Category Archives: snow

Salt life: what is undercoating and why does it matter?

For those of us lucky enough to live in some saltier climes, rust is a fact of life.  Our cars and trucks succumb to this parasitic oxidation more often than not and there are only a few things we can do to slow the process down.  Chief among those is what is universally called undercoating, and we’re going to lay out some of the details here.

While the exact chemical make up of different undercoatings will vary, most are an oily substance designed to stick to the bare metal of your car or truck’s undercarriage and protect it from the elements.  Doing so will keep your vehicle from rusting and meeting an early demise due to the “car cancer”

Some swear that products are very easy to apply with some free time and a few spray bottles.  Others recommend a professional shop that specializes in undercoating.  Whichever route you choose, be sure to remove as much of the existing rust as possible, and apply a rust “reformer” spray to the stuff you can’t remove.  This will convert rust back into a strong/safe material and will allow you to coat or paint it without being concerned about it returning.

Professional shops will often charge upwards of $100 dollars for their service, but what they can do (that you might not be comfortable doing) is drill small holes in doors and other panels to apply the coating to the inside of those panels.  This means you are less likely to see bubbles coming through your paint and rotting your car from the inside out.

Suffice it to say, if you plan on keeping your vehicle for a long time, an undercoating is a safe way to protect your car for years to come.  A simple DIY job or a relatively inexpensive professional package will guarantee that your car doesn’t fall pray to rust and leave you wondering why you ever moved to New England.

The Subaru Impreza: Why 2017 is a big year

As much as we New Englanders love our AWD Subaru chariots to get us to/from wherever we need to go no matter what the conditions, the word phrase “refined ride” isn’t exactly part of their brand vocabulary.  Utilitarian is just one  word that comes to mind when describing an older Forester or bare bones Impreza, and it seems Subaru was listening to consumers as is evident in the newly redesigned Impreza.

Photo Credit: Consumer Reports

For 2017, Subaru has announced to the AWD faithful that their new Impreza (based on an all-new, shareable platform) will be quieter, ride better, and be an all-around more comfortable vehicle.  Sure, they’ve been saying that for a little while and with the exception of the Outback or Legacy, their vehicles have remained relatively “tinny”.  However, this is now a completely different ball game.

Photo credit: Consumer Reports

At first glance, not much appears to have changed.  The updates to the exterior are there (but subtle) and while the interior does benefit from some choice upgrades like a nice big touch screen and soft-touch materials, it isn’t a completely different vehicle, and for good reason.

Photo Credit: Subaru

The biggest changes become apparent when you get it out on the road.  Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) levels have been reduced significantly and overall the cabin feels much more solid than past generations.  Steering response is great and the vehicle feels much more planted on the road, all adding to the image of a vehicle that really can “do it all” and be reasonably priced.  All of a sudden, you realize that Subaru took all of the successful aspects of the old Impreza, and simply refined it to the point where it functions as a much more comfortable vehicle without losing the Subaru character that people love.

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

As a whole, the new Impreza has certainly upped it’s game.  As pricing stays relatively flat, it will likely now appeal to buyers looking for the functionality of an AWD hatchback but want a little bit more refinement than hat was previously available at Subaru.  This new platform will be shared with other vehicles in the lineup so we look forward to driving the CrossTrek and Forester, among others.  Time will tell if this is what Subaru was going for, but we’re predicting that this can only mean good things for the unofficial car manufacturer of New England.

Another 10 for under $10K

A used, one owner, under 100k miles, clean CarFax Toyota Corolla? For under $10k?  Yes please.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=0&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=440654416&Log=0

Don’t let the mileage fool you, this Lexus is ready for another 100k miles with a reliable buttery smooth V8.  An easy way to get some luxury in your life for a bargain.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=0&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=438701309&Log=0

Looking to haul the family on a budget?  Check out this 2007 Honda Pilot.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=25&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=440934024&Log=0

Not looking forward to winter driving?  Gain some confidence with this sure-footed Subaru Outback.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=50&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=438112128&Log=0

Here’s a great little low mileage Mazda 3 that is sure to last for years to come.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=100&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=438533127&Log=0

If you want to go green on a budget, then there is your chance!  A used Toyota Prius with plenty of service records.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=125&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=439804941&Log=0

Here is an exceptionally low mileage Toyota Rav4, the perfect small SUV to get you around town and wherever else you need to go.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=125&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=440732025&Log=0

Looking for off-road capability in a reliable package?  Then look no further, at only 122k miles this Toyota 4Runner is just barely broken in.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=150&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=439933264&Log=0

If you need to go full-size, it’s hard to find something better than a Chevrolet Suburban.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=02118&endYear=2017&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&listingType=used&firstRecord=150&listingTypes=used&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=10000&listingId=419905431&Log=0

The ultimate in reliability, ruggedness and go-anywhere capability, the Toyota Land Cruiser.  Don’t let the mileage fool you, this one is ready for many more adventures.

http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?endYear=2017&zip=02118&listingType=used&listingTypes=used&engineCode=8CLDR&maxPrice=10000&showcaseListingId=0&mmt=%5BTOYOTA%5B%5D%5B%5D%5D&startYear=1981&makeCode1=TOYOTA&showcaseOwnerId=0&engineCodes=8CLDR&firstRecord=0&searchRadius=25&listingId=438996623&Log=0

 

2015 Subaru Outback: The Jack of all Trades

When driving the newly re-designed 2015 Subaru Outback, the phrase “jack of all trades” comes to mind.  One will be hard-pressed to find a serious fault anywhere in the wagon that seems to be the unofficial vehicle of the whole of New England.  There’s good reason for this as Subaru reliability is nothing to scoff at and as a result, many citizens of these slightly more snow-prone states have chosen the Outback as the go-to, daily driver/adventure vehicle.  Admittedly, in the most basic sense it hasn’t changed drastically in recent years, but all the little improvements here and there have added up to make a big difference for 2015.

On road, the Outback is very well behaved.  Predictable pedal feel for both accelerator and brakes accompany a nice steering feel and a firm but compliant ride.  Road noise is very minimal and a conversation with those who didn’t think to call “shotgun” is definitely possible without raising your voice.  It takes a minute to get used to a CVT transmission sans the traditional shifts, but you quickly realize that the additional MPG’s are completely worth it.  New for 2015 is that the CVT is now standard on all Outbacks, with MPG ratings at 25 city and 33 highway putting this big wagon at the top of its class.  The overall experience of driving the Outback on the street is that it is what some would phrase “a very nice place to be”. 

As far as the looks go, 2015 brings us some subtle but effective changes to the Outback.  The overall shape has changed very little, but a keen eye will pick up on new tail lights, head lights, and grill among other things.  While it isn’t a complete ground-up redesign, the front and back ends look, in this author’s opinion, worlds better.  That’s not to say that the old Outback was bad looking, but rather that the new looks quite a bit sleeker and more upscale.  Additionally, nicer alloys complement the overall look of this new, trimmer wagon.  This attempted move up-market seems to carry over into the interior which has received some notable improvements as well. 

Subaru, in the past, has been known as more of a utilitarian vehicle with interiors that weren’t really anything to write home about.  However, in recent years, and in particular for 2015, things have been changing for the better and I have to say that I like the direction Subaru is headed.  Inside you will find a redesigned dash with a very responsive but cleanly designed Infotainment system. The model I tested was equipped with navigation and the maps were incredibly detailed and kept up well tracking the car through the test drive.  Additionally, the new matte finish wood accents paired up with subtle strips of a brushed aluminum looking metal are reminiscent of some higher end European interiors (hats off to you Subaru).  Of particular note is the steering wheel.  It is chunky without being too big to get a hold of, sporty looking without trying too hard to please the boy-racer crowd and extremely well laid out with intuitively placed controls for everything you need.  The rear seats have quite a bit of legroom, which is something that we 6-plus footers always look for, and the cargo area looks as spacious as ever (the power liftgate does come in handy when loading and unloading too).

While I can’t say that this particular test drive involved any serious, off-the-beaten-path exploration, I can speak to the overall ability of Subarus as a Subaru owner.  This wagon will have no problem getting you to the ski mountain, the night of a blizzard in time to make those first tracks the next morning.  Some may say that is what Subarus do best, getting you to places that other wagons wouldn’t dare, in conditions that would make your less adventurous peers stay home and sip hot cocoa. 

So if you are looking for that one vehicle that can carry everything, get you anywhere, and do so in comfort and style, then look no further than the new 2015 Outback.  A big thanks to Planet Subaru for allowing me to check out the new Outback.  Be sure to check out their inventory at www.planetsubaru.com and tell them we sent you! 

Winter tires: why you need them

Many people out there don’t quite understand just how drastically different winter tires are from others and as a result, those same people really don’t think that winter tires are completely necessary.  “I have all wheel drive, what more do I need?” some will think, or “I have a truck, nothing can stop me” still others will say.  Well sadly, circulating the internet one will find plenty of funny Youtube videos of attempts at winter driving that prove otherwise.

Winter tires are unique in several important ways, a significant one being that they are made of a softer rubber allowing them to flex more than the standard summer (or even all-season) tire.  The flex causes the sipes to essentially grab an edge, much like a ski does, and grip the loose snow, sleet and ice.  Think of it this way, when the car turns it causes the rubber to deform (more easily than other tires thanks to the softer rubber) and instead of driving on comparatively flat surface, you are now driving on many tiny rubber edges, giving you the unparalleled ability to turn.  There is a similar reaction when you accelerate or brake, causing an incredible difference in stopping, going, and turning abilities when compared to any other tire.

Some people consider themselves good winter drivers.  Either they grew up in climates with adverse conditions or have taken a winter drivers-ed class.  However, it’s the unexpected that gets you, that point when you need to turn to avoid the piece of lumber that fell off the truck in front of you, where you really need the winter tire.  The only downside to these rubber wonders is that because of the softer compound, they won’t last quite as long as standard tires.  It is recommended that you only run them in cooler temperatures as the softer rubber will wear much more quickly on warmer days.

Admittedly, nobody likes lugging an extra set of tires to and from the local tire shop, but we promise you that when you avoid the deer that decided it REALLY wanted to give you a heart attack by standing on the other side of the blind corner, you will be thanking yourself for investing in those tires.  Do yourself, and other motorists around you, a favor and get a set of snow rated tires.