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. Thu, 11 Sep 2014 17:31:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 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: Why So Uncool Minivan? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-uncool-minivan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-uncool-minivan/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 12:07:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=908561   Josh writes: What is the deal with minivans? I was thinking the other day that as an outdoor person, minivan’s are perfect. They have lots of room for people and gear, AWD (in some cases), lots of roof space, and better MPG’s than an SUV. But apparently I can’t own one because they’re not […]

The post Piston Slap: Why So Uncool Minivan? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
 

1972 Ford Carousel (photo courtesy: forum.chryslerminivan.net)

Josh writes:

What is the deal with minivans? I was thinking the other day that as an outdoor person, minivan’s are perfect. They have lots of room for people and gear, AWD (in some cases), lots of roof space, and better MPG’s than an SUV. But apparently I can’t own one because they’re not cool. I could get a wagon though. Isn’t a minivan just a super-sized wagon?

Will minivans ever be cool to own?

Sajeev answers:

What’s the deal with minivans? From public perception, CUV popularity, fleet usage, etc. the “uncool minivan” is indeed a sad reality.  But there is plenty to love here on TTAC, from the Farago era to something brilliantly Baruthian.  My second favorite rental vehicle was the 3.6L Pentastar Caravan: it was quick and comfortable with chassis/suspension/steering components ready to play. No surprise, my fav rental was a white 2011 Crown Vic. But I digress…

Isn’t a minivan just a super-sized wagon?  Not really, even if they (kinda) ended the station wagon era. Uncool minivans are a radical rethink: eschewing the traditional notions of the family wagon and the creepster’s van with the adoption of a modern front-wheel drive layout (Aerostar and Astro notwithstanding) for maximum utilization of a traditional two box design, while adding the styling of a family sedan/wagon for curb appeal. Supposedly the Chrysler minivan’s early concepts were lifted from Ford’s work in the early 1970s: possible since Lee Iacocca famously left FoMoCo after butting heads with Henry II far too many times, and took some design staffers with him…though that’s the subject of some controversy.

Will minivans ever be cool to own? Keep in mind the Minivan was and remains an enlightened design: that will attract people. Just like so many Pistonheads go nuts over vintage wagons these days (especially with wheels you’d expect on a restomod ’69 Camaro), the uncool minivan will come back to win our hearts.

Until then, who gives a crap what people think? Go buy one and brush off the haters, no matter what they say!

 

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.

The post Piston Slap: Why So Uncool Minivan? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-uncool-minivan/feed/ 190
Piston Slap: to Mark VIII the Mark VII Air Suspension http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-5/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-5/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 11:44:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=908513 TTAC Commentator furiouschads writes: A Mark VII is in my sights.  I like the Mark VIII air suspension control that lowers the car when it hits 60 mph.  Will a Mark VIII suspension control box work in a Mark VII? Sajeev answers: WOW: you mean someone actually can afford to spend the $300-2000 in new/used/aftermarket/OEM […]

The post Piston Slap: to Mark VIII the Mark VII Air Suspension appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
Click here to view the embedded video.

TTAC Commentator furiouschads writes:

A Mark VII is in my sights.  I like the Mark VIII air suspension control that lowers the car when it hits 60 mph.  Will a Mark VIII suspension control box work in a Mark VII?

Sajeev answers:

WOW: you mean someone actually can afford to spend the $300-2000 in new/used/aftermarket/OEM replacement parts to make a functional Lincoln air suspension system on a fully depreciated hooptie? You mean someone else out there doesn’t pigeonhole these systems with the nightmares made by manufacturers in a more European locale?

So sure, why not lower a Mark VII air suspension at speed?  I poked around the wiring diagrams for a 1988 Mark VII and 1993 Mark VIII and wasn’t totally horrified at what I saw.  Matter of fact, I’d be tempted to integrate the 1982-83 Fox Continental variable ratio steering system into it, as the Mark VIII’s air suspension “control box” also controls its speed sensitive power steering.

But being a complete Fox Body geek isn’t a great idea –welcome to my hell!– and adding the Mark VIII’s lowering capabilities is already challenging.

1988-1989 Mark VII LSC

It isn’t easy because the Mark VII air suspension is a different beast: boasting the same number of ride height sensors (two front, one back) but each sensor has an extra (4th) wire. The reason escapes me, as someone ran off with my Mark VII service manual. While it might be possible to convert to Mark VIII sensors, hopefully that isn’t necessary.

The “hard” part is actually the easiest: the lowering feature comes via communication to the VSS (vehicle speed sensor), readily available at the engine computer (in the kick panel, tough) or speedometer (easy).

If you get a Mark VII that isn’t hopelessly in need of attention, get a Mark VIII suspension computer and mock it up. After you get the shop manuals for both and do a good job with RTFM…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.

The post Piston Slap: to Mark VIII the Mark VII Air Suspension appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-5/feed/ 39
Super Piston Slap: Thrifty Texans Trump Tailgate Theft? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/super-piston-slap-thrifty-texans-trump-tailgate-theft/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/super-piston-slap-thrifty-texans-trump-tailgate-theft/#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 12:39:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=907985   Yesterday’s post on Texas Tailgate Theft definitely struck a nerve with this Native Texan, especially the NCIB’s Quote: “Since a tailgate theft takes just seconds to accomplish, consumers might consider using an after-market security device, such as a hinge lock to thwart criminals.” Yeah, not quite… Yup, a hose clamp…well not just a hose […]

The post Super Piston Slap: Thrifty Texans Trump Tailgate Theft? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
 

Tailgate-theft-lock-it

(photo courtesy: hardworkingtrucks.com)

Yesterday’s post on Texas Tailgate Theft definitely struck a nerve with this Native Texan, especially the NCIB’s Quote:

“Since a tailgate theft takes just seconds to accomplish, consumers might consider using an after-market security device, such as a hinge lock to thwart criminals.”

Yeah, not quite…

photo 1

Just a little trip to my local Home Depot.

Yup, a hose clamp…well not just a hose clamp, but that’s for later.

Thanks to TTAC commentator, Editor in Chief of another blog and all around nice guy, Mr. Lyndon Johnson (yes, really) for planting this seed in my mind. He posted a photo on Facebook of a rusty hose clamp around the tailgate hinge of his Ranger. It instantly made sense: even if you don’t have a few of these rattling around, why the hell wouldn’t you spend $3 for these?

tailgate

Hose Clamp PROS: Cheap, easy to install, readily available and slows down a would-be thief to the point they’ll look for another tailgate to swipe. And its an extra measure of protection, even if you have a lock in your tailgate release handle. (As they aren’t too hard to punch out with a screwdriver, too.)

(photo courtesy: pickupspecialities.com)

Hose Clamp CONS: The expensive-ish aftermarket alternatives are more theft resistant. And the clamps are kinda ghetto-trashy ugly, if you care about those Vellum Venom type of design hang ups.

Here’s how to narrow the gap between the clamp and the lock: level the playing field with a bit of silicone adhesive.  You know, the stuff you already have in your garage.

photo 2

It’s not rocket science: coat the screw head and clamp’s threads in the stuff. It’s an extra level of complication, and as the night photo shows, a bit more complicated to comprehend. It’ll certainly drive a thief nuts trying to scrape that crap off.

Only to then need to unscrew the clamp. And finally lather-rinse-repeat on the other side. Or just leave my rig alone, find another Texan not wise to the hose clamp + silicone trick.

Now you know what I know: what say you Best and Brightest? Should all truckers spend $3-4 on this anti-theft modification?

 

 

The post Super Piston Slap: Thrifty Texans Trump Tailgate Theft? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/super-piston-slap-thrifty-texans-trump-tailgate-theft/feed/ 55
Piston Slap: Maximum TPS Reporting? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-maximum-tps-reporting/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-maximum-tps-reporting/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 11:47:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903553   TTAC Commentator Eiriksmal writes: I read your plea for questions, so I’ll lob you a softball. Why has my 2005 Maxima’s TPS decided to randomly poop out on me after doing a warm start? Specs: 2005 Nissan Maxima 6MT. 135,000 miles. Electronic throttle. Stock air intake + (new, put in the first time the […]

The post Piston Slap: Maximum TPS Reporting? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
 

Click here to view the embedded video.

TTAC Commentator Eiriksmal writes:

I read your plea for questions, so I’ll lob you a softball. Why has my 2005 Maxima’s TPS decided to randomly poop out on me after doing a warm start?

Specs: 2005 Nissan Maxima 6MT. 135,000 miles. Electronic throttle. Stock air intake + (new, put in the first time the TPS acted up 3K miles ago) K&N filter. The car’s now on its third owner, having spent its whole life in Evansville, IN, Lexington, KY, and now Louisville, KY. At the rust belt’s frayed fringe, I guess. No surface rust anywhere on the car, though. Electrically speaking, it’s in good shape. (Save the rear ABS sensors… a rant for another day)

Relevant codes*: Throws a P2135 for sensor voltage being out of spec whenever it acts up.

Scenario: Drive the car a while to be fully in the operating temperature range. Turn the engine off. Wait for a long train to pass/run in and renew your driver’s license/do some quick shopping, now turn on car. Car slow to start. Throttle goes into fail safe** (hold the pedal to the floor, wait a few seconds, revs rise slower than a DD15). Turn car off. Wait a second. Turn car on. Blip throttle, engine roars. You’re back in business.

Attemped fixes: The mechanic at my work suggested I clean the MAF. I did that. He suggested I check the connector and clean it. It looks good, I sprayed some of the MAF cleaner on there, too. No luck, it still acts up. His newest suggestion is to follow the harness to the firewall and look for a pinch or something. That sounds like work to me, and I’m a pretty lazy guy, so…

My question is, how does a throttle position sensor go bad? It’s way up high out of the way of muck from the road, so what’s the deal? Specs state it should be between 0.36V and 4.75V (at full throttle), so it’s not like there’s some high current load burning it up. The problem is that I can’t find an actual throttle position sensor in the Nissan parts diagrams, and I realllly don’t want to spend $615 on a new throttle body (file away this nugget: try CourtesyParts.com, they’re the best OEM retailer of Nissan parts I’ve found.).

Question 2: What’re the chances that something’s wrong with the harness? Why would it go away after a restart? (Yeah, that latter question is a crappy one)

*Other codes: Dreaded P0420 on the precats I installed 2 years/30,000 miles ago to treat the environment right and turn off the P0420. Also lit is the parking brake light, the traction control disabled light, the “your wheels are slipping/TCS engaged” light, and the ABS light. The car’s upset that I snipped two fusible links in the engine bay to kill all power to the ABS actuator. Cough. That was about three months ago and is wholly separate from the throttle control.

**From the FSM:
“The ECM controls the electric throttle control actuator in regulating the throttle opening in order for the idle position to be within +10 degrees. The ECM controls the opening speed of the throttle to be slower than the normal condition. So, the acceleration will be poor.” No, really!?

PS: How’s Sanjeev doing these days? He’s been quiet for a while.

Sanjeev answers:

It’s about time you people demanded my presence!

We know I don’t respond with garbage like “ZOMG SON U SWAP LS4-FTW lest Panther Love because I’m a big stupid jerk in my First Generation Mark VIII”…or whatever he normally says. Wait, what’s your problem again?

Sajeev answers:

While my arch nemesis with the far more common Indian name continues to disappoint, let’s talk Nissan Maxima TPS. Engine code P2135 points to a problem with the drive by wire (i.e. no throttle cable) system, which is excellently described here. Long story short, there’s a sensor on the go-pedal, another 1-2 more on the engine’s intake throttle plate, an actuator for said plate, and some wiring to make it work.

The wiring could be bad/dirty/corroded/loose at either sensor, but odds are cleaning and checking won’t cure the problem.  There’s a good chance one of these sensors went south.  That’s because anything that moves does indeed wear out: remember scratchy old records on the Hi Fi? That’s the wear a seemingly non-moving sensor endures!

And lucky you: if the sensor on the throttle body side is bad, you get to replace the throttle assembly.  Because that’s how modern drive-by-wire systems work: yeah, how fun!

Do yourself a solid, read the above hyperlink.  If the throttle body is bad and you’re broke, consider a reman part instead of the original: they’re about half the price. And since this is a 10-year-old machine, be ready for the worst…you will need a replacement throttle body. Hmm-kay? Yeeah. 

TPSreports

photo courtesy: heatherpierceinc.com

 

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.

The post Piston Slap: Maximum TPS Reporting? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-maximum-tps-reporting/feed/ 44
Piston Slap: The Fallacy of Miata Ride Comfort? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-fallacy-miata-ride-comfort/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-fallacy-miata-ride-comfort/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 12:53:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903449   TTAC Commentator johnny ro writes: Hi Sajeev, So I like my new 2010 Miata Touring (second car and half time daily driver), and picked it because it looked good on the side of the road by my house, low miles (19k), priced OK(mid 14′s), I had the dough saved up for a bike and […]

The post Piston Slap: The Fallacy of Miata Ride Comfort? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
 

photo courtesy: www.flyinmiata.com

TTAC Commentator johnny ro writes:

Hi Sajeev,

So I like my new 2010 Miata Touring (second car and half time daily driver), and picked it because it looked good on the side of the road by my house, low miles (19k), priced OK(mid 14′s), I had the dough saved up for a bike and I am happy with the current Vstrom, and last but not least it is an automatic. The OEM suspension seems firm to me but obviously not race ready. Roads in Northeast are usually not-so-new ranging down to horrible. Miata people say its mushy and floaty, those who want to autocross or race.

It’s body is stiffer than my 1999 was. The 1999 benefited from chassis stiffeners- new frame rails, X-brace underneath, frog arms under the front fenders, door bars. Still a small noisy uncomfortable car for more than an hour. The 2010 is a bit more comfortable. For the 2006-2014 there are also aftermarket body stiffeners and plenty of suspension upgrades all meant to improve track performance.

What I really want is a GT, not a race car. I am not interested in more power.

Question for the best and brightest, should I bother stiffening the body on an automatic Miata?

What suspension would make it more civilized without less comfort?

Am I better off buying a true GT? What GT for $14k.

Sajeev answers:

When someone complains about a stock one, the words “Miata Ride Comfort” make no sense together. Instead do an LSX-FTW swap so you’ll rarely have the time to focus on the punishing ride. And no, I’m only partially kidding.

To wit, a friend once asked if their Miata wouldn’t punish one’s lower back with the upgraded leather slip covers from a Grand Touring model: what a load of trash! Leather seats aren’t magically wrapped around Fleetwood Brougham thrones, or even CamCord thrones. Time to suck it up and buy a more comfortable car.

“What I really want is a GT, not a race car.”

Oh wait, you already admitted that.  Why? Chassis stiffeners cannot cut the impact harshness from a pothole, they help the suspension/steering/braking systems work as intended in spirited driving on imperfect roads.  Which totally isn’t the same thing.

And if there is a softer-than-stock suspension (not likely) it won’t help enough. Considering roadster levels of suspension travel, seat cushion padding, short wheelbase, light weight (to some extent), low-ish profile tires, a quite-modest sprinkling of NVH reducing materials…see where I’m going with this?

Go find a pre-engineered GT car!  A Mazda 3 or 6 sedan is a logical and practical step backward, but perhaps there are too many doors.  Maybe a Mazda 2? Maybe a somewhat used Mustang? Not refined enough.  A fairly used 3-series?  If you know a good indie-BMW mechanic and don’t mind paying them.  A garage-queen C5 Corvette with Magnaride and conventional (not run-flat) tires?  Entirely possible.

 

 

Or just suck it up and maraud your way to love…

 

 

80e940196e_640

(photo courtesy: www.empireautos11.com)

…Panther Love…

…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.

 

The post Piston Slap: The Fallacy of Miata Ride Comfort? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-fallacy-miata-ride-comfort/feed/ 52
Piston Slap: Sucking At Fluid Changes? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-sucking-fluid-changes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-sucking-fluid-changes/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:40:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=901234   Longtime TTAC Commentator ajla writes: Hi Sajeev, I do a more through job at the time of purchase, but every year after I do a drain/refill on the radiator and replace some transmission fluid by using my fluid extractor to vacuum up as much ATF as possible through the dipstick tube. I know that […]

The post Piston Slap: Sucking At Fluid Changes? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
 

(photo courtesy: http://forums.bimmerforums.com)

Pick Up The Pace! (photo courtesy: http://forums.bimmerforums.com)

Longtime TTAC Commentator ajla writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I do a more through job at the time of purchase, but every year after I do a drain/refill on the radiator and replace some transmission fluid by using my fluid extractor to vacuum up as much ATF as possible through the dipstick tube.

I know that I’m not getting all the fluids exchanged this way, but my question is how much of a positive impact is this regiment actually having on my cars? Am I just wasting my time? I haven’t suffered a mechanical failure since I started doing this, but I don’t know if that proves much.

Keep in mind that the vehicles I tend to own are 20 to 30 years old.

Sajeev answers:

In theory, fluid changes via modest exchanging of old for new is a great idea.  I’ve done this countless times to my brother’s C5/C6 Corvette hydraulic clutch reservoirs, especially after his ZR1 (that some might remember) lost the clutch on an especially hot afternoon of autocrossing…and I’m far from Jack Baruth around the rubber cones!

But the need for annual coolant/ATF servicing is unlikely: both coolant (even the old green stuff) and ATF lasts far longer than a year, at least double for coolant and more like quadruple for ATF. Assuming modest annual mileage, vehicle age is somewhat irrelevant, unless it’s an old truck regularly towing an overloaded trailer.

For you and your cadre of classics? Do fluid changes like ATF/Coolant every 2-5 years, more often for engine oil (duh) and less for other wear items (brake fluid).

 

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.

The post Piston Slap: Sucking At Fluid Changes? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-sucking-fluid-changes/feed/ 43
Piston Slap: Less Slap, More (oil) Control http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-less-slap-oil-control/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-less-slap-oil-control/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:57:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=898410 Pete writes: Hey Sajeev, I got one for you. Several engines nowadays are set up to operate on half their cylinders under light-load conditions. Would the design considerations for piston rings vary from those normally used for such cylinders that are only used part-time? The question arises in the context of a 2009 V6 Accord […]

The post Piston Slap: Less Slap, More (oil) Control appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
(photo courtesy: autozone.com)

(photo courtesy: autozone.com)

Pete writes:

Hey Sajeev, I got one for you.

Several engines nowadays are set up to operate on half their cylinders under light-load conditions. Would the design considerations for piston rings vary from those normally used for such cylinders that are only used part-time? The question arises in the context of a 2009 V6 Accord that is currently in the Honda dealer’s shop to have the piston rings replaced at the manufacturer’s expense to cure a continual oil consumption and spark plug fouling problem.

Sajeev answers:

We learned from a previous Piston Slap that General Motors answered your query:  the displacement-on-demand (DoD) 5.3L truck motor (and its sister, LS4-FTW?) needs new and redesigned piston rings to cut oil consumption in the four deactivated cylinders. The motors still (supposedly) performs as intended with strong compression from the compression rings, oil burning is only a shameful side effect. Not to make a molehill out of a mountain, but that’s it.

Or perhaps turn off DoD with a computer re-flash, since there’s no free lunch in this business: if you want fuel economy, buy a lighter, trimmer and smaller engined vehicle. But I digress…

Honda, operating under the same Laws of Physics (Thermodynamics?) has the same DoD problem. In theory, the design of the “oil control” piston rings is crucial: more info is in this insanely detailed article. Definitely great bedtime reading for the Pistonhead.

Honda’s Class Action lawsuit doesn’t seem to hurt Odyssey or Accord resale values, so dump it if you wish. Or regularly check your oil level and spark plug condition, doing so lets affected V6 Honda products live a long and happy-ish life. Heck, this much oil consumption (1-3 quarts per high mileage oil change) was once the norm (during old school 3000 mi intervals) and that’s without DoD’s inherent fuel savings.

But that fact remains: save fuel or save oil? Pick 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.

The post Piston Slap: Less Slap, More (oil) Control appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-less-slap-oil-control/feed/ 34
Piston Slap: Blogging about Engine Bogging http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-blogger-bogging-via-engine-load/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-blogger-bogging-via-engine-load/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:02:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=895034   Pat writes: Hi Sajeev, I have a question about driving style that I’d like to pose to you and the B&B. Part of my highway commute is a steady 2 mile grade. With a running start of 75 mph, my 2007 Mazda B2300 slows to about 62 mph by the top of the hill […]

The post Piston Slap: Blogging about Engine Bogging appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
 

(photo courtesy: surftherenow.com)

Pat writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I have a question about driving style that I’d like to pose to you and the B&B. Part of my highway commute is a steady 2 mile grade. With a running start of 75 mph, my 2007 Mazda B2300 slows to about 62 mph by the top of the hill when I keep it in 5th gear, with the engine turning about 2000 rpm. I can maintain 70+ if I drop into 4th and floor it, but I’m a cheapskate at heart. My question is, is it really more efficient to lug up the hill in top gear, or am I just kidding myself and doing irreparable damage to my engine?

As an aside, I recently traveled to Vietnam and I noticed that all the cab and minibus drivers upshifted extremely quickly. Typically they were in 4th gear by about 15-20 mph, and really lugging the engine (I rode mostly in Toyotas). Besides the obvious lack of quick acceleration, any downsides to this kind of driving style? How much gas could be saved?

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

How funny: I noticed the same problem in India.  Be it Maruti, Toyota, Honda or Hindustan Ambassador, you’d hear a horrible “chug” of engine bogging on a regular basis.  It keeps stressed out drivers from “unnecessary” down/up shifting in dense urban conditions, if that was the point.

Unless we’re talkin’ about a friction-challenged road starting from a standstill, never intentionally engage in engine bogging!  Each engine/transmission/body combo handles loads differently, there’s no magic boggy-RPM number: the unique sound of engine bog is all you need to know. Depending on the severity of the bog’s shake, this increases clutch wear, damages motor mounts and maybe even stresses the weakest link in your reciprocating parts (crank+rods+pistons).

In your case: bogging up a 2 mile grade kills fuel economy.  Being that low on the torque curve combined with massive throttle inputs means you’re burning fuel with little return on investment.  Clutch wear?  Probably not. But accelerating near your torque peak (3750 revs) gets you up the hill with the most efficiency (least throttle input) so you can spend more time “cruising” on flatter terrain at lower rpms, sooner. More to the point, 3rd or 4th gear is your friend, my friend son!

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Perhaps your (presumably stock) Mazda needs the SCT tune (low-octane) and modest intake/exhaust plumbing modifications of my Ranger. Its your sister-ship, ya know.  The volume of low-end torque below 3000rpm increased dramatically to the point that 2nd gear with steep parking garage grades was doable, and almost worth the extra throttle input. Almost.

 

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.

The post Piston Slap: Blogging about Engine Bogging appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-blogger-bogging-via-engine-load/feed/ 51
Piston Slap: MAP-ping Engine Load http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-4/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 12:55:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=893722 TTAC regular David Holzman writes: When my scan gauge says my engine is under 99% load, and I’ve only pushed the gas pedal about halfway down, does that mean, as I suspect, that I can floor it and I’m not going to get more than a drop more power out of it?  And, in a […]

The post Piston Slap: MAP-ping Engine Load appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

(photo courtesy: www.8thcivic.com)

TTAC regular David Holzman writes:

When my scan gauge says my engine is under 99% load, and I’ve only pushed the gas pedal about halfway down, does that mean, as I suspect, that I can floor it and I’m not going to get more than a drop more power out of it? 

And, in a modern car (’08 Civic, stick), will the computer control prevent me from wasting gas by pushing the gas pedal beyond the point where I’ve reached 99% load?

Sajeev answers:

I’ve wondered this myself, just not enough to research until someone posed the question to TTAC.

Since the dawn of carburetors, vehicles used engine vacuum to measure engine load under the guise of a fuel economy gauge. Earlier EFI machines implemented fuel injector duty cycle to spit out a fuel economy reading. It’s cheaper/easier/simpler to use the fuel injection computer’s powers to calculate an approximate number, but many (all?) newer models use the mass-airflow sensor (MAF) and/or the manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor as the basis of these calculations.

As per SAE standard J1979, there are two engine load values: calculated and absolute load value. I suspect absolute load value is used in more customer facing interfaces, as it’s a normalized figure that might be easier to apply across multiple engines, platforms and operation parameters sans re-work. And it probably neuters the data as to not cause end user confusion, warranty claims, lawsuits, etc.

If reading this hamfisted analysis upsets you, methinks you’re a pretty frickin’ brilliant engineer.  Distilling this into an easy to digest blog post isn’t easy, as I was more of a Collegiate SAE wonk. But let’s get it down to one sentence:

Load values are a normalized calculation of engine airflow, which isn’t a 100% accurate measure of the load on your vehicle’s engine at any time.

How’s that for not answering your question and giving me a headache?  I console myself with this Hot Panther Looove:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Oooooh yeah, muuuuuuch better.

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. 

The post Piston Slap: MAP-ping Engine Load appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-4/feed/ 34
Piston Slap: The Self-Lathing CRX? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-theres-rub/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-theres-rub/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:58:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=888017 Gareth writes: Good afternoon Sajeev, Read your latest and I’m determined to help you out. I recently had a bone-stock 87 CRX Si follow me home from an impound auction and, if I can get the damn thing through an Ontario Safety Inspection, I’ll let TTAC’s very own Derek K drive it. Therein lies the […]

The post Piston Slap: The Self-Lathing CRX? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

photo courtesy: flickr.com

Gareth writes:

Good afternoon Sajeev,

Read your latest and I’m determined to help you out. I recently had a bone-stock 87 CRX Si follow me home from an impound auction and, if I can get the damn thing through an Ontario Safety Inspection, I’ll let TTAC’s very own Derek K drive it.

Therein lies the rub, or brake rub really. The front discs were rubbing, a lot. Constant grinding sound as the wheels turn. I have since removed/lubricated the caliper sliders (they were a bit stuck from sitting) and measured the discs and pads using a measuring tape and straight edge, everything is above min specs.

With the pin lube the grinding noise has abated somewhat but continues, worst is passenger side.

The discs don’t feel warped (no front shudder under hard braking).

Your thoughts?

Sajeev answers:

OMG SON, why can’t someone find ME a nice CRX in Houston?  What’s so wrong with giving the Piston Slap Guy a ride in your whip, huh? I care not of the distance between us, I can still feel the pain inflicted upon me! How could this happen to me?  It must be my fault!

Perhaps less self-loathing and more self-lathing is in order.

Your situation reminds me of an old road test of mine, where the subject’s rear brakes rusted shut waiting for a test drive. Popping them free was fun, actually. That said, I don’t know what’s out-of-place on the CRX.  My gut says that driving more will wipe off the rust/squeaks like a lathe in a machine shop.  Assuming you’ve only driven it a few yards…sorry, meters for you Canadians.

So either replace the discs/pads/calipers now (and flush all the brake fluid) OR drive it slowly another 0.25 to 0.5 miles kilometers to learn more.  This depends on the population density nearby and your faith in this machine. Driving the CRX it will either clear things up or the offending part will come forward as the brakes continue to lathe themselves.

Who knows, it could be a bad hub! But I bet you have rusty/sticky calipers, so flush the brake fluid and put fresh pads/calipers/new or turned rotors on too.

Cheap insurance, totally worth it. Don’t mess with rusty brake systems, DK will appreciate 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.

The post Piston Slap: The Self-Lathing CRX? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-theres-rub/feed/ 23
Piston Slap: Condensing Honda’s Hot Air? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-3/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-3/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 12:24:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=884769 TTAC commentator Land Ark writes: Sajeev: I recently acquired a 2007 Honda Civic EX sedan from a neighbor who moved out of the country. I got a really good deal on it and for the most part it’s in good shape. It has 80k miles, 5 speed, and one major flaw. The air conditioning is […]

The post Piston Slap: Condensing Honda’s Hot Air? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Don’t be so dense, airhead. (photo courtesy: http://www.full-race.com)

TTAC commentator Land Ark writes:

Sajeev:

I recently acquired a 2007 Honda Civic EX sedan from a neighbor who moved out of the country. I got a really good deal on it and for the most part it’s in good shape. It has 80k miles, 5 speed, and one major flaw. The air conditioning is a little bi-polar; sometimes if blows cold and sometimes not.

It always feels cool to cold coming out of the vents but it doesn’t cool the cabin down. It seems to get warm most consistently while sitting still, like at a red light. My first thought was that there wasn’t enough R gas and I would just trundle down to my local big box retailer and pick up some Cold in a Can. But my thinking was that 2007 is too new for it to be out of gas, could it be leaking? I determined that was not too likely since the air coming out was still cold and because the temperature fluctuates and I would think a leak would cause the temperature to remain constant as the gas leaks out until there is no cold air blowing at all. I definitely could be wrong on that though, I’ve never had an A/C go bad on me before.

Symptoms:

  • AC is cool but not cold.
  • At red lights the inside of the cars gets noticeably warmer. On the highway it gets noticeably cooler most of the time and warmer on occasion.
  • At idle the temp just outside the vents ranges from 68 – 72
  • If I get the RPMs up to 2500 the temp just outside the vents will drop to 65.
  • Clutch on the AC audibly engages when turning it on
  • AC cycles on and off as I would expect. The vent temp rises about 5 degrees before kicking back on.
  • The fuses are good.
  • I swapped the relays and noticed no change in behavior. I left the compressor relay out and it stopped functioning as I would expect.
  • The clutch spins when the AC is turned on and does not spin when it turns off.
  • Both fans spin when the AC is turned on.
  • I ran the self diagnostic check and the recirc light did not blink.
  • I measured the pressure with both front doors open at ~80 degrees and got 40 low and 160 high.

I took to the Civic forums and it appears it is a wildly common problem with this and the previous generation. There doesn’t appear to be one common cause or solution. Lots of people trying things and having that fix it only to post a few days later that it stopped working again. I have checked and both electric fans are functioning, I can’t say that they spin all the time but when I checked both were working. So that is the only symptom I have ruled out. I read that sometimes something in the compressor can break off and block the lines. My fear of trying to add some R-134 would be that most cans come with leak sealer and if there is a blockage and no leak I wouldn’t want to send sealer through the system.

The most likely candidate for the problem seems to be the compressor clutch. I don’t know why I think that other than it was mentioned and seems like it would be impossible to fix in your driveway so no one has tried to replace it and reported back that it didn’t work.

I haven’t dug too deeply into the car but I bought it to get used to driving a stick and it spends lots of time sitting when it’s hot out so I am missing some good opportunities to drive. And because I plan on selling this car in a few months, I am not interested in putting a whole new A/C system in it. So what should I be checking/testing? I’ll try anything that doesn’t require releasing the pressure on the system, otherwise I’ll have to take it in.

Sajeev answers:

I’ve personally experienced poor air conditioning in a co-worker’s Civic on a wonderfully hot and humid Houston afternoon. And when A/C systems don’t work but pass your (comprehensive) diagnosis, thank goodness for forums that agree with us. In particular, commentator Rayspitcher41:

“Went and had my A/C recharged and a dye test done for $50. Turns out my compressor was starting to go and so was my condenser. It cost about $650 to repair with labor, but my extended warranty covered it all so I had no out of pocket. I have a 07 with 60K on it. Now the A/C is running Ice Cold within a mile of starting and driving and I’m in south florida with a heat index of 103 every day.”

In theory, air conditioners operate below peak efficiency when the engine is idling (below 1000-ish rpm) because the compressor isn’t effective at those speeds.  But that’s Problem #1 in this two-pronged quandary. I suspect one of the HVAC’s radiator lookin-thingies is also to blame: the condenser or evaporator.

I suspect the condenser. Look at which HVAC component takes the most abuse: the condenser is a big net that catches anything in front of the vehicle. (The evaporator safely nests inside the dash.)  Assuming that every 8th Gen Civic owner is happy with the HVAC when new, odds are the condenser loses efficiency over time.  Combine that with a compressor’s ineffectiveness at idle and you have a hot mess of a problem.

4624-062-speedometer-tachometer-480

So what do I suggest? In this order:

1. Check the pressures you find against a Honda service manual, add or remove refrigerant safely (don’t vent to the atmosphere, obviously).

2. Keep the idle above 1000 rpm when you need cold air.

3. Clean the condenser “fins” and inspect for physical blockage.  Use a condenser fin comb (yes, really) to fix bent fins.

4. Replace condenser, look for an upgrade from a revised design or newer model.

5. Replace compressor.

6. Give up and sell 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.

The post Piston Slap: Condensing Honda’s Hot Air? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-3/feed/ 37
Piston Slap: The Auto-Erratic Transmission? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-auto-erratic-transmission/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-auto-erratic-transmission/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 11:54:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=880922 Longtime TTAC commentator Mikey writes: Sajeev, I bought a 2014 Impala LT with a 2.5 four cylinder, and a 6 speed auto. I’m a 60 year old guy, that’s driven more cars than I can count. I’m still in awe that the engineers have figured out a way to move a car with the weight and size […]

The post Piston Slap: The Auto-Erratic Transmission? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
mm_gal_item_c2_23e2.img_resize.img_stage._3

Longtime TTAC commentator Mikey writes:

Sajeev,

I bought a 2014 Impala LT with a 2.5 four cylinder, and a 6 speed auto. I’m a 60 year old guy, that’s driven more cars than I can count. I’m still in awe that the engineers have figured out a way to move a car with the weight and size of the Impala with a 155 cu. in. engine. I love the car, with its comfort, and size, it suits my needs perfectly. I’m getting great gas mileage, with mostly city driving. Were flirting with 5 dollars a gallon up here.  I’m willing to sacrifice power for economy.

I’m rarely on the highway these days.  However I do find that at highway speeds{ 75 mph or so} the slightest touch of the gas pedal, will cause a down shift. The tach will jump from 2200 up to the high 3000′s in an instant. Does the 6 speed down shift sequentially, 6 to 5? Or will it go back 6 to 4th?

A week or so ago, I think it was “Kenmore” that was talking about a 6 speed Honda?  The discussion revolved around the transmission ” clunking” as it downshifted at below 10 mph. I find the Impala does that under certain conditions.  Is this normal?

Thanks

Sajeev answers:

Occasional clunking is normal until some third-party disassembles a metric ton of these gearboxes, points to a poorly designed part and goes on the Internet saying, “ZOMG Y U ENGINEERS BE SO CHEEP HERE?”

And by that I mean that we shall never know. Regarding the frequent downshifting, I recently rented a four-cylinder Buick LaCrosse, same problem.  Hell, even a V6 Mustang rental constantly shifted when I breathed on the gas. On a mostly flat stretch of highway!

This frustration is why I referred to these units as auto-erratic in my review of the CVT powered Mitsubishi Mirage. People think CVTs suck, rightly so.  But many of today’s self-shifters suffer from computerized analysis paralysis.

It’s not entirely the autobox’s fault: with only 186 lb-ft of torque peaking at a somewhat high 4400rpm, don’t blame the Impala for a 6-5 or 6-4 downshift because you feathered the go-go pedal. That’s just the way it is…unless you get a 74hp/74lb-ft Mirage with a Nebraska-flat torque curve.

But is this a problem? Not really: any auto-erratic box attached to a low-end torque free motor shall do this.  It bothers me too, but I’m spoiled by vehicles with a fatter torque curve. I wager you are too, in your 60 years on this earth. That said…

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Let’s consider the epic struggle between horsepower and torque. There was a time when most everything made power like a modern turbo diesel. Back when the battle for peak performance numbers and increasing redlines in boring family sedans and pickup trucks with a 4000rpm torque peak were unheard of.  

The good old days?  Not entirely sure.  But it’d be fantastic to see today’s technology applied to a fatter torque curve instead of sky-high horsepower battles. There’d be a superior driving experience and better fuel economy (less throttle needed), with a modest penalty in full throttle acceleration. Or so says the Piston Slap Guy…

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.

The post Piston Slap: The Auto-Erratic Transmission? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-auto-erratic-transmission/feed/ 69
Piston Slap: Ain’t Skeered of no Blown Stang! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-aint-skeered-blown-stang/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-aint-skeered-blown-stang/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 11:41:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=880890 TTAC commentator 1trikpny writes: Hi, I’ve got a 2005 Mustang GT Deluxe,5spd, no Leather, no options. Black with 18″ chrome wheels, 285/35 Sumitomo HRT-Z 3′s, I’m the second adult owner.The previous owner bought it new, and at 40,000 miles installed a Saleen Supercharger with a Brenspeed Stage 3 tune. 500 hp at the crank. Currently at […]

The post Piston Slap: Ain’t Skeered of no Blown Stang! appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
frpcustoms

photo courtesy: frpcustoms.com

TTAC commentator 1trikpny writes:

Hi, I’ve got a 2005 Mustang GT Deluxe,5spd, no Leather, no options. Black with 18″ chrome wheels, 285/35 Sumitomo HRT-Z 3′s, I’m the second adult owner.The previous owner bought it new, and at 40,000 miles installed a Saleen Supercharger with a Brenspeed Stage 3 tune. 500 hp at the crank. Currently at 63000 miles. I’ve added BMR LCA’s, Relocation brackets, and Panhard bar. this car has been very well maintained all of it’s life. No smoke, no noises, everything is just right.

So what’s the problem?

I can’t help thinking about breakage, so I’m thinking of selling it. I really like this car, and don’t even drive it hard, but I am well aware that stuff happens. Although money is not an issue, any I put into repairs would be gone as far as resale. Right now the car is worth every penny I paid, including the BMR stuff.

I won’t replace it if I sell, but I would certainly miss it. It always puts a smile on my face!

What do you and the B&B think? Am I just worrying too much? I do that naturally………

Thank you in advance for thoughtful comment,

Sajeev answers:

Ah, the classic “is this relationship too good to be true?” question posed by many a tuned automobile owner.  A scary proposition if this was a modified WRX with an unknown owner history, but somewhat benign with an adult-owned supercharged Mustang. Let’s find out why!

Assuming the computer recalibration is set for a healthy balance (in the air/fuel ratio) between component safety and dyno-pleasing power figures, there’s little to worry about.  Continue to drive like an adult on premium fuel and the engine should be fine, as supercharging Ford V8s is far from complicated or dangerous. It’s been that way for years. Ditto the solid rear axle: Ford’s 8.8 is robust, even the Camaro boys love them.

The only concern is the transmission.  While a stock Mustang gearbox is good for an impressive 360 ft-lbs, you could easily destroy it with hard launches/power shifting/regular application of full throttle on a supercharged Mustang.  But money fixes everything. Rather cheaply in a Mustang compared to other tuned machines, I might add!

The point: you are indeed worrying too much. Enjoy the “adult driven” Mustang and find a worrisome issue that’s worthy of your 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.

 

 

The post Piston Slap: Ain’t Skeered of no Blown Stang! appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-aint-skeered-blown-stang/feed/ 23
Piston Slap: 4Runner to A New Life? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-4runner-to-a-new-life-one-last-trip/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-4runner-to-a-new-life-one-last-trip/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:49:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873921   TTAC Commentator Ralph Schpoilschport writes: Hi Sajeev, Got a quick one for you and only asking because you begged!  But.  I am preparing to make a 3000 mile one-way trip from beautiful Vermontto, well, not so beautiful southern CA.  My rig is a 1997 Toyota 4Runner (V6, 5 speed manual).  Known problems: leaking rear diff (rust cracks) […]

The post Piston Slap: 4Runner to A New Life? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
 

Driveway Smudge

TTAC Commentator Ralph Schpoilschport writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Got a quick one for you and only asking because you begged!  But.  I am preparing to make a 3000 mile one-way trip from beautiful Vermontto, well, not so beautiful southern CA.  My rig is a 1997 Toyota 4Runner (V6, 5 speed manual).  Known problems: leaking rear diff (rust cracks) and a muffler on its last leg.  Spark plugs, starter, timing belt and water pump are recent repairs/maintenance.  As I type, an attempt is being made to seal the rear diff.  If that is successful I am having the mechanic give the chassis a once-over.

If the inspection is clear or things are easily fixed I am planning on making the trip with this car.  I figure the car is worth approx $2500 – 3000 as it sits.  Am I nuts?

Other options:

  • Rent a car one way.  Haven’t looked but figure this to be well over $1000.
  • Trade the rig in.  Nice leases for Rav 4’s going on right now.  Not sure how the bank would feel about my plan esp. considering I am leaving my job of 9 years for a new one in SoCA.
  • Buy a newer used vehicle.  This doesn’t seem like a good idea.  If I were to do this I’d rather do it in CA than here (rust).

Sajeev answers:

You aren’t exactly taking a trip:  moving to California, needing something to move your stuff is more of a life-changing moment.

  • Renting is out of the question: sell the 4Runner instead, then take a plane and ship all your stuff instead.
  • You are averse to getting a new car, which is acceptable in your position.
  • Getting another used vehicle is both buying someone else’s problems and asking to lose more money on two trade-ins in the near future instead of one.

Honestly, you need this thing to make one last road trip. Sounds like the motor is fine, and hopefully there’s a decent band-aid fix for the axle. If not, just swap the axle with a junkyard unit to give peace of mind and increase resale value.

My biggest concern is the tires: if they are worn and/or 5+ years old, they might not survive that much highway cruising.  And odds are the spare isn’t in better shape!  So get new tires for the same reasons you’d replace the axle. Ditto other rubber items you’ve overlooked (belts, hoses, vacuum lines, etc) but could explode on the trip.  Because your 4Runner (or any Toyota from that era, for that matter)  is a hot commodity in any market, especially California.  New rubber and a non-rusty axle speeds up the sale and adds value. You’re not gonna waste your money here.

Best of luck in your new career AND your new digs. Do the basics and the 4Runner will do just fine.

Who knows, you might just keep 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. 

The post Piston Slap: 4Runner to A New Life? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-4runner-to-a-new-life-one-last-trip/feed/ 41
Piston Slap: A Rather Thirsty Escort? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-a-rather-thirsty-escort/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-a-rather-thirsty-escort/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:01:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873833 TTAC Commentator Weltron writes: Hi Sajeev! The car I am writing about today is my winter beater, which is a 1999 Ford Escort SE sedan which says it has a tick over 155,000 miles. (Pictured above) The problem I’m having with it is it it getting dreadful gas mileage. My average tank is about 19 […]

The post Piston Slap: A Rather Thirsty Escort? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
20140618_104104

TTAC Commentator Weltron writes:

Hi Sajeev!

The car I am writing about today is my winter beater, which is a 1999 Ford Escort SE sedan which says it has a tick over 155,000 miles. (Pictured above) The problem I’m having with it is it it getting dreadful gas mileage. My average tank is about 19 miles to the gallon (in comparison that is what my twin turbo straight six Volvo gets around town). Over the winter I replaced both of the o2 sensors and got a marginal improvement (about .4 mpg).

And here’s the kicker: the dumb thing runs perfectly. No error codes or anything. Idles smooth and everything (well as far as Escort refinement goes). When I go on the highway (which is fairly often) I can see upward of 21… If I’m lucky.

Help please! I’m debating on whether to sell it or not due to this gas mileage problem for something bigger (thinking an Oldsmobile Eighty Eight/LSS or if I’m feeling lucky … an Aurora if I do end up replacing the Escort.) Thank you in advance for your help.

P.S. Here’s a list of what has been replaced/cleaned since the fall.

Mass air flow sensor cleaned
New air filter
New spark plugs/ plug wires
New o2 sensors (both upstream and downstream)
New muffler
New tires

Sajeev answers:

It’s funny how well-maintained vehicles occasionally have an obvious problem that’s impossible to diagnose.  But going to the beautiful, enjoyable yet expensive and complicated Northstar powered Oldsmobile is the wrong move!

You’ve done the basics, kudos to you.  That makes our job easier. Considering your Volvo drives in the same manner (presumably) there’s certainly a minor problem outside of driver error. And I wouldn’t be so adamant if it didn’t happen to me:

Try changing the fuel filter first, then get new/reconditioned fuel injectors.

That’s it.  I know you’ve slooooowly been losing power and efficiency.  Perhaps you notice a mysterious fuel smell?  The injectors are no longer turning on/shutting off correctly. And when you get ‘em installed, ZOMG SON, note the instant acceleration improvement and the later MPG lift.

So go ahead and keep it, even if the cylinder head might be a problem in the future.

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. 

The post Piston Slap: A Rather Thirsty Escort? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-a-rather-thirsty-escort/feed/ 86
Piston Slap: Chronic Xterra Maintenance? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-the-wussy-xterra/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-the-wussy-xterra/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:26:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871778   m koonce writes: Sajeev – you wanted questions, I have questions! First – I love your column. Great advice, and well written. Now my question(s). I have a 2009 Nissan Xterra 4wd, X model, 52k miles, and no problems except door squeaks and rubber molding which wont stay attached but that’s trivial. My question […]

The post Piston Slap: Chronic Xterra Maintenance? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
 

Capture

No correlation. (photo courtesy: http://images.gtcarlot.com)

m koonce writes:

Sajeev – you wanted questions, I have questions! First – I love your column. Great advice, and well written. Now my question(s).

  1. I have a 2009 Nissan Xterra 4wd, X model, 52k miles, and no problems except door squeaks and rubber molding which wont stay attached but that’s trivial. My question is, when should I have a “tuneup” done – i.e., change the spark plugs. Should I wait until Nissan’s recommended mileage (105k miles I think), or do it sooner? And should I replace all the coils at the same time (I presume the truck has a coil-on-plug ignition setup)? What else should I have done at the same time?
  2. Re: same vehicle: at 36k miles (May 2013) I did a transmission fluid dump and refill at local dealership, and did the same again at 49k miles in May 2014, again at dealership. My plan is to continue this dump and refill procedure every year for as long as I own the truck. Am I on the right track here? I’ve also had all other fluids replaced, except brake fluid which will be replaced when I have a brake job done.

Thanks for your advice, and keep up the good work.

Sajeev answers:

Actually you have three questions, come on son!  Now you know I’ll Google up some half-cocked give an enlightening answer for just about any question. And my goodness, do you need questions answered, for the sake of your poor, poor wallet!

Question 1: Squeaky rubber seals: spray them with a silicone based lubricant (safe on rubber, less sticky than WD-40) or do it right with this tube of magic.

Question 2: Direct injection systems aside…rarely, if ever, does a non-modified vehicle driven by a law-abiding motorist need new spark plugs before the recommended interval. Even DI motors won’t necessarily need aggressive plug replacements, and the supercharged versions of your Nissan are fine if you follow the owner’s manual. Spark plugs, be it iridium or platinum, have come a long way, baby!

Question 2.5:  Replace coil pack(s) when the engine computer says so. That is, when you get a stumble/misfire, you scan for codes, etc. and determine the misbehaving coil. Do not change them during the mandated tune up interval, only change normal wear items as per owner’s manual recommendations.

Question 3: ZOMG UR ON THE WRONG TRACK!  Unless this is a work truck towing a loaded trailer every day in city traffic, there’s zero reason for annual ATF changes. You’d be more than safe swapping it out every 50,000-100,000 miles.

Put more succinctly: stop treating this rig like it’s a delicate flower!

Vehicles in the last 25+ years successfully embraced electronic engine control technology, and “long life” fluids are held in high regard across the board…well, Dex-Cool aside. The sooner you embrace the robust beauty of modern vehicles (and fluids) the sooner you can stop punishing your wallet.

 

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.

The post Piston Slap: Chronic Xterra Maintenance? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-the-wussy-xterra/feed/ 33
Piston Slap: SHO me My Next Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-sho-me-the-new-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-sho-me-the-new-car/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:01:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=869874 Bob writes: Sajeev, Thanks for all the wasted ti…,er reading enjoyment you and TTAC provide. My Q has to do with “plan on keeping, or start looking for a replacement?” Bought my ’93 SHO in 1996, a 5-sp w/28k miles. It just rolled over 140,000 (I’m an over-the-road truck driver). Has been a great, fun […]

The post Piston Slap: SHO me My Next Car? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
(photo courtesy: http://www.reocities.com)

(photo courtesy: http://www.reocities.com)

Bob writes:

Sajeev,

Thanks for all the wasted ti…,er reading enjoyment you and TTAC provide. My Q has to do with “plan on keeping, or start looking for a replacement?”

Bought my ’93 SHO in 1996, a 5-sp w/28k miles. It just rolled over 140,000 (I’m an over-the-road truck driver). Has been a great, fun car. Only major problem was a radiator leak & attendant CPS failure.

Downers: Headliner and driver’s seat uph need replacing. Clearcoat peeling. Worried about parts avail, transmission (no problems so far, but “maintenance-free ATF?”). Still has original clutch. Car is 22 yrs old. Etc…

Upside: Just had front susp renewed, doesn’t burn oil, still drives great. Etc…

So: used Crown Vic, or used Miata, when the time comes?

Sorry this is so wordy/rambling, but hate to think of you & that cymbal.

Sajeev answers:

Oh yes! The Edelbrock cymbal is still on my drum rack, but I’ve had no time to “work” on it.  And that’s thanks to folks like you!

You have a two-part question, and the first answer is you need a newer car.  While an SHO has a tricky motor (timing belt and valve lash work every 60,000 miles IIRC), any old Taurus won’t be relaxing and reliable: it will always need work, even if it may never leave you stranded without days/weeks/months of advance notice.  You’ll shell out big bucks on the paint and clutch alone.

About your next ride: some will consider the Miata vs. Crown Vic suggestion as insane, but I get it. The SHO is almost halfway between in size, number of cylinders, etc.  And when you’ve already done the middle ground, it’s now time to go to the extreme!

Question is, which extreme?

I’d go for the Miata if you can keep the SHO around to carry people/cargo.  Depending on where you live, a FWD sedan with a solid roof helps in bad rain/snow. If you go Crown Vic, the SHO is pointless.  Which is a problem.

Think about it: the SHO is essentially worthless and the next owner is likely to kill it.  I reckon it will be Chinese scrap metal less than a year after the sale.  Not cool: cars with intrinsically fantastic yet obscure design like the Taurus SHO deserve to live. Having owned this car for almost 20 years now, are you dumb enough to see it my way? To restore this future classic?

If so, you will also be dumb enough to buy a Crown Vic to make a collection of cool yet understated American sedans!  And for those that find this notion silly, I suggest watching this video about 10 times.

Click here to view the embedded video.

What was that about not wanting a collection of Ford sedans? #pantherlove

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.

 

The post Piston Slap: SHO me My Next Car? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-sho-me-the-new-car/feed/ 102
Piston Slap: Chipped or just Broken? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-chipped-or-just-broken/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-chipped-or-just-broken/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 12:09:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866178 Evan writes: Sajeev (Sanjeev need not apply), My previous car was a MKV GTI that I, in my youthful excitement for all things automotive, chipped. I shelled out the big dollars (on sale) for the name brand company that had a good reputation as being conservative with their programming. And yet, that car was nothing […]

The post Piston Slap: Chipped or just Broken? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
(photo courtesy: eurotuner.com)

Evan writes:

Sajeev (Sanjeev need not apply),

My previous car was a MKV GTI that I, in my youthful excitement for all things automotive, chipped. I shelled out the big dollars (on sale) for the name brand company that had a good reputation as being conservative with their programming.

And yet, that car was nothing but trouble from that point on. Sure, I could have turned off the extra horsepower with a couple minutes time in a parking lot, but once you get that extra power going back is really hard. As a nonsmoker, I understand how hard quitting smoking must be now. I just couldn’t do it. So I lived with a car that ate a variety of parts all the way until I sold it, reset and locked into stock mode.

I am now in another 2.0T car and on principle am not intending on any modifications of the car that could possibly effect reliability. It just wasn’t worth the pain, suffering, and time spent in a VW Service department waiting room.

But was my car, which I bought used, just an aberration? Or do chips really cause with breakage?

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Be it chip, tune or a computer swap to something worthy of a mechanical engineering laboratory, I’ve only considered two reasons why a new program breaks a vehicle.

  • The nut behind the keyboard.
  • The nut behind the wheel.

I own modified and tuned EEC-IV/V Fords: generally robust EFI vehicles that are open source like Twitter’s API. It’s been this way for 25-ish years! So my world of tuning is straightforward and simple, even my SCT tuned Mark VIII is a frickin’ indestructible Corolla compared to your tuned VAG product!  That’s because, as mentioned before on TTAC, a late-model GTI is barely durable/reliable when left unmodified.

So do chips/tunes cause problems? Hell no, it’s the entire machine that’s the problem. Or not the problem.  So let’s try this again:

  • The nut behind the keyboard.
  • The nut behind the wheel.
  • The nut behind the decline of German Engineering from a high watermark to a nightmare outside of short-term leases and certified pre-owned warranties.
  • The nut that invented Limp Home Mode (just kidding)

That said, I wonder how those Ecoboost SHO/Focus ST guys fare when they crank up the boost? Odds are they still break, just in fewer places for less money.  Perhaps a Corvette, Mustang, Charger, or maybe even an Ecoboost F150 is a better vehicle to tune, sans German driving experience? Probably not up your alley, nor is my tuned 2011 Ranger. Which is unfortunate!

Sanjeev retorts:

Unfortunate? Listen jerk, you bet your ass he’ll never drive a girly truck with a re-flashed computer.  He’s not retarded…

 

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.

The post Piston Slap: Chipped or just Broken? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-chipped-or-just-broken/feed/ 68
Piston Slap: The Express’ New Mission? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-2/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 12:12:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866114 TTAC commentator Celebrity 208 writes: Sajeev, I have been sitting on this draft message for a couple weeks now and I just saw your call for questions so here you go. I just bought a ’05 (Chevrolet) Express 3500 12 Passenger Van with 185kmi. It was owned by a Catholic Mission College where they maintained […]

The post Piston Slap: The Express’ New Mission? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

(photo courtesy: http://www.truckinweb.com/features/1304tr_2006_chevy_express_3500/)

TTAC commentator Celebrity 208 writes:

Sajeev,

I have been sitting on this draft message for a couple weeks now and I just saw your call for questions so here you go. I just bought a ’05 (Chevrolet) Express 3500 12 Passenger Van with 185kmi. It was owned by a Catholic Mission College where they maintained it as part of their van fleet and the maint. history is pretty clean. It was a good deal even if I have to do something dramatic like replace the transmission.

I’m going to use it for towing a boat (w/ trailer it’s 6500+lbs and the runs are ~15mi round trip), delivering kegs to Pamela Elsinore’s birthday party (“at the bottom of the big hill”), hauling visiting family and friends around when visiting (I live in DC which is a vacation destination for some weird reason), and likely Christmas road trips back to Cleveland because my mother goes hog wild with large Little Tikes stuff.

I have seen some of the B&B suggest that renting would be the best solution for these needs but, rental trucks/vans 1) don’t have the towing capacity, 2) usually explicitly forbid towing, 3) aren’t fitted with hitches & 4) are not always available on a whim/at my convenience.

To be sure I don’t use it a lot and hence that’s why I bought one that is 9yrs old and hi mileage. If I wanted new then renting might have met the bill for everything minus towing. At this point you should be laughing. Don’t. This is a step up for me as it is replacing my rusty ’88 G30 Sport van which had 78kmi, or 178kmi, or278kmi, or… (No 100,000 mile digit in the odometer). The ’88 G30 was a beater. It towed ok but it looked like crap and couldn’t be used as a backup daily driver b/c there’s no place to put two+ car seats whereas the ’05 does. The new one has the LQ4 6.0L v8 and the 4L80e trans. So, to my questions:

  1. When I finally get it home what service do you suggest I perform (oil change, trans fluid change etc., timing chain replacement, shocks, 3+ cans of sea foam, etc.)?
  2. What are your and the B&B’s opinions on towing and loaded and unloaded ride performance improvements such as: rear sway bar [this makes sense to me and it's on my to-do list], Roadmaster Active Suspension [this product seems like a gimmick], air suspension kits [I understand how these would increase my load capacity but unless I remove a leaf spring I can't see an air kit improving my unloaded ride quality and allowing me to raise or lower the rear end i.e. adjust the spring rate]?
  3. What are your an the B&B’s opinions on slippery ramp performance improvements such as replacing the open diff with a locker or limited slip [what type? ARB Air, OX Mech, Limited Slip, eLocker, etc.]?

I’m a GM guy but props to the Panther love and props to the site. You guys kick ass. You’re a multiple times a day refresh for me. You keep it up and I’ll keep clicking on some of the ads.

Thanks,

Celebrity208
(Note: I’m not really a narcissist; a Celebrity 208 cc was my first boat.)

Sajeev answers:

Thanks for the kind words, I always admire and appreciate the diverse backgrounds, attitudes, styles, etc of our Best and Brightest.  It’s been the cornerstone of this site’s longevity for more years than I can remember. No doubt, your new van is light years ahead of the old G30, and having a two-time Chevy vanner such as yourself amongst our ranks…well, it’s an honor.

Definitely someone like you should never rent a van, this is the perfect spare vehicle for your lifestyle.

Question 1: Changing all fluids (and the usual worn rubber belts, hoses, vacuum lines, tires, etc) is a great idea, even if we’ve spilled a ton of digital ink over the utility of high mileage ATF service in any transmission.  If the fluid is fresh and the transmission shifts fine, don’t bother changing.  Even if it has a factory tranny cooler, consider putting the biggest aftermarket cooler instead: certainly not a pleasant task, but it’ll be worth it.

Question 2: That Roadmaster kit always intrigued me, just never enough to buy and try.  Definitely get a rear swaybar if that’s an easy swap using junkyard bits from another GM product.  But honestly, all you need are fresh shocks of the high performance variety to get an amazing bang for the buck.  Oh, and replace whatever else in the suspension is worn out after all those miles.  Your eyeballs and basic tools are your guide.

Question 3: There are superior limited slip differentials from the aftermarket, but they are brutally difficult (or expensive) to install.  Why go through all that when–with a little researching–I betcha there’s a complete GM axle assembly in the junkyard with fewer miles and a posi that you can swap in an afternoon?  That said, I couldn’t find a suitable swap candidate, but what the hell do I know?  I’m a Lincoln-Mercury Fanboi.

Perhaps a suitable axle lies in a nearby junkyard, complete with a rear swaybar?  And perhaps addressing the normal wear items and switching to premium shocks will make this van cool enough for even the most jaded reader ’round these parts.

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.

The post Piston Slap: The Express’ New Mission? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-2/feed/ 25
Piston Slap: The Last Afghani Trail to Blaze http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-the-last-afghani-trail-to-blaze/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-the-last-afghani-trail-to-blaze/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 11:26:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860353 M.D.K. writes: UNCLASSIFIED I am currently at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan where I will often find myself motoring around the Forward Operating Base (FOB) in one of the last generation Chevy Trailblazers. It is the straight six variety and it has undoubtedly led a difficult life. My requirements are few however…pretty much I need something […]

The post Piston Slap: The Last Afghani Trail to Blaze appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

M.D.K. writes:

UNCLASSIFIED

I am currently at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan where I will often find myself motoring around the Forward Operating Base (FOB) in one of the last generation Chevy Trailblazers. It is the straight six variety and it has undoubtedly led a difficult life. My requirements are few however…pretty much I need something that can do 25 miles an hour or so and not strand me on the other side of the airfield. As a bonus, the Trailblazer has a working AC and radio. What it doesn’t have is the ability to do 25 or so miles an hour regularly and get me back from the other side of the airfield.

Pressing the gas pedal beyond a few millimeters will get me stalling and/or backfiring. In general it sounds like it is running on 4 cylinders. It will surge and run normally for a second and then not. It seems to get worse the hotter it is (which is bad this time of year.) I took the damn thing to the motorpool and they told me I can turn it in and walk back if I don’t like it (the drawdown is a mother). I had to jump out and push it up the little ramp into our compound as it lacked the power to accomplish this feat on its own. As a Ford guy, I get some amusement out of this and taunting the Chevy fans but the fact is we could really use this thing. A bunch of us IT types have stared under the hood for some time and haven’t figured anything out. I am mechanically inclined (I’ve changed motors and stuff before) so I think I am the truck’s last hope.

This thing would be the nicest vehicle in our fleet by virtue of the AC if it would run. No, I can’t pull the damn codes as the PX is short on OBDII readers (and toilet paper) and there isn’t an Autozone within 7000 miles or so. If this may be something simple like a fuel filter or something I’m willing to get some parts sent over and crawl under myself. Just need to know if there are any common issues with these things. I don’t see any major mechanical issues like overheating or oil in the coolant. I appreciate your input.

UNCLASSIFIED

Sajeev answers:

So…no professional diagnostic tools, no basic Autozone diagnostic tools, and you’re the truck’s last hope? And an LS1-FTW swap is totally out of the question?

Checking the forums, it’s possible that a cam position actuator solenoid is the problem…and it will not throw a code.  Or maybe a dirty throttle body, a clogged fuel filter or a dirty air filter.  If the fuel you receive out there isn’t the highest quality, the filter is a major concern.  And maybe your IT folks have electronic contact cleaner to clean the throttle body AND the mass air flow meter. But I’m all over the map: here’s my plan of action, given limited resources:

  1. Replace fuel filter, if other vehicles need regular filter changes out in the field.
  2. Shake out the air filter, bumping it on a large surface. Don’t bang it against a wall hard enough to damage it. I find large plastic garbage cans work well here.
  3. Clean the mass air flow meter and throttle body with electronic contact cleaner.
  4. Pull the spark plugs, clean and gap them.
  5. Replace the Cam Position Actuator Solenoid: even Amazon stocks them, maybe one of their drone prototypes can deliver it.

I will keep my fingers crossed that bad gas and dusty air are your only problems.

But no matter what, thank you for writing to us and thank you for your service.  

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.

 

The post Piston Slap: The Last Afghani Trail to Blaze appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-the-last-afghani-trail-to-blaze/feed/ 26
Piston Slap: New CV Boots? A Split Decision! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-new-cv-boots-a-split-decision/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-new-cv-boots-a-split-decision/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:53:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860313 TTAC Commentator Detroit Iron writes: Long time no talk (I sound like a native American an Indian).  (Yeah, not so much. – SM) I have an 09 Outback with ~65k miles.  I had noticed a bit of a burning smell after running it for a while and it was pretty strong after a recent trip.  […]

The post Piston Slap: New CV Boots? A Split Decision! appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
TTAC Commentator Detroit Iron writes:

Long time no talk (I sound like a native American an Indian).  (Yeah, not so much. – SM)

I have an 09 Outback with ~65k miles.  I had noticed a bit of a burning smell after running it for a while and it was pretty strong after a recent trip.  I thought it smelled like a belt slipping but when I popped the hood the two belts looked fine.  After looking around for a minute I realized that the passenger side CV boot had torn and was dripping grease on to the cat.  Checking the other side revealed that the driver’s side boot was also torn.  Apparently this is a pretty common failure for scoobies.  The Internet says I should be concerned if I hear a “popping” sound or the clunk associated with failing bearings.  Luckily I am hearing neither.  The dealer had a set price of $370 per boot for replacing the boots that the service manager somewhat disconcertingly blurted out almost before I finished describing the problem.  The independent shop thought they could do both for less than $500 if the axles weren’t bad, but if they were bad then it would be another $450 per.

My question is this:  Can I just get split boots from JC Whitney and pack them with grease or do I really need to have the pros fix it?

Sajeev answers:

The split boots are probably a great idea, Dorman makes good stuff for old cars when the OEMs can or will not. That said, I’ve never used split boots on my rides as I roll RWD only.  But here’s the real problem: armchair analysis.

  • Do you think road dirt/debris lodged inside the boot will eventually eat the axle bearings?
  • Do you have any doubts to that question?
  • Is that your final answer?

Only you can answer that and decide what’s worth your time/money.  The $20-something for split boots is a cheap fix that’ll probably work, as you mentioned the axles are neither clunking nor popping: now try it from a standstill with the steering wheel turned at full lock (i.e. full left AND full right) and listen for the clunk.

If that test works out, well, go ahead and use the split boots.  They will probably extend the life of the axle long enough to justify their expense.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The post Piston Slap: New CV Boots? A Split Decision! appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-new-cv-boots-a-split-decision/feed/ 77
Piston Slap: Bouncing Back or Sprung Out? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-bouncing-back-or-sprung-out/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-bouncing-back-or-sprung-out/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 12:55:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=855609 John writes: You recommended to one writer that he consider replacing the springs on his car (as well as all other wear items in the suspension). Other then the obvious broken spring or the car sitting of the spring stops, when and how do you evaluate the need for springs? Do you recommend stock setting […]

The post Piston Slap: Bouncing Back or Sprung Out? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

John writes:

You recommended to one writer that he consider replacing the springs on his car (as well as all other wear items in the suspension). Other then the obvious broken spring or the car sitting of the spring stops, when and how do you evaluate the need for springs? Do you recommend stock setting or performance springs for replacement?

Thanks, John (Jag, Kia, Miata, Chev)

Sajeev answers:

The most obvious sign of a worn out coil spring is a super plush ride combined with a saggy ride height at any corner. Funny tire wear or an impossible to find groan could also be a sign of bad coil springs. If you drive on suspension punishing roads (Boston-like urban, or unpaved rural) and drive a vehicle that’s 5+ years old with 100,000-ish miles, odds are a saggy coil has sprung its last proper rebound.

This isn’t obvious like a leaky air suspension bladder puking out pressurized air, but metal fatigue is for real. Even when not felt: springs, much like headlight bulbs, go bad very slowly.

While shocks/dampers affect ride, they can’t do a darn thing if the springs collapse to the point of no return. A proper ride height check is good, or just measuring right height from left to right with a few fingers.  If one side has less space between your fingers, you just diagnosed the problem. (speaking from personal experience)

Fortunately there are quick fixes for many cars: something like Monroe’s Quick Strut saves you money (labor hours) or time (in your garage) as you replace both the shock and strut in one shot, cheaper than changing the strut itself. Nice.

Last question: stick with stock or go performance aftermarket?  That’s a personal preference for which you gave me zero personal insight.  I normally default to retaining the stock spring, as it has the correct rate to ensure a fine ride/handling balance and won’t bottom out when loaded with passengers/cargo.  It’s always the safe bet. But…

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

When it comes to shocks/struts/dampers or whatever you like to call them, that’s a different story. Some of my favorite performing vehicles use stock springs with aftermarket shocks of the premium performance variety:  Koni or Bilstein for starters.  Most drivers need a stock spring (even if they don’t want to admit it) but they certainly want superior control over the spring’s up/down motion.  Aside from well sorted out performance cars, you’d be shocked at just how much better an OEM spring and performance damper work together to bring a big-ass smile to your face when hugging a corner or two. And that’s even more reason to stick with stock springs.

 

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.

The post Piston Slap: Bouncing Back or Sprung Out? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-bouncing-back-or-sprung-out/feed/ 22
Piston Slap: Double A (Beep! Beep!) Em, Cee, Oh… (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-double-a-beep-beep-em-cee-oh-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-double-a-beep-beep-em-cee-oh-part-ii/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:06:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=855409 TTAC commentator M0L0TOV has an update for us: Hey Sajeev, I figured I’d send you an update so people would know what happened to my situation. Well, I went ahead and tried to contact AAMCO. First I tried contacting them via their website but almost a week had passed and no response. So I contact […]

The post Piston Slap: Double A (Beep! Beep!) Em, Cee, Oh… (Part II) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
TTAC commentator M0L0TOV has an update for us:

Hey Sajeev,

I figured I’d send you an update so people would know what happened to my situation. Well, I went ahead and tried to contact AAMCO. First I tried contacting them via their website but almost a week had passed and no response. So I contact them via their Facebook page, the next day I got a response with a phone number, name, and e-mail address of somebody at corporate to contact. I sent them an e-mail, I got a call from the owner of the Aamco where I had originally taken my car within ten minutes.

He stated he was notified by the customer service department and we had a disagreement. He offered to not charge me for the labor and I would pay for the part. I was perfectly fine with paying for the part, I wasn’t looking for a free ride. I thought their offer was fair because it would have been replaced when the work was originally being done. I picked up my car today and paid $214.00 and I get a 90 day warranty. So yes, the system works. I appreciate everybody’s advice on this matter and I was able to force their hand.

Thanks for all your help Sajeev and the rest of the TTAC readers!

Sajeev answers:

Behold the power of social media.

BEHOLD IT RIGHT NOW!

Between what you experienced, my firsthand experiences (disclosure: social media is my full time gig) and “little” things like the Arab Spring or whatever makes people love Justin Bieber, there’s no doubt social media is a powerful tool for customer service.  Or a service for powerful tools…but I digress.

The system works, with pleases me immensely.  So kudos to AAMCO for doing the right thing, once they heard about it.  And doing it rather quickly: it’s rare ’round these Piston Slap bloggy parts when a company interacts with one of us and does the right thing. So let’s relish this moment of (seemingly) good karma.

Happy Monday to you, Dear Reader.

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.

 

The post Piston Slap: Double A (Beep! Beep!) Em, Cee, Oh… (Part II) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-double-a-beep-beep-em-cee-oh-part-ii/feed/ 15
Super Piston Slap: I Know What I Don’t Know http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/super-piston-slap-i-know-what-i-dont-know/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/super-piston-slap-i-know-what-i-dont-know/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 12:45:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=851082 Were you ever taught something you already knew, something you normally teach others? That moment of surrealism came for this regional LeMons Judge while attending the Newbie School in a new racing series called the World Racing League. Baruth already gave you a tease: I set aside the idiotic ironic Indian Chief hat of LeMons […]

The post Super Piston Slap: I Know What I Don’t Know appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Were you ever taught something you already knew, something you normally teach others? That moment of surrealism came for this regional LeMons Judge while attending the Newbie School in a new racing series called the World Racing League. Baruth already gave you a tease: I set aside the idiotic ironic Indian Chief hat of LeMons for a weekend stint as a racer/pit crew/errand boy with the same team that brought you the iconic Ford Fairmont Wagon: now with more Granada.

To see the stance is to know it: Property Devaluation Racing made a worthy successor to their Fox station wagon.  So when these guys offered me a spot in the Granada and their similarly-spec’d Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, I took Friday off, forked over the fees, picked up another Fox Body loyalist from Hobby Airport (you might remember his Homer Simpson car) and hit the road for College Station.

I drove the Granada for 10 minutes during the Friday afternoon test ‘n tune session, and felt great: the Granada’s flat cornering with mild understeer was a natural transition from my street going Fox Body Cougar.  But the first day of racing?

Logging 100-ish miles in the Thunderbird was a different story: the Granada’s tame demeanor was replaced with something a (handling savvy) teammate later explained as body roll induced oversteer. The Thunderbird had razor-sharp turn-in, so sloppy steering inputs netted body roll which reduced the rear tire’s contact patch, easily inducing oversteer.  Lap 1 resulted in a huge spin entering a corner at around 50mph.  Lap 2 was no better: a similar wipeout left me bewildered, frustrated.

Both times I self-reported my impending black flags before the staff received word from the corner workers. Perhaps LeMons taught me well.

Not well enough. The Thunderbird’s owner’s words in my Nerdie helmet kit were clear: spin again and you’re out for good.  It was the reality check I needed, quickly swallowing my pride and methodically retracing the track at a slower pace. This let me understand how drastically the Thunderbird sits/lifts with my steering inputs.

Racing the Thunderbird was like a scientific experiment: repeat the process but alter a variable every time.  Enter the turn at the right speed, monitor your steering inputs and smoothly accelerate exit post-apex.  If you turned too hot, the rear tires howled: slightly dial the wheel back and they shut up.  Thank goodness for TWS’ banked oval, it was the only place I blipped the throttle, downshifted to 3rd and comfortably unwound the Thunderbird’s wicked Windsor V8 to pass “slower” cars. Sure I was slow and hyper-conscious elsewhere, but the banked oval experience continues to give me goosebumps.

Now the World Racing League is an interesting series: damn near any class of car races on the same track.  I was passed by far more professional drivers in LeMons cars, Spec Miatas and misc. track beasts to the point my left hand seemingly spent more time doing the “point by” for others than grasping the tiller. And a certain Poorvette absolutely clobbered every car out there, as you’d expect from the wholly under appreciated C4 Corvette.

I learned something besides the obligatory “damn that was so exciting I’d totally do it again” statement of any autojourno in my shoes: my racing technique toolbox just multiplied. The Thunderbird gave me a new set of tools, items previously more foreign than Portuguese.  So now I Know What I Don’t Know. Several of my friends suggested I embrace this new addiction to hone my skills, as I’m now a racer.

No dice.

Racing brought me a short term joy that I will gladly spend another $1000 in fees, gas, hotel, meals, etc. to replicate another weekend.  But the Thunderbird helped me cross a (final?) frontier: I did what made moonshiners so famous, racing/working on a boring car made from bits of more impressive vehicles. This experience crystallized my plan to write the definitive story of Ford’s underappreciated chassis.  I told others about this (including a working vacation to the Detroit Public Library) and they agreed: that’s a book they’d read.

Which isn’t exactly the point: like the benefits of grade school music programs, racing helps you in your real world.

It’s a deeply personal experience that everyone with a modicum of disposable income should try. Go race and then make yourself. Just don’t get motivated to write a book about Fox Bodies, that’s my schtick.

The post Super Piston Slap: I Know What I Don’t Know appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/super-piston-slap-i-know-what-i-dont-know/feed/ 21
Piston Slap: Front Row Seating for Milanese Discomfort? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-front-row-seating-for-milanese-discomfort/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-front-row-seating-for-milanese-discomfort/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 11:05:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850074 TTAC Commentator BigOlds writes: Hi Sajeev, I have a bit of an odd one, I suspect: I currently drive a fullsize pickup, but I may be taking a new job, trading my 38 mile country drive for a 38 mile drive into the city, complete with undersized garage parking. The truck will severely limit the […]

The post Piston Slap: Front Row Seating for Milanese Discomfort? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

TTAC Commentator BigOlds writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I have a bit of an odd one, I suspect: I currently drive a fullsize pickup, but I may be taking a new job, trading my 38 mile country drive for a 38 mile drive into the city, complete with undersized garage parking. The truck will severely limit the number of acceptable spaces, and generally be a pain in there. My solution is to take over the wife’s 2008 Milan (which has been truly flawless for 75,000 miles) and buy her something else. Naturally she’s thrilled with the idea, and this piles the tough commute onto something that is well this side of new. Win-win, right?

Well, the issue is that I can NOT get comfortable driving that car. My wife adores it, and as a passenger I am fine, but when I drive I feel like the seat isn’t deep enough, or maybe not tall enough, and the backs of my thighs get extremely uncomfortable. I don’t know if this is the lateral support reviewers always talk about, but it becomes unpleasant very quickly. I have tried adjusting the seat every which way, but to take another stab at explaining it, it’s like my knees are higher than my butt, so all the weight shifts to the back of my thighs, and the seat won’t go high enough off the floor to bring my thighs level.

Anyway, since the fiscally prudent thing is for me to drive this car, I would like a way to solve this issue. Otherwise, I will probably leave the Milan with my wife and find myself the cheapest commuter car I can.

Thanks
BigOlds

Sajeev answers:

Oh my damn, Son! You done hit one of my hot buttons!

Thigh support became a thing for me back in ’03: when I drove my Mark VIII from Houston to Atlanta with almost no discomfort.  After that I was cognizant of my legs’ warning signs in many an auto show vehicle sit-down. A somewhat unfounded generalization?  Sure, so I’m certainly interested in the B&B’s opinion. 

Damn near every auto manufacturer was guilty of half-assed design at the beginning of the current millennium. And thigh support certainly took a back seat (get it?): everything from C5 Corvettes to Town Cars (but not other Panthers), the Mercedes E-class (not AMG) to the Camry sported shorter seats, thinner pads and much less support. All of which drove my right hip and both knees into spasms of discomfort.  The only brands I remember giving a free pass were Volvo, Saab and BMW.

What’s your solution? Get another car, leave the Milan with the wife. There’s no way you can enjoy the seats.  Adding more padding and/or longer cushions to cradle your thighs (then fitting new seat covers) is beyond foolish.  Swapping seats with another Ford is doable, except the seat mounts/tracks and airbag wiring could be a nightmare.  I wouldn’t even try those messaging wooden seat beads (the ones that Cab drivers supposedly rave about).

Whatever you buy, make sure you drive it for an afternoon before you pull the trigger. And never fear, as there are plenty of new cars with better seats: even the dirt cheap ones.  And, after spending a week with the new Fusion, there’s no doubt Ford fixed that seat too.

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.

The post Piston Slap: Front Row Seating for Milanese Discomfort? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-front-row-seating-for-milanese-discomfort/feed/ 84