And The 2018 Awards For Best…


cup-1613315_1920Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett

I know, you’re probably sick of award shows. It’s always the best-in-class, or bestselling, or the most important. Do we need to crown the next “his royal arrogance, Ipopygooogly?” Well, it does help us decide which movies might be worth seeing after all, (or maybe finally figure out who sings that song you can’t get out of your head).

It’s the same with cars, although some people want to look away from the obvious when picking up a vehicle, we can’t help be intrigued as to what the movers and shakers are driving.

What were the greatest achievements over the past 12 months? Which car has excelled? It’s December, and it’s time to open the envelopes.

The best-selling car over-all of 2018 was the Ford F series pickup, according to Capital One; over 80,000 sold this year. It might come as a shock that such a truck-like vehicle was so profitable but are useful for both work and play. The redesign of the Ford pickup was thought by many to potentially disastrous, as the pickup formula is not easily tampered with, but it seems to have paid off.

The best-selling small car of 2018 would is Nissan Sentra. Despite its compact design, it appears quite spacious inside, including a substantial trunk size. It may have felt less compromised than others compacts.

The most surprising car of 2018 is the Lexus LC 300h. What makes it surprising? The mixture of Japanese and German design, that shouldn’t work together but somehow, does. At least aesthetically speaking–there might be slight problems with the transmission in the vehicle.

As a category, the Sedan tries to be both aspirational and practical, if not as practical as something like a pickup. The most powerful Sedan of 2018 is the Jaguar XJ, making the Kelley Blue Book’s Top List. The sales pitch of Jaguar XJ is ‘power meets beauty’ and despite being tweaked over a number of years it remains one of the best-selling models.

The best-selling electric car is the Tesla Model 3 (according to Clean Technica). Many might not think this category important, as electric cars have yet to reach mainstream market-share, but Tesla could take over from the big players in the years to come, especially if incentive programs come back. The big drawback to electric vehicles is range and the Model three is shorter than others in its class (distance without charging 263 miles). Likely reasons for the Model 3’s popularity despite a mid-range battery pack include brand recognition and that it has come down in price.

As for the best-selling hybrid for 2018 the winner is the Toyota Prius Four. The seating for five and the heated front seats seem to be a strong selling point. People look for family cars instead of those which are kinder to the environment (just as long as you remember to use the electricity settings once in a while) but this car does both.

The special prize goes to The Connected Car. The rage at the moment seems to be all about the internet of things and as the largest “thing” we use every day is the car. So it seems that money will be spent to increase both safety and in-car entertainment.

Thanks for attending the awards. We will see you next year.


Best of the Web: Future of Cars & Oil?

One of our friends uncovered this video and it’s worth watching. It contains one interpretation of facts and one possible future of Electronic Vehicles (EVs) and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars.  The video is based on a rather scholarly work that’s no doubt less entertaining than this video.

We reached out to a member of the tech industry who gave us his response to the video on the condition that his name be withheld. His counterpoints speak for themselves. We’ve listed them below the video.

Interesting.  A couple of flaws with their logic:
  • EV’s take a long time to recharge. For anyone that travels more than 150-200 miles a day this causes a massive problem so these people will not be flocking to EV’s.
  • Lots of people live in areas that still have difficulty plugging-in to recharge.
  • The adoption curve they show is too step.  A car still costs a lot so assuming a super straight up adoption like an MP3 player or cell phone is not realistic.
  • That said, we probably will hit a point where we have an oil glut but I predict it will be slower.
  • Another thing to consider–Self-driving cars and Uber are predicted to make many cars obsolete.
  • In metro centers, people will rely on mass transit to avoid fighting for the increasingly rare parking spots.  Both rideshare and mass transit compete directly with EV’s because of EV range restrictions.

Lord, Will You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz? Modern Spiritual or Cynical Advertising?


amg-1880381_1920Merry Christmas Everybody! Please enjoy an OP-ED by Paul Wimsett that we thought fitting for the season.

Janis Joplin first sung the song entitled Mercedes Benz in 1970, though it has been covered by Stephanie Wenger, T-Spoon and Celeste Carballo. Even Elton John performed a version of it.

The song, done in the style of a modern spiritual, seems to embrace consumerism, which creates an absolute cognitive conundrum in most listeners. The singer suggests that they deserve the Lord (God or Jesus – it’s not clear?) should deliver her a Merc after all her friends drive Porsches.

It’s also rather unclear if Porsches or Mercs are the better cars. Certainly, both vehicles seem to be aspirational items. Other things she asks for is a color TV (which kind of dates the song) and a night out on the town.

She comes across a bit down and out really. There’s an obscure reference in the song to a phone-in program called Dancing For Dollars, which allows those considered not very well off to win cash prizes. Many later versions of the song omit the verse.


The song was written by Janis Joplin, Bob Neuworth and Michael McClure, the other two names spent most of their time writing poetry. What seems to give the song added poignancy is that Janis Joplin died three days later.

The consensus among Joplin Fans is that the song is a commentary on the dissolution of the American dream (streets paved with Gold, etc.) and the reality most working class Americans face. Basically, in this land where surely everyone drives a fancy imported car, I need an even more expensive car to make up for not living the American dream so far.

It’s a clever way of expressing a sentiment that it’s a sin to be poor and no matter how hard a person works they may never shake their shameful poverty.

With that in mind, Mercedes is simply a cultural icon to represent wealth. You have to tip your hat to the songwriters for the car choice in terms of staying relevant.

It should come as no surprise that Mercedes Benz has used the song a couple of times to promote their cars: one in 1995 and another one in 2011 (aired during the Superbowl). It is not clear whether the advertisers are aware of the irony, or don’t care. Perhaps they look at a song as a background, nothing else.

Oh, Lord wasn’t the only song composed about the Mercedes Benz.

Pebbles did, “Mercedes Boy.”

Juelz Santana and Lloyd Banks created a rap called Beamer Benz and Bentley in 2010.

Mercedes Benz by Say Yes, all about following a girl in the Mercedes Benz, which seems a little stocker-ish by today’s standards.

It seems those who commit notes to paper look at Mercs as a common icon of the upper crust. There are so many songs about Mercs it would seem that a number of songwriters are just including the brand in the hopes of getting a free one!

The first official Mercedes Benz came in 1926. It was developed from the first gas-powered vehicle (created by Benz) in 1886 called the Benz Patent-Wagon.

As most of you know the inventor, Emil Jenninek, named it after his daughter, Mercedes.

Mercedes-Benz is not just about luxury cars, they also manufacture Sports Utility models in the US. Although they no longer make trucks in the US they do have several truck manufacturing plants in Mexico, Russia, and several other countries.

It’s unlikely another car will replace the Merc as the popular icon of wealth and luxury in our time. Ergo, the materialistic desire to obtain Mercedes-Benz will not be going away any time soon.

I doubt that Janis hoped to discourage anyone from buying any of the items in her song, but she did land her point about unfulfilled desire with the American consumer. We may very well feel a tinge of guilt when we drive to the dealership to buy our own luxury car, because once you ride in a Merc you kind of get hooked. Maybe, in the final analysis, that’s what makes the car worthy of singing about.

Well, there you have it. From all of us at the Kicker, we wish you a Merry Christmas (and a Merc)!


Lyrics Courtesy of

Could the Christmas Car Traditions Be Under Threat?


You might not immediately associate cars with Christmas, but how else do you visit malls and other stores? Driving home has become a tradition. In some cases, we’re driving home from a tree stand with the corps of a perfectly good conifer shedding needles all over your interior of affixing pitch to your roof. In other cases, it’s the dreaded winter road trip to Nana and Pops. The drive there is hallmarked by your children brimming with the excitement of presents you hope you got right. The drive home is equally invigorating as your kids have just ingested a year’s worth of sugar.

There will be 100 million cars on the road this Christmas, according to Reuters. But will this number be the same next Christmas? Shopping on eBay and Amazon might damage the tradition of shopping on the Mall and Skyping your relatives may soon replace driving home. And Christmas traditions are the ones we least like to change.

Sure there are good reasons not to travel at this time of year, but let’s face it, most of our favorite holiday traditions are inseparable from a degree of misery. We certainly need the company of family and even the sociability of shopping in the Mall (though it might not feel like that at the time.) The key to success here is remembering where the car was parked.


Some cars might be less suitable for shopping than others. You’re going to need a car with a fairly large trunk. The same thing applies for driving to and from the relatives. The key to success is when you should pack the car. It’s a good idea to pack the car the night before to save you dealing with the darkness. (I know most of us to forget and struggle out with heavy loads in the darkness.) Another trick is to take regular breaks during a long journey and bring some food and coffee to sustain you.

Another tradition that people have, though it is by no means widespread, is traveling to your nearest and dearest delivering cards and wishing them season’s greetings in person. E-mail and text message are a poor substitute. Sure you’ll catch some folks off guard but if it’s someone you only get to see once a year then do it personally? They will be glad to see you.

There are two good reasons you might want to take an Uber or taxi to and from your Christmas parties. Of course the first is if you’re intending to drink. (Let’s face it you’ll be stuck around your family all evening—your going to drink.) The second little bonus is that your family can actually track your approach or verify that you’ve made it home. See there’s one upside to the modern age.

Another new technology you might incorporate is using an Alexa, or similar device, to come up with a playlist to keep you busy on the journey. Be sure to include songs for you as well as the kids. It reduces stress if you do this sort of things beforehand.

One technology we’re not recommending? There are new devices being advertised this year, that simplify the use of video conferencing so that it’s easier for seniors. To this, we say, “roads converge for a reason and that is surely so we can meet up.” Skype is hardly the same thing. Contrary to the commercials out there, anyone over forty can’t have a meaningful conversation with someone over Skype.

Seniors merely pretend to like Skype conversation, something just doesn’t feel right. And how is a Skype visitor going to eat Christmas dinner or unwrap presents? It’s a bit of a confusing “visitor”, all-in-all.

We’ll stop short of calling it a piece of technology we don’t really need. If you want to give that device at for Christmas so your family can engage more richly and more often than they have been, great! But it’s not going to replace a visit for Christmas.

So, why shouldn’t you get your car out of the garage this time of year? Well, obviously do not drink and drive. But in general, Christmas celebrates the spirit of giving in the middle of dismal winter. It’s the inextricable paradox of giving when it hurts. Christmas traditions remind us that hard work and fun are married and the people in our lives are the presents we really want.


Why Aluminum Alloy Wheels Crack


Alloy Wheels

There are a number of reasons your aluminum alloy wheels may crack. One of the most common is “hot cracking,” which is the result of high-temperatures during the welding process. Also called hot fissuring, solidification cracking, hot shortness and liquation cracking, it’s ugly and annoying, but it can be avoided. When arc welding is employed, cracking can be eliminated. Aluminum welding gets you started on the wrong foot from the beginning—even if you avoid hot cracking, hydrogen cracking (aka cold cracking) might show up.

Cold cracking can happen when welding low alloy steels and carbon steels. Depending on the type of aluminum you’re using, you might become the victim of cold or hot cracking and, either way, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of this conundrum. When dealing with hot cracking, you need to consider three major issues: The alloy chemistry, appropriateness of the filler alloy, and choosing the best joint decision.

Picking the Right Alloy Additions

To sidestep hot cracking, consider four potential alloy additions: Silicon, copper, magnesium and magnesium silicide. By including trace amounts of one of these elements, which is common, cracking is more likely to occur. The “chemistry” of the alloy, which is dependent upon which additions are used and how much, can be a major factor in cracking. Silicon is the most crack-resistant, followed by a magnesium/silicone hybrid, but all fillers can be crack-resistant if used in the right amount.

To get the best results and resist cracking, it’s best to completely avoid very crack-sensitive materials that are also considered non-weldable. Picking the right filler or addition, while considered the crack sensitivity ranges, is step two. You should pinpoint a filler with a solidification point that’s similar to (or below) that of the base material. Edge preparation choice, root gap to allow for the filler addition, and the creation of a “weld metal chemistry” that’s suitable is also paramount.

Preparing for a Crack-Free Future

Choosing the right filler is just part of the process; you also need to choose one that has additions of grain refiners (i.e. zirconium or titanium). This will best prevent cracks, and complements the makeup of the materials. The actual welding process itself can also be a literal breaking point—utilize the highest welding speed because the faster it’s done, the faster the cooling rate. Basically, the least amount of time you spend in the “hot cracking temperature spectrum,” the better.

When welding, tap into your skill set and use assembling techniques that cut down on restraint, minimize stress and product the cleanest welds possible. A pressure application on the joint during welding can also help to prevent cracks from forming. Generally speaking, sometimes aluminum base alloys are difficult to weld at best—especially for those who aren’t exceptionally well-versed in the properties of the materials. Sometimes arc welding just isn’t possible, and that’s when mechanically joining parts via bolting or riveting is the best approach. No matter which avenue is taken, remember that cracking isn’t “just something you have to live with.” It can be addressed, but it takes knowing the materials and some serious skills to avoid it.

Digital Side Mirrors


Op-Ed by Andy Bunch

You may have heard that digital side mirrors are coming. This is a loose interpretation of equipment automakers have been tossing onto concept cars or adding to limited runs of super-luxury vehicles these last few years. However, most of us who cover the car business have been skeptical. Edison once had his people come up with an electric pen.

Does the world really need one more doodad that must be better because it relies on technology rather than simple physics?

We’ll Lexus has announced that they’re ready to put them into production on their full line of cars and the US is evaluating them for safety, so someones pushing hard for them. My real question was echoed by Stephen Williams in his September article on the topic, entitled “Digital Side Mirrors Become a Production Reality, but You Can’t Get Your Hands on One Just Yet.

“…replacing side mirrors with two 5-inch screens located at the base of the vehicle’s A-pillar is an extra measure of radical….But how much do we really see in our side-view mirrors?”

I’d put his question more as a statement, “it better do something really great if you’re going to continue to train people not to look outside there own car.

Williams eventual support can be summed up in four words, “Bike lanes & night vision.”

But there are other potential advantages. The cameras are designed to be less affected by rain and to reduce road noise. The screens can replace ones already employed for side impact warnings and parking assistance. On the whole, drivers report them as more intuitive than other center-column backup camera screens.

Bottom line they show a wider angle, which has long been a desire of many drivers. How many times do you see people fasten extra mirrors onto their side mirrors, especially when towing a trailer?  Well, that issue could be a thing of the past. These mirrors could add zooming in and out to the adjustments you already make to accommodate the height and taste of the individual driver.

It’s likely these cameras will succeed in gaining mainstream use as early as 2019.

Here’s some video, see for yourself:

The Problem with Cars at Christmas


Looking at yuletide and seeing problems doesn’t seem quite right but as a car driver, you need to be practical. As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder you are much more likely to succumb to drowsiness in your vehicle. This is something all drivers should take seriously.

Starting with Mindset:

We know what you’re thinking, “Bah humbug!”

But knock it off for two minutes and we’ll make it easy for you with a quick list of what might make your commuting more difficult and a couple ideas to make it better.

Instead of thinking like a Grinch, think like a super-hero. Not only are problems more likely, but the situations can become more drastic, more quickly than in other seasons. This is your chance to be the one who’s ready, who makes safety look easy, and who protects the family.


Maybe you are full of holiday cheer. Maybe you love all the fancy decorations you drive past. Maybe you don’t but the person in front of you does. We’ll get back to road conditions in a minute, but it’s important to start off a list like this with the fact that you need more following distance between you and the car in front of you than ever.

Having a flask of hot coffee in the car will also give you a bit of a pick-me-up in a freezing cold day.

It’s not ALL about the Weather:

Many people start getting terrible quality of sleep in the fall. Sunlight, temperature, and activity level all affect the quality and quantity of sleep. Heck, you can sleep too much and become groggier, especially if you’re resorting to a sleep aid.

With the retail season in full swing, most of us are busy at work. Most of us are shopping whenever we can fit it in. AND let’s face it, holiday traffic sucks. Now is the worst time to drive groggy.

This is why it is important to get enough sleep and maybe not work too hard (though this could be easier said than done in the Christmas period). Iron and Vitamin D supplements might help.

Don’t Get Sick:

It’s hard to drive when you’re sick. Running nose, headache, and the dreaded sneeze can really do a number on your ability to operate a car safely. Get lots of sleep (see above), and take vitamin C. Try elderberry extract, ginger tea, and don’t neglect hand washing.

plough-1814954_1920The Effects of COLD Weather:

It might not just be you that’s sluggish in the cold, by the way. Cold makes it harder to start your car in the morning. Believe it or not, this is due to oil being slightly thicker in cold weather and the battery taking slightly longer to react.

The best thing you can do about this is to leave extra time for your journey to start up the engine and scrape your windows. If you do find that you’re getting a late start, just call into work and make amends up front. Most employers we’ve encountered may grumble, but they’d rather have you late than dead.


Some places get fog, others get glint from the sun off ice cycles. The sun comes in at a lower angle and can create a lot of glare…if you live somewhere the sun shines in the winter.

One of the biggest issues we warn of about this time every year is not fully cleaning your windshield. It takes two seconds longer to scrape the whole thing than to try to guess which part you won’t need to see through on your way to work. You may need to apply de-icer to the windscreens and other windows. Chemically speaking, this is known as propylene glycol. The alcohol in the substance is what makes the ice melt.

Road Conditions:

When it comes to de-icing roads this may be done with salt (usually rock salt) spread by dumper truck or snow plow. It may not pure salt – it may be mixed with sand or gravel, or indeed both.

On the west coast, plowing and de-icing are generally done by the state transportation crews. In the Northeast U.S., it’s more common for private individuals to own a plow or attachment to clear roads the community resources don’t get to quickly enough. (One of our writers brags about always trying to buy a house near such an individual so he isn’t late to work in the winters.)

Back to the rock salt on the roads, because it’s not all that reliable, there is a threshold where it will not work at all; the snow will stay on the roads. This is when the temperature goes below -18°C. There are other problems with salt as it is toxic to many plants and animals. This is why calcium chloride or magnesium chloride works better; they create something that has a lower freezing point than salt water.

The best solution in bad weather, or at least the first few days of bad weather, is to work from home. It can create stress of its own, but it beats dying.

If your boss resists letting you work remotely as him/her if you can do it on a trial basis. Then just make sure to make that your most productive day all month. When your boss sees that its safer and more productive you have a 40% chance of doing it again in the next bad weather situation. (BTW in our experience %60 of all bosses are so against remote work that they’d rather you come in late, work slow, and leave early. Yes that’s stupid!)

The problem with remote working is how are you going to do your Christmas shopping? That’s what the internet is for, eh?

The Final Word:

Be sure to carry traction devices and a winter safety kit. You don’t want to break down in the winter with no blanket or flares. Also, make sure to carry a cell phone, even if you just buy some minutes for a pay as you go plan. It’s a good idea to get your car, especially the tires checked before the really bad stuff sets in.