Car Costs You Can (And Should) Avoid

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The best expenses are those you can skip. Here are several ways to save money you don’t have to spend on your car:save-lead

*”Premium” gasoline –

I italicize the word for a reason. It’s a marketing trick. “Premium” implies better. But Premium gas is defined by something else – its octane rating. Octane is a measure of a fuel’s burn rate or – put another way – its susceptibility to ignition (combustion) as a consequence of pressure and heat (rather than spark).  High octane gas is more resistant to ignition from pressure and heat; this is important in a high-compression/high-performance engine. You do not want the gas to explode before the spark ignites it. If it does ignite prematurely, the force of the resultant uncontrolled explosion tries to push the piston – which is still traveling upward – back down, placing enormous stress on the piston, the connecting rod and – ultimately – the crankshaft. This is not good for your engine.premium-pic

And it’s why it’s very important to use high-octane fuel in engines built to burn high-octane fuel.

But if your engine was not built to burn high-octane fuel, you are wasting money by purchasing high-octane gas. There is no advantage and several disadvantages. You don’t risk mechanical damage, but you will see reduced mileage and performance – because the premium (high octane) fuel’s burn rate isn’t in tune with the engine’s design. It will run less efficiently.

Read your owner’s manual (or the label that’s typically affixed to the inside of the fuel door) and use the grade of gas recommended by the engineers who designed your car’s engine. They made these recommendations for a reason. Don’t waste money on octane you don’t need – and “premium” that isn’t.

*Larger wheels (and tires) – 

One of the most economically and functionally idiotic trends in vehicle design over the past twenty or so years is the mania for big wheels and tires.reeums

Maybe you like the way it looks, but you might want to take into account what it costs.

First, opting for 18 or 19 (or 20) inch wheels usually adds significantly to the car’s purchase price. That’s the obvious one. But adding upsized “rims” also adds rolling resistance. Your car’s mileage goes down.

The cost of tires also goes up. The difference in price between a 16 inch (standard) and an 18-inch tire can be tremendous, especially if the 18-inch tire is a “summer” or “performance” tire. These also tend to wear out faster because the rubber they’re made of is softer. Road noise goes up – and ride quality goes down.

They’re usually terrible in the snow, too.


And, for what?

While it’s true the larger (performance) wheel/tire package can increase the vehicle’s high-speed handling capabilities, you ought to ask yourself whether your abilities as a driver are higher than the baseline tires’ capabilities. Some people like to think they are Bob Bondurant. Few actually drive like Bob Bondurant. And even if you are capable, do you actually drive that way on the street?

Save yourself some money on tires and gas (and brake pads, which wear faster due to the increased rolling resistance of oversize wheels and tires). Enjoy a nicer/quieter ride.

Skip the “rims” – unless looks matter more to you than dollars (and sense).

*Satellite radio – 

Why pay for what you can get for free?pandora-pic

Most new cars and many cars built within the past five years or so have Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Most people have a sail fawn or iPod, also having Bluetooth wireless. These devices have apps like Pandora and Stitcher. These are free apps that give you basically the same thing – and in some ways – a better thing – than SiriusXM satellite radio. You can create your own “station” – tailored to your specific tastes – and stream the music into the car via your device.

With Sirius/XM, you take what they give you. The “90s” channel… but not the ’90s music you like. Maybe ’90s music you don’t like.

Granted, a monthly Sirius/XM subscription (about $15) isn’t a huge expense.

But free music is no expense.

*Power seats/liftgates and side doors – power-seats-pic

If you’re handicapped or just lazy, powered seats, sliding doors and liftgates (minivans and crossover SUVs) may be necessary – or an indulgence. But if you’re not physically handicapped and looking to save some money, skip the power-actuated stuff.

You’ll save money – and weight (which saves fuel).

And hassle.

Powered seats/door sliders and liftgates sound like a convenience, but – for “safety” – they operate at a glacial pace. You could manually open and close the gate several times in the time it takes for the slow-motion actuators to do it automatically.

Even worse, some hit you with obnoxious ding! ding! ding! chimes as they sloooowly raise and shut… .

But even if you don’t mind that, you ought to take into consideration the cost to replace the electric motors/actuators when they eventually fail. Which they inevitably will.

Also, the money you’re wasting on fuel as a result of all that added weight. depends on you to keep the wheels turning! Clovers hate us!

Goo-guhl blackballed us!

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  1. There are lots of comments here, but I just wanted to chime in on the ethanol discussion. There’s a small engine shop near here with three mason jars of fuel sitting on the counter, regular, mid-grade, and high-test/premium. Shake the regular, and in about 30 minutes there is a noticeable one inch region at the bottom where the ethanol goop collects. This destroys small engines all the time, and as the comments here attest, it’s bad for carb/injection systems in cars as well. As I understand it, the “flex fuel” system is nothing more than a stirring rod in the fuel tank. Back to the other two jars. The mid-grade is cloudy and settles out with an extra cloudy 1/4″ at the bottom. The premium is as clear as a bell.

    Conclusion: I put premium in all my gas vehicles. Hurray, new owner of a TDI! I don’t do it for the increased octane. I do it to avoid the ethanol.

    P.S. I’ve used ethanol free regular with mostly poor results. My conjecture is that due to the low volume of purchasing (due in turn to the high price) there is often water from condensation in the tanks. Could be wrong about that, maybe the vehicles just don’t run well on regular non-ethanol fuel for some other reason. Additive does seem to help, especially something like SeaFoam, which presumably is for water.

    P.P.S. I’ve been told by various “car guys” (mechanics etc.) that almost all the fuel available currently requires some kind of additive to burn correctly—for whatever reason. This, they claim, includes diesel, though I’ve had no problems with the TDI yet, though I know from experience with tractors that condensation/water tends to be a big problem with diesel.

    Anyway YMMV. Cheers.

    • ^^The additives you mention are indeed in all forms of gasoline because of an issue called coking. Vehicles in the olden days would often have to be stripped down and de-coked when ash would accumulate on the internals of the motor like the piston crowns and valve faces, causing the hot spots in the combustion chamber and detonation.

      There are also lubricants added to “pure” gasoline to lube the fuel injectors.

      The above are the basic additives that ALL gasoline gets, and then various companies will have their own recipe to add into their own fuel to sell at stations.

  2. Eric whats worse?
    Using premium fuel in a car not designed for it, but has no ethanol,
    Or using regular grade fuel / mid grade fuel, which does contain ethanol?

    Those are my only options.

    • Hi Shaun,

      Assuming an engine designed to handle E10 (anything made since the mid 1990s), octane is the most relevant criteria. So, if your engine is a high compression/turbocharged engined designed to run on premium, then I’d use premium, even if it is 10 percent ethanol. Use of lower octane 100 percent gas will probably result in lower mileage and a performance loss due to the ECU sensing the lower octane fuel (or sensing pre-ignition) and dialing back timing/boost and so on to compensate and avoid possible mechanical damage.

      There is another option, though:

      You could add octane booster to the regular no-ethanol gas.

      • Two things to add, first, I’ve used regular 87 octane on a turbo Mitsubishi and the ECU compensated for ignition timing, even under 11 psi of boost. The car was noticeably slower, but it didn’t knock (I had programmed the car to trigger the check engine light when the knock sensor detected anything). Most cars are the same and can compensate no problem for low octane fuel, at the expense of power and fuel economy if you belt it all the time. If you drive cloverly, no ill effects typically.

        Point two, the octane booster on the shelves of auto part stores doesn’t raise your octane to anything worth mentioning. If you have 10 gallons of 87 octane fuel and add the entire bottle to the tank, you now have a tank of 87.1 octane. If you look at the writing on the back of most bottles, it even tells you this.

        • I run premium in my ’01 Regal GS (supercharged V6) because of the mileage increase (more timing). The pcm for that car has two timing tables, low and high octane. I was also able to run 30% ethanol blended with premium with no hit to mpg (timing again) but extended WOT operation would trip a lean code (i.e. after a few passes at the dragstrip).

          I’ve run premium in my ’95 roadmaster and seen no mpg or performance change. It’s 10:1 scr (iron headed LT-1) with a teeny weeny cam but the pcm won’t command enough timing to take advantage of the higher octane (factory setup for 87 octane, no alternate timing table). Datalogging on cheap 87 gas only shows occasional blips of knock, typically when lugging the motor at low rpm (below 1500) in 3rd/4th gear. I modified the shift tables to keep it from lugging the motor but haven’t had a chance to log it again. Going to play with the fueling/timing (eehack and tunerpro) after I get the new gears in it, will see what happens. Prolly gonna end up tuning it for premium assuming there are gains to be had…

  3. has the list of ethanol free gas stations. I run it (it’s 89 octane)in my 94 F150 and get 16mpg but if I run the recommended cheap stuff I’m lucky to get 11. Even my cars get 89 usually. Ran a few tanks through to get a good average and it’s always worth the extra price for to extra mileage.

  4. I finally bought four steel 15″ wheels at a salvage yard to replace the factory 17″ alloy wheels on our little Chevy. The same overall diameter 65 aspect ratio tires are nearly $50 cheaper per tire than the stock 50 tires, so I more than paid for the used wheels with just one set of new tires. Plus the car now rides better and I expect it will be somewhat better in the snow.

    • Hi Doug,

      You may see a mileage benefit, with a caveat: Ethanol is an octane enhancer; if your engine was designed to run best on higher octane fuel, using lesser octane fuel might result in a mileage decrease as well as a performance/power decrease.

      • ethanol is touted as an “oxygenator” taking the place of MTBE. No mention is ever made that the high pressure atomization of fuel injectors is the only oxygenator most engines required. What it really is is a way for an industry to make a lot of money. Most of the corn farmers now that farm for the ethanol industry are large corporations. Every day every thing is put in the hands of fewer and fewer entities to the detriment of more and more individuals.

        It won’t let up……ever. Once 90% of the US population is 3rd world status there may be a change but with so little capital it will resemble the people of every other banana republic that’s tried to throw off the yoke of oppression, a bloody friggin mess.

        • ethanol didn’t take the place of MTBE but was the other choice for an oxygenate. Oxygenates were mandated in the mid 1990s to improve air quality under the guise of people being too lazy to get their cars tuned up. That is it would trick carburetor cars which lacked electronic mixture control (few of which had been made for 15 years at this point) into running lean. Of course after the first adjustment on RFG the point was moot.

          Any car with fuel injection or electronic mixture control adjusted instantly.

          After this excuse had completely worn out and MTBE got into the water supply in areas where it was used this morphed into the renewal energy ethanol scam. Scam because in the USA it is made with corn and is an energy sink, not a source. It’s also not renewable because (so-called) non-renewable energy fuels making it. There are energy positive ways of making ethanol and battery ways of taking energy useless for cars and making ethanol with it, but this isn’t what is done in practice in the USA. It’s cheaper to simply use hydrocarbons from under the ground.

          They just needed a new excuse to keep big corn getting the cash because it got to the point the last car made with a mixture screw and carb was three decades old. Any that hadn’t been tuned since 1995 were stored away or decorating someone’s lawn.

          • Forgive my ignorance on the issue, as I would have just entered grade school at the time, but there really were talking points circulating about needing oxygenators to combat “emissions” in the mid 90’s? Did people really not realize virtually everything was EFI at that point?

            I’ve only heard the “move to renewable fuel” argument for ethanol in my time.

            • Hi AJ,

              Probably not one out 100 people know what the difference is between a carburetor and a fuel injection system. So, yeah, I think they absolutely did not realize it.

              • I guess I should have known, after all, I use the line of “I’m low on fuel injector fluid.” (meaning gas obviously) when I don’t want people borrowing my car. 🙂

                • Yup!

                  It’s almost funny… except it’s sad. The system is rearing a generation of Eloi (H.G. Wells/Time Machine) who are childlike users of technology they have no comprehension of.

                  • I have to admit, after living in East Asia for several years and then returning, I was astonished at the willful ignorance of many young Americans. While the East Asians were often open and inquisitive, the ‘muricans were all about being stupid and dumb as if it were somehow empowering.

                    If you’ve seen the movie Idiocracy, it was EXACTLY like that for me when I returned to America. All of a sudden everyone around me was stupid, and it was scary because I am barely over a triple digit IQ myself.

            • RFG (ReFormulated Gasoline) was mandated to reduce hydrocarbon emissions. Never mind that it increased formaldehydes, NOx, and others in return. Never mind MTBE contaminated water. This was the original pro corn mandate. MTBE was allowed, but the push in congress covered on CSPAN (I was flipping through the channels on a break and caught some of the debate) was for ETBE (the ethanol version).

              People defending the old car hobby tried to explain the reality with public comments, letters, articles, and maybe even testimony I don’t remember. It did no good. I vaguely recall writing letters of my own explaining it. (I didn’t know any better yet) The public was to be bamboozled for the corn corporations like ADM.

              The public believed that it would clean up the emissions of old cars. Ate it up. Nobody cared about renewable and it was barley mentioned if at all. Also the old buggaboos about energy independence. Another ridiculous argument. If having our own energy supply in our boarders is so damn important and it is a finite supply then we should be importing in the present to conserve our stocks! The public simply didn’t understand that by the time it would take effect in 1995 most of the cars it could do anything to, and then temporarily, were at least 15 years old.

              So RFG hit in 1995. My car (my ’73) started having hot start problems. I noticed that the fuel was boiling in the glass case filter I put in line _before_ the fuel pump. The ford inline six has the fuel pump on the driver’s side of the engine. (the exhaust manifold is on the passenger side) This filter is between the pump and the apron. (Old cars don’t have filters before their mechanical fuel pumps, it’s wise to add one and keep the one at the carb inlet too) So the filter was about as far way from the heat of the engine as possible and the fuel was boiling that far back.

              So to get the engine to start in those first few months of RFG when hot I would disconnect the fuel line and vent the vapor to the atmosphere. So now I was increasing HC (now called VOC) emissions. The car would then start when liquid fuel filled the line. The fuel pump pressure kept it liquid.

              RFG was always a stupid idea for everyone but corn and ethanol people. Which is why we have it.

              Again, I must note, sugar cane ethanol is a totally different ballgame and because of market demand cars in such places are built to run on it.

              • And now Monsanto is to become a division of Bayer (you know, the folks who invented heroin as a pain reliever).
                That’ll help, right?

              • But remember, sugarcane cost about 1/2 on the world market what it does here in the Newnighted States, due to ‘protective’ tariffs.

      • eric, I did a bit of research. Weird how I couldn’t find anything newer than 2010. Here’s a bit from C&D on the hit on fuel eonomy with E85 compared to 10% ethanol.

        This from Fuel Testers tells the story what happens in the tank with ethanol. Nobody addresses(that I could find)what happens in various sorts of storage containers. I find it strange no one else ever mentions the difference in storage of gasoline in steel and plastic. I have Jerry cans made from plastic with “Gasoline” on them, built from the gitgo for gasoline. I have various cans,most of them old galvanized cans, one that’s identical to the one on your article about fuel and the like. Those old galvanized cans keep gas a long time, much longer than what is said per this link:

        I have had gas go bad in a few months in plastic containers that were filled at the same time of the steel ones. I still use the plastic containers when I’m about to use it in a week or so, otherwise, I use the steel cans. If something happens that I’m not going to use gasoline quickly, instead of buying fuel stabilizer, I pour it in the car and it gets used in the next few days.

        • Hi Eight,

          This is purely anecdotal, but:

          I’ve had rust become an issue much sooner than it used to (seemingly) in steel cans and tanks and lines, when using E10.

          • I’ve had to replace my fair share of fuel system components of customers’ cars because of Ethanol, so I can back up your anecdote with mine. Ethanol has also wreaks havoc on carb jets, float bowls, needles, etc with gooey gummy crap and has also earned me a lot of business from unhappy motorcycle owners.

            • I hear this kind of thing all the time but never see it.

              Just a few weeks ago I had to use our (Honda powered) backup pressure washer, which has been sitting (inside heated building) for about three years. It fired right up and ran fine with the three year old crappy E10 gas.

              The boss’ 1980 911sc also sat for three or four years in his damp/unheated garage with no-eth premium in the tank and still started easily. It would probably still be sitting but he got a divorce and had to sell the house.

              He’s got a 90ish bmw bike that has sat for 10+ years in that same wet garage, but I haven’t tried to start that one yet…

      • My car is definitely NOT designed to use high-octane fuel. I do get better mileage, but not enough to make up for the increased cost of pure gasoline. I have heard
        E-10 is very bad for small engines, so I put E-zero in my lawn mower as well. Will the rubber tubes last longer without the boozy gas? Will the engine last longer?

        • Your hoses will probably rot/crack quickly if E10 is used, as well as any of the carb seals if the mower is on the older (10-15 years?) side. Regardless of that though, the carb jets and bowl will gum up much much quicker if you use ANY amount of ethanol. I’ve repaired so many small mowers/weed wackers because of this, even ones that used E5.

          The engine itself will be okay, it’s the fuel system components that suffer.

          • Hi AJ,

            E10 is murder on rubber (as in fuel pump diaphragms and accelerator pump cups) not designed to be alcohol-tolerant. The crap is also corrosive. Ever look into an iron intake manifold of an old car that’s been fed E10 for a few years?

            I’ve had to go through all my carbs, too. And that’s a lot of carbs! Let’s see… four on the old Kaw… four on the newer Kaw… three on the really old Kaw… two on the old Honda… one on the Trans Am, one on the tractor, one on the riding mower…. weed whacker… chainsaw… crikey! 🙂

            • It cost me a brand new engine on a Stihl 044 Mag to the tune of $350. Melted the rubber pickup tube in the tank. I noticed when I picked it up and opened the tank there was a new hard black plastic pickup in there, what should have been in it to begin with.

              Then I got some really bad fuel, looked to be Stolichnaya(didn’t smell like it)in Odessa. It melted the plastic end piece on the fuel filter that snaps over the fuel line. Never heard of anything like it since. I caught a water bottle full out of the tank. It was clear as water. Smelled like nothing I ever smelled. I put a new filter on in just a couple minutes(after the tank was empty) since it was up on a hoist. When I turned to look at the bottle with the fuel in it, it was collapsing and beginning to leak. I ran it out the door and flung it on the RR tracks. The wet spot was gone nearly instantly. I think they must have put some other solvent besides alcohol in that fuel. I have yet to see any fuel since that was completely clear. Everybody in the shop wanted to know what the smell was and since they were all smokers, I told them to stay away. It didn’t smell like any alcohol I’ve smelled and having worked in a lab I’ve smelled them all. It didn’t smell remotely like gasoline.

    • Eric is right, however for me most of the time E10-15 has always netted a mileage drop because there’s less energy in the fuel itself (per gallon). In terms of newer cars being “designed” for Ethanol, the only thing newer cars will have over “old” ones is that newer cars have Ethanol resistant seals in the fuel system. In terms of “functionality”, any modern car can adapt to usage of lower octane fuel with variable ignition timing/knock sensors.

      I never buy ethanol for “moral” reasons though. Food belongs in the mouths of people.

          • Is it just me or does anyone else find it tyrannical that the US is the only country I’m aware of (maybe UK….they’ve been beaten down forevevr)you can’t distill at home? Every drop that goes over a lip is going to be taxed per govt. view.

            • That is fairly recent I think, maybe since the end of Prohibition?
              Even when Father Geo. went after Shea, et al it was because they were selling their ‘likker’ w/o paying off Uncle.

              • I never knew anybody or of anybody who didn’t hide their still. Far as I know, it’s been that way since the whiskey wars since it’s the feds that claim the rights to alcohol.

                I’ve heard of bathtub beer my whole life but never had any and probably better off for it.

                  • As a kid a friend has a well with a heater/treater on it and we used the white gasoline from it which I doubt is worse than what we now have. Funny about stealing that stuff, it’s all locked up.

  5. A few years ago we rented a car that had satellite radio. It was ok until I found the station that runs old radio shows all the time, and I was hooked (but still don’t have a car with satellite radio). If you ever sampled “When Radio Was” with Stan Freberg, you’ll get an idea of what an endless hoot and fun those old shows were.

    I buy premium wherever I can, because it’s the last holdout of ethanol-free gas. The hot thing lately is 15% gasohol, which just pleases the corn growers and which the EPA says is just ducky for all cars made since 2000. My 2010 Subaru manual says otherwise, warning against any gasohol higher than 10%. Not to mention various recent utility engines I own whose manuals advise the same.

    I doubt my ’85 Dodge van would even start in the winter with E-15, much less be undamaged by it.

    • Hi Ross,

      I like satellite, too – but it’s becoming possible to obtain much of the programming via other methods. There’s a debate going on as to whether satellite radio is today’s compact disc player….

      On the gas: In my area, the only ethanol-free gas is regular. And, yes, unless the engine was specifically designed for E15, I would not run it.

    • Since I have oil wells all around me, a refinery 60 miles east and one 90 miles west I’m at the mercy and have been for years, of no straight gas. Everything I own that uses gasoline warns against anything over 10% ethanol. Roll me over and turn me around, keep me spinning till I hit the ground.

  6. Have to disagree on the power seats. Out here in the hinterlands (nether regions?) It is very useful to reposition a 6 or more way seat after a few hours of driving. Cuts fatigue and such.

    On the aftermarket air filters, I found that they increased my mpg a bit (.1 to .4), sound and feel quicker at WOT, and definitely don’t filter as well as stock. Depends on what you value.

    • My next pickup will have an air compressor and tank and this is what it will have for seating. I like one ton single wheel pickups with 4WD(a must)and ext. cab and long beds. GM’s will ride pretty well, Ford’s will beat you to death(I won’t be the one)and Dodge’s are close to GM’s. A big frame capable of gooseneck work(30′)is a must. No Japanese need apply. This will be my seating choice.

  7. “some money on tires and gas (and brake pads, which wear faster due to the increased rolling resistance of oversize wheels and tires).”

    The increased rolling resistance means you can coast to a stop with less use of the brakes. Increased rolling resistance is like having a built in brake that is slightly on all the time.

  8. Premium gas also comes with premium additive packages. Every once in awhile it may be worth it to run a tank through. Although lately the additional cost per gallon doesn’t make it the bargain compared to bottled fuel system cleaners like it used to be.

    I ordered both my mustangs with the upgraded brakes. The first I later added bigger brakes to fill the void and the second they and the wheels came together as a package. I like the big brakes’ performance.

  9. “upsized ‘rims’ also adds rolling resistance”
    Maybe I’m not remembering my physics correctly, but this does not make sense to me. Yes, I understand wider tires will have higher resistance, and the 2 do usually go together, but wouldn’t have to.
    A larger diameter wheel should have less rolling resistance, unless you are on a soft surface.
    Think about the difference between standard wheels and high ones on a push lawn mower.

    • larger rims (in general) increase the tire’s footprint front to rear, a wider tire increases the footprint side to side. both increase rolling resistance…

    • Bigger wheels mean more unsprung weight and that’s weight that’s having to spin via engine power. Weigh stock wheels and then those behemoths and the tires to fit them. A 16″ pickup wheel with a much taller ratio tire gets quite a bit better fuel mileage not to mention the performance offroad.

      Most big rigs have 22.5″ wheels for rolling down the highway. The big sumbitches I drive have 24.5″ wheels, 43″ tall tires for going over rough stuff. It’s a hit at the pump but saves the truck and trailer(and tires) going over big holes and rough going. It’s rare for someone to use the Low Profile tires on these since that essentially negates part of the advantage. I wouldn’t have a low-pro on a construction truck. Small tire dealers out in the patch will not often stock the low pro tires since virtually every truck will be hitting those lease roads at some point no matter if they ran 1500 miles with a load getting there. And for sure those who stay in a small area such as a 500 mile diameter(small, Texas wise, oil patch wise).

  10. A company pickup Sirius ran its course. Sirius wanted 100+ to make it go again. Company was in no hurry, driver said it was too much. About a month later Sirius dropped their request to $30 for 6 months or a year, don’t remember which. Even at 6 months that’s still a bargain.

    I admit I’m a bit addicted to Pandora for nighttime listening. My $50 cell phone bill doesn’t have enough bandwidth to keep Pandora “free” so I spend another $10 or more per month. TANSTAAFL. Sirius, as you can see, is much cheaper than Pandora if you don’t have some sort of home wifi with a high bandwidth or unlimited bandwidth per month. If it’s mobile, it’s expensive since that “wifi” car hotspot is air card priced, just like a cell phone. I know people who spend $300 every month for air cards and as the kids need more air time the bill grows. Tell me again how Pandora is cheaper. You can’t create your own stations on Sirius. If they ever catch on and follow Pandora with that feature, it will blow Pandora outta the water.

  11. The tire/wheel idiocy reminds me: What ever happened to “ricers” and their “fart cans” and wooden, 2×4 constructed rear spoilers?

    • Hi Aljer,

      I think that was late Gen X and early Millennials… ’90s kids/young adults. They are grown up now and out of the game. The current crop of kids – generally – isn’t into cars. Understandably. They have no money, first of all. The cars cost too much, second of all. And third of all, any kind of driving fun has been stomped on by the system to such an extent that there’s not much fun left.

      I mean, hell – we live in a country where they force you to “buckle up” for safety.

      Screw it. I understand why they stay inside and play video games all day.

      • Want some good news? I was at my kids’ high school yesterday and the shop was packed full of engines for their small engine classes. Apparently they have almost three times the number of kids taking the class than they did just a couple of years ago.

        Learning how to work on small engines is a gateway drug to the big ones. Maybe there’s hope for these kids, yet!

        Good list of unessential extras, but my ancient Tahoe doesn’t have BT, so I love my XM radio (and they also carry NHL games, so there’s that).

        What are your thoughts on expensive air cleaners? I’ve never read anything definitive, either way, but there are some passionate people on both sides. Are they worth the money?

        • Hi Yeti!

          That is good news 🙂

          I often regret not having had kids for this and other reasons.

          On the air filters: Some factory air boxes are restrictive (chiefly, for noise suppression) and a freer-flowing/open element replacement can achieve a noticeable boost in performance or at least, make the engine sound better.

          Some – K&N, for instance – can save money over time because they can be cleaned and re-used almost indefinitely.

          But, horses for courses.

          I can see spending the money for – as an example – a Mustang or Camaro or performance car. But for a family/commuter car? I’d leave the stock system alone!

          • I put a K&N in the wife’s car and it worked ok but it seemed like things weren’t as clean as when I had a two stage Purolator in it. I pulled a two stage Purolator out of my 6.5 Turbo Diesel and installed a K&N. Right off I noticed dirt in my intake. I tossed the K&N and put the Purolator back in till my dual foam Amsoil filter arrived. The inside of the intake remained pristine with the Amsoil. After a while the K&N on the wife’s car let crud through…..after a few cleanings and oilings so back to a Wix for it. A kid I knew bought a new diesel Cummins and installed a new K&N. I told a mutual acquaintance he’d better be careful. My cousin who had the shop said he came in one day and he showed the guy the dirt the K&N was letting through. But he was a hotrodder in the making with a big Cummins pickup so he drove the whee out of it and that filter continued to let in west Tx. dirt and the engine didn’t last a year. K&N filters have too large of gaps between the fuzz that holds the oil and the more times they’ve been cleaned the less fuzz there is. I tried various ways, hot soapy water under no pressure, fine horsehair brush, a little compressed air but the filters always degraded no matter what. I don’t doubt their claim of performance. With virtually nothing to slow the air I’m sure they do well although on stock vehicles like we had I could never tell any difference. I’d really stay away from them in turbo applications.

            • I found the K&N inferior in filtration to the Motorcraft and returned to the motorcraft air filters. The pleats of the post filter intake tube told the tale.

        • “Learning how to work on small engines is a gateway drug to the big ones.”
          It is also a gateway to a profitable private business, either on the side or potentially full time. There is a man in our area who has all his tools and stock parts in a small trailer and will come to your place to work. If it’s a mower, he will also bring a working mower and teenage son and offer to have him cut your lawn while he is working on your mower.


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