Long-Term Test, 2000 Ford F-250: Road Tripper


After dropping a good amount of money on maintenance and fixing up little problems, my bank account and I both were ready for a break.  It was time to stop nurturing Dixie (my truck), and start enjoying the ride.  Despite skyrocketing diesel prices, I threw my normally frugal nature to the wind and stretched the PowerStroke’s legs on a few road trips.  The first was a mundane drive up to San Francisco for Chinese New Year.  The trip revealed a lot of things on the truck that really could use improving, most of them coming from behind the cab.  For one, I found that the fifth wheel hitch was really hogging way too much space.  I had a 6′ 9″ bed that couldn’t haul much more than my Accord could.  Adding insult to injury was the fact that the bed light was rendered useless by the tonneau cover, not that it helped much in the first place.

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Review: 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5SL


My dad and I are suckers for family vehicles.  We love the practicality of vans and large sedans alike.  For years now, I’ve begged him to buy a Civic or a Prius.  Even now as an empty nester, he refuses to budge, citing the fact that these vehicles are simply too small and uncomfortable.  So we both eagerly awaited the new 2012 Camry, only to be bitterly disappointed by the odd looking taillights and lackluster overall design.  Similar sadness ensued when Honda released official pictures of the 2013 Accord.  That’s when we decided to journey the 5 minutes over to our local Nissan dealer, hoping the Altima would do something for us.  Julio Ng at Serramonte Nissan was glad to show us the demo model they had – a decently loaded 2.5SL, albeit without navigation built-in.

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Obscure Maintenance: Secret Warranties


The complexity of modern cars is becoming a conundrum for manufacturers. Often, the factory support team sees recurring problems that are hard to diagnose but easy to fix. Dealer technicians hate this because they only get paid a fixed rate for performing a repair. Both the dealership and the technician are paid nothing by headquarters for diagnosing warranty repairs. How, then, does a corporation like Ford ensure that their warranties are being honored by their dealers, when nobody is paid to diagnose a problem?

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Stupid Technology: Variable Cylinder Management (VCM)


Continuing our Stupid Technology series, aiming to help consumers wade through the long list of tech options on new cars, we will examine Variable Cylinder Management (“VCM”) from Honda.  This technology helps save fuel by turning off certain cylinders under light load conditions.  To judge VCM’s success, I would use three criteria: 1) has it been widely adopted?, 2) does it achieve its goal?, and 3) does it do #2 without any major adverse side effects?  Honda’s VCM system manages to fail on all three counts.  Read on to find out why!

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Preview: 2013 Honda Accord


Oh Honda…how far you have slipped.  Back in your heyday, you sold 2001 and 2002 Honda Accords at a record pace, giving it the title of best-selling car in the United States.  But alas, after producing a 2003 model that wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and following it up with a bloated and uninspired 2008 model, the tables have turned.  Maybe it was the tsunami, or maybe people really hated that daggum Accord, but in the entire year of 2011, you only sold 235,625 Accords in total.  Sounds like a lot, but the Camry put the smackdown on you with 308,510 sales.  Even the Altima and Fusion beat you, and the new Sonata almost caught you with 225,961 examples sold!

But this domination will carry on no longer.  Someone at Honda decided it is time to rally back, and they’re pitching the newly released 2013 Accord as your saving grace.  ”Wait, really?” you ask yourself as you glance at an exterior that looks much like last year’s model.  Haven’t you ever been told that beauty is only skin deep?  Read on to find out what’s so special about this mundane looking sedan.

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Comparison Test: 2012 Chevrolet Silverado vs. 2011 Ford F-150

Silverado comparison

Recently, Jerry and I had the opportunity to drive a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado on a short road trip (600 miles or so in total). It was a middle of the road LT model, with power locks/windows but manual climate control and basic wheels/audio system.  The 2wd drivetrain was a 302HP 4.8L V8 mated to a 4-speed auto with selectabe tow/haul mode. Jerry and I both came to the same opinion of the truck, but I decided to write the review since I could compare it with a newer F-150 at work. Read on to find out whether the bowtie or the blue oval wins this battle!

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Forbidden Fruit: Luxgen5


If you’ve just come out from under a rock, you might be surprised to learn that Chinese carmakers now sell cars in Europe and South America, not to mention many parts of Asia.  Their cheap price-of-entry and simple design makes them desirable in developing regions where purse strings are tight.  Unfortunately, they have not made much headway in more affluent countries like the United States, where spotty safety equipment/design and dismal emissions have kept the Chinese in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.  Then, in a shocking move at the height of a world-wide recession, a small Taiwanese auto-maker and -importer launched the Luxgen brand.  Recently, Luxgen caught my eye with their new Luxgen5 sedan – perhaps the first Asian car that I would buy (outside of Japanese and Korean automakers).  Why?  Read on to find out!

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Downsizing: BMW Does It Right


BMW USA has started replacing its naturally aspirated 3.0L I-6 engine with a new 2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder mill. The engine, internally known as the N20, will be offered first in the Z4 sDrive28i roadster, and make its way into the 328i, 528i, and X3 models. It is unclear whether there will be a 728i offered, although it seems very unlikely – a 4 cylinder has never been offered in a European flagship in the US before.

Such a move is seen as blasphemy among many within the car community. BMW’s cult following will undoubtedly lament the loss of their legendary 3.0L inline-six. Its silky smooth nature, paired with its linear power delivery and sonorous exhaust note, made it a benchmark engine that many other automakers strived to emulate. Why is BMW moving away from such a wonderful engine and going back in time to the unloved 318i of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s?

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Stupid Technology: EcoBoost engines


With consumers driving demand for high-tech cars, it can be daunting to sort through the list of innovations that.  Many of the new technologies, like Bluetooth hands-free technology, has been well received industry-wide.  Others are just costly, useless inventions with fluffy names that consumers will likely regret buying.  This series is for consumers who are tired of doing research, and just want someone to tell them what not to waste money on.  The first part of this series concentrates on reduced displacement, turbocharged engines.  Ford in particular has concentrated on EcoBoost technology – using a smaller engine with a turbocharger.  This is said to provide relatively high levels of power while providing great fuel economy.  However, some EcoBoost engines are part of the options list, costing lots of extra money.  Nonetheless, others seem to believe in this method, with Chevrolet, Hyundai, Audi, BMW and Dodge all introducing their own versions of smaller, turbocharged engines.  However, that doesn’t mean that EcoBoost is a runaway success.

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Obscure Maintenance: Cooling System

The white residue indicates that the coolant has boiled over - this can be caused by a faulty $5 radiator cap or bad coolant overflow tank.

With a hot summer rapidly approaching, you might start to see ads about preparing your car’s cooling system.  I used to think these ads were totally bunk.  I mean, the cooling system is so simple, just add air and it should work just fine!  However, after I got my diesel pickup, I started to realize that there is much more to it.  Luckily, maintaining the cooling system on your vehicle is not only easy, but also the best investment you will ever make.  After all, it is most likely to fail under very inhospitable conditions – why would you risk it?

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