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Ask the Auto Doctor:
Frequent Ignition Burnout: Inspect Electrical Components
Dear Doctor: I own a 2008 Buick LaCrosse with about 28,000 miles. I have replaced the ignition module four times. This has cost me a tidy sum of money, not to mention the inconvenience of being towed. I was told I “don’t use the car enough.” I can understand that could explain hoses or tires degrading but can this cause an ignition module to burn out? Should I get rid of the car? What suggestions can you offer? Enid
Dear Enid: I have seen this problem before on older General Motors V-6 engines. Check the engine grounds and items that are voltage-related. Poor grounds can often burn out the primary circuits in electronic components. Voltage spikes from ignition coils or alternators that have an erratic charging rate can all contribute to module failure. Have the technician do a complete electrical system check, including the battery.
Tech Out My New Car:
Why Does My New Car Start-Stop?
The average driver spends 16 minutes each day idling in traffic — or approximately four days a year without actually going anywhere, according to a study published by Sustainable America. Idling American cars burn 3.8 million gallons of fuel each day, says a study by The Hinkle Charitable Foundation; that adds up to a staggering 3,900,000,000 gallons of gasoline wasted in the U.S. each year by idling vehicles.
Automotive manufacturers are under intense pressure to meet strict fuel economy standards and are using ever more creative ways to wring out every last bit of fuel efficiency from their vehicles. One of the easiest ways to improve fuel economy is to implement “automatic start/stop” technology into their engines.
Engine stop/start is designed to minimize fuel consumption by automatically shutting off the engine when the car comes to a stop at a red light or in standstill traffic; some vehicles even disconnect the engine from the drivetrain when coasting at highway speeds. When a driver takes his or her foot off the brake to press on the gas, the engine restarts almost instantaneously, and the car is again ready to drive forward.
1939 Chevrolet Town Sedan: 85 Horsepower
Ralph Langford finds it easy to recall his first car, even though that Chevrolet is long gone. However, an exact duplicate now occupies space in his garage.
When military service beckoned, Langford’s first Chevy was placed in storage with the thought of eventual restoration in mind. Reality eventually set in and he realized the car was too far gone for an amateur restoration. Reluctantly, he sold the Chevrolet.
Then, along came the spring of 2004 when Langford saw an ad for a restored twin to his first car. It was a top-of-the-line 1939 two-door Master DeLuxe Town Sedan that the seller said had been restored.
Langford was smitten by the Mars Gray Chevrolet and made arrangements to rent a trailer to fetch the car from Indiana. Next, came the trip home to Virginia, which he says he would rather forget.
Down the Road:
Distracted Driving: It’s Everywhere
The opportunities for driver distraction are everywhere. Without predicting the future, it appears distracted driving is going to get worse, not better.
According to the National Highway and Traffic Administration: “Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.” Read that last sentence over a few times.
“Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system — anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.
New on Wheels:
Volkswagen Tiguan: All-New for 2018
Fresh off the introduction of the Atlas full-size SUV, Volkswagen continues to push into the American family market with the 2018 Tiguan, a compact SUV that feels larger than it is.
Volkswagen designed the new Tiguan specifically for the U.S. market, making it bigger and giving it a spacious interior with flexible searing choices. The second-generation Tiguan is nearly 11 inches longer than the previous model and has up to 58 percent more cargo space.
The new Tiguan is available in four trim levels: S, SE, SEL and SEL Premium. Three rows are standard in FWD models and optional in AWD models.
“With Tiguan and Atlas, we’re becoming a family-focused automaker,” said Mark Gillies, manager of products and technology for Volkswagen. He said the company is working to regain the public’s trust after the “dieselgate” scandal, and will offer a 6-year/72,000-mile warranty package that includes the engine, transmission and AWD system on the Tiguan.
Ram 3500 Limited Mega: For Die-Hard Big Truck Owners
Die-hard truckers, who pull the heaviest of loads, regularly opt for one-ton dually pickups — the most formidable in the segment. Shopping the Ram lineup for a 3500 that’s big on hauling power, interior space and luxury, the 2018 Limited Mega Cab 4×4 with 6.7-liter Cummins grunt tops the list.
This high-end Ram comes with a serious price tag. Base price is $63,995, but adding the $1,295 Dual Rear Wheels package brings mandatory powertrain options into play. The $8,700 Cummins Turbo Diesel and its $2,695 Aisin heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission companion are naturally bundled with the lineup’s supreme 3500 work truck.
A long list of options bumps the test truck’s price just north of $80,000. The most significant option is the $3,700 Limited Package. Highlighting this package are distinctively styled Limited leather bucket seats, wood/leather-wrapped steering wheel, power 10-way driver and six-way front-passenger seats, rear 60/40-split folding rear seat and the RamBox cargo management system.
Get Off the Road:
2018 Durango: The Dodge Charger of the SUV segment
Durango goes five wide for 2018, adding a new, top-rung SRT performance SUV to go along with its four other trims: SXT, GT, Citadel, and R/T.
My test drive was in a Durango GT with a base price of $40,095. Sitting midway between SXT and Citadel, it’s the volume model for the veteran Durango sport utility family.
Large SUVs aren’t typically called upon for heavy-trail driving, but light off-roading is easily within Durango’s comfort zone, as are wintry road conditions.
Vehicles of Durango’s size and heft aren’t generally sporty handlers. That’s true of the GT, though it takes corners confidently and feels stable in all conditions. Though I’ve not yet tested it, the exception to the foregoing figures to be the SRT trim level. With substantial suspension tuning to go along with its power boost, the new top Durango figures to be light on its feet for its size.
Electric Vehicles Super-Sizing Large Truck Market
Electric vehicles are getting supersized. If you thought EVs and PHEVs are just for commuter cars, then you’re not “plugged-in” to some of the biggest news in electrification. Here’s what’s new: Nikola has teamed with Bosch to market and develop a plug-in hydrogen-electric truck lineup that will deliver more than 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s nearly double the horsepower of any semi-truck on the road. The trucks will be built on Bosch’s eAxle scalable platform, making it suitable for trucks of different sizes and weights, which also scales down production costs.
Nikola estimates its big rig technology can save around 117,000 gallons of fuel per rig per year. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of 18-wheelers on the road on any given day, and it adds up to monumental savings for the cost of shipping and the carbon footprint of goods shipped.
Nikola also is building a long-haul hybrid powered by compressed natural gas, and a network of CNG stations nationwide, spaced at around 500-mile intervals, to refuel the big rigs. The two alternative fuel heavy-duty rigs are known as Nikola One and Nikola Two, and the company hopes to have them both on the road by 2021.
Honda Supersport: Weekday Commuter and Race Ready
Performance bikes in the sub-liter class are marketed as Super Sports. That’s primarily due to the popularity of the World Supersport Series. Honda has built a huge midsize following due to their domination in this popular race class.
Over 20 years, Honda has won nine in-class Supersport World Championships and 10 Manufacturers World titles, most of them on variants of the four-cylinder CBR600 platform.
World Supersport regulations require the bikes to be homologated to the public. Chassis must remain basically stock and series-supplied tires are road legal. Allowable engine tuning is strictly controlled; bore, stroke, and displacement must remain as homologated. So, the bike your friendly Big Red dealer sells you is basically already a proven class winner. ‘Nuf said.
RVers Can Bank on Casino Industry for Boondocking
The popularity of Recreation Vehicles continues to skyrocket for both retirees and millennials. Many of these RVers are looking for ways to trim their overall cost of overnight campground stays.
This is especially true when RVers are traveling long distances and simply want a safe place to pull off the highway and sleep for a few hours before continuing their journey.
Enter the casino industry. Hundreds of casinos across the country are taking advantage of this niche market by offering free overnight stays in their parking lots. This practice, also referred to as blacktop boondocking, or dry camping, is when an RVer parks for free on casino property, without the benefit of hookups or other amenities common in fee-based RV parks.
“In our early years on the road,” said Jane Kenny, author of Casino Camping: Guide to RV-Friendly Casinos, “every time we would stumble upon a casino, we pulled in to play for a few hours and sample the buffet. No matter what the State, we often noticed a number of RVs parked in the casino lot, usually grouped together at the far end.”