Man Gas is Expensive

So we are up something like a buck thirty per gallon  from this time last year. The commute to my new job has knocked a few MPG off what I used to get. In the Vibe I used to do 33-34 most of the time, but I have been getting more like 30. This is the worst I have consistently gotten. With gas prices crazy high I have been doing some mild hypermiling and cutting my expressway speed down to 60 or 65. At my fill up this morning I calculated 33.6mpg for the tank. Not too bad. Continue reading

Garmin 3790T

A while back I posted that I won a new GPS. Well it finally came and I have had a while to play with it and give some feedback. I am going to spare you from an in depth review because there are already a ton of them out there. We also don’t use it very often. It gets pulled out for times when we are going someplace new or on multi-hour trips.

Visually is is nice, it looks like a smart phone, simple and black. The interface is fast and the larger screen is nice. I used to have a Garmin 250W and it was nice, but didn’t have many features. I wouldn’t have paid for extra features, or at least I didn’t think I would. If/when I have to replace this unit it may be a tough call. Continue reading

A better Yakima fit tool

If you have bikes, boats, skis, or a bunch of cargo a roof rack is often the best way to carry it. The problem is that it can be confusing. Depending on your car you have to figure out what hardware you need and if you can even put a rack on your car.

Yakima has a cool iterative fit guide, but it is flash based and really aimed at selling the things that attach to the rack on the car you already have. I like to use the Dealer Fit Tool. It is much quicker than the regular guide and gives you all the measurements and even pictures for most cars. It also allows you to see options for older Yakima hardware, and can tell you what you can carry.

Most cars only have minor changes most years and big updates every few years. The Dealer tool groups the years so you can help narrow down options. For example: the Chevy Malibu 1997-2004 only has 25″ between the bars, which isn’t enough (in my opinion)  for a canoe.  However, the 2004-2007 and the 2008-2011 models both have 32″ between the bars, so they could work. It can also tell you quickly that the 2008-2011 models are rated for 25 more pounds than previous models so my be better if you want to carry two canoes.

Random Auto Musings

Living in SE Michigan the Auto Industry is everywhere. I pass by a few plants each day. One of those is scheduled to close. Lately things appear to be a mixed bag.

Bob Lutz left GM and then came back as the head of Marketing. I thought this was a bad idea. Lutz appears as pompous and crazy. On the Colbert Report he said he didn't believe in man made global warming. Recently he boasted that he could beat any production sedan in a CTS-V. The awesome auto blog Jalopnik took him up on it and it turned into a pretty good publicity stunt. Lutz lost to a kid in a BMW M3, but a few GM ringers beat the BMW. But hey no press is bad press. I heard an interview with Lutz on NPR about it.

Ford announced today that they are actually making a profit. I wonder when GM or Chrysler/Fiat will be able to do that. Though Ford was also hit with the unions voting down concessions today.

Ford has a great lineup. I never though I would even consider buying a car with a blue oval on it, but they now have a few models I really like and would consider. The Flex, Fusion, Fiesta, and new Taurus are all great cars. If they brought the Euro spec Focus over that would be awesome too.

Snow Tires

After thinking about it for a couple years we finally took the plunge this year. The All Season Tires on the Vibe are worn to the point that they are fine for summer, but weren't quite making the cut. I will put them back on and then in spring of 2010 we will get new tires and probably rims. As far as cost goes they are only a couple dollars more then regular all seasons and you spread wear out between two sets of tires. Extra costs come from getting them swapped a couple times a year which will run you $50 total a year. That price can be mitigated if you get a second set of rims and swap them yourself (which I plan to do). Most people get steel wheels, but we already have steel wheels, we will get nicer rims for the summer tires. Another way to look at it is: what is the price of your deductible and increased insurance rates from an accident? A few extra bucks for two sets starts to look nice.

After looking at the whole range of options I settled on “winter performance” tires. They have a winter compound that stays softer in colder temps and have treads to deal with ice and slush more then feet of powder. They still work better in powder then an all season tire though. Reviews are difficult because the lines change every year and who puts multiple sets of snow tires on in exactly the same conditions? I was able to get an idea from and some magazine/newspaper reviews. The best article I found was this one.

After looking at the range of options I had it narrowed down to a couple options and then availability decided on which of the two. I ended up getting Yokohama Ice Gaurd IG20's. I called Discount Tire and asked about price matching because I found them online for about $15 less a tire then they were advertising, and asked if I needed to bring anything in with the price and they guy said that I could do that or they could look it up online from the store. When I went in I told the guy the tire I wanted and that I saw it for this price and he just said “we can do that.” Lesson learned, I am glad I didn't pre-buy them buy them online.

I have had them for a few weeks now and am really happy. Before I went to get them I did some informal stopping distance testing with the regular tires. Our side streets were plowed, but still mostly covered in snow and ice. It was basically go 25mph and hit the brakes when I pass the tree. With the snow tires I was stopping in about 60-70% of the distance of the all seasons. I also had the old tires and 3 stores worth of groceries in the car. We got a snow day before break and about 10″ of snow. I just had to take them out. I went down the street and back with some sliding around the culdesac, but it worked out fine. On the slush and ice covered roads they worked great. At highway speeds they are a little squidgy.

We will see how they handle the rest of the winter and how many seasons they will last. I am hoping for 4 seasons, but they wear quicker then all seasons, especially on dry pavement.

Save all of us.

This is a scary time and I have held my tongue about the auto bailout because so many other people seem to be making sense. The problem is they don't make decisions. I saw this at Jalopnik and though that it was pretty cool.

This is a map of manufacturing sites for the Detriot 3 Automakers. It does not even count the suppliers.

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