car tuning

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 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!)

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