February 28, 2014

The End of Potholes

Spring is coming. Really. Even if you're still bundled up, you're desperate to put away your snow shovel, and you're watching your heating bills soar because a polar vortex has parked itself in your back yard. Even so. It's a sure sign that spring is coming when potholes appear everywhere on the roads.

Photo David Wright

You can learn all about how potholes are born at this site, which includes nice graphics and a short video.

While it's below-freezing temperatures that start the process of pothole making, it is after the thaw that the potholes actually form, and get to work putting dents into your wheels, sometimes the underside of your car, and always, ultimately, your checkbook.

The other day I was riding with a friend who drove his Jeep, at highway speed, through a pothole that must have been nearly two feet wide and at least eight inches deep. I'm not sure my brave Golf would have survived that pothole. As for the Jeep, the physical rattling reverberated in that car for quite a while afterwards, and my friend's cursing for much longer.

But while a new set of shock absorbers can set you back by hundreds of dollars, safety is a bigger issue around potholes. They are a real menace to motorcycle riders. Even in a car, swerving to avoid them can easily get you into the next lane, which is a real problem if the next lane happens to be the only other lane on the road: the one with the oncoming traffic.

February 24, 2014

Year of the Horse: Hot Off the Starting Gate

I hear that according to Chinese zodiac lore, this year of the wood horse brings a "fast-paced spurt of extroverted forward propulsion".

So far so fast.

Photo Gabby Canonizado

February 16, 2014

A New Type of Car Loan

Pop quiz: what is "Auto ABS" ?

(A) A gadget that helps tone your tummy muscles;
(B) Automatic brake system that helps your retain control of your car;
(C) Bonds backed by loans on car purchases.

The answer could have been (B) except that a car's anti-lock brake system (ABS) always kicks in automatically; all you have to do is brake hard enough to make your car skid in the absence of the ABS. The correct answer is (C): "Auto ABS" stands for "auto asset-backed securities".

Oh brave new world. And of course, after sub-prime mortgages there's ... sub-prime auto loans.

Photo Andrew Smith

And yes, some of those could well be under water. Because the value of a new car drops as soon as you drive it off the dealer lot.

February 14, 2014

Climate Pickup Lines

Over at Twitter, people are going nuts over the hashtag #‎climatepickuplines in honour of Valentine's Day. My favourite comes from @GaryPardy: " My love for you is like the ocean... expanding at an alarming rate."

Or this one by @B_A_D: "What do u say? U, me, a pair of hand cuffs, & the corporate headquarters of ur choice."

Photo by Johntex

Which got me thinking.

February 5, 2014

Super Bowl 2014 Car Ads: Never Mind

Every year, every automotive writer in the US goes nuts over the car ads that are premiered at the Super Bowl. It's the single most-watched event in the year, and ads cost a cool $4 million for a 30-second spot.

This is apparently such a big deal that the ads merit being "leaked" before the big game. There are official ads for the ads. And teasers for the ads for the ads. You get my drift: there is a lot of hype surrounding these ads.