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Just How Clean is The Electric Car?

Electric Plugin Car

While few are available yet, the electric plug-in car is viewed by many as a solution toward stopping climate change: a phenomenon frequently blamed on burning fossil fuels.

Electric cars are viewed and marketed on the idea of zero emissions which appeals enormously to someone wanting to halt climate change. While there are no tailpipe emissions on an electric car, considering how the electricity is created may be shocking.
Electric Plugin Car

In the US, approximately 50% of the electricity comes from burning coal: a huge greenhouse gas producer and emitter of toxic emissions.

With very few electric cars so far, electricity production in the US is already the largest greenhouse gas emitter. So are we better off with electric cars?

Based on a recent European study as long as we rely on fossil fuels for our electricity generation the answer is no. That’s without taking into consideration the vast increase in toxic waste generated by the still primitive battery technology we’ve created – the battery packs will only last 5-7 years currently and then they are junk, full of toxic chemicals. Fortunately there are solutions from clean power sources such as nuclear, solar, wind and hydro. The solutions for battery technology look to be further away.

Plus in Canada, we have another climate problem that currently precludes electric cars in major use; It’s cold in the winter! Batteries don’t work well in cold.

It must be remembered that there are no free lunches: wind and solar are unreliable and take up enormous land areas to generate their energy, hydro power damages rivers and fish habitats and nuclear has other issues.

And what of hydrogen? It’s the same as electricity: it must be created and to make a difference to climate change, it too must have a clean source. While electric cars will undoubtedly take hold in the future, if your wish is to help with climate change, lobby for clean electricity first.

Nitrogen Tires inflation: Is it Worth it?

Skip nitrogen filling your tires

The option to fill your vehicle tires with nitrogen is available at some service facilities and tire shops. In fact it might be one of the most promoted “great” thing to do for your tires in recent memory.

Is Nitrogen Filling worth it?

Some places offer it for free as a “value-added” whereas other facilities charge for it, and fair enough as there is a substantial cost for the equipment.

While Nitrogen certainly has benefits and is used in commercial aircraft tires and racing car tires, my conclusion is that the benefits are very minimal for motor vehicles.

Racing cars are operated under very stressful and exacting conditions where 1 PSI of tire pressure could win or lose a race. Jet airplane tires are subjected to extreme weather and heat conditions: a plane could take off in 40 degree desert conditions and land on a -40 degree runway. Also jet tires go from immobile to 200MPH instantly when the plane lands.

One of Nitrogen’s advantages is that nitrogen filled tires maintain their pressure more consistently than air filled tires; the reason being that compressed air contains some water vapour and this expands and contracts with heating and cooling.

Overtime, nitrogen filled tires apparently lose less pressure than air inflated tires due to its larger molecular size. Another supposed benefit of nitrogen inflation is longer tire life due to lack of oxidation of the inner tire rubber. While this may be true, is that of any value when the outside of the tires is surrounded by air?

Skip nitrogen filling your tires

When all is considered, there is no doubt that nitrogen offers some benefits, but for almost every motorist the benefits are negligible and I would say not worth paying for. Consumer Reports did a year long test on Nitrogen filling in 2006-’07 and concluded that “Overall, consumers can use nitrogen and might enjoy the slight improvement in air retention provided, but it’s not a substitute for regular inflation checks.”

Checking your tire pressures monthly is the best way to ensure they are properly inflated and you are keeping wear to a minimum and safety and fuel economy at its maximum.

As for the value of nitrogen tire inflation, you be the judge. I suggest you save your money.

Small Bearings Can Create Huge Problems

Bearing that could have seized at any moment

Regular Maintenance of your Automobile is almost 50% Less Expense Than Waiting For A Breakdown

Yes even my car is not immune to parts wearing out.

For about a week or so I noticed a subtle but unusual noise coming from my 2001 Subaru Outback H6’s engine. Unlike some I could name… I decided to check into what the noise was about.

I suspected that it might be a drivebelt pulley; and through diagnosis I found that the serpentine belt tensioner pulley bearing was severely worn.

After removal, the seriousness of the situation became evident: the bearing was so badly worn that it was hours or with luck perhaps days from seizing up and causing the belt to fail. The good news is that it was a very inexpensive repair!

The lesson here is that every unusual sound in your vehicle should be investigated. It is always cheaper to repair early than wait for the part to fail completely.

Bearing that could have seized at any moment

The worn out pulley bearing. The black particles are from inside the bearing!

To celebrate our latest “Best of Vancouver” win and to thank our customers, we’re offering $30 off our Gold Level 2 service and comprehensive inspection – until November 30, 2010.

Make sure your car or truck is reliable for the winter.

Headlights Then & Now

sealed beam headlights vs replacement bulbs

Last week we serviced two 1990’s vintage vehicles with burned out sealed beam headlights and it occurred to me that this is yet another technology that has almost disappeared. Most every modern car has a moulded headlamp assembly with small replaceable bulbs.

Sealed beam headlights debuted on cars in the 1940s. For many years they were round but in later years rectangular became the shape of choice. As they evolved they became brighter especially with the introduction of halogen bulb technology.

It is always interesting to see the evolution of automotive components: with the sealed beam headlight, the waste and sometimes complex replacement procedure is not missed.

sealed beam headlights vs replacement bulbs

Compare the size of the new bulb to the old sealed beam. It is a prime example of less waste!

The Hard Cost of Changing Your Car

We often have clients who become disenchanted with their cars, especially when faced with some expensive service.

We recently serviced a 1997 BMW 528i last week that needed a maintenance service, oil change and 4 wheel brakes. Cost with taxes: 1300 dollars. A fair amount of money for sure, but consider that the brakes will be good for at least 2 to 3 years, the oil service is synthetic and won¹t be required again for 9 to 12 months.
'97 BMW 528i
This car has 140,000 kilometers, is in beautiful condition and has been meticulously maintained. It looks and runs like a new car and being a very reliable 6 cylinder engined vehicle will run for years with minimal cost. After talking with our client about long terms plans with the car I found out that she is planning on keeping it: a conclusion that she came to after researching new cars and pricing.

What’s the cost to replace this car?

A 2008 BMW 3 series turns out to come with a cost of $15,000 down and monthly payments of $1000.00.

That’s $12,000 dollars a year!

In my experience there is never a year that someone will pay $12,000 to maintain and repair his or her car; not even close.

Even a recent used model still has a very high price. So the conclusion: it is most often financially better to maintain your car, usually by a huge margin.

1984 Volvo 244: still running strong

Those old Volvos are great. One of our best clients drives a 1984 Volvo 244. Yes it’s a plain car but certainly one that is well built. There are not many cars around that are still worth having at that age but this is certainly one of them. So what is it about this car?
1984 Volvo 244: still running strong
First off, the major components of the vehicle: the engine, transmission and rear differential are very durable. After 330,000 kilometers this vehicle still has these original components and they work great.

Second, this car is fairly simple: it’s most complex feature is electronic fuel injection.

Third, overall this was a very well built car.

And fourth, any part needed for the car is still readily available.

When you think of some of the cars built in the early 1980’s there was no love lost as they wore out and went to the crusher but others were pushed off to an early death by lack of parts.

Good news about the HST

With the HST now implemented in BC here’s some good news: Car repair and maintenance isn’t going to cost you a dollar more – even with HST.

That’s because car repairs for the past 10 or so years have been subject to PST and GST on labour and parts. You’ve already been paying the full pop.

I know that this really isn’t great news but at least it is one thing that won’t be costing you more. If you own a business the HST now becomes a 12% input tax credit as opposed to the 5% of the GST.

Happy Motoring!

Depreciation: Frighteningly Expensive and Not Considered

Few car owners think of the cost of depreciation when they buy a vehicle. When you truly look at it, sometimes it can be astounding.

Here’s an extreme example of a higher end luxury car where depreciation can be outrageous. Our example car is a 2006 BMW 645I, a very nice sporty luxury car with a base price of $99,000. This same car can be bought used, with only 45,000 kilometers on the odometer for $37,500. That’s a drop of $61,500 in only 4 years!

Put another way… the previous owner paid $1.36 for every kilometer that he or she drove or approximately $15,000 per year in depreciation.

That is an insane amount of money to burn away and yet few people consider it. I know that this is an extreme example but it is a very important financial consideration and one that I bring up as an auto service professional. We hear some folks whining about the cost of auto repairs and yet I have never had a client spend even close to $15,000 dollars in a year on vehicle repairs and if they did, they would not be spending that again in the next year or the year following.

Now lets consider buying this car used. It’s a real bargain at this price and I would imagine that 5 years later, if well taken care of, it will still be worth $10,000 minimum. This next owner will only lose $27,500 to depreciation. Per kilometer, assuming that only 45,000 kilometers are driven, that costs only $.61 per kilometer or $6900 per year in depreciation.

Half price!

Now this car, as it ages will no doubt need some repairs, but I would be hard pressed to imagine even a $10,000 dollar expense on this type of car. But, if we were to add $10,000 to the $27,500 of depreciation we have $37,500 total cost and per kilometer $.83. That is still a substantially lower cost.

Perhaps the downside is that the used car owner doesn’t have the prestige and cachet that comes with driving that beautiful new BMW; but he or she still has a fabulous vehicle and one that will be very reliable. The second owner will also have a huge amount of extra cash available to spend on other things or to wisely invest and make more money.

This is an extreme example of depreciation but it applies across the board with any vehicle.

Also not considered in this equation are financing costs and that adds further to the expense of the vehicle. Naturally this is much higher with the high price of the new vehicle. So next time that you are faced with a large auto repair bill – consider that compared to depreciation it may not be all that high.

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