Automotive Research Center

Welcome to AAA's Automotive Research Center (ARC)—the AAA Federation's only dedicated automotive research facility. This state-of-the-art automotive test facility performs emissions, fuel economy, performance, and many other types of tests on cars, light trucks, and related products. The ARC also produces updates on a range of key automotive issues.

Fuel Economy

Aftermarket Devices

Is Premium Fuel Worth the Money?

Americans waste $2.1 billion a year on higher-octane fuel when not recommended by manufacturer. A new study from the Automotive Research Center looks at what effects using premium fuel had on vehicles for which it wasn’t required.

SEE WHAT THE STUDY FOUND

Aftermarket Devices

Top Tier Fuel Really Does Work

Many gas station brands talk about how their product is a “Top Tier™ gasoline,” which they say reduces the amount of “gunk” left in the engine. AAA recently tested a number of Top Tier and non-Top Tier gasoline brands to see whether such claims are merited, and the results suggest they are.

SEE WHAT THE STUDY FOUND

Aftermarket Devices

Aftermarket Devices

When gas prices skyrocketed, many drivers were tempted to buy devices and additives that claimed to improve vehicle mileage. AAA advises consumers to use caution against buying products that are unlikely to save them money on gas.

FIND OUT WHY

Fuel Savings Tips

Fuel Savings Tips

Factors like natural disasters and tension in the Middle East can impact gas prices, sending markets in an upward swing. To help drivers save money at the pump, AAA offers the following fuel savings tips.

GET TIPS    FUEL PRICE FINDER    FUEL COST CALCULATOR    DAILY FUEL GAUGE REPORT

Top 10 Fuel Efficient Vehicles

Top 10 Fuel Efficient Vehicles

With gasoline prices running high, considerable interest has been placed on the fuel efficiency of modern automobiles. Read on to learn about the top 10 vehicles the ARC tested with the highest EPA combined miles per gallon (mpg) or mile per gallon equivalent (mpge).

READ MORE

Vehicle Maintenance

Dead Battery Prevention

Dead Battery Prevention

No one likes to be stuck with a dead battery, but the fact is that cold weather is hard on cars, especially car batteries.

READ MORE

Make Your New Car Last Forever

Make Your New Car Last Forever . . . Almost

You are about to make what is—for most people—the second most expensive purchase of their life. You have arranged financing after choosing your dream vehicle, and have wisely selected a strong, reliable vehicle after checking consumer magazines. Here are some additional steps you can take to make your new car last way beyond the payment schedule.

READ MORE

Safety

Aggressive Driving

Aggressive Driving

Most drivers in a recent AAA survey admitted to expressing significant anger behind the wheel. When an aggressive driver becomes angry, their behavior could escalate to road rage—and the results could be deadly. Read our tips on how to best avoid getting involved in a dangerous situation on the road.

LEARN MORE

Car Safety Testing

How to Select the Safest Car

According to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least one vehicle crash occurs every 5 seconds in the United States. So it's not surprising that one of the most common questions the Auto Club receives from members is, "What is the safest car?" While there is no simple answer, we can point you toward resources to help you understand vehicle-crash ratings.

LEARN MORE

Spare Tire Trends

Spare Tire Trends

A spare tire probably isn’t something that you have given much thought to, however it’s an important element to every car and is extremely helpful when you find yourself stranded due to unexpected tire damage. Read on to discover the importance of the spare tire, along with tire preservation tips.

LEARN MORE

Best Cars for Teens

Best Cars for Teens

Help protect your teen driver by avoiding vehicles that lead to reckless driving. To help you choose the right vehicle, the Automotive Research Center (ARC) has evaluated vehicles based on a set of criteria such as crash test ratings, engine type, vehicle size, and fuel economy to develop a list of the best cars for new teen drivers. Read on for a list of recommended vehicles.

LEARN MORE

What To Do In Case of an Accident

What To Do In Case of an Accident

The unthinkable has happened and you’re involved in an auto accident. So what do you do now? Despite the temptation, venting your emotions, (e.g., “freaking out”) is not recommended. This is a time to keep a cool head so you can limit or prevent any additional injuries or property damage.

READ MORE

What To Do When Your Car Breaks Down

What To Do When Your Car Breaks Down

Nobody enjoys it when their car breaks down, or when they’re stranded on the road. However, it can happen to the best of us. Owning a brand new vehicle is not a 100% guarantee that it will never happen. As such, here are some tips to help you in the event you should become victim of a breakdown.

GET TIPS

What To Do When Your Car Breaks Down

How To Avoid Staged Collisions

Most drivers are trying to avoid crashes when they hit the road, but some scammers intentionally seek to cause collisions so they can make claims against you or your insurer. Learn what you can do to avoid falling prey to such schemes, and what you should do if you suspect a crash you’ve been involved in is no accident.

BE PREPARED

What To Do When Your Car Breaks Down

Driving With Debris

Large objects that fall from vehicles onto the road can pose a serious threat to motorists. Recent research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that road debris in recent years contributed to thousands of crashes and hundreds of deaths. Read our tips on how to avoid dropping or hitting objects on the road.

READ MORE

Technology

2016 Green Car Guide

2016 Green Car Guide

The ARC compiles an annual Green Car Guide including evaluations of most of the “Green” models (hybrids, electric vehicles, alternative-fueled vehicles, PZEVs, and conventional vehicles with class-leading fuel efficiency) available at the time of publication. This guide highlights statistics and reports about eco-friendly vehicles.

READ MORE

2015 Top 10 Vehicles

Top 10 Scoring Vehicles

Eighty-one vehicles were tested for the 2016 edition of the AAA Green Car Guide. Specific tests were conducted using procedures from the Society of Automotive Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and from the ARC itself.

READ MORE

Fuel Cell Vehicles

Are Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles the Future?

Consumers are becoming more comfortable with battery-electric cars as they gain traction in the marketplace, but batteries come with some serious shortcomings. Cars that run off compressed hydrogen gas overcome those hurdles, and now Hyundai and Toyota are exploring the market with hydrogen vehicles of their own.

READ MORE

Crash Avoidance Cars

Crash Avoidance Cars - Closer Than You Think

While the idea of an autonomous vehicle, or vehicle that can essentially drive by itself, might seem like science fiction, there are several technologies on the market today that are paving the way for the possibility of a “driverless car”. One grouping of these technologies is called Advanced Driver Assistance Systems or ADAS. Aimed at enhancing safety, ADAS use sensors and software to gather data from the nearby environment of the vehicle to either warn the driver or actively assist in avoiding collisions.

READ MORE

Vehicle Lightweighting - Worth the Weight?

Vehicle Lightweighting - Worth the Weight?

There are two types of automotive standards that are continually discussed: safety and fuel economy.  Auto manufacturers are working to make vehicles safer and more fuel efficient.  Seatbelts and air bags were created for safety.  Advanced powertrain technologies have helped to improve the fuel economy rating of passenger vehicles.  The trend of vehicle lightweighting has both positive and negative consequences for both safety and fuel economy.

READ MORE

Vehicle Lightweighting - Worth the Weight?

Hands-Free Driving Isn’t Risk-Free Driving

Using state-of-the-art tools for measuring brain activity and driving performance, research is showing that drivers using hands-free phone systems have trouble focusing on basic driving tasks. The newest studies found that the effects of such mental distractions can persist afterward.

READ MORE

The ARC Facility

The Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center (ARC) is the American Automobile Association (AAA) federation's only dedicated automotive research facility.

Located at Auto Club Headquarters in Los Angeles, the state-of-the-art automotive test facility performs emissions, fuel economy, performance, and many other types of tests on cars, light trucks, and related products. The ARC produces and distributes regular updates on a broad range of key automotive issues to inform staff, members, and the media.

The facility consists of a four-wheel drive dynamometer test cell, a workshop, and a “soak” area where vehicles are prepped for emissions and fuel economy testing. The test cell doubles as an environmental chamber where cars can be tested at any temperature between 20 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Tests are performed using procedures developed by the ARC, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

Putting Products to the Test

Testing is often performed to certify aftermarket products as legal for sale in California, the rest of the U.S., and occasionally Europe; to validate performance, emissions, or gas mileage improvement claims; or for development.

The ARC supports AAA National in joint projects including: evaluations of electric vehicle range at extreme temperatures, engine stop-start systems, EPA “window-sticker” fuel economy estimates, ethanol fuel, and other projects. The ARC also supports AAA public policy initiatives providing unbiased data to support public policy positions.

At the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., the ARC performs tests for acceleration, braking, handling, interior and exterior noise, and maneuverability using SAE Recommended Practices. In the 1980s, the ARC participated in SAE’s development of the acceleration and braking Recommended Practices. These tests are used for the annual AAA Green Car Guide. Occasionally, the Auto Club Speedway is used to validate performance claims of aftermarket products.

Influencing Automotive Safety

The ARC started in the 1960s when Congress held a series of public policy debates on auto emissions. The Auto Club launched the ARC at that time to provide a factual basis for participation in the debates. The first ARC facility was in the old carriage house, a remnant of the family estate on which the Los Angeles Headquarters was built. It moved to a Specialty Equipment Market Association-sponsored facility in 2002, and returned to headquarters in the new location in May 2015.

The ARC's role expanded in the 1980s to include vehicle safety testing. This allowed the Auto Club to provide members and the media with information about vehicle safety, performance, and comfort. Research also supported National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety initiatives.

In recent years, the ARC has undertaken broader data analysis and research, including some revenue-generating projects, such as federal contracts for defect investigations. Continuing the Auto Club's long tradition of roadside assistance, the ARC supports AAA National Pacesetter/On-the-Go strategies by identifying roadside repair solutions.

The ARC was instrumental in the EPA’s 2006 decision to mandate that car manufacturers post more accurate mileage estimates on new vehicles. It was also involved in revising California’s smog check testing in the 1990s to help the state further improve air quality.

Creating members for life by exceeding our members' expectations through valuable products

Automotive Research Center facility

Information provided by the Automotive Research Center.