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Five Pros and Cons of Self-Driving Vehicles

Is a self-driving car going to see your 67 Vette?

Will a self-driving car see your 67 Vette?

The future is now— or at least very, very near! Self-driving cars sound like an invention out of a science fiction movie, but they are in fact much closer to becoming a reality than you might think. Google, for example, has been working on an autonomous car project since 2009, and its driverless vehicles have clocked over 1.7 million miles on the road. Popular auto manufacturer Ford aims to mass-produce self-driving cars by 2021. What was once a futuristic fantasy is becoming more of a possibility with each passing year.

But are self-driving vehicles a good thing or a bad thing? While there is no certain consensus about the use of driverless cars, there are a number of arguments both for and against putting them on the roads en masse. Here are just a few of the many pros and cons of self-driving vehicles.

Self-driving Pros:

  1. No danger of human error. By running through complicated algorithms that determine stopping distance, distance from another vehicle, and other important vehicle operations, self-driving cars virtually eliminate the dangers of driving. Each year in the U.S., 5.5 million car crashes occur, resulting in 88 deaths per day. Eighty-one percent of those crashes are attributed to human error, a leading cause of which is simply distraction. Cars driven by computers, which don’t get distracted, would drastically lower the dangers presented by human drivers.
  1. Less congestion. With self-driving cars producing far less accidents, congestion on commutes could potentially be greatly lessened. In addition to less accidents clogging the roadway, all driverless vehicles would possess the ability to communicate with one another through signals, which would eliminate the need for traffic lights and frequent stops. A more synchronized driving pattern means getting to destinations faster, with less traffic headaches!
  1. Big savings for businesses. Without the need for human drivers, businesses could potentially save billions of dollars using self-driving vehicles. Because driving and speed are regulated by a computer, driverless cars— especially trucks used to transport products across the miles— will operate at their top fuel efficiency. Not only that, but driverless cars won’t need to stop for eating, sleeping, and other necessities like a human driver would, saving businesses both money and time. It’s been estimated that if only 20% of vehicles were driverless, it would result in an economic savings of $109.7 billion dollars, and in 724 million gallons of fuel savings!
  1. Better parking possibilities. Parking seems to be a problem almost any place where there are cars and people. Especially in very populated cities, the cost of parking can be exorbitant, not to mention the upkeep necessary to maintain multiple parking garage facilities and parking meters. With the help of self-driving cars, you’d no longer have to contend with parking woes; your car would drop you off at a location, and then find itself a parking spot farther away. With cars that can drive themselves until they find available parking spaces, less garage space would be needed to accommodate vehicles. Then when you’re ready to leave, your car would come right to you!
  1. More free time for humans. Think about how many minutes a day or hours per week you spend commuting to work, running errands, or otherwise traveling. Now imagine all the things you could do if even half that time was available to do as you pleased! Without the need for people to drive themselves, the time they spend in cars can now be spent on more valuable or leisurely activities like reading, watching movies, or finishing paperwork. And since driverless cars should theoretically get you to your destination faster, you also spend less time in the car each day, giving you more time for life off of the highway.

The Cons:

  1. Very expensive. Self-driving cars will require a lot more technology in order to function properly. While they sound like an awesome feat of vehicle innovation, that innovation comes with a high price tag. With the software, sensors, engineering, and computer function necessary to make a car self-driving, the current cost estimate to purchase one is over $100,000!
  1. Huge loss of jobs for drivers. In America alone, putting driverless cars on the road would mean the loss of over 5 million jobs. While businesses may see higher profits because they no longer need to employ human drivers, those drivers, making up 3% of the workforce, could fall on hard times with the loss of work. Drivers of trucks, taxis, public buses, vans, limousines, Uber, and more would see their jobs in jeopardy with the introduction of driverless vehicles.
  1. Implosion of insurance companies. While other businesses may see more money and higher savings using self-driving vehicles, one industry that would take a hit is the car insurance industry. With less risk of accidents and human error, insurance premiums would be significantly reduced— which is great for consumers but terrible for insurance companies. The personal insurance sector is estimated to shrink down by 60% of its current size within 25 years of self-driving cars hitting the market, meaning more huge job loss.
  1. Unknown fault in event of an accident. Another issue insurance companies would need to contend with is determining fault in the event of an accident. Though self-driving car accidents should be rare occurrences, even the best technology can still fail. Should an accident arise, the question becomes, who is at fault? Do you blame the car manufacturer, the owner of the car, the computer programmer, or some other party? While fault would most likely come to rest on the manufacturer, accident fault is still a gray area when it comes to driverless vehicles.
  1. Weather concerns. While driverless cars will be highly intelligent machines, one concern they may not be able to account for is adverse weather conditions. Because self-driving cars will rely on sensors to do much of their driving, they’ll be alerted to slow down in bad weather. However, if bad weather— whether heavy snow, hail, or even rain— knocks out a car’s sensors, there is currently no failsafe to prevent an accident in the face of technology failing. In addition, if a road is covered in snow, or visibility is reduced for some other reason, a self-driving car won’t be as readily able to detect its position on the roadway, resulting in a driving hazard. Bad weather conditions are one flaw in the autonomous car industry that still needs to be resolved.

Whether you hold with the pros or with the cons, it’s clear that self-driving cars are going to be a revolutionary auto development, in one way or another. What do you think about the future possibility of driverless vehicles?

Unusual Transportation Museums

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that we here at Backyard Buddy are huge fans of just about anything with an engine and wheels (or wings, or props). As we think about hitting the road in what’s left of the summer, we couldn’t avoid seeking out some of the more. . . interesting transportation collections across the United States.

If you’re reading this, there’s pretty good odds you’ve heard of the Petersen Auto Museum in Los Angeles (https://petersen.org/), the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit (https://www.thehenryford.org/visit/henry-ford-museum/), and maybe even the National Packard Museum right here in Warren Ohio (http://www.packardmuseum.org/), but this year, we’re thinking of digging deep and looking for someplace different.

Our first stop to see something unusual would be the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, TN (https://www.lanemotormuseum.org/). This museum has more than 500 unusual vehicles and features oddities like the Helicron–a wood-bodied French car that is powered by a four-foot propeller on the front of the vehicle. Other oddities include three-wheeled English BSA roadsters, a rocket-powered racer, and more post-war European micro-cars than you are likely to ever see in one place. The Museum also features a large number of foreign vehicles that were never available in the United States, and some very unusual prototype and small-production military and utility vehicles. If you can’t make it to Nashville, the Museum’s website has photos and a description of everything in their collection, and is worth spending a few minutes (or hours) to browse.

For those whose tastes are for the extremes of rugged and heavy, there’s the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation in Menlo Park, CA (http://www.mvtf.org/). The MVTF features more than 200 military vehicles from World War I, World War II and both sides of the Cold War, including tanks, personnel carriers, reconnaissance vehicles, self-propelled artillery, and various trucks, transports, and tractors. Some of the more interesting vehicles in the MVTF collection are the M8 Light Armored Car (a six-wheeled American mini-tank), the M88 Recovery Vehicle (a tow truck tank built to tow out-of-commission battle tanks), and the 2-Pounder Anti-Tank Gun Carrier (a hybrid of a tracked base with a 40mm anti-tank artillery piece mounted on its top).

The Volo Auto Museum near Chicago (http://www.volocars.com/the-attraction) takes uniqueness to the extreme, and features non-production and custom vehicles prominently in its collection. Its TV/Movie Cars exhibit includes multiple Batmobiles, KITT, Munsters cars, the Ghostbusters’ hearse, and even the Flinstones’ Flintmobile. The Bizarre Cars exhibit features a guitar-shaped dragster, a V8 barstool, and a grand piano car. If you’re looking for luxury, the Cars of the Rich and Famous exhibit has its fair share of Bentleys, Rolls Royces, and Lamborghinis. The Museum also displays monster trucks, bikes, campers, stagecoaches, tractors, and scooters. If your kids get bored (not that we think they would!), the Museum also has Disney and Warner Brothers exhibits, a vintage arcade, and a theater.

These three unique museums just scratch the surface of strange transportation collections. We know that there are few people more passionate than vehicle collectors, and they have collections of interesting vehicles in warehouses, barns, and garages across the United States.

If you’ve know a strange transportation museum or collection that you think we should feature, let us know in the comments!

As always, if you need a lift for your one-of-a-kind creation, or your millions-sold daily driver, Backyard Buddy has the best lifts you will find. Give us a call at (800) 837-9353 from 8:00 to 5:00 Eastern time so that we can help you find a solution for your unique needs.

10 of the Most American Cars in American History

The Fourth of July is right around the corner, and what better way to commemorate this patriotic event than exploring a little American history? Even better is exploring a little American automotive history! In celebration of July 4, here’s a look (in no particular order!) at 10 of the Most American Cars in American History:

Little-Red-WagonDodge Little Red Wagon: Introduced to the world in 1965, the Dodge Little Red Wagon was a drag racing vehicle known as the first wheelstanding truck. At the time it debuted, it was also the world’s fastest truck! The Little Red Wagon toured throughout the United States, performing at dragstrips and advertising for Dodge. The truck’s operator, Bill Golden, wheelied his way into the Guinness’s Book of World Records in 1977, when he drove the Little Red Wagon for a 4,230-foot wheel stand!

Army-JeepWillys MB Jeep: This U.S. Army truck makes many a list of the “Most Patriotic Cars.” Originally manufactured from 1941 to 1945, this four-wheel drive utility vehicle transported American soldiers during World War II and served as a key piece of military equipment. It’s also the predecessor to the civilian Jeep CJ, recreational four-wheel-drives, and military light utility vehicles. In 2004 and 2005, 1,000 Willy’s Special Edition Jeep Wranglers were produced and released by Chrysler.

FirebirdPontiac Firebird: This American automobile was manufactured by Pontiac from 1967 to 2002. Embodying many different versions in its lifetime, the Firebird is still an American classic that’s even been featured in classic American cinema, including Smokey and the Bandit, Starsky and Hutch, MacGyver, and ChiPS. Taking a cue from another American classic, the original Firebird model featured a “Coke bottle” body design.

MustangFord Mustang: Often a competitor of the Pontiac Firebird, the original Ford Mustang was so groundbreaking that it generated the then-brand-new term “pony car.” With ever-increasing power with each new revision, this American treasure originally cost $2,368 in 1964! The Mustang’s iconic galloping horse badge can be recognized all over the world.

CadilacCadillac Eldorado: The Cadillac Eldorado is another auto that has been featured on “Most Patriotic Cars” lists. Assembled in Michigan from 1952 to 2002, it’s a personal luxury car that spent a lot of time at the top of the Cadillac line in its early years. In 1976, Cadillac produced a special edition of just 200 cars known as “Bicentennial Eldorados.” This patriotic line was white with red accents and blue pin striping.

Charger-General-LeeDodge Charger: Originating as a roadster-style show car in 1964, the Dodge Charger is a muscle car with a name that matches its reputation. Though many models and generations of the Charger have been created, the early generations were known for speed and racing. Two iconic embodiments of the Dodge Charger in popular American culture are The General Lee, the stunt-crazy car from The Dukes of Hazzard, and Richard Petty’s red, white, and blue #43 racing car.

Big-FootBigfoot Monster Truck: Though technically not a car, this massive automobile has become an icon of the great American pastime: monster truck rallies! Debuting in 1979, the original Bigfoot was based on a 1974 Ford F250. The Bigfoot Monster Truck brought us an innovation in automotive technology with its 4x4x4 design, as well as awesome entertainment as it crushed countless cars beneath its enormous wheels.

CorvetteChevrolet Corvette: Who doesn’t love a Vette? An iconic sports car, the Corvette has been in production since 1953, having first been manufactured in Flint, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri before relocating to Kentucky. Vettes are both civilized domestic cars and powerful performers, making them a unique blend of automobile. The Corvette Stingray model has been named one of the most “Made in America” cars.

ChapparalChapparal race cars are famous for introducing inventive aerodynamic solutions to racing, including a manually-operated aerodynamic wing, spoilers, and ground effects. These autos revolutionized race car driving as we know it today. Chapparal Cars was an American automobile racing team founded by Formula One racers Hap Sharp and Jim Hall. With the help of Chevrolet and Firestone, innovator Jim Hall turned racing into an empirical science.

Model-TFord Model T: Nothing beats an American original! The Ford Model T is a car that is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, and made driving cars a common form of transportation for the middle class in America. Manufactured in Michigan from 1908 to 1927, the Ford Model T was named the most influential car of the 20th Century in the 1999 Car of the Century Competition, and has become a symbol of America’s early age of modernization.

What patriotic American car would you add to the list?

 

Working With Dad

Nobody was better with a wrench than Dad…

As we celebrate Father’s Day, we here at Backyard Buddy can’t help reminiscing about learning to work on cars with our dads, and thinking about some of the ways we can pass a love of wrenching on to our kids. A lot of us had great times working with our dads, whether it was handing him tools while he did routine maintenance on the family’s Olds 88, or him helping us keep the pile of junk that was our first car running so we could go out on a saturday night.

For a lot of us, it seems like nobody was better with a wrench than Dad, although we suspect that he thought the same thing about Grandpa. If you’d like your kids to think the same thing about you, there’s no better way than to have them help you take care of your vehicle, whether it’s the family minivan or your fully-restored 58 Vette, or for you to help them take care of theirs.

For young kids, or kids without much interest in “how things go”

Take them on a “tour” of your family’s vehicle. They’ve likely never given much thought to how a car works (Mommy or Daddy sit up front and we get where we need to go!), but if you ask them how they think a car goes, they may suddenly be very curious about how it works.

The key is to keep it simple and fun. Show them that the gas pedal makes the car go and the brake makes it stop (you can show them the clutch, but good luck explaining the transmission. There’s plenty of adults that don’t get how that works), let them turn on the wipers and the turn signals, and as long as you’re sitting in the driver’s seat, let them turn the engine on and off. For the finale, let them pop the hood (if they can) to hear the satisfying “thunk” of the release, and lift them up to look into the engine bay. If they’re still curious, you can talk with them about how the engine works and show them the major components.

Once you’ve shown them the basics, Invite them to “help” whenever you’re working on something, but be fully aware that they’re probably going to wander off or stay and ask 100 questions, so be prepared to not get much done.

For school kids

This is the classic “hold this flashlight for me. No, point it there. No THERE” age that we all survived. Unfortunately, this is not the best way to get kids to fall in love with wrenching.

Instead, try holding the flashlight for them. Give them simple tasks that you know they can manage (break a lug nut free and then let them take it all the way off, have them check the pressure on the tires, let them pour the oil in during an oil change), explain carefully what they need to do to complete it and what tools they need to use, help them if they get stuck, and encourage them when they are successful. It can take the patience of a saint, but the worst thing to do is to take over the job from them when they’re too slow, or doing something wrong. The investment in time and patience will be worth it!

When you’re working on a project, bring them over and explain what you’re trying to do (“I need to change the parts that make the car stop”) and give them a simple overview of the steps you need to take to do it, then ask them if they’d like to help. Odds are they’ll wander off in 5 minutes anyway, but it can be hard to tell what will strike a child’s curiosity. We’ve seen a first grader with no interest in cars suddenly decide that she was going to be an expert in changing out a dead brake light bulb after asking her dad what he was doing to the car, and she became a lifesafer getting into the confined space with her little hand.

Also, don’t overlook teaching them to fix their things. Instead of fixing a flat tire or squeaky brakes on their bike, work with them to help them fix it.

Like most skill building with kids, the keys are to be patient, explain things thoroughly, and let them learn from mistakes (this may not be the time for them to help with the Vette mentioned above), while celebrating their successes. They’ll have plenty of time to curse at a stuck bolt when they’re older. For now, try to keep it fun and enjoyable.

For older kids

Hopefully by now you’ve sparked an interest in wrenching, but don’t be disappointed if your teenager doesn’t want to get a junked car and rebuild it for their first car.

Many of our households had a “you drive it, you fix it” rule, and while we may not have appreciated it at the time, we learned a lot from it. Although modern cars are getting harder and harder for backyard and shade tree mechanics to repair, you can still help your kids do basic maintenance on their own vehicles. Again, be patient, but teach them how to change oil, change air filters, swap out a battery, replace dead bulbs, check tire pressure, and fix the basic little problems that come up with their car. Always be there to help, but make sure they’re the one doing the work. Even if they’ve never shown an interest before, once their ride is on the line, teens may suddenly be all ears about how to maintain and fix their car.

After all this, your kid may not end up being the type that can tear down an engine or fix anything with spit and bailing wire, but they will at least know the basics of working with their hands to take care of their own vehicle. That’s a Father’s Day gift for all of us.

As always, we’re here to help you work on your vehicles with lifts and accessories that even the youngest mechanic can appreciate. Give us a call at (800) 837-9353 from 8:00 to 5:00 Eastern time so that we can help you find a lift that your kids are likely to inherit.

Great vintage garage. Coll old parts and tools

6 Steps to Spring-Cleaning Your Garage

 

Spring is in full swing, with summer just around the corner.  Have you done all your spring-cleaning yet? One area of your home that might not get the overhaul it really needs is the garage. From camping equipment to trashcans to toolboxes, the garage can be a black hole of stuff that stacks up throughout the year.  If your car spends the night in the driveway or your have to clear a walking path through boxes of Christmas decorations, it’s time to spring-clean your garage.  Before the weather gets too hot, try these six spring-cleaning steps to clear out the clutter and make your garage useful again.

Take it all out. ALL of it.

If your garage is overrun with clutter— from garden tools to car accessories to kids’ toys— shifting your mess from the garage to the driveway can help you get started with a clean slate.  It may seem counterproductive to just move the clutter from the garage to the front lawn, but emptying the garage is helpful because: 1) it gives you more room to sort and organize, and 2) you can survey the space you have available, so you can plan your organization strategy. It also helps to start grouping things together as you remove them. Are your fishing poles tangled with the rakes? Are the flowerpots encroaching on the paint cans? Placing alike items together makes them easily accessible when you begin re-stocking the garage.

Get rid of what you don’t need.

According to This Old House, organizing professionals estimate that only 30% of people actually store their car in their garage! Why do the rest of the 70% park elsewhere? Too much stuff stuffed into the garage. When it comes to what should be stored in your garage, stick to things that you want to use over things you just want to keep. (Use the basement or attic for keepsakes!)  After you’ve moved your garage contents to the lawn, look over everything and get rid of the things you don’t need. A good rule of thumb is to toss anything you haven’t used in at least two years, and of course anything that just doesn’t work anymore. Bonus: since everything you’re getting rid of is already outside, plan a yard sale for some extra cash!

Get in the zone(s).

Once you’ve cut your clutter down to size, don’t immediately start packing everything back into the garage.  Here’s where a little tactical thinking can help make your garage more functional and organized.  With your remaining garage contents, separate your garage space into zones. A tool zone, a gardening zone, a sports equipment zone, a workspace zone— group together alike items in the same location for easy access, so you never have to look for your wrenches in the garden trowels ever again. Don’t forget the most important zone— the auto zone. With less stuff and a strategic floor plan, you can join the 30% who can fit their car into their garage!

Build storage up and out.

If you don’t have enough storage in your garage, there are a few quick additions you can make to maximize your newly zoned layout. Utilizing shelves and tall cabinets along the walls provides ample room to store smaller items and bins. Hooks and pegboard on the wall offer a way to neatly store tools, cables, and other items you want to keep readily available. A workbench that folds out of the wall gives you useable space that you can easily fold away when not in use. With a little handy work, it’s also possible to use what would otherwise be dead ceiling space for storage, with a system of sliding overhead bin caddies. As a final touch, break out the label maker and get all your bins and boxes labeled to quickly identify the contents.  Make a weekend project out of overhauling your garage space, and you’ll have a more efficient, manageable workspace slash garage

Put everything on wheels.

An ingenious organization tip from Popular Mechanics is “Everything on wheels!” If you routinely work in your garage, adding wheels to your equipment allows you to easily maneuver around, and re-organize as needed depending on your latest project.  Put caster wheels on your cabinets, chairs, benches, drill presses, and more to quickly move things around and— the ultimate goal— make more room for your car.

Buy a car lift for your garage!

Another way to maximize the available space in your garage is by installing a car lift! Whether you want to keep your classic car and your everyday autos in the same garage, or you have smaller vehicles to get out of the way when not in use, a car lift is a beneficial investment.  A car lift affords extended storage space, instantly doubling your storage capacity from one space into two. If you frequently work on your automobiles, you’ll also gain more access to work on your vehicles and in your garage.  A garage car lift like those from Backyard Buddy should be durable and versatile to safely store all kinds of vehicles.  In addition to cars, you can use a BYB lift to store trucks, ATVs, motorcycles, boat trailers, snowmobiles, and more.  Take advantage of the vertical space available, and create more possibilities to work within your garage with a freestanding residential car lift.

If your garage has accumulated enough junk to be the subject of an episode of Hoarders, it may seem like an arduous task to try getting the mess under control.  But starting with a plan to tackle this spring-cleaning project is the key to making your garage an organized workspace again. Take everything out, get rid of nonessentials, and then plan your strategy to organize and store your stuff.  For extra organization, try adding wheels to make equipment mobile, and install a car lift to optimize your available space.   With a little elbow grease, these six steps to spring-cleaning your garage will get rid of the clutter once and for all— and get your car back in its proper place!

Racing Time

One of our favorite parts of summer is laying on the couch on a warm Sunday and dozing off to the roar of the engines and the excitement in Darrell Waltrip’s voice with NASCAR on the TV. Somehow, we always end up dreaming about racing one of our own cars.

If you’ve ever had the same dream and want to do something about it, there are a lot of ways for you to test your mettle behind the wheel, no matter what you drive.

The easiest way to start is to find a local autocross event, usually offered under the auspices of the Sports Car Club of America (https://www.scca.com). You’re probably not going to be competitive in a bone stock Cruz, but if you’ve got a valid driver’s license, a helmet, and are OK risking knocking over some orange cones, you’re good to go. Since you’re only racing against the clock, any danger is minimized, and courses are  usually set up in large, empty parking lots with a big safety margin in mind. All you need to do to get started is find an event near you: https://www.scca.com/pages/find-your-fun.

The best part is that a day of racing is usually around $50, although that may be the most expensive $50 you ever spend, because you’ll want to make some improvements to your car for the next race (or start eying a new Ford Focus RS). Autocross classes run the spectrum from factory stock through various bolt-on modifications, to cars built specifically for autocross, so there is a class to match your level of interest, finances, and skill.

If you like your fun a little more on the dirty side, SCCA also holds timed solo dirt track rallycross racing. Just like in autocross, the tracks are set up on flat ground with safety in mind, and are open to stock daily drivers as well as cars with slight modifications (studded tires, custom suspensions), and custom rally racers.

Once you’ve got a little more confidence, the SCCA also offers head-to-head racing, although this requires a larger investment of time and money. You’ll need to be an SCCA member, pass a physical, and earn a racing license from a certified driver school event. You’ll also need a proper racing suit and other equipment, and will want to bring a friend or two that know how to wrench to be your pit crew. At this point, to be competitive you’ll need a dedicated car that has been modified to meet race rules (available here: https://www.scca.com/pages/cars-and-rules).

SCCA also offers special classes and races for vintage cars, karts (a great way to start kids in racing), and even custom built college team cars, although these can be harder to find.

Of course, if you’re more into pure muscle, there’s also amateur drag racing. You COULD pull up next to someone at a stoplight and give them the traditional rev and nod, but that tends to get expensive once the blue lights start flashing. Instead, if you’ve got a local race track, you’ve probably got an opportunity to see what your car can do in a quarter mile. While there is not a single organizing body like SCCA for drag racing, most local tracks offer an amateur race, and there is almost always an entry class requiring little more than a working seat belt and a helmet.

Since we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t mention it, if you start racing and inevitably need to upgrade your car to compete, don’t forget to upgrade your garage with one of our Backyard Buddy lifts. As always, we are here at (800) 837-9353 from 8:00 to 5:00 Eastern time to help you find the lift that meets your needs. See you on the track!

5 Things to Consider When Buying the Best Car Lift

Buying a new car lift is not exactly as exciting as a buying a new car. However, picking the best car lift is nearly as important as picking the car you’re going to put on it.  There is nothing worse than thinking you’ve picked a quality product, only to learn later that it is substandard in design and, crucially, safety.

But with so many companies and brands of auto lifts to choose from, making the right choice for your auto needs can be difficult.  It’s necessary to understand the differences between lift designs, and make decisions based on the quality of the lift and its manufacturer.  Just like a car, if you want find out how well your auto lift will function, you need to “pop the hood”!  Whether you’re a mechanic working in a full-scale garage or a car collector who needs a car lift for the home garage, you’ll want to consider these 5 things to buy the best car lift:

Car Lift Column and Lock Design

The Column and Lock design is one of the most important things to consider as relates to the safety of your auto lift.  The leg and slider combo of a lift determines its rigidity— will it wobble, or will it stand firm under the pressure of your vehicle? To know for sure, all you really need to consider is whether the column and lock is designed as an “inside plastic slider” or an “outside steel sleeve.” The inside plastic slider is the design to avoid! These designs have a smaller plastic material block that rides inside an open-sided, bent thin gauge leg, to keep the sliders and lock inside the leg. Unfortunately, this means the legs can also pivot and wobble where the sliders meet the leg. On the other hand, outside steel slider joints are engineered much differently, because they use steel tubing to wrap around the outside of the leg instead of plastic blocks on the inside. Steel equals rigidity! An outside steel slider creates a solid joint that eliminates wobble and keeps your vehicle secure.

Power Unit

Picture this: you push the button on your lift to engage the power unit, and begin lifting your classic car. You’re approaching the garage ceiling, and it’s time to shut off the power. But instead of stopping, the motor keeps running— and your car keeps rising. In a matter of seconds, you’ve turned your classic into a crunch of scrap metal. How could this happen? Probably because your lift’s power unit came from an overseas distributor whose power units are prone to failure. A lot of Chinese units pull upwards of 30 amps, and only offer a 90-day warranty on the life of the power unit. You’re probably planning to own your auto lift for more than 90 days… so you should have a power unit that is also designed to last for much longer.  Before making a lift purchase, do some digging to find out where the power unit has been constructed. For companies like us at Backyard Buddy, American-made power units (and our 5-year warranty) are the standard put into all our auto lifts.

Construction

What kind of stuff is your lift made of?  From the cables to the lock linkage to the shape and material of the metal, how your auto lift is constructed will speak to its quality and safety.  In considering cables, a respectable rule of thumb is: if you cannot see cable coming out of the lift’s threaded end cable, they aren’t good cables.  Good cables have flexibility, strength, and intelligent design. Since cables are responsible for hoisting the weight of your car, these are three vital components you want your cables to possess!  Lock linkage is another little detail that will give you a good indication of a lift’s quality, but it’s also one of the most underrated. Steel rods that are 3/8 inch, with precision rod ends, offer positive locking and a smooth quality feel. This kind of rod engages properly so your lift locks every time. In contrast, cheaply-made lifts usually use 1/4 inch rods with cheap ends; these rods can bend and fail to activate the locking mechanism on a lift— a safety hazard waiting to happen. Don’t overlook those little details! Finally, what metal makes up your lift determines the lift’s durability.  American-made steel lift frames have been proven to outlast foreign steel, and be much stronger, because they lack the impurities that make “off-shore” steel difficult to weld properly.

Functionality

No matter what you intend to use your lift for— working on your car, storing multiple cars, conserving space in the garage— you want a lift that has functionality within its space, and also compatibility with accessories that can increase lift functions.  For example, if you’re a city dweller, where real estate is limited and storage is expensive, a residential car lift should afford you an increase in storage by stacking two vehicles safely on top of each other (so
you’ve got room for the minivan and the Maserati!). But what else can your lift do? Being able to add accessories, like hard rubber casters, increase functionality by making that auto lift easy to move around your space, so you can work in or organize your garage efficiently.  The more customizable the lift, the better it’ll suit your lifestyle.

Warranty

As mentioned earlier, you’re probably planning to own your car lift for a long time. Which means it needs to maintain working order for a long time.  Any distributor that has a warranty full of caveats and asterisks, or a “ship and wait policy,” should automatically raise a red flag.  An auto lift that offers a free, no-questions-asked policy, or has an extended warranty period, is going to give you the best (and most long-lasting) bang for your buck.  For example, at Backyard Buddy, we offer a warranty of 5 years top to bottom, with no fine print to wade through.  Extended warranties are also available at the time of lift purchase.  When buying your lift, always ask about the warranty!

Once you’ve considered these 5 things while buying a car lift— column and lock design, power unit, construction, functionality, and warranty— you’ll be on the right track to choosing the best lift to fit your needs and your life.  When it comes to car lifts, you truly get what you pay for. Considering the key elements that go into an auto lift, from the initial construction to the after-purchase warranty, will help you determine what is worth the most— a lift’s price, or its value? When you’re driving your car, you want that car to be safe, reliable, and maybe a little bit impressive. You should expect the same from your car lift!

Backyard Buddy’s Easy-Access Rolling Jack System

Easy-access rolling jack stand system

Easy-Access

We love telling you all about our Backyard Buddy four-post lifts and all of the ways they can make your life easier, but did you know that our lifts have a little brother than can also help you out, either by itself or used as a space saver with one of our lifts?

Backyard Buddy’s Easy-Access

gives you all the portability of jack stands with the durability, safety, and ease of movement that you’d expect from our full-sized lifts. This two-piece system unobtrusively slides under your vehicle and can be placed just about anywhere you can lift with a floor jack.

With a variety of different stands, pads, and bars, the adjustable Easy-Access can be used to hold a frame, body, or complete car, and can hold a vehicle more than 2 feet off the ground for easy access. This gives you enough room to work underneath your project on a creeper, while also saving your back when working from above.

Easy-Access is also stable and strong enough to be used as a dolly for a partial build or a full vehicle. You can easily roll your project around the shop on Easy Access’ heavy-duty casters, allowing you do things like move it outside for dirty jobs, or even stash your project under a car on a four-post Backyard Buddy lift when you’re not working on it.

Just like our full-sized lifts, Easy-Access uses American certified structural steel, making it strong enough to hold 6,000 pounds and stable enough to roll even the heaviest load on its casters. Its tough powder coated finish will take just about anything you can dish out, and provides excellent resistance to damage and rust.

One of the best parts about Easy-Access is that when you’re done with it, it’s small enough to fit under a workbench until it’s needed again. And just like all of our products, it’s proudly made in the USA by American workers.

To learn more about Easy Access, check out its page on our site: http://www.backyardbuddy.com/backyard-buddy-easy-access.html. To watch a video of Sam Memmolo from Sam’s Garage demonstrating Easy-Access, click here: https://youtu.be/Xg6BXPvv7qI?t=261

As always we’re happy to show off any of our products in our showroom in Warren, Ohio, or to help you find the best product to fit your needs any time during business hours at (800) 837-9353.

Classics & Modern Cars — there’s more to it than meets the eye.

What drives a person to want to invest in American Classics? (Pun intended.)

There has been much discussion over the decades amongst car collectors, forum debaters, and  salesmen within the auto industry on the pros and cons of buying “American.” Depending on the product, angle of presentation and/or a person’s prejudices, answers may vary.
Regardless the angle or opinions you may have that has shaped your perspective on these cars, history tells a story that is worth repeating.

They have and continue to hold a unique place in the heart of car buyers for many reasons and patriotism isn’t their main incentive. While there isn’t one simple answer to this, a combination of factors play a part and some may surprise you!

A classic car has a story

A classic car has a story and for many, when they encounter a classic, history speaks: engine sounds, hand-crafted auto parts, genuine leather, uniqueness and style unparalleled by modern-day car finds. Before assembly lines and robots, cars were treasured and parts were thoughtfully and carefully made by hand. Designers and craftsmen were not hindered by constraints such as crash tests or aerodynamic drag coefficients. Instead, they were free to explore and reflect current trends and culture, delivering desirable and memorable treasures that could stand, and have stood, the test of time.

Mechanically, modern cars are quite different when it comes to car control and operation. Modern engines are now a sealed unit with components that are usually unserviceable by the average person. Advancements in technology have influenced car designers to embrace electrical systems that can now control steering, clutch usage, torque vectoring, and more.
While these systems seem to offer improvements on efficiency and safety, car character and uniqueness are really lacking. Older machines are intricate mechanical systems that function not off of pre-calculated driver aids installed within an electronic-brain, but in harmony with thousands of individual parts tuned to work together and dependent upon direct input from the driver. Today’s modern vehicle just can’t compete with this type of authentic driving experience.

One thing is for sure, getting a new car serviced can sometimes make you want to pull your hair out with the amount of money it can take to fix a problem! Take changing a fuel pump for example. What takes one person thirty minutes of work on a 1955 Chevrolet and $45 in parts might take multiple people and a lot more time to do on a 2006 Saturn. A complete assembly would be required because the gas-gauge sending unit is built-in and the fuel pump is located inside the gas tank which would have to be emptied and dropped in order to get to! The times have changed the way we take care of our cars and now due to complex engineering and electronic systems we usually have to pay someone else to get the job done.

Classic cars

Classic cars offer the driver and admirer personal experience, unique style, and an appreciation for true craftsmanship. All of which is hard to find in most modern cars manufactured by robots and in assembly lines for fast reproduction and quick money. While modern cars are safer, faster, more dependable, and more economical than the cars of the past, many classics have stood the test of time and have lived to tell about it, making car owners proud on many levels.
Your grand kids’ “classic car” will be a lot different than the ones in your Backyard Buddy Lift today. Soon the Chevrolet Stingray, will rest in your grandson’s garage taking the place of your 1969 Boss 429 Mustang, and it will be his most prized possession.

So when it comes to comparing classics and modern cars, you can see that “there’s more to it than meets the eye.”    Investing in or having a special interest in Classics goes beyond what many would say is a hobby. It’s a coveted experience that keeps driving us towards them and leaving us in awe of a different era and timeless memories packaged in steel, leather, and sounds.

Car Collection displayed on Backyard Buddy lifts

This classic car collector trusts Backyard Buddy

Most Underappreciated Classics to Consider This Spring

Spring is in the air, and if you’re like us, this is the time when a young (or not so young) man’s thoughts turn to buying a classic car to work on this summer.

We know that not everyone has a Shelby GT budget (or even a kit car Shelby budget), so we wanted to talk about some cars that get you a lot of oomph without draining your wallet. We’ve got to thank the folks over at Hagerty’s classic car insurance for their classic car valuation tool, which handled the numbers part of this list.

Some of their most undervalued classics are:

•    First Generation Mazda Miata (1989-97- $5,000): If you aren’t fooled by its reputation for cuteness (and don’t mind always having the top down if you’re over 6’2”), it’s hard to beat this little convertible. With tens of thousands still on the road 20 years after the original line was ended, you can still fix one fairly easily.
•    C5 Chevy Corvette (1997-2004- $15,000): Thanks to depreciation, it’s possible to own a Corvette for less than you’d pay for the most stripped down new econo-box. They’ve got some years on them now, but Corvettes are some of the most pampered cars on the road, so you’re likely to find a C5 model in great shape.
•    Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe (1984-88- $6.000): Even though it’s from the 80s, the T-bird Turbo Coupe feels like the child of a 1960s American muscle car and a European performance sedan, and was Motor Trend’s car of the year in 1987. 30 years later, these are a bit hard to find, but still fun to drive.
•    Porsche 914 (1969-1976- $12,000): While not a powerhouse like a modern 911, the 914 is often considered the pinnacle of lightweight, low-power design where the fun comes from nimbleness, not raw power. With a choice of a flat-four or flat-six air cooled engine and a distinctive body, it should come as no surprise that the 914 was designed as the replacement for Volkswagen’s iconic Karmann Ghia.
•    Studebaker Avanti (1962-1963- $20,000): The rarest car on this list, the Avanti was the swan song for a venerable American car maker. While it never captured the public imagination, the Avanti featured an innovative fiberglass body with looks that were 20 years ahead of their time, and a 240hp V8 that gave it plenty of muscle. If you can find one of the roughly 6,000 made, buy it and be the only guy you know who has one.
•    Volkswagen Corrado VR6 (1992-1995- under $5,000): Originally designed as a replacement for the Porsche 944, the Corrado VR6 packed nearly 200 horsepower into a sporty 2,800 pound car with German handling. If you can find one that hasn’t been destroyed by a teenage boy, and don’t mind the mysteries of VW electrical systems, you can get a lot of speed for a tiny bit of cash.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. If you do your homework and can be happy with a more obscure car, there are still plenty of deals to be had, particularly in late-classic-era cars (full sized convertibles from the late 60s to the mid 70s are a steal, especially if you know how to fix a top), oddball pickups and work trucks, cousins of classics (a ‘67 Mercury Cougar GT is thousands less than a comparable Mustang, but has almost the exact same specs), and professional cars (what’s cooler than tooling around in a late 60s station wagon turned ambulance?).

And remember, a Backyard Buddy lift can help you double the space in your garage while giving you a great platform to easily work on your new find. Give us a call and then get out there and look for your next treasure