ಶನಿವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 30, 2010

The Autoprophet Geocache Challenge (SOLVED)

Update: SOLVED! We have a winner.

To promote the new season of Top Gear, BBC America sent me some stuff to give away to my readers. They didn't say how I had to do it, so instead of a boring lottery, I have decided to do a geocache.
The Top Gear swag is hidden inside a brown cardboard box, wrapped up in a plastic bag to keep it dry. The prize includes a 2010 Top Gear calendar, a "Stig" coffee mug, and best of all, the complete season 11 and season 12 DVD sets, 6 discs in all.

The Rules:

  • The first person who finds the stuff keeps it.
  • If you find the booty, please send me an email at TheAutoProphet"at"gmail.com and let me know that you got it. Please mention the secret word (included with the prize).
  • If no one finds it in two (2) weeks, I will give the whole pile to the Salvation Army for charity
  • Extra points: find the bottle of beer that someone left behind (not me) near my cache.
The Location:

The goods are located in Oakland County, MI, in a little known municipal park. The box will not be buried, but will be mildly camouflaged.

The cache is not far from the trail, you don't have to do much bush-wacking.

Now, GO GO GO!

ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 29, 2010

Apple iPad

I have been reading about the newly revealed Apple iPad, and I am thinking, "do not want".  Here's why:

  • No on-board memory card slot
  • No Adobe Flash support
  • Closed OS--all apps must come from Apple store
  • No camera--this thing should be able to do Skype out of the box
  • No on-board USB ports
  • No multi-tasking

This is because Apple decided to make the iPad basically an over-sized IPod Touch, not a shrunken Macbook.  Myself, I'd be more interested in a scaled-down Macbook.

I predict this will be a disappointment for Apple, until they fix some of these flaws.  Most people who would be interested in an iPad already have an iPhone, they won't see a compelling reason to get one.

The Fluid Flush Scam

A family member took her compact SUV for its 100,000 mile service recently, and the service manager attacked her with the dreaded "fluid flush gauntlet".  He showed her samples of her transmission oil, power steering oil, brake fluid, and coolant, and tried to sell her about $500 worth of fluid flushes.  He also tried to convince her to change out her rear differential fluid, which is rather expensive, because it comes from nearly extinct whales.

This is a scam.  It is pure profit for the shop.

You should not get any fluid changed on your car that is not recommended by the owner's manual, unless you have special circumstances.  More on those below.

She checked her owner's manual, and while the transmission fluid and coolant were recommended, there was no mention of power steering fluid, rear differential, or brake fluid.

And here's why: all three of these systems are sealed.  In the power steering and brake fluid systems, the fluids are primarily hydraulic working fluids, although they do have some lubrication functions.  If the systems are still well sealed, and are working properly, you may not need to touch them for more than 150,000 miles.

Part of the trick is to show you that the fluids are "dirty".  This is scary, but not necessarily meaningful.  I asked a guy I know, who is involved in the design of power steering systems.  He told me that power steering fluid picks up carbon black from the hoses, and that you can't really tell a 5,000 mile fluid from a 50,000 mile fluid based on color.  His professional advice was, "don't touch it unless you are getting noise from the system or hard steering".  And if you don't want to change it, he recommended using a turkey baster to remove as much from the reservoir as you can, replacing the rest with clean fluid.  "The flushes the service places sell are junk!" he said,"A waste of money."

So when should you change your fluids?

If the owner's manual says it is time to do it, or if something is wrong, or clearly contaminated.  If large particles are obvious in your fluid reservoir, or if there is water in the oil, or if the system has failed in some way, or is making strange noises. 

ಬುಧವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 27, 2010

Toyota Wins Crown Of Shame

I think we can all now agree that Toyota has won the crown of "most severe quality issue" from the previous champions, Ford and Firestone.  Toyota is going to lose hundreds of millions of dollars on this, both directly and indirectly.  Directly, through replacement costs, and lost sales while the plants are down, and indirectly through their damaged quality reputation. 

P.S.A.: Pregnant Women Should ALWAYS Wear Seatbelts

Yesterday, a pregnant woman and her unborn child died on I-94 in metro Detroit.  From the Detroit Free Press:

A 23-year-old pregnant woman died in a car crash on I-94 on Tuesday morning, along with her baby, who was ripped from her body along the freeway.

Shardae Homesly of Detroit was not wearing a seat belt as she rode in the front seat of her SUV, driven by her fiancé, Michigan State Police Sgt. Linda Mys said.

The couple were heading westbound near Morang on Detroit's east side shortly before 11:45 a.m. The fiancé, whose name wasn't released, swerved to avoid hitting a van that began merging into the SUV's path in the far-right lane.

Think about that for a moment.  The baby was "ripped from her body". 

Some pregnant women refuse to wear seatbelts because they are worried that it will "hurt the baby". 

Forget that.  If you are unrestrained, and get in an accident, you and your baby could die. 

The safe way for pregnant women to wear seatbelts is to raise the shoulder belt slightly, so that it crosses the chest above the belly, and to pull the lap belt down a little so it crosses over the hips below the belly. 

ಶನಿವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 23, 2010

Eggs On Windshields: Urban Legend

I got a chain email the other day, warning about a new carjacking tactic. Bad guys would throw eggs at a persons windshield, and then follow them. The person would supposedly have to stop, because windshield wipers would smear the egg around and make it impossible to see.

According to Snopes, this is pure urban legend. Link.

ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 22, 2010

Chevy Volt Driven!

Finally, GM has allowed someone in the press to drive a Chevy Volt with the gas engine enabled and write about it.   Paul E. at DetroitBureau writes,

In normal mode, Volt delivered reasonable acceleration, launching from 0 to 60 in what we estimated to be around 10 seconds.  But switched to Sport mode we got an unexpected jolt.  Electric motors deliver maximum wheel-spinning torque the moment they start to turn, and with Volt, that translates into a very sporty launch feel and 0 to 60 times of about two seconds quicker.

Farah had intentionally given our prototype Volt just a limited charge, just enough so that we could experience the vehicle on battery power then have it automatically transition to extended-range mode – a fancy way of saying its inline-four-cylinder internal combustion engine fired up.  The transition was all but seamless and even with the engine running, the cabin remained surprisingly quiet.

Good news--the gas engine is quiet when recharging the batteries, even in Michigan winter conditions.

You can read the whole thing here.

Oh, and 100 points if you can find the typo, with which Eisenstein accidentally demotes the Volt to a Mitsubishi product.

ಬುಧವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 20, 2010

McFly's Hyundai eBay Nightmare

User "McFly" of Hyundai fan site Gencoupe.com won a used Genesis coupe on eBay in an non-reserve auction for $16,000.  The dealer, Glenn Hyundai of Lexington KY, screwed up and forgot to put a reserve price on the car, which is worth closer to $19,000.  Since the auction is supposed to be a legally binding contract, McFly called and tried to finish the deal.   However, the dealer refused to sell the car at the eBay price.

McFly is giving the dealer hell, doing wide ranging internet publicity, approaching news outlet, as well as his state's vehicle sales commission to get justice.  You can read the whole mess here.



ಸೋಮವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 18, 2010

CFL Dissapointment

I have been using the spiral-type CFL bulbs in a few places at home, such as in the basement. But recently I broke one of these off by knocking something into it. I replaced it with a new fully encased bulb from GE, which has the flourescent tube and electronics encased in a round glass bulb, looking very much like an over-sized traditional lightbulb.

I'm not happy with this product at all. It takes a very long time to warm up and come up to full brightness, so long that you really notice it. When it is cold, and you first turn it on, it is very dim and gives off a small amount of purplish light.

After about 1min or so it is bright, which seems like an eternity.

I wish VU1 would hurry up with their claimed "next best thing" ESL bulb.

ಗುರುವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 14, 2010

On Comment Spam

A quick note to all you comment spammers who keep dribbling your business all over my blog. I watch the comments, and when I see spam, it is deleted.

So don't bother, you are just wasting your time.

ಬುಧವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 13, 2010

U.S. News: Ford To Fix Toyota Pedals


"Of course, this only works for new vehicles," grumbles Motor Authority. "Existing vehicles subject to the recall have only the accelerator pedal replacement as a solution." Ford is set to outfit these vehicles with reshaped accelerator peddles and replace their floor mats.

ಸೋಮವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 11, 2010

Jalopnik's Many Faces

Jalopnik, on the 2009 Car Of The Year Award winning Hyundai Genesis:

There was an audible "Wooohhhh" sound when they announced the Hyundai Genesis as the 2009 North American Car Of The Year moments ago, marking the first win and nomination for a Korean automaker.

The Genesis benefited from the new factor as well as the fact one of the other nominations, the Ford Flex, is barely a car and based on a familiar platform. As much as we were holding out for the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, we hope, like a pre-Departed Martin Scorsese, they're just happy to be nominated. Score one for the Koreans. You can read our Hyundai Genesis review for our impressions.

Unlike other award ceremonies, we'd point out, the NACTOY is an actual contest with real journalists nominating and voting for the vehicles so this isn't just a headline grabber.

Jalopnik, on 2010 TOTY winner, Ford Transit Connect:

While a Chevy PR staffer yelled "F***!" in the crowd, the Ford Transit Connect, the Traverse-besting little-commercial-van-that-could, picks up North American Truck Of The Year. The Ford Fusion Hybrid, predictably, picks up Car Of The Year. We're predictably bored.

Frankly, we're nonplussed by Ford picking up both awards. NACTOY's a joke — picked by insiders for insiders. In fact, if the award weren't handed out at the Detroit Auto Show by the head of the Detroit Auto Show it wouldn't be worth a damn thing.

Not that we're complaining — we love the Transit Connect and the Ford Fusion Hybrid's an impressive beige car disguised as a Game Boy — but seriously, the award's not worthwhile to anyone but the marketing folks.

So, which is it, Jalopnik?  Is the COTY/TOTY thing a joke or not?

ಭಾನುವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 10, 2010

Top Gear GIve-Away

If you are a fan of the BBC's Top Gear program (which I am, I watch mostly on YouTube), the new season begins January 25th on BBC America.

Here, for example, is Top Gear's hilarious review of the Spyker C8 sportscar

"There are two Hollands... one where everyone goes on holiday in a caravan, and there are tulips, and you've got the other, which is full of drunk Lilliputians, vomiting on Philipino girls"

As part of their promotion, BBC will be giving away DVDs of the show's previous two seasons at http://www.bbcamerica.com/topgear.

ಸೋಮವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 4, 2010

Ward's 10 Best Engines

Ward's has published their list of the 10 best engines (article here). They have given extra weight to efficiency, I think, considering the overall small displacement (average 2.73L) and large number of diesels, turbos, and hybrids on the list.

7 companies made the list, VW, BMW, Ford, GM, Hyundai, Subaru, and Toyota. Some big names are missing--nothing from Nissan or Honda here. No Mercedes. Chrysler's Phoenix didn't make it in time for this year's list, maybe Chrysler can make next year's? Maybe Fiat's Multi-air, next time?

This year's winners and the applications tested:

    • 2.0L TFSI Turbocharged DOHC I-4 (Audi A4)
    • 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V-6 (Audi S4)
    • 3.0L DOHC I-6 Turbodiesel (BMW 335d)
    • 2.5L DOHC I-4 Hybrid (Ford Fusion Hybrid)
    • 3.5L EcoBoost Turbocharged DOHC V-6 (Ford Taurus SHO)
    • 2.4L Ecotec DOHC I-4 (Chevrolet Equinox)
    • 4.6L Tau DOHC V-8 (Hyundai Genesis)
    • 2.5L Turbocharged DOHC H-4 (Subaru Legacy 2.5GT)
    • 1.8L DOHC I-4 Hybrid (Toyota Prius)
    • 2.0L SOHC I-4 Turbodiesel (Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI)

ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ, ಜನವರಿ 1, 2010

Electric PT Cruiser Nightmare

When you are trying to be bleeding edge, sometimes you bleed.

Blogger Barret Lyon, who writes at Verbophobia, tried to buy a plug-in electric conversion PT Cruiser, being sold by a startup company.

My lawyer and I hired a superstar electrical engineering expert named Art MacCarley, Ph.D., PE., who happens to be the Department Chair of the Electrical Engineering department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Dr. MacCarley drove to my house and spent the entire day meticulously going through the car.


Art put it very politely, but basically he was saying that college students could have built this car better than EV Innovations ( a publicly traded company). Attached to this article is the full report written by Dr. MacCarley.

It turned out so bad that he wound up suing them under the Lemon Law, and settling out of court at a loss of $20,000.

This underscores the point that making reliable, affordable, safe, and refined cars of any type (gas or electric) is an extremely tricky business.

Don't be in a hurry. When the good stuff gets here, you'll know it. In the meantime, drive a nice gas-electric hybrid, if you must have an electrified car.