2013 Ford Explorer Sports – First Test Drive Impressions

What can you say about the new 2013 Ford Explorer?  In a nutshell it is the new redesigned Ford Explorer and is the synthesis of an American SUV with European styling and handling.  The interior was nice and well appointed which made me feel I was in a luxury Lincoln.  Makes you wonder what Ford will do with the Lincoln version of it.  The model I had was a beautiful black and pretty brown leather seats.  The 2013 Explorer Sport has some nice features but the re-engineering is what won me.

Ford's head engineer on the 2013 Ford Explorer emphasized that have improved to make a stiffer body with reinforcements in key structural areas.  Under the two fronts seats where they attached to the floor, there is a bar that stiffens the body, right across the transmission tunnel.  There is another stiffening bar behind the front shocks that is also behind the engine.

What was interesting to hear is that Ford Explorer weight split is 60/40 vehicle but the drivetrain can go into pure 50/50.  There is a convenient knob on the central console where you can select Desert, Forest and Ice mode, each giving you more or less torque if different driving conditions.

Although you sit high, as with any other SUV, it felt responsive and tight… at least tighter than any other SUV I've driven.  I would imagine the Porsche and Maserati could easily out handle the 2013 Ford Explorer, but not its price.  It's a SUV and has limits but more than a few BMWs on twisty roads were surprised by the powerful SUV keeping pace with their German vehicles.  Worse case handling scenario, the rear has a hard time understanding what the front is doing but obliges willingly and follows the curve.

Purist will hate the paddle shifting mounted on the steering wheel instead of the column, but I suspect 90% of its clientele won't know or care what paddle shifters are or even bother to use them.  I found myself a few times coming out of a curve wanting to shift but not being able to figure out which paddle was up or down.  One very nice touch are the good looking 20-inch wheels with “Sport” engraved in them.  The brakes have been generously upgraded for the Sport version for the extra power.

All in all, this is yet another Ford achievement as the company positions itself to compete with the more power and performance oriented SUV market, but at an affordable price.  I found the SUV easy to drive in traffic and even fun to bounce around canyon roads.  The engine comes alive at over 3,000 but not once will it intrude inside your plush felt cabin.  The only thing you will hate on the road if you own a Sport version is to see an older Explorer in front of you heavily braking at every curves.  This SUV is meant to go fast, cruise around town and everything in between.

St. Patrick Day “Tipsy Taxi” Service

Happy St. Patrick Day!  I am sure most people in Baltimore will be celebrating this holiday by going out to a bar or restaurant and having a few drinks.  Why not have a little fun, right?  It is important to remember to not drink and drive though.  You not only endanger yourself when driving intoxicated but fellow drivers and passengers on the road.  If you are going out tonight you might want to remember to call the “Tipsy Taxi.”

What is the Tipsy Taxi?  It is a collaboration between the American Automobile Association (AAA) and Yellow Cab that tries to keep drunk drivers off the road on holidays that usually involve consuming large amounts of alcohol.  To help with St Patrick's Day celebrations they are offering the service tonight.

That means on St. Patrick Day, Saturday March 17th, between from 4 pm – 4 am anyone who is at a Baltimore city restaurant or bar can call (#1-877-963-TAXI) and get a Free Ride home.

There are a few restrictions to using Tipsy Taxi though.  You must 21-years-old and need to live in the Baltimore metro area.  The taxi rides are Free but after $50 bucks, the rest of the ride is on you.  Still it is a pretty sweet deal and a good idea to keep intoxicated drivers off the road.

Supposedly the Tipsy Taxi line is busiest between 12 am – 2:30 am.  So keep that in mind if you call then.   Remember if you are drinking tonight please call the Tipsy Taxi number #1-877-963-TAXI.

Have fun and stay safe!

RelayRides Takes Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing Nationwide

RelayRides

RelayRides, the world's first peer-to-peer car sharing service, is breaking out of San Francisco and Boston and is launching nationwide today. “Anybody in the country will be able to enroll their car and rent [out] their cars right away,” says Shelby Clark, the company’s founder and Chief Community Officer.  RelayRides introduces us to the revolutionary concept of neighbors renting out their cars to fellow neighbors.  A renter can get a car for as little as $5 an hour.

What are the benefits of personal car sharing?  It is “more affordable, more accessible, and more efficient,” according to Clark. The average shared car “takes 14 other cars off the road,” thus allowing people to meet their mobility needs using far fewer cars. Clark explained.  It is “really good for the environment, community, and local economy.”

RelayRides makes a lot of sense financially in this down economy and in general. Car owners should think of it this way: That car you drive only a few days a week can make you some money when you aren’t using it. On average a car owner using RelayRides can earn $200-$250 a month.  (That’s $2,400-$3,000 dollars a year!) Clark personally makes around $400 a month renting out his Yellow Mini Convertible, which he told me is a lot of fun on sunny San Francisco days.

Renters who take part in RelayRides reap benefits as well. “Car sharing is a more attractive alternative to car ownership,” said Clark.  On average a person can save $500 a month not owning a car and taking part in car sharing.  “It is really convenient and affordable.  The car is located right in your neighborhood,” said Clark.

The personal car sharing concept might be hard for some people to understand.  When Clark initially pitched the idea to friends he faced a bit of resistance. “People were polite and raised their eyebrows, “So you want a stranger to drive my car?”  Clark emphasized the difference in opinion now, “The typical reaction I get from people now when I tell them about RelayRides for the first time is, “Huh, that makes a lot of sense!”

RelayRides currently has 200 cars in the two city fleet and 6000 members. By launching this innovative service nationwide, Clark expects these numbers to grow significantly. “We have learned a lot over the past two years of operation. We feel ready to bring this to the masses,” he told me.

There is a lot of room for growth.  According to Clark there are only about 1 million car-sharing members in North America. With 260 million cars on the road, that equals around 1.2 cars per person in the US.  Shelby thinks this is incredibly wasteful.  He believes that personal car sharing is an ideal solution.  Besides, most cars are only used about 8% percent of the time; the rest of the time they are just parked.

RelayRides is covered by a $1 million insurance policy and market-leading security safeguards.  It is backed by over $13M in venture capital funding from leading investors, such as Google Ventures and GM Ventures.

What impressed me while talking with Clark was not only his enthusiasm, optimism, and drive to make car sharing a viable option for everyone, but his attitude toward the competition. I thought other car sharing services might be unnerved by the news of RelayRides going national. However, Clark sees car sharing companies as being in this together, working for the greater good. He feels there is room for more than one company and that collaboration could be helpful to everyone.

This is a “big step forward for car sharing,” Clark told me. I think it certainly is and the future looks bright for RelayRides.

Adam’s 7 Tips for Winterizing Your Car

Replacing My Wipers for Cold Weather

With the unusually warm weather in January, I felt a bit odd posting a list of tips for winterizing your car.  Now that there is actually snow on the ground in Baltimore, and it is cold, it makes more sense posting this list.  No sense in posting a list in the Spring!

“Adam's 7 Tips for Winterizing Your Car.”

  1. Hey, Your Car is Dirty:  This is something that is a good idea to do before it gets cold and there is snow on the ground.  (Ok, maybe I should have posted this earlier.)  It's good to clean your car of all the road grime and dirt, because during the winter cars tend to attract more dirt.  Clean the interior of the car as well.  If you don't have rubber floormats, I would consider buying them as it will help keep your car's interior cleaner.  Most people don't clean their cars during the winter, so that is why I suggest this.
  2. Ohh, My Battery Is Dead: It is a very good idea to get your battery checked or take a look yourself.  Low temperatures make it hard for the chemical reactions inside your battery to operate normally, meaning it has reduced power to get your car started.  Most auto parts stores do Free battery checks using specialized testers, and they can usually test your whole electrical system too.  If you have had trouble starting your car in the past due to the battery going dead or it has given you problems, you probably should just get a new battery.  If it is more than 3-4 years old, replace it.
  3. Get Rid Of That Battery Corrosion: Even if your battery is not that old, servicing it might be a good idea.  By that I mean making sure there is no corrosion on the terminals or cables.  If you are comfortable cleaning the terminals and battery, it is a good idea to do that yourself.  (Remember undo the negative cable first, then the positive cable.)  A quick way to get all the corrosion off is to pour warm water on top of the battery, which quickly washes away all that white sulfate deposit.  You can then take wire brush and clean the terminals and cables, ensuring you battery has a good connection.
  4. Can You See The Light?:  Having a Headlight or Taillight bulb out is an easy thing to miss. Hey, I understand!  Since the days are shorter and the nights longer in winter, it is good to make sure they are functioning properly.  Turn on your cars lights and walk around to make sure all are in working order.  Don't forgot to check those blinkers too!  If any are out or very dim, replace it.  Then you don't need to worry about it later.
  5. Keep Your Coolant:  You want to make sure you have a 50:50 mix of anti-freeze and water inside your radiator. If there isn’t enough anti-freeze in the mix, it could potentially freeze in the cold weather.  How do you know if you have a 50/50 coolant or anti-freeze mixture?  There are test strips and special tools to test the mixture and pH level of coolant.  I rarely see many shops using them, but you can buy them at auto parts stores.  You might want to consider doing a coolant flush if you have never done it, or if it has been 4+ years since you have flushed your coolant.  Don't forgot to also check your hoses.  If they are bulging hard, brittle, deformed, squishy, or have hairline cracks, replace the hose.
  6. Is Your Tread Dead?: When is the last time you checked you tire pressure?  Mmm… better check it, since tires lose about 1psi for every 10 degree change in temperature.   You gas mileage will improve and your car will handle better.  Also make sure you have adequate tread and your tires are not worn-out.  If you live in climate that gets heavy snow, switching to snow tires for the winter might not be bad idea.
  7. Can You See the Road?: Wipers are very easy to overlook, but very important for inclement weather.  Check your wipers are not streaking or has rubber falling off.  If they are old and aren't doing the job, replace them.  I recommend Bosch frame-less wipers, which last longer and work better.  I have Bosch wipers installed on my Honda Accord.  Remember to also make sure you have washer fluid.

I hope you enjoyed Adam's Auto Advice tips!  If you have a suggestion or comment about winterizing your vehicle  leave a comment below.  Keep warm this winter and please drive safely.  You never know what's on the road, so be prepared.

Watch it in Wet Weather!

I am sure everyone in the Baltimore area and Maryland experienced the rather quick switch in weather from sunshine, to heavy rain, some sunshine, light rain, sunshine, heavy rain!  It was a little bit ridiculous.  It's a good reminder to be prepared for anything when driving and to stay alert.  You need to be constantly aware of the driving conditions you are dealing with, espicially in wet weather.

A few weeks ago when I was headed to the Baltimore Grand Prix Economic Press Conference, it was raining like nobody's business!  Not far from my house these was this accident.  It was pretty serious as you can see from the pictures.  These two small SUVS did a lot of damage hitting each other, at what I assumed was relatively low speeds.  This was most likely due to the fact that one of the drivers did not adjust their driving for wet conditions.  Since they were relatively the same size and type of vehicle, it seemed nobody was seriously injued. (Actually both were Honda CRVs).  Consider if one of the vehicles was a truck hitting a compact car.  Not good!

3M Headlight Restoration Kit Review

In my last post I suggested using Toothpaste to Restore Cloudy Headlights. It will work…. if you spend the whole day doing it!

To save yourself time and sanity I'd suggest buying a 3M Headlight Restoration Kit. These kits range in price from $15-20, and generally work well.  For restoring the headlights on my Mom's '97 Chrysler Town & Country I bought the 3M Headlight Restoration Kit. It took me about 4 hours to do it properly.  The process is basically what a body shop would do to restore and refinish headlights.  Except you use a drill and save a ton of money since you DIY!

Here are Pictures of the Before and After on my Mom's '97 Chrysler Van.

BEFORE
AFTER

I did this on March 6th, 2010. That was about 2 months ago, and the headlights still look pretty good. The headlights were so dim nobody wanted to drive the Town & Country at night, but now that's not a problem.  (Well I don't want to drive it because it's van but that is obviously a separate issue.)

Restoring your headlights is extremely beneficial for your safety and other drivers out on the road.  Not only did this improve the appearance of the van, but the ability to see the road at night and in bad weather greatly improved and other people will be able to see the van better.

It's possible the headlights will get cloudy again, meaning I might have to buy another headlight restoration kit and redo this.  If you want to avoid this in the future I would recommend going down to your local auto parts store and buying a UV clearcoat spray in a can.  Headlights that come from the factory have a UV clearcoat protection on them, which helps protect from UV damage and debris.  Generally when the UV clearcoat wears off is when you start to get cloudy, hazy, and yellowed headlights.

The 3M Headlight Restoration Kit doesn't have any sort of clearcoat spray that comes with the kit.  Some kits, like the Slyvania Headlight Restoration Kit, come with a UV clearcoat application.  I should put a protective UV coating on the van's headlights, to ensure I don't need to refinish the headlights again.  I would recommend you do the same if buy the 3M kit.

Here are some tips for the 3M kit:

  • I was oversanding with the 600 grit sandpaper. The paper would gum up, before I realized it. It probably would have been helpful to wet the 600 grit paper a little bit every so often.
  • You get only 1 piece of 3000 grit sandpaper. It would have been helpful to have 2 pieces in my opinion. I did one headlight then I moved onto the other one, but by then the paper was used up. It took me forever to do the other headlight. I would suggest switching back and forth on each side if you are headlights are really cloudy, hazy, or yellowed.
  • You must Tape-up around your Headlights! I probably would have done a lot of damage to the paint if I didn't! I just used blue Painters Tape you can buy at any local hardware store, which worked fine.
  • I would suggest using a Corded Drill, which is what I used. If you try to use a Battery Powered Drill, I'm sure the battery will run out before you finish and you will be waiting for the batteries to charge.
  • As the video says in the beginning you definitely should have a Spray Bottle and some microfiber towels.
I hope this helps people restore their own Headlights. If you have seriously cloudy, hazy, or yellowed headlights keep in mind the 3M kit probably will not work.  You might need to get them refinished and restored at a body shop.  However, it is worth it to at least try the 3M kit first since it's not that expensive.  I'd imagine your headlights will still look a little bit better.
If you have any questions about using the kit please leave a comment below.