Car Care Small Business

When my wife and I buy a car, we get it serviced at the dealership for the first few check ups. After the warranty kilometers are gone, it’s time to give the smaller automotive shops our business.

Our Honda Element is at 286000 kilometers now and still runs smoothly. I recently took it to a tire shop to get a screw out of the rubber and the guys were efficient and reasonably priced. They also didn’t try and upsell me on other stuff that I didn’t need. Kudos to them. I’ll be back when I need new tires!

Today I dropped off the element at a fellow’s shop that he runs from his home’s garage. He’s our neighbor’s son who is Honda Certified and has worked on our vehicle in the past for us. He’s putting in new shocks and the like in order to smooth out the ride. He’s always been able to take our Element in and get it back to us in a timely manner. I appreciate the work he does as well since working on cars is his passion.

Supporting a small business or local shop is important to me. Without these people, who generally take pride in their work, the car dealerships would gouge us every time we dropped off our car for service. Owning a car is expensive no matter what you do. But the freedom that comes with a vehicle is invaluable at times. Especially for my family where we have nonexistent public transit nearby our home.

Here’s to you small automotive businesses! Thank you for being a great alternative to the dealerships.

Roof Racks

Today was a day of roof racks. How exciting! One was for my Nissan Rogue. The other was for our Honda Element.

The Rogue was super easy, but super expensive. I shopped around to find crossbars, however it seems that Nissan Dealers all charge the same. $350 after taxes and five minutes of my labor and the Rogue is ready to start transporting stuff. It does look pretty slick mind you.

The Element was more challenging. Since the vehicle was discontinued a few years ago, accessories aren’t readily available from dealerships or online. So it was time to improvise and see what other people have done. After a couple of YouTube videos and a sense of, “That looks easy.” I took on the challenge.

We had an old display shelf that was the perfect length and the bars are durable. The Element is already boxy, so the square metal tube from the shelf fits in nicely. I hit the hardware section of a few stores to find a metal corner edge, bolts and some pins. I measured out the bracket sizes and cut four pieces with my hacksaw. After filing the edges, I bolted them into the roof. (The Element had bolt holes hidden in the top side panels making it easy to attach these brackets.) I used an angle grinder to slice out the perfect slit in the rails. Then I drilled holes that lined up with the brackets and tested my pins. Everything fit perfectly. Lastly was to remove everything once more and give it the first coat of black paint.

All that’s left is to figure out how to add crossbars in order to retain the durability. So far the roof rack for our Element has cost about $20, some recycled materials, a few fantastic YouTube lessons and a couple of hours of labor. Not too shabby I guess. Plus I really enjoyed working with my hands creating something useful for our car. I can’t wait to see the finished product and go camping!

Camperizing our Honda Element

We have loved our Honda Element since we bought it back in 2003. Since we are planning on a camping trip at the end of the month, we wanted to bring our Element with us. Today I decided to bring some new life into it.

I went online to see what people have done to make their Hondas more outdoorsy and versatile than they already are. To my surprise, they all did exactly as I would.

So I got started.

Taking out the back seats opens up a huge cargo area. Approximately 4 feet high by 5 feet wide and 5 feet long. Shaped almost like a box as well. Not a lot of wasted space either.

Putting our camping gear in filled the lower half of our Element. I didn’t really like the idea of stacking our stuff though. So out came the wood, saw and screws.

I already had an 8 foot 2×4 sitting around and a piece of plywood. I measured out the plywood for when the driver and passenger seats are leaning back. Then I folded those seats forward, cut another piece of the plywood at about 1.5 feet long. Screwed this board to the five foot board with an old piano hinge so I could fold it over when driving.

It also just so happened that I had five solid wood slats from an old double bed futon frame. Those fit perfectly across as a brace without any cutting.

We had an old 2 inch cheer mat gathering cobwebs. So I cut it to fit on top of the plywood. It looks as if it was made for the car- with the blue matching our interior. I cut another piece of foam for the fold out part. Once laid out, my 6’8″ body fit from end to end comfortably.

All of it is easy to remove as well. Which makes it a great option to camperize only when we need it.

I’m excited about the future camping trip. Our car is ready! My next couple of goals include getting some solar panels to charge our stuff. I’m also planning on building a slide out shelf to be able to use as a work station/counter.

If you have any tips or ideas for our Element, let me know. I’d love to try them out.

Standardized Automation

I was driving home from my night shift and just wanted to get home. I was fairly tired and zoned out for a bit. This was because my car isn’t a manual transmission. I kind of miss it.

My old 2003 Honda Element is a five speed manual transmission. The gear shift is in the middle of the console at the perfect height. I always enjoyed driving my box on wheels. I stayed alert and felt like I had more control over what the engine did. I think I shall take this SUV out of storage for the summer! It’ll be great for camping as well.

My 2016 Rogue is an automatic. But it has buttons. Buttons on the side to “ACTIVATE SPORT MODE” or lesser cool, but completely practical “ECONOMIC MODE“. I usually use the second one since gas prices are skyrocketing and my commute one way is 55km (round trip is 110- GO math genius Josef). But once in a while I like to pretend to be sporty.

I wish I could’ve bought the higher end model of my car in standard, but alas it was not to be. Maybe the next car we get will have a gear shift again. That makes driving a bit more fun.

Repair or replace it

We have owned our Honda Element new since 2003.  It’s the only car we’ve ever bought brand new. It’s been through a lot with our family and watched us grow.  It’s been a part of our family for 13 years this month in fact.  As wonderful as it is to buy a new car off the lot, we would never do it again.  Over $35,000 spent once it was paid off.  The vehicle may be worth $2,500 for trade in value now.


I love the car.  We have put nearly 265,000km on it with the only major repair being a new clutch.  But repairs are about to start costing more than its value.  All of the wear & tear, nicks & scratches have come from the use & abuse we have put it through.  The Element has endured rather well.  This vehicle is a great commuter car for a tall guy like me.  It’s a 5 speed manual transmission with a four cylinder engine.  It’s fun to drive and has a bit of pep to it.  The repairs are mostly cosmetic and I should get them done at some point anyways.


Cracked taillight from when I backed into a pole.  D’oh.


Cracked windshield from years of highway driving.


Muffler held together with wire.


My oldest is only a couple of years away from getting her license so I think we will keep this mini SUV for her to use when the time comes.  I don’t think we will ever get rid of the car.  It should last us for many more years. 


 If Honda still made the Element, I would consider buying another one for myself.  It’s hard for me to find a new vehicle for myself since I haven’t driven a car since 2003 and SUVs aren’t exactly the most fuel efficient vehicles out there. We ditched our minvan five years ago for a Nissan Pathfinder (another fantastic vehicle btw) and I don’t think we could justify buying another large truck or SUV at this time.

Hopefully within a couple of years, a “new to me” vehicle will grace my driveway.  But until then, I should probably get the oil changed regularly and fill the tires with air as needed.