Joe Sherlock was an old school auto blogger, who stubbornly refused to adopt RSS and other newfangled methods. He had a long history with cars and often had interesting things to say. I enjoyed reading him. RIP. http://www.joesherlock.com/blog.html
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
I wonder if all the people who plunked down pre-order on the Model 3 realize that the car is about the size of a Chevrolet Cruze sedan, and a little bigger than a Focus?
Tesla 3: 14cu ft cargo volume, 184" OAL,
Cheverolet Cruze: 14.8 cu ft trunk, 183" OAL
BMW 3-series: 11 cu ft trunk, 181" OAL
Friday, July 10, 2015
Uber has been under a lot of scrutiny for its practices lately, including a California labor dispute in which Uber was found to be an employer.
Uber maintains that it is a "platform" which arranges rides between customers and drivers.
The problem I have with this claim is that Uber has very strict rules about who can use its platform to be a driver. Some examples:
- Cars must be newer than certain years (depends on market)
- Cars must be safety inspected above and beyond local registration requirements
- Drivers must pass background checks, including driving records
- Drivers are not allowed to carry firearms
- Drivers must be 21 years old (older than legal adult age of 18)
At what point does this list of requirements tip the scales from "platform" to "employer"?
Monday, April 06, 2015
Suppose you want a basic, American, old school work truck. Something to get around town, move some supplies, but you don't need a ton of gadgets, and you want it cheap.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Chevrolet offers their Colorado mid-sized pickup in an extended cab, long bed, manual transmission, vinyl floor covering trim that MSRPs for only $21,000. Which means with some negotiating skills, or perhaps your GM loyalty discount, you can get a olde tyme pick-up truck for about $20,000.
Also, impressive for this price, Chevy still gives you A/C, a color LCD radio display with USB port, plus all of the federal safety goodies: traction control, stability control, multiple airbags, etc.
The most basic Ford truck comes in at $25,000 for a regular cab short bed, with automatic transmission (no manual offered).
The simplest Ram truck is the, Ram 1500 Tradesman, which runs $26,000 for a regular cab short bed 4x2, automatic transmission only.
Sunday, February 01, 2015
If you are using TaxAct software, and you try to import a TurboTax PDF return from the prior year as a starting point, it will fail. This is because TaxAct does not like long file names!
The error I got was "PDF import is down for maintenance, please try again in a few minutes".
In fact it works fine. Just copy your long file name PDF to somethign short, e.g. "2013.pdf", and use that. This is a bug that TaxAct tech support confirmed for me when I called to ask about it.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
The Lemur BlueDriver is an OBD-II scan tool which uses your bluetooth enabled device (Android or iOS phone or tablet) as a display. It has two components: a small dongle which attaches to your vehicles diagnostic port, and a free app which you download.
Setup was quick and painless. I plugged the BlueDriver module into my car's diagnostic port. The unit showed a blue LED, which indicates it has power and is searching for a bluetooth connection. I opened the BlueDriver app on my phone, and it quickly found the module and paired with it.
To test the code reading and clearing functions, I opened my hood and disconnected the intake air temp sensor (IAT). The engine stumbled and shook. After a rough restart, the MIL came on. After a short time, the Lemur app notified me that the MIL was on, and that there was one DTC.
However, when clicked on the code, it did not offer any details. Instead, I had to purchase a "repair report", which unlocks more information about a problem than just the DTC number. 5 free repair reports come with the app; after that, you need to buy them at a cost of $0.99/5 reports. I found this annoying. If someone paid $100 for the tool, the trouble code details should come free. On the other hand, once you have the DTC number, it is easy to search on the internet for detailed information.
It was easy to clear the MIL and code.
Lemur also comes with a basic display for OBD-II PIDs, which lets you chart in real time (well, about a 1s update frequency) a number of useful signals such as fuel trim, O2 sensor signals, etc. You can select which PIDs to show, and they are shown stacked vertically on the screen in different colors. If you cick on one, you get a single large dial style display, which updates with the current value.
This is useful for basic troubleshooting, but it would have been nice to have more display options, for example raw values on a grid, or multiple signals on a single axis. I also did not see any way to use a data logger type function, which would allow you to save and download long recordings of real time data.
- Easy to connect (important!)
- Attractive, easy to use GUI
- Unobtrusive (for most cars) dongle
- Only basic PID display options
- No recording / download function
- Detailed repair reports are $0.99/5 after first 5 are consumed.
In conclusion, the Lemur BlueDriver is a solid tool for basic OBD-II diagnostic functions. You are paying for solid hardware which will connect reliably with the Lemur app. If you want a data recorder, customizable gauge displays, and other enhancements, you will need to use something like the Torque app, and one of the many OBD dongles which may or may not work properly with it.
Whatever tool you choose, some sort of OBD scanner is a must for any DIY mechanic. Just one successful use will pay for the cost of the tool, when many dealers will charge a $75 or more diagnostic fee.
*Note: Lemur provided me a free evaluation unit to review. No other compensation was received for this review.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
I had the chance to do a short test-drive of a Fiesta ST. I had a chance to drive it on the freeway and flog it on some surface roads and in a large parking lot.
The Fiesta ST is very good at some things: accelerating, braking, turning. It is a razor sharp little missile. However, there are some significant trade-offs and omissions in the ergonomics and controls department.
- Awesome powertrain. Powerful, sounds great. Lots of torque. This car really moves.
- Lots of lateral grip, sharp reflexes.
- Smooth shifter action.
- Excellent brakes, good feel and stopping power.
- Comfortable and grippy sport seats. Nice steering wheel.
- Well weighted steering which firms up nicely at speed. Car felt solid at high speeds, and was easy to steer in parking lots.
- Good fuel economy--I saw 41 on freeway and 29 flogging it on surface roads
- Sharp looking little car, the Fusion family front end looks properly mean and sporty.
- Jittery ride at highway speeds--seems to heave a lot. Not fun to drive at 70mph on less than smooth highways. Significant road noise at higher speeds.
- You feel every bump, crack, and ripple in the pavement. Michigan's cracked up roads are torture.
- MyFord Touch does not control climate system, instead the lower right panel shows you the date.
- Annoying up-shift indicator. In a top-of-the line sports model, I would assume the guy will figure out how to shift.
- Hard plastic center armrest, ouch. For the top-end model, Ford should have spent the extra few dollars and installed a padded center arm rest.
- Rear visibility, rearview mirror looks down for taller drivers.
Conclusion: The Fiesta ST is an efficient and fun little road carver--if you have good roads. I would not buy this car for a daily commuter in SE MI, the roads are just too rough for the suspension tune. In a place with good, smooth roads, it would be much more pleasant. This is a car for someone who values high performance at a modest price, and isn't as concerned with creature comforts.
I was't able to get high quality images of the bright red car I drove, but here are some images I stole from Ford's web site:
Friday, August 01, 2014
Paul Elio is on a mission to produce a very lightweight (1250lb target) three wheel car, sort of a low-cost Aptera type thing, based on "off the shelf" tech and suppliers.
I have been watching his effort develop, and it is impressive how far Elio has come, considering how difficult it is to bring something to market.
There is a nagging question hanging over the Elio: capital. In order to actually produce the trike, Elio Motors must raise a huge pile of money. They need money for development, testing, tooling, certification, etc. They need to hire and train many more employees. They need to build many prototypes to hammer out durability, crashworthiness, quality.
The problem is, after many obvious auto startup failures such as Fisker, Saab 2.0, Aptera, and even struggles of established players such as Smart, Suzuki, or Mitsubishi, investors are cautious about the automotive sector.
Investors are asking themselves, even if Elio can deliver, will people buy this weird three wheel vehicle, which is legally a motorcycle in the eyes of the DOT and most states? Will the safety claims play out? Will it have enough refinement and comfort for a mass market?
Elio Motors can't fund their launch selling t-shirts and $1000 reservations. Elio needs hundreds of millions of dollars. Where will they get it?
I read with interest recently that a substantial number of Tesla S owners are getting their drive units (electric motor + gearbox) replaced by Tesla due to premature failure. The early symptom of the failure is an audible gear noise which Tesla techs call "milling". Edmunds and Motor Trend both had their cars fail in this way.
According to a Tesla Motors Club poll, here, 77 members have had their drive units replaced once, and an astounding 15 have had them replaced more than once.
How bad is this?
It is hard to estimate because we don't know how many cars form the total sample for the poll. Tesla Motors Club indicates 17,995 registered members, while total Model S sales in the U.S. are around 28,000 units (39,163 globally).
So let's play with the numbers a little.
Assume all members of the forum own Tesla Model S:
92 failures / 17,994 Tesla Motor Club members = 5.1 failures/1000
Assume all failures were reported in poll (seems unlikely):
92 / 28,000 U.S. sales = 3.3 failures/1000
Assume forum represents 5% of all Tesla owners (I saw this mentioned on InsideEVs.com):
92 failures * 20 / 39,163 = 47 failures /1000
In the auto business, a major component failure rate north of 5/1000 units is considered a major quality issue, and anything approaching 47 is a complete disaster.
If, for example, the 2013 Toyota Camry had a similar rate of transmission failures, somewhere between 5-47/1000, that would translate into repairs of between 2040 and 19,000 transmissions! At the top end of that scale, likely a recall.
In other words, the "milling" issue is a major quality issue for Tesla. I am sure they have their engineers and suppliers pounding away at it, coming up with design fixes to reduce the occurrence of this.
Monday, May 19, 2014
The FTC has come out in favor of direct auto sales to consumers. When asked for comment by a New Jersey legislator, FTC staff responded with a statement which suggested that banning direct automotive sales is anti-competitive and bad for consumers.
This is dangerous ground for the Obama administration, as the auto dealers are a powerful lobbying group, and quite a few dealers have unionized shops.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Fiat has taken full ownership of Chrysler, and the combined entity will be called Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), and will be headquartered (for tax purposes) in the UK, not Italy. With that, the "Big 3" are now the "Big 2", as GM and Ford are the only remaining American owned major auto makers. (Sorry Tesla, you don't count yet, come back when you make over 100,000 cars/year)
I see some bruised feelings all around. Auburn Hills is once again second fiddle. Italy loses Fiat's corporate registration. And the "A" in FCA lost its cross bar for some reason.
Monday, January 20, 2014
They don't want to call it a recall, but, NHTSA does. And that's the law.
Of course, this is for faulty charger pigtails, and not battery road damage induced fires.
Monday, January 13, 2014
I'm trying to absorb Ford's marketing for the just revealed 2015 F150. The most significant new feature, of course, is the aluminum body (fenders, hood, cab, doors, and cargo box). Ford keeps calling the aluminum ally "military grade", but I'm not sure what that means. It may just mean that the alloy they chose for the truck (something in the 6000 series) has an official U.S. military specification.
Ford's job, of course, is to convince the guys in Texas that the new truck will be as tough and durable as the steel truck. I think the up-coming webisodes about durability testing will go a long way towards that.