Monday, September 29, 2008

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali - The Search for Winter Wheels and Tires

One thing that I've learned over the years is that nothing performs better in the winter than a dedicated winter tire. Since I've always believed that tires are critical to vehicle safety, it was no question that I would be buying a set of winter rims and tires for our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali. Even thought the Denali has full-time AWD, winter tires would make sure that we would be able to stop as well as we could go.

The only question was the type of rims I would on the Denali. Ours came with 20" wheels. The standard Yukon comes with 17" so those were the two options that were available on I looked at 17" rims at first because I figured that they would be lighter, give us the most options for tires, and allow me to install chains if I encountered anything really serious. Plus, I was sure that 17" wheels would be much cheaper than 20" ones.

The Hankook Ice Bear W300 performance winter tires I bought for our previous two vehicles (a 2006 Suburu Impreza WRX STI and a 2006 Honda Odyssey Touring) were....

...not available in light truck/SUV sizes, so after doing a little research online I decided that the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3 in 265/70-17 would be the best choice for us. I originally wanted to pick a cheap 17" rim but discovered that some weighed a whole lot more than others and not all rims accepted TPMS (tire-pressure monitoring system) sensors. That made the selection process a little more complicated because I don't like making mods that reduce performance--especially with a heavy wheel. Don't forget that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and not all wheel styles were appealing to me.

What complicated the decision even more was that I started to think (which is a dangerous thing!) that I would get more use out of an A/T tire like the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO tires that I had on my 2003 Toyota Sequoia. They are rated with the mountain snowflake symbol for severe snow conditions and I know they worked well in the snow. (See Brohm Ridge Trip Report.) I thought that in addition to using them for the winter, if I wanted to explore some logging roads in the summer, the BFG A/Ts would perform way better than the all-seasons on 20" rims.

Would that mean I would run 17" rims all year long? Or would I just swap the wheels each weekend for some fun? Knowing how much I dislike extra work, I started to wonder if I would like having 17" wheels on the Denali full-time. I really do like big rims and I think it suits the Denali well. Maybe I wouldn't be doing too much off-roading anyway. I did a search on TireRack for a 20" winter tire package and found that they had some rims that looked reasonably nice on close-out at $119 each. That was a lot cheaper than even some of the 17" rims I was looking at.

Having a limited budget (cheaper is better) and realizing that I liked the look of 20" rims, I decided that off-roading was not the primary purpose of the Denali (which couldn't do real off-roading anyway without true 4x4 capabilities). I placed my order with TireRack. The only winter tire available in 275/55-20 was the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3 that I wanted so that was good. What wasn't good was that they were back-ordered and not expected to be available until the beginning of November. I canceled my order and thought maybe I would try this season without winter tires.

That didn't sit well for me so I started looking at 17" options again. The wheels I liked were much more expensive than the close-outs so I decided to make a compromise on the tires. I chose the Firestone Winterforce (studdable winter) 265/70-17 which got fairly good reviews on TireRack. They are only $85 per tire and will off-set the cost of the wheels at $182 per rim. I went back and forth between black and silver rims, but decided on ATX Thug 17x8.5 wheels that are black with a Teflon coating. That should help protect them from the winter elements. Also, with 17" rims, if I want to get the BFG's in the future, I still can without having to buy a whole new set of rims. So after a couple of weeks of hemming and hawing, I placed another order with TireRack on the weekend. These tires and wheels are in stock, so hopefully I'll be able to pick them up at the end of the week.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali - 11500 km: DENALI badge added

There are quite a few extras that that differentiate a "Denali" from a regular GMC Yukon. One of the most obvious from the outside (in case you miss the over-sized chrome grille and 20" chrome wheels) is the "DENALI" badge on the driver's and passenger's doors. However, from the rear, there is no way of telling if you are following a Denali with a 6.2 L - 380 HP engine or regular Yukon with only 5.3 L and 310 HP. After seeing a lot of other Denali owners customize the looks of their trucks, I decided to do the same thing and put a Denali badge on the back hatch, too. I've debadged many a vehicle in my time and am past that phase of my modding career so simply swapping one for another was a good compromise. After checking prices on Ebay (and seeing excessive shipping costs), I ordered the badge from a local GM dealer on Thursday and picked it up the next day. I wanted to take advantage of the warm weather while it was still here, so I put it on yesterday before dinner.

The first thing I had to do was to remove the GMC badge on the bottom right corner of the hatch. I didn't bother heating up the badge at all. I just used some fishing line and cut through the double-sided tape. When the GMC emblem came off, I handed it over to Kendra (our 6-year-old) and she said it was very "bling, bling" and asked if she could take it to school for show and tell :LOL:.

See below for pictures of the finished work.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali - 11440 km: Chrome Mirror Covers

I knew it couldn't last long before I started getting the itch to personalize our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali. I bought some chrome mirror covers from Ebay last week. There are a lot of different styles, but I liked this style with just the lower part of the mirror chromed mostly because that's what I noticed the Escalades had when we were test driving them :0) Plus, I think it's a bit more subtle than a full-out chrome mirror that a lot of vehicles have.

In the picture below, I'm half-way through my work and you can see that the passenger mirror is chrome, but the driver's side is not.

Look below to see more pictures.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bye, Bye, Chevron! It's not me, it's you.

Dear Chevron,

There comes a time in our lives when things change. It's not always possible to stay fit and trim after you've had a child, or two, or three, or four, or five, and while you were always my first choice in terms of high-octane fun, your intolerance of size-challenged vehicles has forced me to end our long-standing relationship.

It's not me. It's you.

With my middle-finger standing tall, I salute you,
A former loyal customer.

Well, tonight was the last straw. I knew when we bought our GMC Yukon XL Denali that we would probably be getting a lot more intimate with the local gas stations. A few weeks ago I went into our neighborhood Chevron station to fill up The Beast and was surprised when the gas pump stopped at $100. The BC government implemented a new law awhile ago to make all gas stations pre-pay only. It's fine by me because I would much rather stick my credit card in the pump, get my gas and be on my way. It's how I've always gotten my gas. Walking into the store, waiting in line, talking to the cashier, signing a piece of paper, all before I can get some fuel is so... so, twentieth-century!

So, for some reason the pump stopped at $100 and would not let me get any more gas. It wouldn't work even when I replaced the pump and tried my credit card again. This was highly frustrating because $100 was not even close to filling the tank. I had to go inside and hand over my credit card for the cashier to pre-authorize it. When I asked about the pre-authorized limit, the cashier explained that there was a limit on Debit Cards. When I pointed out that I was using a MasterCard, they told me they weren't aware of any credit card limits and it was up to my bank.

I called my bank. The person I talked to said that there was absolutely no limit on me using my credit card for pre-payment at the pump. All restrictions on the card were placed by gas station's policy. So I made a mental note to myself not to use that Chevron station again.

Old habits die hard, though, so the next week when I needed to make a quick stop to fill up the Suzuki Burgman I stopped at that same Chevron station. It takes about $10 to fill up the Burgman, but when I stuck my MasterCard into the pump, it was instantly rejected. I've never had a problem all the years I've been going there using the same credit card, but now it seems like they have that card on a blacklist. I had to go inside and tell them to reset set the pump. It wasn't worth it to me to argue or explain because I was in a hurry. I ended up using my VISA card instead.

So how many times do I need to do something before I learn my lesson? Apparently three times.

Tonight I had picked my wife up from downtown and I needed to fill up the tank to make sure that we didn't end up stranded halfway home. Unfortunately, the only gas station around was a Chevron station. I pulled up and started pumping the gas knowing full well that it was going to stop when it got to $100--which it did. I replaced the pump, got my receipt, and stuck my VISA card in so that I could continue to fill the tank. It was rejected! A different credit card! From a different bank! I went inside and asked them to reset the pump, but even after that, it would not give me any more gas. The cashiers told me there was a limit on Debit Cards, but didn't know why the credit card didn't work. They tried to blame the credit card again, but armed with knowledge I told them that they were wrong. I told them I had called the credit card company and there was absolutely nothing wrong with the card. I also told them that if I had to go through this process every time I wanted to fill my tank, I would no longer use Chevron gas. Then I handed them my credit card--which worked, obviously--finished filling my tank, and left, never to pull into a Chevron station, again!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Hey, this Craigslist thing is neat!

Lunar eclipse
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
When I sold my first-loved car, a 1999 Volkswagen Passat GLX, it was to a fellow VW enthusiast who knew the details and history of the vehicle. It was good for me because I didn't have to remove any of the mods I had done to it.

So when I sold our 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI and 2006 Honda Odyssey Touring last month, removing and uninstalling everything was a new experience for me. Advertising the parts and mods I had for sale was also something I had never done before--happily, it's been a good experience. I've always believed that if something is priced properly be it a car or a house or a set of rubber mats, it will sell even if the market is slow. I've never been one for delayed gratification and I figured that since I already got my enjoyment from the modifications I did, there was no reason for me to try to re-coup all the money that I already spent. I priced my items for a quick sale and I wasn't disappointed. That makes me happy and I'm sure the buyers were happy, too.

I've created this file to keep track of the non-fuel costs of our Denali XL. So far, I've come out ahead by about $500 after buying the accessories I did for our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali and selling items from our STI and Odyssey. That's not too bad.

In fact I had so much fun selling stuff on the Subaru and Honda forums that I decided to venture out to Craigslist and sell a 10" Dobsonian telescope we had sitting around. We bought it two Christmas's ago for our kids, but soon realized that it wasn't a good idea and other than 1 full moon, 1 lunar eclipse and 1 half-moon, it hadn't been used at all. I sold it today and it will definitely help pay for the set of winter rims and tires I'm planning on buying for The Beast. I am now also looking for the next thing of ours to sell on Craigslist :0)

Intec Cooling Station for Wii: Thumbs Down

I've been meaning to give an update on the Intec cooling fan I bought for our Wii. This is the original post.

It didn't last too long. The fan stayed on even when the Wii was turned off and the noise was quite loud when nothing else in the room was on. But within a week or two, I noticed that it had gotten much quieter. I figured that the thing had just died. However, I just did a check right now and it's still alive, but quietly wheezing as if it was on its death bed. I think I'm going to remove it and toss it in the garbage because I don't want the Intec cooling fan to make the Wii any warmer than it should be. The vents are more blocked with the Intec fan mounted and if the fan isn't working, well then, what's the point? Maybe I'll try plugging it into the computer so I can get a better look at what the fan is actually doing now.

I wonder when I'll learn my lesson? I've already bought two other cheap (under $10) accessories for my PSP (a power adapter and a grip with a built-in extended battery) that pretty much died a week after I bought them. I suppose I should have gotten my money back, but with 4 kids occupying my life, the effort would not have been worth my time.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I Hate Tire Shine

I Hate Tire Shine

I hate shiny tires. I really do. I've always been a person who put function ahead of form and tire shine never appealed to me. If something did not improve performance, I did not want it. Don't even get me started on heavy chrome wheels!

However, our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali came with the 20" chrome wheel option, so who am I to complain, especially when there's 380 hp and 417 lb. ft. of torque to help haul it around?

The sun came out on Saturday and I didn't even wash the Denali--well, except for the wheels. And that was only because...

...the tire shine that the dealership had put on just before we picked up the truck washed off in the rain and made the tires look faded and streaked, like runny mascara--hardly fitting of "The Beast."

I used the wheel cleaner on the tires to scrub the accumulated brake dust off the rubber carcass. Then I figured that since I was in that area anyway, I might as well spray and clean the chrome, too. And it worked pretty well, getting the tires to look like tires again and the wheels to sparkle like crystals in the sun.

I wasn't even going to add any tire shine at all but then I thought maybe I should condition the rubber so that it didn't continue to fade from the poor quality materials used in the past. And that's the only reason why I used tire shine: to save myself some work in the future. I swear.

So what if The Beast looks like it has lip gloss on. What's the big deal?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


When I went down to Point Roberts, WA, last Thursday, I got there quite early. Actually, I arrived at 1 PM exactly when I planned--I even saw the FedEx truck pull away from the shipping dock. But when I went inside I found out that FedEx Ground wouldn't be arriving for another hour.

Luckily, I was able to use that time by finishing a movie that I had started the week before: The French Connection (1971), starring Gene Hackman. One of the features that I really like about the rear entertainment/navigation system on our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali is the ability to watch a DVD on the front navigation screen when the vehicle is parked. I simply sat in the driver's seat and reclined it like a comfy leather arm chair and enjoyed the movie in Dolby Surround Sound. It made the hour pass by so quickly that the next thing I knew, the movie finished, I looked up and saw the FedEx Ground truck arrive and a fellow Vancouver Impreza Club member, Spore, in the parking lot. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a bag of hot buttered popcorn!

Monday, September 01, 2008 - Fake Magazine Covers with your Photo! Novelty Magazines and Gifts! - Fake Magazine Covers with your Photo!

I found this really neat site that allows you to put your own pictures on fake magazine covers.

What do you think? :biggrin:

GMC Yukon XL Denali 9900 km: Weathertech Floor Liner

On Thursday I went down to Point Roberts to pick up some Weathertech Floor Liners for our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali. For years I've read about how good they were, but I was always to lazy to order them. I usually ended up buying all-weather mats from the dealership instead. This time, I thought I would break tradition and go ahead and order them online.

I choose the floor liners (vs the mats) because the liners have a lip which I think is going to give better protection when the weather turns really muddy and slushy. I am so...

...glad that I bought them. The fit is perfect and the entire passenger compartment is now protected, including the area under the 2nd row bench.

In fact, they offer so much protection in the front row that they partially cover the "Denali" door sills. Oh well, I don't mind because I don't look down there that much anyway :0)

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