The Truth About Cars » Piston Slap http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 03 May 2015 14:51:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Piston Slap http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/piston-slap/ Piston Slap: The Low Oil Pressure Safety Net? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-low-oil-pressure-safety-net/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-low-oil-pressure-safety-net/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054825   TTAC Commentator r129 writes: Hello Sajeev, My 2012 Impala with 20,000 miles was due for an oil change, something that I was too lazy to do myself, especially in winter weather. I know, I should know better. I went to a reputable quick oil change establishment (if such a thing exists) that uses name-brand dexos1 […]

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2009-dodge-challenger-r-t-digital-oil-pressure-gauge

Not to worry? (photo courtesy: internetautoguide.com)

TTAC Commentator r129 writes:

Hello Sajeev,

My 2012 Impala with 20,000 miles was due for an oil change, something that I was too lazy to do myself, especially in winter weather. I know, I should know better. I went to a reputable quick oil change establishment (if such a thing exists) that uses name-brand dexos1 approved oil. Everything went as expected, until I drove away. Just after I pulled out of the parking lot, the “Low Oil Pressure – Turn Engine Off” warning light came on. Before I managed to safely pull over, the engine stalled out, and I coasted into a parking spot. There were no unusual noises before the car stalled. We are talking a time span of maybe 30 seconds after leaving the parking lot, and a distance of less than a block.

Damn! This is the kind of thing that happens to people on the internet, not to me!

I walked back to the place, told them what happened, and I noticed a trail of oil leading out of the garage door where I exited. They filled up a container of oil, grabbed some items, and we walked to my car. After poking around, they told me that the filter was defective (it looked like someone had punched a hole in it with a screwdriver), but I’ll never know if they just punched a hole in it to cover up some other cause. They replaced the filter, filled up the engine with oil, and tried to start the car a couple of times. Nothing. It didn’t even try to turn over, just a “click” sound. We walked back to the shop, and at this point, I’m thinking that the oil change place is going to be paying to replace my engine. I waited while they called the store manager. I was assured that they would tow my car, any repairs would be covered in full, even if I needed a new engine, and they would provide a rental car.

But wait! The manager suggested trying one more thing. Disconnect the battery, wait 5 minutes, and try starting the car again. The rationale was that maybe the engine had shut itself down into some sort of “safe mode,” and needed to be “reset.” I was skeptical, but we walked back to the car, tried it, and it cranked up. The engine sounded normal, and I drove it back to the shop. They drained the oil, refilled it to the proper specs, checked the OBD codes, and proclaimed that the car was “okay.” I was given a copy of an incident report that was filled out detailing what happened, credited for the cost of the oil change, and sent on my way. I argued that the car should be checked out by a third party to be sure that there is no damage. The manager told me that if there was anything wrong with the car, they would be responsible for the repairs, but if nothing was wrong, they probably wouldn’t pick up the cost of having it checked out. At this point, I just wanted to get out of there after nearly 2 hours, so I left. Everything seemed normal on the drive home, but after scouring the internet for advice, I think I’m supposed to be scared.

Is there any type of safety net that takes effect to prevent serious damage to the engine in the case of a sudden loss of oil? I don’t know enough about it, and Google is not giving me any good answers. If not, why did the engine start up the second time? How worried should I be? Most importantly, should I have the car checked out, and if so, what should be checked? Any advice is appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

Engine computers are a beautiful thing: they “listen to sensors” and are programmed to make decisions based upon sensor’s inputs. Even small engines do this cool trick.

That said, you should’ve insisted on a tow back to their shop: disconnecting the battery to clear the system defeats this safety measure, which could cause more engine wear, if not engine damage. But it sounds like you are fine, just don’t do that again. 

Your Impala is one of the many modern vehicles that turns off the engine when the computer reads troubling information from the oil pressure sensor. And it’s a sensor (detailed information), not a switch (good/bad pressure) like the bad old days of idiot lights. So the computer can notice a significant drop in oil pressure in seconds, cut power to the fuel pump and save the engine (and the car, as it depreciates) to drive another day.

I’m looking for a catchy name for this “low oil pressure engine shut down” technology, but googled nothing. Rest assured, you lost some (not all) of your oil pressure and the system saved you from serious damage. Don’t worry about it. Perhaps next time personally check the oil level before leaving their shop, if that makes you feel better!

What say you, Best and Brightest?

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Are you Jagsperienced? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-jagsperienced/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-jagsperienced/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054761 Allen writes: Sajeev, Hopefully you can offer some light at the end of the tunnel for an issue that a friend has with her 2004 Jag X-type. The car is in great shape for its age and all was well until the bad news came regarding the transfer case. The car recently started acting up […]

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Allen writes:

Sajeev,

Hopefully you can offer some light at the end of the tunnel for an issue that a friend has with her 2004 Jag X-type. The car is in great shape for its age and all was well until the bad news came regarding the transfer case. The car recently started acting up and the local Jag dealer diagnosed a failed transfer case with a part price of 3,600 with 6+ hours of labor.

I’m not Jagsperienced so I have to take their quote at face value.

Do you know of any resources on a failure of this type? The failure occurred virtually overnight and with the value of the car, it seemingly is a death sentence for what is an otherwise healthy car.

Any wisdom you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

Explain more about this “acting up” before the car needed to go to the dealer.

Allen writes:

Literally overnight: rough, jerky acceleration closely followed by garbage can full of pistons sound and lack of drive. I had changed the plugs the week before. During the test drive after the plugs, I only heard a couple of rough clashes that I wasn’t even sure were from that car because they didn’t repeat and I was in traffic at the time.

Sajeev answers:

Ah-ha!  This problem?

Click here to view the embedded video.

I reckon this happened because of a lack of fluid changes in the transfer case.  Ask her if she followed the service specifications outlined in the owner’s manual. Even if she did, supposedly Jaguar/Ford doesn’t make it very easy: perhaps no mechanic ever touched the transfer case?  Let’s hope not.

You can get a used X type transfer case, finding one might be easy depending on if her Jag has traction control. But considering the inherent weakness found in a lack of fluid servicing, will you get another pile of crap from the junkyard? Remember this: it’s not your car, not your problem.

Tell her to sell it, or roll the dice with an independent mechanic installing a junkyard replacement (and fluid change). The former is a better idea, especially if she’s better off (financially) in a cost-effective vehicle.*

*That’s not a sexist thing, there are plenty of cash-strapped dudes in ticking time bomb, maintenance deferred premium vehicles when they should be in a used Corolla. Your job as a Piston Slap reader is to give people a reality check if or when they need it. 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Northstar Mills, Northstar Bills… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-northstar-mills-northstar-bills/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-northstar-mills-northstar-bills/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1048161   Chris writes: Sajeev, I’ve got a 2002 Cadillac Seville with the infamous Northstar engine. I bought it nine years ago and at the time it was four years old and had 30K on the clock. Before I even ask, I’m sure you can already guess what happened. At 149,000 miles the head gasket issue […]

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(photo courtesy: headgasketrepairvognal.blogspot.com)

Chris writes:

Sajeev,

I’ve got a 2002 Cadillac Seville with the infamous Northstar engine. I bought it nine years ago and at the time it was four years old and had 30K on the clock. Before I even ask, I’m sure you can already guess what happened. At 149,000 miles the head gasket issue has reared its ugly head. For those readers who are unfamiliar, the repair requires the engine and cradle to be dropped, stripped down, and re-studded with twenty new holes. As opposed to timeserts, this fix is usually permanent.

I can afford a car payment, that isn’t what I’m asking about. If I did buy a car, I would limit myself to $20-$25K, but there isn’t anything I really want in that range. I know the car has many drawbacks and is a bit outdated, but I have an attachment to it. I’ve kept it in amazing condition and aside from the said problem, it is mechanically perfect. I’ve obsessed over keeping it in this condition and any time I’ve heard a noise or noticed anything out of the ordinary, it was replaced. I’ve even wet sanded out the factory orange peel and buffed it to a mirror like shine.

I may be able to pull off the repair myself and if I do, it will cost me about $800. Otherwise I need to find someone to do it and it will cost me around $2K. The car isn’t worth much. Should I just bite the bullet and get rid of the thing or should I do the repair and hope to get another 1-2 years out of it?

Sajeev answers:

We wouldn’t even consider this if it wasn’t a Caddy…if any other car had this problem…

As a butthurt Lincoln-Mercury fanboi, its always burned me how Lincolns are more disposable than Cadillacs. Considering the poor quality of bespoke Cadillac power trains that, for most of my life, never deserved the higher demand: you see it all the way from new car inventory down to fully depreciated Craigslist rubbish.

It’s kinda “Ludacris.” But I digress…

If you are willing to save labor and install a head stud kit by yourself, you go right ahead and do it. It adds resale value while giving you time to enjoy the car before actually needing a replacement. That’s good for your wallet, your piece of mind and it’s probably a good character building experience.

Who here can say they did a Northstar head gasket repair, fixing that fatal flaw? 

If you pay a shop for it…perhaps its time to let someone else deal with it. You gotta really, really love this car to shell out that kind of cash.

But then again, it’s a Cadillac!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: The One Strike Luxury Car Policy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-one-strike-luxury-car-policy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-one-strike-luxury-car-policy/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:57:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1047945 Sam writes: Hi Sajeev, My wife is interested in upgrading from her Subaru Legacy to a more luxurious make. Nothing crazy, we’re talking BMW 428 or Audi A5 range. Her requirements include automatic transmission and the usual ‘winter package': AWD, remote start, heated seats (and steering wheel, ideally), etc… She wants something mid-sized with a […]

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Take two… (photo courtesy: fakeposters.com)

Sam writes:

Hi Sajeev,

My wife is interested in upgrading from her Subaru Legacy to a more luxurious make. Nothing crazy, we’re talking BMW 428 or Audi A5 range. Her requirements include automatic transmission and the usual ‘winter package': AWD, remote start, heated seats (and steering wheel, ideally), etc… She wants something mid-sized with a comfortable ride. Enough punch to feel fast without needing to actually be fast.

Here’s the hitch: when it comes to car problems, she has a “one-strike and you’re out” policy, so reliability is a big concern. We’ve never had anything fancier than Chevies or Subarus, but have heard plenty of horror stories about BMW transmissions or Audi electrical gremlins or Volkswagen, well, everything.

What would you and the B&B recommend in the semi-luxury coupe range (sub $50K) that provides a modicum of Fahrvergnügen while providing the best chance of avoiding the dealership’s repair shop? Suggestions are appreciated!

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Your wife’s (impressive) “one strike” policy is in direct conflict with her wish for a more premium, luxurious make. But premium cars have good warranties with nice loaner cars for 4 years or 50k miles: plenty of time to reconsider the “one strike” policy!

At a macro level, I doubt any one German brand is much better than the other. Even a particular body style has variances: some power trains are trouble prone, DSG gearboxes need specialized attention at regular intervals, and in-car technology can be buggy and glitchy. Hell, do you remember the drubbing Consumer Reports gave Ford for MyFordTouch? Keep this in mind with any option you consider on any car.

Focus on the vehicle and its options. You both must test drive the ones you like, research the past history – via recalls and more importantly, model specific forum feedback – and see if you both are comfortable taking the plunge. In general, buying the most common platform (A4, 3-series, etc.) with the least unique parts will net you a more reliable, durable and cost-effective vehicle after the warranty expires.

I promise you that you’ll learn a ton about your future vehicle purchase by reading the forums for owner feedback.

Some within the Best and Brightest grimace at the usual stereotypes I (and others) spread to Germany’s latest iron, because HPFPs, Sensotronic Brake Control, etc. are the past. So let’s see what the B&B consider the ideal luxury performance whip for your situation!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: When to Drop Full Coverage Insurance? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-drop-full-coverage-insurance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-drop-full-coverage-insurance/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:23:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1042041   N.C. writes: Sajeev, We have 5 cars and 4 drivers. My wife and I drive the three oldest vehicles: 2003 LS430, 2005 Z4, and 2000 Frontier. My question is regarding collision insurance on the Lexus and the BMW. I currently carry full coverage on both and am considering dropping collision coverage to save money. […]

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Nice intake. (photo courtesy: finance.zacks.com)

N.C. writes:

Sajeev,

We have 5 cars and 4 drivers. My wife and I drive the three oldest vehicles: 2003 LS430, 2005 Z4, and 2000 Frontier. My question is regarding collision insurance on the Lexus and the BMW. I currently carry full coverage on both and am considering dropping collision coverage to save money.

 

KBB and Edmunds show a range of values for the Lexus of between $5800 to $6200, (trade-in value that is, which is what the insurance company would want to pay if a claim was made) and the BMW is between $8100 and $6600. Both vehicles are mechanically sound and used for daily drivers. My youngest child will be a freshman in college in the fall and I would like for both of these vehicles to last for 4 more years before we consider replacing them. When does it make financial sense to drop collision coverage?

Sajeev answers:

I hate these questions, they are in the eye of the beholder.  Do you love these cars more than any replacement? Do you have big monthly expenses you have to worry about? Student loans, child support, tax spikes, etc? 

If you don’t care for the cars, can afford to take a total loss from an uninsured motorist and value more cash in your wallet every month; by all means, switch to basic coverage.

I like full coverage. But you don’t have 15+ year-old cars with rare options (that matter to fanbois) expensive-ish modifications (headers, fancy torque converters, acres of dynamat) making them irreplaceable.  You save a ton of money over basic coverage when something terrible happens (i.e. the claim’s payout) or by getting that terrible thing fixed (with or without a rebuilt title, depending on your state’s law).

Full coverage isn’t much more than basic to me, but you wanna know what really sold me?

10615957_10152343563823269_4882044344050485582_n

One morning I walked out to this scene: reeeeeeeal lucky that branch only scratched my trunk and busted my tail light. The paint buffed okay, a decent used light was $35 shipped from eBay that same morning.

The money I saved this time ’round went to $45 of Harbor Freight’s finest cutting tools: the saw is actually great for limited-use suburbanites! No matter, they made short work of the branch and the affair was pretty damn fun, actually.

 

But I won’t tempt fate again. I know when to drop full coverage insurance, and I don’t anticipate that need. Heck, I might switch to stated value just because I am such a Lincoln-Mercury fanboi.

 Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: What makes Premium Fuel More Expensive? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-makes-premium-fuel-expensive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-makes-premium-fuel-expensive/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 12:21:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1041953   TTAC Commentator sastexan writes: Sajeev, I’ve been driving cars requiring premium fuel (91+ octane). When I bought my Contour SVT in 1998, high test was $0.20 more a gallon (just under a 20% premium over regular). But it was regularly always only $0.20 more. In the past decade or so, I noticed the delta […]

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Just the long and short of it. (photo courtesy: chemistryland.com)

TTAC Commentator sastexan writes:

Sajeev,

I’ve been driving cars requiring premium fuel (91+ octane). When I bought my Contour SVT in 1998, high test was $0.20 more a gallon (just under a 20% premium over regular). But it was regularly always only $0.20 more. In the past decade or so, I noticed the delta going to $0.30 and even more. The correlation did not seem to be to the price (eg, premium did not seem to track a consistent 15% increase). Rather, the difference appears to be a flat rate.

Question for the best and brightest – what in higher octane fuel makes it more expensive?

What inputs are there and how much more does it cost to manufacture?

This is not intended to be a debate about the “requirement” for premium – my SVT had an extreme dislike of 87 octane and I won’t try it in my FRS with the high compression engine. However my mother runs 87 in her  with no issue for the past 5 years despite the assertion from the salesman that the “premium product requires premium fuel” and did the same for her old I30 for 14 years (Camry engine and Maxima engine, respectively).

Sajeev answers:

I’m far from an oil and gas expert, but let’s hyperlink to relevant sources and give it the ‘ol college try.

What makes premium fuel more expensive is the effort to adjust the ratio of long to short chain hydrocarbons in grades of gasoline. A notable quote from the Quora link above.

“Effectively, the long-chain hydrocarbons (like asphalt and diesel) can be broken into shorter-chain hydrocarbons (like gasoline). You end up with more gasoline. You can also adjust the regular/premium output ratios with these methods.”

Perhaps more importantly, overall fuel cost is proportional to oil quality.

Not all crude oil is created equal. The Keystone XL pipeline (that everyone’s formed an opinion about) is proof: the quality of “tar sand” oil delivered to my Texas backyard is poor. Light, sweet crude is the good stuff: more expensive as a raw material but easier to refine. But there are varying grades here too: light crude oil is “defined as having an API gravity higher than 31.1 °API (less than 870 kg/m3).” 

Whatever that means.

Need more detail? Too bad I didn’t accept that Petroleum Engineering scholarship when I was a freshman. Perhaps there’s one within the ranks of our Best and Brightest?

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: FCA Makes the Case for Czech Bicycle Ownership? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-making-case-bicycle-ownership/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-making-case-bicycle-ownership/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 11:49:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038801 TTAC writer Vojta Dobes writes: Hello Sa(n)jeev, As you already know, I had to get rid of the borrowed ’98 Town Car which served me for last 15 months. When I mentioned to you that I’m getting a ’94 Chrysler LHS instead, you told me that it would be wise for me to purchase a reasonable, domestically […]

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(photo courtesy: eBay.com)

TTAC writer Vojta Dobes writes:

Hello Sa(n)jeev,

As you already know, I had to get rid of the borrowed ’98 Town Car which served me for last 15 months. When I mentioned to you that I’m getting a ’94 Chrysler LHS instead, you told me that it would be wise for me to purchase a reasonable, domestically produced (which means European for me) car, so I have something that’s easy to fix and easy to get parts for.

I found afairly nice Alfa Romeo 164 Diesel, with just a few dings and scratches and in mostly working condition, save for some unimportantelectricals. Is that what you had in mind?Do you think those two cars will be enough to keep me mobile, or shall I better buy a new bicycle for times when there’s no press car for me?

Thanks for your input!

Sajeev answers:

Oh. My. Damn. Son.

I must remember all those Sierra parts you shipped for TTAC’s project car before I proceed. Because it’s very, very hard to avoid internet flaming when considering a transaxle-munching Chrysler LH car in the Czech Republic! And then, salt in the wound, maximum FCA  pain via used Alfa?

But you got press cars. (Not jealous!) And maybe your city is like others in Europe; flush with a strong infrastructure for bicyclists. Ditto public transportation. With that in mind, why not?

What could possibly go wrong?

You tell us, Best and Brightest.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: A Tale of Mastercrafted, Aftermarket Dubs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-tale-mastercrafted-aftermarket-dubs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-tale-mastercrafted-aftermarket-dubs/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 12:18:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038753 Jimmy writes: I hope this new year finds you well. Back in 2007 I bought a new Hyundai Santa Fe. Nothing special, no ABS or four wheel drive. But it did have 20”s on it with low profile 12 inch wide tires. Later that year I had the chance to drive it in the snow. First […]

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(photo courtesy: svtrichie @ www.Hyundaiforums.com)

Jimmy writes:

I hope this new year finds you well. Back in 2007 I bought a new Hyundai Santa Fe. Nothing special, no ABS or four wheel drive. But it did have 20”s on it with low profile 12 inch wide tires. Later that year I had the chance to drive it in the snow. First time ever. Was not a good time. 

The only thing I know about snow is take it slow. And that’s what I did. Driving down to the end of my block I gently pressed the brake to slow down easy. No problem, I’m almost stopped and got ready to make a right hand turn. When some where under 10 MPH the rear end whipped around and I found myself sitting sideways in the middle of the street. It took me some time to unclinch my anal orifice from the drivers seat.

I thought driving in snow was closer to suicide but I had to pay the gas bill if I wanted to keep the heat on.

The next four stop signs were no problem. But on the fifth stop sigh I had to make a left turn. And just like the first stop sign, the back end slid around to the right. Having never driven in the snow, I didn’t know if this was normal or not. Either way it sucked. Took it too the dealer and had it checked out. No problem. But of course no snow then either.

I just got the car back from the dealer after it’s secound oil change. It was cold but not snowing. It was 9 a.m. no wind. The snow wasn’t melting. And the roads were in good repair. The snow itself was 12 inches deep and even across the road. I was the first one down the road.

Their is no problem breaking on any other surface. During a hard rain last week I tried to make it do something stupid. It always stopped streight and true. These were not snow tires. They were Mastercraft with less then 7 thousand miles on them.

In each case I don’t think I was going more then 7 MPH. Is that too fast ?

I don’t know if this should go on the board or not. I’ll let you decide. I had one of the tires on my Hyundai Santa Fe come apart from the tire case. I took it to the dealer who said, those arn’t Hyundai tires or rims we won’t fix it under warranty. Makes since, not factory tires, but installed by the dealer. So I went to where they did the install. They said if I didn’t buy it from them, their’s no warranty. Before hitting the dealer I looked up “MASTERFCRAFT TIRES” on the internet.

They had a recall for the tires I had. But still no warranty. I’m still pissed off. 1650.00 dollars for a new set of Goodyears. Mastercraft tires according to tirerack.com had a price of 225 each with 80 thousand mile warranty. My tires didn’t make it past 7 thousand miles. Also screwed up some body work. But it did remind me to put a lug wrench in car to fit my fancy rims. After auto club took 4 hours to come and change the tire. On the first hot day of the year.

I don’t blame the dealer. After all it was almost a year since I bought the car and the window sticker did not have anything on it about the rims and tires. But I do think the mastercraft dealer should have done something.

As a side note: I was originally going to buy a Honda Pick-up SUV thing. But I went on my favorite site, TTAC, and found out the little Honda gets crappy gas milage. I did take the Honda for a test drive, and I couldn’t get the sales man to tell me exactly how many miles to gallon it gets. Just like TTAC predicted.

Thanks for the vent.

Sajeev answers:

My luck with off-brand tires on daily driven machines is horrible.  After enduring several sets of shamefully bad Maxima (off brand Generals) and Mastercraft tires on vehicles that eventually became my hand-me-downs, I said never more…except for limited use vehicles like my imported Ford Sierra with impossible to find rubber sizes.

And when you combine off-brand all-season tires, aftermarket 20″ wheels and snowy/icy conditions? Oh my damn, son…

That’s a terrible combination. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with big aftermarket wheels, in theory.  But they weren’t designed with your car’s suspension in mind, and those “recalled” tires were probably sub-par from day one. My advice?

Simple: keep the Dubs for the summer, if you really like them.  You need a proper set of winter wheel and tires (factory 16-17″ sizes) so you can go much faster than 7-mph on city streets. You could go, like, 14mph instead. Awesome.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Saabaru, The “Reliable” Subaru? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-saabaru-reliable-subaru/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-saabaru-reliable-subaru/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 22:50:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1036929 Adam writes: Hello Sajeev, I have a classic “keep it or sell it” question for you and the greater TTAC audience. Two years ago I bought my wife a 2005 Saab 9-2X Aero (sadly an automatic, which was a non-negotiable requirement for my wife). You may remember these as being rebadged Subaru WRX wagons, and that […]

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95% Subaru, 5% Saab…100% Awesome?

Adam writes:

Hello Sajeev, I have a classic “keep it or sell it” question for you and the greater TTAC audience.

Two years ago I bought my wife a 2005 Saab 9-2X Aero (sadly an automatic, which was a non-negotiable requirement for my wife). You may remember these as being rebadged Subaru WRX wagons, and that was the main reason I bought the car at the time. I assumed that since the underlying platform was basically a “reliable” Subaru, repairs would be infrequent and parts would be plentiful.

The reality is that I’ve never spent so much money trying to keep a car in good running condition. The car is now at 127,000 miles, and in the past two years we’ve done the following work: valve cover gaskets (twice), rebuilt heads and head gaskets, new power steering pump, replaced valve breather assemblies, new radiator, just to name a few things off the top of my head. None of these pending repairs were brought to light through the very thorough pre-purchase inspection, and the car appeared to be well cared for when we bought it.

The head rebuild alone cost us almost $3000 and kept the car in the shop for almost a month, mostly due to parts availability issues, which really surprised me. Even after all these repairs, we are still dealing with a mystery oil leak that periodically drips onto the exhaust somewhere and fills the cabin with a wonderful burning smell.

My question is one of sustainability. Even though the car is comprised of 95% Subaru parts, it seems that the 5% that was supplied by Saab is becoming increasingly more difficult to come by. Things like plastic body panels (rocker panel covers, bumper covers, etc.) are nearly impossible to find now, and even the struts are specific to the Saab model, having been tuned specifically for the 9-2X. Even if I have taken care of most of the major repairs for the foreseeable future, is it really a great idea to hold onto a car that is losing replacement parts support? Even the Subaru parts seem much more scarce than they should be.

I should note that despite all these issues, the reason we haven’t already replaced the car is that we really enjoy driving it. It’s a fun, powerful car that’s good in Minnesota winters and can haul a decent amount of stuff with the seats down. I have no idea what I would replace it with if I did sell it.

I am open to any and all suggestions and advice!

Thanks,
Adam

Sajeev answers:

The answer is clear by the overall tone of your message: put it on Craigslist, wait for the right buyer because it’s still in good running condition.

You really like the car, but not enough to deal with the crap.  Saabs are hard to live with because of parts/repair costs, Subarus are the same (to a lesser extent).  What’s the benefit of being 95% Subaru when their motor popped the head gasket?  Exit now, before you spend thousands more on a 10-year-old car at the bottom of the depreciation curve.

I can see why you might consider the alternative: all my old cars are in some state of serious disrepair. Only a fanboi fool like me does all this for no good reason. If I was a Saabaru fan, I’d love your car too.

Best of luck, and remember there are plenty of AWD hatchback utilities on the market for you and your wife to consider.  Test drive them all, you have nothing but time!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Ease of Right Hand Drive Conversion? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-ease-right-hand-drive-conversion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-ease-right-hand-drive-conversion/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:16:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032353   Jeremy writes: Hi Sajeev, Greetings (again) from Australia. I’ve got a question regarding converting from left- to right-hand-drive. No idea if you’re the right person to send this to (you could do worse – SM) but I’ll send it anyway. My question is this – is it (relatively) easier converting a mid- or rear-engined […]

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2016-ford-gt-08

Sure, why not?

Jeremy writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Greetings (again) from Australia. I’ve got a question regarding converting from left- to right-hand-drive. No idea if you’re the right person to send this to (you could do worse – SM) but I’ll send it anyway.

My question is this – is it (relatively) easier converting a mid- or rear-engined car from LHD to RHD? My very limited understanding is that, aside from things like the dash and trim that would need to be made, the biggest technical problem is where to feed the steering column, as it’s generally got a nice path through/under the engine/ancillaries etc etc. So would it be theoretically easier if the engine wasn’t there in the first place?

I’m assuming that things like the pedal box etc are easier to shift over.

This all came to my head looking at the new Ford GT, and lamenting on the fact that even if I had the money, I doubt I’d ever see one in our part of the world. That makes me sad.

Take care,
Jeremy

Sajeev answers:

From what I’ve seen while upgrading my RHD Ford Sierra with engine/transmission/suspension components from LHD vehicles available stateside, the engine’s location doesn’t matter. Cars are modular, especially those with steering (rack) and chassis (subframe?) parts specifically engineered for RHD markets. The location of the engine bay on the body doesn’t matter.

Steering columns, shafts and boxes/racks are never in the way of an engine, they mount to one side and the engine’s in the center.  The hard part is making or possibly procuring right hand drive conversion parts that mirror the LHD ones.

Since the new Ford GT is far from a Ford-based initiative, odds are it uses steering, suspension and maybe even chassis components previously designed, tested and road legal in another life. This saves time and money, the last Ford GT was full of screwball parts: Focus steering column and engine air filters, Econoline inside door releases, signal lights from the 2001-2002 Cougar headlight assembly, etc.  Granted this new GT is far more expensive, it’s probably far more bespoke.

But odds are the steering rack is made by a third-party that also offers a RHD counterpart. And it’s designed to bolt into the same place as a LHD steering rack. Probably.

Now if you wanted to convert to center drive on a front engine vehicle, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: The German TL’s Audi 5000 Syndrome? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-german-tls-audi-5000-syndrome/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-german-tls-audi-5000-syndrome/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:08:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028585   Mark writes: Hi Sajeev, I have a 2003 Acura TL-S with 106K miles. I bought the car in 2013 with 84K and it was/is in excellent shape. I checked and made sure the car had the transmission recalls performed (I know there were a lot of issues with Honda/Acura 5 speed autos) Back in July […]

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2003_acura_tl_picture (12)

Audi 5000 much? (photo courtesy: www.jbcarpages.com)

Mark writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I have a 2003 Acura TL-S with 106K miles. I bought the car in 2013 with 84K and it was/is in excellent shape. I checked and made sure the car had the transmission recalls performed (I know there were a lot of issues with Honda/Acura 5 speed autos) Back in July I noticed on a hot and humid day it was difficult to move the gear selector from P to Drive. It seemed stiff but there were no other indicators of transmission issues. 

I went to every Acura forum I could find and most issues were related to actual transmission problems and failures. There were some suggestions that the brake light switch might be failing. I replaced that (even though the brake lights work fine) no luck. It then started giving me fits about coming out of Park. I would have to use the key to move it into Drive or Neutral. Then it stopped doing that for a few months. Now it occasionally will not go into Reverse from Drive unless I shift down to then back up. The action is still very stiff but it will go into gear. Once you are going the Transmission is fine, it shifts perfectly, there is no missed shifts, clunking or any of the usual signs of an imminent transmission failure.

I live in Germany where Acura does not exist. The local Honda dealers are clueless since they have very little experience with Automatic Transmissions. Local mechanics are the same, very little experience working on automatic transmissions. I can’t find any useful information online or any examples of this issue. Perhaps you can help?

Thanks,
Mark
Stuttgart, Germany

Sajeev answers:

Stuttgart is pretty far away from Ingolstat, and yet your German Acura’s infected with Audi 5000 syndrome?

Such an intermittent problem suggests a mechanical bind inside the shift mechanism, or perhaps electronic fault (just not the brake light).  There’s also ammunition against Honda’s neutral safety switch, or Transmission Range Switch.  The TRS can indeed interfere with the “interlock” system.

Unless you regularly spill large amounts of milky, sweet/sticky flavored coffee on your console to really screw it up, I suspect the TRS (or its wiring harness?) is at fault. To wit, this YouTube video:

Click here to view the embedded video.

What say you, Best and Brightest?

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: The Sable Preservation Society? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-sable-preservation-society/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-sable-preservation-society/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 12:38:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028105   Matt writes: Hey Sajeev, I read your recent PS on engine warm-up procedures, and it got me thinking about my own situation. I recently started working from home. Now, the missus is able to let sit her 2003 Mercury Sable and drive my 2013 Chevy Equinox during the harsh Wisconsin winter. The Sable is […]

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Or not. (photo courtesy: www.downtown-automotive.com)

Matt writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I read your recent PS on engine warm-up procedures, and it got me thinking about my own situation.

I recently started working from home. Now, the missus is able to let sit her 2003 Mercury Sable and drive my 2013 Chevy Equinox during the harsh Wisconsin winter. The Sable is left in a parking spot, outside, for days and weeks on end without being driven. Aside from starting her up every 2-3 weeks and driving around, what would you recommend to make sure the Sable is in tip-top shape in the event the old gal needs to be driven?

Thanks in advance!

Sajeev answers:

Oh yes!  You and I, we are the same: we’d preserve an old Mercury and subject a new vehicle to winter abuse instead! Clearly you appreciate the Mercury Sable like a Lincoln-Mercury fanboi such as myself. If this were a 1986 LS Model in brown with chocolate velour and digital gauges…well, good thing it’s not. 

1987sable

It *would* look good next to his Brown Ford Sierra.

Since you’re probably being nice to your wife, giving her the safer/nicer vehicle since you don’t need it, I’ll stop with the Sable talk.

So anyway, driving it every 2-3 weeks is all you need.  Just don’t forget to do it! Exercise and fresh fluids is perfect for vehicle health during winter hibernation,  but remaining safe for occupants might be another story.

Make sure the tires are relatively new (i.e. not 8+ years old and hardened to death), change the wiper blades, change the headlight bulbs (if driven regularly at night, that’s often overlooked) and even the little things like a cheapy reflective windshield visor to keep the dashboard from cooking in the winter sun. You could get super picky via paint protection, any grade of breathable outdoor car cover, a battery tender, indoor battery storage and who knows what else the B&B will think of…

But you pretty much nailed it in your query. Off to you, Best and Brightest!

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Piston Slap: Avoiding Brutal CVT Step Gears? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-avoiding-brutal-cvt-step-gears/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-avoiding-brutal-cvt-step-gears/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:04:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1019698   TTAC commentator Raincoaster writes: Hi Sajeev, I currently drive a 2011 Honda Fit(Manual) and I’m mildly interested in a CVT for my next car purchase. I have never driven one, and one thing that gives me pause is all the “fake gears” that they set them up with. I understand that this is to […]

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A path too Brutalist? (photo courtesy: flickrhivemind.net/Tags/architectute,concrete)

TTAC commentator Raincoaster writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I currently drive a 2011 Honda Fit(Manual) and I’m mildly interested in a CVT for my next car purchase. I have never driven one, and one thing that gives me pause is all the “fake gears” that they set them up with. I understand that this is to make them drive in a manner familiar to traditional automatic transmissions, but this seems unnecessary and possibly inefficient to me. Are there any cars/companies that don’t fake it and just let the engine/trans cook up the best ratio at any given time? I’d like to test drive something like that to see how it feels.

A second and 2 part question. I work a 40 day on, 40 off shift and while working, my car (2011 Fit) sits. Is this bad and is there anything I should do for preparation or upon first start up? This also got me wondering about cars on dealer lots, do they periodically start sitting inventory?

-Raincoaster

Sajeev answers:

A 40-day stagnation period has been discussed, here’s the first example. Your only concern is having an older battery: newer cars in many geographic locations are rough on 3-5 year old batteries, so be ready for a dead battery that won’t come back from a jump start. Hopefully there’s an open parts store or a Wal-Mart nearby when that happens.

I also like the traditional, non-stepped CVT as witnessed by my 2014 Mirage road test.  The Mirage lacks flappy paddles and fake gears, but has a manual “low” for steep hills or maybe autocrossing in a serious sleeper. Add that with the fuel economy benefits, these CVTs are worth considering over auto-erratic slushboxes.

As I mentioned in the review, compared to the slow upshifts and the borderline-unsafe delays on WOT downshifts of modern 6-8 speed automatics (considering decades of performance oriented designs, both from the factory and the aftermarket) a stepless CVT is okay.  But public adoption sans fake gears is unlikely, Nissan’s D-step redesign is proof of that. Hopefully you, me, and threads like this mean that CVT step gears become a fad like motorized seatbelts.

Speaking of steps, I’m side-steppin’ your query.  Aside from the Mitsubishi, I don’t know which new CVTs run without steps. I assume Toyota hybrids stay stepless, as people are okay with a Hybrid being different.  This is why Piston Slap only succeeds with the Best and Brightest in play. So off to you!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Reverse Light My Way Home, General Motors! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-reverse-light-way-home-general-motors/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-reverse-light-way-home-general-motors/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 12:53:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018778   Jon writes: Sajeev, I read this column on lighting, thanks for the information! That leads me to a question… What is up with Chevy/GM truck and SUV reverse lights!?!?!?! Why do they come on when their drivers use their lock remotes????? It is crazy going through parking lots these days with all the SUV reverse […]

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(photo courtesy: seadoo2006 @ forums.fourtitude.com)

Jon writes:

Sajeev,

I read this column on lighting, thanks for the information! That leads me to a question…

What is up with Chevy/GM truck and SUV reverse lights!?!?!?! Why do they come on when their drivers use their lock remotes?????

It is crazy going through parking lots these days with all the SUV reverse lights coming on for no good reason. Help me understand please.

Sajeev answers:

Reversing lights, just like headlights, can be used for anything when parked. And headlights also remain lit on these vehicles, which has been a safety feature since at least the mid 1970s. Knowledge Drop time!

Peep the rheostat (Off, Max Delay) on the automatic headlight system below. There was about a minute (max) of headlight safety for a dimly lit parking space. Considering how many dimly lit streets there are at night, even in urban areas…considering how many 1970s cop shows had some seriously heavy shit go down in a dark parking garage, you better believe your 1977 Continental Mark V needs this system.

$_4

And the de-icing rear window too, of course. (photo courtesy: http://www.edsonian.com)

Maybe Starsky and Hutch would still be on TV if their damn low-brow Ford Torino had this Lincoln’s feature.  You think long and hard about that, Son!

 

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

While this notion is a safety feature for the vehicle’s owner, you aren’t the only outsider complaining.  I’m annoyed by them when looking for a spot, or looking to ensure someone won’t back into my ride.

So do this: slow down while approaching AND be on the lookout for the brake lights.  Most of these vehicles are automatics, and most people crawl out of a spot while riding the brakes. So no brake lights, no driver inside the GM product.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: To Need a Gentrified Pickup? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-need-gentrified-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-need-gentrified-pickup/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 12:10:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1017634 Zach writes: Sajeev, I would like your, and the B&Bs, opinion on my dilemma, but first a love letter of sorts… I’m a proud owner of an ugly truckling, a 1988 Toyota single cab short bed pickup in all its carburated 22R goodness. The 4spd close ratio stick makes anything above 60mph interesting, but I’ve hauled 2200 lbs of […]

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100_1423

The Cure for Gentrification? (photo courtesy: OP)

Zach writes:

Sajeev,

I would like your, and the B&Bs, opinion on my dilemma, but first a love letter of sorts…

I’m a proud owner of an ugly truckling, a 1988 Toyota single cab short bed pickup in all its carburated 22R goodness. The 4spd close ratio stick makes anything above 60mph interesting, but I’ve hauled 2200 lbs of radiators in it to the scrap yard, and other than having to hit the brakes to steer, it had no problems. No AC, no power anything. For a while I had a dump bed on it, which meant that trips to transfer station attracted every hispanic and african in the vicinity. I bought it for $700 from a gentleman who commuted around DC in it since new, and whose new wife forced him to sell it. I still run into him at the local HomeyD and he always looks longingly at it.

Unfortunately since I’ve finished renovating my rowhouse, it barely gets driven and sits rotting on the street. A couple of weeks ago I had to get the emissions inspected (in DC it gets a dyno drive cycle) and a hard brake line blew in the middle of test, causing them to rerun the test. I passed (!), but the drive home took two bottles of brake fluid and judicious use of engine braking.

I guess this is the long winded way of saying this truck as been most excellent to me in all ways and I feel terrible that it’s going to simply rust away on the street. Not to mention that my neighborhood, once a nice place to live once past the multiple muggings and burglaries, is becoming douchebag central as one of the hottest areas for development in the city, and so parking three vehicles (my 240 wagon, my girlfriends 850 wagon, and my pickup) has become onerous as the out-of-city asshats have no idea how to parallel park.

I’d like to get my fleet down to 2 vehicles (hopefully selling off the POS 850), but I’m way too attached to having a pickup in the city. Its utility is far greater than any negatives I can think of, but at the same time, I want something I can take my dogs to the park in, something the gf can drive to work in a pinch as well as something safer than a tuna fish can on wheels. Fuel efficiency really doesn’t matter to me (<3,000mi/yr, I put more miles on my bicycle), but price does since the damn thing won’t move most of the time.

So the DC Metro area is littered with 11th gen F150 supercabs used as commuters and while not being particularly attracted to the truck, they’re cheap and plentiful. On the other hand, I love me some Toyota, and I’d love to get the last good looking and right-sized Taco, a 1st gen double cab, but they must have made them out of gold. For roughly 2x that of a used F150, I can get an equivalently used Taco, which completely blows my mind. I’m not looking at mint examples either, and the enormous price differential is really pushing me to honestly consider abandoning my small truck love for a full-size. I don’t want anything the F150 supercab provides other than the back seats for the dogs and the bed, but a $4-8K price differential is a very persuasive argument in its favor…

Of course, the Taco is far more nimble and about 30″ shorter than the 6.5′ bed F150, but is the size, Toyota build quality, slightly greater fuel economy worth 2x+ the price of the best selling vehicle in America?

Sajeev answers:

Oh man, that 4th Gen Toyota truck is totally sweet.  I mean dumpy and crude, but I’d rock that bad boy in a gentrified yuppie-hipsterville portion of town all day.

That said, even baseline trucks have come a long way.  Take my daily driven 2011 Ranger, compared to 1990s models that are supposedly the same, it’s obvious newer trucks are superior: better interior electronics, refined engines, improved NVH materials, bigger brakes, safety equipment (like Volvo-esque seat backs Ford ripped off), and the list goes on.

That said, the last of the “good” Tacos was a terrible value in the used market for years, even worse now that newer F-150s fall into that price range.  Not worth it: those Tacos aren’t waaaay better than a modern Duratec (DOHC) Ranger, Frontier, or a newer F-150. If the F-150 fits in your parking space(s).

If you can safely park an F-150 in your world, buy it.

If not?  Try a Nissan Frontier, Duratec Ranger (2003+?, but no crew cab) or a Chevy S-10. No matter what, you’ll get almost the same quality of vehicle for less cash than the Taco. It’s close enough.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Outdoor Convertible Storage? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-outdoor-convertible-storage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-outdoor-convertible-storage/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 12:53:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1017562   Ken writes: Sajeev – I thoroughly enjoy your column – keep up the good work! You’ve also answered several questions I’ve sent over the years, so thanks for that. Your latest article on rear quarter panel rust on Hondas got me thinking. I have an attached 2 car garage and 3 cars. You can […]

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1885006-2

Or not… (photo courtesy: http://www.rigsofrods.com/)

Ken writes:

Sajeev –
I thoroughly enjoy your column – keep up the good work! You’ve also answered several questions I’ve sent over the years, so thanks for that.

Your latest article on rear quarter panel rust on Hondas got me thinking. I have an attached 2 car garage and 3 cars. You can see the dilemma. Two cars are DDs and one is a recently purchased pleasure vehicle/ toy – in a used 2007 Saab 9-3.

Since I’m married, my wife’s MKZ (the same one you provided mod advice on) owns one of the spaces – leaving me one for an SUV (2010 Xterra) and said convertible.

I live in New England and the convertible will not see usage from November through till April. This is my first winter with the two car dilemma. At first my decision was made for me. The Saab 9-3 would sit outside. We have a newborn and I didn’t want to trudge the little guy into the cold when we have an attached garage. And since a pop up carport went over with the Wife like a fart in church – I bought a high end car cover for the Saab.

Fast forward, things have changed and we no longer utilize daycare for the little guy. The Saab is now sitting in the garage. WITH a car cover on it. (Cause why not? Already have it.) I figured I could wrench on it occasionally during the winter. But if I’m honest, even though the garage is attached, its just too friggin cold. So it could sit outside.

Both vehicles I’d like to keep for a long time. But my Xterra is of more use to the family and should get the better treatment of the two. The Saab shouldn’t rust much as it will never see salt, but the Nissan is my winter driver.

My question is – which should be outside and which inside? With the latest snow storms I am a bit annoyed clearing snow off my car when I don’t have to – but its just me and I’ve done it for years so its not really a big deal. I’ve also heard that its better to keep a vehicle in the cold rather than cycles of warm and cold as the attached frozen salt will melt and corrode more. Is there any truth to that?

What are your thoughts? Car cover the Saab outside or leave it in the garage?

Sajeev answers:

A total no-brainer: leave the Saab in the garage.

Never leave a winter beater in the garage when you have a topless summer toy! Okay, so says the single guy who lives in Houston.

But still, the effects of snow on a droptop are dangerous, especially when it’s a vehicle lacking the ridiculously strong aftermarket support of something Mustang convertible-like.

 

You want it, they got it .(photo courtesy: foxresto.com)

 

Like the above set up, most of which I’ve replaced (some personally) on the Mehta’s own Mo-Stang, a 1987 Mustang GT droptop.  It’s pretty easy and super cheap, and the re-popped parts are often OEM-quality: making the Mo-Stang a pure joy to own and restore like most Fox Bodies.  But that’s really not the point.

The point?  What works for me is not so cheap and easy for you. So forget outdoor convertible storage, it ain’t worth the risk of wear and tear. Put the Saab in the garage and leave the rusty winter beater out in the winter.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: A Snowpocalypse Kills Old Cars? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-snowpocalypse-kills-old-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-snowpocalypse-kills-old-cars/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 13:30:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1014906   TTAC Commentator Pete Zaitcev writes: Dear Sajeev: Here’s a qustion that’s not “what car should I buy”. My town had a “snowpocalypse” event: it was 65F for a week, then an inch or two of snow fell and the temperatures fell into low 30s for a day. The usual followed, like a miniature Atlanta. But what surprised me the […]

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So much for the Freezing Fire oxymoron. (photo courtesy: dailymail.co.uk)

TTAC Commentator Pete Zaitcev writes:

Dear Sajeev:

Here’s a qustion that’s not “what car should I buy”. My town had a “snowpocalypse” event: it was 65F for a week, then an inch or two of snow fell and the temperatures fell into low 30s for a day. The usual followed, like a miniature Atlanta. But what surprised me the most was the number of broken cars parked alongside highways. They didn’t fall to accidents, they just stopped. But why?

I can imagine one guy being silly enough to eschew 50/50 antifrieze and get a block cracked. But there were dozens of them all over, and they ran until they stopped. So, probably not heat/cold as such.

None of cars I saw was brand-new. I saw BMWs, Fords, even Acuras. My personal suspicion is that electrics got salt water into them.

Is that a reasonable suspicion?

Is this something I can test for?

Sajeev answers:

The odds of salt water (or anything else) getting in there is unlikely. Modern engine electronics are quite impervious to the elements, short of an underhood steam cleaning.

Crystal Ballin’ the reason for so much Hooptie Snowstorm Fail is tough.  Maybe they’re running on worn out batteries or alternators that finally died, where one component finally killed the other. It wouldn’t be the first time!

Or maybe…umm…I’m sticking with a combination of dying battery and worn alternator. Especially considering how temperature changes can wreak havoc on a conventional lead-acid battery. New cars have new batteries, right? 

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Traversing the World of LED Retrofit Bulbs! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-traversing-world-led-retrofit-bulbs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-traversing-world-led-retrofit-bulbs/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 13:51:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1014818   TTAC Commentator MWebbRambler writes: Sajeev, Your recent Piston Slap on HID lights reminded me of a problem I had with replacing tail lights on my wife’s 2009 Traverse. One of the OEM bulbs burned out, so I decided to replace both brake/tail lights with LEDs. The LED lights worked great and were brighter than […]

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(photo courtesy: galleryhip.com)

TTAC Commentator MWebbRambler writes:

Sajeev,

Your recent Piston Slap on HID lights reminded me of a problem I had with replacing tail lights on my wife’s 2009 Traverse. One of the OEM bulbs burned out, so I decided to replace both brake/tail lights with LEDs.

The LED lights worked great and were brighter than the OEM bulbs, but there was just one problem–the turn signals would blink rapidly, just like they did with the burned out bulb. After I went back and RTFM I learned the rapid blinking or “hyper-flashing” occurs when a bulb is burned out OR the system is drawing little to no current. Since the LEDs use a lot less power, the system thinks the bulb is burned out.

A quick check online indicates my only option for the Traverse is to install a load resistor kit, which requires splicing the wires and adding a load resistor to each bulb. The process looks easy enough, but seeing how you are a lighting aficionado and a wizard when it comes to all things automotive, I thought I’d seek your advice on options.

Sajeev answers:

We covered this before, but things have changed: most, but not all, LED retrofit bulbs (especially of the flashing variety) are unsafe and super illegal. Luckily we have Daniel Stern (dastern@torque.net), brilliant Lighting Consultant, amongst our ranks to clear this all up.

Daniel writes:

That’s an understandable idea, but in most cases it’s presently somewhere between difficult and impossible to do safely, effectively, and legally for reasons much bigger than the improper turn signal flash rate.

The big majority of LED bulb retrofits for cars is unsafe, illegal junk from a variety of vendors making tall yet bogus claims. Odds are that’s what you bought and installed in your wife’s Traverse. They might have appeared brighter to you, but they very likely didn’t work safely. The federal and international safety performance requirements for vehicle exterior lights are much more stringent and exacting than just lighting up in a particular color. The intensity for each function has to be within the proper limits through a large range of vertical and horizontal angles, the ratio between bright and dim intensity must be correct for combination brake/tail and park/turn lamps, and the lamp’s effective lit area must be at least a certain size. These requirements are in place to guarantee an immediately, unambiguously recognizable signal to observers at any angle to your vehicle, day and night, in any weather. Whether these requirements are met can’t be judged by peering at the operating lights; we humans aren’t equipped to accurately assess lights’ performance by eye (it just feels like we are). Most LED retrofit bulbs on the market for vehicle lights, when measured objectively, badly fail most or all of the requirements. Some of them are brighter than stock at certain angles, but that’s not even close to adequate.

Moreover, the light output of an LED drops as its temperature rises, which happens quickly when the LED is lit up. LEDs need effective heat sinking, and the vast majority
of vehicle LED retrofit bulbs on the market don’t have it. This means the retrofitted lamp’s output, even if it starts out adequate with a cold bulb, quickly drops below the minimum requirement with extended use of the lamp (such as when sitting with your foot on the brake in traffic). The poor objective performance of most LED retrofits means the lamps’ output goes from inadequate to very inadequate.

“Gimme a break, you dweeb!”, you say, “I drive with my eyes, not with lab equipment; it lights up red and I think they’re bright enough”. Sure, but your car’s lights are life safety equipment. They have to work the way they’re supposed to –as measured objectively, not by guess and by gosh. If you’re involved in a crash and your car’s safety equipment is found to have been modified, you can quickly wind up in very deep legal doo-doo and debt.

Then we get to the issue that prompted you to write in for help: because LEDs don’t draw the amount of current the vehicle’s turn signal circuit was designed for, they are detected as a faulty bulb. Another safety requirement is that a faulty turn signal bulb must substantially change the flash rate, so the driver will know to fix it. Old vehicles with a standard 2- or 3-prong plug-in turn signal flasher can have a “heavy-duty” flasher installed; meant for trailer towing, these flash at the correct rate without regard to the current load. But most vehicles made in the last two decades don’t use those standard flashers. You might be able to buy a trailer-tow turn signal module for your vehicle, or have its body computer reflashed for trailer-tow mode to cancel the bulb outage indication. Or you can hack your way around the problem by installing “load resistors”, but now you’ve eliminated the low-power benefit of LEDs and you’re cutting wires and adding potential failure points, especially if you use off-brand parts not built or tested to automotive levels of reliability — minimize your odds of a failure by using reputable-brand parts, and forget those crunch-type/Scotchlok wire taps, use Posi-Taps instead.

Don’t wear a permanent frown about this wet-blanket reality check, though. The world’s first legitimate LED bulbs for retrofitment of incandescent vehicle exterior lights came to market last year from Philips — their “Vision LED” line focused on maximum lifespan and their “X-Treme Vision LED” line focused on maximum output. They’re easily available and not very expensive. Right now the Philips X-Treme Vision LED range includes red bulbs to replace 1156 (or European P21W), and 1157 (Euro P21/5W), white bulbs to replace 1156, and white bulbs to replace 921 in reversing lamps. The Vision LED range adds red 74403157 (P27/7W), and 7443 (W21/5W), and white 194 (168, W3W, W5W) bulbs.

The Philips items have a great deal of engineering and development work behind them, and are enormously more likely to work appropriately than anything else on the market right now. But even with these you’re not necessarily home free; they aren’t a “go” for just any lamp that happens to take a bulb type included in their product line. Each and every vehicle light, no matter how simple it might look, is optically engineered to collect, focus, and distribute the light from one particular kind of light source. Changing to a different kind of light source is like putting on somebody else’s eyeglasses; it’s an optical mismatch. Because the light distribution of even today’s most highly engineered LED retrofit bulbs isn’t the same as the incandescent bulbs they’re designed to replace, the only way to know if the retrofit works OK is to test it objectively.

Philips has a website where they list the applications that have tested out acceptably for their various LED retrofit bulbs. The list isn’t exhaustive, because it’s really not possible or practical for them to test each and every make, model, and year of vehicle to be found on American roads. Newer and more popular vehicles are naturally tested first; older and less popular ones are naturally tested sometime between eventually and never. If your particular vehicle isn’t on the approved list, it means either the LED retrofits don’t work safely in your vehicle or your vehicle’s lights haven’t been tested with the LED retrofits. The safe assumption if you drive a recent-but-not-latest model that’s absent from the list is that it flunked the test and you’d best run standard incandescent bulbs and keep waiting.

It’s a little ironic, but the older the vehicle, the more likely the retrofits are to work acceptably. Starting in the mid-late ’90s, exterior lights were designed with
complex-surface reflector optics to create jewel-like effects with completely transparent cover lenses. Bulb characteristics are extremely crucial to these optics’ ability to produce an effective light signal, and in most cases even the best of today’s LED retrofit bulbs won’t work well. Before that time, most vehicle lights used simple, standard parabolic reflectors and pillow or fresnel lens optics; barring a weird bulb entry angle into the lamp, the Philips retrofits work great in many such lamps. Pay careful attention if you try it, though, and make sure they do everything they need to do. There are lamps that wrap around to the side of the vehicle and use a side-on view of the bulb for the sidemarker light function; in many cases using an LED bulb leaves these lamps totally dark from the side. Sidemarker lights do a great job of reducing your chance of being sideswiped or T-boned; it’s foolish to delete them. And be mindful of matching the bulb color to the lens; using the available cool “6000K” white LEDs behind a red lens produces a weak, pinkish-brown light that’s neither bright enough nor of an appropriate color, for instance (though the white LEDs can give a nice bright yellow color in an amber turn signal housing).

More LED retrofit types are in the pipeline from Philips, and over the coming years some of the other reputable makers will produce this kind of product, too. At a recent vehicle lighting technical symposium in Germany, a major lighting supplier showed progress toward truly universal LED retrofit bulbs that emit the right amounts of light in the right distribution, same as an incandescent bulb, but they’re not yet ready for market. Be patient and cautious, because progress will come in fits and starts, and a reputable name doesn’t necessarily mean a product safe and worthy to use; Two brands widely sold on the American market have recently released LED bulbs that don’t even come close to working safely or legally in any lamps at all — sheesh, anything to make a buck!

A final note a little tangential to your original question: the headlamp “LED bulb conversions” now flooding the market are not a legitimate, safe, effective, or legal product. Just as with “HID kits”, these are a fraudulent scam. They’re not capable of producing even a fraction of the amount of light produced by the filament bulb they supposedly replace, let alone producing it in the right pattern for the lamp’s optics to work — see a particularly ambitious amateur test here. This, too, might eventually change; the same company that makes the world’s only legit brake light LED retrofit bulbs also has a first-generation fog lamp LED retrofit bulb that works surprisingly well in certain specific fog lamps.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Even More Honda Slushbox FAIL? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-even-honda-slushbox-fail/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-even-honda-slushbox-fail/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:39:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1007970 TTAC commentator Land Ark writes: Hello again Sajeev! Before my new Honda question, just an update on the issue you helped me with previously. Short answer: I sold the Civic and made a few hundred bucks. The more I looked into it, the more I started to come to the realization that there likely was […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

TTAC commentator Land Ark writes:

Hello again Sajeev!

Before my new Honda question, just an update on the issue you helped me with previously. Short answer: I sold the Civic and made a few hundred bucks. The more I looked into it, the more I started to come to the realization that there likely was nothing wrong with the AC system, it was just not a good system.

On to my new question:

My coworker, who drives cars into the ground, recently lost his high mile 2006 Caravan to an accident. He asked me for some advice then ventured out on his own and bought a new van; a 2006 Honda Odyssey with 71k miles. As soon as I saw it I cringed.

When I first saw him that morning I mentioned the, ummm,  concern I would have buying a V6 Honda of that generation. Namely the transmission issues. He respects my opinion and knowledge of such matters and started doing his own digging and has come to the conclusion that he needs to sell it and get something else (it still has temporary tags on it).

I feel terrible, as I realize not ALL Odysseys will succumb to transmission problems. But at the same time, I don’t know the best way to put it into perspective. So my question is, what is the known failure rate of 2006(-ish) trannys? Is it simply a case of only reading about people mentioning their broken cars and never about cars that are running fine?

He got a pretty good deal on it and other than the trans I wouldn’t have any concerns. And since he keeps cars for a really long time I have greater concerns than the average car buyer. So what do we think?

Sajeev answers:

Oh boy, it’s been a while since we did an HTF, a Honda Transmission FAIL.

There was a recall for 2004-older models, even if not everyone is thrilled with it. And it’s less than reassuring when you Google up “OdysseyTransmission.com” with a collection of 2006 Odyssey owners’ complaints. But is that really the point?

Any used minivan could have a failing tranny: these machines are designed to handle a certain load with their high horsepower V6s, but their trasnsaxles (and cooling systems) are often marginal as they are based on a car. But their owners are more than willing to exceed that need, car-DNA weak links be damned.

If this Odyssey has clean ATF in the unit, will another minivan in his price range be any better? Maybe he should install some aftermarket coolers (a la YouTube video above) and call it done. This Odyssey is one of the nicer used minivans, fit and finish wise. And that’s a sweet lookin’ pair of custom made coolers in the conversion kit. No chintzy zip-tie things for this YouTube guy!

Capture

boing! (photo courtesy: YouTube)

Tthat’s a tough question.  You won’t see me guessing on this one…son!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: The HID-den benefits of Xenon Lighting? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-hid-den-benefits-xenon-lighting/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-hid-den-benefits-xenon-lighting/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 13:53:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1006202   John writes: Hi Sajeev! I’m still only three years into the car business and I still haven’t wrapped my brain around one thing: xenon headlamps. As a used car manager I’ve replaced plenty of xenon bulbs (pricey) and even some ballasts (really pricey). Are you sold on their usefulness? To me it seems like […]

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Obligatory E39 Photo. (photo courtesy: bimmerforums.com)

John writes:

Hi Sajeev!

I’m still only three years into the car business and I still haven’t wrapped my brain around one thing: xenon headlamps. As a used car manager I’ve replaced plenty of xenon bulbs (pricey) and even some ballasts (really pricey).

Are you sold on their usefulness? To me it seems like a giant waste of money.

The sales people tell me they really help on rural roads at night. Then again what $500 (to replace a ballast) means to me versus what $500 means to the average new car client here is pretty different. Is that an option you keep unchecked? What about the B&B?
Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Good on you for considering your end of this business relative to the rest of the world, especially about High Intensity Discharge (HID) and Xenon lighting. Because there are hidden benefits to Xenon lighting: consider the lifecycle from the first geeky R&D engineer to the last junkyard scavenger.

Take the factory: they want to innovate, having gee-whiz tech to trump the competition. (If only for a couple of years!)They’ll love that extra profit, fatter margins. Even if they’ll sadly bundle Xenon lighting with some BS “technology” package that’s outdated against your smartphone.

Take the Junkyard Scavenger: depending on uniqueness of the make/model, finding a working HID lighting assembly, the ballast (or even bulb) is great eBay fodder.  Even if it’s just a unique mounting bracket or harness plug on a universal part, the owner gets something for cheap and the scavenger makes a tidy profit.

Take the customer: Xenon lighting to legal specifications (i.e. almost always never the eBay stuff to slap into your non-HID headlight body) does indeed give an amazing beam of light in rural areas, or urban roads with sparse street lighting.  Former TTAC staffer Daniel Stern has a great resource if you want to dig into the science and practice of headlight designs.

I love HIDs and gladly pay for the privilege.  I did the upgrade on my Mark VIII back in the early days of the automotive interweb, and (just last weekend) I spent $300-ish on new HID bulbs for my mother’s 2006 Lexus.  Nine illuminating years was a good run: a fantastic safety feature, especially for Mom’s well-being.

Take your Boss, the General Manager: Assuming you work in the typical New/Used/Service/F&I/Parts type of franchised dealership, let’s think about the GM.  They want to give the customer what they want. In turn, he makes a little more money in sales, hopefully a bit more on service/parts when the vehicle returns after several years…or after a front-end collision.

It’s one of those Rising Tides Lifts All Boats things.

Except when the used boat needs new ballasts. (sad trombone) Off to you, Best and Brightest!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: A Silver Arrow Through the Heart? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-silver-arrow-heart/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-silver-arrow-heart/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:47:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1001802 TTAC commentator confused1096 writes: Sajeev, I need some insight and good advice from yourself and the B & B. Here’s the problem: After my wife’s back surgery we no longer use my ’99 Buick Riviera Silver Arrow (#120) since it’s not comfortable for her to sit in (too low down, shape of seat etc.). We […]

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Silver Arrow desktop

TTAC commentator confused1096 writes:

Sajeev, I need some insight and good advice from yourself and the B & B. Here’s the problem: After my wife’s back surgery we no longer use my ’99 Buick Riviera Silver Arrow (#120) since it’s not comfortable for her to sit in (too low down, shape of seat etc.).

We find ourselves racking up the miles on my old ’97 Fat Panther or her own ’08 Pacifica with the 4,0 engine and the B-W 6-speed transmission. The Silver Arrow sits in storage most of the time although I take it out regularly to prevent the battery from dying. I’ve spent some money on this car, had the aluminum hood repainted, new shocks/struts, correct manifold and so forth but now I am starting to wonder if it is worthwhile keeping it, especially since we are planning to relocate to the KC area in the near future.

Usually a decisive person, I don’t seem to be able to make up my mind. Need some wisdom, please! Should I:

  • Option 1: Keep the car, hoping that it will appreciate enough to make it worthwhile in the longer term?
  • Option 2: Trade it in for a black-on-black Mark VIII? Although I always thought the Riv was better looking….
  • Option 3: Sell it and use the proceeds to buy a fuel injected late-model Triumph Bonneville?

Sajeev answers:

The story of the Silver Arrow, along with other custom bodied GM products, is a fantastic notion lost to automotive history.  Why not make a custom bodied Infiniti Q60 Coupe with touches Nissan’s design studio only dream for mass-market consumption?

And no hackjob clichés intended for the SEMA show: I’m talkin’ serious Bill Mitchell type shit.  And with that in mind…

Option 1: your Silver Arrow is just a trim job on a low-interest production coupe, it won’t appreciate “enough to make it worthwhile.”  Keeping a last-gen Riv that isn’t a time capsule (i.e. original paint, super low miles) is a fool’s errand: it’s no people’s champ like a similar Mustang, Camaro, Lexus SC, Mercedes SL, etc. Generating demand will be tough: you gotta like having it around to justify that effort.

Option 2: Same problem. The Mark VIII, unlike the Riv, is awash in more unique components (air suspension, misc. electronic boxes) that are sometimes painful to keep alive. Even with the not bean-counted design from GM’s truly dark ages, desirable rear wheel drive and V8 propulsion, the Mark is no rapidly appreciating classic.

Option 3: If you like bikes, well, that’s a pretty cool one.  Compared to your other options AND your plan to move elsewhere, it might be the smartest move.  Provided the Silver Arrow isn’t worth having around.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Taking Control of Torque Steer? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-taking-control-torque-steer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-taking-control-torque-steer/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:35:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=997450   M.D.K. writes: Good Afternoon.  This will be my third query to this column, the first being an ill advised plan to put my wife in an old Mercedes hatched in an Afghan Bunker, the Second being for our Afghan Trailblazer that wouldn’t run.  The Benz never materialized (thankfully) and the Trailblazer was made to […]

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A-Cord-ing to Dr. Olds… (photo courtesy: www.wallpaperup.com)

M.D.K. writes:

Good Afternoon.  This will be my third query to this column, the first being an ill advised plan to put my wife in an old Mercedes hatched in an Afghan Bunker, the Second being for our Afghan Trailblazer that wouldn’t run.  The Benz never materialized (thankfully) and the Trailblazer was made to run reasonably well with a fuel filter and removal of the clogged catalytic converter (The EPA man wasn’t coming to Bagram).  Sadly about a week after we got the Trailblazer running they collected it in an effort to go to an all diesel fleet.  It was replaced with a TaTa pickup.

This actually pertains to a vehicle in my own fleet, my wife appliance grade 2007 Hyundai Tucson. 

It is a 2WD 2.0 4 cylinder automatic that has begrudgingly earned my respect for the fact that it has gone about its 94,000+ miles with the timing belt and seized tie rods courtesy of upstate NY winters being its only dealer trips.  Tires, Oil, Gas, and brake pads are it otherwise.

My issue now is that it exhibits torque steer like crazy.  Doesn’t seem to be an alignment issue as I just had it done (hence the new tie rods) and it is straight so long as your foot stays off the gas.  But press the gas, even at highway speed and it tries to turn right.

My research seems to point to the lower control arm bushings as the culprit.  I have no suspension clunks or anything though.  The motor mounts also look good and the tires are of the correct size.  The struts were done a year as well.  I know FWD vehicles will exhibit some torque steer but I have had this vehicle since new and this is abnormal.

My plan would be replacement lower control arms since there is some rust on them anyway but I want to make sure I’m not missing something else here.  The car is paid for and has no other issues so I’d like to figure this out.  We generally take it on our long trips so the constant tug on the steering is annoying.   Just want to make sure I am not missing anything.

Sajeev answers:

Thank you for writing again, I do love my repeat customers!

Since you replaced the tie rods, the torque steer’s source is either a control arm bushing or a ball joint. Or maybe both?  No matter, if one side is bad then the other is ready to fail.  Whatever failed, replace it in pairs.

Wow, that ended pretty abruptly.

(crickets)

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Always remember that suspension parts go bad with time, but modern cars have it worse for a few reasons. Take the increasingly horrible condition of roads in this country. And oversized wheels with rubber band thin sidewalls: offering no cushioning effect on our (increasingly horrible) roads.

And maybe it’s my family’s two Mercedes products that ate lower control arms with less than 30k on the clock, or my friends with control arm consuming BMW and VAG products from the last decade, or the numerous related Piston Slaps (here, here, for starters)…but suspensions don’t last like they did 20-ish years ago. 

And while suspension lube service intervals must remain in the bad old days of wide whitewalls and “separate but equal” segregation, one must never forget: 

Click here to view the embedded video.

What’s that?  You say video game Panther Love shall never prove my point? 

Well excuuuuuuuse me!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

 

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Piston Slap: Sponsor My Ride? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-sponsor-ride/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-sponsor-ride/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 13:46:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994786   TTAC Commentator John R writes: Hey Sajeev, Hope this finds you well. I wanted to get your opinion on car sponsorships…if they still exist. I see a bunch of websites all over claiming to get a person’s car repaired or modded up on someone else’s dime. I look at these sites and they scream […]

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Charge me…pull my finger? (photo courtesy: OP)

TTAC Commentator John R writes:

Hey Sajeev,

Hope this finds you well. I wanted to get your opinion on car sponsorships…if they still exist. I see a bunch of websites all over claiming to get a person’s car repaired or modded up on someone else’s dime. I look at these sites and they scream SCAM to me.

Maybe it’s because they look like throw backs to GeoCities…

Anyway, if guys are still able to do this, how?

If I can get ol’ Wolverine here kitted the way I want it with little or no cost…

John R
Somewhere in Hellaware

Sajeev answers:

Do these sponsorship websites have MIDI music, too?  That’s when I know there’s a quality company ready to sponsor my ride!

The old adage about free lunches is true: legit sponsorship requires mad Public Relations skillz, and a good idea behind it.  Like the initiatives behind Wounded Warrior’s High Five Project and their wrapped Ford products. Your opinions about W.W. as an organization aside, their raison d’être certainly makes a convincing sponsorship statement.

So what the heck is your raison d’être? And can you make a convincing sponsorship proposition with it and Wolverine? Time to study up, time to craft a business plan and one amazing elevator pitch.

Good luck with that!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Doesn’t Panther Love do Everything? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-doesnt-panther-love-everything/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-doesnt-panther-love-everything/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 13:44:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=993298 Max writes: Sajeev, After following your and TTAC’s collective wisdom regarding Panthers, I have enjoyed four and a half years of somewhat trouble-free $1000 police-auction 2001 Crown Victoria ownership. The Crown Vic is a wonderful first car and I love it dearly, despite – or maybe especially – because it taught me a lot about […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Max writes:

Sajeev,
After following your and TTAC’s collective wisdom regarding Panthers, I have enjoyed four and a half years of somewhat trouble-free $1000 police-auction 2001 Crown Victoria ownership. The Crown Vic is a wonderful first car and I love it dearly, despite – or maybe especially – because it taught me a lot about the finer points of its drive train, front end etc. as I eventually ended up parking-lot and shade-tree repairing or replacing just about every major component other than the exhaust and transmission. However, it might now be time to look into a successor for my trusty ride.

More specifically, I am looking for a vehicle around $5500 or so that 1). Is generally known to be reliable and have low operating expenses, 2). Gets good highway mileage (let’s set the baseline at upper teens) and is comfortable to drive cross-country – my job periodically entails eating up a lot of miles on the road- 3). Has a four wheel drive or is otherwise off road capable– I need to drive up poorly-maintained remote service roads for work – 4). can tow a small camper cross-country, or a livestock or horse trailer ( for low-speed short-haul work), and can stand up to general farmwork – haul or tow a couple dozen bales of hay or more, manure, rolls of fencing, chickens, calves, half a cord of wood, etc. Ease-of repair and cheap parts are a plus. 5). Is comfortable to sleep in, if need be- also a work possibility- and 6). Front bench seat, and stick shift are preferred.

Even though a pickup might be a good fit, I’m trying to stay open-minded and would appreciate any advice: I am not stuck on any one brand or type of vehicle.

Or maybe I could listen to Sanjeev’s advice and go Mad-Maxize the Crown Vic with a 6″ lift and self-leveling kit, transmission intercooler, towing package, 30” offroad tires and roll cage and keep it forever – what’re your two cents?

Thanks for all of your advice over the years!

Sajeev answers:

Thank you for reading all these years. It’s both exciting and horrifying to hear you’ve taken my our advice to heart!

That said, what kind of Lover considers open-mindedness regarding Panther Love? You, as a Crown Victoria owner, are a stubborn traditionalist with a nearly xenophobic reaction to non body-on-frame platforms.  You remain as “unmodified” as the Panther since 1979: toe the autojourno’s line!

Let’s be serious: anyone needing something for “general farmwork” with a career driving on rural roads needs a body-on-frame vehicle to handle the beating and the towing.  Keyword: Towing.  The truck is almost mandatory, but $5500 makes it hard to get one that isn’t beat to shit, packed with a ton of miles or well over a decade old. Good thing you can get your hands dirty, vehicles at this price need something. Always.

What’s the right move?  Get the cleanest, most well maintained V6 Toyota Tacoma, Chevy S-10/Colorado or Ford Ranger in your price ranger (oops). Good luck finding one with a stick, or lose efficiency and get a full sizer (small V8, automatic) from any of the Big Three for the same price.

The full-size is ideal since you might sleep in there: I slept in my Ranger once, next time I’ll splurge for a hotel.

Click here to view the embedded video.

BUT…there’s nothing like taking a nap in the back of Panther Love. Maybe these YouTube videos are right: stick with your current Crown Vic until you can afford a newer truck with all the things you need (for safe and reliable transport to work) and want (for your hobbies, farm duties, etc).

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: The Importance of A Craigslist 3-Ring Binder http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-importance-craigslist-3-ring-binder/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-importance-craigslist-3-ring-binder/#comments Mon, 02 Feb 2015 13:57:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=991714 TTAC commentator dtremit writes: Hey Sajeev — Inspired by your recent Mazda3 Piston Slap, I thought I’d throw this question your way. Seems like something the B&B might have advice on. I have a 2005 Mazda6 that is a rather desirable used car…on paper. It is in excellent condition mechanically, and has fairly low miles […]

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How do I know you love me? (photo courtesy: zazzle.com)

TTAC commentator dtremit writes:

Hey Sajeev —

Inspired by your recent Mazda3 Piston Slap, I thought I’d throw this question your way. Seems like something the B&B might have advice on.

I have a 2005 Mazda6 that is a rather desirable used car…on paper. It is in excellent condition mechanically, and has fairly low miles for its age (about 78k). Single owner, and I have maintained it well, though I am not sure the mess of receipts in the glovebox counts as excellent documentation. I have a good set of Nokian snow tires for it on steel wheels, which would go along with it. It would make a good car for someone for quite some time to come.

My problem is that it’s cosmetically a lot worse off; ten years in Boston is hard on a car. It has a ~3″ perforation in the front bumper, and both front and rear bumpers are quite well scratched. (Otherwise, the paint is in reasonably good shape, and there aren’t any major flaws that wouldn’t buff out.) There’s also a bit of rust starting in one rear wheel well, though it appears limited and cosmetic.

Inside, like nearly every 6 of its era, the foam on the driver’s seat bolster has failed, though the leather is intact. The leather on the wheel is pretty scraped up, and there’s a tear in the carpet in the driver’s footwell.

I had intended to keep this car for a few more years, until it was more or less worthless anyway. However, my plans may include a new car sooner as a recent injury leaves me struggling to get in and out of the Mazda. So I’m wondering — what is my best strategy for getting value out of this car?

Do I try to repair some of the cosmetic stuff, and hope it increases the sale price? If so, what does it make sense to spend on, and where should I scrimp? Or do I try to cut my losses and negotiate the best trade I can in the current condition?

I will probably be buying a Ford using A-plan, so the price of the new car won’t be up for negotiation. I’ve considered just being blunt about its shortcomings, contacting a bunch of local Ford dealers, and letting them know I’ll be buying an A-plan car from whichever one offers me the best trade. I don’t have a sense of whether they’ll play that game, though.

Anyhow, thought this might be an interesting question, since a lot of readers probably find themselves in this basic situation at some point.

Sajeev answers:

First, grab a 3-ring binder, I betcha there’s one about to get tossed at your/your loved ones/your friends office right now! Use a hole punch on the receipts, pop them in and print out an image of your car (from Google Image search) and slide it into the front’s clear sleeve.

BLAM SON, a fantastic repair/service history that makes you look like you really, truly loved this car!

Rust and body damage is par for the course in your part of the country.  I also assume your suspension is beat to hell on Boston roads. Whatever, that’s life: restoring a 10-year-old sedan won’t generate the value to justify the cost.  So find the most willing buyer for your dollar. My first stop? Carmax.

Carmax sets the floor for your asking price, your Mazda would probably be sold at their auction for a bit more than they have in it. Which implies that you’ll find a willing buyer on Craigslist for more money, maybe what it would go for at the auction. Essentially you offer a decent auction car with none of the hassle and cost. See how you’re adding value by essentially doing nothing? 

Back to the 3-ring binder: that’s your secret Craigslist weapon.  Keeping in mind the Carmax offer, put the Mazda6 on Craigslist in as-is condition (aside from a proper cleaning if you’re messy) with good quality photos and offer it at the private party asking price of Edmunds.com, KBB.com, etc appraisal tool. Write an honest assessment of the car’s positives and negatives in bullet point format, it will build trust and speed up a buyer’s first visit.

And mention that cool 3-ring binder you have for the car, too!

Your final transaction price will likely be between private party and the Carmax offer. It must be higher than the trade-in credit you get from the Ford dealer.

Credit perks aside, the Ford dealer(s) will likely beat Carmax’s offer if you ask.  Maybe because they wanna pretty it up if its good fodder for their used car lot. But one of them will deal: especially if they’re hungry to move another unit that month.  Or that quarter.  Or this year.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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