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For the last six years I’ve caught a lot of crap for my PT Cruiser. Onlookers have labeled it a sissy car, chick-mobile, geriatric short bus, and my personal favorite, denture wagon. To be perfectly honest it may be some of those things. However, what it does do better than most folks give it credit for is haul a bunch of crap around.

With trucks either in use elsewhere or in some sort of flux, I’ve depended on the Cruiser to do the heavy lifting from day to day and the last few days remind me that, laughable or not, it works. This weekend I was transporting cinder blocks back from my dad’s place and then running a bunch of 8’ stock – with the front passenger seat laid down – back to the shop from the big box. I didn’t have any trouble or at any time have to break stride to get “creative” with the packing.

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Did you know you can install your own tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) on older cars? Turns out it’s a pretty simple system. Most aftermarket (and stock) systems rely on one of three sensor types: They either mount on a metal strap tightened around the center of the wheel, attach to the inside of the wheel right behind the valve stem, or replace the valve caps.

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When I was 16, I had an “incident” in my car, a sweet little ’78 Datsun 280Z. And when I say “incident,” what I really mean is that I thought wailing over a raised railroad track at 90+ MPH sounded like a good idea and proceeded to go for it. I survived — fortune sometimes favors young dumbasses — but the struts on the Z never felt quite the same after bottoming out so hard. (The Dukes always made it look easier.)

New struts checked in at around $350 at the time, plus massive installation costs at the dealership. Round it to an even $1,000, or about $900 more than I had at the time. I was first-class boned.

Around that same time a Jeep-owning friend gave me a copy of a JC Whitney catalog.(JC Whitney was famous back then for carrying pretty much every part of any kind for a Jeep. My buddy joked that you could build an entire — very expensive — Jeep out of aftermarket parts from Whitney alone.) I generally flipped through it looking for cheap-ass stereo gear and CB radios, but I discovered something else: They carried strut “cartridges” for my Z, too. For about $20 each.

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Many people have a hitch receiver on their vehicle, but how many actually use them on a regular basis?  Sometimes you see a fourth brake light shoved into one, or they sport a fake propeller or Autobot badge to demonstrate the vehicle owner’s whimsical personality. With the HitchSafe you can put the hitch receiver to better use as a place to securely store valuables or spare keys.

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When I covered a cigarette lighter flashlight a while ago, many people commented that it was a cool idea, but it just wasn’t executed very well. Maybe rather than having your flashlight live in your cigarette lighter, it might be more practical to take a regular-looking flashlight and build in an auto adapter so it can be recharged right in your car without any special cables. Out of the few entries in this category, I looked into two that looked the most promising: an OEM flashlight from Duluth Trading Company and a model from Dorcy.

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The switch away from sealed-beam headlights helped us all. Seriously. There’s nothing crappier than having to search around all weekend for a bulb that’s EXACTLY the right shape and size for your 280Z. (Yes, I’ve been there.) But that’s the upshot. The downside: Over time the plastic covers over modern headlights starts to develop a fuzzy film from scratches and weather wear. And this dims your lights. Plus it looks totally crappy.

So why not take some time this weekend and polish ’em up? A number of companies sell tools to help you do the job, and they’re all pretty effective — assuming you get started early enough. (Hint: If your headlight covers are yellowed, you’re probably screwed. That’s a chemical change that you can’t polish away.)

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These aren’t exactly going to make killer work lights, but it seems everyone I know loves the idea of these little, bright pocket LED flashlights. And who wouldn’t? The form factor is perfect for tossing in a camping bag or your glovebox. Of course, the high-end ones can run you upwards of $50 — and blind you from 50′. But the cheap-ass models, while significantly less powerful, get pretty cheap indeed. I guess they’re pretty much the penlight of the new century.

And here’s one you can have for $4.50. Hell, it’s even Prime-enabled on Amazon, so if you happen to have a Prime account, you won’t even pay shipping.

PS: Yes, I know there are shops online (and even on Amazon) advertising this for as little as $0.01. But you’ll pay an imperial assload of shipping, which means you’ll likely pay more than $4.50 all said and done. Hence why I picked this one.

Neiko 9-LED Compact Aluminum Flashlight Via Amazon [What’s This?]

 

The Slime 70003 Flat Tire Repair System (that’s the actual company name) is now on sale at Amazon for 71% off retail, at just $14.27. It seemed like a good deal until I noticed the reviews [What’s This?]. People remarked that the “slime” canister exploded everywhere, replaceable parts are nowhere to be found, and since the manufacturer has discontinued the product, it’s a one-shot deal with no way to get a slime refill. The worst part: Many have noted that, while this can save your tire once in an emergency, it’s also likely to ruin the tire if any residual slime stays in it, so be prepared to have it cleaned afterward, too.

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Early code readers simply reported the specific error code behind that ubiquitous check engine light. Newer ones, however, translate the cryptic alphanumeric code into English (or Spanish), making it a hell of a lot easier to figure out what’s going on — especially after you lose the manual. But Actron takes the concept a step further with their new AutoScanner Plus. It not only reports the code (in human-speak); it also accesses an internal database of over 3,000,000 reported fixes and offers suggestions for how to actually fix the problem behind the code.

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I freely admit and am unashamed of the fact that I come from a sport-bike background. Nothing serious mind you — I don’t travel on one wheel with my hair aflame or measure the length of my manhood with the amount of power I can seat below it. I come from a world of Japanese precision and practical grace, like the Ninja 500 or 250r for instance. So when I hear a rattle under power I become concerned.

Chuck and I have a beautiful little Yamaha V-Star 650 that is, quite honestly, a sparkly little cherry. We’ve spent the last few weeks tuning it in and shining it up to a harmony of mechanical excellence. It runs like a top around the neighborhood and is well-mannered for a chrome-laden cruiser. It was time to step it up a notch. But during its maiden highway voyage, I noticed that when you put any power to it over 60 mph it had a rattle around the front area.

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