Subaru Outback Oil and Tire Rotation Change Cost Analysis

With my new vehicle, a 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium, after a basic mental cost analysis I decided to do oil changes and tire rotations myself. I’ve acquired the needed tools for both and here’s the actual cost analysis:

One-Time Tool Purchases: $175.48

  • Oil Drain Pan: $8.99
  • Funnel: $3.99
  • Oil Storage Container: $6.99
  • Oil Filter Wrench: $5.89
  • Floor Jack: $99.99 (replaced sub-standard $35-ish one from years ago)
  • Rubber Wheel Chocks: $15.98
  • Qwik Valve & Supplies: $33.65 (shipped, includes vinyl hose and snap-on fitting)

Per-Change / Rotation Consumables: $33.84

  • Mobil 1 0W-20: $26.99 (6 quarts, only 5.1 needed for vehicle)
  • Subaru OE Oil Filter: $6.85 (4-pack via eBay, w/ crush washer)

Typical prices for a synthetic oil change is around $75, and another $20 for tire rotation at a semi-local shop that I trust (LTM Quick Lube). Since coupons and deals are typically available, I’ll figure $90 average total for both. The monetary cost of doing the work myself is $33.84 per service, taking into account the one-time purchases I will break even after two more iterations; which should be before the end of the year.

Time cost is a concern, but I think this is a wash between doing the work myself and taking my car in. The first oil change and tire rotation took approximately one hour for the work itself, and I think that with the installation of the Qwik Valve this should be cut down even further, as I shouldn’t have to deal with removing/cleaning/reinstalling the drain plug and crush washer.

LTM Quick Lube is located at Opdyke and South Boulevard in Auburn Hills, and while I can usually find time, it’s roughly 30 minutes of extra driving when incorporated into another trip, and I have to find a convenient time. The oil change and tire rotation at the shop takes 15-20 minutes, so I’m estimating just about an hour to take my car in. (The dealership would also be an option, but it’s equal time away, and I suspect will take slightly longer than a dedicated oil change location.) I will also have to take the old oil for recycling, but there are convenient locations for this on my way to work, which should only add a couple more minutes and only needs to occur every other oil change.

Doing the oil changes and tire rotations myself will also give me a bit more flexibility, as if I find some time later at night or early in the morning before work I can get things done instead of having to find time when the shop is open. Thus, it seems like doing the oil changes and tire rotations myself are the best solution, giving me a bit more flexibility as to scheduling, a bit of cost savings, and no additional time cost outside of the initial setup, which has already been completed.

It’s Time For A Change

Back in 2008, not long after I started mountain biking, The MMBA was looking for a volunteer to help fix its poorly performing website. While fairly new to the mountain biking community I had a good deal of experience with providing reliable small-scale web hosting; lessons learned from running my personal site, nuxx.net and a few other virtual hosts for friends. Through my friends Nick and Marty Shue, whom I had casually known since back in the BBS days, I began leading volunteer work on the site, resolving the main performance issue, migrating it to my server, and eventually expanding its capabilities.

It was the perfect combination of my interests: computers, mountain biking, and providing a useful service to other online users.

With help from numerous people, including Rob Ritzenhein doing Joomla work for the original main site, Nick and Marty working through the migration planning (the photo to the right was taken during the site migration itself) and handling some forum moderation, the transition went smoothly and it’s been stalwart ever since. I was even fortunate enough to work with Jeff Lau who wrote an incredibly impressive Trail Guide whose simplicity and usefulness has no current parallel. Many other volunteers contributed to the content; writing posts, submitting trail guide updates, and generally tweaking content.

While the MMBA has gone through some radical changes, working to redefine itself as the chapters moved into the IMBA Chapter Program, the MMBA website site, particularly the forum and Trail Guide, has remained the top source for information on mountain biking across Michigan.

Through this time I gained tremendous experience learning how to assure reliability of production systems, the political parts of working with others, guiding volunteers as they work on projects they are passionate about, and wrangling problem users in online communities among other things. I also met countless wonderful people, made some great friends, and even managed to make a few people hate me.

After seven years I’ve decided that it’s time for me to move on. Over the next few months I will be working with the MMBA Board of Directors and Byte Productions, LLC of Traverse City to smoothly migrate the site (including the forum) to a new home. Once complete my server will be back to hosting my personal sites and a few small pages for friends, stuff that I consider much less critical. Then I’ll have time to figure out what to do next.

Replacement Giro Roc Loc 5

Heading out on what became an ill-fated ride† at River Bends a few days ago the strap on my Giro Xar helmet broke as I was putting it on. I’d had the helmet for about four years, but I was still disappointed as this essentially made it unusable.

Ready to spend the $110+ on a replacement I was informed by a friend that the strap system (known as Giro’s Roc Loc 5) is replaceable, and within a few days I had another one, fitted into the helmet, making it ready to use again. It was a bit pricy to purchase via Amazon Prime ($17.99, around MSRP) but at least I had it quickly.

While I would have preferred the strap to not break at all, I’m really glad that I was able to get the helmet working and usable again. It’s much cheaper to fix something like this than replace it. Never forget the fourth R

† Three crashes in a little over one lap. First was launching off a roller/jump wrong, almost hitting a tree, and having to panic stop against a log off the trail. Second was clipping a pedal on a climb and almost going over the bars. Third was being distracted and running into a 2″ tree sending myself to the ground on short notice.

Manistee / Cadillac / Ludington Area Fat Bike Suggestions

A few months back I happened across this page on fat-bike.com about Ken Blakey-Shell and Scott Quiring riding part of the Little O ATV Trail on fat bikes and wanted to try it myself (Video 1 · Video 2). A mutual friend put me in touch with Ken, and within a few days I’d received a boatload of excellent information about where to ride in the area. Ken encouraged me to share the info, so I’m posting it here for public consumption. While I haven’t ridden any of these trails yet myself, the routes sound excellent and something I hope to do in mid-June.

I’m really excited about riding these. Back-country rides like this are something I love, and new trails to explore sound wonderful.


Here are the suggested routes as Ken emailed them to me. I’ve edited these slightly add links, GPX copies of routes, etc, but it’s otherwise his words:

Little O ORV Trail / North Country Trail

The Little O ORV Trail (PDF Map) / North Country Trail (NCT) figure 8 just north of M10 is the easiest and least technical. It is 50% NCT and 50% moto trail with a around half of the moto trail being super good and the other half of it being only ok. The moto trails are fairly sandy and are best on a 4″ tire fat bike setup although 29+ and 26×5″ work OK too. Regular MTB is a no go. The moto trails are wider (4 wheelers use them too) with lots of banked corners and whoops. There are some extended downhills that are super fun. The other half of the ride is on NCT which is awesome in its own right. There is some significant climbs on this loop but it is all pretty gradual and none of the downhills are very sketchy. I normally start and finish on the northern end of the 8 but you could just as easily start at Timber Creek on M10 and ride NCT a little ways to connect up with the figure 8 loop.

  • This is the shortest route cutting out part of the upper 8. If pressed for time, fitness… this gets all the best parts: Strava · GPX
  • Strava link for just the figure 8: Strava · GPX
  • Strava link for the figure 8 plus some extra NCT starting and finishing just north of the Sable River: Strava · GPX
  • You can also start from the NCT Freesoil Trailhead on 8 Mile Rd but that makes for a fairly long ride: Strava · GPX

North and South Caberfae Loop

The other two routes I recommend are between Manistee and Cadillac. One route is north of M55 and the other is south of M55 and both start at the Caberfae Snowmobile Trailhead. Both routes are a combo of moto trail and two tracks. The moto trail is a lot more technical than anything I have seen for MTB trail in the LP  – I often describe them as the most non-IMBA approved trails in the world. They go straight up and down hills, have tons of water erosion caused trenching, exposed roots and rocks and are really challenging on both the up hills and down hills. There are tons and tons of whoops and bermed corners. Unlike the Little O which is a wider 2 track type trail, these trails are tight singletrack. Quiring and I find these trails to be the most fun of any trails we have ridden in the state but you have to like a challenge to fall in that camp. 29+ is the ideal setup but 4 or 5″ fat bikes work great too. You may be able to ride a regular MTB but it would be tough. You can combine the two loops if you want into a monster ride but you need to be in top shape (both upper body as well as normal riding shape) because you are going to get worked. Both loops are equally good so it is a coin toss which to do. I normally break people in on the north loop first because you start out on one of the best downhills around as soon as you start riding the ORV trail.


Maps

Here’s some heavily annotated map snippets that Ken has graciously provided. The base image for these comes from the National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated maps of the Manistee National Forest: 758 Manisteee National Forest, North Trail Map and 759 Manistee National Forest, South Trail Map. I strongly suggest buying the base maps, as the additional context is necessary to find your way to the trails and for understanding the area. These maps appear to be a great compilation of road, ORV trail, and North Country Trail maps all in one. No other map that I’ve seen as clearly shows how they all overlay; something which is incredibly useful for hikers and mountain bikers alike:

Bit Field for Internet Explorer 11 Security Protocol Options

In Windows / Internet Explorer the options for different security protocols (eg: TLS 1.2, SSL 3.0, etc) are stored in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Sofware\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings|SecureProtocols using a bit field. I wasn’t having much luck finding the specific values documented, only this German TechNet blog post detailing the resulting settings. So, I made my own. Here it is in C format:

/* HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings|SecureProtocols for different SSL/TLS settings. */

#define SSL_2.0 8 /* 000000001000 */
#define SSL_3.0 32 /* 000000100000 */
#define TLS_1.0 128 /* 000010000000 */
#define TLS_1.1 512 /* 001000000000 */
#define TLS_1.2 2014 /* 100000000000 */

This also applies to Internet Explorer 9, but I haven’t checked other versions.

Butter in Coffee‽

Initially upon hearing about the bulletproof coffee idea, where butter (or another medium-chain triglycerides oil) is used in coffee as a sort-of healthy breakfast I found the idea revolting. I’d pictured a cup of coffee with globs of oil floating on the top, sticking to one’s upper lip while drinking. Still, it had me curious… Since I’ll regularly have coffee with half & half (half cream) or heavy cream, and butter isn’t much different from heavy cream (just less water and whey), I figured I’d give it a try.

This morning I brewed coffee like normal, added a tablespoon of unsalted butter, then processed it with a stick blender. The result? Decent. It’s very much like coffee with half and half, but with a less sweet taste to it. It’s still rich and soft tasting, but not as dessert-like. A very fine, almost-creamy foam was left on the top, but tilting the glass to drink agitated it, caused the bubbles to burst, resulting in a soda-like fizzing feeling on my upper lip. Nothing bad, but I could tell little droplets were coming off the top of the beverage.

I strongly suspect that, besides the whey and a bit of lactose (I’m not sure how much of this goes with the buttermilk vs. stays with the fat) the only difference between this and simply using heavy cream is who does the homogenization. Combined with a banana eaten a bit later while walking into work I feel plenty satisfied breakfast-wise, but no different than after having regular coffee + cream.

Next I think I’ll try this along with one of the other popular coffee blend-ins: coconut oil. I’m not particularly fond of the smell of coconut oil itself (it reminds me of sunscreen), but coffee and coconut can work well together, so I’ll give it a go. I can’t see myself doing this very often, though, as it makes for more dishes and takes more time than simply adding liquid dairy from a container.  It was nice to try, and the taste / texture is much better than I thought I would be.

2015 Subaru Outback GPS Mount Prototype

I recently acquired a new car, a 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5 Premium, but it didn’t have a GPS/moving map in it. Since this is something that I’m very fond of, I picked up a Garmin nüvi 68LM and have been working on a nice way to mount it in the vehicle.

This evening I set to work with some Delrin scraps and a band saw and made these small adapters for the center console. They allow the GPS to set in a small closable glove compartment, but pivot forward so the space behind it can be accessed. With the addition of two more rubber bumpers on the back side of the GPS unit it sits fairly well inside of the compartment, and a power outlet directly behind the unit makes for a very clean look.

I’m not completely happy with the fit of these, but they are better than the balancing act I was using before and are a good prototype. After using this for a couple of weeks I’ll probably refine the idea, but I’m pretty happy with the result after a few hours of work this evening.

…that pure alcoholic experience.

On the way home from work this afternoon I stopped and traded a couple of used (but still good) Schwalbe Racing Ralph 29×2.4″ tires to Paul (Jlr13) from the MMBA Forum. One of the beers he gave me was Red Horse Beer, a Filipino beer that he said tastes like being a teenager. Except this was a normal size bottle, not the 500mL more commonly drank by youths.

This is much tastier than a typical 8% malt liquor, and I’m enjoying. It’s cold, somewhat sweet, and fizzy. I like it. It’s what I thought Baltika 9 should have tasted like. I can’t help but be amused at the About Red Horse Beer section of the brand’s home page:

“Red Horse Beer is your extra strong beer that brings you that pure alcoholic experience. It is not your ordinary beer – rebellious and flavorful yet bold and intense. It is sweet and bitter smooth, giving you a fueled kick. Excite yourself with this deeply hued distinct tasting beer.”

Yes… that pure alcoholic experience.

Rinse N Roll is White Castle?

This morning I found a suspicious $4 charge on my credit card, reportedly from the White Castle location near Universal Mall in Warren, Michigan. I haven’t eaten at White Castle in a few months, the charge was listed as Gas/Automotive, and I couldn’t remember a purchase like this so I called the card company preparing to dispute the charge and receive a new credit card.

It turns out that this was a charge from Rinse N Roll touchless car wash at 12 Mile and Van Dyke. While this shares a driveway with a different White Castle location I had no reason to associate the two. I can only figure that one person/company owns all three of these businesses, has their credit card processing going through one system, all of which are listed as White Castle. This was pretty confusing, but I’m glad to find out that it wasn’t actually credit card fraud.

Three Generations of Garmin HRM Soft Straps

This afternoon I received my third heart rate monitor Soft Strap from Garmin, seen at top. I hope this lasts for longer than the previous two. The one on the bottom is the first generation, and I’ve now gone through two of these. The first one worked pretty well, up until the day it started to read weird false-high values which — if real — would indicate that I was about to die. This happened about a year after purchasing it… I bought another, and it too failed in the same way in less than a year.

A phone call to Garmin last June resulted in my receiving the middle strap, a nicely redesigned model that has a conductive fabric layered over the sensors, connected to the side of one’s torso. This worked well up until a month or so ago when I began getting falsely low results. I could be pushing fairly hard, somewhere around 150-160 BPM, when I’d suddenly get a 70-90 BPM reading. Since this threw off my data I stopped wearing it when riding and called Garmin asking for help.

Today I received the one on the top, an evolution of the shielded second generation. It has a conductive vinyl patch — similar to the center electrodes — for the shield. It also has some silk screening over the front. I hope that this one lasts longer than the other two, although I can’t complain terribly as I’ve received a few years worth of straps gratis just by calling and asking for help. The replacement straps were provided at no charge, shipped to me within a few days of calling. With this, and previous support for my broken Garmin eTrex, I’ve been quite happy with Garmin’s support.

If all goes as hoped I’ll be able to give the HR strap a fair test tomorrow, as I’m aiming for a 5:30 moving time ride. Hopefully that happens…

(To note, I’ve taken particular care to follow Garmin’s washing instructions for the straps. For the newer models one is to rinse it after each use, and launder it every seven uses. Batteries were also replaced, just in case, before calling for support.)