Monday, April 30, 2007

It's Not What You Drive

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released a report on the safest and deadliest US vehicles. It's an interesting report, but the most interesting tidbit may be the observation made by the guys at leftlanenews.com - it matters less what you drive than how you drive.

The ten safest cars include a bunch of large sedans and minivans, vehicles typically driven by older drivers and families with children. Certainly those vehicles are designed to be safe, but they are also typically driven safely.

Lowest Vehicle Deaths Per Million Vehicles

Chevrolet Astro: minivan very large - 7
Infiniti G35: luxury car midsize - 11
BMW 7 Series: luxury car very large - 11
Toyota 4Runner: 4WD SUV midsize - 13
Audi A4/S4 Quattro: 4dr car midsize - 14
Mercedes E-Class: luxury car large - 14
Toyota Highlander: 4WD SUV midsize - 14
Mercedes M-Class: 4WD SUV midsize - 14
Toyota Sienna: minivan very large - 17
Honda Odyssey: minivan very large - 17
Lexus ES 330: luxury car midsize - 18
Lexus RX 330: 2WD SUV midsize - 18
Toyota Sequoia: 2WD SUV large - 18
Honda Pilot: 4WD SUV midsize - 19
BMW X5: 4WD SUV midsize - 19


Conversely, the ten deadliest vehicles include mostly smaller, cheaper cars that are often driven by younger, more aggressive drivers. You can also observe that bigger probably equals safer, but that doesn't explain why the Chevy Blazer is the deadliest vehicle on the road.

Highest Vehicle Deaths Per Million Vehicles

Chevrolet Blazer: 2dr 2WD SUV midsize - 232
Acura RSX: 2dr car small - 202
Nissan 350Z: sports car midsize - 193
Kia Spectra: hatchback 4dr car small - 191
Pontiac Sunfire: 2dr car small - 179
Kia Rio: 4dr car mini - 175
Chevrolet Cavalier: 2dr car small - 171
Mitsubishi Eclipse: 2dr car small - 169
Dodge Neon: 4dr car small - 161
Pontiac Grand Am: 2dr car midsize - 160
Chevrolet Cavalier: 4dr car small - 150
Ford Mustang: sports car midsize - 150
Ford Ranger: 4WD pickup small - 150
Mazda B Series: 2WD pickup small - 147
Mitsubishi Eclipse: convertible sports car small - 146
Mitsubishi Montero: Sport 2WD SUV midsize - 146

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I Can't Find My Car in BrightCar's Database!

We've tried to capture in our database all vehicles sold in the United States since 1983. We have more than 10,000+ vehicle-specific maintenance plans in our database. If you bought your vehicle in the U.S. after 1983, and you can't find your car's maintenance plan in our database, please email us.

For those people who have vehicles for which we do not have a vehicle-specific maintenance plan in our database (e.g., your car was sold in a country other than the U.S.), we have a number of options:
  1. You can use our general maintenance plan, which is based on industry standards. (When adding a car, just click the "custom" box near the upper-left corner and type values in the fields for Make, Year, Model, etc. instead of choosing from our drop-down menus. Once you choose "normal" or "severe" driving conditions, BrightCar will present you with our general maintenance plan, which is fully customizable.)
  2. You can enter your car's manufacturer-recommended maintenance plan into BrightCar yourself. (Again, choose custom car, enter your car details, and then add/remove items from the general maintenance plan and modify their schedules, as appropriate.)
  3. Email or fax us a copy of your car's maintenance plan, and we will enter it into BrightCar for you.
  4. Find a "U.S. equivalent" of your car and load that into BrightCar and use its maintenance plan.
If you need further assistance with the option you choose, please send us an email.

BrightCar Data File Backup

If you want to back up your BrightCar data file, you'll need to find a file called user.data in a BrightCar directory. That's where BrightCar stores all your data. Just back up that file, and you'll have a back up for your BrightCar information.

If you need more specifics, here they are:

You can find your data file in a subfolder of your "My Documents" folder. If you look in "My Documents\BrightCar" you'll see a file named "user.data". That's your data file.

If you want the full path, it should be (and this will depend a bit on your computer's setup) "C:\Documents and Settings\[your name]\My Documents\BrightCar\user.data". Replace [your name] with whatever name you told your computer to use for you (probably your first and last name).

If you are having trouble finding the file, try to search for user.data within Windows Explorer or send us an email.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Normal vs. Severe: How Do You Drive?

I recently came across an interesting response to a reader email in The Wall Street Journal's Me & My Car column. A reader had taken his 2000 Accord (with 48,000 miles) into the dealership for servicing, where he was surprised by the suggestion that he should consider an expensive timing belt replacement. The advice dished out by The Wall Street Journal was that it was probably safe to postpone the timing belt change because it wasn't due--according to the vehicle's Owners Manual--until 105,000 miles.

The discrepancy between the dealer's and The Wall Street Journal's (and, supposedly, Honda's) recommendations struck me as odd. In addition, we often see recommendations around 60,000 miles for a timing belt change.

So, I did some digging in our database of car maintenance schedules and found that Honda does indeed recommend a timing belt replacement at 105,000 miles, but only for people following "normal" driving conditions. For those subjecting their cars to "severe" driving conditions, the interval is 60,000 miles. That's quite a difference in intervals.

Because there can be such a big difference in the recommended servicing intervals based on whether you follow a "normal" or "severe" schedule, it's pretty important to know which schedule is suitable for your car. This is especially important for a service item like the timing belt, because if the timing belt breaks it can result in very costly repairs. This type of preventive maintenance can therefore help avoid costly, preventable repairs.

Fortunately, we don't have to guess which schedule is suitable for our driving styles. The manufacturers themselves say that "severe" driving conditions include:
  • Taking frequent short trips of 10 miles or less.
  • Driving in cold weather.
  • Driving in salty or dusty environments.
  • Towing a trailer.
  • Driving for extended periods at high speeds.
  • Driving routinely in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Driving with a car-top carrier.
How many people don't drive in one or more of these conditions? These driving conditions sound pretty normal to me, so it's confusing that the manufacturers define this type of driving as "severe." But the important thing is to follow the appropriate plan for your car. So, if you drive in any of these conditions, be sure to follow a "severe" maintenance schedule for your car.

Note: When you add your car to BrightCar Software, you'll be able to choose whether to load the "normal" or "severe" maintenance plan. We've got both plans in our database for nearly all U.S.-cars sold since 1983.

Further Note: We sent The Wall Street Journal an email pointing out the discrepancy between the normal and severe intervals, suggesting that maybe that dealer's recommendation wasn't so crazy after all, especially given the potential high cost of repairs, should the timing belt fail. Thereafter, the reader email and response were removed from their online version.

GM Still #1 Auto Maker

Well, that's probably not the headline you've been seeing everywhere else today. The Wall Street Journal declared, "Toyota Passes General Motors as World's Top Auto Maker," and CNBC reported, "Toyota Tops GM in First-Quarter Global Auto Sales." And we're all correct.

After 70 years as the world's largest volume auto manufacturer, General Motors finished just behind Toyota in units sold globally during the first quarter of 2007. (Toyota sold 2.35 million vehicles versus 2.26 million for GM.) But GM still holds the number one spot in the world's biggest market, the U.S. (GM held a 22% share versus 16% for Toyota.)

That's little consolation to GM, however. Toyota and GM (as well as the other U.S. car makers) seem to be on different trajectories. Toyota's global output grew 10% last year, and it is already more profitable and boasts a larger market capitalization ($200+ billion) than Big 3 combined (~$120 billion).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Electric Sports Car This Fall?

New car manufacturer Tesla Motors appears ready to start selling a sharp-looking, all-electric sports car this fall. The sleek roadster will sell for something around $100,000 and have a range of 220-250 miles. In the past, range has been one of the main problems with 100% electric cars, but technology, pushed by higher oil prices, seems to be catching up to consumer needs.

One other problem with any vehicle like this that is so advanced and different from its peers - where do you get it serviced? I assume that for most repair and maintenance work, you'd be forced to use the dealership for your service, which might limit the available consumer pool. I'd be willing to drive a few hours to buy a car, but to get it worked on?

Still, it's an interesting and promising step forward.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Welcome To The BrightCar Blog

Hey there!

Welcome to the first post at the BrightCar Blog!

The BrightCar Blog is the creation of Todd and Dave, the co-founders of BrightCar, Inc. The purpose of this blog is to find and highlight interesting news and information about the automotive industry, with a particular focus on vehicle maintenance, performance and safety. Todd and I spend a lot of time keeping abreast of what's going on out there, so we figured that there must be other folks who have similar interests. When we come across something interesting, we'll link to it here and write a little commentary. If you have something to add, feel free to leave a comment and maybe get a little conversation started. Otherwise, just sit back and let us do the talking.

Thanks for coming by and I hope we see you again.