tips and Scams

Don’t Let Financing be an Afterthought, it Should be a Forethought

It is extremely important to educate yourself about financing when you are shopping for a car. You must understand that the loan is just another product that the dealership is trying to sell. Don’t be fooled into thinking that they are doing you some kind of favor so that you can drive off in a new car.

happy finance customer

It is in their best interest to charge you as high an interest rate as possible so that they will make a good profit. Beware of the tricks that they will use to make you think you are getting a good deal when you really aren’t. You can get better rates from different lending sources before you walk into the dealership.

Remember, a great deal can go bad real fast if you get into the wrong financing. The devil is in the details, especially in the F & I office. Do not let your guard down!

Key Auto Financing Tips

  • Never Shop Based Upon the Monthly Payment
  • Dealers can extend the length of your loan in order to get the monthly payments down
  • Don’t be fooled by the dealer sneaking in a 60 month loan
  • Dealers put overpriced extras into the loan so you don’t notice you’re being ripped off
  • Look out for the “Financing Fell Through Scam” detailed on our scams page
  • Avoid getting scammed by comparing the APR of several loan options
  • Figure out your budget before shopping so you know what you can afford
  • Don’t give a cash deposit, you can dispute a credit card charge if there is an issue
  • Know your credit score so the dealer can’t lie to you to charge you more

Warning About Low APR Car Financing

Few people qualify. Estimates show that as few as 7% of you will qualify for those low or no APR rates we see advertised by car manufacturers. Your best bet is to assume you won’t qualify and get quotes from the online lenders I will discuss so you are prepared.

Financing Mistake to Avoid

It is huge mistake trying to buy a new car without checking rates online or knowing if your credit history can support getting approved. A big source of emails I get are from people whose loans fell through at the dealer. This is why it is important to know your credit score before you apply. Remember, the free reports do not include your score.

If you have bad credit and are trying to get a loan, read our chapter for people with bad credit. We give you strategies to increase your credit score and your chances for approval.

Online Auto Loans: Getting the Best Deal

According to the Consumer Federation of America, car buyers are often overcharged by 3% on their loans at the dealership, which can add more than $1,000 over the life of the loan. The best way to avoid this rip-off is to finance online because these companies tend to have the lowest rates, usually beat dealers and there are no application fees. Get approved in minutes. Remember, multiple quotes gets you the best rate.

If you have a substantial, excellent credit history and FICO credit score above 700 you can really save money by financing with LightStream. They are the online lending division of SunTrust Bank. They offer extremely low rates on unsecured loans. They cater to customers with premium credit.

Advantages Of Online Auto Financing

  • Online loan rates are usually lower than car dealers
  • Low rate and no application fees
  • Lock your financing rate for 60 days
  • Apply for a maximum amount in advance so the final price and vehicle won’t matter
  • Online new car financing avoids headaches, bad credit loan scams and frustration of car dealer financing
  • Loan approvals are usually within an hour during business hours
  • No hidden fees, points or prepayment penalties

The Best Way to Finance Buying a Car

Buying a car is no simple decision. From buying outright, to buying a car on finance, there are many options. You also have to consider running costs. In fact, it’s probably the second most expensive thing you’ll buy after a home.

Cash or savings?

When interest rates are so low, it’s likely that your savings will not be earning much in a bank or building society account. So rather than keeping your savings and borrowing at a higher rate of interest, you could use them to fund all or some of the cost of the car.


  • You should make sure you have enough savings left over for an emergency after you have paid for your car.
  • If you don’t have enough savings to buy the car outright, you could use them to give you the biggest deposit possible.
  • Even if you use money from your savings you may be better off buying the car on your credit card so you benefit from credit card purchase protection. You should pay the bill off in full the next month.

Personal loan

Did you know?

Personal loans are usually the cheapest way to finance a car deal, but only if you have a good credit rating.

You can get a personal loan from a bank, building society or finance provider so long as your credit rating is good.

Make sure the loan is not secured against your home. Otherwise you will be putting your home at risk if you failed to keep up with repayments.

Shop around for the best interest rate by comparing the APR (or annual percentage rate, which includes charges you have to pay as well as the interest).


  • It can be arranged over the phone, internet or face-to-face
  • Covers the whole cost of the car but it doesn’t have to
  • Can charge a competitive fixed interest rate if you shop around


  • There may be a wait for the funds to appear, although some lenders make funds available almost immediately
  • Other borrowing may be affected

Hire purchase (HP)

Hire purchase is a form of buying a car on finance and is paid in instalments where payments are spread over 12-60 months and you usually (but not always) have to put down a 10% deposit. They are arranged by the car dealer and are often very competitive for new cars (less so for used cars). The loan is secured against the car, so you don’t own it until the last payment is made.


  • Quick and easy to arrange
  • Low deposit (usually 10%)
  • Flexible repayment terms (from 12 to 60 months)
  • Competitive fixed interest rates


  • You don’t own the car until the final payment
  • Tends to be more expensive for short-term agreements

Personal contract plan

This type of car finance deal is a variation on hire purchase and tends to result in lower monthly payments. Instead of paying for the car outright, you agree to pay the difference between its sale price and its price for resale back to the dealer. This is based on a forecast of annual mileage over the term of the agreement. Payments are spread over a shorter term of 12 to 36 months.

At the end of the term you can:

  • hand back the car to the dealer and pay nothing
  • trade the car in and start all over again
  • pay the resale price of the car and keep it


  • Lower monthly payments
  • Low deposit (usually 10%)
  • Flexible repayment terms (from 12 to 36 months)
  • A choice of what to do at end of repayment term


  • Mileage and condition of car affects the costs
  • Total amount paid may be more than with hire purchase
  • Have to pay the outstanding balance to keep the car

Personal leasing

You can pay the dealer a fixed monthly amount for the use of a car, with servicing and maintenance included, as long as the mileage doesn’t exceed a specified limit. At the end of the agreement, you hand the car back. It never belongs to you.


  • Motoring at a fixed monthly cost
  • No worries about the car depreciating in value
  • Flexible payment terms (from 12 to 36 months)


  • Monthly costs are higher because servicing and maintenance are included
  • Need to find a deposit (usually 3 months rental)
  • Possible extra costs if you exceed the mileage limit
  • The car is never yours

Car finance options – Things to look out for

As you compare car financing, there are a few key things to do before making a final choice.

  • Make sure you can afford the monthly payment.
  • Make sure you compare interest rates by looking at the APR (annual percentage rate), which includes all the charges you have to pay. Remember that a higher deposit will normally mean a lower interest rate.
  • Compare the total cost of borrowing, including all charges over the loan.
  • Think carefully before buying payment protection insurance (PPI) or other insurance, such as GAP cover, which can be expensive and may give limited cover. GAP cover is designed to pay out if your car is a total write-off and the outstanding finance is more than the value of your car.
  • Beware of early repayment or other charges, which kick in if you exceed the forecast mileage in personal contract plans (and also personal leasing).

Using your savings is the cheapest option for buying a car, while personal loans are usually the cheapest way to borrow to buy a car, but only if you have a good credit history. If you have a bad credit rating, you may need to choose one of the alternative financing methods to buy a car.

10 tips for buying the right car in 2015

Whether it’s used or new, buying a car is an expensive endeavor, generally the second most expensive purchase, after a home, that consumers make. To be sure you are making a wise investment, follow these 10 tips as you work your way through the purchase process to get the best price on a car that holds its value and to find one you’ll love driving.

1. Set your budget

Know what you can afford before you start car shopping. That will help ensure that you don’t get over your head financially for the length of your car loan and will also make you feel more confident when you are ready to negotiate with an auto dealer.

To set a budget, a general rule of thumb is to allocate no more than 20 percent of your household income to all the cars being driven by family members in the household. This auto budget includes not only your car loan payments but all expenses, including insurance, gas, repairs and maintenance. Bankrate’s home budget calculator is a handy tool to help you determine your monthly bills and potential savings.

2. Develop a short list of car choices

You’ve probably been eyeing some cars on the road for a while, so start by researching the models that have caught your attention on independent auto information websites. Research the features and other details about the cars to make sure they offer what you want and need in a car.

Find out the retail and invoice prices for each car if you are shopping for a new one. Find out the range of prices, depending on model year and mileage, if you are shopping for a used car. Look for cars that cost at least 5 percent less than your budget so you have some cushion for insurance, fuel and other auto expenses.

3. Weigh the pros and cons of new vs. used

If you are open to buying either a new or used car, be sure you understand the pros and cons of each. Buying a new car means you’ll get fewer features for the money, but you’ll get the advantage of the full new car warranty and possibly some free maintenance if you buy a car from certain automakers. If you buy a used car, you’ll be able to buy more car for your money, but you won’t know the car’s full history and you’ll have a shorter warranty period, or possibly none at all. Used car loans also typically have higher interest rates and sometimes shorter loan periods than new car loans.

4. Research all ownership costs

Remember that your costs for this car aren’t just associated with the car payment. The auto information websites where you did your initial research offer average ownership costs for each car. While it’s best to do your own calculations for car insurance and fuel costs based on your driving record and the area where you live, these sites are a great resource for average repair and maintenance data.

Crunch the numbers on the cars you are considering so you have a clear picture of how much they will cost overall. Don’t forget to include resale value unless you are reasonably confident you will keep this car for a very long time. You may find that a competitor’s model similar to a car you are considering has a much lower cost of ownership.

5. Don’t start looking for financing at the dealership

Financing at the dealership may be easy, but it’s not necessarily the best deal. Dealers are essentially acting as middlemen to offer you a car loan. They get paid for every loan they write, whether the loan is through the automaker or a local lender.

It is possible to get the best car-loan interest rate at the dealer, but you’re likely to find that it pays to shop around first. Be especially wary if a dealer offers you a car loan at a rate that is far better than other lenders. Sometimes, dealers entice prospective customers with rates to get them to sign a contract to buy a car. Read all contracts carefully to make sure that the interest rate is not contingent upon approval.

6. Determine the best interest rate

It’s best to get preapproved for an auto loan from a bank or credit union, even if you plan on getting financing from the dealer. Don’t assume that you’ll qualify for the zero percent or low-interest dealer loan because typically less than 10 percent of buyers qualify.

Even if you qualify for the best dealer financing, you may be better off taking the manufacturer rebates and getting financing elsewhere. Use Bankrate’s rate search tool to see current interest rates. Also, check with any local lenders you do business with, as well as local credit unions, which typically have interest rates that are 1 percent to 2 percent lower than conventional banks.

7. Find all possible discounts

Automakers often advertise rebates and cash-back incentives on new cars to attract customers to their lots. Some dealers also will offer incentives on certified pre-owned cars or noncertified used cars. In addition, automakers often have discounts that apply directly to the buyer, such as for members of the military, current students or recent graduates or even members of certain local credit unions.

Research all of these incentives online at the manufacturer and dealer websites before you visit the lot so you know what you qualify for to save the most money.

8. Know the car’s bottom-line price

The auto information websites where you researched the cars you were interested in also should have listed the cars’ invoice prices if new. If used, they should have listed the average selling prices for the same models in similar condition and mileage in your area.

Use these numbers as a guide in your negotiation with the dealer or private party. If you are buying a new car, aim to reach an agreement for an amount that is similar to the invoice price before any applicable discounts are applied, but remember that the dealer needs to earn a bit of profit to cover his costs of running a dealership.

9. Be prepared to negotiate

Since buying a car is such a pricey purchase, be prepared to negotiate to get the best deal. Before you visit a dealer, gather all your research materials so you are prepared. Then, make an appointment to test-drive the car or cars that interest you.

At a dealership, these salespeople are less likely to try to strong-arm you into a sale and are more likely to be willing to negotiate. If you are trading in a car, be sure to negotiate the purchase price of your new car separately and be aware of the value of your current car so that you know whether you’re being offered a fair price.

10. Take your time on the test-drive

Since you are spending a lot of your hard-earned dollars and you’ll be spending a lot of time behind the wheel, take extra time during the test drive. Make sure that you are completely comfortable in the car and can adjust the seat and mirrors so you have good visibility. Make sure you are comfortable driving on surface streets, in traffic and on the highway, as well as in parking.

Take extra time when the car is parked to make sure you’ll be happy with all the dashboard controls and understand how the features work. Although it’s not necessarily easy to imagine, think about how this car will suit your lifestyle years from now in terms of passengers and cargo you may need to transport.

10 Ways to Save Money on Auto Insurance

Let’s face it. We all like to save money, especially when it comes to auto insurance. But does lowering your insurance premiums mean less-than-adequate coverage or working with a provider whose customer service leaves a lot to be desired? Not at all. We’ve put together a variety of suggestions to help you save money on auto insurance without sacrificing quality in the process.

Consider car insurance costs before you buy

When it comes to buying a new or used car, many people overlook insurance expense as part of the total cost of owning a vehicle. It’s better to consider the cost of insurance before you buy since auto insurance premiums vary widely depending on a vehicle’s specific characteristics, including its price, average repair costs, safety record and whether or not it’s a target among thieves.

Combine insurance policies with one carrier

Many insurance companies offer multi-policy discounts, such as buying a homeowners policy and auto coverage from the same carrier. You might also be able to save money if you insure all of the vehicles in your household on one policy or if you insure all of your driving-age family members on the same plan. Be sure to do your homework though, since there’s a chance you could save more money buying policies from multiple carriers.

Compare auto insurance carriers

Because auto insurance companies and rates vary widely, it helps to shop around when selecting an insurer. As a general rule, it’s wise to obtain auto insurance quotes and information from at least three separate companies. Calling insurance carriers directly, asking family and friends about their insurance providers and getting an auto insurance quote online are just some of the steps you can take in helping to ensure you choose the right auto insurance company.

Another helpful resource is your state’s department of insurance, which typically offers information such as rate comparisons, customer ratings and complaint ratios, as well as contact information for a variety of major carriers.

Don’t forget you’ll be dealing with your auto insurer in the event of an accident or emergency, so be sure to select a company that’s committed to customer service. Do your homework ahead of time by comparing ratings and researching complaints to ensure a company handles claims — and answers questions — honestly and promptly.

Drive less, save more

The more you drive, the higher the likelihood of an accident or emergency. That’s why many auto insurance companies offer low mileage discounts for people who drive less than the average number of miles per year, or for people who carpool on a regular basis. Be sure to ask your carrier if you qualify.

Drive safer, save more

The better you are as a driver, the more money you stand to save in coverage costs. People with clean driving records who haven’t had any accidents or moving violations for a certain number of years can qualify for safe driver discounts. What’s more, you may be able to take advantage of additional savings if you’ve recently taken a defensive driving course.

Increase your deductible

Sure, you’ll have to pay more out of pocket if you have an accident, but if you increase your deductible by just several hundred dollars, for example, you could save anywhere from 15 to 40 percent or more in collision and comprehensive coverage costs. It’s always good practice to set aside a portion of your monthly car insurance premium savings to ensure you can actually afford a higher deductible in the event of a claim.

Inquire about other car insurance discounts

There are a variety of additional car insurance savings you might be able to take advantage of, including discounts for teens who have good grades or who have taken an approved drivers’ education course, for college-age drivers who go to school more than 100 miles away, for people who are over the age of 50/55 or those who are retired, or for people who belong to business groups, alumni groups or other professional associations. You can also save money on auto insurance if a group plan is offered at your place of employment. When it comes to discounts, be careful. An insurance company that offers huge discounts might charge the highest rates to begin with, so be sure to do your homework thoroughly before signing on the dotted line.

Maintain good credit

In the eyes of auto insurance carriers, drivers with established and stable credit records have fewer accidents. That’s why an increasing number of auto insurance companies consider credit scores when calculating rates. Since your credit score can impact the amount of money you pay in auto insurance, be sure to maintain a good credit rating and check your credit report periodically to ensure the items in your history actually belong to you. There are a variety of online services that allow you to check your credit as well as those that offer advice about how to improve it.

Opt for safety features

You can qualify for a car insurance discount from many carriers if your vehicle is equipped with safety equipment designed to reduce the risk of injury or theft, such as antilock brakes, automatic seatbelts, running lights or an alarm system.

Reduce insurance coverage on older cars

If you own an older vehicle, check its Kelley Blue Book value. If your annual comprehensive/collision insurance premiums are more than 10 percent of the current value of your car, consider dropping the coverage. Claims only occur an average of every 11 years, so there’s a good chance any claim payment you might receive down the road could be less than the comprehensive/collision premiums you’d paid.

While not exhaustive, this list gives you a good start in saving money on auto insurance. Keep in mind that the key to saving on auto insurance is about finding the best final price, not the biggest discounts. You may find that a company offering the least amount of discounts still offers the lowest auto insurance rates.

Seven Auto Insurance Buying Tips


1. Raise your deductibles

The easiest way to save is by increasing both the collision and comprehensive (damage due to vandalism, fire, flood) deductibles for damage to your auto. As a practical matter, if you have a $500 deductible and $700 of damage to your car, would you even put in a claim? Many folks wouldn’t for fear it would raise their rates. That’s one reason it makes more sense to have a $1,000 deductible, says Mark McConnell, a claims officer in Roanoke, Va. with ACE Private Risk Services. Consider “full glass” coverage if you’re worried about a ding to your windshield; it’s cheaper than a lower comprehensive deductible.

2. Get uninsured motorist coverage

This protects you and family members living with you should you be hit by a negligent driver who is uninsured or “underinsured,” even if you’re walking, bicycling or skateboarding at the time. According to the Insurance Research Council, at least 16% of drivers, and about a quarter of those in New Mexico, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma and Florida, are uninsured. Underinsured? In California an “insured” motorist in the assigned risk pool can carry as little as $15,000 in bodily injury coverage per person and $30,000 per accident.

In many states uninsured motorist protection isn’t mandatory coverage, warns Diane Giles, a vice president at Marsh, a broker representing several high-end insurance carriers. That means you could have a policy without it, particularly if you shopped on price. The amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage you carry should match your auto policy’s primary liability limits–meaning the maximum amount your insurer will pay the other guy if you cause an accident. Typically, that amount is $100,000 per individual and $300,000 per accident on a primary auto policy. That limit, in turn, should be where your umbrella kicks in. (Some umbrellas require your auto policy to cover as much as $500,000 per accident. Make sure there’s no gap in coverage between the two policies.)

3. Carry a big umbrella

An umbrella, or “excess,” policy kicks in where your liability coverage for your auto and home ends and is a necessity if you have any assets to protect. A $1 million umbrella is common, but $2 million is more realistic these days. “The more assets a person has, the bigger target they are” for lawsuits, says ACE’s McConnell. Recent jury verdict data show that 14% of personal injury liability cases result in awards in excess of $1 million, he notes. If you have teenagers driving, consider increasing your umbrella. The second million is cheaper than the first.

Warning: Although uninsured motorist coverage was included in the Dreyers’ old umbrella policy, many insurers now either don’t offer it or charge extra for it. Expect to pay $125 to $250 a year extra for $1 million of such coverage. “You need it,” insists Kornblum, who personally carries a $10 million Chubb umbrella with $5 million in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

You can often save on an umbrella by buying it through the same insurer you get your auto policy from; go to an independent agent and ask for combined quotes from several carriers. Be sure to compare what each umbrella covers.

4. Hunt out obscure discounts

Certain discounts–say, for a good driving record–are usually applied automatically. But other credits require action on your part. For example, as you age, taking a defensive driving course (even one online) could earn you a credit. If you start telecommuting two days a week, call your insurer and ask for a discount. You may also be able to save by buying through a workplace discount program. If you have a teen driver, ask for the good student discount. (If the kid’s grades aren’t high enough, make him take the bus.)

5. Don’t buy a teen his own car

It’s usually cheaper not to add a third car when you’re adding a teen driver to a two-parent, two-car family, because insurers rightly assume the kid will drive less without his own car. (Even without a third car the average annual premium goes up 58% with a teen added, according to a recent Insurance.com study.)

The exception: If you and your spouse both drive new luxury cars with collision coverage, then you might reduce both premiums and family conflict by getting your kid a clunker without collision insurance. Warning: Some insurers charge as if the kid is driving the fanciest car in the garage, even if you swear he won’t. So you may have to sell your midlife-crisis Corvette or get a different insurer.

6. Avoid limited tort insurance

In some states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, you can buy “limited tort” coverage at a discount, but be wary of what you’re giving up. Limited tort means that, even if the other guy is at fault, you generally cannot collect payment for your “pain and suffering”–extra money that may be needed, say to get help around the house if you’re laid up. “We recommend clients select full tort,” says Giles.

7. Insure for a total wreck

If you’ve got a paid-up car older than five years or so (depending on the model) it may make sense to drop collision and comprehensive. That’s because if you wreck your car or it’s stolen, most insurers will pay out the depreciated value, which could be less than it takes to replace your older car. That’s also true if it would cost more to repair your car than it’s worth.

On the other hand, if you have a car loan outstanding or are leasing a car, consider topping up your coverage. MetLife Auto & Home, for example, offers “gap” insurance, which pays the difference between the depreciated value and the amount needed to pay off the loan or lease, and raises comprehensive/collision costs an average of 7%.

High-end carriers like Chubb and ACE offer the option of setting an “agreed value” at the start of each premium year for the amount you’ll receive if your car is totaled. It paid off for one of Giles’ adult daughters, whose VW Jetta was destroyed in a flood. The payout covered the remaining lease and left her with $4,000 for a deposit on a new lease.

Tips for Cheaper car Insurance

Auto insurance can be a major cost for motorists who already face high fuel prices, paying for regular MOTs and services and of course covering the cost of the vehicle they drive each day.

If you’re looking to find cheaper auto insurance, try these tips for lowering your car insurance costs.

1. Compare car insurance online

Shopping around for auto insurance is often a simple but effective way to reduce the price you pay for cover. Insurance companies rarely offer their very best deals to existing customers, instead reserving their cheapest possible prices for new customers. Use our car insurance comparison tool to see how much you could save by switching insurers. Just remember to make sure you are comparing like for like cover, with voluntary excesses set at the same level and including any extras that you’d usually add on.

2. Increase your excess

Opting for a higher voluntary excess when setting up your car insurance cover is another way to reduce your premium. As a general rule of thumb, the higher your excess, the lower your premium – so experiment using our car insurance comparison tool to see how much difference an increased excess could make to your annual auto insurance costs. Remember, though, that you must be able to afford your voluntary excess. If you need to make an insurance claim, you’ll be required to stump it up before your insurer will pay out.

3. Go no-frills

Think carefully before adding extras, such as legal expenses cover, windscreen cover or use of a courtesy car to your car insurance package. While insurance companies are often enthusiastic about their value and they might come in handy, they are not strictly necessary – and including too many add-ons could significantly bump up the price of your policy.

4. Think about the distance you drive

Before buying car insurance, think carefully about how far you really drive in your vehicle each year. If it’s possible for you to agree to a lower annual mileage cap than you did last time you bought insurance, it’s possible you’ll save money. This is an especially helpful tip for two car families, where one vehicle is likely to do more miles in a year than the other – but where this sometimes isn’t obvious until both cars’ odometers are checked.

5. Don’t pay by direct debit

While spreading the cost of your auto insurance might feel less painful than paying for your premium in one go, it will probably cost you more in the long run. Many insurance companies charge interest when customers opt to pay for their insurance monthly, so check before you sign on the dotted line. If your insurer’s policy is to charge interest but you would like to spread the cost of your cover for free, you could consider using a 0% purchase credit card to pay for it – just be sure to clear your balance in full before the 0% period ends.

10 Things You Should Know About Buying Auto Insurance

  1. How is Your Insurance Rate Determined?
    Two factors determine what you pay for auto insurance. The first factor is underwriting and the second factor is rating. Insurance companies underwrite to assess the risk associated with an applicant, group the applicant with other similar risks and decide if the company will accept the application. Based on the results of the underwriting process, the rating assigns a price based on what the insurer believes it will cost to assume the financial responsibility for the applicant’s potential claim.

    Each company adopts its own rating system, although there are general guidelines that all companies follow.
    The single greatest influence on the rating process is claim frequency. This does not mean how many times you specifically have made an insurance claim, although that will have an additional effect. Claim frequency measures how often an insured event occurs within a group relative to the number of policies contained in that group. Persons sharing characteristics with high claims groups will be charged more for insurance coverage.

  2. Specific Factors that Affect Your Rate
    • Your driving record – drivers with previous violations or accidents are considered to be higher risk
    • Your geographic territory – urban areas have more claims than rural areas
    • Your gender and age – males have more accidents; certain age groups have more claims
    • Your marital status – married people show lower rates of claims
    • Prior insurance coverage – if you have been cancelled for non-payment of premiums
    • Vehicle use – higher annual mileage results in higher exposure to risk
    • Make and model of your vehicle – luxury and sports cars average a higher number of claims
  3. Ask Your Agent About Discounts
    Discounts are awarded because the insurance company sees you as a “better risk.” Here are some discounts you should look for: multiple vehicles, driver education courses, good student, safety devices, anti-theft devices, low mileage, good driver/renewal, auto/home package and dividends. Not all states offer all discounts, so check with your agent to see if you qualify.
  4. Tort System vs. No-Fault System
    Each state must implement either a tort system or a no-fault system. The system your state has implemented will determine what kind of insurance is available to you. The three basic coverages sold under the tort system are bodily injury liability insurance, property damage liability insurance and uninsured motorists coverage. In a no-fault state, coverages will vary, but under a no-fault system your insurance company pays you directly for your losses as a result of injuries sustained in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Check with your state insurance department for questions concerning tort or no-fault state systems.
  5. Check Into Optional Coverage
    The most commonly recognized coverages, in addition to the basic liability package, are collision and comprehensive coverages. Collision coverage pays for physical damage to your car as a result of your auto colliding with an object such as a tree or another car. This is relatively expensive coverage and is not required by law. Comprehensive coverage pays for damage to your auto from almost all other causes, including fire, severe weather, vandalism, floods and theft. This coverage will also cover broken glass and windshield damage. Comprehensive coverage is less expensive than collision, but is also optional. Other optional coverages include medical payments coverage, rental reimbursement coverage and towing and labor coverage.
  6. Where to Go for More Information
    Information is available to consumers from a number of unbiased sources. These sources include public libraries, state insurance departments, online resources, consumer groups and consumer publications. Every state insurance department has personnel available to answer questions regarding auto insurance coverage and many departments publish premium comparisons to make shopping around easier.
  7. Shop Around Before You Buy
    When shopping for auto insurance, premium quotations are a useful tool for comparison of different companies’ products. When asking for price quotations, it is crucial that you provide the same information to each agent or company. The agent will usually request the following information: description of your vehicle, its use, your driver’s license number, the number of drivers in your household, the coverages and limits you want.
  8. Where to Shop
    Check the newspaper and yellow pages of the telephone directory for companies and agents in your area. In addition, ask your neighbors, relatives and friends for recommendations on insurance companies and agents. In particular, ask them what kind of claim service they have received from the companies they recommend. Remember to shop around to get the best price and service.
  9. For Your Protection
    Once you have selected the insurance coverages you need and an insurance agent or company, there are steps you can take to make certain you get your money’s worth. Before signing an application for any insurance coverage, call you state insurance department and verify that the company and the agent are licensed to do business in your state. It is illegal for unlicensed insurers to sell insurance, and if you buy from an unlicensed insurer, you have no guarantee that the coverage you pay for will ever be honored.
  10. Read Your Policy Carefully
    You should be aware that an auto insurance policy is a legal contract. It is written so your rights and responsibilities, as well as those of the insurance company, are clearly stated. When you purchase auto insurance, you will receive a policy. You should read that policy and make certain you understand its contents. If you have questions about your insurance policy, contact your insurance agent for clarification. If you still have questions, turn to your state insurance department.

10 Steps to Buying Auto Insurance

When it comes to auto insurance, you want to be adequately covered if you get in an accident, but you don’t want to pay more than you have to. Unfortunately many people are doing just that, simply because they don’t want to spend time shopping for car insurance. It’s not inherently enjoyable, after all, despite how it looks in commercials featuring disgruntled cavemen and joke-cracking spokespeople.

But by doing some comparison shopping, you could save hundreds of dollars a year. When one of our editors used a rate-comparison service, he got basic coverage quotes for his two old cars that ranged from $1,006 to $1,807 — a difference of $801 a year. If you’re paying thousands to your current insurance company because you have a couple tickets, an accident or an out-of-date and unfavorable credit rating, shopping your policy against others might be well worth the effort. Look at it this way: You can convert the money you save into buying something you’ve wanted or needed for a long time.

Step 1: Decide How Much Coverage You Need
To find the right auto insurance, start by figuring out the amount of coverage you need. This varies from state to state, so take a moment to find out what coverage is required where you live.which has a glossary of basic insurance terminology. If you’re a first-time driver and need a comprehensive overview of car insurance before you go on, review this guide from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Now you’re ready to make a list of the different types of coverage you are considering.

Once you know what’s required, you can decide what you need. Some people are quite cautious. They base their lives on worst-case scenarios and insurance companies love that. Insurance companies are in the risk business, and they know a policyholder’s likelihood of being in an accident, as well as how likely it is for a car to be damaged or stolen. The insurance company crunches the information it has collected over decades into actuarial tables that give adjustors a quick look at the probability of just about any occurrence. You don’t have those tools at your disposal, so your decision will depend on your own degree of comfort in assuming a certain level of risk.

Experts recommend that if you have a lot of assets, you should get enough liability coverage to protect them. Let’s say you have $50,000 of bodily injury liability coverage but $100,000 in personal assets. If you’re at fault in an accident, attorneys for the other party could go after you for the $50,000 in medical bills that aren’t covered by your policy.

General recommendations for liability limits are $50,000 bodily injury liability for one person injured in an accident, $100,000 for all people injured in an accident and $25,000 property damage liability (usually expressed in insurance shorthand as 50/100/25). Here again, let your financial situation be your guide. If you have no assets that an attorney can seek, don’t buy coverage unnecessarily.

Your driving habits might also be a consideration in determining the coverage you need. If your past is filled with crumpled fenders, or if you have a lead foot, or if you make a long commute on a treacherous winding road every day, then you should get more complete coverage. Collision coverage pays for damage that your car experiences in an accident or damage from hitting an inanimate object (a tree, light post or fence, for example). Comprehensive coverage addresses damage that didn’t occur in a collision — such as from fire, theft or flood. It also covers damaged windshields.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to buy collision and comprehensive coverage. Let’s say your vehicle is older, you have a good driving record and there is little likelihood that your car would be totaled in an accident, but a high likelihood of it being stolen. Then you could buy comprehensive coverage and skip the collision insurance.

Step 2: Review Your Current Insurance Policy
Read through your current policy or contact your auto insurance company to get the information you need. Jot down the amount of coverage you have now and how much you are paying for it. Take note of the yearly and monthly cost of your insurance, since many of your quotes will be given both ways. Now you have a figure to beat.

Step 3: Check Your Driving Record
You should know how many tickets you have had recently. If you can’t remember how long that speeding ticket has been on your record, check with your state’s department of motor vehicles. If a ticket or points you earned are about to disappear, thus improving your driving record, wait until that happens before you get quotes. Nothing drives up the price of insurance like a bad driving record.

Step 4: Solicit Competitive Quotes
Now it’s time to start shopping. Set aside at least an hour for this task. Have at hand your current insurance policy, your driver license number and your vehicle registration. You can begin with online services. If you go to an online site to get a quote for an insurance rate, you can type in your information and begin to build a list of companies for comparative quotes. Keep in mind that not all insurance companies participate in these one-stop-shopping sites, however. If a recommendation from friends and family or other research points to a company that you think might be a winner, you can go directly to its Web site or call its toll-free number to get a quote.

Each quote form takes about 15 minutes each to complete. It might be well worth your time, since if the entire shopping process takes you two hours and you save $800, you’re effectively earning $400 an hour.

When you use these sites, you might not get instant quotes. Some companies may contact you later by e-mail. Some that are not “direct providers” might put you in touch with a local agent, who will then calculate a quote for you. (A direct provider like Geico sells insurance policies directly to consumers. Other companies, such as State Farm, sell insurance through local agents.)

Step 5: Gather Quotes and Company Information
While you’re researching companies, take careful notes so you can easily make price and coverage comparisons. Keep a list of:

    • Annual and monthly rates for the different types of coverage. Make sure to keep the coverage limits the same so you can make apples-to-apples comparisons for cost and coverage.
    • The insurance company’s 800 telephone number, so you can get answers to questions you couldn’t find online.
    • The insurance company’s payment policy. When is the payment due? What kinds of payment plans are available? What happens if you’re late in making a payment?

In later steps, you’ll add some more information to this list.

Step 6: Work the Phones
Once you have gathered information online, it’s time to work the phones. Contact those companies from which you haven’t been able to get an online quote. Doing the research by phone can actually be easier and faster than on the Internet, provided you have your driver license and vehicle registration close at hand. When you get a quote over the phone, be sure to confirm the price by asking the representative to e-mail the quote to you.

Step 7: Look for Discounts
When you’re making these calls and shopping online, make sure you explore all your options relating to discounts. Insurance companies give discounts for such things as a good driving record, your car’s safety or security equipment and certain occupations or professional affiliations. Some companies are now offering lower rates if you enroll in “pay as you drive” plans. Some will give substantial discounts for young drivers in the family who have high grade-point averages. (You can use this as an incentive to your teen drivers and offer to share the savings with them.) Also consider using the same insurance company for home and auto policies. That will usually get you a better price.

Step 8: Assess the Insurance Company’s Track Record
You now have most of the price and coverage information that you need to make a decision. You can see which company’s coverage is least expensive, but it’s important to keep in mind that cheap isn’t the only basis for choosing an insurer. How do you know which company is financially sound? How do you find out if an insurance company is going to treat you right — particularly in the event of a claim?

Here are some places to check to develop a clearer picture of an insurance company’s track record for fairness, financial stability and customer service.

1. Use the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Consumer Information Source to access information about insurance companies, including closed insurance complaints, licensing information and key financial data. You also can visit your state’s department of insurance to check consumer complaint ratios and basic rate comparison surveys.

2. Consider contacting an independent insurance agent for additional information about a company.

3. Check out the financial strength ratings for an insurance company by referring to the ratings from A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s (registration may be required).

4. Review consumer satisfaction surveys from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports (subscription required).

5. Ask friends and family about their insurers and whether they’re satisfied with them. In particular, ask them how their insurance companies treated them if they had a claim. Did they get fair, straightforward service? Or was it a hassle to get the matter resolved?

Step 9: Review the Policy Before You Sign
When you’re done your research and zeroed in on a company, read over the main points of the policy. In addition to verifying that it contains the coverage you’ve requested and priced, it’s a good idea to find out if the policy states that “new factory,” “like kind and quality” or “aftermarket parts” may be used for body shop repairs, says Dennis Howard, director of the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network. If the policy has such a requirement, think hard about whether this is the company for you, particularly if you own a relatively new car that you plan to keep for a while. In this case, it’s best to know at the outset that the insurer will pay for original manufacturer parts, rather than try to fight later, when you have a claim.

Step 10: Cancel Your Old Policy; Carry Your Proof
After you have secured the auto insurance policy you want, cancel coverage with your existing insurance company. If your state requires you to carry proof of insurance, make sure you put the card in your wallet or the glove compartment of your car.

Finally, here’s a quick checklist to keep you on track:

    • Determine your state’s minimum insurance requirements.
    • Consider your own financial situation in relation to the required insurance and consider whether you need to increase your limits to protect your assets.
    • Review the status of your driving record — do you have any outstanding tickets or points on your driver license?
    • Check your current coverage to find out how much you are paying.
    • Get competing quotes from Internet insurance Web sites and individual companies of interest to you.
    • Make follow-up phone calls to insurance companies to get additional information about coverage.
    • Inquire about discounts.
    • Evaluate the reliability of the insurance companies you’re considering by visiting your state’s insurance department Web site, reviewing consumer surveys and talking to family and friends.
    • Review the policy before finalizing it. Remember to cancel your old policy.

Spray painting from a rattle can.

  1.   Read the information and instructions on the can first.
  2.   Shake the can for at least two minutes.
  3.   Ensure the body, or other parts, you want to paint are securely attached to the handle.
  4.   Ensure your spraying area is well ventilated and you will not breath in paint spray, were a protective mask.
  5.   Hold the can, approx 12inches from the model and sweep the spray across.
  6. Sweep back and forth, up and down, while turning the body to build up an equal coating.
  7. Build up a series of thin coats inspecting the finish between coats and sanding and attending to faults as they might occur.

Be careful not to sand through the paint on raised edges.

  1.  Give the model around two weeks for the paint to fully harden, use this time to work on the other areas of the model.
  2.  Lightly sand and then ‘T’ cut the paint to a smooth finish if your using automotive paints. Use a polishing kit and model wax if

your using model or other paints.

  1. Apply decals and use a good quality clear coat to seal the decals. Repeat step 9 as appropriate.

To elaborate a little on the subject. Knowing all the information and instructions for a spray can will give you more confidence to use it. Remember to invert a can and clear the feed tube and nozzle after use or they will block and you won’t be able to use the rest of the paint.

Some people suggest warming the can in warm water before spraying, the idea is that the paint will flow more easily as the internal pressure is raised. Any spray paint can is a pressurised container and raising that pressure in an uncontrolled way is dangerous. Should you choose to do this you must take responsibility for the consequences.

The distance between the spray can and object being painted is a matter of feel and adjusting for circumstances. If you are too close the paint pools and runs, Halfords paint does contract as it dries but this doesn’t get rid of runs. If you are too far away the paint starts drying before it gets to the subject and you end up with the “orange peel” effect, thus if it’s a hot day you may need to be a little closer to the subject than on a cold day.

When you are building up coats start with several thin “mist” coats. You need to achieve equal coverage all over, not to fill in recessed panel lines or swamp raised details. Once you have a good base level coat then you can start to use “wet” coats. A wet coat is a heavier coat where you can see the “wet look” of the paint. Do not over do these coats, and do not be tempted to take short cuts and go straight to the wet coats.

Please do let the body paint harden off. If you try to handle it too soon you run the risk of pressing fingerprints into the paintwork. I don’t mean just greasy marks but literally fingerprints indented into the paint. These are very hard to get rid of.

Depending on the quality of your paint finish you may be able to go straight to the cutting and polishing of the paint. If you do need to lightly sand the finish before “T” cutting use worn fine grade wet and dry abrasive paper, or a polishing kit, and avoid sanding through any raised areas. If you are going to apply decals do not use any polish on top of the “T” cut. These will repulse the water activated adhesive and stop the decal settling down properly. Polish comes after the decals, but be careful that the polish doesn’t attack the decals.

If you are going to overcoat the decals with any clear coating be sure to test this on some spare decal. Sometimes decals do not take well to clear coats. We have used Halfords Acrylic clear over many decals now, applied in very thin mist coats and this technique of gently coating decals will work for most clear varnish mediums. There are several advantages to covering the decals with clear. Decals often dry out and lift over time, cracking and flaking off. Sealing them down prevents this and helps slow down any discolouration. It also helps hide the carrier film so the decals look more like they are painted on.

Most clear acrylic paints can be treated the same way as pigmented paint and carefully treated with a polishing kit to bring up a high quality shine.

Where we have mentioned “T” cut we should say cutting compound. There are many colour restorers for automotive paints, they all have similar effects though some are stronger than others. They cannot be used with all modelling paints so if you’re not using automotive paint don’t used automotive colour restorers. you’l need a model polishing kit instead.

It is much easier to spray dark colours over light colours than the other way around. You can see on the Matra above that the primer was white followed by coats of gloss appliance white, then the main blue body colour then the darkest colour, the green. This means you have to mask the colour areas you want to protect.

For those of you wondering about airbrushes and acrylic modelling paints please don’t think we are in anyway inferring these are inferior. They are not. At this point we are simply suggesting that the easiest way for a new modeller to achieve a good standard without excessive initial expenditure is by using automotive products.

Model Car Painting

Here we continue the build process, focusing on painting and highlighting the details that bring a model to life. You can find examples of the processes described in our articles. 

The way you paint your car is as individual as you are, it becomes a style other modellers can recognise. To start with we will give you the benefit of our experience but you will soon find the methods you feel confident with and that provide the results that please you.

Beauty being in the eye of the beholder means we all like slightly different effects on our models. Some car modellers like block painted pristinely clean models, some like to add light and shade (which is common in military modelling) and others want the full on weathered and worn look. To a certain degree this will depend on the area of car modelling that interests you the most. For instance rally cars seem to be habitually dirty while F1 machinery is usually sparklingly! Historic cars are not as highly polished as modern cars but often have more metal parts. What ever your main interest we all have to start some where and more or less follow the same processes to achieve the paint job we want.

We have mentioned on the preceding pages the initial washing of model parts, and washing sub-assemblies prior to painting. It is recommended but often omitted by modellers. I suppose it will depend on your available time and patience.

The seats and cabin of the car above are neatly painted in one colour. This is what we call block painted. i.e. One block of colour.

The seats and interior of the car below were block painted then washed and dry-brushed to give a more realistic, worn effect.

This is all a matter of individual taste.This car is block painted, although it is nicely done it doesn’t show off the detail.

In contrast the Bugatti below has been washed with dark and earthy inks which help pick out the details.

Painting the body

The first step in the painting process is too give the body a gentle, very fine sanding (note the word fine, and use the finest grade you have, you don’t want to create new scratch marks and make more work for yourself).

The reason for this light sanding is to help highlight any dips or sink marks as well as helping the primer to take to the plastic. If there are any defects you will need to deal with them now, then re-sand the area to blend it in.

This is then followed by priming. The point of priming is to provide a good surface for the paint to adhere to so it doesn’t flake or rub of. It also helps show up any defects that were missed before, or were not visible, but still need attending to. Once again attend to any defects straight away and sand down and prime again.

This process may have several repeats as you deal with all the defects. The aim is to get a smooth paint job where all the body is evenly coated with primer and all the unwanted join lines are gone. As we have mentioned several times the end result is directly linked to the quality of the preparation.

The picture above show the priming and painting stage. The Jaguar body is in the middle of repeated sanding and re-spraying to achieve the required finish. Patience and preparation do pay off. See our article on the restoration of this car.

Also on show below are methods of supporting a model for spraying. This can require some lateral thinking to find a way to get full paint coverage and no contact patches that could spoil the finish.

The interior shot of the Matra shows that the wire frame had been taped to the body to hold it in the frame, and the white primer coat which was under the final blue body colour. Later it was mounted on a spray can cap, using double sided tape, to aid handling without touching the finish.

We use Halfords plastic primer which is very smooth compared to metal primer and thus reduces your sanding and preparation time. It is also hard wearing, easy to use and as an acrylic based paint won’t attack the plastic, or resin. You can apply any kind of paint over the acrylic primer. Similar products are available from Games workshop in their Citadel paints range and other automotive and model manufacturers. Take time to read the instructions with any paint products you use and follow the safety advice.

Note that some colours have a recommended primer colour, usually white, red or grey. If you use a colour like red over grey primer it will appear a little darker than over red primer. Likewise if you spray it over white primer it will appear a little lighter. This can be useful at times when you want to vary shades on cars represent ageing or differences between years of production.

Coolest Police Cars

Ever wonder about cop cars in faraway lands? Ever think about the police cars flashing lights and sirens on international streets? This list of police cars from all over the globe is for you, then. Take a global tour of the vehicles used by police forces here and abroad, each one matched to the country where it patrols the roads. Then vote up the coolest ones so we can settle once and for all just which countries have the slickest cop cars.

5. Russia: Ford Focus

  • Because who won the Cold War again? Oh, that’s right. If Russian cops driving Fords doesn’t fill you with a bit of patriotic pride, then we don’t know what will.

    4. Austria: Smart ForTwo

  • Fun Fact: Also from Austria… Adolph Hitler. In terms of popularity, this Smart ForTwo might is an improvement. As a police car, it lacks that crucial intimidation factor, though.

    3. Argentina: Police Street Chaser

  • Laugh if you want, but these glorified electric golf carts are pretty much perfect for the tight, twisty, crowded streets of Buenos Aires.

    2. Spain: Citroen Hatch

  1. Beautiful beaches, beautiful weather, beautiful architecture, and beautiful women – can you imagine Spain’s police driving anything but a slick French hatchback?

    1.Vietnam: Nissan Maxima

Now protecting the former “Hanoi Hilton” area.

The Best Road Trip Cars

Where did the tradition of the “road trip” come from? Back in the 1600s, it was common in Europe for young men and women of means to travel the continent, learning what there was to learn and experiencing everything they could before settling down later. The “Grand Tour” was an important rite of passage back then – and it still is today.

  1. Tesla Model S

Possibly one of the greatest cars ever built, the Tesla Model S adds to its cred by being an almost ideal road tripper. It’s big, somewhat heavy and has a long wheelbase. That makes for a smooth ride and high-speed cruising. It’s got up to 650 horsepower, 80 miles to the gallon fuel efficiency, all-wheel drive, massive storage space, and easy seating for five. Of course, it’s electric, so you’ll have to stop and recharge – but Tesla’s Supercharger stations are everywhere now, so range almost isn’t a factor.

2. BMW 5-Series Sportwagon

  • Bavaria’s take on the station wagon is practically a Lear Jet on wheels. It’s engineered to cover vast stretches of Europe at triple-digit speeds, so interstate capability is a given. It’s a 5-Series, so of course it’s got every luxury amenity available that you’ve ever heard of. The diesel version even gets upward of 40 mpg, so the 5-Series is pretty frugal in terms of fuel economy. Granted, that’s the only frugal thing about it, since you can easily option one into the six figures. Still, if you’ve got the money, there are few better choices out there.

    3. Audi A8

  • Audis are to long-distance road trips what a good suit is to male fashion: timeless, versatile, and perfect for every occasion. Granted, Audis might be a little understated for some, but that’s exactly the point. The last thing you want to do while hammering along at Autobahn speeds is to attract attention from the local PD. And even if you do, they’ll probably leave you alone because you’ll seems like either a diplomat or an international crime lord. They come with everything from a fuel-sipping diesel to a 512-horsepower W12 engine.

    4. Dodge Charger

  • It’s the fastest sedan in the world – did you really think Dodge’s Charger wouldn’t be on the list? Granted, you might not opt for the 207-mph Hellcat version, nor go cruising around at those velocities. But the fact that the Charger chassis can safely run that fast at all says loads about its high-speed stability and cruising manners. True, the “Vanishing Point” Challenger might be the more legendary road tripper, but Chargers have four doors, a decent back seat, plenty of storage space, and are rated at 31 mpg on the highway in base form. Kowalski you might not be happy, but you will be.

    5. Dodge Magnum SRT-8

Of all the modern American station wagons that ever came close to being cool, Dodge’s now-extinct Magnum sits at the top of the list. All right, it’s also the only car on that list. But it’s still at the top. It’s essentially a wagon version of a Chrysler 300C, and the SRT-8 is reasonably comfortable. With 425 horsepower worth of Hemi, don’t expect better than 20 miles to the gallon. But otherwise, this Mopar seems almost custom-built for cross-country, high-speed cruises. 

Best Off-Road Trucks on Four Wheels

  1. Land Rover Discovery
  • If the Defender is Britain’s Jeep YJ, then the Discovery is its Cherokee. True, the Disco catches a lot of flak in America for being an expensive luxo-cruiser with chrome dubs, but the Discovery is no Escalade. It’s got a two-speed transfer case, locking differentials, cross-linked air suspension, and sophisticated electronic controls that make the Disco a legitimate rock crawler… even with those stupid-big, city boy rims.

    2. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

  • This might be Jeep’s hardest-core off-roader to date, including the old CJ. In an odd departure from the “bigger is better” evolution of most models, the current JK is actually 2.5 inches shorter in overall length than the TJ it replaced. Much as it might pain some to admit, the JK is everything the CJ was, plus 40 years of development, electronic controls, and a lot more power. About the only bad thing you can say about the JK is that it’s much more complicated than the CJ, and electronic-everything isn’t exactly ideal off road. But, that’s just how it is these days. If you can deal with that, the JK is no joke at all.

    3. Ford SVT Raptor

  • Forty years from now, when Ranker publishes a list of the best classic off-road trucks, Ford’s Raptor may well end up at the top. True, some might bemoan the loss of the last generation’s 411-horse 6.2-liter V-8, and it’s crazy awesome exhaust note — but the 2017 model’s EcoBoost V-6 isn’t likely to disappoint in the power department. Keep an eye out for the inevitable 1,000-horsepower VelociRaptor from Hennessey.

    4. Mercedes-Benz G-Class

  • Imagine a German-engineered Jeep YJ with four doors, a luxury interior, and enough cachet to stay cool on Hollywood Boulevard. That’s the G-Class. And if none of that is quite enough to sway you, there’s always a 500-horsepower mill courtesy of AMG. Torpedoes not included.

5. Chevrolet Silverado Z71

To be completely honest, I haven’t really liked any GM truck since the C/K badge died out in 1998. And “Silverado” was the name that killed it. To fans of older trucks, these newfangled Silverados are too complicated, too heavy, too civilized, and just too damned pretty to be called “real” trucks. That said, it would be an absolute lie not to say that the GMT900 chassis is objectively in a different league than anything the C/K sat on. So are the drivetrains and suspension systems on offer now. Like it or not, if you’re going to call any GM truck (that isn’t a Hummer) a good off-roader, you can’t not mention later model Z71s.

5 Great Cars You Can Still Buy with a Manual Transmission

  1. Dodge Challenger
    Is it even possible to build a retro pony car without a manual transmission? Dodge offers a stick shift on all trim levels of the Challenger, including the awesome 707-horsepower Hellcat. In fact, six-speed manual tranny Hellcats are handily outselling automatic versions – there aren’t many other cars on Earth that can claim that stat.

2.Chevrolet Corvette

Gone is the old Tremec 6060 for Corvette’s C7 iteration. Here to stay is the bespoke TR-6070. It’s just like the old transmission, but with a new and improved number. That’s not all that’s new and improved, either. While the last generation was panned by some Eurotrash types as being cheap, flimsy, and untamable, the (far better looking) C7 has proven well on par with many Italians that cost two to three times as much.

  • 3.Lamborghini Reventon

    Yes, Lamborghini still offers a real DIY box. I know. Weird, right? It’s almost like Lamborghini still cares more about driver enjoyment and involvement than setting lap times on the Nurburgring. Pssht. Losers.

    4.Ford Mustang It’s a Mustang. That should pretty much sum it up. At no point in the car’s history has it not come with a manual, and that certainly isn’t changing now. Especially since the Mustang’s latest generation leans so heavily on Ford’s huge base of younger 5.0 fanboys. Six-speeds are on offer for all trim levels; V-6 engines get the Tremec 3160, while 5.0- and 5.2-liters get a Getrag Ford MT82.

    5. Porsche


Count on it, bet on it, put your soul on the line, take it to the bank, take it to heart, and take it to the house: it’ll be a cold day in hell before Porsche stops offering manual transmissions. Porsche is the only non-Korean manufacturer on Earth to offer a manual transmission in every single vehicle in its line-up.

The Best Cars for the Wasteland

Have you ever wondered about the best cars to drive in a post-apocalyptic situation? Then this list is exactly what you need. Just imagine: Northwest of Las Vegas, a right-wing Nazi “patriot” group claims a big chunk of the Nevada as their own – a Holy Fourth Reich. The public demands action, but federal forces fear endangering civilian hostages caught in the Reichland’s borders. Targeted drone strikes send the Nazis to take shelter in the overrun Yucca Mountain Nuclear Storage facility. Realizing they’re doomed, they decide they aren’t going to be taken by the socialist Illuminati lizard men alive.

  • If you had to sit through the last Transformers movie, you’re probably thinking the world was about due for destruction anyway. Especially after watching a car literally punch a guy in the head. But you might have appreciated the rest of that scene, featuring as it did these beasts from Los Angeles-based Local Motors.

    The fact that it looks like it just pulled in from the harshest stretch of Fury Road is almost good enough in itself, but this LS7-powered monster is no silver screen poser. It is absolutely as bad as it looks, thanks in no small part to a mid-mounted 6.2-liter GM E-ROD engine. It’s an LS-series V-8, so spare parts shouldn’t be too hard to come by if you ditch it while hammering through the badlands. Not that that will matter, since the Rally Fighter is so tough, it would probably survive another nuclear holocaust.



  • Now that every podunk police force in the country has decided it needs a military surplus armored personnel carrier, you should be able to find these things parked anywhere there are two squad cars and a speed trap. Built to resist RPGs, IEDs, and SOBs of all kinds, this behemoth will instantly turn the tables on those guzzoline-raiding cannibal mutants. Which is a good thing, since you’ll probably have to steal all their gas just to keep it running.

    Bonus: You’ll probably also find a bunch of military surplus M-16s and grenade launchers inside, since Podunk, Nevada police apparently need those too.


  • Of course an old pickup truck would be a solid choice. At the very least, it’s a stable firing platform for a big gun mounted to the roof. But look for a Chevy with a small block, since it shares parts with any of a million other vehicles you might find scattered along the way. It might be a good idea to stick with 1987 and earlier models, since anything newer is bound to have electronic fuel injection. Not a deal-breaker, but no sense worrying about a TPS sensor going out while you’re being chased by hordes of face-eating mutant cannibals.



  • This one’s not quite as crazy as it sounds. Think about it: The P1 is a plug-in hybrid, which means it gets 34 mpg in steady cruising and does even better with an electric charge. Of course, being a hybrid, solar power is always an option if the undead hordes do steal all of your guzzoline, and zombies are ironically eating hipster brains around the nearest supercharger station. The P1’s got magnetic suspension that can immediately adapt to any road surface, whether it’s post-apocalyptic or even as bad as Detroit today. And if you let the chainsaw-arm Nazi zombies catch you in this thing, you deserve to get eaten.


  • Two words: Rolling. Fortress. If you haven’t seen it before, meet the biggest truck in the world. With a curb weight of just a hair over 1.3 million pounds, a payload capacity of 690,000 pounds, and a towing capacity of “everything,” the 797 is just the vehicle you need if your survival strategy involves relocating the remainder of humanity in a mobile castle and crushing everything in your way at 42 mph. You’ll want the 797B model instead of the newer “F” model. It’s got wider tires and an 1,800 diesel fuel tank – almost double the capacity of the “F.” Which you’ll probably need, seeing as how its fuel economy is best measured in barrels per mile.

    That said, the 797B does have a trick up its sleeve: it’s a diesel-electric hybrid, which means you could hypothetically mount every solar cell in the world to it and never run out of juice. And you might as well load up with a half-million pounds of lithium-ion batteries while you’re at it. You can find these trucks and those batteries around the Nevada-California border, where several large mines are conveniently located near Tesla’s brand-new lithium battery manufacturing plant.

Model Car Painting with Real Automotive Paints

This text is not a complete course on model car painting. The object is to pass on to car modellers the procedures on how to airbrush with automotive paints. The guidelines apply primarily to scale car models, but should be equally applicable elsewhere.

Why use automotive paint?

These paints show lots of advantages over the ones made specifically for modelling. One of the most important is their ability to produce very thin coats,  which can leave all body details crisp even after many applications. Aside from their excellent coverage and thickness, they dry to the touch almost immediately and can be polished after 24 hours. This fast drying time decreases to almost zero the chances of dust adhesion to the painted surface.

The colour palette is almost unlimited. Car manufacturers add new colours every year and also old colours are always available through the new mixing machines.

The thinner issue

How to apply automotive paint over styrene plastic if its thinner contains toluene? Toluene is one of the components of plastic glue because it melts the plastic. In this application special care should be taken. There are kinds of model plastic that are mostly unaffected by these solvents (AMT, Revell, Tamiya and Monogram). Others like Gunze Sangyo react badly.

In our surveys we found a thinner that is least likely to affect plastic. The trick here is to find a thinner that has less toluene in its formula — the less toluene, the less harm to plastic. There are also many grades of thinners, faster and slower ones, in relation to drying time. The faster the drying time, the less chance that it will affect the plastic. The slower the drying time, the more chance of plastic attack.

Since thinner brands will vary from country to country, you will need some tests and visits to a good automotive paint store. Ask as many questions as possible of a local technician with the above information to find out which brand will do the best for you. It’s better to pay more for a higher quality thinner (with less toluene) that will be better for your plastic models. Remember also that you will have thinners for thinning base paints and others for better final result, more on this later.

You can start with a thinning of one part of paint to 2-3 parts of thinner. This is a starting point, experience will show what’s better for you. Don’t worry about coverage due to this thinning rate– with more coats it will cover the plastic in the desired colour and, even after many coats, all surface detail will still be visible. Important: Thorough surface preparation is a must! Due to the very thin paint film, no surface scratches will be hidden by paint.

TipYou will do better with high grade thinners containing less toluene and better materials– they are more expensive but usually less harmful to styrene. Always run a test on a tree from the model you will paint.

Applying the base paint

Automotive paints can be divided in two families: nitrocellulose-based and acrylic. Note that due to environmental restrictions, nitrocellulose paints may not be available anymore in most countries.

Our experience with automotive paints shows that nitrocellulose based ones do not have a good adhesion to styrene.  What do you do if you want to use this kind of paint? Easy. Always start with a base coat of automotive acrylic and then apply this paint on top.

Automotive acrylics adhere very well to plastic. To be sure that the paint is dry – it will be dry to the touch in seconds, but what about the paint under the surface? – smell the model. If you still can smell the paint it needs more drying time. When you can’t smell the paint anymore, it means the paint is dry and the thinner has evaporated.

Small particles and dust that get stuck on the surface can be eliminated (after paint is completely dry!) by sanding with a wet used 600 grit sandpaper. After this, leave your model to dry and you can continue your work.

The base paint does not only help with paint adhesion. If you have a red plastic body and you paint it with red it becomes very difficult to tell if you have painted enough coats. So the best way is to use an acrylic paint as a base in a contrasting colour. White and silver are the best here with some advantages. White is better if final colour is light or transparent  – automotive reds, pearls and some blues are in this category.

Silver has another important advantage. The metallic parts in the paint (aluminium is used in different grades to add the metallic look to paints) will help protect plastic on the first paint coat, forming a kind of barrier between plastic and the paint. Also, silver covers better than white, which means less coats.

After the base is completely dry, you can start applying other coats without any problem, just like you perhaps used to do with your traditional model paints.

TipA thin coat of Tamiya acrylic paint, left to dry overnight, can act as a protective barrier against automotive solvents.

Paint application

This part must be read very carefully and as with anything in modelling, the procedures should be tested until mastered. Don’t worry if on the first try it doesn’t turn out as expected. This paint can be removed without damaging the plastic as we will see later.

Before you start painting, all parts must be washed with water and detergent, the same type as used for dishes. This removes all traces of molding agents used in the plastic injection process. Do not use anything to dry the parts — leave them to dry naturally with air contact.

The automotive paints must be applied with an airbrush. Do not use a brush because it dries so fast that the brush will be hard and unusable after only a few seconds. When spraying with an airbrush, it’s better to use a compressor that has a pressure regulator and a moisture and oil filter. The pressure to be used in the airbrush must be enough to spray all paint. Paint should come out as a spray– not like rain. Something between 20-25 PSI of pressure will be enough for good results. More on pressure later.

The first coat or base paint should be applied very carefully because as explained before some plastics are more affected by thinners. These first coats should be applied like a “dust of paint”, i.e., more air than paint. This way the paint will arrive at the plastic almost dry, giving the thinner less chance to damage the plastic. This technique should be used on all plastics but especially on the more affected ones (Gunze!). The driest spray is obtained with more air pressure (start with something like 25-30 PSI). Also airbrush tuning to use more air than paint is a must here, too.

Start spraying your model without any hurry. Never stop the spraying pattern over the plastic. This can lead to plastic “crazing”. A uniform, solid-coloured and even surface means that plastic is covered and your parts are protected for the next coats.

At this point all surface defects that passed before can be corrected with your favourite putty used before this base coat. After this base coating it’s good to wet-sand carefully the body with a used 600 grit or a new 1200 grit sandpaper, to even out the surface.

For the consecutive colour coats you should lower the pressure to something between 20-25 PSI. With less pressure and more paint/air proportion coming from the airbrush these coats will be more “wet” than previous ones, i.e., more paint – less air. Start with the corners and bumps just to deposit more paint in these places. The idea here is to avoid the polishing process to remove all paint from these places and reach the plastic.

For the final coats, lower the air pressure to 14-18 PSI and apply a wet coat, but without letting the paint drip. This will lead to a very smooth surface that will be very easy to polish. If your painted surface comes out with “orange peel”, stop immediately: something is wrong. Smoothing out this surface with polish will be way more difficult. If necessary, remove the paint. Probably you need to add more thinner to the paint or lower the air pressure.

TipLook for fine sandpaper at automotive paint stores– good ones carry very fine 1200 and 2000 grit types.

Final colours

These paints can be metallic, pearl or solid. The metallic colours have small aluminium particles that add the metallic look to the paint. The pearl ones have small particles of a mineral called mica that is responsible for the more subtle pearl look.

The effect of the pearl is different from the metallic. During the painting process the paint jar must be shaken frequently because the pearl particles go to the bottom of the jar very fast. Only pigments make the colour.

Both nitro and acrylic solid colour paints can receive a clear coat to obtain a deep shine like a mirror. This depends largely on your taste, but the metallics and pearls need a clear coat. That’s why they are called double-coat paints by some paint manufacturers. Do not paint with metallic or pearls without a final clear coat. We will return to this later.

Problem correction

If, after you have finished your paint job, your painted surface has problems, sand them with a used 600 grit sandpaper — used wet — or better, with 1200 grit ones. The sanded spot will get flat, but don’t worry, the polishing process will get the shine back and will take the sanding marks out.

If your paint job leads to a result you don’t like and you want to remove the paint to start over, just get a recipient that has a cover filled with ethanol alcohol (that you get at drugstores). Put the parts inside for 2-3 days. Afterwards, brush them with a used toothbrush. All the paint will come out without any damage to the parts themselves.

Another way to remove automotive paints that’s faster but more expensive is to use automotive brake fluid instead of alcohol. It works in about 8 hours. Use the lowest grade of brake fluid, it works better than the good grade.


Even the perfectly applied automotive paint needs polishing. This is a very important step — it is your final job. There are two polishing methods at your disposal:

Method 1. Use of materials found in automotive paint stores. 24 hours after the last coat, you can use a polishing cream like T-cut. Its function is to even out the surface. It must get even and smooth — at this point shine is secondary. After this, your model should be washed with water and soap and a used soft toothbrush, especially on the lower surfaces, in order to take out all residues.

Now, it’s time for the thin polishers like Kaol or carnauba wax. They remove the “fogging” left by the strong polisher. The model should be washed again as before.

Next you can use one of those polishing liquids like 3M High Shine or Meguiar’s (needs some survey at a good auto store for its name in your country). The 3M liquid has a light brown colour and contains no silicone. Apply it to the surface with a piece of cotton and let dry. Then with a new piece of cotton, polish the surface. Cotton is almost non-abrasive. After that you can use the Tamiya Modeling Wax to protect your paint job from fingerprints.

Method 2. Use of a model polishing kit. Here the technique is different, but with excellent results too. You can use those polishing kits like Millenium 2000 or Micromesh. They are made up of polishing cloths of different grades like: 1800, 2400, 3600, 4000, 6000, 8000 and 12000 grit. The process here is to use the coarser ones to even out the surface and then the finer ones — without skipping any to remove the scratches from the previous one. After this you can use the carnauba wax and 3M as before.

Clear coat

The clear coat gives a deep colour impression. This coat must be generous. A thin coat can be removed in the polishing process and if colour shows up it can be slightly different in shine at this spot.

Application of the clear coat over solid colours is optional, but is a must in metallics or pearls. In older car models where you want to duplicate the original paint job, clear coats should be avoided.

Clear coat over decals

Here a test is always necessary, because different decals react differently. Always run a test first. Every decal sheet has a decal that will not be used, use it to perform a test with you paint. Basic experience with decals and the following tricks will help you to clear-coat your decals.

The test procedure and the clear coating process is the following: apply the decals as usual after the last coat of paint. Leave the body with decals drying at least for a week. This way all humidity will dry up. This is very useful in humid places and when decal setting solutions are used.

After this period of time airbrush the decal with clear paint in a light mist coat of automotive acrylic clear.  Apply more air than clear. Let dry for 24 hours. Repeat this process two more times in 24-hour intervals. Now apply two more wet coats in 12-hour intervals. Now apply final  two “wet” coats.

From this point on you can apply those wet coats for that bright shine wanted, decals are sealed and protected from thinner and clear coat.

A few final words

Learning how to use automotive paint to its best advantage may take some experimenting. Don’t worry if on the first try it doesn’t turn out as expected. If you used to work with model paints, your initial results will probably improve over time as you adjust to the different characteristics of the new medium (viscosity, drying time, etc). In time you will find the ideal pressure and spray pattern for each situation. As soon as you master these paints, chances are you will never return to model ones.

An important note: Automotive paints and thinners are more toxic than model paints. Always use them in a well ventilated area and use protection equipment. Never leave paints jars without a cap and store them away from children and pets.

10 Tips for Automotive Modeling

Automotive modeling can be extremely challenging, but the results can be just as rewarding as the challenges you’ll overcome to reach your modeling goals.  Your model could be found in anything from games and movies to TV and more.  Who wouldn’t want to create their favorite sports car or a maybe a brand new concept vehicle for a futuristic universe?

Whether you’re working on recreating an actual vehicle or working from a unique concept, it’s up to talented modelers like yourself to sell the realism of the model and do so quickly and efficiently.  So when you’re tackling your next masterpiece try implementing some of these tips in your workflow to help speed up the process.

Start off simple

There’s no need to over-complicate your model right away by trying too much too soon.  Instead, find places on your vehicle that can be modeled with very simple primitive shapes before worrying about the little details.  For example, wheel wells can be a great place to start because they can be modeled with a simple shape.


Block out shapes with an edge modeling technique 

An edge modeling technique allows you to block out those oddly-shaped pieces that might be tough to create from simple primitives by allowing you to extrude out pieces of your car piece by piece.  This technique is great for automotive modeling because cars are made up of a lot of curved shapes that can be quickly traced with an edge modeling technique.  Once your shape is blocked out, you’ll have a great starting point for adding details.


Think outside the cube 

Since NURBS (or splines, depending on what your preferred 3D program is) can  achieve a much smoother shape than polygons, let NURBS do their work by using them for the pieces of your car that lend themselves to them.  For example, the windows of your car are going to be smooth surfaces that most likely have a single shader on it and probably won’t even need UVs, so they’ll be a perfect fit for NURBS.


Use NURBS and polygons together

Regardless of what your end model needs to be, take advantage of the wide range of NURBS and polygonal modeling tools you have available regardless of the type of geometry they create.  Combining the two you can really help speed up your workflow and you can always convert to your final geometry type later on if you really need to.


Bridge pieces together

The bridge tool is huge time-saver for connecting pieces together and at the same time creating large chunks of geometry between those pieces very fast!  An area you could try this out is between the two wheel wells.  By bridging them together you can quickly create the entire side panel for your vehicle in a matter of seconds so you can focus your time on making it look right instead of spending it on just creating the initial geometry.


Crease only as much as you need to

When it comes to automotive modeling, creasing the right lines can really make or break the realism of your model.  It can also be a quick way to add way too much resolution that isn’t really needed.  Instead, try adding a single edge loop on either side of an existing edge.  Move those surrounding edge loops closer to the original edge to increase the effectiveness of your crease or move the loops further away from the original edge to decrease the effectiveness.  In most cases, these two edges should be plenty to sell the crease but even if you need to add more you’ll know its actually needed instead of adding edge loops in places that will really have no benefit to your model.


Punch clean holes in your model

Adding holes to your hard surfaces without affecting the surrounding geometry is a common challenge to overcome with automotive modeling.  A great way to do this is by applying a chamfer to the nearest vertex to where you need the hole.  This will create a new polygon that you can extrude inward to get your hole.  Add in some resolution to crease the hole and you’re done!


Not all ngons are worth your time

The reason you typically stay away from ngons is when your model will be deforming or if your model will be exported to something like a game engine.  Unlike a character, automotive models don’t normally need to be nearly as flexible as some other models may need to be.  And if you’re not going to be exporting your car into a game engine if you come across ngons, before investing the time to quadrangulate them try running some quick tests to see if removing them would be time well-spent.  For example, try doing a smooth preview or a test render.  If you’re not seeing any negative effects then there’s no reason to lose any more precious time over trying to fix what isn’t broken!


Think ahead

You don’t always need to make every piece a separate object, but not everything in your automotive model should be faked.  For example, is the door going to need to be animated?  Then take the time now to make separate it from the surrounding pieces.  Even though you’re not animating the car, making sure you know the purpose of each piece now can save you from having to tweak it later once the animation team kicks it back to you for a door that is actually attached to the rest of the car.


Smooth your ride

Many 3D applications can let you do a smooth preview without actually having to permanently apply a smoothing operation, so take advantage of that to check your progress often by previewing how your car looks with a smooth.  This way you can focus your time on the parts of the model that need more work and leave those areas that don’t.  As an added bonus, you’ll get to ease your mind by double-checking on any ngons you might have to make sure your tweaking hasn’t made them start causing issues.
So now you’ve heard some of our favorite tips for automotive modeling.  If you can’t wait to get more, check out the Automotive Modeling in Maya course to learn some more great tips and tricks.  Or if you’ve got some of your own automotive modeling tips and tricks that you want to share with is, swing over to our community forum and let us know!


With new automotive modeling tips and tricks in hand, it’s time to fire up your creative engine.

Wheel Anatomy 101: Structure

Welcome to Wheel Anatomy 101. Today we will be reviewing the major structural aspects of automotive wheels, focusing on the outboard, or structural face of the wheel. Students, if you will all take your seats, we can begin the class.

 - Rim And Wheel Works, Inc.

The outboard face is the part of the wheel you can see when it is bolted onto the car. We often refer to it as the “cosmetic face” but it is also the structural face of the wheel, since the other side is essentially required to be an open cylinder.

This makes the outer face less directly vulnerable to impact damage, since it is simply easier to bend the open cylinder than the structure, but it can also make the damage that does occur a lot worse.

To see standard wheel diagrams, click here, and here. You may find it useful to right-click and open the links in new tabs in order to refer to the diagrams while class is proceeding.

Center Bore
Structurally, the empty space inside the center bore is one of the most important points on the wheel. This hole fits over the end of the axle when the wheel is bolted on. It is this fit between the axle seat and the center bore that truly holds the weight of the car, as lugnuts only serve to keep the wheel on the axle. For this reason, OEM wheels are made to fit closely on the axle seats of their designated cars. When buying aftermarket rims, care must be taken to ensure that the center bore is the same or larger than the OEM size – large enough to fit over the axle. Most correct aftermarket wheels will have center bores that are larger than the OEM size, and so the gap between must be filled by “hub-centric spacers” to avoid damaging both wheels and lugnuts.

Around the center bore there is generally a substantial piece of metal interrupted only by the bolt holes. We call this the plate. The plate is the core of the wheel, the point of contact to the axle seat, the lug bolts and the lateral surface of the rotor. Everything else on the wheel is connected back to the plate.

In essence, the spokes are the structures between the plate and the outer edge of the wheel. They are designed to tie the wheel together, support the outer edge and resist impacts. Spoke designs vary wildly, from the classic 5-spoke patterns to intricately overlapping multiple “Y”-spoke extravaganzas. It’s important to note that the strength and damage resistance of spoke designs also vary, because if a spoke gets cracked by an impact the nature of the structural relationship is such that attempting to repair it by welding would be unwise and possibly dangerous.

Although it also refers to the outer part of a 3-piece wheel, the dish is generally thought of as that portion of the wheel that comes out beyond the spokes. A wheel where the spokes are sunk inches below the lip is a “deep-dish wheel.” Deep-dish wheels are mostly made for looks, with the extra space being used to showcase a polish or other nice finish. However, the deeper the dish, the more vulnerable the face of the wheel is to impact damage, as that outer rim is hanging out in space. The more distance from the spokes, the more leverage an impact has to bend that outer rim, or in the worst-case fold the dish against a spoke and crack it. This kind of crack is also not safe to repair, since the repair is inevitably weaker than the original and can fail catastrophically.

Bolt Circle
The bolt circle is the circle described by the centers of the lug bolts. It’s diameter is inexplicably called the Bolt Circle Diameter, or BCD. The number of bolts plus the BCD comprises the bolt pattern, so that 5 lug bolts at a 4.5 inch BCD can be described as a 5×4.5” bolt pattern. Bolt patterns vary between car makers, sometimes even between model lines. For example, most BMW wheels are 5x120mm except some very early 4x100mm models, while almost all Mercedes wheels are 5x112mm, which is why you can’t crossfit wheels from one to the other.

Valve Stem
Somewhere on the wheel a small hole must be drilled for a valve stem, that universal mechanism by which we fill our tires with air. Just that small hole will often make one side of the wheel lighter than the other side – enough so that a good spin balancer will often have to compensate for it. Valve stems range from the good old-fashioned snap-in rubber stems to fancy metal stems with rubber gasket seals to the current mandated explosion of TPMS modules with valve stems on them.

This completes our module on the structural aspects of automotive wheels. Thank you for your attention, and please join us next time for Wheel Anatomy 201, which will concentrate on the outer barrel and energy transfer points of the wheel.

Wheel Finishes: Chrome

I see a lot of chromeplated rims. Quite a few auto makers offer them as stock choices on their cars, and most of the 20” or larger aftermarket wheels out there are chromeplated. Chrome is a beautiful finish, but it also a very delicate finish, and one that is incredibly expensive to repair.

 - Rim And Wheel Works, Inc.

To chromeplate a wheel, it is usually polished and acid-etched. It is then plated with layers of nickel, then bronze and finally chromium.

The layers adhere to each other to increase the strength of the finish. The wheel is then done – there is no protective clear coat applied to chrome. Because chrome wheels do not have a clearcoat, they should be cleaned carefully with soap and water, and a polished with an impregnated-batting type of metal polish such as Nevr-Dull or Cape Cod Polishing Cloths.

Something about the electroplating process really seems to impart a brittleness to the alloy of the wheel, and this makes most chrome wheels I have seen more likely to crack under impact. This comes even more into play with those gigantic 22” or 24” aftermarket wheels. The larger rim circle is less resistant to impact anyway, and is less protected by extremely low-profile tires.

However, the brittleness of the metal does not compare to the brittleness of the finish. Even under an impact that only bends the wheel, chromeplating acts like the candy coating over an M&M. Being unable to move at all with the metal, it cracks everywhere the underlying metal has moved. If the wheel can be straightened, the process of bending the metal back will only open the cracks wider.

Liquid chromium is incredibly toxic to both people and the environment, and may yet be banned entirely in Europe and the U.S.

The EPA has set a high bar for new chromeplating companies to earn licenses, keeping the industry very limited. Rechroming wheels is consequently expensive and time-consuming, and in general the quality of the work is frankly declining. Additionally, most wheels that are chromeplated have had the face of the wheel acid-etched by the process, such that painting or other refinishing will not stick very well.

Informed drivers with chrome wheels keep an extra set of steel or alloy wheels with snow tires mounted, because chrome wheels should really never be on your car during road salt season. Road salt is chrome’s worst enemy. When chrome is exposed to wet salt, the salt crystals which form on the surface leech chromium right out of the finish. This causes the chrome to eventually flake off, allowing corrosion to pit the metal surface of the wheel. Salt corrosion will destroy a chrome finish within just a few years. If your rims are flaking, be very careful when handling them, as the edges are razor-sharp.

Salt water will also slide via osmosis between the rim and the tire where even regular washing can’t reach, causing a condition in which the tires leak because the chrome is in pieces, and the surface of the wheel is pitted. This can be corrected for a while by removing the flaking chrome and underlying corrosion and using a kind of unvulcanized rubber goo called bead seal to protect the wheel and tire against water entry. Eventually, however, the sealing material will wear off and corrosion will begin all over again. Some enthusiasts I know have their pristine “chromies” bead-sealed before they go on the car every summer as a preemptive water barrier. I tend to think that’s a pretty good idea.

This all combines to make for some formidable obstacles to owning chrome wheels. My recommendation is always to choose chrome wheels only if you are willing to take on the risks and sacrifices involved. Major sports figures can afford to replace the 24” beauties on their Hummer H2’s every year or so. Enthusiasts will generally do what it takes to care for their chromies. But many daily drivers can’t afford the hidden costs of choosing stock chrome wheels without knowing the facts. I have spent quite a bit of time helping a parade of PT Cruiser owners who come to my shop just a few years after choosing that jazzy 16” chrome 5-spoke option at the dealership, only to find that New England and road salt had simply killed their rims. No one had ever told them to take them off in the winter. So don’t get seduced by the beauty and only find out about the nasty personality later.

How to Read Your Tire

Tire Sidewall Markings - Tire Guides, Inc.

Width in millimeters – The first of the tire size numbers gives you the width of the tire from sidewall to sidewall in millimeters. If the number begins with a “P” the tire is called “P-Metric” and is built in the US.

If not, the tire is a European metric tire. The only difference between the two is a very slight one in terms of how load rating are calculated for the size, but the two are essentially interchangeable.

Aspect Ratio – The aspect ratio designates the height of the tire, measured from the top edge of the rim to the top of the tire, as a percentage of the width.

Diameter – This number indicates the inside diameter of the tire in inches, which is also the outside diameter of the rim. If this number is preceded by an “R”, the tire is radial rather than bias-ply.

Load Index – This is an assigned number corresponding to the maximum allowed load the tire can carry. For the tire above, a load index of 96 means the tire can carry 1,565 pounds, for a total of 6260 pounds on all four tires. A tire with a load index of 100 could carry 1,764 pounds.

Very few tires have a load index higher than 100.

Speed Rating – Another assigned number corresponding to the maximum speed the tire is expected to be able to sustain for prolonged periods. A speed rating of V indicates a speed of 149 miles per hour.

Tire Identification Number – The letters DOT preceding the number indicate that the tire meets all Federal standards as regulated by the Department of Transportation.

The first two numbers or letters after the DOT indicate the plant where the tire was manufactured. The next four numbers indicate the date the tire was built, i.e., the number 1210 indicates that the tire was manufactured in the 12th week of 2010. These are the most important numbers in the TIN, as they are what the NHTSA uses to identify tires under recall for consumers. Any numbers after that are marketing codes used by the manufacturer.

Treadwear Indicators – These markings on the outer sidewall show when the tire has become legally bald.

Tire Ply Composition – The number of layers of rubber and fabric used in the tire. The more plies, the higher the load the tire can take. Also indicated are the materials used in the tire; steel, nylon, polyester, etc.

Treadwear Grade – In theory, the higher the number here, the longer the tread should last. In practice, the tire is tested for 8,000 miles and the manufacturer extrapolates tire wear compared to a baseline government test tire using whatever formula they prefer.

Traction Grade – Indicates the tire’s ability to stop on wet roads. AA is the highest grade, followed by A, B and C.

Temperature Grade – Indicates the tire’s resistance to heat buildup under proper inflation. Graded as A, B and C.

The treadwear, traction and temperature grades collectively make up the Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) standards, established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Max Cold Inflation Limit – The maximum amount of air pressure that should ever be put into the tire under any circumstances. This is an extremely misleading piece of data, as this number is not what you should be putting in your tire. The proper inflation will be found on a plaque, usually inside the driver’s doorjamb.Inflation is measured in PSI (Pounds per square inch) and should always be measured when the tire is cold.

ECE Type Approval Mark – This indicates that the tire meets the rather strict standards of the Economic Commission for Europe.

There are also several markings which do not appear on this image, including:

M+S – Indicates that the tire tread is optimized for both mud and snow.

Severe Service Emblem – Also known as the ‘Mountain Snowflake Symbol’ because, well, it’s a picture of a snowflake superimposed on a mountain, this emblem indicates that the tire meets US and Canadian winter traction standards.

Knowing how to read the coded information on tire sidewalls can give you a big advantage when it comes time to compare tires to see which ones are right for you!

How to Not Damage Your Wheels

One of the saddest things I ever saw in my job was the father whose young son decided to wash Daddy’s car as a surprise Father’s Day present. He diligently went so far as to clean off the baked-on brake dust on the spokes of Daddy’s expensive wheels. The problem was that he did it with steel wool, a mistake that I have seen quite a few adults make as well. Steel wool is pure evil. It scratches the clearcoat on rims that have it, and scratches the metal of rims that don’t.

Watching the father visibly struggle to keep his son – who was ready to break into tears anyway – from seeing him get angry when he was told what it would cost to refinish his wheels is an experience I never want to repeat.

But there are many other hazards to your rims out there. Here are some ways to keep them looking – and running – like new.

Watch Those Curbs:

Probably 70-80% of the damage that happens to wheel finishes is caused by scraping a curb. Too many of today’s wheels have edges that protrude beyond the edge of the tire, or spokes that curve outward past the rim edge. This makes it all too easy to pick up what we call “curb rash.” Sometimes this is unavoidable, whether you have a curb jump out at you when the car is in motion, or if another driver moves into your lane and you sideswipe a curb to avoid a worse collision. But most of the time, the culprit is simply parallel parking. The single most effective way to keep those nice rims in good shape is to ensure that you can parallel park smoothly and confidently.

I know from experience that this can be one of the most difficult and disorienting driving skills to learn.

It’s not impossible, though. Get some cones or other items which will not damage your car, and practice in a parking lot. Check out this video or Google “learn to parallel park.” Most things that are worth learning take some effort, and if you have nice wheels, learning to park well can save you hundreds of dollars in keeping them nice.

Clean Carefully:

How you clean your wheels, not to mention what you clean them with, makes a huge difference. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen someone come in with a beautiful set of wheels that they have tried to clean with something deeply inappropriate. Steel wool is one such offender, but the other really bad one is acid. Anything that purports to be a wheel cleaning fluid, but which instructs you to rinse it off within 5 minutes is probably an acid-based cleaner. Acid works great at burning tough brake dust off your wheels, but works just as well at eating away at your clearcoat. After a few applications, air and water will start getting under the edges of the clearcoat and corroding the metal, creating a white spiderwebby pattern in the finish that cannot be washed or polished away.

For most cleaning, a gentle soap and water and some elbow grease is just best. Simple Green is a great concentrated cleaner that works well on wheels. Give it or other non-acid cleaners some time to work into the brake dust before scrubbing with a sponge, and don’t use any cleaners on wheels that are still hot from being driven.

Be Suspicious of Full-Service Carwashes:

Those full-service carwashes generally have an interest in getting your car done quickly. Far too many of them use acid-based cleaners on wheels. If you’re going to use a carwash, make sure you know what they’re using on your wheels. Keep in mind that they may not even know if their cleaner is acid-based or that such cleaners are bad for your wheels. The ones that do use good cleaners because they know what bad ones can do should be happy to tell you what they use and why.


Winter is hard on wheels. Slippery conditions can cause curb strikes or mask potholes. Road salt eats away at expensive chrome wheels, and salt water isn’t all that good for any type of wheel. Having a second set of wheels for winter can be a good idea. If your wheels are chromeplated, and you drive in an area that uses road salt in the winter, having a second set is essential to keeping your rims for more than a few years. This can be a relatively expensive initial investment, but can save you quite a bit in the long term on tire swaps, tire wear, and winter damage.

Steel wheels are often ideal for this kind of application. Steels are cheaper than alloy wheels. Steels are also heavier than alloy wheels, and the extra unsprung weight can often lower the perceived center of gravity of the car and cut down on its performance and agility. In summer, this can make the car ride more like a tank. In winter, that’s a good thing. Similarly, the ugly black painted finish of steel wheels can be an advantage in winter conditions. Brush a curb, scrape the paint and who cares? They were ugly anyway. Finally, steels are generally smaller than stock alloy wheels, usually 15” or 16” and smaller snow tires are both less expensive and more effective in snow – a double payoff.

Wheel Composition and Construction

In addition to coming in many different sizes and designs, wheels come in all different styles of construction and composition. Here are a few of the most important compositions and methods for wheel owners to know about.


Steel is both heavier and stronger than aluminum, and has been used for wheel construction a great deal longer. Steel bends and becomes damaged much less easily than alloy. Because steel is already so strong, further casting or forging methods are generally not necessary.

Most steel wheels are stamped out by massive presses and then welded together to form the wheel, as in these steel racing wheels. The downside to this is that steel will not allow for the kinds of spoke and face designs that make allow wheels such an artistic platform on the car. For the most part all one can do with steel faceplates is to stamp some windows in them for brake cooling purposes.

However, several companies nowadays are working hard on creating steel wheels that are chrome-clad, meaning that they have a thin overlay, usually made of tin, which has been chromeplated and then glued on the face of the wheel. Many Ford and Chevy pickup trucks now come with chrome-clad wheels as standard options.

Aluminum Alloy:

Aluminum alloy is a mixture of aluminum and nickel. The proportions of metal in the alloy determine both the strength and weight of the wheel. Less nickel in the alloy means a lighter wheel, but one which is more pliable and easier to bend in an impact. More nickel means a heavier wheel, one that does not bend easily, but may be more brittle and prone to cracking.

Cast Aluminum:

Cast aluminum is just what it sounds like – molten alloy is poured into a mold and allowed to cool. Several types of casting methods exist, but what they have in common is that cast aluminum is not very dense, and so greater weight of metal is needed for strength.

Gravity Casting
The simplest form of casting metal is to pour the molten metal directly into the mold.

This also creates the least dense metal, as only the force of gravity is pushing the metal into the mold. Gravity-cast aluminum alloy must therefore be thicker and heavier than other methods in order to have enough strength to be used safely for wheels.

Pressure Casting
There are two types of pressure casting in use, low pressure and counterpressure casting. Low pressure castings uses air pressure to force molten metal into the mold. This causes the molten metal to pack itself into the mold with more density and greater strength. Counterpressure casting uses the opposite process – creating a mild vacuum inside the mold, which literally sucks the molten alloy into it. The results are basically the same for either process.

Flow Forming:

Flow Forming is a hybrid process in which low pressure cast aluminum is stretched and formed using heat and high-pressure rollers to shape the wheel. The stretching and forming process creates a thin and dense metal which has properties similar to forged aluminum. The flow forming process was pioneered by BBS Wheels, and a great many of their racing wheels are still made via this process.

Forged Aluminum:

Forged Aluminum is created by taking a solid “billet” of aluminum alloy and subjecting it to a tremendous amount of heat and pressure, usually about 13 million pounds of pressure, in fact. The pressure simply crushes the metal into the desired shape. The forged blank can then also be flow-formed to shape the barrel. This creates a wheel that is extremely dense and enormously strong, but also very light. Pound for pound, forged aluminum is orders of magnitude stronger than a cast aluminum alloy.

Rotary Forging:

Rotary Forging is a brand new process now being introduced by TSW Wheels, both under their brand and under their associated brands such as Beyern. Motegi Racing now has their own rotary forging process as well. In rotary forging the aluminum billet is forged under the same kinds of pressures, but is done while the forge is spinning at high speed, and often at an angle. The centrifugal force involved causes the molecular structure of the metal to reform in circular chains that are strongly bonded together. This creates a wheel that is even stronger against radial impacts than conventionally forged aluminum. TSW is rather cagey about their process, but it seems to also involve some variant of flow-forming, with rollers on each side of the barrel that forge the metal still further.

Alloy vs. Steel Wheels: Beauty and the Beast

Alloys or steels; what’s best for you? Both types have advantages and disadvantages for different types of driving; but in general if you want beauty and performance you want alloy, and if you want tough, inexpensive, ugly workhorses, you want steels.

Alloy Wheels:

Alloy wheels are now standard on most cars because they offer both cosmetic and performance advantages. Unlike steel wheels, aluminum alloy can be cast and worked in many different designs, giving cars a much more individual look, and offering owners the chance to customize even more.

The aluminum/nickel alloy is much lighter than steel and makes for more agile performance and better acceleration. A car with alloys on is generally much more fun to drive.

Alloys do tend to bend easier than steels under road impacts, and have a tendency to crack if bent too far. To degree to which an alloy wheel is pliable or brittle depends greatly on how much nickel is added to the aluminum to make the alloy – more nickel adds weight and tends to make the alloy more brittle, less means a lighter wheel that is softer and tends to bend more easily.

Construction methods such as casting or pressure forging also have an effect on the alloy’s strength.

Alloy wheels can be polished, painted, machined or chromed; different finishes should be cared for in different ways. They are also vulnerable to range of cosmetic damage such as curb scrapes, saltwater corrosion and acid cleaners.

Steel Wheels:

The weight of wheels, tires, brakes and rotors is specifically called “unsprung weight” because it is not being cushioned by the suspension springs. Unsprung weight has much more effect on how the car handles than an equivalent amount of weight above the springs, such that even a small change in weight can have large effects.

Steel wheels are heavier than aluminum, so when you put steel wheels on a car that has had alloy wheels, you tend to find that the extra weight dampens acceleration and agility, lowers the car’s center of gravity and in general makes it drive more like a tank.

Obviously this can be undesirable for summer performance applications, but in the winter the effect can be a significant physical and psychological advantage. Heavier wheels will make tires bite the snow harder, and when driving in snow, having a car with dampened acceleration and agility, an artificially low center of gravity and a sense of solidity and heaviness can be a very good thing.

Steel wheels are significantly stronger than alloy wheels. It takes greater force to bend steel wheels, and it is almost impossible to crack them. Given their usual utilitarian look, purely cosmetic damage is not generally a major issue.

There are wheel covers that you can put on steels to make them look like alloy wheels; they often come on steels sold as OEM choices, and can be found online as well. Wheel covers are fragile, look kind of cheesy, and are most often held on by a spring steel friction grip that has a distressing tendency to come off at inconvenient times and roll away.

Steels are generally only made in 16” sizes or less. There are a very few 17” steels out there, but not a single 18” steel that I know of. I would imagine that an 18” steel would be ridiculously heavy. Consequently, putting on steels will often involve downsizing. Some high-performance cars will not accept downsized wheels because of oversized brake calipers or other suspension issues.

Steels are also usually 75-80% less expensive than alloy wheels, making them great for a second set, and inexpensive to replace if badly damaged.

Thus for many reasons alloys are the only choice when high performance and/or looks are the qualities you need. Steels are generally better for those no-nonsense daily drivers, or for any cars that don’t have to look pretty or do fancy maneuvers because they work for a living. They are especially ideal, however, for that extra set of winter wheels.

What Are the Benefits of Alloy Wheels?

Alloy wheels are more expensive than their steel-plated competitors, but the benefits of having them justify the high price tag. While steel wheels are acceptable for use on everyday roads, some drivers prefer the better alternative. Alloy wheels refer to any wheels made from a combination of aluminum and small traces of other metals. Aluminum combined with these other metals creates a supremely strong and lightweight wheel.

Alloy wheels are also favored for their aesthetic appeal, and they tend to increase the overall value of the car. Some alloy wheels are made for specific makes and models of cars, so it is imperative that shoppers buy a set of wheels that fits their cars. Customers who buy a set of alloy wheels must also learn to properly care for and maintain their investment. Drivers can find alloy wheels at specialty auto and tire stores or at online marketplaces, such as eBay..

About Alloy Wheels

Alloy wheels are a “step up” from typical steel-plated wheels. Steel wheels are favored because they are tough to damage and are inexpensive, but they are also heavy and clunky looking. Alloy wheels, alternatively, are both better looking and better performing wheels. They consist of aluminum alloys that are created when small amounts of other sturdy metals are blended with aluminum. Magnesium is one metal that should be avoided when it comes to alloy wheels, however, because it is frail and has a tendency to crack under normal wear and tear.

Aluminum is a lightweight metal, but when it is strengthened and reinforced by other metals, the end result is a wheel that is hailed for its performance and appeal. Alloy wheels are standard in the racing industry, and they are becoming increasingly popular on other types of vehicles. Many high-end vehicle models come factory equipped with alloy wheels, and there are plenty of aftermarket wheels available for nearly every make and model.

Benefits of Alloy Wheels

Alloy wheels may have gotten their start in racing, but more and more people are putting them on their everyday cars. Most people purchase a set of alloy wheels because they enhance the appearance of their vehicles, but there are actually many other benefits to having them on a car. They weigh significantly less than their steel-plated competitors, while being incredibly durable. Adding a set of alloy wheels to any car increases the overall value of the car. Depending on the make and model of the car, some alloy wheels can be fitted to give the car more brake clearance. Some experts claim alloy wheels also increase the gas mileage and handling and performance of the vehicle.

Aesthetic Appeal

It is no secret that alloy wheels look significantly better than steel wheels and hubcaps. In fact, many people buy alloy wheels based on aesthetics alone. Alloy wheels are sold in all the standard sizes, and the selection is large and impressive. For cars with common bolt patterns, such as Hondas and Volkswagens, it is easy to find a set of alloy wheels in sizes from 13 inches all the way up to 18 inches. Alloy wheels are sold with a variety of finishes, such as chrome, painted, and polished. Some companies even allow buyers to customize their wheels, but these deals typically come with high price tags.


Aluminum is the key material that makes alloy wheels so lightweight. Wheels are classified as unsprung weight, which means weight that is not supported by the car’s suspension. Unsprung weight makes the vehicle vulnerable to shock transmission. Alloy wheels decrease the unsprung weight, and because of this lower weight, there is an increase in the car’s handling, particularly in the steering precision. A lighter wheel also makes it easier for the car to accelerate, and this can give drivers a small increase in gas mileage.

Increased Brake Clearance

Shoppers should see if there is a set of alloy wheels that allows for more brake clearance for their vehicles because this increases their brake performance. With more break clearance, the effort to push the brake pedal is reduced, and this gives drivers better control over the deceleration of their vehicles. Not all car and wheel combinations offer this feature, but shoppers can research if there are compatible sets that offer this before making a purchase.


The aluminum mixed with other metals makes alloy wheels stronger than typical steel wheels, and the unprecedented strength of alloy wheels leads to greater control and precision steering. Alloy wheels disperse heat better, and this decreases cracking and bending. Better dispersion also translates to more efficient braking. Additionally, many alloy wheels have spokes designed to let air flow freely around the rest of the tire, and this helps cool the brakes.

Increased Vehicle Value

Fitting a car for alloy wheels is a considerable upgrade. At the very least, it makes the car easier to sell, and at best, it increases the resale value of the car, especially if the car is already in good condition. More drivers are starting to recognize the benefits of having alloy wheels, whether it is for their looks or their performance enhancing qualities, and with the addition of aftermarket alloy wheels, resellers can often sell a car for a very decent profit.

Caring for Alloy Wheels

Because alloy wheels are such a significant investment, owners should take the time to properly clean and maintain the wheels on a regular basis. There are plenty of alloy wheel cleaning agents on the market. Some cleaners are sold individually, while others are sold in kits with multiple sprays, waxes, and sponges. Alloy wheel brushes are also available to help owners remove grit from the road.

No matter which cleaner brand buyers choose, they should make sure all the components are non-abrasive. Some drivers go the extra mile and coat the wheels with high-quality car polish before having the wheels fitted. The polish helps keep brake dust, grime, and salt from damaging the wheels. Drivers who do not opt for special cleaners should wash their alloy wheels often with warm, soapy water, and never use buffers, steel wool pads, or other items that could damage the wheels.

10 Tips to Make Your Wheels Look Great

It’s a known fact that a set of wheels can make or break a car. We’ve seen some of the biggest “junkers” become legendary with a nice set of wheels and a ride height adjustment. The opposite can happen when you have a nicely restored vehicle that has dirty, beat-up, or badly finished wheels. It can ruin the overall appearance of the car or truck. We’re here to show you how to make your rolling stock look as good as your ride with these 10 tips to powder coated wheel perfection.

1. Preparation Is Key!- Powder Coating, like traditional paint, requires a clean, dry surface for the best results. We suggest to media blast your wheels down to bare metal for the best powder adhesion. Powder coating is a “high-build” coating that will fill the texture left by media blasting. Eastwood offers DIY Media Blasting Kits that make it a pretty affordable option. The other option is to remove the finish chemically or mechanically. Both methods can be quite messy and time consuming, but they do the job. Once the wheels are free of any old coatings, wash them down with a solvent like PRE or After Blast to remove any grease, dirt, or grime. At this point we’d suggest wearing clean rubber gloves. The oil from your skin can transfer to the surface and actually cause imperfections in the powder during curing. Remember, the cleaner the better!

2. Pre-Bake Wheels- The wheels on your vehicle are subjected to some of the harshest conditions on your vehicle. They see extreme temps, brake dust, grease, grime, salt, and anything in between. No matter how often you cleaned the wheels (especially cast wheels), they’ll still have some residue or contaminants baked into the metal. Those contaminants can release when the wheel is heated up. If that happens when baking and curing your powder, it could cause popping, bubbling, or even a fisheye effect in your cured powder. We suggest to bake your wheels at 350-400 degrees for 30 minutes to an hour to assure that you have released and baked out the years of contaminants in the metal. This way when you apply the powder and cure it at a similar temperature, those contaminants would have already been released.

3. Assure you have a good ground connection- Grounding your wheels to the powder coating gun is very important. Most wheels have some tight corners and crevices that can be difficult to get the powder into. The static charge that is created by grounding the wheels and charging the powder is what helps the powder cling into every crevice. Without a good ground the powder won’t stick in these spots and you’ll get an uneven finish. We’ve had luck by running thin metal wire around or through each wheel and then connecting the ground to the metal rack the wheels sit on for coating and curing. This allows you an easy spot to clamp your ground clamp to the rack or even the wire under the rack.

4. Hot-Flock you wheels- “Hot-Flocking’ is a procedure where you preheat the part and immediately coat the wheel. The hot wheel will help the powder “stick” to the surface easier as the powder may begin to melt as soon as it hits the surface. This technique takes some practice to perfect. You will need to be quick with laying the powder down so the part doesn’t cool too much. Also be mindful to avoid laying too much powder during this method as you can get “runs” or “clumps” of powder that will collect in one spot.

5. Use High Temperature Masking Tape- Use this high temp tape to mask off lug holes, hub bores, and any other areas that have a tight tolerance and could cause issues when refitting the wheels. You can also use this tape to mask off portions of the wheels to apply a second coat of powder for a custom application.

6. Apply Clear Coat Powder- Use your choice of clear powder to add an extra layer of protection to your wheels and make cleaning brake dust and road grime off easier (high metallic and textured powders especially hold dirt and grime!). Additionally our high gloss clear powders really give your finish a “deep” “wet” look.

Gloss Clear Powder over Wheel Sparkle Silver Powder

7. Protect the inside of the wheels- One of the nice things about powder coating is that it helps seals the metal and keep your wheels from corroding. We have found a good practice while powder coating your wheels is to apply a layer of powder on the inside barrels of the wheels to protect them from corrosion. The inner barrels or hoop see the harshest conditions. You can make the coating as basic as satin black powder or go full custom and use an eye catching Translucent or Candy Powder.

Custom Powder Coated Wheels

8.Remove anything that shouldn’t be coated- If you don’t want it coated or it can’t handle the heat, you must remove it before starting the process. This includes valve stems, sealing rings, trim pieces, lug covers, hubcaps or center caps, etc.

9. Use metal or high temperature filler on damaged wheels- Have a wheel with some “curbing” or damage? Use an all metal filler like Lab-Metal to fill and sand imperfections smooth. Powder Coating can have some filling properties, but heavy scratches or gouges need to be filled. Alternatively you could use an AC/DC Tig Welder to weld and fill major damage.

10. Use a Quality Powder Gun- As mentioned earlier, powder coating wheels can be difficult with all of the crevices and tight areas you need to coat. Not all powder coating guns are created equal and you need to make sure you use a gun that has the ability to switch to a lower voltage that allows the powder to cling to those hard to reach areas.

10 Tricks All-Wheel Drive Car Buyers Need to Know

With winter finally on its way out, many people are giving their trusty all-wheel drive cars a lot of praise for the solid performance they saw in those recent ice- and snow-battered months. And with more and more manufacturers putting power to all four wheels on their latest models, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that there’s a growing need for all-wheel drive vehicles in today’s market. But what are the downsides to owning an all-wheel drive car? Are they really more expensive to own? What are some common issues owners should watch out for?

To answer these and a few other AWD related questions, we turned to Cincinnati-based Subaru specialists Turn in Concepts. These guys tackle everything from complete engine builds for full-blown race cars, to suspension installation, to all-wheel drive system maintenance and repair; and with nearly all Subarus sporting a symmetrical all-wheel drive system (with the rear-wheel-driven BRZ being the only exception), the guys at Turn in Concepts are among the irreproachable experts on the subject.

We recently sat down with the company’s co-founder Tony Barber to talk about the benefits of AWD cars, and came up with 10 buying tips he had for potential buyers who are considering making the switch to all-wheel drive.

wet tire tread

1. Get a grip

The first thing Tony stressed is the importance of having the right rubber on the road. “You’re only as good as your tires,” Tony says. “All-wheel drive can be worse than a rear-wheel drive car in the snow with improper tires.” His recommendation for those who see considerable amounts of winter weather is to get an extra set of rims and buy “Winter tires for winter months … and a [set of] summer tire[s] in the summer months.” While buying an extra set of wheels and tires may sound expensive, there’s a solid reason for this extra expense: It’ll eliminate the need to take the summer tires off all four wheels, mount and balance the winter tires, then doing it again in reverse order come spring. With a winter set of tires pre-mounted all you need to do is toss the ice-ready rollers in the garage or basement during warmer months, and when the first sign of ice hits, swap the summer set-up out for the winter tires.


2. Keep it in proportion

In AWD Cars, all four tires need to always have the same rolling circumference. While this is not an issue many of us run into in our daily driven commuter cars, performance-oriented vehicles with all-wheel drive systems sometimes come from the factory with larger rear wheels for increased traction and handling. While the aspect ratios of these tires are carefully considered by the manufacturer to negate the previously mentioned issue, it’s very important to follow the suggested tire size recommendations on a factory wheel. When asked what someone should look for if they think improperly sized tires have been installed on their car, Tony says that most cars have a recommended tire size listed in the owner’s manual, as well as in the driver side door jam. He continues with a word of caution, “If tires are the wrong circumference, wear will occur on the differential units causing premature failure. This can be felt usually by a clunking sound from the drivetrain or by strange driving dynamics.”

2015 subaru impreza

3. Different strokes

Tony also reminded us that it’s important to remember not all AWD systems are created equal. “Many are FWD biased, [which are] pretty much all Honda and Mazda systems.” Manufacturers like BMW prefer a rear-wheel drive bias to give a more performance feel, while automakers like Subaru and Porsche opt for a symmetrical system which “… is designed from the ground up to be AWD, while most other AWD systems are adapted from FWD or RWD drivetrain configurations. This [design] leads to fewer parts, simpler maintenance, and a more reliable system.”


4. Feeling flushed

The next area to consider is lubrication. “Fluid choice is critical,” Tony stresses, “Not all systems use the same fluid and often there can be three different fluids within one AWD system. Front differential, transmission, transfer case, [and] rear differential. The fluid used will vary greatly between makes and models, [so] the owner needs to follow factory recommended fluid use and change intervals. If the car is driven hard, tracked, raced, or [sees] lots of stop and go [driving], the fluid change interval should be halved.”


5. Gotta pay to play

Tony was realistic in laying out the higher cost of ownership for AWD cars. He warns potential buyers that an all-wheel-driven car is usually, “… more expensive to maintain due to [having] more moving parts… and [they have] worse gas mileage.” When I asked what car owners can do to combat these unavoidable issues, Tony tells me that regular maintenance, AWD fluid changes, and component inspections are crucial for the protection of the car’s drivetrain, and the prevention of premature axle and driveshaft joint wear. As for poor fuel economy, Tony suggests avoiding unnecessary braking, staying on top of oil and air filter changes, buying a better flowing air intake system, maintaining good tire pressure, and always driving conscientiously.


 6. Can’t stop me now!

The guys at Turn in Concepts get hit with a lot of questions from AWD owners from around the world, and one of the common complaints they hear is usually along the lines of, “My Subaru is awesome when driving in the snow, but it totally sucks when I have to come to a halt.” Tony goes on to tell us, “What many people don’t understand is that these systems are designed to have great acceleration, …from a [complete] stop in snowy weather, but [they] will not help you turn or stop any better,” Tony chortles, “… most people relate AWD to automatically [being] great in the snow, while not much mention is made about wet or dry [handling],” which is where these systems see most of their driving time in the lower 48 states.

2014 Nissan GTR

7. Check it out first

For all the newcomers to the AWD scene, Tony tells us that before buying a used car, a pre-purchase inspection by a reputable independent shop or a dealer is always recommended to determine the overall health of the car and its components. This is very solid advice when purchasing any vehicle, but coming from someone who inspects countless AWD vehicles every year, he sees far too many cars that are deemed unworthy and sent back to their respective owners with a poor inspection rating.


8. There’s something for everyone

What does TiC recommend when it is time to purchase an AWD vehicle? Subaru is at the top of their list, naturally, but Tony is honest despite his obvious penchant for the Subaru brand. He says the choice “will [ultimately] depend on the buyer’s use. If they are only going to cruise down the highway, it won’t really matter. If they want to do any off-roading, then a system that is not FWD based, and has limited slip differentials will be a must.”


9. The AWD revolution is nigh

So what about the future of AWD vehicles as a whole? Will the price for a car equipped with AWD start to go down as this “option” becomes more of a norm? When asked these questions Tony sagely nods his head in agreement. “AWD is becoming ever increasingly popular. I feel that it will continue to become more popular as OEMs (manufacturers) market the cars. AWD has become synonymous with safety, which is a key driving factor in auto sales currently.” As for the lowered cost on a vehicle equipped with AWD, only time will tell.


10. What would Tony do?

Our final question for Tony was carefully crafted for all the hardcore auto enthusiasts and engineers out there, and having the undivided attention of an AWD specialist seems like a fine time to throw this kind of question out there: If he were going to have a say in the designing of an AWD system, what would he do differently? Why?

His answer was surprising, as it had more to do with an interest in cabin design than anything else. “I would be very interested in designing an AWD system using independent electric motors located in the wheels at all corners. While unsprung weight would increase, [thus] drastically affecting handling of the vehicle, the space that would be opened up in the cabin would be incredible. There would be nothing more than a battery pack which would be integrated into the lower structure of the vehicle, leaving a completely open space for interior design.”

Top 10 Wheel Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Wheels are a focal point of any automobile, so keeping them sharp and shiny is key. You never get a second chance to make a first impression! The task can be especially challenging because wheels get dirtier (and do so faster) than any other part of your car. There are two main culprits; brake dust and road grime.

Brake dust is tough stuff and can etch your wheel’s finish if left unchecked. Road grime is more of an aesthetic issue, but nevertheless an annoyance. Grime and dust together make quite the tag team. But fear not, we’ve got you covered withe these 10 wheel cleaning tips and tricks!

1: Choose The Right Cleaner

top-10-wheel-cleaning-tips_wheel-cleanerWheel Cleaner is made from the highest quality, eco-friendly, biodegradable ingredients. It is safe for all wheels, the environment, and is manufacturer-approved by BBS, Dayton Wire Wheels, and Tire Rack. Griot’s Car Care Wheel Cleaner is your go-to, all-purpose cleaning solution.

top-10-wheel-cleaning-tips_heavy-duty-wheel-cleanerHeavy-Duty Wheel Cleaner is still pH-balanced, non-acidic, and non-caustic, but it has a little more bite for tackling extra tough brake dust and dirty wheels. It is a thick formula that clings, and changes to a purple color, indicating it’s winning the battle. Heck, it even smells good.

top-10-wheel-cleaning-tips_chrome-wheel-cleanerChrome Wheel Cleaner uses a natural, citrus oil-based formula with an acidic balance strong enough to thoroughly clean the wheel, while accounting for how chrome repels liquids. Chrome Wheel Cleaner is not designed for use on polished aluminum or magnesium.

2: Hot Topics

Never spray water or cleaner on hot wheels. This can compromise your wheel’s finish and may also damage your brake rotors. Let wheels and brakes cool after driving and, when possible, avoid washing in direct sunlight.

3: One By One

Clean your wheels one at a time to avoid having the product dry on the surface. If you are using Heavy-Duty Wheel Cleaner, be patient and watch for the color changing effect. If the product does dry, you can always spray it again to reinvigorate the cleaning action.

4: The Rinse Cycle

Before spraying your cleaner product, thoroughly rinse the wheel with water. This allows cleaner to be carried to remote areas and tight spots of the wheel. Hose pressure also blasts out some of the dirt and sediment straight-away, which means the cleaner can work on the toughest stuff.

5: The Agitation Cycle

Brake dust can really have staying power, especially in the deep corners of your wheels. Griot’s Garage has a wide array of purpose-built tools to ease the cleaning of even the most challenging wheels, whether super-fine mesh or intricate, multi-spoke designs.


6: Bucket List

If you use a bucket and wash mitt as part of your car cleaning regime, set aside a separate bucket and mitt just for wheels. Otherwise, you might pick up and transfer dirt or, worse, metallic brake dust that will wreak havoc on your paint.

7: Final Rinse & Dry

Always give your wheels a good final rinse, followed by a full wipe down with a drying towel. This helps keep water spots from forming. The Dirty Spots Towel is perfect for wheel drying!

8: Loose Cannon

Most people clean wheels after washing the rest of the car. If this is your process, keep a bottle of Speed Shine® handy to wipe up any Wheel Cleaner over-spray on your paint.

9: Lug Nut Blues

Lug nuts can be a challenge to clean (we’ve got a tool for that), and a source of frustration after the cleaning process. Water likes to pool in lug nut holes, and the moment you move your vehicle, water dribbles all over your previously pristine wheels. Avoid the lug nut blues and dry the holes thoroughly as part of your regime.

10: The Extra Mile

As with any aspect of car care, the details make all the difference with your wheels. Go the extra mile, and you’ll be rewarded! Try Wheel Cleaning Clay to remove embedded contaminants that washing alone doesn’t tackle. And every once in awhile, consider removing your wheels to clean the back sides. Your neighbors might think you’re crazy, but they won’t be able to deny the results.

Tips and Trick for Car Wheels and Tires


When cleaning your tires, use a soft brush and be careful around the edges of your wheels. You can use special cleaners, but typically a mild car detergent works well when using a brush. After washing your tires, dry them and apply a tire foam that will help prevent the exposed sidewall rubber from cracking. Following these simple steps will enhance the beauty of your car and will help your tires look great for years to come.


It is best to avoid using chemical wheel cleaners to prevent damaging the clear-coated finish. If you wash your vehicle on a regular basis, there is no need to use them. When washing your vehicle, start with the wheels first when they are cool. Since the finish on your wheels is similar to your vehicle’s paint job, use a mild detergent that is designed for automotive finishes. Use a washing mitt or a soft sponge, avoiding any brushes or abrasive pads as these will scratch and damage the finish. We also recommend waxing the exposed areas of your wheels three to four times a year or more. This will maintain the new look longer and will help to keep other elements from damaging the finish of your new wheels.


The same steps for wheels with a painted finish apply to wheels with a chrome plated finish. However, chrome plating is more delicate and does require more care. Be sure not to use any abrasive chrome polishes as this could scratch the chrome plating. If you live in a climate where road salts are used during winter, we recommend that you remove your plated wheels during that time as they will rapidly pit and become cloudy when exposed to road salt for an extended period, as the salt contains chemicals which breaks down the finish.

N.B.: It is advised to clean this type of wheels before storing them during the winter season as road salts could damage them.


Maintaining your Alloy wheels

Proper maintenance will prevent damage to the wheel finish and keep the wheel finish warranty from being voided.

Before installation, apply a coat of non abrasive car wax to the wheels which will help protect the finish and make it easier to clean them.

Clean your wheels often using mild soap and water and a soft sponge or cotton cloth to clean them. Reapply a coat of wax at least once per season.

Do not use abrasive cleaners, pads or polishing compounds on your wheels.

Do not wash your wheels when they are hot as it will damage the finish.

Limited Warranty

Robert Thibert Inc. warrants to the original purchaser, that the wheels will be free from cosmetic defects for one (1) year from the date of purchase. Robert Thibert Inc. also warrants that its wheels will be free from structural defects for as long as the original purchaser owns the product.

This warranty is only valid when the wheel(s) are returned to Robert Thibert Inc. freight prepaid with a copy of the original proof of purchase.

Robert Thibert Inc. obligation under this warranty will be limited to the repair or replacement of any wheel(s) which is considered to be defective.

Robert Thibert Inc. will inspect all warranty returns. Wheels covered by our warranty will be repaired or replaced and returned to the sender freight prepaid. Those wheels that are not covered by the warranty will be returned freight collect.

What is covered?

Peeling of the clear coat, chrome or paint on the face of the wheel. Blemishes in the clear coat, chrome or paint finish of the wheel. Wheels with lateral or radial run out greater than 0.025″ or 0.635mm provided there is no evidence of impact. Wheels with improperly machined bolt holes, center bores or offsets. heels that leak air

What is not covered?

Peeling of the paint, clear coat or chrome in the barrel or on the back of the wheel. Wheels that have a lateral or radial run out of less than 0.025″ or 0.635mm. Wheels that have been damaged by accident, impact, misuse, negligence, off road use, racing or exceeding the maximum load rating. Scratches, stone chips or curb rash caused by road hazards. Damage caused by tire installation or the use of an impact gun. Use of clip on weights on the outer lip of the wheel. Corrosion, pitting, scratches or staining due to improper wheel maintenance. Wheels that have been altered, modified or repaired. Defects that are claimed more than one year after purchase. Claims made by anyone other than the original purchaser.

Benefits and drawbacks of LEDs

As solid-state light sources, LEDs have very long lifetimes and are generally very robust. While incandescent bulbs may have an expected lifetime (to failure) of 1000 hours, LEDs are often quoted of having a lifetime of up to 100,000 hours – more than 11 years. However, this figure is extremely misleading; like all other light sources, the performance of LEDs degrades over time, and this degradation is strongly affected by factors such as operating current and temperature.

At present, there is no standard definition of lifetime for LEDs, although various parties have suggested that lifetime should be the time taken for the LED’s output to fall to some percentage (such as 70% or 50%) of its original value.

The general lack of standardization in the LED field is an ongoing issue. Various standards relating to LEDs exist in areas such as automotive lighting and traffic signals. Other efforts are being conducted by bodies such as CIE, NEMA and IES.

Low maintenance
The long lifetime of LEDs reduces the need to replace failed lamps, and this can lead to significant savings, particularly in the cost of sending out maintenance crews. This also makes LED fixtures useful for installation in relatively inaccessible locations. However, if tasks like cleaning the light fixture or performing electrical checks need to be carried out regularly, then the light sources could be replaced at the same time, negating the “low maintenance” advantage.

LEDs are high-efficiency light sources. White LEDs with efficacies of 25 lm/W and up are commercially available, exceeding the performance of incandescent and some fluorescent sources. The directional nature of light produced by LEDs allows the design of luminaires with higher overall efficiency.

Low power consumption
The low power consumption of LEDs leads to significant energy savings that can often drive the installation of LED-based systems, for example traffic signals. National programs to develop effective solid-state lighting industries in the US and Japan have been driven by the potential energy savings associated with using LEDs.

Although LEDs have high efficiency and consume a small amount of power, the devices produce a small total number of lumens. For example, a 60 W incandescent bulb with an efficiency of 20 lm/W produces 1200 lumens. A one-watt LED with an efficiency of 30 lm/W produces only 30 lumens i.e. 40 such LEDs are required to produce the same amount of light as the incandescent bulb.

LEDs don’t produce heat in the form of infrared radiation, which makes incandescent bulbs hot to the touch. The absence of IR radiation allows LED fixtures to be positioned in locations where heating from conventional sources would cause a particular problem e.g. illuminating food or textiles.

However, LEDs do produce heat at the semiconductor junction within the device. The wall-plug efficiency (optical power out divided by electrical power in) of LED packages is typically in the region of 5-40%, meaning that somewhere between 60 and 95% of the input power is lost as heat.

Without very efficient thermal management and heat sinking this causes the junction temperature of the LED to rise, which causes the LED characteristics to change. Driving LEDs above their rated current causes the junction temperature to rise to levels where permanent damage may occur.

In many applications, LEDs are expensive compared with other light sources, when measured by metrics such as “dollars-per-lumen”. LED manufacturers continue to work towards reducing their production costs while at the same time increasing the light output of their devices.

However, the high initial cost of LED-based systems is offset by lower energy consumption, lower maintenance costs and other factors.

Small form-factors
LEDs are very small – typical high-brightness LED chips measure 0.3 mm by 0.3 mm, while high-power devices can be 1 mm x 1 mm or larger. There are many examples where the availability of small, high-brightness devices have enabled significant market advancement. The obvious example is in mobile phone handsets, where blue, green and white LEDs are now used in most models to backlight keypads and liquid-crystal display (LCD) screens.

Instantaneous switch-on
LEDs switch on rapidly, even when cold, and this is a particular advantage for certain applications such as vehicle brake lights.

LEDs are available in a broad range of brilliant, saturated colors (although performance varies across the spectrum), and white devices are also available. Modules containing different-colored LEDs (typically red, green and blue, or RGB) can be tuned to a huge range of colors, and easily dimmed. RGB modules provide a much wider gamut of colors than white LEDs or other traditional white light sources, which is a particular advantage in applications such as backlighting liquid-crystal displays (LCDs).

RGB LEDs and color mixing
LED characteristics change with time, temperature and current, and from device to device. For RGB LEDs, the performance of different-colored devices changes at different rates. This can result in variation of lamp color and intensity, and poor reproducibility.

White LEDs
The color of white LEDs can be very inconsistent, although manufacturers have narrowed their binning ranges. White LEDs with the same correlated color temperature can have different color tints perceptible to the human eye.

Semiconductor processing
Fabricating LEDs is a complex high-temperature process involving the growth of crystalline layers across the surface of a semiconductor wafer. The quality of these layers determines the properties of the LED. Reproducibility is difficult to achieve across a single wafer, or from wafer to wafer, or from day to day. Some LEDs processed from a wafer will yield high quality devices, while others from the same wafer will have much lower quality and will end up in low-end applications such as children’s toys.

LEDs open up many new design options, some of which were previously inconceivable.

LEDs do not contain mercury and in many cases steps are being taken to replace lead-containing solders (used mainly to fix LEDs to circuit boards) with lead-free material, in line with European directives. The energy-efficient nature of LEDs also makes them environmentally friendly.

LEDs are low-voltage light sources, generally requiring a constant DC voltage or current to operate optimally. Designing and implementing an effective driver is key to obtain all the benefits of LEDs.

Knowledge gap
In general, there is a gap in understanding between the LED manufacturers and the lighting community. The former group do not include the latter in their product development activities and do not provide information that is directly comparable to the information available for competing light sources. The latter do not understand a huge amount about LEDs and are unfamiliar with crucial issues such as thermal management, or why white LED performance is not highly consistent.

Automotive LED Lighting Explained

The old and faithful incandescent light bulbs are being forced out of automotive lighting, to be replaced by LED lights. LED is short for Light Emitting Diodes. This is a form of transistor, doped with a substrate that emits light when current is applied. The LEDs have a number of advantages over incandescent lighting that are very attractive for automotive use:

  • They are very insensitive to vibrations
  • They last for the life of the vehicle (does not apply to headlight LEDs yet)
  • They can be baked into moisture proof casings to be installed in all kinds of harsh environments
  • They light up much quicker than incandescent bulbs
  • They are extremely compact
  • They can be made to emit different colors
  • They run cool
  • They give more light per supplied watt than incandescent light bulbs

There is now LED lighting technology available for every conventional automotive lighting purpose. The LEDs are also creating new light features for automotive purposes, as the LEDs can be installed in ways and in locations that are impossible with incandescent and fluorescent lighting.

Corvette brake lights were first

The first automotive use of LEDs was on the 1984 Corvette, which had a LED center high mount stop lamp. The LEDs are better for stop lamps than anything else, as they light up instantaneously. This gives the drivers behind more time to react to avoid an accident if a car makes a sudden stop. It might seem insignificant that a LED lights up 0.2 seconds faster than an incandescent bulb, but at 75 mph this translates to 21′ extra braking distance for the cars behind. This can literally make the difference between life and death.

Changing from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs in the brake light thus is not only a question of styling. It is also an important safety measure.LED brake lights are more or less standard on modern cars. The LEDs also make for development of better brake lights. Some cars now have brake lights that become brighter with increased pressure in the braking system, or LEDs that start flashing rapidly when the car is braking really hard. This gives the drivers behind even better warnings, helping them to avoid accidents.

High cost holds LEDs back

LEDs are also quickly becoming standard technology for rear lights and turn indicators. The only factor that makes car manufacturers hold back on LEDs is that LED lighting still is more expensive than fixtures for incandescent lighting. But their compact format and long life are strong arguments for installing LEDs. After all, it is important to safety that rear lights and turn signals work when they are needed. The long life of LEDs is also a strong argument for replacing incandescent light bulbs in rear lights and turn signals with aftermarket LEDs.

The LEDs that replace conventional light bulbs are made as assemblies of a number of LEDs. There are two reasons for this: The individual LEDs still don’t have the same light intensity as an incandescent bulb, and LEDs emit the light in a very narrow angle. Thus, to make the LED light visible from all angles or to make LED fixtures for ambient lighting, several LEDs must be used, emitting light in different directions. One feature of the LEDs that is beginning to transform the design of automotive lighting is their ability to emit light of different colors.

All colors from one light

The RGB LEDs have a design that allows them to emit any color light from the same LED unit. They are either built with three different LEDs combined into one unit, with one emitting red, one green and one blue light, or they are constructed as one LED doped with three different substances that emit red, green and blue light when current is applied. By varying the voltage applied, these LEDs can be made to emit any combination of the three colors. Red, green and blue mixed together at equal brightness is perceived by the human eye as white light, and the eye will perceive other mixes as all kinds of different colors (this is also used in printing, where red, green and blue are used to create all colors in the visible spectrum). The multicolor feature of LEDs makes it possible to make one single strip of LEDs that can perform several functions: to display a red rear driving light, to display a bright, or even pulsating, intense red light on braking, to blink amber on turns and to light up in white for backing up. The LEDs can be made to light up simultaneously as a single unit, or sequentially, to create “running turn signals”, all depending on the configuration of the circuitry governing the LEDs. Examples of how this LED feature can be used for practical purposes are the Tailgate LED Light Bar and the Fire and Ice Light Bar by Putco lighting.

LEDs can hide away

The small size of LEDs also makes it possible to make thin strips of lights that can be twisted and turned and placed in locations where there is no room for conventional lighting. The most prominent use of this is in running lights, which can be made not only to make the vehicle visible by emitting light, but also to do this in a shape that provides a unique character to the vehicle. The best known example of this is Audi, whose LED “whiskers” have become part of their trademark. LEDs are ideal for running lights, as they don’t burn out, consume very little energy and are maintenance free. Installing aftermarket LED running lights can actually save you money if your vehicle uses the low beams as automatic running lights. With LED running lights installed, you can turn off the expensive incandescent bulbs in your low beams and thus prolong their lifespan considerably. LED strips can even be made so thin that they are virtually invisible when they are not lighted up. The PLASMAGLOW® – Lightning Eyes Headlight Kit is one example. This strip can be mounted in the small space between the headlight and the body and is hardly noticeable when the car is parked. The LED strips are widely used by both vehicle and aftermarket manufacturers for under dash lighting, door lights and foot well lights. They are used as side markers and contour lights on emergency vehicles, trucks and custom builds.

Headlights are next
HeadlightsLEDs are also beginning to substitute headlights, with the 2007 Lexus LS600 hybrid being the first vehicle to use LEDs this way. The brightness of LEDs has now reached levels that make it possible to use them for this most demanding of automotive lighting fixtures. As the prices of LEDs go down, more LED headlights are certain to be installed, substituting incandescent bulbs. There are however many problems to be solved before LEDs becomes the preferred source of light in headlights. Even though LEDs run cooler than incandescent bulbs, they emit less light when the temperature goes up. As even LEDs get pretty hot when you apply the power needed to emit the lumens necessary for headlights, it is an uphill battle for developers to make LEDs that emit a lot of light. The other obstacle is that without manipulation an LED emits light through a very narrow angle.

The LED headlights made today combine advanced LED design with advanced optical design and intricate cooling devices to perform adequately. This gets very expensive. However, with the rapid development taking place in the field, there is no doubt that we will see new and more efficient LED headlight designs very shortly.

The future belongs to LEDs

The incandescent bulbs haven’t really developed that much in the 140 years they have existed, while the development rate of LEDs is very rapid, with LED performance being doubled every 36 months, a development rate that is similar to the fast pace of computer development. There is no doubt that the future of automotive lighting belongs to the LEDs.

Advantages of LED Lighting

The auto industry has experienced tremendous strides in technology. Among the technology included are car LED lights that give the car a new superb and luxury look. The lighting technology has surely gone to the next level. This lighting has made the car a symbol of glamour and status in the modern world.

LEDs, or Light Emitting Diodes, are the light source in solar powered products. In order to understand what advantages the LED offers over incandescent lights, it is necessary to understand how the LED works. A light emitting diode is composed of a semiconductor diode. A semiconductor is a material that can conduct electricity. The light produced by a LED is a cool light. More light is produced per watt in an LED than an incandescent. Even more energy can be saved if the light is solar powered.

LED bulbs

The latest SMD/SMT LEDs have flat emitting surfaces. The flat surface has a much wider angle to emit a nice flooding light and it is also relatively brighter than refractor LEDs. Also because of SMD, LED is easier to assemble onto the PCB circuit board, the lighting angle can reach an amazing full 360-degrees. More than that, it reduces the power consumption drastically.

Automotive LED Advantages

The lights are also more functional in times of poor visibility such as during a foggy time of the day. The fog LED lights have the capacity to penetrate the fog and illuminate the way over a long distance. The yellow type of car LED lights are most advised for these purposes of creating proper visibility. It is also important to note that these lights are not just protecting your car at any given moment but they also alert other drivers and wild life that there is an oncoming car. In addition to this the car lights are a great lighting solution for the interior of your car. Though the inner lights are not always being used, when the time comes, their importance cannot be overstated. It is important to have lights that will offer you proper visibility and consume less energy. Unlike incandescent or halogen lights, LED technology is not based on filaments and does not require mercury which can contribute to environmental damage. Furthermore, these lights produce no heat nor UV radiation, thus, reducing CO2 emissions that cause global warming. These lights are also capable of converting up to 80% of electrical energy into light compared to incandescent bulbs which are limited to 20%.

Halogen or HID Xenon Lights?

You might be thinking that light is light, but there are very real differences between the glow of one bulb and the glow of another. Automotive lighting has made a lot of progress since the early days, and now there are two types duking it out for the number one spot.


HalogenA halogen bulb is like a regular incandescent light bulb on steroids–it works on the same principle but produces a great deal more light. The halogen bulb’s tungsten filament is contained inside an atmospheric vacuum, so it burns at a much higher temperature and generates a brighter, whiter light. Plus, bromine and iodine are floating around inside the bulb to strengthen the filament, which makes them last much longer. Halogen bulbs perform at a higher, consistent output throughout their lives.

HID Xenon

HIDHID is short for High-Intensity Discharge, and it is the wave of the automotive lighting future. These lights use a short electrical arc to superheat a ball of xenon gas, which glows incredibly bright and very white. One of the most striking advantages of HID xenon lighting is the brightness and the way that it nearly matches the color and look of daylight. Plus, they generate all this light while still consuming considerably less power than conventional halogen bulbs. Hella specializes in building HID lights.

LEDs Find a Niche in Street and Area Lighting Applications

While some companies are pushing the outer limits of appropriate LED general lighting applications (think LEDs in a T8 form factor), others are focused on the ready-for-prime-time applications such as street and area lighting. Municipalities and companies with the ability to cover the upfront costs can find much to like about converting from HID to LED.

Better Visibility

The whiter appearance of LEDs should produce safer visual conditions. Humans are more visually alert in white light environments than in the pronounced “yellow” light of high pressure sodium, a common light source for street and area lighting installations.

Highway Lighting Image

Less Power

Properly designed LED systems should be able to meet the industry standard illumination levels and uniformity while using less power. However, the lumen depreciation of the LED system might lessen the power benefit over time. For example, if over the course of the 50,000 to 100,000 expected life of the LEDs, the light output declines 30% from the initial (not an unreasonable assumption with LEDs), then the system could fall below industry standard illumination levels before end-of-life for the LEDs.

Reduced Maintenance

Theoretically the life of the LED system (50,000 to 100,000 hours) looks like a significant benefit compared to the 25,000 hour life of high pressure sodium lamps. LED proponents often tout reduced frequency of re-lamping as a major factor in evaluating cost-effectiveness. Indeed, re-lamping street lights is not a trivial task and if the number of re-lampings can be cut in half, the financial impact is real and quantifiable. However, because there is little long term history with LED systems, other maintenance issues unique to LEDs may emerge.

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York has done extensive research on LEDs and LED system applications. Follow this link for a detailed case study on LED street lighting. While you are on their web site, check out the other interesting lighting research going on at the LRC.