Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The winter driving conditions we've been having lately here in Colorado tend to highlight the weaknesses of vehicles. Weak battery, bald tires, old wipers--it brings out the worst! Fortunately we took care of the tire situation on the Jeep by replacing the 60k mile OEM tires with some new rubber in the form of Continental Cross Contact LX tires. They received high marks on Tire Rack for an all-season tire, and they're priced pretty nice as well.

I had The Tire Source in Boulder order them up for me before Thanksgiving, and we had them put on ~2 weeks ago. I got up at 5:30am to stand in line for the KBCO Studio C Vol. 19 CD, and Michelle got up a few hours later to have the tires installed. After I bought my CDs, I picked up Michelle since the Jeep wasn't ready yet. We nabbed a bite to eat, did some shopping, and cruised back to The Tire Source when they called to pick up the Jeep one hour ahead of their estimate. I've always been a big fan of the customer service that The Tire Source provides, whether on our daily drivers or the race cars. It sounds like they'll be moving soon, and I'll continue to do business with them at their new location.

At the same time that we were replacing the Jeep's tires, I had The Tire Source install some OEM tire pressure sensors that I purchased off eBay. The OEM TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) was an option for our Jeep, but ours doesn't have it. TPMS monitors the air pressure in each tire and warns the driver if any of them are too high or too low. It can also be programmed to monitor the spare with a 5th sensor, and it's smart enough to know when the spare is being used. Since the Jeep sees only daily driver duty, I'm not as diligent about checking the tire pressures regularly like I am on the "performance" vehicles. Thus, I wanted to add the TPMS option for some peace of mind since Michelle is the regular driver of the Jeep--it's my lazy way of looking out for her safety and satisfying my inner geekness at the same time.

Fortunately, adding the TPMS option to our Jeep is as simple as replacing the valve stems on the wheels with the OEM sensors and replacing the EVIC (Electronic Vehicle Information Center, that overhead console thing that tells you the temp outside, the direction you're heading, gas mileage, oil change interval, and so on) with one that has the TPMS circuitry. We don't have the EVIC yet, but I purchased one off eBay earlier this week so we'll have it soon.

I didn't just figure this all out on my own, though--credit is due to wjjeeps.com for the TPMS information page. Incidentally, this site provides an invaluable wealth of information regarding the WJ (1999-2004) Jeep Grand Cherokee, and I spent many hours reading through all the pages when we were shopping for the Jeep. Ain't the internet great?!

The Jeep's new shoes seem to be working quite well so far, according to Michelle. The Overland edition of the Grand Cherokee comes with full-time QuadraDrive 4WD, so it has no problem driving on even the unplowed streets. Our other daily driver, the 92 (1G) Talon TSi AWD, also fares pretty well in the wintertime. The AWD makes it an absolute blast to drive in the snow, and I'll admit that I take advantage of empty lots when no one is looking to play in the snow. It's more than just having fun--it helps me to find the limits of the vehicle in a "safe" environment, and each time I'm honing the skills needed to regain control of the vehicle in case I start slipping and sliding when driving normally. The 1G doesn't have ABS, so in this world of standard ABS-equipped vehicles I have to have a good feel for how much room it will take for me to stop the car in an emergency.

Still, the car is 15 years old and has its share of problems. Last winter I fixed the rear defogger--the connector had somehow busted off the rear window, probably from me loading and unloading bikes all the time. I fixed the A/C late this fall, which strangely enough can be quite useful in the wintertime to prevent window fogging. The biggest shortcoming of the 1G is the wipers. It was getting pretty hard to see on my drive home tonight, so I made a quick stop at Walmart to buy some new wipers and installed them in the parking lot. Ahh, clear vision--such a nice thing to have! I still need to replace the stalk switch because the intermittent setting doesn't work, but that's more of a convenience issue than a safety issue. One thing at a time (and one thing after another, as any DSM owner will tell you)!

Back to the topic of cold weather: a local TV weatherman recently helped clear up a source of confusion for many people. Ever wonder why it's so much colder in the winter when the wind blows? Meteorologists use the term wind chill to describe this phenomenon. But what is wind chill?

"Wind chill," explained the weatherman, "is a combination of the wind and the chill."

That clears it up for me. G'night.