That ‘Old Car’ Smell

That ‘Old Car’ Smell

No matter how old it was, or who it belonged to, every time you got inside an old VW Beetle, it had a unique smell.

If the number of birthdays you’ve had has crested the half-century mark, it means you grew up riding around in cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s. This being the case with me, I remember them well. The styles and designs were all different and unique, but no matter how different they may have been, most of them all smelled the same on the inside.

Come to think of it, I don’t remember them really smelling like anything. If they did have a distinct odor, it was usually the smell of cigarettes. And, that was a big factor in buying a car. If it didn’t smell like anything, it was probably at least moderately cared for. If it smelled in any way, you walked away, or did some serious wheeling and dealing because you knew it would be tough to get rid of the smell.

Somewhere along the line, I got used to hearing the phrase “new car smell.” It seemed to be a favorite line of used car salespeople. My family never had new cars, so I could only figure the “new car smell” was the melded odors of carpet, plastic, vinyl, rubber and cloth all cooped up inside. As soon as the car started to see use, the odors would eventually dissipate, and the interior would pick up the ambient smell of the world around us.

At some point, someone invented the “new car smell” in a spray bottle, and I’ve also seen it on rear-view-mirror air fresheners. I’m not sure if anyone was ever duped by this, but it never smelled like a new car to me. I thought it smelled like a bad perfume. Over the years, as I began to restore cars as a hobby, I learned what the new car smell was. There was only one way to replicate it when all the upholstery and interior components were new and could once again emit that magical blend of odors, at least for a little while.

There was one car, however, that beat the odds, and as a kid I never knew why. No matter how old it was, or who it belonged to, every time you got inside an old VW Beetle, it had a unique smell. It was intriguing, and there was somehow something alluring about it. They smelled like it new, and they smelled like it old. You could be blindfolded and sit in 100 different cars and not know what they were, but sit in a VW Beetle and you knew it right away.

So, it became an aspect of the cars that you came to expect and appreciate. Here was a car that retained the same “new car smell” for as many years as you owned it. And what was the secret? It was the seat padding. They’re called “horse hair” pads, but not because they’re made from actual horse hair. The term is used in the upholstery world for materials that are in the shape of a curled hair, synthetic or otherwise. In the case of the Beetle, they were made from coconut husk fiber.

Over the years, many a VW has been restored, replacing the old padding with new foam. It works fine, but the smell is gone. A classic Beetle will never be a Beetle without that smell. Luckily, many purists feel the same way and you can buy brand-new “horse hair” seat pads for just that reason. Pine trees step aside, it’s the one car that just has to have that original smell. TS

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Scan Tool Tech

While systems can and will differ, here’s a look at common ADAS features, their general configurations and calibration requirements.

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Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) require the use of a scan tool for diagnostics, and the majority of the time, it’s required for post-repair calibration. ADAS, like any other system, requires a diagnostic routine, which begins with a base knowledge of the system. Knowing ADAS will help understand fault symptoms and scan tool data for the most efficient diagnosis.While systems can and will differ, here’s a look at common ADAS features, their general configurations and calibration requirements.Parking assist sensors, of which there can be more than one, are generally located in the front and rear bumpers. They are the inputs that affect active parking assist and parking collision warnings. Any time they are disturbed in any manner, a static calibration must be performed with a scan tool.Side object sensors, sometimes called collision avoidance sensors, are commonly located in the rear bumper. These sensors provide input for blind spot warnings, lane change alerts and rear cross traffic warnings. Static calibration with a scan tool is required when these are removed or replaced.Rear vision cameras will be located in the rear decklid, liftgate or tailgate, and act as either a backup camera alone, or part of a surround view system if the vehicle is so equipped. These cameras generally require a dynamic calibration, and no scan tool is required.A forward-looking camera is sometimes located behind the grille, and usually part of a surround view system. These too do not require a scan tool, but a dynamic calibration must be performed when they are removed or replaced.Different ADAS features may have dedicated control modules which can be located in various areas, often behind interior panels. As with most control modules, these require scan tool programming when replaced and, depending on the system, both static and dynamic calibrations may be required.The Haptic Seat Motor creates the vibration to provide a safety alert for blind spot, forward collision, lane departure, lane keep assist, parking collision and rear cross traffic warnings. These motors, sometimes called seat warning actuators, generally require no type of calibration.Cameras located in a sideview mirror are part of surround view systems. These require calibration when removed or replaced, but most of them dynamic, and no scan tool is required.The steering angle sensor located in the steering column is an input for lane keep assistance, and a static calibration is required with a scan tool any time it is removed or replaced, or any time a wheel alignment is performed.Last, but not least, is the front view, or forward-looking camera located in the windshield area. This camera is a vital part of adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beam headlights, forward collision and lane departure warnings, and lane keeping assistance. A scan tool and static and dynamic calibration are required after removal and replacement, but also after windshield removal or replacement, or any service that affects the ride height of the vehicle. TS

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