Latest Reader Qs

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Here are the latest Questions sent my way – and my Answers, such as they are!

Q: Eric, Why is Mazda able to do what the Germans can’t?

I’ve logged 230,000 on my Jetta IV PD TDI & now 26,000 on my ’15 Passat TDI. It’s embarrassing to see the German Auto industry fail in this country.

A: Mazda had planned to offer a diesel in the 3 and possibly other models more than two years ago, but hasn’t because of the difficulty of compliance with EPA fatwas while also meeting buyer expectations about mileage, performance and cost. I am hopeful about the CX5, but it’s not out yet. We’ll have to wait and see.

The German auto industry didn’t fail, in my opinion. VW simply got screwed as a result of doing what every other car company also does – build their cars to pass a government test – but VW is being crucified because it was perceived as an affront to the authority of the government, which of course it was.

Q: Have you done any research or looked into Ford’s newish disposable engine…the Duratec 35? We have recently found out the hard way that the Ford engine design engineers have been reproducing with the Visteon electrical engineers (whom I have a lot of experience with as a supplier) to breed the World’s Stupidest Engineering Staff. They’ve put the water pump behind the timing plate and have it driven by the timing chain. No warning until you either have water coming out the weep hole if you are lucky or into the crankcase if you are not.  Cost to replace the water pump? $1,800 at our dealership in Kaufman, TX and no independent mechanic would touch it due to the plastic guides in the timing path. A broken guide means a new timing chain… and for that, the engine has to come out.

I would love to hear/read your thoughts on this.



A: I have heard about this – and it’s far from uncommon practice. Cars – and engines – are designed for ease of assembly at the factory, often with little concern given to serviceability. And yes, engines (and transmissions) are becoming disposable in terms of not being economically worth fixing. This is more an issue with the latest generation transmissions, but it’s a general trend. They work flawlessly for a time – often a long time. And then, one day, they don’t. And the cost to repair – or replace – is very frequently prohibitive relative to the value of the car itself. This is the real planned obsolescence.

Q: Please confirm…

1. VW’s cars configured with the “cheating” software produced less pollution during actual driving than a comparable gasoline powered car.

2. VW cars configured with the “cheating” software produced less pollution than the same car with conforming software during actual driving conditions.

A: Diesel and gas engines produce different types (and quantities) of various exhaust byproducts due to the fuel they burn and they way they burn it. So it’s difficult to make an apples-apples comparison. For example, diesels produce soot (particulate) emissions, which gas engines don’t. On the other hand, diesels produce less exhaust gas by volume by dint of burning less fuel.  

The “cheating” at issue involved higher oxides of nitrogen (NOx) output under certain conditions (not all the time) and these amounts were very small. The “up to 40 percent” higher is very misleading because it does not put the base number (very small) in context. The actual difference in emissions was negligible – less than 1 percent of the total.        



  1. I joked that GM built my Grand Am GT production line started with the oil filter and built everything else around it. Even getting at it from underneath the car was next to impossible.

  2. No replies yet. Good place for some OT nudnikking.


    Though Socrates was wiser than any man alive. But also a statist collectivist.

    He would totally get a clover for posting here, cause eric doesn’t grade on the curve.

    Gail 2011/12/27

    Once upon a time when I was a cute young thing with the car-care awareness of an orangutan, I was tooling down the street when a thunderously loud !!!BANG!!! came from somewhere underneath, and the car died.

    I told my Big Bang story to the tow truck guy. He checked the dipstick — it was bone dry — and said, “Lady, do you ever add oil to this thing?”

    I said, “Oil?”

    He said, “Honey, you are now the owner of a 1500-pound paperweight.”

    Ever since, I am *rabid* on the subject of oil. I’ve always assumed that a good mainstream brand was acceptable and never thought about synthetics. Thanks for the education, Eric. Since the elegant and beautiful Queen is now 20 years old, she needs the best that the mind of man can contrive.

    Swamprat 2013/06/15

    In 1987, after years of fighting, congress relented to a vocal minority who were plain sick and tired of 55 mph speed limits by allowing states to increase limits to 65 mph on rural interstate type highways. In a twist of fate and the hard work of Gail Morrison, the National Motorists Association and its members, congress relented and repealed the law entirely. It was back to states rights.

    eric In reply to to5. 2015/03/31

    I’ve had a loose association with NMA for many years; met/interviewed former president Jim Baxter several times. Gail Morrison (DC lobbyist – worked to overturn the 55 MPH speed limit in the ’90s) was a good friend.


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