Just for Fun #83


Rednecks are good people, but they don’t need a car inspection–they just fix it themselves. If you’re not a redneck, get your car inspected before you buy so you don’t overpay. TireKickers!

Until now, you didn’t know that getting a car inspection before buying will keep you from buying an unsafe car. Now you do. Tire Kickers come to you.

Buying Convertibles

Spring is in the air and what better way to celebrate than buying a convertible? If you have never owned a convertible before you need to know a couple things first. On the bright side, you have the joy of the open road on a sunny day, but they cost a bit more than an equivalent car and space is a problem.

Wait, they charge more for Convertibles?

Yes, and not just because they can (although they’re desirable and that comes at a premium). Added to that, you must factor in the cost of manufacturing a converting roof and the complex engineering involved.

What do you mean less space?

As with price, they aren’t just being mean, there are legit reasons. You lose space in the trunk due to stowing away the canvas or hard top roof. when you lower the canvas roof it needs to be stowed somewhere.

Okay, so What Else?

Convertibles don’t have as good a visibility as standard cars when the roof is up, which is most of the time. Having a built-in parking or driver assist is a game changer when parking a convertible.

It also takes longer to warm up than a regular car due to less insulation roof.

The roof is easier to damaged and if the roof does break, you’re talking about a huge payout needed to repair it, given the parts involved.

You are also best advised keeping the car somewhere secure as a canvas roof is not the best protection in the world, even if you invest in a steering lock. When not parked at home or at work, lock any valuables in the trunk as thieves will simply cut their way in and take items off the seat.

Enough of the doom mongering, what about the cars themselves?

The Mini Cooper Convertible combines style with build quality. There have been five generations of Mini Convertible to date. They have gas and diesel variants of their convertible with black trim around the wheels. There is a horizontal bar under the licence plate, despite not being needed for the US market. To access the rear seats, the front seats need to be both tilted and slid forwards which seems a bit of a pain.

The Audi A5 comes in a convertible and has two turbocharged engines to pick from. It comes with Apple Car-Play as well as All-wheel handling. Critics may point out the smallness of the trunk and the general lack of legroom in the back seat, but the latter could very well be expected by purchasing a compact.

(Please note the Audi A5 also comes in coupe and sportback versions. Just to be clear; a sportback is a four-door hatchback with a sloping roof, in other words a hatchback that looks like a coupe.)

The Mazda MX-5 Miata has a smallish interior and storage space, but plus points include user friendly safety tech. The suspension is similar to what you’d find in a sports care. It also has rear wheel drive, allowing you to reach 34 MPG on the highway.

Possibly you consider a Ford Mustang as a sports car, but the convertible version is known for having a decent trunk (unusual in a compact car) and the handling is sure-footed. There are powerful engine choices – between 310 and 480 hp. The CoPilot 360 helps with driver assist. It is a pity that the rear seats appear so cramped. The front seats seem worthy of note – they are bucket seats that have an actual curve to them (not all “buckets” do). No doubt this gives them an improved level of comfort.

You really need to live somewhere warm enough and have enough in the bank to take on a convertible. So…

…Now that you know the potential drawbacks to a convertible have you changed your mind about owning one? No, we didn’t think you would.

Car Explosions – Fact & Fiction

Op-Ed from Editors (Wimsett & Bunch)

I think my mom watched too many episodes of chips in the 80’s. She’s pretty sure that if you hit a curb at 25 MPH the car will flip into the air, roll three times and land on its top, only to explode instantly. Try as I might, nothing seems to change her beliefs around cars and explosions. (The following post contains references to some of the ways in which journalists have reported car explosions, which have mislead the public into believing they’re driving about in a bomb.)

The Truth

When a car explodes, something is definitely wrong. It’s reassuring that a car can’t simply blow up, something needs to happen first.

Cars do catch fire, in fact, they’re quite flammable and they burn quickly. But an explosion tends to be a slow process which always starts with a fire. Even when the flames hit the gas tank it doesn’t always explode. As long as you attempt to remove yourself from the car as quickly as possible before calling 911 you should be fine.

But they can explode, right?

Okay, so cars are rarely explosive, but it does happen, only not like it happens in movies. A car hit by bullets for instance wouldn’t necessarily explode.

When the battery blows up it looks like the car explodes. An oil leak can cause fires, as can faulty wiring in items like car stereos. It’s important that a mechanic deals with all of these as well as making sure any seals are secure. Shoddy work is more likely to lead to a fire.

The problem is that journalists aren’t explosive experts or mechanics, they don’t always come up with the real reason a car explodes.

This explains reports in the media of items like car fresheners causing explosions, when in fact only the front window was blown out (which may have had more to do with the heat). Whatever the real cause a blown-out window is not an “explosion.”

Can a car explode by hitting a lamp post? Reports seem to suggest so, but it may well have had more to do with the gas leak.

A car may also explode if it should crash through a house and hit the natural gas line. Sometimes explosions are a complete mystery, or at least according to the reporter.

Obviously, cars can be exploded.

Some cars are the victims of controlled explosions if they are in the wrong place or believed to have something explosive in it.

It is possible to trigger an explosion by attempting to unlock a door by laser if there is an acetylene tank in the car. Fortunately, not many people carry acetylene tanks in their car.

So, what does it take for a car to explode on it’s own?

A build-up of pressure inside a gas cylinder leads to a gas explosion. It may shatter nearby windows.

Sometimes the car explodes from the gas in gas stations. But the flames around petrol do not always lead to an explosion. The fumes from gas are more explosive than the liquid gas, however the pressure needs to reach a certain point.

It’s more dangerous when an electric car catches fire. So, it’s especially important to keep away from these types of fires.

On screen Explosions

It should come as no surprise that when a car explodes on-screen things aren’t always as they seem. Sometimes it’s only a plastic shell with nothing inside it. Or it may be swapped for a much older model just before the explosion.

Alternatively, a car could look pristine outside but suffer from some kind of damage inside (water damage, no seating and so on).

There are some explosions which aren’t explosions at all – it’s pure CGI (computer generated imagery), allowing the car to look as photogenic as possible despite exploding into bits.

This goes to show that what films well in the movies isn’t really like real life, but at least in this instance it should put our minds at ease.

The Various Types of Carports

We think that a carport is a fairly recent invention, but the first carport was built for Sloane House in Illinois by Walter Burley in 1909. It wasn’t technically called a carport by name, instead Burley called it an auto-space.

The first carport to be known by that name was created in Madison, Wisconsin by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Draw a picture in your mind of a Model T and it makes sense to keep these early cars undercover—not exactly water-tight. What you may not know is that they could also be damaged by the cold or even by too much heat.

Types of Carports

This is by no means an encyclopaedia of carports and their designers (and who wants to read that anyway) but this short guide focuses on different types of carport on the market.

If you live in cold, even snowy, areas it makes sense to have a full garage where the space is closed off.

Wood carports are less expensive than steel or aluminium but it can be affected by the elements. Steel and aluminium carports do have the disadvantage that they take longer to install, but they are worth it if you can handle the hassle.

One way to keep the costs down is to look for a self-assembly carport. To ensure that the carport is at the right level having a carport with adjustable height is a must.

You need to make sure the site is level before you can build a carport.

Roof Options

In sunny climates it’s not unusual to see flat roof carports to keep the sun from damaging paint and interior, and also to keep the car from being too hot when you go to start it up.

Some carports have a diagonal roof which is much better in snow and rain, and can allow you to place a number of cars underneath.

Expenses

The biggest expense in a carport is the steel understructure, some businesses offer a galvanised steel choice—a worthwhile upgrade when available.

Other expenses involve the site excavation, installation, electricity and painting. Electricity is optional, but again, its wise to do. Paint is not optional on wood structures as it protects the structure.

As you may guess, the expenses soon add up so coming up with a budget is vital.

You may have restrictions on carport building in a specific area. If you don’t have a concrete base already, it will cost more, and likely more to maintain as they need to hold up against the strengths of the storms and it is rust free.

What style of frame do you require?

A cantilever relies on a curved frame system which touches the ground only on one side (but may be supported by something like an out-building) and then there’s post and purlin which is a single slope design.

Canopies

It is vital that the canopy is load bearing. Some are made of metal, others are shingled wood. The idea is usually to match a nearby house, but often apartment complexes will do something entirely different for carports than they do for the buildings. It may come down to how close the carport is to your other structures.

You may need to consider rubber sealing for the roof and some form of drainage, otherwise the canopy will not protect the car for that long.

A solar carport has a solar canopy over the car. The canopy has a surface from where solar energy is derived. The plus point is that you may not need to run house power out to your car port in order to have lights or even a charging station for your EV. Solar canopies can produce more energy than a rooftop solar panel. Massachusetts and various other states provide a cash incentive for buying a solar panel. You will also receive a reduction in your electricity bills.

In Conclusion

If the job is done well, it will protect your pride and joy for several years and may mean you don’t need to spend as much time waxing and polishing your car. Though having said that, all cars benefit from some attention now and again.

Wheel Balance and Alignment

Wheel balance is how the weight is distributed around the wheel. This can be rather fiddly to achieve; it is done by adding weights to the rims of the tires. In order for it to be balanced, you will need to add a number of weights to the other side. If you leave it unbalanced the tire will lean to one side. You can only achieve a comfortable ride in a car with balanced wheels. There may also be a feeling of nausea if you travel at high speeds in an unbalanced car.

Types of Alignment

There are a number of alignments to consider when you balance your tires – sorry but it now becomes rather complicated! – the front caster, the front and rear camber, the front and rear toe and finally the thrust angle. How these relate to each other is the amount of balance a vehicle has as a whole.

The Front Caster – is all about the stability of the front tire vertically; this should be as straight as possible; the front camber is how vertically upright the front wheel stands; surprisingly this is a negative number as the top of the wheel is meant to lean in rather than out, towards the center of the vehicle.

The Front Toe – The final variable of the front wheel is called the front toe which determines how straight your wheel is when it pulls forwards. (Think pigeon toe.)

The Rear Camber – Now to the back wheels…the rear camber is similar to the front camber, but in order to keep the vehicle stable the camber at the back should be greater (It’s in order to keep the car’s center of gravity).

The Rear Toe – is how much the back wheels point forward; unlike the front toe this doesn’t alter that much during driving.

The Thrust Angle – describes the angle of the rear axle to the vehicle. If this is off you may have to oversteer or understeer in order to achieve the desired effect.

This type of thing is also known as breaking and tracking and the idea is to keep the wheel as “straight and true” as possible. In adjusting the tire’s angle you are affecting how the wheel makes contact to the ground. It’s important to get the wheels back to factory settings, but also to make sure that they are aligned with each other.

What a Layman Needs to Know!

It’s complex for a layman but like so many things it’s not that bad if you do it every day. What you need to know is this:

  • You will damage your tires if you don’t regularly add air or rotate your tires. If your suspension has been changed or parts have been replaced it may affect the state of the tires.
  • If the suspension is damaged or you constantly hit potholes you should have your alignment looked at.
  • With the wrong alignment the fuel consumption is worse, thanks to drag or the rolling resistance. It will mean you will probably have to fork out for new tires, and you will take longer to brake.

Okay, there has been a great deal of jargon here but it does go to show how so many variables keep a car operating to the best of its ability and how much balance and alignment play a part.

Car charms

Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett

The interior the came with your car is just a place to start—you may want to customize it a bit, you know add your own touches. For many people this means more bohemian.

Perhaps a pair of dice or a pine tree hanging up from your rear-view window but no, that’s not enough. And some of you drivers go a whole lot further.

An example of charms are those made of silver and crystal. A silver charm has the advantage of making your interior look more expensive, but a crystal charm (or glass) may be too distracting. A simple cross is less ostentatious, but just try things out and see what works for you.

Some charms display wealth too much and do you really need diamond charms hanging from your car especially when you’re not there. You want to attract attention, thieves will certainly notice.

Common Cultural Charms:

There are several cultural charms out there, for instance if you’re Turkish charms to ward off the Evil Eye. What exactly is the Evil Eye? It goes back to Greek myth (Greece being a country next to Turkey) about the 6th century. It gives a glare to someone who is unaware they are being looked at, though what an Evil Eye can do to an individual is less clear. Wearing a charm or having one in your car is one way of avoiding it.

Seasonal Charms:

Some people decorate for their favorite seasons. You could hang Christmas decorations in there to give a seasonal feel, no doubt the odd individual chooses to keep the decorations up all year, despite most saying that this a bad luck symbol, each to his or her own.

Lucky Charms:

You may not see it as a charm, but some people hang a symbol of their baseball team, basketball ball team, or American football team up there. There are probably no end of symbols which people believe bring them luck, or as said before, make their cars more individualistic.

Should you wish to make your own charms you could do worse than check out craft websites, which repurpose feathers and old stones and crystals in its taste. One of the ideas located was a crocheted steering wheel cover, but that may be too individualistic for most.

Other Ideas:

Other ideas suggested are woolly car hangers made from macramé. Dreamcatchers, also known as the spider web charms, tend to be associated with Native American cultures; it is willow hoop hung with feathers and beads. Traditionally they were hung above cradles, but they can be positioned in cars too, usually in the back window.

If you pass your driving test there are special charms out there for your keyring. Or you can obtain a St Christopher figure, which is the patron saint of travelers. As with the charms in the car it may be more about making your keyring more personal to you than giving you any actual luck, but then again, who knows?

The Mistake That Was The Edsel

Have you ever heard of the Edsel? Probably not, as they only manufactured for three years during the fifties, but if you work in car manufacture it is hard to forget them.

The Edsel was to compete against the Buick and the Dodge. They were marketed as cars of the future at medium price. In hindsight this seems mad, they were the same price as a Ford Mercury but not considered to be for the same market sector, so why?

It’s possible you do need to innovate during a recession but creating a luxury product?

Ford claimed at the time that was adequate product development involving sophisticated market analysis. In reality no such research had been carried out. The manufacturer of cars was a fairly new enterprise so maybe they should have known better, but they didn’t.

What’s in a name?

Ford Motor Co named this giant mistake after Henry Ford’s own son, which added weight to their claims that they didn’t do this as a joke. Then they created several different versions of the vehicle (four sedans and three station wagons), which had strange working names– for example the Edsel Citation.

The strange names, indirectly because of the influence of comic poet Marianne Moore who worked for the company at the time. Although her names were not used, they still leant the cars a tongue in cheek aura that didn’t help people take the project seriously.

Buzz and Foreshadow.

When Ford previewed beforehand pictures of the Edsel to promote it they appeared slightly blurred, which was probably an accident or an attempt to create an air of mystery, but it felt almost as if the company knew what was going to happen. When the pictures were shipped to the sales agents they were always done under wraps as if it was something illicit. Again, this was likely a sales tactic, but it struck many as if they were postponing the inevitable.

Looks that Kill.

Although the station wagon version had a superficial similarity to other station wagons but with innovative designs such as a rotating dome speedometer and a deep ditch steering wheel, the “horse collar grille” and powertrain features to the hood struck people at the time as bazaar. (It wouldn’t really move the needle by today’s standards but cars at the time were classy and fashionable not “other worldly.”)

September 4, 1957 was known as E-Day. This is where the first inklings of what the public felt about the vehicle was discovered; that it was far too unconventional a build.

It was thought to be reborn “LaSalle” a car also known for its design problems; it didn’t seem to be like any other car. And if it’s not like a car you know, how can you drive it?

Although some of the body panels were toned down in 1959 and it was given a vertical central grille the car still had trouble with its teletouch transmission system, no one could understand it. So still the sales numbers remained extremely small and it was eventually removed from the market.

Where did they Go Wrong?

It’s probably a case of hubris. Ford had a strong record of innovation and leading the car market. To some degree they may have believed that whatever they thought was cool and edgy would be adopted by the public as the next great thing. They may have been hoping that people in the market for a new car during a tough economy were advanced thinkers who would want a car that reflected their iconoclastic success. The truth is when people get their fingers burnt they get a bit cautious for a while.

They leapt to far beyond what people were accustomed to and at the worst possible time. However, looking at pictures of this car one wonders if there was ever a good time for the Edsel.

Given the amount of money involved it seems ludicrous that Ford employed none of the usual business safety procedures, such as getting the proper amount of feedback from the public including or having average consumers test drive it before it hit the market. Although Ford may have learnt its lesson, there will be further disasters masquerading as vehicles to come…