Category: Piston Slap

By on May 12, 2017

1979 Lincoln Continental Collector's Series with Tom Selleck,Image: Old Car Brochures

TTAC Commentator Towncar writes:

I have some piddling little aggravations and head-scratchers, and it appears those serve to entertain the B&B as well as anything.

  1. Black Pillars: When and why did the black B-pillar take over the world? Presumably it’s to make you think it’s not there and the car’s a hardtop, but there’s never been a single case where that worked — not one. Even on a black car, the finish is sufficiently different that you can tell the pillar is present.
  2. Colors: Why are there no good interior colors anymore — red, blue, green? The only current one I know of, fairly recent, is the Rhapsody in Blue interior on the new Continental, and you have to buy the ultra-highline Black Label edition to get it. Which brings up the question: why do so few interiors really match anymore? It used to be that two-tone interiors looked designed that way, but now they just seem to have been put together from parts for different cars.
  3. Gas Fillers: Have any of the fool engineers who put gas fillers on the passenger’s side ever tested this concept out by going through a gas line backwards? (By the way, this pertains to the G6 convertible you advised me to buy about four years ago, and belated thanks, it’s generally great.)
  4. Wipers: Why has the old-fashioned opposed (clap hands) style come back of late years? I saw some kind of little Ford with this lately, and I think a Honda or two. And pertaining to the newer parallel style, what determines which side the wipers “point” to?  It’s almost always the passenger’s, but I can think of two cars having them point the other way — the suicide-door Continentals of the ’60s and the Avanti. Why?
  5. TPMS: OK, this is actually semi-serious. How good are these things? The G6’s dash display gives pressures, but seldom agrees with my trusty tire gauge at the best of times, and changes in temperature and even bumps in the road sometimes trigger the warning light. Can the sensors be adjusted and/or calibrated for accuracy? And are the retrofit kits you can buy for older cars any good?

Read More >

By on May 3, 2017

Fleet of Ford Crown Victorias, Image: www.government-fleet.com

Anonymous writes:

I have a question about fleet replacements. Currently, we have a vehicle fleet that includes:

  • 2010 Ford Explorer, 103k miles
  • 2006 Ford Crown Vic, 78k miles
  • 2006 Buick Lucerne, 82k miles
  • 2005 Chevy Impala, 76k miles
  • 2014 Ford Explorer, 40k miles
  • 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan, 65k miles
  • 2008 – Ford Crown Vic, 70k miles
  • 2011 Chevy Impala, 18k miles
  • 2014 Jeep Patriot, 28k miles
  • 2014 Jeep Patriot, 18k miles
  • 2014 Jeep Patriot, 23k miles
  • 2011 Chevy Impala, 46k miles
  • 2007 Dodge Caravan, 123k miles
  • 2012 Chevy Impala, 24k miles
  • 2012 Chevy Impala, 22k miles

Our budget only allows to replace nine vehicles with a 2014 equivalent version of each.

What would you decide to keep and replace? What guidelines would you consider?

Read More >

By on April 28, 2017

Mercedes-Benz 450SL; Image: benzinsider.com

TTAC commenter Felix Hoenikker writes:

Sajeev,

I am in the process of replacing at least two tires on my ’74 Mercedes 450SL. The current tires are P205/70R14 Bridgestone RE 900 performance tires. They came with the car when I bought it privately in the summer of 2001.

I’ve been slowly — and I mean slowly — restoring the SL, and have only driven it about 10,000 miles since taking ownership.

Recently, I discovered the front left tire is wearing down much faster than the other three.

Read More >

By on April 18, 2017

Mazda 6 Grand Touring Interior, Image: Mazda/www.allcarz.ru

TTAC Commentator AbqJay writes:

A couple of months ago I bought a slightly used 2016 Mazda 6 Grand Touring with 18,000 miles. The car is my wife’s daily driver; I drive it about once a week, and for longer trips, such as a jaunt I took from our home in Albuquerque to southern California in December. It’s hard to believe, but this is my first wrong-wheel drive car. The Mazda 6 is roomy, has decent power, gets fabulous mileage, and has an interior filled with creamy leatherette seating and trim, and soothing blue LED lighting. Since no one wants to buy this car, we got a great deal on it. So far so good.

Then I drove it to Cali.

On the drive, I noticed the steering is heavy. As in really heavy. As in my wrists hurt after driving it for about 20 minutes on the interstate. It feels like I am wrestling with it, even though the steering appears to be dead center.

Read More >

By on April 11, 2017

2000 Dodge Durango, Image: FCA

Sajeev writes:

I created Piston Slap as a way to bring the diverse knowledge base of your favorite car forum to the autoblogosphere with easy to digest weekly posts. The only problem is when a mistake gets published, the thread never comes back to page one with its correction.

I screwed up, so here I’ll do my best to fix it: I was mistaken about aftermarket DOT/SAE approved lights being just as good or better than original-equipment factory parts. Some of the aftermarket parts are promoted as being “CAPA certified” (Certified Automotive Parts Association), but as we shall see, that doesn’t mean what it sounds like, and it doesn’t help with our reader’s query that started the conversation in the first place. As seen elsewhere, parts not up to spec can have tragic consequences with little recourse for victims.

Read More >

By on April 4, 2017

C1937 Cord 812 (Jane Nealing/Flickr)

DAG writes:

Why don’t automakers design front-wheel-drive cars with the transaxle in front of the engine? This moves the front wheels forward and improves weight distribution; offers better potential for aerodynamics and leaves space under the hood for pedestrian protection. With a turbo four-cylinder, the engine could have clearance from the firewall. Also, the engine and transaxle could be mounted on a pivoting subframe, hinged at the front, to drop down at the back for major maintenance; disconnect steering and exhaust to drop cradle.

The engine would sit in the space where rack and pinion generally resides; steering gear design would be a challenge for direct mechanical actuation. Perhaps traction would be reduced. Would crashworthiness also be affected? Read More >

By on March 28, 2017

2000 Dodge Durango, Image: FCA

TTAC Commentator flipper35 writes:

I have a 2000 Dodge Durango (wrote about the brakes on it before, all is good with them) and the lights are not the greatest. After replacing the passenger side due to a deer ramming its butt into it, its headlights no longer match. I’ve looked on several Mopar forums and there doesn’t seem to be any consensus on which lights are good — but they can all agree on what is crap.

So, I am willing to spend $300 on a proper headlight upgrade if that’s what it takes. I see a few conversions where you bake the headlights at low temp to release the glue and then put bi-xenon with the flappy shield in with the ballasts and wiring kit. They sound reasonable but there are some other projector-style lights out there that would be less work if they are focused and aligned properly. I’m mechanically inclined but with family and other projects I would rather spend less time on these and more time on replacing stuff like the worn grommets on the electric seat adjustment screws and such. (At 190,000 miles, it needs front suspension bushings, too.)

Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

Picoscope NVH diagnosis tool, Image: Twitter

Doug writes:

I have a 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550. I accidentally bought it in 2014 off eBay (long story) for about trade-in ($13,000), with 150,000 miles on the odomater. In a twist of good luck, it turned out to be a one owner car and using CarFax I was able to see and verify that it had been maintained by the selling dealer right up to a few weeks before its eBay appearance. A call to the dealer confirmed the complete service history. Even the brake pads and rotors were new, and it had a newish and very expensive set of Michelins. Almost three years later, it has been very reliable for my teen daughter and has 180,000 miles. It had a few quirks I have fixed myself (clogged charcoal canister, minor trunk leak caused by a missing rubber plug, sticking power driver seat) and only one real repair (dead stereo amp rebuilt by Becker).

Now that my daughter is off at college and content with a ZipCar, I am driving it and intend to keep doing so. I have noticed a vibration in the center console area of all places, while driving around town. You feel it through your arm resting on the console lid. It’s a deep vibration, if that makes sense — coming from under the car.

You don’t feel it in the seat, nor do you feel it in the steering wheel. You do not feel it at a standstill, just at 20-30 mph. It goes away at higher speeds, and the car is rock solid and smooth as glass at 75 mph. I am stumped as to the cause, and with the age of the car, I don’t want to set a dealership or even an indy shop loose on it without more of an idea of the cause. I was thinking maybe a motor mount, but it seems like I would feel that all the time, and especially at idle, which I don’t. I was wondering about maybe some kind of driveshaft or transmission mount or connection point, but it seems like a fault that would get worse with increasing speed instead of going away. Do you have any ideas?

Read More >

By on March 14, 2017

1994 Buick Roadmaster Sedan, Image: General Motors

Timothy writes:

I need help bringing my 1994 Buick Roadmaster out of the dark ages.

This sedan was the last car my parents bought and I’ve had it for several years now (143,000 miles). I love the huge interior and I’ve always been a fan of Buicks for general motoring. (See what I did there?)

Seriously, I like the car a lot, but it’s so … wallowy, if that’s a word, that I don’t drive it much. I’d love to have a more European tautness to the suspension and steering. The trouble is that I know nothing about cars. You guys talk about the W126 Mercedes and Fox body Fords and I get lost real quick. I’ve inherited a garage full of tools, and since I don’t use the car as everyday transport, I’d like to try and do a few things myself. Bigger things will be done by my trusted mechanic.

And please, I’d rather not get as involved as your Valentino swap, which is awesome!

How can I upgrade the suspension and steering, yet still keep that awesome Buickness?

Once that’s straightened out, I’d like to know more about why the heater core needs to be “blown out” twice a year. Read More >

By on March 7, 2017

Odometer Rollback is Easy, Image: YouTube

Brian writes:

I had a conversation with someone the other day who claimed his mechanic rolled back the odometer on his car. This is a late-model car with a digital odometer. I always thought digital odometers were protected from this, but a quick Google search reveals that it’s actually quite common and easy to roll back a digital odometer. I guess this is now something a buyer has to worry about on top of everything else when buying a used car.

For example, how could you ever tell a car was rolled back — say, 10,000 miles — when the car is legitimately in good condition?

What are your thoughts on this? And how can a buyer protect themselves?

Read More >

By on February 28, 2017

1992 Honda Prelude Si odometer turning 100,000 miles, Image: Steve Lynch

Edward writes:

Here’s something I’ve been wondering: Why did odometers typically read only to 100,000 miles until fairly recently? Was that the maximum cars could possibly last when the practice began? Was it marketing — “100,000 miles, need a new car”? Is it something else? Durability expectations were certainly raised when Volvo added another digit, and with good reason. Two hundred thousand miles or more now seems to be feasible for many cars, with others known for exceeding that.

The odometer limitation certainly creates lots of doubt in the market for older vehicles. 50,000, 150,000, or even 250,000 miles are possibilities for a given vehicle.

On a related note, why are dealers so committed to ensuring no owner documents are provided with a used car? Even when buying an obviously well-maintained car at a reputable dealer, all I got was a whispered, “The timing belt has been changed.”

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

Harman HALOsonic Engine Order Cancellation

Craig writes:

Hey Sanjeev, (*facepalm* –SM)

I have a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, and I’m bit of a music buff. One of the first things I dispensed with was the factory Harman Kardon speakers. I replaced the sub with a JL stealth box. Now I have a pretty big problem with the factory stereo and its the automatic noise cancellation.

When the transmission is in normal D mode and or eco mode is on, it uses the factory stereo to cancel out the drone of the engine. Unfortunately, the noise cancellation is calibrated for the weaksauce factory sub. Now it sounds like one of those bass CDs from the ’90s as I hold speed or decelerate. I’ve asked the dealer how to get rid of this thing, to which they said “you can’t.”

I’m not so convinced.

Any ideas?

Read More >

By on February 14, 2017

Aston Martin and Mustang, Image: www.dailycarblog.com

Bill writes:

I am considering adding a fourth car to my family fleet, and I’m seriously weighing the options between a new Ford Mustang GT coupe with a manual or a 2005-2008 (or so) Aston Martin DB9. This would be a car I would drive around 3,000 miles per year.

In anticipation of your first questions, my other cars are a 2004 Honda S2000 AP2, which I plan to keep forever, a 2013 VW Touareg VR6 and an utterly original 1991 Mercedes-Benz 420 SEL (W 126) with just 113k miles. I can afford, within reason, higher ownership costs associated with a luxury GT as long as the engine doesn’t have to come out of the car for service (like seemingly every Ferrari before the 360).

It looks like a DB9 coupe with under 30,000 miles can be had for around $45k or so. I’d love to find a manual gearbox but they are rare.

Please give me three good reasons why I should run to my local Ford dealer and find a ‘Stang. Or not. Thank you! Read More >

By on February 7, 2017

Kia Sportage IIHS Roof Crush Test

James writes:

Sajeev,

I’m a TTAC reader and longtime poster on LincolnsOnine. My question is: why has outward visibility gotten so much worse over the past two decades?

I’ve been driving Panthers for more than 20 years (’87 Town Car, ’89 TC, ’97 TC, ’04 TC, and now a ’08 MGM), and the visibility out of them is fantastic.

However, my wife has a 2011 Buick Lacrosse. Although we really like the car, there are several times where both of us have almost hit someone or something by the huge obstruction of the A-pillar. I’ve noticed this in other newer cars I’ve driven as well. Am I missing something?

James

Read More >

By on January 31, 2017

Lexus LS430 Aftermarket Navigation Screen, Image: kyoei-usa.com

TTAC Commentator Waftabletorque writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I’m having an issue diagnosing a navigation system problem on my 2002 LS430. I’ve gone a few years with the GPS link not working, which means it no longer receives a satellite signal and defaults to dead-reckoning mode (the GPS symbol disappears on the touchscreen). It’s a nuisance issue but it’s low on my priorities.

It also happens that I’ve been using a dashcam for the last four years. I never linked the two together until I had a couple of dashcams go bad in 2016, and spent the whole summer without one. Well, my GPS started working again, and I chalked it up to a warm summer fixing some sort of electrical wiring fault in the antenna.

Once I got my fourth dashcam in September, I noticed my GPS stopped working again. It was getting cold in the mornings and I thought my good luck spell had ended. Then, it occurred to me that maybe the GPS gets disabled when the 12V was in use. I’ve since found that it’s true for all three of my 12-volt ports (cigarette lighter, arm rest, rear seat cigarette lighter).

None of my other electrical loads (seat heaters, defrosters, seat massagers, headlights, fridge, etc) seem to trigger this issue, and I replaced the car battery in 2013.

So, what’s my next step? Is this a grounding issue? Voltage issue? A conspiracy of aftermarket electronics deliberately disabling automotive functionality? Read More >

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