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How To Create a Toyota FT-1 Concept TRD Race Car in Photoshop: Video 21
Posted by Malcolm Hogan in Auto Addiction, Automotive, Automotive Help, Photoshop, Technical, TOYOTA, Toyota FT-1 Concept, TRD, video on 02 21st, 2014


I always wanted to be a car designer but I instead took up an initial career working with computer technology and software internet marketing until I ventured back into my heart-felt passion of doing something with cars. Have you ever wanted to tinker around with photoshop to the point that you feel like a car designer? I know I have many times and have failed miserably with only a few successful attempts, which I still care not to share with the hundreds of thousands of visitors to AutomotiveAddicts.com. The guys at Autobytel have taken on the time consuming task of sharing their exquisite photoshop skills in the creation of a Toyota FT-1 Concept TRD racecar.

No doubt that the Toyota FT-1 Concept is one of the hottest vehicles to be showcased on an auto show floor in decades. Taking such an already-stunning design and doing anything apart from changing the color via photoshop is a serious feat. Somehow, Autobytel does it justice in the creation of a TRD racecar variation as demonstrated in the exclusive photoshop time-lapse video below. Enjoy!

2014 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study Released – Cars Getting Less Reliable? 13
Posted by Malcolm Hogan in An Addictive Take On Cars, Auto Addiction, Automotive, Automotive Help, J.D. Power and Associates, JD POwer, News, Technical, Vehicle Dependability Study on 02 13th, 2014


Each year we take pleasure in reviewing the J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study and examining which automakers make the top of the list and which ones falter. This year, for the first time since 1998, the overall dependability declined when compared to previous years.

The 2014 study is significant more so in its demonstration of over-all dependability, all according to problems per 100 vehicles reported, due to a decline throughout the entire automotive landscape. One could conclude that today’s cars are a bit less reliable than the outgoing few years. Though, this is not to say some of your favorite brands have not improved. Considering how Lexus has remained to stay at the very top of the list demonstrates how there pursuit for perfection is paying off. Additionally, their margin over the next best automaker is astonishing, scoring only 68 problems per 100 vehicles while Mercedes-Benz takes second place with 104 PP100.




You may view additional data on the 2014 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study on their site here.

2014 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study Released – Cars Getting Less Reliable? 13
Posted by Malcolm Hogan in Auto Addiction, Automotive, Automotive Help, J.D. Power and Associates, JD POwer, News, Technical, Vehicle Dependability Study on 02 13th, 2014


Each year we take pleasure in reviewing the J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study and examining which automakers make the top of the list and which ones falter. This year, for the first time since 1998, the overall dependability declined when compared to previous years.

The 2014 study is significant more so in its demonstration of over-all dependability, all according to problems per 100 vehicles reported, due to a decline throughout the entire automotive landscape. One could conclude that today’s cars are a bit less reliable than the outgoing few years. Though, this is not to say some of your favorite brands have not improved. Considering how Lexus has remained to stay at the very top of the list demonstrates how there pursuit for perfection is paying off. Additionally, their margin over the next best automaker is astonishing, scoring only 68 problems per 100 vehicles while Mercedes-Benz takes second place with 104 PP100.




You may view additional data on the 2014 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study on their site here.

Selling Wheels Online: Get the Best Price for Your Vehicle 6
Posted by Darryl in Automotive, Automotive Help, Car Buying on 02 6th, 2014


Trading in your old car at the dealership when you get a new one can be the quick and easy option, but it usually means less money in your pocket, according to Bankrate. If you want to get a price for your car that’s fair and in line with its actual value, selling it yourself online is the way to go. In 2011, there were 11.2 million private party sales in the US, according to Manheim Consulting. Take the time to list your car and get it ready for sale in order to get the most money possible for it.

Do Your Research

Before you create a listing for your car, scope out the marketplace and see what other people are asking for similar vehicles. You don’t want to price your car for less than what it’s worth, nor do you want to price it way above its value.

Take a look at similar used cars on Kelley Blue Book to get an idea of type of price your car will fetch, based on its make, model, year and general condition. If your car is in excellent shape and has low mileage, you can sell it for a higher price than if your car were dented and dinged. When you do choose a price for your car, pick a value that’s higher than the absolute minimum you’ll take. Remember that buyers are going to want to negotiate.

Let Photos Tell The Story

Online, photos will catch buyers’ eyes more than text. The more pictures you post of your vehicle, the better. Show close up shots of the interior of the car, such as the steering wheel, the stereo and the back seat. Include exterior shots taken from a variety of angles. If the site on which you’re listing the car doesn’t allow you to include more than a few pictures, create a photo album of your car at a site such as Flickr or Picasa, and point buyers in that direction.

Give It a Clean Out and a Tune Up

Get your car in tip-top shape for its age and condition before you list it, but don’t bother with fancy upgrades, such as a new stereo system. If the buyer of the car really wants an elaborate system, he or she can invest in one after they buy the car.

Instead, focus on the details that make your car run better and more efficiently. Change the oil as recommended by the car’s manufacturer and use the right type of oil. Choosing the appropriate oil for the car will improve its gas mileage by up to 2 percent, according to FuelEconomy.gov, which can be a major selling point with some buyers. You might also want to bring your car to your mechanic for a tune-up before selling it, and change the air filter, which will improve your vehicle’s driving ability.

Clean out your car before taking pictures of it or showing it to potential buyers. Think of selling your car as you would a house. No one wants to look at or buy a house that’s full of clutter and dirt. The same is true of your car.

Screen Buyers

Checking out potential buyers before you meet them to hand over the keys is a must. There have been cases when people selling their cars online were attacked by supposed buyers, as the New York Times mentions, or found themselves involved in elaborate scams involving fake checks, according to The Denver Channel.

Interview all buyers over the phone and ask them questions about their interest in the vehicle, such as why they want it or what they are looking for in a car. If you do schedule a test drive with them, have a friend or family member go with you and never let the potential buyer drive the car alone. Use a service such as CheckPeople to run a background check on anyone who expresses serious interest in the car, just to be on the safe side.

Effective Tools to Keep Your Teen Safe on the Roads 6
Posted by Darryl in Automotive, Automotive Help, Car Safety, safety, Technical, texting, texting while driving, Vehicle Safety on 02 6th, 2014


According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teens are four times more likely to crash than adult drivers. Car crashes also are the leading cause of death for those between age 16 and 20, killing more than 5,600 teenagers every year. While there is no fail-proof way to ensure safety on the road, there are ways to keep your teenager aware and accountable while driving. Help your teen focus on safety with these gadgets and resources aimed with distracted drivers in mind.

From One Second to the Next

Real-life consequences from distracted driving may drive the message home for teen drivers. Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog made the sobering documentary, “From One Second to the Next” in partnership with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. The film is part of AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign and follows real-life accounts of drivers who text while driving and the serious accidents that ensue. One texting driver killed three kids riding in an Amish buggy, while another disabled a young child who was walking home from school with his sister. The texting drivers, and suffering families, all make pleas to put down your smartphones while driving.

Get a Safe Driving App

Teens are tethered to their friends and peers and want to stay in constant contact. Eliminate the temptation to text and drive while still keeping in touch. An app like Safe Driving Text Machine can automatically send a message of your choice in response to an incoming text. The app can detect driving mode, but also respond to all text messages even if you’re not behind the wheel. Use a text like, “Hi, this is a safe text app I’m using. It’s letting you know I’m driving right now and will text you when it’s safe. See you!”

TextArrest takes safety on the road a step further. It completely disables texting and email on smartphones by sensing when a car is traveling faster than 5 mph. It also can track the movement and location of mobile phones in transit, providing you some peace of mind as your teen heads to and from somewhere.

Get Rewarded for Safe Driving

Set consequences for your teen and his driving behavior. Take away driving privileges and ask him to contribute to the cost of car insurance for each text or distraction. But don’t forget to reward him with good driving behavior with a gas card or extra car time.

An app like DriveScribe also can help you monitor your teen’s driving behavior and establish reward incentives. The app awards points for good driving and can be cashed in for gift cards at participating retailers. Driving behavior is monitored in real-time and can also give auditory alerts when speeding or approaching stop signs. It also is able to auto-respond to incoming texts and records violations for parents to review.

Hyundai’s Blue Link System

Hyundai’s Blue Link interface will call for help after a crash, but also alert parents when their teenagers are distracted behind the wheel. A handy curfew alert feature automatically calls, texts or emails parents if a car is driven after a predetermined time. Parents also can set speed limits for teens and receive messages if their teen breaks that rule. The idea is if your teen knows you’re monitoring his driving behavior, he will engage in less risky behaviors or suffer the consequences. Chapman Hyundai‘s Facebook page recently posted stats about Blue Link’s Info system search, in which your teen can also do everything from remotely starting their engine and honking their horn, to searching for and sending points of interest to the vehicle. Convenience and safety in one package is a nice benefit.

Lead by Example

Remember that kids grow up watching their parents drive. Wrestling with the music controls, digging through the glove box, putting on makeup or snacking with one hand on the wheel are all bad habits teens learn from their parents. If you’ve always been a distracted driver, there’s never been a better time to turn over a new leaf. Tell your teen you want to work on focused driving together and share info about the classes and gadgets you’re learning about for safe driving.

Snow-Savvy Vehicles: Get the Best Bang for Your Buck 9
Posted by Darryl in Auto Addiction, Automotive, Automotive Help, Snow, Technical on 01 9th, 2014

Wanted: safe, reliable, affordable, stylish winter transportation. Must like long drives on snow-covered roads and must handle well in all weather conditions. Must sweep me off my feet and over snow drifts. Must warm my hands with a heated steering wheel and warm my heart with good gas mileage.

Okay, so a personal ad may not be a great way to find the best car for snow-bound drivers, but this list will help you on your search. Keeping the budget and cool factors in mind, here are a few good snow-worthy options starting around $30,000 or less for you to consider. Take these new models out for a spin. Or, for additional cost savings, try a late model vehicle. Savvy buyers can get a terrific price for a winter-ready car through private sellers or they can get a great deal at DriveTime or other used auto dealerships.

The Subaru Family (Outback, XV Crosstrek, Legacy, Impreza)

Subaru offers four affordable snow-worthy vehicles: the Outback, SV Crosstrek, Legacy, and Impreza. Subaru touts its symmetrical all-wheel drive (AWD)—standard on most Subaru models—as providing top traction, stability and control. In addition to AWD, these Subarus offer drivers standard anti-lock brakes (ABS), brake assist (to control the force and speed of braking) and tire pressure monitoring (to make sure your tires are in great condition to hit the icy roads). Some Subaru models also have an option for traction control, driver assistance technology (lane departure warnings), remote start capabilities (to warm the engine and the cabin before you get in), heated mirrors and windshield wiper de-icers. These safety and comfort features are conveniently complemented by optional ski and snowboard carriers!

Photo of the Subaru Outback by David Villarreal Fernandez via Flickr

This collection of Subarus gets between 30 and 36 highway mpg. Vehicles in the collection run on regular gasoline (or the Crosstrek has a hybrid option) and are both under $24,000 for base models. Based on these features, Car and Driver calls the Outback “excellent both on and off pavement” and highlights the Impreza’s noteworthy “forget-the-weather, four-wheel-drive system,” while Autoweek calls the Legacy a “solid value” and the Crosstrek “a good, inexpensive little car.”

Photo of the Subaru Crosstrek by lotprocars via Flickr

Ford Fusion

The Ford Fusion, especially the Titanium model with available AWD, offers a sporty option for trekking through icy city streets or across the snowy countryside. The Fusion is available in regular gasoline and hybrid models; the standard Fusion Titanium model starts around $30,500 and gets up to 31 mpg (highway), while the hybrid Titanium starts around $32,500 and gets an average 47 mpg.

Photo by IFCAR via Wikimedia Commons

Both gas and hybrid models offer snow safety through standard ABS, electronic stability control (which senses and corrects for skidding) and Ford’s SOS Post Crash Alert system, which alerts emergency personnel by automatically turning on the car’s emergency flashers and horn after an accident when the airbags are deployed. The Titanium Fusion also offers comforting cold-weather conveniences, like standard heated seats and optional heated steering wheel, and comes with standard remote start.

Nissan Pathfinder

If you are looking for a slightly larger vehicle, check out the Nissan Pathfinder, which Autoweek calls a “nice-driving three-row crossover.” This seven-passenger vehicle comes standard with 2WD, but offers drivers additional drive settings with optional 4WD and Auto Mode settings to self-regulate 2WD or 4WD needs, while balancing road safety and gas mileage. Pathfinders do well on snowy roads with their standard ABS and brake assist, which manage braking in emergencies, and their traction control system, which helps drivers control braking and steering.

Photo by IFCAR via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to road safety features, Pathfinder options include cold-weather conveniences, like remote start; however, base model Pathfinders lack some of the other cold weather comforts, like heated seats and heated steering wheels, which are not available in entry-level models.

MINI Cooper S Countryman All4

If you prefer a more compact ride, look to the MINI Cooper S Countryman All4. This smaller sport utility vehicle (SUV) with seating for five is packed with safety and snow-worthy features. It comes standard with all-season tires, ABS and MINI’s Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Traction Control, which improve handling in adverse weather conditions.


Photo by M 93 via Wikimedia Commons

Additionally, the MINI has an available optional cold weather package, which includes heated mirrors and heated front seats. In case you get stuck in the winter weather, MINI includes Roadside Assistance for the first four years of MINI ownership. These attributes earn the MINI Countryman praise from US News, which calls the Countryman “a compelling choice.”

4 DIY Car Repairs You Can Learn on YouTube 26
Posted by Darryl in Automotive, Automotive Help, Automotive Repair, Car Repair, Repair Shops, Technical on 12 26th, 2013


Apps help consumers estimate car repairs and locate trustworthy mechanics, but let’s face it—car repairs are still expensive and intimidating. Turn on YouTube though, and you’ll find videos by cost-conscious DIY pros providing detailed tutorials on how to perform complicated and expensive repairs at home. You’ll be amazed by how simple these repairs seem after you watch a tutorial and how much you can save.

Cracked Bumper

CarMD estimates that car repair costs increased by 10 percent last year, returning to pre-recession levels. That means everything costs more, even a simple fix like replacing a bumper.

Replace a bumper by removing it and unscrewing the connecting screws underneath. Sand and coat the cracked area with fiberglass resin or Bondo. After it dries overnight, sand, prime and paint your restored bumper.

Total cost is around $60. That price beats buying a new bumper and having it replaced by a repair garage, which would run you anywhere from $300 to $1,000, depending on the make and model of your car.

Alternator Repair

Since alternators last around 10 years, any older car will eventually need a new one. Exposure to extreme temperatures, damage, overloads and short circuits can wear on your alternator.

To replace the alternator, remove the belt by loosening the tension and sliding it off. Then remove the bolts on the alternator, remove the alternator and reverse your steps. This type of replacement may vary based on your particular car, so search YouTube for videos featuring your specific make and model.

The replacement takes an hour or two and costs between $150 and $175, depending on your vehicle. A garage charges anywhere from $308 to $488 for the same job on a Chevy pickup.

Catalytic Converter Replacement

Replacing a catalytic converter costs big bucks, between $788 and $1,527 on average depending on your car. But, catalytic converters only cost around $140. With the magic of the Web you can do this repair yourself and only pay for parts. Your savings — more than $1,400.

You will need an O2 sensor wrench, and a lift would help. This repair isn’t extremely difficult if you have experience working under a vehicle and can safely jack up your car. First remove the O2 sensor and then unscrew the bolts connecting the converter. Reverse your steps to complete the repair.

Tire Patching

If you just bought a new set of tires and then proceeded to drive over a nail, bummer—but don’t worry.

The repair requires a tire plug kit, which costs around $5 compared to $35 or more to have this done at a tire shop. Remove the tire, pull out the nail with pliers, ream the hole and push the plug into the tire with the needle-like plug tool. Remove the tool and trim the repair.

The World’s Strangest Driving Laws Revealed 14
Posted by Darryl in Auto Addiction, Automotive, Automotive Help, News on 11 14th, 2013


Driving one of Australia’s 17.2 million motor vehicles should be straightforward, right? After all, you simply step into your vehicle, turn the key and drive away, careful to stop at red lights, give pedestrians the right of way and follow the speed limit. Navigating the roads in some parts of the world, however, isn’t straightforward. Several strange laws will cause you to chuckle.

Don’t Carry Minors on a Vehicle

The state of Oregon made transporting minors on a vehicle’s roof, hood, fender or other external part illegal unless they are strapped in properly. The law protects kids but seems to be a no-brainer.

Keep Your Arms and Legs Inside the Vehicle

In New South Wales, waving goodbye with your hand out the window lands you a nearly $300 fine. That’s because the law prohibits protruding limbs from extending outside the vehicle.

Report Criminal Activity

Washington State drivers who intend to commit crime must stop at the city limits and report to the police. The law ideally reduces crime, and all drivers should be thankful for this strange law and the fact that it’s not a crime to compare car insurance quotes before driving in Washington or anywhere in the world.

Reserve the Horn for Delivering Warnings

Many drivers toot the vehicle’s horn to warn other drivers of their presence, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Don’t use the horn to offer a friendly greeting in New South Wales, though. That action will land you a nearly $300 fine because it’s illegal to use a warning device as a greeting. Don’t honk your horn in front of a Little Rock, Arkansas, restaurant where sandwiches or cold drinks are served after 9 PM either. That’s also an illegal use of a vehicle’s horn.

Properly Confine Your Pets

Carrying pets while driving in Iran is illegal. In the state of Missouri, receive a fine if you transport an uncaged bear. Meanwhile, Victoria drivers receive a $211 fine and New South Wales drivers receive a $397 fine along with three demerit points if they drive while holding an animal on their lap. Additionally, motor vehicle and bicycle operators in these two states will receive a fine if they pull or lead an animal.

Don’t Drink and Drive

Several countries employ strict laws for driving under the influence of alcohol. Drive in Cyprus, though, and you aren’t able to drink water while sitting behind the wheel. Instead, pull over and quench your thirst.

Wear Your Seatbelt

Drivers in Victoria and New South Wales must wear a seat belt when driving forward, but they can take off the seat belt when driving in reverse. Additionally, garbage collectors and delivery drivers don’t have to wear a seat belt while working or while their vehicles are moving under 25 kilometers per hour.

Ride Your Bicycle with Care

Laws of the road apply to motor vehicles and bicycles equally, so obey the laws whether you drive a car or a bike. As an illustration, New South Wales drivers receive a $66 fine for running a red light or riding a bike recklessly or furiously. North Korean women can’t even ride a bike on the road. They face a fine and could have their bicycle seized.

The Best Vehicles For Winter 30
Posted by Darryl in Automotive, Automotive Help, News on 10 30th, 2013

With one of the largest snowstorms having already dumped three feet of snow onto the Great Plains state, PBS estimates we will have a particularly long and snowy winter (1). Whether you are used to the heaviest of drifts or need something for a first winter driving experience, several cars and trucks top the list of the best cold-weather vehicles.

Cadillac XTS 4

Photo by That Hartford Guy via Flickr

Anyone who has driven a Cadillac before knows that it takes a lot of power to keep it from going forward. When the snows become deep and you want to be sure you can get from the garage onto the street, the XTS 4 may be the best tool in your arsenal. Mother Nature Network reported that the XTS had excellent road handling in cold, wet weather to go along with its traction control and safety rating. The bad news is that the power does not come cheap, since the introductory price of $65,000 goes higher when you realize it boasts a pitiful twenty miles per gallon gas efficiency.

Suzuki SX4 Crossover

Photo by Clement Bucco-Lechat via Wikimedia Commons

All-wheel drive has become standard on so many vehicles that when you look for a winter car you may not even think twice about it. What separates the SX4 from other all-wheel drive SUVs, according to Ask Men, is the three different modes of all-wheel drive that let you escape from drifts and ice buildup alike. One of the cheaper light SUVs on the market, a basic SX4 retails for only $15,000. If you are in need of an auto loan and thinking about purchasing a light SUV, you can get a leg up by using DriveTime’s vehicle financing services to purchase a winter car on credit before the snows start to fall. By getting financing, you can prepare for winter with a low-stance vehicle that fears no snow buildup.

Range Rover HSE

Photo by Delta 51 via Wikimedia Commons

When you want to cruise to the ski resort in style, you may need to look far and wide to find a luxury vehicle capable of handling mountain drifts. The HSE can do that and more, featuring a 20 inch wheels and no less than 510 horsepower in the V8 engine for $60,500. MSN Autos mentions that the HSE’s supercharger makes it great for getting through high mountain valleys, since the engine gets the necessary oxygen that high altitude robs from other cars.

Ford F-150

Photo by IFCAR via Wikimedia Commons

One of the standards of all-weather vehicles, the Ford F-150, starting at $23,500, has been the best selling pickup truck in America for many years running for a reason. The 4-by-4 frame can take a beating, while the 160-inch wheelbase can climb over any obstacle that winter has tossed onto the roads. The 5,000 pounds towing capacity, meanwhile, gets you out of tight situations whenever the snow clouds start to amass.

Buying A Used Car? Be Sure To Check It Out Well 15
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Automotive Help, Kurt, News, Technical on 11 15th, 2011

A 2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Image: Chrysler Group LLC

Dr. Charles Preston needed a minivan to deliver food to the homeless, but didn’t want to pay full retail price for a new one. While we’d never advocate buying a used rental car (since we know how they’re driven, and also how they’re maintained), that’s exactly what the good doctor did. Choosing a 2008 Chrysler Town & Country from a Thrifty Rental Car sales lot, the doctor didn’t bother to check if all the vehicle’s systems were functional.

Just over a year later, the minivan needed brakes, so Preston asked his local mechanic to check out why the windows wouldn’t fully lower as well. The mechanic quickly diagnosed the problem: $500,000 worth of cocaine, wrapped in purple cellophane, was blocking the window tracks.

Preston turned the stash over to police, who advised the doctor to get rid of the van, in case there were hidden tracking devices onboard. The man tried to exchange the Chrysler at the same Thrifty lot where he’d purchased it, but was offered some $4,000 less than his purchase price of a year earlier. As Autoblog and the Mercury News explain, once management at Thrifty Rental Car heard of its error, it was happy to exchange the van for a new (used) one. Good press, we suppose, trumps depreciation every time.

What’s the moral to this story? Be sure you check out any used car, from top to bottom, before you take delivery. If you’re buying from a rental car agency (and we wouldn’t), check it out twice.

CarTransportQuotes.com – Easy Solution for a Happy Car 1
Posted by Chris in Automotive, Automotive Help, car transport, Technical, transport on 11 1st, 2011

Whether you’re moving cross-country or relocating your vehicle to a buyer, CarTransportQuotes.Com is your answer. This new innovative company takes the pain out of shopping around for car and truck transportation by allowing you to use their site for quote comparison and browsing without contracts or fees. It’s a completely free and no-hassle way of shopping around online for a major move.  Use the site at your own pace and convenience. You will breathe a sigh of relief knowing your won’t have to sit on the telephone for 30 minutes with a barely comprehensible customer service agent. We give you the tools to help yourself and are there in case you have questions or need any guidance.

Their car shipping  quotes are incredibly fast and reliable; they’re good for their word. It’s a no-brainer really. This is a great site for those of us that just don’t have hours or days to devote to shopping around. It puts all of your options in one place and makes decision making easy. The transport services are solid and safe. The estimated time for shipment is right on the money so you won’t be left hanging.

No only is it simple to find the best quotes in no time at all on CarTransportQuotes.Com but we only offer carriers that are fully insured and dependable. It will give you a little peace of mind to know your favorite car is being given luxury treatment on its trip. Not a pushy sales effort like some companies, just the facts and the basics to get your wheels rolling on to their new destination. Give them a call if you’re planning to ship your car. Their expertise is comforting and the customer service is as easy as it gets!

This Is Why You Read Your Owner’s Manual 26
Posted by Kurt Ernst in 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser, Automotive, Automotive Help, Car Dealers, Kurt, Maintenance, TOYOTA on 10 26th, 2011

Road trips give you time to think, and more importantly, time to read things like the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for your car, which would otherwise sit undisturbed in your glove box. I’m used to driving cars that are essentially maintenance-free (excluding oil changes, air cleaner, etc.) for the first 60,000 miles, so imagine my surprise when I found “replace spark plugs” at 3 years or 36,000 miles as a recommendation for my 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser.

It gets better: if you read the footnote by the recommendation to change spark plugs, it tells you “required for emission warranty.” Uh oh, this is one that you’d better not ignore, and because the service is necessary for warranty compliance, it’s best performed by a Toyota dealer. Yes, I know that I can change the plugs myself and save all receipts, carefully documenting the date and mileage that I did the work. Still, if I ever have to file a warranty claim on the emission system, I know I’ll have to battle Toyota to convince them the work was done. Having it done by a dealer eliminates this headache.

I haven’s scheduled the appointment with my Toyota dealer yet, so I don’t have any idea how much extra peace of mind will cost me (versus doing the work myself). Worse, I expect I’ll have to do the usual Service Department dance, where they call me up and tell me that my truck needs tires, brakes, blinker fluid and a new left-handed Rankin valve. I tell them to only perform the work specified (and I’m good about providing detailed lists), then they remind me that stale blinker fluid is the number one cause of sudden car explosions, like you see in Hollywood. Times are tough for car dealers these days, so even auto journalists with pro-wrenching backgrounds are potential marks for service scams.

On second thought, maybe I’ll just drop in a set of platinum-tipped plugs myself, being careful to save the receipt and log the work. Sometimes, peace of mind simply isn’t worth the cost or aggravation.

Understeer Versus Oversteer 7
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Automotive Help, Driving, Kurt, Technical, video, Videos on 09 7th, 2011

I’m working on a driving presentation for a local auto dealer, and I remembered these two videos (one from Top Gear, and one inspired by Top Gear) that explain the basics of understeer and oversteer far better than any fifteen-minute, physics based lecture. In a nutshell, when your car understeers, you see the tree that kills you. When you have oversteer, you don’t see it: hence, oversteer (at least according to Richard Hammond) is preferable.

In the real world, especially with modern stability control systems, things aren’t quite this simple. In fact, it’s quite difficult to get cars to do either with modern techno-nannies onboard, especially when some manufacturers (Volkswagen, for example) don’t allow you to fully disable their stability control programs. Other automakers (GM and Chrysler, for example) allow partial or even full defeat of stability control systems for track driving.

The simplest way to counter understeer is to do less of what you’re doing (like turning the steering wheel) to let your front tires regain traction. Excluding a mechanical failure or road condition like oil or ice, oversteer is almost always caused by driver error. Enter a turn too hot, lose your nerve and lift off the throttle (or worse, hit the brakes) and chances are you’ll experience the joys of lift-throttle oversteer. Drive a rear-wheel-drive car and get on the power too early, and you’ll get to experience throttle-on oversteer. Both are easily corrected (and plenty entertaining) in the right environment, which is why we’re big fans of driving schools and high performance driving events (HPDEs). Enjoy the videos below, and hit up the NASA website to see when the next scheduled HPDE in your area is.

Porsche’s Seven Speed Gearbox, Explained 7
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Automotive Help, Kurt, Manual Transmission, PDK Gearbox, porsche, Technical, Transmission, video on 09 7th, 2011

Seven and eight speed gearboxes are the way of the future, since they offer up a blend of both performance and fuel economy simply not possible with five and six speed transmissions. Porsche is the first manufacturer to release a seven-speed manual transmission, and adding the seventh gear allows the automaker greater flexibility in improving the new 911’s performance while meeting ever-tightening U.S. and E.U. fuel economy requirements.

The seven speed pattern is your typical “double H” of a six-speed, with another “half H” added to accommodate the seventh gear (which is located to the right of fifth gear). Gears one through six are close-ratio, designed to maximize acceleration, while the seventh gear is essentially a tall overdrive, designed to reduce engine speeds at high vehicle speeds. In other words, only one to six will be used when driving in a spirited manner (since top speed is achieved in sixth gear), while seventh gear will be used exclusively on the highway (or faster secondary roads) to boost fuel economy.

Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch automatic is also now a seven-speed, with the same “overdrive” feature as the seven speed manual gearbox. As with most dual-clutch manumatics, the PDK will serve up the fastest lap times, since it executes gear changes much faster (and smoother) than a human being can. The trade off is the man-machine interface, and I’ve never driven a shiftable automatic (including Porsche’s PDK) that I prefer over a manual transmission for sheer entertainment value. Props to Porsche for offering customers the ability to choose, instead of just jumping on the flappy-paddle-shift bandwagon.

Source: You Tube via Left Lane News

How To Die In A Road Rage Shooting 30
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Automotive Help, Driving, Kurt, Road Rage on 08 30th, 2011

"Road Rage," by Tony the Misfit

Drivers in the great state of Florida have never been known for their prowess behind the wheel. It seems to me, though, that the roads are only getting worse: a few years back I could go weeks without someone making a concerted effort to kill me, but these days I can pretty much count on a near death experience every time I get behind the wheel. Short of trading my GTI in on a surplus deuce-and-a-half personnel carrier, there isn’t much I can do to make the roads any safer.

It’s not just me, either. I’ve had people from all over the country tell me how bad the roads have gotten in their area, which eliminates the possibility of mass hysteria, or something in the drinking water here in the Sunshine State. Maybe it’s the price of gas, or the tanking economy, or a real-estate market that’s about to reach critical mass; whatever the cause, other motorists seem to be driving with their heads firmly implanted deep into their colons.

With that in mind, I bring you five good ways to die in a road-rage shooting. Just as there are more drivers on the road these days, there are more armed drivers behind the wheel, too. Sooner or later, distraction meets rage, and a six-o-clock-news story is born.

Treat the left lane as your own personal sanctuary.
When you merge onto the highway, dive into the left lane as quickly as you can, earning bonus points for every driver you cut off in the process. Once in the left lane, set your cruise control for one mile per hour below the speed limit, or better yet, match the speed of the vehicle in the center lane precisely. If you don’t slow down all those those crazy speeders, who will?

Don’t let driving keep you from texting or talking on the cell.
All those studies that show driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone to be as dangerous as driving while impaired don’t apply to you, since you’ve got super 3lite ninja skills. Try to ignore that your speed is dropping while you chat with your BFF over nothing at all. Don’t worry about the cars passing on the right (or maybe even on the shoulder), flipping you off and honking. If other drivers have anger management issues, that’s their problem, not yours.

Never use your directional signal.
If you actually signal your upcoming intentions, other drivers will know what you’re going to do, and that’s an invasion of your privacy. So what if the other driver has been sitting at the stop sign for five minutes, waiting for a break in traffic – that’s his problem, not yours. Besides, it’s damn hard to use your turn signal indicator when you’ve got a cigarette in one hand, a cell phone in the other and you’re trying to slam a 32 ounce Big Gulp.

Try to drive in someone’s blind spot as often as you can.
Let’s face it: new cars are expensive, and the easiest way to get one is to have someone else wreck your car for you. An excellent way of doing this is to pull slightly alongside another car on the highway, then camp out in the driver’s blind spot. You’ll have to pay attention, since many drivers will either speed up or slow down to get away from you. If you aren’t careful, the driver may even get away, forcing you to find another driver to stalk.

Courtesy is for pussies.
See that guy up ahead, wanting to merge into your lane? Slam the door on him, otherwise he’ll be in front of you (and any racer can tell you that second place is first loser). When exiting a highway, try to wait until the last possible minute before crossing five lanes of traffic. Remember, there’s bonus points if you put someone off in a ditch. Also, when traffic is merging down to a single lane, pass as many cars as you can before diving into the flow, millimeters off of someone’s bumper. Waiting in line is for chumps, and you’ve got important places to be.

So there you have it: five ways to maximize your chances of getting gunned down by a driver with anger management issues and a newly purchased handgun. Of course if you were to do the opposite of what I suggest, chances are you won’t be making the six o’clock news any time soon. The choice is yours.