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What is torque? (And while we’re at it, what is horsepower?)

Whether you’re reading about V8 pickups or electric sedans, the concept of torque is critical to understanding the capabilities of a car. Torque often takes a back seat to horsepower when it comes to performance metrics, but it can tell you a lot about how a car will feel in the real world. So what is it and why does it matter? Let’s dive in.


Simply put, torque is a measurement of force being used to rotate something. Whenever you turn a knob or screwdriver, you’re applying torque. Your typical physics teacher will probably demonstrate the concept with some sort of simple lever, but this is Autoblog, not West Crestfield Senior High, so we’re going to stick with vehicular examples. The best way to easily visualize torque is not with engine components, but with something slightly more car-adjacent: a lug wrench. 

Torque is a measurement of an amount of force being applied over a given distance. That’s why automotive engine torque is expressed in pound-feet; you’re applying a force (in pounds) over a distance (in feet). That’s the exact same thing you’re doing when you stick a box wrench on a nut and crank it. The wrench doesn’t make you any stronger; it just multiplies the work you were already doing.

Read more: Why do so many cars have 2.0-liter turbo engines? A closer look

Let’s say you get a flat tire. Your emergency kit consists of a (properly inflated) spare tire, a jack and a lug wrench with a 12-inch handle. You line up the jack at the proper point and you’re ready to loosen those lug nuts before you put the wheel in the air, but when you stick the lug wrench on and give it a good, assertive yank, nothing happens. Uh-oh. Not enough torque.

Since we know what torque is, maybe we can work out a solution. There are only two components to this fancy math problem: force and distance. If we make one bigger, we’ll get more torque. That means we either need somebody stronger to yank on the wrench, or we need one with a longer handle.

Since you’re still not speaking to Dwayne Johnson (He knows what he did), your best option is a bigger wrench. But unless you conveniently ran over that machine screw in an auto parts store parking lot, chances are you won’t be able to make that happen. But if you’re lucky, maybe you have a length of pipe you can slip over the wrench handle to make it longer. Since your wrench handle is a foot long, the math here is easy: a two-foot pipe will give you twice the torque. Three feet? Three times. Et cetera, et cetera.


Now that you understand torque, understanding the difference between it and horsepower is much easier. Torque is that’s a very simple “can it be done?” formula. You need to move something that requires X force and you have Y foot-pounds to apply. If Y is greater than or equal to X, you can move it. Problem solved. Simple math.

Horsepower is math too, albeit slightly more complicated. That’s because horsepower cares about the rate at which you accomplish work, not just whether you can accomplish it. If torque is the answer to “can it be done?” then horsepower is the answer to “how fast can you do it?”

Read more: How do today’s new vehicles match their EPA MPG ratings?

To calculate horsepower, you multiply torque (in pound-feet) by speed (in RPM, in the case of a car) and divide the total by 5,252. Why 5,252? Because it’s a mathematical constant, as in “why are you constantly asking us questions we don’t feel like answering?” 

Let’s revisit our flat tire scenario. What happens if you don’t have something to make the wrench handle longer? You may be able to find other ways to apply force to the end of the handle. Like, by hitting it with a hammer, for instance.

Like the wrench, the hammer itself doesn’t actually make you stronger, but it allows you to more efficiently apply momentary force on the end of the wrench handle. But one hit may not be enough. You may have to hit it again and again and again to work the nut loose enough that you can use the wrench to finish the job.

Read more: Most powerful SUVs in America for 2022

Your hammer strategy didn’t apply as much torque as you would have by using a longer wrench, so it took a little longer. The rate at which you accomplished the work decreased, but you eventually got it done. This is the same basic premise behind a handheld impact gun. You’re delivering quick, powerful bursts of torque over and over again to incrementally apply leverage. 

If you had a large enough impact gun, you could use it to turn the crankshaft on your car and move it down the road, but even a hypothetical monster impact gun isn’t going to be able to move a many-thousand-pound car very quickly. It has the torque to get it going, in other words, but it lacks the horsepower to make that happen quickly. 

Fundamentally, this is how an internal combustion engine works, only you have multiple wrenches (your connecting rods) applying torque to your nut (the crankshaft) thousands of times per minute. And to take that analogy further, the crankshaft in turn (sorry) becomes a giant wrench that you’re using to turn your flywheel.

Read more: What is a CVT?

The flywheel is where an engine’s torque output is measured. Every part of your powertrain downstream of the crankshaft is just another wrench turning yet another component, and using this analogy, your transmission is basically a box of differently sized wrenches, allowing you to choose the best one for the job you’re trying to perform — hence the advantages of modern 10-speed automatics. 

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So which is better? 

There’s a saying in racing: to finish first, you must first finish. Torque is the “can it be done?” figure, so it stands to reason that it’s the most critical measurement of an engine’s potential. But if you’re in a race — whether wheel-to-wheel or against the clock — “how quickly?” is an incredibly relevant question. Neither torque nor horsepower tells the whole story. Look no further than the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 for a perfect illustration of the fact that there are numerous factors at play, such as tire choice, aerodynamics, suspension design, and (arguably most critically) gearing. But that’s a topic for another time. 

Related video:

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Americans to set July Fourth travel record: ‘We’ve never seen numbers like this’

Traffic crawls on Interstate 93 headed south out of in Boston, Wednesday, July 3, 2024, as people make their way out of the city.  (Getty Images)

NEW YORK — High fuel costs and the threat of a hurricane are not expected to dampen Americans’ desire to hit the road this summer, with vacationers preparing for record travel to kick off Fourth of July holiday festivities.

Motorist group AAA expects a record of almost 71 million people to travel around the Independence Day holiday, growth similar to a pre-pandemic trajectory.

Some 60 million people will drive with nearly 6 million flying to their destinations, while around 4.6 million people will take buses, trains or cruises during the holiday period, according to AAA’s forecast.

“We’ve never seen numbers like this,” AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said. “2024’s travel seems to be what 2020 would have been, had it not been for the pandemic,” he added.

U.S. summer travel will be closely watched from multiple fronts this year, as it could offer central bank officials and policymakers an important measure of consumer sentiment in an election year.

Inflation was unchanged in May even as consumer spending rose, boosting hopes that the U.S. Federal Reserve might be able to control inflation while avoiding a recession.

Gasoline prices have eased over the past few months, with the national average price for a gallon of motor fuel at $3.50 on Tuesday, a 3-cent decline from last year. Domestic airfare is 2% cheaper than last year, with an average domestic round trip costing $800, according to AAA booking data.

‘Wanting to travel’

Despite recent declines, fuel prices remain well above historical levels. The average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.74 during the July Fourth week in 2019, and the weekly average price from 2015 through 2019 was under $2.50 a gallon, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

Still, vacationers’ travel plans are largely unaffected by higher prices this year, according to a survey of over 1,000 people by auto retail group American Trucks.

Four-week average U.S. gasoline demand hit a one-year high of 9.2 million barrels per day (bpd) last week as retailers stockpiled ahead of the holiday, EIA data showed on Wednesday. Four-week average jet fuel demand was at 1.7 million bpd, identical to a seven-month high hit earlier in June.

“What we have noticed is that it’s more about the rate of change than the price itself that affects the psyche of consumers,” said John LaForge, head of real asset strategy at Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

Since the price of gasoline has not moved dramatically higher or lower in the past six months, consumer psyche is largely unaffected by it, LaForge said.

For now, U.S. vacation travel is unlikely to be affected by Hurricane Beryl, which has brought devastation to some Caribbean Islands since Monday, but is expected to weaken considerably as it reaches Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula by Thursday night.

U.S. fuel inventories are also better stocked than they have been in recent years, providing motorists a buffer from sudden price shocks in case the hurricane disrupts refining operations.

U.S. gasoline stockpiles stood at around 231.7 million barrels in the week ended June 28, 5.6% higher than the same time last year, EIA data showed. Jet fuel stocks were 4.7% higher than last year.

“Americans are optimistic and wanting to travel, there’s no denying it,” GasBuddy analyst Patrick De Haan said.

Ontario will suspend driver’s licenses for convicted car thieves for at least 10 years

TORONTO — Canada’s most populous province has announced it will suspend driver’s licenses for at least 10 years for those who have been convicted of stealing a car.

Ontario Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria said those convicted three times of auto theft would have their licenses suspended for life.

Penalties will increase on second and third convictions.

Sarkaria said a car is stolen every 14 minutes in Ontario, which has a population of about 15.6 million. Car thefts in the province have increased dramatically in recent years, especially in Toronto, the largest city in Canada, leaving many residents frustrated.

Authorities have said thieves target relatively new vehicles, including high-end pickup trucks and SUVs, which are then exported to markets in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America.

“Driving is a privilege, not a right. If you are shameful enough to prey on other members of the community for your own reckless gain you’ll lose that privilege,” he said.

Sarkaria said the province is also implementing stiffer penalties including a one-year license suspension for those convicted of stunt driving.

Study tries to assess average driver’s fuel cost over a lifetime

The site Go Banking Rates (GBR) attempted to figure out how much the average American driver spends on gas, per state, over the course of that driver’s decades behind the wheel. Considering the methodology, it’s probably best to look at this as a financial relationship between states regarding projected current outlay or how much drivers in each state drive on average. We’ve already got questions about what’s happening in Wyoming.

First here’s how GBR got the numbers it fed into the equation, all sourced from either government data or the American Automobile Association (AAA). It gives the average American a 61-year driving career, from 16 to 77, that number multiplied by average yearly driven miles per state. Car-wise, the average vehicle has a 13.4-gallon gas tank and gets 24.4 miles per gallon, going 329.4 gallons on a full tank. Take the average resident’s annual mileage per state, divide that by the distance traveled on a full tank, that gives the necessary number times the driver has to fill the tank every year. Since the fixed tank size is 13.4 gallons, multiply the number of full tanks by 13.4 for the required number of gallons annually, then multiply that by the average price of a gallon of gas in a state. Then multiply that by 61. Voila, large numbers.  

Using easy numbers, say a driver does 12,000 miles per year in a particular state and gets 300 miles out of every tank, that’s 40 full tanks every year. Say the tank size is 15 gallons, multiply that by 40 tanks, that’s 600 gallons. If the average price of gas in this fictional state is $3 per gallon, that’s $1,800 per year. Multiply 1,800 by 61 years of driving to get $109,800 over the course of this fictional driver’s life. The unexpected finding about this easy setup is that, according to GBR numbers, $109,800 would be the sixth-cheapest lifetime cost of gas for a U.S. resident, above Pennsylvania ($108,670), below New Jersey ($110,735). 

We aren’t clear on the specific pages where GBR got some of its numbers, such as the average tank size and average fuel economy. Of the 25 best-selling vehicles last year that have fuel tanks — so, not counting Tesla — the smallest tank size award goes to the Toyota Corolla Hybrid at 11.3 gallons, rising to 13.2 gallons for a standard model. Last year’s DOE report on 2022-model-year vehicles claimed 26.4 mpg on average for all new light-duty vehicles.

And forget about averaging the price of gas over 61 years; the average nationwide price of a gallon of gas in 1963 was 32 cents. While it’s true the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that $0.32 in 1963 is equivalent to $3.29 in today’s money, those are very different prices. Forget about getting the same mileage out of every tank, too. And diesel drivers get no seat at this table. 

What is constant is that Wyoming residents drive huge miles on average every year, so that state leads the table for the average cost of gas over a lifetime at $201,698, beating California at No. 2 by a gargantuan $34,000. Based on government data, average vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita in Wyoming in 2011 was 16,272 miles, beating Alaska residents by almost 3,000 miles per year. In 2014, Wyoming folk did 16,410 miles per year on average, beating Georgia residents by more than 3,500 miles. Three years later, Wyoming dwellers were up to 16,900 miles per year, by 2019, it was more than 24,000 miles per year. The top 10 states for lifetime gas price in the study were:

  1. Wyoming: $201,698.22
  2. California: $167,226.71
  3. Nevada: $158,450.88
  4. Georgia: $158,176.59
  5. New Mexico: $156,656.37

Head over to Go Banking Rates for the rest of the list.

Chevrolet Suburban Luggage Test: How much fits behind the third row?

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Chevrolet Suburban Luggage Test: How much fits behind the third row? originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 20 May 2024 10:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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At a New York school, Soap Box Derby racing is on the curriculum

One wouldn’t ordinarily consider the Bronx as part of the country’s racing heartland. But in the insular, yet passionate, universe that revolves around soapbox cars, these neighborhoods in the northeast part of the rugged borough have become a fulcrum for soapbox competition.

With the help of a recent New York Times story about the teens and pre-teens who build their own vehicles to compete — they hope — in July’s Soap Box Derby World Championship in Akron, Ohio, racing on four small wheels has become an ultimate quest.

Times reporter Bernard Mokam centered his piece in the parking lot of Public School 111 in the Baychester neighborhood, where one recent morning about 30 soapbox derby teams, competitive elementary and middle schoolers and their teachers, assembled to continue the chase for the championship. This year, more than 50 racers from 31 schools are competing.

The event this summer, officially known as the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship, attracts nearly 400 contestants from around the world. There are more than a hundred cities where drivers vie for the title of “local champion” and the opportunity to race in Akron on this track:

All of the local races and rallies are posted on the organization’s site here. “Race Week” in Akron runs from Sunday, July 14, to Saturday, July 20. Specific information about those days, the scheduled activities and tickets can be found here.

Racing by gravity — which is what soap boxes do — dates backs to kids tossing go-karts down hills in the 1930s. Myron Scott of the Dayton Daily News, who photographed a group of young men with their homemade rides, sensed a publicity opportunity back then and eventually convinced the Chevrolet brand to sponsor a nationwide competition.

The first All-American Soap Box Derby race was held on August 19, 1934, watched by a crowd estimated at 45,000; boys from 34 cities competed in the all-day affair. Robert Turner of Muncie, Indiana, piloting a car riding on bare metal wheels with no bearings, was crowned the first All-American Champion. In 1975, Karren Stead won the World Championship, the first of many girls who would go on to claim the title, although girls had been racing in the derby for decades.

This year marks the 86th running of the race, and kids and teens ages 7 to 20 are eligible to drive in one of three divisions, decided by age.

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Back in the Bronx, racing wasn’t just about the sport, the Times said, but was also “a manifestation of the science curriculum in District 11 — one of a handful of New York City districts that have turned to soapbox to engage pupils and ultimately get them excited about going to, and being in, school.”

Expenses can be high. Each soapbox car costs $1,800, which includes basic parts and related race fees. The schools in the Bronx also contribute to help pay for the winners’ trips to the championship race.

Following the team during a race, the Times found fifth-grader Jayden Trapp of P.S. 68, who faced off at the top of the hill against Valentina Ross. “In last year’s race,” the story said, “she lost in the final heat, missing out on a chance to represent P.S. 83 in Akron, Ohio. She was determined not to let that happen again. ‘You have this guilt built inside of you,’ said Valentina, a 13-year-old from the Morris Park neighborhood.”

Alas, it was not to be. The lights went green. “It was close, but Jayden outpaced Valentina, who said she was disappointed but not angry. Jayden’s burgundy soapbox car went on to victory, and this July, he will get a chance to race for the championship in Akron.”

Here are all the EVs with 800V charging available in 2024

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Here are all the EVs with 800V charging available in 2024 originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 31 May 2024 12:06:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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What does RPM stand for?

You notice it every time you get in the car — when you start the engine, the gauge called a tachometer tells you the RPMs. But, particularly if you don’t have a manual transmission, maybe you don’t entirely understand what that’s about, why it’s important, and you’re a little too self-conscious to ask. No worries, we’ll break it down for you here in this video. 

Transcript: What does RPM stand for? RPM stands for “revolutions per minute.” It’s a measure of how fast the engine is spinning. In general, the faster an engine spins, the more power it makes. An engine works by burning air and gas to push the pistons down. That force makes the crankshaft spin, which is what ultimately drives the wheels of the car. How much force is transmitted to the crankshaft is called torque. Horsepower is a measure of work over a period of time.

At higher RPM, the engine is burning more air and fuel. That means it makes more power and consumes more gas. The tachometer usually displays RPM in thousands. So if the tachometer is pointing to the “2,” it’s turning at 2,000 revolutions per minute. Drivers with manual transmissions use the tachometer as a reference point for when to shift. Not enough RPM could make the engine stall. Too many could hurt the engine.

The engine’s RPM limit is displayed on the tachometer as a red area known as “redline.” Exceeding this limit could cause severe engine damage. It’s generally most efficient to shift at lower RPM. Every car is different, but your owner’s manual may have guidance on efficient shift points.

These are the top 5 safest states for older drivers

It’s no secret that our bodies change when we age, making some everyday activities more difficult and dangerous. A new report from CNN Underscored Money showed that older drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash, but some states are far more hazardous than others.

The study looked at drivers aged 55 and older by comparing 17 metrics, including insurance, licensing and road safety. It found that Minnesota was the safest for those drivers, with the sixth-lowest rate of fatal crashes and the fewest pedestrian crash fatalities. The top five safest states include:

  1. Minnesota
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Hawaii
  4. Massachusetts
  5. New York

Massachusetts and New York are significantly more densely populated than the first three states on the list. Drivers in Massachusetts receive vision screenings when renewing their license after 75, and New York had the third-highest rate of insured drivers, helping them climb into the top five.

CNN noted that New England and East Coast states were the safest for older drivers, with eight of the top 10 safest coming from those areas. New England and Midwestern states had the lowest fatality rates, with Rhode Island showing the fewest fatalities and Massachusetts coming in third.

The study also looked at road safety and conditions. States in the Deep South, Southwest and West were the worst in these areas, though data for the least safe places were not included. These states lacked quality infrastructure, with more bridges and roads considered to be in poor condition per 1,000 square miles of land area. They also had higher rates of uninsured drivers and fewer age-related checks before renewing a driver’s license. Some states showed more unlicensed drivers.

While the study is interesting, it’s important to note that some of the metrics might not be directly related to driving safety. CNN looked at median incomes, and while some research has shown that lower-income areas tend to have more crashes than affluent regions, higher-income drivers have also been found to be more aggressive behind the wheel.

The average car on American roads is now 12.6 years old

Auto journalists and enthusiasts love buying new cars, but the general public isn’t as hyped about the process. A recent study from S&P Global Mobility found that the average age of vehicles on U.S. roads has continued increasing, reaching 12.6 years in 2024.

That figure, which applies to cars and light trucks, grew two months from 2023’s study. That increase has presented a prime business opportunity for aftermarket parts and service providers. S&P Global Mobility’s aftermarket practice lead, Todd Campau, said, “With average age growth, more vehicles are entering the prime range for aftermarket service, typically from six to 14 years of age. With more than 110 million vehicles in that sweet spot – reflecting nearly 38 percent of the fleet on the road – we expect continued growth in the volume of vehicles in that age range to rise to an estimated 40 percent through 2028.”

Owners holding onto their cars means fewer are heading to scrapyards, though the number of scrapped vehicles has not increased since last year. That said, two cars are scrapped for every new passenger car registration, adding up to 27 million vehicles leaving the roads since 2020 with just around 13 million new ones registered.

Even with the pace of scrapping, the number of vehicles on our roads has grown significantly since last year. As of January, there were 286 million vehicles in service, two million more than last year. The number of vehicles aged six years or less fell from 98 million in 2019 to 90 million in 2024, driven in part by pandemic-related shortages and supply chain issues.

At the same time, the number of EVs in service continues to grow, despite some prognosticators’ view that the sky is falling. There were 3.2 million EVs in operation at the beginning of this year, an increase of more than 50 percent since 2022. That said, S&P noted that the 3.5-year average age of EVs on the roads could increase in the near term as adoption slows.