Keep Extra Prescription Glasses & Sunglasses in your Car

Have you ever thought about keeping an extra pair of prescription glasses or sunglasses in your car? The idea of spending that amount of money on extra glasses sounds crazy at first. I know because I wear specs myself and it can be a daunting and expensive task buying new ones.

However, what most people don’t realize is that you can order prescription glasses and prescription sunglasses online for under $100 dollars these days. Think that sounds too inexpensive?  It’s not. The mark-up at your local optician is ridiculous for frames and lenses.  Often the lens only cost a few dollars per pair and the frames are made cheaply with a markup of several thousand percent.  The online glasses websites sell frames and lenses that are made of the same material and are often made in the same factories and labs at stores you can find locally.

Armed with this knowledge recommending you keep an extra pair of prescription glasses and sunglasses in your car sounds more reasonable.  There are many online options now like Warby Parker which is popular among hipsters.  SelectSpecs is another good options with “The World’s Cheapest Glasses.”  Read this SelectSpecs Review and you will see you can order glasses through them shipped for $20-$30 dollars.

When you break your glasses… that is an immensely terrible feeling isn’t it? You spent a lot of money on them, if you bought them at a local optical shop, and replacing them is a hassle. If you require glasses for driving you don’t want to put yourself or other drivers in a dangerous situation by not having “your eyes” on.  Keeping an extra pair for glasses makes more sense now, right?

If you want to learn more about buying glasses online, visit OpticalOwl.

My Experience Buying a Hybrid Bike from Performance Bike

Even though this is mainly an automotive website I thought I would share my experience buying a bicycle from Performance Bike to read this review. Besides I get asked about alternative transportation methods to cars a lot as an auto journalist so I should have some firsthand knowledgeable about that, right?

diamondback insight performance bike

Performance Hybrid Bike

For those that like to keep up with this automotive website you might have seen my post about getting into cycling and ridiculous bike prices.  Instead of just wasting more time and energy on looking for a bike, I decided to pull the trigger and got a Diamondback Insight from Performance Bike.

Since I’m new to owning an adult hybrid bike my main concerns were;

  1. A reasonable purchase price
  2. The bike getting stolen

Each time I went into a local bike shop it seems like they try to convince you to get something in the $800+ range, no matter what your looking for.  Since I live in the city where your stuff can get stolen often, spending that much on a hybrid bike for commuting purposes was not going to happen.  I also was budgeted for installing other bicycle accessories like a rack, saddlebags, bike computer, etc.  A lot of bike accessories can add-up quickly.

I had considered buying the Diamondback at Dick’s Sporting Goods.  My hang-up was that workers know little about bicycles and apparently they don’t let you test ride the bike outside the store.  Dick’s did have a the bike for slightly less than Performance Bike.  I asked if they would price match the Insight which they did. I assumed buying a hybrid bike from a large bicycle retailer had the advantage of them putting the bike together properly.  I also assumed that Performance Bike employees know more about cycling than the average big sporting retailer about bicycles.  “Assume” is the keyword there.

Diamondback Insight

The reason I choose the Diamondback Insight was I tested out a Small while visiting someone and thought it seemed like a good bike for what you pay. I had tested out the Medium at the store where they bought this Diamondback small.  I was told at this bike store by one of the employees that they recommended a Medium since Small seemed cramped for my size. I believe the sizing on the Small was 15-inches and the Medium was 17-inches.

I called my local Performance Bike store a couple of times to see if they had a Medium or Small in stock I could ride. I had visited the local store twice and each time they only had a Large Diamondback Insight frame, which is 19-inches, which definitely was too large. I decided to just order it online since it seemed like such a hassle finding an available one in stock.

When I went to pick-up the Medium I had ordered it felt slightly different than the one I had ridden before. I couldn’t quite figure it out.  I rode the bike around the parking lot of Performance Bike and it quite honestly felt large. Also the brakes seemed out of adjustment and were squeaking a lot in the front so I took it back to have the mechanic look at it. I asked for a sizing assessment from the mechanic, who wasn’t that helpful. He didn’t seem to really care so I just thought I’d find another work.

I asked about the sizing to another associates in the store at the time.  I wondered if they had a Small in stock, of course they didn’t because I guess they sell or just don’t stock them.  I left the store with the Insight and just decided to ride it around. I got a few opinions about the sizing from friends and family but obviously they didn’t know anything about bicycling sizing. I stopped at a local bike shop and asked and all I was told was that they really only know sizing for what they sell, Treks. Yeah pretty smart.

Final Thoughts about Performance Bike

My personal experience at Performance Bike I wouldn’t buy a bicycle from them again due to not having a helpful explanations about the sizing when you are in the store. I’m sure a lot of people probably go to Performance Bike for buying a hybrid bike, since I’ve heard these are stores most popular sellers. I guess I’m not sure why I couldn’t get good help from store associates regarding sizing for a hybrid.

For now I’ve kept the Diamondback Insight medium.  I guess the man reason I have kept the Diamondback Insight I bought was because it was a good deal, just about $300.  Also I don’t know, maybe I like the color. I have thought about taking it back since I was told they have an extremely generous return policy and will accept anything bike.  Perhaps the best reason to buy anything through Performance Bike? I’ve only ridden the Diamondback Insight a couple of times.

In the future I might go to Performance Bike for bicycle parts, accessories, and clothing since they carry a lot more than a local bike shop. However, like I said I definitely won’t be dropping any sort of cash to buy another hybrid bike or other bicycle from them in the future.

I have thought about buying a road bike from commuting, casual racing, and charity rides. If I want a road bike I’ll either go the BikesDirect route and make sure I know exactly what I want to get in terms of geometry and size, find a used road bike, or find a local bike shop that will cut me a good deal.  Road bikes are rather expensive.

I’d be happy to head from regular readers or anyone happening upon this article. Were you going to buy from Performance Bike but now you won’t? Have you bought a hybrid bike or other type of bike from Performance Bike? Did you enjoy the experience or were you dissatisfied? If you shop at Performance Bike what bike accessories have you there and how have you found the customer service and overall experience? Good, bad, needs improvement?

VW launches site for VW Diesel owners, lacks useful Info

By now I’m sure if you are a Volkswagen owner, VW enthusiast, gearhead, auto writer, or just a regular person you’ve heard about the emissions cheating scandal that affects VW diesels. For years the company has been engaged in deceiving the public by installing code into VW and Audi diesels vehicle computers which helped these diesel cars cheat emissions tests.

The cars computer could detect when they were being subjected to emissions testing and turned on all the cars emissions equipment to pass the test. Out on the road however most of the emissions equipment on the VW diesel would turn off to improve performance.

With a massive recall ahead of the company in the United States, and possibly other countries, the German automaker has launched VWDieselInfo for owners for information regarding the VW diesel recall.  The site it seems is meant to be a hub for owners of the affected VW diesel cars which includes the following models;

  • VW Jetta TDI (Model Years 2009 – 2015)
  • VW Jetta SportWagen TDI (Model Years 2009-2014)
  • VW Golf TDI (Model Years 2010-2015)
  • VW Golf SportWagen TDI (Model Year 2015)
  • VW Beetle TDI and VW Beetle Convertible TDI (Model Years 2012 – 2015)
  • VW Passat TDI (Model Years 2012-2015)

Unfortunately the website lacks any useful or relevant information, at least at this point in time. While the site does include a FAQs section I’m fairly sure most VW diesel owners have a plethora of questions for VW that are not answered on this website. For instance, when will VW start recalling vehicles? How long will it take for VW diesel owners to get vehicles fixed? Will it require a new computer or just a software update? What will the performance be like when the emissions software is removed? Will VW offer a buyback program?

The website does not include any information about VW’s German luxury brand, Audi, whose diesel models are also effected by the emissions defeat devices.  VW’s other European brand, SEAT and Skoda, are affected as well.

The website includes a statement from Martin Horn, who resigned as President and CEO of Volkswagen America because of the scandal, but for some reason VW kept his statement and video up? Unsure who made that decision. Anyway, the statement from Horn makes it clear that VW diesels are safe and “legal” to drive. He also mentions that VW has pulled VW TDI diesel advertising due to the scandal. VW has also stopped sales of VW diesels. Horn also assures the public;

We are committed to making this right and preventing it from ever happening again. We will bring these TDI vehicles into compliance with the federal and state emissions regulations.

Unsurprisingly comments for the video of Martin Horn apologizing on Youtube have been turned off. If they had allowed them I’m sure it would have been a torrent of questions and angry comments from owners.

Visit the site here –

What are your thoughts about the VWDieselInfo website if you are a VW diesel owner or just upset about the emissions cheating? Do you think executives should be held accountable for this emissions cheating? What are your thoughts about the VW and Audi brands now?

James Halderman’s Engine Oil Update talk – NACAT Conference

engine oil update

At the 2015 North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT) conference, I gave a technical presentation titled, “Engine Oil Update”. This topic was well received and created many questions because of the changes that have occurred over the past few years that few, if any, automotive instructors were aware. The major items of greatest interest included:

  1. The term “synthetic” has an entirely new meaning since 1999 when a highly refined mineral oil was ruled by a federal judge to be a synthetic because the molecules were changed.

  2. As a result, there is now little difference between most mineral oils and what is labeled a synthetic.

  3. The specifications for oil are many and include:

  • SAE– viscosity or thickness at both low and high temperatures

  • API– Oil that meets the API standard has the circle on the back of the container and letters and numbers indicating which API standard it meets.

  • ILSAC– If the oil meets this standard, there is a “starburst” symbol on the front of the oil container.

  • ACEA– This standard is used for oil designed to be used in European vehicles and is different from the specifications for Asian or domestic vehicles.

  • Vehicle specific oil specifications– Vehicle manufacturer’s often have their own specified oil, such as General Motors Co. vehicles (Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac) specify that the oil used be certified as “dexos”(spelled with a lower case “d” as specified by GM), a unique specification designed to meet the needs of engines used in GM vehicles. Many other vehicle manufacturers also specify their own standard.

  • Older engines need to use oil formulated with additional zinc– The amount of zinc (ZDDP) used in oil has been reduced to help protect emission control devices over the past ten years. However, older vehicles (pre-1990 usually) require that the oil needs to have the amount of zinc that was used in the older engine oil.

  • New lower viscosity oil coming soon– Starting in late 2016 or early 2017, a new lower viscosity oil has been approved. The new SAE 0W-16 is designed to be used in 2016 or new vehicles and is not backward compatible for use in older vehicles.

  • Even lower viscosities have been approved– SAE has recently approved SAE 4, 8 and 12 viscosities for possible future use all do to the need to improve fuel economy and lower exhaust emissions.

What does all this mean? It means that one size or one specification cannot be used when it comes to engine oil. Always use what the vehicle manufacturer recommends and use oil that not only states that it meets the specifications but is also from a known brand. Avoid using any other than oil that is specified for your vehicle, to help insure a long life.

For a copy of the engine oil update Power Point, visit –

  • Click on “Jim’s Stuff” at the top.

  • Select “Conference Power Points.”

  • Select “Engine Oil Update” and then right click to “save target as” to save to your computer.

  • Enjoy

Editors’ Note – This is a guest post by Jim Halderman, an esteemed automotive repair textbook author and contributor  

North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT) conference

nacat conference

The 42nd North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT) conference was held at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, July 20-24. A welcome reception was held at the host hotel on Sunday evening, July 19 to help jump-start the week’s events. Over 200 automotive instructors from the United States and Canada attend this yearly event. The most important feature of this conference is that it includes more than 20 hours of update training required by instructors whose program is certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Federation (NATEF). The update technical and educational seminars presented by vendors, technical trainers or even the members themselves all at no cost to the organization. A typical day at NACAT included:

  • Breakfast at the hotel and then travel to the college for the first session, which started at 8 am.
  • Coffee break from 10:00-10:30 AM allowing time to talk to others between sessions.
  • Second technical/educational session was held from 10:30-12:00 noon.
  • Lunch on your own at the college café from 12:00-1:00 pm.
  • 1:00-2:30 pm- The third technical/educational session.
  • 2:30-3:00 pm- Break that usually included great cookies and other waist-busting food, as well as bottled water and soft drinks.
  • 3:00-5:00 pm- The fourth technical/educational session of the day.
  • The evenings were also planned (except for Monday evening) and included a BBQ on Tuesday evening, the trade show with pizza on Wednesday evening and the banquet on Thursday evening.

The trade show, held Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, was setup in the huge shop area of the automotive department at Joliet Junior College, which was air conditioned and well lighted with LED overhead lighting. The trade show had vendors from most of the suppliers of automotive service equipment and training aids, as well as all of the automotive textbook publishers. Pearson Education had a booth located in a high-travel area and had many instructors stop by to see the latest editions of the automotive professional technician series texts.

The conference ended Friday morning with a closing business meeting.
The NACAT conference will be held at San Jacinto College, in Pasadena, Texas which is near Houston, the third week in July of 2016.

Editors’ Note – This is a guest post by Jim Halderman, an esteemed automotive repair textbook author and contributor

ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference

ase conferenceThe annual ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference was held at the Westin Hotel at Crown Center in Kansas City, MO, on July 27-31, 2015. The conference was very well attended by over 300 participants that included over 250 automotive instructors. The event was enhanced by many corporate sponsors who help fund the many excellent meals and breaks.

  • Monday, July 27– A welcome reception was held at the host hotel from 6:30-8:30 PM.

  • Tuesday, July 28– The conference started with breakfast and a general session. A large group sessions of general interest to most secondary and post-secondary instructors followed.

  • WednesdayThursday, July 29-30– After breakfast each morning, the participants had a choice of nine technical sessions covering all aspects of automotive service and the latest technology. These sessions were either 90 or 120 minutes depending on the schedule allowing the trainer to tailor their presentations to the allocated time that best met their needs.

  • Wednesday Evening- 5:30-9:00 PM was the instructor diner and recognition banquet held at the host hotel.

  • Friday, July 31-The morning activity was a networking field trip to the Kansas City Automotive Museum, which was the last of the schedule activities for the conference.

What I learned:

From the presentation from ASE/NATEF, I learned

  • There are 350,000 ASE certified technicians
  • There are currently 135,465 students certified under the student certification program.
  • There are 2,357 NATEF certified automotive programs with 35,000 students.
  • The Automotive Training Manager Council (ATMC) was created in 1984.

In other presentations that I attended, I learned many details on the German ZF six and eight automatic transmissions as well as latest news and products from many vendors who were present and gave technical presentations.

What I presented:

Curt Ward from Joliet Junior College and I presented two 90-minute presentations. The first was a standing room only presentation from 1:00-2:30 on Wednesday afternoon and repeated on Thursday morning from 10:30 until 12 noon. We received many good questions and comments both during and after each presentation. Our presentation was titled “Diesel Diagnosis for the Gas Instructor”. This topic was in response to questions from automotive instructors at previous conferences who did not know what to teach or what was needed to teach light diesel engines. Light duty diesels are used in many European as well as Chevrolet, GMC, Ford and Ram pickup trucks and are being produced in large numbers. This presentation resulted in many good questions and much discussion on how the instructors could start teaching light diesel in their classes.


The ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference offered very informative presentations, with great food and was held at super nice hotel in neat city. It does not get much better than that.

Editors’ Note – This is a guest post by Jim Halderman, an esteemed automotive repair textbook author and contributor to  

Why don’t more People ride Bikes? Simple, Prices are Ridiculous!

why are bikes so expensive

Some of the most common questions I get asked as an auto writer and discussion I get into with people are actually not about cars but in fact ways someone could not use or own a car.  This includes topics like ride sharing and car sharing services.  You know companies like RelayRides, Lift, or say using public transportation, riding a bike (bicycle), etc.  One discussion I have fairly often with people is, “Why don’t more people use bikes?”  The benefits are pretty clear;

  • It’s good exercise
  • Gets you there faster than Walking or Running
  • Reduces dealing with traffic
  • You save on gas
  • Less wear and tear on your car
  • Less air pollution
  • It can be fun (if there are not too many big hills)

There probably are some more advantages I’m missing. If you feel I’m been left out anything leave a comment below.

So if the benefits are clear and most people know how ride a Bike (I think) and we all know riding a bike is great exercise, why don’t more people do it?  Simple answer, road bikes are too damn expensive.

While this is an automotive website I thought it would be interesting to share my experiences with looking into a buying a bicycle recently.

Getting into Cycling

Since I’ve gained a good bit of “muscle” around my mid section during the winter I’ve been trying to figure out various physical activities to keep this muscle on. 🙂  Like most Americans I thought, “Hey, why don’t I get a bike? It’s great exercise.”  It makes sense since around here they’ve added a bunch of designated bike lanes on the roads to try to make bike commuting easier.  So why not get into cycling?

Before embarking on the journey of actually looking into a bicycle I decided to whip out my old Trek.  This Trek is a pretty good mountain bike that still shifts ok and the tires and brakes work fine. I started riding around trails and roads a little bit realized those knobby tires were slowing me down and it would be more ideal to get a road bike for more serious riding in the city.  The mountain bike would still works ok if I wanted to ride trails though, so I’d keep it for that.

I decided I’d like something that I could commute around town with, add a bike rack and possibly fenders in the future, and maybe do a triathlon If I’m really ambitious.  I started Googling for information and to see what bicycles were available in my price range.

Bike Prices at your Local Bike Shop

Lurking around on various bicycling forums and seeing what people suggested most recommend going to a local bike shop to see what’s available because of the service and knowledge.  For those reading this that haven’t look around at buying a beginner road bike in awhile you might be… well… floored by the cost.  There are some entry level road bikes but honestly I didn’t see much besides hybrid bikes at my local bike shop in my price range.  Still I went into the bike store to see what they had.

“Most people come in here and spend $2,000.” is what the salesman told me when I asked about what road bikes they had in available at one bike store.  This obviously was way above my budget and what I felt like spending on my first road bike.  He assured me though of all the “technology!” on these bikes.  My eyes kind of rolled when I heard this. “Technology? What technology? It’s a bicycle!”

Still I test rode a Sirrus Specialized equipped with hydraulic disc brakes.  Technically this is what is considered a hybrid bike since it had flat handle bars but skinny tires just like a road bike.  The price for the Sirrus is $700 but I should add the local bike shop includes a 2 year maintenance plan with a fitting session.  Not a bad deal just still slightly out of my budget since ideally I’d like to spend less than that on the actual bicycle and add any bike accessories or upgrades I feel I need.

I stopped at another local bike shop and the energetic salesman showed me a few models they had. He thought a Trek 7.4 hybrid would fit my needs which was $800.  A road bike he showed me was a Trek One series which he thought is ideal for city use and something like a Triathlon.  The Trek Cross Rip was another model priced at $1,000 which he said is extremely popular and hard for them to keep in stock.  They did have some other more expensive bikes on closeout that for $1,300 that he said was comparable to the Cross Rip but offered a lot more value in terms of components.  All were nice bikes, but still this is more than I wanted to spend on a road bike.

Since all the shops knew my budget and didn’t offer any solutions outside of buying expensive starter road bikes, in my opinion, I thought I’d keep looking.

Buying a used Road Bike

With spring moving into summer I, like a lot of people, probably have considered getting buying a bicycle and using my car less.  Still I thought there must be people doing spring cleaning and getting rid of bikes they haven’t used that have just sat around in their basement or garage.

So like a lot of people suggest, if you aren’t sure you can afford what a local bike shop sells beginner bikes for check online local classifieds like Craigslist.  Well… I’ve been looking around on CL for an adequate beginner hybrid or road bike. So far I’ve come up empty and haven’t seen anything that would work. It’s either people that want too much for garbage or trashed bikes, something that might work but the size does not fit me, or pros looking to offload some crazy expensive road bike for thousands of dollars they don’t need anymore. Honestly I feel I’ve wasted more time scouring Craigslist and other places to get a used road bike than was really worth the effort or time.

Why are bikes so expensive?

For the price it costs to get a supposedly “decent” equipped road bike according to some of the cycling snobs it seems you must spend at least $1,500-$2,000 dollars these days. Let’s be serious for that amount of money I don’t feel like riding a bicycle, but I’d rather buy a scooter or used motorcycle.  These have much more components, parts, as well as technology behind them. Are you seriously f$%@ing telling me that there is more research and development behind a bicycle than a motorcycle or scooter with an engine?  No, there isn’t and don’t try to tell me there is.

This is a fairly long video by Martin Horn, an ex-pro racer, that explains that for the recreational cyclist spending a ton of money on a bike doesn’t make sense.  It won’t make go that much faster nor does he believe the components are that much better.

Horn makes a good point that the Ninja motorcycle he bought was $3,000 dollars which has an engine, hydraulic brakes, a transmission with a clutch, and an electrical system.  This is waaay more technology than a road bike no matter how you cut it.

Pretty much to answer the question, “Why are bikes so expensive?” Bicycle manufacturers and companies are charging these prices because they know the can.

Buying a Bike Online

The company that Martin Horn bought the bikes in his videos from is known as BikesDirect.  I have not ordered from them but I’m considering using them or another company like Nashbar, BikeShopWarehouse, or Performance Bike (they have retail locations too).

The most expensive bike he has is the Motobecane Grand Record which cost $650. He also has the Windsor Wellington 2.0 which cost $350 which he believes is an incredible value for the a bike of that price.  Horn has only replaced the wheels and tires and rode the Wellington for tens of thousands of miles.

I’d love to buy a bicycle from the local bike shop but I don’t know, I feel like they are out of touch with recreational cyclists and people just getting started. I’m strongly considering ordering online.

Bike Co-Operatives and Collectives

In some cities you can find bike co-operatives and collectives.  They offer shared workshop spaces for working on bicycles and rebuilding them for those that don’t have a lot of money.  They have training and classes for those looking to learn to repair their own bicycles in addition to parts for those looking to build their own.

While the collectives are a great idea but I think most people prefer to buy a ready to roll bike.  I might buy one online through a company like BikesDirect and then see if someone at the local bike coop here can help me make sure everything is good to go.  These bike co-operatives are a great solution for those who want cheap transportation and are looking to pick-up skills to work on their own bikes. To bad they don’t have these for cars… of course think of the legal issues there. 🙂

Should the Bike industry rethink their pricing Strategy?

It seems like the industry has freewheeled into thinking they can charge whatever they want for bikes.  To be honest I guess they can as a lot of people pay these ridiculous prices.  Of course a lot of people won’t so they never buy a bicycle or get into cycling.  Is this a positive for our society and bike shops?

Even if we were to look at some of these carbon fiber top-of-the-line bikes… how much material does the bike use? Compared to cars… little.

Talking with a friend about buying a bicycle and how expensive they are, and my experience trying to buy a one he said, “I bought a bike for $50 from Wal-Mart!”  Granted this was for his son and was a few years ago when he was smaller but illustrates the point that Americans generally are not keen on spending a lot for bicycle.

As Martin Horn pointed out in his video those really expensive bikes doesn’t really make you go all that faster, unless you are really good at pedaling.  Most people are not so you’d probably be fine with going with an aluminum frame road bike.

Also keep in mind there are really only a few places that make bicycles frames and components these days and they are all in China and Taiwan.  They can be made with different tolerances, materials, and such but if they are all coming from the same place why do they charge so much?

I’ve noticed the amount of people use bicycles for transportation, at least in this city, still seems to be laughable low.  If the cycling community and manufactures wants to see a serious uptick in the amount of riders using bicycles for transportation or leisure fitness I think they need to take hard look at their pricing model and radically change.

I’d be happy to hear reader thoughts, what do you think of bike prices? Are they justified or completely out-of-whack?  Do you believe that local bike shops are justified charging a grand for a beginner road bike?  Would you get a bike if it was less expensive?