Category Archives: Automotive

Let’s Learn About Car Software Recalls

We’ve all heard about automotive recalls for faulty mechanical parts. These have been going on for decades. The 1990s saw the introduction of computers to vehicles, and they’ve only become more and more involved in the vehicle’s operation. Today, both the computers and the software are integral parts of modern vehicles. Just like any other part, they can have problems and trigger a recall.

Why Do I Need a Recall?
Think about the operating system on your computer. Even though it’s thoroughly tested and checked, there can still be bugs that require updates. In fact, software updates are common to fix these bugs.

Today’s computer software is more complicated than ever, with cars easily having a hundred million lines of code. Like other software, it can also have bugs. When these bugs cause problems, a recall is issued to fix them.

What Could Go Wrong?
The short answer is that a lot could go wrong. Computers control almost everything in modern cars, which means there’s a possibility for a wide variety of issues caused by bugs. Here’s a few examples of software-related recalls issued in recent years:

2011: Jaguar recalled 11,000 cars because cruise control wouldn’t disengage.
2015: Honda recalled 143,000 Civics and Fits to fix a software glitch controlling the transmission.
2015: Ford recalled 433,000 Focus, C-Max, and Escape vehicles to fix ignition trouble that would stop the car from turning off.
2015: Fiat Chrysler recalled 1.4 million vehicles after an error was found that could be exploited by hackers.
Beyond bugs, some companies have even introduced intentional bits of code that later have to be removed. One of the biggest examples is from 2015. Volkswagen intentionally added coding that allowed their cars to cheat on emissions tests. When found out, they had to correct the coding, which involved a recall of 11 million vehicles.

Are Software Bugs Dangerous?
Yes and no. The issues above may sound serious, but they didn’t lead to any injuries or accidents. Most of the time, carmakers will issue recalls preemptively. Issues are discovered during the course of continued testing, by independent groups, or as a result of repairs done by certified service departments. Once discovered, recalls are issued to fix them before they cause serious problems.

What Do I Do If My Vehicle Is Recalled?
The recall will include instructions, but you’ll usually have to bring the vehicle into the dealership. They’ll update your computer’s software with the latest version to resolve issue. For some vehicles, you may not even have to go into the dealership. Technologically-advanced cars, like Tesla’s electric vehicles, can be updated remotely.

Software updates and recalls are becoming more common, and they may soon become standard. Just as we bring in cars for oil changes, the future may have us bringing in our cars for updates at regular intervals.

Tips To Cars Control Emissions

You’ve probably heard a lot about emissions and why they need to be controlled. But have you ever wondered what they are or how cars keep them under control?

The emissions themselves are a combination of burned and unburned substances like hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxides that can come from the combustion chamber and the crankcase. In older cars, the emissions can also include gasoline fumes from carburetors. These emissions are controlled by a combination of mechanical and technological systems.

Combustion Emission Controls
A big part of the issues with emissions is the fuel that isn’t burned, so a key system returns this unburned fuel to the combustion chambers. This is done with a positive crankcase ventilation valve, or PCV valve, that combines leaked combustion gases with air, then pumps them back for combustion.

Emissions can also be limited by controlling the combustion itself. That’s where electronic fuel injectors come in. As of the mid-1990s, these completely replaced the old carburetor systems. The fuel injector systems create a much more precise fuel-air mixture to cut down on fumes and get more efficient burns.

Exhaust Emission Controls
Excess heat in the combustion chamber produces more nitrogen oxides. To keep that down, an exhaust gas recirculation system (EGR system) takes a portion of the exhaust and routes it back to the combustion chambers. This lowers the temperature, helping reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides.

Past the EGR system, the exhaust passes through a catalytic convertor, which has metal that converts the hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide into water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen.

Electronic Emission Controls
They key to truly controlling emissions is precision, and that’s why the most important component of a modern emissions control system is the electronic control unit (ECU) of the car. This computer monitors the car’s performance, then adjusts systems like the fuel injector to make sure the car is running as efficiently as possible. The ECU also has the built-in capability to monitor the emissions, allowing it to adjust to run as cleanly as possible.

Controlling Emissions vs. Providing Power
The place where things get sticky for manufacturers is trying to balance power with efficiency. More efficient engines will use the least amount of fuel to move the car, generating less emissions, but also providing less acceleration or power. More power means more combustion and more emissions, especially when you’re asking for a lot of power in a short period of time for high acceleration.

Emission controls have come a long way since the smoggy 1970s when modern emissions standards were first introduced, and every year more advancements are made. And with the rise of hybrids and electric cars, the amount of average emissions per vehicle will just keep getting lower.

All Informations About Car Computers

Modern cars can easily run on up to a hundred million lines of software code. In comparison, that’s two or three times the amount of code used for Facebook. With all that code, there’s a lot that they can control, but there’s also a good amount that they can’t.

It’s Actually a Network of Computers
It’s easy to think of your car’s system as a single computer, but it’s actually a network of electronic control modules (ECMs) scattered across your car. These are connected to a network of sensors that connect the computers to the mechanical workings of the car.

What Can Computers Control?
Cars run on mechanical energy and power. The computers use electronic impulses, and control the mechanical workings of the car through electrical motors. Often, this is done through motorized pumps and motors that are scattered throughout the car. You might be surprised by how many systems this controls, including:

– Brake fluid pumps for anti-lock braking.
– Transmission systems that have motors to change gears.
– Electronic fuel injection to govern the fuel/air mixture in the combustion chamber.
– Cruise control systems.
– Air bag systems.
– Keyless entry and ignition security systems
– Climate control.
– Oil and coolant pressure.
And more! As computers gain in sophistication, more and more systems are connected to computers.

What Can’t Computers Control?
Very soon, there won’t be much. Google’s self-driving cars have been on the roads for several years, and the Tesla vehicles have software that allows self-driving capabilities. These use external sensors to steer, slow, and accelerate the vehicles.

Currently, this technology is dependable, but there are still questions about whether the cars will sense changes in the road that aren’t included on maps, rural roads, or see unexpected obstacles in the distance. That being said, some of the brightest minds in computing are tackling the problem, and it won’t be long before self-driving cars can handle any road out there.

What Are Some Hazards of Computer Control?
Take a second to think about your personal computer. You have to think about things like hacking, viruses, malware, software updates, and more. As computers get more control over cars, these same threats become part of dealing with cars. Carmakers are responding with increased attention on security, advanced encryption, and updates that specifically address these hazards.

Let’s Learn About The Weaknesses of Car Computers

Computers have been a crucial part of cars since the introduction of electronic fuel injection in the 1980s. The technology surge of the three decades since has taken computers from simple electronic controls to complicated, networked, fully functioning computers with up to one hundred million lines of code.

Modern Computers are Integrated More than Ever
Your car’s computer is actually a network of sensors and separate computer modules. They allow the computer network to be seamlessly integrated across the entire car. Depending on your car, computers can control everything from braking to acceleration to ignition control to climate control to your in-dash system.

And that’s only the beginning. Google has been testing self-driving cars that capture Street View images for years, and Tesla has included auto-driving software in their recent software updates. These cars have additional external sensors that sense changes and react to them.

Your Connectivity Could Make Your Vehicle Vulnerable
Connectivity is becoming a more and more common feature for vehicles. Bluetooth® integration allows drivers to use their cell phones hands-free through the vehicle itself. Services like Uconnect and On-Star have external connections, and some vehicles even have the capability to create Wi-Fi hotspots.

These same features can also be weaknesses. Hackers and security experts have found ways to use that wireless integration to access the vehicle’s computer. In 2015, hackers exposed an exploitable flaw in the Uconnect system used by Fiat Chrysler vehicles. With the right equipment, they were actually able to control a Jeep while someone else was driving it. While Fiat Chrysler acted quickly to close the hole, the fact that it existed in the first place was a sign of things to come.

All That Software Means a Lot of Possibilities for Bugs
A car with a complicated computer system can easily have up to one hundred million lines of code. Like the software released for your personal computer, all of the lines can turn up a few bugs or mistakes. The core systems are usually tested, but these bugs can still be pretty major.

When these happen, carmakers will issue recalls to update the software and fix the issue. Sometimes these recalls can involve hundreds of thousands of vehicles. A 2015 Honda recall involved 143,000 vehicles to fix a transmission software glitch, while a Ford recall the same year fixed software errors in 433,000 vehicles.

Companies Can Intentionally Cheat the System
One of the biggest weaknesses of software is the manufacturers themselves. Company policy can lead to dramatic issues with the software. For example, a system of testing that’s not completely rigorous can open the door to bugs that need to be fixed by a recall.

Other issues can be more nefarious. As an example, in 2015 it was discovered that Volkswagen had used their software to cheat on emissions tests for years. The scandal led to the resignation of the CEO and a recall of 11 million vehicles.

Like the software in your computer, the software in your car can be hacked, have bugs, or be pre-programmed with hidden issues. That being said, the advancements of car computers are making cars more efficient, safer, and more comfortable to drive. As long as carmakers are diligent in countering these weaknesses, the additional technological benefits are worth the risk.

Best Easy Ways to Go Green with Your Car

Looking for ways to become more environmentally friendly with your car? Motorists can help protect the environment by following best simple steps from the non-profit Car Care Council.

1. Follow a vehicle service schedule including steps like checking engine performance, keeping tires properly inflated, replacing air filters regularly, changing oil regularly and checking your gas cap. Routine maintenance helps reduce emissions and fuel consumption, saving money at the pump.
2. Keep your current vehicle longer and limit the number of new cars you buy over the course of a lifetime. Extending vehicle life is as simple as taking care of your vehicle properly. You’ll gain years of reliable service without monthly car payments and higher insurance rates.
3. Recycle or properly dispose motor oil, tires, batteries, fluids and other vehicle components to help protect the planet when performing vehicle maintenance or repairs.
4. Repower your engine when faced with serious engine trouble. A remanufactured/rebuilt engine can give your vehicle new life and make it more fuel efficient for about the cost of an average down payment on a new car.
“Being car care aware and performing basic vehicle maintenance go a long way toward protecting the environment and improving fuel economy,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “The Car Care Council’s free customized service schedule and email reminder service makes it easy to stay on schedule and keep your car running efficiently.”

Tips to Protect Your Car’s Interior

Try to add up the hours you spend in your car. It’s a lot, isn’t it? Commutes, errand runs and road trips can have you sitting in those bucket seats for hours on end, and during that time, you and your passengers are actually living in the interior. That means smudges on the windows, scratches on the dash and food in the seat crevices accumulate and leave you wondering what happened to the spotless interior you swear it had when you first bought the car.
A Quick Clean
Luckily, it’s not that difficult to keep a car’s cabin from looking a little too, well, lived in. First things first, get something to stuff your trash into. Just use a plastic bag or a container you don’t use around the house and throw it in the backseat. You can even affix a temporary hook to the door or seat to keep things even neater. Every once and awhile, take it out and relish in the fact that you haven’t spent an hour cleaning up. Keeping trash off the floor also preserves your carpets, which can get stained from any number of items.
The idea of taking a rag to your dash and leather seats is made easier if you have them on-hand. The key here is to just use a little bit of soapy water to wipe the surfaces of your car – some cleaning products contain alcohols that prematurely dry and age the materials by reducing the flexibility in the vinyl. Store a small spray bottle of your homemade cleaning fluid and a rag under your seat or in a storage bin for access when you’re waiting for your kids to get out of school or sitting in that crazy-long drive-through line. This will also come in handy when an emergency spill happens. Lastly, keep your car smelling like roses (or at least a laundromat) by adding dryer sheets under the seats.
Weather Resistant
You can’t discount the impact weather has on your vehicle either. In summer, sandy feet can quickly make a mess of an interior, and dare we mention the destruction caused by mud and snow? If you spend a lot of time ducking in and out of the elements, you might want to grab some all-weather floor mats. They’re easy to clean and do a great job of keeping the muck in one place.
The sun’s rays can also wreak havoc on your car’s surfaces, causing vinyl to crack over time and materials to fade. A simple solution is to regularly put a sunshade on the windshield. They’re inexpensive and help to keep your interior looking new.
Saving money on repair work and cleaning comes more easily when you take the time to make preventative care a priority. Not only will these tricks make your car a nicer place to be, keeping grime out of your ride will cut down on large maintenance costs in the future and will help to retain its value over time.

Simple Steps to Get Better Gas Mileage

With the average price of gas dipping below two dollars per gallon for the first time since 2009, many motorists have been seeing a real savings at the pump. Putting some of that savings toward basic auto care can lead to more miles per gallon and, in turn, more savings, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

The Car Care Council encourages motorists to be car care aware and perform these five simple steps to improve fuel economy and save money.

Check Tire Pressure: Keep tires properly inflated and improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent.
Use the Right Motor Oil: Improve gas mileage by 1 to 2 percent by using the grade of motor oil recommended by the manufacturer.
Replace Clogged Air Filters: Replacing clogged air filters on older vehicles can improve fuel economy and will improve performance and acceleration on all vehicles.
Check Engine Performance: Keep your engine running efficiently and improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.
Fix It: Addressing a serious maintenance problem, like a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve mileage by as much as 40 percent, according to www.fueleconomy.gov.
Save Gas Beyond the Pump“Proactive vehicle maintenance is a motorist’s best money saving tip,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Routine auto care not only helps save on fuel costs, but it helps identify small issues so they can be serviced before they become bigger and more costly to repair.”

To help motorists increase fuel economy and take better care of their vehicles, the Car Care Council offers valuable tools on its website, including a free personalized schedule and email reminder service.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers.

Learn More About Some Ways That Could be Killing Your Car

Owning a car can be a dream or a nightmare depending on how well you take care of your vehicle, says the non-profit Car Care Council. The following are six things that many motorists do that can harm their car and their wallet.

1. Ignoring the check engine light. Ignoring an illuminated check engine light can result in serious engine trouble and costly repairs. At the very least, this warning light could alert you to an engine problem that is negatively impacting fuel economy.
2. Failing to change fluids and filters. Many fluids are required for the operation and protection of vehicle systems and components. Checking fluid levels regularly, along with the filters, helps ensure that your vehicle runs dependably and extends vehicle life.
3. Neglecting your tires. Your vehicle’s tires should be checked frequently for inflation and tread depth. Underinflated tires can wear out more quickly, needing to be replaced sooner, and can negatively impact safety, gas mileage and performance.
4. Not following a service schedule. Because many car parts and components wear out or become damaged over time, vehicles need to be routinely serviced in order to perform optimally. Routine inspections and timely repairs will help keep your car running efficiently and will help you avoid more expensive repairs down the road.
5. Keeping a dirty car. Allowing your car to go too long without a wash leads to buildup of damaging chemicals and dirt, increases the potential for rust from road salt and interferes with proper visibility needed for safe driving.
6. Being a severe driver. Whether it’s stop-and-go traffic, extreme weather, rough roads or heavy loads, it can sometimes be difficult to limit severe driving conditions. However, you can drive smart and improve fuel economy by observing the speed limit; avoiding aggressive driving, including quick starts and stops; not hauling unnecessary items; and keeping your vehicle properly tuned.
“Because auto care isn’t always a top priority for car owners, they might not realize they are doing things that adversely affect the performance, safety and value of their car,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Routine maintenance can go a long way toward saving money, avoiding headaches and protecting your vehicle investment.”

Tips to Towards Better Battery Behavior

Here’s hot news about your car battery that may seem surprising: It’s not so much the cold that gets it down as it is high heat. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, thus damaging the internal structure of the battery. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your battery as the seasons change from hotter to cooler or if you’ve been driving in a hot part of the country.

Battery Batterers

Another reason for shortened battery life is overcharging. That is, a malfunctioning component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, can allow too high a charging rate, leading to slow death for a battery, explained Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

In addition, colder temperatures can increase the thickness of the engine oil, making the engine harder to turn over, causing the battery to have to work more. These factors lead to harder starting.

What You Can Do

To get the most life out of a battery, the Car Care Council suggests the following simple steps:
• Be sure the electrical system is charging at the correct rate; overcharging can damage a battery as quickly as undercharging.
• If your battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check it regularly. Add distilled water when necessary.
• Always replace a battery with one that’s rated at least as high as the one originally specified.
• Have the battery checked if you notice headlights and interior lights dim, accessories that fail to operate, or the “check engine” or battery light illuminated.
• Keep the top of the battery clean. Dirt becomes a conductor, which drains battery power. Further, as corrosion accumulates on battery terminals, it becomes an insulator, inhibiting current flow.

More Informations About Car Thieves Hack Keyless Entry

Active keyless entry, where a button has to be pushed, has been around for decades. Passive keyless entry, where you don’t have to push a button to unlock the car, is becoming standard on many higher model cars. Both keyless entry methods are much more convenient for drivers. With embedded chips, they also offer more security than traditional keys, since the chip signature has to be present to start the car.

But that doesn’t mean that they’re entirely secure. There have been many publicized break-ins that seem like they’re being done using keyless entry systems. Here are a few of the possible methods that are being suggested.

Passive Signal Amplification
With passive keyless entry, the car emits a low frequency signal that extends a very short distance from the car. When the key comes in range the signal is detected, and the key sends the authorization code to allow the doors to be unlocked.

Security specialists say that thieves may use a device that amplifies that low frequency signal, allowing the car and the key to connect from much farther away. For example, the key could be inside the house while the car is on the street and thieves could amplify its signal to unlock the car door. Analysts say this method could be prevented by installing a proximity chip in the key.

Brute Force Hacks
There are trillions of combinations for the codes between the car and the key, and only a few are valid at any given time. That being said, there are hundreds of codes being transmitted through the air from other keyless entry devices. Computer networks might lock out the account after a few tries, but cars have to ignore these wrong codes, otherwise they’d be locked out all the time.

That lack of functionality is what brute force hacks utilize. They’ll send out transmissions with millions of different code combinations in a matter of minutes. If the right one hits the car, then the doors will unlock. This method is largely combated by increasing the encryption level. Many cars use 56-bit encryption, but upgrading to 128-bit encryption would require so many combinations that brute force would take too long.

Non-Hack Workarounds
There are a few methods that aren’t hacks, just clever tricks. One of these is to use a frequency jammer. These illegal devices can block any transmission within a certain frequency range. Fire one up near a car, and it can stop the signal getting through. The driver will think they locked the car, but it didn’t go through and the car stays unlocked, just waiting for the thief to open the door.

Another method is good old fashioned organized crime: the thieves simply clone the keys and their security programming when the car goes in for repair. You can avoid this by making sure you go to reputable and trustworthy auto repair shops.

So Is Hacking Possible?
The definitive answer from the experts? Yes, it is possible. That being said, it’s not very likely. The cases that have been highlighted by the media are rare, and the methods require a combination of specialized equipment and knowledge. And most importantly, whenever a new weak point is discovered, automakers work quickly to repair it. So make sure that you keep on top of any recalls for your vehicle, since some of them may cover your keyless entry software.

And the absolute best thing you can do to keep your car secure? Most of these robberies happen at night, so make sure that your car is physically removed from harm in a garage or other secure area.