Go into any parts store and you’ll see rows of products that claim to clean wheels. Just spray and rinse! After buying, spraying and rinsing, you end-up with half clean wheels that beg you to take out the scrub brush and clean them the old fashioned way. And here’s the really horrible bit: OCD pistonheads keep after the cleanliness is next to godliness spray ‘n wash wheel cleaning Holy Grail until their garages are littered– OK, carefully arranged with half empty bottles of wheel cleaner. So, is there a genuine no-brush wheel cleaning solution?
Posts By: Michael Posner
Say the name Hartge or Alpina to a BMW fan and you’ll get instant nods of understanding and respect. While Dinan doesn’t get the pistonhead props afforded these German uber-tuners, they’re rightfully considered America’s foremost BMW tuner. Steve Dinan’s mob has been modifying BMW cars since 1979. His Morgan Hill California-based company offers upgrades for Bimmer engines, suspensions, brakes and wheels. Like the Germans, Dinan also sells “Signature Vehicles” and creates special Factory Works programs. We concern ourselves here with an ECU upgrade and a cold air intake.
Three pedals for two feet. A wheel and a shift knob for two hands– that are supposed to be on the helm at all times. The manual transmission doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? Never mind. For its increasingly marginalized adherents, the manual transmission makes driving a pleasure. Unfortunately, carmakers are deleting the manual option from many U.S.-spec cars. As you’d expect from “ultimate driving machine” fabricators, BMW offers a manual in all of its vehicles save the 7-Series, including the once SMG-only M5s and M6s. These manual-equipped Bimmers sport ZF-sourced six-speed transmissions crowned by a leather shift knob.
It's a never-ending battle between speeders and the police. Since the e-wars began, the police have moved from simple X-Band radar-based speed detectors to sophisticated KA-band radar guns, radar detector detectors (no really) and laser speed detection devices (with charming names like Stalker LZ-1). While the best consumer radar detectors can sniff out X and KA-band signals from a long way off– before the signal can bounce back to Officer Not So Friendly– if your laser beam detector goes off, tag you’re it. If you’re speeding (which you probably are as you’re reading a laser jammer review), you’ve been nabbed.
Selecting a performance tire is a daunting process. Over ten different tire manufacturers offer over forty different brands in a multitude of configurations for a range of road conditions. Tire prices range from less than a single Ben Franklin to nearly three times that amount. And it’s difficult to isolate objective information about any given tire because of the number of variables and the inability for any one tire to be the best in any one category (e.g. grip, wear, wet weather traction, wheel protection, comfort, etc.) Oy vey.
Driving my new 2004 Audi with the family on a vacation to Sanibel Island, the check engine light (CEL) illuminated. We were 125 miles from home. In the past, an engine warning light would trigger panic, confusion and nameless dread. (Owners’ manuals are no help; they simply tell afflicted drivers to take the car to an official dealer.) All I could do was find, phone and visit a local dealer (if they were open) or limp home, knowing that every mile might be making an unknown situation worse. These days, I have an alternative: the OBD-II Actron 9135 scanner.
Now that you’ve attached that cherry faux sunroof you snagged on EBay onto your econobox, it’s time to spruce up the interior. No, I’m not talking about a pine-scented Magic Tree® air freshener (review to follow). Nothing says upwardly mobile motor like a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Now you could stunt down to your local auto parts store and pick-up one of those slide-on leather covers for about twenty bucks. But unless you have hands the size of Sasquatch, you may find this to be a sub-optimal solution. Thankfully, a slimmer, higher quality alternative is available. If properly installed, it adds a tasteful touch to any tiller.
Enthusiasts have been tuning vehicles since the first car coughed into life. Back in the day, performance-minded pistonheads could enhance their car’s fun factor by putting stiffer springs on the distributor advance, or changing the top dead center degrees. In fact, there were hundreds of relatively simple ways a clever wrench could wring more performance out of his [formerly] humble four-wheeled steed. Today’s cars are too heavily computer-dependent for such simple tricks. Enthusiast-oriented entrepreneurs have created a whole new market of electronic modifications to fill in the void.
BMW, Mercedes, Audi and other performance-oriented manufacturers all place a high premium on providing their customers with massive stopping power, with minimal noise. To that end, they fit relatively soft brake pads. The Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) brake pads are fabricated from a combination of high tech and simple materials: carbon fibers, metal filings and a powerful adhesive to hold the pad material together. These soft brake pads help the machines achieve astounding predictability, power and control but they do make your expensive wheels look like crap.
Given the changing pace of technology, the price of factory-fitted satellite navigation and the itinerant traveler's tendency to rent their chariot, a portable GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) navigation system is the ideal solution. When choosing an electronic pathfinder, map quality makes all the difference. Magellan (like Garmin) uses the premier map data supplier Navteq. The Magellan Maestro Series offers three models with a "just right" screen size (4.3"). The 4000 ($399) is the base model. The 4040 ($499) adds Canada (the maps, not the country) and Bluetooth, which lets you access addresses lurking inside your phone/palmtop. Although you can upgrade the 4040 to real-time traffic data for another hundred bucks, that same Franklin buys you the 4050 ($599) with a built-in traffic jam info receiver. On the road, the Magellan's 4040's geek fabulous 20-channel sirfsStarIII chipset instantly locked onto a GPS signal and updated quickly. The maps are pellucid, the voice prompts clear and the touch screen ergonomically sound. On the downside, the map disappears during recalculation and full-on sunlight is still a bugbear (a built-in visor would help). While RV-ing seniors might appreciate the AAA's TourBook info and roadside assistance (trip A members only), it would be nice to be able to choose a more (ahem) upmarket guide. Overall, the 4040 is a decent but not outstanding GPS device– at $499. But Costco's got 'em for $349 (in store price, call ahead). For that money, you're good to go.
Stars (out of five)
Should this be a TTAC-approved product?
Car-based crossovers (CUV's) are America’s SUV escape pod of choice. Domesticated SUV’s from Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Ford and more have found favor, as have their upmarket homonyms. Although GM was late to the crossover party, the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook are (at least for the moment) highly competitive products. At the top end, Cadillac stands pat with its three-year-old SRX. For '07, Caddy’s attempted to re-invigorate their CUV with a new interior.