Situation Report 3

One summer, one fall and 37,968 kilometers (23,592 miles) since my last update, it’s been quite a while since my last post so I have a few interesting things to talk about.

First let’s go over fuel efficiency figures, in Situation Report 2: Spring Time I had written the following:

Since my last report I’ve done 7,224 kilometers or 4489 miles and over that period my fuel efficiency numbers have been 8.5 L / 100 km or around 28 mpg. This represents a drastic improvement since my last report where after 10,658 kilometers or 6623 miles I was averaging 9.7 L / 100 km or around 24 mpg. It’s difficult to assess the exact reason for this, but my assumptions are that I did much more highway driving over this period and also due to the warming weather I probably reduced my idling time quite a bit.

These numbers were all achieved using winter tires, so now that I’ve switched to four season tires, I’m expecting even better numbers.

This unfortunately didn’t happen, on summer tires, my number seemed to usually level off at around 8.9 L / 100 km (26 mpg). This average sometimes went down to around 8.4 L / 100 km (28 mpg) during long road trips, but eventually came back up slowly as I resumed my habitual driving. But this isn’t the whole story, as mentioned in my most recent post, during the summer I moved to another city. I used to live in the suburbs, with easy access to the highway, but now I have moved to an inner city apartment and this has had an atrocious effect on my fuel efficiency numbers.  My current average of the 37,968 kilometers is 10.7 L / 100 km (23 mpg) and it’s still going up! My guess is it will level off around 12 L / 100 km (19.5 mpg). Yes, you read that correctly, how can a crossover with a 1.6 turbo drink that much fuel?! A far cry from what Ford advertises as the city only fuel efficiency number of 8.9 L / km (26mpg).

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Fall road trip – Cape Breton Island

Over this period, a few things have happened to the car that really shouldn’t happen to a car with so few clicks on it…

First, at around 45,000 kilometers, my battery died, not dead as in I left my lights on overnight and needed a boost. Dead dead, as in even once I fully charged it, it was dead within an hour. I had it replaced at the dealership, apparently two of the battery’s cells were toast. The dealership told me this was my fault as I had too many things plugged into the car’s outlets, an iPhone charger in the 12v charger, an iPhone wire in the USB plug and a laptop charger in the 110v outlet (my car is my office). My two cents, if the battery wasn’t made to handle all these outlets, Ford shouldn’t have put them in.

Cost to me: Only time as it was still guaranteed.

Second, when I jump into the car, I sometimes close the door by placing my fingers between the window and the door panel. I’ve had to stop doing this as the panel partly rips off when I do so. I can easily pop it back it, but it’s quite lose.

Cost to me: nothing, I probably won’t get it fixed.

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Diver’s side door – Interior panel

Third, I’ve only noticed this issue two weeks ago, two of the rear window defrost strips no longer work so there is a section of the window that doesn’t defrost and stays fogged up. Right in the middle!

Cost to me: I don’t know as I haven’t taken it to the dealership yet, but probably still guaranteed.

Finally, I wasn’t planning on mentioning the following issue until I read this article on the new Honda Pilot as I am aware that I’m not driving a sports car and I don’t think the average driver would encounter this issue, but it really is a daily annoyance for me so it bears mentioning. When pushed, usually during city driving, the transmission doesn’t seem to know which gear it should be in and it usually takes quite some time to figure it out, that combined with a slight amount of turbo lag and you end up some herky jerky movements.

Does anybody else think that my car may have been built on a Friday afternoon?!

Now I’m trying to find something good about the car, something it does extra well or reasons why I would recommend it at this point and it isn’t easy. There is one thing though, recently I test drove the Nissan Rogue and Mazda CX-5 for a friend and if I were to compare the Escape solely in the driving comfort department, with regards to its drivability, driving position, cabin room, the Escape wins hands down. It handles like a car, the driving position is super comfortable and the slanted windshield makes you feel like you’re in a extra roomy vehicle. Maybe that’s why there are so many on the road… Is Ford building cars based only on passing the test drive?!?

Thinking of Buying a BMW?

A few days ago I came across an interesting article on vehicle maintenance written by the company YourMechanic, instead of you going to a garage when your car needs repairs, this company comes to you. They provide this service in over 700 cities throughout the United-States and service all major car brands.

Basically the article looks at which car brands cost the most to maintain and which ones cost the least. They also delve into what are the most common issues that each brand tends to have.

Unsurprisingly, they find that German luxury brands cost the most, for example, over 10 years of ownership a BMW will cost you $17,800 in maintenance. On the other end of the spectrum, a Toyota would only cost $5,500 over the same amount of time. What two other brands follow closely as being the cheapest to maintain? Scion and Lexus! I wonder who makes those…

”So what, specifically, makes some brands more expensive than others? Some brands have a higher incidence of routine maintenance. But some cars tend to break down in the same way time and again.”

Unfortunately, we aren’t given much information on the statistics that are giving other than the fact that they are based on the repairs that they’ve performed throughout the years. It would be good to know the total amount of repairs these statistics are based on, but unfortunately, they don’t give this information out. Because of this there are a ton of variables that come into play and we aren’t told whether or not they’re being considered. For example, mileage or how they account for repairs that we be done at any regular shop. Also, the company has only been in business since 2012 so a lot of it is based on estimates.

I’m not saying that this report is wrong, but I feel it’s only painting part of the picture.

I will let you read the full article for yourself, but I would love to have people chime in on what they think about these lists, if you’ve owned one of these brands, bought it new and kept it for 10 years, how much do you think it cost you?

 

 

Buying a Used Car – Part 1

For most people buying a car is the second biggest purchase that they will be making in their life-time, after a home of course.

I’m in the process of selling my home, and buying a new one, it’s ridiculous how much money we spend on this important purchase after having only spent mere minutes in it. The same thing applies to cars, to a lesser degree of course but still, for most, a 3-minute test drive, maybe an inspection and we are ready to buy. I’m hoping that this series of posts can help people to make the right decision when making this important purchase.

This series of posts will be mostly aimed at the used car market, but first I still feel I need to cover the new vs used question.

Buying a new car is great, everyone loves new and you can’t beat that new car smell. You’re purchasing something that in theory shouldn’t have any issues for the foreseeable future and it will be cutting edge for your budget, in terms of technology, safety and performance. Of course that comes with a price tag and even worse, the depreciation that ensues. According to Edmunds.com, the average car will depreciate by 11% the moment you leave the lot, each year after that it will lose between 15-25% of its value. After 5 years, you will have a car that is worth about 37% of what you paid for it. In general, cars are a money pit, unless you bought something like a Ferrari 250 GTO, which was worth about two and a half thousand dollars in the 1960s and is currently worth around 40 million dollars, it’s not likely to be a good investment. But again, if you can stomach the price tag, want a worry free ride and you like to always have new shinny things, go for it!

If you are willing to make a few compromises and shop the used car market, you’re likely to save a ton of money. That being said, for it to be really worth it, you’re are going to need cash. If not, you will have to borrow at an interest rate that is probably considerably higher than the average new car dealership.

So let’s say that all things considered, you’ve opted to buy a used car, where to start?

Dealership vs. Owner

They both have their advantages and disadvantages, let’s start with dealerships:

In general, dealer cars won’t have any major issues, as they would have made the repairs before selling them, for the most part, they have a reputation to uphold that they wouldn’t want to jeopardize, but this doesn’t mean things like the brakes aren’t on their last leg. Also, if you do need financing, getting a loan here is probably cheaper than one that you’d get at a bank.

However, at a dealership, you aren’t likely to get a good deal, as they need to make a profit. Keep in mind, that their number 1 goal and reason for existence is making money. They will repair the least amount of things on it, based on cost to repair, in order to be able to sell it at the highest price possible. Also, it is possible that the vehicle’s mileage has been tampered with. Not necessarily by the dealership in question, but these cars change hands so frequently, sold between dealerships, auction houses and different intermediaries that it can done fairly easily and be very difficult to track. More on that later. My father once drove a Dodge Grand Caravan to over 300,000 kilometers, he eventually sold it to the dealership where he was buying a new car, two weeks later he came upon it at a used car lot and it had miraculously found the fountain of youth, it had 120,000 less kilometers on it. He says that the salesman knew nothing about it…

When buying from an owner, you’re more likely to get a better price. As his goal is usually to sell the car at a reasonable price as fast as possible in order to upgrade. Also, more difficult to find, but I strongly recommend buying a car which the owner bought new. Single-owner cars are generally better maintained, it’s easier to get the car’s full history and if you can find an owner that is ”older” chances are he didn’t drive it too hard!

On the down side, the seller is selling the car for a reason. Maybe it needs a repair that he thinks isn’t worth paying for, maybe he switched jobs and no longer needs the car, there are many possibilities, but it’s important to know why. Also, there are no financing options here, if you don’t have cash on-hand, you’ll need to go to the bank and that is going to cost you.

So faced with these two options, I would always opt for buying from an owner. It’s what I’ve done in the past and what I’ll surely do the next time I buy a used car. I’ve just heard too many stories about dealer cars that I wouldn’t even think about it. However, if you chose the dealership route, look for cars that our certified pre-owned and stay away from the deep discount car lots!

That’s enough for part 1, in part 2 we will cover what to do once you’ve found your gem!

 

 

 

 

 

This is NOT a Paid Advertisement

I want to talk about a product that I use on my car that, quite honestly, I would now never drive without it. These days the market is filled with products and gadgets for your car and it’s difficult to know whether or not they are worth your hard-earned money. This product is the real deal and, whether you drive just a little or spend a lot of time behind the wheel, I guarantee it will make your life easier.

The product is called Aquapel. It’s not a new product and many of you have probably already heard of it.

But what is Aquapel? Here is some information that I took directly from their website:

Aquapel Glass Treatment is your chance to change the way drivers see the road in the rain. Designed for professional application on windshields, side windows, rear windows, Aquapel is a long-lasting glass treatment that:

  • Repels rain for remarkably improved vision
  • Makes it easier to clear ice, snow and even dirt
  • Reduces glare in the rain, especially at night
  • Helps reduce water marks and keeps down salt water

But that’s from their own website. Obviously, they are going to say that their product is fantastic in every way. So, here’s the HonestDrive review:

Applying the Product

I recommend doing it yourself. It isn’t hard as long as you’re willing to use a little elbow grease. The process will take you around 30 minutes. The first step is cleaning your windshield and making sure it is completely dirt and grease-free. I would even recommend washing it twice with the strongest product you can find to ensure it’s clean. Second, using the convenient applicator, spread the product completely over the entire windshield. Finally, with a few clean cloths, rub your windshield until it is completely dry and appears to be grease-free. At this point your applicator might still have product left in it, so you may want to repeat.

A few words of caution: it’s important not to let the product dry on its own, so it’s best not to apply the product when your windshield is very hot and the sun is shining on it. In these conditions it will dry in a matter of seconds. It can cause hazing on your windshield. Trust me, I know this from first-hand experience!

What’s so good about it?

Driving in the rain during the day

  • Visibility is greatly improved as water forms in little droplets on your windshield instead of smudging.
  • When traveling over 70 km/h or about 45 mph you no longer have to use your windshield wipers as the water repels off the glass for near perfect visibility.

Driving in the rain at night

  • Visibility is again greatly improved as water forms in little droplets on your windshield. However, two different situations come into play at night:
    • The first is when there are no street lights or lights from other vehicles. This is when the product is at its best. You literally don’t need your windshield wipers. Visibility is perfect and it is as if it wasn’t even raining.
    • The second is when you’re driving on lit roads. The water droplets left on the windshield seem to amplify the surrounding lights so you need to use your wipers a little more, but you’re still way better off than if you didn’t have the product.

Driving during the winter

  • Snow, ice, sleet and, worst of all, salt that is put on roads during the winter make visibility less than perfect. Aquapel works during the winter, as well. It helps repel all that bad stuff and prevents it from sticking to your windshield. The results are:
    • You won’t have to use your wipers as much.
    • You will have to use much less windshield wiper fluid to keep your windshield clean. Which probably means less time stopping by the side of the road because you’ve ran out.
    • You will have a much easier winter.

What’s not so good about it?

  • The website mentions that the product is useful for your car’s side and rear windows. I’ve tried it and haven’t really noticed any differences. I had hoped that the rear window of my Escape would get less dirty in winter but unfortunately I wasn’t able to see a difference.
  • Depending on your amount of driving, you’ll have to reapply the product between one to three times per year. As the product gets worn down, the parts of the windshield which get the most rubbing from your wipers will start to get ugly. Basically, you get stuck with a windshield that’s partly protected and partly not and that’s worse than not having the product at all. This means you’re basically have to reapply. However, one to three times per year is a lot better than competitive products like Rain-X.

The product can be bought online or at most auto repair and aesthetic shops. Trying is believing.

 

Situation Report 2: Spring Time

Spring is here, which means two things for all us northern dwelling humans, first, warmer weather and second, it’s tire change time!

But before we move on to spring, I want to start by talking about the Ford Escape as a winter vehicle. It’s important to note, that I opted for the front wheel drive model in order to save on fuel. So let’s begin with the good things that it has going for it. The ground clearance is actually fairly good, which is around 7.9 inches. The Subaru Forester is the crossover that usually sets the benchmark in this category and it comes in at 8.7 inches. So you’re left with plenty of room for snow banks and the occasional off the beaten path type road without fearing any damage to important parts underneath your the vehicle. The 2016 Escape is also equipped with a couple 0f nifty features that my 2013 model didn’t have, such as heated mirrors and a heated windshield wiper dock.

Also, the AdvanceTrac system, which is Ford’s stability control system is quite good, when taking a turn on a slippery surface at too great of a speed it will control your turn by applying the brakes to the correct wheels to help the car stay on track. It’s however impossible to disable the system, so it can get kind of annoying when you’re actually trying to have so fun in the curves.

Now on to the disappointing part, the traction control system is terrible, it is far to intrusive, I would go as far as calling it dangerous. Picture this, you’re at a stop sign, the roads are snowy and you want to turn left on a road where the traffic doesn’t have to stop. It’s a busy Monday morning, but you finally have a hole where you can squeeze in so you decide to gas it… and nothing, well almost nothing, the car moves slowly forward into oncoming traffic and there is nothing you can do to make it move faster. The car has detected that the road is slippery and that it should cut the power in order to avoid the wheels from spinning out which could result in the loss of control. Even being delicate with the gas pedal doesn’t work, believe me, I’ve tried it. The only option at your disposal is to move through the settings of the on-board computer and switch the traction control off. This requires a total of 7 clicks on the steering wheel controls to make it happen, not exactly a quick process. Now, try going up a snowy hill without too much momentum with the traction control on, I don’t think I need to tell you about what is going to happen. The system is dangerous and Ford really needs to address this problem.

I had experienced this with my 2013 Ford Escape, which was equipped with the 2.0 Ecoboost and I hoped that decreased power of the 1.6 Ecoboost would make the problem less apparent, but it doesn’t. Just in case anyone was wondering, my winter tires are Toyo Observe GSi5s, which always rank among the top winter tires available.

Should I have opted for the all-wheel drive version? Probably. Even though their system is only on-demand, which means the rear wheels only come to life when the front wheels spin out, it would have been sufficient to mostly avoid the dangers mentioned above.

Since my last report I’ve done 7,224 kilometers or 4489 miles and over that period my fuel efficiency numbers have been 8.5 L / 100 km or around 28 mpg. This represents a drastic improvement since my last report where after 10,658 kilometers or 6623 miles I was averaging 9.7 L / 100 km or around 24 mpg. It’s difficult to assess the exact reason for this, but my assumptions are that I did much more highway driving over this period and also due to the warming weather I probably reduced my idling time quite a bit.

These numbers were all achieved using winter tires, so now that I’ve switched to four season tires, I’m expecting even better numbers. My new tires are the factory provided Michelin Energy Savers, online reviews are fairly poor, however, the tread pattern is basically identical to the Continental tires that came with previous year Escapes and I thought those were quite good so I’m not sure what to expect.

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Michelin Energy Saver (235 / 55 / 17)

Nothing else to report on the vehicle, everything is still running smoothly and thankfully the burnt clutch smell that I was getting after frequent accelerations is a thing of the past.

Until next time!

..

 

Oil Changes: The Basics

This week I went to a garage in order to have an oil change performed on my Ford Escape. The Escape is equipped with what Ford calls an ”Intelligent Oil-Life Monitor,” basically an engine oil monitoring system that lets you know when you need to perform an oil change. It’s there to help you save money, time, and the environment. According to the owner’s manual, the oil will need to be changed anywhere between 4,800 and 16,000 kilometers, based on different driving characteristics including highway vs. city driving, load towing, idling time, extreme weather operation, and road conditions. These systems are becoming more and more common on new cars. Make sure to check your owner’s manual to see if your car is equipped with one.

After approximately 12,000 kilometers since my previous oil change, the system had not yet indicated that an oil change was needed. However, I had some free time in my day and I had surpassed the suggested oil change distance by around 7,000 kilometers so I figured why not.

Suggested Oil Change

I want to talk a little about the suggested oil change interval that is given to you in the form of a small sticker in the top left of your windshield. Most places will write down that you need to come back in 5,000 kilometers or 3 months, whichever comes first. That number is complete garbage and is designed solely to help their business make more money. Unless you are going to the race track with your car every weekend or constantly towing heavy loads, you can probably double that amount without any problems. If you’re worried, the best thing to do is check your owner’s manual for what your manufacturer recommends. Most will suggest to change the oil at 8,000 kilometers. Going any sooner is bad for your wallet and bad for the environment.

Conventional Oil vs Synthetic Oil

Now on to the main topic of discussion. I have always used conventional oil in my cars, mostly based on two factors. First, my father had always used conventional oil in all his cars and he’s always done hundreds of thousands of kilometers without any engine issues. Second, an experienced mechanic that used to do work on our cars had told me that, in the majority of cases, conventional oil was just fine and paying nearly double the price for synthetic wasn’t worth it.

So I decided to do a little bit of research on the subject and here is what I found on a variety of websites and after speaking to a few mechanics. With synthetic oil you apparently get better engine protection, better fuel economy, better performance in extreme temperatures, and it should allow for longer intervals between oil changes. It’s probably all true, but is it worth it?

For most people, I’m guessing, the two important aspects are better fuel economy in order to save money and longer intervals between oil changes in order to save money.

Back to the question at hand. Is it worth it? I unfortunately don’t have an answer. Everyone has an opinion on the subject and I am no mechanic so I can’t tell you with any certainty what you should be using in your car. However, I’ve decided to do a test and put the fuel economy and change intervals on the hot seat. I am going to drive with the current conventional oil until the system tells me I need to change the oil. At that point, I will have an oil change performed but use synthetic oil and repeat.

I realize that this test is far from scientific. The sample size is too small and there are plenty of variables that could affect the results but I’ll have fun doing it and I can’t wait to report on the results.

Until then, if you have any questions on the subject, let me know. If I don’t have an answer I’ll be sure to try to find one for you.

 

 

 

 

 

Sync 3

Sync 3 is Ford’s new infotainment system, replacing the previous MyFord Touch system. It’s currently available on 2016 Ford Escapes and Fiestas when properly equipped. It will be available on all 2017 models.The outgoing system doesn’t generally fare well in reviews. From my experience it was slow, struggled in cold weather and it had its share of glitches, sometimes the Bluetooth connectivity wasn’t working and the entire system had to be reset in order to get it going again. The user experience wasn’t very intuitive and took some time to get used to. That being said, my 2013 Ford Escape was my first car that even had an infotainment system, so all in all, I was quite happy with it.

Now on to the new system, visually it’s more refined and the graphic user interface is much improved. The system’s functionality is where it has really grown. It is much faster, with zero wait time once you make a selection. The user experience is simpler, and functions much like a smartphone with pinch-to-zoom and swipe capability.

Sync 3 also has Siri recognition, so if you’re an Apple user, it enables you to use voice commands in order to send text messages and keep your eyes on the road. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are expected to be enabled in a system update coming in the second trimester of 2016. Most manufacturers already have this integrated into their system, but better late than never I guess.

There are however a few areas where it loses points, these issues aren’t huge problems, but nevertheless, I have to mention them.

The system features AppLink, it lets you use certain apps on your smartphone directly through the car’s interface. Unfortunately, there are currently very few apps that are compatible and most are music related apps. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have a data plan on my phone that allows me to stream music all day, so it’s basically useless. Adding insult to injury, the second Apple CarPlay gets integrated, AppLink will become obsolete.

Also, and this one really grinds my gears, I get in the car, start it up, hit the voice command button to make a phone call, put the car in reverse and back out of the parking spot. Unfortunately, the system can’t handle backing up and making a phone call at the same time, so the call gets cut. Once the person has answered you’re okay to reverse, however, up until that point, even if it’s ringing, the call will cut out.

My final thoughts, Sync 3 is the best infotainment system I’ve ever had, but that isn’t saying much…