Headlight Replacement: Not What It Used to Be

I wonder if you, dear readers, share this same frustration in car ownership.

Back in the day, when a headlight in your car went out, you just went to your local parts store, bought a replacement headlight (not just a bulb, but the whole darn headlight), unscrewed the old one, screwed in the new one, and went on with your day.

I’m sure, unless you still drive a 1994 Tercel, you’re well aware that those days are long gone.

Headlight replacement has evolved into roughly the same category of difficulty as engine replacement. Continue reading >>>

What to Look For in a Winter Vehicle

2017 Subaru Outback - Photo by Matt Smith

Winter may have taken its sweet time arriving in the Northeast, but after this past weekend, our city of Boston is a certifiable wonderland. The storms came just in time, too, as CarGurus headed down to Bugsy Lawlor’s headquarters for the annual New England Motor Press Association’s Winter Vehicle Testing. Last year, we made do with dry, frozen ground to judge the 2016 Winter Car of the Year, but after a winter storm strong enough to convince Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to declare a snow emergency, we were able to enjoy fresh snow on our favorite trail.

But what exactly should you be looking for in a winter vehicle? If television commercials are to be trusted, the only winter cars worth their salt are those capable of 4-wheel drifts down the back bowls of Colorado’s highest peaks. Blasting through fresh snow, rather than traveling up the I-95 corridor, may make for more attractive marketing materials, but most folks in the market for a winter vehicle are more interested in one that can reliably take them to work during the week and to the mountains on the weekend. If you’re looking for a car primarily to handle winter roads, there are a few details worth your attention. Continue reading >>>

About 25 Percent of Cars on the Road Need Recall Repairs—Will You Buy One?

Buying a used car can be a little like playing Russian roulette these days.

Even though modern cars are as safe as automobiles have ever been, about one in four cars on the road have open recalls on them. That translates to over 63 million cars in the United States that have been recalled but never fixed.

That represents a massive 34 percent jump over the figure that was measured a year ago.

What’s going on? Continue reading >>>

Are You Less Safe in a Hybrid Car?

I’ve heard from more car shoppers than I can count over the years asking for advice on purchasing a new car. Yesterday a question was asked that no one had previously brought up to me.

The shopper is in the market for a new 2017 hybrid or plug-in hybrid SUV. She drives a lot, lives in an area known for epic snowfall, and has had her share of scary incidents while on the road. Naturally, she wants something safe and reliable that goes at least a few miles on electric power to save a few bucks on gas.

Considering the close calls she’s had while driving, she asked me if rescue workers are able to use the Jaws of Life on hybrid and electric vehicles. She’d heard a rumor that first responders won’t extract people stuck in such vehicles due to risks of electrocution from cutting into high-voltage lines.

Could that rumor be true? Continue reading >>>

Should the U.S. Have an All-Female Ride-Sharing Service?

Photo courtesy of Shebah

The night this happened, my brother had spent an evening with friends bar-hopping and enjoying the nightlife downtown.

At about 1 a.m. he set up an Uber ride and waited for a blue Subaru to arrive and safely shuttle him home.

When a Subaru pulled up in front of the bar that matched what Uber said would arrive, he opened the rear door of the car and sat down with a loud exhale followed by a, “Whew… what a night. How are you doing?”

There was no response.

He looked toward the driver’s seat and saw a terrified young woman gripping her steering wheel.

“You’re not my Uber, are you?”

The woman shook her head. My brother apologized and quickly exited her car.

It’s a funny story but illustrates the potential danger that drivers and passengers both face. Continue reading >>>

Apple Faces Lawsuit for not Preventing Texting and Driving

I made a promise to my family to not text while driving. Doing so is wildly dangerous and irresponsible, but also incredibly easy and tempting.

On any day, in any city around the country, a driver can look into the windows of surrounding cars and see a driver typing on his or her phone.

That driver will no longer be me, because I’ve decided that I control my phone instead of my phone controlling me. I won’t let it put my life, nor the lives of my loved ones, at risk.

Rather than taking responsibility for their own texting habits, some drivers want to sue one of the world’s largest makers of smartphones. The alleged crime? Making texting while driving possible. Or rather, not making it impossible. Continue reading >>>

How’d It Do That? Tesla Predicts Crash

tesla-autopilot

Self-driving software has been highly scrutinized over the last few months because of a few high profile accidents and at least one fatality.

One incident resulted after a driver’s Model S failed to distinguish a crossing truck trailer and crashed into it, killing the driver. Still, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is adamant that autonomous cars are many times safer than cars driven by humans and is accumulating millions of miles of accident-free driving to back his claim up.

One new video is definitive proof of the power of computers, and shows a Model S in the Netherlands predict a nasty accident just moments before it happened, potentially saving lives. It’s hard to watch this video and not think that autonomous vehicles are the wave of the future.

Continue reading >>>

How To Get Your Car Unstuck

car_stuck_in_snow

Snoqualmie Pass in Western Washington is a place notorious for winter snowfall. Here, deep in the Cascade Mountains, snow is measured in tens-of-feet, not inches, and can pile up to treacherous levels in just a matter of hours. It’s a section of Interstate 90 that’s crucial to the transportation of goods from the Port of Seattle to cities all across the nation.

It’s regularly travelled by tourists and business people and regularly claims vehicles in the steep snow embankments along the highway’s exits.

Last winter, as I pulled off the highway toward a rest stop, a red Ford Ranger had slid off the road and was buried to its fenders.

We stopped, hooked up the tow rope to the rear bumper of our Legacy, and pulled the truck to safety. The Legacy’s tow feature came in handy again on New Year’s Day, when my in-law’s Nissan Leaf got stuck in 20 inches of snow.

Getting stuck in the snow is a common occurrence. Here’s how to get out of it, even if there’s no tow vehicle nearby.

Continue reading >>>

The World Wants Cars to Talk, But Can’t Agree on a Language

Image courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Image courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

The U.S. Department of Transportation thinks cars should learn to talk to each other before they can drive themselves. Earlier this month it issued a proposed rule announcement requiring vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology in all light-duty vehicles sold in the U.S. to allow the development of collision-avoidance applications that could prevent hundreds of thousands of accidents every year.

Continue reading >>>