Autocross Buying Guide – Select the Right Car

In my experience, autocross can be a very fun and exciting sport. I have participated in several events in my local area. I found the hobby to be very addictive as well.

Out of all my other hobbies, I think this one is the best “bang for the buck” as far as thrills go with your car. Everybody can participate. Every car (some clubs have exceptions to this though like no SUV’s, no Trucks) can race. The nice thing about this kind of race is that you are competing against others in your class usually defined by the SCCA, however, you are on the course alone so there is minimal chance of hitting other cars.

The hardest part about autocross (aside from learning how to race) in my opinion is finding the right car. Sure, you can use a daily driver, but that is not recommended if you are going to participate in several events a year. Autocross can create wear on the tires and other components very quickly and can get expensive very fast. I would recommend to get a vehicle that you can use for autocross. This can be a “trailer car” or a car that you can still drive on the road, but use only for this hobby.

There are 4 key components to consider when selecting a car for autocross:

1) What type of car to get
2) The Price of the car
3) The overall condition of the vehicle (if used)
4) Aftermarket upgrades/modifications

WHAT TYPE OF CAR TO GET FOR AUTOCROSS:

For autocross racing, some people would assume that the car has to be very powerful, small, 2 doors and modified. This is not entirely accurate. While that type of car would be nice, it is not required to be competitive in autocross.

Remember that most autocross events and clubs have the cars grouped in to some sort of class. The club I participate with follow the SCCA Class guidelines. The classes help group the cars so the same “level” of vehicles can remain competitive within each class.

This is done to avoid the “biggest and fastest is best” state of thought. It would be unfair to put a heavily modified Porsche GT3 up against a stock Ford Focus. This is why they do that.

So, to pick the right car for autocross, you would probably want a coupe or convertible FIRST if possible. Sedans can work well too, but some sedans are not geared for modifications, although, the sport sedans of today are really starting to take over.

Manual transmission would be recommended, however, if you have an automatic that is OK too. You may want to consider trading it for a manual in the future to remain competitive. Again, there are still “sport shift” type automatics out there that are getting better and better each day.

Ideally, you would also want a rear-wheel drive car for autocross. RWD cars typically provide better control and handling in most cases. I know some enthusiasts out there will disagree with me, but that’s OK. On the other hand, I have used several front-wheel drive cars that run with the best of them.

PRICE:

The price of buying a car for autocross is always the factor for me. I, like many others, cannot afford an expensive vehicle for autocross. There are, however, those that can afford it and price is still something for them to consider.

The $0-$5000 range:

This is the range most of us beginners want to start. Of course, free is GOOD, but consider the 3rd component (overall condition) when this option comes to mind. Several cars that can perform well and have a lot of upgradable options are the following:

1989-1997 Mazda Miata – Very nice power to weight ratio. It is VERY popular at autocross. 1979-1991 Mazda RX7 – Fast small car, handles well. Many upgrades available. 1989-1998 Nissan 240sx – Several aftermarket upgrades, handles very well. 1990-1999 BMW 3 Series – Very versatile car. You can find very nice models in this range now. 1988-2000 Honda Civic/CRX – I have seen several models compete well in autocross. 1984-1999 Toyota MR2 – Low center of gravity, great performance, mid engine. 1990-1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse/Eagle Talon – Many upgrades, some models Turbo AWD. 2000-2007 Ford Focus – Very competitive cars. SVT models available in price range. 1997-2003 VW Golf – Hatchbacks always like autocross. VR6 models available in range. 1990-1999 Acura Integra – Like the Civic, very competitive with many upgrades out there.

There may be a few more cars that I missed that fall under this price range. The method I use to hunt for cars can vary depending on the type I am looking for. I will use local classified ads, Craigslist. I will also use the bigger car searches and expand my general “hunting” area. I have successfully found great cars using VEHIX, AutoTrader as well as Government Auction Sites.

But what about the autocross cars above the $5000 range? Well, I am glad you are think that because I am about to list them below.

If you have some money to work with and want to get something newer, you can consider the following cars:

The $5,001-$20,000 range:

This range can include newer cars as well as pre-owned cars that are no more than a few years old. Remember, cars usually depreciate very fast, so as the years go by, some of the newer cars can be within reach for less money and are great for autocross. The cars below come to mind in this range:

1998-Current Mazda MX-5 – Still same basic car, but more power as they got newer. 2003-Current VW Golf – Even more modified than the previous versions, compete well. 1992-1997 Mazda RX7 – 3rd Gen is twin-turbo and can compete in autocross. 1992-2006 BMW M3 – M3′s are designed for racing. Some newer models will fall in this range. 1998-2003 BMW M5 – M5′s are very powerful and compete in their class well. 1994-Current Ford Mustang/Cobra – Very versatile car. Competes well in class. 1994-2002 Camaro/Firebird – Competes well in class. Many autocross upgrades. 2007-Current Mazda Mazdaspeed3 – Turbo, hatchback, competes well in autocross. 2003-2008 Nissan 350z – Great autocross car, very popular on the track. Special Autocross Kit cars such as the V6 Stalker fall in this range as well.

Now, this price range can vary in vehicles. A lot of these cars are still new and may require loans to purchase them.

The $20,001 spectrum will consist of some of the current-day models as well as the obvious “super cars” we all respect such as the Corvette, Viper, Porsche, Ferrari, Lotus and others. I will not include a list for those because if you are buying one of those for an autocross car, you did your research.

OVERALL CONDITION OF THE VEHICLE (USED):

When buying a second car for autocross, treat it like when you are buying your daily driver car. You want the car to be relatively free of major problems. Autocross racing can put stress on the car’s frame, the suspension, the brakes, the tire and the overall body of the car.

You want to be sure that the car has not been in any major accidents. Frame repair or frame damage can be very dangerous mixture when you autocross. That is the MOST important thing to check for when buying a car for autocross. I have experienced and used the service by Experian called AutoCheck. They offer an unlimited number of VIN checks for one of their service options and the price is way better than the other services out there. I have used it when shopping and comes in very handy when you are checking the history of a vehicle.

The next important item to check on the car is major component problems such as smoke coming out of the back of the exhaust, major oil leaks (small leaks are expected on most used cars) slight/major overheating of the engine. Autocross is outside and you push the car to the limit. You want the major components to be in the best shape they can be. The mentioned problems can leave you stranded at the track if you do not look out for them.

I usually have some expectation to do minor repair or preventive repairs on my vehicles when I am buying to autocross them. As I stated above, small oil/fluid leaks are “OK” and can usually be fixed very easily. Small leaks tell us that the car is just used and may not be suffering from the leak as a result. Large/major leaks tell us the car may have been neglected by the previous owner and may carry residual problems unseen at the moment. When looking at a car, start it up, drive it around with the A/C engaged (even if it doesn’t work). When you are finished with the test drive, leave it idling while you walk around the car continuing to inspect it. If the car has an overheating problem, often this is the time it will show. This tip has helped me avoid several beautiful autocross cars that had an overheating problem.

Belts and hoses are my most frequent “preventive” repair I do, even if they are not a problem. It is always best to know when an important component has been replaced rather than to “guess” and trust the previous owner. Water pumps, too, fall in this category sometimes.

One thing people always check when buying a used car are the tires. Yes, this is important for an autocross car, but not to see how “good” the tires are, but to see if the car needs an alignment. Autocross is about handling and you need to be sure the car’s stock “handling” ability is where it should be.

Why not worry about the tires? Well, tires should be one thing to consider buying for your autocross car to begin with, so the existing tires should be removed anyway. Tires are probably the most bought wear item an autocross member will buy. A lot of autocross racers will bring a set of tires for racing, one for driving home (those who do not use a trailer) and some will even bring spares for the racing tires. This is so common that Tire Rack offers tires just for autocross. I have used them and they are the best place to get tires for this.

AFTERMARKET MODIFICATIONS FOR AUTOCROSS:

If you ever look into the aftermarket world of the auto industry, you know that there are literally thousands of places to look and buy. I will list a few spots that most people do not think to look, but surprisingly have things for the autocross fans.

First and foremost, autocross cars do NOT always need major upgrades to be competitive. A driver can use a stock vehicle and compete against fellow stock vehicles and remain competitive. Once you start to modify or upgrade heavily, you may start to move into different classes and compete with other cars that are equally modified. Keep that in mind when you want to change something.

Usually, I say modify the easy things first: Intake, exhaust and general tune ups. Most autocross drivers do not go far from that. These should be the first things you try to upgrade while you participate in autocross to get the most performance out of your vehicle.

If you decide to go further to be more competitive, my next recommendation would be suspension and body roll modifications. Please remember, certain upgrades in this area may change your class. Be sure to check your club or groups rules with these modifications.

Usually, the fastest upgrade to an autocross car would be front and rear strut tower bars/braces. They are usually inexpensive to buy and easy to install. They are also very modular meaning that when you buy these, they will work with other suspension components in place (usually). This modification helps stiffen the car’s suspension and frame and helps with cornering.

The next modification recommendation would then be the front and rear sway bars and links. These parts also help the body roll while cornering and handling and can sometimes be modular to the suspension system as a whole.

The final suspension upgrade is usually the most expensive: The struts (shocks/springs). This upgrade usually works well with the above items, but ads more stiffness, more response to the handling and sometimes lower the car overall for a lower center of gravity.

Once you have modified the entire suspension, my next recommendation would be to upgrade the brakes (at least the pads). This will help your stopping ability for those moments where a tap of the brake is needed during a lap. Please keep in mind that high performance brake pads usually wear much quicker than OEM.

One of the last things I recommend to upgrade is the tires. Now, I’m not saying that you should not FIRST buy new tires when you autocross, but I am saying not to UPGRADE them to an autocross/race tire just yet. Most autocross enthusiasts will tell you to get used to the stock/regular tires on your car first.

Once you get used to stock type tires, modifying them to a race tire or softer tire will actually improve your lap times (that’s the theory anyway).

One last note. I recommend replacing the fluids in your car with as many synthetics as you can. Synthetic fluids have higher heat resistance and can take the intense moments you will be putting on the car during the autocross laps.

Some of the places I have bought aftermarket modifications and upgrades are from the following: Tires- Tire Rack, General maintenance items/Oil/Filters/Performance, MyAutocross Store, Auto Warehouse

Model and make specific forums are also a great place to find parts for your specific car. Usually people on those forums are experts with that model and are constantly modifying it and selling the used items.

Now that I have provided this information, I hope it is useful to at least one person out there interested in autocross racing. I know when I started I had to learn my lessons the hard way and ended up buying cars that either were no good or were not “for” autocross. Please keep in mind that these opinions are based on my experience and knowledge. I am open to changing or adding items I may have missed. Please comment if you’d like.

Cheap Car Rental: Booking Holiday and Business Car Rental in Advance

When seeking cheap car rental, many people prefer to book holiday or business car hire in advance. Car hire is usually a must for most business trips, unless you are being picked up at the airport. Driving a company car is fine for short trips, but when you have long distances to travel, or even overseas, then you have to hire a car and you want something appropriate for your needs.

Holiday car rental can be even more important to most people, particularly if they have large families involving two adults and three or four children. It’s bad enough having two children in the back of a small car let alone three! You likely know what I mean!

On vacation you might need a 4×4 or even a people carrier (strange name) that can fit your whole family comfortably and without complaints the whole way! These are not always available at airports, so you could have a problem if you don’t book in advance. The same is true of more prestigious business cars such as 7-Series BMW, Mercedes or similar, and for these you will almost certainly have to book your business car rental in advance.

That’s fine if you are seeking cheap car rental in your own country, but you may have difficulty doing so when traveling abroad. It’s difficult enough booking a car in Hawaii when you live in Colorado, but try making an advance booking in Kenya when you live in Australia! Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a simple way to book business car hire or a car for your holidays from your own home? Or have your secretary do it for you without tearing her hair out?

Most people prefer to book their car in advance when going on vacation or for business trips. Cheap car rental is easier to get by booking early online, and by doing so they make sure they get the car they need, and not just ‘what’s available’. Others don’t seem to bother about forward booking of hire cars: they will book air tickets and train tickets in advance but leave their cars to luck!

Cheap Car Rental Cost Advantage

There are several advantages of booking your holiday car rental in advance, not the least being cost. Most car hire firms will charge less for an advance booking than if you simply turn up at the desk, so booking your vacation or business car rental in advance will probably save you money – particularly if you book a car online. Sometimes that’s not possible with business trips, but you should at least know when your flight is due to arrive at its destination. You can book your car online in advance for that time and likely get a better price than somebody walking off the plane and trying to get cheap car rental at the desk.

Better Choice of Cars

There are other advantages though, not the least being the choice of cars you may be offered. Booking car hire in advance enables you choose the car you want – at least up to a point. If you hire a car from the airport you are restricted to what they have available: not just what is available for airport car rental, but to what is left, particularly if you are near the back of the queue!

It’s not easy to find a car to suit you if you have five or six in your family, and lots of luggage. In fact, you might not find anything and have to pay for a couple of taxis to your hotel so that they can help you out with renting a car big enough for your needs. It is far better to have booked your holiday car rental in advance.

Cheap Car Rental Price Comparisons

If you know the type of vehicle you need, you should be able to compare cheap car rental prices across car hire firms and also across models that meet your specifications. By hiring a car in advance you should be able to achieve that by entering your needs into a search engine and be offered a range of vehicles in order of price for any country you want.

Perhaps you have different collection and drop-off points, so how would that affect the cost of your car hire? Is it easy to search over a number of car hire firms or do you have to visit the web pages of each separately? How about searching over a range of countries? If you live in the USA and are traveling to Austria or Switzerland for some skiing, wouldn’t you like to be able to book the car you want and be able to get the best price for it?

3 Kids and a Mini!

These things are not easy to do and people generally settle for trying to get as near the head of the queue as possible at immigration and customs, and reach that car hire desk as quickly as they can. Then you have the problem of how many others have hired cars that day, and is the type of business car rental you need still available. It’s all worry and stress you can do without. What if you can’t get a car? It doesn’t bear thinking about! 3 kids and a wife, and you failed to get anything but a mini! That might be taking cheap car rental a step too far!

You can find a world-wide cheap car rental service along with rail booking service if you need it, on Global Car Rental that offers you a photo and specifications of the cars available from a range of vacation and business car hire firms from which you can choose your ideal car.

Plastic Recycling From Cars

Plastic is one of the most extensively used materials in the car body. It is gaining popularity among car manufacturers these days. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that lightweight of plastics makes the vehicle more fuel-efficient. Fuel efficiency is an attribute that addresses the economic and environmental concerns. The reasons are that a fuel-efficient vehicle releases a lesser quantity of exhaust and also reduces the consumption of fuel. However, when the car reaches its end of life, it is this plastic that becomes a challenge to dispose of as it is non bio-degradable.

Three of the most used types of plastic in a car include polypropylene, polyurethane, and PVC. Approximately 10% of a car’s body weight is constituted by plastic. An auto wrecker can recycle this plastic to generate an income from it.

Let us understand the how plastic is recycled from cars:

• When the car is sent for dismantling, the functional parts are detached from it.
• After this, the hazardous material is eliminated so that it doesn’t pollute the environment.
• After this, the body of the car comprising plastic and metallic parts is sent to a crusher.
• After they are flattened by the crusher, these parts are sent for shredding.
• The shredded plastic and metallic parts come out as a mixture of clumps. These need to be separated.
• Metals, plastics, and fibers are separated using different techniques. Some of these methods are floatation, magnetism, size filtering, and manual filtering, etc. These not only separate plastics from metal but also enable grouping different polymer types.
• After grouping, the plastics are fed to extruders. These melt the plastic into a liquid which can be formed into shapes.
• Some recycling centers shape the plastic as per the requirement of the client. While others produce plastic pellets which are sold in the market. These are used to form products of a variety of shapes.
• Depending on the usage the plastic is further processed. For instance, food packaging industry warrants the plastic to pass purity standards. Hence, it goes through extra processing to ensure that there is no contamination. Consequently, it is priced high.

Automobiles are one of the major sources of waste plastic. Plastic is non-biodegradable and can harm the environment. With the growing concerns for environmental protection, plastic recycling has become mandatory. Hence, plastic recycling is a great means to conserve the environment. Recycled plastic finds applications in a host of areas producing a wide range of products.

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