In this installment, our Mechanic Next Door tackles the mighty mid-sizer, the Ford Ranger.
If you’re in the market for a brand-new 2015 Ford Ranger, your choices are limited – very limited – as in you have one choice. You can buy one by visiting a Ford dealer in another country.
If the idea of traveling outside the U.S. just to purchase a vehicle doesn’t sound convenient or economical, you can set your sights on a compact truck from another manufacturer. Reason being? Ford stopped offering the Ranger to the U.S. market after the 2011 model year. (Before you diehard Ranger fans point out my perceived error, I know Ford did produce a limited number of 2012 models exclusively for the domestic fleet market.)
If you’re a long-time Ranger owner and this is new news to you, I’m sorry. If you want to see what you’re missing in the Ford Ranger 2014 or Ford Ranger 2015 that drivers in other countries are enjoying, feast your eyes on these models. Take comfort in the fact, however, that the decision to discontinue a model that at one time owned 25 percent of the compact truck market was strictly a business one. Two numbers tell the story behind that decision – 330,125 and 55,364. The former is the number of Rangers sold in the U.S. in 2000, the latter the number sold in 2010 – a stunning sales decline of nearly 275,000 Rangers or 83 percent annually over a decade.
Clearly the writing was on the wall, and what it read was that American truck buyers were shifting away from compact trucks, like the Ford Ranger, to full-size ones, like the F-150 or Chevy Silverado. Bolstering Ford’s belief that its decision to discontinue Ranger sales in the U.S. was a sound one, were industry sales figures that showed U.S. compact pickup sales declining from 1.2 million units in 1994 to just 264,000 units in 2012.
Ford, understandably so, believed that discontinuing the Ranger wouldn’t have a significant impact on its bottom line, in part because they figured Ranger owners would simply upgrade to newer fuel-efficient F150s with a V-6. That reasoning looked good on paper, but in reality, many Ranger owners may have simply shifted loyalties as Toyota Tacoma’s market share in the compact truck segment jumped from 38% in 2011 to 54% in 2012 – the same time the Ranger was discontinued. Coincidence? Probably not. What it may indicate instead is that compact truck owners love their COMPACT trucks, and with good reason.
Fuel efficiency, maneuverability, parking ease, and lower cost all factor into the equation as to why drivers choose a compact over a full-size truck. Their reasoning seems sound – if you’re not towing or carrying big payloads, and you don’t need a big truck to make your ego happy, why not go compact? Since 1982, when the first 1983 model year Ranger rolled off the assembly line, that’s exactly what many truck owners did – chose compact. Planning for that first Ranger began in 1976 with Ford’s intention to build a compact pickup that was somewhat similar to its full-size offering, only more economical.
Those early Rangers came with a variety of engine choices, including a four cylinder 72 hp, 2.0 liter version or an 82 hp, 2.3 liter. It would be six years before the Ford Ranger received a facelift with the 1989 model’s modern-looking dash and steering column, new front fenders, grille and hood, and flush front lights.
Continued changes with the second-generation Ford Ranger – 1992 through 1997 models – saw some new styling elements, including redesigned seats and door panels, along with the discontinuation of the 2.9-liter engine, replaced by engine choices in the 2.3, 3.0 or 4.0 liter size.
The third, and final generation Ranger (at least in the U.S.), was from 1997 through 2012, with the 1998 model debuting a longer wheelbase and cab. As part of the Ford Ranger’s evolution, the later models had engines cranking out 143 hp from a 2.3-liter four-cylinder or 207 hp from the four-liter V-6 – a far cry from that first Ranger’s measly 72 hp.
The Ford Ranger is a trendsetter in more ways than one. Long before anyone heard of a Volt, Leaf, or Tesla, there was the Ford Ranger EV – yes, an electric Ranger. Produced from 1998 to 2002, this battery-powered electric vehicle looked just like its fossil-fuel powered brethren, with the exception of a small door covering a charging port on the front grille.
The Ford Ranger, it seems, is everywhere on the road today, thanks to its strong sales over several decades and the ready availability of parts to keep them on the road for decades to come. Further proof of the Ranger’s enduring popularity – it was featured on MTV’s hit series “Pimp My Ride” when they took a 1985 Ranger – featuring a broken grille and back window and paint scheme whose dominant color was primer gray – and tricked it out for its 18-year-old owner.
With a new Ford Ranger 2015 available outside the U.S., Ranger lovers still hold out hope that Ford one day will make the Ranger available again stateside. Until they do, what’s your reason for loving the Ford Ranger?
Editor’s note: Until Ford makes the Ranger available in the U.S. again, visit Advance Auto Parts for the parts you need to keep your older Ranger running. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.
Whether you’re driving a sedan, SUV, pickup or wagon, chances are that its trunk or cargo area is in need of some serious organizing and TLC. For most drivers, these cargo areas get messy in a hurry and understandably so. Being out of sight and a somewhat expansive area, it’s a natural tendency for the trunk to become a catch all for items hurriedly placed in the vehicle, and then just as quickly forgotten.
There are undoubtedly some things that belong in every trunk, such as an emergency kit, and then a whole lot of other items that can probably be removed. It’s a new year and time to get organized, and even if organization isn’t one of your resolutions, just consider this top ten list of how and why to organize your trunk as a way to get a jump on spring cleaning.
1. Increase safety – when a vehicle stops short or is involved in a collision, its occupants are (hopefully) restrained thanks to safety belts. The same can’t be said for items lying loose in the vehicle. In an emergency situation, these items become airborne projectiles capable of inflicting serious injury on occupants and causing significant damage inside the vehicle, particularly if the loose items are heavy. This isn’t as much a concern when the items are contained in the trunk as compared to loose items in an SUV’s cargo area or a pickup truck bed. Loose items can also impact vehicle handling in unexpected ways. Heavy items rolling about can cause a loss of vehicle control during cornering because of the uneven weight distribution and sudden weight shift. Organizing items back there, removing unused cargo and securing what remains can greatly improve passenger safety.
2. Save money – the extra weight being carried around is having a negative impact on both fuel mileage and your wallet. Reduce the vehicle’s weight by removing unnecessary cargo and increase your fuel mileage. A better organized cargo area also helps save money because you know what you have at a glance – such as windshield washer fluid, oil, deicer or bottled water – helping prevent the purchase and unnecessary expense of purchasing duplicate items.
3. Drive (or ride) happier – most vehicle owners aren’t fond of disorder, chaos, and clutter when it comes to their vehicle’s storage area, or any aspect of their environment. Organize your vehicle and be a happier, more efficient driver.
4. Remove everything – the first step in organizing the trunk is to remove everything so you’re starting with a clean slate (after you’ve vacuumed and shampooed the carpet, that is) and you can actually see what’s been lurking back there these past several months. Next, decide what’s staying and what’s going.
5. Get an organizer – there are numerous products on the market that will help you achieve an organized trunk or cargo area. It can be as simple as a device that prevents shopping bags from tipping over or cargo from rolling about, to a multi-compartment organizer that collapses when not being used. Only you know what works best for your lifestyle and trunk. The key to organization is knowing what you have, and having a designated place for it.
6. Keep it out of the trunk – one good way to keep your trunk or cargo area better organized is to not put stuff back there in the first place. Plastic or re-useable fabric grocery bags, your purse, or pretty much any bag with handles might be better off riding up front with you. These ingenious hooks slip over the headrest, providing a convenient and secure spot to hang a bag with handles. With the bags not being in the trunk, they won’t spill over and you won’t run the risk of forgetting they’re back there.
7. Bare necessities – in keeping with point number six, above, the less that’s in your trunk means the less you have to organize. That’s not to say the trunk should be empty. At the very least, there should be an emergency kit with jumper cables or a battery booster, first aid kit, tire inflation, flashlight, snacks and water, fresh batteries, flares and/or emergency warning triangles. If it’s winter and you’re driving in colder climates, also include a small snow shovel, blanket, and traction material
8. Use protection – whether its hauling bags of potting soil, sandbox sand, or water softener salt, or just muddy or snow-covered boots, things can get pretty dirty back there. That’s ok, because the cargo area is designed for this. That doesn’t mean, however, that the carpet or other items stored in the trunk have to suffer from damaging stains or moisture. Trunk and cargo-area liners are made to fit snugly in the area they’re protecting, feature a lip around the edge to contain spills, and are made from moisture proof rubber or plastic materials that make clean up a snap.
9. Stay clean – your vehicle’s exterior probably isn’t sparkling clean 100 percent of the time. And when it’s at its salt- or dirt-covered nastiest, you can be sure that’s the day you’ll need to lean over the back bumper to retrieve something out of the trunk. When you do, you can prevent getting your clothes dirty with this trunk protector that’s always in your trunk and attached to the carpet when you need it. Simply unroll it over the bumper and you’re leaning up against a clean surface.
10. Contain it – loose items and trunks, beds, and cargo areas aren’t a good combination because they’re guaranteed to deliver spills, damage, frustration and potential injury. The solution is simple – no matter what you’re driving and what you’re hauling, contain the cargo. Bars, tie-down straps, and pet and cargo barriers will help better protect you, your cargo and the vehicle.
Editor’s note: Count on Advance Auto Parts for your trunk storage and organizational needs. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.
For this installment, the Mechanic Next Door showcases the midsize miracle that is the Toyota Camry.
32 years later and the Toyota Camry is still battling it out with its arch-nemesis Honda Accord.
First introduced in the U.S. in 1983 to replace the rear-wheel drive Corona, Camry was Toyota’s answer to the Honda Accord’s steadily growing U.S. popularity. The Accord had already been available in the U.S. for seven years when Camry entered the market and one of the ways Toyota helped set the Camry apart from that competition was by making the Camry larger and more powerful. The first Camry’s wheelbase was nearly half a foot longer than Accord’s and had about seven percent more horsepower.
But it would take Camry nearly 14 years to jump ahead of Accord in retail sales, a feat it accomplished in 1997 when it also became the best-selling car in the U.S. The two have traded places numerous times in the years since even as many other Toyota cars were added to the lineup.
Even today, Camry is still compared to Accord, but Nissan’s Altima and Hyundai’s Sonata have been added to the list, as seen on Toyota’s 2015 Camry website. It’s a perplexing comparison, from a consumer’s point of view, in that there’s very little differentiation between the four models and certainly nothing that makes Camry a clear winner or standout in any one of the more than 25 categories. Perhaps that was Toyota’s intention – to position Camry as Accord’s equal and as a solid choice among the numerous Toyota cars, trucks and SUV’s available today.
Camry, like other Toyota cars, has changed with the times, undergoing a redesign approximately every five years. That first Camry’s 2-liter, four-cylinder engine cranked out 92 horsepower compared to today’s 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that delivers 268 horsepower. The V-6’s availability wasn’t an option on Camrys until 1988 when all-wheel drive also became available.
As Camry grew in popularity, and size, it also increased its reputation for ride comfort, luxury and delivering a quite ride – attributes that helped the 1992 Camry serve as the model for Toyota’s 1992 Lexus ES 300. Even today Toyota still carefully focuses on and promotes Camry’s quite-ride factor, highlighting the 2015 model’s “vortex generators” on the exterior that are designed to smooth turbulent air, increasing efficiency and reducing cabin noise.
Today’s Camry offers seven different models to choose from – LE, SE, XSE, XLE, Hybrid LE, Hybrid SE, and Hybrid XLE. The two models Camry lovers won’t find, however, are the two-door model and the station wagon, both having been discontinued in 1997.
With a base MSRP of $22,970 and 25/35 estimated miles per gallon, Camry’s 2015 design is promoted as bold and aggressive. An available sport-mesh grill, LED headlights and daytime running lights, 18-inch alloy wheels and dual chrome-tipped exhaust are paired with a sporty interior to give it that look. An interior – or “cockpit that’s ready for the fast lane,” as Toyota describes it on some models – features sport seats, moon roof, and paddle shifters mounted to the back of the steering wheel that enable the six-speed automatic to be shifted manually.
Technology designed to enhance driver convenience and comfort is an integral part of Camry’s interior. The Entune® App Suite enables drivers and passenger to perform a wide variety of activities – including access Pandora and iHeartRadio, make dinner reservations or even purchase movie tickets. The wireless charging feature enables Qi-compatible electronic devices to recharge simply by being placed on the non-slip surface.
On the road, Toyota helps drivers keep Camry’s 268 horsepower under control with a wider track, taut suspension, recalibrated springs, shocks and sway bars, and optimized Electric Power Steering as part of a sport handling package.
Safety features abound on the 2015 Camry and include a blind spot monitor, backup camera, lane departure alert, tire pressure monitor, and cruise control that automatically monitors the preset distance between the vehicle and the one in front and adjusts speed accordingly. Also helping protect passengers inside the Camry are 10 airbags – including knee airbags – Whiplash-Injury Lessening (WIL) seats, and several safety systems – including one that connects drivers with Toyota’s 24/7 call center in the event of an emergency, stolen vehicle or need for roadside assistance.
The Toyota Camry has traveled a long way in its 32 years in the U.S. and continues to gain in popularity while garnering strong reviews. For a nostalgic look back, here’s where it all began with one of the earlier Camry’s in 1986 with Toyota parts that look a lot simpler than today’s complex machines.
Editor’s note: Camry? Accord? Whatever camp you fall into, you can rely on Advance Auto Parts for the car parts and supplies you need to maintain your vehicle right. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.
Our Mechanic Next door delves into the origins and meaning of motor oil viscosity grades.
“220. 221. Whatever it takes.”
That infamous line of reasoning worked for Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) in the 1983 hit movie Mr. Mom, so it should work for you, too, when it comes to selecting the right motor oil grade, right? Simply pick a number? Wrong! Just like with electricity, when it comes to car oil, numbers matter – especially if you want to protect your engine.
Oil “weights” or grades – such as 10W-30 – are actually a numerical coding system developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to grade oils based on their viscosity. Viscosity is the state of being viscous, which according to Merriam-Webster, describes “a liquid being thick or sticky, not flowing easily.”
Viscosity is measured by the how long it takes a specific amount of oil to flow through a specific-sized opening at a specific temperature. The longer the oil takes to flow through, the higher the viscosity. The tool used to conduct that test – if you really want to impress others with your motor oil and physics knowledge – is a viscometer.
Think of pouring pancake syrup from the bottle – at warmer temperatures, the syrup pours fast and easy, while at colder temperatures, it’s thicker and more difficult to get flowing. The same can be said for oil.
The particular challenge with motor oil, however, is that automotive engines need engine oil to be both thin and free flowing when temperatures are freezing and the engine is cold, but thick when it’s hot out and the engine has reached operating temperature. That’s where multi-weight or multi-grade oils enter the picture and why they were created.
SAE’s J300 standard, first published in 1911 and revised numerous times since, classifies oil into 11 viscosity grades – 0W, 5W, 10W, 15W, 20W, 25W, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 – with the “W” signifying “winter,” not weight. Oils first received this “W” designation from SAE in the 1950s. The lower the number preceding the W, the lower the temperature for which the oil is rated. Those winter numbers were modified further after a rash of catastrophic engine failures in the early 1980s. Unusually cold weather in the U.S. and Europe caused oil to gel. When this occurred, the engine would still start, but it couldn’t pull the gelled oil out of the oil pan, resulting in the failures. As a result, SAE added a low-temperature test to measure pumping viscosity as well, and indicated this oil with the W specification.
Back to the idea of multi-weight oils. A popular oil, such as 10W-30, actually performs like two oils in one when it comes to engine lubrication. At colder temperatures it is and delivers a 10W-grade oil performance, while at higher temperatures it is and performs like a 30-grade oil – according to SAE’s standards and tests – providing engine protection at both ends of the temperature spectrum, which is important since engines have to operate in a range of temperatures. Think of it this way – that SAE 30 oil you might use in your riding mower has the same viscosity as the 10W-30 oil in your vehicle, but only at 210°, the maximum temperature that SAE requires. The difference arises at colder temperatures where the SAE 30 oil can’t perform, necessitating some enhancements that make it a multi-grade oil. At those lower temperatures, that’s where the 10W oil and its characteristics come into play.
Oil’s desired performance characteristics at varied temperatures, as specified by SAE, are achieved through the addition of Viscosity improvers (VI) or modifiers that increase the oil’s viscosity as temperatures rise. The result is oil that performs and provides engine lubrication no matter what the temperature.
The good news for drivers is that they don’t need to be an engineer or chemist to know which car oil to use, and they don’t have to change their oil grade whenever the temperature changes. Simply follow the motor oil grade recommended by the vehicle manufacturer for optimal engine protection in all types of weather.
It’s important to note that SAE also has a coding system for gear oil, such that used in a manual transmission, and that it’s different than the ratings for engine oil. So if there’s a bottle of 85W-140 oil sitting on the barn or garage shelf gathering dust, don’t put it in your engine.
And finally, when choosing an oil, look for one with the American Petroleum Institute “donut” seal on the bottle. It indicates that the oil meets API performance standards.
Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for great deals on Oil Change Specials and more. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.
I like football – and several other sports – as much as the next fan. And I consider myself a loyal fan, maintaining allegiances even during an off year – although the New York Giants are certainly testing that commitment this season. All of us regular fans, however, pale in comparison to the “super fans.” You know the ones – dyeing their hair in team colors or going shirtless at the stadium in sub-freezing temperatures to proudly display a torso adorned with their favorite player’s number or those colors.
Then there are the fans who clearly take it to another level, beyond even the super fans, by driving vehicles that proclaim for all the world to see their allegiance to a particular player or team. And we’re not just talking about bumper stickers, window decals, bobbleheads on the dash, or custom license plates to let you know who they’re pulling for. Any fan can do that. We’re referring to those fanatical few who invest considerable time and money in customizing their vehicles, turning them into rolling curiosities that are guaranteed to be a hit on Sunday afternoons at the stadium parking lot tailgate, and perhaps a bit of a puzzlement on the roads the other six days of the week. Check out some of these pictures we found for proof.
Yes, these driving fans are the ones with whom we should really be impressed. Why? Because they wear their team support proudly for all the world to see, during championship seasons and “rebuilding” years, through team and player scandals and controversies, and even when traveling through unfriendly territories where a rivalry with and hatred of their beloved tribe may run deep. Their sports-themed cars, trucks, buses and even motorcycles are a magnet for support – or ridicule – and they don’t care, because they love their team.
The vehicle styles, much like their fan owners, run the gamut from kitschy to classy. On one end of the scale are those vehicles – usually older – that look as though they were put together by several friends with a 12-pack in a buddy’s garage on a Sunday afternoon during their team’s bye week. Usually it’s an old pickup truck, sedan, or bus, and there’s bound to be a football helmet or possibly mascot securely fastened to the roof or hood, a paint scheme produced with numerous cans of spray paint in team colors, and undoubtedly team logos plastered all over the place. Classy? Who cares? It’s all about having some fun and helping the team win on game day.
Then there are those vehicles that are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Sporting custom paint jobs and professional graphics, these newer vehicles could just as easily be driven by a committed fan as they could the team owner. A lot of time, planning, and dollars are poured into these sports-themed cars and trucks, so let’s hope it’s a winning season and that everyone who has to ride in these vehicles continues rooting for the same team.
In addition to being very committed to their team and secure in their choice, fans driving these sports-themed vehicle also have to be polite and respectful drivers. Certainly they don’t want to sully their team’s or fellow fans’ reputations with discourteous driving displays, and besides – everyone sees them driving around town and knows who they are. There’s no going incognito when you’re behind the wheel of a pickup sporting a Packer green and gold paint job with a helmet in the center of the roof.
Not everyone can be or wants to be a super fan. For the rest of us, we can still display our allegiance in more subtle ways, whether in the garage or on the road , maybe with a themed license plate frame or even team-branded steering wheel cover. You can show your team colors, without being afraid to drive your vehicle to an away game, or embarrassing your children.
Check out these videos we stumbled upon for more super-fandom:
Here’s to the super fans and the vehicles they drive, and to your favorite team winning.
Editor’s note: When you need to show more team spirit, Advance Auto Parts has the accessories you need. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.
For this installment, our favorite neighborhood mechanic talks through Toyota’s colossal contribution to the full-size truck market.
If you had told a pickup truck driver in the mid 1970s or ‘80s that Toyota would one day introduce a full-size pickup in the U.S. that would compete with the “traditional” full-size pickup brands—Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and GMC—they probably would have laughed you out of the room. And if you’d also told them that just such a truck would be produced in Texas—where bigger is always better, particularly when it comes to pickups, and hats—they would have known you were crazy for sure. Toyota, after all, was better known then for its gas-sipping, compact cars, as well as its compact Tacoma and mid-size T100 pickups.
Fast forward to 2013 when the full-size Toyota Tundra was the sixth best-selling pickup in America. My how times, attitudes, and even Toyota trucks, have changed.
First introduced in the U.S. in 1999 as a 2000 model year to replace the T100, Toyota’s Tundra was named Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year in both 2000 and 2008. The first-generation Tundras spanned from 1999 to 2006, and with the availability of a 4.7-liter V-8 producing 245 horsepower, were viewed by the industry as the first real foreign threat to the domestic full-size pickup truck market. Tundra’s image among hardcore pickup enthusiasts, however, was still that of a smaller, slightly car-like pickup that wasn’t really up to competing with full-size American pickups just yet, particularly in the area of towing capacity.
That all changed with the second generation, a slightly larger Tundra introduced in 2006 with an available 5.7-liter V-8 engine, towing capacity of 10,000-plus pounds and payload capacity of more than a ton. To illustrate the 2015 Tundra’s towing capacity, since that is such an important consideration for pickup owners, Toyota highlights the 2015 Tundra’s powerful stats in reviewing its latest model online.
“381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, a 6-speed automatic transmission, plus a standard Tow Package with added engine and transmission oil coolers equal heavy-duty towing capability. Add Double Overhead Cams (DOHC), a 32-valve head design and Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing, and you get a drivetrain that can tow a space shuttle.”
And yeah, it really did tow a space shuttle.
With an MSRP starting at $29,020, the 2015 Tundra backs up its powerful persona with design features that make it a truck suitable for work, play and family. Tundra’s high-tech and driver friendly. Consider the Limited Premium Package with an illuminated entry system and front and rear sonar that help drivers park. Also available on the 2015 model year is a dizzying array of available interior packages and custom features, such as the Entune™ Multimedia Bundle, consisting of an AM/FM/CD player with MP3 capability, 6.1-inch touch-screen display, auxiliary jack, USB 2.0 port, iPod connectivity, control, and hands-free phone capability.
The Tundra is particularly well-known and lauded for its passenger-friendly cab. A recent review by Edmunds described the Tundra CrewMax’s interior as “enormous, featuring excellent legroom and a rear seat that not only slides but reclines as well.”
When you can move and recline a rear truck seat – that’s a lot of room.
Cab configurations for the newest Tundra include a regular cab, Double Cab with four, forward-hinged doors, and the previously mentioned CrewMax with even more room and four doors. Either a six-and-a-half-foot bed or an eight-foot bed are available with the regular and Double Cab models, while the only bed option available with the CrewMax model is a five-and-a-half-foot bed.
One potential downside with the Tundra is its lower fuel economy, which is EPA estimated at 15 and 19 MPG for 2015. But, with the recent trend in lower gas prices, that fuel economy might not be as big a concern as it once was for many drivers.
And while we’re talking numbers, consider this not-so-well-known fact—Tundra wasn’t always named Tundra. When it was first introduced, the Tundra’s “concept” or “show” truck models were named the Toyota T150. Sound like another pickup truck you might be familiar with? Yeah, Ford thought so too, and threatened to sue Toyota unless the name was changed.
Given Toyota trucks’ enduring popularity in the U.S. – first with the T100 and Tacoma, along with the Tundra’s more recent introduction – parts for the Tundra, or any Toyota truck for that matter, are widely available and offer endless options for just about anything you want to do to your Toyota truck, whether new or old-school.
My favorite part about the 2015 Tundra, however, just might be Toyota’s creativity in naming several available colors, including “blue ribbon metallic,” “sunset bronze mica,” or my favorite—”attitude black metallic.” I wonder how that’s different from just plain old black, which is also an available color, minus the “plain old” descriptors of course.
Editor’s note: Whether you’re customizing or cleaning your Tundra, Advance Auto Parts has a top selection of parts and supplies. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.
Don’t make winter any harder than it has to be – on yourself or your vehicle. To keep your car running reliably this winter, spend a little time on preventive maintenance before that chill in the air turns into a polar vortex.
Here’s a checklist of 10 important maintenance items to take care of now, so your vehicle can take care of you later. While you may be familiar with several, there may be some surprises on the list.
1. Radiator cap – while it’s a simple and inexpensive part, the radiator cap plays a critically important role in your heating and cooling system – not the least of which is keeping the antifreeze in your vehicle, where it should be. A leaking radiator cap can cause the engine to overheat and allow antifreeze to leak, neither of which are good scenarios for winter-weather driving. Take a close look around the radiator cap for signs of leaking fluid. To be on the safe side, if the vehicle radiator cap is several years old, replace it with a new one. The five or six bucks you may invest are well worth the peace of mind and performance you get in return. There is a lot more information available about a radiator cap’s importance.
2. Thermostat – another inexpensive, yet critically important component of your vehicle heating and cooling system is the thermostat. If it’s not functioning properly, you might find yourself without heat. That’s because thermostats can fail, particularly if the coolant hasn’t been changed regularly and corrosion has appeared. Change the thermostat, and change your odds having a warm interior all winter long.
3. Undercar – your vehicle ground clearance could decrease this winter, but only because the road surface might be rising up to meet you in the form of snow drifts or boulder-like chunks of snow and ice. Take a quick look under your car and search for any loose plastic panels related to aerodynamics that might have come loose and are dangling, as well as any exhaust system parts that look like they’re hanging particularly low.
4. Tire Pressure – temperatures aren’t the only thing going down in winter. For every 10-degree drop in air pressure, it’s estimated that tire pressure decreases by one pound. In a tire that’s only supposed to hold 35 pounds of pressure, colder temperatures can translate to a significant tire-pressure deficit. Underinflated tires wear faster, hurt fuel economy, and can reduce handling and traction. Check them with a tire pressure gauge.
5. Headlights – even if they haven’t burned out, it may be time to replace them. Did you know that headlight bulbs dim over time? Couple that with the haze that may have developed on your plastic headlight covers and you could be driving with significantly less light, and reduced down road vision. Change your headlights and restore your headlight covers, and see further.
6. Oil – if you’re not using synthetic oil, consider switching. It flows more freely at lower temperatures, making for easier starts and less engine wear.
7. Tire Tread Depth – tires that are showing their age with the telltale sign of little to no remaining tread depth aren’t a good way to head into winter. Tires are your first line of defense when it comes to gaining traction in snow and ice, and worn tires make that job harder. Take a minute to measure your tire tread depth.
8. Windshield deicer – decrease the amount of time you’re out in the cold, trying to scrape your windshield, and increase your visibility with windshield deicer. To see clearly, you need an ice-free windshield, and this is the quickest way to get it.
9. Antifreeze – not only will it help prevent heating and cooling system corrosion in every season, antifreeze also protects your engine in frigid temperatures, if it’s at the proper level and strength. And that’s not all. Having the proper level of antifreeze is a must have if you want the level of heat you’ve come to expect.
10. Emergency Kit – even a new or well-maintained vehicle can experience trouble, and if it does let you down, you should be prepared with an emergency kit to help see you through in case you’re stranded for a few minutes or even a few hours.
As an experienced driver and quite possibly someone who’s pretty seasoned at working on their own vehicle, you’re probably already familiar with the usual suspects that can cause winter driving problems. Even so, it doesn’t hurt for a quick review of your battery and windshield wipers as the final step in your winter driving preparation checklist.
Chances are, you and your vehicle will get through winter just fine. All it takes is a little time and commitment in the garage now, instead of wishing you had later on.
Editor’s note: Drive safe and warm this winter with parts and accessories from Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store, in 30 minutes.
Why do so many people like newer cars with retro styling? Maybe it’s because the vehicle in question is part of a great memory they have. It could also be that the original vehicle had an impressive reputation for good looks or performance and today’s buyers are hoping to recapture those attributes with the modern model. Whatever the reasons, vehicle manufacturers seem to like these retro styles as much as drivers do, particularly when they hit on a winning combination that results in soaring sales.
In the first installment of Top Vehicles with Retro Styling,we looked at several models whose looks borrowed heavily from their ancestors. Since there’s no shortage of retro-styled vehicles that are new today or that debuted within the last several years, we decided to examine a few more.
Chevy HHR – the acronym stands for “Heritage High Roof.” Chevy’s HHR was available in model years 2005 through 2011, and if it looks strikingly familiar, it’s probably because you’re thinking about Chrysler’s PT Cruiser. According to a review in Popular Mechanics, the HHR was also designed by the PT Cruiser’s designer after he and an auto industry executive both left GM for Chrysler. On its “discontinued vehicle page,” Chevy touts the HHR’s best-in-class fuel economy at 32 mpg, resulting in more than 500 miles between fill ups. For a retro wagon like the HHR, one would expect Chevy to be highlighting the HHR’s retro good looks or other appealing features instead of staid fuel mileage.
Chevy SSR – Chevy was obviously having a “thing” in naming its retro models with three-letter acronyms back in the early 2000s. Their Super Sport Roadster supposedly took its looks from a 1950’s-era Chevy pickup. It featured a folding hard top and tonneau cover, weighed in at nearly two-and-a-half tons and was powered by an eight-cylinder, 300 horsepower engine. The SSR was available from 2003 to 2006. Sadly, or gloriously, depending on your view, it was included on Time magazine’s list of The 50 Worst Cars of All Time.
Plymouth Prowler – From 1997 through 2001, the Prowler was the baddest looking vehicle on new car dealers’ lots. Less than 12,000 were sold throughout all the model years and there were none produced for the 1998 model year. While the Prowler drew rave reviews for its radical looks and nod to 1950’s-era hot rodding, it drew an equally strong criticism for being powered by a measly V-6. The Prowler was Plymouth’s last new model before the brand disappeared altogether, and it too made Time’s list of The 50 Worst Cars of All Time.
Pontiac GTO – This one’s a bit of an oddball. If you’re going to name a car after a hardcore, ever-popular muscle car from the ‘60s, shouldn’t that new retro car at least look a little like its proud papa? Yeah, someone forgot to mention that to Pontiac, and therein lies the biggest disappointment with the 2004-2006 GTO – it looks like an unassuming family sedan. Surprisingly, underneath that sleepy exterior was a 350-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 and a six-speed manual transmission. But as we all know, when it comes to cars, looks do matter.
Dodge Challenger – Unlike the folks over at GM with their GTO, when Chrysler introduced the “new” Challenger in 2008, they embraced the Dodge Challenger’s original muscle-car-good-lucks from the 1970 through 1974 model years. From the hood scoops to the front grill and four headlights, the new Challengers look decidedly similar to their old-school counterparts. Those street-tough looks are backed up by some serious power in the Challenger’s top-of-the-line model that features a 6.4-liter V-8 and 470 horsepower.
Given the public’s love affair with retro-styled new vehicles, the aforementioned models most certainly won’t be the last that we see appearing on the showroom floor. Who knows? In another 50 years, maybe we’ll see a new, retro-styled Tesla Model S that borrows some from the original looks sported by its ancient ancestor.
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Are we in love with the car, or our memories?
What is it about cars and nostalgia? Why do so many of our most vivid or cherished memories include a vehicle playing a starring or supporting role?
For me, those important vehicles and memories include a 1974 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon, 1978 Mercury Zephyr, and my all-time favorite – a four door, five-speed, sunroof-equipped 1985 BMW 318i.
The work I did on all those vehicles is part of the memories each holds. The Zephyr in particular was my guinea pig. I remember replacing the starter, dashboard, back seat, radio, radiator, and a number of other parts through the years, all of which helped me build my mechanical knowledge and confidence.
A number of modern vehicles can trigger a drive down memory lane simply because they look like their iconic predecessors. Here are five on my list of contemporary vehicles with retro styling – in no particular order. What have I left off the list? What’s your favorite, and more importantly, why? I’ll explore five more in an upcoming installment.
The 2015 Mustang comes with the model’s first ever EcoBoost® engine – a 2.3-liter power plant delivering 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. For the really performance-minded driver, the GT model features a 5.0 liter V-8 churning out 435 HP and 400 pound-feet of torque. This iconic sports car’s first model in 1964 pales in comparison when it comes to power as its 170 cubic-inch engine only cranked out 156 pound-feet of torque. And, it’s angular retro looks are nothing to sneeze at.
Ford’s more than four million Thunderbirds went through many different looks through the years. The 1955 debut saw classic lines and a hard-top or convertible version while the sixth generation from 1972 to 1976 model years were boxy and big, making this version the largest Thunderbird Ford had ever produced. The eleventh generation, from 2002 to 2005, would be its last and saw a return to a more classic look, similar to the earliest model years.
Seven generations of Chargers brought us from those first intimidating, wide-nose models of the ‘60s and ‘70s, through the embarrassingly compact fifth generation in the 80s, full circle to the sixth and seventh generations, available from ’06 through today. That evolution saw a return to looks that are more in line with those first Chargers, from the taillights to the hood and side panels.
Debuting with the 1967 model as a competitor to Ford’s Mustang, four generations of Camaros prowled the streets until production ended in 2002, only to see the model revived for the 2010 model year with generation five. With today’s MSRP of $75,000, 505 HP, and a seven-liter V8, the 2015 Camaro Z-28 bears some resemblance to those first Camaros in looks only.
The Beetle or “People’s Car” translated from the German “Volkswagen,” was officially called the “Type 1” when production began in 1938. Today, Volkswagen refers to its latest Bug model as, “a sleek twist on an iconic shape.” Out of all the retro-styled vehicles, the Beetle might bear the closest resemblance to its first ancestor.
A few of the cars on the list went through some “changes” or “growing pains” that left them looking nothing like their much-loved predecessors for several years before they came back around to today’s popular styles. The Ford Mustang is a case in point.
Those 80’s and 90’s-era Mustangs, for me at least, don’t conjure up memories of the tough-looking Mustangs I remember from the 60’s and 70’s. They were Mustangs in name only, unlike today’s Mustangs that look mean, powerful and menacing, just like their brothers from those first two decades of Mustang production.
Retro styling’s popularity could also be attributed to the timeless nature of certain style elements. Much the way some antiques, whether furniture or paintings, retain their value and popularity because of their classic style elements, perhaps the same can be said for certain classic vehicle lines and characteristics?
Or, maybe nostalgia and elements that never go out of style don’t have anything to do with retro styling’s popularity today. For some drivers, it could be that the vehicle’s good looks and solid reputation, built over several decades, leads them to equate today’s models with their popular classic ancestors. The Chevy Camaro has always conjured up the image of a street-savvy, aggressive performer, never straying too far from its original looks, even with the latest model.
Whatever the reason for our love affairs with cars, history and retro styling, two things are for sure – what’s old will someday be new again, and no one’s clamoring for a 2016 reintroduction of Mercury’s Zephyr, including me.
Editor’s note: Whether you’re restoring an original classic or working on vehicle based on a classic, Advance Auto Parts has the parts and tools you need. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.
I love my wife. I love my kids. But I really love working in my garage. It’s the one place in my house that’s truly mine. Some people go to the office on a Saturday morning for peace and quiet. Some go to nature. I go to my garage.
In the movie Old School, Will Ferrell jokes about having a “big” weekend planned – accompanying his new bride to Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond. In another scene, he’s under the hood of “The Red Dragon” – a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am — removing the restrictor plate, getting his hands dirty, and beaming with pride when his wife remarks how loud it sounds.
Like Mr. Ferrell, given the choice, that’s where I’d rather be — in the driveway or in the garage, under the hood, doing some car maintenance.
Working in my garage is bigger than just me being a home mechanic, fixing something or improving it, even though that’s all it may look like to the casual observer. It’s the sense of satisfaction and well-being I derive through that work, in that place – my garage.
It’s knowing that I helped my neighbor replace the universal joint on his 15-year-old F150 when he got laid off and couldn’t afford to have the work done anywhere else. It’s knowing that my wife’s Town & Country minivan is going to start — even on the coldest mornings — when she turns the key at the crack of dawn and heads off to work. And it’s knowing that this home mechanic can walk into his garage, blindfolded or in the dark, and still put his hands on the tool he needs because everything has a place and is exactly where it should be.
That’s what my garage means to me. That’s why it’s my sanctuary — my very own man cave. I don’t get to spend nearly as much time as I’d like to there, making those few weekend hours I am there doing car maintenance that much more meaningful and important to my mental health.
I don’t spend a lot of time hanging out at my local parts counter. Sure, they’re nice enough and I like to hear about what my fellow home mechanics are working on and trade advice, but instead of sitting on a stool waiting for parts to be delivered or located, I’d rather be back in my garage, getting it done, and feeling good about doing it myself.
That’s one reason I jumped on the online parts ordering bandwagon early on. Ordering online and picking up in-store, or receiving them at my home liberates me from wondering and hoping the parts I want will be in stock and available when I need them. I don’t want to spend what little free time I have on a weekend searching for parts – that’s one aspect of being a home mechanic and tireless DIYer that I don’t like.
That’s also why my garage is well organized. I don’t want to waste time searching for tools when that time could be better spent actually using those tools. The key, I think, is to have a spot for everything, and to label it so you can put it back. Look into wall cabinets, rolling tool cabinets, or tool chests and decide what’s going to work best for you. In addition to being functional, my idea of the ideal garage is also one that looks good. I covered my entire garage floor with these interlocking tiles. Now it’s easier on my feet and knees, looks better, and stays cleaner.
As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. That’s why I’m headed back to the garage, that is, as soon as we get back from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It’s all about balance.
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