Archive for July, 2009

Oh right…I drive a car

I can’t believe that I somehow totally forgot to talk about myself…how very unlike me! I own a car and completely forgot to bore the hell out of you by telling you about it!

I drive a 2008 Scion tC that has been lovingly nicknamed “lil’ Dirty” due to the fact that it appears I’m allergic to cleaning her up. You may or may not recognize the car from the banner photo up on top of Mediocre Motoring’s pages. Here’s some fun trivia for you, Lil’ Dirty was actually the first 2008 tC sold in Washington wearing the “Sizzling Crimson Metallic” paint color and incase you were already giggling about the “sizzling” part being lame, I agree with you. It’s kind of a stupid name, but frankly I’ve been so overwhelmed by the number of people asking me if it’s a custom color or “how much did that cost you to do?” My driving coach at my first auto-cross in WA state wouldn’t stop telling me how rich and deep and mature he thought the color was. (Hey, buddy, less oogling and more driver critiques, plez!) Oh hey, I just noticed that the driving coach’s hand is in the MM banner up there, go take another look at my car. It’ll make you feel better trust me; I’m a scientist/doctor/philosopher/wizard.

Lil’ Dirty has lead the typical life of new cars that exist in my family in that she was pretty much the most unlucky vehicle for around 5 months. 1st or 2nd day I had the car I -stupidly- entrusted the keys to a punchy young valet at the Alexis hotel in downtown Seattle. The next time I see the car the valet informs me that I scraped an escalade the last time I left the hotel and there was a little paint damage to the nice white escalade, but the driver wasn’t going to worry about it. I – somewhere between “punchy-time” and laughter- inform the valet that I haven’t yet LEFT the hotel in my car and that I had only ARRIVED a single time. He assured me that it wasn’t his fault and that I was to blame. Ok, fine, whatever…it was a small little white smudge and some minor scratching over the wheel arch. No biggie, I just wanted to drive my damn car some more.

Fast forward four or five days later, roughly 50-ish miles on the odo. I ‘m parked at a friend’s house overnight on the street in his suburb for a single day. I get out to the car around 3pm and approach the driver’s side door only to find some absolutely heinous egg splattered and cooked in the summer sun, all along the door down the front fender. Oh, thank god! Some punk kid got in some target practice on my new baby and left a nice half moon pattern of scratches down to the sheet metal where the egg hit. Awesome, thanks guy. Maybe later you can come back and steal my Halloween pumpkin just to smash it…prick.

Fast forward about a month or two and I’m pulling into my apartment’s subterranean garage. This garage has a very tight door and sits off of a small alley way flanked by a parking lot used by some health clinic that has a lot of cars. Did I mention that the driveway descends in a slow arching left handed J pattern that is flanked all the way down by very unforgiving concrete? Yea, it is and trust me, this is not a driveway you can enter at the wrong angle. The clinic’s lot is always full and most of the time the people park perfectly. Not this special night though. Some jerkwad has chosen to park with his nose around 60% into the alley directly infront of my garage door. Awesome, who doesn’t like a challenge? Anyway, after about 400 back/forths trying to Austin Powers my way into the garage, I find that there is absolutely no possible way to proceed without ginding my driver’s side rear quarter panel (right at the wheel arch) against the very sturdy frame of the door. Well, I’m about 374% commited to the entry and trying to reverse uphill, backwards, and potentially into a jerkwad health clinic car would’ve been probably 3x worse than just taking my bruises and going forward. >>sckkkkeerrrrccccth<< Well, at least we can always identify my car if it ever gets stolen, just look for the one with the long horizontal wall-inflicted scrapes up the driver’s side. /sigh

Well now that both of my rear wheel arches are slightly damaged, my driver’s side door paint was molested by an egg, and the rest of the body has some “character” marks from the white Subaru Legacy that used to park next to me in my garage…I gave up worrying about how clean my car was. Hence…Lil’ Dirty.

Anyway, this was Talking about myself and my car: Part I – The beginning of the sixth greatest story ever told . Look forward to the next installment of this series entitled Talking about myself and my car: Part IV – Remember that time I stripped the interior out of a brand new car? coming in the near future.


-Steve still hates that stupid white Subaru

Categories: Cars, Steve

My car vomits Castrol -OR- How I got Alex’s garage dirty…again

July 27, 2009 2 comments

Changing the oil on your car is a very very simple process that should really only take about 20 minutes total including the time spent trying to figure out how to get the jack under your lowered car. I personally have changed the oil in every vehicle I’ve owned and have often changed other people’s oil for them.

Step 1: Find and open oil drain plug (make sure there is a catch pan for the escaping oil below the car)
Step 2: Go to top of car and open oil filler cap to speed up oil escaping the system
Step 3: Put oil drain plug back in
Step 4: Remove old oil filter
Step 5: Put on new oil filter and hand tighten
Step 6: Fill with oil
Step 7: Replace oil filler cap
Step 8: Do a little dance
Step 9: Make a little love

Seriously, it’s not rocket science and it’s not something that you would ever expect to go wrong. Well, as true with all things that we do here at Mediocre Motoring, something went wrong. Absolutely completely sideways and backwards wrong. I ran through the above steps up to number 7 and proceeded into the car to read my manual and figure out how to reset the damn idiot light for changing the oil. I’m sitting in the car letting it run for maybe 10 seconds when Alex (Who owns that very shiny Mitsubishi 3000gt and formerly very clean garage in the pictures) yells from the front of his car “OFF! OFF! TURN THE CAR OFF!!” Completely panicked and confused, I jamb the key to the OFF position and jump out of the car. “What, what’s wrong? I didn’t hear anything” to which Alex very calmly – despite the situation – replies: “Yea, it’s not so much what you would’ve heard, but what I’m seeing right now.”

Perplexed and nervous I walk around to the front of the car expecting to find little bits of piston laying on the floor and am confronted with something I have never seen before. Sitting in front of my car is a slowly growing puddle – lake really – of Castrol Syntec. 3.75 out of 4 quarts of $5.60 per/qt Castrol Syntec to be exact. After some good natured laughter from nervous energy, speculation on what the hell happened, and some colorful and inventive cussing from yours truly, we start to clean up the spill and Alex takes a few quick snaps with his cell phone. (Sorry for the quality of them, I didn’t expect to need to take epic photographs of a freakin’ oil change and we certainly didn’t have any other cameras handy)
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

After we get the spill cleaned up we throw down some cardboard and get into the investigatin’. Sliding under the car and looking around reminded me of the time my college roommate and favorite person in the world, Ben Peno, went out to a frat party, drank about a gallon of “jungle juice” (151 rum mixed with other liquors and some fruit punch) then came home and proceeded to get into the bathroom and vomit in some sort of strange helicopter pattern. When I went in to bring him some water it looked a lot like one of those murder shows where there is blood absolutely fucking EVERYWHERE. Also, he was lying halfway in and halfway out of the tub, with the tattered remains of the shower curtain (and a whole lot more super-red puke) laying under him. Yea… the underside of my car looked like that, only with oil instead of regurgitated frat-boy quality jungle juice.



A little more clean up and we determine that the point of spewing was from the oil filter, which after we clean up a bit we find is about 1-2mm unseated. I give it a twist thinking “ok, maybe I’m just an idiot and I didn’t seat it correctly”, but that sucker wouldn’t budge at all. I get Alex under the car to look and try to twist it as well and he can’t move the sucker either, it was as up as it was going to be just by hand tightening. We took it off, verified it was the correct unit, verified that I hadn’t cross threaded it (although it wouldn’t have been able to get that far up the threads if I had, we found out) and then sat around looking at each other in a state of general confusion for the next ten minutes.

After some pondering we run out to the store, grab a new case of Royal Purple 5w20 and then fill Lil’ Dirty back up with oil…this time, no problems. The only conclusion that we can come to is that my car doesn’t like the taste of Castrol.


Photobucket(Sorry Jimmy, but F— your dipstick)

I suppose I should’ve opened the story by explaining that I always use Royal Purple, mostly out of habit than anything else, and that this was the first time Dirty had tasted anything other than whatever oil was put in by the factory…apparently, she didn’t like it.

– Steve Valdez

Categories: Cars, Steve

The smell of racing

Everyone talks at length about the sights and sounds of racing, with absolutely good reason; They’re absolutely right. Audio/visual sensory inputs are as amazing as magic, strippers, or unicorns and sight plus sound are what initially attracts most people to racing. I personally love looking at the shiny (or dirty as hell at the end of the race) cars, seeing the impressive swishes and swirls of color in the patterns of sponsorships stickers and paint schemes. Once they fire up the engines, my ears start to bleed and my skin tingles with goose bumps beginning to ripple forth. A few laps into the race when the cars and drivers have started to really race – not just warm the tires or thin out the pack – the engines sing then roar, exhausts spit and snort as the cars blast up to speed or grind to shocking halts. Racing is in the same moment a terrifying and beautifully dichotomous sport filled with menacing looking vehicles, horrendously abrasive noises, elegant lines, and operatic tones. There is no reason to not speak about the two most popular dimensions to our favorite sport.

What about adding a third dimension though? It’s nigh on impossible to experience unless you are actually able to attend an event, but one sense that often goes overlooked in speech and writing is the entirely underappreciated olfactory pleasure that you experience while at the track. Nobody, not spectators, and rarely racers themselves, talk about the smells for racing and it always bothers and confuses me. Smell is one of the most powerful of the five human senses and it ties into the brain’s ability to remember things far better than both sight and sound. One thing that people often speak about in war are the smells that they never knew about from watching training videos, news clips, action films, or whatever. It’s the smells that people remember for their entire lives and there are often very few things that elicit so active a reaction as a strong smell.

There is an intoxicating fear you get on that first hot lap when you start to smell your brakes cooking. A subtle grin that peels back your face when you catch little wafts of warm tire shaving off in a hard turn or when you get back to the paddock and smell the still hot rubber. Walking past by the refueling station in the paddock and smelling the dizzying fumes of 100+ octane race gas always gives me that little tingle of anticipation and gets my heart beat moving faster. If you’re at a drift or drag event you can do nothing but breath in the fumes of annihilated rubber, especially if you’re near the burnout box or on one of the big corners for drifting. As one of my friends once said back when I was first getting into cars, “Being at a drag event for a while, the back of your throat starts to feel like it’s vulcanizing.” He later went on to graduate from a hot rod school, so no doubt his throat is pure black rubber at this point, but his example was flawless. You can do nothing but smell and taste rubber after a long day at the track.

I’m always telling people to take it to the track and it’s not just for the thrills that you can have in a safer environment than the street. It’s for the many pleasures that you don’t know you’re going to experience until you’ve been to a track before. Even if it’s just to spectate, get out there and flex that breathin’ hole thingy on your face, you might just be surprised to see how much it changes your perspective on things.

– Scratch ‘n’ Steve

Categories: Cars, Steve

The Anrgy Bald Man is In!

Jetta, how you drive
Me crazy with your idle
New plugs this weekend
My name is Mister Rich and I own Volkswagens; if you are to believe Dr. Beard-o-tron 9000; I’m the MM VW editor.  I’m not sure what I edit, how exactly I got involved, or why you’d believe a Doctor with a beard, but it’ll probably end up on my resume some day, so I’ll take it.
I’m not exactly sure what to talk about; I’ll ramble a bit and end with a question.  Sound fair?  Currently I own two fine German automobiles. 
My old daily driver, and current pasture grazer, is a 2007 United Grey GTI DSG w/Package 1.  The DSG is spectacularly fun, the engine has absurd amounts of power, and the car is damn near bullet proof.  Driven it cross-country twice and had nary a problem.  It drives as well in the snow as any FWD car and handles great on the stock suspension.  The plan for the GTI?  It depends on where the next few years take me.  Living in the big city saw this car broken into twice in the span of a month, so it gets to relax as my Mom’s daily drive.  No speeding tickets for her, yet.  As things stand today, I’d like to go to APR Stage 2+ with an OEM brake upgrade from the .:R32, a nice set of Bilstein PS10’s all riding on 18″ OZs.  If my wildest dreams come true, you can make that APR Stage 3 with alcohol injection, a Stoptech BBK set-up and more carbon fiber than you can shake a stick at.  At the moment this car is bone stock, with Monster Mats.  I may take advantage of APR’s sale and go Stage 1, but it’s tough to justify on a car I drive 2-3 times per month.
My daily-driver and weekend warrior project car is a 1991 Jetta GLi with manual everything.  Black exterior with Recaro interior.  I’m slowly accumulating the parts I need to get it back to stock, and then I’ll be going for an aggressive OEM+ look.  Since purchasing the car in Jan, I’ve spent most of my budget on maintenance and getting the car as mechanically sound as possible.  I’m sure most of you mediocre folks understand,  it’s my daily driver, not a garage baby.  When I’m done, the Jetta probably won’t win any awards or be on the cover of Performance VW, but it will be a clean, mechanically fit Mk2, which is good enough from me.  I’ll also intend to blow up ‘tex [He means – Steve] when I put in (shield your eyes and lock the children up) Corbeau seats and OEM VW Flyers.  A digression, but an important point none-the-less, when did the internet Mk2 scene become all about Recaro’s, “moar low plz”, and BBS RS’s?  Was there a meeting that I missed?  Anyway, on topic, most everything planned for the Mk2 is aesthetic or cosmetic.  I’m enjoying the look of the Momo Gotham line of interior bits, and I also like the look of a clear-ed out front end (blinkers, banana lights, fogs, crystal cross heads) with a smoked tail.  The end of the road for this Mk2 is a long way away, hopefully everyone at MM and all you readers can learn a thing or two during the trip.


This weekend is a big maintenance weekend for the Jetta.  I’ll be:  wiring the fog lights; changing the brake pads, transmission fluid and engine oil; looking for vacuum leaks; and detailing the car for the first time this summer.
MM readers what do you have planned for this weekend?
-Mister Rich
Categories: Cars, Rich

How do you people afford all this stuff?

July 14, 2009 1 comment

I like to look around online a lot at photos of car shows, people’s car domain sites, forum posts with pictures, and other visual aids that show me your cars. I also love going to shows and just walking around aimlessly looking over engine bays, body work, wheel/tire combos, and any design work that went into making the show car.


One thing that keeps coming to mind it that I do not even remotely understand how some of you people afford all these parts you put on your cars. I am flabbergasted at the amount of time and money invested into some people’s builds. You guys and girls out there who are building your cars, bringing them to shows, taking them to the track, or just flat out driving ‘em to work…you’re honestly my heroes, and I mean that very sincerely. I have no idea how you find the time, money, and determination to get this stuff all done. I know most of you have other stuff going on in your life as not many of us are lucky enough to get to tinker with cars whenever we want, and so that makes it even more special to me when I see your finished (or awesomely in-progress work).


I, personally, have a beautiful project plan all laid out with a basic idea of timeframes and a schedule that make sense financially to get my build put together. My plan spans two years worth of time, and I still don’t think that’s going to be enough, honestly. Quite often I look at my plan and I see a new item coming up that I should be buying per my schedule, but right when I go to buy the new part something huge and important comes up and that money disappears down into that. I have to assume that everyone’s life is a sort of like mine, (albeit with fewer beards, hookers, and much less booze) so I can never figure out why you guys have parts and I’m sitting miserably alone without any new bits for my ride. (I wonder if it’s the hookers and the booze….nah, that’s just silly)


In the end I know it’s not a huge deal as I fully understand that people move (or don’t move, in my situation) at their own pace and their cars get done according to the law of available funds. Whether it be time, money, or just patience building a car takes a lot of all three of those things. If you don’t have any one of them, often your build goes nowhere. Don’t worry though, if you’re like me and you’re perpetually behind the curve of all the rest of your peers you can still do what I do. Go online, and look at car porn for hours until your wrist starts to hurt from moving the mouse too much and your eyes start to dry out because you keep forgetting to blink.


 For all you guys/girls who actually CAN get a car built in short order, keep posting up pics of your progress and your completed jobs. Keep us poor blokes entertained and hoping for the day when we are in your shoes.


 -Hi my name is Steve, and I’m a car porn addict

Categories: Cars, Steve

Show for a Cause ’09

July 12, 2009 1 comment

Car shows are a great way to get together with some friends to show off your rides and look at thiers. Sometimes it’s a great way to meet new people and find new things to do to your car with. Some car shows are great if you want to accidentally waste eight hours of your day getting dehydrated and sunburned to all hell. Sometimes they’re great ways to do all these things and still donate to a worthwhile charity and feel good about yourself in the process. Show for a Cause ’09 was the epitome of all these things.


While I didn’t see exactly how many cars there were in the show being judged, it looked like it was in excess of 100 and there were plenty of cars I didn’t even get a chance to see because they rolled in late or where “day of”” entrants (like me, ‘cuz I’m a slacker…) The cars I did see and the people I did get to meet were awesome people and almost universally all about cars. There were your typical show D-bags who thought they had the coolest exhaust and would start their cars and rev to redline while in neutral to show off to their friend or random passers-by, but for the most part it wasn’t too bad.


My car club (Balliztik PNW) had a great showing and ended up taking away two to four trophies (depending on if Sean is officially part of Balliztik yet)[Congrats to Cindy and Dave!]. Overall it was a great way to spend some time with my club and see some good friends and cool cars again. Although I do have to say…there was no need for that show to be eight hours long. Seriously, we could’ve been done in 5-ish and we all would’ve been just as happy. S4aC coordinators, take heed. 8 hours = toooooo looooonnnggg!


Stay tuned for some pictures once I pick out some for the better ones.


– Steveburned

Categories: Steve, Uncategorized

Support your community, at what cost?

July 8, 2009 1 comment

I am a big fan of community and group efforts. There is no part without the whole, sorta thing. This is why when people ask me if they should buy a brand name part over some knock-off brand I’m usually pretty adamant about going for a brand that people recognize. The issue here is that typically brand name parts have a little bit of an extra cost associated to them which most people like to associate to “Brand tax” or “paying for the name,” but is usually because they input some R&D into the part and are trying to recoup the costs of that never-cheap endeavor.  Nobody likes to pay more when they don’t have to. If you like to pay more for something that you don’t have to, you’re either rich (probably not seeing as how you like to pay more when you don’t have to), a brand name whore, retarded, or a Mac fan.

 Now, seeing that you now know I’m usually a proponent of name brand things, let me explain to you when I think it’s idiotic to pay more for a brand name.

 Cold air intakes

If there is one single person on this entire planet that can explain to me why a bent pipe with a conical air filter and a little MAF mount is worth $300+ while typically only providing something between 2-6 horsepower I will go out and buy one right now. Here’s the thing, It’s a bent pipe. There are only so many combinations of bends and angles that fit into your engine bay to get the air inlet to the throttle body and honestly, the minor changes are unlikely to result in any measurable gains in performance. Even if they did result in a measurable gain, it’s be within the afore mentioned 2-6 horsepower range so likely you’re looking at a 1hp gain. Ok, so the big name companies did a little R&D to get that extra 1hp over the knock off guys who bent some pipes to fit the space and slapped a cone filter on it, good for them. I sincerely applaud when people make the effort to get the absolute most out of their products, but uh…seriously? I went onto eBay, typed in “Scion tC intake” scrolled down through four listings and found something that looked pretty damn similar to a big name company -that I won’t name- (just kidding it’s K&N), but the eBay intake was listed for only $50. There we go, that seems more rational for some bent pipe and a filter. I’d pay $50 and some shipping to get 2-6 horsepower. Heck, with the $250+ I just saved, I’ll go fill up a 10lb nitrous bottle four times, get 50hp on demand (+the 2-6hp from my eBay intake), and then spend the remaining $50 on some booze and cheap hookers. The guy who spent $300 on the brand name will have nothing except the 2-6 horsepower and a big frown as I speed by him with my hookers.


Spark plugs

This is a little bit less of an issue due to the smaller costs, but it’s another thing that annoys me about brand names and cost. Pick the correct heat range for your car, then get some copper no-name pre-gapped plugs in said heat range for ~$5 per plug. Done. When I see people going out and spending $20 per plug I laugh until I can’t breathe. Perhaps if you’re running a top grade motor that has been tuned to the wall with some serious effort, time, and money invested into it, these plugs might be worthwhile to squeeze out that last 1-2 hp.  Even then, I would hesitate to spend that much per plug, but that’s because it’s still ridiculously expensive for something that is the equivalent to a gas grill lighter. (Don’t believe me? Look into it, son. That shit is simple technology)


Front Grilles

You have got to be absolutely kidding me. $300 for a cut to fit piece of mesh? eBay or DIY, dude. That will cost you less than $100 even if you mess up, buy a piece of junk from eBay, and then decide to go out buy the materials an just do it yourself. If you paid $300 for just the top grille and then did it again for the bottom grille, that doesn’t make you a baller, that makes you flat out retarded.


Radiator Air diversion panels

Again, it’s just a big flat piece of metal or plastic with some mounting holes. Go to your car with a piece of cardboard, trace the outline of the area you want to cover and mark the mounting holes and shape for the latch, cut it out  from the big piece of cardboard(now it’s a template!), bring it to a local metal shop and ask them to cut a flat sheet of thin gauge aluminum for you. That will likely run you $30-40. Hell as long as you don’t mind having cardboard on your bumper support, you could just keep the template there and it would accomplish the same thing. I really don’t recommend this, but it is technically possible. Why on earth would you pay double/triple that just to get one made by some big company? Is 20 minutes of your day really worth that much money to you for something that has very little actual performance value?


Ok, there are probably hundreds of little parts that you can ABSOLUTELY buy “knock-off” eBay stuff and be much happier in the wallet region for doing so with very little end performance trade off. However, there are also plenty of parts that you absolutely want to get from brand name companies that are trusted to not bone you or your car. Electronics, wheels, brakes, suspension, turbo/superchargers (the actual charger) are just a few to really spend the money on high quality parts. The important part to remember here is that when you buy a knock-off part that actually required some serious R&D to create originally, you are infact hurting the “tuning” market. When a company puts the time and money into R&D-ing a new part they need to find a way to recoup those costs. They do this by increasing the cost per unit of the new part and they transfer that cost along to you. This is actually a GOOD thing, because it’s encouraging the company to keep researching and developing new parts because they were able to justify cost-wise the investment of R&D-ing the part you just bought. A lot of times, companies also increase the cost of generic things to give themselves some extra R&D money, so I do concede that it’s beneficial to the market if you pay a little more for some of the stuff that is ok to buy generic on, but make sure you don’t bankrupt yourself trying to support the big guys. A little big more expensive is fine. $300 for a $50-100 part is just ridiculous.


–           Steve’s cheapskate alter-ego


Categories: Cars, Steve