Category : Auto Industry

New Series: Sticker Shock on Discovery Channel

April 13th, 2018

Variety just got the scoop on a brand new series. It’s a car show, so naturally, we have to tell you about it. Sticker Shock will be premiering on Discovery Channel, Wednesday, May 2 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. We’re already excited that the preview (see link) shows a few BendPak four-post lifts. So, at the very least, they have great taste in equipment!

Banner for Stick Shock, new show on Discovery Channel

Stick Shock is Discovery Channel’s latest car show

Sticker Shock promises to be a car show for gearheads, auto enthusiasts and everyday television bingers alike. It’s not a mechanical breakdown or anything limited to the DIY community, so it should appeal to a wider family audience. Think Storage Wars and Pawn Stars meets the Barrett-Jackson auction. That kind of thing.

Host Dennis Pittsenbarger will be accompanied by a team of expert appraisers: Randy Carlson, Addison Brown, Nick Smith and Todd Wertman.

According to the Variety piece:

[Appraisers] will investigate the history and condition of a wide range of vehicles to determine their true value… The show will also unveil the history and memories of the cars…

Basically, Sticker Shock will feature regular folks bringing in their classic cars, presumably to get rich overnight with a high appraisal. That means the experts are going to tell them what their car is actually worth. It’ll be exciting to see a few dreams fulfilled, and just as entertaining to watch a few pie-in-the-sky hopefuls come crashing back down to earth. (That’s probably the “shock” part, right?)’

It’s also interesting that the show will bring the “memories” of the cars into play. Our best guess is that the car owners will share their stories alongside the family history of the vehicle. With all of us, important memories and feelings become associated with our cars, and it can be hard to get rid of them for that reason, even if the price is right. We’re excited to see where this goes. Plus, we’ve never seen car lifts used on an appraisal show before. Most likely, the appraisers will need to look under the car for signs of rust/damage, to check for original parts, etc. Expect to see a lot of car hoisting through the inspections.

What do you think? Are you excited about Sticker Shock? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Get on Truck Night in America

April 6th, 2018

Last month we announced that a new History Channel production, Truck Night in America, would be airing on prime-time television. We were excited about the idea of big ol’ trucks being built to spec, getting ruined by mud and abuse, and then brought back to life again on a weekly basis. As it turns out, we’re not alone. The show’s premiere broke the Top 40 most watched shows. That’s not bad, considering the main competition was basketball, basketball and more basketball, as well as other mainstream media news programs.

Truck Night in America promotional poster

Keep an eye on their unofficial Facebook to see how to get on the show

The comments section on this blog was full of responses to the show. Some loved it, some wanted more. Feedback like that pretty much comes with the territory of any new show. Most people, however, wanted to know how to get on Truck Night in America to become a contestant. To be honest, we were initially a bit  flummoxed. There’s no information on (what we think is) the show’s official Facebook page, and we couldn’t find it on the production company’s site, either.

Then came a stroke of luck. Teresa Lummus, a contestant on the show, reached out and had this to say:

I saw a post on Facebook about a new show being cast. I clicked on the link and filled in the info. When they start casting for season 2 I’m sure it will be on the Facebook page.

It seems the Unofficial Truck Night in America Facebook page is where all the good casting information is at.

If you want to get on the show, that’s the place to check out. At this point in time, the show has not been officially renewed for a second season, so when that happens, expect casting to start quickly and end just as soon. Keep a lookout!

BendPak loves car and truck shows, so we’ll keep this blog updated with information on how to get on Truck Night in America, as well as other news about the shows you love. If you’ve got questions and would like to see answers, let us know!

Thanks for reading, drivers.

New Show: Truck Night in America

March 5th, 2018

Update: How to Get on Truck Night in America

Love cars? Love trucks? Love mud? Then you must love a good time. And you must be getting excited about Truck Night in America, premiering on Thursday, March 8, 10PM ET/PT. If you’re reading this, you probably love trucks as much as any red-blooded American, and this is a show all about building the most brutal, bone-crushing machines, and then racing them under the most strenuous conditions.

Hell yes.

truck-night-in-america-promo

“Truck Night In America” airs March 8, 10PM ET/PT

Each episode of this competition series features five drivers in their personal customized trucks and jeeps going head to head in three challenges, each testing a different vehicle attribute: speed, strength or handling. Between each challenge, competitors demonstrate their craftsmanship by re-engineering their trucks for the next round. The last two men or women standing will have to suffer a three-mile-long obstacle course known as “The Green Hell,” which challenges trucks and drivers to fly off jumps, climb a mountain of crushed cars, and tear through a snake-infested swamp.

Five Will Enter, One Will Win
Only the best driver will take home the prize money and be crowned “Truck Night Champion.” These folks are not simply driving cars in circles around a controlled track. They’re putting their best stuff through the worst imaginable conditions to see who survives.

According to Eli Lehrer, History Channel’s Executive Vice President of Programming, “Since 1925 when the first American factory-produced truck rolled off the line, owners have been devising ingenious ways to make them faster, stronger and better… this can be seen with the tough competitors in our new series.”

Be sure to tune in, and don’t be afraid to get a little dirty.

Why a Car Lift Needs Big Wire Rope Sheaves

February 19th, 2018

When it comes to working under an elevated vehicle for hours, days and weeks at a time, it might be comforting to know just how precisely that lift was engineered and constructed. Like a well-oiled machine, there are literally dozens of parts and components that must work in perfect harmony to keep you and your vehicles safe.

BendPak upper lift column with cable sheaves

Cable sheaves in upper BendPak lift column

For this chapter of lift know-how, we’re going to talk about cables, sheaves and shafts, which are the most used, abused, fatigued and will-wear-over-time parts on any car lift, whether it’s a two-post or four post design. In varying roles, these critical parts are typically broken up into two categories: load-holding and equalization. Quite simply, that means that they, all by themselves, are either supporting that truck up in the air (load-holding components), or they’re being used to make sure that truck, as it rises and lowers, stays level, (equalizing components). The latter is not quite as weighty as the first.

First of all, cable or wire rope. Which is it?
In engineer-speak, “wire rope” typically refers to diameters larger than 3/8 inch (9.5 mm), while smaller diameters fall under the “cables” category. Wire rope has several strands of metal wire twisted together to form a spiral or helix shape. We call this the “rope.”

Wire cables showing corrosion

Wire cables showing corrosion

Rope strength design factor.
Rope strength design factor is the ratio of the actual strength of a wire rope divided by its max operating stress or load. Let’s say a rope has been tested by a nationally recognized test laboratory (NRTL) to have a strength of 50,000 lbs., and that same wire rope is being used to support 10,000 lbs. It would be shown to have a rope strength design factor of 5, as it is operating at one-fifth or 20% of its rated strength. Because car lifts involve elevated risk, high rope strength design factors must be maintained.

Types of Sheaves
There are two main types of sheaves that support wire cable, round grooves and V-grooves.

1) V-groove sheaves are not used in BendPak lifts. This sheave style is preferred in situations where traction is a high priority, so older and modern elevator styles often utilize these sheaves. As a consequence of a narrower channel for the cable, there’s more wear on both the cable and the sheave.

2) Round grooves are the preferred sheave for car lifts. These sheaves feature wider cable channels that reduce friction on both cable and sheave. BendPak uses over-sized sheaves—ones that are larger than necessary for the lifting application—because the larger the sheave, the longer the components will last.

Load holding wire rope.
If the wire rope is being used as a load holding component, the tensile strength should be tested and verified to safely support FIVE TIMES the load as per the North American ANSI/ALI ALCTV:2017 car lift standard, a standard that paraphrases many parts of the Federal Specification, Wire Rope and Strand RR·W-410E and ANSI/ASME 829.8, Leaf Chain Clevises and Sheaves standard. As you would have guessed, the 5x standard also applies to all connections and anchorages as well. See where we’re going here? Read more about certified lifts here.

Equalizing wire rope.
If a wire rope’s key responsibility is making sure that both cylinders on a two-post lift stay in relative unison, then it’s labeled as an equalizing component. The safety standards for an equalizing wire rope are a little more relaxed, not to say that they are not as important, but when a wire rope is used primarily for equalizing, fatigue on that wire rope is minimized. Tensile strength for an equalizing wire rope is THREE TIMES the load as per the ANSI/ALI ALCTV:2017 car lift standard, along with the connections and anchorages.

Earlier we referred to wire rope sheave as “the most used, abused, and fatigued and will-wear-over-time parts on any car lift.” Quite a mouthful! Yet most consumers are focused on other less-likely-to-fail features. At BendPak, we receive more inquiries from shoppers about ramp widths, lift arm heights, post size, lift color etc., but when we mention wire ropes, sheaves and axles, the importance of these critical components can get lost. Wire rope and their associated components when being used on a car lift are expendable items. In other words, they are items that will eventually need to be replaced. The question is, when will that time be? Will you remember to do so, and how much cash will it set you back? Remember, if you’re piloting a plane, be more critical of the wings and landing gear than the back-seat video monitors.

Single-Hub vs Dual-Hub Sheaves
Cable sheaves are specially designed to outperform your expectations on a daily basis. But not all sheaves are built the same. Some BendPak lifts feature cables that bend over single-hub sheaves and meet and exceed all contemporary lifting standards. However, we always put dual-hub sheaves at the necessary parts of our heavy-duty lifts. Dual-hub cables further reduce stress and fatigue, protecting the cable wire fibers. The more surface area on the sheave, and dual-hub sheaves significantly increase surface area, the less stress on the lift, and the longer the lift will go before requiring maintenance. The higher the weight capacity on a car lift, the bigger the sheaves. The difference between a 10.5″ and 12″ sheave might seem small, but to a mechanical engineer, it makes a world of difference. No matter which type of sheave you see on a BendPak, you’re getting the optimal choice for that design to meet and often exceed ALI standards. We never leave you questioning the integrity of any aspect of our lifts.

Dual-hub cable sheaves with wire cables inside car lift column

BendPak dual-hub cable sheaves

All About Sheaves
At BendPak, the importance of cable sheaves is no less important than any other part of the lift. This is because they protect your lifting and equalization cables, which require more attention than other lift components. (Your hydraulic lines and cylinders might be a close second.) While we know a good cable sheave will save you in maintenance expenses down the road, they remain somewhat forgotten elements of lifting. A well-made sheave should rarely require any serious inspection other a quick peak when you change the cables every few years. For your protection, BendPak’s sheaves are visibly more massive and sturdy than others in the industry. It’s no secret—just look at the image below!

BendPak cable sheaves next to a smaller sheave from another brand

BendPak cable sheave vs. other brand

It’s our goal to do our part to inform lift buyers who just see a “round steel thing” where we see a beautiful piece of engineering. Sheaves matter, and we hope you appreciate what needs to go into these vital components. Too often, other lift companies get away with putting smaller, weaker sheaves in their lifts’ columns. They use single-hub when they should use dual-hub, or they use smaller sheaves that increase cable wear, whereas BendPak spares no expense to ensure the longevity of your product. Wire cable replacements can and will make up the initial difference in savings with a cheap lift. Even worse, those cheap components compromise the efficiency and safety of your lift.

Love Your Lift
If you own a car lift, we have a quick challenge for you. The next time you do your inspections and maintenance, even if it’s just 30 seconds out of your day, take a moment to appreciate the little things that go into the making of this massive tool that’s lifting and protecting your cars. BendPak has built a name on being the best, and we’re glad you’re reading this article, because it means you want to know more about what’s really behind your investment. Until next time, wrench wisely and be safe out there.

What We Saw at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show

January 12th, 2017

The term “American-made” is a bit confusing these days. When the Toyota Camry is considered the most American-made vehicle on the market, perhaps our sense of pride and place becomes tangled in the globalized web that is the world of auto manufacturing. What’s the line between foreign and domestic anymore? For all intents and purposes, we believe the United States dominates the car industry. While it’s true that China actually out-buys America in vehicles sold, America ranks 3rd in vehicles per 1,000 people (the no. 1 and 2 spots are from much smaller countries), whereas China ranks 99th. In other words, America is very much still the auto industry’s darling, and GM and Toyota are essentially vying to be the world’s greatest auto seller. Here’s what we saw this year at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show.

Toyota Camry steals headlines
Who would have believed the world’s best-selling sedan and Supreme Sultan of Boringness would steal one of the nation’s most heavily attended auto shows? Not many people, most likely. The eighth-generation Camry is longer, wider and—if you ask Toyota—comes in variations of “sexy or very sexy.” Its ceiling is also lower, and you sit lower in the cockpit, giving it a sportier look and feel. At the end of the day, it’s still a Camry. Whether you get the 3.5-liter six-cylinder, the four-cylinder or the gas-electric hybrid, you’re getting one of the most reliable four-doors ever built. If it looks a little nicer, so much the better, but no one ever bought a Camry because of—again, in the words of Toyota—it’s “more sexy.” Still, pedestrian detection and lane departure warnings come as intriguing standard options.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Ford F-150 is still cool
The top American seller, the Ford F-150 is the local pride and joy of the auto market. The new edition offers a diesel and 10-speed transmission, as well as a 3.3L V6 and 2.7L EcoBoost gasoline options. As usual, their marketing department excels (just watch the new commercial, posted below, and tell us it doesn’t put some hair on your chest), and what they call their pickup’s high-strength, military-grade aluminum alloy body is lighter and more powerful than older steel models. Updated cruise control lets you set the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, so you’re not constantly slowing down for every Prius chunking up the left lane. A pre-collision assist program is a great way to convince a skeptical significant other that yes, you do need this big truck, because of safety.

Honda Odyssey is cool again… for some reason
We’re groaning, too. But for every gas-guzzling hotrod, electric wonder-car and badass truck that hits the market, there’s an equally necessary minivan. If we get over the boringness for a moment (recall Camry), there’s a particular importance to redesigns of vehicles that are often intended to hold large numbers of young people in the back. They carry our future, if you think about it. Anyway, the 2018 Odyssey has a “magic slide” second row that makes it easier to get kids in and out. A rear-facing camera, CabinWatch™, complete with night vision puts eyes in the back of your head. CabinTalk™ is the intercom system that lets you scold children without raising your voice, even interrupting their video games and movies. Which, in the wrong hands, could be a pretty hilarious delivery system for dad jokes. The vehicle is also a roaming 4G LTE, Wi-Fi hotspot with streaming video. So that’s cool, right?

2018 Honda Odyssey

2018 Honda Odyssey

Waymo’s neat self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Minivan
It’s puzzling even to us that two minivans made our list, but Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica is no ordinary minivan. Obviously not something that’s going to hit the general market, this vehicle tech is more of a sign of things to come. Google (Waymo), Apple and Uber are all in a competition to be the first to fully automate the auto industry, and the race is on. Google’s “Waymo” project intends to launch a rideshare program in California in the near future using these vehicles, and if they’re successful, it will go a long way toward seeing more programs like it. For now, human drivers are left in place to take over test drives as necessary, but someone will be the first to do away with that human safeguard, and that’s when things will get really interesting. Until then, it’s mind-blowing that we’re probably going to see this happen in our lifetimes.

Waymo self-driving Chrysler Pacifica

Waymo self-driving Chrysler Pacifica

Watch list: China vs. U.S. Government
Keep an eye on how this develops, as there’s great potential for China to reshape the global auto industry. It’s been well-established that the incoming President-elect has threatened to tax Mexican-made vehicle imports, should American auto plants relocate there. A number of car manufacturers have stated they will not close their American plants, while Toyota has warned that the Camry would see a $1,000 price increase if a proposed 35% import tax were adapted. The auto industry is not in total agreement over the “best” approach, but there is a newcomer on the block looking to shake things up: China.

2018 GAC GS7

2018 GAC GS7

One of China’s larger auto companies, the Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC), has returned to Detroit for the second time with the GS7, an SUV, the GE3, an all-electric with a touted range of 190mi on a single charge, and the EnSpirit concept car, a plug-in hybrid that the company claims can travel up to 435mi. The quality of these cars has yet to be truly tested, and it’s yet to be seen how American buyers will receive Chinese autos in a market that’s essentially dominated by Japanese, American and even Korean enterprises.

Will the political climate also have an effect on how well Chinese cars sell in the States, or will buyers gravitate toward the best value for their dollar, regardless of the country of origin? We live in interesting times, to say the least.

5 Impressive Auto Tech Ideas and Innovations You Missed in 2016

December 30th, 2016

2016 was a strange year, in many respects. The auto industry saw some of the most interesting tech inventions and ideas to date. As a standalone achievement, SEMA 2016 was chock full of product unveilings, which only figures to increase next year. As we look forward to 2017, we’re taking a look at five fresh products and ideas you might have missed.

  1. Ford finds its groove with record number of patents

Long-considered one of the lesser companies for innovation, surprise and registered patents, Ford has spent the last few years reinventing itself, and in 2016 the company showed off its impressive tech contributions yet. According to mlive, “The Ford Motor Co. led all automakers in granted U.S. patents for the first time in the company’s history in 2016.” Considering how long Ford has been around, that’s a pretty major accomplishment. There are some things in their wheelhouse that it’s safe to say no one else is thinking about. Their eChair is a self-loading wheelchair that makes driving easier and more comfortable for disabled persons and wheelchair users. Ford engineers are even refining a water purifier that recycles and purifies condensation from the car, funneling drinkable water through a faucet in the cabin. We can only imagine the implications for developing countries and travelers in need of a clean water supply. Not sure what vehicular condensation water will taste like, but if it’s potable, that’s impressive.

  1. Goodyear’s spherical concept tires

The Eagle-360 concept tire by Goodyear looks like the bottom part of the BB-8 droid from J.J. Abram’s Star Wars reboot. The physics behind spherical wheels make them tough to master. In a way, it’s kind of embarrassing to call this one of the best ideas of 2016 because there are so, so many flaws in both Goodyear’s pitch and concept (i.e., floating wheels powered by magnets), but whatever—it’s still cool. Lots of question here. How will the “magnetic levitation” concept work? How is water repelled off the tire through “centrifugal forces” when any physics tells us centrifugal forces don’t actually exist? Alright, it’s a ridiculous concept as of this moment, but Goodyear claims to be working on it, and companies don’t like to waste money on cool ideas that don’t stand a chance of coming to light. So, maybe there’s hope?

  1. Ford Mustang 2.3L Ecoboost Turbocharger by Turbonetics
Turbonetics Mustang 2.3L turbocharger

Turbonetics Mustang 2.3L turbocharger

Taken out of the shop, the 2017 4-cylinder Mustang is capable of 310 HP. Mustang fans have been turbocharging their rides for decades, but Turbonetics has made the process simpler and more streamlined than ever. The real advantage to this turbocharger, and the reason it makes this list, is because their direct drop-in installation does away with the need for adapters or installation modifications. With a full suite of mods and custom tuning, your 2.3L Mustang will be capable of 520 HP. That’s pretty great in a drop-in device, wouldn’t you say?

  1. The Chevrolet Bolt EV
Blue 2017 Chevy Bolt

2017 Chevy Bolt

Welcome the most affordable and drivable electric vehicle to hit the mass market. Unlike Tesla vehicles, a Chevy won’t cost you an arm and a leg for basic parts and repairs. A lot has been said about the Tesla III coming out for about $35,000, but Tesla repair locations are far less common, and parts are far more expensive, meaning Tesla remains an expensive investment. Meanwhile, the Chevy Bolt is about $30,000 after federal tax rebates and boasts a driving range of 128/110 MPGe. Obviously, this isn’t a turbocharged dream machine, but it gets the job done, saves money, helps the environment and has all the techy frills of a modern road warrior, including 10.2” touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 4G LTE Wi-Fi. We have a feeling this is going to be a top seller for 2017, especially if the mileage turns out to be as strong as they claim in variable driving conditions.

  1. Hundai Sonata augmented reality app

Hundai is giving us a glimpse of the future of auto care. Their augmented reality app, if you haven’t seen it, is just a tiny step into the next wave of auto tech that will soon become standard. Users simply download the app and point their phones at different parts of the car. The app can tell you simple things like what the radio tuner is used for (tuning the radio, as it turns out), and more useful applications, such as engine oil and wiper fluid levels. The device is a maintenance helper and user manual all-in-one. We imagine that as more companies put resources into expanding the tech in their car, apps like these will follow and become more useful and sophisticated. Imagine and entire engine diagnostic with visual aids.

How to Survive Snow, Cold, Fire, Zombies and Everything Else This Winter

November 29th, 2016

defense-gov_news_photo_081014-f-4127s-200Survival has been around almost as long as human beings have been on the earth. For thousands of years, we were pretty bad at staying alive. We ate twigs and berries. Our fires were too small to stare into and think about stuff. Our tools were basically regular rocks that happened to be pointier than other rocks. Our species was on the verge of total disaster.

But suddenly, as if overnight, we grew tired of dying from things like lions and the common cold, so we invented guns and medicine. We realized we didn’t need to walk everywhere, so we invented wheels and put them under metal boxes, and we called the boxes cars. In olden times, people needed friends just to survive, so we invented Mark Zuckerberg, who invented Facebook, which saved us from the time-consuming effort of making and sustaining real friendships. We liked it.

Since the past, mankind has even settled in Northern Canada, which goes to show how far people will take things once they know how to survive. A few surviving records even show how we survived without power steering, but how this was possible remains a mystery to Millennials.

Despite how good we have become at surviving, many of us still experience an event called winter.* Winter brings many challenges to survival, including snow, cold weather, zombie armies and interestingly enough, more house fires. You need the proper tools at hand if you want to live through these things. Lucky for you, BendPak has put together the ultimate winter survival guide to get you through anything.

*Reference page included for residents of Texas, Southern California, Florida and Hawaii. Also see: snow.

Snow tire chains wrapped around a car tire in the snow.

Snow chains

Get your tires ready for snow
Some states limit the use of winter tire chains. There’s something about steel on concrete and asphalt multiplied by a hundred thousand cars that just doesn’t “mix.” (And yes, we think that was a pretty “concrete” joke.) Tire chains just might come in handy, especially if you’re being chased by an axe-wielding maniac through a blizzard and need a quick getaway through a snow-blocked mountain pass… but that might just be The Shining. Anyway, if you live in snowy, or remote areas, make sure your tire chain situation is appropriately covered.

Jumper cables locked and loaded
Your backseat or trunk should always have a pair of jumper cables. If you lent yours to a buddy this spring, now is a good time to ask for them back. It’s one of those items everyone seems to forget about until after-the-fact. Having them increases the odds you won’t have to wait very long on the side of the road for a jump. Plus, if one single person happens to rescue another single person simply by being prepared, and the rescuer says something original like, “Hey, guess you owe me a coffee,” well, that’s a great story to tell your grandkids. They’ll love hearing you tell it too many times.

A set of red and black jumper cables.

Jumper cables

Battery health
Check that battery rust and grime. Clear it off. Roadside emergencies won’t be so bad if you have a working battery (i.e., heat). Battery cleanings are often complimentary at service stations when you order a tune-up or get other work done. If you own a multimeter, in addition to cleaning, you can check for yourself that your battery voltage is between 12.4 and 12.7 volts.

Zombies
Male zombie with greenery behind him.Don’t get bit. Aim for the head. Close range weaponry preferred for maximum effect. Trust no one.

Candles and other fire hazards
According to Allstate Insurance™, the holly, jolly holiday season is a not-so-jolly house-on-fire for an average of 67,500 homeowners. That’s a 15% seasonal increase compared to the rest of the year. Why? Because for some reason, people forget about surviving this time of year and do foolish things. For one, they light millions of scented candles and put up in their homes these big, flammable trees, and all of this has the potential to spell disaster. It seems like common sense to keep candles away from curtains, drapes, pine needles and carpet, but accidents always find a way to happen. If you’re using candles in your home, treat each little flame as if it were an open, roaring fire: clear the area of flammables and make sure it’s clear of walkways, just in case someone trips and falls near it. Additionally, people consume more alcohol in the winter (probably sad they don’t live in Southern California), which historically isn’t good for survival, either.

Bad choices and distractions
Don’t drink and drive, and try to stay off the road late at night, if at all possible, especially during the holidays. For many households, winter means more distractions, less attentive behaviors, etc. In general, we all just need to be a little more careful. Also, never light an open candle in your car. December 25th is not the Fourth of July; midnight on New Year’s Eve is not a fireworks parade.

People get robbed more frequently
Robberies/break-ins spike 7% during the holidays. After all, the kids aren’t the only ones trying to guess what’s wrapped under the tree, especially when the tree—and everything beneath it—is in plain view of a large, street-facing window. Keep your presents out of sight or else close the blinds. Be especially careful to lock every door this time of year, especially at night. If you can’t pull your car indoors, two things need to happen. One, don’t leave anything valuable in your car. Two, if there is something in there that you can’t or won’t remove, keep it out of sight. Purses and wallets go without saying, but bags of any kind should be hidden or removed. Sunglasses, your GPS device, etc. should be kept out of sight.

Snow brush and ice scraper
The dual-purpose winter car tool is virtually essential for winter living, not just emergencies. They’re cheap, effective and will grant you three wishes to make you rich and famous beyond your wildest dreams.

Snow scraper getting snow off windshield.

Snow scraper

Survival kit items
The best way to survive an emergency is to have something on hand that literally has the word “survival” in the name. Depending on where you live, some of these items may be mandatory winter accessories, not necessarily reserved for emergencies. In any case, a winter roadside survival kit will get you through most emergency situations with all nine of your remaining toes intact. Survival kits are actually pretty easy to make and should include the following:

woobie

Military-issued “woobie”

Blankets
Take those old winter coats, hats and gloves that are a little beat up, covered in a permanent layer of dried winter snot or don’t fit perfectly anymore and store them in the trunk, enough for several passengers. Add blankets and/or sleeping bags, depending on how cold it tends to get around you.

As it turns out, those thin, shiny “space blankets” aren’t what they’re sometimes cracked up to be. They are essentially heat reflectors, and the wind and rain blow right through them. If you’re stuck in your car in an overnight emergency situation, this blanket type might work, as long as it keeps dry and close to your skin. If you start to sweat, however, the blanket will reflect your cooled body temperature back at you, making it less effective, possibly useless. Arguably, the best blanket item you can spring for is the so-called U.S. military “woobie,” or dual-purpose poncho liner and emergency blanket. Woobies melt the hearts and minds of the most tested and experienced soldiers. Why? Because anything this perfect is worth melting for. They’re waterproof, windproof, comfortable and fully insulated

Flashlight and extra batteries
Some form of battery-powered light is ideal. This could be an electric lantern, flashlight, etc. Extra batteries should be considered mandatory.

Flares
This is on the fancy-extreme side of the survival kit, but wouldn’t it be great to have if you rolled your SUV down a hill, broke your leg and needed some way to signal for help? Yes, that’s unlikely to happen. In general, flares aren’t the most necessary emergency item, but if you’re in a remote area without a lot of human contact or traffic, you might think twice before going without one.

Fire
Hopefully, it never comes to the fire-building stage of your survival adventure, as this means things have gotten pretty dicey. Still, a little flame-based warmth can be the difference between life and death. If you’re really fancy, you can pull some of the dryer lint from your home dryer, store it in a plastic baggie, and with a few matches or a lighter, you now you have the best fire-starting kit in town. If you’re stranded somewhere remote, you can actually use small fires to heat rocks (like in a sauna).

Food and water
Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty obvious. Don’t store fruit and vegetables in your car, unless they’re of the dried or dehydrated variety. High-energy foods like trail mix and protein bars are your best bets. As lovers say, “Honey, bring the chocolate.” You can never have enough water bottles, either. Ever.

First aid
You can buy one ready-made or put it together yourself. The American Red Cross has its own guidelines for a good first aid kit, and for $250.00, you can purchase the whole shebang: a full emergency kit with first aid, food, water, first aid, blankets, light, etc.

Full emergency kit with food, water, lights, etc.

Full emergency kit

TL;DR: Prepare for the cold this winter by adhering to a few common-sense survival tips. Make sure you have tire chains, if necessary, and get your car trunk stocked with blankets, flashlights, batteries, first aid kits, food, water, etc. Furthermore, lock your doors to protect your home from robberies, and be wary of open flames in the household this holiday season.

These Car Lift Safety Tips Could Save Your Life

November 18th, 2016

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a good mechanic. Despite our skills—sometimes—experience is our downfall. We think we can get away with little mistakes here and there, and we hope they don’t catch up to us. It’s called being lucky, and we’re usually lucky more than we’re unlucky. So yes, almost every mechanic has a story about a narrow escape(s). But there are also the costly mistakes, and it’s our job to help you prevent them.

The last time we wrote about cable inspections and two-post safety, we received a lot of positive feedback from well-meaning folks who admitted they hadn’t been keeping up with things. That’s inspiring to us, so we’re back with a few shop safety MUSTS to keep you healthy and profitable for many years to come.

The overhead safety switch / shutoff bar
The overhead bar serves a critical purpose. Because the lift arms can only rise when the power unit button is manually—and continuously—depressed, the shutoff bar kills electrical flow to the power unit if touched by the roof of any vehicle. Obviously a useful tool for keeping your vehicle from smashing into the overhead bar or going through the roof (only a slight exaggeration).

BendPak Gunmetal Gray asymmetrical two-post lift showing overhead shutoff safety bar

BendPak XPR-10AS two-post lift with overhead shutoff bar

That shutoff bar you rarely pay attention to is there to protect you in the event of emergencies. It prevents your vehicle from smashing into the upper cross beam and literally going through the roof. With a properly working shutoff bar, heavy trucks and SUVs might not make it to the lift’s max extension. In other words, taller vehicles need to be stopped before the arms have completely risen. Operators who disable this bar in order to get a couple extra inches of lift, even if they’re very careful, are taking life-threatening risks. A large vehicle could get its roof crushed or else compromise the integrity of the lift. However, even when properly installed, the bar only works if you follow this next step…

BendPak Gunmetal Gray asymmetrical two-post lift showing overhead shutoff safety bar

Using the proper lifting points keeps vehicles balanced, even with loaded flatbeds.

Car should be properly positioned at all times on two-post lift
Basic auto mechanic safety protocol is too often ignored. We all know that vehicles positioned over a two-post lift should have all four lift pads positioned under the vehicle at the manufacturer’s recommended lifting points. We all know this to be true, but too often we leave cars parked in compromising positions (e.g., letting the vehicle rest on the floor with uneven or improper pad placement). BendPak makes the finest car lifts out there. That doesn’t mean we think you should cut corners on safety. Things can still go wrong:

– Someone thinks the lift pads are properly set and depresses the lift button, causing an unbalanced lift.
– You might forget that the pads weren’t set before operating the lift.
– An electrical/wiring issue might inadvertently raise the lift. In this case, an unevenly lifted vehicle might not trip the overhead shutoff bar, which would be a total nightmare.

Frame cradle pads / truck adapter kits
two-post-auto-lift-frame-cradleOf all the items on our list, this one is one of the hardest pills for us to swallow, and the precaution we repeat the most often. For whatever reason, a number of lift operators simply refuse to use the necessary frame cradle pads when hoisting certain trucks and SUVs. At least on some level, we see why this is happening. People want faster turnover, and they can sometimes “get away” without the truck adapters. Two problems. One, car lift manufacturers are not liable for damages that occur due to improper usage of the lift. You’re in no way legally covered for doing something—excuse our language—stupid. Some people seem to have a problem with this and try to shift the blame on the machine when they do something wrong. BendPak and the other car lift companies out there don’t make truck adapter sets just for the heck of it; these are vital tools you need to have in your shop if you’re lifting trucks and SUVs with raised suspensions or further recessed underbellies.

Daily cable inspections
We’ve written about cable inspections and safety before, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that those daily cable inspections may seem like a minor nuisance, but so does using a turn signal 100% of the time, coming to a complete stop before making a right on red, adhering to the speed limit, etc. We sometimes “get away” with skipping these little things, and nobody’s perfect. Still, a cable inspection may reveal a poorly lubricated line, which is easy to fix. Stray threads or dry sheaves cause friction, and that causes severe damage to your lift components. Bad! Take a look at your cable system at the start or end of every day, whichever works for you.

wire-rope-41-638

Also, if you ever notice that your safety locks do not engage simultaneously, you may have cables that are out of sync. Resynchronize your cables before attempted further lift. Do not lift or lower a vehicle in an attempt to sync or adjust cables if it is unsafe to do so.

Electrical Tip
It’s recommended that you install your power unit on the passenger side of an asymmetrical two-post lift. This is purely for convenience, but virtually all operators benefit from this common installation practice. By doing so, operators are able to position (drive) the vehicle between the two-post lift columns, position the arms from that side, and then move to the passenger side to position the arms and operate the lift. Eliminating the need to walk back to the driver side to perform operations saves time and just makes sense. (Plus, experienced mechanics will think you’re ridiculous if you don’t install your power unit this way).

If possible, cut the power to your car lifts and other major shop appliances at the end of each work day. If this is not an option for you at home or in the shop, be sure you never leave vehicles in a compromised position when loading or setting up a lift.

The DIY Winter Car Repair and Maintenance Guide

October 31st, 2016

A few years ago, a bunch of DIY’ers were asked about how much they save by doing their own repairs. They told researchers they save hundreds or thousands of dollars each year on regular maintenance and car repairs. Not surprising! While some jobs are best left to professionals, there are certain things you don’t need to lean on the shop to do for you. However, trickier jobs that involve work on the engine, exhaust system, shocks or suspension might not be manageable without a lot of experience or a buddy you trust. Regardless of your experience level, we’re approaching the end of fall, which means this is a great time to learn a few tricks to get your car ready for the months ahead.

In 2014-15, the areas marked in red got pummeled by snow. Is your car ready for it?

In 2014-15, the areas marked in red got pummeled by snow. Is your car ready for it?

With true/meteorological winter about a month away, a lot of people will be flocking to their local auto shops for some basic tune-ups, fluid checks, brake/wheel work, etc. If you live in a warm-to-moderate climate, you may still face the occasional cold front or winter storm. Winter, as you know, is unpredictable. Case-in-point: the winter of 2014-15 produced an unprecedented weather report for the country, with the West experiencing unusually warm temperatures while the East got blasted by cold and snow. Parts of Southern Canada and the U.S. were hit by an ice storm that took out the power for hundreds of thousands of residents. The year before, most of the country found itself chilled at one point or another. Snow and freezing temperatures remain possible in Florida, Texas, California, etc. Therefore, we think winter car checks should be considered non-negotiable for just about everyone.

Even knocking off a few items on this list at will save hundreds in costs at the shop. While some definitely require more experience than others, here are a few basic home maintenance jobs and repairs that you can do yourself, just in time for winter.

His head is showing = get new tire

His head is showing = get new tire

Tires, tires, tires
Difficulty: Easy
We put tires first on this list because it affects most winter drivers—less so if you live in warm-weather states. In general, tire pressure drops 1 psi for every 10-degree drop in temperature. Because under-inflated tires heat up during use and put undue stress on the tire structure, visually inspect your tires whenever the temperature changes significantly. As a rule of thumb, take an official pressure reading at least once a month. If you notice the telltale bulging at the sides of the tire, the cold weather may be causing your tire to deflate. Inflating your tires isn’t really a “repair,” per se, but it’s necessary preventative care.

If you’ve been driving around on your tires for a while, and especially if they’ve been under or over-inflated for an extended period of time, the old penny trick is a good test for tire wear. If you stick a penny in the tire tread and can see all of Honest Abe’s head, your tread is worn and your tires won’t be reliable in adverse weather. All-weather or cold weather tires are always advised for the winter months ahead.

Air filters
Difficulty: Easy
When a mechanic changes your air filter, you’re paying a premium for cheap parts and easy labor that you can do yourself quickly and efficiently. Even if they tell you during a routine winter tune-up and inspection that your filters need to be changed, you’re not going to break your car by waiting a few days to order and install the part yourself. Tire and auto shops will often boast that they can change your air filters in less than 10 minutes. Sure, but so can you for about 10 dollars. This step-by-step guide on changing your air filter is useful, but don’t be intimidated if you don’t have compressed air. If you don’t have a ton of accumulation in your air filter housing, wiping it down or even washing it with soap and water will do the trick. Just make sure the filter housing is dry before putting it back in your car.

Oil change
Difficulty: Medium
This one has people split in terms of ease-of-handling. While vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Tacoma make the DIY experience a lot friendlier, Porsche, the Ford Fusion and a number of other muscle/sport cars (to reference a few) have reputations for being time-consumers when it comes to oil changes. There’s a nice thread on easy/difficult vehicles to do oil changes on that is especially useful if you’re looking for a good DIY car-buying guide. Generally, if you’re ready for a bit of a mess and have all the right materials, you’ll get through your oil change without much fuss. By the way, if you’re new to vehicular DIY jobs in general, consider a Wrangler for your first fixer-upper.

Your complete oil change assembly kit

Your complete oil change assembly kit

The downside to doing your own oil changes is that you might not save much buying your oil filter and oil, and for some people, it’s not worth the time and hassle. If you really don’t like the idea of doing your own oil, don’t fret. No one will blame you for outsourcing the work. Our advice: oil changes shouldn’t cost more than $40 – $70 (the upper range for high-performance synthetic oil), so be sure you don’t overpay if you get your oil changed at a shop.

Adding Coolant / Radiator flush
Difficulty: Medium
Adding coolant is easy: open the coolant reservoir cap when your car is off and cool, and pour in the coolant. We’ll get to the more involved radiator flush in a minute. Especially as winter approaches, everyone needs to make sure their coolant has the right mixture of antifreeze, but too much can cause problems with fluid circulation and over-heating. A 50/50 ratio of coolant-to-water is most common. Extreme cold weather may call for a 70/30 mixture, but the added antifreeze makes it more difficult for your engine to cool. Conversely, more water helps the engine cool but reduces vehicle efficiency in cold weather. Your engine sensors are likely calibrated to give readings at the 50/50 mixture, so don’t mess with that unless you contact your vehicle’s manufacturer and find out if it’s safe.

We’re rating the radiator flush “medium,” but that’s more due to safety precautions you need to take rather than the actual difficulty of the task at hand. Every couple of years, your radiator will need a good flushing. The process is similar to an oil change, in terms of the draining that takes place. Car and Driver put together a great video that covers the basics, but we have to say… if you’re putting out a DIY guide, safety first! He should be wearing gloves. And so should you, if you’re flushing your radiator.

Spark plugs
Difficulty: Easy
If you have two hands, 30 minutes, $50 and recently put another 30,000 miles on your vehicle, you qualify for a DIY spark plug change! (Note: some spark plugs are rated for more mileage.) The trickiest part about this job is that spark plugs need to be replaced in the right order. Only change one at a time, and reattach the wire to each before moving on to the next. This is one of those great repairs to do at home because of how easy it is and how cheap the parts are relative to what you’ll pay in a shop. Shops charge between $115 – $240, so it’s a real head-scratcher why people pay for something so cheap and easy to do themselves.

Brake pads
Difficulty: Medium – Hard
This is the most difficult DIY cost-saver on our list because a lot can go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are more steps involved, including jacks and stands or a car lift. Brake pad changes require a serious understanding of your vehicle. You need to be able to look at your brake rotors and see if they need a resurfacing, which requires a professional brake lathe machine. Of course, you could always buy new rotors at $25 – $40 per rotor, which isn’t terribly expensive. The steps involved in this repair take the lingo to the next level, so if a phrase such as, “Compress the brake piston. Get out your C-clamp and put the end with the screw on it against the piston with the other end on the back of the caliper assembly,” has you flummoxed, don’t even bother. Take your brakes to the shop. With the money you saved doing the other repairs on this list, you’ll still be looking at one of the lowest repair totals of your driving life. Still, brake pads are not too difficult once you know what you’re doing, and you’ll save a lot of money changing them on your own; put this on your personal to-do list and set a goal, something like, “By next Christmas, I’ll be able to change my own brake pads.”

If you have questions or an article you’d like to see, drop us a comment! In the meantime, check out our shop equipment if you’re getting serious about taking your DIY skills to the next level or want to expand your shop’s capabilities with the best auto service equipment in the business.

How Can I Avoid Fees for Used Oil and Filter Disposal?

October 27th, 2016

If you want to skip this article and read the official government code, Title 40, Chapter I, Subchapter I, Part 279, you’ll learn everything there is to know about used oil disposal and recycling. For the rest of us, this article will serve as a brief guide to what you need to know about disposing of used oil and oil filters.

The oil change “discount”
saleMaybe you’ve had this happen to you: a sign is plastered outside your local quick-lube service: “Half off your next oil change!”—a seemingly great deal. You take in your car, stand in line in the lobby area and eyeball the chemically enhanced air fresheners that never actually smell like “New Car.” (What is that smell, anyway?) Finally, they ring up your tab, and it’s at least twice what you expected to pay. You smile knowingly and say, “Sorry, I think you forgot to add my coupon.” The guy behind the counter looks over his glasses and says, “Nope, that’s right.” Maybe he kindly explains that the hidden fees are related to waste disposal efforts for used oil. Maybe he just burps and blows bubbles with his gum.

Much to some people’s surprise, the fine print on certain so-called coupons and discounts on oil changes comes with baggage in form of extra fees. Most of these fees go toward the disposal of used oil. It’s not uncommon for half the cost of every oil change to be a cost-share with the business to cover EPA and state disposal fees.

Why are there fees?
Regulatory fees are in place to protect the environment and ensure bad stuff doesn’t get into our water, land, air, etc. To put things into perspective, the used oil from your last oil change is enough to contaminate one million gallons of water. Yikes! Now, it’s not BendPak’s official stance to get you riled up about the costs of doing business, because frankly there’s a way to turn all these regulations to your advantage and make a profit. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Government agencies consider free-flowing oil to be hazardous waste
PENTAX ImageIn addition to federal EPA regulations, individual states can craft their own laws around waste disposal. California has recently tightened its shop oil regulations, and by “tightened” we mean imposed more punitive fees for businesses that improperly try to dispose of waste oil products.

Effective October 2016 (hey, that means the laws are in effect now), any oil filters that the government collects that have not been crushed, punctured and/or drained of oil will be subject to additional charges and fees than days past. Not only that, the government reserves the right to change a business’s generator status from “small quantity” to “large quantity,” which means heavier regulations and fees on top of heavier regulations and fees for all future filter disposals. Double yikes! It’s not just California: all 50 states have evolving laws around this. Fortunately, when oil filters are crushed and their oil is removed, you wind up with two items to recycle and/or re-purpose, often at a profit: the filters and the oil.

DIY’ers rejoice
walmartWhile it’s mainly the shops that stand to benefit financially for oil and filter recycling, individual DIY’ers need not worry about being fined for doing their own oil changes. In fact, stores like Wal-Mart, as well as most auto shops, will take your unwanted oil waste off your hands free of charge. Auto shops may be especially keen on this, as the collected oil can be re-purposed in different ways. Some shops keep their oil in-house and use it to power waste oil heating devices.

Oil filter crushers solve every business’s problem
If your shop regularly works with oil waste, there’s no reason not to have an oil filter crusher. We at BendPak / Ranger make a particularly good one with the RP-50FC Oil Filter Crusher. The most important feature of any crusher is how much oil it removes as it flattens the filters. The RP-50FC, for instance, efficiently removes 95% of residual oil. If you already have an oil filter crusher that doesn’t get the oil out to your state and federal governments’ complete satisfaction, you’re going to get fined, and your crusher will become a useless expenditure against your bottom line. As you should already know, the government will show no leniency when it comes to fee collection.

When oil filters are recycled, they are no longer considered hazardous waste. Steel producers will gladly re-purpose them as scrap feed. The waste oil itself can be re-purposed or re-refined into usable oil, avoiding hazardous waste fees, as well as the higher costs of constantly buying virgin oil. Some shops efficiently re-refine the same oil over and over again. There’s no limit on how many times oil can be re-refined, and re-refined oil is just as good as virgin oil.

When all is said and done, with an oil filter crusher, you no longer have to worry about paying exorbitant disposal fees. You’ll also be able to offer more competitive price points and draw a better profit from your customers because you won’t be paying half your profit to the government. So fret not, oil shops and DIY’ers. With the right attitude and plan in place, you’ll never have to pay hazardous waste disposal fees again. Cheers to that!

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