Sunday, February 25, 2007

Motorcycle Buying Tips For Beginners - Cruiser, Sport-Touring, Scooter, Dual-Sport, or Sport-Bike

SUMMARY: What type of motorcycle should a beginning rider purchase? With so many choices, selecting your first motorcycle can be challenging. Here are several tips to help you select the right motorcycle for you.

With so many choices in motorcycles, selecting your first motorcycle can be challenging. Here are several tips to help you select the right motorcycle for you.

What type motorcycle should you purchase?

There are at least eight different motorcycle types (styles) of motorcycles: touring, sport-touring, standard, sport-bike, scooter, dual-sport, dirt-bike, and cruiser.

Many new riders begin their search by looking at Harley Davidson motorcycles. Don't make this mistake. While cruisers are extremely popular they don't necessarily make the best beginner motorcycle. They're heavy, loud, expensive, and unforgiving (loaded with chrome) of minor spills.

Touring motorcycles are generally built for long distance riding. Examples include the popular Honda Gold Wing and the BMW K1200. These motorbikes are heavy, powerful, expensive, and require significant skills to operate properly... making them a poor choice for new riders.

Sport-bikes (also referred to as crotch-rockets) are built for speed, agility, and performance. They're light weight, brightly colored, and quick. Engine sizes for sport-bikes usually range from 600cc to 1000cc.

Note: Don't let a smallish sounding 600cc engine fool you. A Honda CBR600 sport-bike can run circles around an 1800cc v-twin cruiser. Crotch rockets can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds! That's faster than 99% of all production sports cars.

Do sport-bikes make good beginner bikes? Probably not, unless you have the maturity to handle the temptations of power, speed, and agility.

The next style of motorcycle is pretty easy to describe. Dirt-bikes are made to ride off-road. Tread patterns and suspension components on dirt-bikes are very different than their street-bike cousins.

While many models have headlights and turn signals, most won't easily accommodate interstate travels. If you have convenient access to dirt roads or other off-road areas, a dirt-bike is a good beginner motorcycle.

Don't have easy access to off-road areas? Consider a dual-sport motorcycle. These bikes are made to accommodate moderate off-road conditions, and handle highway speeds. A compromise of sorts, they don't perform on-road as well as street bikes, nor off-road as well as dirt-bikes.

But, most dual-sport models can easily travel at interstate speeds and handle moderate off-road conditions. When you take that motorcycle tour (you've been dreaming about) to the Northern tip of Alaska, you'll most likely be riding a dual-sport motorcycle, like the popular Kawasaki KLR650.

A standard motorcycle is an older style that once described the majority of bikes available... hence the term 'standard'. Standard motorcycles are generally upright and moderately priced. Picture that 1970s bike your dad owned. It was most likely a standard motorcycle. While not the fanciest or flashiest bike, standard bikes can be good starter motorcycles.

Scooters? Before you form an opinion here, visit your local motorcycle dealership. Gone are the 50cc mopeds of the 1970s. Instead, several new scooters fancy large 650cc engines and automatic transmissions. With a top speed of over 100 mph, and a 0 to 60 acceleration time below 5 seconds, scooters can keep up with most anything. Want to embarrass a Harley rider or Mustang owner... no problems? A Honda Silver Wing 650 scooter can do both.

Do scooters handle like motorcycles. Sure. Do they operate easily on interstates? Yes. Do they make good beginner bikes? Why not?

A sport-touring motorcycle is the last style of motorcycle addressed here. Sport-touring models are sporty versions of touring bikes. Or conversely, relaxed versions of sport-bikes. This class of motorcycle falls between a touring bike and sport-bike.

The sport-touring class was designed as a balance between ergonomics, engine performance, and long range touring capabilities. It's a popular class of motorcycle that combines the best of both worlds. The Honda VFR Interceptor 800, Triumph Sprint ST, and Yamaha FJR 1300 are examples of popular sport-touring motorcycles. Most models utilize 650cc to 1300cc engines.

Do sport-touring motorcycles make good first bikes? They can. Most, however, are relatively heavy... utilizing high performance engines and creature comforts like hard rear storage bags. Before you select a sport-touring model, make sure you have the discipline to use only the power that matches your skill level.

By David Mixson

Monday, February 19, 2007

How To Change Your Car's Motor Oil in 3 Steps

By Rex Freiberger

SUMMARY: 3 Simple Steps to Changing YOur Car's Motor Oil.

Ideally, you should change your motor oil every three months or after every 3,000 miles. If you often drive around in hot or dusty conditions, you might even want to change oil more often than that.

The process is pretty simple, and as easy as one-two-three. Step one is getting ready, step two is draining the oil and changing the oil filter while step three is installing the new oil.

1) Getting Ready
When getting ready, it is important to have the right tools and materials on hand, such as jack stands, a socket set and an oil drain pan. Let your car engine run for 10 minutes before you drain the oil since warm oil is easier to drain than cold. Make sure you park on a level surface or, if your car has a low clearance, jack it up or drive it onto a ramp. If youre jacking up the car, use two jack stands instead of one. (An additional jack costs about $20 and that is a small price to pay to spare your face from being squished by a badly balanced car.) You might want to check your cars manual about the weight of oil and type of oil filter you need to use.

2) Draining the Oil and Changing the Oil Filter
To drain the oil, crawl under the car and look for the oil drain plug under the engine near the front of the car. Position your pan beneath the plug then use a socket wrench to loosen the plug, turning counterclockwise. Once loosened, you can use your hand to remove the plug and the hot oil starts pouring out. Make sure all the old oil is drained into the pan. Once its completely drained, wipe the drain plug and the plug opening. Now replace the drain plug gasket and use a wrench to reinstall the plug but dont make it too tight.

Next, look for the oil filter. They are usually at the side of the engine. Place the oil pan beneath the filter in case any oil remains. Unscrew the oil filter (use gloves if it is too hot) and wipe the filter area clean, especially where it mounts to the engine. Dab a bit of your new oil on the rubber seal of the new filter and then screw it in by hand. You dont have to use a wrench to tighten the oil filter.

3) Installing New Oil
Remove the oil filler cap thats located at the top of the engine. Position the funnel at the opening and slowly start pouring in the new oil You might want to check your manual for the proper oil capacity but, typically, you will need four or five quarts of oil. Once youre done, put back the oil filler cap. Start the engine, let it run for a minute and then check the dipstick. If you need to, add more oil. Now check for any leaks near the oil drain plug and the filter. If you do find leaks, simply tighten the plug or oil filter.

Youre done. But dont forget to clean up. Carefully wipe away any excess oil and put the old oil into a plastic container then dispose of it. Dont just pour it anywhere, though. Better to take it to the recycle center or other authorized locations.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Building the Best Subwoofer Speaker Box Enclosure For Your Car or SUV

By Duane Boodasingh

SUMMARY: Each type of sub requires it's own type of box. If a sub is installed in a box larger or smaller than what is supposed to, it will sound distorted/bad and could be destroyed. Boxes can be built in many shapes, but it is important that the box volume is calculated accurately to achieve maximum performance.

Box Building

Each type of sub requires it's own type of box. If a sub is installed in a box larger or smaller than what is supposed to, it will sound distorted/bad and could be destroyed. Boxes can be built in many shapes, but it is important that the box volume is calculated accurately to achieve maximum performance.


A box MUST be very sturdy. Most common building materials are 5/8" or thicker particle board or medium density fiberboard. If building a box with Plexiglas, do not use anything less that 1/2 inch thick. A common material used to mold complex shaped boxes is fiberglass, but it is very hard to work with, and require several layers for a smooth finish.

Gluing, Sealing

Glue should be used at all joints to fill any spaces. Any spaces will degrade the performance of your subs, not to mention the annoying noise air makes when being pushed out of a small hole. On applying the glue, let it cure for at least 24 hours before mounting the subs. This is a precautionary mesure to protect the rubbers used to make the subs from the high fumes that some manufacturers glue products have.

Holding Joints Together

In connecting box joints, it is best to screw the joints every four inches or so using 2" - 2-1/2" screws. Pre-drill about 3/4" deep, so that screws do not split the wood at the edges, especially when working with particle/bashboard.

Should I have a Box for Each Sub?

It is advised to have a separate chamber for each sub. Even though not necessary, here are two reasons why such a directive should be taken: First, if one of the subs blows, then the volume of the box will be "twice" as big for the one remaining working sub. This could cause problems and even damage the other sub. The second reason is bracing. Building a box with a divider in the middle will make the box more rigid.


Ports must be built into your box design to channel out the air made by the sub's vibrations. If a pre-made port is not available, the most common material is PVC . PVC is very rigid, comes in different diameters. Cut the tubing at the desired length. Consider the volume the port takes up when calculating the box volume. Cut a hole in the box. Make sure the hole is as perfect as possible to minimize gaps between the box and the tube. A couple wood braces can be added for screwing the port top the box. Seal the gaps using a proper sealant (Evo Stick or even silicone can be used).


Boxes that are more than a foot in width or length or height, should be braced so that the box becomes more sturdy. This can be accomplished with a piece of wood maybe 3 or 4 inches wide across the box). It is a good idea to put wood blocks on the corners for reinforcement. Always consider that blocks, braces, neon lights, etc. inside a box take up space and should be accounted for when calculating internal volume.


Damping increases subwoofer efficiency by dissipating some energy that affects the sub, particularly the voice coil. It is advisable to put damping material inside a box. Pillow polyfill and fiberglass insulation are common, though polyfill is a lot easier on your skin. Polyfill also "tricks" a sub into thinking it is in a bigger box. Play around with different amounts of polyfill until you get the desired results.

Making it look professional

Make the box surface free from holes and spaces by adding wood fill. If you decide to paint the box, then you should apply primer first. Carpet or Vinyl padding is the best covering to use since they easily cover any outer blemishes on teh box and give the box a 'smooth' outlook. Be carefull when cutting the vinyl or carpet since such cutters tend to be very sharp. Cut a piece of carpet (or vinyl) big enough to cover the whole box. Apply adhesive to both box and carpet (EvoStick works great). Wait about a minute and place the fabric over the wood. For the best fit, stretch the fabric when applying it. The fabric should wrap around and end in a place of the box that will not be seen. Do one side at a time, cutting excess carpet. If possible, add staples preferabke heavy duty staples that can penetrate the box, to hold the fabric at the ends. NOTE: Do not cover each panel of the box before mounting it together since it would be impossible to find any 'leaks' that may exist in the box design much less fill these leaks.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Intoduction to the Car Subwoofer

By Samantha Clark

SUMMARY: A subwoofer is the part of the audio speaker system in a home or auto system that reproduces the bass frequencies. Small speakers which are typically part of a small system will usually reproduce frequencies as low as 40 HZ particularly when the decibels rise above 100. A cone subwoofer will reproduce the bass tones from about 20 HZ down to 200 HZ, the point where the sound is as much vibration as tone.

A subwoofer is the part of the audio speaker system in a home or auto system that reproduces the bass frequencies. Small speakers which are typically part of a small system will usually reproduce frequencies as low as 40 HZ particularly when the decibels rise above 100. A cone subwoofer will reproduce the bass tones from about 20 HZ down to 200 HZ, the point where the sound is as much vibration as tone.

The first known occurrence in a recording was the use of the subwoofer in "Pretzel" the Steely Dan album released after 1970 when the speakers were invented. The sound is actually produced by the drivers, which can range from 8" up to as large as 34". Typically drivers found in movie theaters, concerts, radio stations and live records in the 15 to 18 inch range. Part of the excitement of a live concert is the intense vibrations which emit from the enormous subwoofers.

A auto stereo system which comes from the factory usually does not include car audio subwoofers, aficionados of the hottest systems find they need to add aftermarket car stereo subwoofers.


It is common for subwoofers to be installed in the trunk of the car, since better sound quality is gained by separating the car subwoofers from the balance of the stereo system. The process for installing car stereo subwoofers is somewhat complicated, so it is recommended that you buy the subwoofer enclosures prefab. The first step is to remove the carpet or flooring material from the trunk and thoroughly clean the area. Apply sound deadening material such as Dynamat or Accumat to glue coated and cleaned metal of the trunk floor. Once the sound deadening material is in place, a roller will help to bond the two surfaces together, then replace the carpeting. Now it's time to place the subwoofer enclosure itself. Following the instructions for the amplifier, wire the car subwoofers into the two rear audio rear speakers.

It's wise to play around with the positioning of the subwoofer box before permanent installation is made to determine where the best sound results occur. The subwoofer boxes can face the front or rear of the automobile with different sounding results. Once you have made the decision as to where the subwoofer enclosure will be place, drill and mount the brackets in the correct place to hold the subwoofer box firmly in place.


Some car audio subwoofers seem to be in competition to produce sound pressure levels that are dangerous to one's hearing, especially in the confines of the automobile. These cars with their sound pressure levels in the red-line area of permanent hearing loss are not able to produce good sound quality, but the quality is less important than sound pressure.

To enhance the vibratory effect of the stereo system, a new devices called subwoofer boxes which transmit vibrations when attached to furniture. These subwoofer enclosures provide the feel of the big subwoofers without attendant hearing loss.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Auto Development Comes With Auto Safety Despite Increasing Fuel Price

By Joe Thompson

SUMMARY: Amidst the looming of new gas prices increase in the future, the automotive industry' continue developing new 'pre-crash' safety technologies that target the crucial milliseconds before a crash or help drivers avoid the crashes in the first place.

Although automakers face soaring gas prices, the automotive industry still prioritizes safety amid the fast-paced race to which brand is the best in terms of fuel-economy.

The industry's new 'pre-crash' safety technologies target the crucial milliseconds before a crash or help drivers avoid the crashes in the first place, according to a report by the Associated Press.

On the other hand, according to the survey conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), gas prices are pegged to reach more than $4 a gallon by 2015 and over $5 a gallon by 2020. The US auto industry has long resisted this, according to the academic survey released early this week, but it seemed inevitable now.

The UMTRI said it surveyed more than 100 power train experts, including chief executives, from across North America for the report.

"There is a consensus that fuel economy and emissions regulations will not just continue but substantially increase over the next decade," said UMTRI researcher Bruce Belzowski in a statement.

Rising gasoline prices last year prompted U.S. consumers to move away from large fuel-guzzling sports utility vehicles to smaller, fuel-efficient cars and crossover vehicles.

"This survey shows that though manufacturers are developing alternative power trains, they may not be working fast enough to meet the challenges imposed on them by government regulations or by potential dramatic increases of fuel prices," Walter McManus, director of UMTRI's automotive analysis division said.

However, despite such economic difficulty caused by the unending turmoil in the Middle East, the auto industry still manages to pursue what they have been doing since then; that is serving the consumers with innovative systems; an now with safety.

Technologies under development are as follows:

  • Nissan is developing bracelets to be placed on young children that relay signals to vehicles in the area. Drivers passing through are told, "Children nearby, please be careful."
  • Volvo has shown an XC60 crossover concept with a radar system that monitors vehicles about 20 feet in front of the car. When a collision is likely to happen, the technology helps the driver avoid a rear crash by automatically activating the car's brakes.
  • Mercedes-Benz already offers advanced safety features such as long-range and short-range radar to avoid crashes by automatically hitting the brakes if the driver fails to stop in time. It also has developed a feature called 'Night View Assist', which uses infrared beams to detect roadway obstructions far beyond the headlights' reach and transmits an image on the instrument panel.
  • General Motors has been developing vehicle-to-vehicle technology, which helps vehicles communicate with other vehicles up to a quarter mile away to alert each other against dangerous conditions.
  • Ford has experimented using four-point seat belts, similar to belts used by race car drivers, and inflatable seatbelts. These seatbelts have with small air bags inside that deploy in a crash.
Nonetheless, company officials say the advancements still are being evaluated.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Turbocharger Lag

By Joseph Obernberger

SUMMARY: This text hopes to describe what exactly turbocharger lag is, why it is getting such a bad reputation, and why that bad reputation is usually unfounded.

Turbocharger lag is, for practical purposes, the time it takes the turbocharger to spin up and make usable boost pressure after you plant your right foot. The turbocharger is driven by hot exhaust gases passing through the turbine side of the turbocharger assembly. Before the turbo can make positive boost pressure, that is pressure above atmospheric pressure, there must be enough exhaust energy to spin the turbine. The only way there can be a substantial amount of hot, high velocity exhaust gases passing through the turbine, is if the engine is under a significant load. Once that occurs boost pressure is created, more fuel can be injected, and hence more hot exhaust gases produced to spin the turbo even faster. What a wonderful cycle!

So why am I saying that this nonsense about turbocharger lag is unfounded? Well, in the old days of turbochargers, such as some of the first Porsche 911 turbos, large turbochargers (by today's standards) were used. These turbos contained heavier metals and hence took more energy to spin up. So, when test drivers got on the gas there was a significant delay before (BAM!) loads of power was produced. This was deemed undesirable and given the name turbo lag. These engines also had poor low end torque, because the turbo would not spool up to create usable boost until higher RPMs were reached. When magazine articles were written about cars using turbochargers, lag was 'driven home' to the engine designers as a very bad thing. So, back to the drawing board they went, and they came up with the idea of using much smaller turbochargers and eventually using much lighter materials to help eliminate lag. In my opinion they succeeded greatly. For whatever reason magazine editors, when they see that an engine is turbocharged, have to bring up lag as a negative issue, even if, in reality, it isn't at all.

Here comes my rant. A while back I read an article about the 2002 Audi S4. This car comes with a wonderful 5 valve per cylinder twin turbocharged, intercooled, 2.7 liter V6 engine. It produces 250HP at 5800RPM, and 256lb-ft at 1850RPM. Now that's what I call low end torque! That's just off idle! Audi accomplished this by using two small sized quick spooling turbochargers. The down side in doing this is that top end power can suffer because of the smaller turbo placing a restriction on the exhaust. In any case, the magazine article complained about turbo lag with this engine! What turbo lag! It produces peak torque at 1850RPM! So, for the next year (2003), Audi ditched the wonderful twin turbo V6 and used a 4.2 liter V8 engine. This engine produces 340HP at 7200RPM, and 302lb-ft at 3500RPM. The same magazine praised this engine for its low end torque. While this engine is clearly more powerful, it cannot match the turbo engine for low end torque. They're just giving turbo engines a bad name! Shame on them!

Unfortunately most car manufacturers that are using turbo engines are using very small turbochargers to get away from the 'dreaded lag'. As mentioned earlier, this leads to excellent low end torque, but limits top end horsepower. Thankfully some are not giving in. Mitsubishi's Evo VIII MR uses a 2.0 liter engine with 280HP at 6500RPM and 295lb-ft at 3500RPM. This is almost the same amount of torque as Audi's 4.2 liter V8 and at the same RPM! Hurray for turbos! This engine is, however, highly criticized for its turbo lag. While it does have some lag, it is very marginal. In driving the car, boost pressure basically follows what your right foot does. I would say that this engine has minimal lag, but noticeable at very low RPMs. And there you have it - driving around in top gear at 30MPH wondering where the engine power is. For goodness sakes downshift! It is true that a turbo car must be driven differently than a normally aspirated car, but for the same size engine, you'll never get the power out that you can with a forced induction engine - particularly turbo engines. So does all this talk of turbo lag make any sense? You could have a 2.0 liter engine with 150HP and 130lb-ft or you could have a turbo 2.0 liter with 280HP, and 295lb-ft, but then you must put up with turbo lag, and gosh, who wants that?

And then there is Honda. Wow - what to say here! They take a 2.0 liter engine, spin it to high heaven and get excellent power out of it. Magazines, then criticize it because you have to rev it so high, but thank goodness it doesn't have turbo lag! So here are your choices:

  • Low power, low torque normally aspirated 2.0 liter engine.
  • High power, high revving, low torque 2.0 liter engine.
  • High power, high torque (at a relatively low RPM), 2.0 liter turbo engine.

I know where my vote is going!

In my opinion peak torque should be achieved at roughly half the maximum engine RPM. So, for example, if redline is 6000RPM, peak torque should be around 3000RPM. I feel this leads to a well performing fun to drive car. Audi took it a little too far, in my opinion, with a peak torque at 1850RPM - and they still got hammered for turbo lag. You'll never see a normally aspirated gasoline engine (within reason) with peak torque so low.