Get Ready for Winter Driving With These Helpful Tips

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Community, News | Posted on 25-10-2011

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Now is the time to start preparing your car for the upcoming winter driving season. Believe it or not, most of the problems we have with our cars in the winter are caused by the heat of the summer. Don’t wait until the weather turns bitterly cold to get your car ready.

Here are some basic but essential things to check to make sure your car is ready for whatever the elements throw at it:

TIRES Your tires are arguably the most important components of your car when it comes to winter driving. Tires in good condition will help you get going in the snow, but more importantly will help you stop when it is slippery, allowing you to avoid obstacles and maintain steering as much as possible. Tests have shown that on a wet driving surface, tires that are new will stop 20% shorter than tires that are half worn. This is an important consideration when deciding if your tires are safe going into the winter. Your tires should be checked for tread depth and pressure, and for any uneven wear. The general rule of thumb is that for safe winter driving you need to have 5/32” or more tread remaining. The tread should be worn evenly across the three tread grooves. The pressure should be at what the vehicle manufacturer recommends for the car, which is listed on a label either inside the driver door jamb or possibly in the glove compartment. The tire pressure “max” listed on the sidewall of the tire is what the maximum amount of air the tire can hold, but is not what is recommended for the proper and safe handling of your particular car. In cold weather, tires tend to lose air pressure more quickly than in warm weather so it is important to check the pressure and adjust more frequently. It is generally not enough to have them checked just when your car is being serviced. Check them at least once a month.

WIPERS Check the rubber part of your wiper blade for tears or nicks in the rubber and replace them if there are any. Make sure the wipers are making good contact with the glass and not leaving any streaks. Also check your washer fluid; keep the reservoir full of solvent that is good to at least 0 degrees. Test them to make sure they spray all over the windshield.

ENGINE COOLANT Your engine coolant should be clean and test to at least -30F. It should be changed at the interval the manufacturer recommends. Coolant may test ok as far as antifreeze strength but start breaking down and lose its rust inhibiting qualities so it is very important to change it when recommended. The radiator and hoses should be checked for leaks.

BATTERY The heat of summer is harder on a battery than the cold of winter, but it is when it is cold that a bad battery is likely to keep your car from starting. Check the battery terminal connections for tightness, and make sure there is no corrosion buildup on the terminals. Have the battery tested for load strength. Most batteries in cold climates are at their best for about 5 years. If you don’t drive your car frequently in the winter, or are storing it while you are away, consider adding a battery tender. This is a small charger that will charge your battery when it detects the charge is getting depleted. The battery should stay ready for you to start when you need it.

OTHER BASIC MAINTENANCE Make sure you are up-to-date with oil changes. Air filters for the engine and ventilation systems should be checked and replaced if needed. Spark plugs should be changed at the manufacturer recommended interval. Clean oil and good spark plugs will help the car start in the coldest weather. Make sure all of your headlights and tail lights are working because visibility tends to be worse in the winter.

EMERGENCY KIT Being prepared is the best way to stay safe when you are travelling in the winter. These items are important to have with you in case of an emergency:

  • A fully charged cell phone
  • Jumper cables
  • A small shovel
  • A blanket
  • Cat litter for traction
  • Large plastic trash bags (to kneel on in snow or as rain protection)
  • Ice scraper/snow brush
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Extra hats and mittens for occupants

OTHER GADGETS Some people like to get into a warm car in the winter. Remote starters have become very popular so you can warm your car up before you get in. That also works in the summer for air conditioning. Also, for very cold areas where vehicles have to be parked outside, block heaters are available. Most are designed to keep the engine coolant warm so you get warm coolant circulating for your heater more quickly. Others will warm the engine oil up so it circulates more easily when it is cold.

OTHER WINTER DRIVING TIPS Let’s start with the obvious: If the weather is bad and you don’t need to go out, don’t! Check the weather services, and the DOT websites, for any road closings or travel advisories for the area you are travelling before you go. When it is below zero, it is good to let your car warm up, but don’t let it idle too long. Let it run long enough to clear the frost off the windows, and then start driving, slower speeds if possible, to get the fluids circulating. The heater will warm up faster this way. Wash the sand and salt off of your car when it is warm enough to do so. Typically if it over 20 degrees your locks won’t freeze if you wash the car. Make sure the underside gets flushed out, too, so the salt isn’t chewing on your chassis! Most cars now have anti-lock brakes and traction control/ stability control systems to help you maintain control on slippery surfaces. They tend to make a lot of noise, so don’t be surprised to hear a grinding noise from the wheels if you are braking or taking off on a slick surface. It is normal, keep your foot on the brake and let the system do its job. If these things are new to you, find a quiet parking lot to try them out and get used to them. Then you won’t be alarmed in a panic stop situation. Following these basic tips will help you weather the winter driving season more safely and with fewer trips to the shop. But like I said before: don’t wait for the cold weather to strike; get ready now!

A short video discussing all of the winterization techniques:

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The All New 2012 Toyota Camry

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in News | Posted on 24-08-2011

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That’s right! Toyota released the 2012 Toyota Camry yesterday to much fanfare and it looks to be a major contender!

Check out this video:

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Toyota ranked as world’s greenest company!

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Community, Hybrids, News | Posted on 01-08-2011

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This just in from, “You might not be surprised to see Toyota, the Japanese automaker behind the pioneering Prius hybrid, rank amongst the most environmentally conscious car manufacturers.

But a recent study by brand monitoring company Interbrand found the company to be the world’s greenest brand overall, besting multinational corporations like 3M, Siemens, and Johnson & Johnson.”

For more information visit:

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Expanding Prius Family Amps Toyota

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Hybrids, News | Posted on 07-07-2011

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Any way you look at it, Toyota hasn’t exactly been riding the fortuitous train of late.  In a normal world the automaker would not have to deal with earthquakes and tsunamis crippling cities and disrupting power in Japan.  Not a company to rest on past accomplishments, Toyota is working day and night to get production up and in order.  Eight of Toyota’s North American-built models are already at 100 percent production.  Global output is expected to get back to normal levels by October. After September Toyota will shift focus to making-up lost production as much as possible.

While Toyota has worked tirelessly to recover operations it has also been pursuing the company’s established long-term growth strategy.  That includes developing fuel cell and electric cars, the next generation Prius as well as rolling out new compact and hybrid models within the Prius extended family.

This past May, Toyota launched the Prius ‘a’ or Prius Alpha in Japan, a sort of bigger, roomier minivan-ish Prius.  The orders poured in.  In the first month Toyota received 52,000 orders for the Alpha.  Last month Toyota sold 19,429 Prius vehicles in Japan where it has been perennially the best seller nationally.  Toyota seems to be getting their groove back.  Now Toyota has a good problem – delivering.  When earlier models of the Prius were released, buyers queued up on waiting lists for their prized Prius.  This was especially common in 2005 and 2006 when waiting lists deferred Prius gratification for most hand raisers.  Admittedly, it is a good problem to have and Toyota is prepared for it.

The North American version of the Prius Alpha will be called the Prius v (for versatile) and will be available around mid-October of this year.  The Prius v will have SUV-like cargo capacity, nearly 60% more than the current Prius.  There are 39 inches between the insides of the wheel wells, enough to accommodate dog carriers or whatever can be slid in through the tail gate.  The Prius v adds three inches of wheelbase, six inches of overall length, three inches of height and an inch of width compared with the venerable, standard Prius.  Every body panel on the 2012 Prius v is different from the standard Prius, yet it is un-mistakenly a Prius.  It drives and handles like a ‘regular ‘ Prius despite the longer wheel base.  The Prius v employs the same hybrid system as the parent Prius yet, it delivers EPA fuel economy ratings of 42 mpg combined even with the extra size.  Toyota expects that the Prius v will expand the market for potential Prius customers by up to 20 percent.  If you like the Prius and the only thing that held you back from owning one was the cargo space well,  the Prius v is your hybrid .

The second Prius sibling to be added to the line-up, the so-called ‘baby’ Prius or Prius c is headed to production.  Expect to see the Prius c (for ‘compact’ or ‘city’) by early 2012.  The compact Prius hatchback is intended to be a city-friendly vehicle that Toyota believes will be the most fuel-efficient hybrid on the market.  It will be about 20 inches shorter than the standard Prius (about 6 inches longer than the current Yaris) and employ Toyota’s new THSII hybrid system.  Target pricing for the Prius c is expected to be around the $20,000 mark.

Other advanced vehicles arriving from Toyota in 2012 will definitely require a plug-in.  It’s no surprise that one of these advanced technology vehicles from Toyota is a plug-in version of the popular Prius.  The car will have an all-electric range of 14 miles which according to Toyota is plenty of juice for most city drivers.  Once the ‘charge depleting’ portion of the PHEV Prius battery pack runs out, it just gets plugged in again.  For longer trips, the car reverts back to operating as a conventional Prius by utilizing ‘charge sustaining’ technology for regeneration.

The production version of the PHEV Prius will have a selectable EV driving mode that will be useful for trips longer than simple city driving.  This allows the driver to conserve energy for electric-only junkets.  A button will allow the driver to turn the EV mode on or off.  The production version of the PHEV Prius can also take advantage of regenerative energy to recharge the complete battery pack just like the run-of-the-mill Prius to extend the time the car can spend in EV mode.  This is an important distinction because the Prius Plug-in prototype did not allow full recharging of the whole battery pack – only the third of the pack that mimicked a regular Prius would recharge.  Now, the car’s regenerative mode will reportedly have the ability of full pack charging.  The price of the Prius Plug-in will be only a little more than a conventional Prius making it more in line with a mainstream car.

Speaking of plugging-in, Toyota is also planning to release two all-electric vehicles (EVs) for 2012.  The announcement that the RAV4 EV is destined to be reborn has generated the most ‘buzz’.  As anyone who has seen the 2006 documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car? knows the original RAV4 EV already had plenty of hard-core followers in the mid 1990s.  Toyota made the electric RAV4 from 1997 to 2003 building 1,484 of them before pulling the program’s plug after California changed its rules on the zero-emissions mandate.  Their drivers tended to be a devoted group.  They would brag about the car’s minimal maintenance and dependability, saying it was a great car for daily commutes and weekend grocery runs.  In other words — it was an ideal car for urban driving.

Last year Toyota bought a stake in Silicon Valley startup Tesla Motors and immediately announced a joint venture to produce the second-generation RAV4 EV.  The re-incarnation of the RAV4 EV is a ‘no brainer’ for Toyota.  The new vehicle will have the same luggage capacity and performance similar to the gas-powered version.  The all-electric drive-train will be powered by inductive electric motors developed by Tesla.  The Panasonic-developed lithium battery will be located underneath the vehicle so as to not interfere with cargo capacity, thereby lowering the center of gravity and improving the handling over the gas-driven RAV4.  The RAV4 EV will have a range of 100 miles per charge and should be a big hit with drivers who require a more rugged vehicle with more cargo space.

At a recent dealer meeting held by Toyota in Las Vegas the company confirmed that the Prius v, c, the Plug-in Prius and the RAV 4 EV were all coming to dealerships next year.  But, the confirmation that an electric Scion iQ was also on it’s way to US dealers next year was a bit of a surprise.  The iQ is an electrified minicar with a range of 50 to 60 miles between charges.  Like the RAV 4 EV, the Scion iQ’s batteries will be located underneath the vehicle for improved handling and so they will not interfere with the car’s 3+1 layout.

The rollout of all these new advanced technology vehicles next year realizes a large part of Toyota’s ambitious expansion of the ‘green car’ market.  That’s just the start of it, next year Toyota will introduce an all-new 2012 Camry Hybrid that has been re-designed inside and out with improved technology, performance and a more refined ride.

Within the next few years Toyota is planning to launch a hybrid version of the Venza and quite likely a hybrid sports car.  To celebrate the expansion of the Prius brand Toyota plans to launch the next-gen Prius sometime in 2014.  Toyota is committed to putting a fuel cell vehicle on the road by 2015.  Furthermore, the automaker is continuously researching next-generation batteries, as well as materials to help make vehicles lighter, safe, earth-friendly and more efficient.  The company that revolutionized the auto market with the introduction of the Prius hybrid 14 years ago will continue to do the same with electrics, fuel cells and beyond.

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Welcome to Think Smart, the Official Blog of Smart Motors Toyota/Scion – Madison, WI!

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in News | Posted on 25-06-2011

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Welcome to our very first blog site. We will be posting lots of great information here about Smart Motors, Toyota, Madison, WI and much much more. Please take a moment to subscribe to the site or follow us on Twitter @smarttoyota or like us on Facebook. This blog will contain information for both our Toyota and Scion stores. If you are looking for Scion specific infomation you can follow us on Twitter @smartscion or Facebook.

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