Popular Mechanics December 2019

Discover the latest in technology, engineering, and tools with Popular Mechanics. Plus, get essential advice on your home and car, useful DIY ideas, in-depth explanations on how things work, and more!

United States
10 Issues

in this issue

4 min
my pop life

COURTNEY LINDER SENIOR NEWS EDITOR Big fan of buying your dad’s old vinyl at Goodwill. For Healthy Plants Simply whip up a mixture of about one quarter leftover coffee and three quarters water and add it to your watering can or mix used grounds with the soil while repotting. The nitrogen in coffee aids in healthy growing. My Favorite App Libby, hands-down. All you have to do is enter your credentials from your current library card and you can place holds on or download audiobooks and ebooks, instantly. The library has always been cool, but in a digit al world, it also has to be accessible 24/7. PRODUCTS I’M USING RIGHT NOW 1 Dagne Dover Allyn Tote in Oxblood Every ambitious woman (and dude!) needs a bag that’s both sleek and functional. This baby has a cushy internal 15-inch…

2 min
stop buying your tech new

WHAT EVER YEAR you’re reading this, the new iPhone is awesome. It always is. Same with the new Samsung Galaxy, and Bose’s new noise-canceling headphones. But right now, just before 2020, the improvements between versions are becoming less obvious. In the case of the iPhone 11, the cameras are a big advance. But for the majority of us customers, last year’s model will serve us just as well as the new one. That’s why, when I need something like a phone or laptop, I almost never buy it new. You should do the same. I’m not talking about going on eBay or Craigslist or letgo for used tech. Even if you know what to look for and what prices are fair, the time cost of doing all the quality control yourself is…

3 min
power wheels ride-on f-150

PRODUCED: MEXICO TIME TO DISASSEMBLE: 3 HOURS, 4 MINUTES NOTES: If you were five years old, you’d be pretty stoked to see this under the Christmas tree. Its 12-volt drive system whisks you up to 5 mph. A power lift-and-lower tailgate can carry your toys. There’s even a speaker with a 3.5mm aux jack to bump “Baby Shark.” But eventually, you’d get bored of it, and so might your parents. That’s how stock Power Wheels become juiced-up miniature race cars. Bigger batteries, motors pulled from cordless drills, custom-fabricated axles, slick tires—Power Wheels upgrades are only limited by your ambition. Thanks to online communities in Facebook groups and on forums like modifiedpowerwheels.com, there’s plenty of knowledge to go around. NUMBER OF PARTS: 284 HOT-ROD YOUR POWER WHEELS To navigate the world of modified mini-cars, we spoke…

4 min
the 2019 popular mechanics board game awards

THIS YEAR I PLAYED AS many new board games as I could get my hands on. And I’m not particularly picky, so if it was popular, I played it. If it had a fascinating theme or novel game mechanic, I played it. And if other reviewers said they loved it, I played it. I only avoided games that required any sort of phone or app. I tested just shy of 40 new games, published from December ’18 to October ’19 (when this issue went to print). I played most of the games in Rwanda, where I work in international development. There are no personal mailboxes in the country, so I had the games ferried over in suitcases, one visitor at a time. Often they were the only copies in the entire…

6 min
the new chevy silverado 1500 offers a tough choice: gas or diesel?

IF YOU WANT A NEW SILVERado, and you’ve got an extra $2,495 to spend on upgrading from the 5.3-liter V-8 engine, then Chevy has a dilemma for you. For that money, you have your choice of a 6.2-liter gas V-8, or a 3.0-liter Duramax diesel inline-six. So, which one do you get? Superficially, the choice comes down to horsepower or fuel economy. A 4x4 with the V-8 gets 17 mpg combined, while the diesel gets 25 mpg combined. On the other hand, the V-8 makes 420 horsepower to the diesel’s 277. The gas truck is quick and thirsty, while the diesel is slower and thriftier. But that’s not all there is to it. While the big V-8 is unquestionably quicker when you’re going wide-open-throttle, the two engines don’t feel wildly different in…

4 min
the polaris scrambler is absolutely useless—and completely exhilarating

SPORT ATVS ARE AN endangered species. Back in the glory days of 2008, just about every ATV company bui lt a sport machine. But today’s ATV market is afflicted with an acute case of pragmatism, rife with blocky four-wheel-drives fitted with cargo racks and hitches. The implication seems to be that fun for its own sake is irresponsible—you use your utility quad to clear brush off the back 40; any entertainment is purely incidental. That’s why the 2020 Polaris Scrambler XP 1000S is so refreshing: It’s gloriously useless. The tow rating is zero. The Scrambler exists to turn gasoline into serotonin, end of mission statement. The Polaris approaches that mission a little bit differently than the other lonely sport ATV, the Yamaha Raptor. The Raptor, in either 450-cc or 700-cc form,…