Battle Damage

Recently the area in which I reside had experienced this seasons first significant snowfall. Shoveled a lot more of it than I cared to as well. With a significant amount of snowfall comes the bad driving conditions because even when at full turn out levels the state/county/city plow trucks wont be able to keep up. Inevitably, this will result in accidents because there’s always the guy who has to be on the road and in a hurry.  As my paint and body guy says, “winter will always keep me in business.”

As I drive from point A to B now I will see at least one person driving around with some form of damage. I understand that the body garage is backed up with work or more likely you have to wait for the part(s) to show up. I get it, I’ve been there. What I don’t get though, is why anyone would think that driving around with a bumper or quarter panel barely hanging on is a good idea. When my truck was damaged and I had to wait a couple of days for replacement pieces to show up I removed part of the front end. Let me explain why.

Vehicle manufacturers go through extensive research  in order to develop aerodynamics into their products. Once you compromise the outline or contour of the vehicle you sacrifice that aerodynamic flow and as a result the performance of the vehicle as well. Removing the damaged part will help restore some of that aerodynamic flow. Leaving the damaged part on the vehicle to potentially flap around while you drive is as good as having up to 20% of your breaks applied while driving. I could pontificate further about the wear and tear that is being exacted on your vehicle as a result of this, but I have other points to make.

Let’s meow examine this from a safety stand point. The DOT of the state in which I currently reside says  that the damaged piece only has to be secured to the vehicle. It does not define by the manner in which it has to be secured. I have seen everything from tie downs, zip ties, duct tape, come-alongs, and bungee cords being used to secure damaged pieces. This is a bunch of BS. Most of the time the damaged piece is improperly “secured” or the means by which it is being held quickly breaks itself and the driver of said vehicle is either igornant of the danger the are now to other motorists or just don’t give a damn.

Honestly I could care less if you want to screw up the performance of your own vehicle. That’s on you. Where I do take umbrage is when people drive around with something that equates to a drag chute barely hanging onto the vehicle. There is now the possibility that it could break off and at the minimum cause damage to my vehicle, but also cause an accident and injury to myself, any passenger I may have with me, and other motorists and their passengers as well. What I would like to see happen more often is police officers pulling these shmucks over and issuing them a safety violation similar to how they do to people who ignore a burnt out headlight.



Space Saver Tires

One innovation I will never understand is the space saver spare tire. I get that the point of it is to allow for the vehicle to have a spare tire while still giving it an adequate amount of trunk space/ not require a large extra storage space be built into a vehicle. That’s about the extent of my understanding on it.

Other than allowing you to essentially limp your vehicle to a service station to obtain a new full size tire or repair your original tire, the space saver is essentially useless. There are drastic safety limitations on space savers. Last I remember is that the tire is only good for a couple of hundred miles or so and when driving on it you cannot exceed 35 mph. If the space saver is being used on a major highway you are now a huge safety concern. You’re either going too slowly for the flow of traffic or a possible accident waiting to happen because the high speeds could cause the tire to break off. Also, if the weather is bad (snow or rain) forget maintaining proper traction.

At the end of the day I would like to see two things happen. First space savers just need to go away. The car companies can figure out how to redesign the storage bays so they always accommodate a full size tire. If not you’ll just have to figure how to transport the extra beer cooler to the game another way. Secondly, I want cops issuing safety violation tickets for having a space saver mounted just like they do for having a head/tail light out. It’s a safety thing people. All too often I see people driving cars with more than one space saver tire or a space saver that is clearly bald. Fix the problem within 3 business days and the ticket goes away.

Better yet get me Tony Stark on the blower. We’ll get that hover car hammered out in a weekend and in production by the end of the month.

Optimal Operating Temperature

Finally the cold weather has arrived with a vengeance. It is at this point that I am confident that most people have forgotten some basic things to do when venturing out into the cold. One of the first things that popped into my head other than pulling out more of my cold weather clothing was proper start up procedure for my truck.

Most people have no clue that you vehicle has an optimal running temperature for the engine. I don’t care what the mechanic told you, I don’t care what the dealership told you, and I don’t care what you found out about your cars engine oil from your research. You cannot just start you vehicles engine and start driving in cold weather. It is a sure fired way to cause damage.

Every vehicle is equipped with a temperature read out. If you don’t know how to read it break out the manual and start reading. At the minimum the temperature gauge should have some sort of reading on it before you even think about putting your vehicle in drive and going. Preferably you let the engine running long enough so that it is near normal running temperatures.

The reason I implore this is that despite the manufactures claim of the oil will stick to the engines critical parts it’s still needs to be at a specific temperature in order for it to function at its correct viscosity. Otherwise you might as well pour duck soup into the engine.

Before anyone bitches about how they don’t want to run outside in the cold to start their engine just shut your mouth now. They make remote starters for most makes and models and they run as cheap as $100. Bust out that credit card and get on it.

Want v. Need: Vehicles

I find that people more and more now have no clue what the difference between a want and a need are. Just to clarify a want is something you desire, but don’t have to have. A need is something that is necessary and you can’t do without.

For this specific want vs. need discussion I am talking about vehicles. Let’s start with the fact that not everyone needs a vehicle. If you live a city or metro area where there is an excellent infrastructure in place with multiple forms of public transportation one does have to ask themselves if they really do need to own a vehicle of some kind.

The area in which I live in does have a daily bus service, but the schedule is haphazard at best and does not have 24 hour service. Thus it makes a vehicle a need and not a want which brings me too my next point. If you live in an area where a vehicle is a necessary part of life take care of the damn thing.

I see vehicles on the road on a daily and wonder how they pass inspection. What confuses me even more is peoples inability to properly prioritize what should be fixed/working on their vehicle. I’m not going to sit here and run through every single thing, but ill try and water it down a bit. Engine, breaks, tires, and exhaust should be top priority. Body/frame would be next in the line up. Everything beyond that to, me anyway, is just icing on the cake.

Let me put it this way. If your sound system or low profile tires and spinner rims cost more than the value of your vehicle you priorities are messed up.

Putt Putt Bang Bang Cough Sputter

If your vehicle makes any of those noises on a regular basis please seek the assistance of a mechanic ASAP.

There are three things in life in which in order to have some bare minimum of comfort throughout the day I suggest investing a little more money than usual in.

1. Shoes/sneakers/boots

2. Mattress

3. Vehicle

Ill lecture more on 1 and 2 another time. For today I wish to focus on 3.

I don’t care if you purchase a shit box of a vehicle to start with, but I expect it to be cleaned up and fixed a little bit. If you can’t accomplish this or can’t maintain a vehicle over time sell it and take the bus.

While traveling home today I witnessed a black Jetta pass me with a really nice set of tires. (How nice you ask? Well after Googling the make and partial type number I saw and consulting with a car enthusiast friend I found out they were $400 per tire.) However, that was the only nice part of the car. Please don’t get me wrong, always invest in a good set of tires, but if the cost of the set is more than the value of the rest of the vehicle……you done fucked up.

Although the muffler was attached and in good working order the final two feet of pipe sticking out was actually steam pipe with the emergency release cap still attached. The paint, clearly failing in several spots. The front bumper was a sight to see. It was being held on by bungee cords, zip ties, duct tape, and what I am pretty sure was a hanger. When I looked inside the vehicle the rear passenger seat was missing and I’m fairly certain that a majority of the passenger side dashboard was gone as well.

Although none of that constitutes any real safety issues I fairly certain it would not pass muster at inspection. How this person isn’t embarrassed by said vehicle either.

Vehicle Starter Kit

Since I talked about some things to have on your person at all times lets talk about things to have in your vehicle. When I finally got my first vehicle ( 91 Dodge Caravan) my father handed me a socket set and told me to keep it in my van at all times. You don’t need to be a gear head to be able to work on your vehicle just be able to tighten things up when they come loose or reattach if they come off. I suggest getting a set that also includes hex (alen) keys and a multi-tip screwdriver.

Duct tape is always key. Don’t buy some shitty store brand. Purchase a decent brand name roll of the stuff. Duct tape can fix a lot of things. Handyman’s secret weapon. (Google RedGreen)

Jumper cables are always a good item to have. I don’t have chronic issues with my battery. It’s to help others than anything else. For the love of peaches buy a good set. Do not buy the cheapos from Wal-Mart. If anything you’ll end up frying both of the vehicles. I am also aware of the charge and go kit, but remember that is essentially a battery itself and will eventually discharge the juice you put in it especially in cold weather. It’s easier to just carry cables and bum a jump off of someone.

I highly recommend a flashlight. Do not get one of the shake and charge flashlights. I have yet to come across a decent one. Throw a small Maglite and a pack of batteries in the glove box and you are good to go. Just remember to check it once in a while. Nothing worse than needing to shed light on something in a hurry and the damn flashlight is deader than Anna Nicole Smith. (Too soon?) There are also small flashlights that can be charged off of the cigarette lighter power adapter.

All vehicles come with some sort of manual jack stand to help change tires in the instance you get a flat. Ditch it and buy something more durable. Every single time I help change a tire those things buckle and give way like someone blowing on a house of cards.

Since were talking about tires there are few things I recommend to keep in your vehicles for your tires. Tire slime does work. Keep a can or two of it in your vehicle. Tire repair patches are always a good thing especially if the puncture isn’t that bad. The next few things are optional depending on funds and space available. Tire pressure gauge, I don’t really trust the ones at the do it yourself air units. Which is why I carry a air pump that runs off the cigarette power adaptor. If you vehicle of choice allows for it and you have the money to do it put a full size tire in place of the space saver spare.

In the instance you do run into vehicle issues and are on the side of the road you’ll want to make yourself visible to other drivers especially at night. If your vehicle still has power put your hazards on. Secondly you should have some sort of reflective hazard signs that you can place about 10 feet behind your vehicle. I really caution against road flares just because of the required fireproof box needed to store them in, but also because the first hazard they pose while in use.

A first aid kit is also a must. Even if you only ever use a band aid from it, it’s worth having.

Finally a container of some kind to keep all of this stuff in. I’m fairly certain you don’t want all of this stuff rolling around in the cargo area of your vehicle. A basic Rubbermaid container will do.

Some of you may say “I don’t need any of the stuff I have OnStar or AAA.” So what if you do. What happens if you are in an area that doesn’t have cell service. Then what? I consider having these items part of being a responsible vehicle owner.