RTCG Car List

Not too long ago I mentioned in one of my videos that I would share the list of vehicles that I have owned in my life. Its no surprise that I am an avid car buyer, however some of the choices I have made in car buying might surprise you. Allow me to show you the list and I’ll explain some things after you have gotten to chance to take a look at it.

Make 

Model 

Year 

Audi TT 2001
Buick Lesabre 1998
BMW Z4 2009
Chevy Cavalier 1994
Chevy G 10 1982
Chevy Aveo 2006
Chevy Cruze 2017
Chrysler Cirrus 1998
Chrysler 300 2012
Chrysler 300 2011
Dodge Neon 1996
Dodge Stratus 2002
Dodge RAM 2500 2005
Ford F150 1993
Ford Mustang 1995
Ford Ranger 1999
Ford F150 2014
Ford Festiva 1991
Ford Fiesta 2014
Honda cb750k 1980
Honda GL 1100 1980
Honda Rebel 2006
Honda CB 500 2013
Honda CB 500 2013
Hyundai Genesis 2013
Jeep Cherokee 1994
Jeep Cherokee 1997
Jeep Commander 2010
Jeep Wrangler 2006
Jeep Wrangler 1994
Jeep Wrangler 2004
Kia Soul 2013
Lexus Rx330 2004
Lincoln Zephyr 2006
Lincoln Town Car 2004
Mazda Miata 2000
Mercedes GLK 250 2014
Nissan Xterra 2005
Nissan Leaf 2013
Plymouth Neon 1995
Plymouth Neon 1998
Porsche Boxster 2001
Saturn SL 2 1994
Scion Tc 2006
Scion Xb 2008
Suzuki Kingquad 1984
Suzuki Quad Runner 1982
Toyota Rav 4 1996
Toyota Truck 1980
Toyota Yaris 2008
VW Jetta 2009
Yahama xs 650 1978
Yahama Zuma 125 2009

This list is a bit long to go through one by one but here are some fun facts.
– 53 total vehicles
– 22 different brands
– I have owned sedans more than any other style of car by far
-The brands I have owned the most are Ford and Jeep. 6 of each brand.
-I have owned slightly more domestic cars at 29 domestic and 24 foreign (I counted Mazda as foreign).

Next I want to talk about the top 3 cars that I have loved and why.

-My all time favorite car that I have owned is the Chrysler 300. You may have seen the article I wrote on it. Ever since it came out I have been in love with this car. I feel like it has an excellent design, plenty of power, its packed full of features, and its not crazy expensive. 

 

-My next favorite was the Jeep Commander. The car was a relative failure for Chrysler but there was just so much to love about it. It looked like the Cherokee on steroids,  sleek industrial design on the interior,  the immaculate HEMI heart in it, you can jam yourself and 6 other friends in it when you need to move the masses, and it was still a capable off road vehicle. Damn it, I loved that car.

-The next would be the Wrangler/Cherokee. I am putting these together because I have owned 5 of these cars and they all had the same drivetrain and legendary AMC straight 6. These are a incredibly capable vehicles, really fun to drive, and with the wrangler you can take off the top! What more could you want?

 

Honorable mentions: The Nissan Xterra, the Nissan LEAF, and the Mercedes GLK250.

Next are 3 cars that I HATED didn’t love so much and why.

-First on this list would have to be the Toyota Yaris. Now I cannot say this was a terrible car. We never had any mechanical problems with it and it drove fine. However it felt so cheap, tinny, and generic that it was downright boring. Combine that with the horrific buying experience we had at the Toyota dealership and the constant decline of Toyotas design and quality makes me pretty miffed with Yota. No picture here, trust me you don’t want to look at it. 

-The BMW is second on this list but for very different reasons from the Yaris. The BMW drove great, felt well built, and its a seriously good looking car. The one we bought was only a few years old with less that 60k on it. However, 2 days into ownership it developed a oil leak. This was the beginning of a chain of problems that ended with the BMW dealership refusing to take the car in on trade!! We owned the car for 40 days. during those 40 days the car was in the shop for 19 of them and I ended up dumping the car to third party dealership for a huge loss. Frankly, the car was a total piece of shit and BMW is completely dead to me…

-In the same “dead to me” category is Lexus. The number one most hated car I have ever owned is the Lexus RX330. Back in the day we bought a 2004 RX330 as a CPO with less than 30k miles on it. Shortly after purchase the transmission started having issues shifting into gear. After MONTHS of problems and countless visits to the service center Lexus agreed to put in a new transmission. It was a $10k job that the CPO warranty covered. The car drove fine for about 3 weeks and the problems started right back up. Long story short, we ended up going through the arbitration process with Lexus and losing. After less that a year of ownership I ended up dumping it for a $14k loss and the dealer who we traded it into said “you know.. there is something wrong with this transmission…”

Not so honorable mentions: Chevy Cavalier, Lincoln Town Car, and the VW Jetta.

All in all I don’t regret most of the above purchases. I learned so much about how to work on a wide array of cars. It also allowed me to experience what ownership is like on a myriad of different styles and brands of cars.

So how many cars have you owned? Which ones were your favorite? Which ones were your not so favorite?

Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

Why I am done bringing my car to repair shops!

About 5 weeks ago the wrangler wouldn’t start. It was 3 degrees outside and all it did was crank and crank. We tried a few times and decided to forget it and deal with it later. Well, as we waited the temps kept getting lower and lower. The idea of diagnosing and repairing a car in sub zero temperatures sounding like pure torture.

So I hopped on yelp and looked for the highest rated car repair shop that was close by. I found a place that I was happy with and called a tow truck company. A few hours later the Jeep was off to the doctors to get all fixed up.

A few days later I get a call to let me know the diagnosis. He said that he got it to run but repairs need to be done:

The spark plugs being used are not correct for this type of motor. This lead to it not starting in the cold. Since you tried to start the motor a few times you flooded it out. Since you flooded it out there is now gas in the oil and there is excess gas in the cylinders. Also, the wrong spark plugs damaged you coil pack and that needs to be replaced now. You total will be $1350.

$1350!!!!! that’s dollars, not pesos!

So unsurprisingly this was quite a shock. How could trying to start the car a few times do this much damage? Also, What was I supposed to do? I was not about to hire a tow truck driver to go pick up the car, bring it back, and still pay hundreds in diagnostics fees to the repair shop!

So the first thing I did was ask him to itemize the costs. He told me that it broke down something like this:

Diagnostics:  $200
Towing:          $80
Oil Change:    $50
Spark Plugs : $300
Coil pack:       $700
Fuel Inject cleaning: $50

Now the standout on that list is obviously the coil pack. 700 dollars for the coil pack and install? For the record all you need to do is take 4 bolts off of the pack, pull it off the plugs, and reverse that. Its arguably the easiest install of a coil pack in the world… Not to mention I feel like its odd that “incorrect” spark plugs can blow up a coil.

So I ask him about that line item. I say “that seems REALLY high for a coil pack.” He says “yea, they are expensive. I cannot source the OEM part for another few weeks but Delphi is an OEM provider and they have one for $600, the install is the rest of the cost.”

Being a person that works on cars regularly I had some healthy skepticism about that price. So I said, “if you got it to start then the coil pack must work to some degree.” He told me “yes, you could still get more life out of it but it might not last long.” So I immediately decided that as long as they get it running I can bring it home and do the coil pack myself. As for the rest of the repairs, if he’s being honest and says there is gas in the oil then I definitely will not want to drive it and the spark plugs should get replaced anyway. So I tell him to go ahead with the rest of the repairs so I can bring it home. That way the price only ends up being $650 and I can deal with the rest later. A few hours after getting off the phone I hop on the internet to shop for coil packs just taking his word that it needs to be replaced. I find the Delphi for $70. Yes, seventy US dollars brand new, shipped to my door in two days for free…. Immediately I get that sinking feeling that this guys is completely screwing me over. I understand that they mark up items for a profit but come on, really?

So they are already doing the repair, they finish and I go pick it up, and it drives great! Starts right up, idles super smooth (as smooth as those motors can get), and accelerated nice and strong…. for a few days…

Then about 4 days later it wouldn’t start again! WTF man! At this point I am pretty pissed off because the ink on my $650 check is barely dry and the Jeep is right back where it was a few days ago. After my head nearly explodes I know that I am not going to send this thing off again to spend a bunch more money. Not to mention I will not give that guy the satisfaction of knowing he was right about the coil pack.  So trudge out there in the 9 degree weather, fresh coil pack in hand, to take a look. I open the hood and immediately I see this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you kidding me!?!

They never actually secured the coil pack to the motor! It was just flopping around on the spark plugs! This is incredibly dangerous. Where do I even start? That could be the way the coil pack grounds. It could have shorted out the ignition system trying to start it, inflicting who knows how much damage to the electrical system. The car could have lost power at any time! In the winter time you lose a lot of road shoulders, the roads are already dangerous and all the sudden you can lose spark! Not to mention we take this on the freeway. Could you imagine driving down the highway at 65-70 and all the sudden your motor dies? What about the bolts? What if they shook right out of the motor? The coil would just fall to the ground while driving and rip the electrical right out with it?

So naturally I am pretty pissed off at this point. However, I had the new coil and the old one was already uninstalled for me so the new one went on in about 6 minutes. Unsurprisingly, the Jeep drove great and has been fine ever since.

I actually decided while writing this to send an email back to the repair shop to see what they had to say for themselves. I would share the email but is basically this blog post in the form of an email.

I am writing all this not to shame the repair shop (didn’t even use their name) or to scare you off of using these places. I am writing this because I want you to be vigilant, when someone gives you a repair quote, research it and ask questions don’t just instinctively say yes. Also, when the work is done do your best to check it. Had I simply just opened the hood of the Jeep in the parking lot of the repair shop I would have seen that the job was not done.

If you bring your car into the shop for something like an alternator, power steering pump, brakes, etc. its easy to take a quick glance and at least see if the part looks new and is securely fastened to the motor. I think when people send something to “professionals” we assume that it will be completed flawlessly. As the above post explains, that’s obviously not the case.

Keep your eyes open, protect you money and your assets to feel good about the decisions you make.

Happy New Year.

Get Your Car Winter Ready

One thing I learned while I lived in the south is that people seriously neglect the maintenance on their cars when they are not forced to do it. In Florida, you can drive on your tires YEARS past when they should have been replaced. I have seen tires down there that I would not have believed  held air if I was not seeing with my own eyes. I’m talking about seeing entire bands through the rubber. In the north, 3/4 of your year involves ice on the roads (slight exaggeration). If you have tires that are not tip-top shape, then your car will literally just not leave the driveway. Not that you don’t want it to! It just physically won’t move…

Anyway. Here is my list of things you should check/accomplish before the weather outside gets frightful, and frightful it will get friends….

  • Tires

I would say the most important item on the list. Since tires are what connects you to the road it’s important that they are in good shape and are the correct tires for your current conditions. Most cars will come with “all weather” tires and that’s fine. But even all weather tires wear down. You can use the “penny test” to check if you need new tires. Below is a really simple article by Firestone showing you how to do it. The best part is that all you need is a penny. If you don’t have a penny, then no worries because you need a lot more than that to buy new tires. http://www.firestonecompleteautocare.com/penny-tire-test/ In all seriousness, this is how most people end up in a ditch, or worse, in an accident. Check your tires and make sure they are ready to rock. If you have a sports car that has tires designed for summer weather, you could consider getting a separate set of winter tires (and rims) for your ride. Obviously, this is the far more expensive option, but with places like Tire Rack and Discount Tire Direct you can buy complete wheel and tire sets that are already balanced and ready to mount. All you need to do is swap them out. Additionally, Discount Tire Direct teamed up with EBay and are using their interface for ease of shopping and better prices. Lastly, check for cracks, bulges, nails, etc., all over the tire. You will not want to deal with a blowout in the winter time.

  • Fluids

This isn’t just as simple as getting an oil change. Well, it kind of is, let me explain. As you know oils come in different weights. The viscosity of oil is a measurement of its resistance to deformation. Basically, the more viscous something is, the thicker it is. Temperature plays a big role in viscosity as well. The colder it is the more viscous an oil becomes. So if you are using a high weight oil and it gets REALLY cold then you will be putting extra pressure on your oil pump, and worse yet, you my not be properly lubricating your motor. So if you are getting close to an oil change you may want to consider a lower viscosity for the colder months of the year. Also, included in fluids would be your antifreeze and even your wiper fluid. If you have been adding water to you radiator (big no-no) then now is the time for a flush and refill with the proper mixture. Additionally, you can get wiper fluid that has antifreeze in it so your wiper tank does not turn into a block of ice and you cannot use it. Oh, and it will also split that cheap plastic tank in half too.

  • Wiper Blades

Wiper blades get their own category because they are arguably as important as tires. I only say that because what good are healthy tires if you cannot see where you are driving? If it’s snowing there are times where you cannot see the lines in the road, and sometimes you can barely tell where the road is!! Having good, weather appropriate wiper blades combined with antifreeze wiper fluid will give you the best vision for driving in inclement weather.

    • Battery

Batteries are one of those things that get ignored until they don’t work, like refrigerators or roommates.  In winter, the cold weather takes a toll on your battery. One that works just fine in the summer might have issues starting your car in winter. This issue is due to your cold cranking amps being stunted by the cold. Additionally, your car requires MORE power to start in the winter. You could take your battery out and go get it bench tested for health. However if you are not exhibiting any other issues then just making sure the connections are clean should be good enough. You can get a battery post cleaner at any car parts shop or online. Here is what they look like, you can click the image to pick one up on Amazon (affiliate link).

    • Maintenance

This is a bit of a catch all. These are the types of things that should be done anyway but sometimes they get neglected. Things like inspecting your tie rod ends, ball joints, transmission fluid, drive belt(s), etc. If you need to get any of this done, especially if you plan to do any of it yourself, get it done BEFORE it gets nasty out. If you have hit your knuckles while working in the freezing cold then you know what I mean. You so not want to have to deal with maintenance in the cold. For instance, my dad’s truck had a cooling line rupture in the dead of winter. My mom was driving and she was alone. Luckily, she’s a badass and was like, “WTF ever, I’ll just drive it home.” So she did. Anyway, the point is my dad spent 5-6 hours outside (truck won’t fit in the garage) replacing the water pump, thermostat, and all cooling lines on the rig. Now, I cannot speak for him, but I assume it was not a super fun time.

Now, in a perfect world we would always be on top of all of these things. But life frequently gets in the way. We end up relying on our cars day after day but not taking care of them. Most of the year that’s really not that big of a deal. If we break down we call roadside assistance or press our On Star or MBrace button and someone comes right by to help us out. But in the dead of winter, things become much more complicated and much more dangerous. Please do your part to make sure that your car is safe for yourself, your family, and the thousands of people that you drive past everyday.

Be safe this winter season and don’t forget to have fun!

The Triumphant Return of the Chrysler 300

Now I have owned a lot of cars. I mean a LOT. I am somewhere around the mid 50’s in count and one day I’ll post my (running) list of vehicles to the blog for you.  After owning that many cars, you start to hone in on what you really like to see in your ride. The format, price range, options, power, etc. These are all important when deciding what car or truck will work for you. Now my way of determining what I really love is looking at the cars that I have owned twice (sometimes 3 times).  My thought processes is that there must be something that I like about this car so much that I gravitate toward it multiple times at different points in my life.  That being said, here is a current list of cars that I have owned at least twice.

Dodge/Plymouth Neon
Ford F150
Jeep Cherokee
Jeep Wrangler
Chrysler 300

Now its no secret that I am a fan of Mopar. I think they have made some really great products. I am not a fan of the creation of FCA but I think they are still making good vehicles that stand up to the competition on the global market (and look better doing it). Anyways back to the list.

Your first car was likely not great, but you learn a lot from it.

A few on the list are pretty simple to explain. The first on the list was my very first car. I was gifted a 1995 Plymouth Neon that had gone through a hail storm and was totaled out (thank you sis, you’re the best!). I did unimaginable things to that car. I gutted it and put huge subs into it, I modded the engine, and I may have even gotten a few wheels of the ground at times but that’s a different story for a different time. You learn so much from your first car. It’s much like your first “time”. Its likely not great, but you learn a lot.
On that basis alone I loved that car and I still do today. I find it charming, extraordinarily simple, and not terribly ugly. I mean, look at it!

They were both mine but I was replacing it at the time and frankly, it was not really worthy of committing it to film at that point.

The next few cars are pretty straight forward. A truck is a truck and when you feel like you need one, you go buy one. I prefer F150s or Ram 1500s because I like the way perform and they are not Chevy…
The Cherokees explain themselves. If you have not yet, go drive a second generation Cherokee. You will love it. Simple, rugged, and capable as all hell.
The Wrangler… OHHHH the Wrangler. It has all the things a Cherokee has plus the ability to drop the top. Not to mention you can transform this thing into an off road monster and the AMC 4.0 6 cyc is a rock solid bad ass motor (read its interesting history here). Every human on earth should own one. It might be the secret to world peace.
Now that brings me to the Chrysler 300.  You may or may not know this but the 300 numbering system is more than 60 years old. Chrysler used the 300 naming for a line of “letter cars” built starting in the mid-1950’s. Read more about the origin of the 300 line here.  The modern versions of these cars are spectacular. They are comparatively affordable, offer an insane amount of options, and bonus, they can get out of their own way with its strong HEMI heart.
Every human on earth should own a Jeep Wrangler. It might be the secret to world peace.
I first owned a 300 back in 2012. I leased it and I picked out the one with the most options. Man, did I LOVE that car! It was huge, elegant, and powerful. What’s not to love?
While I had that car my partner and I moved across the country and both started working from home. A hefty payment combined with the fact that it barely left the driveway drove us to get rid of in in lieu of something cheaper and less… awesome (I believe it was a Kia Soul).  It totally broke my heart to get rid of it but I knew at the time it was the right decision. Ever since then I have occasionally cruised the lots to look for a 300 that had low miles and was in good condition.
Fast forward 5 years…
We moved back to Michigan, my husband now commutes to work, we have a few rides comprising of the GLK 250, the Wrangler and of course, the X. I found myself again with a hefty payment on the Mercedes which I just don’t drive that much since I am still working from home. However, this time things were different….
Its now been 6 years since the release of the second generation of the 300. This time the 300 IS the cheaper car that I can go find to lower my payment! YES!!
I was super excited at the prospect and we found one pretty quickly. Its a 2011 with only 58k on it and it is DECKED OUT. I got all the options that the car had to offer and I got it at a price that wont make me cringe when it sits in the driveway too long.
Since I last had the 300 I’ve learned a lot about what I want out of a car. I think that knowing what actually makes you happy whether is in a vehicle or otherwise is a pretty powerful thing. Just try to make sure it does not take buying over 50 cars to figure it out.