Back in the early 1970′s Armorall was introduced and quickly adopted by car owners and others who wanted to keep plastic components looking their best and lasting as long as possible. 303 Aerospace Protectant is the professional-grade version of this kind of product, and I have yet to find anything better.
Predominantly sold to aerospace and marine users, it’s widely available online and at marine supply stores. It does not gloss up plastic, doesn’t leave gummy residue, and actually does work to extend plastic life. The proof for me has come in the fact that I am one of the few owners of a Porsche 924/944/968-series cars whose dash has not cracked over time: my car’s almost 19 years old now and all the treated plastic and rubber components are doing just great.
Kroil is an extremely effective penetrating lubricant. Almost every professional machine shop I’ve been in has a bottle of this sitting prominently beside the workbench. I first saw it about 8 years ago, and asked the mechanic why he used it. His words are the same I now say to those who ask me: It will unstick ANYTHING.
I frequently take apart antique machinery or general equipment. There is almost always rust, grime, burned grease, metal shavings, and the wear of decades that prevent me from separating bolts from nuts, pins from holes, or keeping sliding surfaces from doing anything BUT sliding. I’ve used every possible penetrating lubricant on the market. Some worked OK, but nothing really was “magic” until I found Kroil. Not many products make me laugh with glee. But the satisfying twist of an otherwise impossible-to-remove bolt or the turn of a shaft that was rusted solid now make me smile because of this little orange can.
Kroil doesn’t work instantly. It takes between a few minutes and a few days (for extremely large bearing surfaces) to work its magic. I once let it sit for a week on a 300 pound flywheel that was being very stubborn, and it came right off.
Kroil is not for general lubrication purposes. It’s very thin (which is part of how it works) and is not very sticky. But that’s not the reason I use it; I use it to get things apart. Kroil has a weird creeping capability, it finds its way up and across metal surfaces like some sort of strange science fiction amoeba. After I use Kroil to separate things, I’ll typically clean them completely (dip in mineral spirits) air-blast to remove residue, and then re-oil with a more permanent lubricant. The Kroil won’t hurt anything if it stays, but I like to get a thicker material in everywhere to avoid having to fix the problem again in a few years.
It’s somewhat hard to find in a retail setting. I’ve never seen it in a hardware store, but that doesn’t mean some don’t carry it. (The label on my bottle says “For industrial use only – not for retail sale” which is somewhat antiquated.) I typically get it directly from kanolabs.com, though eBay also might have some good deals. There are now several variants of Kroil including graphite and silicone, but I stick with the old-fashioned stuff since I haven’t read the data enough on the other mixtures to figure out if it’s worth changing.
If someone asked me what critical items I’d want for my toolbox, this would be among them. It comes at an even higher value than general-purpose sprays like WD-40. Simply put, Kroil is the most useful lubricant I know of.
A recent example of when I have used Kroil came when I bought an Ideal #3 Stencil machine on eBay, which is used for cutting out cardboard or paper letters and numbers for making paint stencils. I purchased the machine for $40, which is about 1/5th the normal price, because the machine was rusty and jammed.
I took the risk because I knew Kroil would work. Indeed, when I opened up the box, the rust was pretty severe. All of the vertical punch letters were rusted in place, and the dial didn’t even spin at all to change letters. I liberally dosed all of the moving component interface areas I could see with Kroil, and then started to take it apart. After an hour or so of time, I was able to get all of the moving components back into fully operational condition after slowly working them through a few gritty and then progressively smoother cycles with the Kroil finding its way into the nooks and crannies.
Even the central shaft which was frozen solid with several hundred pounds of turning force, after two hours or so I was able to feel a little movement, and after another hour and some huffing and puffing I was able to get the assembly off the shaft.
I bought the one I have now in 1982 at a gas station in Wisconsin. It’s such a superior scraper that I’ve been careful to make sure it transferred from disposed-of vehicle to replacement vehicle four times since then. The thin, stiff, but mildly conforming brass blade slides easily between ice and glass and does so without scratching because brass is softer than glass. Oh, yeah, it still costs $2. Important: don’t use it to hack at the ice because you may deform the brass blade, after which it won’t slide between ice and glass well at all.
– Jeff Morrow
Brass blade is the real deal. I’ve given these to friends and family because they are so much better than the crappy plastic ones. Brass is soft enough to not damage the glass. The blade is thin and not really sharp to the touch, but is great on ice. The plastic scrapers get dull pretty quickly and then just skip over really tough ice.
– Scott Christensen
Had one of these for years and it was the best I have ever used. You just have to be careful about hitting the rubber gasket with it – it will cut. That is the reason the blade is not as wide as the blade holder.
I have used this scooter for three years. I use it to commute to work, about eight miles each way, and it takes about 35 to 45 minutes. It gives an all-around workout much like cross-country skiing. It works the core, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, and arms. It’s different than the previously reviewed Xootr in that it handles and reacts more like a bicycle – and it brakes more safely than a smaller-wheeled scooter, too.
I own the more expensive and higher-end Track model. It is made with aluminum and is lightweight at 14 pounds. I chose it originally because of it’s efficiency and performance. They do make a more affordable Express model which is almost a third of the cost but comes with lower-end components.
As far as sizing, it’s pretty much a one-size-fits-all type of design. If you’re shorter than about 4’8″ or taller than 6’2′ or 6’3″ you can adjust the size somewhat by using a different stem for the handlebars. So they accommodate a pretty wide range.
I carry it in my car just by taking off the front wheel with the quick release. It’s a lot lighter than a bike and doesn’t have any of the associated grease from a chain, gears, or pedals. Because of this it easily allows for multi-modal transportation: on the days I do drive to work in my car, I park over a mile from my office and take the scooter in from there.
When I go out on the recreational trails, people often want to know what it is and how it works. I have found that it’s a great way to meet people! People often call it a “scooterbike” when they first see it.
I recently joined the FootbikeUSA racing team. We are amateur racers and we do it because it’s something that’s fun and healthy. While racing the marathon distance (26.2 miles), I’ve averaged 16.3mph, and in a sprint, I’ve reached 22.6mph.
-- Gary Schmitt
[Update: For those looking for a more utilitarian version you can find one at Amish Scooters. They are made in the USA by an Amish family and come in three different sizes with a variety of different colors. Prices range between $170-$250.-- OH ]
$434 (with shipping)
Available from Footbike
I have always hated inflating my tires. It’s always a struggle to keep the inflator nozzle pressed against the tire valve stem while alternating between inflating and checking the tire pressure.
I recently got one of these clip-on tire inflators. It lets me quickly and easily inflate my tires without needing to remove the nozzle to check the pressure. You clip it on, and your tire pressure appears on the gauge. Then you just pull the trigger to inflate. If you over-inflate, you can easily bleed off pressure.
It’s an inexpensive addition to your air compressor and well worth the $9.
Last month I helped out a guy stuck on Tioga pass get his vegetable oil powered Gelaendewagen back on the road. He showed me a copy Overland Journal and I was so impressed I subscribed and ordered all the back issues once I got home. To give you an idea of the flavor of the magazine, one of the contributing editors is the author of my previously reviewed Vehicle Dependent Expeditions book.
For anyone who does car camping, 4×4 exploring, vehicle trips abroad, or just enjoys armchair exploration, I cannot recommend this publication enough. It has amazing comprehensive comparison reviews of the type of gear no other publication would cover, ranging from vehicle rooftop tents to converting a LandCruiser to bio-diesel. On top of the fantastic information and writing in the magazine, it is gorgeously designed and features beautiful expedition shots from around the world. It is the first publication I have come across in years that has me reading every word, review and even advertisement. They publish four issues per year, plus a gear guide and back-issues are available to ’97.
I dreaded the thought of changing my own brakes, because it leads to the excruciating task of bleeding the brakes after I’ve changed the pads. One person needs to be under the car opening the bleeder screw, while the another is in the car pumping the brakes. It’s a two person job and a recipe for an argument.
Mistiming the steps can cause air or contaminants to enter the brake system, the only remedy being to bleed the brakes again.
Speed Bleeders are great because they’ve incorporated a check valve into a bleeder screw. You remove the old bleeder screw and permanently replace it with a Speed Bleeder. When it is time to bleed your brakes, you loosen the Speed Bleeder 1/4 turn and pump your brake pedal. When the pedal is depressed, the pressure opens the check valve, letting air and brake fluid out of the end of the Speed Bleeder. When you release the pedal, it returns to the up position, the check valve closes and prevents any air from reentering. When bubble free fluid is evident, you close the Speed Bleeder. Job done.
I reluctantly bought the product and was overwhelmed at the ease of use. I was able to bleed the brakes on my Jeep by myself in under 5 minutes. This is a huge time saver that’s well worth the price tag — seven dollars each.
You have to order them to fit your specific brake system — Speed Bleeders come in fifteen sizes. I ordered them directly from the manufacturer on Tuesday and they were in my mailbox on Saturday morning.
There are also more flexible pressure-based brake systems such as “SpeediBleed,” but it seems like I inevitably spill, or dip my fingers into, brake fluid when I’m trying to install an adapter for the master cylinder side. Sometimes you need to monkey around with the adapter to get a good fit so that the system can pressurize. With Speed Bleeder, the only tool you need is a box wrench, and it’s a one-man job.
-- Chuck Varela
$7, or $15 in stainless steel
Available from Speed Bleeders
Edelbrock-Russel brand speed bleeders
Available from Amazon
The Nuvi is a superbly designed car navigation device that is comparatively inexpensive. The Nuvi is a no-brainer to set up. You type the street address (it will guess the town) of where you want to go on the touch screen (or hit a place you’ve been before) and it shows you where you are on a driver-view map. It indicates upcoming turns on the map visually and with a spoken voice. It’s generally reliable anywhere in the US even in places you would not expect. When you alter course, it rapidly recalculates a new route.
These are pretty much standard features on car navigation systems. In addition to built-in nav systems in high-end cars, there are lots of manufactures and models for these small add-on units. I checked a lot of research and reviews, but the best advice came from taxi cab drivers I asked. They use these devices a lot and they have experience with different varieties of them. Their consensus was that the Garmin Nuvi was the best deal.
The Nuvi 350 has a street price of $250. The wider screen and added features of the higher models are luxuries. Do you really need a nav device at all? Here’s the thing: it is way better than either a map or directions in getting you to somewhere new. I never get lost now. Also, it does something a map or directions can’t do, which is to find the nearest gas station or park, or ATM. A nav system is also way safer, too. I got one for my daughter at school in a new city; I am beloved and relaxed.
The cheaper nav systems (such as the Nuvi 200 series) don’t talk. The big surprise in car navigation is that you need turn-by-turn spoken instructions. That keeps your eyes on the road and minimizes looking at the map. The Magellen Maestro is a comparable product, slightly cheaper, but with less love from fans. As of now, the Garmin Nuvi 350 is the starter car nav device to get.
What happens if you’re on a trip in middle of nowhere and you get a flat? You swap to your spare, right? OK, now you are in the middle of nowhere, with no back up. Your only option now is to head to civilization to get your tire repaired, which can wreck a camping trip fast. This weekend I was reminded how few people know about these tire plug kits or how to use them. For under $10 and a few ounces, you can use the same tools that the tire repair shops do. They are available at almost every gas station. You just find the leak (a little soapy water works best) remove the obstruction, rough up the hole with the rasp tool, and push in the sticky rope plug with the other, then re-inflate (which requires a pump of some kind, but even a bike pump will work). This is the same thing they do in the repair shops, but is no harder than changing a tire and sometimes easier as you don’t always have to take the tire off the car (but you will have to jack it up or somehow take the weight off of it). This won’t work for really large blow outs or slashes, but will fix 90% of all tire punctures you encounter and keep your weekend from getting ruined.
This light, portable pressure brake bleeder is the best one I have ever used in the 25+ years I have been working on cars. I have used other professional-style pressure bleeders costing $800-1000 and prefer the SpeediBleed. Using SpeediBleed by myself, it’s taken me only 15 minutes to do a 4-wheel brake bleed and, when finished, I had a firm brake pedal and clean brake fluid from top to bottom. The cool aspect of this kit is that you pressurize the master cylinder by connecting the SpeediBleed fluid bottle to a tire with a aluminum machined adapter. Yes, you read correctly; you use a tire to bleed brakes! When I told a few friends of this feature, they jokingly claimed I would have 4 flat tires to show for my work. They could not have been more wrong. The 4-wheel brake bleed of my Cavalier resulted in only 3 psi being removed from the single tire I used.
There are cheaper DIY kits. The Motive looks to be a decent, popular product. Personally, aside from the quality and ease with which you can control the working pressure, I like that the SpeediBleed has a much larger and constant air pressure source. My truck tires are probably 15-20 times larger volume than the Motive’s pressure bottle. Thus, I can set the regulator to 20-25 psi and have enough pressure to flush the system, versus having to pump a bottle a few times. And for the extra money, you get a high quality pressure regulator, quick release coupler, the aluminum adapter, and tool case. My buddy knew the old service manager at the local Porsche dealership near me. They have four to five SpeediBleed kits in their shop and are flushing Porsche and Land Rovers every day. I have used mine hundreds of times in the last 12 years. Really makes it possible for any DIY’er to bleed brakes without the headache.