Latest Reader Qs ( 7/10/2017)

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Here are the latest reader questions – along with my answers!

Pancho asks:

I drive a 1996 Toyota Hilux, 225k kms, dents and bumps and craters everywhere but I like it. The dashboard top is cracked from sitting beneath the Spanish sun all these years.  Have you any suggestions on how to maybe patch over and repair it?

My Answer:

I have just the ticket for you, see here:

Paul asks:

I first heard of your from the Tom Woods show and Before It’s News.  I have a 2013 Dodge Challenger and I’ll have it paid off in July.  I bought it used 2 years ago and paid 2-3x the monthly payments to pay it off as quick as I can but I’m thinking about getting something different.  I would like a Jeep with 4WD and towing capability and the SUV aspect since my Challenger doesn’t have much practical use and it’s somewhat of a cop magnet. 

Is there a better time in the year to buy?  I would like a new jeep but I hate knowing all the new vehicles are so computerized with back-up cameras, GPS, power everything, bluetooth and other stuff that can be hacked.  I wouldn’t mind the lowest end Patriot or mid-style Cherokee. 

Any thoughts on those models? 

I’m also thinking of just keeping my Challenger and putting more down in cash a couple months later on a new Jeep.  My Challenger is like theV6 modern version of the Challenger from the old movie, “Vanishing Point” so I would like to keep it if it worked out that way.  If I could find a low-mileage used Cherokee is there a good year that combines peak performance before all the technology and regulatory requirements kicked in?

My Answer

Hi Paul,

First, we should distinguish between “4WD” and “AWD.” In both systems, all four wheels are powered, but – generally – there are the following functional differences:

4WD is – usually – part-time. Unless engaged, all engine power goes to the rear wheels only and when engaged, the split is usually 50-50, front to rear. A 4WD system – usually – also has a two-speed transfer case and 4WD Low range gearing, for additional mechanical leverage.  It is heavier- duty and better for driving off-road and in deep, unplowed snow – which is why you usually find 4WD in trucks and truck-based SUVs.

It is generally not designed to provide a handling/cornering benefit on dry paved roads. In fact, 4WD should not be engaged at all on dry, paved roads; doing so can increase wear on the components.

AWD is usually “always on” – with most (about 90 percent) of the engine’s power  going to the front wheels. When they begin to slip/lose traction, power is automatically routed to the rear wheels, or (in the more advanced systems) the individual wheels that do have grip/are not slipping. The ratio front to rear can vary almost infinitely. This does provide a handling/cornering advantage on both dry and wet roads – which is why so many performance cars (and car-based crossover SUVs) have or offer AWD.

AWD is, however, lighter duty and usually lacks any gear-reduction feature (though there are exceptions – and Jeep is one).

So, which do you need?

If you do not plan to go off-road and rarely have to deal with very heavy, deep snow and unplowed roads and just want some extra grip to get there and back on a snow day, then AWD is probably all you need. It will also give you the additional benefit of improved handling/grip on paved roads, in dry and wet weather.

If, on the other hand, you need something that can go seriously off-road and handle deep mud, deep snow and so on, then a 4WD truck or SUV is probably going to work better.

Ok, which one?

The Cherokee and Patriot are both car-based crossover SUVs and – though Jeep calls it “4WD,” their available systems are really more accurately described as AWD since they are front-biased and do not have a two-speed transfer case. However, Jeep does offer something close – a gear-reduction feature in the “trail rated” model’s CVT automatic transmission. This gives you a bit more rough weather/off-road capability than the typical AWD crossover – and could be just the ticket.

I’d also encourage you to have a look at a Subaru Outback or even just an Impreza. Both have very capable AWD systems and are outstanding in snow. The Outback has more clearance and tires that are better suited for winter – but either will get you There and Back in just about any weather.

Hope this was helpful!

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  1. The Cherokee is a 9 speed transmission, not a CVT. Not sure about the Patriot. Avoid the 2014 Cherokee 4 cyl because they had a lot of trouble with that 9 speed transmission (or more correctly the programming of the computer controlling it). I brought that up with the dealer when I was buying my 2016 last year and the salesman basically said the V6s never came back to the shop but he saw 4 bangers all the time (of course I was buying the V6 Trailhawk version, so take that for what it’s worth). I really like mine although the seats get a little uncomfortable at around the 4 hour mark and the stereo is pretty awful for how much you pay for it. But I was just out on a forest service road with a lot of washboard and it did just fine, none of the back end jumpiness you get in a pickup for sure. The low range does the job too. Get HID lights if you can, the stock halogens aren’t very bright.


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