Click and Clack Talk Cars

Friday March 29, 2002

Burning rubber hurts more than just your tires 


Dear Tom and Ray: 


My son, who owns his own car, seems to take pleasure in showing off the power of his engine by spinning his wheels upon takeoff. He says it's harmless fun. I say he is burning rubber and costing himself money. He argues that it's not measurable, but I can see the rubber on the street, so it must be measurable. Can you help me win this argument by telling me how much rubber is actually destroyed every time he "burns rubber" and what it is costing him in tire life and dollars? Thanks. — Allan 


TOM: According to our calculations, Allan, he's burning 0.327815 grams of rubber off each front wheel, and 0.389459 grams off each rear wheel. And at a cost of 1.3 cents per gram of rubber, it's costing him 1.865172 cents every time he peels out. 

RAY: My brother just made all that up. We have no idea what it's costing him to do this, but of course you're right, Allan. It's prematurely wearing out his tires. But the truth is, the tires are the least of his worries. 

TOM: Right. He's hammering the clutch, the transmission, the timing chain or belt, the CV joints – basically every piece of the drive train. We wrote a pamphlet called “10 Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing It,” and jackrabbit starts are No. 1 on the list. Number 1! 

RAY: So you might want to slip one of those pamphlets into his latest copy of Maxim. To get a copy, send $3 (check or money order) and a stamped (57 cents), self-addressed, No. 10 envelope to Ruin, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. 

TOM: Every piece of his drive train is taking a beating when he burns rubber. All of those parts are going to wear out sooner than they otherwise would, and he's going to have to pay for their replacements.  

RAY: And we have a name for this, Allan. It's called "justice." Add to that the fact that he's scaring all of the neighborhood girls and won't get any dates, and I think he's getting about what he deserves.  


Questions that arise from boredom  



Dear Tom and Ray: 


With the recent economic downturn and less work to do, my co-workers and I have found ourselves sitting around our cubicles wondering about various trivial matters. Today, an argument erupted between myself and Scott, in the cubicle next to mine, about how long it takes to make a new car. I argue that they can easily crank out a new pickup truck from start to finish in one day, with the only exception being the time it takes for the painting process. He argues that it takes a couple of days to build a car or truck. Now, keep in mind that this is obviously a different question from how many cars come off the assembly line in one day. We need an answer, and you are our only hope. – Drew 


RAY: It's not an easy question to answer, Drew, because a lot of the parts are preassembled -- like the engine, for instance. But in terms of "putting it together," you're more right than Scott is, Drew. 

TOM: From the beginning of the assembly line to the end, when the vehicle drives off under its own power, it takes between 17 and 31 hours, depending on the efficiency of the plant. 

RAY: The most recent statistics are for 2000, and they show that Nissan is the fastest builder, with an average of 17.3 hours per vehicle. Honda is next, at 19.9; and Toyota is after that, at 21.6. 

TOM: Ford is the fastest domestic manufacturer, with a 25.7-hour average. GM is next, with 26.8; and DiamlerChrysler pulls up the rear with a lopey 31.3 hours per vehicle. 

RAY: Manufacturers are always trying to reduce the time they spend making each vehicle, because that makes the vehicle cheaper to build. Harbour and Associates, the firm that studies this stuff, estimates that Nissan, Honda and Toyota save $500-$700 per car over Ford and GM due to their faster assembly lines. 

TOM: But remember, fastest does not necessarily equal best quality. I mean, my brother and I might be able to build a vehicle in 12 hours. But it would fall apart even faster!  


Bleeding brake  




Dear Tom and Ray: 


I have been a do-it-yourselfer for many years now. None of the cars I presently own has anti-lock brakes. But I will have to buy a new car soon, and most of the cars I am considering come with ABS. I have noticed in my shop manuals that for cars with ABS, they always refer to "special equipment" needed to bleed the brake systems. Does this mean that I won't be able to work on my brakes anymore? Does the word "special" mean "expensive"? – Dave 


TOM: Your interpretive skills are superb, Dave! 

RAY: Actually, you'll still be able to work on your brakes, Dave. Most of the brake parts are exactly the same; the pads, discs and calipers are exactly what you're used to.  

TOM: The only difference would be if you opened the hydraulic system. While most cars with ABS can be bled the normal way -- by opening up the bleeders and pumping the brake pedal -- some ABS-equipped cars can be hooked up to a special (read: expensive) machine and be bled "automatically." 

RAY: The machine will actually activate the ABS pump, which, in effect, "pumps the brake pedal" for you. And that's a nice convenience – especially if you're working alone.  

TOM: But even on the cars we've seen where this is an option, it's not required. So you can still bleed them the old-fashioned way if you want to.  

RAY: Of course, there might be some cars with ABS that can't be bled normally, but we have yet to see one in our shop. 

TOM: So don't give up, Dave. I'm confident that -- in the comfort of your own driveway -- you have everything you need to screw up an ABS-equipped car just as easily as a non-ABS-equipped car.