What's the difference between a sunroof and a moonroof?

I let in light, but I’m not a window. I used to be rare, but now I’m almost as common as a radio. What am I?

The answer is a sunroof — or a moonroof, depending on whom you talk to.

Before we get specific, let’s get into a little history. The sunroof has been around in some form or another since the early days of the automobile, and the name moonroof wasn’t thrown around until the 1970s. The two terms today are, for the most part, interchangeable.

The former is a retractable roof panel that lets light and air into a vehicle, and sometimes made from an opaque material. The latter serves the same function, but is fully glass and lets in light even when closed. Modern manufacturer-offered units are fully electric and feature manual or motorized sunshades that slide underneath to keep out the sun when unwanted.

Now that that’s cleared up (is it?), here are three varieties of sun/moonroofs you will most likely run into.

Honda Civic EX moonroof inside


The built-in sunroof is arguably the most ubiquitous of all the different types. The panel slides inside the metal roof of the car and out of view, affording a generous opening at the cost of some headroom. It only fits vehicles that have a large roof to accommodate the full panel, and usually also includes a one-touch open/close button, and a tilt operation that props up the rear half to allow air ventilation. This can be found on cars like the Honda Civic and the Mazda6.

2015 Lexus RC 350 spoiler moonroof outside


For smaller vehicles that can’t accommodate a built-in sunroof, the solution is a spoiler. I’m not talking about an aerodynamic wing, but a sunroof that slides up and overtop of, rather than into, the metal roof. It still normally has the same functions as the built-in, like rear tilt. This type works perfectly for two-door sport cars like the Porsche Cayman and Lexus RC 350.

MINI Cooper S panoramic moonroof


Found more and more on newer models, a panoramic moonroof features multiple glass panels spanning much of the roof area. Often the forward-most panel will open, while the rearward sections remain fixed. An advantage of this system is that it lets in a lot of ambient light, and can provide a particularly magnificent view on a clear night. Examples of vehicles with available panoramic moonroofs include the Hyundai Santa Fe and MINI Cooper.

Brakes: what's the difference between discs and drums?

For many casual drivers, their idea of a vehicle’s brakes is simply the pedal left of the throttle, and the expensive item that shows up on their service bill every few years. Never mind trying to ask whether they can discern between disc and drum setups. Fortunately, we “brake” down the differences of the two systems for you below.

Drum brakes

Red painted brake drums

This type of braking mechanism is called a “drum,” because that is precisely what it looks like. Still found on some vehicles being released in the market today — think entry-level cars like the Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit — it is the usually dark-coloured cylinder located underneath each of the rear wheels on newer vehicles.

The outer casing of drum brakes is made from either cast iron or, to a lesser extent, aluminium. Inside the drum is a set of “shoes,” which are crescent-shaped metal pieces that have a high friction material affixed onto the outer edges. When a driver steps on the brakes, a specialized fluid transfers the movement from the pedal to the shoes that then press up against the drum to slow the wheel, and the car, down.

Drum brake shoes

Drum brake shoes

Disc brakes

People nowadays are most likely familiar with the disc brake system that has become increasingly ubiquitous over the last couple of decades. Rather than featuring a drum, disc brakes utilize a round rotor also made from cast iron, or in high-performance applications composites, including carbon and ceramic.

A “caliper” sits above and straddles both sides of the rotor (as seen in the picture below of a 2015 Scion FR-S), a part that contains a series of hydraulic pistons and a high friction brake pad on either side. Activating the brakes causes the pistons to clamp down and push the pads to make contact with the rotor, slowing down the vehicle. This is similar to what happens when braking on a bicycle.

2015 Scion FR-S disc brakes

Each time this process takes place, both the brake pad and the rotor wear away due to abrasive friction. Generally, the pads will be depleted sooner than the rotors and require more frequent replacement.

Other differences                                                            

Because of its enclosed design, drum brakes are prone to excessive heat build-up under high-stress situations, which can cause “fade,” meaning the brakes start to lose their effectiveness. The rotors used in disc brakes on the other hand are exposed to ambient air resulting in constant cooling.

Cost of manufacturing is one of the reasons some automakers continue to offer partial drum brake setups. That said, the front brakes do the majority of the work since weight is shifted forward each time you brake, so only having discs in the front is more than adequate for most motorists.


OpenRoad Audi service department

The life of brake components varies greatly depending on models, personal driving habits and driving conditions — the best thing to do is take your vehicle in for regular servicing to ensure everything is working properly. If you hear or feel anything out of the ordinary like squealing or shuddering when the brakes are applied, make sure you consult a professional immediately.

Cars from SEMA part three

SEMA Show 2016 Global MX-5 Cup car
The car to be used in the Mazda 2016 Global MX-5 Cup racing series, above, was revealed at the Las Vegas SEMA Show. Photos by Zak Tang.

To kick off the Las Vegas SEMA Show earlier this month, an automotive trade show that brings together aftermarket parts industry representatives from all over the world, an awards ceremony was held to crown the industry’s hottest vehicles.

Accepting the title of Hottest Sport Compact was the new Honda Fit, the small four-door hatchback recently entering its third generation. The company brought out nine personalized versions of the subcompact — six were built by tuners for the 2015 Fit Performance Project and documented on the social networking website Tumblr.

Sema Show Spoon Sports USA 2015 Honda Fit

Honda performance specialist Spoon Sports USA created the Super Taikyu (Endurance) Fit, unmistakable due to the heavily featured signature blue and yellow paint scheme. Not surprisingly, most of the new parts “fitted” on the car are made by Spoon, including a titanium exhaust, brake rotors, calipers, pads and lines, suspension, aero mirrors and sunroof delete. The body aero, though, is made by Honda, and the wheels are 15×7 CE28 Club Racers by Volk Racing.

SEMA Show Bisimoto 2015 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai collaborated with Bisimoto Engineering for the third consecutive time to build something that not only looks good, but more importantly, goes fast to show at SEMA. This year, it’s a 700-plus horsepower sedan. Using the 2015 Sonata as a canvas, the original 2.4-litre engine has been massaged with forged pistons, a high-revving valve train, high-boost turbocharger and more. The exterior features a custom laminated body wrap, body kit, 18-inch wheels and a Burns stainless steel exhaust system.

SEMA Show Bisimoto 2015 Hyundai Sonata engine

Roadster enthusiasts the world over held their collective breath when the redesigned 2016 Mazda MX-5 was revealed in September. After having the question ‘What will it look like?” answered, the next most popular query was “Where will it race?” At a global announcement during SEMA, Mazda responded with the announcement of a new 2016 Global MX-5 Cup racing series to take place in North America, Europe and Asia.

SEMA Show Mazda 2016 Global MX-5 Cup

Although Mazda provided no information on specs or equipment other than confirming a 2.0 L SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder engine will be used, they did have a cup car on display. Enjoy the pictures.

SEMA Show Mazda 2016 Global MX-5 Cup

SEMA Show Mazda 2016 Global MX-5 Cup

SEMA Show Mazda 2016 Global MX-5 Cup

How high tech ventilated seats increase fuel efficiency and reduce pollution

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy has found that ventilated seats can help to increase fuel efficiency.

How the technology works

Seat ventilation is a feature that is offered in many luxury cars today. Advertised under a variety of names such as “climate comfort”, “ventilated”, or “air conditioned” seats, depending on the manufacturer, this feature has now also started trickling down to many non-luxury brand vehicles.

Non-luxury models including the Hyundai Sonata, Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Avalon, Toyota Sequoia, Toyota Tundra, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Odyssey all offer this feature.

The system works by using a clever combination of perforated leather seating surfaces and small fans integrated into the seats. Some systems also incorporate a micro cooling element, much like an air conditioner.

While the number of fans and the exact system design varies depending on the auto manufacturer, all of them work on the same principle. They draw in air from the cooler, lower area of the passenger compartment and transfer it uniformly to the seat cushion and back rest.

These fans create air flow, at adjustable intensities, through the fine perforations in the leather. This quickly cools the surfaces of the seats to a pleasant temperature, even if the vehicle has been heated by an intense amount of sunlight for a long period of time. The finely perforated leather upholstery absorbs perspiration to create a pleasant microclimate all-round – in effect, the seats ´breathe.´

A standard car seat blocks your body’s built-in cooling system. Ordinarily you eject heat through your pores in the form of water vapour, which carries the heat invisibly into the air.

Having a seat pressing against your back and bottom prevents this water vapour from escaping, causing it to condense into sticky sweat. It’s like wearing a jacket in hot weather.

But the gently circulating air of a ventilated seat carries away your body heat and helps to keep you cooler and your clothes drier during warmer months.

On some vehicles, the heated and ventilated functions can even be used simultaneously, circulating the seat heating more quickly. This is an added benefit on cold or damp days as the dual function helps to dry off clothes or keep you warm and dry as quickly as possible.

How does this help to reduce fuel consumption?

By employing thermal comfort measuring tools and subjective tests, the U.S. Department of Energy’s researchers were able to measure occupants’ thermal sensation with ventilated seats.

Their tests concluded that because the ventilated seats keep vehicle occupants cooler, they consequently reduce the use of the vehicle’s air conditioning system to achieve the desired level of comfort.

So by confining the cooled air directly to the spot where the hot driver (or passenger) is sitting, air-conditioned seats use energy more efficiently than the air conditioners that cool the entire interior of the car. They don’t completely eliminate fuel use and pollution, but they minimize it.

“If all passenger vehicles had ventilated seats, we estimate there could be a 7.5% reduction in national air conditioning fuel use,” says John Rugh, project leader for NREL’s vehicle ancillary loads reduction project.

Such a reduction would translate to about 522 million gallons (1.97 billion L) of fuel saved annually in the USA alone, he says.

So while it’s not quite as nice as jumping into a swimming pool on a hot day, this latest technology not only helps to keep you cool but your cash in your wallet too. Look for it on the next vehicle you test drive!