Getting started with a precharged air rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Fill options
  • Practicality
  • Filling a big bore
  • Tank size
  • Filling a smallbore PCP
  • The point
  • Air compressors
  • Booster compressors
  • Stand-alone compressors
  • The future

I said in the last report that I would write this report on filling options for PCPs. I’m writing this for the new guys who aren’t sure which way to turn. Any way you go represents an investment, so this is something that needs to be given a lot of consideration. Hopefully this report will start a discussion of that.

Fill options

There are two basic ways to fill a precharged airgun. Either the air is introduced from a container where it is stored until called for or else it is put in and compressed as the fill is made. The first option is based on an air tank of some kind. The second is either a hand pump or a small air compressor that connects to the airgun. I will talk about both of these but first I want to discuss practicality.

Practicality

There are many ways to get compressed air into an airgun. I just said there are two basic ways, but these break down into dozens of different possibilities. Some are practical and others aren’t. Let’s talk about that for a moment.

Filling a big bore

Let’s say your precharged pneumatic (PCP) is a big bore airgun. All big bores use a lot of air, and that has an impact on how they are filled. The big bores Dennis Quackenbush makes develop up to 500 foot-pounds and get two powerful shots per fill to 3,000 psi. They have relatively large reservoirs that accept a lot of compressed air. These guns can only be filled practically from an air tank. Imagine pumping a hand pump for 10 minutes to fill a gun, then firing just two shots before it needs to be filled all over again.

Now, it is possible to fill a Quackenbush big bore with a hand pump. I have done it. But if you intend shooting that airgun many times, then it is not practical to fill it that way. People will argue that a hand pump is perfect for hunters who want to get away from civilization, and they are right. A 5-pound hand pump that you can carry easily is certainly easier to handle than a 20-pound air tank that has to be refilled by either a fill station or an air compressor. However, if you are going to the range to sight in that big bore airgun at 100 yards and envision needing 20-25 shots to complete the task, then I don’t think you will want to use the hand pump — no matter how light and easy it is to carry. What you must ask yourself is which do you think you will do more often — shoot targets or hunt?

Tank size

There’s still more to consider, and this is something most people aren’t aware of before they get into PCPs. A 3,000 psi 80-cubic foot aluminum scuba tank is relatively inexpensive. That doesn’t mean it will be cheap by any means, but a used one can often be bought for less than a hundred dollars. Compared to the cost of an 88 or 98 cubic foot carbon fiber tank that holds 20 times as much useful air (or more!), and can cost over $700, it does seem inexpensive. However — is it practical?

If you are filling a PCP to a pressure lower than 3,000 psi, a gun like the Benjamin Discovery that’s filled to 2,000 psi, for example, a 3,000 psi tank is great. You will get many full fills from one tankful of air, plus many more partial fills. However, if you are filling an airgun that requires a 3,000 psi fill you need to understand there is just one fill of air in that 3,000 psi tank. I don’t care how big it is, there is just one full fill. The next fill might end at 2,990 psi, or so. That’s because you are draining a tank that was filled to 3,000 psi to start with.

I understand that some dive shops will fill a 3,000 psi tank to 3,300 psi, but that’s because they know that the heat of compression drives the pressure higher. When the tank cools after the fill it will be very close to 3,000 psi. Some dive shops do this and others put the tank being filled in a large container of cool water. And some shops do both. The results are the same — 3,000 psi in your tank after it has been filled. That’s what you have to work with.

Think of it this way — a 10-gallon can holds 10 gallons of liquid. Pour out a teacup full and there are no longer 10 gallons in the can.

A carbon fiber tank that fills to 4,500 psi will fill a 3,000 psi airgun full many times — depending on the size of the tank. When the tank pressure drops to 3,000 psi there are still plenty of partial fills, so the net result is you get a lot more usable air out of one of these tanks. Of course they cost more, and are harder to get filled to their maximum. If you own just a Discovery one of these tanks might be an extravagance, but if you own a big bore airgun they are almost a requirement. With the testing I do I had to get two.

Filling a smallbore PCP

You might think that filling a smallbore PCP is the reverse of filling a big bore, and in some instances it is, but don’t assume that all smallbores are the same. A few are very sparing of the air they use, but many use lots of air because they are shot a lot more every time they are taken out. You have to try to envision what you will do with a smallbore air rifle. Let me give you an example.

I used to shoot a .22 caliber Career 707 a lot. It was a 10-shot lever action repeater that I shot anywhere from 100 to 500 times each time I took it out. In the beginning it was getting 70+ foot-pounds of energy for the first several shots and had maybe as many as 20 shots per fill. Not all the shots were that powerful but even the weakest was around 40 foot-pounds. Then I had the rifle highly modified and got around 90 shots per fill at a very consistent 30 foot-pounds. After the modifications is when I really started shooting the rifle a lot, because it had become so easy to shoot.

I made do with an 80 cubic-foot aluminum scuba tank, but that’s mostly because in the 1990s that was what we had. A few guys owned steel 120 cubic-foot tanks that were filled to 3,500 psi and they got a lot more shots than I did. But a large carbon fiber tank would still put that to shame!

The point

The point I am making is that when you shoot a PCP you need high pressure air. Where you get it from is as important a decision as any other piece of essential equipment you will buy. This is one reason why I recommend starting out with certain PCPs that get filled to 2,000 psi. That gives you some time to become familiar with the technology so you can start asking questions that are pertinent.

Air compressors

Next I will address air compressors. These are used for two purposes. One is to fill a tank and the other is to fill the airgun directly. The smaller and less expensive ones are for filling airguns. Most of these are booster compressors.

Booster compressor

A booster compressor such as the Air Venturi Power Booster takes air from a shop compressor that compresses it to around 100 psi and boosts it to 4,500 psi. They are slow to fill and need the input of a shop compressor to work. But they are the least expensive types of compressors. They cost between $600 and 1,000 new, but compared to stand-alone compressors, that’s inexpensive. What you save in money costs you in time and convenience. Some folks love them and others are turned off. I am among the latter group, only because I have two stand-alone compressors.

Stand-alone compressors

A stand-alone compressor does what the name implies. It is all that’s needed to compress air. Most of them today go up to 4,500 psi, but some stop at 3,000. You need to figure out which you want to use, because these start at $1,300 and go up over $3,000. I have to put in a plug for the compressor I believe is the best value right now and that is the Air Venturi compressor. It’s at the low end of the cost scale, yet it works very fast. I fill both my carbon fiber tanks from it.

The future

The future of PCPs and their support equipment is very bright. I know of one stand-alone compressor from Sun Optics that’s due out very soon. From what I see, it will be a minor game changer, because it runs on either 110-volt household current or 12 volts from a car battery. I know of a couple hand pumps that are also in the works. The bottom line is, it’s going to be easier than ever to get compressed air in the near future. All it will take is money.

55 thoughts on “Getting started with a precharged air rifle: Part 3

  1. BB,

    The choice for me was simple: Scuba tanks. All of the family are long time certified scuba divers. There are usually several tanks in the rack in the corner of the garage. I can fill from 3000 PSI down to 2000 PSI and then take the tanks out to the lake and we can get around 40 minutes bottom time from 2000 down to 500 PSI (shallow dives – usually no deeper than 20 feet). Also, the dive shop owner is a good friend and I’m not usually charged for air fills.

    I hope that you are getting one of the Sun Optic’s compressors to test. The one that they had on display at the Texas Airgun Show was very impressive. It might make me consider one for the house and dedicate a specific tank to the airguns.

    Jim


    • Jim,

      I will be getting a Sun Optics compressor to test. They are working on some last-minute reliability details (I watched the rebuild and parts examination a couple days ago) and these things should be as close to bulletproof as possible.

      B.B.


  2. B.B.,

    I think you have written a very good introduction to PCPs for beginners. After reviewing all three together maybe you should start linking it to your previous series on scopes and triggers. Or make a new series on choosing scopes and the reasons why a trigger should be what it is for a particular application (very light for target and a little heavier for sporting/hunting). Lest you think that there are nothing to add.

    Siraniko

    PS First sentence of the intro: I said in the lest (last) report…


  3. B.B.,

    Very nice article. When I got into PCP’s 4-5 years ago, there was less air options. I have a .25 M-rod and .22 Maximus, a Shoebox 10 and a California Air small compressor and a Guppy CF tank (4,500). I am very happy with what I have. Fill time is less important. The Guppy will hold more air than I care to shoot in 1 session. (3,400 M-rod and 2,000 with the Maximus). I trust the long history of the Shoebox brand. If I were to start fresh, the Air Venturi would most likely be my first choice. Durability seems goods thus far.

    Filters/moisture traps are another consideration. I do not have any. I have no issues, thus far. That is with pumping indoors in either a heated or AC cooled environment, in Ohio.

    I do not regret the investment in the least as PCP’s are so much easier to shoot well. Starting new, I would have just PCP’s. I can say that with 100% confidence.

    Chris

    Chris


  4. BB,

    I can personally testify that you really do not want to shoot a big bore much if all you have is a hand pump. I had Lloyd’s Rogue for a bit and all I had to fill it with was my Hill pump. Although it is very conservative of air for a big bore, there was still an awful lot of pumping to shoot it very much.

    When I bought my HM1000X I also bought a 98 CF tank and an Air Venturi compressor. The Hill is now for backup use.


    • RR,

      I swore that you recommended an air/moisture trap this AM. I did hit the link. I was walking out the door soon, so no time to respond.

      At any rate, do you think that it is more critical with a fast pump like you have and less critical with a hand pump or a slower compressor like my Shoebox. I also see that P.A. seems to not offer anything with regards to moisture traps.


      • Chris,

        There are several moisture removers for hand pumps that use desiccant, but perhaps they would be inadequate I have read of people having extra long hoses who give them the old quarter twist to make them spiral, Water then collects at the two or even three bottoms of the spirals. Once the tank or rifle is filled, drain the hose.

        Might that be a simple solution?

        Michael


        • Michael,

          My set up is set up with a 3/8″ hard 60′ hose and it is specifically coiled in a 5 gallon bucket. After the bucket it goes through a 5 micron filter/trap,… which at the time, my research showed as being adequate. Then to the Shoebox. I have yet to drain 1 drop out of the trap. The 5.5 gallon California Air will blow some mist when it is first pumped to pressure (125) from the drain. I have blown the hose out before the trap and got nothing. So,…. I guess it working??? I would prefer a moisture trap like RR recommended this AM. It was about 180$. So far, so good and just passing along what I have tried thus far. There probably ought to be a disclaimer in here somewhere about now? 😉

          Of course,… my mind immediately leaps to,… ” Heck!!!,.. I could make me one of them thingy’s”. Then again,… at 4,500 psi,.. I think that I will leave it to the pro’s. I kind of, sort of, likes all of my pieces! 🙂


        • Michael,Chris,
          Assuming you own a Marauder, Disco or Maximus; can you use a degasser to periodically vent moisture from the gun’s reservoir and avoid these pricy moisture traps???

          Pete


          • Pete,

            I suppose that would work to some degree. A mass exodus of air all at once. B.B. did say that any moisture gets blown out with each shot. I use some silicone oil in the fill port from time to time as well like B.B. recommended. I have the M-rod and the Maximus.


      • Chris,

        Lloyd has two Shoeboxes and his experience is you really should have one. As for a hand pump, one of the air rifle companies in the UK will void the warranty if you use a hand pump to fill their air rifles. I believe it is Daystate, but I would not bet my life on that. 😉

        BB has said that when you shoot the PCP, the moisture is blown out of the reservoir, but if you store the PCP with it filled how long will the moisture sit in there? High pressure air has a good quantity of oxygen in it. Oxygen plus water equals oxidation, otherwise known as rust.

        I do my best to remove as much moisture as I possibly can.


        • RR,

          I do agree with you. Better safe than sorry. Especially if you notice that it is trapping moisture. I just never made the added investment. I would for sure if I ever got a high dollar PCP. Thanks.


          • Chris,

            It IS trapping moisture. The new AV compressor has a moisture trap AND a filter. I added the extra filter to it so it would be as dry as possible. It does not take long for a little moisture and high pressure air to cause rust. Like you said, “better safe than sorry”.


  5. Thanks for this report. I am a spring shooter but always eyeing up the PCP world for field target.
    My only question is water and moisture. Does the moisture from compressing air cause problems? Does it build up in the tanks? Does it cause rust in the rifles?



      • Thank you. When I go PCP I will jump in with both feet. TM1000 giant scope ,compressor and carbon tank all in one shot.
        Before I spend that sort of money I enjoy all the research and always read the blog every day. Thanks for all the great information.


        • Racer X,

          You are exactly the person I write for. Jumping in with both feet is a risk, but it doesn’t need to be.

          At the moment my recommendations are for the 98 cubic foot carbon fiber tank, the Air Venturi compressor and either a Benjamin Marauder or an AirForce Talon SS. Those are the least risky components I can think of.

          B.B.


          • When I got into airguns for the second time I began with your blog and airgun web. I read everything and watched all the videos. I learned two lifetimes worth of information is one year. I bought a collection of very nice rifles. But I am not a collector. I am a field target competitor. After spending enough money to buy two TX 200 s I finally bought a TX 200. Now I am afraid if I buy anything but a styer or TM1000 I will be buying one later. So I do like the other rifles but they are not going to win competitions . Yes I’m jaded but my tuned Tx200. Anything I buy must out perform the the TX. That is a very tall order.


      • B.B., I don’t have a PCP (yet). I find it of interest that you put silicone chamber oil in the reservoir. I picture this as like the Pell gun oil on the tip of a C02 Cart. So I take it you put 3 or 4 drops down the reservoir? Do you do that every time you shoot or not as often? Just comparing the need vs oiling for C02.
        Thanks
        Doc


        • Doc,

          I put the silicone oil in the PCPs for the same reason we used Pellgunoil in CO2 guns. I don’t put it in as often — maybe once a year. But I don’t shoot all of my airguns as much as most shooters, because I’m always testing something new.

          Besides sealing the gun better, the oil coats the inside of the reservoir walls — a fact I once proved by disassembling a Career 707 Tanker Carbine reservoir. There were a few tiny water droplets in there, but all the steel was coated with silicone oil, so no rust.

          B.B.


          • B.B.,

            This morning before I left for work I put a 12 gram CO2 bulb in a new air gun, my new Ace-of-Spades (!!!!). Of course I filled the “seal cup” inside the upended gun with four or so drops of Pellgunoil before I installed the Powerlet.

            What I want to know is if anyone knows what gauge syringe needle will fit inside the nipple of a standard CO2 air gun. I have two NOS, unused glass hypodermic plungers I purchased expressly for this purpose. (I guess this makes me a fanatic by any standard.)

            Michael



    • Dennis,

      The cost is still unknown — even to Sun Optics. They have been developing this compressor for more than five years. Initially the goal was a $500 compressor. After advanced development this year that increased to $750. I think they are fighting to keep the retail price just under one thousand dollars at this time. But we will all have to wait and see.

      B.B.


      • B.B.,

        If Sun Optics could pull that off, VERY good for them! The whole air gun world would be obligated to drop to our knees and thank them profusely. If they did that, it would pull down prices for all of the other light duty, high psi compressors and serve the consumers exceptionally well. It would be a textbook example of the positive power of stiff competition in economic models, a veritable Model T Ford.

        I have the same hope for the Umarex Gauntlet, incidentally.

        Michael


  6. One or two things to keep in mind buying a used SCUBA tank. Typically, they are due for a hydrostatic test ($35 approx) and a visual inspection (another $5 or $10). If the shop sees something they don’t like during this, they won’t fill the tank. It can be a very subjective inspection.

    Fred formerly of the DPRoNJ


  7. And you may ask yourself: Do I need that pcp… Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down…

    Or you might retreat back into the world of spring guns. Special thanks to blog reader Derrick for rebuilding my IZH 61. He changed some bolts that had fallen out, installed a new metal spring guide in place of the nylon original that had worn out. In the end, it felt like a completely different gun, and it’s shooting better than ever.

    Gunfun1, I know that snipers will try to re-engage if they miss, but they won’t want to stick around very long. There are endless stories of snipers getting taken out no matter how clever or well protected they are. In the possibly mythical story of the duel between the top German sniper and the Soviet hero, Vasily Zaitsev, at Stalingrad, the German sniper was located after firing through a slit in a metal sheet and killed. For awhile in World War I, German snipers would fire with impunity from a steel turret until the British began using elephant guns on them. The easy way was just to saturate an area with a concentrated artillery or mortar barrage. Major Lyudmila Pavilichenko, highest scoring female sniper of all time died prematurely at age 58 from wounds received from a mortar round, so she didn’t really escape after all. And another star Soviet sniper, Rosa Shanina, was also killed by artillery in the closing days of the war.

    Matt61


    • Matt61
      True about the sniper’s. And can’t remember the names of two snipers that was hunting each other. But the American sniper got his opponent by shooting through the scope. The American sniper had the sun to his back. He saw the flash of the sun reflect off his opponent’s scope.

      And a interesting one was I think in the Korean war or maybe it was Vietnam war. Their transport helicopter got shot down and crashed. One of the wounded soldiers was able to hand the sniper’s gun up to him and where he was positioned on top the crashed helicopter. He started shooting and kept missing. So he decided to shoot into the water. What happened was the scope got knocked off zero in the crash. But after he found out his Kentucky windage hold from where the shots were landing in the water he was able to hold off the enemy till help came.

      But as to how the conversation started about shooting in the wind the other day. Like I said before is really the only way to find out truly how the wind is effecting your shot where it hits. Is by taking a shot and using Kentucky windage hold on a follow up shot. Wind is hard to predict.


  8. B.B.,

    I know I have been quiet, but I am still reading and still learning both from you and reader comments.

    I just ran across this; never saw it before and have no idea how well it works, but it seems to do okay across the pond. They call it a chronoscope and there is Windows software to go with it.

    http://www.combro.co.uk/cb625.html

    ~ken


    • Ken,

      I owned an earlier version of this several years ago. Probably still have it. It does work, but the screens are less than 2 inches apart, so the accuracy isn’t as good as a larger machine. It attached to the muzzle of a gun, so barrel diameter was critical, and I found it quirky. I didn’t use it much.

      B.B.


      • B.B.,

        There we have it. The CB-625 probably has its uses, but I doubt I will order one any time soon. I suppose it might do okay for comparisons than for very accurate readings.

        ~ken


  9. Figured this would be a good blog to post this on since we are talking pcp’s.

    I got my .22 Maximus back. And I did a little hand pump test. And this is with a Benjamin hand pump.

    It took around 55 pumps to fill it from 1000 psi to 2000 psi. That was the hand pump as it comes out of the box.

    Then I did the oil-less shop compressor booster hooked to the air intake on the pump and filled the gun. This time it took me 25 pumps to fill the gun. And that was with the shop compressor set at 30psi. And this is what I think is cool. That basically now makes the gun equal out to 1 pump per shot. So yes the gun gets 25 usable shots per fill.

    Here’s a picture of my hand pump and shop compressor attached to the hand pump if anyone is interested. The picture is the one I took a little while back of me filling my Air Venturi 3000 psi regulated bottle. Very happy with how it reduces pump time.



      • Chris
        It was real easy to determine the shop compressor intake psi. It’s all about how hard it makes it to pump.

        Up to 2000 psi with the shop compressor set at 30psi is still pretty easy to pump. Well for me anyway. Now as I get to like 2600 psi and up it gets harder to pump. So when I fill my 3000 psi Air Venturi bottle I turn the shop compressor down to 25 psi when I reach 2600 psi. Then it’s easy to pump up to the 3000 psi. And again that’s for me.

        A bigger person could possibly set the shop compressor higher than what I can and comfortably pump. And a smaller person might have to set the shop compressor psi a little lower.

        It’s all about a balance of reducing pump strokes from the added shop compressor air and how much pressure you can apply comfortably.


        • GF1,

          Sounds good. It also sounds like P.A. ought to offer a plug and play adapter. A lot of people have hand pumps and a lot of people have (oil-less!!!) compressors. That would save them the trouble of finding parts and assembly. Nicer ones have a built in output regulator. Even cheaper ones I think. Mine was only 178 total shipped to Lowes for me to pick up and it has one. Nice info and a good idea. At least it makes hand pumping a bit more attractive.


          • Chris
            Yep about the plug and play adapter.

            And even offer a little portable electric cigarette lighter air compressor. Like this little ones you can buy to have in your vehicle.

            Could be added in with a combo deal even.


            • GF1,

              I have one and keep it in the car. I have never used it but have loaned it to people at work when they came out and found a flat tire. It pumped up a flat tire in 20 minutes to where it was drivable. It looked full, but I did not verify the pressure. I do not think that they would be good for a booster pump feed source for like a Shoebox though.

              ((On a complete side note)), on the way to work at 4:30 AM the other day,.. I ran over something and my right rear went flat instantly. Got the jack out, lug nuts off and could not get the rim/tire off. I have AAA, so 45 minutes later the driver showed up and promptly laid on the ground and proceeded to take a 10# dead blow sledge to the back of the wheel, as I rotated it. 10 whacks later, it came off. These are tires that are off 2X per year, (winter/summer tires). I just had 4 wheel brake work done about a month ago too. The rim center to hub fit is tight and is normal. 2011 Rav4. The tires were fine, but I was going to retire them this fall and get new ones in the spring. I decided for new ones as the flat had a 1″ gash in the center. The guys at the tire shop had to beat all 4 off. They cleaned the rims and hubs and put Never-Seze on them at my request.

              So, just cause you can get the car jacked up and the lug nuts off,… that does not mean you will be getting that flat off. Just some FYI for ya’ all.



              • Chris
                I had the same issue with my Volvo S40. The first time I tried to remove the wheels to rotate the tires I had to pound them off with a dead blow hammer. Because the rotors are cast iron and the wheels are alloy the dissimilar metals tend to seize together. I cleaned the inside of the wheels and the rotors and then coated the mounting surfaces with anti-seize compound. I have not had an issue with removing the wheels since. I would add that if you take your car to a tire shop to have the tires rotated, virtually no one torques the lug nuts correctly. If the lug nuts are not torqued correctly it can cause rotor warpage. The result is a pulsating brake peddle when applying the brakes. I always loosen and re-torque the lug nuts as soon as I get home from the shop.


                • Geo,

                  The wheels are steel,.. so go figure. They do torque them. I do not remember them doing that years ago. I have never had a warped rotor except when I had to really lay on the brakes or something akin to a sticking caliper. I suppose with anti-locks, that is less of an issue. From what I have seen of rotors these days,.. just the rotor comes off. Not the hub and bearings. That is good and they are cheap in most cases.


                  • Chris, (off topic but good to know)

                    Really? Your wheels are steel? I haven’t seen steel wheels on anything for the past several years. Wheels these days are aluminum or magnesium alloy. Just because they say they torque the lug nuts doesn’t mean they actually do it. Belle Tire is the only tire shop I am aware of that actually states that they use a torque wrench. I recently asked the Chevy dealership if they torqued the lug nuts to spec. The advisor said that they used a torque stick. That is an attachment on the end of an impact wrench. Those are not accurate at all. I used to calibrate torque wrenches so I know this is true.

                    Your are correct that the rotors are separate from the hub. They are reasonably priced and I always replace the rotors rather than having them turned. A pulsating brake pedal is a very common issue resulting from warped brake rotors. The warping is most often a result of improperly torqued lug nuts.


                    • Geo,

                      The local shop (not a chain) did use a torque wrench. I calibrate (check accuracy) them every morning for the shop as I am in Q,C.. As for alloy wheels , mine are steel for sure. It is a base Rav4. The alloy’s can pit and loose seal/leak at the bead and the finish goes to crap eventually too. I have seen Monroe torque as well. I have been a mechanic by trade for a lot of (past) years, so I do notice those type of things.

                      I have never heard of improper torqueing causing warped rotors, but I will take your word for it.


                  • Chris,

                    Small world. I worked in Q.C. also, for forty years. I too had to check the accuracy of torque wrenches. The only brand that continued to hold it’s accuracy was Snap-On. The guys in the shop would use them to break bolts loose which destroys the wrenches accuracy as I’m sure you know.

                    I grew up learning about cars. My dad owned an auto repair shop until I graduated high school. Then he sold the business. I learned an awful lot about cars during those years of exposure. Even at 71, I find it very difficult to allow anyone else to work on my cars. I think you, GF1, and I are a three-some as we have very similar back grounds.


                    • Geo,

                      I will admit that I used to know quite a bit about cars/mechanics, but todays cars are way beyond me. I could try to keep up I suppose, but that darn B.B. guy has me trying my best just trying to keep up on air guns these days. 😉

                      Hopefully I can just continue to buy quality, reliable cars. As I get older, I can say for sure that avoiding frustration and aggravation definitely has it’s price. One that I am usually happy to pay.


                  • Chris,

                    I agree, cars have gotten extremely complicated. Everything is controlled by computers and sensors. If you don’t have $30k to invest in equipment, then you have to rely on someone who has the diagnostic equipment. I did a timing belt change on my wife’s Volvo a couple of years ago. I had to buy a couple of special tools for the job. When I finished I put the tools on ebay and sold them. I won’t be doing that job again! I’m getting too old for that stuff. I do still change my own oil though.

                    And, as far as reliable cars goes, that can be challenging. At present time we have a 2011 Chevy Equinox and a 2008 Volvo s40. Both have been pretty trouble free, though parts for the Volvo are pricey. I have heard that GM is going to start making the Equinox in Mexico. Guess I won’t be buy anymore of those now.


                    • Geo,

                      I rely on Consumer Reports to be my guide. I like all or 4 wheel drive and some ground clearance. I also use Winter tires, (snow and ice), in the Winter, and can say that they do work on ice. You do not want to run them year round due to the softer compound. They have more siping too (fine cuts). I may explore the Subaru and Honda SUV line next. I am leaning Subaru Outback, if they still make it. Subaru did make a nice small car/truck/SUV at one time. It even had a short bed. A small SUV like that would be a nice choice. 0 complaint’s on the ’11 Rav 4 though. 74K on it now.


                  • Chris,

                    Yes, Subaru is a nice vehicle. They have grown in size over the last few years. My daughter had a Toyota Prius (2013) and traded it in for a Subaru Crosstrek. The Prius had a braking issue due to the regeneration feature. She loves the Crosstrek though. Subaru has one of the best all wheel drive systems. My son went to college in Marquette, MI in the UP. He said the professors all drove Subarus up there. I have a friend who bought a new Outback and he is happy with it also.

                    I have a 2011 Chevy Equinox all wheel drive. I tried the Honda CRV but the ride was very stiff compared to the Equinox. Hondas are great vehicles though if the harsh ride is not an issue. The salesman at the dealership said that the Toyotas had a more cushy ride and the Hondas had a sportier suspension and had a harsher ride. Nowadays I prefer the cushy ride myself. My Equinox has a great ride also and gets 24-25 mpg in mostly city driving and 29 on a trip.


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