Tuesday, December 22, 2009

FJ Cruisers

After months of looking for a new car, this is it. Unfortunately it is not available here yet. Anybody any ideas why?

The Toyota FJ Cruiser is a retro-style compact SUV produced by Toyota.

First introduced as a concept car in Chicago at the 2003 Chicago Auto  The FJ Cruiser was originally not intended for production, but due to enormous consumer response about the car following the North American International Auto Show held in Detroit, manufacturing began in early 2006.

 It went on sale in early 2006 as a 2007 model and features styling reminiscent of the original Toyota FJ40 Land Cruisers from the 1960s (particularly the front fascia and wrap around rear windows) and is based on the Land Cruiser Prado platform.

This is a classic of a car and really keeps true to the early days of off roading and yet would look good parked next to an M series in your garage.

Definately going to keep my eye out for this one when it finally hits our shores.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Vehicle Recalls

Life is taking me in all sorts of directions at the moment,I am currently involved with a Land Rover Discovery 3 that has a safety recall, just not this particular one.

Yet this vehicle has the same symptoms and physical evidence of a fault as the recalled vehicles.
"It has been identified that, some vehicles may experience a reduction in braking preformance leading to an increased stopping distance, due to the possiblity of oil entering the brake booster or the brake non-return valve sticking in the closed postion after cold start." That is to say the brakes don't work.

So the dealer says they cannot assist as its not part of the recall, LRSA says if its not on the recall list it is not covered.

On further investigation I have found two other vehicles not on the list that have been repaired via the recall while outside of warranty.

So where do I go from here?

It is a problem, a potentally fatal one and yet I have to bear the cost of what is obviously a vehicle flaw.

As another LRD3 driver pointed out, "why not drive through the showroom window and then argue as to who is responsible now the brakes have failed."

Its the descrepancies in all of this that i find most disturbing. Some are fixed some aren't.

Is it about who shouts the loudest?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Cost of it All

Who pays for the damages when some idiot (there's that word again, its almost as if I think everyone is an idiot)
drives into a traffic light.

Then again it doesn't matter what he drives into, the question still remains the same.

Who pays?

I have mentioned previously what a sterling job Joburg roads is doing with repairing the lights at the top of the street.
usually their turn around time is 3 days. Exceptional by our government departments standards.

Now in the last year I have noticed three occasions where the same traffic light has been completely replaced (On one occasion two lights where destroyed)
All those repairs have to come at a considerable cost, so who pays and why? Surely the driver responsible for the action should pay, why not he pays for the damages to the other car.

Does the City sue the insurance companies or the driver for the damages? Somehow I don't think so. So what is the solution?

I don't know, but I think I will have to start my first bit of investigative journalism, instead of just an opinion piece and find some of the answers to this.

Watch this space for more news.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tires - A Minefield of Rubber

Last weekend I had a puncture, not a big problem in itself. The vehicle was parked when my collegue (Rather Gleefully) pointed it out.

I had a spare and all the required tools and so changed the tire quite easily and was on my way.

The trouble started when I attempted to have the puncture repaired.

My local tire dealership informed me that the tire had a sidewall puncture which could not be repaired. I found that harsh especially since the tire had done less than 10 000km's and was no longer available so I would have to buy 2. So in an attempt to avoid forking out a ton of cash on new tires, I asked for alternatives. "You could always put in a tube" was the reply.

Great idea not expensive and problem solved, except on further research I learnt that "Tubeless" tires running tubes are prone to blow out's at high speed. That's something thats not in the owners manual.

So then I start looking at alternative tires, "No problem we have tires in stock, just not the same size, but if you put them in front you will be ok"

More research and I find that miss matching tyres on a 4 x 4 results in mechanical failure as the unbalanced load puts massive strain on the drive train.

The Tire market is an absolute minefield with a myraid of poducts and quality to choose from. Size,Speed,Load,Traction,Noise,Wear all play a factor in your choice of tire.

So the moral of the story is RTFM (Read The ******* Manual) and if its not in the manual ask as many questions as possible (from as many people as possible) before making any changes to your vehicle that requires a deviation from your current system.

If I hadn't I could have become another statistic or at the very worst been sitting with a very damaged vehicle for the sake of saving a few Rand.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Future is here.

Today cars, and just about everything else including cell phones have more computing power than Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon.
The question to ask though is, is this a good thing?

Sure it makes for a much better and safer ride, more comfort, less taxing physicaly and mentally on the driver, and yet what happens when it goes wrong?
With 105 fuses it seems that there is a lot that can go wrong.

Recently I took a Land Cruiser Discovery 3 for a drive, and what a drive. The vehicle is superb in everyway, the kind of comfort that would have you driving to Cape Town instead of flying.
The electronics in the vehicle are first class and make driving easy, comfortable and a pleasure.

Then the problems start, a warning appears on the dashboard indicating a Transmission Fault - Traction reduced.
You haul out the 356 page owners manual and look it up. No problem the fault is listed, but under the "Meaning" heading is a blank space and under the "What to do?" heading is another blank space. Very helpfull.
So off to Land Rover I go and they plug in the computer, no faults found, yet it still indicates a fault on the display.
"It because the battery voltage is low, drive the vehicle and the fault should clear itself." is the response I get to my query.

A week later the fault is still there. So where to go from here? Further questions and queries leads to the response that the traction control has not been activated and when it is activated the self diagnostics will reset.

It all sounds a bit like the cars technology have exceeded the ability of the mechanics to repair.

I think that some of today's cars are more intelligent than some humans.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Speed Kills (Speed + Idiots = Death)

I told a story last week about a taxi taking flight and mentioned that I would follow up more on that.

Well that taxi in question took flight as it sped past me not entirely due to speed. I witnessed a mechanical failure on the left rear wheel moments before the vehicle turned sideways and became airborne.

This is my point behind the statement Speed Kills + Idiots = Death I am not a firm believer in the "Speed Kills" school of thought. The way I see it speed is just a minor component in the catastrophe that follows.

There is a saying "Guns don't kill people, people do!" and so to use the concept in this context "Speed doesn't kill people, People kill people"

I have read and heard all the arguments and statistics about the number of road users killed by speeding. Dream on people, are we honestly trying to say that a well maintained modern car with the right tyres and a skilled driver (Having a drivers licence is no indication of skill or even competence) will result in an accident and death, because of speed. Not going to happen.

Accidents happen because some wannabe Schumacher drives his poorly maintained vehicle with a space saver tire (rated to 80km/hour) at 120km (He is not even speeding) but the results will be a possible fatal accident due to the failure of the tire running at speeds above its rating and then the driver not having the skills or knowledge to control the situation safely.

I believe that too many people driving without sufficient skills and with poorly maintained vehicles are the cause of most of our accidents.

I believe we should have two types of licences, one for the average old lady who pops down to the shops once in a while and the other for drivers with advanced training and both they and thier vehicles are tested on a regular basis

Monday, November 2, 2009

Emergency 911

I recently had an experience whereby I saw a Taxi defy the laws of physics (for a brief moment) as it took flight shortly after passing me on the freeway. The accident appeared to be mechanical failure compounded by speed. (See next weeks article)

Due to the number of injuries, the fact the I had my family on board and the poor location of the accident (from a safety perspective) I decided to contact the emergency services and not get personally involved. (A very tough decision to make)

So dialing 112 from my cellular phone I experienced 3 dropped calls while listening to an automotive voice telling me that it was an offence to report an emergency if there wasn't one. On the fourth try I got through to an operator when my call got dropped again. I then asked my wife to call them while I called the toll road operations office.

Meanwhile my wife got through on the 112 number got through to an operator, told them the details and then without letting her know what was happening she was transferred to someone else who upon hearing what the call was about started a diatribe about how this is the wrong number and we should dial 112.

I on the other hand was having a huge success as my call was answered by a person, who upon hearing my story asked several intelligent questions, thanked me for the call and said he would get on to it.

I then asked my wife to call ER24 on 084 124 where she also encountered first class professional service and was also left feeling that the incident would be resolved asap.

The bottom line is that the 112 number is about as efficient as phoning 10111 as you can't get through and when you do its normally to somebody ill equipped, and without sufficient training to deal with the problem.

The moral of the story. When chaos erupts - phone everybody, but start with the professionals first.

My compliments to the Toll operators and ER24 and thier first class personnel for thier professional service.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Everest - The Making of Mountains by Ford

I happened to come across the new offering from Ford today. Not sure I like it. Escpecially since this latest offering is coming from the guys who brought us the Focus ST.

I spent most of my early driving years in Bakkies (LDV's) of one kind or another and I can't escape the feeling that this is just another Bakkie.

On paper it looks quite impressive with a 3 liter Turbo Diesel across the range although at 115kW it seems a bit flat compared to the 2.7 liter 140kW in the likes of the Land Rover Discovery 3 or the massive 3 liter 180kW in the new Discovery 4.

Still the pricing looks good, so its should sell rather well, but then again so should have the Mondeo.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Loyalty - An Affection or a Necessity?

“A feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection”

Loyalty to ones friends and Family is totally understandable, but Loyalty to a Brand is an interesting concept especially when you apply it to cars.
I am in the process of changing vehicles and found myself looking at the same brand almost exclusively.

I currently drive a Toyota Land Cruiser, great vehicle and have had some awesome times in the vehicle. “So why are you getting rid of it?” I ask myself continuously and keep coming back to the same answer. This is a car built to go off-road, unfortunately there is a lot of road between me and where I want to go off the road and the cruiser doesn’t do the tar section to well.

So there I am looking at Land Cruisers with blinkers on vaguely aware of the fact that there are other vehicles out there. So after much looking I begin to realize that the Cruisers are much sought after and very scarce and the pricing seems out of touch with the rest of the world.
So after months of searching I finally take my blinkers off. Now I am really confused, so much choice, so many variables.

This made me think, loyalty is a necessity as it reduces the choices you have in life to more manageable levels. So Loyalty even blind is a survival skill that keeps us sane.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Red Bull Air Race

I must admit that I am aware that this has nothing to do with motoring, but since these aircraft have been described as race cars with wings I thought I would use a little bit of poetic licence.

I watched the latest leg of the Red Bull Air Race and was blown away by the skill and expertise these world class sportsman exhibit.

Its amazing to think that these guys do all this in 3 dimensions without a bumper bashing to show for it and they do it all at speeds faster than the average idiot on our roads. (Hows that for bringing it back to being about cars?)

My two year old son (Who is car mad) stood in front of the TV the whole show making airplane noises and going wow. Echoing my sentiments.

The Art of Urban 4x4ing

I have come across a niche market for all those entrepreneur's out there in the car industry.

We have a predominance of four wheel drive owners who have not truly come to grips with their vehicles capabilities.

I reckon there is a market for instructors who are willing to teach the Urban 4x4er how to best utilise his vehicle for optimal parking arrangements.

Why park blocks away when you can park on the pavement.

I mean that's what you bought your 4x4 for. Isn't it?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


"My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet airplane.
His son will ride a camel." Saudi saying

Friday, March 27, 2009

Licencing our Nation

The Licencing Department must be applauded for doing their bit to bring our Nation together. Imagine hundreds of people all crammed into a decrepit government office, people of every different creed, culture and social standing all sharing the combined and unified experience of a total loathing for the licencing department.

Hundreds of people standing side by side in halls where 1 out of 68 light bulbs work (Yes we counted) No formal indication of where you need to be and what you need for your task at hand. Standing side by side with our fellow man, forging a bond like nothing I have every experienced.

Now if we could find a way to take this to the masses we would be a true unified nation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wandering Around (Without a Clue)

Insanity is something a usually attribute to drivers, but I have come to realise that it doesn't stop there.

I recently attended a cricket match at Wanderers Cricket Stadium in Johannesburg. What Insanity, what were they thinking when they developed an office block across the road from a cricket stadium?

Picture this 5pm office workers going home and cricket fans arriving - Chaos! An absolute nightmare.

On top of that there are no parking facilities available and the help full car guards are assisting people to park on the pavements. "Don't worry boss, your car is safe, it's OK to park here." An hour later Metro is towing away all these illegally parked cars and not a car guard in sight.

How can we have a sport venue with no parking facilities that takes 72 000 odd cricket fans over a period of 5 days? (OK admittedly that is a record for the stadium)

If the city cannot provide the facilities then it should not be prosecuting people for 'making a plan'

Instead it should be assisting those people.

I am going to start an award in the honour of this insanity and call it the Wanderers in Johannesburg Award or WAJA for short. I will be awarding this award to all the idiots out there who are wandering around without a clue.

All suggestions for nomines welcome

Monday, March 2, 2009

Intelligent Idiots

I found it astounding that someone who has the intelligence and the ability to be a fully functional member of society can be a complete idiot.

If you can afford to drive a car that costs around half a million one would assume that you have also mastered the skills to read. Based on that assumption is it not logical to assume that putting your child in the front seat, despite all the manufacturers warnings and
all the safety tips advising against it, is stupidity in itself?

Why would a supposedly intelligent human being knowingly put there children at risk? It goes against every instinct in our bodies. Even at a very basic genetic level we are programed to protect our own.

Yet every day we see people risking the lives of their children for no known reason whatsoever.

So to use some very basic mathematics.

Intelligence + Stupidity = Idiots

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rage against the Light

Every so often in our journey through life we discover the one thing that truly grinds us.

For me the frustration and intolerance is for individuals who drive around with faulty taillights. For years it’s frustrated me beyond belief that for the sake of a couple of Rand and a few minutes of their time there are drivers out there putting themselves and others at risk. "How many drivers does it take to change a light bulb?"

So imagine my confusion to find out that the there is a new generation of vehicles out there that has no user serviceable parts. So now you have to take your vehicle into the garage to get it done. Sounds like a money making racket to me.

Even with a motor plan which covers the costs of the part its the fact that the average dealership has a three week waiting list to book your car in for a repair and then it’s up to six weeks for the part that makes this whole thing incomprehensible.

The inconvenience and downtime on your vehicle triples the actual cost of the part. Do the dealers actual make that much money out of this to justify the decision to make it a non user serviceable part?

So the end result is that there are thousands of vehicles driving around with faulty lights through no fault of the driver.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Jaguar - The Legend

The Legend lives on

Its so seldom that one hears good news, or a compliment about a company in the service industry. We are usually so quick to complain, as most of my posts would indicate. Yet it is so seldom that we ourselves pass on a compliment when we get what we expect (and sometimes believe we deserve).

In this case my whole hearted thanks and compliments to the guys and girls at Jaguar for their outstanding customer service and support.

I have recently just had the privilege of experiencing the class and refinement of the Jaguar brand and was most impressed that the staff that support the brand live up to the standards.

I took an S-Type out for a drive in the country this week and I am sold. The vehicle drives and handles with style and class that I have not often experienced. Its an unhurried drive, tons of power available and yet you never feel the need to use it. Its a laid back kind of experience - even at 160km/h.

The experience is kind of like flying business class, if you can't fly that way again, you will never fly again.

Next time I am going Supercharged.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Three Legged Spiders

Part Motorcycle Part Roadster
- A very eye catching piece of automotive engineering -

At first glance this hybrid offers the best of several worlds, the Freedom, handling and flexibility of a motorcycle and the wet weather handling and stopping power of a car.

Unfortunately the reality is somewhere in between.

The widened front end with two wheels means twice the stopping power and better wet weather characteristics than a regular motorcycle, unfortunately it also means twice the width and its this feature that makes it impractical for urban commuting. You cant pass between cars, need full size bays to park in and more maintenance costs when its time to replace the tyres.

All in all a great concept, but more suited for a beach holiday run around than a real urban commuter, but at R270 000 new its going to be tough to justify having that parked at your beach home.

At least you don't have to remember to put down the stand.

Where's the fire?

Its amazing how many drivers have no idea how to react if a fire truck or other emergency services vehicle comes charging up behind them with there lights flashing.

Whats even more frightening is how many people have no idea of the presence of an emergency vehicle behind them, what with modern car having aircon and us being in the midst of global warming (Although watching the news from the Northern Hemisphere one has some doubts.) we tend to drive with our windows up and our 7.2 surround sound stereos isolating us from the rest of the outside world.

Now if only they could invent something for us to be able to see behind us, so we could anticipate things like this. The lipstick mirror they mount on the windscreen would be ideal for this, unfortunately its not positioned in such away to allow us to look rearward, but rather set up for its primary purpose to allow us to groom ourselves while stationary at traffic lights.

Its a case of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

One day while on a routine patrol we chased an individual 16km for jumping a Traffic light and eventually caught up with him at a roadblock (set up for him) to find him blissfully unaware that there had been a Police car behind him the whole time with sirens and blue lights. His aftermarket stereo was worth more than the car, and who uses mirrors?

Pete Piringer, spokesman for the Montgomery County Fire Department says. "There's no question that the most dangerous part of most emergency calls these days is getting there."

This is a big deal for fire and police departments. The confusion hurts response times and fully 25 percent of fire fighter fatalities are as a result of traffic accidents, according to Montgomery Division Chief Richie Bowers
- Extract from an article by Steve Hendrix Posted at http://voices.washingtonpost.com/rawfisher/2008/08/traffic_101_here_comes_a_fire.html

At the end of the day its more about being aware of the situation than it is about how we deal with it. If we use our mirrors and pay attention we will be able to anticipate the oncoming fire truck and be able to react to its needs.

If we learn these skills and apply them to all our driving situations it would undoubtedly improve road safety as people will start anticipating accidents.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Keep Clear

Dont stop in the Intersection

The crossed yellow lines in the intersections are no stopping zones, first off how many people know that?

Based on the number of (be polite now) drivers that stop in the intersections during peak hour traffic every morning, I would think nobody knows what it means.

So for all you uneducated drivers who think they can (Not that it makes a difference what they think, they will drive anyway.) below is a copy of the specific law applying to this topic.

299. (1) The driver of a vehicle shall not cross a public road unless the road is clear of moving traffic for a sufficient distance to allow him or her to cross the road without obstructing or endangering any such traffic.

This little diatribe is all thanks to the little poppy in the yellow Mazda (Yes sweetie, I mean you) who held me up on my way to work this morning because she couldn't wait on the other side of the intersectionn and would rather park in the middle of the road where everyone can see her.

Seems like I am not the only one with an issue in this regard. I found a facebook site dedicated to these people (Still trying to be polite)

Check it out @ http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2294603617#/group.php?gid=2294603617

These guys are not so polite - The group name says it all for me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Art of Camouflage

14 Years ago when the ANC took over our new fledgling democracy one of their first tasks was to rename the Police from a force to a service.

One would assume based on its very name that the police would be a service to the public. Isn't it amusing then to see these services carried out using military like tactics building camouflage hides from which to ambush us from.

What possible hope can it be for these Speed Enforcement situations to have any hope in reducing speeding if the first time you become are of the fact that you were breaking the law is when you receive a fine in the post a fortnight later.

I fail to see how fineing 5000 drivers per month can be considered a success. I would far rather see the Police standing out in plain view with flashing lights the works. That would definitely reduce speeding. If the Police reported 0 cases of speeding I would consider that a success.

Also the case of posting officers at high accident zones is all and well, but what's the point in posting two officers carefully camouflaged behind the bushes all day long, when there has been no recorded case of an accident there in daylight. Instead the officers should be there at night when the accidents happen.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Standing Room Only

In view of the recent bus accidents in the headlines you would think that bus company's would have gone over there safety briefings again in full detail.

Yet that appears not to be the case. Follow any bus around for 10 minutes and you would think it was a taxi because of how many times it infringed the law.

Take the Putco bus driving next to me in traffic last week; two passengers were sitting in the stairwell. So much for standing Room Only. Why not let the passengers sit on the roof too?

Why is it so hard to enforce rules and regulations on you driver? When I was a kid catching the bus to school the bus driver used to stop the bus and come and tell you off just for sticking your head out the window. Now they infringe the law more than their passengers.

I look forward to the days when robots take over from human drivers. Then the law is the law no debate, when the driver says behind the line the bus will not move until the offending passenger s behind the line. The other occupants of the bus will surely enforce this with swift and physical force should the transgressor delay the bus beyond a tolerable delay.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The world goes round and round

This is a blog about my insights into people and vehicles in South Africa.

The old saying of "but I can drive" is such an overused cliche that it should be banned from the English language.

Listen up people - the ability to move an automobile from point A to point B does not constitute an ability to drive.

Driving is an skill that involves the understanding of your vehicle and use it the way the engineers who designed it intended. It also involves the ability to predict traffic problems and the knowledge to adapt to the changes in the traffic flow. You also need to understand the different driving characteristic's of your vehicle and how these change when the environmental conditions change.

All these things together is only part of the ability to be able to say "but I can drive"

Consider the following

1, Do you know what all the buttons in your car does?
2. Do you know if your has ABS? Do you know what it means?
3. Do you understand why your children should sit in the front seat of a car with airbags?
4. Do you know why the spare wheel in your car is smaller than the others? Do you know what this means?
5. Do you wear a seatbelt?

If you answered now to any of the above questions then the chances are that you are not as safe a driver as you think you are.

Do yourself, your family and the rest of the world out there and RTFB - Read the F%$#ing Book. (Half the answers to the above questions are in the manual that came with the car)

Remember cars like guns do not kill people

Stupidity Does.