Sam's Blog
Welcome to Sam's Blog, a place where I can share our latest news, inform you about new products and services, and vent, should the need arise.
-Sam Bell

 Time and salt kill cars in Cleveland. If yours is ready for replacement, here are some tips.

LUSTY WRENCH used car FAQ answers

Jim Greenfield at Metro Toyota is our favorite used car salesperson.

216-267-7000 x145 (doesn't work on tuesdays)

We offer Pre-purchase inspections ($77+tax). In addition to checking the tires, brakes, suspension, steering, lights, checking for leaks and check engine light codes, we look the car over for rust underneath on the exhaust and frame/subframe and body (see “What kills cars in Cleveland”).

We generally recommend Honda and Toyota cars. Which also includes Acura (really Hondas) and Scion and Lexus (really Toyotas). Also, the Pontiac Vibe was really a Toyota Matrix. Also the Geo/Chevy Prizm was really a Corolla (but most of these still on the road are getting a bit old if they are Cleveland cars) We also like some later model Fords.

European Cars (Volvo, Volkswagen, Audi, Saab, BMW, Mini, and Fiat etc.) are right out of consideration. As are GM and Chrysler family cars (Chevrolet, Pontiac, Chrysler, Dodge etc) Sorry to offend anyone who's a fan.

Specific models we like include the Honda Fit, Civic, Accord, the Toyota Yaris, Prius, Matrix, Corolla, Camry, and the Scion xA, xB and xD. Very few people actually need four-wheel drive. (If you are an emergency room physician or surgeon, or perhaps a firefighter or a police officer, maybe. Most of the rest of us in Cleveland will never need it.)

The ideal used car is 3 years old and has 105,000 or more miles. The price drops off after 100k miles, but a 3 year old car is young enough to have recent life saving technology like vehicle stability control. Do not be afraid of “high-mileage” cars. DO be afraid of a 5 year old car with 20,000 miles. DO be cautious of any Cleveland car that will turn 10 (or older) within a year or two of purchase (see “What kills cars in Cleveland”)

Avoid Continuous Variable Transmissions (CVT) if possible (all makes). [Exception: Toyota Hybrids, Ford Hybrids.] They don't seem to hold up well past 100,000 mi. Avoid Fords and other cars with “Direct Injection” [GDI]. It causes buildups that lead to costly repairs. We think Subarus are vastly overrated: most will need an infusion of $5,000 or more between 70,000 and 120,000 miles. We do not like Hybrid Hondas, but we generally like Toyota, Lexus,  and Ford Hybrids.

What kills cars in Cleveland is the road salt. A 10 year old car that has lived in Cleveland its whole life is in late middle age. You can slow this process down by getting an underbody wash once a month from November through May (and twice in May). We recommend the Al Paul “chassis bath”. They are on Warrensville Rd. by the Cedar intersection. Not all car washes have an underbody wash, not all underbody washes are created equal, and most car washes require you to ask (and pay extra) for the underbody “chassis bath”. It may seem pricey but replacing the catalytic converter and the sensors that go with it can be $1500-$1800, and replacing a rusted out sub-frame is astronomically expensive.
Bragging rights!
Lusty Wrench has been selected as the winner in the Customer Service category of the annual "Best of the Heights Awards" sponsored by Future Heights. This category applies to all businesses in Cleveland Heights or University Heights. Than you to all our customers! We'll strive to remain worthy of this honor.

Another "First"
altWe're happy to announce that we've won the recent Patch readers contest in the category of Best Mechanics.  See the details here. Thanks to all our valued friends who voted us in!  And be sure to check out the other fine local businesses who won their categories, too.
e4s Champions!
E4S (Entrepreneurs for Sustainability) started a national movement when it debuted locally 10 years ago. We are very proud to have been named one of their Champions of Sustainability for our ongoing efforts to tread lightly while caring for your car.

I Am Now a Published Author
My good friend Ralph Birnbaum and I have written a new book immodestly titled The Auto Emissions Bible.  We wrote it for dedicated "pro-sumers" and other interested hobbyists, as well as for automotive service technicians. At 300 pages, it covers a lot of material in considerable depth, and is the culmination of years of study, experience, and busted knuckles. We're proud to have written it.

If you're curious and want the skinny on modern automotive emissions testing and diagnosis, this is the book for you. But if you'd rather just have us fix your car, call for an appointment.
(216) 371-8150.

After all, we did write the book!

Download sample pages or order here.

On the airwaves
Sam recently appeared on the show NEOtropolis, produced by PBS of the Western reserve and shown on May Day, 2012.  Here is a link to the show:  Sam's part starts about 20 minutes in.   Sam was also interviewed for a broadcast on Civic Commons Radio (heard locally on WJCU).  Here's a link to a podcast of the show: 

Getting Into His Work
joe in truckIn case you were wondering how we technicians spend our days, here's a shot of our own Joe Sandow in the midst of the glamorous and exciting world of auto repair.

He is extricating eight spark plugs that have been taken hostage by a Ford Triton V8. With the appropriate special tools, dogged determination, and reckless disregard for his attire, Joe eventually rescues the captive spark plugs.

(Joe's wife may have opinions of her own.)

Cleveland Art Museum Interview
Recently, Sam was interviewed for the Clevaland Art Museum newsletter.

art museum"This monkey-shaped perfume flask is one of my favorite things in the museum. It makes me laugh. There’s such joy. I’m an alumnus of St. John’s College, the“Great Books” school, so I studied classical Greek, read Plato, Aristotle, Euripides, Homer, and so on. I spent some time in Greece 40 years ago, occasionally volunteering with the excavation of the Agora in Athens. You would never find anything like this—just these tiny, tiny shards and then somebody else would try to figure out what they were. I love that this piece is from roughly that same period.

The Greek word arete translates as excellence or virtue—it’s not an achievement, but an ongoing pursuit, a way of life. That’s one of the things you see everywhere as you look around this museum, even in a tiny piece like this. I’m a space brat. My dad was a rocket scientist and we came to Cleveland in 1963 so he could work for NASA. I first came to the museum when we stayed briefly at the Fenway Motor Inn on University Circle. I used to cut classes from Heights High School and come down to the art museum on the theory that I would learn more here than I would in a classroom.

Cleveland is a great city and one of the greatest things about it is we have such wonderful cultural institutions. My children grew up in this museum, visiting probably two or three times a month for 15 years. It’s been really important for our family, first for our children and now our grandchildren. When I talk to people from out of town or who are new to the area, this amazing art museum and the best orchestra in the world are what I tout to them as the things that really separate us from other places."

<< Start < Prev 1 2 Next > End >>

Page 1 of 2


Sam was recently interviewed for a broadcast on Civic Commons Radio (heard locally on WJCU).  Here's a link to a podcast of the show: