Dave's Cars, Computers, Great Links

A Small Contribution to the World Wide Wasteoftime



My Car

All vehicles embody certain compromises. I have only one car. So I need it to do everything well. And here in Colorado, a good small turbocharged engine is the way to go, even though that tends to significantly narrow one's choices. My choice was and is the Volvo 850.

It comes with a high-output aluminum engine, great brakes, and excellent handling (with the sport suspension, to which ride quality and occupant health are not priorities). It also gets excellent fuel mileage. Combined with a discreet color and blacked-out grille the car is faster than it looks. Especially here at altitude (over 6000'), where a turbo has a home-field advantage like flat-landers in vehicles with atmospheric engines simply can't believe, at least not at first. ('Up' here, an engine either 'makes' its own air, or it goes without...) DurAlt fuel conditioner seems to promote higher combustion efficiency and lower octane requirements, so I use it.

My last car was painted arrest-me red, and the paint worked great! But during the 1990s, red paint has become not only a visual disadvantage, but also an optical disadvantage (great target for laser guns). The Volvo's dark non-metallic paint provides a significant defense against such remote velocity measuring attempts.

Among other enhancements, I've relocated the sunroof switch to the console, added hidden radar locating and CB, a manual switch for the power antenna, an improved cupholder, the variable interval wiper delay from Neuspeed (can someone please tell me why this wasn't standard with the car?), and the Volvo optional cabin air filter. I'm not eager to reveal all my modifications, but if you have a Volvo 850, I'm certain I could help you improve your car. If you're really bored, you can click here to see what my spark plugs looked like after 30K miles. Check out the Brick Board if you want to talk or learn more about Volvo 850s. Or you can email me.

One of the 850 Turbo's many great natural attributes are 'killer' headlights. The factory Hellas not only have a sharp cut-off for the low beams, but the high-beams are awesome -- just the thing for oncoming late-model GM cars with their obnoxious high-beam DRLs (I hear that GM is now hard at work developing sunny-day wipers!), as well as boneheads who seem to always think it's foggy out after dark.

As for DRLs, ask yourself this: if it's safer to drive around so everyone will see you coming, wouldn't it be safer still if everyone could hear you coming? And, if so, shouldn't the horn sound continuously? Maybe we need flashing DRLs. If I could demonstrate to you that your DRLs make you more visible at the expense of the visibility of small pedestrians and bicyclists, decreasing their safety, would you still want to use DRLs?

At least Volvo was gracious enough to provide a great OFF switch for the 850's DRLs. Same for the traction control...

If you own a 1995 850 Turbo, make sure you've checked/replaced your coolant tank cap and your engine's top torque arm bushing. If your thermostat is not keeping the coolant at full normal operating temperature any more, replace it. A more comprehensive list/survey is available here: 850 Generic Flaw Survey.

I advocate and recommend preventively flushing the ATF (it's easy; the AT pumps its own...) and replacing the fuel filter and distributor cap/rotor (mine 'failed' at ~ 100K mi) along with the timing belt at the [first] 70K mi preventive timing belt replacement interval.

Other Cars

Speaking of cars, some tire/people things I can't figure out:

  • Why some people would ever even consider inflating, much less running, their tires at the maximum inflation pressure listed on the sidewall. (Darwin was right!)
  • Why some people think they should use air pressure to (try to) eliminate all visual signs of radial tire bulge. (Must be Darwin again...)
  • Why some people insist upon confusing higher octane ratings (and/or prices?) with fuel quality (or energy content).

NOT my car!
Don't call me...!

Until I figure out what else to put here (or what else to call this section), for now I hope you'll be satisfied with some valuable resources related to buying/selling vehicles, or at least finding out what the "experts" think they're worth.

Edmund's Auto Buyer's Guide is like a cross between a car magazine with test results, Kelly's Blue Book, an on-line buying guide, and more.

What's the Bluebook on your car? Want to know the dealer's cost on that new model you've had your eye on? It all right here: the Kelly Blue Book.

"Buy or lease a NEW vehicle at a low, competitive price. No fees or clubs to join!" -- Pete Ellis, President/CEO and Co-founder of Auto-By-Tel. They now offer free quotes on insurance, too.


I love driving. I detest
Left Lane Bandits. I'm also not too thrilled by all the moving chicanes (SUVs) blocking my way.

I recently returned from a driving vacation across Montana. Highly recommended!
I leaned two new tricks for reading the road while there:

Some people always seem to learn the hard way. But a wise person can learn from the mistakes of others.

Cruise Rating System!

This is my first car with a fuel/trip computer, so I've played with it some...

I now often quantify my cruises by adding the following two numbers: Average Speed and Average Fuel Economy. If you can average 75 mph and 25 mpg, I give it a 100, which can also be attained with 70 mph and 30 mpg. If you can average 80 mph and 35 mpg, I'll admit that you have a significantly more efficient high speed personal transport than I do! (OTOH, my car can achieve 7.4 mpg at 145 mph...)

My recent best was 103.3 (80/23.3) over 1360 solo miles, NE Ohio to Colorado Springs. I consider this fairly impressive considering the drive included an overnight cooldown, about 700 miles of air conditioner use, about 50 miles of rain, some of it heavy, plenty of backed up single-file road destruction zones, and a burst of 140. The top legal limit was 1/2 that speed; even less on 4 of the 6 states' roads on which I drove.

Of that little sprint, on the CB radio, one of the two truckers I passed said, "All I heard was a 'whoosh'!"

On the COS -> NE OH trip I had virtually no rain, and a tailwind almost the entire way. 102 (77/25), including time spent alongside the road idling, waiting to receive my verbal warning for having been clocked at highly suspect 86 in a 70 mph zone. It's downhill heading East, but heading West I have higher octane fuel in the tank over 75% of the distance (instead of just 50% going East).

The best I've recorded is 103.9 (78/25.9), but that was over a single 610 mile stint (one fuel stop and 2 dog stops, between closures on I-70). Over lesser distances, here on Planet Colorado, some truly impressive numbers can be achieved: gas up at the top of Ute Pass (where the fuel is not required to be oxygenated/contaminated) and it's easy to see 130 (59/71) -- or better! -- at the bottom of the pass.

So start recording your fuel computer trip averages and we consumers can compare our vehicles in the real world. I'll add the capability for you to post your results here to my "to do" list...

I noticed that my car's ability to achieve these numbers fell, along with the temp gauge needle, when the thermostat began failing (open). Replacing the thermostat has restored the car's fuel mileage capabilities.

The following links can help you share knowledge, and political power, with fellow motorists:

About those 'moving chicanes'...
National Motorists Association
The WWW Speedtrap Registry!
The WWW Cop Car Registry!
Association of Drivers Against DRLs

Miscellaneous Car Links

Autoboard(tm) Hotlinks
The Tire Rack Home Page
ALLDATA's Automotive Repair Info/Recall Site
The Trees Blur Past
Using fuel efficiently
How To Drive Like A Moron

Car Magazines

RoadRunning Ezine
Woman Motorist Ezine
Turbo Magazine Online
AutoWeek Online
Car and Driver


Speed Magazine
RaceZine (formerly RaceNet)
Professional SportsCar (formerly IMSA)
PPG Indy Car World Series
Race To The Clouds!