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Archive for May, 2009

First Drive: 2010 Lexus HS 250h hybrid

Posted by autotran on May 27, 2009

2010 Lexus HS 250h

2010 Lexus HS 250h

Just because The Cold War is over does not mean that all cold wars have come to an end. Two protagonists in the auto industry – once again, West  vs. East – are currently embroiled in an in car safety & technology arms race that is beginning to look more like Roskosmos vs. NASA than a battle between luxury sedans. The latest master weapon comes from Lexus in the form of its Lexus HS 250h hybrid, claimed to be not only the world’s 1st hybrid-only luxury sedan, but also the most fuel-friendly luxury vehicle extant. If Lexus has it, they put it on this Lexus car. Our question was: Would we want to put one in our driveway? Follow the jump to find out.

Frugal hybrids, sports car hybrids are here, and luxury hybrids are dipping wheels in the waters. This Lexus car marks the first luxury-only hybrid to make its acquaintance with the public. During the launch, Lexus was at pains to make sure we did not confuse this Lexus car with the Prius, informing us that the HS’ closest sibling is the Euro-market Toyota Avensis. Fitting in between the IS, ES and GS in brand placement, the HS 250h “was developed as an answer to customers looking for an environmentally conscious premium vehicles.”


What about the LS 600h and GS 450h? In addition to the HS 250h being hybrid-only, it’s the 1st Lexus hybrid tuned with the primary goal of delivering superior economy. While Lexus’ LS and GS hybrids are meant to provide power above their weight class with the same fuel efficiency, the HS is meant to provide economy with a decent dollop of power.

It does so via a DOHC 2.4-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. The engine alone puts out 147 horsepower, but adds some juice from the 245-volt battery behind the rear seats and the system is good for 187 horsepower. Torque comes to 138 lb-ft, and you can have it all on regular 87-octane gas. The car isn’t just frugal on gas; it’s equally parsimonious with emissions: 70 percentages fewer smog-forming emissions find their way out of the tailpipe compared to conventional vehicles & evaporative emissions are close to zero.



The mpg tally? According to Lexus, you’ll be the proud owner of 35 cities, 33 highways, 34 combined. That easily beats other car in the entry luxury segment, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. It even beats the One Series. Heck, it even beats a Mini Cooper (except for the diesel, which you can not get here yet). Mind you, the HS is not really competition for those cars, which all stress sporting splendor as opposed to frugal hybrid luxury.

A shift-by-wire system operating through a CVT (continuously variable transmission) gets the grunt seamlessly to the ground. The console-mounted shifter engages Reverse, Drive, Neutral, and a “B” setting that actuates an engine braking feature when going downhill, which helps use gravity to refill the battery & keep your feet off the brakes. Oddly, Park is a button next to the shifter – if you do not use the button, the car will remain in neutral when you get out. As the gentleman from Lexus University explained, “If you do not press the button, the car’s going to leave.”

Let’s talk car technology for a moment, shall we? Here are some of the systems on the HS 250h:

  • A Pre-Collision System: You get when you check the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control option. If your HS thinks you are going to hit someone, it will ring the warning bells & add brake pressures if it doesn’t detect you are pressing the brake hard enough. The driver monitor will also be working to make sure you are still at work behind the wheel. If you do happen to have a boo-boo, you will be protected by 10 airbags.
  • A heads-up-display this projects not only speed, but nearly any input you give the car, including navigation instructions and audio system commands. The steering wheel buttons are touch sensitive, so that when you rest your finger on one, it appears dimly in the HUD display, and is illuminated if you actually press it. You also get Pre-Collision and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control warnings shown to you in the HUD.
  • The wide-view front monitor is the same feature you get on a Rolls-Royce Phantom. If, for some reason, you can not see what you are about to nudge the Hess’s 4-foot nose into, turn on the front monitor and you will get a 190-degree view from the grille-mounted camera?
  • An infrared-cut, acoustic glass windshield that reduces IR waves by 30 percentages, and side glass with a water-repellent coating for better wet weather visibility and defrosting.
  • Intelligent high-beams use a camera in front of the rear view mirror and automatically switch between low and high headlight levels. They can also shorten the distance of the beam depending on whether traffic is approaching you or you’re pulling up behind someone.
  • Lane Keep Assist helps you stay in your lane in 2 ways. When the lane departure warning system can clearly make out lane markings, the steering wheel will vibrate and if you stray, the car will apply an ever-so-subtle amount of steering input to get you back in the lane. The 2nd feature is essentially the car keeping itself in the center of the lane. Once the HS 250 knows where the lane markers are, it’ll gently provide steering inputs on its own to keep the car going right down the middle. Not that you would – but you can take your hands off the wheel and watch the car keep itself between the lines. Of course, this feature does not work on switchbacks, and it is not an auto pilot, but it does appear to be the way things are going these days.
  • Casual voice command capability (as on the IS convertible) that let you blurt out “I need a gas station” and “Make it cooler” instead of dictating your way in clipped tones through menus.



When you are not inputting commands through the steering wheel and watching buttons light up in the HUD, you will be doing it on the Romulan center console via the Remote Touch Controller – which is, simply, a mouse – introduced earlier this year on the RX crossover. If you can navigate a MacBook or PC, you can navigate the Lexus’ menus. The controller provides user-adjustable feedback when it rolls over a clickable option, so once you have memorized the options on a screen you can click your choice without looking. Although it could appear gimmicky – and a tad large – a couple of points-and-clicks soon had us saying “Hey, that’s all right!” If it had a ‘Back’ button it would be absolutely perfect, but that’s an opportunity for Lexus to have something new to introduce on next year’s model.

Now to the technological main event: whereas Mercedes has Tele-Aid and GM has Onstar, the HS 250h introduces Lexus Enform with Safety Connect. This is actually 2 different subscription services: Safety Connect will be available on all cars; Lexus Enform will be available on those with navigation.

Safety Connect notifies a command center if you have been in an accident, alerts tracking authorities to the vehicle’s location, can make calls for emergency assistance, and adds GPS location data when you make calls to Lexus’ roadside assistance program.




Enform can be thrown on top of that services and has 2 offerings. Destination Assist is like calling 411 for navigation – command center agents will help you find what you are looking for by name or type of business, at which point it’ll send the directions to the navigation system.

EDestination lets you go on the Lexus site at your home computer (or any other iPhone or computer – no Blackberry capability yet) and save up to 200 destinations in 20 different personalized folders. You can even annotate each destination with your own comments. Then you can send that entire packet to the car and download them all into the navigation system. Purchase an HS and you will get the first year of Lexus Enform and Safety Connect for free.

If you just can not get enough of Lexus, there’s Lexus Insider, a free opt-in service. Go to the Lexus Insider screen and you will find audio messages from the company that can provide anything from useful vehicle tips to event information and owners’ benefits.


The last sprinkle on the gizmo cake is XM Sports, Stocks for cars with navigation and an XM subscription. With XM Sports you can program schedules and results for five teams from the NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL. XM Stocks keeps track of 10 companies in your portfolio and can read the day’s activity to you.

The car’s trimmings have not been left out of the technofest, either. Bioplastics derived from kenaf make up 30 percentages of the hybrid’s interior and luggage area – in upholstery, foam, and injection-molded and board parts – with the result that the car is 85 percentages recyclable. Elsewhere, leather abounds in the seating areas and there’s a sheaf of rawhide over the dash cluster and lining the center console.



And that brings us, at long last, to the most quotidian aspect of the car: sitting in it. The HS is roomy and comfy, and the truncated center console keeps everything wide open inside. The thin, shaped front seatbacks leave plenty of room in back for real, human-sized men, so it is a good thing that the trunk is roomy, too. At 12.1 cubic feet, it can swallow more than any other Lexus hybrid (beating the LS 600h by 0.5 cubic feet), which means four and their golf clubs should go nicely. Any seat in the house is a nice one to have.


We have spent so long discussing the bounty of what’s inside the car because we are still not taken with what’s outside the car. The HS 250h is a lot of things and has a lot of things, but we would not put exceptional looks on that list. It has a Cd of 0.27, making it as slippery as it is bland. Of course, we understand why it looks like it does. But that does not change the fact that, well, it looks like it does. At one point, we pulled up next to a Toyota Corolla S, the one with the aero bits, and the resemblance was uncomfortable. We would not have minded a little drop in gas mileage for a bit more bite in the HS’ design.

19th-century French author Guy de Maupassant said he ate in the restaurant at the base of the Eiffel Tower because that was the one place where he did not have to see the tower. Once inside and moving in the HS, you won’t think about the way it looks. The driving experience is pretty close to awesome, this being a hybrid that will seat four grown men with luggage and get you at least 34 mpg combined, probably more with a conservative right foot.



Turn the car on and you probably won’t hear a thing, which is not unusual for a Lexus. But in this case, there might actually be nothing happening – if the car does not need anything other than electrical power, even though you are about to pull away, it’ll remain silent. The only indication that all systems are go is a green “Ready” light in the gauge cluster. The car can operate at up to 20 mph on electric power alone for about 5 minutes, so if you are putting through a severely speed restricted area, you can do it within a cloak of aural invisibility (pedestrians, beware!).

When the engine finally does come on, it is the standard Lexus protocol of quiet. When urging the HS on, you can hear its exertions, but it is nothing out of place. Lexus spent a lot of time balancing the car’s weight and shape against the sound profile that passengers would experience inside, and the results speak for themselves – or rather, they don’t.

There are four drive modes when you get up to speed: EV, Eco, Normal, and Power. If you have bought a hybrid and you want a Power mode, perhaps you should buy the GS hybrid, but the setting does give you slightly increased throttle response. Normal mode was actually just fine for us as far as power was concerned. The car gets up to 60 in 8.4 seconds, which strikes us as plenty of pace for a model like this.



The HS never feels slow, not even in Eco mode, which was our favorite & coincidentally the slowest driving mode possible. Eco mode slightly retards the throttle response so that not only do you get the best possible gas mileage, but you begin to learn how much throttle you should give the car in order to achieve it. It does not rob you of your ability to give the car a whipping – if you mash the throttle, the car will understand that you want everything it is got. In Eco mode, the thriftiest Lex will build its way up to 35 mph much more fuel efficiently. This will usually result in some tarmac space growing between you and the folks stabbing at their accelerators, but it is not nearly as intrusive as it might sound. And we saved the life of a baby whale every time we used it.

You can also select EV-only mode, provided you know you are going to be going under 20 mph and the battery is more than 50 percentages charged.


But what about pushing in and out of corners? After driving it in the hills surrounding Los Angeles, the handling gets a thumbs-up from us. The HS uses MacPherson struts up front (with all of its parts completely different to the Prius) and a double wishbone rear suspension. The steering rack is not mounted on rubber bushings to keep the line of feedback undulled, and the electric power steering is speed sensitive. If you get the Touring Package, the suspension is tuned for even sportier handling. And if the truth be known, the package added up to a car that we thought handled better than the rear-drive IS Convertible. In fact, we drove them back-to-back just to make sure. We are not saying it could outperform the IS 350C, but in terms of meeting our expectations for cornering, steering, and feedback – sheer handling enjoyment– the HS wins.

We’ve no problem recommending the Lexus HS 250h because it certainly gets 2 out of 3 things exactly right: the cabin experience sets a fine mark for what a luxury pure hybrid can be and the driving is enjoyable. Our V8-loving enthusiast hearts never really felt cheated when tooling around in the car – in fact, we liked it. It is only the styling that gives us pause long enough to say that we’ll let other beholders judge that beauty for themselves.

If you are looking for a hybrid-only luxury car, this is the only place you can go for now. If you are looking at any entry-level luxury car, then the Lexus HS 250h is a fine place to start comparing the present choices with one possible future.



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Statement of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on House Passage of FAA Authorization Bill

Posted by autotran on May 25, 2009

I congratulate the House for its quick action in approving a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill, H.R. 915. Moving forward with reauthorization will support our important aviation programs, including aviation safety and NextGen, the FAA’s program to modernize our nation’s airspace. I urge the Senate to act quickly and look forward to working with Congress on legislation that will continue our progress in improving the safety and efficiency of the U.S. aviation system.


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TIGER Discretionary Grants Will Target Major-Impact Transportation Projects, Job Creation

Posted by autotran on May 18, 2009

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the availability of $1.5 billion in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grants for capital investment in surface transportation projects. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region or metropolitan area and can create jobs and benefit economically distressed areas.

“TIGER discretionary funding will open up the door to many new innovative and cutting-edge transportation projects,” said Secretary LaHood. “This is exciting news and I believe that these projects will promote greater mobility, a cleaner environment and more livable communities.”

The grants can range from $20 million up to $300 million to support high impact transportation projects. Secretary LaHood can waive the minimum grant requirement for beneficial projects in smaller cities, regions or states. The U.S. Department of Transportation will require rigorous economic justifications for projects over $100 million. To ensure responsible spending, the department will require all fund recipients to report on their activities on a routine basis.

The solicitation published in the Federal Register today provides clear criteria for the department to make merit-based decisions on the new discretionary program.

Primary selection criteria include contributing to the medium- to long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improving the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, improving the quality of living and working environments through livable communities, improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the safety of U.S. transportation facilities.

The Department will also give priority to projects that are expected to quickly create and preserve jobs and stimulate rapid increases in economic activity, especially projects that will benefit economically distressed areas.

Applications for TIGER discretionary grants must be submitted by September 15, 2009, from state and local governments, including U.S. territories, tribal governments, transit agencies, port authorities and others. Comments on the criteria must be received by June 1, 2009. The Federal Register notice can be accessed by clicking here.

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Honda Jazz hatchback To Drive In With ‘India Specific’ Engine

Posted by autotran on May 12, 2009

The Honda Jazz hatchback from Honda Siel Cars India

The Honda Jazz hatchback from Honda Siel Cars India

The Honda Jazz hatchback from Honda Siel Cars India, which is all set to grace Indian roads shortly, will now drive in with an India specific engine. It has been confirmed that the Jazz will feature a 1.2 litre i-VTEC unit that has been designed for optimal drivability and efficiency.

The powertrain for the Jazz is a four cylinder, 1198 cc state of the art i-VTEC engine that features Programmed Fuel Injection which allows the unit to develop a healthy 90PS @ 6,200 rpm and a decent torque figure of 112Nm @ 4800 rpm. As per ARAI test data, the Jazz is capable of returning a fuel efficiency of 16.1 kmpl, however real world test conditions will give a clearer picture on this front once the car is tested. Like all Honda engines today, the 1.2 i-VTEC unit is also E10 compatible and meets Euro IV emission norms.

Honda engines

Honda engines

Like all Honda engines, which are truly gems in their own right, the 1.2 litre i-VTEC is also expected to live up to the refined and frugal nature that Honda is known for producing. The Jazz is set for a June debut and is expected to be priced around the Rs 7 lakh price bracket. It might sound expensive, but as of right now its more of a wait and watch game to see just what Honda packs into this hatchback to make it worth the moolah.


Number of Cylinders/ Layout 4 Cylinders/ In-line
Fuel Type Petrol
Cubic Capacity 1198cc
Fuel Efficiency (ARAI tested) 16.1 km/l
Maximum Power 90 PS @ 6200 rpm
Maximum Torque 112 Nm @ 4800 rpm


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Car thief caught on tape!! with Train Horn Alarm System

Posted by autotran on May 7, 2009

Here’s a security video of some crazy car thief trying to break into my ride right in front of my shop!!

He got what was coming to him though

97 Land Cruiser
Factory RS3000 Alarm System
Nathan Airchime K3HA
ViAir 450c compressor
Twin 5G/7P tanks

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Smart Fortwo ‘Security & Sound Systems’ on KITV Morning News

Posted by autotran on May 7, 2009

This 2009 Smart Fortwo is equipped with an Apple Mac mini, Alpine PDX amplifiers, Focal speakers, a Digital Designs subwoofer, and Dynamat to maximize audio performance. It features a complete custom paint job by Aiea Colliosion Center and performance suspension by Pacific Automotive.

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Trucks, Buses, Mpvs: Federal Lighting Equipment Location Requirements

Posted by autotran on May 5, 2009

Basic Equipment Required On All Trucks, Buses & Mpvs

IMPORTANT NOTE: Every lamp, reflex reflector, and conspicuity treatment (device) must be permanently attached in the location specified below and must comply with all applicable requirements prescribed for it by FMVSS/CMVSS 108. The face of any device on the front/rear and sides should be, respectively perpendicular and parallel to vehicle centerline, unless it is photometrically certified at installation angle. No part of the vehicle shall prevent any device from meeting its prescribed requirements unless an auxiliary device meeting all prescribed requirements is installed.

In Canada: Manufacturers and importers of vehicles must have the proper certification test records demonstrating compliance of lighting components with all prescribed requirements.

Basic Equipment Required On All Trucks, Buses & Mpvs

>(H, HR)
Attention: US: "DOT" lettering required on lens
Attention: US & Canada: light source code required on lens

Area Equipment (SAE Lens Coding) Functional
Quantity Color Location Height mm (in.)
from the ground
1 Headlamps – Lower Beam (H, HR)
Attention: US: "DOT" lettering required on lens
Attention: US & Canada: light source code required on lens
Forward road illumination Minimum 2 White On the front – symmetrical – as far apart as practicable
(If 4 lamp system – outboard or above upper beams)
560-1370 (22-54)
Forward road illumination Minimum 2 White On the front – symmetrical
( If 4 lamp system – inboard or below lower beams )
560-1370 (22-54)
Parking Lamps-Attention: Required only on vehicles less than 2032mm wide (P) Indicate parked vehicle Minimum 2 White or Yellow Front – symmetrical – as far apart as practicable 380-1530 (15-60)
Daytime Running Lamps
Attention: for Canada required, for US optional.
Attention: for US, "DRL" lettering required on lens if device is not headlamp
Indicate in-use vehicle Minimum 2 White or Yellow Front – symmetrical – as far apart as practicable 380 (15) minimum Maximum depends on type of DRL
Front Turn Signal/Hazard Warning Lamps ( l) Indicate direction of turn / identify disabled vehicle Minimum 2 Yellow Front – symmetrical – as far apart as practicable 380-2110 (15-83)
2 Front Clearance Lamps
Attention: Required for vehicles 2032mm wide or wider
( P2, PC* or P3*,PC2)
*photometrically certified at installation angle
Show vehicle’s width Minimum 2 Yellow At widest point – symmetrical – on the front or near the front – facing forward As high as practicable
3 Front Identification Lamps (ID) (P2 or P3) Indicate presence of a wide vehicle Exactly 3 Yellow on the front – center – horizontally spaced 150 mm (6 in.) to 300 mm (12 in.) apart As high as practicable or on top of cab
4a Front Side Marker Lamps ( P2, PC* or P3 ,PC2*)
*photometrically certified at installation angle
  Minimum 2 Yellow Each side at front – as far forward as practicable 380 (15) minimum
4b Front Side Reflex Reflectors (A) Front and Rear side marker lamps / side Minimum 2 Yellow At front – symmetrical – as far forward as practicable – facing sideward 380-1530 (15-60)
5a Rear Side Marker Lamps ** (P2, PC* or P3, PC2*)
*photometrically certified at installation angle
reflex reflector indicate vehicle’s presence and length Minimum 2 Red Each side at rear – as far back as practicable 380 (15) minimum
5b Rear Side Reflex
** not required on Truck Tractors
(A)   Minimum 2 Red Each side at rear – as far back as practicable – facing sideward 380-1530 (15-60)
6 Rear Clearance Lamps
Required for vehicles 2032mm wide or wider, but not required on Truck Tractors
(P2, PC* or P3, PC2*)
*photometrically certified at installation angle
Show vehicle’s width –
MAY NOT be combined with tail lamps
Minimum 2 Red At widest point – symmetrical – on the rear or near the rear – facing rearward As high as practicable-may be lower only if rear ID lamps are at the top
7 Rear Identification Lamps
Required for vehicles 2032mm wide or wider, but not required on Truck Tractors
(P2 or P3 ) Indicate presence of a wide vehicle Exactly 3 Red Rear – center – horizontally spaced 150 mm (6 in.) to 300 mm (12 in.) apart, facing rearward in Canada : at the top – maybe lower if door header narrower than 25mm
in USA: as high as practicable
8 Tail Lamps (T) Indicate vehicle’s presence and width Minimum 2 Red On the rear – symmetrical – as far apart as practicable 380-1830 (15-72)
Stop Lamps (S) Indicate braking Minimum 2 Red On the rear – symmetrical – as far apart as practicable 380-1830 (15-72)
Rear Turn Signal/Hazard Warning Lamps ( I) Indicate direction of turn/ identifies disabled veh. Minimum 2 Red or Yellow On the rear – symmetrical – as far apart as practicable 380-2110 (15-83)
Rear Reflex Reflectors (A) Show vehicle’s presence and width Minimum 2 Red On the rear – symmetrical – as far apart as practicable – facing rearward 380-1530 (15-60)
9 Backup Lamp (R) Illuminate ground behind the vehicle and alert road users Minimum 1 White Rear No requirement
10 License Plate Lamp(s) (L) Illuminates license plate Minimum 1 White On the rear – above or at the sides of license plate No requirement
11 Center High Mounted Stop Lamp
Required for vehicles less than 2032mm wide and 4536kg
(U3) Indicates braking Minimum 1 Red On the rear – centerline of the vehicle 860 (34) minimum



Area Equipment (SAE Lens Coding) Functional
Quantity Color Location Height mm (in.)
from the ground
12a Intermediate Side Marker Lamps (P2 or PC) Indicate presence of a long vehicle Minimum 2 Yellow Each side near center 380 (15) minimum
12b Intermediate Side Reflex Reflectors (A) Indicate presence of a long vehicle Minimum 2 Yellow Each side near center – facing sideward 380-1530 (15-60)


Area Conspicuity Treatment DOT Code Quantity Color Location Height Options
13 Rear Upper Body Marking DOT-C, DOT-C2, DOT-C3, or DOT-C4 Exactly 2 pairs of 300mm long strips White Rear upper corners of cab – facing rearward As high as practicable excluding fairings  
14 Rear Marking DOT-C, DOT-C2, DOT-C3, or DOT-C4 Exactly 2 sections of min. 600mm each Red/White Rear – facing rearward – on fenders, on mud flaps brackets, or within 300mm below of the top of mud flaps As horizontal as practicable and not higher than 1525 mm from the ground If mud flaps not used – on the cab or frame mounted brackets

This table summarizes lighting equipment requirements contained in Federal/Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108. For complete compliance requirements consult Title 49 – Code of Federal Regulations, Section 571.108. (USA) and Section 108 of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Canada).

State or Provincial regulations, where they may apply, have not been included.

For more information contact:

Transport Canada: Motor Vehicle Safety Enforcement Branch
Attention: Marcin Gorzkowski
Fax: (613) 998-4831

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Office of Safety Performance Standards
Attention: Rich VanIderstine
Fax: (202) 366-4329




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Antilock Brake Systems (ABS)

Posted by autotran on May 5, 2009

Protect yourself and your family whenever you’re on the road. When used properly, an antilock brake system (ABS) adds an important measure of safety to your driving, under all conditions. ABS lets you maintain vehicle stability and directional control, and may reduce stopping distances during hard braking – particularly on wet and icy roads. But to work properly, you have to allow your ABS to do its job. So it’s important to understand how ABS works.

Wheel lockup: slippery when wet.

When your wheels lock up on wet and slippery roads or during a panic stop, you may lose traction and control, causing your vehicle to spin. Antilock brakes keep your wheels from locking up, so your car maintains directional control around hazards if you can’t make a complete stop in time.

The pumping heart of an antilock brake system.

ABS works with your regular braking system by automatically pumping them. In vehicles not equipped with ABS, the driver has to manually pump the brakes to prevent wheel lockup. In vehicles equipped with ABS, your foot should remain firmly planted on the brake pedal, while ABS pumps the brakes for you so you can concentrate on steering to safety.

More specifically, ABS automatically changes the brake fluid pressure at each wheel to maintain optimum brake performance just short of locking up the wheels. There is an electronic control unit that regulates the brake fluid pressure in response to changing road conditions or impending wheel lockup.

How to know if your vehicle is equipped with ABS.

Most newer vehicles offer ABS as either standard or optional equipment. To find out whether your car has an antilock brake system, and what type, read your owner’s manual. You can also check your instrument panel for a yellow ABS indicator light after you turn on the ignition. And when you buy, lease or rent a vehicle, always ask if it comes equipped with ABS.

There’s more than one kind of antilock brake system.
Four-wheel systems, including those found on cars and minivans, are designed to keep all four wheels from locking up. Rear-wheel-only systems, found on some pickups, vans and sport-utility vehicles, keep the vehicle from spinning out of control, but the front wheels may lock up, resulting in a loss of steering control.

The feel and sound of ABS.
When ABS is activated, you may experience a slight vibration or a rapid pulsation of the brake pedal’ almost as if the brakes are pushing back at you. At times, you will feel the pedal suddenly drop. The valves in the ABS unit may make a grinding, scraping or buzzing noise. This means your ABS is working. Continue to apply firm pressure and steer. Do not take your foot off the brake pedal.

Do cars with ABS stop more quickly than cars without?
Perhaps, but that’s not the main purpose of ABS. It is a system designed to help you maintain control of the vehicle during emergency braking situations, not necessarily make the car stop more quickly. ABS may shorten stopping distances on wet or slippery roads and most systems may shorten stopping distances on dry roads. On very soft surfaces, such as gravel or unpacked snow, ABS may actually lengthen stopping distances. In wet or icy conditions, you should still make sure you drive carefully, always keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of you, and maintain a speed consistent with the road conditions.

Stop and get to know your ABS.
After you consult your owner’s manual for more details, give your ABS a mini-road test. In an unobstructed parking lot, drive your vehicle at a speed above which the antilock brake system activates (usually above 10 mph) and apply the brakes firmly. The antilock brake system is speed-sensitive and will not activate at very slow speeds. Also, it’s easier to activate ABS on a wet and slippery surface. The antilock system should prevent the wheels from skidding. Practice NOT pumping the brake.

Other considerations for better braking.
How effectively you can stop your vehicle can be influenced by many factors including:

  • Road conditions, since wet and slippery roads provide less tire friction and will therefore result in longer stopping distances than dry roads.
  • Vehicle condition, including properly inflated tires that have good tread, and a properly maintained brake system that is free from defects such as worn linings, air or dirt in the brake fluid, or leaks that reduce the available braking force.
  • Driver reaction time. At 60 mph, your car travels 88 feet each second. Reaction time, that is the time it takes a driver to identify a braking situation and then apply the brakes, will affect the overall distance to stop. A one-half second reaction time will result in a vehicle stopping 88 feet shorter from 60 mph than a one-and-one-half second reaction time. That is why it is important to always pay attention to the road and other traffic.
  • Type of brake system. When faced with a panic braking situation, ABS allows a driver to rapidly apply the brakes without worrying about wheel lockup, and the vehicle begins to stop immediately. Without ABS, a rapid, hard brake application could cause wheel lockup and loss of vehicle steering control, if the driver does not pump the brakes correctly or limit the brake pedal force to prevent wheel lockup. Therefore, more driver skill is needed to obtain short stops without ABS.

Be the safest driver you can be. Call or log on for more information.
Call the NHTSA Auto Safety Hotline at 1-888-DASH-2-DOT (327-4236), TDD 1-800-424-9153 or find more information on NHTSA’s web site at

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Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs)

Posted by autotran on May 4, 2009

Since 1954, American automobile manufacturers have used a vehicle identification number (V.I.N.) to describe and identify motor vehicles. The early VINs came in a wide array of configurations and variations, depending on the individual manufacturer.

Beginning with model year (MY)1981, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required that all over-the-road-vehicles sold must contain a 17-character VIN. This standard established a fixed VIN format.



The Department of Transportation issued the Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard to reduce the number of motor vehicle thefts by assisting law enforcement authorities in tracing and recovering parts from stolen motor vehicles. This standard became effective beginning with model year (MY)1987 and required that designated high-theft car lines 12 or14 (two-door/four door models) of its major component parts be marked with the vehicle identification number (VIN). This standard, which at that time only applied to passenger cars, specifically required manufacturers to apply the VIN onto certain covered original equipment major parts and replacement parts for those vehicles that had been designated as likely high-theft car lines, unless the line was exempted from the marking requirements because it was equipped with an antitheft device as standard equipment on the entire line.

In 1994, the Theft Prevention Standard was amended by extending the parts-marking requirements originally specific to passenger cars, to include multipurpose passenger vehicles (MPVs) and light-duty trucks (rated at 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight or less). This rule also listed the covered major component parts and replacement parts to be marked for each of the classes of vehicles (the engine, transmission, front/rear bumper, right/left front fender, hood, right/left front door, right/left rear door, sliding cargo door(s), right/left quarter panel (passenger cars), right/left side assembly (MPVs), pickup box, and /or cargo box (light-duty trucks), rear doors, decklid or hatchback and tailgate); and established a new median theft rate of 3.5826 for all passenger motor vehicles. The agency also required that certain selected lines with below median theft rates be parts marked.

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U.S. DOT Orders Full Review of Motorcoach Safety

Posted by autotran on May 2, 2009

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today ordered a full departmental review of motorcoach safety. A Departmental Motorcoach Safety Action Plan will be created from the review’s findings. The plan will outline the additional steps needed to improve motorcoach safety for the millions of Americans who rely on these vehicles for safe transportation.

“Motorcoaches have been a safe form of transportation in the United States for many years, but even a single crash or accident is unacceptable” said Secretary LaHood. “We will continue our efforts to make them as safe as possible. As Secretary of Transportation, safety is my top priority.”

U.S. DOT agencies participating in the creation of the Action Plan include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The review will also consider outstanding recommendations to U.S. DOT from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The full departmental review follows a recent NTSB hearing concerning the motorcoach crash in Utah in January 2008 that resulted in nine fatalities. The report is expected to be completed and released by August 2009.

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