2013 Mazda3 Grand Touring

17 Oct

This is a beautiful car.

I have to confess I am a huge Mazda fan; they understand that cars don’t need to be boring to be economical, and don’t need to be stark to be affordable.  There is a feel to a Mazda, a sense of connection with the car and the road that is sorely lacking in most cars.  There is actual feedback through the steering, brakes that can be modulated by feel, and good behavior at the limit.  This is a great sports sedan masquerading as an economy car that returns 40mpg on the highway.

I have a 2013 Mazda3 with less than 7,000 miles on it.  Not only is it fully equipped with comfort and convenience features, it also has the latest in safety equipment like blind spot monitoring.   Navigation to keep you on track, heated leather seats to keep you comfortable, and Bluetooth to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.   With an automatic transmission and awesome stereo, this is the perfect weapon for the daily grind to and from Portland.



Winter is coming… are you ready?

17 Oct

This morning was cold.  In Hillsboro where I live, it was 35 degrees this morning when I woke up.  Fall is here, and winter is not far behind.  There are a couple of things you can do now that will make driving over the next few months safer and more comfortable.


Wash and wax your car- Your paint will survive the mess of winter much better if you give it a good coat of wax now.  Be sure to raise the hood and get all the leaves and tree debris out of the vents.  Clean the moss from around the trunk opening or around the rear hatch and windows.  If you are not up to the task yourself, invest in a detail.  Your car will look bitchin’ and you will love it.  Vacuum the interior while you are at it.  Those fries that have been hiding under the seat since the summer road trip need to go.  Mice like warm places to stay in the winter, and a ready supply of food only makes your car more inviting.


Windshield Wipers- Let’s face it; they die.  They sit in one place for a couple of hot months, drying out and developing a permanent curve that just makes them streak and chatter when you need them to be smooth and wipe the glass clean.  Wipers are cheap, so why are people so loath to replace them?  Put new wipers on now so the next downpour doesn’t leave you blindly following the tail lights of the car ahead of you, hoping that you can stop in time, not realizing that your exit was two miles back.  Safety for less than $20… your life is worth $20, right?


While you are at it, refill your windshield washer reservoir with fluid. Don’t just use water, since that can freeze and ruin the tank and/or the pump.  Check the spray nozzles to be sure they spray correctly; use a pin to pick out all of the wax you jammed in there in step one.


Bulbs- Make sure all of your marker lights, brake lights, turn signals, and headlights are working well.  If one headlight burned out, the other can’t be far behind so replace them both.  Upgrading to a brighter bulb can make driving at night much safer, but stay legal!


Change your oil- Why not?  It is inexpensive insurance that you are ready to deal with winter, and your car’s manufacturer may recommend a lighter oil in winter than summer.  While the mechanic is under there, they can check the condition of your brakes, tires, and shocks.  Check your antifreeze, and if it isn’t up to the task of another winter, flush and refill your cooling system.  It may be time for a new air filter, and a new cabin air filter if your car is so equipped.  Clogged cabin air filters reduce the airflow through the vents, limiting the ability to clear fog off the windshield and keep the car warm.


The cold temperatures will cause your tire pressures to drop; think back to high school physics class about gasses, temperature, and expansion.  It may even be enough to cause your tire pressure monitoring system to set off the dash light.  Bring them up to the recommended tire pressure.  There is a manufacturer’s tire guide sticker on your car, usually on the B-pillar or driver’s side door telling you what pressure to set them to.


A word about tires: Winter tires rule.  If you spend any time at all in the snow, there is no substitute for a set of dedicated snow tires.  Make sure to buy the ones with the “mountain symbol” on them indicating they are approved traction devices.  With these tires, you won’t need to chain up when traction devices are required in the passes.  They flat work.  They also help in wet and cold conditions, too, since the tread compound is designed not to get hard in colder temperatures and the tread patterns evacuate water very effectively. You can’t violate the laws of physics and you still have to drive carefully, but like a good lawyer they sure stack the odds in your favor.


Next weekend you will be going to the pumpkin patch, then the holidays kick off and it will be winter before you know it.  This is a great weekend to get ready for winter, so do it.  Then reward yourself with a “leaf viewing trip” through the gorge, and a giant soft-serve cone at the drive-in in Cascade Locks- yum!


Be careful out among them,

Is there a perfect time for a breakdown?

7 Jan

My niece attends Portland State University.  Saturday, she returned from the holiday break and I took our Trooper out to the airport to pick her up.  I pulled up to the curb in the “arrivals” lane, and slid the gear selector into “park”.  My hand instinctively went to the key, shutting off the ignition, while my brain processed the ease with which the shift lever moved and why the gear indicator in the dash glowed “D”.

“Oh, CRAP!” I thought as I realized the transmission was in drive, and the ignition was now off… I couldn’t re-start the car.  “Move this thing NOW” barked the parking enforcement officer.  He didn’t really care that I couldn’t start the darn thing.  I couldn’t really push it all that well, either.  Meanwhile, my niece patiently waited.

I crawled under the rig, and just as I suspected, the shift linkage was dangling.  With a little shoving, prodding, massaging, and just plain force I got it slipped past the exhaust (very hot, and now covered with little patches of my skin) and back on the transmission’s gear selector.  It managed to stay together long enough to first get my niece, and then me, home, where I could make permanent repairs.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, this wasn’t a problem that happened at the airport.  The truth is, the selector lever was a little loose for a while before this happened.  Several months, actually.  I rarely drove the Trooper, and when I did I followed my wife’s work-around to get it into and out of the desired gear.  Ignore a problem long enough, though, and it finds a way to move up the urgency scale until it is front and center, demanding immediate attention.

You should not neglect minor repairs anymore than you should skip required maintenance.  Had I simply taken the time to look at the shift linkage months ago, I would have avoided the honking horns, angry shouts, and general bad karma of the airport arrival lane.  I don’t want to consider what danger I could have put my wife in if this had happened to her late at night in a deserted parking lot.

When you have a headlight out, don’t wait until the other side dies before you replace them.  If your tire keeps going low, get it fixed instead of just putting in air every now and then.  And if your check engine light glows ominously from the dash, do the right thing and check your engine.  You could avoid thousands in repairs by simply doing a little maintenance along the way.  Not to mention towing bills, and the inconvenience of an ill-timed breakdown.

Fiat Abarth is Amazing!

8 May

I am now spoiled for all cars.  I have driven the Abarth!


The steering wheel still does not telescope, forcing me to sit a little closer to the pedals than I would prefer.  And the test car has a sunroof, robbing me of headroom.  But after settling into the wonderful seat and turning the key, everything is forgotten as the motor barks to life and settles into a raspy note that says, “I’m not like those other Fiats…”


The steering wheel is thicker, and feels great in my hands.  The ratio is quicker; noticeably so when driving, and response is immediate.  I turned off the electronic safety nannies; I want to experience the whole car, no watering down required.


Let me give you some background- my daily driver is a 1991 Ford Festiva.  Lacking power steering, it provides great feedback through the wheel. I have a rhythm for Germantown Road that works in the Festiva, allowing me to zip from apex to apex.  It requires a fair amount of heft on the controls; there is not much difference between stopping the car with power brakes and without.  It is the perfect example of how much fun driving a slow car quickly on a tight, twisty road can be.


I took the Abarth up Skyline to Germantown.  I had plenty of time to familiarize myself with this little gem- a Prius, then a Corolla, resolutely stuck to 25MPH on the straights, and a tire-blistering 15MPH through each carefully executed corner.  When I got to Germantown road, they thankfully went the other way.


I blasted up the short straight, lined up for my corner, and hit the brakes… then had to downshift and hit the gas again!  This thing sheds speed like my dog sheds fur, and for the first couple of corners I had to really think about my braking points.  The Abarth steering feels great, loading up as you get deeper into the corner and with enough feedback to know what is happening up there.  A quick shift, nearing the next corner, and a glance at the speedometer revealed I was clipping along at nearly 70MPH!  It was effortless, and the only sense of the speed I was carrying was the realization that the corners seemed to be a lot closer together in the Abarth than my car…


The sound is intoxicating, and I found myself happily blasting along in the 4800-6500 RPM range.  Throttle response is instant, and not at all sloppy or abrupt.  All too soon, the road ended, and we trundled back through town to the studio.  Short-shifting and a light throttle may net better fuel mileage, but this baby likes to sing so I let her loose whenever possible.


Under steady cruising, the Abarth seems quieter than the other 500s.  The ride is firm, but not in a “the springs are too stiff” way, more in a firm shock way that smothers small hits quickly but controls body motions easily.  Under heavy braking in a very bumpy corner entrance, it got a little twitchy, but was easily controlled.  Even in a bumpy, off-camber corner it was easy to maintain my line, although it did require a little correction.


Buy one.  The Abarth is simply the best balanced, most fun-to-drive car I have been in for a long, long time.  I felt more at home driving it on a road I had never taken it on than I did driving the same road repeatedly in my Mini, a car I owned for nine years.  There is no downer of a day that can’t be fixed by simply driving home in an Abarth.  I need one; now I have to figure out how to pay for it!

And so it begins…

16 Mar


When I set up this blog, I envisioned a place where I could revue cars, rant about automotive-related topics, and promote car shows, meets, and car-related events in the Couv.  I have been a little slow getting up and running, but so many cool things are happening, I can’t put it off any longer!

There will be three categories of post here: Cars for sale, Events, and Reviews.  Cars for sale will be a mix of my inventory and credit union member cars that I feel can be successfully listed in this space.  Events will be a mix of upcoming events, and well as stories and opinions about events that I attended.  Reviews will be my driving impressions of various cars, both new and used, interesting and boring.  Hey, every once in a while even I get stuck behind the wheel of a boring car.

I am a consultant for Auto Mentors Inc, an auto buying service serving credit union members.  I work primarily for members of iQ Credit Union, but can help anyone.  I don’t provide financing, but can refer you to people who can.

Come back often, or follow me for automatic updates.


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