Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Car Stuff Explained

I've learned a lot in my Craigslist browsing for a used car (a fantasy, not a reality... yet). There's a lot of vocabulary I've learned from it and I'd like to impart some of that knowledge upon you in simple, easy to understand terms. because cars are complicated :)

  1. Horsepower. This just means the amount of power an engine has.
  2. 1.3L, 4-cylinder. This refers to the ease of acceleration and stuff. I don't really know so ignore it.
  3. Fwd, rwd, and 4wd. FWD refers to front wheel drive, which is when the engine powers the front wheels so that's where the steering comes from. A common suggestion for getting up a snowy/icy hill is to drive up in reverse, which only works if your car uses fwd. RWD is rear wheel drive, and 4wd is four wheel drive (awesome for snow).
  4. Coupe, sedan, and hatchback. Coupe means a 2 door car, where there is no second row of seats or you need to fold back the front row to get in, like the Fiat 500, the Mini Cooper S, or the Scion tC. An example of a sedan is a Toyota Corolla/Camry or the most common Honda Civics and Accords; it's a compact car with a small trunk. A hatchback refers to the trunk--like the trunk in a mom minivan such as the Toyota Sienna. Smaller hatchback cars include the Toyota Prius, Yaris, and Matrix.
    Top - hatchback; bottom - sedan. Source
  5. Compact, mid-size, and full-size. Google defines compact car as a "medium-sized car," and according to Wikipedia, mid-size is defined as "equal to or greater than a compact." It also defines full-size as "larger than a mid-size car ... designed to be comfortable for six passengers and their luggage."
  6. Reliability. This is usually measured in Problems Per Vehicle, meaning non-maintenance issues such as transmission replacement, and air conditioner compressor replacement. Regular maintenance would be oil checks, tire rotation (rotating the front with rear, left with right, etc.) and replacement (tires need replacing when they wear down so the veins are flush with the tire or when you pop one), battery replacement, and break pad replacement. I like to look at J.D. Power's Vehicle Dependability charts for the model year I'm looking to buy. I find that vehicle dependability forums are unreliable because many consumers misguidedly see too many carmakers as reliable.
  7. Hybrid, gas-powered, and electric. Hybrids and gas cars do not need to be charged. Gas cars run on gas. A typical sedan/hatchback gas-powered car gets somewhere from 25-32 combined (city and highway) mpg (miles per gallon).
    Hybrids run on the kinetic energy regular cars throw away when you brake down a hill. They get better gas mileage, usually somewhere in the 39-45 mpg range. Sounds like a sweet deal, right? Here's the catch: they run an average of $5k more than a gas car and need a $3-4k hybrid battery replacement somewhere after 100k miles or it can last the life of the car (as it hypothetically should). Of course, if it happens within the warranty (usually 8-10 years ish) you get a free ride. I've gotten the impression that the older generations of Priuses' hybrid batteries fail sooner than the newer generations, so keep that in mind when buying a new or used hybrid.
    Electric cars need to be charged. Whole Foods has charging stations, and charging is usually priced around $2-5/hour, taking 2-3 hours to charge. I'm not sure how many miles they can run on one charge. An example of an all-electric car is the BMW i8, the Nissan Leaf, or any model Tesla.
  8. Cars with a hybrid and gas model vs specifically hybrid cars - Specifically hybrid vehicles (Toyota Prius, Honda Insight) have a more aerodynamic shape, giving them slightly better gas mileage. For example, the 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid gets 42/38mpg, while the 2016 Prius gets 54/50 according to Toyota.
  9. Why electric cars don't need a grill - The grill allows oxygen to enter the engine, but the engines of electric cars don't need oxygen so they don't have grills.
  10. Aftermarket parts. These are car parts that don't come from the car manufacturer. It can be a bumper you didn't get from your car manufacturer itself, or a whole new Pioneer audio system.
  11. Make vs model. The "make" of a car is like the brand - Toyota, Honda, BMW, Ford. The model is like the Corolla, Pilot, i8, or Focus.
  12. The relationship between Toyota, Scion, and Lexus, and Honda and Acura - Scion and Lexus are Toyota's luxury brands. Everything is made by Toyota, but they use the Scion or Lexus names to signify premium. So you get Toyota's reliability, but a premium vehicle. Acura is Honda's luxury brand. Another example is Smart brand, which is owned by Mercedes.
  13. Clean vs Salvage vs Rebuilt title: a clean title is on a car that has not been in any major accidents. A salvage title is given to a car that has been totaled (when the repair cost would be more than the car was worth at the time of the accident). A car with a salvage title is illegal to drive. The rebuilt title is given after the car has been repaired and inspected for stolen parts. The inspector does NOT check for safety or drivability, he only checks for stolen parts. This is why you should never buy a car with a rebuilt title.
  14. Features to look for when buying a new car. Sunroof, moon roof, automatic climate control (you set 67 degrees and the car does the rest), automatic dimming rearview mirror (versus manual, which is when you push the thingy under the mirror and it makes everything dimmer in the rearview mirror so you don't get blinded by inconsiderate drivers' high beams), heated seats, folding in side mirrors, steering wheel tilt seat raising adjustments, Bluetooth, USB ports as opposed to cigarette lighter ports. Also feel for how bumpiness and numbness/responsiveness of steering and break/gas pedals. And style of course.
  15. Manual and automatic transmissions. With a manual transmission, you use your left foot to push the clutch pedal before you gas or break or change gears (but it has to be at the perfect time. It's rough.) and use your right hand for the gear shifter (gears must be changed at certain speeds and you have to feel when to switch gears). With automatic transmissions, the car does all that for you. Stick shifts get slightly better gas mileage, but with modern advancements in technology the difference is almost negligible.
  16. Automated manual transmission? Smart cars for example use an "automated manual transmission," which is a fancy name for a shitty automatic transmission. Basically you get the ease of an automatic, with the lurching between gears of a manual.