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Hagerty Employee

Smithology: Who ever saw a refrigerator as pack animal? | Hagerty Media

The internal-combustion engine is remarkable. An alloy box converts a small dose of fuel into a relatively large quantity of work, and for a relatively long time, with relatively little maintenance.

Wonderful article Sam.

Just between us, I talk to machines all the time. 🙂 I've been a machinist and builder for many years. It's been my experience; that if you listen and pay attention, most machines will tell you what's going on. Some are more Cherubic than others, some downright stubborn or demanding, but when you listen, you can often make magic.
On more than one occasion I walked into work and was told; one of the thread grinders was acting up. It didn't want to keep tolerance on threads that were measured in the tenths and hundredths. That's four and five places to the right of the decimal point now. In an hour or so, I would have the machine cranking out parts at a prodigious rate, right on the numbers, with nearly no scrap. Just by listening to what the machine was telling me. Thus surprising my co-workers and making the boss very happy.
Over a lot of years I met a number of other shop guys who also understood what I was talking about. We'd tell stories of guys who thought we were nuts and didn't understand. All of us would smile and try to explain, no preaching, just facts and real figures. Some would scoff and say; "It can't be done like that; the machines can't do that, or the manufacturers say "that won't work". Sometimes, generally with younger guys, who were curious and wanted to learn, they would listen and they'd begin to pick it up. Much like we did from those who taught us. Just passing the torch, down the road.
I have several old cars that I talk to a lot. They all have their own personalities. One, my '64 Chevelle 4-door, has been called a 'Happy Car' by several people. It got the nickname "Happy putt, putt" for that reason. People just smile when it's around. Especially at gas stations and the occasional trip to the Super Market. The car is a bit like an old Labrador; it just lets anybody wander over and pet it and scratch it behind it's ears and coo at it. It just sits there, exuding joy from every surface. And when I turn the key, it starts up and is ready to go putt wherever we want to go. 🙂
So, I understand, where you're coming from, and will keep this just between us. Inanimate objects are just that, inanimate. Well, they are to those who haven't been listening... Thanks again Sam!

P.S. On the DI carbon front. A friend of mine and I were talking about this several years ago and my buddy predicted a carbon build up problem in the future, with those engines. Neither one of us realized it was going to cause a particulate problem like is happening, so we did miss on that. I like the idea that it gives us an excuse for driving in lower gears at higher RPM's because it good for emissions and the long term health of our engines. 🙂
Pit Crew

What a fantastically written piece. Great job Sam.
Intermediate Driver

Beautiful. Sadly I just parted ways with my '19 GTI because of ghosts in the machine that kept illuminating the EPC light and cutting power at the most inopportune times on the racetrack. Even after multiple frustrating returns to the dealer with no resolution or even an idea of what could be causing it, the parting was bittersweet.

Expectations are a reason why a Mk7.5 GTI is not in my driveway currently. I thought about buying a new GTI this year because I could smell the cost-cutting in the Mk8 Golf from across the ocean, the GTI comes highly recommended, and I figured by now VW has ironed out all the bugs on that platform. Yet the GTI did not live up to expectations. The GTI just felt like a nice, faultless car that would acquit itself well on a good road, not the 4-door sports car I was expecting it to feel like.

Between that, and the fact that you have to have a sunroof - the Achilles heel of the Mk7 Golf - if you want the nice interior, I crossed the GTI off my list.

Sam, wonderful. Like you and Swamibob I talk to my little Japanese (in English) Truck which had a
41st Birthday last month. And similar to your Labrador simile when I take it to the Market or the girls do the same it gets loved by all the locals. It's not very nice now, I keep meaning to make it nice (the
road to hell is paved with good intentions) and still it sits, anxious to go somewhere, very slowly, it's a small engine along with the eccentricities of its age and time.
Many Blessings.

I was going to say the Earnhardt plate pissed it off, that’s why it ran bad. But only when the perpetrator drove it.

Very well written.
Intermediate Driver

Yep, talking to those machines does help, I do it all the time, sometimes cussing at them, sometimes thanking them!!
New Driver

Anyone who knows anything about cars knows that a car runs better after a day of careful washing and waxing. Who says cars don't have feelings.

Car detailers have a saying: "a clean car rides better." Makes absolutely no sense, but I have noticed it myself.

Reminded me of the decarbonizing instructions in my Sprite/Midget Bentley manual (remove the head, scrape it off). Did a lot of things to that car, but never got that deep.
Advanced Driver

I drive my '92 Civic VX (250k miles on the original mill) like my grandma Wilma drove her '56 Ford sedan to the grocery store, keeping the rpm below 2000. In this way I coax 40 mpg *around town* out of the 1.5L VTEC engine. But, about once a week, on an uphill freeway on ramp, I wind it up to 4000 rpm in the first three gears, well past the 2500 rpm triggering of the secondary valves opening. I figured it would keep the valvetrain honest. Maybe I was onto something?
Advanced Driver

My first drive on the Autobahn in 1986 was in a USDM Mk2 GTI. It worked very well in that application.
Advanced Driver

If none of this was true, we would never read The Little Engine That Could to our children. Wonderful piece Sam!
Advanced Driver

Although I care nothing for NASCAR, I do, however appreciate the color coordination of your "Dale" tag. It does give the car a friendly vibe! Enjoyed reading about how we react to inanimate objects and your problem resolution! 🙂

Saturday AM, coffee is helping me concentrate on Sam's recent entertaining intellect. I am thusly inspired. More "lightly relevant points":
1966, I am a high school senior and part time service writer at a Buick/Pontiac dealer. A welcome task is road testing customer cars for quality and additional services. An Electra 225 convertible (deuce and a quarter) with a 455 and dual four barrels is my victim. This thing will certainly run like a bear with the fresh tune. Not for long. WOT dislodges carbon, fouling the plugs and enraging Pete the mechanic who must change them out again.

1986 Ruidoso NM HD motorcycle rally and as a factory rep, I endur biker rage from V-Twin ownership experience. A common complaint is disfunction similar to Sam's GTI. Carbon disbelief is also common "I've been pounding the interstate at XX MPH this thing ain't fouled". Off comes the air cleaner and my "tool" is a pump-spray of water. Revving the engine and spraying the carburetor throat results in a thermal shock that releases the carbon through unrestricted "pipes". Amusing myself, I blend the water with black coffee to create a little magic.

2001 I am service managing at a Yamaha/Suzuki dealership and appreciate the diversity of engine configurations. Well excepting that some of the air cooled V-Twins are a familiar PIA; carbon again. Yamaha has a chemical solution somewhat more sophisticated than water or coffee. As a non-chemist I speculate the chemical ingredients are something like Sea Foam. In extreme cases, the procedure requires application through the throttle body in volume sufficient to kill the engine. After an over-night soak, with the "pipes" discretely aimed, and the wet carbon is fired into the eather.

i recall seeing a couple fellows de-carbonizing their car engine as follows: drove up to the lake shore, engine is well up to temperature, one inside the car, the other with a small scoop for lake water..... air filter off, buddy revs the snot out of the engine, lake water buddy slowly pours water down the intake. all i could think of is if they poured the water in too fast, they could wind up bending a rod when when piston at high velocity meets almost in-compressible water volume in the combustion chamber. they stalled it a few times, put the air cleaner back on, and drove away....
yes i speak to machines all the time as well, not always nicely

The Dale plate is a good thing. It is a great way to assimilate into a new area in part the South and Midwest. My wife has a Earnhardt Chevy Newton NC plate on her suv.
She is good with it.

How can your wife not know who Dale was? His death alone was a State Funeral that got more coverage than Gerald Ford. We stopped at work to watch and it was on e dry network live.

The VW carbon thing has been an issue for a long time. Dump the recommended cleaner in on a regular basis and use the approved gas. It will do more good than driving in 3rd gear to Detroit.


Ok the plate did not cause the carbon issue. VW did. No I don’t talk to cars I may curse at one but never a conversation. See cars have no feelings or ears so it really has little effect. Save the conversation for children we all spend too little time with as it is. If we talked to them more the manual transmission would not be like a T Rex. 

Advanced Driver

"Lip rug"? I get it, but had never heard it before. Seems disrespectful of Dale, Sr.

I am happy that Ms. Smith decided to keep it.

I was barely able to afford my first car, a four-year-old 1954 Ford Skyliner. I named it "Ooby-dow." I had to sell it after six months to pay the traffic tickets. I stopped naming my cars after that, but I still talk to them. Like my children, my cars ignore my comments.
New Driver

Sam Smith must be the illegitimate son of Peter Egan because he embodies the same poetic spirit towards all things automotive. Seems he’s gone through the same thing as me with his GTI.

Not having the budget for multiple cars, this has been the perfect all-rounder for me. Practical and fun. Especially now with a mild tune from Unitronic thanks to my mechanic at Tunedub in Calgary.

I haven’t driven much during the pandemic except to run errands and when I took my 2015 GTI out for a spirited run the EPC light came on. My trusty mechanic (non-dealer) diagnosed a faulty waste gate and cracked boost pipe. After I got it back it did some weird things such as fluctuating revs and it wouldn’t go past 4000 rpm. Then I stopped and restarted the car and it was fine. My mechanic said it sounds like it needed to clean itself out (carbon buildup).

Then I read this article so this morning I took it out on the highway for half an hour in third gear at 4500 rpm for the Italian tuneup to de-carbon the engine. Seems fine now.

Thanks Sam for another great (and timely) article. And happy Father’s Day!

And yes, I sometimes talk to my car. It feels like a trusted friend - except when it breaks down.

Your problem is all too common with DI cars so when you said you gave it elevated revs for awhile and it fixed it I figured that would do it. It's a modified DI Italian tuneup. Go carbon go!
Intermediate Driver

What a great read. The cookie part was my favorite. I must say, this is a bit why I dont understand journalists praising the GTI and telling everyone to buy it when it has some serious design/reliability issues. A few of my friends have had Mk7/7.5 GTI and all got rid of them after numerous issues with relatively low mileage. The plastic oil pan also kind of tells you all you need to know.
Pit Crew

I bought my 2015 MK7 GTI as a CPO car with 33k miles on it. It was a lease that was used as a mom car around town. I still swear it ran significantly better after my first road trip with it to Tail of the Dragon. My buddies and I did around 800 miles of driving around the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. On the trip back to Kentucky, I got my best ever fuel economy.

Flashbacks to driving my now wife’s 2006 A3 2.0T at 4,500rpm down the freeway at every opportunity. Didn’t seem to do much, so when I bought a used BMW 335i, the first thing I did was pay for a carbon clean. That worked wonders.
I thought by now all makers had fixed the DI flaw by adding a port injector to avoid the build up, but evidently not VAG…