Some New Car Things to Know

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The Uncle-ized car (which is all new cars) has some “features” you may want to consider carefully before you buy in. Features that could hit you with cost – and hassles – once the warranty runs out.DI pic

And otherwise, too.

Let’s have a look at a few of these:

* Direct injection –

In order to achieve a fractional gain in miles-per-gallon (in order to avoid Uncle’s “gas guzzler” taxes) the entire industry (all brands, all models) has been switching over to direct gas injection (DI) in place of port fuel injection (PFI).

DI offers no obvious/quantifiable advantage to the car buyer over PFI but has several disadvantages – including a noisy engine. DI gas engines sound like diesel engines; they rattle at idle due to the very high (3-4,000 PSI) fuel system pressure. The car companies try to cover this up by fitting DI engines with acoustic covers, but the sound is still very noticeable, especially when you are standing outside the car.

But the DI sound is merely unpleasant. It’s the functional problems that are more worrisome.DI 2

In a DI system, fuel is sprayed directly into the cylinder from a hole in the cylinder itself – very much like a spark plug “sprays” its spark into the cylinder. This differs from PFI, which sprays the fuel into the cylinder from above, typically behind the intake valve(s), which cools and cleans the valves and keeps them from carbon fouling. A developing issue with DI engines is the accumulation of carbon crud on the back of intake valves.

There have been problems reported along these lines with several DI engines from different manufacturers. And fixing the problem – cleaning the crud – can mean physical disassembly of the engine  – removal of the cylinder head(s) – to get at the crudded up valves.

This will not be inexpensive.

Neither is the DI system itself.

The system uses two pumps, operates under very high pressure (several thousand pounds per square inch) and no one really knows whether it will be durable over the long haul and post-warranty because the technology has not been in widespread, real-world use long enough. If unforeseen problems crop up post-warranty, the bill could be steep.

And all on you.

* Very small, very turbocharged engines –EcoBoost ad

Turbos are mechanical devices that compress the incoming air charge (which is ordinarily sucked in by engine vacuum only) and force-feed it to the engine. This is done in order to make the engine produce more power – particularly when more power is needed. When the driver pushes down on the accelerator pedal, the turbo “spools up” – pressurizes the incoming air charge – and the engine makes more power  as this “boost” increases.

Turbos can make a small engine perform like a bigger engine – but when the driver eases off the accelerator the boost decreases and the engine uses less fuel.

Historically, turbochargers were used mostly if not entirely in performance car applications – sporty cars – but lately, they’re being fitted to ordinary A to B cars, such as mid-sized family sedans and even pick-up trucks (e.g., Ford F-150). This is being done to maintain acceptable levels of performance with smaller engines while also achieving an uptick in fuel economy over an otherwise comparably powerful (but not turbocharged) larger engine.

The downsides – actual and potential – as are follows:

Higher buy-in cost, because of the additional components (the turbocharger and related exhaust plumbing, etc.) and potentially higher down-the-road repair/replacements costs, in the event there is a problem with the turbo and its related components. Which may be more likely due to the high levels of boost (many new turbocharged cars run 21-plus pounds of boost) which places a lot of pressure – literally – on internal components as well as the fact of there being more components.Ecoboost cut-away

The car companies have made a number of improvements to the basic design of turbocharged engines to improve their longevity and durability (including specialized oiling systems and very heavy-duty components designed to to handle the pressure/load of turbocharging) but the fact remains there are additional parts and the more parts you’ve got, the more potential there is that something will fail. Turbos can be very expensive to replace – several thousand dollars each. And some vehicles have two of them.    

An extended warranty might be well worth the cost, if you’re thinking about buying a new car with a turbocharged engine. And a very smart move, if the car you’re considering is used – and the factory powertrain warranty is either used up or close to being used up.

* Air bags… all six (or eight) of them – 

Almost all 2016 model year vehicles have at least six air bags. Many have seven or eight or more. That’s a lot of air bags.

Why worry about this?

Several reasons.air bags 1

The chief one being the very real possibility that your car may be deemed a “total loss” after an otherwise fixable accident, due to the cost of replacing all those air bags on top of the damage done to the interior of the vehicle when they deployed.

This is already an issue with cars that have just two air bags – driver and front seat passenger – which all cars have had since the ‘90s. When the bags go off – which they are designed to do (typically) when a vehicle strikes another vehicle (or a fixed object, like a tree) at about 25 MPH or faster – they explode out of the steering wheel and dashboard. This makes a mess of the car’s interior.

An expensive mess.

In addition to the bags themselves (and the chemical charges that inflate them) the steering wheel and dashboard and may interior trim parts must also be replaced. This is why the cost of replacing just the two air bags (and related parts) typically costs $2,000 or more.

This is before adding the cost of repairing the car’s body damage.side curtain airbags deployed

If the car itself is say ten or so years old only worth $10,000 or so (as an example) it is likely the cost of repairing the physical damage to the body and replacing the air bags (which is required by law, as these are part of the car’s federally required “safety” equipment) can exceed the 50 percent of retail market value threshold at which point the insurance company will often refuse to pay for the repairs. Instead, they will issue you a check for the “market value” of your vehicle – often less than its actual value, as well as its value to you – and “total” the car.

That is, send it to the crusher.

Air bags are thus a ticking time bomb in your car – literally as well as figuratively.

And now you’ve got six (or maybe eight) of them.

* LCD touchscreens –

Almost all the new cars – even the lower-end ones – now come standard with or offer an LCD touchscreen. These iPad-like screens typically have menus that can be scrolled through and this makes it feasible to incorporate numerous controls and functions in a relatively small space, de-cluttering the dashboard. LCD 1

The potential worries are physical problems with the LCD itself and problems with the software. 

I test-drive brand new cars every week. These are not merely new cars, they are press cars – vehicles loaned to journalists for evaluation. Journalists who will write articles about them. One assumes these press cars are given a special going-over by the car companies to make sure there are no problems with them.  

And yet, I’ve had several this year already that had hiccups.

If you think about it, the LCD screen is like an iPad. Except it’s an iPad that has to deal with being in a moving car and subjected to potholes and heat and cold, dust and moisture. my touch

Also – gadgets get old fast. Imagine how obsolete your current phone will be in five years. The same will happen to the infotainment/apps/GPS in your next new car. Some of these can be updated (check for this). But the basic unit itself is what it is – a time capsule from the year you bought your car.

Word is that the car companies are looking into getting rid of fixed/in-car LCD screens in favor of slots or ports that you’d then simply pop your iPad or whatever up-to-date gadget into.

That would deal with the problem of keeping things current, technologically – and also make replacement of a croaked screen a lot easier, too. depends on you to keep the wheels turning! The control freaks (Clovers) hate us. Goo-guhl blackballed us.

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  1. Once diesel and gasoline have the same compression why have gasoline engines? Shouldn’t all high compression engines be diesel if only to reduce fire hazards?

    • Compression(initial)ratio and fuel. It’s never-ending quest for optimizing and probably always will be. Diesels don’t start well below 17 to one or so but optimum partial throttle fuel mileage is obtained slightly below 15 to 1 and higher ratios return the greatest power and the same can be said for gasoline engines by changing the ratios.

      Some motorcycle engines do get into diesel CR such as 14 or 15 and F1 racing engine develop their best HP at around 18 since they run 22,000 rpm or more and get some very specific and expensive fuel.

      The Otto cycle engine is a variable compression ratio engine and Saab has a variable engine as well but it’s been tested for 15 years and if they’ve put one in a production vehicle I’m unaware of it which wouldn’t be surprising for me.

      Seems like 15 years ago or so VW made that W engine in a variable compression ratio with hinges on the heads. I don’t think they held up very well in everyday vehicles.

      You’ll never get to the bottom of that can of worms called compression ratio. And even camshaft configuration affects the real ratio compared to the initial ratio not to mention air volume changes and cylinder wall temps, etc. I don’t even understand the formulas they use for determining various types of ratios.

  2. Direct Injection (DI) boosts both horsepower and fuel economy, but how much of each one depends on how the engine is set up. On average, it looks like it offers about 2mpg gains over otherwise identical non-DI engines in the same vehicle. Horsepower tends to rise by about 10% as well. I would say both are noticeable improvements. But the real question is whether they warrant the cost and complexity of the system itself.

    Injectors for DI systems are far more expensive than normal injectors, and because they inject directly into the combustion chamber, they tend to get plugged/fouled much easier.

    As you mentioned, DI systems inject downstream of the intake valves, but because there is always a little backwash of exhaust gasses into the intake channel as the valve opens and in-cylinder pressures haven’t completely dropped, you still get carbon deposits on the back of the intake valves. These are not subject to the normal cleaning action of detergents added to the fuel itself and are also not subject to any fuel system additives designed to clean carbon off. You have to have a cleaning treatment that enters upstream of the valves, which means plumbing into the air intake system. So it’s much more expensive to fix, if possible at all.

    Add to this the fact that DI systems are also being combined with turbos, which adds a new wrinkle. When cleaners are added to cope with carbon in the cylinders, this carbon often comes off in small flakes/chunks and exits via the exhaust port. This exhaust is then fed into the turbo. Turbos don’t like particles like this flowing through them.

    This is apparently a brewing problem for Ford’s EcoBoost engines in the Ford F-150s. They do not approve any form of de-carbonization system use beyond fuel additives in these engines because they can kill the turbo if a hunk of carbon breaks off the intake valve and hits the turbo. They’re current, official “fix” is to remove the heads and replace them. They’re reportedly starting to see a lot of these sorts of problems. The kicker is that it takes a while for the carbon deposits to build up enough to start causing problems, and this tends to happen more once the warranty has expired. If you’re curious, hop on YouTube and look for “Ford EcoBoost Carbon Buildup Problem.”

    So that nice Ford F-150 with its EcoBoost turbo V-6 will save you gas on paper (actually gets no better gas mileage than their competitors’ V8s in real world use), but will cost you a lot more money to fix if you choose to keep it longer than 50k miles or so since there is no approved way to clean the carbon deposits off short of replacing the heads (or you can wait until the turbo blows and replace the heads and the turbo). Ford is keeping this pretty hush hush right now, probably out of fear of a forced recall and, of course, hurting their reputation. (Incidentally, the Ford PowerStroke Diesels of more recent/post-emissions regulation vintage, are hurting badly in the reliability dept. as well).

    Interestingly, the recommended solution from VW about this DI carbon buildup issue is apparently to use “aggressive throttle application” periodically. In other words, drive it like you stole it. This “blows out” some of the carbon buildup on the intake valve side and keeps the problem somewhat in check, at least until you’ve got enough other issues that the vehicle isn’t worth keeping any longer. This means those that use their car for short commutes will have more trouble. It also means that you’ll kill your average gas mileage after one tank of aggressive throttle application, and you’re overall fuel saved will be zero or worse.

    • I know a guy in the patch working safety for construction sites so he lives in a travel trailer….like everyone else. He bought a new Ecoboost crewcab half ton 4WD pickup to pull that trailer. It’s 5th wheel so I’d bet the suspension is fully loaded. He said it got good mileage but when he hooked up the RV, it gobbled hell out of gas.

      That’s a big improvement over a non-aspirated Dodge or GM how? Oh well, it was a “platinum” that cost below what a GM does. What people like this guy don’t see is there’s a reason GM’s cost more and it’s durability. My cousin who operates a major GM parts dept. used to show me the stack of parts recall notices from GM and Ford. The Ford stack was about 4-5 times as many.

      A friend owns a repair shop and was working on a Powerstroke with a manual transmission when I stopped by. He was on the phone, under the truck, on the phone and cussing in between. He said he’d been trying to fix the truck for two weeks. It needed a slave cylinder for the clutch and he’d replaced it many times with 3 different part number cylinders, none of which worked. He called the head parts guy for Ford again when I was there and the guy told him the first part number he’d used(this was after getting help from Ford recommending the other two)was the one that SHOULD work. The Ford rep told him to keep buying the same unit till one worked. He had 3 new ones of that number and had tried 2, all to no avail. He was cussing a blue streak over this since he couldn’t pass two weeks of work on to the customer(but he sure wanted to since it was his brother). He slides back under there to remove the transmission…..again so I grabbed a creeper and helped him. We removed the transmission(the bolts were really slick), removed and replaced the cylinder and bolted it all back up. We went through getting the air out of the lines and this one finally “worked”. He almost couldn’t believe it. I told him I was his good luck charm but he neglected to rub my head, said I couldn’t afford to lose any more hair(Hair?). Well, two weeks of ordering and replacing it had finally paid off. When we were through I said “Too bad it’s not like my Chevy that you only have to remove the line, remove two bolts and have it in your hand”(which I’d never had to replace and my Chevy was 10 years old or more). Tell me about it he said…..and he doesn’t like GM pickups but he got burned out on Fords and changed to Dodge which hasn’t been that great for him but he has this 3rd or 4th Mega cab in the garage with his RV and a ’96 Chevy he farms with and works hell out of since he bought it used after it was 10 years old. It’s a gasoline 4WD half ton ext cab that’s like the Energizer Bunny.

      • Dont like the “Joke ” probably never will ,I used to bleed for Ford ,brother that has changed in a big way.I guess the ecoboost was to good to be true .diesel like torque out of a gasser ,the only advantage I see now for an ecoboost is high altitude use . True Ford finally lightened their trucks up ,but all this trouble to match the weight of a Silverado ? WTF ? if they had been paying attention the weight wouldnt have creeped up on them so fast ,I remember a crazy commercial Ford ran back in the seventies about the Pinto -“More ground hugging weight then the imports ” everybody that has driven trucks knows ,you should try to keep the tare weight down ,you do not get paid for hauling deadweight ,plus the fuel penalty.Wifey finally gave me the go ahead on a pickup upgrade ,it will probably be a used Silverado.Trouble with the used Sliverados around here(90s models )was the disappearing frame ,despite the ability for the drivetrain to hit 300K with ease,the mid 90s GMs were great trucks especially with the vortec 5.7 engine.
        But I dont really blame Ford, their latest attempts were an effort to market something ,they saw the diesel trouble coming down the Pike and tried to market something acceptable because they knew the govt was going to pretty well nix the Diesels.
        Wonder what trouble the Ford owners are setting themselves up for when they refuse to run the recommended fuel in their trucks ?

        • A kid I worked with recently showed me a plethora of early to mid 90’s GM pickups for sale on Facebook. I’m going to set up a facebook account just to find one I like. They were cheap too and some in good shape, some with perfect bodies and no driveline($100), great donor vehicles. I intend to find one, go over it completely down to door pins and bushings and door gaskets along with new seats and carpet plus installing some of the really good aftermarket insulation between the ceiling and body. Plus the fact that 92-93 diesels were uber quiet and had R12 a/c’s. I have used Edelbrock Ias performer shocks and they’re thebest of both worlds, soft on rough stuff and ultra-firm on hard cornering. Brand new a/c condensers for $200 plus twice that for new radiators(diesels). Everything easy to work on with good fuel mileage on gas or diesel and good power to boot. Most of the same things could be done with a Ford but then you have to deal with the shitty engines(gas)and the slushomatic transmissions if you want auto. Plus, parts for GM are just way cheaper than any other brand.

      • Eight, GM started using the slave cylinder in the bell housing first I think. On the Corvette. Now just about everyone does it because it’s fewer parts. It’s stupid IMO to combine the slave cylinder with the TO bearing. Clutch dust gets in the brake fluid causing high rpm shift issues.

        Solutions are flushing the brake fluid and switching to a less restrictive line in at least some cases. It’s the same problems with this general design no matter who’s it is.

        In your story what finally probably worked was getting all the fluid changed.

        • A friend of mine has a late-model (2002) Trans Am with the manual transmission; had to pull the transmission to service the slave cylinder. This is like having to pull the engine to change a spark plug!

  3. the newest vehicle our family has is a 2004 Ford Expedition, we got it for peanuts at a repo auction.

    its ok, but way to complicated, for no apparent reason.
    the power window switches are NOT connected to the windows, the switch tells the cars computer to lower the window.
    same with the heater fan, the switch doesnt connect at all to the fan, it goes to the computer which tells the fan what to do.

    when this one croaks, I will be buying a 87-91 K-5 Blazer or 91-96 Bronco
    something that is easy to work on, and will actually go UP in value and has a minimum amount of plastic and computers.

    I dont mind the computers that run the fuel injection, in fact Ive added those to several of my old vehicles.
    I swapped a fuel injected 302 from a 91 Mustang into my 73 Bronco along with a 5 speed overdrive manual transmission, and its very reliable and easy to work on and a blast to drive
    the EFI 302 in the 88-96 Fords will crank and run with every sensor unplugged, as long as the computer and distributor are still plugged in, it will run.
    in fact we had the upper intake manifold removed and the injectors removed from one bank of the engine and I bumped the starter and it cranked !! and ran on 4 cylinders with no throttle body, no mass air flow meter etc.

    we just swapped a 5.3 LS fuel injected engine and 5 speed manual trans from a 2002 Silverado into my 74 Chevy K-10 pickup, we had a tuner delete all the emission stuff from the computer, along with the “torque management” that GM puts in the software , thats the only way GM can make the worthless automatic transmissions last until the warranty expires.
    same deal, easy to work on, parts are available everywhere and a blast to drive.

    • I was at a friends body shop recently and he had a Volvo or Benz or some new fancy car in, that had struck a bear on the road.
      $6000 in actual body repair, $32K for the airbags.
      not totalled since it was a $90K car.

  4. I bought a 2013 BMW X5 6cyl with the Premium Package with 42k miles. You mentioned in today’s articles that extended warrantys are a good idea.
    Is there a reliable consumer centric info/advice warranty buyers guide I could access?

  5. Such a crime! The technology exists to make good durable vehicles, but instead, technology is being used to now make vehicles LESS durable, as making Uncle happy is far more important than making the customer happy these days. So they make self-destructing cars which will be economically unfeasible to drive once out of warranty, and more expensive to buy initially, just so they can get 1MPG better than a 25 year-old throttle-body injected jalopy, or not even as good MPG as a 40 year-old rear-wheel drive Datsun which had no electronics. Disgusting. i will have no part in it. They can take their variable valve timing, and dual turbos and direct injection and touch screens and black boxes and shove them up their exhaust pipes! My primary concern when buying a vehicle is durability (I keep my vehicles a LONG time!) and reliability (i.e. as few things to go wrong as is possible- just the opposite of what we see in modern cars) and the ability to easily and cheaply maintain and repair the vehicles- again, the exact opposite of what we see in modern vehicles, in which one pays top dollar for state-0f-the-fart [it stinks!] technology, which becomes obsolete and will render the vehicle virtually worthless in a few years because of it’s complexity to diagnose, much less repair; and not to even mention when an electronic part, like a circuit board or module is no longer available, or costs $800 just for something that makes the windshield wipers work.

    • And its far more then cars unfortunately. Major home appliances have been uncle-ized as well, as another sad example.

      Remember your grandparents bought major home appliances ONCE in their lives. Yeah, they were avocado green or harvest gold, but they did work good and they lasted for decades (in fact many are still hard at work). Now your lucky to get a decade out of a major appliance.

      In decades past, appliance makers had two things they had to do. Make a working product at a price people are willing to pay. period. Today they have many other regulations thanks to uncle. Like energy mandates. Which often make the appliance not work nearly as well and being far more expensive.

      The dishwasher I had to replace last year barely got to its 8th birthday. And it sucked the last 4 years. The new dishwasher keeps breaking the mounts on the cabinets and sits crooked most of the time making it so the door randomly drops open. My three year old refrigerator leaks condensation on the floor because the drain clogs up and fills the bottom of the freezer with ice. I have a hard time keeping mold from growing on my front loading laundry washing machine. Appliances made in the last 15 years are junk.

      My only vintage appliance is a nearly fifty year old stand up freezer (good luck finding a stand up freezer anymore, banned basically). It’s going strong at the half century mark. It’s the only appliance older then me (I’m 42). It pumps out cold probably as good today as it did back in the 1960’s.

      • Amen to that Rich, I’m on my 3rd kitchen fridge and 4th dishwasher in the past 40 years; meanwhile the old Kelvinator in the basement that I use as a beer/overflow fridge is still going strong. Bought it when got married in 1972 and only demoted it because we needed something bigger when we had kids.
        Also bought a used Frigidaire chest freezer about the same time, which is also doing it’s thing after who knows how many years. Another great thing is both are whisper quiet, have to put your hand on it to feel the compressor running.
        Today’s appliances suck, all in violation of the KISS rule (keep it simple stupid!) No way do I need or want an Internet connected appliance, uncle already has too many ways to spy on us. My oldest car is a 2001 Corolla, when that finally dies I hope I can find a reliable used one pre all this technological BS, have even thought about shopping for one now while they’re still available and putting it up on blocks until I need it.

        • I’ll 2nd that as well. Our house turns 30 this year and we bought it Y2K eve. The fridge was the first thing to go, but after we replaced it, (wife wanted something bigger and nicer anyway) we cleaned it up and it started running again. It’s still sitting out on the front porch where we keep the eggs for sale. Meantime, the ‘nice, new one’ has also crapped out, and been replaced with a cheapo from Craig’s List. Likewise w/the dishwasher.

      • Totally agree. My old Maytag top load washer, going on its 36th year still runs great. The only time a repair man has come to look at it was for very minor little things like a malfunctioning cycle setting knob. Even the service man that looked at it said to never get rid of it as they don’t make them like that anymore and most of all the new ones are crap. Unfortunately now due to its age the outer tub is rusting and I’ve been doing everything I can to stem the leaking until I can find a new tub if possible. Really want to hold onto it as I have no desire to buy any of those new big brother, crap quality appliances.

    • Same for everything too. Outside condensers as well as inside exchangers have circuit boards to replace good old hard parts. A friend who is an HVAC guy said he pays $300(several years ago) for the boards so any repair is going to cost the customer a tidy sum. They worked too reliably with simple contactors. Variable speed motors on everything including the compressor and all have to be sinc’d via circuit boards and computers.

      It turns repair into computer kids biz to weed out us old farts. Of course, the manufacturers of all this crap are getting richer and the parts are outsourced to 4th world countries so that even uber-expensive stuff can be chunked out willy-nilly with low production costs, esp. labor.

  6. DI gas engines sound like diesel engines; they rattle at idle due to the very high (3-4,000 PSI) fuel system pressure.

    I’m a little confused here: is it the fuel pumping itself that causes the rattle? Because inside the combustion chamber, nothing significant has changed: same compression ratio, etc.

    False advertising: the .jpg you link to makes the following claim: “Energy from the engine’s exhaust, that would otherwise be wasted, is utilized to rotate a turbine wheel. The turbine is coupled to a compressor, which pressurizes the incoming air [etc.]”. The first sentence is complete and total bullshit. In order to spin the turbine, you have to increase the pressure of the exhaust gas, and that energy (pressure times flow rate) is paid for in reduced energy at the driveshaft. Now of course, the gain you get by cramming more air into the intake exceeds the cost at the exhaust, so turbocharging results in a net gain in engine power. But it is absolutely NOT true that you’re tapping into energy at the exhaust “that would otherwise be wasted”.

    Thanks for this informative column, Eric!

      • I doubt the pump is cycling that fast. It would likely run constantly to maintain fuel system pressure. The clicking noise IMO would be the injectors opening and closing. They would be noisy because of the fuel pressure involved and the fact that the injector has to deal with cylinder pressures.

        • I think you are correct, I’ve heard injectors clacking loud enough (once you pull all the dressup/sound deadening off the top of the motor) to make me suspect that I had a lifter going south. Less than 60 psi of fuel pressure to boot…

        • BrentP, good article. The engines now operate at such high temps I have doubts of their reliability over several years, high mileage situations.

          • I’d have thought that all the manufacturers would have this sorted out now, at least the ones experienced developing diesel engines. They have used very high pressure pumps and direct injection (and turbos for that matter) for decades. These quasi-Atkinson cycle engines are converging in a way gasoline and diesel engines really.

    • DI aka Disaster Injection has been an interesting problem even in the manufacturer’s product development test labs.

      Gasoline doesn’t lubricate like diesel fuel. That’s why feeding gasoline to a diesel fueled vehicle is such a disaster.

      And the direct injection test machines are having serious issues with pump longevity. i.e. the high pressure pumps do not last very long. Certainly not the entire “life” of a vehicle

      Thus, 5 years on, I know of test machines that have been “down” for over 50% of the time. Can you say ticking time bomb?

      Have you priced a diesel injector pump lately?

  7. It is always scary to know that most of the “features” on my 2013 Fusion will be inaccessible if the touch-screen goes toes-up.

    But the most absolutely scary thing about it is the little label just below the touch-screen reading “Powered by Microsoft”.

  8. Just read a few horror stories about cylinder deactivation. Doesn’t look pretty. Apparently causes oil consumption, oil starvation and causes problems with valves and fouled spark plugs. In the case of Honda, because they shut down an odd number of cylinders it makes for a lot of engine vibration. So much so they need to add active dampening engine mounts. – apparently the advantages are negligible anyway.

    What a mess!

    • Hi Eric,

      These things – cylinder deactivation, DI and auto-stop/start – save perhaps 2-3 MPG together. Is this worth the cost to the buyer? I don’t think it is – and doubt many people would buy in if they knew the cost and could opt out. The only reason these technologies are being fitted to cars is Because Uncle.

      • Apparently there are ways to bypass. In the case of Honda, you can install a resistor across a temperature sensor that will trick the ECM into thinking the car is always cold (apparently doesn’t affect the actual temperature or cooling systems). Honda’s system won’t kick on until the engine temp is high enough. On GM vehicles it can be deactivated by flashing the ECM, which will probably void your powertrain warranty, but if it fixes the problems deactivation causes it might not need a warranty replacement anyway.

        I’m really not happy with this. I was getting excited about the new Ridgeline, but because its engine does the deactivation thing, maybe not so much. The old 2014 is looking better and better, especially at 1/2 the price of the new one.

  9. So, am looking for something to replace the VW TDI if and when VW is forced to buy it back from me.

    Who out there, and what year range. is making an SUV, compact or full size, that still has a manual shifted transfer case, with 2wd – 4wd Hi and 4wd Lo ranges.

    A manual transmission would be nice too, but I know that’s probably impossible to find.

    Buddy of mine has a Forerunner that has one.

    • Hi AF,

      Finding a new SUV with a manual shift transfer case isn’t going to be easy. It maybe impossible. I’ll look into it, but I am pretty sure they’re all or nearly all electronic now. A knob you turn to go from 2WD to 4WD. The Nissan Xterra (based on the Frontier) was one that did – but it’s been cancelled.

      You are probably gonna have to shop a truck with a crew cab – it’s the closet thing to an SUV – and it’ll have the manual shift transfer case or at least offer it in the lower trims.

      • Thanks Eric, if you come up with something let me know.

        I know it’s going to be next to impossible in something brand new, but I’m willing to go back to 2010 or so.

      • The current 4Runner and the soon-to-be discontinued FJ Cruiser have a manual transfer case although the 4Runner is automatic transmission only. Oddly Toyota continues to put electric shift transfer cases in the Tacoma but it can be had with a stick shift transmission in some configurations. I wish trucks had manual transfers but it’s a concession I guess to interior designers who don’t want to be hemmed by where all the shift levers have to go.

    • Take a look at a Lexus GX (what I have). It shares a lot of parts with the 4Runner, but strangely the 4Runner gets the electric shift transfer case (knob on the dash) while the Lexus has a shifter connected directly to the transfer case (it vibrates as you drive). Both have an electric motor controlling the locking center differential.

      One thing – it’s full-time 4WD. So your gas mileage will stink (I get 13.5 mpg in town). But you do get a choice between 4-Lo and 4-Hi, and when the center diff isn’t locked it’s a limited-slip. I think there’s aftermarket air-lockers for the front & rear diff, but don’t hold me to that.

      There’s next to no chance of finding a manual transmission in anything other than a Jeep Wrangler.

    • As others have suggested, your best, and probably only, bet in a late-model vehicle with a manual transfer case is a Jeep Wrangler. Added bonus: They also come with a manual transmission option. Other Jeep models may be worth looking into as well, but I seriously doubt any of them have a manual transfer case lever.

      The Nissan Xterra had a manual transmission option, but still had a switch knob on the dash for the transfer case in all recent models (current gen). Their last year model of production was 2015. Also, despite being around for ages, they are not particularly good in reliability. Merely average.

      Strangely, manual transmissions are more common than manual T-cases. I can’t seem to find any new/recent vehicle since 2010 among consumer models that has one other than the Wrangler. But Toyota has offered manual transmissions in recent 4Runners and Tacomas with 4WD.

      If it’s reliability you’re concerned about, you might do fine with a Toyota with a manual trans and an electric T-case. They use those things all around the world in some of the harshest off-road environments and they last for hundreds of thousands of miles. Getting a Jeep of any sort just because it has a manual T-case which might be more reliable or rugged makes no sense, given how unreliable Jeeps are in general. There’s a difference between durability and dependability.

  10. From the folks at justrolledintotheshop failures of ecoboost turbos seem pretty rare and are generally traceable to very high mileage or owner abuse.

    The carbonizing of valves in GI is an issue. No matter what someone does to maintain the car oil and combustion products are still going to get there in at least tiny amounts. Without fuel detergents to loosen them I am guessing that it’s going to require some sort of cleaning agent being run through the intake manifold on a regular basis which of course just about nobody will actually do.

    I have always disliked touch screens. I just don’t like them. They lack what is called tactile feel. (yeah I know some folks have made progress there) Anyways the plug port idea is doable but the ports tend to become obsolete too, just on a longer time scale. Long enough for most first owners if they buy when it is first starting to be used. If touch screens become a huge issue the aftermarket will come up with something. They already have I-pod integration kits and such for popular cars. I think owners down the road will be able to deal with it in an affordable manner but it will become a needless old car cost for some. Many people with old cars have upgraded the sound system for decades. For them it won’t be a huge issue.

  11. Another issue with the LCD screens is their replacement cost. Doing some research for a post on another forum, I realized that if someone were to break into my 12 year old Lexus and steal the touchscreen and the under-seat DVD navigation unit, the insurance company would likely total-loss my car, as the $9700 parts-cost would be too close to the overall value of the SUV (about $12k).

  12. The wife recently purchased a 2016 Honda Civic LX 4 door sedan with the 2.0L 4. It still has port injection. It does have a touch screen radio but it is only a radio and not a information styled system. The car does, however, have the stupid over abundance of ticking time bombs called airbags. It has one in each front pillar, one in each b pillar, one in each front seat. Honda’s site says there are 6 total so that accounts for all of them. There are some features that I really don’t like about the car such as the electric parking brake and drive by wire crap but the car isn’t mine. Whoops, almost forgot the car has (ugh!) a CVT transmission (I really despise those!). That means when that crap breaks it will be the wife’s bank account pocket book that takes the beating and not mine. LOL!

    As a side note, My arthritis as gotten to the point that I can’t do any major repair work on cars like i use to. I now have to get my son to help me do that stuff. I am now only able to do very minor things like changing the air filter or an o2 sensor. Forget replacing the plugs on 8 cylinder truck my fingers start aching before I get the 2nd or 3rd coil tap off. To replace all 8 plugs would take me an entire weekend. At least my 2004 Honda Civic VP doesn’t require removing the top side of the engine. Changing those plugs I can do pretty easily.

    Sadly, my condition also limits the time I can spend in my home studio. I use to be able to play guitar for hours at a time. Now I do good to last 5 minutes. The type of arthritis I have is osteo in nature. Yep, just the plain basic wear and tear kind. See what fifty years of playing guitar (started playing when I was 13) and 40 plus years of hammering on computer keyboards get ya?

    • David, your condition, while greatly aggravated by arthritis, sounds a great deal like carpal tunnel syndrome, very painful with loss of strength like arthur but gets worse the longer you try to work at a given time. I’ve known people who had surgery for it that had them grinning. My wife’s about to find out if there’s something less invasive. I get the lowdown from the horses mouth so to speak.

      I sometimes have to change hands on the steering wheel and the car bothers me as much as a big rig. I almost always wear leather driving gloves now to get some cushion in there not only from gripping but vibration.

  13. I’m considering a Mustang for my next car. I’m looking at the V6 instead of the turbo I4 for this very reason. At 300 horsepower, the V6 is plenty for how and where I drive.

    I’ll let you know how the test drives go.

  14. Besides the potential expense of replacing air bags, there is also the Russian Roulette of driving a car equipped with Takatas.

  15. Hey Eric, Maybe I’m confused, but aren’t all diesels direct injection? Yet you seem to love them. Of course the long term effects of Uncle’s Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel remain to be seen, especially the reduced lubricity.
    Also, 8SM doesn’t seem to have any trouble w/turbos on Stepchild and his ilk. Of course I understand that those models are built for heavy/extended duty, but the concept is the same.

    • Indeed PtB, turbos are regular fare for diesels but they’re designed specifically for a turbo. The problem with the newest diesels is in the EGR/DEF bullshit systems. It’s just like everything else now, a fatwa forced on diesel engine makers that nobody can seem to make reliable and end up costing the owner in fuel mileage and reliability.

      A couple years ago we were hauling rock out of a pit. This pretty new Pete with a Cat engine was dead down there in the bottom. The driver said it quit just like turning the key off. It took a close to a week to get somebody who could properly diagnose the problem and fix it with a computer replacement(one of a few). A couple weeks go by and I drive by it again, once more in the bottom of the pit. Deja vu for me. Same problem as before after another stay.

      The smart owner-operators are using old mechanical injection engines and just fixing the old trucks up to like new status. Saves on taxes, fuel and no comparison in reliability.

      BTW, I said goodbye to Step Child when I left it impounded after taking all my stuff out. Owner didn’t pay a DOT fine and won’t since I found out he’d been robbing the money side and what I’ve made in the last few months or several months went into his pocket.

      I meet with a guy tomorrow to go back on the road, living in a truck again. I see a Volvo in my future but it’s pretty new and it ain’t mine(thank god). I won’t be seen leaving it with a Peterbilt cap on though. I spoke one day with a mechanic and was cussing the Volvo I was driving but admitted it was a good ride. That mechanic, who’s a bit rough around the edges said “Yeah, they ride good but it’s like (and I’ll paraphrase)having sex with a minority. It’s a good ride but you hate to have anybody see you getting out of one”. They are the ultimate Nanny-mobile of big rigs, drive good and ride good but working on one is a drag. KW makes a good truck and Freightliners are now not bad. Having said that though, I see no good reason to not have every truck made with the extended front end that you can practically crawl between the engine and the cab and get to the top of the transmission as well. All my friends drive long nose Pete’s cause they work on their own. Also, nothing else looks like it.

      • Well the old prechamber engines were pretty daggone reliable (due to emissions I dont know if you can still get one)The one big disadvantage I have seen is you have to heat the things on a summer day to get them cranked,I guess the the third with poor fuel quality made them popular there ,the the latest thing I have seen with prechambers was my brothers new holland 190 skid steer .(dont know the year model ) The reason I like direct injection on the diesels is good cranking in cold weather.
        Paccars are becoming more popular around here,I depise the newer Macks,when they left the RD series ,I cried foul,not the best over the road ,buit a pretty good comprimise pit and delivery truck, of course I am getting older quickely ,but I cannot hardly climb into one of these newer kidney smasher Macks.
        The only or biggest reason I would have a small supercharged engine would be be for high altitude living ,seems the 150 is hands down better at altitude then the other gas truckd ,cheapskates around here buy the 150s and run regular gas in them ,when asked why ,they say does just fine on regular(wtf?) you 50K plus for a new truck and cant afford to fuel it properly ,the Silverados are looking better all the time(now if they werent so blimpish )(try taking something like that through the woods ) How come the manus cant use water injection to take care of the carbon problem ? .

  16. Before dieselgate, there was HPFP-gate:

    VW’s investigation found that the affected cars “all” had been fueled with gasoline. Their fix? A bright yellow sticker on the gas cap that says “diesel fuel only!” Lots of people (or maybe a few very vocal people) in the TDI forums were affected, and many had to eat the cost of a new fuel pump. Some of the people who own the cars were most definitely diesel enthusiasts and know which pump to use. My guess is that VW’s investigators found trace amounts of gasoline that might have been accidentally put in the filling station’s tanks. Sure, that makes it a dispute between the filling station and the car owner, but VW could have built a better pump that could tolerate some abuse.

    • My step mother actually accidentally filled her diesel tank with gas. She realized it before starting the engine, called a local dealership, had to car towed there, and had the fuel system flushed out and the fuel tank/lines drained. It was an expensive mistake. As a result, I’m ever paranoid when refueling. I narrowly avoided doing the same at a BP station because all BP pumps are green, unlike the rest of the stations that only have green handles for diesel.

      • Hi Damon,

        True Story: About a year ago, Audi sent me a TDI Q5 to review; the driver who brought it filled it with gas… she does not work for the press fleet delivery service any longer.

      • The way I handle this is the following:

        I replaced the factory fuel cap with a locking fuel cap, which is labeled “DIESEL FUEL ONLY”

        The locking fuel cap’s default position is locking, and it only turns in the locking direction, so it isn’t one of those that one could accidentally leave unlocked, even if someone else uses it.

        One has to LOOK at the cap and see that it is GREEN and is printed in WHITE “DIESEL FUEL ONLY” to put the key into it and unlock it.

        Also, no one else ever drives my car, ever. I just have to be very careful in New Jersey with the pump operators.

        • Warp,

          In NJ, one is “permitted” to self-serve diesel fuel.

          I can usually get away with self-pumping gasoline at most stations. At the very least, I am there to observe them fueling. (I find it annoying when fuel is spilled on car. I work quickly to dry the fuel off if spilled.)

        • @Warp,

          My job is to write instructions for technicians to follow while they process production work on computers, servers, routers and switches. They like the rest of the GI (government indoctrinated) masses assume they know better. I daily lament that I write instructions that NO ONE EVER READS! They don’t read because they are not illiterate of course, they don’t read because they are just like the bazillion people on the road that ignore the myriad warnings that X lane is closed. They have the attitude that, “Hell I know what I am doing why should I read a sign or written instructions?”

          NCR (National Cash Register) has a solution for this. Don’t hire college grads as techs, don’t hire techs from former companies and don’t hire computer nerds. Their philosophy is no prior knowledge, we train them in the NCR way. That solution works for them.

          Recently, a driver of a car that thought he was privileged drove all the way to the barrier/obstruction and no one would let him get over. The driver got out of his car and pumped 13 rounds into the car next to him. Luckily the victim was not seriously injured. However, this is the mind set that private individuals have to face every day.

          This is what people have to face every day. Thugs calling themselves government gunning down people for no valid reason and thugs not with government watching the government thugs and gladly copying that.

    • twice in the same month at a nearby Shell station the delivery driver(s) dumped a load of unleaded into the diesel (underground storage) tank….


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