I hate you Kenneth. Or Why I Have Every Car Dealer In South Florida Blocked on My Phone.

It started about a week ago with a wrong number.  It is still going on.

I figure I am playing Whack-a-Mole with my phone and blocking one after another car dealer in South Florida.

I am not in the car market.

I do not want a Volkswagen.  They do not import the cars of their line up that I would like to see on the road,and if they did I would not trust them due to the diesel engines they would have.  For the record, that would be a Polo or an Up.  The Golf has gotten so bloated and fat that it no longer is a small car.

I do not want a Toyota.  Oh, when I do go to look I will check them out. But I am not in the car market.

I do not want a Nissan.  Their electrical systems are crap from what I remember, and they seem … boring.

I do not want a Buick.  Buick?  If a Nissan is boring…

I do not want Auto Nation.  You don’t get that big without doing something right – for you, not for the buyer.

I do not want a Ford.  Oh they’re doing better now, but that Ford Taurus I had back in the day had a problem they never could fix and that was how I got turned onto Jeeps.

I have a 15 year old, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X.  It only has 46,000 miles on it.  That would be 74,000 KM give or take a centimeter or three.

You see, the model year is waning.  Volkswagen and Toyota are apparently doing give aways.  Enter your personal information and you get a free gift!  Actual value may vary, along with your own sanity you cheap bastard.

In that personal information is a phone number.

Mine.

My number, that I have had since just after I bought that aforementioned Jeep Wrangler X with the soft top and the inline six motor that I refuse to get rid of (AMC! AMC! AMC!), is predictable.

It has a pattern of numbers.  It is memorable.

Even to a moron like Kenneth.  Come here, Kenneth you need to be corrected.  Repeatedly.

So when Kenneth got to that web page for the Volkswagen, he came up with mine.

The web pages already check for the obvious “555-1212” so you can’t get your Free! Gift! with that.  So he mangled the digits and ended up …

With mine.

Hang on… I just got another call.

This time it was Al Hendrickson Toyota.  Apparently Kenneth has a desire for a Toyota Tacoma truck.

Kenneth if you do get that truck I hope you wreck it.

As for why am I blocking the numbers?

Have you ever tried getting a salesman to do something like delete a number from a database?

I didn’t think so.  I have.  Repeatedly.  It’s just easier this way.

This is a group of people, to put it kindly, too much in a rush to listen to the announcement that says my name on the “answering machine”.  They hear my name and go ahead and leave a Cheery Message From Your Friendly Sales Manager At … fill in the blank.  Pick a random car dealer from West Palm Beach to Kendall Florida.  I’ve heard them all.

I figure eventually he’ll hit some of the other dealers.

Auto Nation.

Al Hendrickson Toyota.

Rick Case.

Toyota of Hollywood.

Don Lemay.

Endicott Buick.

Volkswagen of North Dade FL.

Miami Lakes Auto.

Ford in Pompano Beach (twice in rapid succession)

Nissan of Delray Beach (at least they were polite)

Coral Springs Nissan

Volkswagen of Pompano Beach.

All of you people have called.  All of you people have been blocked.

Kenneth, stop it.  I have more rude things to say to you but won’t here.  I have a phone call to answer again, only 30 minutes after the last one.

I guarantee you this has given me an insight into how awful buying a car is in the United States, and I will be aggressive in shutting that nonsense down when I do decide that my own now-antique needs to be sold for roughly what I bought it 15 plus years from now.

Oh yes, they do hold value.  And I’ll have a secret smile as I tell the car dealer to get me a cup of coffee and a full lunch if he wants to keep me in that chair as he goes to talk to his sales manager one too many times.

Yes, grilled, not fried.  You can’t do that?  Ok.  I’m out … You mean you will? Oh great…

Salespeople.  They are the worst.

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Avanti in Pompano

In the TV Series Sex and the City, it is said that New York City is a place where models run wild on the street and you can actually see them.

In South Florida, Classic Cars run wild on the streets, and you can actually see them.

The other day when I rolled into the parking lot at Pompano Airpark, I saw this cherry beauty.

Avanti.  The last automotive remnant of the old Studebaker Car Company.  There’s still a husk of the

company left doing leasing or some such nonsense, but their cars are long gone.  Their last year was 1966 when the last car rolled off the production line in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  March 16, 1966.

The Avanti was never a common car, although someone near us in New Jersey had a gold one well after the company went away.  5800 roughly were built total.

You or I will probably never drive one, and maybe it should just be that way. To find one on the road these days is the automotive equivalent of the holy grail.

When I rolled my Jeep in next to it, I parked far enough off from the car so as not to spoil the shots.  You just don’t see these things in the wild.

I was That Kid that every neighborhood has even to this day.  I could recognize cars as a wee brat and tell you make and model with the high accuracy that only a child’s OCD could manage. 

When we were older, my sister and I would be taken places by our cousins.  They were the ones responsible

for igniting my own Motorhead spark.  We’d stick our heads inside the cars and ooh and aah at the speedometers that crept well over the more pedestrian 120 MPH of Dad and Mom’s Buick.  Muscle cars of that era had speedometers that were well over 150 MPH. 

Meanwhile I have a Jeep Wrangler.  It’s never been over 80 and I can’t say I’ve ever found the need to go faster than that.  Aerodynamics of a brick but I’ll get there.  You may not, but I will, even if I have to take him off road.

Squatting down in the parking lot I got these few pictures for friends who appreciate the art of automotive design like I do.

I know of someone who will be firing off an email to me any second demanding full sized copies of these, and I’ll just send him here.

Replacing A Jeep Wrangler 2002 Fan Resistor Pack

Join me on a journey with my Jeep. 

You will see me scrape knuckles.  You will see me swat mosquitoes.  You will see me refashion tools.

But you will see the job completed.

Ok, enough of this Zen Crap.  If you found this article, you have a Jeep.  Probably a Wrangler, but it could be a Liberty, Patriot, Cherokee, or Grand Cherokee.  I am under the impression that this is common for these cars of the 1996-2002 era, plus or minus a few years, and maybe even to this day. 

This is informational only, you’re on your own, At Your Own Risk.  I take no responsibility for any mistakes you do or whether you damage yourself or your own vehicle.

Lawyer disclaimer crap aside, it took me an hour to get the part out, and an hour to get it finished.

However, if you had the right tool in the first place, you could have had it done in about a half hour total.  If you have a Liberty or a Grand Cherokee, I understand the resistor pack is in a similar location but much more accessible since they are a newer design or just larger.

My Wrangler still has some AMC Design Elements in it, and that means it’s a simple beast and you can still fix it in your carport while swatting mosquitoes, swearing, and sweating, but it could be somewhat improved.  That was what Chrysler did in later models by moving this part into a more accessible area.

I was able to diagnose this with a little logic.

My Jeep had either no air when I turned the selector to off, or it only had air when it was turned on full.  The middle speeds simply did not work.  This implied that the switch should be intact, and the resistor pack was fried.  I confirmed this with a multimeter inside the house when I had it removed on a cool down break.

The Resistor Pack is necessary to put a load on the power lines supplying the blower motor that moves all that precious AC and Heat around your car.  What it does when you select speed 1 is to put the highest electrical resistance in line.  Select speeds 2 or 3, and you get less resistance.  Speed 4 is no resistance, and the fan runs at its highest speed.

That was what I saw in my Jeep.  Darth Jeep by name, he’s black and tan just like a good beer.  DJ to his friends.  DJ the TJ.

You don’t name your Jeep?  How does it know how to get home? 

Anyway…

The Resistor pack has a large flat area in the back where the resistance is actually created by a number of lines of resisting wire.  The large flat area is stuffed inside your air flow boxes so that it acts like a heat sink and is kept cool while the fans are on.

In my case, my Jeep has 44,000 miles and 12 years on it.  That means, 6 years of use, and it went pop.  That fits with my memory since I needed replacement a couple years after I moved to Florida in 2006.  I almost never use the car since I generally don’t have to go anywhere here other than by foot.

The first picture shows the location of the resistor pack as installed in the dashboard of my Jeep.  It is in a cramped spot, and is held down by two 5/16 inch bolts.  You can see the first one in the picture, the other bolt is at the alternate corner.  If the first one is at the Northwest corner, the second bolt is at the Southeast corner. 

Both bolts must be removed, and doing so is a task that I completed with a 5/16 inch crescent wrench.  Since a wrench that small is typically not bent to have the circular end at an angle, and they are made of thin metal, I used a leatherman’s tool to bend a 30 degree angle in the wrench in order to be able to get the bolts out.  Once I did that, the bolts came out much easier.  There are tabs that are simply in the way of your being able to do this job. 

You will be removing that lower bolt blind unless you are small enough to wrench yourself under the dashboard.  Since I am 6’4″ tall there was simply no way I was going to get into that spot upside down and looking up at the part.

You will also need to temporarily remove the green Connector Block from its tab on the air box/plenum/dashboard.  There is a little red tab that snaps to lock the whole thing in place.  Unlock the red tab by snapping it forward, then slide the connector block out of your way. 

I disconnected the connector block, then pulled the resistor pack out.  It wasn’t easy, it required a lot of maneuvering around to get it out of the little hole.  I was able to do so by removing the connector from the back of the block.  That itself was difficult since there was a red plastic lock holding it all together.  I removed that lock by pulling it apart and removing it permanently.  It may cause problems later, but at least I know where it is!

The detail shows the block in close up as assembled.

Two final things:

To get the part?  You can find it at your local auto parts store.  I got mine at Autozone for 1/2 the price of the dealer.  You can also find it on Amazon.  I wanted it TODAY, not in 3 days.

To see someone else do the work?  Search Youtube.  There are videos and none of them showed the detail that I am showing here – where the blasted thing actually is. 

Before you even try, remove the glove box, get your flashlight and look to see if you can find it.  If you can find it, it’s an easy fix even if you’re going to get your knuckles scraped or maybe mosquito bit.

After all it’s March and its in the 80s, and mosquitoes are everywhere.

O||||||O

Taking Rack To The Network Operation Center

Just when you thought a computer room was the final frontier, I found a way to confuse a dog with one.

The key to getting a fearful dog to stop being fearful is to expand what they see.  Bump up against that safe-zone wall and you will find it’s made out of rubber bands and not stones and mortar.  The walls are amazingly stretchy and will eventually fade away.

At least that’s the plan.

When I got Lettie way back when, she was fearful.  She was terrified of buses, and I am going through that with Rack as well.  Dutifully, I’d take her to Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.  We would park ourselves in front of the clothing store or the bench in front of Kilian’s Hardware and watch the bustle of traffic, people shopping, and basically experience the city.  It got me out of the house, and exposed her to the racket of the Big City.  Slowly we realized this was unneeded as Lettie wouldn’t freak out when the 23 bus would go past on its way to Center City, or the turnaround loop at the Top Of The Hill.

I’m doing the same with Rack.  We park ourselves in front of Wilton Manors City Hall and chat for a while.  Waiting for the Dreaded 50 Bus, Rack’s Pack will cool our heels while watching him alternately be engaged or panic depending on what is going by.  He’s getting better, and that rubber band is stretching further each time.

When I got the chance to try something new, we jumped at it.

You see, Kevin needed to check the Computer Room.  There was an issue with the HVAC system at work, and it meant a drive to the office to make sure all was well.

Rack being Rack, all I had to do was say Ride In The Car and he perked.  We got him in his harness and soon we were riding down A1A past the bars and the tacky T Shirt shops at Fort Lauderdale’s Beach.  My dog assumed his normal outlook on life, staring out the windows like a stoner.  Ooh Cool, Dude, Look at that Jogger!  Wow, man, there’s a big boat out on the ocean!

Yes, that is one of the things that turns my dog into Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High.

When we finally got to the office, Rack decided that he didn’t want to get out of the big beast of an SUV and tried to make himself as flat as possible.  I had to lift him out of the seat and plop him onto the ground.   The scents of the nearby Fort Lauderdale Sewer Plant coupled with the distant Port of Fort Lauderdale most likely threw him.

Panic aside, we walked to the building.

Herding Dogs are an amazingly adaptable beast.  They will handle challenges admirably, but you have to introduce them properly.  The challenge of the day was going into a high rise office building.  He had no problem with the doors, we’ve done that before.  Once in the lobby, he walked around the perimeter doing his Perimeter Search thing that I’ve seen many times, snuffling the corners until the doors opened on the elevator.

He sat down, cocked his head at a 45 degree angle and looked confused as we both walked inside the little stainless steel box.

When he saw us both go in, he followed and made himself as small as he could in the back corner.  I swear his eyes doubled in size when the door closed and the mechanisms came to life with relays snapping and hydraulic lift oil whooshing through the pipes.

We went up to the fourth floor and he just could not wait to get out of that box of doom.

Kevin in the lead, I followed with Rack unsure.  I don’t think it was possible for a dog to get any closer to someone while they walked.

When we got to the office, the black and white dog flattened against the floor as the door opened.  Regaining composure, I lead him inside so he could snuffle around the small office.  The computer room with its constant fan white noise was a bit much for him, he didn’t go in.  Standing at the door, that was quite close enough.

Finishing our inspection, we wandered out of the office and down the hall.  He liked this suite better since it smelled richly of Office Snacks left out for passers by.  I kept his snout away from those chocolates, those were for people, and they were quite good.

After he wandered around a bit, it was time to go.

We stepped out of the suite and Rack knew one thing – Get Me Out Of Here.  

He was at the end of my 6 foot purple leash the entire time.  Dragging me down the hall with Kevin behind, we made it to the fourth floor lobby.  Elevator beeped and snapped to life, Rack flattened like a pancake against the green granite floor.  When it arrived, doors opened, and he knew what to do.   Rack was actually inside the elevator before we were. 

He was clearly stressed but he did know that this meant escape from the empty office complexes with the strange smells and sounds.  

Getting to the ground floor garage, he lead the way to the SUV and practically flew into the back seat.

As we went past the beach bars with their Smooth Jazz saxophonist and the joggers that are all a part of the Beach Scene in Fort Lauderdale, Rack calmed down.  Eventually he even learned to enjoy the trip, regaining his trippy outlook on life.

Whoa Dude, that was cool!

8 MPH While Standing Still

I knew the sign was there but had forgotten about it.  It was one of the newer Radar signs that towns put up to try to convince people they really don’t need to do 45 in a 30 zone. 

Flat as a laptop, orange lights showing apparent speed, and letters spelling out “Your Speed” on the top, it was designed to show your speed in Miles Per Hour.

I remember the older signs that were large enough to be built into a small trailer.  They emit Radar, so if there is a Radar detector in your car, your detector will beep and make you think there’s a cop standing around waiting to ticket you.

But this day I wasn’t paying attention to the sign as I took my friend and house guest, David, to the Fort Lauderdale airport.  He was leaving to catch the shuttle to go home to Key West.  I, on the other hand, had a rare bit of fun.  I was actually driving the Jeep.

Leaving my own Island City, I crossed over into the 800 pound Gorilla that is Fort Lauderdale.  Immediately people started driving “stupid”.  People were back into Pole Position mode, shifting lanes, driving too fast, and generally being nuisances.

I could never be a cop.  I’d spend all my time in court arguing why that idiot needed to pay the ticket for driving 15 miles over the speed limit in his boom car, or some other infraction.  Indeed, I saw four infractions on the first quarter mile before we hit the first light at the convenience store just South of town.

I dropped David off at Arrivals, said goodbye and that we’ll look forward to seeing him again in a couple weeks.  Heading back, I thought nothing of the moronic drivers that we have here, entertaining myself by looking at palm trees, playing with the radio, and plotting my course for the 8 mile trip home.

When I crossed into Wilton Manors near City Hall, I saw that sign and it had its effect.   I checked my own speed.  My speedometer is calibrated indirectly. I know that it reads about 10 percent higher than actual speed.   It said I was going 32, the sign said I was going 38, so my actual speed was 29 – by the stopwatch and by my OBD II computer that I had talking to the smartphone.

Laughing at the “accuracy”, I thought that it was a conspiracy.   Jeep has the speedometer reading high so you slow down.   The manufacturer of the sign had it reading even higher because these things are put up by cities frustrated by speeders.

Conspiracy?  Isn’t that what they all say?

How about the dog walkers then?

It was 5:45AM.  I was walking South on Wilton Drive away from the sign and stopped.   For once, the city was just about empty.  The Green Market was setting up at the park for the Saturday and Sunday fruit and vegetable sales.

The sign said that I was moving at a steady clip.  Since I was actually standing there watching my dog water a shrub, I would disagree with the sign.  I wasn’t going 8 MPH.

I shrugged and laughed as I walked down past City Hall, and back North on the North Side of the drive.

That mental sign still said 8MPH.

As I watched, a car approached and passed me.  The sign jumped to 18, then 28 MPH.  Seems like a pattern here. 

Once the sign was passed, the numbers reset to 8 MPH.  Nobody else was anywhere near that sign.  I was once again walking at 8 MPH while standing still.

Something tells me that the new sign isn’t quite accurate, and that fits in with my own pet conspiracy theory.

I’ll stick to the sidewalks at any rate, there are enough mental drivers out there without my adding to them by driving a Jeep in the “middle of the pack” speed zones.

Why I don’t drive a Miata – or What should a Tall Guy Drive?

Yep, I did try one.  A Miata.  You see, it was in my eyes, one of the most beautiful cars out on the market at the time I was shopping back in the mid 90s.

It’s Just Small.

And I’m Just Tall.

So as my old Chevy Nova/Toyota Corolla was 10 years old and beginning to annoy me, it was time to shop and look around.  I mean REALLY look around.  I was looking at all sorts of things trying to be creative and the first one I was going to look at was the Miata.  I wanted a convertible so I could go topless on a long drive and I was doing a lot of long drives at that point in my life.  It got good gas mileage, and as such didn’t pollute much.

I went to the dealership in Pennsylvania at the time, and all eyes were on me.  What is this guy doing?  No, it’s going to be a fail isn’t it?  Yes, Godzilla is stomping all over Tokyo again in his rubber suit as he opens the door of the little car.

Sitting in the car, I whack my knee on the steering wheel and sound the horn.  In fact, I whacked my knee hard enough that I was limping for three days and felt pain in the spot for more than a month.

If I didn’t have their attention before, I certainly did then.

So leaving the place and hearing comforting comments like “It’s ok, it’s not for everyone”, I went back to the drawing board.

My 19 year relationship began anew with a comment from a friend saying “Did you know they redesigned the Wrangler again?  No more Square Headlights!  It’s actually comfortable!”. 

I sat behind the wheel of a 1997 forest green Jeep Wrangler Sport and it was like putting on a pair of comfortable sneakers.  It Just Fit.

While it’s healthy to step out of your comfort zone once in a while, when you’re 6’4″ and 220-ish pounds like I am, there’s a reason why you drive a certain car.  In fact, I liked that one so much that I traded that one and got a second one when Chrysler offered 0.0% financing a few years later.  That’s the one that sits in the carport today.

It’s not a question of whether its big, I could easily drive any large American Land Yacht, but more of the line of the roof and how close the driver’s door is placed in respect to the seat.

I recently sat in a Mercedes Benz C class and I can honestly say that by the time we drove across the county line into Aventura Florida for a trip to the mall for lunch, I hated that car with a passion.  Mercedes had placed everything in just the right places – to stick in my left kidney, my left shoulder, and allow me never to find a comfortable place to sit. 

Oh and there are no Diesel C Class.   Forget that.  Gasoline is not efficient in comparison.  Diesel gets between 1/3 and 1/2 better Miles Per Gallon (KM Per Litre) for the same size motor.  I won’t even consider a gasoline motor if there is a Diesel available.  TDI Perhaps, but never on the first year.

Well that and I’m not ready to retire my Jeep yet.

Every time I get to a car show, I’m drawn to the little things that would be a speed bump for a big truck like they like to drive here in Florida.  I don’t understand why someone needs a Hummer, let alone any other SUV, just to get groceries.  But that’s me.

I was happy to see that the Fiat 500 actually fits.  In fact, the one I sat in with the sun roof had so much room that I had to sit with the front seat not all the way back.  That’s something I don’t have in my Jeep.

Now if they’d just get a proper sized turbo diesel in the US it would be a winner. 

Well that and once I finally get tired of driving around in a Wrangler with the roof off and on special days the doors sitting back home being sniffed by the dog.  After all, it’s 10 years old and only has 44,000 miles on it.

Just make sure if you do end up with a small car and you’re big, you have the right bumper sticker:

Caution, Capacity 14 Clowns.

Sorry folks, I saw that one over the weekend and didn’t take the picture.

Can you wear headsets while driving?

Depends on where you live in the US or Canada.

I always assumed that it was flat out illegal.  Turns out that there are some US States that do not have a prohibition against it.  As I write this with music playing on my headphones, they’re at a volume that you could carry on a complex conversation with me, but I don’t think I’d want to try that while driving. 

On the other hand, I drive a Jeep Wrangler.   Wonderful car but once you get above 55 MPH with the roof off, and I do that every chance I can, hearing the radio or the person in the next seat is a chance thing.  These cars can be noisy, as in teeth rattlingly loud. 

There are many people who wear hearing aids, maybe because they drove a car with their radio habitually too loud.  Boom Cars come to mind.  You know the sort, some clown that removed the back seat of the car just to place Kicker Boxes with giant speakers in them larger than anyone would need in their home.  They crank the music up so loud that they vibrate the license plate on your car next to them at a stop light.  Too bad it won’t stop them from having children.

I could legally buy a pair of seats that have speakers in the head rests.  In fact, if I had a spare $250 it would be worth it because it sometimes is necessary to drive the speed limit on the highway here in Florida, and the Turnpike is 70MPH all the way through the South Florida Sprawl.  Those little speakers next to your ears would be as dangerous as a pair of non sealed headsets or ear buds. 

When I rode my motorcycle, as a rule, I had earplugs in my ear.  Talk about loud!  I guess it’s just lucky I never got caught.

At any rate, turn down the radio, leave the headphones to the passenger since it may shut them up so you can concentrate on your OWN driving, and turn off the cell phone.  It’s not an office, it’s not a beauty parlor, and it’s not a restaurant.  It is a vehicle.  Be safe out there, the life you save may be mine.

If you want to check the list from AAA you can follow this link

In the meantime I think I’ll turn down the music in here.  I can’t hear the birds singing outside.