Thursday, November 29, 2012

25 Years In The Rearview Mirror

25 Years In The Rearview Mirror

Well like it or not, I just finished my first 25 years in the truck accessory/automotive electronics business.  I guess the miles on me is starting to show, but I'm still here plugging away at it everyday.  I had a conversation with one of my employees the other day about how things have changed since he started working for me 10 years ago, and it started me thinking of how much things have changed, since I started 25 years ago.  So here are a few of my observations of change in this business over that span.

Mobile Audio...  25 years ago cassettes were king.  The first CD car stereo by Sony had just come out and it was hot, if we could get them we could sell them, even at the $800 dollar price.  These were 2 piece units with a hideaway control module and did not do even as much as units that sell for $100 today, but that was state of the art then.  Amps and woofer were commonplace but much less versatile.  For example, while today virtually every amp sold has some sort of crossover built in, in that time a crossover was a separate unit you had to buy in addition to your amplifiers.

Car Alarms...  Car alarms were very basic with most models being passive systems meaning they had no remote controls but instead armed a preset time after leaving the car and gave you so many seconds to get in and put in the key to disarm.  Remote control units were the high end selling for around $500 and were the equivalent of todays basic remote control alarm systems if that.  Alarms of that day had so few outputs, as installers we often had to figure out ways with relays and other parts to get the parking lights to flash from the siren output for example.  Impact and motion sensors were truly mechanical devices and were finicy to adjust and prone to false alarms.  Remote start was a dream way in the future.

Truck Accessories...  Plastic bedliners was a good as it got, there were no spray in liners yet.  Light duty and chrome grille guards were the norm.  Stainless steel was not yet being used in truck accessories, so chrome was king and we regularly had to deal with the accompanying rust problems that come with chrome.  Heavy duty grille guards and bumpers were just starting to show up here in South Texas and definitely had not spread to other parts of the country.  Common features of todays grille guards like wrap around ends and design that followed the trucks body lines were unknown...  they were flat and square.  Nerf bars were new and just round pipe with no step pads.  Running boards were the king of the day.  Bug guards were flat plastic mounted on metal brackets that stuck out from under the hood and window visors were stamped metal.  A very popular accessory was chrome plated steel tailgate protectors and there were no side bed caps yet.  Tool boxes were steel and mostly white.  There was a lot of thick real wood center consoles, overhead consoles, and door trim to deck out the truck interior.  "Sport truck" gear was hot like ground effects, headlight covers, convertible conversions, nose bras and guys were putting this gear on their compact trucks.  Overall there were no where near the options truck owners have today.

So there are a few of  my memories of life in the truck accessory business in 1987.  And since I have been selling car stereo equipment for almost  40 years, I leave my tales of 8-track sales for another day.



Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Prepared Pickup

Basic preparedness and safety takes just a little thought and a few minutes, and you will have the basic emergency gear stashed behind the seat or in the toolbox, you might need if that drive in your truck takes a bad turn.  Here is what I think are the basics you should not be driving around without.
Can you and should you have much more?  Yes and probably, but these things I am going to list cost little and should be there.

1) Your cellphone.  Goes without saying that this is your lifeline.  In today's world we usually all have them with us... just make sure when you leave you have it and it is charged.

2)  Flashlight.  No vehicle should be driving around without a flashlight inside.  Spend a couple bucks more and get a LED flashlight so you can get hours of use on one set of batteries.  An extra set of batteries in a plastic bag is a good backup as well.

3)  Jumper cables.  Again, no vehicle should be driving around without a set of jumper cables.  Have them and know how to use them.  These could help you or someone else get unstuck.

4)  Fix-a-flat.  These are several brands of tire sealer on the market and for about 8 or 9  bucks, you can have a can in your truck.  This might make the difference between changing a tire in adverse conditions, or being able to limp back to a better location.

5)  Basic tools.  Lots of truck people are driving around with massive amounts of tools in their toolbox, but if you are not one of these drivers, this is what you need to do.  Go to one of the bigbox hardware stores and get a basic tool kit in a plastic carrying case for under $25.  Will it have everything you need for every situation?  No way, but at least you have a chance for the basic emergencies

6)  Coat or jacket.  You have an old one you don't wear anymore somewhere in your house hanging in a closet.  Get it an put it in your truck instead where it can be of use if you were to need it.  An old  blanket works well in this capacity as well.

7)  Raincoat.  Get one and stash it in your truck.  A cheap plastic poncho is also good... Or at least a plastic trash bag you can put a hole in for your head and now you have a poncho.

You are driving a truck so by default you have lots of storage space to stash these items.  Behind the seat, under a back seat, in the toolbox, and so on.  Buy a cheap plastic portable toolbox, get the items on the list and put them inside, find a good storage spot in your truck, and now you are ready for most of the minor emergencies that may befall you as you truck down the road.

Can you get more gear for emergencies?  Sure, and it is a great idea whose limit is only up to you.  Flares, road reflectors, tire pressure gauge, jacks, foul weather clothing, lighting, compressors, emergency radios, and on and on.  It is all up to you and your comfort level.  But all the items above can be had for way less than $100 if you don't already have them, and might make a bad situation safer and easier for you and your passengers.

Let me add, that I have never lived farther north than central Texas, so I have no practical experience with harsh winter driving conditions.  I feel sure there are things that y'all northerners keep in your trucks to be prepared in the winter.  Feel free to comment and educate me on this!