Archive for the ‘automotive technology’ Category

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” — Robert Heinlein

Part of being a good generalist is knowing when to call in a specialist.

I can, for example, do gear and axle setup to change gearing in a Jeep axle. I mean, it’s physically possible for me to do it. I know the general principles of what must be done to provide proper bearing preload, proper pinion depth, and so forth. I don’t have the tools, but I could buy or build them. BUT: I’d likely go through multiple very costly install kits before finally getting it right. And it’d likely take me multiple days before it was completely right. Meanwhile, a specialist can do it in a couple of hours and do it right the first time without all the trial and error.

Part of being a good generalist is knowing, when you look at a job, that it’s time to call a specialist.

Which is my problem with Heinlein’s statement. We *need* specialists. How else are generalists going to call in a specialist when it’s time to solve something that’s really most effectively solved by a specialist?!

No, Mr. Heinlein, specialists are not insects. Rather, they are the base upon which us generalists rest. We may know how to do almost everything, but we’re not good at doing everything. We rely on specialists to do things in a cost effective and swift manner that we ourselves simply don’t have the time or money to do for ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to be generalists!

– Badtux the Generalist Penguin
1. Who can do most of what Heinlein mentions above, but doesn’t *want* to do some of it and is willing to pay others to do it for him.
2. Yeah yeah, I know Heinlein is dead. But people still keep quoting him anyhow.

Read Full Post »

Oh joy.

My Jeep is throwing a P0304 Check Engine code, making a clattering noise from the driver’s side cylinder head, and is idling rough.

Yeppers, burnt exhaust valve on the #4 cylinder, a common problem with the 2012 Jeep Wrangler. Luckily Fiat-Chrysler extended the warranty to 10 years and 150,000 miles on that cylinder head.

So now you know what I’ve been busy with tonight — rounding up paperwork and making sure my Jeep is in order to take it in to the dealership tomorrow.

– Badtux the Busy Penguin

Read Full Post »


I really can’t justify having two cars, especially given that we have actual mass transit here in the Bay Area. I’ve decided to sell the Great White Whale, Moby Van, the 2014 Chrysler Town & Country. The reality is that the number of times I’ve actually needed the capabilities of Moby Van in the past year is twice. And one of those will never happen again, and the other of those would be well taken care of by renting a U-Haul trailer for $20.

Of course, if I were sensible, I’d be selling the Green MoneyPit (the 2011 Jeep Wrangler) rather than Moby Van. Moby Van is the most practical vehicle I’ve ever owned. It’ll go from hauling seven people to the taqueria to hauling six sheets of plywood home with just a flip of the back rows of seats to tuck them into their under-floor compartments. But: The MoneyPit is fun. Moby Van isn’t. At least, not in the same way as the MoneyPit.

So anyhow, that’s what I’ve been doing the majority of this past week — getting Moby Van ready for sale by detailing its interior (the exterior will get detailed this weekend), and getting the MoneyPit ready for daily driver duty by cleaning it out and getting some new wheels to replace my banged up old wheels so I can put some tires on it for commuting that are more street-oriented than the big expensive offroad knobbies that I run when I’m heading into the national forests for offroading. For example, I took the MoneyPit to get its alignment checked, and they adjusted the toe so it would quit scrubbing the outside corners of my front tires, important if I’m buying new tires that I don’t want chewed up.

Meanwhile the world keeps moving around, the politicians (especially Donald Trump) keep saying stupid things, and in general nothing that I feel like talking about is happening. So I’ll talk about the MoneyPit and Moby Van instead. Next up — a sample Craigslist ad, once I get it in shape where I can list it…

– Badtux the too-many-cars Penguin

Read Full Post »

Fiat-Chrysler forced to recall over a million cars because dumbfucks can’t figure out how to move the gearshifter to “Park”.

Jesus fucking Christ on a goddamn autobahn. The car beeps and yells at you if you open the door and it’s not in Park. The gear shift position is clearly visible on the dashboard, it tells you that the car is in gear. It won’t even let you take the “key” out of the dashboard if the car is not in park (I say “key” in quotes because it’s actually a chip in a plastic key-shaped case, there’s no real literal key involved, but you still have to insert the “key” into the dash and turn it in order to turn on the car).

So let’s recap. These people a) ignored the fact that the dashboard clearly said they weren’t in Park, b) ignored the fact that they couldn’t take their goddamned key out of the dashboard, and c) ignored all the chimes and shit that were clearly saying, “yo, dude, things are fucked up”, and it’s Chrysler’s fault that their car ended up taking a swan dive off a cliff? What. The. Literal. Fuck?

Darwin weeps. Clearly survival of the stupid, not survival of the fittest, is the new rule. SIIIIGH.

– Badtux the Car Penguin

Read Full Post »


  1. A giant but expensive to operate manufacturing facility originally designed for an entirely different class of vehicles.
  2. Announcing a car that will be revolutionary, years before its design is even finalized.
  3. Taking deposits on that car before its design is even finalized.
  4. Hand-build a few example cars to whet people’s appetite for the vehicle.
  5. Run into difficulties finding suppliers able to supply the parts you need in the quantities you need — and what suppliers you run into, want cash up front before delivery of anything.
  6. A couple of years of trying to figure out how to manufacture all those preorders that you got — and bankruptcy!

The 1948 Tucker? Uhm, no. Talking about the Tesla Model 3, which received close to 300,000 pre-orders where people plunked down $1K to get on the waiting list for a new Tesla Model 3 whenever it starts getting manufactured in quantity. Which is at least a year down the road, probably two.

And probably never.

The problem, as I keep pointing out, is that manufacturing is hard. Tesla cannot get enough batteries and parts to fulfill current orders for its far more expensive Model S and Model X vehicles, stating that their suppliers are having trouble ramping up demand and that two suppliers are bottlenecking deliveries. And we’re talking about hand-built small quantity luxury cars here, not mass-produced cars like the Model 3, which is at a different scale altogether. Tesla will probably want to build 150,000 Model 3’s per year to get sufficient economies of scale to meet their desired price points. To do this, they’re going to have to invest a minimum of five BILLION dollars into both the assembly lines and their supply chain.

And they don’t have five billion dollars. They *may* be able to raise three billion dollars. Maybe. But they’re woefully underestimating what it costs to mass produce a car.

Oh, and that refundable $1K or $5K deposit? Well, don’t expect to get it back if Tesla declares bankruptcy. Not that the folks with six-figure salaries putting deposits down on Teslas really care that much about a “mere” $5K loss…

– Badtux the Car Penguin

Read Full Post »


So, here’s what I’ve been up to this weekend:


Yeah, been swapping out shocks on my 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. This is after I put the front driver’s side on. The OEM shock is the red one, the new shocks are the silver Foxes.

Unfortunately the new shocks are 1.5″ longer than the OEM shocks, which gives me some choices:

  1. I can leave the 2″ shock mount extenders on. But that gives me the equivalent of 3.5″ of lift worth of droop, and my front drive shaft hits the exhaust crossover pipe.
  2. I can remove the 2″ shock mount extenders. But that gives me 1/2″ less droop.

I chose option two because dealing with the crossover pipe issue is non-trivial with 3.5″ of droop over stock. It means that I need a new driveshaft *and* a new crossover pipe, one that has a cutout of sorts to allow more droop. Not going there right now.

For the record, here is what it looks like at full droop *with* the shock mount extenders. Without them there’s about 1/2″ between the driveshaft slip joint’s accordion cover and the exhaust pipe:


So the other issue was that the front passenger side upper shock mount bolt was completely, utterly obscured by the battery tray. I mean, it was impossible to get to it. Really, Jeep? Why do you do this to me?! Luckily it’s not that hard to remove enough stuff to prop up the battery tray. To whit:

  1. Remove the top part of the airbox via unclamping it from the intake air tube and removing the charcoal canister hose.
  2. Remove the air filter (duh)
  3. Remove the bottom half of the airbox by yanking hard to pop it out of the three rubber grommets that hold it to the battery tray.
  4. You will then see two of the bolts needed to unbolt the airbox from the body. Unfortunately one is obscured by the transmission fluid reservoir feed line. So unbolt the transmission fluid reservoir and push it aside.
  5. Remove the negative clamp from the battery negative post and and push it aside, remove the positive clamp from the battery positive post and push it aside, unbolt the battery with a long extension and 10mm socket (the clamp is between the battery and the body).
  6. Remove the battery.

At this point you can see all of the 10mm bolts that hold the battery box on. There is not one underneath the TIPM (the fuse box) so don’t worry about that. Just remove all the 10mm bolts or nuts. Then wiggle the battery box forward a little and prop it up at the front a couple of inches with wooden wedges or door stops or something like that.

At that point you end up with something that looks like this:


As you can see, you can now reach the top bolt.

The Fox shocks use a 1/4″ allen wrench on the top to keep the body from turning as you turn the bolt that holds the body to the top shock mount. Needless to say there isn’t enough room for an allen wrench up there. Instead I cut off a nub of a 1/4″ allen wrench and used a 1/4″ wrench to hold the body steady while I used a 3/4″ open end wrench on the bolt. It was painfully slow, but (shrug) it works.

Put it all together in reverse order :). Not shown: Taking the wheel well liners off / putting them on. Because they’re ugly semi-home-made things that I don’t like showing off, LOL.

So next I need to put on the rear shocks. That’s a lot easier because all their mounts are out in the open. I just ran out of daylight today and didn’t feel like extending my wrenching into the night…

– Badtux the Wrenching Penguin

Read Full Post »

In 1972, 54,589 Americans died in auto accidents out of a total population of 209.9 million.

In 2010, 32,999 Americans died in auto accidents out of a total population of 309.3 million.

In short, if the same number of Americans per capita had continued dying in auto accidents, the death toll would have been 80,440 in 2010. Instead nearly 60% of the people who would have died in 1972 are instead alive.

What happened? Two things happened:

1) Society changed. Thanks to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), drunk driving went from being an accepted thing to being something that makes you a pariah, that only losers do, that earns you jail time if you do it. Cops were equipped with Breathalyzers and new laws that defined drunk driving in a way that would hold up in court, as versus “I smelled alcohol on his breath” which is hardly scientific.

2) Cars are much safer now. They have antilock brakes and traction control, they have airbags all around and safety cages including steel girders in the doors, they have crumple zones to absorb impacts and safety glass to keep you from being decapitated by shards of windshield escaping from their confinement, they have collapsible steering columns that no longer impale you in a frontal impact, they are, in short, rolling tanks compared to the heavy but unsafe monstrosities of 1972.

Yet I still remember, back in 1972, that there were serious arguments by the alcohol industry that we shouldn’t implement those anti-drunk-driving measures because they would not stop people from driving drunk. True — my friend whose car got totalled by a drunk driver two weeks ago can attest to that fact. Yet the objective reality is that the law against drunk driving, and enforcement thereof, has significantly reduced the number of drunk drivers. The fact that a law against drunk driving cannot be 100% effective doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have one. It simply means that there’s a hard core of addicts who are not amenable to reason, and a much larger population of non-addicts who are and who thus don’t drive drunk while in 1972 they would have.

And I also remember, back in 1972, that the automakers said that we shouldn’t mandate all those safety and emissions features because they would double the price of cars and the lives saved weren’t worth the extra cost to the auto-buying public, and it would hurt the poor because poor people wouldn’t be able to afford the newer more expensive safer cars, they whined. And they were right. Cars did become much more expensive because of the safety and emissions mandates, probably $10K of the cost of modern cars is safety and emissions gear. What they didn’t factor in was the fact that poor people ended up buying those safer cars many years later as used cars, and thus poor people today are driving much safer cars than they were driving in 1972. Mandating the safety gear meant that eventually the safety trickled down to poor people too, whereas if the safety gear had been optional, poor people would have likely been relegated to the unsafe cars and only rich people could have afforded the safer more expensive cars. And because of the newer emissions gear, poor kids are no longer sick or dying of lead poisoning from the fumes belched from polluting motor vehicles fueled with lead-enhanced gasoline.

Back to my friend. We had dinner together last Tuesday. He showed me his new car. His old one? A Ford Excursion driven by a drunk driver T-boned him at roughly 70mph, running a stop sign on a residential street to do so. His car flew and tumbled approximately 50 feet through the air through a fence into a wrecking yard, and smashed into a tow truck. The tow truck was totalled. When the fire department arrived, they were sure there was nobody left alive in the car either. But the safety cage held. Every air bag went off and cocooned him inside that cage. His only injury was a bruised toe where the front wheel slightly impinged on the passenger compartment. Yet the car itself was a crumpled mess, all the crumple zones had done their crumpling duty and you would have figured just looking at the car that there was nobody left alive in it.

Instead, we had dinner.

In 1972 that would not have happened. He would have been dead. Yet somehow I am supposed to believe that, because the new safety features cannot save everybody, that we should instead have condemned my friend to death? Fuck that. Fuck that with a spoon.

Now, back to gun laws, the same deal goes for passing laws requiring safe handling of guns and requiring that new guns have fingerprint-encoded trigger locks to keep them from being used by anybody other than their actual owner. Yes, these measures won’t be 100% effective, just like the laws against drunk driving aren’t 100% effective, just like the laws requiring safety cages for cars aren’t 100% effective. But still. If those were the law, there would be over a hundred children this year under the age of 12 years old who would be alive who are currently dead because of gun “accidents”. My friend is still alive because of the laws requiring safety devices in cars. I wish some of those children were still alive, too. But they aren’t. And the NRA is doing their best to make sure that they’re joined by hundreds of other children in the years to come, because if a measure isn’t 100% effective at saving lives, it isn’t worth implementing.

I will be out in the backcountry with my friend later this week. I am sure he would enjoy knowing that if a safety measure isn’t 100% effective at saving lives it shouldn’t be implemented. Ironically, he’s also a NRA member and has a bunch of guns. Funny how someone whose life was saved by safety devices in one sphere (cars), can be so adamantly against safety devices in another sphere (guns). Just shows how deranged we here in the United States be, when it comes to guns…

– Badtux the Safety Penguin

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »