Q&A from a Reader: 46 Questions Answered

Happy Friday, all.

I recently had a loyal subscriber to the blog send me a list of questions that he’s been wondering about, and I have addressed each of them below.  Maybe some of you will find it interesting.  Feel free to share any feedback, comments, or similar perspectives!

ADVICE:

– Your best maintenance advice?  Change your oil regularly, inflate tires regularly, rotate tires?

Oil changes, air filters, spark plugs, transmission fluid services – those are the basics.  I recently compiled paperwork for a car that has had 87 oil changes in 130,000 miles. That comes out to an oil change every 1,500 miles or so.  Probably excessive, but definitely good attention to detail.  I stick to every 3,000 miles on my older cars that run conventional oil, and between 7,000 and 9,000 miles on my newest car which runs 0W30 synthetic.

– Thoughts about dealer maintenance vs. a la carte maintenance (e.g., Jiffy Lube)?  Dealers seem more expensive but is it better when selling to have a maintenance record from a dealer?

Because the labor rate is cheaper (dealer roughly $140+ per hour) at most side mechanics, I prefer to use a dedicated Honda / Acura specialist for larger ticket items like timing belt & water pump changes every 90,000 miles, and the dealership for only small or less expensive things like oil changes.  The source of a maintenance record is not as important as the existence of one.  Even a handwritten ledger of do-it-yourself mileage & oil change intervals is valuable.

– Thoughts about 30,000 mile service, 60,000 mile service at the dealer?  For $250-$350, they only check items on a list.  It’s usually much cheaper to do items separately (oil change, brake pads, timing belt, air filters).  But will that negatively impact a sale of the car?

I don’t think there’s any “all-in-one” 30k, 60k type service because each vehicle will operate on different intervals.  But I like the idea of packaging things up in a comprehensive checklist because that way the level of detail is usually higher than cherry-picking just a few items to inspect or address.

– Car washing advice?  We have hard water in Arizona; washing at home with a hose can leave water spots.  But an automatic car wash has dangerous rollers that can damage paint.  Recommended soaps?  Recommended washing cloths or brushes?  Recommended drying cloths? (For me personally, chamois cloth was very popular in the 1990s; it was horrible to use, with constant wringing.)

Meguiar’s for car wash soaps, soft cloths for scrubbing, and microfiber towels for drying off.  I don’t use automatic car washes with rollers, but I do go to the coin-op self-serve wash (example, Weiss on 12th St & Maryland in Phoenix) to use the high-pressure gun especially when I have lots of bugs, grit, or mud that a garden hose at the house won’t clean off.

– Wax advice?  Wax on or wax off?  Carnuba wax only?  Wax by hand or okay to use an electric buffer?  Leave on for 5 minutes or 30 minutes?  How often?

I used to have an interval of waxing my car every 6 months with Meguiar’s carnauba paste wax.  But now that most of my cars are driven only infrequently and usually don’t see rain or harsh elements, every couple of years is about what they get.  Let the wax haze (15 minutes) and then remove by hand with a microfiber towel.  Always do it in the shade, never direct sunlight.

– Windshield wax?  (When I lived in Ohio, I used Rain-X on the windshield and it was a dream come true!  I don’t use it in Arizona ‘cuz it rarely rains)

I love Rain-X.  Absolutely.

– Better to park with the trunk facing the sun?  (That’s what I do; less direct sun on interior)

I find myself doing that, too.  Park facing away from the sun, and still use a collapsible windshield shade.

– Dashboard mats worth getting?  (For those of us oldsters, dashboards used to crack from the heat and sun; almost every Phoenician in the 1990s had a DashMat [their headquarters are in Sunnyslope].  But I hear that today’s cars do not need these mats; dashboards last longer.)

I don’t use a Dashmat but I can definitely see the value.  One of the problems with a Dashmat (at least with the ones that I’ve seen) is that they attach with Velcro strips that you have to glue to your dash.  That glue turns to goop over the years and becomes a sticky (and sometimes permanent) mess.

– My #1 complaint:  foggy windshields from offgassing of vinyl.  What do you suggest for cleaning the film?  (Windex causes streaks; I’ve tried ammonia and newspaper; I’ve tried microfiber cloths.).  Plus, how do you clean the film from the other windows that likely have window tint?

I use Sprayway ammonia-free glass cleaner.  It comes in a white colored aerosol can with blue lettering and is available at most grocery stores.  Use with microfiber.  Agree, the residue is a challenge.  For tinted windows – the same.  Never use an ammonia-based window cleaner as it will discolor the tint over time.

– Crack a window in the sun/heat or is it unsafe?

I crack a window an inch or so, and sometimes the sunroof too.

– Leave windows down in the garage at night?  (I use my re-circulation button a lot to keep out dust & smells when driving; a friend advised me to turn off the recirc button at night so that the car could breathe, which I’ve done; but now I crack my windows in my garage to allow air flow)

No, I leave the windows up usually.  One thing I do whenever I park a car is hit the “OFF” button to turn off all HVAC operation.  I was told once that it lessens the “load” on an engine when you start it back up if the A/C doesn’t kick in automatically.  Makes sense.

CARS:

– What was your dream car as a kid?  (I used to dream about Corvette Stingrays [with the side fins] in the late 1970s)

I was never one to lust over Ferraris and Lamborghinis.  I had my sights set on more obtainable cars like the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4.

– If you were super rich, what is your dream car today?

I’d buy a mint condition 1950 Buick Special like the one my grandpa owned in 1954 that was driven on his honeymoon with my grandmother.  Nice ones are approaching six-figure pricetags.

– What was your first car owned?

I was given a free 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity CL when I turned 16.  It was a hand-me-down.

– Who taught you to drive?  Did you learn 5-speed first?

My dad taught me to drive on a 1994 Ford Ranger 5-speed pickup.  We went to a remote area near the Utah-Arizona state line outside St. George and drove around on some dirt roads.  My younger brother, a year younger than I, learned at the same time.

– Have you taught anyone to drive?

Yes, I taught my friend Justin to drive a stick shift once.  We did that in my Acura ILX in an empty parking lot near the ASU Tempe campus.

– Do you use cruise control or are you 100% foot powered?

Definitely cruise control on longer stretches.  Usually about 6-8 mph over the posted limit.

– Do you use GPS or paper maps or do you use your intuition?

I used to print volumes of maps on MapQuest and similar sites.  Then I started relying on a Garmin GPS unit.  Now I primarily just use my phone, but I still like having a big traditional paper road atlas in the car with me.

– Your fastest speed (that you will admit to) and where and when?

I drove a 2017 Acura NSX at 155 miles per hour on a closed track in Cantil, California at Honda’s hot-weather proving ground in December 2017.  It was a thrilling experience.

– Do you engine brake on steep hills?

Yes, especially when coming down grades like Pikes Peak in Colorado (July 2018).  My brake temperatures were measured as the lowest of my group of cars at that time because I was effectively using engine braking.

– Do you use a parking brake when parked?  (You probably do if it’s a 5-speed; I ask because my parents drove automatic cars and put the parking brake on every time they parked)

I only use a parking brake when I’m driving a stick shift, but I really should do it in automatics too.

– Thoughts on bumper stickers?  (I’ve heard that parents should always apply their kid’s “student of the month” bumper stickers, but do stickers do a lot of damage in the hot Phoenix sun [fading, melted glue?]?)

Nah, no stickers for me.

INSIDE THE CAR:

– Your favorite snacks when traveling?

Starbucks vanilla frappaccino bottled beverage or Monster “Mean Bean” energy drink.  Rice Krispy treats, Swedish fish, goldfish crackers or other cheesy snacks.  Lunchables too.

– Your worst spill story?  Giant Big Gulp all over?

Last weekend, I was eating a hot dog from a gas station in Kingman while driving.  I dribbled ketchup and mustard all over my shirt and my seatbelt.  I had no napkins and didn’t feel like stopping, so I took off a shoe and used a black sock to clean it up until I got home and could do a more thorough job.

– Do you control the music when you have a passenger and you are doing all the driving?

Yes, on longer trips I usually let the playlist roll on random from my 15,000-song, 80-gig iPod Classic.

– If you get sleepy?

I typically don’t have problems with this as I don’t travel at night if I can avoid it.  In 2007 I hit 2 deer in Texas because I couldn’t see them.  So I try driving in the daytime now.  But those energy drinks (see above) usually keep me awake and alert.

– Are there items you bring on every trip? (gallon of water, blanket, flashlight, flares?)

Full size spare tire, phone and charger, A/C power inverter, sunglasses, and a pillow to put between the front seats and rest my right elbow on.

LOCATIONS:

– Top 5 favorite drives?  Road conditions plus views

– Top 5 favorite beautiful places?

  • Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory

  • Glacier National Park, Montana

  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

  • Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

  • Big Sur, California

– Have you ever slammed the brakes because the view was amazing?

Yes, I stopped right in the middle of the road a few times on my Alaska trip in 2016.

– Over-rated places? (The Thing?, Yosemite?)

Most national parks are sadly getting overcrowded and overrun with tourists.  I’d rather explore a desolate ghost town and be the only person there.

– Worst traffic? (I vote for soul-sucking Boston!!!)

Los Angeles.  Hate the traffic every time I go there.

– Worst places visited?

Memphis.  I didn’t like the vibe or the humidity.  Maybe because I got lost in a bad part of town in the middle of the night in my early 20’s.

– How many states have you visited?

37.  I’m missing most of New England and a few other areas.

HORROR STORIES:

– Speeding tickets?  How many?  Any advice for getting out of them?

A couple, which isn’t too bad considering my miles driven.  I also was pulled over on Interstate 10 many years ago and my car was searched for drugs.  I got a red-light ticket once from a motorcycle cop for failing to stop while making a right on red.  Went to traffic school for that one.

– Radar traps?  Do you use a radar detector?  (They were all the rage in the 1990s)

No, since I tend to drive within 8 or so MPH of the limit this isn’t really a problem or a need.  I’m also skeptical about their effectiveness.  (Haven’t you already been “caught” when it sounds?)

– Run out of gas?  What was the farthest you had to walk to get gas?

I’ve actually never had this happen.  I travel on the top ½ of my tank usually.

– Dust storm story?

Typical Arizona monsoon storms, but nothing specific comes to mind.

– Hail storm story?

Worst hail I experienced wasn’t even while I was driving.  It was while I was at the office and Scottsdale got a horrendous storm.  Even though my car was in the parking garage, because it was on an end space it sustained damage from sideways hail to the passenger side.

– Snow storm story?

One time, when I was a student at Utah State University in Logan, Utah in 2004, I took a short drive up Logan Canyon.  At one point I decided to turn around, but didn’t realize that the snow on the shoulder of the road was a lot deeper than it looked.  My car sank to its axles and I had to call for help – luckily I had a phone and a signal.

– Slid off the road?  Or stuck in mud or sand?

A few years ago, I was at Four Corners and stopped at the Colorado welcome sign to take a picture with my car (of course).  I didn’t realize it was deep sand right at the base of the sign.  I got hopelessly stuck.  Luckily for me, a guy in a GMC Yukon drove by and saw me struggling, so he stopped and pulled me out with some chains.

– # of flat tires?

I’ve never had to stop on the roadside and change a tire, miraculously.  I did have a tire go flat overnight in a hotel parking lot once.

– # of tows?

Two, and both were for fuel pump failures.  Once in my 399,000 mile 1994 Acura Legend and once in my 72,000 mile 1992 Acura Integra.

– Overheated or car broke down in the middle of nowhere?

Just the above mentioned tow on the 1992 Integra.  I was in Nevada along I-15 and rode with the tow truck driver into Las Vegas after limping the car along to a gas station.

– How many people have you helped change a tire?

Zero

– How many hitchhikers have you picked up?

Two, at the same time.  My friend Matt and I were driving to Las Vegas and we saw some guys broken down on Highway 93 between Wickenburg and Wikieup, so we stopped to see if we could help.  They ended up catching a ride with us to Kingman where they rented a vehicle.

8 Responses to “Q&A from a Reader: 46 Questions Answered”

  1. I enjoyed reading through your answers to this. I’ve written down those top five drives and top five scenic spots to add to my “must see” list for my blog.

    I thought I’d give a couple of my own answers to the questions:

    Thoughts about dealer maintenance vs. a la carte maintenance (e.g., Jiffy Lube)? Dealers seem more expensive but is it better when selling to have a maintenance record from a dealer: Dealer for routine maintenance, and I have a very good independent mechanic for big ticket repair items. Then again, sometimes the dealer will surprise you. When I needed the lower ball joints replaced a few weeks ago, the dealer (that I’ve used for many years) waived the diagnostic fee and also gave me a discount. It ended up being cheaper than the independent mechanic would have been. Stay away from quick lube places. I’ve got stories.

    Car wash advice: Meguiar’s for everything (except leather care- Griot’s for that). I prefer to hand wash, but during the winters I take my care to a mechanical car wash at least 2x a month (road salt is the #1 enemy of vehicles in the northeast).

    Dream car as a kid: Lamborghini Countach (in red, just like Sideswipe in the G1 Transformers).

    First Car: G2 Honda Accord hatchback. In blue.

    Favorite in-car snack: Wawa Coffee- and if you don’t know what Wawa is, I’m not sure we can continue this conversation. 😉

    Slid off the road: No, no, and no. Nokian Tires, for the win.

    If you get sleepy: Find a hotel or motel and stop for the night. Ain’t nothing in my life important enough to make me risk falling asleep at the wheel.

    • I think we need to find you a blue G2 Accord hatchback to re-live some of your memories as a new driver! I’ll start keeping eyes and ears open. Thanks for sending me your responses to these. I think somehow it would be cool for people to be able to read your complete list of answers. Have a great weekend!

  2. I know someone in the New England area with plenty of Acura’s (and an S2000!) with your name ALL over them. Chop chop!

  3. I’m going to screen cap those two Top 5 categories for when I’m out west next month!

  4. Great responses here! “Better keep my distance…never know when Tyson’s going to suddenly stop” is a thought I had while we were in Alaska. Haha!

    • I know, seriously. Watch for brake lights if you’re following me. If you’re lucky I might give a warning with a comment on the two-way radio. You just never know when you’re going to creep up on something Instagram worthy.

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