Rich’s Repair Ramblings #6: Electrical 102, The Test Light

Rich’s Repair Ramblings #6: Electrical 102, The Test Light

Last time, we covered battery basics. Picking up from there, we will presume that your battery is charged, and the terminal connections are clean and tight. Santa has granted your biggest wish, a 12V test light! (If you got coal, you can pick one up for $15 or less.) Now you ask, how does it work, and how can you use it to diagnose an electrical problem on your old sled? Test lights are simple and effective, but first we need to understand electrical flow.

For an electrical device to work, electrical current must flow from the battery positive terminal, to the device or “load” (light bulb, dash gauge, motor, whatever), and back to the battery negative cable. The “hot” side of this path is from the positive terminal to the device; the “cold” side is from the device back to the negative terminal. Each device has a dedicated wire on the hot side; but the metal chassis and/or body of the car is used to conduct current (“juice”) on the cold side back to the battery. This is why there isn’t a separate wire for each and every electrical device running back to the negative battery terminal, which would double the size of the wiring harness. You only need to ground the load on the cold side to complete the circuit.

A switch in the circuit allows an intentional interruption, so that the device can be turned on or off. Any unintentional interruption in this flow from positive back to negative, such as a shortcut [“short circuit”] or a break in the path [“open”], will prevent the device from operating. Most circuits include fuses; the fuse acts as a fail-safe in case of a short, so that the fuse “blows” before the device can be harmed.

A test light lets you check for current at any point along the hot side of this path. It’s a go/no-go check: if the test light illuminates, you have current; if it does not, you don’t. For much electrical fault-tracing on our old cars, this is all you need. The test light has a sharp pointed probe on one end; a light bulb inside its clear case; and an alligator clip on a wire at the other end. With the clip attached to any ground point, the test light bulb will illuminate if the probe touches any positive or “hot” 12V source. Let’s see what the test light can do. (The following applies to 12V negative-ground systems only.)

Start at the battery to become familiar with the test light’s operation: attach the clip to the negative battery post; then touch the pointy end to the battery positive post; the test light should illuminate. If it does not: are you sure the battery is charged? Are the clip and the probe actually touching the posts? Are you sure the test light works? Try a different battery if necessary.

Test light clip on battery negative, probe on battery positive, test light lights

Once that test is done, move the alligator clip to a ground point other than the battery negative post. You may ask “how do I know what is ground?” This is a valid question, and it can be a matter of trial and error. In theory, any unpainted metal surface on the engine, body, or chassis should be ground. Try the engine block, an unpainted fender washer, or a bolt along the firewall. In each case, after attaching the clip, touch the probe to battery positive. If it lights up, you have found a good ground. Avoid anything that might be insulated: paint, rubber, and plastic will not conduct electricity well enough for our purposes. So avoid hose clamps, plastic shields, and any painted surface. (Guys with Corvettes and Avantis play by a different set of rules with their fiberglass bodies).

Test light clip on fender bolt, probe on battery positive, test light lights

Moving away from the battery, let’s say that a device on your car doesn’t work, and you want to check the fuse. A test light allows you to check the fuse without removing it. This also serves as a preliminary check of the circuit entering and leaving the fusebox. NOTE: you need to know if the ignition key must be “on” for the circuit to be live. I confess that I’ve tested circuits which I thought were dead only to realize that the ignition was off and needed to be on!

Exposed metal areas at top of fuse allow test light probe to touch

With the test light’s clip attached to a good known ground (re-check at the battery positive if you’ve moved the clip), touch the probe to either end of the fuse. (In the photo with the modern blade-type fuse, there are exposed metal points in the top which allow this.) The test light should light at both sides. If it lights on one side and not the other, there is a good chance that the fuse is bad. Try a new fuse. If the test light doesn’t light on either side, it is more likely that there’s an open circuit in the wiring to the fuse. Remove the fuse and touch the probe to the fuse box terminals one at a time. Power at one terminal means that you’re getting juice to that terminal. Lack of power at both terminals means that there’s a break in the circuit between battery positive and the fuse box.

Clip on fender bolt, probe on fuse, lit test light proves current is at fusebox

You may need your vehicle’s wiring diagram for the next step. Find a wire which feeds the circuit you’re testing. With the pointy end of the probe, pierce the insulation until the tip is touching copper. BE CAREFUL! That tip is very sharp, and I’ve stabbed myself more than once doing this. For practice, try a working circuit so you get a feel for how far to insert the sharp probe. If the test light lights, you have juice in the wire. If it doesn’t, you’re starting to narrow down the problem.

Probing red wire through insulation, lit test light proves there is power in wire

All photographs copyright © 2023 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.




Simeone Museum Demo Day, March 2023

If my own blog posts are to be believed, I have visited the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia five times: October 2011, October 2012, December 2015, June 2016, and February 2022. This most recent Saturday, March 25, 2023, can now be counted as visit #6. Any visit to the Simeone, with its collection of historic racing and sports cars, is special. Saturday was a Demo Day, and Demo Days are extra special because a small theme-based collection of vehicles is chosen, and they are taken outside to the back lot so that attendees may delight to the sights and sounds of them motorvatin’ (a Chuck Berry coinage) under their own power.

Crowd surrounds cars before show begins

The theme this time was “Sebring ‘65”, an infamous race because of the deluge which caused cars to plow through what was described as up to 8 inches of standing water on the track. For this Demo, the museum selected its ’64 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe and ’66 Ford GT40 Mk II. The program listed the ’63 Corvette Grand Sport, but in lieu of that, a stock ’66 Corvette 427 roadster was chosen (nice to have such illustrious machinery as backup). Last but not least, on loan from Luigi Chinetti Jr. was a ’63 Ferrari 250P. (The Ferrari was not part of the driving portion of the day’s festivities – one can only presume that the loan arrangement excluded such an option.)


My friend Terry, whose idea it was to visit on this particular Demo Day, accompanied me. We arrived about 30 minutes before showtime, and to my pleasant surprise, all four cars were arranged at the front of the seating area; they were not roped off (as I’ve seen done previously) so guests were free to get up close and personal with the cars. Soon enough, the program started and we were treated to a slide show, including technical specs of the cars and film footage of the actual 1965 Sebring 12-hour race. The variety of vehicles racing that day, American and foreign, was huge, and the race stood out because 1st and 2nd place overall were taken by two American teams. The Chevy-powered Chaparral of Jim Hall and Hap Sharp came in first, followed by a GT40 driven by Ken Miles and Bruce McLaren. To Enzo’s chagrin (he had earlier threatened to boycott the race), his 250LM finished third.


After the slide show, it was Ford vs. Chevy in the back lot. I should not have been amazed that all three cars started up on first attempt. They were slowly driven out of the building, and once on pavement, the drivers picked up a little bit of speed, but not too much! These vehicles are too valuable to put them at risk. (The Cobra Daytona, in particular, as one of the most singularly-famous cars in the world, must have an incalculable monetary value.)

After the show, we toured the rest of the static display within the museum, and promised each other that this would not be the last time we’d visit the Simeone in 2023.

All photographs copyright © 2023 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Rich’s Repair Ramblings #5: Electrical 101, The Battery


 This article is the first in what will be a continuing series about our old car’s electrical systems. I’ve worked with automotive 12 volt (12V) electrics both as a professional and as a hobbyist for many years, and I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve also been bemused by my fellow technicians, many of whom put me to shame with their mechanical know-how, who plead ignorance or fear of their car’s electrics. It is my hope that these articles will encourage you to tackle some simple fault-tracing and repair on your own jalopies, and feel comfortable doing it.

Let’s start with the battery, the ‘heart’ of your vehicle’s electrical system. If your collectible is a U.S.-made car that pre-dates the 1950s, it most likely has a 6 volt (6V) electrical system. Domestic cars switched from 6V to 12V systems in the mid-1950s, and also almost universally changed to a negative ground system. Some foreign cars stayed with 6V and/or positive ground systems through the 1960s. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to stay with 12V negative ground systems here, but much of what is covered is applicable to any vehicular electrical system.

Flooded-cell battery. Note electrolyte caps and hold-down clamp.


There are two types of batteries commonly found in today’s cars: the ‘flooded cell’ (wet) battery, and the AGM (absorbed glass mat) battery. The flooded cell battery is the older technology, and it requires checking the water level (really the electrolyte level) and topping it up as necessary. Water is ‘consumed’ as the electrolyte is released as gas through vents during the charging process. If an owner allows the electrolyte level to drop too low, the battery might not hold a charge and could be ruined.

Modern wet batteries have evolved into ‘low maintenance’ or ‘no maintenance’ versions, which theoretically don’t need top-ups. Older flooded cell batteries have removable caps to add water; low- or no-maintenance batteries have caps which require a little more effort to access, if they have caps at all.

The AGM battery holds its electrolyte in glass mats, which minimizes consumption and makes it truly maintenance-free. AGM batteries are completely sealed (no caps) and leakproof, and therefore can be mounted in almost any position. They also tend to be longer-lasting, albeit a bit more expensive than wet batteries.

AGM battery in my Alfa is mounted sideways in trunk.

Whether flooded or AGM, a 12V battery consists of 6 cells; in a fully charged battery, each cell is 2.2V, so 2.2 x 6 = 13.2V. In reality, a static car battery will usually measure around 12.5V. The battery has a positive (marked +) post and negative (marked -) post protruding from the top of the case (GM used side-case-mounted battery terminals for years). A heavy battery cable, typically red for the positive side and black for the negative side, is attached to each post with a large clamp. A hold-down clamp keeps the battery in its place while driving.


The following recommended battery maintenance steps should be followed for ANY car, old or new. For our classics, which are driven much more infrequently, these checks are even more critical, and will help ensure that your collector car battery is always up to the task of starting the engine and letting you take your buggy out for a spin.

  • Check the electrolyte

If you have a flooded cell battery, remove the battery caps and check the water level at least twice a year. I recommend spring and fall; every three months is even better. The electrolyte level should reach the top of the ‘ring’ so that the level looks like an oval. USE DISTILLED, NOT TAP, WATER. Buy a jug of it at ShopRite for 89 cents and keep it in the garage. Don’t overfill the battery. If you accidentally overfill and cause a spill, wipe it up with paper towels (wear gloves to avoid acid burns; even the mild electrolyte solution can sting) and discard the towels.

If the battery frequently needs topping up, the case may be cracked. Check along the sides and bottom for signs of corrosion from spilled electrolyte; a cracked case cannot be repaired. If the same cell is always low and all the others are OK, that cell may have sulfated; you may need to replace the battery.

  • Clean the battery top

I began my career working on fuel-injected Volvos, which is where I learned that a dirty battery top (covered with dust, grease, oil, whatever) can cause current flow between the positive and negative posts. The resultant voltage loss is enough to disrupt the electronic fuel injection. Cleaning the battery top would sometimes fix a poorly-running car!

Since then, I’ve been fanatic about ensuring that my cars’ battery tops are clean. One tried-and-true method is with a solution of baking soda and water. If it’s not too dirty, any mild cleaner might do. I’ve used Windex, Brakleen, or Simple Green. You don’t need a lot; again, use paper towels, wear gloves, and throw the towels away. The goal is a clean, and dry, battery top.

Note the start of corrosion at base of terminal clamp
  • Tighten the battery hold-down

On a rally many years ago, I was driving my ’68 Mustang while following a friend who was in his Austin-Healey. He hustled it at speed around a corner, immediately after which, it stalled. Dead. No crank, no nothing. I pulled up behind him to assist. By this time, he had the hood open, and it was obvious to me that the battery wasn’t there. “Ron, where’s the battery?” I asked. He replied “in the trunk”. We both saw it as soon as the trunk lid was popped: during the tight right-hander, the unsecured battery flopped over, yanking the negative cable clear off its post at the same time.

You may or may not be rallying your car, but the battery is supposed to remain securely in place. All cars have some sort of battery hold-down. Check yours. If it’s missing, replace it. If it’s loose, tighten it (but not too tight, which could crack the case). By the way, bungee cords are a poor substitute; purchase a proper hold-down. Ron and I both thank you.

  • Clean and tighten the posts and cable terminals

This one is the most important maintenance tip, and it’s also a very neglected one. We will get into electrical flow in a future article, but suffice to state that for your car’s electrical system to deliver peak performance, all connections must be clean and tight.

Battery terminals build up corrosion for a number of reasons: engine compartment dirt, arcing from dissimilar metals, electrolyte seepage. Whatever the cause, this corrosion will interfere with consistent electrical flow out of the battery and to all the electrical devices in your car. It is imperative to clean and tighten these connections on a regular basis.

Simple battery maintenance tools and supplies: petroleum jelly, brushes, dielectric grease

Start by removing both battery terminals. ON A NEGATIVE GROUND SYSTEM, ALWAYS REMOVE THE NEGATIVE CABLE FIRST, AND REINSTALL IT LAST. This will prevent possible short circuits at a ‘live’ positive terminal. Clean the battery post and both inside and outside of the cable terminals with a stiff brush (you can pick up steel or brass-bristled brushes for about a buck apiece). Use a cleaning solvent as recommended above.

REINSTALL THE POSITIVE CABLE FIRST, THEN THE NEGATIVE CABLE. Clamp them tight, then smear petroleum jelly or dielectric grease on the terminal tops. The aftermarket offers plastic “battery terminal toppers” which snap on top of the terminals. If your engine compartment is particularly messy, consider these as extra protection. They provide the added benefit of helping to prevent accidental short-circuits.

Topping up the electrolyte, washing the battery top, and cleaning and tightening the terminals are all simple maintenance steps that any vehicle owner can accomplish. Even if you’ve never wrenched on your own car before, you can do this!





Richard’s Rearview Mirror, an auto industry recap for the week ending Mar. 18, 2023

After this post, Richard’s Review Mirror column will continue, albeit on a slightly less regular basis. It will also occasionally include stories on the classic car collecting hobby. 


GM states that the AI software could be used, for example, to explain certain vehicle functions (in lieu of reading the owner’s manual) or could help integrate functionality with other devices.



The new KIA EV is the first all-electric 3-row SUV to come to market. Details are scarce right now, but photos show a cavernous space with 2nd and 3rd row seats folded (keeping in mind that there is no ICE drivetrain to take up space).



Rivian had signed a deal with Amazon whereby the online retail giant had agreed to purchase 100% of Rivian’s commercial truck output. However, Amazon now states that it intends to purchase only 10,000 EV vans this year. Rivian wants to get out of the exclusivity clause so that it can sell trucks to other customers.



Porsche announced that the next generation Cayenne will be available as a pure battery-electric EV, alongside ICE and hybrid options. It will launch in Europe in 2026 and in the U.S. in 2027.



Consultancy firm LMC Automotive is projecting that as new vehicle supply improves and slowly returns to something closer to what it was, new car pricing will follow by dropping back to pre-pandemic levels.



The new model, the RZ450e, shares its platform with the Toyota bZ4x. It is on sale in the U.S. in limited quantities at present. Prices start around $60,000, and the spindle grille remains, even though this was a ripe opportunity to eliminate it.



Vw is claiming to be shooting for what they call an affordable EV (€ 25,000, or $27,000) within two years. It would be sized below the existing VW ID.3 EV. A released VW illustration shows the name ID.2ALL.



When Nissan launched its Ariya EV, the company had planned to produce close to 150,000 units a year. However, various manufacturing issues and parts delays have cast grave doubts on Nissan reaching that number. Current projections claim that the actual number will be “significantly below” 1000,000 units.



NHTSA’s most recent numbers show that about 10% of all driving fatalities are related to distracted drivers. However, the National Distracted Driving Coalition claims that NHTSA’s methodology, which pre-dates extensive smartphone use, is outdated, and the true number is closer to 25% to 30%.



You read that correctly. CarFax has the ability to track and record the number of stolen cats, and for 2022, they report as many as 153,000 were stolen. The top 5 vehicles which lost their converters is not a surprise: it’s the Ford F-150, Honda Accord, Toyota Prius, Honda CR-V, and Ford Explorer. The SUVs are all on the list because they sit higher off the ground, making access easier. And the Prius is a frequent target because its cats have a higher mineral content.



Porsche announced that they will begin to manufacture replacement crankcases for ‘60s and ‘70s era 911s. Up until now, new replacements have not been available from any source. No word on pricing, but given the market values of these air-cooled cars in the collector car marketplace, Porsche can probably charge whatever they want and can expect to get it.


Richard’s Rearview Mirror, an auto industry recap for the week ending Mar. 11, 2023


In what is its 5th price adjustment so far this year, Tesla dropped the prices on its two most expensive models, the Model S sedan and the Model X utility vehicle. The change affects U.S. market vehicles, with Model S prices cut by $5,000, and Model X prices by $10,000. The two vehicles comprise a very small percentage of Tesla’s sales in the States, with the less expensive Model 3 sedan and Model Y utility vehicle accounting for the bulk.



The VW Group, which includes Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, and other makes, reported its 2022 global financial results. The combined marques sold just under 8.5 million vehicles, which included almost 600,000 EVs. Boosted by sales of higher-priced models, VW reported a net income of €16 billion ($17 billion), up 2.6% from the previous year.



During its Investor Day presentations earlier this month, Tesla announced that future vehicles, perhaps starting with the soon-to-be-released CyberTruck, will abandon 12V systems, which have been the industry standard since the 1950s (unless you drove a Beetle). The announcement included a plea to the rest of the industry to join Tesla in this switch, which may not be so far-fetched. A number of hybrids, including my 2023 Volvo V60, run on a combined 12V / 48V system.



Based on two reports it has received claiming that the steering wheels in Tesla Model Y vehicles became detached while driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took the first step in launching a probe into the cause. According to NHTSA, both vehicles were missing the bolt which secures the wheel to the steering column.



Ford recently surveyed F-150 pickup owners, asking how the trucks were used, and what type of vehicle was replaced by their new pickups. Lightning EV owners reported a higher percentage of usage for home improvement projects and for camping compared to F150 ICE owners. Over 50% of Lightning purchasers replaced a non-pickup, while that was true for only 1/3 of ICE F-150 buyers. In my opinion, these results squash any naysayers who may claim that the Lightning “isn’t as good as a real pickup truck” (not sure what’s not real about it). To Ford’s credit, the Lightning is capturing a large number of buyers who up until now may not have had a pickup on their shopping list.



Car & Driver magazine reported a discovery that in three separate cases, with three different EVs, the cars became inoperable during routine recharging. In all the incidents, the vehicles were being recharged at an Electrify America public charging station. It happened to an F-150 Lightning, a Chevrolet Bolt, and a Rivian R1T. Owners reported hearing a large boom (according to the story, possibly the sound of a circuit breaker tripping) after which the vehicles would not power up and needed to be towed. The details are too lengthy to get into here, but you can read the C&D story at this link.



VW got some negative publicity recently, when a VW Atlas was carjacked with a child inside the vehicle. Law enforcement wanted to use the car’s vehicle tracking software, but the vendor was slow to respond to the request, replying that the owner’s subscription to the service wasn’t paid for. (The story ended happily with the child rescued unharmed.) In response to the pushback, VW will offer its Carnet service free for 5 years for 2020-2022 vehicles which are equipped with the software.



VW, which had previously announced plans for EV battery factories throughout Europe, is backpedaling. Executives with the German auto maker have realized that the IRA makes the idea of battery plants in the U.S. a much more attractive proposition, and VW is looking to the EU to possibly come out with its own version of the IRA. Expect similar stands from other European automobile manufacturers.



BMW released its 2022 financial results: while vehicle sales at 2.4 million units were down 4.8% compared to the previous year, other results were positive, with the company posting a profit of €18.5 billion ($19.8 billion) on revenue of €142 billion ($151.8 billion), respective increases of 49% and 28%.


Rich’s Repair Ramblings #4: Starting a Barn Find


Barn finds are everywhere! They’re fascinating because they’re the fantasy of something that’s been untouched for many years, waiting to be rediscovered and brought back to life. Perhaps you saw a classified ad for a barn find; or there’s one in YOUR barn to reawaken from its slumber. Either way, starting the engine in a car which hasn’t run in decades helps verify its mechanical condition. If you get it started, you gain a better sense of how much restoration work is needed.

Here’s a list of items to bring when you arrive: a mat/creeper, flashlight, masking tape, marking pen, shop vacuum, container of fresh gasoline, empty fuel container, siphon device, carb cleaner, starting fluid, fully charged car battery, fire extinguisher, and rags. Tools should include wrenches and sockets to fit the crank pulley bolt, spark plugs, and battery terminals, plus ratchet wrenches, extensions, screwdrivers, pliers, and hammers.

Some of the essential items to bring to the barn

Before attempting to fire her up, eyeball the entire car front to rear, looking for two things: one, assurance that it hasn’t been partially disassembled while stored; and two, evidence that varmints haven’t taken their toll. There’s no point in a start attempt if the intake manifold is missing, or if critters have chewed the engine compartment wiring harness! If tires are flat or brakes are seized, worry about that later. This initial effort will focus ONLY on getting the long-dormant engine to run.

If everything looks intact, try to turn the engine over by hand. If you’re lucky, a snug fan belt might provide enough tension for you to manually move the crank. It’s more likely, though, that you’ll need a wrench on the front pulley. Find that size socket, and using your longest breaker bar, try to turn the engine. If it won’t budge, remove the spark plugs (label the plug wires for correct reassembly). Some recommend a squirt of oil in each cylinder. If it’s so stuck that it needs oil, it should sit and soak for several hours or overnight. But try it again. With the plugs out, you’re not fighting compression. You’re trying to confirm that the crankshaft, pistons and valves will move.

Don’t let the decrepit exterior dissuade you from trying to start it

Pop off the distributor cap to watch the points open and close. Clean and adjust them if necessary. Check the plugs you’ve removed and clean them. If you know this car’s engine well, you might have a correct spare set of plugs with you. In either case, install the cleaned or new plugs, and put the wires and cap back. While under the hood, check the air filter (a favorite place for squirrels to store nuts). At a minimum, shake it clean. If you have a shop vac, vacuum the air cleaner assembly. Pull the engine dipstick – is there oil in there? Don’t worry too much about its color, just make sure you have enough in the crankcase.

Turn your attention to the fuel. Old gasoline is the #1 reason why a dormant engine won’t start. Untreated gasoline has a shelf life of 6 months, so if older than that, drain it. A best case scenario is finding a tank with a drain plug. Place your empty container under it, and remove the plug. Be prepared for bad-smelling gel to drip out. Also be prepared for an environmentally safe way to dispose of it. If there’s no drain plug, you can try to siphon it out. If you’re able to drain the tank, add several gallons of fresh fuel to it. If you can’t get the old fuel out, consider a temporary way to connect your fresh fuel to a line feeding the fuel pump. It could be as simple as a fuel hose on the suction side of the pump inserted in your gas can. If the fuel filter looks grimy, consider bypassing it for now. Don’t even try starting an engine with old fuel.

If a battery is in place, we can be almost certain that it’s completely discharged, so you can’t jump it. Disconnect the terminals, clean them, and hook up the fresh battery you brought (you DID bring a 6V for this ’52 Ford, yes?). Get the polarity correct. Are there ignition keys? Good. We are close to making our attempt. A mechanically sound engine only needs air, fuel, and spark to start. If the air filter isn’t clogged, you’ll have air. You figured out a way to get fresh fuel to the pump. Spray some carb cleaner on the carb, then a little starting fluid. Turn the key to “on”. Do any electricals work? If horn or lights do, that can be verification that the wiring is OK. We’re ready. Turn the key to “start” (or push the starter button).

Engine compartment looks crusty but intact; worth a try to start it

It should crank (after all, you hand cranked it, and you have a fresh battery properly connected). If it won’t crank, you may have a wiring problem from the ignition switch to the starter, or a bad starter. If it cranks but makes no attempt to fire, have a helper pull one plug wire and hold it near ground – do you see a spark? If not, check your ignition connections (coil & distributor). If you have crank, and have spark, try a SMALL amount of gasoline into the carb. HAVE SOMEONE NEARBY WITH THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER. If it starts and stalls, there’s blockage somewhere in your fuel routing, so check that.

If you’ve got air, fuel, and spark all lined up, fingers crossed, it should start. Congratulations! Depending on the car’s overall condition, you may not want to idle the engine more than a few moments. Next, you’ll need to figure out how to drag it home. However, you successfully brought a ‘barn find’ engine back to life!


All photographs copyright © 2023 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Richard’s Rearview Mirror, an auto industry recap for the week ending Mar. 4, 2023


For the last few years, the AAA (American Automobile Association) has been conducting an annual survey of consumer attitudes toward “automated driving”. The most recent survey, results of which were released last week, showed a marked increase in the percentage of drivers who are afraid of fully automated vehicles. The number jumped 13%, from 55% in 2022 to 68% this year. Yet many are supportive of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) in their cars, such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and emergency braking. The AAA survey shows that there is confusion among drivers in distinguishing between ADAS-equipped vehicles and fully autonomous vehicles, leading to some level of mistrust in them.



In spite of more and more safety systems in modern automobiles, the number of pedestrians killed on roadways in 2021 was the highest it has been in 40 years. Additionally, the first six months of 2022 resulted in 3,434 pedestrian lives lost, a 5% increase from 2021. Highway traffic experts blame a number of factors, including more aggressive driving, heavier vehicles, and roadway and sidewalk infrastructure which favors vehicle speed over pedestrian safety.



The Ford Motor Company, having stopped all F-150 Lightning EV pickup production several weeks ago because of an unspecified battery issue, announced that Lightning production will resume on March 13, although the company has not as of yet stated any details about the problem or what was done to resolve it.



Elon Musk and a team of executives held what they billed as an Investor Day meeting on March 1, announcing plans to cut costs, build a factory in Mexico, and streamline operations. However, those (i.e., Wall Street) who were hoping for big product news such as a new, lower-priced EV, or more details about the soon-to-be-released CyberTruck, were left disappointed, and the drop in stock value reflected that disappointment.



FSD, or “Full Self-Driving”, is a Tesla option which costs up to $15,000 above the cost of the vehicle itself. A group of Tesla shareholders has sued the company, claiming that they were misled, both by the promise of “SAE Level 4” autonomous driving which in reality is Level 2, and by the failure of Tesla to reveal certain inherent dangers in FSD.



Rivian, the all-EV manufacturer which builds the R1T pickup and R1S sport utility, reported that it lost $1.7 billion in the 4th quarter of 2022, bringing calendar year ’22 losses to $6.8 billion. Yet the company hopes to produce 50,000 vehicles in 2023, which would be about twice its 2022 total. While the company claims that demand for its trucks remains strong, its primary objective for this year will be, like so many other auto manufacturers, to drive down costs. Down the road, Rivian plans to put up a new plant in GA to produce two smaller and presumably more affordable models, the R2T and R2S.



The consulting firm J. D. Power has released its 3rd annual “Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Ownership Study”. While the survey continued to segment vehicles into premium and mass-market segments, the ownership focus changed this year to first-time EV purchasers. In the premium segment, the Rivian R1T pickup came out on top, with the Tesla Model 3 in 2nd. The Model 3 was in first place the previous two years. The Mini Cooper Electric ranked 1st among mass-market models, beating out the 2nd place Kia EV6. The Kia Niro EV was on top the previous two years.



VW announced that it has chosen SC as the location for its new U.S. manufacturing plant, where the Scout EVs will be built. The company will invest $2 billion in the operation, which will bring around 4,000 jobs to the area. Production could begin in 2026, with VW hoping to churn out up to 200,000 Scout vehicles annually.



Rumors continue to swirl that GM is planning to extend the Corvette as its own brand, coming out with a 4-door EV followed by a crossover EV, both named “Corvette”. Instead of sharing a platform with other GM EVs, these vehicles will use a platform unique to them, and tuned more for performance. Before you write your scathing letters to GM, know that the 2-door ICE Corvette is intended to continue, at least for now.



Vietnamese EV maker Vinfast delivered its first 45 vehicles to U.S. customers last week. Further, the company announced a drop in its published lease price. The monthly number has decreased from $599 (in January) to $399 (on Monday) to $274 (via messages sent to those who paid a deposit). Initial deliveries are scheduled only in California for now.



Fisker announced plans to begin deliveries of their Ocean EV in 2023. The Ocean, which was shown in prototype form at the 2020 CES and then in final form at the 2021 L.A. Auto Show, has obviously been in the works for some time. The company claims that the base model, the Ocean Sport, will start as low as $37,499. Fisker, relying on Magna as a manufacturing partner, plans to build 42,000 units of the Ocean this year.



The U.S. Postal Service announced that it will buy over 9,000 Ford E-Transit vehicles, and will install 14,000 charging stations at its post office facilities across the country. Deliveries of the Ford E-vans will begin later this year. To fulfill a shorter-term need, the USPS will also be buying the same number of Ram ProMaster ICE vehicles. No word on whether consumers would have access to the chargers (“let me drop off this package for mailing and top up the F-150 Lightning while I’m there”). Now that I think about it, allowing customer access to these chargers could put the USPS back in the black….



After Tesla slashed its prices, giving rise to concerns of an all-out price war, Ford cut its EV prices, but GM and VW said they would not follow suit. Now other companies have also spoken up. Jens Puttfarcken, the head of Audi Europe, said that Audi will adjust prices only when it is right for Audi to do so. And Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath told analysts that Polestar will not play the price game, as it plans to stay in the luxury EV segment and will not chase volume like mass-market manufacturers.



The EU had scheduled a vote on approving a new law effectively banning the sale of ICE cars after 2035, but that vote has now been put on hold. Germany wants the EU to consider allowing the use of synthetic fuels; it’s suspected that Germany, a country well-vested in automotive manufacturing, wants to afford some protection for its legacy auto makers. Italy, which had earlier declared it would not support the total ban of ICE vehicles, also supports the use of renewable fuels.



Many new vehicles are being produced without an AM radio. The trend has been growing for years among EVs, and now, even some hybrids and ICE cars lack AM radio. (My 2023 Volvo V60, which is a mild hybrid, has no AM radio, and frankly, I miss it. For up-to-date traffic and weather reports in the NY Metro area, AM radio was the best.) Concern is increasing, though, among some government officials who believe that access to an AM signal is a necessity during national emergencies. There is some rumbling that Congress may take action, and either request or insist that car makers include AM radio in their infotainment systems.



Rich’s Repair Ramblings #3: Organization

Rich’s Repair Ramblings #3:


You might have a portable plastic tool box, or you might have several large combination top & bottom toolboxes, yet, if your tools and supplies are not organized for quick and easy access, any repair job potentially becomes fraught.

Two stories illustrate my point: a while back, a friend asked me to his house to assist with some front-end work. I brought no tools with me. We determined that we needed an 11/16” deep socket, ½” drive. He said to me “oh, I have that, I’ve got every size”. When he opened his tool “box”, really a large plastic box, there were several dozen sockets rolling around at the bottom: SAE, metric, shallow and deep, in 3/8” and ½” drive sizes. It took about 10 minutes to find the socket we needed, and since I only was able to spare an hour for him, the delay greatly cut into my available time.

Sockets are on rails, arranged by size, type, and color-coded (blue for SAE, red for metric)

A short time later, another friend asked me to assist with servicing the transmission and rear axle fluid on his car. He drove his car to my place. With the car safely up on jack stands in my garage, I was on a pad under the car to determine what we needed. It was too much effort for me to keep sliding out and sliding back under to fetch tools, so as I lay under the car, I made my tool requests to him: “1/2” drive ratchet wrench, bottom box, top drawer, on the left” and “locking pliers, top box, third drawer, on the right”. I knew right where my tools were, and was able to describe the locations to him, making it possible for him to find them while I stayed under the car. Together, we worked very efficiently that afternoon.

Metric wrenches are in size order, and organized by type (combo, box, open, flare nut)

I might have some OCD attached to my need to be organized, but frankly, those who have seen my setup acknowledge that they would like to strive for it. It’s no different than any other organizational need, whether it is your computer files, your clothing, or your kitchen utensils: when you need something, you want to know where it is so that you can put your hands on it right away.

When working on my classic cars, more than once I’ve found myself at my workbench in a position where some component is partially disassembled, and I need a tool RIGHT NOW to continue the disassembly. The situation requires me to keep one hand on the part, so putting it on the bench while I scrounge is not an option. Knowing the tool’s location has repeatedly paid off in these kinds of service situations.

Supply cabinet shelving has paints and varnishes on one shelf, car care products on another

One of my pet peeves, when peering into friends’ toolboxes, is the intermixing of tools and supplies. I make a clear distinction between “tools”, which are permanent, and “consumables”, which require replenishment. Large toolboxes are expensive; I want their weight-bearing drawers to be holding ratchets and wrenches, not spark plugs and spray lube. (And there’s no shame in labeling the drawers; we can’t memorize everything!)

Plastic bins were sized to fit greatest number of them on each shelf

The accompanying photos attest to my layout: sockets are on rails with clips; wrenches are in size order, with SAE sizes in one drawer and metric in another; and consumables are on shelves in a supply cabinet. Supplies which can fit in plastic bins are labeled; lately, I’ve been buying these small multi-compartment organizers for literally a few bucks each. I’ve used them to organize items like fuses, bulbs, washers, and electrical terminals. Your big-box hardware stores have all these goodies for sale.

Multi-compartment box has dividers to make different sizes; this one hold bulbs and fuses

Many years ago, a boss who was a mentor said to me: “take the time to GET organized, then once you are, STAY organized. It will greatly reduce your stress”. Whether it’s on-the-job or with one of my classics in the garage, I’ve found those to be words to live by. As you wrench on your classic, you’ll find organization to be akin to a 3rd hand in the workshop.


All photographs copyright © 2023 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Richard’s Rearview Mirror – Auto industry recap, week ending Feb. 25 2023


New Jersey government officials announced plans to phase out the sale of ICE vehicles, setting a target date of 2035. Governor Phil Murphy signed executive orders which will begin the process for the state to follow the framework as drawn up by California. NJ follows similar moves by Vermont, Oregon, New York, and other states.



The long-awaited Purosangue was revealed by Ferrari last week, and the Italian automaker refuses to call the high-ground-clearance, four-door, hatchback vehicle an “SUV”. Pricing was also announced, with the vehicle starting at $398,000. If you want one and haven’t ordered yet, be prepared to wait. The Purosangue (no, we don’t know how to pronounce it) is sold out for the next two years.



A report from Nikkei Asia claimed that Toyota will begin building mid- and full-sized EV SUVs at its existing Kentucky plant, with production slated to start as early as the summer of 2025, ramping up to an eventual goal of 10,000 such EVs a month. Toyota, one of the world’s largest car companies, has been a leader in hybrids (witness the Prius) but has lagged behind its competitors with pure EVs. A spokesperson for Toyota Motor denied any such announcement and added that the company has not finalized plans for U.S.-based EV production.



Stellantis revealed the price structure for its upcoming Hornet CUV. (The Hornet name, by the way, goes all the way back to the 1951 Hudson Hornet, and was recycled for the 1970-1976 AMC Hornet.) Including a destination charge of $1,595, the least expensive trim level, the GT, will start at $31,590, and the top-of-the-heap R/T Plus will set you back $46,490. The Hornet shares its platform with the Alfa Romeo Tonale; Tonale prices are expected to range several hundred dollars above the Hornet’s. The new Dodge will begin sales this spring.



The Brandenburg Germany Economy Ministry said that Tesla has changed its mind regarding EV battery production in Germany, and will move production to the U.S. because of more favorable tax incentives, available via the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act). The Reuters article further stated that Tesla has been moving more slowly than expected in ramping up battery production at its existing Fremont, CA and Austin, TX factories.



Alphabet soup! First: ICE = internal combustion engine; BEV = battery electric vehicle; HEV = hybrid electric vehicle; PHEV = plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Looking at passenger car sales for the entire European Union for the month of January 2023, based on drivetrain, ICE vehicles were highest at 37.9%, followed by HEV at 26.0%, diesel (!?!) at 15.9%, BEV at 9.5%, and PHEV at 7.1%.  When we add the 3 “electric” numbers together, the total, 42.6%, outpaces the ICE cars.



Stellantis, the global parent company of American brands Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, and Jeep, reported 2022 pre-tax margins for its North American operations of 16.4%. This is almost twice what Ford reported for North America, and it’s 6% higher than what GM’s North American operations achieved. This result even exceeded Mercedes-Benz’s global pre-tax margins. There is no doubt that Americans’ appetite for large and expensive trucks and SUVs, of which the Stellantis brands sell plenty, helped fuel this result.



It took only five days for Ram to stop taking deposits from customers interested in the new REV EV pickup truck. Ram did not state how many $100 deposits it accepted, nor has any final pricing info been made public. The Ram REV is not scheduled to begin production until late in 2024.



Mercedes-Benz announced that it has entered into an agreement with Google whereby Google will power the in-car navigation experience, and will also allow passengers access to YouTube under certain safe circumstances, such as when the vehicle is stationary. The German luxury car maker joins a list of other manufacturers including GM, Renault, and Volvo, all of whom have embedded Google within their vehicles. The trend is being closely watched by other auto brands –  some car makers are “giving up” software oversight and are instead turning to companies seen as having greater expertise, such as Google. Pundits have opined that whoever manages that software will have powerful access to personal data which can be used to marketing advantages.



Faraday Future (be honest, you’ve heard of them?) announced a production start date of March 30, 2023, for its FF 91 EV. There is one caveat, though, as stated on the company’s website: “… assuming timely receipt of funds from the Company’s investors….”  Their website is accepting preorders with a $1,500 deposit, but also includes the disclaimer that “… you understand and agree that placing this preorder does not guarantee receipt of an FF 91 or a specific delivery date.” If and when something changes, I’ll try to remember the company name post an update.



Early projections are showing that U.S. light-duty vehicle sales for February 2023 will show a 7% improvement compared to February 2022. Analysts attribute some of that improvement to stepped-up production, although the same report acknowledged that supply will still fail to fulfill demand. Rising prices are not scaring away customers, either: the average new-vehicle transaction price is expected to clock in at over $46,000.



A German industry publication reported that VW will build a dedicated U.S. factory for its new Scout brand. VW had earlier announced that it would launch the new brand in 2026. Scout, a takeoff on the old International Scout, would be designed and manufactured in U.S., VW had added at the time.

Meanwhile, Audi’s CEO, Markus Deusmann, said in a recent interview that Audi might consider a U.S. plant, a possibility driven by the financial advantages of the Inflation Reduction Act. The Audi brand, owned by VW, has never manufactured vehicles here, while VW currently has a U.S. factory in TN and opened its first U.S. plant in PA in the 1970s.



Until the final rules for the Inflation Reduction Act are completed, which is expected to happen next month, customers who lease their EVs will be eligible for the Act’s tax incentives. The U.S. Treasury considers a “lease” to be a “commercial transaction”, moving it into the “eligible” column. While it’s not known if or when this will change, the European and Asian makers of EVs who have been arguing for a rules change are breathing a (temporary) sigh of relief.












Rich’s Repair Ramblings #2: Automotive-Specific Tools & Equipment



In the initial installment of this column, found in the Aug. 2019 Road Map, we listed the basic hand tools you should have for maintenance and repair work on your classic car. This month, we’ll add the automotive-specific tools and equipment you’ll need, plus our recommended shop supplies and consumables which should be in any automotive workshop. (Additional car-specific tools will be covered when we feature certain repairs, for example, brake tools for brake work.)

Lifting: Performing the most basic repairs, such as oil changes and front end work, requires lifting the car. So let’s make this point early: YOUR SAFETY, MEANING PREVENTION OF INJURY OR DEATH, DEPENDS ON SAFELY LIFTING A CAR. Never, ever, use the factory jack for anything but changing a tire in an emergency. And never, ever, get under a car supported by just a floor jack, or heavens, by milk crates or cinder blocks.

Get a good floor jack, and one or two pair of jack stands. The floor jack weight rating should equal or exceed the weight of the entire car (for example, use a 2-ton jack to lift a corner of a 4,000-lb. car). Make sure the jack stands are low enough to get under your car, and high enough to raise the car to your desired working height. Use the jack stands every time you raise and work on the car. I have a floor jack and three sets of jack stands (different heights for different cars), plus a set of drive-on ramps, convenient for oil changes since wheel removal isn’t necessary.


3.5 ton jack is overkill for my 2,000 lb Alfa. These jack stands have locking pins for added safety.

Oil Change: You can do an oil change without these, but a dedicated oil drain bucket (low profile, with at least a 6 qt. capacity), a selection of funnels, and an oil filter wrench that fits your car’s filter will make the job easier and neater.


Drain bucket with two different size funnels. Oil filter wrench takes 3/8” drive ratchet or extension.


Electrical Work: You don’t do electrical work? I’m hoping you will after future columns discuss how easy this can be. For wiring repair, start with a wiring cutting/stripping/crimping tool. Basic circuit checks can be made with a test light, but better still, consider investing in a digital multimeter (DMM). They have dropped in price; I bought mine for under $50. Also handy is a terminal release tool to disengage terminals from multi-plugs.

Back row: test light, DMM, crimping/stripping/cutting tool. Front left: terminal release tool.


Ignition: Our old jalopies use ignition points, condenser, cap, rotor, spark plugs, and plug wires. To do the job right, you need a dwell meter, timing light, and plug gapper. Spark plug sockets are worth it: internal foam protects the ceramic and grips the plug upon removal (there are two sizes, so check whether your plugs are 5/8” or 13/16”). Spark plug wire pliers are nice to have; they help remove stubborn wires.

Back: Timing light, dwell meter; Front: spark plug sockets, plug wire pliers, plug gapper.



It’s a major annoyance when I want to start a job on a weekend only to discover that I’m missing some “supply” that requires me to drive back and forth to the store, when it’s a $10 item I really should have on hand. Whether you’re just starting out, or looking to replenish, it’s a best practice to have a variety of supplies and consumables in your storage cabinet.

Chemicals: Here are the “essential seven” that I couldn’t work without:

  • Spray lube: WD-40 is most folks’ go-to lube, handy whenever you need to unstick something. Most of it evaporates, which is usually an advantage. If you need something heavier, white lithium grease in a spray or tube works well.
  • Rust-buster: Sooner or later, you’ll need help loosening a fitting that’s rusted tight. My dad used Liquid Wrench, and so do I, although lately I’ve been fond of B’laster spray. Your local store shelves have lots of choices.
  • Thread locker: Some automotive fittings rely on more than mechanical tightening; they need chemical help too. Thread locker liquid hardens and prevents fasteners from loosening due to vibration. Your vehicle service manual will tell you when it’s required.
  • Glue: Glue fixes objects which are NLA (no longer available), and on our old buggies, there could be many such things. Again, dad was using two-part epoxy back in the 1970s, and I’ve made repairs with it that are still holding 40 years later. Other automotive choices include rubber cement, contact cement, and weatherstrip adhesive.
  • Cleaner/degreaser: Dirty car parts need to be clean upon reassembly. If I don’t want water in the mix, a great all-around product is spray brake cleaner. Be aware that you’ll go through a can in about 5 minutes. If it’s OK to get the part wet, Simple Green works well. Your local hardware store has a variety of grease-cutters.
  • Gasket maker: Gasketing material in a tube is a life-saver when working on old cars. Many gaskets are NLA; even with a gasket, gasket makers can act as an additional sealant. We don’t want leaks! RTV (room temperature vulcanizing) dries semi-hard; I’m partial to the stuff that stays sticky and doesn’t get completely firm.
  • Petroleum jelly/dielectric grease: Great for battery terminals, I use this on electrical connections on my old Italian car to chase away those electrical gremlins. British car owners should buy it by the gallon.


Back: B’laster, brake cleaner, gasket maker, dielectric grease, WD-40; Front: Thread locker, two-part epoxy.


Electrical: A roll of black electrical tape, some 14-gauge black wire (the smaller the number, the thicker the wire), and crimp-on terminals will get you started with electrical repairs.

Electrical tape, black electric wire, and crimp-on terminal assortment


General Shop Supplies: A fire extinguisher, eye protection, and a first-aid kit can literally be lifesavers. Gloves, paper towels, rags, and hand cleaner all help keep the mess at bay.

Hand cleaner, fire extinguisher, and eye & hand protection are shop must-haves


All photographs copyright © 2023 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.