The Truth About Cars » Automotive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 20 Jul 2014 16:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Automotive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Question Of The Day: What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up… Car Wise? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/question-of-the-day-what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up-car-wise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/question-of-the-day-what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up-car-wise/#comments Fri, 22 Mar 2013 16:23:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482015 Click here to view the embedded video.

Another day at the office. Like most drones on a Friday afternoon, you’re wasting your time playing on the Internet. Thanks to a mid-level job that requires more presence than productivity.

The smell of slightly burnt coffee and the din of florescent lights is already starting to kill your weekend mojo. This is the time when you usually take a bit of the vodka that’s hidden under the lock and key of a nearby file cabinet, and mix it into whatever drinkable substance strikes your fancy at the soda machine.

You open the drawer and…. huh? Who put some Colt 45 malt liquor in there? Ice cold. Wow.

You pause for a second. Pop it open, and before you know it.

A genie pops out. But this is no ordinary genie….

Click here to view the embedded video.

This is the same exact genie who helped you choose your 20 year sentence.

“Oh God. Don’t tell me you’re going to make me keep another new car for 20 years.” you say in mortal fear of purchasing another Saturn like appliance as a daily commuter.

That genie, who has a remarkable resemblance to a Star Wars actor from the early 1980′s, walks straight up to you and offers two simple words.

“New… Life…”

You immediately think about the good life. Fun. Challenge. Beauty. Achievement. All the things that are missing from your current line of work. But as the world around you changes in the blink of an eye, you find yourself in the middle of this.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Now you start to really panic, “Genie? You want me to take over a depressing amusement park from the 1980′s? Wasn’t driving a Saturn for 20 years bad enough?”

The genie quickly retorts. “Not quite for you young friend! But yes, I am a bit disappointed by your unexciting choice of vehicle and your line of work. I mean, c’mon! You are an office grunt driving a Saturn instead of a man conquering this world. That’s why I have a mission in mind for you.”

The genie takes a quick swig of his own Colt 45 malt liquor and stares at you with a menacing glare. “I’m going to give you a second chance. This time forget about the car. After realizing you bought a Saturn, I thought that your next wish should involve public transit. Which it kinda does because now you’re going to be a 16 year old working class poor kid from PA.”

You look at yourself in a nearby mirror and quickly see a few things. The paunch is gone. T-shirt. Sneakers. Funny baseball cap. Skinny body. That genie has decided to give you one last chance to make good in this world.

The genie points his finger right at you and says, “Don’t worry about trying to bet your way to becoming a billionaire, because I have already removed all those memories from your mind. What you need to do is find a job you love. And it has to be in the auto industry.”

You think for quite a while. It’s going to be one long ride from the junior year of high school to the job of your dreams. And you have to get this right because if you screw it up, the genie will send you back to the modern day with a lifelong sentence of riding mass transit instead of a car.

We’re talking the underfunded version of mass transit where long waits, bad smells, and long journeys are a part of daily life. In otherwords you will be stuck in the hot, humid hellhole known as Atlanta. Or even worse, Miami.

So what would you like to do for a living? Designer? Mechanical engineer? Automotive Analyst? Journalist? You can be a marketer of all things NASCAR, or even a franchised car dealer if you’re willing to start from the bottom.

That’s another thing. This journey is as much about the path as it is the destination. So think hard and choose with care.

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

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Piston Slap: Hard Body, Easy Decision? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/piston-slap-an-unsung-heros-hard-body/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/piston-slap-an-unsung-heros-hard-body/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 11:42:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465133

Robin writes:

Thanks so much for the data on fuel additives. I did later determine that it also can be a salve for ethanol-afflicted soft bits in the fuel lines. Here’s the deal though. My little 1994 Nissan Hardbody is a delightful little vehicle.

It now has over 181,000 on the clock. I just returned from a trip to San Antonio. Drove there from McKinney and back. I logged MPG and came up with just at/under 23 MPG. Before I had always been turning 25/26 MPG on road trips.

With low 180,000 miles I fully realize that things are starting to wear. I want to keep investing in this little truck as it is still worth more to me than I could hope to sell it for. I need to know the usual suspects, the places to start looking to upgrade or repair in order to restore mileage. I wish I could take it to my mechanic and tell them “fix it” but I ain’t got that kind of bank account.

Sajeev answers:

The dirty little secret about honest compact trucks? They are more valuable to more people than a comparable car, especially in rural areas/flyover states. Small trucks do so much for so little, they are the most loyal soldiers in our automotive landscape. And that’s why I love ‘em, enough to join the ranks with one of the last Ford Rangers ever made.

So I do indeed see where you’re coming from. The point?

Fix everything to your heart’s content…well, within reason. Here’s a list of common wear items at this age that you should invest to make the ownership more appealing to you and a future buyer. You mentioned mileage specifically, but I want to go further.

  1. Anything made of rubber: Belts, Hoses, Tires, Vacuum Lines, O-Rings, Suspension Bushings, Weatherstripping.
  2. Shocks and Springs: both are fatigued at this age, especially the shocks. Buy the highest quality shock you can afford.
  3. Tune up items: spark plugs, PCV, all filters (don’t forget fuel!), spark plug wires, oxygen sensors, etc.
  4. Speakers: they weren’t great when new and after years of sun exposure, consider getting new ones (the cheap ones) to enjoy your stereo again. Yes, this is important, especially in a truck with less-than-thrilling comfort for long trips.
  5. HVAC, clean out debris from the blower motor and evaporator behind the dash.
  6. Actually, clean just about everything under the hood too, just not with a steam cleaner. Look for leaks after driving with a clean engine.  Fix the leaks.
  7. Tint windows, helps the A/C with its mission.
  8. Polish and Wax the paint, for looks and slipperiness at highway speeds. Also consider a tonneau cover to improve aerodynamics and functionality: I attribute my better than average mileage to the cover on my Ranger.
  9. Fluids: flush the brakes, slave cylinder, power steering, and maybe even the differential’s stuff.  These aren’t considered by most people, but they are important. Flushing an automatic transmission at this age (if the fluid hasn’t been changed) is too hit or miss for me to recommend, but go ahead and do it for a manual.
  10. Headlights!  They fade out so slowly that yours are probably gone even if you don’t think so. I’ve seen some drivers need new bulbs after 2-3 years of use. They still worked…except they really didn’t.

And on your Hardbody, get a factory shop manual and just tear into it. Join a forum and get reading. This isn’t a Turbo SAAB, you got nothing to fear.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

 

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Five Simple Technologies For The Long Haul http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/five-simple-technologies-for-the-long-haul/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/five-simple-technologies-for-the-long-haul/#comments Sat, 21 Jul 2012 19:10:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453706

Just Imagine What I Can Do To Your Car!

Everybody wants a deal. But precious few people are willing to change their habits to make their deal last longer.

The casualties of the rough and reckless are expensive and almost always preventable. For every person who complains about an automatic transmission giving out, there are ten people who still insist on shifting from reverse to drive while the vehicle is in motion.

Moments like that make me feel like this behavior is just…

Click here to view the embedded video.

not economically viable.

I sometimes tell folks that doing that to a car is like walking backwards and having someone punch you in the square of the back. Enough hits in the back at that same place, and you’re going to need surgery.

Machines, like us limber humans,  shouldn’t have to deal with such stress issues.

Does the mpg’s stink? Sometimes it’s the fault of the manufacturer. But other times, more often than not, it’s because the owner abuses the vehicle with jackrabbit starts, hard braking, and outright neglect.

Steering and suspension components don’t last? Tell the screw behind the wheel to loosen up a bit, and watch the road ahead.

Waste costs money when it comes to cars. So what should we do if our father, cousin or former roommate are the automotive Kevorkians of the modern day?

Plan ahead… and hope that a few low-cost technologies become as common as these modern day Kevorkians.

1) The Shelf

 

You would think that I start this weekend’s column with some whiz bang technology that requires a computer and a circuit. Truth is a lot of folks eventually screw up the interiors because their stuff is all strewn about. They get used to having their transportation serve as a mobile romper room where anything can be chucked anywhere for any reason.

A well placed shelf in the rear of most hatchbacks has the effect of keeping everything in place and nearly doubling the available space you have to haul and store your cargo. This is important from an owner’s standard because the easier it is to keep things tidy, the more inclined we are to do it. An empty soda can in a clean room will usually be thrown away while the same can in a messy place will usually just blend in with the scenery.

A good shelf opens up a lot of space, and helps keep a car tidy.

2) Oil life monitoring systems.

This technology has been around for over 20 years and yet the overwhelming majority of cars still don’t have them.

The benefits of this are obvious… and yet as of 2010, only 40% of manufacturers use them in their cars.

If an automotive Kevorkian wants to ignore this technology, so be it. But putting this in cars would likely save a lot of folks hundreds of dollars and several unneeded oil changes. Multiply that by all the folks in need of it, and we could retire the debt of California… or at least Stockton.

3) MPG monitors: Instant and average

 

What can you do on a long, miserable commute home?

Daydream, listen to the radio, drive, talk on a hands free phone… and that’s about legally it.

Why not keep score?

Of course not all folks will do this. But offering a simple button or switch that makes this possible could alter the driving behaviors of at least a few errant drivers.

Besides, when you’re bored in stop and go traffic, frugality can be the only cheap fun out there.

4) Shift interlocks

I am stubborn on my belief that most CVT’s that will go south in the coming years can endure if their new owners learn how to shift properly.

Reverse, stop, shift. Drive, stop, park. Don’t shift in motion. Stop. STOP. STOP!!!

A shift lock mechanism that keeps the car from shifting while it’s in motion would help undo a learned behavior. That and the four figured premiums of replacing those transmissions.

5) Simple maintenance access

If an automaker wants to enshroud their engine in plastic, that’s fine. But no manufacturer should have the arrogance and gall to prevent access to the tranny fluid, claim that it is a ‘lifetime fluid’, and then whistle the tunes of warranties gone by once that transmission goes kaput.

Lifetime should mean lifetime. End of story. If a manufacturer wants to play the “What is a lifetime?” game, then at least give owners an easy means to replace the fluid.

 

Do you know of anything else that can be cheap or helpful? I have a few other ideas. But in the meantime, feel free to share any technologies or Kevorkians you have come across in your travels. As Judge Judy says, “You can’t stop stupid.” But perhaps a well-deigned shift interlock can slow it down.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: In God We Trust? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/vellum-venom-vignette-in-god-we-trust/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/vellum-venom-vignette-in-god-we-trust/#comments Sun, 17 Jun 2012 02:28:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449252 It’s funny how a college professor goes from cool to angry in a split second.  Case in point: my first transportation design class at CCS.  People showed off their designs as per usual, but one day I opened my big mouth. I mentioned that a classmate’s rendering sported wheels that looked like the Star of David. He seemed completely clueless about what he did. But I just had to “keep it real.” Oh boy, was that ever a mistake!

A design school that caters to the big automakers, staffed with adjunct professors who work in the business…well, they know better than some punk design student.  My wrist was (kinda) slapped, and everyone was warned to not include religious symbolism in their products.  Because everyone in this business wants to sell their product to anyone with green money.  Nobody gives a crap as long as you can “splash the cash.”

Stop reading if you believe TTAC has no business discussing religion.

So anyway, I didn’t much care for the exposed holes in my 2011 Ranger’s bed, and I wanted some tie downs to take advantage of my “Truxedo” tonneau cover when carrying bags full of recycling. With four bedside hooks, I could strap down oversized cargo with two belts, and the big flappy hunk of Truxedo vinyl would keep the recycling from flying away.

So I bought these Bull Rings.  Plus, from the photos I saw on the Internet, they look pretty awesome. A great piece of Industrial Design, worthy of kudos from any CCS professor. And worthy of a little positive Venom from this series.

 

I once read something in a Hindu temple suggesting that Universalism between religions exists. It was in stark contrast to the kids in grade school who told me I was going to hell for my beliefs. One person later gave me a half-hearted apology for that, but it proved a point. And I learned to get over it: that’s the beauty of growing older, I guess. Probably.

So when I installed these (easy to use, rather awesome) bits on my Ranger, I was surprisingly upset when I saw the fish icon under the ring.  I didn’t pay for this, and I assume the BullRings sold by FoMoCo don’t have Christian symbolism hidden under the ring. Even worse, it’s been over a week and these things still upset me.

My truck.  My money.  I did not pay for the fish, and it was not advertised as such.

I never gave much thought to it, but my CCS professor was right to make a big deal about car design and religion. Religion has a very important place in our society, and I respect that. But when I pay for a piece of Industrial Design, I don’t expect a hidden religious message to go with.

If you want to share your message, do it like the kids did in grade school: shock me by calling me “Gandhi” or “Maharaja” (neither of which are insults) and make fun of my religion because it isn’t Christianity.  I’ve always respected Christianity and have many friends in this faith who’d vouch for me, but these bits on my truck shall meet the grinding end of my Dremel tool.  Sorry peeps: not on my truck, not with my money.

This isn’t what I signed up for, son. Once again: my truck and my money.  I did not pay for the fish, and it was not advertised as such.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

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Product Review: Harbor Freight Hydraulic Scissor Lift http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/product-review-harbor-freight-hydraulic-scissor-lift/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/product-review-harbor-freight-hydraulic-scissor-lift/#comments Thu, 07 Jan 2010 20:22:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=341031 The New Beetle of Damocles?

Having lead a life of high adventure in my youth, scaling pinnacles of rocks and ice, I never imagined that I’d meet my end, flat on my back crushed beneath a falling car. I was setting a new land-speed record for butt-shoulder-shuffling on my way out from under the creaking, swaying mass of 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle-shaped steel groaning menacingly above my body. Moments before the VW started moving it was resting firmly on my tried, and until-that-moment trusted ramps and jack-stands. But now I was going to die, life flashing before my eyes, staring swaying death in the face as my wife’s “cute bug” transformed into Damocles’ Sword, or Poe’s Pendulum, my garage floor playing the Pit. The tremor ceased as my head cleared the oil pan, and the Beetle slowed, then stopped making the horrific creaking noises as the jack-stands stopped wobbling. I cleared the bumper and leapt to my feet in a single motion, and relief swept over me like the expected post-quake tidal wave should. “Damn, I’m still alive!… in fact… I’m completely unharmed!” Running into the house I yelled at the family: ‘Did you guys feel that?!” … only to be met with a non-chalant: “feel what?”

In retrospect the tremor which scared me out from under the car was only a barely-rattle-the-china 3.2 on the Richter Scale, but it drove home an indelible lesson to this DIY mechanic living in a region where three tectonic plates meet: I NEED to get a lift!

flatWith kids heading for college in a few years, the budget was tight, but the family’s financial committee agreed that my life and future earning power were worth an investment of about a thousand bucks or so. Armed with that vote of confidence I perused the web for advice and good deals on a better platform for the home mechanic to raise his car off the ground.

Most of the work I do on my family’s cars involves basic maintenance: Fluid Changes. Tire Rotations. Brake Jobs. Occasionally tasks are a tad more involved, especially with my hobby car, a vintage British sports car, which always seems to have some little thing, and occasionally a big thing wrong with it. Major engine overhauls and complete restorations however are out of my league, so in reality the lift I required could be a light-duty model. Sure, I’d love a deluxe two- or four-post lift, but at the time I was shopping I really had no place to put one, and they were all priced out of my budget. Scissor lifts however seemed to be a good compromise: small, semi-portable, usable in a small garage, and far safer than ramps & jack-stands, while being reasoraisednably priced

At the suggestion of more than one like-minded cheapskate wrench-turner I settled upon the “US General” 6000lb Scissor Lift from Harbor Freight. (Item #46604) It is likely the lowest-price lift on the market. Using a Triple-Word-Score combination of coupons, online specials, and shipping discounts the total price came to about $850 in 2003. I live in the boonies 60-some miles out of Seattle and due to the size and weight (~750lbs) of the lift Harbor Freight would only use a freight forwarder for shipping.

This meant I had to pick it up at a loading dock in Seattle in my battered old farm pickup. It arrived in two pieces: a large wooden crate, with a cardboard box containing the hydraulic control unit strapped to the top of it, which fit right into the short bed of the old Dodge. I borrowed a neighbor’s tractor with a backhoe to unload the bulky unit from the truck’s bed and set it on the concrete floor of my garage. A few months later I relocated it to our barn, which became my workshop after the last of the domestic livestock were moved to better accommodations elsewhere. Moving the whole unit around is unwieldy, yet once upon a concrete slab it is very easy for a single person to maneuver the lift around an open space due to the magic of leverage and physics. The Control unit is essentially designed as a wheeled lever, and the lift is equipped with sturdy rollers at one end, and a lever-eye at the other end.

First, theProblem solved! bad news: Two minor parts failed almost immediately. The original plastic wheels of the control unit are just not up to the task of holding the weight of the lift when used as a lever. They literally crumbled after a few tries moving the lift around. I replaced them with sturdier units from my local hardware store with actual bearings in them. Secondly the control unit is very top-heavy and with the broken wheels it tipped over, falling right onto the fitting for the hydraulic pipe, breaking it. At first I tried calling Harbor Freight’s customer service department to have the pipe replaced. Eventually I gave up that fruitless exercise and had a new pipe fabricated at my local NAPA store. Both repairs have held up for almost six years.

The good news: It is simple to operate, safe, and makes common automotive maintenance work a breeze. Low clearance cars such as my vintage Jaguar require help getting over the folded lift, so I have collected some long 4×4 & 4×6 lumber to arrange around the lift for that purpose. Vehicles with more ground clearance can just drive over it. Moveable arms with adjustable rubber-topped pads provide the lifting surfaces under the car. The pads are scored with right-angled grooves to mate up to the body work of cars like VW, who use flanges as lifting points. The lift has several pre-set ratcheting safety latch points as it goes up, providing safe, stable levels to perform work. To raise the car you operate the hydraulic pump, which runs from a standard household electrical outlet, with a push-button. To lower the car you must hold two levers, one retracting the safety-catch, the other slowly releasing the hydraulic fluid.

Oil changes, tire rotations, and brake work are now super-easy, and so much safer and faster when performed on the lift. Instead of spending lots of time raising, lowering and fiddling with jacks and stands, I can now get right to work. However, since the lift itself is positioned directly under the car working on things like transmissions or exhaust can be problematic depending upon the car. For these applications a traditional lift would be much better, but for the home mechanic on a budget this small lift is a wonderful luxury. I’ve used it countless times for oil and filter changes, and when it came time to sell the New Beetle I was able to do it right with numerous photos of every nook and cranny to put it on eBay Motors.

Had that tremor in 2003 bloomed into a genuine 6.0 or larger quake I might not be here today to enjoy life. Even if you don’t live in a “geological entertainment zone” like I do the peace of mind provided by such a simple and safe working platform is well worth the cost.

65E-up control flat jeep jetta Problem solved! raised safetylock The New Beetle of Damocles? Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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