How to replace your spark plugs | Autoblog Wrenched

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Spark plugs are the heart of your car’s ignition system. If yours are worn out, new ones can dramatically improve your performance. See how to replace them here. Watch all of our Autoblog Wrenched videos for more tips on how to diagnose, fix, and modify cars from professional detailer Larry Kosilla. While you’re at it, check out Larry’s other car cleaning and maintenance video series Autoblog Details!

Materials Used:

  • Spark Plugs
  • Socket Wrench W/ Swivel
  • Socket Or Torque Wrench W/ Swivel
  • Tape
  • Anti-Seize
  • Gapping Tool
  • Rubber Hose

The sparky heart of your ignition system

If your spark plugs are worn out, new ones can dramatically improve your performance. Doing it yourself is easier than you think. Make sure the prop rod is securely in place or the hood struts are in good working order, so the hood doesn’t fall on you during this repair. It seems like spark plugs last a lot longer these days, but what are the signs indicating they need to be changed? If your car has a rough idle, a decrease in performance, or if you’re consuming more fuel, your spark plugs could be a likely culprit. Prior to starting the job, look at your owners manual to find the correct spec plugs for your car and engine.

Know your plugs

There are a few different types of plugs. The basic is copper, while platinum and iridium will last longer. Unless your car is heavily modified, sticking with original equipment spec is usually the best bet. Visit your local auto parts store to buy the plugs, but if they don’t have the OEM brand, they can usually cross reference a suitable replacement.

Prep is key

Lay a towel over the fender before you get started to protect the paint as you will be leaning over the engine for some time. On this particular car, we needed to remove four allen bolts to reach the plugs. Remember to mark the location of each wire before you remove anything. Likewise, you can take a quick picture with your phone for safety.

On modern cars, coil packs are used in place of distributors and ignition wires because they provide more efficiency and reliability by using no mechanical or moving parts like distributors. The coil pack is a collection of ignition coils controlled by your car’s electronic ignition that transforms the power from your cars battery down to the spark plug, which of course ignites the fuel and drives the pistons. Putting a wrong wire or in this case, a wrong coil pack on a plug, is going to make the engine run terrible or even not at all, so keep track of which plug goes on which cylinder. Remove the bolt holding the ignition coil. Next, unplug the ignition wires connected to the coil. Now, remove the coil by lifting straight up and out of the manifold.

Remove the plug

With all four coils unplugged and out of the engine, attach a piece of tape between your ratchet extension and the spark plug socket. This is done to prevent the socket from falling off and getting trapped in the narrow coil pack tube, which would be annoying to retrieve. Gently loosen each spark plug and carefully pull it out of the engine and inspect its color. Notice if each spark plug looks the same or drastically different and which cylinder they came from. It might be helpful for trouble shooting future engine issues down the road.

Mind the gap

Most new plugs come pre-gapped for your car’s engine. If not, use a gap tool to carefully adjust the air gap or the space between the electrodes. Slide the plug on the standardized tool and adjust the distance to meet your manufactures’ suggested gap. Next, add a bit of anti-seize on the threads, but be careful and avoid getting them on the electrodes. Some plugs come pre-coated and do not require additional anti-seize, but check the box description.

Carefully reinstall the plugs

To reinstall the plugs, here’s a very simple trick to avoid cross threading the plugs, which would require a full engine tear down to correct. Any random hose that fits over the top part or terminal snuggly will work. This will allow me to hand screw the spark plugs without cross-threading because the rubber hose will bend or flex if the threads become stuck, unlike a metal extension, which will power through and crush the soft threads. Pretty nifty idea. Once the threads are started, then use a ratchet extension and give the plug about a quarter turn under tension but no more as you could break the porcelain if you over tighten.

A little dab’ll do ya

Before replacing the coil, add a dab of dielectric grease to the tip prior to installing it over the spark plug terminal. Plug it back in to the ignition wires. You will hear and feel a click when it’s seated properly on the plug. Screw down the coil to the manifold, repeat this step for all cylinders, then, replace the manifold cover when you’re done.

Start the engine to test the idle

If it doesn’t start immediately, check to make sure all the coils are plugged in and the wires are fully seated. The ignition system on our cars can be intimidating. But by taking your time and doing the proper preparation, you could bring your car’s performance back to factory specs and save a bunch of money too. For more how-to car repair videos, visit


This camping box requires no tools to assemble

There’s nothing better than experiencing the beauty of the outdoors and connecting with nature. For those of us who use our vehicles as our primary connection to nature, we’ve got great news, camping in the car just got easier. RoomBox easyTech is a modular system that transforms most vehicles into a “camping-car.” Its design was inspired by Swiss Army Knives. The modular design allows RoomBox to be assembled without the need of any tools.

The base model comes standard with a table for two-to-four people and can transform into a single or double bed, or storage space. Higher trim levels include a two-burner gas stove, sink, shower, water heater, charging stations, and much more. SwissRoomBox says its modular camping system will fit in most vehicles with a hatch. There is also a compatibility list online to make sure RoomBox will fit in your vehicle. Pricing for this Swiss-made modular system ranges from $4,051.81 to $6,319.35, But it’s not currently available for purchase in the United States. Learn more at

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What it’s like to drive GM’s BrightDrop Zevo 600 electric delivery van

SAN FRANCISCO — As we rounded the corner, a man waved us down. He’d seen the van silently driving around the neighborhood all morning and wanted to know where he can get one. “It’s an EV,” I told him and his excitement grew.

“It’s exactly what I need,” he exclaimed as he pulled a card out of his wallet to hand to my copilot with the expectation that BrightDrop would call him with details about ordering his own electric delivery van. In a larger sense, FedEx, Verizon and Walmart looked at the BrightDrop Zevo 600 (formerly the EV600) electric delivery van and also decided, “This is exactly what we need.”

We pulled away and he shouted that his plumber friend was also interested in the Zevo 600. It’s not hard to see why. While behind the wheel, the Zevo 600 impressed with the fit and finish and attention to detail of the delivery van made by GM-owned BrightDrop that boasts the same Ultium battery technology as the Hummer EV, Cadillac Lyriq and Chevrolet Silverado EV. BrightDrop notes that while designing the van, it interviewed not just fleet managers and companies, but also drivers.

The result is a workhorse of a vehicle that includes features to reduce fatigue, an incredible amount of visibility thanks to huge windows, motion-sensor lighting, 250 miles of range and a very impressive one-pedal driving system.

Some of these came into play as we drove the Zevo 600 through the narrow streets of San Francisco. Navigating the city’s hectic roadways is difficult in a passenger vehicle, and a large van requires, well, more everything. The Zevo 600 deftly handled the plethora of situations with ease.

The steering lacks any of the play found in older vans. It’s consistent and smooth. Acceleration is uniform and devoid of any weird torque surprises. Neck-snapping launches may be great in a passenger vehicle, but in a delivery van, they mean a landslide of boxes tumbling off shelves.

The van’s dual-motor all-wheel-drive system has 300 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. The city is no place to drag race a delivery van, but in a short time behind the wheel, it sure seemed like the Zevo 600 would have any issue climbing San Francisco’s abundance of steep grades.

Most impressive, though, is the one-pedal driving. Within two blocks I could lift the accelerator pedal and accurately hit the mark at stop signs. At that point, the brake pedal was unused for the remaining 90% of the drive.

Yet it’s important to note our drive was in an empty van. The 600 cubic feet of cargo space was not filled with as much as 2,200 pounds of payload the Zevo 600 can handle. When it is filled, though, BrightDrop says its van can cover as many as 250 miles between charges based on a Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) standard — there’s no EPA requirement for Class 2b and Class 3 vehicles.

That 250 miles of range is double the offering from Ford’s electric E-Transit van. BrightDrop says hitting that larger figure was important in keeping the van in service in varying types of terrain, weather and driving habits. The company also wants to get ahead of any potential battery degradation. Of course, it’s also a huge selling point for anxious companies.

“It is bigger than your average route by quite a bit. But certainly for an early adopter market, when you’re betting your entire infrastructure on the dependability of these vehicles, it is the right thing to do,” said Rachad Youseef, chief product officer of BrightDrop.

The range also allows for multiple delivery shifts. Instead of charging a vehicle after one shift, it could be redeployed after a driver change without needing to sit idle while charging. Time is money, after all. Youseef expects that, in the future, companies will order vehicles with lower range figures as they get up to speed on how these delivery vans will be used in their fleets. A smaller battery means less money and weight.

Estimating the efficiency, though, requires some work, as BrightDrop would not share battery capacity information. That’s not too surprising considering GM’s reticence to disclose the gross capacity of the Hummer EV. What we do know is that it uses 20 Ultium modules. Meanwhile, the Hummer EV uses 24 of those modules.

Some quick math based on EPA paperwork shows the usable capacity of the Hummer EV is 212.7 kilowatt-hours. Based on that figure, the usable capacity of each Ultium module is about 8.9 kWh. With 20 modules onboard, the Zevo 600 has an approximate usable capacity of 178 kWh, although it might be a little higher based on its charge rates. To keep it on the road, the van has onboard AC charging that supports 11.5 kW, and can support DC fast-charging up to 120 kW. In the best-case charging scenario, BrightDrop says the vehicle can charge from 0-100% in 1 hour, 40 minutes.

What is interesting is that the Zevo 600 was actually the first Ultium-based GM vehicle to hit public roads. While it uses the same electrical architecture as the Hummer, the Zevo 600 beat the gigantic electric truck to the streets.

Of course, the Zevo 600 is plenty large in its own right. The cargo area and pass-through from the cab are tall enough to accommodate a 6-foot, 3-inch frame without issue or, more importantly, ducking at any point. This is consistent with modern, high-roof vans like the Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter. The steps to enter the vehicle are also deeper than usual and ready to accommodate a full boot.

As you enter the cargo area, motion-activated LEDs illuminate the space. Those sensors also play an important role in the security of cargo. They’re used in a locked vehicle to set off the van’s alarm and notify the driver via a companion app when tripped.

In-van tech also includes some familiar displays. The infotainment system and dash cluster displays have a layout in keeping with the Hummer EV since both run the Android Automotive OS. BrightDrop notes the current look will likely be replaced in the future with displays specific to the Zevo 600.

Overall, the Zevo 600 feels like an EV delivery van that should make both customer companies and their drivers happy to make the transition to electric vehicles. It’s impressive, considering that GM states that the Zevo 600 was developed in just 20 months. As such, it’s the quickest concept-to-commercialization vehicle in GM history. Yet it seems to be making an impression.

According to BrightDrop, 25,000 reservations have been made in the past year. Customers including FedEx, Walmart and Verizon are waiting for their vans, and the current low-volume production will be replaced with full production at GM’s CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, in the fourth quarter of this year.

This should be good news not just to those large corporations, but also to folks who are happy to wave down an electric van they’ve never seen before because it’s exactly what they need.


Marcus Ericsson wins the 2022 Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS — Marcus Ericsson had to leave Formula One to become a global superstar — a goal achieved Sunday when the Swedish driver won the Indianapolis 500.

Ericsson took control of the race late — largely because of teammate Scott Dixon’s speeding penalty — and had it under control for Chip Ganassi Racing until a crash by teammate Jimmie Johnson with four laps remaining brought out a rare red-flag stoppage at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

IndyCar is among the purest forms of motorsports and rarely throws artificial cautions or issues stoppages that might change the outcome. But the crowd of more than 300,000 — only a few thousand shy of a sellout and the largest sporting event since the pandemic began — roared when IndyCar called the cars to pit road.

The stoppage gave Pato O’Ward and the rest of the challengers almost 12 minutes on pit road to strategize how to catch Ericsson for the win.

The race resumed with two laps remaining and Ericsson easily got the jump on O’Ward. The Mexican got one final look for the lead that Ericsson defended and O’Ward knew not to force the issue.

“Nah, he was going to put me in the wall if I had gone for it,” O’Ward said.

A crash by Sage Karam back in traffic brought out the caution on the final lap and Ericsson coasted to the victory podium under yellow. Karam was transported to a hospital for evaluation of muscular soreness.

For Ericsson, it was his third career IndyCar victory in 52 career starts. All three have been strange wins in that Ericsson sealed the victories after red-flag stoppages, but he never assumed he had the Indy 500 won as he sat inside his cockpit waiting to get back to racing.

“You can never take anything for granted, and there were laps to go,” Ericsson said. “I was praying so hard there was not going to be a yellow, then I knew there was probably going to be one, and it was hard to refocus.”

But he did, and he held on for the biggest victory of his career. Ericsson was winless in five seasons in F1 before he packed up for the United States and a move to North American open-wheel racing.

It is the fifth Indy 500 win for team owner Chip Ganassi, who caught a ride to the victory podium on the side of Ericsson’s car. Ericsson is the second Swede to win the Indy 500 in 106 runnings, joining 1999 winner Kenny Brack.

Ericsson poured his jug of milk all over his face, then handed the bottle to Ganassi so the boss could take his own swig. Ganassi had not won the 500 in 10 years and sent five legitimate contenders to Indy to end the drought.

The win seemed to belong to Dixon, the six-time IndyCar champion who went more than 234 mph in qualifying to win the pole. The New Zealander led 95 of the 200 laps on Sunday and his Honda was easily the fastest in the field — so fast that Dixon didn’t slow down enough on his final pit stop. The penalty took him out of contention for the win.

That left Ericsson and Tony Kanaan still in the fight for Ganassi. Kanaan, at 47 the oldest driver in the field, thought he was in perfect position for the win sitting in fourth on the restart.

O’Ward wouldn’t relent. He signed a contract extension with Arrow McLaren SP on Friday and desperately wanted the win. But he finished second, falling just short as the Mexican tried to give his country a banner celebration on the biggest day in motorsports; Sergio Perez opened Sunday with a win in the Monaco Grand Prix.

Kanaan was third in a Ganassi car and followed by Felix Rosenqvist, another Swede, who was fourth for McLaren. Rosenqvist is in a contract year with McLaren and fighting for his job.

American drivers Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly finished fifth and sixth, Rossi for Andretti Autosport and Daly for Ed Carpenter Racing.

Helio Castroneves, last year’s winner, finished seventh and one spot ahead of Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud. Reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou finished 10th in another Ganassi entry.

Dixon faded to 21st after the penalty, and although he visited Ericsson on the victory podium, he was consoled by his wife on pit road after the race. Johnson finished 28th in his Indy 500 debut.

“It’s one team, everybody roots for everybody else, everybody works together and everybody is an open book,” Ganassi said. “You’re going to have things happen in these 500-mile races and they’re not always going to fall your way. So, you know, we were lucky to have five good cars and five good drivers.”

Honda drivers took six of the top nine spots, along with the win.


Sergio Perez wins chaotic F1 Monaco Grand Prix

MONACO — Sergio Perez rebounded from Red Bull team orders that denied him a chance to race for the win one week ago to pick up his first Formula One win of the season in the rain-marred Monaco Grand Prix.

Perez earned his third career F1 victory on the slick city streets of Monaco after a questionable strategy call by Ferrari cost pole-sitter Charles Leclerc a win on his home circuit.

Although Leclerc finished the race for the first time in four tries, he finished fourth and allowed reigning world champion Max Verstappen to extend his lead in the points standings. Carlos Sainz Jr. finished second for Ferrari and Verstappen was third for Red Bull.

Verstappen now leads Leclerc by nine points in the standings; Leclerc has two wins this season, Verstappen and Perez have combined for five victories as Red Bull and Ferrari have claimed all seven races.

But the win went to Verstappen’s teammate just one week after Perez was ordered to cede the lead to Verstappen during the Spanish Grand Prix. Leclerc had dropped out of the race with an engine failure and Red Bull chose to capitalize by manipulating the finish to get Verstappen the win in Spain.

The team promised Perez he’d be allowed to race for wins and held its word Sunday.

“You dream of winning this, and after your home race, there is no place more special to win,” Perez said after waving the Mexican flag.

Leclerc led from the pole and screamed in rage when told to pit for a second tire change on Lap 22 — at the same time as Sainz. His engineer realized the mistake and yelled “stay out!” but it was too late and Leclerc came back out on track in fourth place.

“What are you doing?” Leclerc shouted.

After the race, he lectured Ferrari again.

“No words, no words. We cannot do that,” he radioed.

Leclerc also won the pole a year ago but never got to start because he crashed at the end of qualifying, and the car’s gearbox failed moments before the start. In 2018 and 2019, Leclerc had retired from the race with crash damage.

The race was delayed by 70 minutes for heavy rain and began from a rolling start behind a safety car. It was then red-flagged on Lap 30 after Mick Schumacher’s heavy crash three laps earlier sliced his Haas car in two. He escaped unharmed.

“I’m fine, very, very upset not to finish the race,” Schumacher said. “I don’t know why the car split in two.”

George Russell finished fifth for Mercedes ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and the Alpine of Fernando Alonso. Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was eighth for Mercedes — extending his winless run with the Silver Arrows to eight races — while Valtteri Bottas was ninth for Alfa Romeo and Sebastian Vettel 10th for Aston Martin.

The restart after Schumacher’s crash was again a rolling start behind the safety car. But the long delay and red flag shortened the race from 77 laps into a timed race so that it would end by local curfew.

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Junkyard Gem: 1982 Volkswagen Jetta Diesel Sedan

During the early 1980s, memories of the fuel shortages and gas lines of the 1979 Oil Shock remained vivid in the minds of American car shoppers (who had no way of knowing that oil prices would crash back to earth a few years later). Diesel fuel was once quite a bit cheaper (or at least easier to find during shortages) than gasoline here, and so diesel cars became fairly popular starting in the late 1970s. Volkswagen offered a diesel version of the US-market Rabbit starting in 1977; the Dasher (Passat) and Jetta followed soon after. Here’s one of those Jettas, spied in a self-service yard in northeastern Colorado last month.

The build tag shows that this car began life with a diesel engine, but the decklid badge (or perhaps the entire decklid) has been replaced with one sourced from a gasoline-engined Jetta. Sure, the diesel engine had fuel injection, but all diesels have fuel injection.

You wouldn’t think that mattered, but drivers 40 years ago appreciated the knowledge that they were stuck behind a severely underpowered vehicle, and the big DIESEL badges served as a useful reminder that you’d better pass as soon as possible. This 1.8-liter oil-burner was rated at 52 horsepower when new (which was an improvement over the earlier 48-horse version), and these cars were hilariously slow. I took my driver-training classes in a 48hp Rabbit Diesel, back in 1982, and its poky acceleration was terrifying though funny. Fortunately, I have since had the opportunity to drive a VW at 206 mph.

The first-generation Jetta showed up in the North American market for the 1980 model year, with the larger second-generation car arriving for 1985. It was available in two-door and four-door versions, with gasoline or diesel power.

Volkswagen of America went to six-digit odometers starting in the late 1970s, so we can see that this car just made it to the 200,000-mile mark.

The interior looks worn and faded but not abused, which tells us that this car was properly cared for during most of its long life.

The only thing slower than a Malaise Era VW diesel is a Malaise Era VW diesel with an automatic transmission. This one has the base five-speed manual.

Amazingly, the original buyer opted for air conditioning, which added a stunning $690 to the $9,240 list price (that would be about $2,115 on a $28,330 car when reckoned in 2022 dollars). If you insisted on an automatic transmission, that option tacked on an extra $405 ($1,240 now).

The studded snow tires show that the car’s final owner was serious about winter safety.

Volkswagen kept selling diesel cars here for decades to come, but the 1980s drop in gasoline prices coupled with the Oldsmobile diesel V8 debacle meant that they never again sold as well as the Malaise Era oil-burners.

The Jetta was, at heart, a stretched Rabbit with a trunk… and what a trunk! The 8.8-second zero-to-fifty (yes, fifty!) time in this commercial was for the gasoline version, obviously.

I believe the Toyota Starlet later stole the Best Mileage in America crown from the VW diesels.

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Volvo P1800 restomod by Cyan Racing is coming to the U.S.

Cyan’s Racing’s heavily modded Volvo P1800 will soon be making its North American debut, and it’ll be available to purchase in America. Based on the sleek 1961-72 coupe that just might be the sexiest car Volvo ever made, it’s been transformed by the wizards at the race engineering firm previously known as Polestar into a 420-horse tire-shredder.

We’ve waxed on about the Cyan P1800 before, admiring its lighter-than-a-Miata curb weight thanks to carbon fiber body panels, while marveling at its beautifully minimalist turbo 2.0-liter Volvo four. The driving experience is meant to be truly analog, from the manual gearbox to the lack of ABS and traction control. The entire suspension was redesigned and even its profile isn’t quite identical to the original P1800 — the greenhouse, for example, has been repositioned.

Best of all, its metamorphosis from antique to hot rod was performed not by some fly-by-night operation, but by an actual race shop, the one that turned the Volvo 850 into a Super Touring race car. The Polestar firm was so successful, Volvo actually bought them out, subsequently turning the brand into its performance EV subsidiary.

Cyan Racing says the only things that remain from the original P1800 is the steel frame, hood release, handbrake, and windshield wipers. Everything else, including the glass, was manufactured uniquely for this car. 

A year ago, Cyan said that the entry price for this unique combination of classic design and race-inspired performance was $500,000. When it becomes available stateside, however, the starting price will be, according to Cyan, “around $700,000”.

With that eye-watering price, customers get to personalize each P1800 to their liking. Cyan says the car was engineered so that it could be “tailored into anything from a lightweight, high-performance cafe racer to a grand tourer.”

The Cyan Volvo P1800 will make its North American debut at The Quail during Monterey Car Week.


What is Tesla AutoPilot, and is it really Full Self-Driving?

The world of “self-driving” is rife with all kinds of marketing jargon that contributes to plenty of confusion both for customers and the media. If you believe everything that Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweets, we’re all on the verge of being able to simply set our cars for a destination and let them drive us there without having to interfere, right? While Musk is a polarizing figure — and despite the technology’s confusing and potentially even misleading name — his AutoPilot system is simply a name for Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system. It is not, in fact, a fully self-driving system.

It’s also different and separate from Tesla’s more advanced Full Self Driving technology package, which itself has a misleading name. Here’s what you need to know in order to understand AutoPilot and what it can and cannot do. 

Read more: All our latest news on Tesla Autopilot

What is ADAS and what does it have to do with AutoPilot?

ADAS stands for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. It’s an automotive industry term that companies use as a catch-all for the technology that helps make driving both safer and more comfortable. ADAS can encompass everything from blind-spot warning and lane departure warning to more advanced systems like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance. Some ADAS systems are very advanced, allowing the driver to remove their feet and hands off the controls while the car is underway (and while ADAS is engaged) and adapt to the speed of traffic around the vehicle without crashing. Others are not nearly as advanced. It really depends on the type of technology included in a vehicle and how successfully it is implemented.

AutoPilot is Tesla’s marketing term for an ADAS system that includes an adaptive cruise system that, when active, modulates speed and distance based on the traffic, road conditions and speed limits on specific, mapped roads. It also includes a lane-centering steering assist system that Tesla calls “Autosteer,” which helps your vehicle remain in its lane as the road curves and undulates. Other brands offer these types of features. 

Most ADAS systems have specific physical parameters that have to be met before the system can be turned on. For example, like other adaptive cruise control and lane-centering steering systems, the sensors around the vehicle must have at least one or two clear lane markings on either side of the car in order to keep the vehicle centered in the lane. Adaptive cruise uses cameras around the vehicle (though older models also featured radar) to maintain a set speed and distance from vehicles ahead and around it. 

Read more: What is Adaptive Cruise Control?

What is “Self-Driving” and Why Isn’t AutoPilot a Fully-Autonomous Driving System?

This brings us to the topic of “self-driving,” and “autonomous vehicles.” These terms are often thrown around by Musk and his fans, especially when it comes to claims that Tesla vehicles can drive themselves using AutoPilot. The reality is that there are currently no legal, full-self-driving vehicles on the road today, no matter what Elon Musk or his marketing department may say. 

That’s because autonomous driving is highly regulated and clearly defined by various governing bodies both here in the United States and around the world. To understand why Tesla’s AutoPilot is not a self-driving system, you have to first understand how these regulating bodies define self- or autonomous driving. 

There are two main governing bodies that help define this stuff: the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (also known as NHTSA) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (also known as SAE). According to these two governing bodies, there are six levels of autonomy ranging from Level 0 to Level 5. As you move up each level, you essentially remove the need for human interaction from the driving equation. As you move up the scale towards Level 5, you can increasingly withdraw your attention as well as your physical body from the driver’s seat. Here’s how the levels break down:

  • Level 0: Also known as driving on your own without any assistance, whatsoever. You accelerate, you steer, you brake. It’s just you, your car, and the laws of physics. 
  • Level 1: At Level 1 you get some automation. This means your car is capable of managing simple inputs, one at a time. These include things like basic cruise control or lane-departure warning. The first consumer cars to feature cruise control (which ironically enough was called Auto-pilot), came from Chrysler in 1968.
  • Level 2: At this level, you can use two or more automated systems to drive, at the same time. For example, that means your cruise control is now pretty smart. You still have to set the speed, but once it’s engaged, the car can automatically slow down if there’s a car in front, or speed up when the coast is clear. It can also pair with lane-keeping assist (makes sure you don’t veer out of your lane) and the more advanced lane-centering steering assist (does much of the steering for you but you need to keep a hand on the wheel). Although AutoPilot is a highly advanced adaptive cruise control, even Tesla has admitted that it’s Level 2 system. AutoPilot has come under a lot of fire from NHTSA, the FTC, and politicians because of the deadly crashes resulting from Musk’s repeated, misleading claims that AutoPilot is a fully-autonomous system. GM’s Super Cruise and Ford’s BlueCruise are Level 2 systems.
  • Level 3: This is what’s known as conditional automation meaning that if specific conditions are met (like proper lane markings, road signs, and weather conditions, on specific stretches of highway), then the car can do some limited self-driving without any human input – but with the requirement that a human can take over at any time if the system fails to detect the required inputs. The new 2023 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will offer an optional package called DrivePilot, which is a real, legal, conditional Level 3 system.
  • Level 4 and Level 5: These two levels are varying degrees of autonomous driving – Level 4 still offers a steering wheel or mechanism for a human to take over, while Level 5 deletes the steering wheel controls completely. These two phases are still very far off. There are no Level 4 or Level 5 autonomous vehicles on public roads today. 

Only at Level 5 autonomy can you safely hop into the back seat of your car and take a nap or eat a pizza. 

AutoPilot Levels

There are currently two levels of AutoPilot that Tesla offers: “Basic AutoPilot” and “Full Self-Driving.” 

Basic AutoPilot comes on all Teslas and includes ADAS systems like adaptive cruise, lane centering and lane-keeping assistance and emergency braking. 

Customers can decide to “upgrade” by paying as much as $12,000, to “Full Self-Driving,” or FSD. At the FSD level, customers get access to systems that can help them “summon,” their Tesla from a parking spot (though there have been many incidences of crashes, like this Tesla that drove itself into a $3 million private jet while using the system), stop sign control and auto lane change. Tesla rolled out (and then rolled back) an “Assertive” mode for its FSD system, which rolled stop signs, narrowed the following distance and made some questionable left turns. Tesla was required to remove its Assertive mode because of the risky (and illegal) behavior.

Read more: All our latest news on autonomous vehicles

Is AutoPilot a Self-Driving System?

Absolutely not. Tesla’s AutoPilot is a Level 2 system that amounts to a suite of advanced driver safety systems that help make driving a bit less taxing. Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” system is also not a self-driving system since it still requires human input. In case it bears repeating: You should never, ever, exit the driver’s seat, take a nap or take your eyes off the road when using either of these systems as they pose a risk to both your own life and those of the drivers around you. While AutoPilot is a tool that can be used to make driving easier, it is not a full self-driving system.

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2023 BMW 2 Series Coupe getting Curved Display

BMW launched the current 2 Series Coupe last summer, meaning a refresh still isn’t due for at least a couple of years. The Munich maker’s already reworking the coupe in ways that could be considered substantial, however, adding its Curved Display and iDrive 8 as standard fit on models built starting in July of this year. The 12.3-inch digital cluster stays the same size as now, but the 10.25-inch infotainment screen extends to 14.9 inches. Because the Curved Display is a single unit, the instrument panel no longer forms a hood over the gauge cluster; instead, the entire panel stands up off the dash. The row of climate control buttons under the central vents have been moved to the touchscreen. The only physical buttons on the center console are for the stereo system. BMW Blog found that the German configurator has already been changed, showing what’s on the way.

The change is said to be about keeping the 2 Coupe in step with the coming M2, which will launch with the display and iDrive 8. Elsewhere among the 2 Series clan, the Active Tourer already made the switch, but the Gran Coupe is thought to hold onto the split system until it gets its generational refresh. 

One more key change could please enthusiasts. The traditional shifter knob will retire, replaced by a minimalist lever, and paddle shifters will become standard equipment on all 2 Series Coupe trims. If the German configurator changes apply to the U.S. as well, Innovation and Comfort Packages will join the options menu. The revisions will likely contribute a small bump to the MSRP. In Germany, the upgraded 2 Series costs €2,000 more than it did last month.

The higher price has helped make room for a new entry-level 218i trim that won’t come to the U.S. It is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter making 156 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, all of that sent to the rear axle. It needs a second longer to reach 62 miles per hour compared to the former base trim, taking 8.7 seconds for the sprint.

Another 2’er that will be a touch slower from the stoplight is the coming RWD version of the M240i. It will send its entire 374 horses and 369 lb-ft to the back tires through the M Sport differential. Losing the help of the front axle adds 0.4 seconds to the 0-62 mph time, coming at 4.7 seconds, but it should be more fun to hoon through curves. 

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Indy 500 fans find comfort in milk, bricks, Snake Pit

INDIANAPOLIS — Wearing a green “ I Call In Sick for Carb Day ” T-shirt, Rick Leppert took a gulp of beer and studied a scene he didn’t quite recognize in his first trip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway since before the pandemic.

A betting lounge where bros hang out and need no bookie to place a legal bet. A pack of midriff-baring women snapping selfies at the Instagrammable art fit for social media likes.

What in the name of A.J. Foyt is going on in Indy?! It is suddenly too modern for a two-decade Indianapolis 500 veteran like Leppert?

“I just hope they keep the same traditions they always had,” he said Friday, two days before the big race.

Well, about that. The release of thousands of colorful balloons, first done in 1947, to kick off the Indianapolis 500 was shelved this year because of environmental and wildlife impact concerns.

Still, a day at Indy evokes the very essence of Americana, from the singing of “God Bless America” and “Back Home Again in Indiana,” to the 33 drivers hurtling over a yard of bricks, and the winner bathed in milk and fans partying in the Snake Pit.

“In 1947, a balloon launch was probably the coolest thing in the world,” IMS President Doug Boles said. “In 2022, a balloon launch isn’t necessarily that. It represented a lot of things to a lot of people. but it wasn’t as cutting edge now as it was in ’47.”

Yes, balloons, the empty Indy from the 2020 pandemic and reminders of the reduced crowd a year ago are buried in the past. This year, Indy is running on full horsepower.

It’s not only track officials — and Indy-area businesses — who gleefully welcome the full-throated return to the track of 300,00 roaring fans, twice the total from a year ago. Younger drivers can’t wait.

Like Rinus Veekay, a Dutch driver whose only two Indy 500s were the last two years.

“It’s been a more fun month already just having a lot of normal activities come back that we didn’t have the past few years,” driver and team owner Ed Carpenter said. “It’s Rinus’ third but it’s really his first 500. He never experienced the parade, the public drivers’ meeting, full-field autograph sessions, things that have just been on pause. It’s kind of fun to see him go through some of the things that he’s missed and for me the energy that it brings, not only on race day but every day that we’re here on track.”

Jimmie Johnson won four times at the Brickyard in his NASCAR career.

But this is Indy in May.

Johnson, who covered the race last year for NBC Sports, makes his Indy 500 debut Sunday in front of a packed, freaky scene worthy of the race’s billing as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“The energy that I experienced was unlike anything I’ve seen before, and it was only half full,” Johnson said. “I can’t wait for race day to feel the full energy.”

Veteran driver Romain Grosjean has tried to stay “calm and quiet” in his first Indy 500.

“Obviously the crowd is great down there,” he said of the 50,000 fans who turned out Friday.

The Indy rookie caught just a glimpse of what’s ahead, according to a pair of Indy 500 champs who would know.

“You haven’t seen anything,” 2013 Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan said.

“This is like nobody showed up today,” two-time Indy 500 champ Juan Pablo Montoya added.

The dress rehearsal on the 2.5-mile speedway was a blast. As pit lane opened Friday for cars just after noon, the first “Carb Day” crowd in three years erupted in cheers for the Indy 500′s final practice. A little rain couldn’t dampen their spirits. Colton Herta’s frightening end-over-end crash only briefly chilled the mood (Herta was uninjured). They mostly stuck around for the pit road challenge and then jammed out to a concert headlined by Rick Springfield.

Country music star Blake Shelton is the grand marshal. There are no Top 40 hits for Jim Cornelison, but the singer who followed Jim Nabors to sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” will do it again for a sixth straight year. He kept the tradition alive of singing the unofficial anthem of the Indy 500 even in 2020 in front of not much more than drivers and staff to listen.

“It doesn’t have that feeling of emptiness,” he said. “Last year you would look behind the pagoda and there’s nobody. It’s going to be a lot of fun to have everybody back.”

Some traditions aren’t for the revelers, like a quiet moment on race day eve when the track is dark.

“You have a truck with some beers on the track,” Cornelison said. “You just kind of sit there in the middle of the track and have a beer with Doug Boles. All right, the bulk of the work is done. Here we go. It’s kind of a special moment the night before, having a beer in the middle of the track.”

Don’t worry, plenty of cold ones will get guzzled Sunday in the Snake Pit.

And that’s not going anywhere.

“The negative pushback I’ve heard is less about the removal of the balloons and more about, is this just the first thing and we’re going to start removing a whole bunch pieces that are part of the tradition,” Boles said.

No way, he said. Plus, Roger Penske won’t allow it.

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