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Category: automotive

Not paying enough attention to car maintenance…


I was originally going to post a photo of a wear indicator mentioning that, with fitting the new snow tires, I’ll need to get new tires next spring. Then I saw this one tire from the rear of the driver’s side.

With every set of tires that I’ve had on the car (this is the second or third, I think, in ~180,000 miles) I’ve had uneven wear from one wheel. It’s spotty, paneled, and results in a series of flat spots around the inside of the tire. I’d think that rotating the tires more often would help it, but I think I let these tires go a little too long without rotating them. They might not have even been done this year, having gone since the snow tires were removed in the spring.

This wasn’t losing air, but I’m really lucky that I didn’t have a sudden tire failure. I’ll definitely be buying new tires before spring now. (And no, the snow tires don’t have this kind of wear… But I did get an alignment some last year, after buying these tires but before the snow tires got much use.)


New Spark Plugs after 166358 Miles

My 2006 Honda Civic EX was probably a bit overdue for new spark plugs. I’d neglected this maintenance item for a while, but at 166358 miles it was long overdue. This evening I picked up four Autolite plugs on the way home and swapped them out. This was considerably easier than I expected.

I only ran into one small problem, when the rubber-lined spark plug socket would remain stuck to the plug deep inside the engine, popping off the extension as I tried to remove all of it. After unsuccessfully attempting to shim the extension in the socket I wrapped one turn of Gaffer’s tape around the assembly (photo) and this problem resolved. All plugs are installed, torqued to spec, with threads coated with copper-based anti-seize. It may have just been coincidental, but the car seemed to start quicker after replacing the plugs. Maybe it’ll run a bit better now, and if I’m lucky maybe I’ll get better mileage…

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Advance Auto Parts Marine Grease is PEAK Performance Synthetic Marine Grease

En route to work today I stopped off at Advance Auto Parts and picked up some house brand Marine Grease to use when reassembling my bike rack after fixing the hitch retention piece. I wanted to find the MSDS for this product so I could try to figure out what materials this product is compatible with, but after the Advance Auto Parts MSDS Page didn’t return anything when searching for the product (SKU #A2953013) I called the listed phone number and asked for help.

The person who answered the phone was very helpful and — despite not being able to find the product by SKU — found the MSDS and emailed it to me. You can get a copy of it here. Embedded in the email was the path I:\M9\OLD WORLD INDUSTRIES\ELRMA14OZ.PDF, which I find interesting as it shows both that the company has a simple directory structure full of MSDS, and that this product is actually made by Old World Industries, the parent company for PEAK and a number of other automotive companies. Per a recent press release:

Old World Industries, LLC is among the largest privately-held companies competing in the automotive aftermarket. The Northbrook, Illinois-based company enjoys a presence in various consumer product markets in more than 30 countries worldwide. Old World’s brands include a full line of PEAK® Performance Products including Antifreeze, Motor Oil, Washer Fluid, Electronics and Wiper Blades; SIERRA® Antifreeze; Fleet Charge® Fully Formulated Coolant; Final Charge® Heavy Duty Global Extended Life Antifreeze/Coolant; SmartBLADE™ Premium Wiper Blades; HERCULINER® Truck Bed Liner Kits; and BlueDEF® Diesel Exhaust Fluid. For more information, please visit

Comparing this product’s MSDS to the one from Advance Auto Parts SKU #A2953013 shows them to be identical (including the contact person and his phone number), save for some slight formatting and naming changes. Based on this I think this $3.99 tube of Advance Auto Parts-brand Marine Grease is the same as PEAK® Performance Synthetic Marine Grease. Thus these should also be the specs for the Advance Auto Parts grease.

Isn’t research via MSDS great? Digging into these lets one peer behind the labels on lots of products…

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Replacement 1UP USA Hitch Bar

One day after cleaning salt off my 1UP USA bike rack I found that the ball on it was no longer retracting easily, making it hard to get the rack in and out of my hitch. I emailed 1UP USA asking for a few pointers on disassembling the retention mechanism and fixing it, but instead of that they sent a whole new hitch bar.

This evening I disassembled my rack to replace this piece, but then when cleaning the individual parts I found and was able to fix the problem. There is a plastic cap located in the part of the hitch bar that goes furthest towards the front of the vehicle and appears intended to keep from reaching the ball-moving mechanism. If this gets pushed towards the rear of the vehicle it can settle in behind the ball, preventing it from retracting. This was the problem that I had.

With the rack apart I decided to spend time washing the salt off of it, so now it’s sitting in the basement drying. I’ll get some blue marine grease (same as the rack originally used), put it back together, then get back to using it. I really do like the design of this rack. It does a great job of holding bikes in place and it makes it really easy to adjust two bikes to fit nicely while still keeping them centered on the vehicle.

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Maintenance Tasks

Today has included a number of little maintenance tasks. I’m glad they got done and in the big scheme they really aren’t much, but all the research and subsequent installation work seemed to take a bit of time. Thus far today I have…

…gotten an oil and transmission fluid change in my car.
…purchased replaced light bulbs (stop indicator and license plate) in the car.
…acquired and replaced rough service garage door opener bulbs.
…acquired and installed a Roku 2 XS for use while on the trainer.
…chosen and purchased snow tires (w/ wheels and TPMS sensors) for Danielle’s Mazda 3.

Now to relax a bit.

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Almost-Lost Phone

Today I almost lost another phone. While heading out to Addison Oaks I set my phone on the top of the car, put something in the trunk, then apparently forgot the phone on the car before leaving. By the time I reached 23 Mile and Schoenherr I wasn’t sure where my phone was, and thinking I’d left it behind I turned back and looked around the house for it. Being unable to find it I called it, only to hear a ringing outside where my car was.

So, where was it? Just as seen above, sitting on the windshield of my car, down against the wiper, positioned just where I couldn’t see it. (Yes, I had a second camera handy, which is a good thing because I didn’t want to move my phone before I took a picture of it.) Apparently it slid down from the roof at some point, then stayed where it landed even in 50-55 MPH winds and through a couple of stop lights.

I’ve been feeling a bit out of it today and this seemed to be right in line with that. Even riding today just didn’t feel right…

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Coat Hanger Muffler Hanger

After work on Friday I noticed that Danielle’s muffler was hanging off her car a bit more than normal and that the support strap had broken. I finally had a chance to take a look at it this evening, and I ended up hanging it back up using two extra thick coat hanger segments (from hangers for a comforter) to hold it up. I hope (and suspect) that this’ll hold until she gets a new car.

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Black and White Lane Markings on M-59

A couple of days ago while driving on M-59 between M-53 and I-75 I noticed that the white dashed highway lines had been augmented with black rectangles on the distant (furthest away from you) side. I had a few theories about what these may be for, but the reality turned out to be a bit more mundane yet effective: additional marking to increase contrast on areas where sun glare is a problem, particularly on light-colored road surfaces.

This section of road was recently replaced with the new surface being all concrete, so it has a fairly light colored surface. When wet and/or with a bit of glare the markings practically disappear, as the embedded contraflective additives don’t really work, or reflect the same amount of light as the road surface.

I’d originally thought (and somewhat hoped) that these were augmenting existing markings to facilitate machine vision used by autonomous vehicles. Others suggested to me that they may be IR reflective to make markings more visible to night vision equipment. There was also the chance that it was a boondoggle to adjust the lane marker length to some standard.

This question was posed to Ask Metafilter and Facebook, email was sent to MDOT to ask, and I started doing some research. The most conclusive answer I could find was the augmentation of colored (white, in this case) markings to increase their visibility. Specifically, section 3A.05 of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, 2009 Edition, Revision 2 states:

Black may be used in combination with the colors mentioned in the first sentence of Paragraph 1 where a light-colored pavement does not provide sufficient contrast with the markings.


When used in combination with other colors, black is not considered a marking color, but only a contrast-enhancing system for the markings.

I also eventually received a reply from MDOT stating:

The markings are part of a pilot project aimed at helping motorists see pavement markings during certain times of day when the suns glare/reflection is strong. The black outlines the white making the markings more prominent.


As I understand we will be putting more out on MDOT’s road in the next few years in locations where visibility by the sun is diminished.

So, that answers it. These markings are simply to increase contrast and improve visibility against the light colored concrete surface.

UPDATE: A photo of these lane markings can be see in this post.

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Flat (Car) Tire!

En route to Cap N Cork after work I was about to cross Hayes (on 21 Mile) when I heard a thunk similar to a rock hitting my wheel well. Perhaps half a mile I found myself pulling over and getting out of the car to confirm that my tire is flat. A quick change later and I was on my way, but the nail-sized puncture hole will require some patching work. Hopefully Discount Tire or another local shop will be able to sort it out tomorrow. It looks to be a best-case-possible patchable hole.

Since I was out along side the road I had to use the trunk-mounted screw jack. This worked pretty well, except the thread on the main screw is rather fine pitched, which meant it took quite a few turns to get the vehicle off the ground. This is probably a good feature overall because it means that less effort is required to lift the vehicle, but tonight it meant a good bit more time spent out in the cold.

It’s also probably a good thing that I had one of my bicycle tire pumps with me. I checked the spare before putting it on, and it was about 20psi low. Whoops.

(Note that the second, bottom hole in the photo is not damage but instead one of the places where a stud could be fitted. My snow tires are clearly not studded.)

UPDATE: Fixed for free by Discount Tire. From what the guy at the shop said it was a screw, and a broken off part of it was left inside the tire. I suspect the THUNK sound I heard was the outer part of the screw breaking off, and that would then explain the non-immediate deflation.

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