2016 Chevrolet Malibu


2016 Chevrolet Malibu

This is the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu rental I drove last week while I visited New Mexico and later, Colorado.  Big whoop, right?  Why on Earth would I write an entry about of all things, a rental car?

So lets start at the beginning…  Wifey had a business trip to tend do, and like cheap luggage I tagged along.  We picked up the Malibu at the Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) and much to my surprise the car had barely 79 miles on the digital odometer.  During the span of the next 5 days, I managed to put a tad over 800 miles on the Malibu.  The more I drove it, the more perplexed I became about this car.

The Good, Bad and Ugly

Like I said before, the car had barely 79 miles when I picked it up from one of those national car rental outfits.  I almost felt bad knowing we would be traveling such a long distance and I would not give the car a proper gingerly “break in” period.  However, I did ensured to “refrain from hard stops for the first 500 miles”, but still…  I don’t get to drive brand new cars that often so driving a car with only 79 miles on the odometer was a treat.  But, I digress.


Many bugs gave up their lives on the front nose of this 2016 Malibu during our 800 mile journey through New Mexico and Colorado

The Detroit engineers at GM World Headquarters have done well:  for a mid-size entry-level car, this particular model is well equipped.  I must say the interior of the Malibu is very nice (all things considered), comfortable and quiet.  Seats came in a dark gray “leather” with power-this and power-that featuring lumbar support.  Included in the package, a nicely appointed touch screen and stereo with USB and all that.  Given I drive “old” cars – bowtie6, Z28 and S2K are 42, 20 and 12 years old respectively – driving a car with modern amenities like the ones described is a bit of a novelty for me.  The trunk was very spacious, with a split rear seat back that folded 60-40%.  Finally, as cheap used-car salesmen say, the car had “Cold Air”.  Boy was the AC cold!!!

The center console in this mid-size car features the defacto necessities of modern-day Americana:  two cup holders, two cell phone slots and an arm rest with a hidden USB port and 12-volt charger.  All four doors included a molded recess just big enough and angled just-so to firmly hold a water bottle.  Finally, by flipping a button, the touch-screen opened revealing another compartment suited perfectly for storing sunglasses.  How convenient is that?

Saving the best for last, the Malibu came equipped with a direct-injected 2.5 Liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine.  Power from the Ecotec gets delivered to the front 18″ wheels via a smooth-as-silk six-speed automatic gearbox.  Suffice to say, this car is very quiet and given what it is, very comfortable.


2.5 Liter Ecotec good for 196 hp / 186 ft-lb

And so, here is the 2.5 Liter Ecotec.  I am very fond of Ecotec engines.  After all, bowtie6 is powered by an earlier ancestor of this particular engine.  I had great expectations but unfortunately this is where this 2016 Chevrolet Malibu fails miserably.

Automatic Start-Stop System

As it turns out, this particular 2016 Chevrolet Malibu came equipped with the dreadful “Automatic Start-Stop System” (I’ll refer to it as the ASS system).  And believe me, this is probably the most moronic and most annoying “features” offered.

Note the tachometer showing "Auto Off" mode...

Note the tach showing “Auto Off” mode.

So what is this ASS system?  In a nutshell, it is a fuel-saving feature that when conditions are right, shuts the engine off when the automobile comes to a stop.  I won’t go into the entire explanation, but by clicking HERE you can read all about how it works.  Suffice to say, I found this “feature” most annoying.  It is very disconcerting to come to a stop light and have the engine come to a full stop.  Granted, the second battery keeps all lights and gizmos fully operational but damn, it sucks.  It sucks HARD.

Once the brake pedal is released the engine suddenly re-starts.  I noticed there was very little lag time, however I did not have much confidence in this system especially when one must pull out into traffic at the drop of the hat.  It made me wonder:  while the car is new, the system re-starts very quickly but what will this be like when the car has 50,000+ miles on the clock?

Another thing I disliked very much about this Malibu is the mismatch of engine displacement/power to the size of the car.  There were many times on the open road under cruise control and traveling at 75 miles per hour, the gearbox would shift down to 5th, 4th and yes, even 3rd gear when encountering grades.  All this in the name of “economy”.


Eco Malibu LTZ

In all honesty though, this car achieved 35 miles per gallon while traveling on average at 75 miles per hour and having the air conditioner on.  Not bad.  However to do this, one has to give up all performance.  Don’t take me wrong, I don’t expect Corvette power here but having a car shift through half its gears while going up an incline is pretty hard to take.  I also did not find this car very sure-footed with the “pedal to the metal” when attempting to merge into traffic on a freeway.  This is sadly, a very neutered automobile performance wise.

In Conclusion

The latter part of out trip was used to pick up my nephew at the Denver Airport so we could take him to Ft Collins, CO in time for him to move into his dorm at Colorado State University.  While we were there, we did some shopping.  Among the things he wanted was one of those clip-on reading lamps so he could have something to illuminate his reading materials.  We stopped at a local Home Depot and purchased the clip-on lamp along with some 60 watt incandescent bulbs.  My nephew preferred those bulbs because they provided a warm light as opposed to the harsh light from an LED.

Funny thing was that when we checked out, the fellow behind the counter gave me plenty grief by pushing LED bulbs vs incandescent.  He insisted I buy the LED bulb because it was “more efficient”.  I resisted equally as strong stating my mind was made up and we wanted the incandescent bulb.  He did not back off!  Eventually I gave him a harsh look and finally he backed off.

And so, in a way, I feel very similar to this exchange when having to deal with the ASS system.  Somebody shoving “economy” down my throat.  What is worse, the ASS system in the Malibu did not have a disable button on it.  Granted this is an optional feature but from what I’ve read, this will become the norm in the not too distant future.

Sad actually – yet another freedom we have lost to in our “politically correct” and “environmentally friendly” society.


White and Red TR6’s


Nice pair of TR6’s…

Quick post today…  Visited my friend Al’s shop today and could not pass up the opportunity to take this photo of his white TR6 next to bowtie6.  Al’s white TR6 runs on black centered wheels that look very slick against the all white background.  Nice car, don’t you think?


My Z28 at 97K

Another milestone this week:  my Z28 at 97k!!

IMG_2924I took a short road trip over the weekend and my 1995 Z28 Camaro turned the clock at the 97,000 mile mark.  Yes indeed, count down to 100,000 miles is on its way.

I “laid the ears back” on my Z28 on one of the few examples of smooth-as-glass freeways in the deplorable road inventory in the Upstate of South Carolina.  Unfortunately, our illustrious politicians have elected to let our roads fall in a sad shape of disrepair – but I digress.  It’s amazing to see what a new set of tires will do (see my recent article about the new BFG’s):  ride is much improved as well as handling.  As time goes by and heat-cycles add up, tires get hard and loose grip; they also get noisy.  What a difference the new BFG’s made.  Just for kicks, I checked and got a few tenth’s over 21 mpg at speed.  Not bad for a 20-year-old LT1 powered Camaro…

Amazing thing YouTube – I realize the ad shows its age, but just for kicks I found this:

It’s primarily about the V6 version.  In 1995 GM offered two versions of the V6.  If you look closely the video shows a couple of shots of the V8 powered Z28; there is even a red one, like mine.  :mrgreen:


My S2K at 12K

Today was a bit of a milestone:  my S2K at 12k!!

My 12-year-old, 2003 Honda S2000 turned 12,000 miles old today.  Three years ago, I purchased the car from an estate sale with only 4,700 miles on the clock.  The lawyers liquidating the estate had no clue what they and I scored one hell of nice deal.

7,300 miles later, I can say this car is amazing.  Once the F20C engine starts winding past 6,000 revs (and VTEC kicks in, yo!), things happen very quickly.  And lets not forget the razor-sharp handling.  It never fails to put a smile on my face…

Top was down when I took these photos – that accounts for so much dust!  And yes, I had a little fun approaching the 12k mile mark!

IMG_2917Good times!  :mrgreen:



New Tires

IMG_2908My aging daily driver – a 1995 Z28 Camaro – got treated to a set of new tires this week.  During a span of 20 years and over 96,000 miles, this is the fourth set of tires I’ve bought.  Factory tires were GoodYear GSC’s;  an advanced high performance tire for the time, they were fair, with good dry adhesion but not so great in the wet.  I replaced the factory fitted tires with 2 more sets of GSC’s which I purchased from the company that converted Z28 Camaros to SS’s back in the day.  These were brand new “take offs” sold at a significant discount and I ordered two sets at different times.  When the last set of the GSC’s wore out, I bought BFG Comps and what a difference!  The BFG’s were much nicer in the dry and wet as well.

The new offering from BFG is the g-Force Sport Comp 2.  I have a set of these tires on my S2000 and have been very pleased with them, therefore I decided this would be a good choice for the Camaro.  They are soft, sticky, and responsive in dry and wet weather alike.

IMG_2902Usually, I buy tires mail-order.  I have them delivered via brown truck to my doorstep and then I have a local shop install and balance them.  Unfortunately, this is getting more and more expensive to do because local shops are charging more for installation.  I did my research and for this particular deal the total price was a toss-up.  So I decided to go with the local chain store with “discount” as part of their name.

In the past, I’ve experienced issues with tire stores (mainly with the larger chain stores) regarding the way lugs get tightened.  I am a firm believer in a methodical torquing of lug nuts as opposed to letting an air gun do the work.  Using a torque wrench ensures even tightening (yes, I know…  stretching the bolt) and thus prevents any chance of warping rotors.  I realize this is a matter of opinion but for me, this is what works.  As the saying goes “…you mileage may vary”.

The new tires were not in the store’s stock, so they were ordered and arrived the next day as promised.  I took all four wheels (with the old tires) to the tire store and I suppose, disappointed the salesperson because he wanted to do an “inspection” of my Camaro.  Instead, I heard him sigh when he saw the wheels in wifie’s HHR.  As I had requested, the new tires were mounted and ready several hours later, after I left work.  I made a quick inspection of each tire and found two tires missing their air valve caps.  I pointed out I had paid ‘extra’ for the metal stems & caps and wanted the caps installed.  The tire store employee stated it was “his bad” and promptly sourced the missing caps.  This would be the first of several “surprises”…

Once home, I found all four tires filthy.  On the outside edge of each wheel I found a generous smear of the white lubricant used to assemble new tires on rims and on the inside of each wheel, the installer did not pay attention to properly clean the place for the new stick on weights.  Finally, I found the sticky backing left by the previous stick on weights.  The tech doing the install did not do a very thorough job.  In fairness to them, they are not in the business of cleaning wheels however they could have done better especially in the spot for the new stick on weight.

IMG_2895After some elbow grease and some soap and water, the rims turned out good as new.  It took a little effort but this looked more like it.  This is where I found the next surprise:  I requested for the balancing weights be placed on the inside of each rim and on the inside lip.  The tech did a good job on the wheel above:  it has one weight and on the inside it had 3 small stick on weights as shown in the following picture.

IMG_2896Two of the four wheels looked this good.  However, on the other two wheels the tech didn’t do such a hot job.  Take a look:

IMG_2907A strip of eight individual weights and wait for it…

IMG_2904Yep!  Nine weights on this wheel.  Nice surprise.  It is hard to tell from these photos, but they put so many weights without separating them that the curvature of the wheel makes each slice “bind” between weights.  What happens then is the outside of the strip (on either side) does not have a very good adhesion against the wheel.

IMG_2893Once I did all my cleanup work the only thing left was to mount and properly torque each wheel back on the car.  So once the Camaro was off jack stands, I had one more last check to make before I called the job done:  check tire pressures.  You would think all four tires would have been if not equally inflated, at least close.

IMG_2913So, for the last surprise of the day, you guessed it:  tire pressures were all over the place.  Funny though, because the work-order sheet (see above) clearly states 30 lbs as the recommended inflation.  Hmmm….

By this time, I was a little annoyed.  I called the store and asked to speak to the manager.  The fellow answering the phone said I was talking to the right man, so I explained the issues in a calm and detailed way.  He listened quietly as I went through my laundry list of issues.  When it was time for him to respond, the gave me very short and trite answers:

  • The tires were not cleaned because “once installed, we don’t clean tires”.
  • The tech is only responsible for wiping the place on the wheel for the new stick on weights with “degreaser”.
  • The weights get placed where the machine “says to”.
  • The tech does not check tire pressures individually:  they are all done by an automated setting ensuring perfect pressures.

There was no point in arguing with this fellow.  I did point out two things:

  • The goal is to use the least amount of weights.  If the tire/wheel combination requires too many weights then the tire needs to be deflated, and moved 1/4 turn.  Then, you try again and eventually the ‘sweet’ spot is found.  His answer was that they do offer that service for $20 per tire.  Interesting, since this was not originally offered.
  • I then brought up the point about the tire pressures:  one tire had 32 lbs, two had 38 lbs and one had 40 lbs.  The “recommended” 30 lbs listed on the work order was completely ignored.  The store manager responded with “I dunno, the machine does that”.  I asked him when was the last time said machine had any kind of calibration.  He got real quiet then…

I ended the phone call by telling the store manager I felt I had been given a sub-par install on the tires.  In fairness, he did offer to spin balance the tires again however I would have to make an “appointment” to have that done.  I politely declined and told him this should have been done right the first time.

When I’ve bought tires mail order, I’ve used a small local independent garage.  They have always done a good job albeit a little on the expensive side.  I regret not using them this time.  So the next time you go buy tires at a big tire store, just remember to double check their work.  Better yet, mail order your tires and have a local garage do the work.


Rear Suspension Reassembly

In the last couple of posts I’ve described the reason for taking apart the rear suspension on bowtie6.  I had to send the coilovers back to the manufacturer for servicing and sure enough, after a few days they arrived back in as-new condition.  This morning, I started cleaning all the hardware and springs followed by a dry-run:  installing the coilovers on the rear suspension (without springs) and going through the entire range of motion of the axle using my jack.  I just wanted to make sure nothing was binding or out of alignment.  All checked out, so time to quit farting around and get down to business…

As you can see in the featured picture above, I have a small can of fresh anti-seize handy.  I use anti-seize on pretty much all bolts I use.  I cringe when I watch “restoration” shows on TV and see very expensive cars assembled without a single bolt treated with anti-seize.  So why make such a big deal?  Anti-seize is a very cheap insurance for preventing a bolt from galling. Especially when dealing with aluminum parts as in this case, where the entire coilover body is aluminum alloy.  Furthermore, there will be a day when all bolts will be taken apart.  Anti-seize is just an easy way to prevent unnecessary binding.

IMG_2874I started applying anti-seize on the shock body, the spring seat and the lock nut.  I added anti-seize to the spring seat where the spring rests simply to help the spring edge slide a little easier when tightening up the seat.  Ditto for the lock nut.  It is very important to note that anti-seize will act as a lubricant and as a result, don’t forget to keep that in mind when tightening bolts with a torque wrench.  Bolts treated with anti-seize will have a higher clamp load than untreated ones.  OK, enough “theory” for today’s post – LOL!

IMG_2876The spring seat ready to be tightened.  The lip has threads and they actually start before the spring even starts to compress.  Duh!  That is the idea!  No more spring compressor.

IMG_2877Here is the assembly chucked up on the vise using a set of soft jaws to prevent from damaging the bottom bearing.  Using a special wrench, I started tightening the spring seat until I had enough threads left to safely hold the lock nut.

IMG_2881This is a closeup of the top mount:  the black “U-shaped” tab is an extension of the frame.  If you look closely, there are two delicately machined spacers on either side of the inner “U-shaped” mount.  My cousin Jim made those on his lathe and it is just a shame these gems are hidden from view.  This is not store-bought stuff!

IMG_2880This picture shows the spherical rod end on the top mount of the coilover as well as the dampening adjustment knob (more on that later).  The top mount uses the spherical rod end to give room for the coilover to float.  The bottom mount is just a regular polyurethane lined fixed bearing.  The picture below shows the black polyurethane bearing.

IMG_2864The bottom mount does not float.  Instead, it is fixed against the mount extending from the axle.  If both mounts were fixed then the coilover would bind when the axle moved one side higher than the other.  You can also see the axle mount with some paint missing.  That comes from the spacer that lines up the coilover with the top mount.

IMG_2867And finally, on this picture you can see the machined spacer.  And now, an explanation on ride height…

I’ve been asked to find a way to “lower” the ride height on the rear suspension on bowtie6.  Unfortunately, there is no way to lower things any more than where they are today.  As you can see in the picture above, I am already using the lowest opening on the lower mount bolt.

One feature of coilovers is adjustment of ride height.  Sure, this is an option.  However, the way it works is this:  the more the spring seat is tightened, the more the spring compresses and ride height increases.  The less the spring seat is tightened, the less the spring compresses and the ride height lowers.  In my case, the spring seat is out as far as it can go.  Anything else would not give me enough room for the lock-nut to thread into.

IMG_2868And here is the result!  All ready to go for a test drive!

I realize bowtie6‘s rear ride height is a tad on the “high” side.  It would be nice to drop it another inch or so.  However, since I am running larger than stock rear tires they could hit the inner fenders.  This would not be good for the paint!  Another idea to carry out the lowering would be to order new, shorter coilovers.  However these coilovers are not cheap and I rather not have to get another set.

And now an “extra”!  I do not endorse products by name – I just don’t like to advertise for “free” – but there are exceptions.  Last week, I had this arrive after placing an online order:

IMG_2883This is a 1/2 inch, 20 Volt DeWalt electric impact wrench.  I bought this unit from the “Factory Outlet” store – it is online and they have some great prices on “refurb” units.  I also have a 3/8 impact wrench, a 6.5″ saw and an LED light plus the rechargeable battery station.  They all share the bottom rechargeable 20V Max battery.  My air wrenches are now retired!  These rechargeable electric tools are awesome!  I highly recommend them.

Last but not least:  I took bowtie6 for a spirited drive once all was tight and torqued to spec.  I had to fiddle with the rebound damping setting a bit but the difference is certainly noticeable.  The rear suspension is much more planted now and is a delight to push trough an “on ramp”!  Nice!!  :mrgreen:


Meet DiDi

Meet DiDi:  my little Welsh Pembroke Corgi.

DiDi hails from horse country in AIken, South Carolina.  Didi is seven years old and we adopted her about 3 years ago from a breeder.  She is our retired supermodel wearing her permanent “little black dress”.  I say supermodel because at one time she took part in the show-dog circuit and even won a competition or two.  And of course, she knows how to “work it”: she is very successful at getting treats as well as cute pictures like the one above.

The Mrs took this picture today on her iPhone and I thought it was quite remarkable.  Amazing thing the iPhone.  And of course DiDi knows how to get the most out of the moment!