A Columbia area business that a lot of British American Auto Care Customers come from is the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). It seems like there is not a day when the British American Auto Care courtesy van is not taking someone to APL. When I drive the van it always interests me to hear about the different things they do there. This continuously growing facility is more like a small town now, it employs thousands of people and is one of the engines of the Howard County economy. Every time I talk to someone who works there they always have an interesting story about a cutting edge technological achievement or experiment. I love to hear about their space probes; at the moment they have one probe about to go into orbit around Mercury and another reaching outwards towards Pluto! Last year they sent an instrument on the Indian mission to the moon, this produced a radar map of the surface of the moon. To quote APL "APL has designed, developed, and launched 64 spacecraft and over 150 space instruments. We're developing new space concepts, technology, and implementation strategies while also helping to heighten interest in science and engineering careers through space educational programs" On top of this they do work for Homeland Security, defense, biomedicine and the list goes on. All this right here in Howard County.
Just as it's important for APL to stay on the cutting edge of technology, we feel it's important for us to stay on the cutting edge of achievements in automotive technology. It can make the difference in quickly diagnosing a car problem or having the expertise to service a vehicle that utilizes advanced computer systems and technologies that improve vehicle safety and performance.
Many of APL employees have been loyal customers and it has been a pleasure to service them for many years here at our Columbia, MD auto repair shop. We love hearing their stories almost as much as we love staying on top of new automotive technologies.
A Maryland State Inspection should be performed when you are selling a car or you have just moved into the state. Sometimes people buy a car without a Maryland State Inspection, and they end up having to have the inspection performed in order to complete the titling and registration process, but that's not a good idea. A Maryland Vehicle Safety Inspection is a very good check out of all the safety items on a car, but it's important to remember that it's just a safety inspection. It doesn't guarantee the mechanical soundness of the vehicle, so if you're buying a used car, it's still a good idea to have the vehicle checked out by someone you trust. The state inspection includes a check of brakes, steering, suspension, lights, exhaust, seat belts, emissions items, glass etc. (See list below.) The list is very long and is posted at every Maryland State Inspection Station. Inspections take just over an hour and include a headlamp adustment. If your car fails you have 30 days to have it repaired. If your car passes, the Maryland State Inspection certificate is valid for 90 days. A well maintained car will pass. You can help the process by making sure all the tires are good, the lights work and the wipers clean well. If you are handy and work on your own car then follow the list below. The only thing you might get stuck on is measuing the rotors and brake pads. Inspections can cost anywhere from $50 to $100 and in most cases have to be left at the inspection station for at least half a day. If you have any questions tweet me at brianecaradvice or check out the official Maryland MVA vehicle safety inspection page.
1.OBTAIN VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER AND ODOMETER READING
2. INSPECT STEERING FOR:
(A) STEERING WHEEL CONDITION
(B) STEERING COLUMN CONDITION
(D) TRAVEL FOR JAMMING OR BINDING
(E) LINKAGE FOR EXCESSIVE FREE PLAY
(F) POWER STEERING CONDITION
(G) VEHICLE MUST BE ROAD TESTED
3. INSPECT WHEEL ALIGNMENT FOR:
(A) TOE READING
(B) CASTER AND CAMBER ONLY IF ROAD TEST INDICATES
(C) REAR WHEEL ALIGNMENT & AXLE
4. INSPECT SUSPENSION FOR:
(A) BALL JOINT WEAR
(B) KING PIN OR SPINDLE BOLT CONDITION
(C) WHEEL BEARING CONDITION
(D) SPRINGS AND TORSION BAR CONDITION
(E) SHOCK ABSORBER OR STRUT CONDITION
5. INSPECT BRAKE SYSTEMS FOR:
(A) STOPPING DISTANCE, EITHER ROAD TEST OR DECELEROMETER
(B) HYDRAULIC SYSTEM CONDITION
(C) DRUM AND DISC CONDITION
(D) LINING AND PAD CONDITION 2/32 I- NCH GENERAL MINIMUM
(E) GENERAL CONDITION OF MECHANICAL LINKAGE
(F) VACUUM OR HYDRAULIC BOOSTER SYSTEM
(G) PARKING BRAKE FUNCTION
6. INSPECT TIRES AND WHEELS FOR:
(A) CONDITION OF TIRES, SIZE, TYPE AND TREAD DEPTH
(B) CONDITION OF WHEELS, NUTS, STUDS, OR LUGS
7. INSPECT FUEL SYSTEM FOR:
(A) FUEL TANK CONDITION AND LEAKS
(B) CHOKE, HAND THROTTLE AND ACCELERATOR OPERATION
8. INSPECT EXHAUST SYSTEM FOR:
(A) CONDITION OF MANIFOLD, ALL PIPING, MUFFLER, RESONATOR AND THE TAIL PIPING. TO INCLUDE LEAKS AND PROPER MOUNTING
9. INSPECT BUMPERS FOR:
(A) CONDITION OF BUMPERS INCLUDING HEIGHT AND PROPER MOUNTING
10. INSPECT FENDERS FOR:
(A) CONDITION OF FENDERS TO INCLUDE MOUNTING AND COVERAGE OF WHEELS AND TIRES
11. INSPECT LIGHTING FOR:
(A) CONDITION AND FUNCTION OF OF ALL ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT LIGHTING AND WHATEVER ADDED LIGHTS ARE AUTHORIZED.
(B) INSPECT HEAD LIGHTS FOR CONDITION, CANDLE POWER OUTPUT AND AIM
(C) INSPECT AUXILIARY OR FOG LIGHTS FOR AIM AND PROPER MOUNTING
12. INSPECT MIRRORS FOR:
(A) CONDITION OF MIRRORS TO INCLUDE UNOBSTRUCTED VIEW OF BOTH INSIDE AND OUTSIDE MIRRORS WHEN REQUIRED
13. INSPECT VEHICLE GLAZING FOR:
(A) PROPER MATERIALS USED FOR SPECIFIC LOCATIONS
(B) OPERATION OF DRIVER WINDOW
(C) DAMAGE THAT EXCEEDS ALLOWABLE LIMITS
(D) TINTING NOT INCORPORATED INTO THE GLAZING EXCEPT AS NOTED IN THE PROCEDURES.
14. INSPECT WINDSHIELD WIPERS FOR:
(A) SATISFACTORY OPERATION AND CONDITION OF ARMS AND BLADES
15. INSPECT HOOD/CATCHES FOR:
(A) CONDITION AND PROPER FUNCTION OF HOOD FOR FULL CLOSURE
16. INSPECT DOORS, HANDLES AND LATCHES FOR:
(A) CONDITION AND PROPER FUNCTION OF ALL DOORS, LATCHES, HINGES AND
17. INSPECT FLOOR AND TRUNK FOR:
(A) HOLES OR RUSTED OUT AND WEAKENED CONDITIONS IN FLOOR OR TRUNK PAN
18. INSPECT SPEEDOMETER AND ODOMETER FOR:
(A) OPERATION AND LEGIBILITY
(B) REGISTER IN MPH OR KILOMETERS
19. INSPECT ELECTRICAL SYSTEM FOR:
(A) PROPER CONDITION AND FUNCTION OF HORN
(B) CONDITION OF WIRING AND SWITCHES
(C) NEUTRAL SAFETY SWITCH IN AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSIONS ONLY
(D) CONDITION OF BATTERY CABLES AND HOLD DOWN
20. INSPECT DRIVERS SEAT FOR:
(A) PRESENCE, CONDITION AND MOUNTING
21. INSPECT SAFETY BELTS FOR:
(A) PRESENCE, CONDITION AND OPERATION AND MOUNTING
22. INSPECT MOTOR MOUNTS:
(A) IF ORIGINALLY MANUFACTURED WITH; CHECK PRESENCE AND CONDITION
23. INSPECT GEAR SELECTION INDICATOR FOR:
(A) PROPER INDICATION OF CORRECT POSITION
24. INSPECT UNIVERSAL JOINTS / CONSTANT VELOCITY JOINTS FOR:
(A) ATTACHMENT AND WORN, DAMAGED, OR LOOSE JOINTS
(B) TORN OF DAMAGED CV BOOTS
25. INSPECT EMISSIONS EQUIPMENT FOR PRESENCE AND PROPER CONNECTION:
(A) CATALYTIC CONVERTER
(B) POSITIVE CRANKCASE VENTILATION
(C) AIR INJECTION SYSTEM
(D) EXHAUST GAS RECIRCULATION SYSTEM
(E) EVAPORATIVE EMISSIONS SYSTEM
The other day I was taking someone home to Oakland Mills Village and we were chatting about the Oakland Mills Village Center. When my wife and I first came to Columbia in 1973 our first home was in Oakland Mills. We loved the village center that had everything, bank, hardware store, grocery store, shoe repair, pub, photo shop, baker, barber and butcher. It used to have a busy gas station and an auto repair shop too. Oakland Mills went through a hard time a few years back; if you ask people now most remember the negative. In this instance however, I was delighted to here a customer rave about Oakland Mills Village. She loved the walk-a-bility, the shopping center had most of her needs and now they have just finished a nice walkway connecting the Village Center with the Interfaith Center. On top of this a Farmer's Market comes to the village on Sundays from 9am - 1pm. She pointed out that it is a quick walk to downtown Columbia and then on July the 4th they have the best view in town! Now this lady was not the first person last week to talk about how they liked living in Oakland Mills, one of our automotive service writers just moved there and was saying how great it was to be in walking distance of downtown, he said he and his friends could have a night out at the new pub downtown and walk home in just 10 minutes. It is great to see that the revitalization of Oakland Mills has started and that people are finding out it is a great place to live.
In many ways, this makes me think of some of the older cars that many of us are still driving around in. Just because they get a little bit older, doesn't mean that they should be candidates for neglect. Make sure your older vehicle is safe to drive. Similar to the revitalization of Oakland Mills Village, a little preventative maintenance and TLC for your older car may be just what's needed.
I am asked many times, "Should I continue preventive maintenance and auto repairs on my high mileage vehicle or just sell the car?" Today, well maintained cars will last well over 200,000 miles. With that in mind I am often asked, "When is the right time to sell my car?" "Should I keep maintaining it and drive it for another 200,000 miles"? My answer is, you have maintained the car to keep it reliable and safe, so why sell it? Then my next comment is, but there is a good reason to sell your car and buy a new model. New cars have improved safety features; by buying new, you will upgrade to the latest features. New vehicles now have side air bags, intelligent air bags, stability control, special suspension systems, improved anti lock brakes, improved wheels and tires with low pressure warning systems, radar cruise control system, and rain sensing wipers. New vehicles are becoming safer and they are becoming smarter.
Here are some of the new features in systems that are coming in the future or are already features on high end vehicles:
Accident avoidance systems. The vehicle has sensors that are positioned outside the car that can sense if there is a car in your blind spot. It will then send an audio warning, or in some cars will flash a warning signal in the outside review mirror.
Soon cars will communicate with each other, warning other vehicles that there is a problem. For example, if a vehicle a few cars ahead has a mechanical problem or is involved in an accident it will send out a warning signal. Your car will receive the signal and warn you of a problem on the road ahead. It might even put on the brakes automatically.
How about driving your car without using you hands! Well not quite, but there are cars being developed that follow the line markings on the road and also keep track of the vehicles around you. If you begin to wander out of your lane, a warning signal goes off and the car may even steering itself back into the lane possibly avoiding an accident. BMW is going to include a night vision system on its 7 series vehicles. By using infrared technology it will illuminate any heat-emitting object up to 1000 feet in front of you, and display it on a screen in the center of the dashboard giving you advance warning of a vehicle ahead.
Automated headlights. Cars will have high beam headlamps that will automatically go to low beam on their own when approaching vehicles from behind, or when vehicles are coming the other way. To operate, this feature has a small light-sensing camera in the rear view mirror housing. It monitors the road 3000 feet ahead and will lower the beam when headlamps or rear lights are detected.
Now, if these new safety features don't tempt you to trade in your 200,000 mile car, then how about a few comfort and entertainment features.
Smart Seats and Zoned Heat & Air Conditioning. These include seats that will warm you, cool you, form to your shape adjust any way you want and then remember all your personal settings automatically. Plus, heating and air conditioning systems now have different heating zones so you and your passengers can adjust their own temperature.
Advanced Entertainment & Communication Systems. Entertainment features now include satellite, HD radio and DVD players with screens for each of the passengers in addition to the high-end music systems are now being installed. Communications will be assisted by the use of Bluetooth, a wireless standard that will allow consumers to link their portable electronics with the car, cell phones, iPods, MP3 players etc. Then, if you become lost while enjoying all these features you can speak to the navigation system in your car and ask it to show you where you are and how to get home, or where is the nearest place to eat, or where to fill up with gas.
If you are not tempted by some of these new features, and you have kept your car regularly maintained, then continue to drive your current car and enjoy the simple life. But please continue to use the best auto service Howard County has to offer (us) to keep you safe and reliable.
photo courtesy of stephenbr549