Reading Vehicle Identification VIN Numbers on Autos

VIN or Vehicle Identification Numbers for cars, trucks and automobiles. Just what are they, how do I find them and why are they important?

VIN numbers are like a social insurance number for your automobile product. Each auto produced has an identification number assigned to it – a unique number to that vehicle. When you purchase your automobile product either new or used – the number on your bill must correspond to that stated VIN number. Otherwise you have the entirely wrong auto. Something or someone else. It has been known where administrative staff or perhaps the salesperson at a dealership made a mistake or was lazy. Voila years later collision, accident and health insurance could be denied by the auto insurance company if the VIN on the insurance form and registration does not match the VIN on the dash of the automotive vehicle.

Where and how can ascertain the proper VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) for your vehicle? Usually it can be found stamped on a plate in clear view attached to the left side of the dashboard, just inside the windshield on the bottom driver’s side.

Sometimes the windscreen at the bottom may be a bit dirty or even the glass is hard to read through. Other times the bottom number may have slid just a tad under the dash so it is hard to read. Regardless either read the VIN properly to your satisfaction or take your car or truck to professional mechanic, body shop or service department of an auto dealership.

These unique VIN registration numbers have other purposes and benefits to you as well as an automobile owner. For repairs mechanics may need to refer to the VIN to identify model type for replacement parts. Stolen cars are usually identified by the VIN.

The VIN identifies the car for warranty coverage and as well it allows the auto manufacturer to identify vehicles and track you down in the event of an auto model recall – to inform you of work that should or must be done to your vehicle to keep it safe to operate on the road. Lastly even the automobile manufacturer themselves and their marketing and sales departments have good use for these VIN registration numbers allowing them to track specific vehicles and their sales and transfers across sales regions and even into other sales jurisdictions and different countries.

All in all it is a wise idea to know where you VIN can be read on your vehicle, to mark it down and ensure that it matches and corresponds to your vehicle sales invoice, registration and auto insurance registration papers and auto insurance policy coverage.

Car Model Look-A-Likes

Have you ever seen a vehicle that looked exactly like yours, but it had a completely different name and brand than yours? Well if you have, there is valuable reasoning behind it. A majority of the auto industry’s sales are crucially dependent upon the marketing of its vehicles. With an abundance of vehicle manufacturers and automotive brands, it has become a necessity for auto makers and marketers to join forces in an effort to increase sales without drastically increasing spending.

One key strategy frequently used in the auto industry has been dubbed badge engineering. This refers to the strategy of manipulating the branding of a vehicle as opposed to the actual vehicle itself. The most common form of badge engineering occurs when a single manufacturer has multiple brands and plans to market different brands to different buyers. Badge engineering is executed for several reasons and can be utilized in several different ways. The following is a list of the badge engineering methods and their benefit:

What: Large auto makers have been known to market the same car under a different brand or model name.
Reason: This can expand the range of brands in a single market without the costs of developing an entirely new car. It can also help market the vehicle to different areas without having to physically change the vehicle.

What: Independent companies have been known to ‘share’ a revised version of their products to compensate for anything missing in the company’s lineup.
Reason: This aids by filling a void in the company’s physical lineup while saving on the cost and time of developing a new vehicle. Also this can help in the overall sales of a lineup and to strengthen company relations.

What: Various collaborations have formed when auto makers combine their resources to develop an entirely new product to sell separately.
Reason: It costs less and is much easier than independently developing other models. Each company can benefit from the others strengths.

What: Companies have designed badges apart from their other brands for the branding of a single model.
Reason: This strategy can be done to separate a vehicle from its manufacturing brand for different marketing campaigns or other image related reasons.

What: Some automakers have been known to market two unrelated vehicle models using the exact same marquee and model name.
Reason: This can drastically boost brand recognition and a trusted marquee can influence buyers even if the model is completely different.

What: Some makers have intermittently manufactured limited versions of certain models.
Reason: The main reason for this is to obtain a minimum production requirement for motor racing. This can also be done to preserve the value and prestige of certain vehicle (i.e. Ferrari)

What: Many auto makers have specifically branded models for the non-retail sale.
Reason: This can build a reputation or create value to a consumer who is receiving a custom made line of vehicles. It is mainly done for rental fleets, etc.

What: A company with a luxury brand and a mainstream brand may upgrade a vehicle from the mainstream brand and sell it as a luxury vehicle.
Reason: This provides a new class of vehicle without the costs of major time and development. The company is able to generate a large Return on Investment selling the new vehicle as a more expensive model under a premium luxury marquee.

Opposed to the beneficial outcomes that can be generated by badge engineering, it can also have adverse affects that lead to a negative impact on a company. One major difficulty with badge engineering is that when a single company has many brands, they are commonly forced to market each brand separately. This in-turn raises the vehicles total cost and the cost to the customer.

Another possible negative impact is that badge engineering can produce too much competition within its own company. This can occur if appropriate marketing and brand distinction is not utilized. While badge engineering is utilized to save on R&D costs, inconsistent or under-planned badge engineering may inevitably lead to a loss of revenue for the company. Companies must regularly and strategically plan and execute these types of strategies to stay at the top of the industry.

Diesel Cars for United States Auto Market

We are just into the fifth month of the year and car manufacturers are already promoting their 2008 model year vehicles. The 2008 Ford Escape and its hybrid version have already been released and so are other auto models from different car manufacturers.

In the United States, as prices of gasoline increases, hybrid cars have been gaining popularity. For the 2008 model year, it is expected that car manufacturers will be introducing more hybrid vehicles as the demand for this type of automobiles increases. Another technology though is set to be unleashed into the United States and Canadian auto markets in the form of clean diesel engines. Next year, it is expected that European and Japanese car manufacturers will be introducing diesel cars in the said auto markets. In Europe, the use of diesel engines is already popular, thanks to companies like Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz. The success of diesel engines in the region is expected to give diesel engines a better reputation in the United States.

For years after the 1970s and 80s decades, Americans have been staying away from diesel engines. It can be remembered that this engine technology was introduced in the 1970s in the United States. Unfortunately, the diesel engines of old are known for their black soot emissions and in some cases poor reliability. Newer diesel engines though have overcome this problem with the use of better emission filter technology.

The Ford Super Duty already available in the market boasts of having a powerful diesel engine with emission similar to that of a gasoline engine. The Super Duty is one of the vehicles that can promote the use of cleaner diesel engines. The problems encountered in the use of bio-ethanol is also another reason seen that will help popularize the use of diesel cars.

Flex-fuel vehicles in the United States which are designed to run on a combination of gasoline and bio-ethanol is recently being criticized due to the lack of fuel refilling stations offering E85 – the alternative fuel composed of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent bio-ethanol. In a recent study, it was found out that 99 percent of flex-fuel vehicles in the United States are actually using conventional gasoline thereby beating the purpose of these supposed to be environment friendly vehicles.

Already, European car manufacturers have expressed their intentions to release diesel vehicles in the United States next year. The German Volkswagen has been selling diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. for decades and at present, they will upgrade their engines by using a cleaner technology dubbed as the Blue Motion. The first Volkswagen auto model which will use the clean diesel technology is the Jetta.

Another German car manufacturer which will introduce diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. next year is Mercedes Benz. Sport utility vehicles or SUVs, known as the favorite of American car buyers, will be what Mercedes Benz will be equipping with their clean diesel engines. Already announced to be released in the United States auto market are diesel versions of the M-Class, R-Class, and the GL-Class. These vehicles will be equipped with clean diesel engines and other soot cleaning technologies from the engine to their Mercedes Benz mufflers and out the exhaust pipe. Aside from these European carmakers a Japanese company has expressed their intention to introduce a diesel car in the U.S.

Nissan, the third largest Japanese car manufacturer announced that they will be producing a diesel-powered Maxima sedan in the near future.

One problem in the way of the promotion of use of diesel engines in the United States is the availability of diesel fuel. Not more than 50 percent of all refueling stations in the country are offering diesel engines. Fortunately though, the oil industry is clearly supporting the use of diesel-powered vehicles. The Marathon Petroleum Company recently earmarked $3.2 billion for the expansion of their refineries that is expected to increase the availability of diesel fuel in refilling stations across the United States.

Another problem faced by diesel powered-vehicles in the country is consumer acceptance. Although new technologies have made diesel engines cleaner than their ancestors, its reputation has been tarnished heavily. Gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles are also popular among car buyers and it would be something that diesel cars must contend with. Furthermore, the use of advanced emission cleaning technology gives these diesel engines a price almost equal to that of hybrid vehicles. In the end, it would be a matter of preference that will spell the success or lack of it for diesel-powered vehicles.

How to Choose a New Welding Helmet With Auto Darkening Glass

Your welding helmet is, perhaps, the most important piece of personal protective equipment you have as a welder. A top-flight helmet protects you from major sparks, not to mention the ultraviolet and infrared rays that can damage the eyes. Plus, a helmet that is light and agile can keep you fresh and aggravation-free as the long workday wears on.

Some welders like to add a bit of personal flair to their helmet, but the no-nonsense professional focuses on what’s important: a helmet built for the job. When it comes down to it, a great helmet does four things:

• Protects your eyes and skin from sparks
• Protects your eyes from harmful light rays
• Is easy to wear and adjust, as conditions change
• Is durable and adaptable to a variety of work conditions

Traditional vs. Advanced
Some welders still prefer traditional welding helmets with standard glass lenses and fixed shades, which remains darkened at all times. These helmets tend to be rugged and inexpensive, but they leave many of today’s welders wanting.

Fixed-shade helmets tend to be both difficult and time-consuming to use. You lift your helmet every time you need to examine a joint, set your position and prepare to weld. Then you flip your helmet down again when it’s time to strike the arc. Doing this over and over can cause neck strain and fatigue after a full day’s work.

On the other hand, for welders who appreciate what newer technologies can offer, auto-darkening helmets are worthy of serious consideration. These newer, more-advanced helmets offer continuously variable controls that adjust the shade from a light state to a dark one and back. These helmets protect from harmful light emissions at all times. Also, depending on the make and model, they can darken to almost any pre-selected shade in milliseconds, thanks to quick-changing LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) technology in the auto-darkening cartridges.

With auto-darkening helmets, welders can see clearly in any light condition, so setting up to weld in a joint can be done with the hood in down position. These helmets permit more continuous work, reducing unnecessary stop-and-start time, readjustments, and aggravation.

Further Considerations
When shopping for an auto-darkening helmet, start with viewing size. After all, the more you can see, the better you can do your job. The amount of out-of-position welding performed can affect the amount of viewing area needed in a helmet. Some of the largest view sizes in auto-darkening models have an inside cover lens of 3.7″ x 2.44″, which aids in delivering a clear natural view in combination with the helmet’s LCD technology.

Next, you want to check the helmet’s light sensitivity settings. Many of today’s better helmets have settings that provide shades ranging from 6 to 9 or 9 to 13. This scale allows welders to optimize the shade for greater comfort on any given application. If you typically move between applications, you’ll appreciate the flexibility of being able to change welding machine voltage, amperage or wire feed speed settings (not to mention changes between welding processes).

Next, you want to gauge the reaction time of the helmet. You want your auto-darkening helmet to darken fast when the spark appears. A good model darkens in less than a second. The best models darken as quickly as 1/25,000 of a second. The difference between these speeds comes down to what you need as a professional.

Another important consideration is the number of arc sensors on the helmet. Basic and less expensive auto-darkening helmets will have one or two arc sensors, while the finest models will provide four arc sensors. The more arc sensors you have, the less chance that the helmet will fail to darken as needed.

Power source is another consideration. Some models feature replaceable lithium batteries. The better models combine solar cells with a lithium battery assist. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference, but the hybrid models demand less of the battery and typically last longer.

Finally, you need to consider weight and flexibility. For professional welders, a heavy helmet can be a serious burden. Newer, lightweight helmets make welding safer, easier and more comfortable. Premium models generally weigh between 18 to 24 ounces, even with a full-coverage shell. Additionally, your helmet’s headgear should adjust up, down, forward and back. Make sure it’s easy to adjust for a comfortable fit.

In Summary
It may seem like a lot to think about. However, if you take the time to consider the important variables and do your research, you’ll be glad you did. When the workday ends, you’ll feel less strain on your eyes, neck and shoulders. Then you’ll truly appreciate the value of a great helmet.