Automotive Technology & Car Buying Tips

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Automobile manufacturers are placing the newest and best tech toys in all manners of vehicles today, from the most expensive luxury car to your average family sedan. Everyone has the option to enjoy the latest in safety features, entertainment options, and time-saving technology add-ons in almost any new car available today. And tips for buying your next new car.


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    Table of contents Automotive Technology Gizmos & Gadgets: Adaptive Cruise


    This isnt your Fathers Side-view


    Vehicle Safety Goes High


    Buying a Car

    Purchase Negotiation & Your Trade In Part


    Purchase Negotiation & Your Trade In Part


    Auto Title Loans Let the Borrower Beware


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    Technology Gizmos & Gadgets: Adaptive Cruise Control With the increase in standard safety features being installed in new vehicles

    over the last six to seven years, the one feature that will be the center of

    making it all work is

    a system called

    adaptive cruise

    control. In some

    new models, this

    radar-based system

    has evolved to

    reacting to driving

    conditions without

    driver intervention.

    At this rate, it can

    be reasonably

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    assumed that this technology will be at the core of what is becoming known as

    the autonomous or driverless car.

    Cruise Control History

    Modern cruise control, (also known as a speedostat) has been around for over

    60 years. Invented in 1948 by inventor and mechanical engineer Ralph

    Teetor, his idea was born out of the frustration of riding in a car driven by his

    lawyer, who kept speeding up and slowing down as he talked. The first car

    with Teetors system was the 1958 Chrysler Imperial (called Auto-pilot). This

    system calculated ground speed based on driveshaft rotations driveshaft

    rotations off the rotating speedometer-cable, and used a bi-directional screw-

    drive electric motor to vary throttle position as needed.

    Mechanical cruise control was replaced by electronic cruise control in later

    years. Daniel Aaron Wisner invented Automotive Electronic Cruise Control in

    1968 as an engineer for RCAs Industrial and Automation Systems Division in

    Plymouth, Michigan. His invention described in two patents filed that year

    (&3570622 & &3511329), with the second modifying his original design by

    debuting digital memory, was the first electronic gadgetry to play a role in

    controlling a car and ushered in the computer-controlled era in the automobile


    Two decades passed before an integrated circuit for his design was

    developed by Motorola Inc. as the MC14460 Auto Speed Control Processor in

    CMOS. As a result, cruise control was eventually adopted by automobile

    manufacturers as standard equipment and nearly every car built and many

    trucks are fitted with a configuration of the circuitry and hardware nearly

    identical to his prototype.

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    Adaptive Cruise Control History

    Mitsubishi was the first automaker to offer a laser-based ACC system in 1995

    on the Japanese Mitsubishi Diamante. Marketed as Preview Distance

    Control, this early system did not apply the brakes and only controlled speed

    through throttle control and downshifting. In August 1997 Toyota began to

    offer a radar cruise control system in Japan on the Celsior. Toyota further

    refined their system by adding brake control in 2000 and low-speed tracking

    mode in 2004. The low-speed speed tracking mode was a second mode that

    would warn the driver if the car ahead stopped and provide braking; it could

    stop the car but then deactivated.

    Toyotas Lexus division was the first to bring adaptive cruise control to the US

    market in 2000 with the LS 430s Dynamic Laser Cruise Control system. The

    German automaker Mercedes-Benz introduced Distronic in late 1998 on its

    large S-class sedan. In 2006, Mercedes-Benz refined the Distronic system to

    completely halt the car if necessary (now called Distronic Plus and offered

    on their E-Class and S-Class luxury sedans). This feature is now also offered

    by Bosch as ACC plus and available in the Audi Q7, the Audi Q5, 2009 Audi

    A6 and the 2010 Audi A8.

    Vehicles with full speed range adaptive cruise control are able to bring the car

    to a full stop, and resume from standstill. Partial cruise control cuts off below a

    set minimum speed, requiring driver intervention. Most of the automakers

    offering vehicles for sale during the 2015 model year in the American

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    marketplace offer at least one model that features full speed range adaptive

    cruise control.

    This isnt your Fathers Side-view Mirror! I was recently driving a new 2015 vehicle when I was hit by a deer. The adult

    buck took out the

    left side view mirror

    and damaged the

    left front fender

    before rolling onto

    the hood, up over

    the windshield and

    down the back of

    the vehicle

    kicking out one of

    the rear sensors on

    the bumper in the

    process. While myself and the Mrs. were OK, and the damage was mostly

    cosmetic the left side view mirror was a mess of broken plastic and tangled


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    Looking at the internal complexity of what used to a very sophisticated safety

    tool, made me wonder and research. May I introduce you to the automotive

    side-view mirror!

    Also known as a wing, fender, or door mirror, it is a mirror found on the

    exterior of motor vehicles for the purposes of helping the driver see areas

    behind and to the sides of the vehicle, outside of the drivers peripheral vision

    (in the blind spot). Currently regulated by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety

    Standard #101 (FMVSS101), the traditional side mirror is equipped for manual

    or remote vertical and horizontal adjustment so as to provide adequate

    coverage to drivers of differing height and seated position. Todays cars

    mount their side mirrors on the doors, normally at the A pillar, rather than the

    wings (fenders portion of body above the wheel well.

    In the early days of motoring, vehicles were just equipped with a drivers side-

    view mirror passenger side view mirrors at the time were considered a

    luxury and were available as optional equipment. By the late 1960s

    FMVSS101 required the automakers to have the passenger side-view mirror

    as standard equipment.

    Remote adjustment may be mechanical by means of bowden cables, or may

    be electric by means of geared motors. The mirror glass may also be

    electrically heated and may include electrochromic dimming to reduce glare to

    the driver from the headlamps of following vehicles.

    The side-view mirror of today does even more in the way of safety than just

    merely giving the driver a view of what is behind the vehicle. The falling price

    of electronics has given rise to the incorporation of the vehicles turn signal

    repeaters. There is evidence to suggest mirror-mounted repeaters may be

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    more effective than repeaters mounted in the previously predominant fender

    side location.

    Blind side warning systems use the side-view mirrors sensors to warn the

    driver of other vehicles in the blind spot. The mirrors are also being used to

    incorporate sensors for the lane departure warning system and even small

    cameras for the growing use of 360 degree viewing of the outside the vehicle

    from the drivers seat.

    As a result of these enhancements and those yet to come, its a sure thing

    that the automotive side-view mirror will be more and more an integral part of

    vehicle safety in the years to come.

    1931 Ford Model A wing side-view mirror mounted at the top drivers side door hinge.

    1950 Pontiac Chief Deluxe Silver Streak 8 sedan fender mounted side-view mirror, manually operated.

    1989 Lincoln Mark VII coupe drivers door mounted heated power operated side-view mirror.

    2015 Lincoln MKC dual heated power door mounted side-view mirrors equipped with turn signal repeaters and blind-side warning indicators.

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    Vehicle Safety Goes High Tech Welcome to Gizmos & Gadgets! In this series of installments, I am discussing

    the evolution of the standard safety features that are found in your average

    new passenger car. If you caught my initial article, you were probably amazed

    at the level of government-mandated safety features that have been

    incorporated into

    vehicles over the last 40

    plus years. Yet starting

    with the 2006 model

    year, automakers took

    vehicle safety to the

    next level.

    Drivers were introduced

    to a wider variety of

    newly optional and standard safety features across a broad spectrum of

    vehicles. Those features that were only available for the top of the model

    range began to become available at much lower price points. Here are a few

    of the features that started to work their way into affordable cars as standard


    More airbags Up from the driver and front passenger airbags of the 1990s, todays vehicles may have upto 10 airbags as standard equipment. In addition

    to the dual front airbags, the vehicle will have front seat mounted side-impact

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    airbags, and dual head curtain side-impact (front/rear) airbags. Recent models

    will also include driver/front passenger knee airbags and even outboard rear

    seat side-impact airbags.

    Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock Four wheel hydraulic or drum brakes where a brake shoe was applied by the pressure of brake fluid

    against the inside of a steel drum to bring a vehicle to a stop began to be

    supplanted by front-wheel disc brakes in the early 1970s. Disc brakes

    dissipate heat generated by stopping friction better than drum brakes, lasted

    longer and were less subject to problems with moisture or fade. This allowed

    for straighter stops and better control under emergency conditions.

    Automakers started to equip vehicles with four-wheel disc brakes to further

    improve overall handling and control. This also made the standard anti-lock

    braking system more effective.

    Traction control Designed to detect slippage of a drive wheel, traction control actually uses braking to slow the wheel to a point where traction is

    regained. This system is designed to operate with front or all-wheel drive

    systems usually upto speeds of about 30 mph. Some later versions are

    designated as all-speed traction control which means pretty much what it


    Stability control Otherwise known as electronic slip regulation, dynamic vehicle control or by brand names such as StabiliTrak (GM) or Advance

    Trac (Ford), this system builds on the traction control system to also detect

    and prevent the vehicle from sliding or otherwise losing control.

    Brake Assist/Electronic Brake-force distribution These technologies have been engineered to increase control and response to the braking system

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    in the case of an emergency stop. Brake Assist simply allows the anti-lock

    braking system to stop the car even more effectively. Electronic brake-force

    distribution allows for the braking system to distribute the force of braking

    during a panic stop and in doing so allowing the driver to maintain control as

    opposed to going into an uncontrollable skid.

    Buying a Car Purchase Negotiation & Your Trade In Part I During this visit, I want to talk to you about the part of buying a car that just

    about everybody dislikes negotiating the purchase price and figuring out

    what your trade-in is honestly worth. This can strike fear in most people, but it

    doesnt have to.

    General Information Your best tool in preparing to talk price with the dealer or private seller is PREPARATION! Thats right, do some research before you

    buy so that you know where you are financially and can agree to negotiate

    within a range that is acceptable to your lender and your budget. If you are

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    going to pay in cash, make sure you have set aside enough for registration

    and those little repairs/maintenance you will most likely have to have done

    after purchase. While you certainly can go on line and research a variety of

    car pricing services to determine what the value of the used vehicle you are

    interested in is worth, I prefer a lower tech and more accurate solution the

    reference desk at

    your local public

    library. Ask to see

    the current

    reference copy of

    the National




    (NADA) Official

    Used Car Guide.

    Why I like the NADA Guide This is the book that the loan officer at the bank or credit union is most likely to use in determining how much to lend you

    (if you are not paying cash) based on what the vehicle is worth. The NADA

    Official Used Car Guide is printed in ten regional versions every month and

    reflects the actual prices reported by used car dealers at auctions around the

    country. It covers the values of used vehicles for the last eight years. This

    wealth of information includes five different values; (trade in value

    rough/average/clean), clean loan value, and clean retail value. (Note: if you

    are considering a vehicle older than 8 years old, ANY source you may

    consider on-line or off will only be at best a basic GUIDE due to the increased

    variables of wear, tear, use and overall condition.)

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    For those with either a vehicle to trade that is OLDER than eight years and/or

    considering the purchase of a vehicle in that vintage or older, an alternative

    plan would be to shop around (on and off line) locally to find out what similar

    vehicles of that age are selling for. As I mentioned before, valuations of older

    vehicles can differ by a greater amount from vehicle to vehicle because of

    mileage and condition. Now about that trade-in:

    What you know prior to getting your trade-in appraised First, you should

    know that even if the vehicle you are planning to trade is in good shape and

    over five years old, its most likely going to be sold to an automotive

    wholesaler. This matters because the dealer will be getting buy bids from

    several of the wholesalers that they work with prior to working up the sales

    offer. The bids received will be the working numbers they will use to negotiate

    with you.

    Here is my philosophy regarding trade-ins: the older and higher mileage it is, the more willing I am to trade it in. Reason? The dealer is best qualified to

    dispose of it if need be, without the potential legal repercussions of you selling

    the old jalopy outright.

    Now its only fair to warn you that a dealer may be reluctant to accept or make

    an offer of trade-in on such a vehicle. Main reason is that there is a lack of

    financial incentive (if the vehicle is in bad enough shape, its going straight to

    the junkyard once the deal is closed.)

    The value of the old vehicle reducing the cost of the one you are looking to

    buy can sometimes be more than what you can get in cash not to mention a

    lot less hassle than having to sell it yourself.

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    This also limits the negotiation room the dealer may have during the

    negotiation. If you are trading a newer and/or lower mileage vehicle the

    dealer may opt to keep it for his own used car lot. This is GOOD news for you

    because they may be willing to pay more for the vehicle hence a better deal

    for you. (but if the vehicle is that good, why are you trading it?) Under these

    circumstances, if you feel (based on your research) that the offer is too low

    give the vehicles mileage and condition, you may want to consider selling

    your vehicle yourself. I will cover that subject in a future column.

    Did you know: That cleaning the vehicle up before getting it appraised can help you? Yes, even automotive appraisers can be lured by shiny sheetmetal.

    I wouldnt spend lots of $$$ to get the vehicle in order, but washed,

    vacuumed, throwing out the accumulated trash in the nooks and crannies can

    actually make you a few more bucks at appraisal time.

    Purchase Negotiation & Your Trade In Part II

    Our visit this time will concentrate on the actual negotiation. Up to now, we

    have been focused on the different aspects of vehicle purchase determining

    how much to spend, getting pre-approved for a loan (if applicable), figuring out

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    what kind of vehicle is needed/wanted, and determining the value of the

    vehicle to be traded-in (if applicable).

    This is what the old tire commercial refers to as where the rubber meets the

    road so to speak. Armed with your research, you finally sit in front of the

    salesperson as they put together their offer.

    The one thing you should NEVER do: is make the FIRST offer. Automotive salespeople are skilled at gleaning information about you and your financial

    situation ever so casually. Remember that the vehicle you want to buy is one

    of MANY that must be

    SOLD for the dealership

    to be successful. The

    first offer that the

    salesperson presents

    says more about: 1. How

    serious they think you

    are about buying a

    vehicle today; 2. How

    badly they want to sell

    you a vehicle today; and 3. How important it is to sell that particular vehicle to

    you right now.

    If the number is close to what you determined to be a fair price as a result of

    your research (i.e. you shouldnt be paying at the top of your range), you can

    make the deal. Sometimes, its also good to test the number by seeing if they

    might go a bit lower (say $300 to $500 less than their good number) to see if

    you can sweeten the deal even more. Do note however, if the number they

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    offer you up front is toward the low end of your range, trying to squeeze more

    may not be in your best interest.

    The second thing you should NEVER do: Pay a deposit to accompany an offer. It is fine to leave a deposit once a deal has been made and accepted

    (Usually not more than $500). Make sure that the offer as accepted has

    written on the offer Purchase subject to a mechanics inspection. This must

    be agreed to before any money changes hands ESPECIALLY regarding a

    private sale. If the vehicle does not pass muster with your mechanic, you have

    the right to cancel the deal and get your deposit back. If the dealership or

    private seller balks at this walk away!

    Do THIS Get it in writing: This makes NO DIFFERENCE if you are making this purchase from a dealership or private sale. If there were promises made

    i.e. about a repair or including something extra, it needs to be on the offer

    form or bill of sale. Only the written promises/commitments are binding. If its

    not written, its not true. Also, since this is a lower priced vehicle purchase, you

    will most likely see the words VEHICLE PURCHASED AS IS. This means,

    the MINUTE you receive the keys and drive off the lot, anything that happens

    is your problem. There is NO recourse from the dealer. Sometimes a dealer

    will offer you some short term guarantee of 30 to 90 days often at no

    charge. READ THE FINE PRINT! Often it means they will pay for the parts,

    but you might still be on the hook for the labor. Since those short term

    warranties are backed by the dealer you purchased the vehicle from, they are

    usually the ones you have to bring the vehicle back to under the terms of the

    warranty. Do realize that a private seller will offer you NO SUCH

    PROTECTION! All the more reason to have that vehicle checked out before

    making payment in full.

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    Just say no Even after you have made your deal, a dealership may try to make extra money from you via add-ons like extended warranties (usually

    offered by a 3rd party, not the dealership or the manufacturer), paint

    protection, fabric protection or other sundry additional cost items. Chances are

    that if there are extras that you want, its often better to shop around first.

    Auto Title Loans Let the Borrower Beware As the average price for

    new vehicles has placed

    them beyond the reach of

    many Americans, more and

    more consumers are turning

    to risky title loans as a way

    to hold on to new vehicles

    they purchased but couldnt

    actually afford.

    Car title loans have been called the home equity loans of subprime auto, and

    there is growing fear that they might lead to a collapse similar to the mortgage


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    Title loans can last from as long as two years to as little as 30 days, and

    require that borrowers turn over their vehicle titles in exchange for loans that

    typically equal just one percent of their vehicles resale value.

    The auto title loan business is big, and getting bigger as regulators in a

    number of states have begun cracking down on payday loan companies. In

    2013, more than 1.1 American households used them according to data

    compiled by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In all too many

    cases, borrowers ultimately lose the vehicles they have put up as collateral

    and find themselves even further in debt.

    The New York Times recently reported that fees associated with car title

    loans, also commonly referred to as motor-vehicle equity lines of credit, can

    result in an effective interest rate of between 80 percent to well over 500

    percent. Borrowers who take out short term loans of just 30 days frequently

    find that they are unable to pay them off, and are forced to pay additional fees

    when they renew or extend their original loans.

    Title loan companies argue that the high interest rates and fees they charge

    are justified by the risk involved in loaning to borrowers who would not qualify

    for traditional loans.

    Recently, private equity firms have begun investing in title loan companies,

    and even some larger banks have begun offering auto loans to borrowers with

    lower credit scores. In fact, some title loan companies do not even take the

    borrowers credit history into consideration

    Unfortunately, borrowers who resort to title loans are frequently in dire

    financial straits due to an illness, divorce, job loss or some other financially

    taxing life change.

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    According to a study by the Center for Responsible Lending, one in six auto

    title loan borrowers end up losing their vehicles due to their inability to repay.


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