Archive for Driver’s Seat

Do not look my way

Misinformed Quora user pontificates: Why are there no laws to ban car dash cams? It is a breach of my rights to be recorded without permission.

He got shot down quickly enough:

It is not a breach of your rights for someone to record video of you in a public space. You have no right to privacy on a city street, therefore anyone may take a picture of you or video of you without your permission and they do not have to erase the picture or video of you taken in a public space with or without your permission if you ask them to.

You do realize that your picture or video is taken by CCTV security cameras an average of 75 times a day in the US? That is, if you live in a city and aren’t a total recluse. Pretty much every cash register has a video camera that is recording. The gas pump has a camera. Walmart has cameras everywhere, except the bathrooms. The streets have cameras. Even your neighbor might have a camera. Cop cars have dash cams.

Now this answer is US-oriented, though you have to figure that if the questioner is a Brit, he’s several times more likely to be within range of some sort of security cam at any given moment.

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A car without so much rat in it

Non-petroleum-based plastics! You gotta love ’em. There’s just this one little problem:

Shortly after the dawn of the new millennium, automakers started implementing bio-plastics made from corn starch, genetically engineered bacteria, or vegetable fats and oils. The rationale for this was that sustainably sourced materials were better for the environment and lowered dependency on petrochemicals. Unsurprisingly, bio-plastics gained in popularity at roughly the same time as ethanol.

Since at least 2010, soy-based bio-plastics have been a popular alternative for wiring insulation in automobiles. But there’s a problem — rodents love how it tastes. This has allegedly resulted in a surprisingly high number of owners reporting that rats chewed through the wiring inside their automobile.

While the problem isn’t entirely new, the frequency of the incidents appears to have been spurred by automakers using more palatable materials. In fact, the issue has grown so bad in recent years, numerous lawsuits have cropped up demanding manufacturers pay for damages.

And repairing a wiring harness is something you DIY at your own peril. What to do?

Our favorite reoccurring recommendation involves coating every single centimeter of wiring with hot sauce on a weekly basis.

That’s a whole lot of hot sauce. And it’d be just your luck, you end up with a strain of rats that live on sriracha.

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Roads to be shared

Not too long from now, women in Saudi Arabia will be legally permitted to drive. It is by no means difficult to find men who have a problem with this:

“You will not be driving,” says the hashtag.

“Hold my beer,” say Saudi women, who generally don’t actually drink beer:

To the chap quoted at the top: It is not wise to mess with a woman who aspires to, and perhaps already owns, a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen.

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The unbearable being of lightness

It’s not Jack Baruth. Not yet, anyway:

The fact of the matter is that it’s almost impossible to cut a 2014 Accord Coupe down to 2,700 pounds without fuel, particularly after you put in a rollcage, and that’s what I would need to cross the scales at three K flat. If I could manage it, however, I’d likely stretch my margin of victory even further. You wouldn’t know it to look at 2018’s “performance car” market, but weight is the senior partner in what we call the power-to-weight ratio. It’s why Robert Kubica willingly cut muscle to lose 13 pounds for the 2008 F1 season; there was no more fat for him to lose, but the stopwatch doesn’t care if you’re pulling fat, muscle, fuel, or depleted uranium.

Losing weight isn’t always a struggle of Kubica-esque proportions. I lost a full three pounds off my combined bike-and-rider weight recently by switching to a titanium frame with carbon fork. I could have made the same gains by ordering a smaller filet on weekend nights but there’s no joy in that. Porsche took a few ounces off the 911 GT3RS by putting stickers on the car in place of little plastic logos. They even got to charge more for it.

Porsche charges extra for two kinds of options: (1) those that improve performance, and (2) those that don’t. The Cayenne that tried to clamber into my lane Monday afternoon was probably jammed full of (2)s.


Slightly overbought

This cry came in from Quora, and I spent a little more time on it as a result:

The car was listed at $14,400. I have 620 FICO and no co-sign. APR is 14.94%. The total sale price is $27,979.44. Am I being fooled by the car dealership? If so, what should I do?

“Fooled” seemed unlikely, but another explanation seemed less so, so I came back with:

How long is this loan for? You’re obviously getting a subprime rate, which is commensurate with a 620 credit score. You might want to read over the contract to see if you’re paying extra for stuff like gap insurance (a good thing), extended warranty (not such a good thing), and weird dealer fees for which you’re getting no good explanation.


Loan term is 72 months. Only thing that stands out is “ETHOS GROUP VSC” for $4,000. The lady told me it was for the warranty after I asked that the car(2015 Honda Civic) was still covered under manufacturer warranty.

Okay, maybe there was a bit of foolery going on. I saw my chance, and I ran with it:

The basic Honda warranty is 3 yrs/36,000 miles, so this is actually an extended warranty. (It’s not offered by Honda itself, which is a dead giveaway.) Hondas aren’t especially fragile at this age … you might want to check with the warranty issuer to see if it can be canceled.

As it turns out, it can, and she says she plans to do exactly that. I guess this is my good deed for the week.

Disclosure: Last time I got a car loan, a decade and a fraction ago, I was running a 642 and got hit with a 10.4-percent interest rate. On the upside, I put down about 44 percent of the purchase price, and I paid off the 48-month note almost half a year early. I haven’t checked with FICO lately, but one of my card issuers monitors TransUnion for me, and they give me a 790 or so.

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Semi-sweet roadblock

Actually, it probably wasn’t sweet at all, but just the sound of it creates music in the brain:

Drivers on the way to the Polish capital of Warsaw on Wednesday morning found the road blocked by an unusual impediment: tons of liquid chocolate that spilled onto the A2 motorway.

A tanker carrying the sweet load hit a road barrier and overturned, blocking two lanes. The ruptured tank spewed a pool of rapidly-hardening chocolate from both ends, which quickly covered the width of the road. While the driver has been taken to the hospital with a broken arm, firefighters are struggling to remove a reported 12 tons of solid chocolate from the roadway.

A representative for the firefighters told local news source TVN24 that scraping up the bittersweet barricade was worse than dealing with snow, a bold statement coming from chilly Poland. After contacting the chocolate manufacturer, the firefighters resorted to spraying hot, pressurized water to melt the sticky roadblock, while the New York Times reports that a bulldozer has been spotted scraping away.

(Via American Digest.)

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I wonder what this guy drives

A TTAC article about possible buyer confusion among hybrid-car shoppers prompted this rejoinder from a chap who does not recommend this class of vehicle:

Just stay the hell away from hybrids. Worst of both worlds as far as I’m concerned. They have generally been slow testosterone killing machines that suck the very life out of you as you drive to your destination. And worse still, they cost you more upfront then you’ll ever make back in fuel savings.

Flat out, hybrids are a scam. You really want to save money? You really don’t care what you drive so long as you get from point A to point B? Get any used econobox. There is no advantage at all to a hybrid.

I submit that “slow testosterone killing machines” really needs a dash somewhere.

What does he drive? I have a feeling he has a pickup truck — with a six-cylinder engine, because his wife wouldn’t let him have a V8.

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This goes for you rich dudes too

Lamborghini made a total of 40 Centenarios, a limited-edition supercar with a price tag in the general neighborhood of $2 million. And all 40 of them have a safety issue, kinda sorta:

According to the NTSB filing, initially spotted by CarScoops, all 40 of the limited edition cars have been mistakenly slapped with labels that give the wrong gross vehicle weight rating. That’s it.

The recall, which affects 11 Centenarios residing in the United States, states that an “overloaded vehicle may increase the risk of suspension or tire failure, increasing the risk of a crash.”

Got that, guys? You may not want to haul drywall in the Lambo, at least not without weighing it.

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As if

“There must be some kind of way out of here,” said the Yahoo! Answers loser: “How do I get out of an auto loan on a car that cost more than its worth to fix major problems?”

Like the bank is going to feel sorry for him:

I own a 10 year old Audi that I still owe $7,460 to the bank and it needs around $4,600 of MAJOR mechanical work done to it. if I don t get the car fixed it will die very soon. The car still runs but Ive taken it to 5 different mechanics the Audi Dealer being one of them, and they all came up with the same report and money to fix it. The car itself is only worth $6,000. So the question I have, is there a way to get out of my loan free and clear because of the numbers and situation? I dont want to do a voluntary repo and I own way to much on it to trade it in. So is there a special process banks can do for these kind of situations, or am I just stuck. It just cost WAY TO MUCH to fix it for what it s worth, the age and what I owe on it.

“Free and clear”? You write a check to the bank for $7,460. There is literally no other way to do this without Terrible Consequences.

You never hear plaintive wails like this from people who own ’99 Corollas.

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Last seen parked next to WALL·E

From Houston craigslist, the 1999 Toyota Corolla, the one car that might actually outlive Keith Richards:

You could take the engine out of this car, drop it off the Golden Gate Bridge, fish it out of the water a thousand years later, put it in the trunk of the car, fill the gas tank up with Nutella, turn the key, and this puppy would fucking start right up.

This car will outlive you, it will outlive your children.

No, seriously:

This car is as practical as a Roth IRA. It’s as middle-of-the-road as your grandpa during his last Silver Alert. It’s as utilitarian as a member of a church whose scripture is based entirely on water bills.

When I ran the CarFax for this car, I got back a single piece of paper that said, “It’s a Corolla. It’s fine.”

My daughter once had one of these. Then again, she used to have fewer than three children.

(Via American Digest.)

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It’s like riding with Siri

Arriving imminently via smartphone in China, it’s Nomi from Nio:

How well would this fly in the States? The company is laying some groundwork for possible US introduction by pushing tech with graphics rather than with cuteness:

TTAC reports:

Nio, the Chinese electric vehicle startup that uses swappable batteries and implements a full-time digital assistant, wants to launch a global model that would make its way to the United States by 2020. To do it, it needs an alternative to the traditional dealer network most brands rely upon. Fortunately for Nio, it already has an app that allows for direct sales in China.

Padmasree Warrior, Nio’s incredibly-named U.S. CEO, says the brand’s biggest strength is the ability to offer something different. In addition to a cutesy AI system that lives within its cars’ dashboard, it also utilizes batteries that can be charged in a traditional manner or swapped out at will.

And let us not mock Ms Warrior, who has paid serious dues in American tech: she’s served as Chief Technology Officer at Cisco and Motorola.

The car itself looks fairly ungainly, but it’s no worse than any current Toyota.

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When my preferred Shell station abandoned the brand, I started hitting up Circle K stores, most often the one at NW 39th and Penn. One thing has been consistent: the 50-cent gap between unleaded regular and V-Power.

Wednesday I noticed I was lower on fuelstuffs than I’d expected, and I pulled into the EZ Mart on the way home. (Wednesday, weatherwise, had the unpleasant feel of a day in early February.) The Mart, which for years has eschewed ethanol, was 50 cents higher for regular than the nearest Circle K. Weirdly, though, the premium for Premium was a mere 30 cents.

If this means anything, I’m not quite sure what it is, although Circle K has been closing some of its stores lately.

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Vapor easier to breathe

Elio Motors may yet build 84-mpg three-wheelers at the old GM plant in Shreveport. (Hey, it could happen.) Another believer has declared himself:

Online retailer announced that it’s buying $2.5 million of newly issued shares of Elio’s common stock. (Elio shares are traded on the OTC market.) The money will, in part, help pay off Elio Motors’ “outstanding debt and accounts payable.”

[] Founder and CEO Patrick Byrne said he “was in awe” after just five minutes in the car. “I am confident that this will become my car for at least two-thirds of the days I drive,” he said. Byrne also said he believes in Elio Motors’ vision, calling the vehicle “a win for America.”

It helps that Byrne’s firm is both established and profitable. It perhaps does not help that Byrne is known to be a fan of cryptocurrency, which may or may not have influenced this bit of news:

Elio Motors also announced today that it will launch a token-based offering called ElloCoin in order to fund production, which it still plans to get rolling in 2019. Instead of an initial coin offering, or “ICO,” the company will launch a “security token offering” facilitated by JonesTrading, with the tokens only initially available to “accredited investors.”

You would be justified, I think, in asking “WTF is an STO?”

[S]ecurity token offerings will do more than simply provide a legal path for companies seeking to offer new cryptocurrencies. A security token can be linked to virtually any type of investment, such as stocks or commodities.

One of the primary STO platforms, Polymath, estimates that security tokens will soon outdistance the now-dominant “utility tokens” like Bitcoin. Polymath sees security tokens exploding to a value of $2 trillion in 2018 alone and $10 trillion by 2020.

I swear, people think blockchain can cure anything from low market capitalization to the heartbreak of psoriasis.

Speaking of market caps, Elio’s is about $75 million, or about half the company’s accumulated deficit, though price per share has risen from a rock-bottom $2 to around three and a quarter.

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Everything is not fine

Tucked into page 2A of the Sunday paper, this little factoid:

A ticket from a trooper for speeding one to 10 miles over the limit will now cost a driver $224.50, according to Oklahoma County court records. The actual fine is only $10 of the total.

Hardly seems worth the bother to pull anyone over. The explanation:

“The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is not a revenue-generating agency. The … mission is to ensure safe roadways,” said Gary James, general counsel of the Oklahoma State Troopers Association. The attorney said ticket costs have steadily increased over the years as legislators have added fee after fee “to fund state government.”

And if there’s one thing this state loves, it’s a fee. Oklahoma government has long run on the principle established by Louisiana Senator Russell B. Long: “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me — tax that man behind the tree.” A fee, which technically isn’t a tax at all, fits perfectly into that scheme.

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21st-century scoot

Everything old is new again:

Vespampêre scooter prototype

“Vespampère” is a classic Vespa scooter, revised to accommodate electrical propulsion. Not having to schlep around an engine and fuel tank has made the original smallframe design feasible once more.

This variant by Giulio Iacchetti is apparently not going to match up with Vespa’s own electric, due out Real Soon Now, but I applaud the concept just the same.

(Via American Digest.)


Charge right down the street

This isn’t too much of a surprise:

Volkswagen’s ongoing penance for its diesel-emission scandal includes a serious investment in the United States’ EV charging infrastructure.

I did not, however, see this coming:

Electrify America (a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group) has announced it will be partnering with Walmart to install electric charging stations at 100 stores in 34 states across America. That way you can help save the environment while you’re stocking up on plastic cups and single-serve coffee pods that will end up being dumped into the ocean.

However, you can’t fault VW for that. It’s not the automaker’s fault citizens of the world think they can offset rampant consumer waste by purchasing an electric car. Besides, this is a wildly shrewd move on the part of both Volkswagen and Walmart. The store wins because the sites will be located near highways, encouraging low-charge automobiles to pull over and spend time shopping while their vehicle takes on electrons. Volkswagen wins because it has to do this in the first place and has a lot to gain by building a relationship with one of the biggest retailers in North America — if not the whole world.

Plus there is untold value in setting up charging stations in a place people are likely to frequent. That takes away some of the fears associated with range anxiety, and might just convince some shoppers to go electric. It’s a genius-level play, at least until e-commerce gets to a point where none of us ever leave the house.

And if there’s anything at all to those stories about Walmart’s checkout staffing, or lack thereof, you’ll almost certainly leave the store with at least 50 percent on the battery meter.

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Geared toward dishonesty

I don’t know that I’d admit to even thinking about this sort of thing: Can I pretend I m the original owner to take advantage of a non transferable warranty on a transmission?

I have to wonder which he’d prefer: a $3,000 repair bill or free housing courtesy of John Law.

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Fill ‘er up with irregular

There are basically two ways to calculate octane ratings, both based on the arbitrary assignment of 100 to pure iso-octane. The European de facto standard is something called Research Octane Number, and it’s determined by comparing engine-knock resistance of a fuel to the known resistance of iso-octane. On the Continent generally, gasoline (diesel is different) is generally a minimum of 95 RON.

Just different enough is something called the Motor Octane Number, which uses a more complicated test regimen and produces numbers typically 9 to 12 less than the RON. Inexplicably, North America splits the difference and calls it the Anti-Knock Index; this is the number you see on US and Canadian pumps.

This matters because the auto industry wants to switch to a single fuel, rated at 95 RON:

On Friday, Dan Nicholson, General Motors’ vice president of global propulsion systems, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s environment subcommittee that switching to 95 octane would align the U.S. with Europe and is one of the most affordable ways to boost fuel economy and lower greenhouse emissions.

Well, they can afford it, anyway. Most of the stuff sold in Europe as RON 95 is 90 or 91 AKI, and Joe and Susan Sixpack will not be happy to hear that 87 AKI, which we laughingly call “regular,” might be replaced by something half a buck per gallon more expensive.

Which is not to say that Detroit is unaware of this situation:

David Filipe, vice president of Ford’s powertrain engineering, joined Nicholson to say 95 octane fuel must become more affordable for this strategy to work. “That’s been something that has been important to us. How do we do this without having a big impact on the customer?” he said. “We don’t want to put the burden onto the customer.” Filipe explained the cost must not add more than 5 cents per gallon.

Yeah, good luck with that. Selling only one grade doesn’t cut costs that much: as it stands, they sell only two grades, highest and lowest, and mix and match as needed to come up with intermediate grades.

Straight ethanol, incidentally, runs 99 RON. However, the loss in energy density offsets, and then some, the higher octane rating.

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Teenage angst, extended

Since, after all, she’s twenty:

Hello! I am a 20 year old full time college student with a part time job. Recently my mother decided to take my car away after a friend dropped me off at home late with a couple alcoholic drinks. I understand minors in possession are wrong, but i was not driving. I have just put 700$ worth of new tires and a spare rim on the car as well as a new radio and speakers installed. the car is legally under her name but my God parents are the people who put a down payment in order for me to first get the car. along with all this money I’m not getting back, She claimed me on her income tax and got a significantly larger amount of money for me being a full time student. With this extra money, she went out and bought herself a preowned truck. I have only been living with my mother again from mid January to april 4th 2018. before hand i was staying with my god parents after coming home from university in early 2017. What should i do? is there anything i can do? I am hoping to finish this semester off and keep my job but things aren’t looking so great right now because i am now homeless. send advice my way!

Drama major, you think?

Quiz time! At what age is this girl going to reach functional, as distinguished from legal, adulthood?

  • 26
  • 31
  • 36
  • 41
  • Don’t hold your breath

Bonus question: Do you think that maybe she needs some new friends?

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How to distract another driver

Last time we covered this topic, the main offender was the set of audio controls, and apparently it’s possible to do it differently and still do it wrong:

I have a 2007 model car and am in no hurry to replace it in large part because I cannot find a car with a user interface for the sound and climate systems that I can tolerate. I will illustrate this with a look at my wife’s car, a Mercedes that is a couple of years old. Her radio still has 10 preset buttons (actual physical buttons, thank god for small favors) but for them to work, her radio has to be in radio preset channel mode. So let’s say it is there and I get in the car and want to listen to Sirius channel 80 (ESPN). That is not one of her presets, I have to get out of preset mode and get into satellite radio mode. To do that I have to hit the back button, then with this dial thing I have to bump the dial up to get the top menu, turn the dial to get audio options, click the dial to select audio options, then turn the dial again to select satellite radio (vs. other choices like FM or AM) and then click the dial to select. Now I am in satellite radio mode and I can twirl the dial to go up and down the stations. I have to do similar contortions navigating layers of menus to get into navigation mode or pull up a map. All while I am trying to drive.

This is the car he’s keeping for now:

Compare this to my 2007 car. If I am in some other radio mode, I jam the physical button marked “sat” and I am in satellite radio mode. No layers of menus to navigate. I can hit the FM or AM buttons to immediately reach those. If I want the map, I hit the physical button marked “map” or the button marked “nav”. No navigating through layers of windows while I am trying to drive. Some of the rental cars I get are even worse. They have integrated systems that cover not just the sound system and navigation system but the climate control. It is incredibly irritating and distracting to have to try to navigate layers of menus just to change the fan speed on the A/C. My wife and I have had whole trips where we never discovered how to do certain things in the car because we couldn’t figure out the obtuse interface.

Read the freaking manual? Yeah, that would work if you actually have the manual. Rental agencies have been known to confiscate them once a car has been put into service, presumably so it will be nice and clean when they sell that car.

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Putting the F in F-150

This guy says his truck is “a lot slower than usual”:

Here lately I’ve noticed my truck being pretty sluggish. When I floor it it take like 15 seconds to get to about 70. It’s a 2008 Ford F-150 FX4 with a 5.4 triton v8. I’ve seen people online with a stock getting like 4 or 5 seconds 0-60 but I’m not getting anywhere near that. I’ve replaced the fuel filter so it’s not that, the air filter is clean and basically brand new. The mechanic I brought it to about 3 months ago said he cleaned the fuel injectors so I don’t think it’s that. I can’t think of anything else it could be but I’m worried there is something wrong with it

“4 or 5 seconds 0-60”? No es posible, Señor, especially with a 5.4; you’re asking a woefully average Ford truck engine rated at less than 300 hp to haul around 2.5 tons of truck at near-Ferrari speeds.

What you’ve noticed is not your truck being sluggish; it’s your gullibility being exercised. You’d be doing yourself a favor if you forgot YouTube ever existed.


Confidence, he’s got

Clues, maybe not so much: How reliable is the 2015 Infiniti q50?

No, really:

I am interested in buying one. I know that the altima is like the basic model of it and ive owned an altima before which was really reliable. Usually the luxuru versions ive seen

“Basic model”? Oh, please. Q50 and Altima share maybe two dozen parts, none of them in the drivetrain. They aren’t built on the same platform. Altima is front-wheel drive; Infiniti hasn’t built a FWD car since 2004.

The one saving grace here is that he’s gonna run off at the mouth at the dealership and they’re going to stick it to him like a night nurse with a crochet hook.

Addendum: Shortly after, same guy: I want to purchase one but i dont know if its a reliable car. Usually they don’t give themselves away that fast.


Sheetmetal haircut

(Two bits.)

You gotta love something that causes so much agony for the willfully stupid:

Right off North Carolina Highway 147 in Durham sits a relic of older railroad overpass regulations. The 78-year old bridge that runs along South Gregson Street has a clearance of only 11 feet 8 inches. It has become known across the internet as “The Can-Opener Bridge” because of the astounding number of overconfident truck drivers who think they can squeeze their vehicle under it. Recently, the bridge claimed its 130th victim: an Army LMTV.

Local truck drivers know to avoid the overpass, so nearly every vehicle that gets clipped is either a rental or from out-of-state. The costs of raising the railroad tracks would be astronomical and the city’s main sewer line runs underneath, meaning lowering the road is impossible.

Amazingly, there exists an underpass fourteen inches lower, in Westwood, Massachusetts:

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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For those with Champaign tastes

I’m guessing that’s the target market for the 2018 Fiat 500 Urbana Edition:

'18 Fiat 500 Urbana Edition

Fiat offers precisely five exterior colors — two whites, two greys and a silver — and one interior color: None More Black. Presumably it can be had for cheap, considering it’s based on Fiat’s base model, which is styled “Pop.”


How to distract a driver

Make the stereo impossible to operate without diverting the driver’s attention:

My car radio is a Kenwood faceplate model and while the sound is fine, getting it to do what I want varies from annoying to impossible. There is one big knob on the front panel. Turning it controls the volume as you might expect, but it also works like a joystick. Pushing it to the left or right takes you to the next station on the dial. Pushing it up or down takes you to la-la land from which there may be no recovery. There are half a dozen other buttons on the faceplate. I know what two of them do. One is the power switch and the other is to eject the faceplate from the radio. The others take you to la-la land. I suppose I could sit down and puzzle out what these buttons do, or (god forbid) download the manual and read the instructions, but where’s my motivation? Finding a radio station to listen to is a bit of a crap shoot. The advertising on the commercial stations is beyond annoying, and I can only listen to so much jazz before I have to turn it off. So I tap the joystick to the right until I find something worth listening to, or I get tired of this game and turn it off, or I am not precise enough in my tap and the faceplate demon interprets my tap as up or down and sends me to la-la land.

Gwendolyn’s stock sound system comes from Bose. It, too, has one big knob on the front panel, but it has only two modes of operation: rotational, in which case it functions as a volume control, and in/out, in which case it’s your power switch. There are six buttons for 18 presets (12 FM, 6 AM), and if you’re not listening to the radio, other functions are introduced. For example: if you’re playing a cassette (yes!), one of those presets instead toggles Dolby B noise reduction.

More complaints about my car’s radio: the volume control is not a real volume control, it’s some kind of digital position sensor, and while it has fine position sense, its speed sense is poor. Trying to spin the knob to turn the volume all the way down only results in turning it down about the same amount you would get from a quarter turn, so to get it to shut up you have to turn it and turn it and turn it. Criminently. I think this radio was designed by and for digital geeks. The alternative is to turn it off, but that requires pushing on the power button and holding it for 2 or 3 seconds, which, when you are driving can be an eternity. And the power button is right next to the eject button, so if you mis-stab the faceplate falls off. I’ve learned to be careful with the power button, but when quiet time is over and you want to hear some tunes and you carefully press the power button again (it only takes a fraction of a second to turn it on), then you get to wait while the radio wakes up and goes through it’s morning calisthenics even though it was just blasting away a minute ago. Stupid radio.

I have the same volume control issue, but it requires less than 360 degrees to go from zero to Maximum Loud. The eject button for tape is to the right of the tape slot; for CD, to the left of the CD slot. (There is an optional 6-CD changer, which I don’t have.) The biggest problem, for me, is that the volume-control knob is identical in shape and size to the temperature control on the HVAC unit. More than once I’ve tried to crank up a tune and was greeted by the sudden disappearance of the A/C.

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Says “RAM” right on it

It was black. Black sheetmetal, black trim, black wheels. The interior was probably black, though it was impossible to tell through the not-entirely-unblack window tint, and the dash was almost certainly festooned with weird black controls that are labeled in black on a black background, and a little black light lights up in black to let you know you’ve done it. The children refer to this color scheme as “murdered out,” a term at which I have reason to quail.

Westbound on Interstate 44 runs three lanes, mostly; where the Broadway Distention comes in, the outer lane merges into the center, so that south-to-west traffic can enter on the other side of the junction without actually having to merge. A Ram truck in the color scheme described above executed a speedy merge from right to center, and its pilot decided that hey, let’s go all the way to the left lane. I thought this was a bad idea, since I (in a white car, if you want to ladle on the symbolism) was occupying that section of the left lane at the time, doing a modest, if technically too fast, 63 mph. Now you should know that there’s a lot of junction crammed into a small space; the left shoulder, into which I would have to escape the Ram’s apparent wrath, is all of 30 inches wide and is topped off with a seven-foot-high Jersey barrier. Sideways was therefore out; I had to evacuate forward. The request was sent to Gwendolyn’s engine room: second gear, stat. The tachometer spun clockwise toward 6000 rpm, and once I was able to breathe again, I muttered some suitably dark incantations. The Ram stayed behind me, but its velocity was diminishing: two lengths between us, then four, then more.

I slid down the Classen offramp, the Ram still in tepid pursuit. We wound up more or less side by side at the place where the Circle ends and the Northwest Distressway begins, and then I saw something that wasn’t black at all: a thirty-day paper tag, flapping in the breeze. The owner of this truck had only been so for a few days. Probably had just moved up from something purely proletarian.

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Downright quick, considering

I would have expected a longer, or at least more tedious, procedure:

Mrs. McG and I took her car to the nearest Honda dealership this morning, and the ticking timebomb that was a Takata airbag has been replaced with something less likely to jump out and start shooting innocent bystanders without warning. Or am I getting that confused with how the media portrays AR-15 rifles? It’s hard to tell sometimes.

I figured this to be a two-day job, if only because of the expense involved. But no, apparently not. I dialed over to Alldata, which presently advises that while the parts are pricey and then some, labor is no more than 0.8 billable hour and requires only a medium skill level.

Not that I was worrying, particularly. Nissan started buying airbags from Takata for this model starting with model year 2001. I have a ’00.

Incidentally, in a lifetime behind the wheel I have reported in for only one vehicle recall, on my second Mazda. Problem: wrong cap may have been installed on the brake-fluid reservoir. Dealer’s report after 20 seconds: “No, this is the right cap.”

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Wheels for the desperate

If TransUnion is to be believed, I have a credit score of, um, 799. (It broke 800 for one month, then dropped back.) This silly number notwithstanding, I get rather a lot of snail mail from auto dealers who cater to subprime customers, and it hasn’t been that long since I was one of them. And they’re easy to spot, because they all rely on the same tedious devices to make the would-be buyer feel more important than he is. The one I got yesterday was one of those tear-off-three-edges things that big-box stores use to send you a check for a five-dollar rebate. Up in the return-address zone was the phrase “ACCOUNTING DIVISION” — well, it could be a check, couldn’t it? — and in smaller print: “Please be careful not to discard or lose that notice.” Which is how you know it’s not a check, because someone who was actually sending you a check wouldn’t mind at all if you threw it away.

It gets hilarious on the inside, with the reference to the “Main Office for the Issuance of Official Documentation.” This obviously doesn’t mean a damned thing. Nor does this: “This is not a sales promotion, but an opportunity to assist you, regardless of past credit.” When I was 12 years old and had a credit score of six and two-thirds, you dumbasses, I could have recognized this as a sales promotion.

And then:

“Our records indicate that you are in your final two weeks of eligibility.”

Does this mean that once 14 days have elapsed, I’ll never see crap from this dealer again? Fat farging chance.

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Shuffling off this mortal coilover

There was a time when General Motors had many more badges than they do now. And one by one, they were judged superfluous and were made to face the firing-order squad. (Remember Viking? Oakland? Okay, LaSalle ran great for a decade or so, but they’re forgotten by now.) What matters now, though, is that Buick, the very first brand bought by Billy Durant on his way to founding GM, must die:

Buick is now clearly the dumping ground of GM product. If you look at GMC, for example, you’ll see fresh faces and shiny grilles and waiting lists for products like the four-cylinder Terrain. Buick? Well, they have

  • A Korean blob (Encore)
  • A Chinese blob (Envision)
  • A Polish blob with a folding roof (Cascada)
  • A sedan that nobody buys (Regal)
  • Another sedan that nobody buys (LaCrosse)
  • A monstrous CUV that weighs 4,800 pounds in its cheapest FWD variant and which has no visible market whatsoever (Enclave)

And since all but a handful of Buick dealers also sell GMC trucks and trucklets, you can see them more or less simultaneously.

Weirdly — or perhaps not so weirdly, since I am old and set in my ways — were I to buy one more car before I go, it could well be a Buick. The brand image may be murky these days, but I still think of Buick as Cadillac’s quieter, if perhaps dowdier, sister. There isn’t much space, though, between Cadillac and Chevrolet, and the General doesn’t seem to be making any room for the Roadmasters of legend.


Cheaty cheater wants to cheat

The question posed: “If I don’t pass my Florida permit test the 1st time, will the questions be totally different the 2nd time I take it?”

If that doesn’t give away his scheme, the next line will:

Or will they be in a different order? Thanks!

Guy’s evidently too young and untried to know better than to give away his bad ideas that quickly.

One answerer, careful to keep a straight face, pointed out that there are at least half a dozen versions of the Florida test.

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