Ken's Top Ten Lists

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This page is a collection of lists. Some of them don't have ten items, so don't write to tell me that. I know. Some of them change on a regular basis, and some are cast in stone. If you have a suggestion for an addition to one of the lists, or for a new list, let me know. If you take exception to one of the entries, let me know that too. I may not do anything about it, but you never know, and you'll probably feel better for having dumped on me.

Top ten Bumper stickers

Und da sticker sez:
Senior Citizen: Gimme My Goddamn Discount!
I don't know where I'm going when I die, & neither do you!
HONK ... If You Want To See My Finger
If you can read this, I can hit my brakes and sue you.
DOG is my co-pilot!
Veni, Vedi, Visa: I Came, I Saw, I Did a Little Shopping
So you're a feminist . . . ain't that cute.
Your kid may be an Honor Student, but YOU'RE still an idiot.
Comments about my driving? Call 1-800-EAT-SHIT
Oops, I think my kharma just ran over your dogma.

This site is designed to help you do some of the work on your car, but there are some things that are just too hard, or that require special tools or skills that most people just don't have. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and let a professional do it. When that happens, here are some do's and don'ts to make the experience less painful for you.

Top ten WORST things to say to your mechanic

Number Don't say: Why not:
Ten: My car made a funny noise last week, it's not making it now, but it was really weird, is it safe to drive? Who knows? For a mechanic to assure you that your car is safe, he needs to spend a couple of hours checking it out, taking things apart and inspecting things from one end of the car to the other. You haven't told him anything useful, like where the noise came from, what exactly it sounded like, what you were doing when it occurred.
Nine: Change the oil? You mean I'm supposed to change it? I'm not kidding, someone actually said this to me after her car was towed in with the engine seized tighter than a . . .
Eight: I'd fix it myself, but I don't have the time. Men say this a lot, like it is something to be ashamed of not being able to fix their own car. The days when every man could do his own car repairs are gone forever.
Seven: I can't leave it right now, but just let me tell you what happened and then you can tell me what is wrong, and I'll bring it back tomorrow and you can fix it. Yeah right. Mechanics have two things for sale, diagnostic ability and repairs. Of the two, diagnostic ability is worth much more. Don't try to scam me into diagnosing your problem for free.
Six: I'd fix it myself but I don't have the right tools. Yeah, and you'd probably screw it up too.
Five: I'd fix it myself, but I'm not sure just what is wrong. (This translates to: "Here, you do the hard part for me, and I'll do the rest, of course you won't charge me for the few minutes that it takes for you to diagnose the problem.)
Four: Can I borrow a screwdriver, I'll be right outside. Never, and I mean NEVER ask to borrow a mechanic's tools. If you absolutely must have the use of a tool, ask to rent it and offer a security deposit and be sure to get it back as soon as you are finished with it. This should probably be number one.
Three: Just fix it real cheap, I'm gonna sell it soon. (Yeah, right.) Mechanics have heard this one so often that it has become a standing joke in the trade.
Two: You know, I wondered what that little red light was for. There is a reason we call them "idiot lights". Shame on you if you don't know what they mean.
One: Could you just come out and look at something for a second? (The translation of this is "I'm too cheap to pay you to diagnose my problem, so I'll pull this clever ploy to get you to do it for free.")

Top ten BEST things to say to your mechanic

Just as there are some things you should never say to your mechanic, there are a few things that will instantly put him in a better mood. (Hint: You want your mechanic to be in a good mood.)

Number Please say:
Ten: So, what do I owe you for that?
Nine: There's nothing wrong with my car, but I thought you fellows might enjoy these donuts on your coffee break.
Eight: There's nothing wrong with my car, but I thought you might appreciate this small contribution to the "Old mechanics benevolent fund."
Seven: What do you drink?
Six: This is what the car was doing when it happened.
Five: Call me when it's ready.
Four: If I've given you all the information you need, I'll go away and let you get to work, call me when it's ready.
Three: Thanks.
Two: Fix it like it was your Mom driving it. Call me if the cost gets to a zillion bucks.
One: Here, take this money, please.

A few really neat improvements
have been made to cars over the years.
Here is my list of the:

Ten best inventions of automotive history.

Ten Tubeless tires Tire repairs are almost fun now.
Nine Shock absorbers Mostly a safety feature, but also improves the creature-comfort factor.
Eight Hydraulic brakes I've never driven a car with cable brakes, but I've read about them, and don't much want to ever trust my life to one.
Seven Disc Brakes Not as many of us around these days that remember the days before front wheel disc brakes became standard on all cars. Most of us were killed in accidents.
Six Alternators Alternators are so much better than the old style generators, more efficient, dependable, and actually cheaper to replace.
Five Dual brake system hydraulics This one deserves a gold star. Anyone who has experienced that awful feeling as the brake pedal goes to the floor because of a leak in a brake line, will appreciate the second system that activates before the pedal gets all the way to the floor. Dual hydraulics became mandatory on cars sold in the US in 1965 or so.
Four Electronic ignition Initially a nightmare to diagnose, and expensive to repair, electronic ignition is a thousand times more dependable and efficient than the breaker-point system it replaced.
Three Electronic fuel injection Digital is better than analog. Every child of the computer generation knows that. Electronic fuel injection replaces carburetors, which are analog devices that attempt to deliver the proper amount of fuel to the engine over a wide variety of operating conditions.
Two Electric radiator cooling fans In the olden days, a fan was attached to the engine and it pulled air through the radiator all the time, even when the engine was cold and needed to warm up. It was a terrible waste of power. Now, the electric fan only comes on when the coolant starts to get too hot, and shuts off when it has done it's job, a vast improvement.
One Computerized engine control systems Although they can be a nightmare to trouble-shoot, these systems do a much better job of managing the myriad details of keeping the engine running at peak efficiency through a wide variety of operating conditions. The best ones can compensate for a number of problems, can do a passable job of diagnosing themselves, and fail so seldom that they are virtually foolproof.

This is probably my most controversial list, my picks for the top ten prettiest cars in history. (In no particular order) You may notice that they are all American made, it's not that I think that European cars are ugly, (although some of them certainly are) I'm an American and my tastes run toward "real" cars. Someday I may even put an E-type Jag on the list, or a SL series Mercedes, or even an old Porsche . . . (But not today.) note: I just noticed that 5 of my picks are Fords, please don't think of this as an endorsement for the company, just because a car is pleasing to the eye, it doesn't necessarily follow that it isn't a mechanical nightmare.

1940 Ford Coupe
1956 Chevrolet Bel Air
1955 Thunderbird
1965 Ford Mustang
1960 Chevrolet Impala
1932 Ford Roadster
1963 Corvette Sting Ray split window
1965 Chevy stepside pickup
1965 Pontiac GTO

Top ten worst things people do to their cars.

Not reading the owner's manual. (Believe it or not, there is a ton of great information in that little book.)
Revving the engine on startup. (It has been established that 90% of the wear on the engine occurs during the first few seconds after startup, while there is little or no oil between the moving parts.)
Riding the clutch. This one can be one of the most expensive to support.
Riding the brakes Besides being inefficient and hard on the car, this bad habit can kill you.
Never checking the coolant. A tiny leak is often easy to fix, neglected, it can cost you an engine. Which would you rather pay for?
Never checking tire pressure. (Most people don't even own a tire pressure gauge, or know what pressure to run in their tires.) It's your money, and your life...
Not changing the oil and oil filter on a regular basis. (This is the single best use of your auto care dollar. How often should you change your oil? I suggest every three months, no matter if you drive 500 miles or 10,000 miles. (Boy, bet I get a lot of mail about this one!))
Not bothering to learn anything about how their car works. You don't have to become a mechanic, but there are a few things that everyone should know before they are allowed to drive any car.
Ignoring the idiot lights. (Guess why we call them "Idiot" lights)
Believing anything is really free. Up here in Canada we have an company that has an interesting way of drumming up business. They periodically offer a 'free brake inspection'. What they don't mention is that if they find anything seriously wrong, they can 'condemn' your car and refuse to give it back to you until you agree to let them fix it or have it towed away. (Neither of these options is free)

A few years ago a magazine conducted a survey asking mechanics to "Name the ten dumbest things you ever saw designed into an automobile." The results became a list of over 100 items. I stole it, tweaked it a little (Hey, this is my web site), and here is the top ten:

It's incredible how many dumb things there are. The final list had 147 different items on it.

Top ten Dumbest inventions/innovations of the auto industry.

Number Invention/innovation Comment
Ten: Hydraulic/pneumatic lift cylinders. These things are used to help hold up some hoods and hatchbacks, and are responsible for more forehead-scars than any other single invention.
Nine: in-the-tank fuel pumps. Although a great idea on paper, the execution leaves a little something to be desired. While we're talking about fuel tanks, I bet the suit that designed the mounting for them never had to replace a fuel tank on a car more than a year or two old.
Eight: Renaults. Seems that there isn't a mechanic in the US or Canada that liked these things. "Renault" is French for Yugo.
Seven: "Automatic" Seat Belts Say Mr. Engineer, did you ever get almost strangled by one of these things? Ever get claustrophobic when it wouldn't let go of you?
Six: GM coil packs/modules located at the lower back of certain engines. Let me see now, what kills modules? Heat and water, especially salt water? OK, let's mount this sucker between the exhaust header and the engine block, about 12 inches off the road, just behind the front tires. There won't be any dampness or heat there...
Five: Fuel filter location on certain Ford pickup trucks. Ford mechanics know this one, the 3 1/2 inch diameter filter is behind the fuel tank, nestled in it's own little 5 inch diameter cave, with one of Fords "Quick connect" fittings on each end. Fittings that I am sure make trucks much easier (cheaper) to manufacture, but they sure don't make filters fun to change.
Four: Spare tire location on pickups. I bet the suit that designed this one never had to change a tire in the rain, or never had to deal with a spare that has been rusting in place for a couple of years.
Three: Ford "quick connect" fittings. Or as they are known to us, Ford "slow disconnect" fittings.
Two: Tin/chrome/steel covered lug nuts. Why do these always peel off on Fridays near closing time? Why doesn't any socket in my box fit the resulting nut?

And the number one, the absolutely dumbest thing, I mean the really stupidest thing, that some 'suit' intentionally designed, nay! was paid to design, to research carefully, to blueprint, do a cost analysis of, is.............

One: Realistic hub caps with fake lug nuts. How come the apprentice who didn't have a socket for number 2, above, could find one to fit these things?

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