Car maintenance made easy with simple tips from “Top Gear USA” host Rutledge Wood

Everyone knows car maintenance is important, but if you’re not a gear head – someone who loves working on vehicles – the idea of doing routine car maintenance can be very intimidating.

Whether on the set of “Top Gear,” at NASCAR races or just in my garage at home, I’m fortunate enough to be around cars a lot. I love driving them, repairing them and tinkering with them. However, for a lot of people, cars can be a confusing and even intimidating piece of machinery to work on.

To help people feel more comfortable in maintaining their vehicles, here are some simple tips that can make anyone feel like a gear head.

Change your oil

While many don’t find the prospect of being under a car messing with greasy filters their idea of a fun Sunday afternoon, changing a car’s oil isn’t as daunting a task as it seems.

1. Make sure your engine is cool before you start, then safely jack up your car and support it with jack stands. Lay a piece of cardboard under the engine, just in case you spill any oil.

2. Position a recycling container under the oil pan that’s on the bottom of your engine, then undo the drain plug and let the old oil pour into it. When the old oil’s out, put the drain plug back on and tighten it to your car’s torque specification.

3. Next, remove your old oil filter using an oil filter wrench; turn the filter counterclockwise until it’s free, but watch out you don’t spill the old oil that’s still in it. Make sure the rubber gasket comes out with the old filter.

4. Then, taking your new oil filter, lubricate the rubber gasket with some new oil and fill the new oil filter with oil to about two-thirds full.

5. Carefully screw the new oil filter clockwise into place (holding it upright); tighten only as much as you can with one hand, don’t overdo it or else it can cause a leak.

6. Now it’s time to fill the engine with oil, so unscrew the oil fill cap on the topside of the engine and insert your funnel. It’s smart to check your owner’s manual to find out how much oil your engine holds if you’re unsure, then pour a little more than three-fourths that amount into the engine.

7. Finally, start your vehicle and let it run for about a minute. During that minute, take a peek underneath to make sure you don’t have any leaks. After a minute, turn off you vehicle and check the oil level on the dipstick, adding more if necessary.

I use and recommend Valvoline NextGen Oil. It works great, and since it’s made with 50 percent recycled oil, it’s good for the environment as well. To sweeten the deal, they’ve even come out with a Close the Loop program where they’ll give you a $20 mail-in offer if you return your used oil at participating auto parts stores and buy five quarts of NextGen for your next oil change.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Bernie Kopell

Some TV series are so profoundly unique that they make a permanent impression no matter how little of them you’ve seen. Such is the case for me and “Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp,” an early ’70s spy spoof which featured live monkeys playing the parts of the secret agents and their nemeses. It’s an utterly ridiculous show, one which may not cause your kids to blink an eye (sadly, they won’t care that it’s real chimps rather than CGI or animatronic creatures, they just know that it could’ve been accomplished that way, so they won’t care), but if you grew up in the ’70s and remember seeing the show, then you’ll be thrilled to learn that it’s finally getting a proper DVD release. Better yet, there’s a charitable element involved in picking up a copy…but rather than tell you about it myself, I’ll let one of the gentlemen who gave voice to some of the monkeys do the job, since TV legend Bernie Kopell – you’ll know his face from “The Love Boat” and “Get Smart,” among other shows – was kind enough to do a bit of press for the series.

Bullz-Eye: So who would’ve thought that you’d be doing press for “Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp” in 2012?

Bernie Kopell: [Laughs.] You never know. Lancelot Link…this is one of those things that happens where it starts with James Bond, then they go to “The Man with UNCLE,“ then the satire of “Get Smart,” where I was very happily playing nasty, contemptuous  Siegfried. And then the writers – Mike Marmer and Stan Burns – and I were sitting around, saying, “Well, what are we going to do now?” And Mike said, “Let’s do it with monkeys!” And they got these brilliant…choreographers, I would call them, to get the chimpanzees to behave as if they were human. And also to move their mouths. Some preferred peanut butter to go up and down with the jaw, some preferred gum, some liked a little piece of banana. And they didn’t mind the costumes. They liked the attention. And so we got them to move their mouths up and down and be the good guys and the bad guys. So it was more fun that you can even imagine.

BE: When it came time to do the voice of Baron von Butcher, did they specifically say, “Can you kind of put a spin on Siegfried?”

BK: Oh, absolutely.

BE: When the cast recorded the voices for the show, did you do them independently or together?

BK: We did it together. First they had the chimpanzees do their choreography and mouth movements and get that from various angles, and then Joan Gerber, Dayton Allen, who worked with Steve Allen years ago, and myself did all the voices. So you have good chimpanzees and bad chimpanzees, and the biggest problem was just not laughing our silly faces off. [Laughs.] Because it was just so much fun to do!

You know, what I’m excited about in particular is that there is a woman by the name of Martine Collette, and she runs Wildlife Waystation, and believe it or not, the chimpanzee that played Lancelot Link is still alive and enjoying his later life, or his retired years, in this facility that she has made for animals. For example, say someone has said, “Hey, here’s a great idea: let’s get a miniature bear!” And just for the safe side, without thinking, they cruelly pull out the bear’s teeth and claws so that the bear doesn’t destroy anything or hurt anybody. Then they realize that they made a mistake and it’s way too much trouble, and they give the bear up. This happens with all kinds of animals. And Martine being the saintly person that she is, she accepts these animals, and her organization, Wildlife Waystation, gets no support from anybody. It’s all volunteers and donations. And here’s the good news: 10% of the profits of “Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp”  – which is now out on DVD, re-mastered, through Film Chest – go to Martine Collette and her terrific work with the animals that nobody cares about anymore. I’m very excited about that. I’ve known her for…oh, years and years and years. She’s been doing this for 36 years, and she’s just an amazing human being. She’s the Mother Teresa of animals.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

First Drive: 2013 Nissan Altima

The mid-sized sedan market is the most competitive segment in the auto industry with 2 million vehicles sold per year, and Nissan has ridden the popularity of the Altima to second place in the annual sales war. We were invited out to Nashville to test drive the next generation Altima that will go on sale this summer. With a fresh new look and 38 MPG on the highway, the new Altima should do just fine in this segment. This is the first of five all-new models that Nissan will be introducing in the next 15 month, representing 70% of the company’s sales.

Exterior

The new redesign is striking and will definitely grab your attention. Nissan is phasing in a new front grille that began last year with the new Versa, but the grille on the new Altima is much more stylish, with the curved edges that takes some cues from Nissan’s Infiniti line of luxury cars. With the wrap-around headlights and the new grille, the Altima features a more aggressive front end, which is then matched by an equally stylish rear end with its LED taillights. The new Altima looks great from all angles and should compete well with the flood of new vehicles in this segment.

Interior

Nissan’s designers worked on making the interior more comfortable, with more soft padding on the doors and the new NASA-inspired “zero gravity” seats. Research by NASA on a natural, stress-free posture measured in zero-gravity influenced the design of the new seats, with the goal being an increase in blood flow, decreased muscular load and lower fatigue. I can’t speak to those specifics but the seats were certainly comfortable during our drive. The overall feel of the interior was modern and comfortable.

If you choose a leather interior, you’ll find perforated leather and a woven headliner along with a leather steering wheel that feels very comfortable to the touch. It definitely creates the upscale feel Nissan was shooting for. It feels like you’re cruising in a luxury sedan when you try the decked out model with the V6. The new Altima is also very quiet with a significant noise reduction from the previous model.

The technology package offers some nice features including NissanConnect, 7” Touchscreen, Navigation, Google POI, Google Send-to-Car and Blind Spot Warning. It also includes two new firsts for this segment – Lane Departure Warning and Moving Object Detection.

Performance

I had the opportunity to drive both the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder version and 3.5-liter V6. The next generation CVT (continuously variable transmission) worked fine in both models. The CVT has been improved with 70% of its parts redesigned, an expanded gear ratio, 40% friction reduction and improved control logic. The result was seamless acceleration and a more natural feel in CVT mode. Still, I liked how the Sport mode simulated the gear shifting sensation we’re used to from traditional automatic transmissions, and naturally it also provided more acceleration. I also liked how the Sport mode option is conveniently placed right after the “Drive” slot on the center console. You don’t have to search around for it and shifting in and out of that mode is very easy. But acceleration is fine in the standard CVT mode as well and this is where you’ll get the best gas mileage.

The Altima boasts 38 MPG on the highway with the base 4-cylinder which is best in class and should be a big selling point. Weight reduction was an important factor with greater use of ultra high strength steel and aluminum. With a 79 lb weight reduction Altima has the lowest weight in the segment.

The overall driving experience was very impressive. I’m partial to cars with some power so I loved the V6, but the base model also performed well.

Overview

This is an excellent vehicle that should continue to be a hit in this segment. The styling is impressive and should appeal to both men and women, and both the base engine and the V6 offer solid performance. The base model starts at $21,500 with the excellent gas mileage, and 3.5SL with the v6 and all of the options tops out at over $31,500. With the decked out V6, you start to rival the perks of a luxury sedan for a much lower price, particularly with the new technology package.

  

Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to June

With the exception of Marvel’s “The Avengers” (which not only lived up to expectations, but is also currently destroying the competition at the box office), last month wasn’t exactly the greatest start to the summer season. Thankfully, June looks like it’s going to fare a little better, with a return by director Ridley Scott to the genre that made his name, the latest from animation giants Pixar, and even some good old schlock in the form of Abraham Lincoln versus vampires. It’s hardly the type of blockbuster month we’re used to, but there’s enough variety and promise among these films that it doesn’t matter.

“SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN”

Who: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron and Sam Claflin
What: A twist on the classic fairy tale where the Huntsman ordered to kill Snow White winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
When: June 1st
Why: First-time director Rupert Sanders’ coming out party looks mighty impressive from a visual standpoint, and I’d like to believe that a cast of this caliber (from the three leads down to the seven dwarfs) wouldn’t have signed on to the project if the script wasn’t good. The idea of adapting the popular story into a fantasy action film is certainly an inspired one, as it not only broadens audience appeal, but allows for the introduction of newer elements as well. I’m a bit surprised that Universal hasn’t revealed more of the aforementioned dwarfs in the marketing campaign, but while they’ll likely play a bigger part in the movie, it’s quite refreshing not to have every single detail ruined in advance.

“PROMETHEUS”

Who: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron
What: A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind, leading them to a distant world where they must fight to save the future of the human race.
When: June 8th
Why: Whether or not “Prometheus” has anything to do with the original “Alien” (and at this point, I don’t think even Ridley Scott knows for certain), it’s shaping up to be one of the coolest movies of the year, despite my concerns that it’ll pull a “John Carter” at the box office. The trailers have done an excellent job of whetting our appetites while still remaining fairly elusive about what the hell is going on, and from the footage I’ve seen, it’s obvious that the film shares many of the same visual and tonal cues with the 1979 sci-fi horror classic. Though Noomi Rapace has a lot to prove in her first Hollywood leading role, Scott has smartly surrounded her with enough talent that she’s under no real pressure to carry the movie on her own. With that said, however, she certainly looks the part of an Ellen Ripley substitute, and that’s something worth getting excited about.

“SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED”

Who: Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Mark Duplass and Karan Soni
What: Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.
When: June 8th
Why: I had the good fortune of seeing the Sundance hit at SXSW earlier this year, and I can’t say enough great things about it. Based on a real-life classified ad that became an Internet meme, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is a magical film about the human spirit whose charm is difficult to ignore. The character-driven dramedy is an amalgamation of everything that’s great about indie filmmaking – from its hugely original script, to the quirky characters, to the incredibly honest and funny performances by its cast. But the one thing that it does better than anything else is create a cinematic experience that’s rich in both comedy and emotion. A lot of movies have tried to juggle the two in the past, but “Safety Not Guaranteed” is one of those rare few that pull it off almost effortlessly.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Blu Tuesday: Evil Children, Fistfights and More

After celebrating Memorial Day weekend partying with your friends and family, eating good food, and drinking way more than you planned, there’s nothing better than relaxing in the cool confines of your home while watching a movie. Thankfully, there are a few new Blu-rays out today to help pass the time, including a personal favorite from last year and one of the more enjoyable sports comedies in recent memory.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin”

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that knocks you completely on your ass, and Lynne Ramsey’s psychological thriller “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is such a film. A thoroughly engaging and disturbing look at the strained relationship between a mother and her sociopathic child, Ramsey has crafted a modern day “Rosemary’s Baby” of sorts that lingers in the back of your mind long after it’s over. Tilda Swinton delivers a powerhouse performance as a mother trying to adapt to life after her son commits a Columbine-esque massacre at his school, although most of the story takes place before the tragic event, with Ramsey exploring the idea of nature vs. nurture and how much Swinton’s parenting tactics are to blame for the subsequent actions of her malevolent son. Though the constant use of red imagery throughout the film feels a little forced at times, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is so brilliant from top to bottom (especially the acting, score and cinematography) that it’s absolutely mesmerizing.

Blu-ray Highlight: “Behind the Scenes of Kevin” isn’t your typical making-of featurette, but rather an intelligent discussion about the movie with interviews from the cast and crew on a number of topics like adapting Lionel Shriver’s controversial novel for the big screen, casting, production design and the film’s various themes.

“Goon”

With the exception of Disney’s “The Mighty Ducks” series, the hugely overrated “Slap Shot” and a handful of other films, hockey has been inadequately represented by Hollywood compared to most sports, which is probably why “Goon” is such a welcome treat. Though the Michael Dowse-directed comedy is a fairly average underdog story in most respects, it’s still one of the best sports films in recent years. Seann William Scott has never had a better role than that of bouncer turned hockey enforcer Doug Glatt, and his understated performance is a big reason why the movie works as well as it does. In fact, most of the cast is excellent throughout, including Liev Schreiber as a fellow enforcer nearing retirement, the divine Alison Pill as Doug’s awkward but sweet love interest, and Kim Coates as the no-nonsense coach who recruits Doug for his special talents. Speaking of which, the fight scenes are awesome, delivering plenty of blood and laughs with every blow. And if you didn’t know much about hockey goons before, you’ll have a newfound respect for them by the time it’s over.

Blu-ray Highlight: Magnolia’s two-disc release of “Goon” comes jam-packed with extras, some of which are actually quite good. Though the audio commentary with director Michael Dowse and actor/co-writer Jay Baruchel is definitely worth checking out, there’s a pretty lengthy interview with Baruchel and star Seann William Scott that covers a lot of the same material about making the film in a third of the time.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts