QOTD #58: How good is your gas mileage?

Whenever I buy a new car, I like to see what kind of gas mileage I get. If the car has a trip computer that makes the test easier. But I still like to write down the miles on the odometer and fill up the tank to get an accurate reading. I have yet to do that with my latest acquisitions. The 1984 Pontiac Fiero is not running at the moment but is supposed to get anywhere from 29-32 mpg hwy with the automatic transmission. The manual transmission is supposed to get as much as 40 mpg. Wouldn’t that be nice?

MPG 84 Fiero 2

The one that may be an issue is the 2002 Mercedes-Benz ML320. Fuelly.com says that four owners tracked their mileage and averaged 17.1 mpg. Apparently, the combination of AWD and a 215 hp V6 will have me visiting the gas station more often than not. Thankfully, most of my drive to work has a 45 mph speed limit. So, maybe it won’t be too bad.

MPG 02 ML320

All this makes me curious about your experience. How good is your gas mileage? Are you one of these people who coast as far as you can to save money? My uncle does that. Or are you the type that doesn’t care? As long as the car performs as it should, you don’t care what it costs. Let me know in the comment section below.

1995 Jaguar XJ6 : Air Idle Control and Headlight Trim

Backyard Mechanic


As of today, our 1995 Jaguar XJ6 (X300) has accumulated a total of 135,659 miles. I took the above picture today to figure out if the trip computer’s fuel economy of 11-12 mpg was correct. To do so, I filled up this morning at 135,592 and then filled up again this afternoon after work at 135,659. The 67 mile trip required 3.903 gallons of premium 93 octane gas. The end result was 17.166 mpg which is well within the advertised 15 city/22 highway. I guess the trip computer has developed a problem.

But my concerns were not limited to just the trip computer’s tabulations. My mechanic recently replaced the fuel rail, fuel injector o-rings, and checked the AIC (air idle control valve). The idle speed has been high (approx. 1100-1500 rpm) over the winter and the AIC would stick at times possibly due to moisture freezing inside. Unfortunately, the new AIC could not be installed without a Jaguar technician “re-learning” the unit. So, I have been communicating with a mechanic in Cleveland about doing the job. I have the new AIC in the box and am awaiting a time when the job can be completed.

3The other news is a recent “update” to the front end of the Jaguar. Trenton and I replaced the broken passenger side headlight bracket earlier this week. Then Jefferson and I installed the headlight trim pieces that were missing when we first bought the car. It wasn’t as easy as expected. After installing the headlight bracket, we found that the hood rubbed against the inner most headlight on the passenger side. To compensate, I used my “immense strength” (and a pair of vice grips) to bend the hood up and out of the way.

The end result won’t win us a spot in the Body Shop Hall of Fame but the hood no longer rubs the headlight and the trim pieces are installed. The biggest lesson I have learned is that accidents cause a lot of problems that aren’t easily addressed by this backyard mechanic. If I want things to be done right, I will have to purchase another fender and hood and have a real body man make things look right. Until then, we’ll be happy with our efforts and keep driving the car. After all, it is 20 years old.


P.S. The former owner used black electrical tape to hold the inside of the grill together. Nice. Seems like something I would do.

Jaguar “Quality” before Ford Took Over


How bad was Jaguar quality in the 1980’s and early 90’s? It was so bad that Ford almost bit off more than they could chew when they paid $2.5 billion to buy the brand. In his article, How Ford bought, fixed Jaguar, written in 2003, Bradford Wernle explains just how bad it had gotten.

ford-quality-job-one“My concern was that, with the exception of a few people, most of the Jaguar people – their belief about Ford Motor Co. was pretty poor,” said Hayden. “Second, they didn’t really seem to understand what a mess they were in. They seemed to think just being Jaguar, somehow they would survive. Somehow I had to get their attention.” Hayden got their attention by making a comment that became a legend around Jaguar’s base in Coventry, England. Hayden said the only factory he had ever seen that was worse than Browns Lane was the Gorky car plant in the old Soviet Union. At Gorky, Hayden had seen workers actually applying paint over bird crap deposited on the roofs of cars by pigeons flying around inside the plant. The Gorky comment hurt workers badly, but it also woke them up.

As an American, I was wondering how things would get any better with Ford owning the brand. Ford to me was an economy car with little to offer in terms of quality. But I was obviously wrong. The people behind “Quality is Job One” created a miraculous turn around for Jaguar taking the brand from the bottom to the top of quality scores. Nicely done.

QOTD #54: Which is the most reliable Jaguar model ever built?

This kind of question is always interesting. In all honesty, this usually becomes more of a popularity contest. My favorite Jag was the silver 1982 XJ-S V12. It was an awesome car to drive and one I wish I had been able to keep. But ask me which one has been the most reliable and I’d have to vote differently. The XJ-S didn’t have a working heater and sucked gas out of the pump faster than I could put it in. The blue 1990 XJ6 (as well as the white 1990 XJ6) had their share of troubles. The sagging hydraulic suspension, inoperative heater fans, embarrassing oil puddles, and continuous electrical problems were aggravating. But when I purchased the 1995 XJ6, things were quite different. Sure, there have been problems but nothing serious. Even after using it as my daily driver for home inspections, it keeps plugging along with little to no maintenance. It has been the most reliable Jaguar I have owned. But what do the experts say?

David Muhlbaum recently posted an article at Kiplinger entitled, “15 Cars that Refuse to Die.” As you would expect, the author includes Irv Gordon’s 1966 Volvo P1800 and Peter Gilbert’s 1989 SAAB 900 Turbo. But the rest of the list might surprise you. Sure enough, one of the 15 cars that refuse to die is the 1995-97 Jaguar XJ6 (X300). How about that? Somebody actually agrees with me. Here’s what David says about it.

“Here’s our thinking: During the 1970s, Jaguar reliability was horrid. A common solution to the car’s troubles was to rip out the Jaguar motor and replace it with a good old Chevrolet V8. But in the 1980s, under the leadership of an industrial turnaround specialist, Sir John Egan, the marque started to improve. Then Ford bought the company, infusing money and development know-how. By the late 1990s, the company was scoring well on J.D. Power vehicle dependability and initial quality rankings. So that’s why the last iteration of the classic Jaguar inline-6 sedan is still motoring on, often in the hands of a second owner who’s always hankered for a Jag but couldn’t afford one new” (link).

Read the entire article and you will find that the author really isn’t talking about reliability. He’s talking about cars that keep existing long past their prime because of several reasons. Some keep running because they are well built. Others still exist because their owners refuse to let them die. I think my 1995 Jaguar XJ6 is a combination of the two. It’s a beautiful sedan with a reliable drive train. Although it does leak some oil and has been in an accident, it’s quite a leap above the others I have owned in dependability — even the heater works! While it’s nice to have something more reliable than those I’ve owned in the past, I can’t quite escape the likeability factor when it comes to owning a car. In other words, I want to drive something that I like. But it doesn’t hurt that that this one has been so dependable. It’s a definite win-win combination.

H/T Al Roethlisberger