Month: December 2016

Used Car Review – 2011 Toyota Matrix

When the Hatchback Market is a Keg, the Matrix is the Dregs

Image via Wikimedia Commons, By U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( [Public domain]
Image via Wikimedia Commons, By U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Public domain
Weird things happen in the wake of financial collapse and high gas prices. Entire industries fall apart, decentralize, and then cobble themselves back together. Often times, the lack of capital changes buying patterns, even as price rebounds and consumer tastes have been forever altered. One of the most incredible examples of this is the market for beer: in good economic times, people consume less beer. However, in the wake of things in 2008, the craft beer market has exploded, giving rise to hundreds of small batch craft beer makers. This is not an article about economics, nor is it about beer (as much as we would love that).

Instead this article focuses on a market segment that has exploded in the wake of financial problems and expensive gas: the small car market. Seriously, the middle 2000s created perfect conditions for the rise of the small car market, and now in the middle 2010s we are reaping the rewards. However, not all small cars are created equal, as seen most viciously in the example of the Toyota Matrix. This bland, tepid sh*tbox in a sea of interesting, fun, charismatic, and downright fantastic small, 5-door hatchbacks is a reminder that for every Three Heads Brewing, Saranac, and New Belgium there is still an Old English 40 oz.

Best served extra cold.

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Online vs. Brick & Mortar: Auto Parts Edition

Online vs Brick & Mortar Auto Parts Stores

A Usage-Based Guide to Buying

The holidays are always the best place to see the changing patterns in consumer spending. Every year we have a boxing match(good canadian pun?) between brick and mortar and online retailers. Recently, the pendulum is swinging to the side of online buying with buyers trending towards Cyber Monday, rather than having to break out great-grandpa Erwin’s trench spike at low-end electronics stores on Black Friday.

404: Waterpump not found

Likewise, automotive parts sales have been moving away from the brick and mortar stores and towards online retailers, wholesalers, drop shipping companies, and manufacturers direct sales. However, much like consumer goods, car parts will eventually hit a salinization point where the market will even out, and there’s a lot of reasons for this, the biggest of which being that there is an immediacy with car parts that is not seen in other segments of the market. Do you need a 64’’ TV RIGHT now? Probably not. If your car is overheating because water pump is broken, do you need a water pump right now? Yes, I mean unless you have an old Porsche.

In this article, we will be going over some of the pull factors towards each end of the purchasing spectrum, in an effort to help you decide weather you should get it online, or just head down to the parts store on the corner. We will also be taking a look at some of the favorite retailers and online parts companies that Surfwrench Techs actually use when they are buying parts to fix your cars. For techs, we are going to look at this matrix as a way of maximizing profits and being able to turn more jobs, faster, and for less money out of pocket.

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Used Car Review – 1999 Saab 9-3 SE

Image by OSX via Wikimedia, Public Domain
Image by OSX via Wikimedia, Public Domain

In the bleak mid-winter I found myself looking for something that would be able to make it through the rest of the winter without breaking the bank, or my daily: a BMW E39. When flipping through the automotive classifieds. Seeing as I have lived my entire life in Rochester, and having contributed to our Winter Beater Blog: I knew i wanted something squat, front wheel drive, and possibly Scandinavian. It is at that point when I found an ad for a 1999 Saab 9-3 SE for a mere $1200 and decided to abide by the first law of car searching: “Thou shall always take a look.”

What I found was a little bit worse than what I expected, which was then confirmed by a GM Master Check via a Surfwrench Used Car Check. I ended up passing on my chance to buy this “jet fighter on wheels” but not before putting through its paces, and having a great bit of fun.

The 1999 Saab 9-3 SE is a GM made, Swedish designed, small-executive car offering a 2-liter turbocharged inline 4 cylinder engine producing 200 HP. Right away, I could tell that there were issues with the turbo charger. It wasn’t coming from a lack of power, rather an excess of heat that was building up, which was then causing a lack of power. When something is overheating in the winter, there is usually a fairly sizable problem. I discussed it with the seller and he said that the car always did that, which told me that it had been neglected for quite some time. Other than that, when the car was cold, it was a good drive: the power delivery was nice and the handling was also very squat, square, and “chunky”. It never felt heavy, but it did feel very solid- this isn’t a terribly heavy car, but you can tell that it is well built—sturdy. Continue reading “Used Car Review – 1999 Saab 9-3 SE”

The Winter Beater: The Backbone of Upstate NY Winters


At time of writing this, it’s the very beginning the first major snowfall of the season. Snow, as it turns out, is the great equalizer, the force of nature that sends the nicer cars scurrying for their car covers in the back of the garage. The amalgamation of cold, salt, and lower coefficients of friction that makes most of us shelve the cars that carry our favor, and instead rely upon ones that don’t. In this article we are going to talk about the unsung hero of the winter season: the winter beater. We are going to pay tribute to some of the better winter beaters out there, give you an idea of what to look for when buying one, and some of the reasons why you should.

Winter Beater Theory

A simple search will turn up no less than 10,000 articles about winter beaters, and some of the favorite makes and models that people throw around in the snow in lieu of destroying their nicer, summer car. There are good reasons for this. Some cars are just naturally made for this weather: old XJ Jeeps and Subaru’s that are cheap and plentiful, but have all wheel drive that make them highly sought after prizes for people trying to plow through a Nor’Easter on their way to Wegmans because they forgot the eggs and milk in their last run home from work.

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Used Car Review – 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe

Contrary to Popular Belief, We Don’t Just Test Drive Beaters

Jaguar F-Type
Image By M 93, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

A Good Car—For Bad People

It always took me by surprise that the bad guys in James Bond movies drove Jaguars; that is until I got behind the wheel of one. They always seemed more King Joffrey than Weeping Angels. They never inspired fear, just a sort of “I have too much money and know nothing about cars” response. However, through a very fortuitous turn of events, I got a short test drive with one of these supercharged V-8 coupes, and much like a wild one night stand, the only thing I regret is not enjoying it more.

The fastest cars in the world are always a hired car, a race car driver said this a long time ago and clearly he is now deceased. Because if I were to drive this car as hard as I possibly could, it would have killed me as well as the owner of this vehicle. Twice. And we would have looked good doing it.

Taking on the looks, this F-Type picks up where the 1960’s E-Type left off, being some of the best looking things on four wheels. This one was white, which looked incredible with lines of the coupe. If I were to buy one, I would want it in proper British Racing Green. This might sound insane because I hate green, but when it comes to something like this, it really has to be green for heritage’s sake. It hearkens back to the days when cars were just as much fun as you could have in them. The interior was luxurious but not overdone, reminding you that this is very much a sports car, with the just perfect amount of Jag prominence that you would expect from the brand.

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