Preparing your summer toys for winter storage.Once
again, as fall winds down towards the short days of winter and much
colder temperatures, it is time to store away that classic or summer
recreational vehicle. The effort you expend into properly storing your
recreational vehicles and classic cars over the next few months will
pay large dividends when the thaw of spring and the warmth of the
returning sun urges you to begin outside enjoyment once again. Most of
these suggestions are easily available and not very expensive,
but they can be cheap insurance against the cold and also against
future maintenance problems. These procedures could also apply to
storage of your snow blower, roto-tiller, string trimmer, and chainsaw
or back-up generator at other times during the year, when long-term
storage will occur.*Leave the tank half-full and add stabilizer. Straight gas without ethanol can use the red-coloured fuel stabilizer. A fuel
stabilizer should also be used in the tank, red stabilizer for pure gas
and blue for any E85 or E15 pump gas to diminish the corrosive nature
of the ethanol. Anything with carburetors should have their petcocks shut off and the engine run until the carburetor is empty.
oil – Your best bet here is to remove the dipstick and wipe a small
quantity on a white towel. Is it still yellowish? Is it still
transparent? If the oil is creamy or has a lot of air bubbles, there
could be anti-freeze or water in the oil indicating a much larger
problem. Condensation is a common problem with engines that sit for
long periods of time, but that dampness does not usually get into the
oil. Is there metal particulate in suspension? Can you smell gasoline
in it? If it looks dirty or smells like gas, it would be a good idea to
change the oil before storage.*Tires
–. Tire pressures should be checked to rule out any concerns with
air leaks. It is a good idea to write the pressures on each tire at
time of storage with a tire crayon. These can be used as a reference
point in the spring and as an indicator of possible future tire
– one final wash and application of wax will keep the car from
accumulating dust while being stored, even if the car is covered. The
car should be totally dry from its last wash before it is covered with
a breathable cloth cover. Crack a door or vent window slightly to
prevent humidity accumulating in the interior while the car is covered.
– Old-school refillable batteries should be topped off with deionized
or distilled water. New sealed batteries will not need any additional
maintenance. For either style of battery, adding a protective coating
to the terminals will prevent corrosion during storage. Many classic
car enthusiasts also add a battery shut-off to the charging system to
prevent parasitic power draw from powered accessories, such as radios
and clocks. Removal of the battery is not necessary, however, an
alternative would be to invest in an automatic trickle charger that you
can leave attached to the battery throughout the year. Most trickle
chargers today are designed for 6-or 12-volts and maintain the
batteries by charging them at between 500 milliamps and 3 amps for
short periods of time. The charger senses when the battery is at full
charge and shuts off automatically. The automatic shut-off prevents
batteries from overcharging or leaking acid out of the old-school
vented caps. Many of the smaller amp-rated chargers also come with a
“leave-it-on” adapter you can permanently attach to the battery posts,
making the hook-up much easier to accomplish when needed.
is dangerous in all forms when it is compressed. Many laptop owners has
found this out as their batteries, minute in size and capable of
operating times of up to many hours, have set themselves on fire from
time to time.
Hybrid cars have been known to burn
themselves down to the ground and when an accident occurs,
rescue crews and firemen approach the tremendous energy stored
in hybrid batteries with great caution, knowing how much
potential damage they can represent.
A stick of dynamite, a gallon of
gasoline, a tank of liquefied natural gas and/or hydrogen,
all these compressed forms of energy can bite back very hard if they are
Years ago, the local fire department invited
me to a demonstration. It seemed that they were being called
to more and more truck fires and the cause had been hard to find.
However, it seems that most trucks
at that time, had their high powered batteries stored under
the drivers seat, with a cover on top. Over time, the cover got misplaced
and the springs in the seat sagged until they shorted out
Maybe that's where the idea of heated
seats started out, but the ensuing blaze was not funny
in the least.
The demonstration I observed consisted
of throwing an old drivers' seat onto the top of a battery
and retiring. Within seconds, the wire in the
seat glowed bright red and within a minute or so, the seat
was turned into ashes.
So this winter, some of you
will probably get involved in the jump starting of another
dangers of treating your battery with the contempt it
doesn't deserve can be catastrophic.
easy way out is a call to the CAA, but there are always circumstances
where you are beyond reach and help is needed immediately.
Since using jumper cables incorrectly can be
dangerous, follow these steps precisely.
With a car to serve as a boosting car.
the two cars -- the dead car and the boosting car -- as close as possible to one
another, without touching.
- Make sure both cars' engines are turned off, and both cars are in park, and/or handbrake on.
the red jumper cable (i.e. the positive cable) to the dead car's
positive battery terminal, which is marked with a "+." Make sure that
the clamp is firmly connected to the battery.
- Clamp the other
end of the red jumper cable to the booster car's positive battery
terminal, also marked with a "+." Make sure that the clamp is firmly
connected to the battery.
- Clamp the black jumper cable (i.e. the
negative cable) to the booster car's negative battery terminal, which
is marked with a " - ". Make sure that the clamp is firmly connected to
- Clamp the other end of the black jumper cable to a
bare, metal surface on the engine of the dead car. This can be a bolt or
a screw. This provides grounding for the jump start.
- Ensure that the jumper cables are not touching any engine parts.
- Start the booster car's engine and let it idle for a few minutes.
- Start the dead car's engine and let it idle for a few minutes.
carefully disconnect the black jumper cable from the once-stalled
engine. Then disconnect the black jumper cable from the booster car.
- Remove the red jumper cable from the booster car. Then remove the red jumper cable from the once-stalled car.
the dead car will turn over, but still won't start, the injection
system is probably flooded. The last resort, is pushing the gas pedal
to the floor, which tells the computer to cut off fuel flow, then try
again. If that doesn't work, it's time to tow the car. There are no
more screwdrivers in the carburetor techniques, except on vintage cars
and they are probably all alredy asleep for the winter.
My first car.
Machines that have possessed
the last three generations of humans will never let us go.
I speak, of course, of the automobile
and the computer. With each generation they control us more.
generation, of the 1930s, cars and professional mechanics were
still few and far between, having just shaken off the threat of the man
with a red flag to walk in front. A large percentage of the
first car owners were amateur mechanics, they had to be.
If a car malfunctioned and
stopped, as they frequently did, the car could not fix itself.
If a car stopped running, the owner was
his own mechanic.
That wasn’t so horrible at
the time. You didn’t have to be a genius to take an engine apart and put
it back together.
wizards of the car factories
back then kept adding improvements to the automobile – headlights,
brakes that worked, even radios playing Bing Crosby hits – but no cup
holders, not for a while. Today, a person can’t drive without cup
Fortunately, there were no
smart phones then nor any drivers stupid enough to be texting.
As the years went by, cars
acquired extraordinary advancements. Today, few among us can cure a sick
automobile. One day we awoke and realized we were at the mercy of modern
cars. And now, self-driving cars are on the horizon. (It’s time to scream.)
The best we could hope for
today is that we know how to turn a key or push a button and listen to the
engine sing. We are indentured servants of the machines that almost own our souls.
But it gets worse. The Commodore and the Apple IIE arrived
Computers are a godsend to
people who type for a living – writers, secretaries, scholars, business
people, even texting if you are dumb enough to type while driving.
In fact, a computer is to
a writer or a secretary the equivalent of a power saw or a nail gun for a carpenter.
a computer is like an electronic committee of wise people who sit
there finding countless nuggets of knowledge. Virtually
need to know in any line of work or play is at your fingertips.Just as automobiles eventually
took charge of us, we now have a world of dominant computers that stifle
the minds of normal people. Computers and jargon-spouting techies now rule
our lives and our bruised brains.
I say to you, my fellow
victims of complicated machines, forget your silly paranoia about
pretty boys running the country, huge meteors in the sky and half-baked
the left and to the right, bureaucrats that want to take your car away
or condemn you to a silent, and utterly boring battery car and take a
few more runs up that curvy piece of two lane hard top on a nice day
and, at this time of year, admire the fall colours.
Someday it may all be beyond your reach, but for now..................
How self-driving cars could easily turn into a nightmare
year is now 2050. It seems like only yesterday that I read the news about
the recall of millions of cars after a group of cyber enthusiasts
proved they could hack into the “safety-critical” systems: code for the
important stuff that slows you down or steers you away from death.
thought that would spell the end for driverless vehicles. Imagine being
locked inside your car and taken for a terminal joyride into the side
of a building. But the transition of control to non-human hands was
done so gradually that we have hardly noticed it.
vehicles seemed innocent enough until new drivers stopped learning how
to park for themselves – why bother? The three-point turn was the
next driving skill that was lost.
lies the self-fulfilling prophecy of safety. The more “driver aids” you
add to a car, the less engaged and less safe the driver becomes,
necessitating further aids and so on, until finally you have complete
automation and the driving test is a relic of the past.
Heralded as the greatest breakthrough in car safety since the stop
sign, anti-lock braking systems were designed to enable drivers to
steer during emergency braking situations. However, the negatives
outweighed the positives.
from the minor fright that accompanies the n oise of a skidding tyre, drivers followed
each other more closely and braked later for corners under the mistaken
belief that the brakes were more effective with a computer in charge.
They weren’t, but ABS stayed.
Then the car manufacturers joined the tech giants in race for driverless cars
car manufacturers replaced hydraulic powered steering with electric. As
any top chef will tell you, a hot soup might burn your mouth, so it’s
better to test the temperature using your finger, which is less
sensitive. Electric power steering makes the road feel so numb that
it’s like driving with your elbows.
of this was before I became obsolete, of course. I remember putting one
through its paces and suddenly discovering that I was departing the
asphalt and heading for a tree. In the old days a gentle judder from
wheel would have signalled the loss of grip before my eyeballs turned
into saucers, but not in this car with electric steering.
here in 2050, I can peer through my Google glasses at the Barista serving me my
cortado and automatically filter his Facebook profile; his lifestyle
montage proves too intimidating for me to strike up a conversation, so
I take my coffee “to go”.
walk everywhere in the city now because traffic is worse than ever. Who
needs parking spaces when you can send your driverless car around the
block while you do your shopping? And commuting distances have doubled,
with vehicle occupants happy to zone out in their pleasure booths,
watching movies or working themselves to death, seemingly losing track
In 2050, how do driverless cars work?
new model has no windshield at all, offering instead a curved 3D TV.
Our simply evolved brains still struggle to adjust to this wobbling
paradise, but the added screen time is apparently worth the gut rot.
for the driverless taxis, we now call them “Johnny Cabs”, like in the movie
Total Recall. But it’s not because of the smiling buffoon behind the
imaginary steering wheel, but because Johnnies litter the floor; there
are no inhibitions aboard a driverless carriage.
Google introduced the first self-driving cars in 2015, they were limited little
devices, but with no human controls such as a steering wheel or brake
pedal to override the robot at the helm they set the precedent and
served as the perfect Trojan horse.
cute robo-cars did only 25mph, and consequently developed an enviable
near-zero death rate, other than by boredom. The safety lobby licked
its lips and used this as “evidence” to spell out the doom facing those
souls with the temerity to insist on driving themselves. These selfish
egotists were a danger to the robotic order and had to be saved from
cars found support among environmentalists, too, because linking
vehicles together on a motorway using radar and Wifi reduced the energy
and fuel wasted by individuals slowing down and speeding up. Occupants
could put their feet up, read a book and sip lattes while the robots
synced together like a daisy chain.
Now, cars are outsmarting their drivers
carmakers needed sales to stay afloat, whereas Apple and the other tech
companies making driverless machines did not. With account balances
bigger than those of most Western governments and countless entertainment
products on the peripheral market, they could afford to run a loss
leader. They undercut the entire insurance sector by self-insuring
their machines and within a year the cost of insuring a self-driver
went through the roof.
a result, this is the last year I’ll be able to afford to run my car: a
classic Porsche 944 that’s been retro-fitted with an
electric motor. It goes like stink and saves the planet but, like me,
it’s a dinosaur.
fit me up with some virtual reality goggles, plug me into a mobility
chariot and make me an obese non-thinker like the creatures in Wall-E.
I feel certain that the purveyors of all this technology have my best
interests at heart, and are not simply interested in harvesting my
personal data and knowing my every thought and movement for commercial
exploitation. Giving away my personal freedom seems a small price to
pay for the enhanced customer service I will receive.
Bill Gatesremarked on the subject of Artificial Intelligence: “I don’t
know why so many people are not the least bit concerned.”
As the song goes,
"The Autumn leaves drift past my
window, the autumn leaves of red
What the song fails to mention, however, is that those autumn leaves
drifting past your window and straight into the air intake
on your car.
At this time of year,
many strange things happen, but
the most common is a huge build up
of Fall debris under the hood of your
car, usually right
in front of the windshield and
right on top of the air intake.
Many cars now have
a built in cabin filter to keep
dust and pollen from entering the cabin,
but autumn leaves will block that
filter really fast
as soon as the fan starts and some
of these filters are difficult
to replace and expensive to buy.
So you really need
to check for leaves and twigs
and heaven knows what else under
the hood of your car at least once a
week at this time of year.
While you're there
you could, of course, also check
the engine oil and all other fluid
At this time of year,
many people go fishing, or hunting,
or just hiking to admire the fall
left his SUV for a week and when
he got back, he started the air
conditioner, only to be bombarded by
a hail storm of sunflower
seeds. Some mice had discovered
his intake system and started
to store their whole winter supply
of food in there.
In another case I
know of, hikers got started
back to civilization, only to have
their engine almost immediately over heat
expire in a large
cloud of steam. Apparently, racoons
like the taste of rubber. It
seems to have a slightly salty taste, and
had chewed through
all the water hoses down at
the bottom of the radiator.
If it's possible
to park in a protected space while
you're away enjoying natures' bounty,
all well and good.
If not, a careful
check of your vehicle before you
drive away is a very good plan.
In one case I know of,
a vintage BMW came in for
repair and the owner said the tech manual
was in the glove
car had been in storage in a barn
over the winter. When I opened up
the glove compartment, I found
a shredded tech manual,
all neatly wound up into the
dearest little mouse nest you ever
The debris falling
from trees combined with wild
animals that need to store food for
winter can play havoc with cars and trucks
of all kinds.
A top notch security
system will not stop a squirrel
for more than a few moments. If he
wants in, he'll get in and he may find
your upholstery just
what he needs for reinforcing
his nest in the tree next door.
Keep an eye open
and be aware that this is the most
dangerous time for outside natural
forces to interfere with your vehicles,
ability to run smoothly
and reliably during the winter
attempt to overcome disc brake rust. That is not working out too well.
People always find it incredible that discs that
were new only eighteen months ago are now beyond repair.
The problem, as always, is rust build up in
the centre of the disc that stops the cooling
fins from pumping air, causing the
discs to overheat and therefore, to distort.
Machining such discs does very little good,
since this does not remove the rust in the centre
of the disc fins and now the steel
is thinner and without any cooling, even more
susceptible to warpage, which causes severe brake
It's quite likely that in a dry, always warm,
atmosphere as we find in Arizona, for example, discs
will last longer, but from Fargo to Chicago
to Montreal, wherever ice melting rock salt
is used, brake systems take a real beating from
Fortunately, the cost of high quality discs
has been substantially reduced and now the cost of a new
disc, on the average
new car, is not much more than the cost of technician
time on a lathe to machine the old ones.
I've always wondered if other, non rusting
materials, could not be found, although I know
that stainless steel is not an option, due to
its' galling tendency. It is a very difficult
material to machine properly and it's obvious
that its metallurgical characteristics disqualify
it for use as a friction surface.
Now, finally, the high tech ceramic discs have
started to become noticed and although I may never
see it happen, the non rusting,
"lifetime warranted" disc may be on the horizon.
Carbon-ceramic brakes have built a glamorous
reputation in Formula One racing, creating
vivid images of discs glowing red
during hard braking at the end of long straightaways.
Their high cost limited them to exotic performance
cars. But carbon-ceramic brakes are now available
on cars priced
as low as 60,000 euros (about US$80,000 at
current exchange rates). And a new manufacturing
process could make them
affordable for even budget-minded enthusiasts.
In the meantime, coated brake rotors are starting to show up on aftermarket
shelves. Costing 10% more than regular high grade
bare metal rotors, they are coated with zinc to extend their life.
But this isn't working out as well as could be expected.
The experience at my erstwhile garage is that these coatings tend to flake
off and embed themselves in the brake pads.
This produces the most incredible squealing noise that we first experienced
years ago, when asbestos was banned as a brake material.
It turns out that this misguided bureaucratic maneuver was not necessary
and has caused terrible problems in the automotive industry.
For the time being our advice is to save a few bucks and opt for regular
uncoated rotors when brake repairs are required.
The coated disc story is not yet over. Maybe some day..............
Last week we took a long run from Montreal to Midland Ontario, and
onto the Township of Tiny (Yes, it really exists) on Georgian Bay.
A distance each way of more than 700 Kms.
On the way out, we were fortunate enough to find Highways 401 and 400
running well with very few hold ups.
However, we noted on-going repaving activity on the 401 and a 2-lane
section of 400 that were both causing major traffic back ups .
So on the return journey, we took the slower route over the top of
Lake Simcoe and highways 12 and 35 to join 401 at Port Hope.
All this to say that I had an opportunity to run some fuel economy
tests on the car using the on board computer which updates every one minute.
Running down 35 we set the cruise at 80 km/h and the read out gave
us 4.8 litres/100 km, or 56 mpg.
Once on the 401 we cruised for a while at 100 km/h and got a readout
of 5.4 l/100km, or 48 mpg.
As traffic thinned out, we upped our cruising speed to 118 km/h and
the readout increased to 6.1 l/100km. Or 44 mpg.
At the border with Quebec we filled up with "cheap" Ontario gas and
the range readout said we could go for another 760 kilometers before needing
another fill up.
Ironically, we passed a couple of Teslas on the way back on the 401
and they were both going at about 90 km/h in the right lane along with the
old Tercels and Cavaliers.
Obviously someone was trying to squeeze a bit more range out of the
battery, but what an anxiety inducing way to drive long distance.
In fact, a Tesla based in Toronto cannot get to Montreal without a
long lay over in Kingston to recharge.
That over hyped initial sprint to 100 km/h. is long gone.
A Tesla costs four times more than a well equipped Mazda3 and is obviously
a pathetic long distance car.
By comparison, the Mazda is quite capable of producing Prius style
fuel economy and comfortable, quiet long distance running.
You'd have to be an econazi, or stupidly rich to want to buy a Tesla
for cross country travel.