car tuning

14 Nov 2007

Hesitant drivers.

These really wind me up and are a complete nightmare. They are a danger to themselves and all that they encounter. The typical profile goes something like this:-

  1. They will not pull out onto a main road if they can see another car coming. (The road has to be completely empty for them!)
  2. They will start to pull out and then stop halfway causing an obstruction or overhanging part of the main road.
  3. They will see you coming on the main road, wait, and then pull out in front of you. Rather than picking up speed they will dribble along at a really slow pace with a long line of cars behind them.
  4. At night they will slow to a crawl if there is an oncoming car. Then when the road is clear and you have an opportunity to overtake they pull out into the center of the road!
  5. On roundabouts they will start to pull away then stop dead and will frequently have other drivers going into the back of them. (I know the other drivers are at fault but some blame must be shared by the hesistant driver who stopped for no apparent reason!)
  6. Joining the motorway the hesitant driver will park at the end of the slip lane because he hasn't taken an opportunity to pull out and wait for a long gap in the traffic.

I accept that we all make mistakes and will not admit to being perfect. On a daily commute you often encounter the same cars and when they consistantly do the same things you really start to wonder.

I wish that all drivers were retested every 5-10 years and this will help to keep driving standards focussed in peoples minds. We all pick up bad habits but I'm sure we would all be a little more studious if we knew that we were going to have to face a retest every few years. This test will also get a lot of old (incapable) drivers off the road. It is a hard thing to give up your licence, but when you face a danger to yourself and all those around you it is time to concede that it is time to hang up your driving gloves and hat and take the Bus instead.

13 Nov 2007

Cars don't like sitting around in storage.

One thing I have noticed with all of the cars I have owned is that they like it when you use them regularly. Having owned 2 cars for much of my driving career there was generally a daily runaround and a fun car for the weekends and summertime. Of all the cars I have owned as weekend only cars there were problems attributable to not using it often enough.

Silly things like corrosion acceleration where the rust seems to accelerate quicker, pipes start to split and crack and even quick deterioration of brake disks. When a car is used often it seems to keep all of these things at bay.

Tyre pressure also mysteriously decreases when a car is left standing. Fuel tanks empty. Fuel pumps fail. Doors get stiff and creaky. Electric windows seize up. Air-conditioning systems just refuse to reactivate themselves.

The list goes on and on. I can only conclude that cars are meant to be driven. Now I am running just 1 car my servicing and maintenance costs for the year are less than 30% of what they were for 2 cars.

If you are storing a car. Leave it in a dry garage with the brakes off and chock up the wheels. Running the car once a week and revving the engine to simulate road use rather than letting it idle will help to keep the car in a good condition.

6 Nov 2007

Lambswool car cleaning mitt

Torquecars members like to keep their cars looking clean and shiny. I recently splashed out and bought a lambswool mitt for cleaning my car the other day. I didn't realise that lambs had mitts!

You've probably noticed, especially in sunlight that the surface of your cars paint has swirls and scratched. Very very light scratches are actually caused by the cleaning process. The big culprit is usually the sponge that most people use.

The dirt builds up on the car and then we slap a sponge on it and rub the grit and dirt around and then wonder why it acts like sandpaper. The key is to use something that lifts the dirt away from the cars surface where it can't scratch it and this is where the lambs wool mitt comes in.


If you drop your sponge on the ground this is another opportunity for small particles of scratchy grit to get embedded in it. Also the lower down the body work the larger the grit particles so start at the top and work down the car doing the roof, windows then bonnet and boot then top half of doors and bumpers and finally the bottom quarter of the car. All the while you are moving around the car.

Nothing looks better than a clean car and making sure you have the correct tools will make all of the difference to the finish you get. If the car has already got scratches then you can improve this a little with some cutting polish. In the worst cases though the only thing you can do is get the car resprayed and look after it properly.

5 Nov 2007

Headlight bulbs

The bulb went on the Audi for the second time in a couple of weeks. That will teach me not to use a second hand replacement bulb. This though forced me to go to the shop and buy a new one.

I didn't realise there were so many to choose from. There were economy bulbs, expensive bulbs, high power bulbs, off road bulbs, bulbs with a whiter light and bulbs with a blueish light. This is starting to sound like a washing powder commercial!

To say I was confused would be an understatement, I hadn't even got to the part where I had to get a bulb which was compatible with my car yet. I decided that the blue tint didn't work - the light still looked white. I also rejected any that were not street legal because of the hassle of changing them again at MOT time. I went for some Phillips 80% brighter lights after an hours indecision reading the box and seeing what other people were buying.

I asked if this was the right bulb for my car, and was told it wasn't. When they showed me the recommended bulb I could tell it would not fit my car. So having looked at the 3 sizes available we decided between us that this was the correct one for my car.

Now came the part I always hate, paying for them. I was a little surprised that they cost so much. I could fit energy saving bulbs to my entire house for less money, and still have enough left over for a bag of chips, but I hoped that "one gets what one pays for" applies here also. I fitted the bulb, and although I brought a pair, I just replaced the defective one and left the other bulb in.

I wanted to see if the extra money was actually well spent. I turned on the lights to compare them and walked away from the car. They both seemed pretty dim to me! I had forgot to run the engine. The car only puts its sidelights on without the engine running. So back I went, started the engine and went back to my vantage point.

Was it brighter? Yes, I could clearly determine from a number of angles that the new bulb was indeed brighter! Was it 80% brighter? To be honest I haven't a clue, I might get a light meter on it sometime but visually it was brighter. Now the crunch question was it worth the small mortgage?

I had been hoping for something so bright that people would be opening their curtains and waking up in the mistaken belief it was morning. Alas this did not happen. It was just another car with its headlights on. So in conclusion it was better but probably not £30 better. Go for something better than standard bulbs but bear in mind that nothing is going to be worth more than 30% over the cost of the standard bulb.

30 Oct 2007

Reliability issues when to scrap the car.

One of the most annoying things about car ownership is unreliability. When it comes to breaking down I think I have to be a gold medal holder and got to be on first name terms with the AA recovery call center staff. This goes back to the time I owned a Rover 220 Gti, a car which I greatly loved and my first real hot hatch.

The previous owner had neglected servicing. Actually he thought servicing entails topping up the oil when the oil light comes on. Needless to say after a few weeks the engine went. I replaced this and within 200 miles the new engine had gone as well! A garage diagnosed a serious drive shaft wobble in the gearbox which I likely to have caused the engine to fail. So next time round I got the replacement engine stripped down and sources a stronger gearbox from a 220 Turbo which had a torsion diff and lower gear ratios.

Even after this I had trouble with oil leaks, and minor electrical component failures. Starter motor, rear washer, split core plug, exhaust failure due to a speed bump.

I got into the trap of throwing good money after bad in the hope that there was nothing else that could go wrong! In the end the car cost me £1000's in repair bills. It would be far simpler if there was a simple formula we could use to determine if a car is worth repairing. So here is my philosophy which I will now set in stone (or type at least)

Repair the car if:

  • The total cost of the repair is lower than 30% of the value of the car and the total mileage the car has covered is under 70,000.
  • If a car is over 7 years old and the repair cost is lower than 50% of the value of the car and the car is under 80,000 miles.
    If the car is over 15 years old and the repair costs less than 80% of its market value (we are getting into collectors car territory here.)

Do not repair the car if:

  • The mileage is over 100,000 and the repair cost will exceed 50% of the market value of the car. Or if the total cost of repairs exceed 60% of the value of the car.

Each time you repair the car deduct 50% of the cost of repair from its market value for the next calculation. (That way if a car become unreliable you will only lose a certain amount of money rather than need to finance it with a bottomless pit.)

Make a business decision and dump the car before it sucks all of your money and time and cut your losses and invest in a newer car.

29 Oct 2007

Car cleaning in the rain.

I do a fair bit of motorway driving and this results in a dense film building up over the paintwork. I also have very little time to spare and rashly promised to clean the car on Sunday as there was an unusual hole in my schedule. As with any job I approach I left it and ignored it until it started to rain. A promise is a promise so I though I'd better get on with it before it gets really heavy.

Then an idea struck me! Take the car to a car park in town and pay someone to do it for me. Sadly they had all gone home! I guess you'd be mad to clean a car in the rain! I drove to the out of town hand car wash to see them all going home. It looked like I was on my own so I drove home praying for a gap in the clouds. Sadly this never came and it just rained harder and harder.
I parked on the drive, put on a waterproof jacket and hosed down the car. The dirt seemed to lift off more easily than normal, even bird strikes just rinsed away with the hose. Next step was the shampoo, and soft sponge (*we actually recommend using a sheepskin mitt as this prevents scratching and swirling of the paintwork. See the Torquecars article on car cleaning for more cleaning tips!)

This stage went well but it was difficult to keep track of where I had and hadn't done so I did it one panel at a time and worked down the car to avoid getting grit into my wash mitt. This stage went really well also and took less time than normal. A bit of alloy wheel cleaner sprayed on the wheels and quick brush over took off all the brake dust with no scrubbing required.

In a moment of madness I decided to polish the car. It took a lot of rubbing and I used more wax than normal but I got a good coating of wax on the car. I could see streaks from the wax residue when I ran the hose over the car and decided to finish it off with a chamois leather. (It was raining so I knew I wouldn't get the car dry!) This took a good hour but the car looks fantastic now. It proves that you can clean a car in the rain, and the rain can actually help make the job easier.

The only thing to remember when cleaning a car in the rain is that no matter how much you try you will never get it dry. Thankfully though rain does not spot and leave residue like tap water so the finish is faultless and I could see the water beading and running off the car. All I need now is a sunny day to inspect my handy work.

28 Oct 2007

Clocks go back accidents go up!

The clocks went back last night. I know its not just the UK that does this and it is hailed as an important change especially for agriculture. For the motorist though this has serious implications.

With the clocks moving back an hour we are now driving home in the dark. The accident rates always increase this time of year and many experts and analyists link this with the move of the clock.

Other than the fact that we are now driving home in the dark there could be other implications for this increased accident rate. Firstly our sleep pattern is disturbed, we are now going to bed and getting up an hour later. This disruption to our body clock causes lack of concentration and other effects similar to the jet lag experienced by travellers.

Also our meal times are now shifted. For 6 months of the year our bodies get used to recieving food at a set time but with the time shift we now eat an hour earlier than our body clock is used to. This will generally mean that because we are not used to being hungry at these early times we eat less. As the afternoon progresses we start to get hungry and we either eat concentration sapping high energy foods or drive home feeling hungry with lower blood sugar levels.

It is unlikely that a mass uprising of people will refuse to move their clocks so we are stuck with this ludicrous time system that has little to recommend it just because the farmers and agricultural workers do not wish to start work earlier to take advantage of the lighter mornings!

We can though ensure we get sufficient sleep and before and after a time change we can slowly move our sleep patterns and eating times to allow for a smoother transision. With a little common sense we can breakfast later, take lunch later (eating at the end of our lunch hour instead of infront) and this may help reduce the higher incidence of accidents in the darker evenings.

25 Oct 2007

Winter is coming - I hate winter driving.

Winter is well on it's way. OK I admit it - I hate WINTER. It is cold, wet and dark. Normally I wouldn't mind but we really have not had much of a summer this year. Even my sojourn into France was filled with Dodgy damp weather. But winter has implications for the motorist.

Firstly the cold means that you windscreen will generally be steamed up. Often it will start of perfectly clear but as you pull away and start breathing it quickly becomes a solid sheet of white haze. I hate wiping the screen because it leaves smears and the more times you do this the worse it gets so I park up and rely on my in car heater. (Thankfully it is quite efficient and the screen quickly demists.)

Personally not being a morning person we have the added problem of the sheer cold temperature of the car. If you wear gloves and boots you can't feel the cars controls and a scarf and hat will obscure you view of the road to dangerous levels. Perhaps I should take up hibernation.

When you have ICE to scrape from your windscreen you may have noticed that it is proportionally thicker according to how late you are. Then when it is all removed how many of us use our washers out of habit and this freezes instantly taking you back to square one.

Then as you drive along the road you will notice the trees have been busy throwing their leaves at the road to form a surface more slippery than a greased pig on roller skates! Drive carefully.

As if this wasn't enough the sun joins this conspiracy and stays low in the sky which is a pretty lethal combination with the misty screen. This is even worse when the road is damp as the glare reflects up at you.

Then we have to contend with Snow and Ice in the Winter months. Thankfully I have located an article for winter driving tips so I suggest you read up and prepare for the worst.

23 Oct 2007

Our new car styling tips site.

I've been really busy recently with more of a work/work balance instead of the work/life balance I have been trying to achieve. I've just set up a new blog full of car pictures. If you like heavily modified show cars you'll love this. If you like to laugh at the ludicrous amounts of money people spend on their cars you will find this pure entertainment. The cars featured are hand picked and we will be fussy over what we feature but I must point out that I can still find something interesting without actually liking it!

The web address of this new site is http://www.carstylingtips.com/ and as the name suggests we are planning to run how to articles as well as providing a comprehensive library of pictures for inspiration or entertainment. In the meantime the articles on car styling at Torquecars will have to suffice.

When it comes to show cars the aim has to be to create something unique and original. Just bolting on parts which come from a regular aftermarket parts catalogue is just not going to work. The whole idea of this new site is to show what I consider to be the best examples of original show cars.

Just as art is subjective so are modified cars and certainly one mans idea of car styling differs a lot from the rest.

The guys cars we feature are all original photographs taken from shows around the UK. The question they get asked the most is why did you spend so much money on this car and not get a sports car. They will always answer that they do it for fun, and make the point that anyone can go out and get a sports car. they are driving something distinctive and unique.

New submissions are always welcome though and we will try and get 1 new picture up per day or at least 5 new feature cars per week. You are invited to add your comments although overly critical or negative comments will probably be ignored.

12 Oct 2007

Don't blame the car!

A Torquecars member recently said to me, "have you noticed what happens when a man stalls a car?"

I hadn't, but he explained that, "all men will glare at the dashboard as if to see why the car decided it will cut the engine."

Most women drivers will just restart the car without the glare but there is something in the male ego which means they cannot accept responsibility for their errors (not that men make errors!)

This got me thinking back to the days when I was chained to a desk in an insurance office and the theory holds true - it is always the car which is blamed for everything. Here are some excerpts from accident claim forms and they all have one common theme.

The car skidded on ice.
I braked and the car skidded into the other guy.
The car swerved off the road.
The car veered off the road.
The car went out of control.
I couldn't see the other car as it was obscured by my Windscreen pillar.
The cars windows were steamed up.
The car stalled.
The car pulled out.
The car hit the (wall,pedestrian, tree etc...)

I could go on all day with these but it goes to show how reluctant we are to admit blame or responsibility. The common theme in all the above scenarios was the driver was not controlling the car withing the limits of the road.

The word accident should be removed as well as this implies an unavoidable or unpredictable event. This is simply not accurate as nearly all crashes (this is what I'm going to call accidents!) could be avoided if people paid more attention to what was going on around them.

8 Oct 2007

What is it with Cool cars and uncool people?

Have you noticed how many cool cars are driven by people who frankly would not look out of place in a bus queue.

When we are talking cool we are really thinking Ferrari, Aston Martin, Maserati and other exotic cars. They are so expensive that they are out of reach for most younger drivers who have to put up with average cars. Then suddenly as they near retirement they decide to get the car they always dreamed of although they are now unable to enjoy it to its full potential.

Typically the driver is overweight, and in some kind of mid to late life crisis. The sad fact is that the car will never achieve its full potential and probably only goes out on sunny Sundays which in the UK is about 10 in a whole year. The car then pootles along at well under the speed limit.
You really should get this out of you system while you are younger and it won't look as daft and at least you'll be able to enjoy the car without fear of upsetting your back! Torquecars thought they would help by providing some assistance and help you avoid looking daft in your car choice.

The rule is as follows:-

  1. Only buy an exotic car if you still look cool in shades,
  2. do not look out of place in modern styles of clothing,
  3. can hold a conversation with a teenager and understand everything they are saying,
  4. Can read a text message without translation required
  5. you still have your hair (unless you shave your head because this looks cool - otherwise that's me counted out then!)

If you do not qualify then you can still buy a fast car but trust me - don't go for anything that draws too much attention unless you like people laughing at you. Take a standard car and modify it if you must go fast but just don't change the appearance of the car.

3 Oct 2007

Parking on hills

Today I parked on a pretty steep hill and noticed a difference between what I did and what 99% of other car drivers did. This gives me a great opportunity for a rant and a chance to re-state the patronisingly obvious that most people claim they do but the reality is somewhat different.

Firstly some background information, a car rolling down a hill will cause a lot of damage (just think back to the story of Jack and Jill!) The aim on hills, is to keep the car parked where it is, so when you return it is still in one piece. Is this just me being a bit paranoid? Well when your car has disk brakes all round as most modern cars do, they are subject to the rules of expansion as they get hot. Theoretically then, when you use your brakes a lot the disks warm up, you apply the brake pads to the surface and as the disk cools it contracts thereby loosening the grip of the pads. On a steep hill this can cause it start to roll. Hence the suggestion of what you should when parking on a hill from way back when you learnt to drive.

When parking on a hill, put the car into gear and turn the wheels into the curb or away from the curb depending on whether you are parked facing up hill or down hill. The theory is that if the handbrake fails the engine will help anchor the car and if it rolls it will roll a short way until the wheel hits the kerb and then it stops the car. The worst thing you will find returning to your car is that it has moved a couple of inches.

Now most of the cars I saw didn't bother to rotate their wheels and although I can't tell for sure most seemed to leave the gearstick in neutral.

1 Oct 2007

Sharing a car.

We all have that gut wrenching experience of sharing our beloved pride and joy with someone at some point in our lives. Here is a little insight into the problems this can cause.

The experience varies from letting a mechanic briefly drive the car for a test run, to regularly parting with the car whilst your other half, son, daughter, friend, room mate etc takes the car on a regular basis.

Nothing causes friction like the pressures caused by a communal car share arrangement. Expect arguments over the amount of fuel used, to the division of bills for wear and tear items like tyres and breaks. Then larger focused discussions occur when the car has new scratches and scrapes which in fairness could have been caused when the car was parked up.

The regular annoyances will stack up though. Drivers tend to adjust the seat, mirror (usually all 3) and even set the radio to a different station or just keep swapping the CD. Then after you have delicately set up the balance of warm/cold air jets and angled them precisely your evil NEMESIS car sharer seems to take delight in turning them to the opposite settings. After a week this will really start to grate then the tension will build and build.

Another thing that happens is that the car gets dirty and needs cleaning and hoovering. With 2 people sharing a car this job seems to become less frequently done and the last one to clean it will continually whinge at the other when they bring it home slightly dirty!

So next time you enter into a relationship, or worse still offer to teach someone to drive think carefully about the implications of sharing a car. You need to have a strong personality and set the ground rules firmly at the beginning. A camera will help you establish the defaults switch settings and resolve disputes about damage but this can be rather time consuming.

Sorry - I've got to go now! My wife wants to use her computer now so I must dust off the keyboard and realign the mouse mat. (NOT!)

28 Sep 2007

New british highway code 2007

I see that Britain has a new updated highway code today with some 29 more rules and another 40 pages compared with the last edition. A Torquecars member first gave me the heads up and then I heard reports on the radio this morning. Journalists have seized on an attention grabbing headline which implies something along the lines that smoking in cars is illegal!

In reality it is drivers who cause an accident whilst smoking at the wheel will now be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention. Listening to loud music, talking to passengers, eating food, drinking from a cup or bottle and reading maps are also highlighted as examples of driving without due care and attention (do we really need this pointing out to us!) I have often wondered about smokers - lighting up at the wheel will usually take a great deal of attention from the road and often means taking both hands off the wheel and this seems more dangerous to me than using a mobile phone. At the moment this is just a guideline but we can surely expect smoking in cars by the driver to be formally outlawed. Coming soon a hands free smoking kit to a car part shop near you.

The driving theory test has also got harder with more questions to answer. I wouldn't mind betting that most drivers on the roads today would fail the theory test. Especially judging by the amount of people that can't use a roundabout or even use their indicators correctly. It would not be a bad thing to introduce a compulsory theory retest every 20 years as a refresher course to drivers - a lot of things can change in 20 years.

Tougher penalties apply to motorists who cannot give the details of a driver who was in charge of the car when caught by a speed camera. The owner of the car is now liable to points and a fine if they fail to name the driver. Other minor changes include alterations to the wording about riding horses and bicycles on our roads.

24 Sep 2007

ModdedUK - car show in Kent

I went to the ModdedUK car show in Kent at the weekend. The weather was fantastic and the turnout was also good. I managed to set a new record of 997 photographs and 15 minutes of video footage! I'll get these posted up on Torquecars as soon as possible.

Disappointments.
The quality of a few of cars on club stands left a lot to be desired but many had really made an effort and there was some awesome cars on display. The drag strip was shut down. The Monster truck show only lasted a few minutes. There was very little in the way of trade stands and the trade hall was empty. Awards were given to demo cars made by companies with big budgets. Litter! I was tripping over bottles every few minutes and there were sadly some reports of morons throwing bottles at some of the show cars! It isn't hard to enforce a no bottles ban and would really deal with these fundamental issues.

Surprises.
It was nice to meet the guys from Modball and they had some impressive rides on show. Many other clubs had really good stands and some very lavish cars on show such as X2-C, Force the limit, Ecruze, B-carz Showcarz and Hants-cc to mention but a few (Respect to these guys for keeping the spirit of car modding alive!)

Everyone I spoke to around the site was very friendly and we have a few articles coming soon to Torquecars with some very impressive and unusual mods. As always we will be focusing on the engine and power oriented mods but we also have some photo reports on some of the show cars.

My legs are killing me having spent around 12 hours walking around a field and squatting to take photographs. There were lots of clubs I would like to have seen and spoke to but I just ran out of time and energy SORRY!

21 Sep 2007

Best car chase sequences

One essential scene in any good action movie must include the ubiquitous car chase. Every bond film has a car chase scene in it and there are a large number of car chase scenes which stick in the memory from other movies. Firstly lets reminisce a little then lets look at some of the essential elements and the drawbacks of car chase scenes.

Most Bond film car chases are well choreographed with Bond (nearly) always managing to evade capture. I guess the gadgets fitted to the car make the Bond sequences stand out and certainly make us all wish the parts list on new cars included ejector seats, oil slicks, smokescreens and rockets. Some of these gadgets would help with combating daily traffic issues like heavy traffic, road blocks and taking the mother in law out (only joking!)

The Jason Bourne films take a different approach with a hand held camera giving very shaky and blurry footage but it is cut together in such a way that we can make sense of the scene and actually follow the action at a personal level imagining that we are there. There are no gadgets but some slick defensive driving techniques.

Fast and Furious films portray the glossy side of cars and the chase scenes are usually more glamorous and race related. Complex camera angles and special effects are combined to give the impression of speed and 10 second races are stretched to an impossibly long 10 minutes at times.

Every car chase should end in a crash and reflect what happens in real life. The compelling thing about watching them is the continual feeling of an impreding major smash up. We also deep down like to see a £100,000 worth of car written off and this takes us back to when we were children and we used to smash up, crash and even burn our toy cars. Often though this never happens and the "hero" car usually drives away.

Movies often portray cars as indestructible and worse still gives the impression that drivers can walk away from serious crashes. During a typical chase scene often a number of identical cars are written off as 1 car would not be able to take the punishment. If the movie studios showed a more responsible and realistic approach to car chases and the consequences perhaps we would see less deaths and injuries on the roads. Then again perhaps people are more sensible than to try and copy what they have seen in a movie!

17 Sep 2007

Killer cars - yes even yours!

We all accept that cars are dangerous things. I think we all underestimate the impact (pun not intentional) that we have on the life of our planet.

When you look at the front of your car after a long journey it is typically plastered with the remains of unfortunate little bugs and insects. A closer inspection reveals impact injuries, beheading, amputations and other nasty injuries. When you drive at night the amount of kills increases as the bugs fly towards your headlights thinking they are reaching their life long target the moon and then their dream is so suddenly ended and another bug family have one less member.

Perhaps we don't quite feel emotional about the bugs we kill but surely if we hit an average of 1,000,000 bugs each year they deserve a small consideration and a minutes silence.

I have seen bug defenders fitted to cars which resemble a mini spoiler at the nose end of the hood and they cause a turbulent flow of air which deflects the bugs and although they get a little dizzy they still live to fight another day.

On a slightly more serious note we should be more cautious in country lanes. A recent survey of TorquecarsThe amount of dead badgers, foxes and even birds I have recently seen is moderately alarming. Something larger than a bird can cause serious damage to a car so at least from a selfish self preservation front lets cut our speeds a little at night and keep a good eye out for animals at the side of the road. There is nothing worse than the sickening thump and realisation that you have killed injured or maimed a poor defenceless creature.

10 Sep 2007

Breakdown personality types.

I've noticed that when people break down in a car they tend to fall into 2 camps. One knows about cars and tries to fix the problem the other knows nothing about cars. The interesting thing though is that both drivers will open the bonnet. The first will also tend to get on the ground and whip out his emergency toolkit and start hammering and banging - the second will just stare and prod things at random.

Why do people do this? Staring at an engine you know nothing about will not fix it? Are these people hoping for some inspiration? A piece of pipe flapping around in the engine bay and a hole to poke it back in is probably the best they can hope for as even they stand a change of fixing it. Perhaps the whole lifting of the bonnet and staring at the engine is a way to prevent appearing helpless and somehow they imagine that passing motorists are quietly impressed at their mechanical skill?

"Whats wrong?" The passengers ask, Mr clueless replies, "its probably an air flow sensor problem!" basing his assumption on the conversation he had with his garage about how his air flow sensor was sticking! A little knowledge is also a dangerous thing, don't poke things in the engine or undo screws unless you know what they do. If a TV breaks down people will get in an expert - they will not just open it up and stare at the internals? Why when a complex piece of machinery like a car breaks down why do they open the bonnet?

Please note that when your engine breaks kicking the tyres will not fix it. So many people kick a cars tyre - it really tells you nothing about the car. When people buy cars they will often kick or prod the tyre with their foot? Why? Tyre pressures are not measured by the bounce or the thud sound? You can't tell about the state of the steering or how frequently a car is serviced from a quick kick of the tyre! If tyre pressures are really low then a visual inspection is all that is required. Torquecars have a wide range of articles aimed at helping newbies find there way around the engine bay and covers the practical aspects of car ownership such as servicing.

7 Sep 2007

Car interiors are so boring.

Look at any car interior and you have to conclude that it is boring. Most are dull colours if you can actually use the word colour most are shades of black and grey. Nearly all car interiors I have seen are very plastic looking and after a short period of time the trim starts to suffer from scratches and knocks and ends up looking very shabby.

When manufacturers design a car interior they have to take into account the fact that the car has a life span of around 20 years. As any house decorator will tell you colours and styles change every few years. Also tastes differ from person to person and one persons Mona Lisa will be another persons Graffiti and vice versa. So they have adopted a safe colour scheme.

Grey and black is neutral enough to last for 20 years without going out of style. This is no excuse as we spend more time looking at the interior of our cars rather than the outside and we expect to be able to specify the paint colour when we buy a car so why not the interior? (Some sporty models have a number of cloth pattern but the overwhelming colour is still grey and black and red is available in leather for some cars which looks great.

We do not have to be stuck with the dull interiors though as an aftermarket parts source has sprung up allowing us to fully customise any aspect of our cars interior. See the interior styling guide at Torquecars for some inspirational ideas. Simple stick on panels, gear knobs, car mats to interior neons and complete re upholstery services are available the only limit is your imagination. We should really aim to update the interior of our cars every 5 years or so and this will also prevent the wear and tear shabbiness from building up and can reflect our personally.

BE WARNED THOUGH - If you choose a fluffy pink interior you may well find it difficult to sell the car again unless of course you find someone else who likes fluffy pink things.

5 Sep 2007

Some people should never have a car.

I have a friend who is a talented graphic designer living in London. (He knows who he is and I exaggerate his story - but only a little!) I always have to smile at his comprehension of what he classes as car ownership. Because I run Torquecars the car tuning site he often asks me his car related questions rather than take his car to a garage and get ripped off.

Servicing - This is something he believes that needs to be done when the car breaks down. Servicing is never considered a prevention. The only regular thing he does to his car is fill it with petrol. Light bulbs get replaced when they have all failed on the basis that with one headlight you can still see where you are going. I believe he also cleans his car occasionally as this is usually quicker than pulling out the weeds growing in the dirt stuck to the paintwork.

Here is a brief summary of his car problems. Red light comes on in the shape of an engine. "He thinks hmmm a pretty red light - I don't think that was on before. I wonder what it means. Now I come to think about it the car is running strangely." Next day he is surprised that the car breaks down on him, so he manages to get it parked and walks the rest of the way home.
About a week later he remembers he had a car and then tries to think about where he parked it? After a few hours searching the streets he has still not located his car and it actually takes another week before he finds it. He gets a garage to mend it and he is back on the road.

A few weeks later his car is no longer parked where he left it. He reports it stolen to the Police who inform him that it has been towed away and stored in a compound. He knows he parked legally so pushes his case a little further and discovers that unfortunately his road tax expired and this is why it was towed away, he has a fine to pay and needs to get the car taxed.
To get his car tax he needs his documents and he can't locate his MOT test certificate but he is sure it had an MOT a few years ago! The story goes on but needless to say he finally gets his car back.

Then a few days ago I get an email from him with a sketch drawing of a pipe with 4 bolt holes at each end with a message, "this fell off my car the other day, do you know what it is or where it goes? The car is making a funny noise now?" It was the hose from the air box so wasn't very major but I dread to think what the next email from him is going to be!

I have come to the conclusion that we are not all destined to have a car.

2 Sep 2007

French Roadtrip part 3

It was quite an experience driving on the wrong side of the road. The weird priority rules still baffle me and they seem to apply in towns and built up areas. Anyway apart from nearly pulling out on 2 motorcycling gendarmes the Holiday went well.

We were looking for an Internet cafe so I could get online. After much searching around rural France we actually found one but it was closed for lunch. Now I thought that the whole idea and concept of a cafe was to serve lunch but our continental friends do things a little differently. When I finally do find an Internet cafe open for lunch I discover that the keyboard layout is just plain strange and took 3/4 of my prepaid time trying to get an @ symbol to appear!!

French lunch hour appears to run from about 12:00 to 14:00 which is pretty good going.
One thing I love about motoring in France is the absolute lack of any kind of parking enforcement on the basis that there are no parking rules to enforce. You can pretty much park where you want and as long as you are not blocking the road it is ok. Pay and display car parks are also thin on the ground but every town and city have free parking areas. In some areas you will notice that you can park on one side of the road in the morning and then in the afternoon it switches to the other side. When you think about the fact that the roads are only wide enough for 2 cars an inconsiderate parker could effectively close the road.

Road side service areas are plentiful but if you want cheap fuel you have to travel in to the in town hypermarches. When you have a British number plate and a GB sticker you can get away with murder when it comes to doing u-turns and pulling out at junctions. I never once encountered road rage and saw some strange things like a HGV driver who just stopped in the middle of a roundabout to ask the car behind for directions and what looked like a 20 year old citroen tank truck for sale which was absolutely immaculate (just through lack of use rather than restoration).

21 Aug 2007

French roadtrip update 2

Driving along in France you suddenly realise that the conventions of driving no longer apply. In England when you meet another car coming along a narrow track one of you stops and pulls over to give way. In France the cars just drive along the grass verge or up the embankment without even slowing. When this first happens it is a little disconcerting but after a while you find it quite liberating to be able to just drive on the verge or up the bank. I'm sure that this approach to driving really wrecks your suspension and if you needed to do an emergency stop on the road with half your wheels on a low grip surface you will not be able take evasive action.

The roads also have unusual rules which leave you never quite being sure if you have priority over other cars, and unless you are happy playing a game of car based Russian roulette you tend to become rather adept at emergency stops. I think all drivers visiting other countries will start off driving rather cautiously. You then encounter drivers of slow vehicles and delivery vans which have some psychic power that enables them to overtake you on blind bends!
Sign posts are pretty good and somewhat informative when you develop a basic grasp of the language with most number referring to some kind of speed limit. The speed limits are not too dissimilar to what we have over here in good old Enland, it just takes a little while to convert them from KM to Miles. I'm still struggling to come to terms with driving on the right side of the road but this seems to be the preferred modus oparandi for most of the world. One day I'm sure that we will just move over to the continental style of driving on the right and this will ensure that we get cars which are fully compatible with the rest of Europe without having to change them or get them converted and messing around with headlight.

We encountered an emergency vehicle which was following us up hill. It looked like some kind of fire engine and I'd swear the thing was powered by a 1.0 diesel engine. You look in your mirror and see the flashing lights and start reducing your speed, then you look again and see that despite your slowing up it is still in the distance. Still not being quite sure what is going on we decide to pull over and wait for the emergency vehicle to lumber past. This seemed to take quite an age and eventually we were able to slowly follow it. Next time I think we will wait and see if the hing has enough power to keep up with us before deciding to move over.

The European commission does appear to be standardising road signs and regulation across Europe which makes the transfer to continental driving a lot easier to adapt to. One thing we don't get in good old England is the breath taking scenery and the exhilaration that one wrong move in the bends will result in the car plummeting down a 2 mile drop from sheer rock face. When you get the hang of the bends and learn not to look down the sheer drop you start to enjoy the roads and actually start driving at a pace which even the locals are unable to keep up with.

20 Aug 2007

Driving in France

Time to report in my sojourn across the channel. Last year we flew down to France and hired a car. At the time this seemed the most cost effective option with a flight costing as much as fuel but the cost of hire car was a lot more than we had anticipated due to the "optional" extras like fuel, collision damage waver and additional driver. The car they gave us was a new Peugeot 205 Diesel and apart from the steering wheel and pedals being on the wrong side of the car it drove like a dog. On the twisty country roads it was hesitant and stogy and seemed to have had its suspension modeled on a supermarket trolley.

This year we decided to bite the bullet and drive down, a somewhat scary prospect considering the sheer distance we needed to cover and the fact that we couldn't understand half of the road signs. Thankfully the ferry journey was very simple, with no airport style security and check in lounges to fight our way through.

Despite my initial apprehension I must say that driving in France was a bit of a pleasure. The motorway system is very well maintained and intuitive and there are good service facilities with opportunities for toilet, sleep and a good cup of coffee every few miles. I prepared a small sticker to remind me to drive on the right which is only really needed in town areas when pulling out onto main roads and this also includes the statutory speed limits for each type of road (including conversions from KM to Mph as the KM measurements are not very visible in most road conditions). There were signs up apologising for poor road surface on roads which were better than out most well maintained surfaces. Fuel economy was also better, perhaps it was the lack of congestion, the sheer distance we travelled or just the fact that the car did not have to fight with bumps and poor surfaces. Our car typically returns around 37 mpg and for a distance of over 500 miles it hovered at 42.2mpg and considering we were doing 130 most of the way this was excellent (kph not mph!)

When you get off the motorways and into the towns you see rural decay everywhere. Buildings appear to be neglected and whole towns deserted, that is until the siesta time finishes and people start arriving in their droves. Road manners were also impeccable and only a couple of drivers cut us up - something that happens every few minutes back in good old blighty. There are also an unusually high amount of old cars - real classics but with little attention or care lavished on them. (I'd be surprised if there is a French word for Restoration!) Perhaps this is due to the lack of rain and rust or perhaps the French do not place a high priority on buying new cars.

16 Aug 2007

Driving makes us lazy.

Car ownership makes us lazy. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen someone park right outside their destination, often illegally instead of parking further up the road and walking. Most Torquecars members when asked also agree that having a car has made them a little lazy. People popping in to their local shop are the biggest culprits.

How many journeys are really necessary. I think that at some time we have all taken the car around the corner for speed or if it is raining. Years ago we used to walk to school, now children are delivered to school by car. Is the growing problem of childhood obesity down to the car induced laziness as much as the increased junk food diet.

We need to ask ourselves when was the last time we walked for 30 minutes? Its not a long time and certainly not a long distance but most people would consider taking the car for this short journey, which has some major drawbacks.

  1. The wear and tear on the car is much greater on short journeys when the engine does not have time to warm up.
  2. It would be another missed opportunity for some gentle exercise.
  3. A wak of 30 minutes refreshes the mind, in the car we tend to be distracted more and usually put the radio on. The silent contemplation whilst walking is beneficial and you will often solve problems or be more effective at work.
  4. Stress levels are reduced when walking, you are less likely to get raised blood pressure whilst walking compared to driving the same distance.
  5. You will be easing both congestion and local pollution levels as any Asthmatic or hay fever sufferer will fully appreciate.
  6. You save money.

What though about the extra time cost? When you think about it logically a 30 minute walk is about the same as a 5 minute drive on an uncongested road, the thing is that we do not have uncongested roads. My journey typically takes 10-20 minutes at a crawling pace on most days and they I can spend anoteh 10-20 minutes looking for a parking space. You might live in an uncongested area and If you do I am a little jealous, but with our modern lifestyles do not expect that to always be the case.

Throw away the car keys for short journeys and WALK instead. 2 legs are for walking, if we were born to drive we would have 3 legs, one for each pedal ;)

13 Aug 2007

Car Paranoia

We at Torquecars all take a pride in our cars, the question we need to ask is are we obsessive over our car? Some warning signs of obsession include waxing, vacuuming or potentially washing the car once a week. It is nice to have a clean and tidy car and I would be the last to object to someone cleaning their car, but to watch their expression as a bird targets their gleaming paintwork.

Then the rules start appearing, particularly when children are around.

  1. No Eating in the car
  2. Remove dirty shoes before entering the car
  3. Touching any part of the exterior including door handles is forbidden
  4. If you put it in you take it out again
  5. Windows must not be breathed on and wiping them with the hand is a definite no-no
  6. Shoes with buckles may not be worn (Leather seat paranoia)
  7. Buttons must not be pressed
  8. Switches must not be thrown
  9. No rubbish or refuse may be carried
  10. Ashtrays are strictly for coins only
  11. He will open the doors for passengers to protect the doors
  12. When children are playing football in the street he will keep his eye on them at all times

If someone else were to wash the car the paranoid owner will ask what cleaning products were used and then complain that there's a new swirl mark in the paint. He will insist on using a wool mitt to wash the car with a separate one for the initial, main and final wash process.

Taking this to the next level includes the driver that parks in the furthest bay from the shop entrance and then proceeds to walk for 3 minutes to the shop in order to reduce the risk that anyone accidentally or deliberately scratches their paintwork. If such a space is not available they will park across 2 bays diagonally to avoid the possibility of a car opening its door into the side of the car.


The same paranoid car owner keeps the car in a garage and only drives it when 3 separate weather forecasters have confirmed there is no chance of rain. Cars cared for to this extent usually are also driven very slowly for fear of getting a stone chip or worse still a scratch mark from a hedge. To liberate yourself from this harmful compulsion take the car through a safari and pause in the monkey enclosure. At first you will be extremely stressed and vexed but after 10 minutes you will be thoroughly cured of your paranoia until you get your next car.

10 Aug 2007

Beware of drivers wearing hats.

I recently noticed a pattern which identified bad drivers and should shout out as a warning to all other motorists. It is simple and we need to perform a scientific study to see if this is a cause or is the result of being a bad driver.

The revelation is simply this - "Bad drivers wear hats". The worst cases of driving ineptness I have encountered this week held up this theory.

I was driving along and caught up with a car doing half of the speed limit, when the road was clear and the possibility of overtaking him safely appeared he would move into the middle of the road and speed up. This was an old driver wearing a Trilby. I really don't think he was aware of me following him despite the fact my car is purple, my lights were on and I was honking my horn and waving my arms at him. (OK, so I lied about the horn and my arms but I was nearly tempted!)

Then he turned off and allowed me to continue my journey. Then a young blood in his mothers shopping car which for some reason he had replaced the exhaust pipe with a drain pipe and covered the front wing in stickers of manufacturers who wouldn't even dream of making parts to fit the car he was driving, proceeded to screech out of the petrol station into busy traffic causing cars to swerve and skid all over the road to avoid him. With his generous dissemination of Drum and Bass to the neighbourhood I think he was completely oblivious to the other drivers around him. Did my theory hold up for this driver too? Yes - he was sporting a charming baseball cap which appeared to be facing the wrong way!

Following this an old lady with a dog proceeded to attempt to park at the side of the road managing to get both back wheels on the pavement. I checked out my theory and yes you've guessed it - she was also wearing a hat (a big white floppy one if you are interested!).

So the question that remains is does wearing a hat do something to your brain? Does the heat build up impair your judgement or hamper your social interactions? Or do people with impaired judgement and bad social skills always choose to wear a hat? Is this natures way of warning those around of an approaching moron?

9 Aug 2007

Do all colours show up the dirt?

Most Torquecars members agree that the nicest colour for a car is Black. Nothing beats the shine and reflections that gleam from a freshly cleaned black car. After a good wax layer the surface of a black car becomes highly reflective and this makes it look fantastic in a way that no other colour can. The downside is that Black is one of the hardest colours to keep looking nice and the dirt and grime show up so easily.

White is also another colour to be avoided by the work shy as this too will show up every spec of dirt. One of the biggest problems with white is when you get splashes of tar up the paint which is a problem on every freshly laid road surface, the only way of getting the tar off is with the use of a solvent based cleaning product. Having owned a white car you get to appreciate the need to always rinse of with fresh clean water - the slightest amount of murkiness seems to leave a coating over the paintwork.

This lead me to conduct a minor survey of what colour is the best one for people who want to avoid washing the car frequently and the results are in.

Most strong colours like Blue, Red and all dark colours will show up the dirt and grime, as will light coloured cars such as beige and yellow. Grey seems to be a good colour though and metallic grey for some reason just does not dirty. It seems to be the one colour which is able to seamlessly blend in with the dirt along with mid tones of blue although this can still look grubby in a short period of time.

So if you are work shy get yourself a grey metallic car and only wash it every six months!

8 Aug 2007

Driving in Rainy weather

In rainy weather beware of aquaplaning. This happens when the tyre is unable to push away the water causing the car to float on a thin layer of water. When this happens the steering will feel lighter and the car will seem to veer on a set course. And you will have no steering or braking control over the car while it is aquaplaning. Do not start Braking, steering or accelerating just ease off the throttle and hopefully grip will have been restored before you hit something.

Flooded roads also present a unique danger. Driving to quickly through a flood will cause water to splash up into the engine components and cause the car to stall.

  • Rule 1 is keep your speed down and do not enter a flood unless you are sure the car can get through it.
  • Rule 2 is keep the engine revs up - dip the clutch if you want to slow up. If you lift off the accelerator you run the risk of sucking water in to the engine and a water filled engine will require a complete engine rebuild
Be especially careful on bends and corners and on poor quality road surfaces as these can exacerbate the problem of aquaplaning. Try also to stay in the swathe cut by the car in front as the road will usually be a little dryer. If you have a 4x4 you will notice the acceleration is still good in the wet but you must remember that braking and steering will still be poor so do not drive beyond the safe limits of control. Also check you have plenty of tread depth on your tyres the more the better.

For more driving tips on coping with weather conditions read the Torquecars article this blog page inspired on Driving in weather hazards.

6 Aug 2007

How to avoid a speeding ticket!

Torquecars rule number 1 has to be don't speed! Any driver who exceeds the speed limit by a fair margin deserves to be caught and punished for that. Speeding is a major contributing factor in accidents and either increases the possibility of a collision by decreasing the margin of error and increasing the drivers reaction distance and braking distance. If you want to drive fast, sign up for a track day with the associated safety features.

At times we all tend to blend in with the traffic and as we look down we notice that our speed has crept up to exceed the speed limit. It is on occasions like this that we are discussing, wilful speeding is anti-social and very naughty ;)

If we are caught by a camera there is very little we can do the process is automatic and evidence is accepted by the courts. Keeping an eye on the road ahead will usually alert us to the proximity of speeding cameras. Also warning signs like brake lights ahead will often indicate the presence of some kind of law enforcement apparatus.

The next rule is to blend in. If we are in a line of cars which are all travelling at the same speed a police patrol will have to select a motorist. If he has a choice between a young driver in a hot hatch covered with stickers and plastic parts and a mature driver in a boring family saloon he will usually go for the former. Young drivers often have more to hide and there may be other vehicle condition violations to add to the speeding ticket.

So drive an ordinary looking car, remove badges and trim that could indicate performance. Choose a silver, black, grey or blue car and avoid red and fancy metallic colours. Loud exhausts and blaring music also attract attention and the key is avoid attention at all costs. Moving at a similar speed to other cars will also mean we blend in, if we are travelling at twice the speed of other cars we become an obvious and conspicuous target.

The police officer has a job to do. A speeding conviction will require he submits paper work and files a full report. He has the law on his side and if you show a proper amount of respect and avoid getting his back up he will probably let you go with a warning. Do not try to be funny, sarcastic or rude and never allow the officer to provoke a negative response. Evidence for the speeding offence must also be provided and the officer will try and get a confession from you - if you can realistically deny all knowledge of your speeding it will make his job harder.

1 Aug 2007

Take 2 cars or just own 1 all rounder.

Car ownership is getting expensive as all Torquecars members will tell you. When you start tuning up a car you increase the running costs by reducing your fuel economy and reduce the reliability of parts because of the extra stress on the components. The servicing regimen on a highly tuned engine is generally a lot tighter than on a standard car and by tuning it you are reducing the margin for fault toleration.

More drivers are switching to run a track tuned car and many kit cars like the Caterham, robin Hood and Westfield are gaining popularity. The idea is that you can have a hardcore track car to throw around the track and get a car with a power to weight ratio greater than most supercars and an effortless 0-60 sprint of sub 4 seconds. Having a track specific car means you can throw out the comfort to maximise the track performance. Most track bred cars are a simple lightweight scaffold pole style chassis and large power plant such as a Honda Type R supercharged or Vauxhall or Ford pinto derived engines. Kit cars are also a popular choice as they have very lightweight body shells and huge engines and many good quality replicas of supercars are around with engines that outperform the originals they mimic.

Your other daily commute car is then an ordinary run of the mill realiable car and the combined running costs of the 2 cars is about the same as having a highly tuned car which you use every day.

Never underestimate the fun you can have with a classic or large engined American car on the track and often older car have lower tax and other concessions that make ownership of them a little less expensive.

30 Jul 2007

The road is Long....

From time to time we all have long journeys to make in our cars. The longest drive we do tend to be our annual holidays and we really should prepare well for this unusual test of our endurance.

Get a good nights sleep the night before. Tiredness is one of the biggest accident causers on our road. The hassle and worry of the journey and packing for our holiday usually prevent us from getting a good nights sleep. Unwind before you go to sleep - read a book. Don't drink coffee or do any strenuous exercises before you go to bed as this is likely to keep you up. Keep a notepad by the bed so if you wake up and remember something you have to pack you can note it down and go back to sleep rather than laying awake and worrying about it.

Prepare well. You will be using roads you are unfamiliar with and you really need to have planned your route carefully and have in mind the main towns and cities so you can make snap decisions at complicated junctions and at least take the exit that keeps you going the right way. There are a number of excellent online route planners.

Rest. After the first 3 hours take a 15 minute break. Walk around, get a coffee. As the journey goes on you need to brake more frequently so I would suggest another break at 5.5 hours in to the journey and then 7 hours and then 8.5 in to the journey. If you feel tired then take a nap (pull over in a safe place to do so and lock the cars doors and leave a window slightly open if there are more than 2 occupants in the car) - a 30 minute nap is often all you need to keep you going another few hours.

Entertainment. Take some music or audio books to keep your mind occupied and take an interest in your surroundings, noticing landmarks and other cars. When you get bored you will notice that tiredness kicks in much more quickly.

Make sure the car is serviced before you go. If there are any unusual noises from the suspension or engine get this addressed before you leave. Top up the washer fluid and check the oil levels - nothing consumes oil as much as a long journey at fast constant speeds. Take a spare bottle of oil with you.

27 Jul 2007

Engine computers are getting too smart!

I recently took my car into the garage for some work which require that the battery be disconnected. This results in resetting the computer to the factory setting. When you get the car back you realise all of the little things that it does.

Now when the car goes into neutral the revs rise and fall bouncing around an average and then settles. Apparently the computer will learn the exact amount of RPM that the engine idles at without stalling and will set this as the default option.

I also had to reset the clock and the date and lost my accumulated average MPG and average speed since the last reset - things which I use to compare the cars performance and a sudden drop in MPG usually indicates an imminent problem. Now I wish I had written all of the data down (GEEK ALERT!)

The electric windows also have a one touch up and down setting - but since reconnecting the battery I have to work out how to switch this on again. The car also feels a bit sluggish and does not seem to be the car I put into the garage but since it only had a new starter motor fitted this can only be down to the computer relearning the optimum settings. The steering and even the braking feel different, I know it is not just me and that this must also be down to the cars computer. It is kind of nice to think that the car gets used to its driver.

Doing some research on the Internet and speaking with other Torquecars members I note that other drivers have complained similarly of problems with the car following the computer reset and have taken their cars back to the garage and complained only to be told that it will sort itself out in due course. Some owners of automatics report a really soggy gear change, again down to the computer needing to relearn the drivers habits and its engines own personality. I'm sure other people have had even weirder stuff happen to them following an ECU reset.

I don't know about you but we tend to take it for granted just how much technology affects our lives. Perhaps we should go back to cars with carbs and no ABS or Power Steering.

25 Jul 2007

Carism - the new predjudice.

We should never judge a person by their race, skin colour, sex, age or religion. We are all individuals and such generalisations are harmful and not constructive.

When it comes to the cars we drive though we tend to make judgements based on the type of car about the driver. I suppose this borders on acceptable because generally speaking we choose the car that we drive. If we dress like a clown, a tramp, a tart or a put on a business suit we have made a decision and this reflects our personality. So on this basis we shall now engage in some shameless generalisations but don't tell the members of Torquecars or I am likely to get lynched.

BMW - Big on image, most BMW drivers sought a prestige badge to give them credibility. Most BMW drivers are business owners, or work in a competative sales environment.

Audi - German engineering at its best, unlike BMW there is not the same degree of Image attached to the Audi badge. Typcial drivers are accountants and professionals who appreciate a good car but do not want to be seen as overly ambitious.

Toyota - Reliable cars. Styling has always seemed to be rather ordinary and average (until recently) and Toyotas are bought by the sensible driver who looks at economy and running costs. Typically purchased by the older driver (unless its a sports model).

Honda - Japanese reliability. Honda owners are not generally as old as Toyota drivers and often this will be the choice for the for those looking for a good all round performer with economy and in gear acceleration as their priority.

Ford - Fleet heaven. Appreciated by the city rep and long distance traveller alike. Usually a budget buy but often equipped with aftermarket parts like high power radio and alloy wheels.

GM - Mr Average. Run of the mill cars which appeal to run of the mill people. Often neglected and run to enormous mileages.

4x4 & SUVs - Big and in your face. These drivers like to cucoon themselves away from the general public and got a large family car for protection. 2 types of SUV driver exist - we will refer to them as shiny and muddy. The muddy SUV is Favoured as a workhorse many of these have a hard life transporting horse boxes, camping equipment and work tools and the 4 wheel drive is used. The shiny SUV driver wants to feel safe and protected and is not worried by the cost.

Diesels - The practical modern choice for those on a budget. Reliable and dependable this is the choice of the long distance rep and as a family car.

There are always exceptions but these stereotypes characterise the generally opinion of these car driver groups.

23 Jul 2007

Why I will never buy a new car.

New cars depreciate like tickets for a Titanic return voyage a Torquecars member will tell you. Well they lose a lot of their value. If you sell a car in the UK after 3 years of ownership you will have lost around 50% of its list price. The more options to get the more money you will lose when you come to sell the car. So on a 7,000 car this equates to a loss 3500 and on an 80,000 car you are looking at 40,000! SUV's and executive cars are notorious depreciators and can lose up to a staggering 60% of their list price!

If you take the options as separate items from the basic list price they will typically lose around 80% of their value, although some options are now considered essential and a car without them will not find a new owner easily. Other than air conditioning, power steering, ABS, alloy wheels and a good set of sounds, ignore other options like leather or heated seats, sunroof, courtesy lights, arm rest, driver aids like audible parking proximity sensors, metallic or special paint finishes, paddle gear shift on the steering wheel and sat nav. None of these will add much if anything to the resale value of the car.

My other gripe with new cars is the sheer toxicity of them. The new car smell is slowly killing us and we allow these carcinogens to build up in our bodies. When plastics get warm they give off chemicals and leave a tell tale film inside the windows. (A whole subject in itself which I aim to cover shortly!)

New cars also have faults. many new cars have faults or niggles that get fixed under warranty. Buying a car at 3 years old will have been thoroughly troubleshot and still have plenty of reliable life left in it. Then if I sell it at 6 years old I will typically lose just 30% of my outlay.
A 3 year old car with minor chips in the paint and slight scuffs or swirls in the metal reduces my anxiety. If the car was perfect looking when I parked it I would desperately take every measure possible to keep it so and avoid parking near the busy ends of car parks, leaving it on most streets would be a no-no to. A used car does not induce the same level of paranoia and fear of vandalism so you get to lead a less stressful life with fewer worries and concerns.

20 Jul 2007

Green Motoring is this the answer to climate change?

Much hype exists in the media about green motoring. There is more of an agreement on the reality of climate change nowadays as people are becoming concerned at the changing weather patterns. A new multi million $ industry of Green living has sprung up from governments introducing new Green taxes to reduce emissions of CO2 to car companies releasing fuel sipping varients of their popular engines.

Bio fuels are hailed as the solution. Bio fuel is a fuel source which is grown instead of being drilled or extracted from our earths limited resources. Oils can be extracted from crops and made into a viable diesel alternative and Ethanol, a type of alcahol, as a substitute or additive for petrol based engines. Although this seems like a good solution we still demand huge amounts of fuel to power our modern lives. Questions are being raised about how much bio fuel can be produced without impacting on our farmers ability to provide essential food crops. The conversion and refining process also requires large amounts of energy.

Another solution involves the use of electric power to augment a conventional CO2 emitting engine. There are some very impressive implimentaions of this from the major manufacturers although questions again are being raised at the amount of CO2 generated in the production of these cars and particulalry the batteries which store the power and will only last for 100,000 miles or so. Once again we seem only to have a partial solution to the answer. Is is possible to combine the two approaches? We have yet to see a hybrid diesel engine but a petrol/ethanol mix with electrical supplimentation is a practical application. Is this enough to reverse the thread of major catastrophic climate change?

There are millions of cars around already and it will not be practical to convert these. We have to ask what causes the largest emissions of CO2 and take a view that the humble motorist emits little more than a minute portion of the total CO2 and then we need to make some serious lifestyle changes if we are really serious about reducing climate change. A consumer driven society with its throwaway and replace an item mentality needs to change. We also need to travel less and work from home. Growing our own food will further reduce our carbon footprint. So the answer to the problem is not to spend more money on "Green" technology we need quite simply to spend less money, evaluating our needs and denying our wants. This is perhaps not realistic, people adopt the "let others go first" mentality and we are left with a problem that is not being sorted and have big business corporations and governments around the world profiting from the "green" revolution.

18 Jul 2007

Road rage triggers and how to avoid it!

What sort of things trigger road rage? It is something we have all experienced at one time or another and either been on the receiving end of it or dishing it out ourselves. Many Torquecars members report horrific and scary incidents involving road rage.

When we get into our cars we enjoy our freedom, the space inside the car is ours and we expect to be able to go where we want to when we want. If there is some external obsticle infringing on our freedom we may start to get frustrated. Anger is the human response to stress and some people control stress better than others. We obviously need to be more tolerant of other road users and forgiving of their mistakes. Good anticipation will allow us to avoid many pitfalls that can create problems for other motorists.

To avoid becoming a victim of road rage.
Drive considerately, letting other drivers join the traffic flow where safe to do so. Avoid erratic driving, frequent changing of lanes and sudden changes of speed. Anthing that draws attention to yourself potentially makes you a victim for road rage. Even driving a flashy or agressive looking car can create an angry response from other drivers where a normal looking car would have been largely ignored. Never drive at a speed substantially higher than the other motorists around you. Never block another car joining the traffic flow or cut into a traffic lane at the last possible minute. Avoid cutting up other drivers or causing them to take evasive action.

Avoid following the car in front too closely - remember that need for personal space still applies when we are in a car. Only overtake when it is safe to do so as cutting in at the last minute or causing the car we are overtaking to take evasive action are major precursors to road rage incidents.

If you have done something silly raise a palm as an apology and that often diffuses the anger of the car behind.

You may drive a car that is playing up and unable to maintain a steady speed, so pulling over and letting cars pass you will prevent the frustration and anger from building up. This includes the drivers of agricultural machinery and caravan drivers.

15 Jul 2007

The self repairing car strikes again.

Well it passed the MOT with flying colours. The front tyres were near the minimum tread depth so I have ordered some Dunlop SP Sports to match the rears. I would never have chosen them but they were all I could get on the rears and since they have been fitted I really like them.
They cope well in all weathers and are pretty hard wearing consider the abuse I give them!
A small fault developed though after the car had been returned which I noticed the following day. When using the starter the engine would start and then the starter would grind and clank.


I suspect that the release solenoid is sticking causing the starter to remain engaged in the starting ring longer than necessary. After about 10 starts though after the weekend it seems to have sorted itself out. When we first got our Audi A3 the door sensor was playing up causing the interior light to stay on and the digital dash computer display would flicker on and off. Both of those problems went away so I must take my hat off to German engineering having produced a car that repairs itself!

Bills and repairs so far in the 3 years of ownership other than standard service items totals £0.00! (Unless you count the tyres at £65 each but I'm prepared to put them in as a service item!) I'm very pleased with this car, especially since my last car, a Rover 220 GTi cost me around £200-£300 per month in repairs with repaired items failing a few months later with alarming regularity!

Vorsprung Durk Technik!

12 Jul 2007

MOT time makes me nervous.

Its that time of year again to get the MOT test. The car is booked in. I have checked the obvious things, such as bulbs and washer fluid following the list provided by Torquecars. The car is also due a minor service so it makes sense that both are taken care of at the same time. Thankfully Audi 1.8T engines have a really long service schedule with Plugs lasting 40,000 miles and oil changes every 2 years. I had a performance washable air filter fitted so this will just be rinsed through and re oiled. All that needs doing really is the oil and I won't be going for the Audi long life oil, Instead I'll be going for a good quality 5w30 fully synthetic.

The MOT always worries me and I will spend most of tomorrow pacing up and down like an expectant father waiting outside the Maternity suite. Will they find the small chip in the windscreen or on the light lenses? Is that suspension bump from the rear anything major. What are the emissions going to be like? 1,000,000 of questions like these run through my head and they will probably pick up on something I've not even thought about. The car is 5 years old so should theoretically sail through but I was a born worrier!

Once that is out of the way its time to apply for road tax. Insurance comes out next month and then no more bills for another year all being well and keeping my fingers crossed.

11 Jul 2007

How can a 500 bhp engine be more impressive than a 1000 bhp one?

What is more impressive, a BMW v12 F1 engine that puts out 1000bhp and redlines as 12,000 rpm or a BMW engine which puts out 500 bhp and redlines at 6000 rpm?

The F1 engine of course. If peak power output is the measure then you would be right but lets break this claim down a little. The F1 engine is stripped down and rebuilt after every race by a dedicated team of mechanics who also monitor every facet of the engine during each race. The 500 bhp engine is that fitted to a road car and as such it must last 100,000 miles at least before it required rebuilding and it must cope with long service intervals and a wide range of weather and driving conditions. Needless to say that the average driver does not have a pit crew on hand to keep everything running smoothly. When we put it like that we start to realise just how amazing our car engines are, and start to appreciate that there is a trade off when we ask the engine to put down more power.

Nearly every engine can have more power squeezed out of it and with some engines this can be as much as another 40-80% more power. This will usually reduce the service intervals and decrease the life expectancy of the engine though and presents the hidden cost of tuning.
Many people just can't see the point of F1 but when the things learned on these highly tuned and greatly stressed engines is applied to production going versions of cars you start to see the point, and actually realise the great benefits of the money companies pump into their motorsports divisions. Many innovations like traction control, active suspension and even tyre technology find its roots in F1.

Torquecars helps users decide which car tuning modifications are the best ones for their car and highlights any tradeoffs or compromises that need to be made for the sake of performance.

9 Jul 2007

Obsessive tendancies In a car.

We all have little rituals and to a degree we all have bit of compulsive behavior disorder. It is good to be regimented orderly and tidy, but we need to be careful that it does not start to take over our lives. This is a fairly tongue in cheek article that contains little in the way of real phsychology and is not intended to be anything more than an amusing diversion.
Here are some of the things to look out for.

When Parking.

We have to park in middle of a space even if this means we go forwards and backwards a number of times.All wheels must be parallel to the kerb so we would never leave the car with our front wheels at an angle. The distance from the kerb must be equal on the front or back. When parking up we also ensure that the Steering wheel must always be straight. We cannot let the wipers rest unless they are in the parked position at the bottom of the screen. We would even restart the ignition to ensure that the wipers are correctly resting. We touch each pedal a set number of times with our feet as we turn off the engine, blip the accelerator or depress the clutch pedal.

Before we set off.

All of the vents must be set in a symmetrical pattern, if the outer ones are pointing up so must the inner ones. If the left one is pointing left we just dont feel right until the right one is pointing left to mirror it. We make sure that the mats in the car are all straight and that the headrests are all at the same height.

When driving along.

You tap or wiggle your left foot, or clench your jaw each time you pass a lamp post, mailbox or other marker.We try (especially in the wet) to make sure our tyres go over the same bit of road as the car in front.

General.

We get annoyed when the tyre valves do not line up.

None of these in themselves are a problem but if we start to become obsessive over them or are guilty of a significant number of these we need to be careful that this does not develop into a major problem. We could test ourself out by forcibly breaking the rule/behaviour pattern that we are having trouble with.

18 Jun 2007

What makes a good driver?

We all know what winds us up in other drivers from the recent www.Torquecars.com survey, so what is that essential ingredient that makes a driver stand out above the rest. The primary skill in driving is anticipation, reading the road and traffic conditions ahead.

A good driver will see congestion, blackspots or lane restrictions far ahead, be fully aware of the drivers behind and around him and move into a safe position and gradually adjust his speed well before he hits the problem. His aim is to keep the traffic flowing so he will avoid stopping, slowing to a crawl where necessary but a stop will create a delay for the traffic behind. This includes moving into a free flowing lane or even taking a left turn, if the right turn lane is blocked, and then doing a right further up the road to resume the original course. The less time we wait at junctions the less congestion there will be.

Being aware of the drivers around you, and especially those behind, can make a big difference to road safety, is the driver behind close, is he concentrating on the road, is he weaving in and out ready to overtake? A good driver will adjust his distance from the car in front to allow extra stopping distance to enable the car behind to stop safely.

When passing a junction a good driver will slow and be ready to sound his horn as a warning should a driver pulling out fail to see him. Making eye contact with drivers is a good indicatior that you can continue past the junction. If you have not made eye contact you must assume the worst and be ready to stop, slowing a little and moving your foot to the brake pedal which saves precious stopping distance.

At all times a driver should maintain a bubble of space around the car, using every available inch of the road. For example on an empty road he will drive closer to the center line as he passes a junction. If a car comes in the other direction towards him he will move away from the center line and slow when passing an occupied junction.

Being prepared to take evasive action saves seconds when the unexpected happens. As a driver you should condition yourself to look for every possible hazard and prepare an escape plan. Thoughts like "car at side of road could pull out, the other lane is clear and I can move into that" or "oncoming driver could have a heart attack and veer across the road, I can use the verge and swerve away!" It sounds silly but after a while it becomes second nature.

We learn in our test the maxim "mirror, signal, manoever" and we should all make a point of checking that whenever we plan to change our path, direction, or change lane that it is safe to do so BEFORE we start the manover!

Most accidents are caused by carelessness on the part of one driver and usually by the negligence of the other. A cautious driver will be able to counter the carelessness of others and build into his driving a safe margin.

5 Jun 2007

Who are the worst drivers on the road?

Worst drivers:- We asked Torquecars members which drivers they thought were the worst on the roads and got a plethora of vitriol and tirades of frustration.


Top of the hate list came taxi drivers with their percieved "I own the road" attitude. Perhaps this is a little harsh as Taxi drivers clock up more miles in one year than some motorists do in 10! Perhaps it is true that familiarity breeds contempt and as we all encounter our fair share of taxi drivers it could go some way to explain their unpopularity. The cited reasons for annoyance include, double parking, cutting in too sharply after overtaking, aggresively pushing through gaps and general rudeness never thanking drivers for giving way and never allowing other motorists to pull out on to busy roads or giving way themselves. It is probably fair to say their is a vicious circle going on here with taxi drivers experiencing bad manners on the road from other motorists and responding in kind. I'm pretty sure you'll actually find that Taxi drivers have fewer accidents per mile they drive than other motorists.

The second most hated group are the hesistant drivers. Quite a wide ranging category typically characterised by undue caution, hesitation, slow speed and generally lack of assertion. Many drivers fall into this category and we probably all have been here at one stage of our drving life. Typically the hestitant driver includes the new inexperienced driver, the nervous old driver and the timid Sundays and special occasions only drivers. We must remember that we will also fall into this category if perhaps we are driving a new car which we are not used to for the first time, or perhaps our car is experiencing a technical problem and may cut out on us at any time so there is a need for caution. We may find ourselves in an unfamiliar area and be attempting to navigate but struggle to get in the right lane in time something which typically affects us on holiday. So perhaps we should cut a little slack for the hesitant driver and encourage them rather than sit of their boot driving aggresively and putting them off!

White van drivers also came in for some stick too. The way they cut up other motorists, drive really close to the car in front, jump lights and just leave the van parked in the middle of the road with its hazzard lights on (the hazzard lights do not in fact render the car invisible when turned on as many white van drivers seem to think!) We have a little sympathy for the stressful life of the delivery driver with ever shorter deadlines, early starts, vague addresses and route plans and a need to deliver to addresses which have no convenient parking facilities.

Old drivers also get to have their own category. They seem to have little awareness of other motorists keeping focussed on a very small patch of road in front of them (even when reversing). We know that many old drivers have very good driving skills, but when a driver only covers 1 or 2 miles per week he cannot possibly expect to stay sharp. Add into the mix the fact that the roads are very different from when these OAPs learnt (if they went through a formal set of tuition and tests) and the fact that reflexes and motor skills diminish with age along with eyesight. Per mile driven the older driver has the greatest number of accidents than any other motorist. We at Torquecars support the practical step of a retest, particularly for the over 70 year old driver and many of our members would even support a refresher test and course every 10 years to ensure that all motorists on the road conform to the required standard.

Mothers on the school run also got some criticism. I guess the effect of getting up early, having been kept awake all the night becuse little Jonny is crying and then taking the other 2 kids to school in the morning, with them argueing in the back over whose turn it is to choose the in drive movie, probably equals the equivalent of driving whilst 2 times over the breath alcahol limit. The stress and frustration the mothers experience is clearly demonstrated in their driving style and the way they park (dump) the car half off the road and pull out without so much as looking for other cars.

4x4 drivers, cyclists, bus drivers and HGV drivers also came in for some criticism but to be honest we couldn't write an article entitled "most hated motorists" and then include everyone!

Driving is a priviledge and not a right. We all do silly or plain daft things behind the wheel and rarely give other drivers much slack when they do daft things. Generally speaking if we all showed consideration and patience with even the hated groups of driver the roads would be a much better place for all of us.

28 May 2007

Phsycology of thanking other drivers

The way we thank other drivers for letting us go through tells a lot about our personality:- Interested to hear your impression on these and any others you think of (keep the gestures friendly though ).

  • Nod - Nervous driver typically too scared to take hands off the wheel.
  • Thumbs up - Younger hot hatch driver who has just taken advantage (Cheeky person).
  • Full Palm - The older Jaguar driver usually does this (Denote confidence).
  • Wave of the Hand - an old Jedi mind trick useful when you are in a hurry!
  • Thumb and little finger extended with bend wrist - Gangster tendancies shown usually by a wannabee rapper!
  • Index finger raised - Usually done when other driver has only just managed to realise he has to give way - a token thanks.
  • Index and first finger raised. - A Bit PAPAL this one again typically done by the older driver in a Mercedes who actually owns the road you are on!
  • Both Hands wave - Muppet style thanks - you recognised the other driver and they are oblivious to who you are. (This one is fun to do to see the reaction. One Torquecars member reported "just thought i'd let you know i tried the muppet wave tonight......a word of warning to other drivers, do not try this at home.....the guy i done the muppet wave at was so shocked that he just missed hitting his jag off the railings")
  • Flash of the lights - All social interaction is shunned by these loners - all their holiday pics are of scenes with no people in them.
  • V Sign (backwards) - Churchill style Victory salute 'cos you won the game of chicken.

The List goes on and on - but we are firm belivers that the way you thank other drivers says a lot more about your personality than you would like to admit! Please visit the Torquecars site for original articles on driving, tuning and styling cars (a bit more serious than this one) we would also encourage you to consider becomming a member and getting involved in topical motorist related discussion in the forum.

10 May 2007

Why spend £10,000+ modifying a car?

Sometimes people wonder if its worth it - then they pay a visit to www.torquecars.com and see what all of the fuss is about. Why do we do it? If we saved the 10,000 we spent we could just go out and buy a bigger or better model of car without all the hassle.

Surely you never get the money back when you come to sell it? If you are worried about losing money when modding a car, I think you've missed the point of it. It's fun and gives you great satisfaction, as well as some thrills if you are into engine modding. You could always buy a ready modded car for half the price of doing it yourself, but hey! Where's the fun in that?

We could all go out and buy a faster car but there is so much satisfaction in modding you car so you end up with something unique and that is set up exactly for you. A car becomes an extension of the drivers personality. Some like to draw attention to themselves and others like to be annoymously quick, surprising people at the lights! We all like cars though and agree that standard = boring and run of the mill!

Take a typical city suit, driving the compulsory BMW M3. His car costs around 30k brand new, its got leather seats, and average stereo and good performance. Then you take the modifier, he drives a pug 205 1.9 gti, which, he bought it for 1500 quid, he then spends 10k on mods eg T16 turbo engine, some new speaker components, head unit, brakes etc and has a PERFORMANCE BARGAIN which is setup to suit his driver preference.

That is why people buy a car and then spend 10k+ modifying it. I love that mentality.. "some new speaker components, head unit, brakes.. OH, and throw in an engine which belongs in a rally car while your at it!" Brilliant!

People ask me, why do you keep doing stuff to your car. I say to them why do they go fishing? Eat cauliflower? Watch Trisha? That makes no sense to me, but they enjoy doing it. I like the planning, taking a base car and thinking how can i make this really special? I love looking for bodykits and wheels online, and then excitedly ripping open the boxes as soon as they're delivered and getting straight to work fitting them, even though I know I'm supposed to be going somewhere in 5 minutes (like the supermarket, the in-laws' or work) and then razzing it around town when i've finished and people are turning their heads to look because there's nothing else like it on the road. It's the best feeling in the world.

For up to the minute advice on modifying your car look no further than this tuning guide.

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