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Showing posts from August, 2011

The Worst Cars in the World

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Second installment in the ongoing series Dodge/Plymouth Neon The Neon was seen as something fresh and new, and represented a new direction for Chrysler in the early 90’s. They were finally weeding out all of the terrible K car derivatives from the 80’s and the Neon was poised to be something to challenge the compacts from Japan that had taken over the market. This was not to be because the Neon was such a terrible car. 1995 Dodge Neon This car really represented a step forward for Chrysler because on paper, it had all of the same things that the Japanese rivals had, but it also had some great things that the Japanese didn’t have, such as more power, and a supposed fun-to-drive factor. These were things that would draw people over from all of Chrysler’s rivals. The Neon also made domestic offerings from the same class such as the Escort and the Cavalier, look like the Pinto and the Chevette, or any of the other old bombs from the days of the AMC Gremlin. While Neon sales were pret

What Does Octane Mean?

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87, 89, 91. If you live in the Rocky Mountain region then you will see 85, 87, and 91. These are your choices when you pull up to the gas pump. These are the various octane ratings of the fuel that the gas station is selling, and as far as most people are concerned the only difference between any of them is typically $.10 per gallon. The truth is there are more important differences besides the price but it has nothing to do with the quality of the fuel, or the amount of power the fuel will produce. Choices, choices, choices The octane rating refers to ability of the fuel to resist combustion until the spark is introduced into the combustion chamber. You might also say that it is somewhat of a reflection of how much octane is blended with how much heptane to produce the fuel. In order to understand the difference between octane and heptane we should have a brief look at hydrocarbon chains. A hydrocarbon is a molecule that is made up of hydrogen and carbon. The first of all the hy

The Rubber that Meets the Road

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Saying that tires come in all shapes and sizes, isn’t exactly right. They do come in all sorts of sizes but the shapes are pretty much the same, round with a hole in the middle. They are all black and they all use air pressure to keep them working properly, although with all of the strange things that automotive designers have done over the years to change the style of the cars and trucks we drive, it’s kind of funny that they haven’t had cars with blue tires or red tires. The only thing they have ever tried is varying thicknesses of a white stripe around the sidewall. Tires are an extremely important part of the car and yet they are always neglected or forgotten. Without decent tires a car turns into an instrument of death and chaos. That may sound silly but it’s pretty much true. The tires keep the car in control and sticking to the road at all times. When it’s going straight, and when it’s turning, when it’s on smooth clear pavement, and when it’s on rough, bumpy or slippery surface

OBD I and OBD II Are Not Star Wars Characters

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Can you just hook a computer up to it? Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, someone thought it would be a good idea to start putting computers on cars to control all of the various vehicle systems. This started out very gradually at first with just the control of engine operation being handed over to a mysterious little box with a bunch of wires hanging out. Cars today not only have multiple computers but all of the computers are link together on a network. Computer controls have been very good for the automobile because they have made all of the various systems much more efficient, and they have allowed many more important features to be added to the average car. Some people complain that all of the complex computer control systems aren’t necessary and that the old systems are better because they are simpler. Well if simplicity is the primary goal then the old systems are better. Considering that computer controls help vehicles have more power and get better gas mileage, it may be wo