New Car Features To Think Twice About

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It’s the “bells and whistles” that get the headlines – and grab your attention. But they might also grab your wallet once the warranty runs out. A classic example from long ago is the aluminum block four-cylinder engine GM trotted out back in the mid-1970s. It was a revolutionary design based on a high-silicon alloy that eliminated the need for pressed-in cylinder liners. It was also very lightweight, which promised to improve both the fuel economy and the handling of the car it was built for – the Chevy Vega. Stop me if you know where this is going…vega ad


Well, the problem wasn’t the alloy block. It was the cast iron cylinder head bolted to it. And the unbalanced pistons within, which shook like a shivery dog on deliberately loose motor mounts (a Band Aid for the shivery shaking, to mask it from the car’s owner) until either the head bolts loosened up or the block warped just enough to let coolant slip past the head gasket into the unsleeved cylinders.

Hello, ‘Frisco!

Few of these atrocities ever made it to 30,000 miles without a catastrophic engine failure.

Such epic debacles are less common today. But modern cars are far from foolproof. Here’s a roster of some designs – and features – you might want to think twice about:

* AC and audio controlled by touchscreen input – LCD pic

The iPad Culture craves flat screens – including in their cars. Here’s the problem. When your touchscreen LCD croaks, your AC and audio system (as well as anything else controlled via the touchscreen) will no longer work. Or rather, you won’t be able to turn these accessories on (or perhaps, off). Mechanically speaking, there may be nothing wrong with your AC. The compressor, condenser and so on all working properly. But with a dead flat screen – or one no longer responsive to your touch – you’re looking at a big repair bill regardless. A replacement repair bill, actually. Because you don’t repair dead LCD displays. You pull them – and toss them. How much does a new iPad cost? Physical buttons and knobs, meanwhile, are pretty dependable and more important, individual. One knob or switch or button controls one thing. If the little knob you rotate to adjust the radio’s volume goes out, you won’t be able to adjust the volume… but your AC will still work. If the LCD touchscreen craps out, nothing works.

You’ve been warned.

* 20 inch (and larger) wheels –gnomesayin?

This ghetto inspired trend has reached the apotheosis of stupidity. Everyone seems to want their car – or SUV – to look like a Suge Knight Special. Leaving aside the aesthetics, these oversized “rims” dramatically increase rolling resistance, which dramatically hurts gas mileage. They also dramatically increase wear and tear on front end components – which you’ll find out about around 30,000 miles down the road from new. They muck up ride quality – which the car industry crutches via elaborate (read: expensive) suspension systems in order to make the cars livable. “Twennies” mounted on 4WD SUVs are the absolute height (depth?) of idiocy. The last thing you want on a 4WD are short/stiff sidewall tires and a steamroller tread that rides up on rather than cuts through the snow.


*Cars with poor rearward visibility (due to sloped rooflines/small glass).poor visibility

This is now a common problem in new cars. Caused – ironically – by the government’s “safety” edicts and crutched (rather than fixed) with Band Aid technologies such as back-up cameras and blind spot warning systems. Washington issued an edict requiring all new cars be fitted from the factory with “anti-whiplash” headrests, which are very tall. The car companies make the problem worse by steeply sloping the roofline as it descends to the ass end of the car – which (thanks to government’s bumper impact mandates) now sits way high in the air. In many new cars, the rear glass is both tiny and only a few degrees from being horizontal – which, along with those too-tall headrests – makes it damned hard to see anything behind you. You can reduce the danger – and the aggravation – by choosing a car with decent rear glass area that’s not mounted so flat that you can only see up. And by removing the backseat “anti-whiplash” headrests and laying the buggers on the floor. Check Cub Foods Ad and Dollar General Ad. Most can be popped out (and back in) without tools. If no one’s riding back there, why not? You’ll be better able to see where you’re going – which is a helluva lot “safer” than depending on two-dimensional cameras – and blinking lights and buzzers.

* Auto-stop/ start –auto stop 2

Gas (even when it was $4 a gallon) is comparatively inexpensive… compared with an engine replacement. Or even a starter/battery replacement. Which is why the automatic stop/start technology being fitted to a growing number of new cars is arguably a terrible idea. Roll to a stop at a red light and the car’s computer peremptorily shuts off the engine. When the light goes green, and you take your foot off the brake (and press the accelerator) it spins a super high-torque starter to kick it back to life, so you can move. The object is to save the minuscule quantity of fuel that would be burned while “idling.” But here’s the problem: When the engine’s off, the oil’s no longer circulating – and even though a film of oil will still be protecting your engine’s internals, it’s not the same as circulating oil under pressure. Instead of just one start cycle on your trip to work, your engine may endure a dozen start-stop cycles. And most engine wear occurs guess when? During start-up. The frequent starts (and the high torque starters required for near instantaneous re-starts) also require higher-performance batteries and these will inevitably live shorter lives due to the many-times-multiplied start/stop (and discharge-recharge) cycling. Also, engine-powered accessories such as your air conditioner will not work when the engine isn’t running. When your engine auto-stops at a light on a 95 degree day, so does the cool air.

Avoid auto-stop/start if possible – and don’t buy a car that has it if you can’t turn the damned thing off.

* A new car that doesn’t come with at least three “e” keys – smart key pic

Gone are the days when – if you lost your spare set of car keys – you could take the one you still had down to the hardware store and have them cut you a duplicate set for $5. Somehow, the car industry has gulled the buying public into believing they just have to have electronic keys. Which just happen to cost many orders of magnitude more than a simple metal key (and which, unlike metal keys, are absolutely going to stop working at some point down the road). Which is why it’s so critically important to get as many of them as you possibly can if the new car you’re about to buy comes with them. Insist they be included as part of the deal – or there will be no deal. Remember: The one and only time you have any leverage is before you sign the paperwork. You are well-advised to demand at least three “e” keys be provided with the car before you do sign. Go for four, actually. The more the merrier.

Because you’ll be a lot merrier if you don’t find yourself having to fork over $300 for a new “e” key four years from now – after losing your only other set. Don’t forget: Your car will be 3,400 pounds of useless metal without that $300 “e” key.

Get as many of them as you can up front … for free.

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  1. I tested out a Ford Escape a year and a half ago, and while the lcd mainly worked with the stupid back up camera, all the “buttons” were capacitive and flush with the dash panel. Not for me, thanks. I like physical buttons/knobs that I can easily manipulate without taking my eyes off the road.

  2. I realize I’m an old fart – er, fogey -but I saw an SUV yesterday sitting on high open spoke wheels (had to be at least twennies) and tires with next to no sidewall. Fugly I say.

    • Erics the man.I started really reevaluting what I needed (or wanted )in a new truck
      2Ample Power
      3 Reasonable (gasp)price
      If my fortunes improve ,I may go for a Chevy Colorado(after pricing the Subaru,Equionox,F-150.etc.the most disappointing of the group was the F-150,the price headed to the Higher altitudes real quick,now that bright Yellow or white Chevy,will really have me looking(but only if the quality has improved from the previous incarnation

      • Thanks, Kevin!

        On the Colorado: Assume you’re looking at the new one? It’s a nice truck, at first glance (and test drive). I’d be a little cautious, though, about buying one myself until at least a year has gone by. No slam meant, GM people. But it’s a new vehicle and there may be issues… we’ll only know after they’ve been in circulation for awhile.

        If you can handle a smaller truck, I strongly recommend the 2004-earlier Nissan Frontier. For something a bit larger, the Toyota Tacoma’s also a damn good truck.

        Here’s the Colorado/Canyon review, by the way:

  3. It’s seems to me the manufacturers are making all this electronic stuff and having the feds mandate them because the mechanical parts are so reliable now. The (basic) engines could probably go 300 thousand easy with proper maintenance. How long is the electronics going to last and when they crap out it will be more to fix than the vehicle is worth. The vehicle may be running perfect but if only one of the little mandated geegaws is not working, it will prevent passing inspection.

    • I agree about engine tech nowadays. But the height of stupidity is attaching an overly-complex electronically controlled automatic transmission (100-150k life) behind these marvelous engines.

      For example, a Volkswagen DSG transmission. It shifts great and is the best auto trans I’ve personally ever driven.

      That said, the DSG requires a $400 service (not DIY-able without a $500 investment in tools and VAGCOM software) every 40k miles.

      The unit is so mechanically complex that very few can rebuild it. Replacement cost? How about $5k to $6k? On a 8 year old TDI Beetle, one trans failure equals scrap yard for an otherwise viable car, with a great engine that will last easily 300k.

      If that Beetle had MT, a new clutch would run about $1200 installed. Far more reasonable and affordable.

      In the grand scheme of things the DSG transmission is less high-tech than many CVTs (god I hate driving those — me no likey appliance-cars) or the 8-9 speed automatics that are now standard equipment.

      These cars are marketed to people who won’t keep them more than 5 years IMO.

      Kind of like a drivable version of the Bic Disposable Lighter.

      Who needs Zippo’s and refillable fluid/replaceable flints? We just throw them away when they don’t light anymore.

      My neighbor, an auto body guy, had 3 cars in his shop that were all scrapped because, as mid 2000 era 4 cyl economy cars, equipped with failed AT’s; the cost to repair all 3 exceeded their values: a Dodge Neon, a Nissan Sentra, and a Mitsubishi Eclipse. All 3 would start and run fine. The bodies and interiors were far from worn out, but to the scrapyard they went, abandoned by the owners due to the owners being unable to afford to rebuild or replace the AT.

      I’ve had mostly bad experience with AT — random failures, repeated failures and even had a specially built, hi-performance trans from Bowtie Overdrives (600HP) fail behind a 400HP 350 Chevy with only moderate use.

      MT for me or I don’t buy it.


      • I’m a manual transmission fan. That said, they’re harder and harder to find. So it seems that a reasonable alternative is one of the established, simpler automatic transmissions with some kind of reliability track record. GM and Toyota certainly made plenty of four-speed automatics that ran forever with nothing but fluid changes at 75k miles.

        I just don’t understand how people can afford a $30k car that might last 5 years. That’s a really lousy ROI.

  4. Hi Slug! (Ha …. how many caught that.) Norton is my 1994 Chevy G20 van… not many creature comforts but a step up from my ’48 Ford F-1 I drove for a decade!
    Come July Oregon is starting up their mileage tax on cars. You drive dem miles, you paying for it!
    Your vehicle tracks the mileage (while I suppose Taggert and his buddies are following with their own GPS snoopers) OR, the honor system were a driver keeps his own record…cross your heart! Just one more benefit of a new car – auto entry into the game .

  5. I worked at a shop that repaired electronics for Chrysler. This included radios, instrument clusters, overheads and body computers. We were a warranty repair station that provided swap out service for the dealership’s service departments. I cannot tell how many body computers, radios and instrument clusters we reapired while I was there. Into the thousands. Chrysler body computers control all indoor comfort and safety, wipers, headlamps, directional warning, auto door locks(PITA) interior lighting as well as speedo, odometer and other instruments. When one feature fails the entire body computer must be replaced. If the vehicle is OOW, too bad. It’s gonna cost you some bucks.
    I discovered a major component failure, a manufacture defect in a certain transistor that was used in all their systems. The transistor would often fail upon delivery of the new vehicle or soon after. As a rule, we would then replace the transistors on ANY product that was using them and we could date code the piece of equipment whether it was a body computer, radio or instrument cluster. IF the item was produced within or after that date code, we automatically replaced the suspect transistors.
    One other problem that we constantly ran into was the poor/inadequate training of the dealer/service departments. I ran into all kinds of stupid, lazy and retarded service people at these dealerships. It was enough to make me pull my hair out (good thing I had a lot of it). I never had to deal with so many fools in my life and I’ve had to deal with a lot of them in the past working in the electronics parts wholesale industry.
    After that I swore I would never buy an American car again. I had bad experiences with the Reliant… a total piece of crap that should never have made it off the drawing board as well as the Dodge Shadow…another lame duck with yet another poorly engineered engine. In my area, Chevy dealerships were the worst of the lot. Poor service, odometer rigging, you name it.
    I have no plans to ever purchase a new car again. I do own a 2006 Town and Country with the Mitsu 3.2 engine and have to admit it has been a pretty good vehicle. This is my third van. My first was a ’67 Chevy window van with a 283 V8 and Posi rear end. Would go like snake but a bitch on icy roads.

    • My 67 malibu sport would go like stink in ice and snow. I had Goodyear Polyglas Gt radials and they stuck. One year I “broke” the road from the rolling hills to the high plains and even passed all the Dot fools and led many people to safety. When I say I broke the road, I moved past the DOT trucks trying to remove snow and plowed on in front of them. A few people. for whatever reason, decided to one best me and attempted to pass me as if they had a vehicle that could so do. I left every single one of them stranded in a barditch(their choice to move in front of me and then lose it). I led my BIL and sister in their performance Camaro well ahead of everyone.

      Stupid is as stupid does and that fairly much summed up the night.
      We used our greatly superior tire traction to leave everyone in our wake. For the life of me, I don’t have a clue why they were so intent on passing us. Seems like a good idea to follow people successfully blazing a new trail in terrible conditions. Why not simply follow a car or two that has successfully bested the DOT and is leading them?
      Forrests’ mother summed it up.

  6. Rear visibility is terrible in today’s cars. Remember the old BMW 2002? Now that car had visibility. Ironically, the headrests may cause more injury than they prevent due to poorer visibility generating more accidents.

    I take off the rear headrests and throw them in the trunk. They can easily be put back if needed. I recline the front passenger seatback if I am alone, to get that out of view also.

    In some vehicles, for example my pickup, I have installed one of those old Wink 5-panel mirrors for panoramic view, even if they don’t look very nice. Now that is some visibility.

    • Hi PJ,

      It is revelatory to take a drive in a car built before the 1990s and compare with today’s stuff. The older cars are so much more open feeling and (generally) have vastly superior visibility – which is arguably as relevant a “safety” feature as the electronic crap in new cars and – in my opinion – superior, because good visibility prevents accidents (so-called) from happening in the first place!

      • Or buy one of the old school cars made after they fell out of fashion. Visibility in my 2001 Buick LeSabre (aka “The Grandpa Car” to my kids, all 15 and under) is far superior to most anything I’ve seen lately.

        Sometimes I wonder why I’ve chosen to drive such an old-fashioned car, but, man, it’s not plagued by any of these newfangled problems. Plenty of room to service the car under the hood, proven reliable drivetrain, and big enough to survive an accident.

    • I just googled Wink 5-panel mirror. It is just what I need!
      Thanks. I was going to the auto store today in order to get one of those tire plug repair kits. Had a flat two days ago. It was a small nail. Got my brother to take tire to shop and then pick it up the next day. They just put a plug into it.
      PS. I’m in the northeast. It was 5 degrees F, windy, with plenty of snow. You would not believe how tight those lug nuts were. Had to slip a pipe onto the breaker bar and was suprised that the studs did not break. End of whine.

  7. Eric — Thank you for mentioning tall headrests. I have a 97 Subu wagon and have a big problem with visability when merging into traffic. The side view mirror is crappy and cannot be adjusted from the inside. In fact, it can’t even be adjusted from the outside. I crank my head to the left and there is still a blind spot. After reading this article, I just looked at my headrest and noticed that it can lowered about 1.5 inches. It made a positive difference. I then removed it completely and that made a big difference. Now, I will have to choose to leave it off completely or settle for the smaller positive change.

    • .usually agree with this site, but the fellow who’s removing his drivers seat headrest, not good.
      years back my tin can Reliant K wagon was rear ended by an early 80s Buick. accordion back to front,me stopped to turn, the other about 35-45, so true diff of say 40, ok plus unequal mass.
      just that morning raised rest to proper height, without that, would’ve rolled over, tall person. without one at all, wouldn’t be writing now, no question
      the laws of physics do hold, and a seat belt for front impact and rest for rear, are not do good conspiracies

      donk-rims: you forgot to mention the toxic price of the lo-profile tires, compared to normal
      and not to forget the pot hole damage to RIM and tire we’re about to see again.
      for Porsches they make sense in theory, more contact patch, better handling, until the real world sets you back a grand when you get to know that gaping hole with a 7″ vertical front edge.
      friend sold his 911 some years back, 3 tires, 2 front rim’s in 6 months.

      now a late 80s 911 , thats a commuter car!

      • Hi Chris,

        I was referring to the second row headrests – which partially obscure the view to the rear. But even so, the fact is the seats in modern cars are obnoxiously high and while whiplash is a possibility, decreased visibility is an actuality. Plus, low-back seats are just pleasant. And I am sick of other people dictating vehicle design. If Smith wants “x” – and enough other Smiths want it also – then the market will provide it without mandates, without coercion.

        • mystical thinking strikes again. i don’t have my headrests in. if i’m in a wreck I’m a dead man. really? come on. sounds like clover and his 50 mph snow hurricanes with 30 inches of lethal powder.

          what is the possibility of it mattering if you have NO front headrests whatsoever. 1 in 100,000 maybe. there’s a lot of rare circumstances that have to be met.

          try flipping heads with a coin 17 times in a row. it’s just as likely. name your dare. i’ll take that action. IF you can flip 17 times I’ll do X dangerous thing. if you fail, I get the money. any takers?

          before you worry about headrests, put down some more no slip treads in the shower. your chance of dying in there is 1 in 2000 or so.

          my grandma’s demise came after she fell down a flight of stairs in her old house. if only the safety clovers had been around then, she might still be with us and enjoying all this safety and surveillance.

          wear a bike helmet when you go to the bar. there’s a 1 in 500 chance you’ll fall down after you’ve been drinking.

          where can you turn for true actuarial data on what you’re risks are. maybe we could have an actuarial app on our 24/7 mobile jail cell phones. we could be assigned licenses for certain risk categories. sorry citizen, you have to wear a condom with that barfly, you’re only licensed for category C and her sexual risk factor is category F or worse. if you proceed authorities will be notified.

          meth. not even once.

          i don’t get the appeal of meth. but i don’t fear it. nor would i fear driving a car with no headrests. hell, give me $500 and i’ll do either one on a dare. danger is always over-rated.

          • Tor, so what’s the chance you’ll fall down after no drinking? I have little experience with that. Oops, I just hit a tooth with my Shiner Birthday Beer bottle. Obviously we need rubber baby buggy bumpers on the ends of bottles.

        • Ford simply made the headrests in the Mustang fold forward to keep them from blocking the view. then again it’s not a car where adults usually sit back there.

      • Hey Chris T., don’t forget about the WEIGHT of those large tire/wheel combinations. Adds weight to the vehicle and are so difficult to change by the roadside esp. by smaller citizens.

  8. Dad gum it! If Henry Ford wudda hadda put all dem gewgaws ‘n sail fawns ‘n extra spay shell dew dads we wudda know’d by now howta git rid of ’em all. With a shotgun.


    Tip o’ the Hat to Eric the Pete.

    • Hi Bill,

      There is tall … and there is wide (and both at the same time). The gnomesayin’ ree-uhms you see on cars are tall and wide. Disproportionately so, too.

      • Craig Breedlove had TALL, but relatively nayroe wheels on the Spirit of America when he set the land speed record. Course he didn’t need traction with that thing (except to assist the ‘chute with braking).

        • Land speed record… large diameter wheels are turning slower (lower rpm). Good for the bearings. Probably just one of the advantages in that application.

  9. Man, all these new-fangled digital gewgaws just make me appreciate my ’01 Accord (M/T) even more. I hope my use of synlubes will help it make it (w/o any drive train rebuilds) to 30 years & 500k miles, that is if I last that long too. At that point, a trip to southern CA might be in the offing to find an older analog vehicle. Cheers all.

  10. Continental claims that ‘tire rolling resistance is reduced by approximately 5% with low profile sizes resulting in 1-2% gain in fuel economy.’

    Intuitively this makes sense. Short, stiff sidewalls give terrible ride quality (as Eric points out), but their lack of flex makes them more like steel wheels on trains, which get excellent fuel mileage.

      • I’ve got a 2011 Chrysler minivan with 17″ wheels. The ride is a wee bit stiff. I’m considering switching to 16″ wheels to get a bit more sidewall flex. Thoughts?

        Based on prices I’m seeing, I might be going to steel wheels, too. Ouch, those alloys are pricey.

        • you could try to find some OEM aluminum rims used in the size you need.

          Often times you can ‘upgrade’ your rims by finding an OEM set from a different model in your brand, or a higher end model of your vehicle.

          Ebay and craigslist have some great deals from time to time on OEM takeoff rims.

          BTW, aluminum rims do help performance vs steel rims. It’s about the unsprung weight. Reducing unsprugn weight (such as wheels and tires) dramatically affects steering response, braking response, ride quality, and most importantly acceleration.

          1 lb of unsprung weight is said to be equivalent of 10 lbs of sprung weight.

          Example. 1982 F100 pickup with steel ‘wagon wheels’. I found a set of aluminum rims on EBay for $160.

          Each aluminum rim weighed 16 lbs (15″x8″). When I swapped them, I found that the steel rims weighed 26 lbs each.

          So, by cutting 40 lbs of unsprung weight it really changed the driving dynamics of my truck. After swapping my tires onto the new rims, my truck literally felt like someone took 500 lbs out of the bed.

          Huge difference if you’re the type of driver that notices changes in your car.

          IE not a clover who can drive around with a damn near flat tire and not even notice. 🙂

  11. It’s not sexist if it’s true, right? It is mostly women causing the ruination of cars (and everything else for that manner). They love all the new-fangled gizmotry, because this crap saves them a little effort, and of course because they do not know how to fix anything anyway, so they have no comprehension of what is easier to fix or less likely to need fixing, or (especially) how much it costs to fix or replace. They even like the immensely stupid touch screen controls, even tho they are (also immensely) harder to use, because they think them cool. Sorry girls, but as they say “the truth hurts,” although I do know some idiot guys that sucker for the cool aspect of this junk.

    • It’s the making of people into “consumers”. Women were/are the first and primary targets of modern marketing. The reason for it is rather simple. Once women are mostly successfully manipulated into something the men largely go along with it. That doesn’t work the other way around. Advertising to men does not have those secondary gains.

      • Yeah… maybe Bruce Jenner is on to something? I mean, maybe if we men got rid of our dicks (and balls) we’d no longer give a shit about catering to women’s “needs”….

        • OMG,Eric what is happening to people today?Men no longer want to be Men,reliable cars are too expensive to buy and maintain,Love to have a new,Dodge ECO TRUCK or a new F-150,but it will never happen now,too daggone expensive,gas is starting its creep up again ad nauseum.
          I have been reflecting on the evidence,purported by some archeologists,that advanced civilizations existed before this one,its scary because history has a way of repeating itself.In the words of PoGo(I believe)”We have seen the enemy and He is us” We didnt need no ancient astronauts,we do good for awhile then destroy ourselves and sadly enough it seems the biggest enabler is Cloverism(got to be a good Nazi)-Kevin”The Skeptical”

          • The “previous technological civilizations” hypothesis is very interesting… and plausible, I think. If you want to get into something related that’s equally interesting, check into polar shift and what may lie underneath the Antarctic ice. There is pretty compelling evidence that Antarctica was once at least temperate (forests do not grow in a place where it is dark for half the year, as it is now) and for that to have been the case….

            • My belief (and no, I can’t prove it) is that the ‘previous technological civilization’ was before the flood of Noah. People were living hundreds of years back then.
              Polar shift likely took place at that time as well.

              • I’ve yet to come across a satisfactory explanation for the means by which the ancients were able to move and carefully position blocks of stone weighing as much (or more than) 100 tons. How is it that the Sphinx shows clear evidence of erosion by water? Why are there no cartouches or other indications that the Great Pyramid was ever built to be a tomb? How is it that ancient maps exist delineating the shoreline of Antarctica?

                Very, very curious…

              • The flood ‘myths’ are IMO, the ice age ending. Ice dams breaking releasing vast amounts of water. Just about every place on the planet people have flood myths.

                Maps copied from very ancient sources match modern research that shows what the coast lines looked like in the ice age.

                There are various theories on what happened, but nobody really knows. Some think that continents moved large distances others pole shift and some others different things yet. But nobody really knows.

                It would be remarkable at this point to find any of the very ancient high technology. We can find evidence of it in stone structures around the world, but finding the actual machines is unlikely. Identifying them properly even more so as the technology probably wasn’t like what we have now.

                As to living hundreds of years, perhaps. I think there have been a number of wars in very ancient times. The stories are dismissed as fiction but if so it’s very good science fiction. However there is evidence, the vitrified ‘forts’ and other structures turned to glass. Of course we are supposed to believe this was done intentionally with massive fires. But why waste so much energy on such a thing even if it was possible? The simple answer, atomic warfare, of course is deemed impossible. I think that some diseases may be the work of previous biological warfare, but that is conjecture.

            • A Polar shift would explain a lot,while in ancient Indian lore,it seems there were a technological bent to the ancient catastrophes.
              There are several versions of the “Flood” as far as I’m concerned its History,the Fountains of the deep opening up etc.
              Are any of you Guys off the grid?I really like that idea,but during a Major catastrophe(I mean big-No “Lucifers Hammer” survivors around would only prolong the agony,if a big meteor hits,I hope I’m under it,the “Golden Horde” would be Hell unto itself and Clover would ruin the rest-Kevin

    • Well I wouldn’t say we’ve ruined “everything” but yeah you’re mostly correct. The crap needs to stop too but unfortunately many women don’t agree with me 🙁 so hopefully men will start standing up more. Of course a huge step would be to stop the “wussification” of our boys.

    • Most women naturally favor security over liberty, being that traditionally females were protected by males.

      Now the government has assumed the role traditionally played by males. But since the government ‘male’ is not in the house with the female, the government can only protect by fiat — by mandating things.

      The death of liberty in this country began when females were enfranchised with voting rights.


      • Hi Roy,

        It’s defeating to come to terms with it, but you may be correct. I hate to generalize; it undermines every individualist fiber of my being. But ignoring general truths can be fatal. For example, the fact that there are tame tigers doesn’t mean all tigers or even most of them can be trusted not to look at you like a T-Bone steak.

        My teeth ache.

        That cabin in the woods calls me to ever more strongly of late…

        • Hi Eric and all,
          In a Libertine world,we can be honest and work around reality,a shovel is a shovel,just because we say someone is equal,doesnt necessarily put them or give them equal qualities and abilities-Kevin

  12. One of the best things about having no electronics and carpet on your truck’s doors (or on the floor) is having a window open or leaving a door open in light rain or heavy snow with no worry about water causing a problem. Gotta love crank windows. My truck is a libertarian- it does not care if seat belts are on or doors are open, and it will never blow up in my face over any collision with anything. It just is and does what I tell it without question or a buzzer of any kind. It does’t even care if my foot is on the brake or not when I shift into drive, reverse, or out of park!

  13. The stop / start feature saves a lot of fuel in city driving. 0.0 MPG at stoplights really drags down your overall MPGs. Cars in the city that are continually moving, even only 20 MPH or so, can sometimes get BETTER fuel economy than at highway speeds, since air drag goes up exponentially with speed. As soon as your car shifts into the top gear, thus minimizing engine drag, you’ll be at peak MPGs — anything above that drains fuel economy as air drag shoots up. The other big loss of MPGs in cities versus highway is braking, since converting momentum into brake pad heat is another 100% loss.

    • stop-start doesn’t recover much. The killer of stopping and moving again on fuel economy is acceleration. Idling will be a much smaller fraction of that. But it’s a huge deal for CAFE, every 0.1 mpg is. As you wrote staying in motion is the key. The hybrid cars are set up to minimize those acceleration losses in city driving. Stop/start like skip shift is designing for test IMO.

    • I suppose it depends on where and how you drive. For me, auto-stop/start saves a negligible amount of fuel. I can attest to this, having driven probably two dozen vehicles (various makes/models) with the system. Your “mileage” may vary.

      But, it’s not debatable that the system adds to the cost of the car – and almost certainly will increase the cost of owning the car.

      Minimally, the 12V battery will probably have a shorter life – unless they have figured out a way to build a lead-acid battery not as susceptible to functional deterioration caused by much-increased use.

      In a car without auto-stop/start, the battery is tasked with starting the car’s engine (and being discharged) just the once. Once the engine starts, the alternator takes over (and maintains the battery at full charge). But if the car has auto-stop/start, the battery is repeatedly discharged – and recharged. This cycling is known to reduce battery life. Will the fuel savings be more than the cost incurred by having to replace the 12V starter battery more often?

      Repeated stop/start cycles may not be good for the engine, either. And we won’t know – either way – until these system have been out in the real world, dealing with real-world usage – for at least ten years. Do you want to volunteer to be the guinea pig?

      • “Repeated stop/start cycles may not be good for the engine, either.”

        Add an electric oil pump or “catch can” (accumulates oil when driving and when ignition shuts off, it shuts a valve and “locks” oil in the can under pressure. When ignition is turned on, valve opens and pressure from the catch can pushes the oil back to the engine to “pre-lube” the motor.)

        Start-stop will likely be mandated on all new vehicles within the next few years, more for emission than fuel savings (hospitals, schools are already posting ‘no-idle’ signs).

        It will require a beefed up starter, plus a better battery or more likely an additional battery for ‘hotel’ loads like the A/C compressor (which will be electric, as in hybrids).

      • Eric, all the parts in the starting system will take a hit. Wiring, fuses, breakers, relays. And other parts in the electrical system will take voltage surges caused by the starting of the car. AC systems will also be hit, and will increase use of AC. All parts of the AC system will suffer. And in the summer, increased heat load under the hood as the off engine will not be removing excess heat. So now the oil needs to be changed more, and most likely the trans fluid too. So, you can see where this is leading………………………………………..

    • All so true… and it makes me wonder ,why, with all the gummint mandating and regulating and “fixing” and such, HOW is it that, in driving in most cities, the signals are NEVER synchronised so that a vehicle moving at the posted speed limit will hit all the lights green. If cities would FIX this (and don’t tell me it can’t be done) there would be no need for start-stop features, fuel concumption would drop radically, there would be FAR fewer crashes (which always come where drivers have to make decisions), cars would last a lot longer (EVERYTHING gets extra wear in the speed up, slow down, idle, accelerate, phase changes. WHY do cities allow shopping centres, mid block pedestrian crossing signals, etc, to be fullly trffic actuated and NOT tied in to the main cross street signal timing? Supid, and wasteful. S, government allows/condones a problem, then mandates the “fix”… too much start/stop, make the cars shut down and restart. WHY not synch the signals so the start/stop doesn’t happen in the first place?

      • Tionico,

        Depending on the number of lights involved it may not be easy to get the lights synchronized if traffic flows in both directions.

        In NYC it works well on the one-way avenues if there is not too much traffic. Travel on the cross streets is not quite as smooth.

      • Tionico,there is a wonderful little city in SW VA called Salem,back in the day before the so called smart lights,the city planners (who took great pride in their nice ,neat,clean little town,had the lights synched-you could hit a green,run the speed limit and never have to stop again,till you left the town,so it does work,as a truck driver,I must admit I liked the old style lights better-Kevin

      • Hi Tion, governments do not fix problems. They create problems to create situations where they can pass more laws, to control you, and to make your life miserable. Read up on Agenda 21 and you will realise what is going on with the gov’t goons, who are really owned by the bankers. All this tech appearing in cars increases gov’t tax revenue, which is another way to drain your finances.

  14. Yeah, keys. My used BMW only came with one key and the spare cost $240.
    I stupidly forgot this lesson when buying the wife’s Infiniti. The spare key for her G37 was almost $400! This was more than I paid for my first car- the whole car- years ago. DOH!!

    • I got my used 99 Explorer from the local Ford dealer (almost 13 years ago). The salesman made sure we had three keys and was very proactive in informing us that if we lost one but still had two, any Ford dealer could make us a new key for $25; but if we only had one left, it would cost $300 to get a second one made and it would have to be sent from the factory.

      • Agree. If you have two original keys, you can order a new key fob (?) online for $20 or so, have it cut and use the two original keys to program the new. I did this on my Mazda 3 and obviously saved a lot. Most folks probably think they need to pay the dealer the $300. The trick is always having two original keys…..and knowing how to Google the procedure

  15. Worked in a garage in the ’70’s as a teenager. A fair percentage of our time was spent replacing engines in late model (at the time) Vegas. We also replaced quite a few nylon-toothed timing gears in various GM vehicles.
    If and when GM falls, perhaps from the current ignition switch debacle, I’ll feel sorry for their employees but cheer the demise of a bloated, arrogant and oftentimes evil corporation.

  16. It’s a shame that the Vega was such a turd. Conceptually, they were the right car for the time, and I think that they were nice looking also.

    • Agreed, Rick!

      If the engine had been better balanced – and had an aluminum head as well as an aluminum block – it would have been pretty cool. It amazes me that GM – scores of (er) trained engineers, remember – could let something as obviously wrong as the actual production engine was actually go into production…

      • eric, I’d agree with that. But, a big BUT, other manufacturers you like so much had similar problems with cast iron blocks and aluminum heads and the inability to handle southern heat. Hey, they test them in Death Valley don’t they? Evidently the Japs didn’t cause Toyotas, Nissans, Mitsu’s and the like had one big failing, head gaskets.

        When I had a Nissan pickup and it started to hiccup, several friends who’d already experienced it said “Man, you’d better tear that thing down and replace the head gasket or you’ll be sorry”. My wife was driving it at the time and I had no time to even drive it. My bad. It cost twice as much to rebuild that engine as a warrantied GM SBC cost brand new at the time. If I could have installed a large enough radiator in that truck it would have been a Nissanolet toot sweet. Of course the bed rusted out from dirt, seed and the like while an older Chevy is still fine to this day. Every now and then you look up to find a crop of wheat growing in the bed. That’s when you hope it’s a pickup from the Big 3 and not a foreign job.

        Need a diff locker each end? No problem….unless you’re driving an import or what used to be imports. So you buy a new 3/4T 4WD Toyota and find out it won’t handle gooseneck duty. TS buddy, you shoulda checked it out. Maybe that V-8 is a good one but that don’t make the truck.

        Of course I’d still be buying automobiles with bodies on frames if I could find one. I long for the days(never to be seen again)when somebody was using both pickups to haul hay and you just hooked the cattle trailer to that Bonneville or ’98 and hauled ass. Of course, not many bumper pull trailers left these days of that sort.

        • Hi Eight,

          I’ve talked with a now-former (retired) GM engineer about the Vega engine debacle. It was a combination of things that led to the mess. By itself, the alloy block and cast iron head would have been ok. But the engine was not properly balanced, so it literally shook itself apart, he told me. As it did so, coolant would leak past the head gasket and into the sleeveless cylinder bores, where it would score the cylinder walls and ruin the seal – and you can guess what happened next…

          • eric And this coming from the first company to balance a production line engine. This was always a problem for the Big 3, giving you a POS for a gas saver so you wouldn’t complain about their gas guzzlers I suppose.
            If that engine had had a few more dollar spent on it, it would have been fine. I realize engineering and producing any products is a balance between cost and price but raising the price of that car a few bucks wouldn’t have been here nor there if you value loyal customers and long-lived products. The Vega was a good enough looking car and got good mileage, even handled pretty well and all they had to do for them to hold up would have been a brief balance job. The station wagon version was very utilitarian. Their transmissions weren’t very good either. Just up the road from me Don Hardy built everything you needed to convert to V-8 power and at one time, it wasn’t uncommon to hear a Vega lumpity lump up beside you and just spank your muscle car behind. “Behind” as a noun. I was brought up on that.

            We speak of Vega’s and K-series cars and various other throwaway cars that Ford made and wonder how much they have to spend on advertising to keep a customer base. Run one less prme-time tv commercial for them and use that money to get the engine right and years down the road it would have paid off in spades. I still won’t buy a Chrysler product for poor QC for decades. They may be the best car now(ha ha)but I’ll never know. And since their HQ is now Milan, that’s not the sort of thing that encourages a gearhead……another company that produced a lot of junk itself.

      • Two other engines GM got wrong, in cars I owned, were the 400 cu in Chevy small block, and the 350hp, 396 cu in. (’70 Impala and ’69 SS 396 Chevelle) Had to have both low-mileage engines replaced

        GM has had great concepts with poor execution and reliability. I’ve switched to

        • Hi Liberty,

          IIRC (been a long time!) the 400 had siamesed bores and a tendency to overheat. The 396/402 wasn’t a bad engine; but it was undercooled – and it, too, tended to overheat as a result.

      • Although placing a cast iron head on an aluminum block was a bad idea the real problem with the Vega’s oil consumption was that the factory installed teflon rings on the pistons. These rings were very tough and would eventually increase the diameter of the cylinder bores causing high oil consumption. I bought a ’75 Vega in ’78 with relatively low mileage but oil consumption increased with age, it got to the point of adding a quart every 2 days, or every 120 miles or so. Although the car was, like the Ford Pinto, relatively crude compared the Japanese cars at the time, aside from oil consumption I had very few problems with it.
        ps. I had a friend with a low mileage new Vega who had a new engine isnstalled by Chevy that had under 20k on it, the factory was well aware of the problem.

  17. The cars have a computer network in them. When the touch screen fails people will simply move the functions to a tablet, cell phone, or other generic device. Connected by cable or bluetooth. It’s already being done in the automotive customizing world.

    I don’t like the touch screen set up either, for the same reasons and the fact I just don’t like touch screens. Touch screens require too much attention to operate, they have no feel, etc and so forth.

    • BrentP, no telling how many big rigs have been wrecked cause the driver tried to understand the touchscreen or tune a radio with those vague, dim LED displays and tiny controls, sometimes just a barely visible bar. I hate any system without plain old knobs. If you want to be safe these days, just pull up the radio station on your cell phone or simply choose any playlist on your phone. If you watch videos in a vehicle though, please don’t blame me when I run over you. I COULD watch videos and I COULD die easily doing it. I have 8 mirrors, two windows and a windshield that takes up 100% of my visual acuity. Cuss bluetooth cams all you want but they’re the next best thing to a co-driver on a big rig. If I had my way, I’d have several screens showing real time video of the sides and back and underneath of my rig. You don’t have to stare at things like this, just notice when something doesn’t look the same as always. And the reason I want a screen for every cam is what you’re speaking of, touchscreens that require too much attention. The driver(and I use that term loosely)who ran over me last year got out of his rig and was still watching his phone with his ear buds in. Even after nearly killing me he couldn’t take his eyes off that phone. OTOH, I don’t even try to see who’s calling me, just answer it so I don’t have to take my eyes off the road. Tools…..they’re all in the use of them. Don’t try to watch two videos at the same time. Both may be moving 80 mph but Katy Perry’s boobs aren’t your priority…..or shouldn’t be.

  18. I yearn for automobiles, especially trucks, with utilitarian designs and and features. Being distracted by a multifunctional dash mounted touch screen is as horrible as texting while driving, especially when the same functions are better controlled with a handful of knobs and switches within easy reach of the driver. Carpet, ugh, it turns to crap even covered with “protective” liners so please bring back the rubber floor mat. Swooping roofs and tiny windows look nice at the auto show but prevent stuffing something in the hatch larger than a shoe box. And does a truck bed really need to sit 3 feet off the ground? Automatic transmissions are programmed to shift down at every throttle input as though 300 horses under the hood aren’t enough to maintain a constant speed without howling at 3500 rpm when faced with even the gentlest grade. What is the real purpose of a six speed tranny if the final drive ratio is identical to the 5 speed it replaced? I would rather have hundreds of hours with a quieter engine at 70 mph than gain a microsecond accelerating and endure the engine buzzing at 3k upon reaching 70.

  19. Sadly its impossible to buy a basic car or truck nowadays. While I appreciate electronics, I fail to see the utility in most of the junk they are throwing in vehicles today. The heat or AC, wipers etc in my 89 truck is no better or worse than my 2007 car. I am with the other folks here – its more stuff to break. And when I need to change a mere bulb on the 2007, I need watch a video on youtube it because its so tight and complicated.

    The other driving issue is that most people have moved beyond thinking of a car as a tool. Manufacturers want people to think of a car as something that defines a buyer and something that a buyer is then attached to. Clover is attached to their image.

      • It’s about the same as my ’73 Maverick.
        First remove the trim (which is held in with screws, but functionally little different than the grill piece on the jeep) Then remove the spring holding the headlamp bucket, turn the bucket to get off the aiming screws, unplug the sealed beam, then remove the sealed beam from the bucket which is another screw or two. Reverse procedure to install.

        • Hmm. Sounds like my Malibu without the trim issue.

          Most Chevy, Ford, Olds and Suzuki that I have owned, IIRC, were rear twist out or front phillips bezel mount, which is what I think you describe, sort of, but without trim removal.

          Also, the bezel vehicles I have owned all had reusable screw fasteners. Some plastic clips last, some don’t. I like screws.

          Like I said, not a huge deal, but when I looked at the Jeep, there was plenty of room for rear removal if the reservoirs and horn were slightly relocated. The grill thing irritated me. But I’m grumpy.

      • anyone want to guess the three ring circus it takes to replace the oil pressure sender unit on the 07 Avalanche with the smallblock V8? I had to go online to FIND the stuipd thng, and ince I knew where it was it took me half an hour to even SEE it…. through a one inch hold I could make out part of the brass base for the disgusting thing. Another half an hour I gave up trying to touch it, let alone get any sort of tool on it. Seems one has to remove the entire intake manifold assembly, including replacing the expensive silicone preformed intake manifold gaskets……. I let that customer take it to the dealer. Not worth it.

        • Hi Tionico,

          A friend recently brought over his early 2000s Nissan XTerra (small SUV) for a tune-up. Guess what you have to do to get at the two rearmost spark plugs on the passenger side cylinder bank of the V6? If you said remove the intake manifold (upper section)) you win a prize! A job that should take 5 minutes and the most basic tools now takes at least an hour for someone with the right tools and the know-how to pull an intake and put it back together – which in this case involves dealing with lots of “small parts” and wires around the throttle body. Plus a new intake gasket from Nissan. Shitheads!

          Next up, my other friend’s (also early 2000s) Firebird. The clutch slave cylinder croaked. GM thought it a good idea to put the damned thing on the trannny’s input shaft. Which means tranny removal to get at it. Which is a bitch of a job on a 4th gen. F car….

          God, my teeth are starting to ache again….

      • ME2, the engineers who design cars do not have an affinity for cars, like in the early days of car making. Plus, the company they work for provides them with a company car which they never have to work on. It’s not just cars, try repairing ride on mowers, for instance.

        • Newer riding mowers are disasters,seem to be getting cheaper constructed and harder to service,tire sizes have a fine line between being practical and style,tall narrower tires are a good deal for the snow,tire cross sections even have a bearing on floatation,believe it or not.And an extremely wide tire suffers from the ackerman principle,huge construction equipment tyres even if they have no tread on them,will have a slot in the rubber to allow the tire to not destroy itself as quickly,during turns and another thing,planned obselescence.
          The engine shut off deal works pretty good on big trucks,were after so many minutes the engine will shut off(to save wear and fuel)just dont see were you need it on a car.People dont like to shut Diesels off for some reason,these Guys around here will go in a store and leave their pickups idling for a half an hour or more(very annoying,particularly on one thats been tampered with to stink and make a lot of racket.
          So to sum it up,Clover get out from under the hood and leave my wheels alone(the Clover phenomenom is ridiculous)-Kevin

          • Kevin, you said:
            “The engine shut off deal works pretty good on big trucks,were after so many minutes the engine will shut off(to save wear and fuel)just dont see were you need it on a car.People dont like to shut Diesels off for some reason, …”

            Not sure where you are, but in cold climates, there’s a need to leave a diesel running – the fuel will turn essentially solid, making a restart impossible. 🙂

            This year, I believe truckers would leave their rigs idling, just to make sure they can go again later, as far south as Texas’s southern tip…

  20. Vegas had a number of failure modes and the one of my childhood suffered from oil burning and leaking. Kept fed with oil it had over 90K on it when sold. Where upon the rust was patched up and it was again sent on down the line.

    The sleeveless cylinders used a hard material dispersed in the aluminum, which worked fine in small volumes. For a high volume car well it didn’t work out so good.

    • Agree w/ geoih: just more breakable crap. I drive a ’96 Toyota Tacoma w/ zero new-fangled breakables. Funny, my sis was always bragging about her electronic and computerized niceties. She’s made fun of me for “being behind the times” . . . until her nice little electro-window opener/closer button stopped working during the winter (as I predicted it would to her) . . . then she called me one morning to see if I would drive her to work in my “behind the times” truck w/ the “old-fashioned” roll-up window handles, cuz she was freezing on her way to work. He, he!! Funny, I haven’t heard her call my ’96’er “old-fashioned” since. He, he!

      • Water drips on the driver’s arm rest and puddles in the power window and lock switches when the door opens during rain. It’s worse when you hit the windshield washer with the driver’s window open, even down only one inch. No wonder the switches fail. Almost like it was designed that way.

        • That hard material in the cylinders was a test involving their cheapest cars. They then went on to make many great engines with this same technology, just much better. That was the beginning of hyper-eutectic pistons. I like to use a dry sleeve although it’s much more expensive than just boring and honing. I have never bored one to use a wet sleeve but always wanted to do so. I have known other people who did this but it was very big bucks racing. Nowdays iron blocks are made of some really hard stuff mainly involving nickel that hold up like steel sleeves.

        • My older GM pickups had the lock and window switches mounted on the flat plane of the inside and no water would get in them. Dirt would though from inside the door. You can take these switches apart, made of copper contacts, clean them and they’ll work just fine for another several years. Those new switches on the arm rests seem to be very cheesy and I’d bet there would be no contact cleaning on them or even taking them apart.

          • Can’t take them apart without destroying the plastic housing. Upgrading to waterproof switches would be inexpensive for the manufacturer but unnecessary since they seldom fail under warranty.


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