Archive for October, 2006

Quick and Easy Car Help

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Ever have a car problem that you can’t figure out and you don’t know who to ask for help?
Even mechanics get stumped from time to time, and I’ve found that the internet usually has the answers that I’m looking for. The World Wide Web has tons of resources for all things automotive, but it isn’t always easy to navigate such a huge trough of knowledge. Thankfully the boys at Car Talk, Tom and Ray, have made it quick and easy to get your car question answered.

Car Talk’s Instant Question and Answer Service is a simple; you type in your car related question being as specific as possible with the details and hit the “Ask” button. The question will be added to a list of other questions that are cued up to scroll across the Car Talk Q&A box. Other Car Talk readers answer questions that they have personal experience with. You also have the option of receiving email notification when an answer to your question is posted.
I tried the service yesterday after frustratingly trying to fix the heater on my parents’ 2000 Honda Civic. The question I posted read:
“I have 2000 Honda Civic, 4 door, automatic transmission. The heater on this car has always worked amazingly well. Above average I would say. It has been stolen and recovered several times, and after the last theft the heater doesn’t work as well. It still puts out warm air but not hot like it used to. Took it to the dealer and they say its working just fine, but there is a definite difference. Any Ideas what could be wrong?”

I wasn’t expecting to get any responses, but with in 12 hours I received two answers. Both proposed the same fix which I hadn’t tried yet. I’m very hopeful that it will work, and I’m very impressed with the Car Talk Q&A.
No question is too dumb. Give it a try!
-Bill Mertz

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Changing Lanes

Monday, October 30th, 2006

When I was going through driver’s education I remember being grilled on proper lane changing etiquette. Turn your signal on, check your mirrors to make sure the lane is clear, look over your shoulder, then check mirrors again. At the time it seemed like a bit much, but it worked. It is now permanently ingrained into my driving behavior.

Now, years later, I’m finding that the lane changing rules are becoming extinct on the road. You are lucky if you get some one to signal before changing lanes and looking, well that’s purely optional. My personal favorites are the people who signal and look only after they have started changing lanes. Better late then never right?

About a year ago I was driving to work in my MGB. I was in the fast lane and a Black 3 series BMW began to change lanes right into me as I was going by. No signal. No looking. He just started coming over. As he came into my lane I beeped the horn a few times and pulled my car slightly into the break-down lane to avoid contact with the Beemer. For some reason I reacted really calmly. If this had occurred at a different moment I may have jammed on the brakes and swerved, which probably would have resulted in an accident. But I simply let off the gas, honked the horn and scooted over until he eventually saw/heard me. Unfortunately for him, when he finally saw me he reacted quite violently. He jerked the wheel the other way sending his 3 series into a massive spin across 5 lanes of traffic and into a guard rail. It happened instantaneously and I saw most of the accident in my rearview mirror.
If he had checked his mirrors, looked over his shoulder and given an advanced signal this accident wouldn’t have happened. I’m not trying to say that proper lane changing would stop all traffic accidents, but it would certainly reduce the amount of carnage and close calls on the road.
Check your mirrors and keep the shiny side up.
-Bill Mertz

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New Corvette Spied

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Apparently 505 horsepower Z06 Corvette wasn’t enough for some people. A recent article in Autoweek unveiled spy photos of what looks to be a new and more powerful Corvette. Rumors have the horsepower at around 650 and with a giant hood bulge the extra oomph is most likely coming from some type of supercharger.
But the speculation doesn’t stop there. How about a curb weight lower than the current Z06, a price tag approaching $100,000 and a flashy new name like SS, “Blue Devil”, Z07 or Stingray.
Good luck finding affordable insurance for this thing!
-Bill Mertz

Hillarious Drag Race

Monday, October 30th, 2006

If you are a youtube fan you may have already seen this, but if not you must check it out.
Goped vs. Firebird
The first time I saw this video I thought it had to be fake. There is no way a little goped could take on a monster V8 right? But the more I watch it, the more I think it is real. The speed of the goped at the end of the clip looks to be pretty high and you can clearly hear both vehicles accelerating hard off the line. I absolutely love the part where the goped rider vents his nitrous.

-Bill Mertz

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Duel: Trucks Have Never Been This Scary.

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Steven Spielberg’s 1971 film Duel isn’t your traditional scary movie with ghosts or masked chainsaw wielding murderers. Instead the film uses a more cleaver antagonist to bring the horror to the film; a big rig truck. Actually it’s a 1955 Peterbilt 351 towing a tanker trailer.

The premise of the movie is simple yet frightening. A man is going to work driving his Plymouth Valiant on some back roads in the desert. He comes across a Semi-truck and quickly passes it, but moments later the big rig comes roaring passed and proceeds to slow down intentionally. From their on in it becomes increasingly clear that this tanker truck is driven by a psychopath and the plot moves along as the truck continually tries to kill the business man in his Valiant. Every time it looks like the truck might be gone it pops up again in the rearview mirror.
The driver of the truck is never revealed except for one shot of his or her cowboy boots, but there are plenty of creepy shots of the Peterbilt closing in on the poor Valiant. The movie is certainly creepy enough to make you check your mirrors twice when you pass truckers on remote roads.
I will go out on a limb and say it is the best car genre scary movie I have seen.
A good watch for the Halloween minded car enthusiast.
-Bill Mertz

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10 Scariest Cars

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

I was listening to Click and Clack this morning on Car Talk and they mentioned posting a Top 10 Scariest Cars list on their website. I checked it out, and it’s pretty darn good list.
Check it out for yourselves

One car that I personally feel deserves an honorable mention is the Ford Explorer. Prone to tipping over, a mechanical nightmare, and with the horrible tire blow-out scandal under its belt, the Ford Explorer is scary to anyone within a 100 yard radius. I think I could write a long Explorer horror story book with just my friend’s bad Explorer experiences.
Be afraid…. Be very afraid.
-Bill Mertz

Trick or Treat

Friday, October 27th, 2006

Because I’m a gearhead, people often ask me if I’m going to have a car-related costume for Halloween. The answer in short is no way.
Don’t get me wrong, I love dressing up for Halloween, but I have no intention of dressing up in automotive attire; it’s just too predictable.

For example, if I came dressed as a mechanic, most people would think I wasn’t even in costume, but was simply in my work clothes. If I came in a racecar driver outfit I would get a lot of groans because most people know I own most of the pieces necessary for this costume (helmet, gloves, jumpsuit etc..). Plus, I already planned on being a giant baby this year and I think it fits my personality much better than any car costume ever could.

Females have better luck pulling off the automotive theme on Halloween mainly because almost any costume can be made into a skimpy outfit and girls in skimpy outfits simply don’t get called out on having a crappy costume (totally bogus in my opinion). Just browse Google for car costumes and host of “flag girl”, “racer girl” and “car hop girl” costumes will pop up. The majority of them are the “if I caught my 15 year old daughter wearing this I would kill her” type of costume.

The one automotive costume that would impress me is if someone came as an actual car. That takes thinking, design, daring, and a well thought out plan about how you are going to move around the crowded party on Saturday night. In fact if anyone decides to go as a car this year please take a picture and send it to me. I would be happy to add it to this blog and give you some props on your costume.
-Bill Mertz

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Why Would You Steal This Car?

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

A few days ago a friend of mine, Adam, had his car stolen from out in front of his house. If it was a Honda Civic, one of the most stolen cars in the United States, I would understand. If it was a really nice car with expensive wheels and a top notch radio, that would make a little sense. But his car was a beat and used nothing-of-value-in-it Audi 4000.

I don’t mean to bag on his car, but the 4000 is a real piece. Based on the Volkswagen Quantum platform, the Audi 4000 was marketed more toward the working man, like Adam. His particular 1985(?) Audi is a non-Quattro-equipped front wheel drive model, with crappy silver paint and a low-end German interior. While Audi’s of the era weren’t known for their reliability (especially the 5000’s) this little sedan actually ran and functioned pretty well, and as a car enthusiast Adam knew exactly what he had; a rare problem free Audi 4000. But, it is doubtful that the thieves would have known that.
audi interior
Why would they have picked this car to pinch? The only answer I can come up with is easy screwdriver entry. The car was recovered several days later about 7 miles from the scene of the crime. It is unclear whether the car was abandoned or simply parked for further use. The method of entry was indeed a screwdriver, but thanks to good German engineering the original key still works. So keep an eye on your vintage Audi’s, they may be more appealing to car boosters than you think.

-Bill Mertz


Ford Reports Major Losses. Will They Survive?

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

In the throws of major restructuring under new Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally, Ford Motor Company reported a staggering 5.8 billion dollar loss through the third quarter. This is the biggest loss on record for the company in 14 years. While some people think that Ford is a sinking ship, I have my doubts that the company will go belly up any time soon.
ford logo
Some losses are to be expected with any type of restructuring, and while these numbers are on the high side, I’m guessing that Mulally is getting the expensive part of the restructuring process out of the way as soon as possible so that they can hit rock bottom and begin to rebuild quickly.

Similar rumors about GM folding were floating around this summer, but seem to have quieted significantly. While neither American manufacturer is doing particularly well, they both have one thing going for them, name recognition. There are still plenty of people out there who by cars and trucks just because they are “the heart beat of America” or “built Ford tough”. As long as quality and design aren’t the foremost reason people buy cars, Ford still has a fighting chance.
For a more in depth article check out the Washington Post.

-Bill Mertz


Is your truck a beast? Then you need these…

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

I’m not a big fan of modifications that are purely for aesthetic purposes, especially on 4×4’s. Frankly chrome doodads and shiny whackamadoos don’t really do it for me. But, when someone comes out with a clever product I have to give them credit. Even if it is just aesthetic, Todd Johnson at Primal Effects came up with a pretty cool and original product; Truck Tusks.
yj tusks
Measuring 27 inches long and weighing 13 lbs these giant cast aluminum tusks mount straight to the bumper of your 4×4. Although currently they are only available for Jeep CJs, Wranglers, Toyota FJ40s and Hummers, they look like they would be easy to adapt to other vehicles. Primal Effects is also a burgeoning company and will undoubtedly be expanding their range of products. While the tusks are not meant to be bashed or used as a real off-road bumper, they do look tough and could certainly stand up to bumper duties for day to day driving. And as the folks at Primal say “heads will turn and people will look”.

For more information check out the website yourself.
primal affects
-Bill Mertz

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About William

I am a twenty something car enthusiast. I spend most of my days working in a small restoration shop in Northern California that specializes in vintage Alfa Romeos. I also manage to do some freelance writing for a handful of automotive publications. When I'm not at the shop I can usually be found working on one of my own project cars, out driving on a good windy road or good jeep trail. Despite what my girlfriend says cars aren't what defines me, they are only what I do. When I have a chance I also love to go camping, play sports or generally do any type of outdoor activity. I don't take myself to seriously, so I hope you don't either.

Automotive Channel Links

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