key

Why GM car keys went in with the teeth down

In the grand old days before we, and probably our fathers, were born, Chrysler locks were built by Yale and Ford locks were built by Hurd. These were the common design called “pin tumbler” locks; they were pretty much identical to the locks on houses.

These locks work best with gravity helping the tumbler springs to seat the pins, and the same gravity keeps dust and water out of the pin holes; so the design uses the key in the “tooth up” orientation.


Chrysler keys went in the normal way

GM locks were built by Briggs & Stratton (the same people that build lawnmower engines), using a design called “flat tumbler side locking bar.” This is a more secure locking system, virtually pick-proof, but does have some other limitations. Key and component wear is decreased with the key in the “tooth down” orientation.… Read the rest

1910 Brush roadster car test drive

The new standard for pickup automatics is having eight to ten speeds in their automatic transmissions; but one of the foremost engineering innovators for fledging General Motors beat Toyota by about one hundred years. While he was at it, he also introduced some suspension ideas that would become commonplace.

Alanson Brush was a respected technical innovator, despite having any formal mechanical training. He worked for Leland and Falconer Manufacturing in Detroit, following service in the Spanish-American War. That’s how he came to the attention of Henry Leland, who needed some key problems solved related to the drive trains of the first Oldsmobiles. That led to the founders of General Motors also seeking Brush’s advice on the Cadillac and Buick. He also did work for Oakland and Marmon.

Brush had become the chief engineer at Cadillac by 1905; but in October 1905, Brush left the Cadillac Company to start an experimental laboratory and private shop.… Read the rest

Turn signals — amber or red? Turns out, it really matters

What color should rear turn signals be? In North America they’re usually red, and can also be amber. Almost everywhere else in the world, they have to be amber.

Traffic moves and changes quickly. Fractions of a second make the difference between a crash and a miss. That means that clear, unambiguous brake and turn signals must convey their message without requiring any unnecessary decoding — as in, a red light = brakes and amber = turn.

Amber wins over red even without the less dramatic niceties: in traffic, drivers looking well ahead can make better decisions about lane changes; traffic congestion is reduced. But safety regulations aren’t based on common sense; they’re supposed to be based on evidence, facts, and science. So what are the facts?

In 2008, NHTSA (the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, responsible for writing U.S.… Read the rest

Is Your Car Really Insured? a review of classic-car insurance

by Neil Maken — used with permission

Bob W., a reader in Woodland Hills, California, wrote that he had called his classic car insurance company and asked if he would be covered if:

(1) He took an antique vehicle to a local restaurant for dinner.
(2) He drove to a local grocery store for a loaf of bread.
(3) Living in Los Angeles, he took a trip up the coast to San Francisco, staying in motels/hotels along the way.

He was told that he would not be covered in any of the above cases; which made me realize that I, too, use my antique cars for considerably more than just car shows and parades, and I wondered, “Am I covered?”

I mailed a letter outlining the scenarios presented by Bob W., to twelve insurance companies, including the “big company” names so well known to us, as well as a smaller insurance companies I found during an internet and collector-car periodical search.… Read the rest

Eiko Clear Vision Supreme with Solex™ and other headlight bulbs: What works and what doesn’t

This is an article about a particular brand of headlight bulbs — Eiko Clear Vision Supreme with SoLux™ Technology — but before we get there, some backstory:

Not too long ago, the word most used, abused, and misused in the world of automotive lighting was “Xenon.” Every marketeer slapped “Xenon” on the package in hopes it would distract you out of questioning the high price (and usually short life) of the bulbs. Pesky facts (such as all halogen bulbs containing some xenon gas in their fill mix) didn’t matter; what was important was capitalizing on a usually-undeserved association with the high-intensity discharge—HID, popularly called “Xenon”—headlamps that were new at the time.

But HID headlamps aren’t new any more; LED headlamps are the latest new thing, and there’s no easy way to hook a marketing line effectively from halogen bulbs to LED headlamps.… Read the rest