From Headlights to Taillights: Towing the Line

By Mark Kozemko, Johnson College’s Automotive Technology Program Director

Original published in the August 27, 2021 edition of the Valley Advantage.

https://www.thevalleyadvantage.com/community-columns/from-headlights-to-taillights-towing-the-line/article_05518445-349e-5a52-af84-19709c71143e.html

Summertime is not only about vacation time. It’s also about summer fun. By that, I mean camping, boating, jet skiing, and the like, all of which include towing something with your vehicle.

Over the last few weeks, a few readers submitted questions about towing, so I thought we’d answer a few this month.

Our first question is, “I want to buy a boat, but I’m not sure if my vehicle will tow it. Will I have to purchase a truck or other vehicle to get my new boat to the lake?”

It’s a great question. Most people I know who tow something have a truck to pull whatever they’re hauling.

A truck or large vehicle is not always necessary, and here’s why. The first thing you need to know is the camper weight or the weight of the boat with a trailer, jet ski(s) with a trailer, or whatever you’re towing. Usually, the information is on the vessel you’re planning to pull. The camper will have only one weight to consider, but the other towable items will have their weight plus the trailer weight. The total weight of the item and its trailer, if necessary, is called the Gross Combined Weight Rating, or GCWR.

The next thing you need to know is your vehicle’s towing capacity. Your car or truck manufacturer determines the towing capacity and lists this information in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. Of course, you can always Google your year, make and model to find this information, too.

Here are a few examples of towing capacity from https://auto.howstuffworks.com/. A 2009 Toyota Camry can tow a maximum of 1,000 pounds while a 2009 Toyota 4Runner can tow a maximum of 5,000 pounds. A 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 can tow a maximum of 3,800 pounds, and a 2009 Dodge Ram 3500 can tow up to 12,300 pounds.

As you can see from the examples, your current vehicle may be enough to get you — and your summer fun vessel — to your destination with no problems. Just remember, never exceed your vehicle’s maximum towing capacity. Doing so can cause significant damage to your vehicle’s engine or transmission.

“What is tongue weight?” is our second question.

Tongue weight is the weight put on the hitch at the connection of the trailer to the vehicle. A vehicle suspension is designed to carry a certain amount of weight. The weight is mainly made up of the vehicle itself, but the suspension can take additional weight when towing. The car or truck, and a specific hitch class, can carry a certain amount of weight.

If you connect your boat or whatever is on the trailer to your vehicle and the rear of the vehicle sags where the rear bumper is close to the ground, then your tongue weight is probably too much.

Our third question is, “If the tongue weight is too high, does this mean the vehicle is not capable of towing what I have connected?”

If connecting to the vehicle causes too much sag, it most likely means your vehicle cannot tow this particular unit. But, there is a chance the boat or whatever is on the trailer is not positioned on the trailer correctly. Let me explain.

If a boat and trailer have a combined weight of 950 pounds and you’re using a 2009 Toyota Camry that can safely tow 1,000 pounds to tow it, we know the weight is under the maximum towing capacity.

However, if the tongue weight is too high, the excess weight causes the rear of the vehicle to sag excessively. This extra weight can create an unsafe driving condition. When we investigate a bit further, we find the boat is too far forward on the trailer, and this adds to the tongue weight. The boat’s position on the trailer needs to be adjusted to get the boat weight back over the wheels of the trailer. When we do this, the tongue weight and the sagging condition are corrected.

“Do I need a special tow hitch on my vehicle?” is our fourth and final question.

Tow hitches are designated by class. The class of the hitch is determined by the tongue weight capacity and the towing capacity. The hitch class goes from a Class I hitch with a tongue weight capacity of 100–150 pounds and a towing capacity of 1,000–1,500 pounds to a Class IV hitch with a tongue weight capacity of 500 pounds or more and a towing capacity of 10,000 pounds. Your vehicle’s towing capacity will determine what class hitch you should have installed to meet all the safety requirements.

Remember that safety is always first, so be safe, no matter what your choice of summer fun may be.

From Headlights to Taillights: Bells and Whistles

By Mark Kozemko ’79, Johnson College’s Automotive Technology Program Director

Original published in the April 30, 2021 edition of the Valley Advantage. https://www.thevalleyadvantage.com/community-columns/from-headlights-to-taillights-bells-and-whistles/article_d79d0f20-6e24-5669-be24-be5127360161.html

Did you ever get into a vehicle to test drive it and wonder, “Why does this vehicle have so many gadgets? What do they all do? Will I ever use them all?”

I know it sounds funny, but many new car buyers don’t even use some of the standard options, never mind all the extra “bells and whistles.” This month I’m fielding questions about what some of these extra options — or gadgets as I call them — are and how they work.

Before I get into the questions, I want to point out that the reason new vehicles come with an abundance of these options is mainly due to consumer demand. When manufacturers receive a high number of requests from their modern, tech-savvy customers for a specific option, they respond, as long as the request is within reason.

Our first question is, “What is adaptive cruise control and how does it work?”

Adaptive cruise control allows a driver to not only set a speed to travel but also set a specific distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them. This option doesn’t come in all vehicles yet, but as we all know, when it works in certain vehicles, it won’t be long until most manufactures will offer it as standard equipment.

Once the driver inputs the cruise control settings mentioned above, other than steering, the vehicle is basically in control. When cruising, if the vehicle in front of you slows, your vehicle will reduce speed to maintain a safe distance. When the vehicle in front either moves out of the way or speeds up, your vehicle will accelerate to return to your preset speed. This is accomplished by a combination of sensors and cameras. This option is often paired up with additional options like lane-keeping assistance, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking.

I can tell you from experience, driving a vehicle equipped with adaptive cruise control is awesome. If you have an extended commute, you may want to check out vehicles with this option.

The second question is, “What are active headlamps?”

This active headlamp option, which was designed to give the driver better visibility when traveling on winding roads, gives your headlights the ability to move to the right or left from the straight-ahead position. The headlight movement is accomplished using motors controlled by sensors in the steering system. The sensors send a signal to a control unit telling it what direction the driver is steering, and, in turn, activates the motors to move the light assemblies in that direction.

At this time, this option is only available on select models and is not very useful unless your commute involves very winding roads.

The third and final question this month is, “Is the Pro Trailer Backup Assist™ option worth getting for my Ford truck?”

Per Ford.com, a driver enters a few measurements into the Pro Trailer Backup Assist™ system, then a camera tracks the trailer position while you’re backing up your truck and guiding the trailer. You rotate the knob left or right in the direction you want the trailer to go while the system controls the steering wheel.

It all depends on your comfort level when backing up your trailer. If you are new at trailer backing, then this option is definitely for you. If you’ve had your trailer for a while and used it several times, I don’t believe an option like this is worth it.

I have a great deal of experience towing. I’ve towed everything from a 53-foot trailer to a short 15-foot water buffalo when I was in the Navy. It was always more difficult for me to back up the shorter pieces of equipment than the larger ones. I still do my fair share of towing cars, boats and Jet Ski trailers. I think I would find myself fighting with a truck that is trying to do something for me that I am very comfortable doing myself.

Keep in mind that all of these options or gadgets, as I call them, come with a price tag. Always weigh the pros and cons of any option to determine if it is worth it to you when buying a vehicle. Don’t be afraid to ask the “What is this? What does it do? Will I use it?” questions you have. Make sure you get the answers and try out every option and gadget before you take any money out of your pocket.

Andrew Mazza Diesel Jam 2021 to be held at the Circle Drive-in on July 10, 2021

The Andrew Mazza Foundation in support of Johnson College is proud to announce that Andrew Mazza Diesel Jam 2021 will take place on Saturday, July 10, 2021, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. after being postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. To accommodate the increasing amount of attendees & participating vendors, this year’s event is moving to the Circle Drive-in located on the Scranton-Carbondale Highway in Scranton, PA. Diesel Jam supports The Andrew Mazza Foundation, the Diesel Truck Technology Program at Johnson College, & scholarships for Johnson College & high school students.

Diesel Jam is a celebration of the truck community, featuring a diesel, gas, & antique truck show, mobile dyno runs, industry vendors, apparel vendors, food vendors, live entertainment & more. It is an all-day (rain or shine) family-friendly event.

All trucks are invited to participate & prizes will be awarded for Best in Show, Best Big Rig, Best Tow, Best Pick Up, and Best Antique & Diesel Jam People’s Choice. Additionally, cash prizes for the mobile dyno are $1,000 for Highest Overall Horsepower and Guess Your Horsepower prizes for 1st Place – $800, 2nd Place – $500, 3rd Place – $200, 4th and 5th Place – $100 each.

Early truck & mobile dyno registration can be completed through the Andrew Mazza Foundation’s website, andrewmazzafoundation.com/diesel-jam until June 30, 2021. The fee to register a truck is a $25 donation. Day of event registration & truck check-in will begin at 8 a.m. on July 10th, registration will be limited & will increase to $35 per registration. An additional $100 fee is required to register for the mobile dyno.

The Andrew Mazza Foundation started in 2016, supports & enriches the community through Andrew’s passions & hobbies. Proceeds raised from Diesel Jam will enhance & expand the Diesel Truck Technology Program at Johnson, provide both high school & Johnson College students with scholarships, & serve the community in which Andrew called home. Proceeds also aid The Andrew Mazza Foundation in hosting their annual Truck-or-Treat community Halloween event in Clifford for children & families in various local school districts.

The Diesel Truck Technology program at Johnson College prepares students as entry-level technicians with the latest information on diagnosis, repair procedures, preventative maintenance, & necessary safety applications in diesel technology. The program graduates more than 20 students each year who have an immediate impact on the diesel truck industry, especially in northeast Pennsylvania. To learn more about Johnson College’s Diesel Truck Technology program visit Johnson.edu, call 1-800-2-WE-WORK, or email enroll@johnson.edu.

For more information, including how to become an event sponsor or vendor, please contact Dawn Ziegler at (570) 313-0369, Andrewmazzafoundation@gmail.com, or visit andrewmazzafoundation.com/diesel-jam.

Photo Caption: Left to right: Front row holding banner – Penelope Ziegler, Diesel Jam Committee Member, and Nick Talarico, Heavy Equipment Program Director, Johnson College, 2nd row – Shane Pantosky, Diesel Jam Committee Member, Theresa Bandru, Golden Owl Consulting, and Diesel Jam Committee Member, Phil Mazza, Diesel Jam Committee Member, Dave Castelli, Manager, Circle Drive-in Theater, and Dawn Ziegler, Diesel Jam Committee Member, 3rd row – Chris Green, Diesel Jam Committee Member, John Wilson, Diesel Jam Committee Member, and Michael Garofalo, Diesel Jam Committee Member, 4th row -Tom Millard, Diesel Jam Committee Member, AJ Cimahosky, Continuing Education Manager, Johnson College, and Mike Novak, Chief Administrative Officer, Johnson College.

From Headlights To Taillights: Springing Ahead With Vehicle Maintenance

By Mark Kozemko, Johnson College’s Automotive Technology Program Director. Originally published in the February 26, 2021 edition of the Valley Advantage. https://bit.ly/30cbvdk

It’s been a snowy February, but per Punxsutawney Phil, spring is on its way. It’s just going to take a little while longer to get here. As we’re preparing to say goodbye to snow and hello to warmer weather, we’re receiving questions about car maintenance that may be required after the long, cold winter. Let’s get to them so you can plan ahead.

Our first question is, “Should my car battery be replaced after the long winter we’re experiencing this year?”

Before you go and replace your battery, I recommend having it inspected and tested first. As I said in a previous column, your vehicle battery is one of — if not the most — important component to get your vehicle through a rough winter. If you had your battery inspected and tested in the fall, you should have it re-tested. Even though it had enough life to get you through the winter, that doesn’t mean its power is stable enough to keep you going throughout the spring and into summer. Extended periods of below-freezing temperatures, which we’ve experienced this year, weaken and take a lot out of a battery. Take the time now to get a new inspection and test to determine if your battery requires replacement.

“Does my engine oil need to be changed after the cold winter months?” is our second question.

When we discussed oil change intervals in a previous column, I recommended that you keep your maintenance schedule on track throughout the year and I’m sticking with that recommendation. Oil changes are the most economical maintenance you can do to drastically extend the life of your vehicle’s engine. Don’t go beyond the recommended time or mileage between oil changes, but you can change your vehicle’s oil sooner or more often than recommended. As the vehicle owner, it’s your call on whether you think the mileage or time is close enough to put fresh oil in your engine.

“Is there such a thing as summer and winter air that I should put in my tires?” is our third question.

There is no such thing as summer or winter air. It’s just compressed air.

You can, however, have your tires inflated with nitrogen, which helps eliminate oxidation and corrosion. Nitrogen pressure in a tire will bleed off or dissipate much slower than compressed air and you’ll see slightly higher fuel mileage with it. If you’re thinking about using nitrogen, it is considered a green alternative, which means it’s better for the environment. One thing to keep in mind, with compressed air, you can check and adjust your own tire pressure. If you use nitrogen, you’ll have to find a repair shop equipped with it to adjust your pressure. It will cost you to have your tires inflated with nitrogen more than you pay for compressed air.

Our final question is actually two questions, “How do I clean the buildup of salt and chemicals that accumulated under my car over the winter?” and “Can I do it myself?”

The best way to clean the underbody of your vehicle is by using a pressure washer. Most repair shops have pressure washers that are used for a variety of jobs, including cleaning customer vehicle undercarriages. These pressure washers come in many different pressures and gallons per minute. They also have several different spray tips, from wide-angle to a pencil spray, and include attachments that connect to the hose and slide under the vehicle, making it easier for technicians to get the undercarriage clean. Prices range for this service at repair shops or body shops.

Can you do it yourself? Yes, but you’ll have to purchase a pressure washer and attachments. The consumer versions come in a variety of pressures and usually two power options, gasoline or electric. The good news is, you have choices for your individual needs and situations. Keep in mind, to make any of these pressure washers work as designed, you will need a water supply. Lastly, you have to be ready to get wet!

With these steps and, of course, guidance from your automotive technician, your vehicle will be back in shape after enduring a cold and snowy northeastern Pennsylvania winter. I’m not sure about you, but I’m hoping next year Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow and we’ll get an early spring.

Continuing Education Offers PA State Vehicle Safety Inspection Course

Johnson College’s Continuing Education Program will be holding a Pennsylvania State Vehicle Safety Inspection course on campus March 1, 3, 8 & 10, 2021 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Space is limited. The total cost of the course is $200 for cars and light trucks. There is additional $75 fee for other vehicle categories. To learn more or to enroll, visit johnson.edu/continuingeducation or contact the Continuing Education Department at 570-702-8979 or continuinged@johnson.edu.

The Pennsylvania State Vehicle Safety Inspection course requirements include 12 classroom hours, a written test and a two-hour tactile test scheduled independently with the instructor. All must be completed before receiving certification from PennDOT. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis according to the date of payment. Class size is limited to 12 students so participants are encouraged to register early. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and have a valid operator’s license for each class of vehicle they intend to inspect. Classes will be held in the Automotive Center of the Weaver Building on the Johnson College campus.

Those who successfully pass the exam, will be certified to review, assemble and complete applications and documents related to reconstructed, specially constructed, modified, flood, recovered theft, collectible vehicles and street rods.

Johnson College’s Continuing Education Program distinguishes itself from the College’s 2-year degree programs and certificate courses by providing its adult students the opportunity to improve their skills to stay ahead of the competition, learn new technologies, and advance in their current career. The Continuing Education courses, many taught by industry professionals, are utilized and recognized by industry partners because they’re developed in partnership with industry. The program also includes pre-employment skills testing and exclusive online courses offering certification classes for essential industries. Johnson College also assists individual students and industry partners in obtaining funding or grants so their continuing education courses are cost effective. We train the workforce of northeastern Pennsylvania by immersing our continuing education, degree and certificate earning students in industry from day one. We Work, so our students succeed. For additional information on Johnson College’s Continuing Education Program, please call 570-702-8979, email continuinged@johnson.edu, or visit Johnson.edu/continuingeducation.

Headlights to Taillights: Winter is coming, is your vehicle ready?

By Mark Kozemko, Johnson College’s Automotive Technology Program Director

Original published in the October 23, 2020 edition of the Valley Advantage.

https://www.thevalleyadvantage.com/community-columns/headlights-to-taillights-winter-is-coming-is-your-vehicle-ready/article_db15e1b5-d8ef-5d52-b635-c219b11105a6.html

You know winter is fast approaching when leaves start hitting the ground and temperatures drop, like they are now.

Most households have a winterization processes in place. They can include rearranging the closet, so winter clothes are out front, removing air conditioners from windows and preparing the furnace for winter operation.

While you’re working on winterizing your home, you also need to have a plan for your vehicles. This brings us to a few questions I received about how to winterize a vehicle to ensure it runs smoothly through the coldest months of the year.

The first question is, “What steps in the winterization process are priorities and which aren’t?”

All the steps below in your vehicle winterization process are priorities, but they don’t have to be completed in the specific order they’re listed.

Priority No. 1 is your battery. There’s nothing worse than getting in your cold vehicle, turning the key and hearing a clicking noise — or maybe nothing at all.

A battery will not always give you a warning before it fails. They can fail at any time, but cold weather really affects a weak battery. Have your battery tested to determine the current condition, so you know if your battery needs to be replaced so you don’t experience that no-start moment.

Priority No. 2 is the depth of your tires’ treads. There needs to be enough tread to keep the tire safe through the season. The more tread, the better. If you’re someone who uses winter tires, now is the time to swap out the summer tires for winter ones. Remember, if you install studded winter tires, they cannot be installed on your vehicle until Nov. 1, and must be removed by April 15.

With all or most vehicles being equipped with tire pressure monitor systems, it is very important to check and adjust the tire pressure. In cold weather, tire pressure is lower than it would be in warmer weather. This lower pressure, if not corrected, may trigger the tire pressure warning light to illuminate on your dashboard. If it does, check your pressure immediately and add air where needed.

Something very few people think of is the spare tire. If your vehicle comes with a spare, make sure it’s inflated to the proper air pressure.

Priority No. 3 is a coolant freeze protection check. During the check, a sample of your vehicle’s coolant is tested for the concentration of ethylene-glycol in the coolant mixture. This means the percentage of water compared to the percentage of anti-freeze in the mixture. An acceptable mixture for our northeast region is 50/50. This mixture gives the coolant a freeze protection of approximately -34⁰F. If your coolant isn’t protected correctly, it can ice up and cause catastrophic damage to your engine.

Priority No. 4 is checking and monitoring your vehicle’s other fluids through the winter months. The windshield washer reservoir should be filled with a solvent specially made with a lower freeze point than plain water, much like coolant.

Priority No. 5 is the condition of your wiper blades. If your blades aren’t in good condition, they will not be able to properly clear ice and snow from your windshield. As you know, if your windshield isn’t cleared, your vision will be obstructed and the possibility of an accident increases.

Priority No. 6 is preparing a small survival kit to put in your trunk just in case you break down. This kit should include items such as gloves, socks, a blanket or another winter coat, and anything else you might need while you wait for assistance to arrive. No matter when you use your car, always make sure your cell phone is fully charged or close to it. You don’t want to break down in the dead of winter with a cell phone that doesn’t work.

“What steps in the winterization process can be done by an owner and which ones must be completed by a technician?” is our second question.

The battery and coolant freeze point checks should be performed by a qualified technician. The other checks and inspections in our winterization process above can also be completed by a technician, but you can easily do them over a weekend. Equipment, tools and, of course, replacement parts needed for your vehicle winterization project are more than likely available at your local parts store.

However you decide to winterize your vehicle, make sure you do it. This process will help you avoid any major automotive issues during the long, cold winter months.

The next Headlights to Taillights column will be published in the November 27, 2020 edition of the Valley Advantage.