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. Sat, 01 Aug 2015 18:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 » Piston Slap http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/piston-slap/ Piston Slap: The Fallacy of Aftermarket Performance? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-fallacy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-fallacy/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 16:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1125361   Evan writes: Hi Sajeev! How do people get your name wrong when it is in your email address? But that wasn’t why I was calling. My question: are aftermarket parts for brand spanking new cars sensible? For instance, I’m picking up an Audi SQ5 and there are these ‘x-brace’ things and mount inserts. Why would Audi […]

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034-505-2016-animation

(animation courtesy: store.034motorsport.com)

Evan writes:

Hi Sajeev!

How do people get your name wrong when it is in your email address? But that wasn’t why I was calling. My question: are aftermarket parts for brand spanking new cars sensible?

For instance, I’m picking up an Audi SQ5 and there are these ‘x-brace’ things and mount inserts. Why would Audi not have engineered it well enough in the first place? Money savings? They didn’t think whatever attribute x-braces add was ‘for’ the SQ5 demographic?

Or are companies selling mount inserts and eXtra bracing to people with $60k sport-crossoverUVs selling snake oil?

Thanks for the insight!

Sajeev answers:

You can’t make generalizations — except about the horrible people calling me Sanjeev even though my name’s been plastered all over TTAC since March 2006…but I digress.

Vehicles are designed to a certain expectation of performance, ride quality, cost constraints, and acceptance to a wide variety of consumer preferences. Aftermarket performance modifications can do better than factory stuff.

But some are worse than other aftermarket alternatives, especially against those of a creative and grassroots racer nature. Sadly, many (either by themselves or in a package) only make a difference to the owner’s perception of vehicle performance and some parts are worse than what came from the factory (i.e. oversized throttle bodies on a naturally-aspirated motor). Take it from the guy that loves tweaking RWD Fords: every scenario above is true.

It’s like walking through a metaphorical minefield: keen research, trusted advisers with years of hands-on experience, and hours of internet forum digging are mandatory to sort fact from fiction.

So, shut up and tell us, what’s the scoop on these SQ5 bits? Well, I’ve never driven said vehicle…

However, I rather like those billet aluminum bushing inserts, even though billet and anodized finishes are often overpriced flash. Yes, many forms of motorsport require such fancypants materials, but that doesn’t apply to the SQ5. Flash doesn’t sell me; tangible improvements in performance does. To wit, these babies likely improve performance out of the hole, especially with an aftermarket computer tune bumping up performance, reducing torque management and perking up throttle response.

Yet I wonder if there’s a universal fit, solid (rubber or invasive polyurethane) bushing you can buy from a catalog (or from another VAG product) — which might be like, waaay cheaper, son.

And since a new Audi is far from the flexi-flyer chassis of my beloved Fox Ford products, I question the value of any chassis improvement on a higher dollar luxury car, much less a billet aluminum one. Does it stiffen the chassis and improve feel enough to matter? Maybe it helps NVH control. Perhaps handling is more confident with other modifications. Odds are, though, it won’t make the SQ5 any quicker on a track.

Consider, if you will, improving the factory part: adding metal (perhaps triangular sheetmetal between the weak points?) welded it up by someone familiar with roll cages. Perhaps that aftermarket part is a good template. That’s more labor and it won’t be billet aluminum pretty…but, right or wrong, it’s the other side of this coin.

Don’t forget one other important fact: modifications are worth pennies on the dollar in the vehicle resale department. Many will lower the value as stock vehicles are preferred at trade-in time. The SQ5’s bits add curb appeal for buyers motivated to get on their hands and knees to see them, which amounts to precisely nobody in the used car market.

Don’t get me wrong, I love modifying cars with cool aftermarket bits, but it boils down to two words: buyer beware

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

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TTAC Project Car: Sacrifice to The Sierra Gods! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-project-car-sacrifice-sierra-gods/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-project-car-sacrifice-sierra-gods/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1128273   No surprise, the auto journo that insists on everything LS-swapped is actually a big ol’ fraud. Do as he says, not as he does with TTAC’s Project Car — a 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia previously reviewed with the promise of more to come. Promises: kept. After scouring the interwebs, reading about the Sierra’s factory […]

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Merkur? ZOMG SANJEEV Y U NO LS1-FTW?

Merkur? ZOMG SANJEEV Y U NO LS1-FTW?

No surprise, the auto journo that insists on everything LS-swapped is actually a big ol’ fraud. Do as he says, not as he does with TTAC’s Project Car — a 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia previously reviewed with the promise of more to come.

Promises: kept.

After scouring the interwebs, reading about the Sierra’s factory shortcomings and applying a modicum of common sense, the ultimate in Chevrolet LS-performance was beyond my financial scope and my intentions for a Mk1 Sierra. Stuffing 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag, no matter the ability to make the baddest, brown, 5-door hatch on the planet, wasn’t in the cards.

1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

Then a 1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe arrived via phone call. Bought by my friend (and infamous LeMons racer) Brian Pollock as a rust-free restomod worthy of a good home, he parted it out to feed his racing addiction. True to form, he made a quick buck off me with its valuable Fox Body parts, but our conversation soon regressed to the Sierra-worthy goodies: the turbocharged 2.3-liter mill, EEC-IV fuel injection, T-5 gearbox (a la Sierra Cosworth), the largest injectors/camshaft/manifold/VAM of its breed, rear disc brakes and even a serpentine accessory belt drive. It was all mine for $700, with Brian’s commitment to be the craftsman behind this madness.

IMG_5310

Then another LeMons racer offered the running, restorable 1988 Merkur XR4ti (American Sierra to you noobs) seen in this article’s introduction. Sure, the motor’s hurt, but it rounds out the Sierra’s Ford-ification: a drop-in EFI wiring harness/fuel system/clutch, bigger (front) brakes, firmer springs, fatter anti-sway bars, stronger 7.5-inch differential and countless interior bits including a boost gauge.

$600? Sold! There’s even my favorite 2.3-liter aluminum cam cover with complimentary mud dauber nest:

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Shockingly, the Merkur’s hurt motor fired up on first attempt after a 2+ year slumber. Once the amazement subsided (terrible quality YouTube video remains), the notion of driving a parts car certainly beats pushing the damn thing.

For the price of an LS1 take-out motor, my path to being a complete fraud — a two-faced bastard of massive proportions — was complete. Plus, I enjoy slamming performance Ford parts in Ford products where they do not belong. It’s been my shtick with non-Mustang Fox Bodies since 1999.

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Necessary Aside: Behold the amazing parts interchangeability of (disturbingly comfortable) Turbo Coupe seats in Brian’s Ford truck. It’s also a 5-speed Fummins conversion, garnering attention from the tow-savvy among the B&B in our last article, effortlessly yanking the Merkur, T-bird and the Sierra around Texas. Aside from the color clash, this embodies everything I wanted to share in this update.

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That’s a very handy book to find in the back seat of your Merkur parts car. I bet I can get $50 for it when I’m done with the swap. So what’s next for TTAC’s Ford Sierra?

The Turbo Coupe is stripped; of no further use to anyone but China. It’ll be scrap metal by the time you read this.

IMG_5336

The Merkur isn’t long for this world, but the sacrificial lamb’s pain is pure pleasure to The Sierra Gods. I suspect we’re swapping subframes (for that stiffer suspension and big differential), grabbing fuel, drivetrain and EFI wiring bits in the coming months. And since its rust free, maybe I’ll sawzall off the rocker panels as the Sierra is a tad rusty-crusty after those hard UK winters.

IMG_5324

Most of this is on Brian’s plate, but me? I’m ensuring the Merkur’s computer accepts a tune like the (better) unit salvaged from the Turbo Coupe, with input from my SCT tuner friend. Perhaps intake, exhaust and camshaft upgrades are in the mix. You never know!

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I’m also geeking out over the Merkur’s factory boost gauge via installation into the Sierra’s cluster. Not a direct drop in, as the right-hand-drive Sierra puts the speedometer (and cable) on the wrong side of the assembly.

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Nothing I can’t handle.

What other roadblocks shall TTAC’s project encounter? Until next time!

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Piston Slap: TIPM and the Freemont’s Enlightening Journey Down Under http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-tipm-freemonts-journey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-tipm-freemonts-journey/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1125289   Thanks to the 40+ people who sent queries to Piston Slap over the week. I’ve insisted the satisfaction derived from our interaction is why I keep writing, that everything else is merely gravy. Delicious gravy, but just that. You’ve once again validated that fact. – SM Bob writes: Good Morning Sajeev, I am asking a question about the […]

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Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit (photo courtesy: blog.fiat.com.au)

Thanks to the 40+ people who sent queries to Piston Slap over the week. I’ve insisted the satisfaction derived from our interaction is why I keep writing, that everything else is merely gravy. Delicious gravy, but just that. You’ve once again validated that fact. – SM

Bob writes:

Good Morning Sajeev,

I am asking a question about the headlights of my 2015 Fiat Freemont, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder variety. In particular, replacing the globe in the left headlamp assembly. In the manual it states to move/relocate the TIPM. On the forums there is nothing mentioned about how to remove this particular item, plus I read all the horror stories about the TIPM, unreliability, etc.

As getting to the globe without removing the TIPM looks like an exercise in British engineering — “if you can make something important inaccessible, please do” — is it safe to (1) remove it? (2) how? and (3) what are the consequences if various things have to be disconnected?

The reason for changing the headlights so early (it’s only been in possession for a week) is that down under these headlights are not very effective. Stock standard halogens do not cut the mustard when you are at 110km/h surrounded by ‘roo’s, goats and other livestock. I would like to see them a bit further down the road, rather than right next to me on the shoulder of the road, before deciding whether to ruin my day and theirs.

Sajeev answers:

G’day, mate! Nice to see you’ve moved from German underengineering to one of Fiat’s finer works of underengineering! Not that the Dodge Journey is a terrible vehicle, even in Italian badge-engineered form.

The forums agree with the factory manual’s assessment of moving the TIPM to access the headlight bulb. It’s not a cause for worry, even if TIPM boxes are rather fragile. If so inclined, disconnect the battery for an hour (so the system will drain out) before starting disassembly. How do you remove the TIPM? Maybe this Jeep thread helps. After that, the process seems easy.

To be fair, I worry about upgrading headlights on a TIPM-controlled Chrysler Fiat product and burning out the damn module…then voiding parts of your warranty. And whatever bulb you install won’t be a good fit to a lighting pod designed for #9005 or #9006 halogen bulbs — perhaps a moot point, as you won’t blind other drivers in the middle of nowhere. (Who cares if the ‘roos get a little blind, right?) But if you must, avoid the radioactively bright, high-kelvin HIDs, install headlight relays and an inline fuse going to the TIPM. That fuse might rescue the TIPM, saving you hundreds.

I’d rather avoid it all via aftermarket driving lights from a big name company certified legal in Australia. Run them near/in place of the bumper mounted fog lights, wiring them directly to the battery. Then run a TIPM-free switch directly from the wiring to the interior. Install the switch under the dash or inside the center console, as to not upset the interior’s fine Italian design.

Possibly mediocre US-spec headlights possibly redesigned for Fiat’s global needs? Dubious conversions to stronger headlights with glare galore? TIPM failure issues? Warranty concerns?

Just skip it all and go aftermarket.

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

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Piston Slap: Reporting on The Oil Report http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-reporting-oil-report/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-reporting-oil-report/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 11:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1123169   Greg writes: Sajeev, first let me thank you for your interesting article on Mazda rust last year. Ultimately I bought the Accord, which to me seemed to have the superior (and quite lovely) stick shift, even though the Mazda is reputed superior in that department. I decided for kicks and giggles to get my […]

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To change or not to change? (photo courtesy: www.noria.com)

Greg writes:

Sajeev, first let me thank you for your interesting article on Mazda rust last year. Ultimately I bought the Accord, which to me seemed to have the superior (and quite lovely) stick shift, even though the Mazda is reputed superior in that department.

I decided for kicks and giggles to get my oil tested by Blackstone, and I thought this might be a potential article for Piston Slap (not my adventure, but the practice of having it done).

It wasn’t as complete a report as one might hope, because my mechanic forgot to draw the sample and dumped the oil in the barrel. All I could forward to Blackstone was a few drops from the oil filter. But they were able to test that small sample, except for the flashpoint and viscosity.

Here’s the report in PDF form.

Of interest:

  1. The metals are about 10x the average level of metals (chrome, copper, aluminum, molybdenum, etc.) in most cars. Blackstone said this is the breaking in process, but this is the first time I’ve seen real data on the “wearing in” or “breaking in” of a car.
  2. The TBN (total base number) was 2.1, over the 1.0 minimum suggested by Blackstone, after 8,200 miles. Apparently engine oils are made to lean to the base side and as they get used the base number declines and in the extreme case will become acidic. I did some research on this and the TBN of the OEM Honda oil was apparently about 8.1 when new (just sleuthing around to see what Honda used) and the TBN of the Mobil 1 synethetic 0-20W is about 8.8. If you get the long-lasting or extended use formula (whatever they call it) it has a TBN of about 12 when new but you’re going up to something like 5-30, which is not the recommended oil for this Accord.

For $40 I think it was a useful thing to do. It put my mind to rest about my practice of changing my oil 2x a year, and it seems like something one should do in the first year or two of ownership and again in the car’s elder years when it can diagnose various kinds of engine degradation. Apparently oil testing is a competitive industry, but the usual customer is a fleet owner who is looking at a significant operating cost in oil changes.

Sajeev concludes:

I am glad these oil report services exist as they do make folks feel more comfortable and help ensure a healthy motor. As we’ve learned from many vehicles (here and here, for starters) over the last 15+ years, doing whatever the owner’s manual recommends isn’t necessarily the right move.

Blackstone’s recommendation to extend your oil change intervals to 9,000 miles makes sense, considering their analysis and the fact that this Honda isn’t known to be a sludge bucket.

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

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

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ATTN PISTON SLAPPERS: Re-send Your Questions, Please http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/attn-piston-slappers-re-send-your-questions-please/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/attn-piston-slappers-re-send-your-questions-please/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 17:52:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1121825 Sajeev’s email just went all PC LOAD LETTER. If you sent in a question using his email in the post this morning, chances are he didn’t receive it. Please send your question again to editors@ttac.com and I will forward it over to him. Thank you, Mark

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Sajeev’s email just went all PC LOAD LETTER. If you sent in a question using his email in the post this morning, chances are he didn’t receive it. Please send your question again to editors@ttac.com and I will forward it over to him.

Thank you,
Mark

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Piston Slap: Submit Queries Now or This LSC Gets It! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-submit-queries-lsc-gets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-submit-queries-lsc-gets/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 12:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1120257   Sajeev writes: Yes, I’m riffing on that infamous 1980s Car & Driver promotion about doing something-something or we’ll shoot this dog. My coffers are almost empty: TTAC’s readership needs to send questions to answer on Piston Slap. Because, if you don’t… Actually no, even if Piston Slap dies (along with my auto-journo career and paycheck) I won’t kill […]

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Make your Mark so Sanjeev doesn’t have to.

Sajeev writes:

Yes, I’m riffing on that infamous 1980s Car & Driver promotion about doing something-something or we’ll shoot this dog.

My coffers are almost empty: TTAC’s readership needs to send questions to answer on Piston Slap. Because, if you don’t…

Actually no, even if Piston Slap dies (along with my auto-journo career and paycheck) I won’t kill my Mark VIII LSC mid-restoration. Nor will I abort the wicked powertrain swap planned for TTAC’s project Ford Sierra. Money is overrated, and there’s more info on the Sierra coming soon.

But we (you and me) can’t continue to make the interactive column I once envisioned many moons ago without your help. Email me (sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com [For the time being, send inquiries to editors@ttac.com as it seems Sajeev’s email is borked. Also, if you already sent Sajeev your question, please send it again to the new address. Technology, man. -Mark) with any question about your car, cars in general, theoretical situations and just about anything else. Just a few minutes on the keyboard from you nets plenty of joy from TTAC readers.

Don’t be shy.

Stop lurking.

Make it happen.

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

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Piston Slap: The Cons of Recon Before Trade-in? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-cons-recon-trading/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-cons-recon-trading/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 11:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1113713 TTAC commentator cwallace writes: Sajeev, Here’s what’s probably an easy question for you: Is it ever worth the money to update wear items on a car before trading it in? My trusty 2007 Accord EX V6 is suddenly about to cost me some real money. With 154,000 miles on it, the tires are about shot, […]

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dirtycar

Low Miles, One Owner… (photo courtesy: www.parknshine.com)

TTAC commentator cwallace writes:

Sajeev,

Here’s what’s probably an easy question for you: Is it ever worth the money to update wear items on a car before trading it in?

My trusty 2007 Accord EX V6 is suddenly about to cost me some real money. With 154,000 miles on it, the tires are about shot, it needs new struts, there’s a crack in the windshield, and the rear main seal is starting to make a mess of my driveway. Plus, my commute just got a lot longer, so the lack of creature comforts (like sound insulation, for heaven’s sake) make me think I’ve got my money’s worth from this car.

Other than those things, it looks good for its age, and everything else works just as it should. All that dealership service paid off, is what I tell myself.

Anyway, should I bother fixing the windshield and maybe putting a new set of tires on it before trading it in? If I were selling it to another person, I’d do that only because I am an ardent believer in karma, but I’m sure a dealer can do that work more cost effectively than I can — so should I bother?

(P.S., I’m taking over command of my wife’s Mazda CX-9 and she’s getting a Toyota Sienna, so it isn’t going back to a Honda store, if that makes a difference somehow.)

Sajeev answers:

Good question. Perhaps a Honda store likes new tires as part of reconditioning your trade into a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle, but not with your Honda’s age and mileage. Reconditioning for trade-in is a slippery slope. Dealers usually expect to recondition (or dump at auction) and your “value add” won’t mean as much to them as to you.

More to the point: Leave service records on the passenger seat and clean from bumper to bumper to get the most value on trade-in. Dirty, cluttered cars are both hard and/or time consuming to appraise and (more importantly) allude to overall vehicle neglect.

Why? Because it’s a sad reality of trading in a vehicle. Your car — unless Certified Pre-Owned, with the assumed quality from that asking price — will likely be sold to someone who doesn’t care about the quality of the reconditioning. New Michelin Pilot tires? The Kelly-Springfields look just as black and round to me. New glass? Nice, but the dealer probably gets it done for less.

Seeing a clean interior, fresh fluids, good (enough) tires, decent brakes, a solid Carfax and everything working on the test drive is a 99 percent guaranteed sale to someone.

While it’s possible to demand more for your trade-in because of reconditioning, you must include that in the negotiation. If not, you’ll get pennies on the dollar invested. Sell fully reconditioned cars for private party money on the open market for maximum profit. Otherwise, dump it as-is, and trade-in like everyone else yearning for a new ride.

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

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Piston Slap: Trusting Auto Journos on DSG Reliability? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-trusting-autojournos-dsg-reliability/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-trusting-autojournos-dsg-reliability/#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2015 11:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1107457   Mike writes: Hi Sajeev, I’ve enjoyed your columns. [That makes one of you! – SM] The VW and Audi Forums are still abuzz with reports of VW mechatronic failures in the mid-2000s DSGs. Do you have any information as to whether the newer versions (they’re from a 6 to 7 speed DSG, I read) are any […]

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Insert Q*bert sound. (photo courtesy: www.vwvortex.com)

Mike writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’ve enjoyed your columns. [That makes one of you! – SM]

The VW and Audi Forums are still abuzz with reports of VW mechatronic failures in the mid-2000s DSGs. Do you have any information as to whether the newer versions (they’re from a 6 to 7 speed DSG, I read) are any less failure prone than the earlier versions? 

I read in one of Mr. Baruth’s columns that auto journalists (or whatever we might call them) find themselves constrained to avoid commenting on the chronic reliability problems in your latest whiz-bang pseudo-racer mobile, lest they fall from favor with the manufacturer and their access to further models for reviews be cut off. (What David E Davis could do, Joe Schmoe can’t, if he is writing for a small internet site.)

I’m thinking that your average “review” of a new car is substantially lacking when it comes to mentioning the failures and weak points of similar models or products of the manufacturer. (Warping Honda rotors, anyone?)

Thanks for your response, and with all due consideration to the memory of Henry N. Manny III.

Sajeev answers:

How ’bout I solve world hunger while I’m at it? Perhaps I can ensure all future IMF interventions shall not result in economic catastrophe for a sovereign nation? 

Because making a clear cut statement about 6 vs. 7-speed DSG reliability is similarly impossible. Too many variables, impossible to distill when Google is your only resource: the diverse environments of a global VAG-buying audience, various engine and body configurations, driving/towing styles, an owner’s willingness to RTFM and do the mandatory servicing, etc. There was a global recall on the later gearbox, as new fluid was introduced, not to mention other recalls over time.

Read this 110-page thread and tell me you don’t wanna curl up into a ball, cry until you no longer feel anything and rush out to buy something — anything — with a Powerglide.

And yes, ignore whatever an auto journo suggests as per Jack’s reasoning. But that doesn’t apply to me, always listen to me. I get press cars, like, once every 4 years. And this happened on my first (and last!) junket. How trustworthy I am! But I digress…

DSGs are pretty cool and fun, which holds much value to many folks. If you buy a new DSG-equipped vehicle, make sure fluid services are performed as per manufacturer demands. IIRC, it’s a fluid/filter change every 40,000 miles for several hundred dollars. The YouTube video above can help your wallet, if that’s what you really want.

If you want a used DSG, insist on an example with a full service history (preferably from a reputable independent shop or the dealer), or get one with a warranty…or just buy whatever you like and bet it all on red. It’s only money, you know. 

If all this scares you, get a VAG product with a stick. Then again, we have the Best and Brightest — they are pretty good at this.

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

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Piston Slap: Saabaru Takata Airbag Recall Kerfuffle? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-saabaru-takata-airbag-recall-kerfuffle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-saabaru-takata-airbag-recall-kerfuffle/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1107521   Ron writes: Sajeev, I’ve what should be a straightforward question, but before I go down the rabbit hole with Subaru and GM, I thought I would get some advice. My girlfriend bought a ’05 Saab 9-2X recently. She loves the car and has been making plans for modifying the interior (she’s a lead electronics tech). Anyway, […]

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They didn't make compromises, they made Saabs?

They didn’t make compromises, they made Saabs?

Ron writes:

Sajeev, I’ve what should be a straightforward question, but before I go down the rabbit hole with Subaru and GM, I thought I would get some advice. My girlfriend bought a ’05 Saab 9-2X recently. She loves the car and has been making plans for modifying the interior (she’s a lead electronics tech). Anyway, Subaru broadened their Takata airbag recall to include ’05 WRXs…which is essentially what her car is, under the skin.

You can see the question coming, of course.

As Saab is dead, who does she talk to about getting the recall work done? Is there some skeleton crew left keeping the lights on at Saab specifically for safety issues? Does Saabs’ former owner/assassin, GM, handle them? Or should we talk to Subaru, the company that actually built the car and certainly knows best how to work on them? Searching online gets conflicting information; the NHTSA website says that GM will handle 9-2X recalls, virtually everyone else says that Subaru handles them.

Thanks for any light you can shed on this.

Sajeev answers:

Virtually everyone else? Remember who owned Saab and is legally responsible for their products. Who would go against NHTSA on this? Perhaps you should call this 1-800 number. Or, after a little more Googling, the NHTSA link you mentioned is a resounding endorsement for GM:

Subaru will notify their owners and General Motors will notify Saab owners. Dealers will replace the passenger air bag inflator, free of charge. The recall began on June 17, 2015. Owners may contact Subaru customer service at 1-800-782-2783. Owners of Saab vehicles may call 1-800-955-9007. Subaru’s number for this recall is WQR-53. Note: This recall partially supersedes recall 14V-763 in that model year 2004 through 2005 Subaru Impreza and model year 2005 Saab 9-2x vehicles are now only part of this campaign.

I would contact your most favorite, highest rated, local GM dealership for advice. Why? Because they are the ones tasked with getting parts, installing them and being compensated for their trouble. Odds are they’ll be overwhelmed with airbag-related queries, but you’ll be the most memorable of the flock — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as they are likely underwhelmed with replacement stock for any unique GM vehicle.

If Ford made new airbags for the rare Ford GT, your girlfriend’s Saabaru will be just fine. Eventually.

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

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Piston Slap: What’s so Hellabad about Hellaflush? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-whats-hellabad-hellaflush/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-whats-hellabad-hellaflush/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1100985   Casey writes: Hello Sajeev, I had a coworker who had an older Acura NSX that was lowered. He complained about having to buy new tires because they were worn on the inside edge (down to the belts!). He had, what I thought to be, extreme negative camber due to an improper lowering. He said […]

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Nice, Slammed, eXtreme? (photo courtesy: www.nsxprime.com)

Casey writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I had a coworker who had an older Acura NSX that was lowered. He complained about having to buy new tires because they were worn on the inside edge (down to the belts!). He had, what I thought to be, extreme negative camber due to an improper lowering. He said it was supposed to be like that. I have seen other cars running the negative camber and I’ve seen cars that were lowered without. So question, is there a reason to run extreme negative camber or is this just a bad lowering job? 

Sajeev answers:

I agree with your assessment. Very few, if any, performance cars come from the factory aligned aggressively enough to wear tires that unevenly. I reckon that NSX was lowered, tweaked to reflect well upon the Stancenation. To live the Hellaflush lifestyle! To embrace the image of performance, without necessarily improving actual performance.

No seriously, facades are awesome like that. Because I’d be a hypocrite if I said otherwise.

New Cadillacs and Lincolns = Cooler in Houston

Now to make inferences, and foolishly justify them.

There’s always a reason for this: a subtle lowering can improve performance and stance at the same time. On an NSX? Probably not, since it isn’t a buffalo-butted, blunt nosed family sedan jacked up to the sky by the factory. I reckon the fastest NSX on a less-than-perfect track has the factory ride height with a slightly more aggressive wheel alignment. A hellaflush NSX will lose…if that was the point.

It’s totally not the point. We all have a need to look cool, even those who claim otherwise in the comments section below. To wit, I put 1.5″ front lowering springs (factory spring rate) from these guys on my Fox Cougar to both look cool with my 17×8.5″ reproduction Cobra wheels and retain factory-like ride/handling traits. The rears have a small (1/8″) spacer because of the mishmash between wheel offset and new axles from a rear disc brake conversion. All this effort for a modest lowering job is important on a suspension as half-baked as a Fox body Ford.

I avoided the “improper” or “bad lowering job” you mentioned. Well, at least I think so.

Some folks think more aggressive suspension and wheel/tire modifications add extra cool factor to their lives. Perhaps I might be one of them, even if I bristle at the sight of most Hellaflush rides. But Hellaflush riders certainly don’t give a shit about what you or I think.

So let your coworker buddy enjoy his cool looking NSX. If you can’t resist the urge to twist the knife, take him to a track day and let serious racers give him an education that he might deserve. Or not.

UPDATE: TTAC commentator “Sketch” corrected me about the NSX’s factory tire wear issues, sadly my Google-fu failed us all. My apologies. 

 

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

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Piston Slap: The Lambda V6 Half Life? (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-lambda-v6-half-life-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-lambda-v6-half-life-part-ii/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 12:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1100897   Dennis writes: You kindly responded last year to me in regards to an inquiry I made about my 2006 Sonata with the V6. I am still in love with my old beastie. She is approaching 93,000 miles and I just had new plugs and upper front control arms put into the ol’ gal. I read […]

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002966_engine

Riddle me this, Gordan Freeman. (photo courtesy: allhyundaiisuzuparts.com)

Dennis writes:

You kindly responded last year to me in regards to an inquiry I made about my 2006 Sonata with the V6. I am still in love with my old beastie. She is approaching 93,000 miles and I just had new plugs and upper front control arms put into the ol’ gal.

I read some forums that go on and on about this model year’s engine having problems with the Timing Chain Tensioner. I took her to the dealer to have it checked….they did not hear any odd noises to warrant my concerns. However, in my extreme car paranoia, I swear on cold mornings I hear a rattle coming from the engine. My question?

Since I plan on driving this car another 4-5 years, do I do a pre-emptive strike and get the tensioner replaced now? I guess it was made of a plastic that tends to self destruct causing all kinds of horror to occur with the Timing chain?

Your advice is always appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

Are you telling me you didn’t even consider my LS4-FTW swap advice? Come on, Son!

Now, according to the Interwebs (and my gut feeling), timing chain rattle upon start up isn’t the end of the world. Hell, my Lincoln Mark VIII’s chain rattles for 1-2 seconds almost every time the 180,000+ mile V8 fires up. I stopped worrying when I met local Lincoln nuts that are seriously competitive bracket racers. One had 300,000+ miles on his rattling timing chain.

If the chain rattles for longer on start up, say, maybe 5 seconds or more, then yes, by all means replace it as preventative maintenance.

I rarely believe in pre-emptive strikes, unless it saves you time, stress and money in the future. Case in point? Since I mentioned my car…

Some great fanboi he is…

My dumb ass wrecked my beloved Mark VIII back in February. A normal person (if normal people own 20-year-old cars) woulda scrapped it, but not this Lincoln-Mercury Fanboi. Since the rest of the body was looking pretty tired, I went for a full respray. The pre-emptive strike part comes via saving time and money on all the labor involved in stripping a body in order to paint it right. I installed most of these for essentially zero dollars:

  • New HID bulbs and (sorely needed) headlight relays to ease the burden on the inadequate Ford wiring harness.
  • New delayed entry switches in the door latches and a new passenger side window lift motor.
  • A new grille, as the flexible indium plating was looking a bit cruddy.
  • Fix that stupid, enlarged roof hole under the passenger side visor: a gift from the hamfisted jerk that installed the Webasto moonroof back in ’95.
  • Scrape overspray off the weatherstrip from a previous partial body respray.
  • New quarter windows to replace the rubber trim destroyed by an orbital buffer(?).
  • Install a new HVAC head unit since mine quit illuminating a few buttons.
  • New emblems as the chrome was getting pitted.
  • Numerous minor upgrades, which discussing would go even more off-topic.

I’m not suggesting the dichotomy between your Sonata and my Mark VIII means only one of us is justified in their pre-emptive strike. Just that yours can wait until the rattle gets worse.

Wait for more timing chain rattle, enjoy the time before it becomes a bigger problem. I sure as hell did.

 

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

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Piston Slap: Focusing on Steelies, Unsprung Weight? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-steelies-unsprung-weight-bull-breeding/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-steelies-unsprung-weight-bull-breeding/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 11:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1096721   Mark writes: Sajeev, I just ordered a new Focus ST, pretty much the only way to get the zero-option set up I wanted. Can’t wait for it to arrive. The car’s not here yet, but the questions are. This time, a wheel & tire question for your consideration. While we don’t get a massive […]

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tint

(photo courtesy: islandsjake @ www.focusst.org)

Mark writes:

Sajeev,

I just ordered a new Focus ST, pretty much the only way to get the zero-option set up I wanted. Can’t wait for it to arrive. The car’s not here yet, but the questions are. This time, a wheel & tire question for your consideration.

While we don’t get a massive amount of snow here in Southern Illinois, we do get some. I’ve learned the hard way that relatively wide, low profile summer tires and all-seasons are bad news in the winter. I’m ready to go the winter tire route, so I wanted to get your thoughts on wheel choices for winter tires in a minus-1 size.

The cheapskate in me thinks steelies look good in a retro/purposeful way (and better than most cheesy aftermarket alloys) and they are a whole bunch cheaper than aftermarket alloys. But then I saw how steelies are on the order of 10 lbs per wheel heavier. Do you think the extra weight would make much difference in ride and handling? I’m not exactly hypersensitive, but I can tell when a set of tires are crap or when a car’s suspension tuning is all out of whack.

What’s your take, or Sanjeev’s thinking, for that matter: Is unsprung weight much of a factor in a street-driven car’s ride and handling?

Sajeev answers:

Both Sajeev and Sanjeev are disappointed with you!

A REAL cheapskate embraces Ford’s recent history via 16″ alloy Thunder/Cougar/Conti/Mark VIII/Fusion/Windstar/Sable or Taurus wheels of the same bolt pattern. I betcha the FWD Ford’s offset is good enough to just bolt right on, too.

2N1DKn8

Bull Breeding Stock (photo courtesy: Brake_L8 @ www.focusst.org)

Oh yeah, that’s just perfect. I’m sleeping like a stone tonight, knowing that the wholesome Taurus Oedipus Wrecking goodness – that really spun my crank in TTAC’s early days – fits on Ford’s latest Hot Hatch.

But if you wanna sell yourself short, likely spending more for a set of newer steelies, the Internet is cool with that. And what of the steelies’ extra unsprung weight?

Take it from the guy that added a ton (from the stock 15×7 “turbine” to aftermarket faux-Cobra 17×8.5″) to losing 40-50lbs (15×7″ steelies to forged Alcoa 15×7“), you get used to the difference.  It’s subtle, much like comparing the same dish made in different restaurants. The lightweight Fox instantly felt big body AMG Benz-esque over expansion joints and sweepers with slower, “smoother” inertia transfer from a standstill. The Ranger did the opposite: sluggish with unresponsive steering to…uh, somewhat less sluggish and kinda jittery steering feedback sometimes? 

This conversation parallels the whole dancing about architecture thing: irrelevant regarding winter tires in nasty weather.

If you are driving hard enough feel a significant “this restaurant added mangoes to my hamburger!” difference, you’re probably defeating the purpose of driving conservatively in bad weather. Or you are on a racetrack, not enjoying coffee on your morning commute.

ad_ford_taurus_sho_silver_1994

 

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

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Piston Slap: A Fusion of Moonroof Drainage Problems? (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-fusion-moonroof-drainage-problems-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-fusion-moonroof-drainage-problems-part-ii/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 14:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1096217   Matt writes: Hi Sajeev, I’ve got a follow up question to this one. The leak is still happening. It seemed to have stopped over the winter because of the snow and cold. The snow wasn’t melting enough to cause water to come into the car but we’ve been getting heavy rain lately and the […]

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(photo courtesy: OP)

Matt writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’ve got a follow up question to this one. The leak is still happening. It seemed to have stopped over the winter because of the snow and cold. The snow wasn’t melting enough to cause water to come into the car but we’ve been getting heavy rain lately and the leak seems to be back.

I noticed a couple days ago that the sunroof is rusted out on the inside of the rubber seal that runs around the moon roof itself. I’ve attached some pictures of it. The rust seems to stop, from what I can tell, around the drivers side front corner of the moon roof but along the front and especially the front passenger corner of the moon roof the rust is really bad.

I have an appointment next week at the dealership to see what can be done about it but I am really hoping that even though the car is 6 years old that Ford will step up and fix on their dime what, in my opinion, is clearly a case of defect when it was manufactured.

Will the entire moon roof unit need to be replaced? I can’t leave it the way it is because its only going to get worse and worse, but I am wondering what my options are in terms of fixing it – assuming Ford leaves me hanging in the wind which, lets face it, given the cars age is probably what I am looking at. Honestly, I am very upset by this whole thing. I don’t think a 15 year old car let alone a 6 year old one should be suffering from a rusted out moonroof.

Any help would be much appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

Turns out, from your last query, the B&B nailed it. Kudos to “vinnie” for this nugget of wisdom:

“Hey, so the dealer just figured out this same exact problem in my 2012 SE. It took several calls to Ford engineering and a year of trial and error for them to figure it out. It ended up being the moonroof glass itself. Apparently the metal band that is around the actual glass can become separated and water can get in there and leak into the headliner. Based on what Ford told them, they put in 3 brand new moonroof glass panels before they found one that worked, so there seemed to have been a bad batch or two where the metal and glass were not bonded correctly. Good luck…”

With that in mind, I suggest:

  1. What does your owner’s manual say about the corrosion warranty’s duration? You still might be okay on years, but IIRC, you will be way past it if they limit your mileage.
  2. Talk to the dealer and see if you can get the name of a Ford warranty/claims rep. Plead your case, professionally. Don’t ruin someone’s day – someone that had nothing to do with your problem and has their hands tied. Generally speaking: good customers that make their case known in a pleasant manner get things done far more often than nasty-tempered customers.
  3. Manufacturers (and dealers, ‘natch) love customers that come back for service to the dealership. This paper trail makes it easier for either Ford or the dealer to get you a new moonroof glass for no charge. It’s called goodwill repairs and it happens all the time.

Answering your final question: moonroof glass can be replaced separately from the entire assembly in the roof.  It’s usually a handful of screws attaching it to the”arms” of the assembly.  If Ford leaves you out in the cold, just get a replacement moonroof from a junkyard based in a rust free portion of the US.

 

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

 

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Piston Slap: Synthetic Oil’s Historic Race to The Bottom? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-race-bottom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-race-bottom/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1093025   TTAC Commentator RS writes: How much Synthetic Oil is actually in Semi-Synthetic Oil?  Why is that info so hard to find? Sajeev answers: Why?  Relevance and (by definition) minutia’s lack of importance. I personally think manufacturers should publish vehicle’s torque curves, drag coefficients, frontal area dimensions and all gear ratios on their websites. Damn near everyone […]

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DSC_0928

Group 1, 2, 3, 4… (photo courtesy: forums.swedespeed.com)

TTAC Commentator RS writes:

How much Synthetic Oil is actually in Semi-Synthetic Oil?  Why is that info so hard to find?

Sajeev answers:

Why?  Relevance and (by definition) minutia’s lack of importance.

I personally think manufacturers should publish vehicle’s torque curves, drag coefficients, frontal area dimensions and all gear ratios on their websites. Damn near everyone else couldn’t give two shits about that.

But I digress…there are five groups/classifications of oils in the USA, and the three highest are classified as synthetic.

imgf000010_0001

(photo courtesy: patentimages.storage.googleapis.com)

Group III is the sticking point for many folks: if this thread has any credibility, here’s why Mobil 1 oil went “down” from a pure synthetic oil. And nobody wants to talk about it!

Mikey100’s quote is a brilliant assessment:

“In the late 1990s, Castrol started selling an oil made from Group III base oil and called it SynTec Full Synthetic. Mobil sued Castrol, asserting that this oil was not synthetic, but simply a highly refined petroleum oil, and therefore it was false advertising to call it synthetic. In 1999, Mobil lost their lawsuit. It was decided that the word “synthetic” was a marketing term and referred to properties, not to production methods or ingredients. Castrol continues to make SynTec out of Group III base oils, that is highly purified oil with most all of the cockroach bits removed.

Shortly after Mobil lost their lawsuit, most oil companies started reformulating their synthetic oils to use Group III base stocks instead of PAOs or diester stocks as their primary component. Most of the “synthetic oil” you can buy today is actually mostly made of this highly-distilled and purified dino-juice called Group III oil. Group III base oils cost about half as much as the synthetics. By using a blend of mostly Group III oils and a smaller amount of “true” synthetics, the oil companies can produce a product that has nearly the same properties as the “true” synthetics, and nearly the same cost as the Group III oil. In fact, Mobil-1 is now primarily made from Group III unconventional base oils, exactly the stuff Mobil was claiming was not really synthetic. The much more expensive traditional synthetics are now available in their pure forms only in more expensive and harder to obtain oils.”

See how the world (the USA, in this case) works? When someone finds the easy way out, it’s a race to the bottom.

But we shouldn’t care: Group III full synthetic oils are pretty much fantastic for the majority of engines on the road. Most cars don’t use or require it, as synthetic blends are now all the rage from the factory. And synthetic blends are not the same as a Group III full synthetic oil. 

Unless you own an M-series BMW or a Ferrari with a mandatory oil brand/weight as per owner’s manual, odds are Group III oil is the best you’ll ever need. Or want. Best and Brightest?

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

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Piston Slap: A Used Car on The Road to Recovery http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-used-car-road-recovery/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-used-car-road-recovery/#comments Tue, 16 Jun 2015 11:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1092161   Anonymous writes: Hello Sajeev, I was in contact with Mark Stevenson regarding my terrible, and unfortunately pretty common situation. I am post DUI (sadly not my first), but have quit drinking and am well on the road to recovery. I live in a city that does not have transit that will get me to […]

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On My Way! (photo courtesy: www.thejewisheducationproject.org)

On My Way! (photo courtesy: www.thejewisheducationproject.org)

Anonymous writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I was in contact with Mark Stevenson regarding my terrible, and unfortunately pretty common situation. I am post DUI (sadly not my first), but have quit drinking and am well on the road to recovery. I live in a city that does not have transit that will get me to work on time and therefore require a car to get there.

I am able to get my license back now but am not well versed in the subtleties of affordability vs. reliability in used cars. The cost of a car is one thing but insurance is prohibitive for all but PLPD on a fairly old used car. I have been quoted between $2700 – $3300 for cars that are between 9 and 15 years old.

The more “affordable” cars seem to be the following; Pontiac Sunfire, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Accent, VW Golf, Passat, and Jetta (I inquired more about them thinking diesel might save me long term). I also found that quarter ton trucks like the Ford Ranger were in this “affordable” range. Sedans are lower insurance and I also have a young son who will necessitate back seat accessibility.

So my question for you is… Can you help me by recommending or at least educating me on this age of vehicle and the presumed affordability vs. reliability trade off? On one hand I could get an older “cheap” car to afford insurance but would then likely have to spend more on repairs.

Thanks in advance.

Sajeev answers:

Boy, is this question gonna ruffle some feathers in the comments section or what? Keep this in mind: addiction is a mess far beyond the scope of a blog post.

This I believe, especially after having a friend die from complications related to an eating disorder. I regret not saying how I hated watching him struggle to do basic tasks, his complaining about everything, blaming the doctor and his prescriptions…perhaps not being a colossal jerk to him back then. Perhaps it’d help more than heartless reassurance. (Or not.) So I wish you luck in a jerk-like fashion: owning a car is a privilege, not a right. 

On to the car. When viewing vehicles this cheap, avoid the considerations of new (and late-model) buyers: service history and interior condition trump all. For example: buy a 15-year-old Chevy Lumina with acres of service history, new tires and a cherry velour interior over a 9-year-old Toyota Camry with no track record, marginal rubber and dried-out leather thrones.

While diesel maintenance is a hassle, and while Euro car parts prices and/or inconvenience of ordering (for less online) are not in a diesel VW’s favor, I’d grab one if it came with a binder fulla receipts atop the floor mat. Because when buying a vehicle this old, this cheap, you are buying someone else’s problems. Mitigate the risk and buy one with the most evidence of parts replacement, attention to detail and a modicum of an owner’s adoration.

You sure as hell aren’t gonna get a car that you want, and that’s by design.

 

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

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Piston Slap: Making Masala of a Jetta Parking Brake? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-making-masala-jetta-parking-brake/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-making-masala-jetta-parking-brake/#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1085697   Gaurav writes: Hello Sanjeev, (oh dear…*facepalm*- SM) I am writing you from India. I have a Jetta MkV 1.9 TDI with automatic transmission. It has done about 74,000 km. About a month back, I got the the brake fluid replaced as the service adviser suggested it should be replaced once every 60-70k km. After I got the car back, […]

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GAADI BULA RAHI HAI? (photo courtesy: www.gaadi.com)

Gaurav writes:

Hello Sanjeev, (oh dear…*facepalm*- SM)

I am writing you from India. I have a Jetta MkV 1.9 TDI with automatic transmission. It has done about 74,000 km. About a month back, I got the the brake fluid replaced as the service adviser suggested it should be replaced once every 60-70k km. After I got the car back, it felt like the brake efficiency had decreased. I was told its normal and after driving for some time it would be okay. Unfortunately, it never improved.

Yesterday, when I applied the brake, I noticed a burning smell. I took my car to the side of the road and there was smoke coming from the rear brake pads. I stopped to let them cool and then drove back. Since it was late at night I had no help available from VW.

Today, when I took it to VW workshop, they said they are not sure about the problem and have been trying to investigate it for last 8 hours. I am writing this email to you with the hope of getting some suggestions on what should I do.

Sajeev answers:

Gaurav, just so our readers are on the same page, MkV Jettas assembled in India wear 4-wheel disc brakes and the repair procedure is straight-forward enough for your average mechanic. So, even if they serviced the wear items on the brakes (pads and rotors), that isn’t a problem.

Which leads to the parking brake cable. It must be dragging on the brake.

This thread suggests the parking brake lever at the caliper can fall out-of-sync after pad/rotor replacement. It’s possible there isn’t enough slack. This thread suggests tinkering with the lever inside the car works! I reckon that’s your problem and the VW workshop is struggling to make this adjustment!

Some parts of India (hills in the North) are hard on brakes, but in urban areas you probably can’t go fast enough to cook brakes designed for the German Autobahn. I doubt you needed the fluid flush at 70,000-ish km on a MkV Jetta. More miles and many more years on the road is needed for that. But it’s too late for that advice, bhai

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

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Piston Slap: Oil Burning and Carbon Cleaning? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-oil-burning-carbon-cleaning/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-oil-burning-carbon-cleaning/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 11:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1085625   Arley writes: Sajeev, I have a 2003 Jetta TDI with 178k miles. Runs 100%. My mechanic recommends a carbon cleaning. What are the positives and negatives? To be more succinct, what can go wrong? You can tune a piano but you can’t tuna fish. (Good to know! – SM) Sajeev answers: Conventional wisdom (for […]

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Looks legit. (photo courtesy: n0str9 @ forums.tdiclub.com)

Arley writes:

Sajeev,

I have a 2003 Jetta TDI with 178k miles. Runs 100%. My mechanic recommends a carbon cleaning. What are the positives and negatives? To be more succinct, what can go wrong?

You can tune a piano but you can’t tuna fish. (Good to know! – SM)

Sajeev answers:

Conventional wisdom (for both diesel and gas engines) is carbon buildup occurs more often when the owner subjects the engine to excessive idling and a severe lack of full throttle acceleration. Today’s direct injected, EGR equipped diesels (and direct injected gas engines lacking a piggyback port-EFI setup a la Toyota V6s) are sensitive to carbon buildup due to idle time, EGR design and cooling system inadequacies, and perhaps even fuel (i.e. varying quality of bio diesel). Don’t take my word, this company’s blog did a good job assessing the problem.

Whew!

So carbon cleaning is commonplace and a good idea. And be it a seafoam-alike treatment or physical removal/cleaning of critical parts, there’s no downside if performed with even a modicum of care.

Question is, do YOU have a problem? 

Considering your mileage (less idling and more highway driving?) and engine performance: probably not. Watch this video (go to 1:39) and DIY if you are even the least bit handy. From the video, make a trip to the parts store for vacuum lines too!

Or just do nothing aside from performing an Italian Tune-Up. That’d work for sure, and it’s totally fun.

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

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Piston Slap: Feelin’ Blue, FR-S? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-feelin-blue-fr-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-feelin-blue-fr-s/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 12:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1080273   Brandon writes: Sajeev, I wrote to you a few years ago about my dilemma with a boring Cobalt. Now I’m writing because I have the opposite problem. I held onto the Cobalt for a wonderful year with no car payment before trading it in on a 2013 FR-S in April 2013. At the time, […]

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Taylor-2013-Scion-FRS

Cobalt no more. (photo courtesy: autotopiala.com)

Brandon writes:

Sajeev,

I wrote to you a few years ago about my dilemma with a boring Cobalt. Now I’m writing because I have the opposite problem. I held onto the Cobalt for a wonderful year with no car payment before trading it in on a 2013 FR-S in April 2013. At the time, no one could talk sense into me. I wanted THAT car. While I still love it and by no means want to let it go, there are some issues with the practicality of sports car ownership. Those issues as follows:

  • The future Mrs. isn’t comfortable driving stick so we usually take her ’07 Camry with 210k on the clock wherever we go out in case she needs to drive.
  • Since buying the car we’ve added a 100 pound fur baby to the mix and he can’t get in my car.
  • Future Mrs. ships off to Northwestern in 9 month for prosthetic school and can’t take the dog with her.
  • Student debt is going to be a big issue for us upon her graduation in 2017. I’d like to have a reliable 4 door paid off before we think about having kids.
  • If I move away from the city center, I’m going to need a way to transport my bikes, which with the FR-S the answer seems to be to install a hitch. To that I say no.

The way I see it my two options are:

  1. Keep the FR-S and pray I never need to take the dog to the vet while she’s away at school or hope I can bum a ride from a relative close-by. Also, since I owe around $10k still, I won’t be dumping it just to bring on more debt. It will be paid off in 3 years if I only make minimum payments. Also, I’ll continue to live in the middle of downtown and pay through the nose for rent since cycling is my big hobby.
  2. Trade in the FR-S on a used near-luxury sedan, such as a Buick Regal Turbo or a Acura TSX that has already taken the depreciation hit and can be had in the $18k range. If I can get at least $14-15k on trade in, at most we’re talking financing $12k over 4 years but paying off sooner if able. I’m thinking those are worst case numbers based off my cruising TruCar and the like. My credit is great and interest rates seem low. I’m really just concerned about the beating at trade-in even though the car is in great shape.
  3. **Bonus Option** My dad says he’ll sell me his ’00 Silverado for $5000 and I can just leave it parked on the street downtown somewhere for emergencies unless I move back home.

I know this is a long post with lots of variables, but I think I can boil my question down to this: If the compromises I made for the FR-S are getting harder to continue to justify, what’s the best car option long term? Do I suck it up and hope for the best? Or do I hope there’s enough equity in the car to justify purchasing a Regal or TSX? A decision has to be made before she ships off to Chicago and I’m stuck without her lovely Camry to save the day.

Sajeev answers:

You are almost there! You got the “Bonus Option” all wrong. To recap:

  • Your life needs something cheap-ish; a used practical vehicle with someone else’s problems, to compensate for a certain future of financial debt!
  • You live “in the middle of downtown”, so I assume – unless you work in outside sales, real estate, etc – that public transit, bike parking, occasional use of taxis and/or a not impressive looking daily driver is totally acceptable.
  • You likely owe less on the FR-S than a sale at private party value, assuming mileage isn’t far beyond the norm.
    • And assuming you didn’t beat the shit out of it, or smoke like a chimney in it.
  • You owned a Cobalt at our last Piston Slap, so you aren’t an uppity elitist that can’t live without something luxurious and/or sporty.

Oh wait, it was a Cobalt SS. Perhaps you are a performance junky. I am, too, yet content with regular cab pickup ownership (after Bilsteins, short shifter and an ECU re-flash) to zip around town, doing the rear-wheel-steer thang while saving big money for hobbies. I care not about preconceived notions of what defines a performance-minded street vehicle. Or how that definition appeases the sensibilities of others.

So here’s the deal:

  • Buy Dad’s (presumably trusty) truck and recon whatever is needed for downtown commuter status.
  • Install Bilstein shocks for a modicum of RWD fun. I reckon it’s still on the original dampers which are hella toast.
    • Don’t make it pretty, don’t put an exciting stereo (install new speakers if needed) just leave it as a Q-ship.
  • Save even more money by parking on the street, no more renting spots!
  • Sell the FR-S for private party value, pay off the loan, make a few bucks.
  • Happily drive the truck and pocket the cash (and future savings) for your upcoming (?) wedding, a car to replace the Camry, expenses that come with fatherhood and/or down payment on a house.

Go ahead, Best and Brightest. You know I got this one all wrong, so give it to me!

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

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Piston Slap: Dear Honda, What is Love? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-dear-honda-what-is-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/piston-slap-dear-honda-what-is-love/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 11:15:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1080353   Chris writes: Hello Sajeev, Like many of the people who write to you, I am having trouble deciding if I should keep my current car or trade it in for a new one. I currently own a 2010 Honda Civic EX-L with 140,000 miles. It has been the single most reliable car I have […]

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Civic_Pride_Delche

Baby Don’t Hurt Me. (photo courtesy: OP)

Chris writes:

Hello Sajeev,

Like many of the people who write to you, I am having trouble deciding if I should keep my current car or trade it in for a new one.

I currently own a 2010 Honda Civic EX-L with 140,000 miles. It has been the single most reliable car I have ever owned. I keep it meticulously maintained and generally change its oil every 6 to 8 weeks. Otherwise, I have only paid for a set of brakes and new tires.

A week ago, I test drove a brand new Honda Accord Touring and fell in love. The dealership has offered me an excellent deal that includes trading in my Civic. My dilemma is that I feel an allegiance to the Civic. The car has the soul of a toaster and is not exciting to drive, but like a trusty horse, it gets me everywhere I want to go without any complaints. The Civic will eventually need repairs as it approaches 200K but I feel like I would be letting it down by trading it away. On the other hand, I can easily afford the payments for the Accord, but I generally try to avoid debt.

What should I do Sajeev? Should I cut the Civic loose and replace it or keep on driving until she can carry me no more?

Sajeev answers:

Define that moment you “fell in love” with the new Accord.  Love can be fleeting and loyalties/commitments break shortly afterwards.

Also consider the information given after that statement of love. I question your resolve: you feel like you’re letting down your Civic? You generally try to avoid debt?

No way are you in the game for a new car. Considering the mileage and your (rather aggressive) maintenance routine, the Civic is worth more to you than anyone else. Keep it until the repairs cost more than its value on the open market…or to you. Right now big-ticket repairs like transmissions, rust damage, blown head gasket, etc. are the only reasons you’ll change your course.

If that resonates with you, run with it.

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

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Piston Slap: The Body Control Module Electric? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-body-control-module-electric/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-body-control-module-electric/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1074898 Gary writes: Good Afternoon, Today when I got into my 2002 Saturn SL2, the power door locks started chattering. Each door, over the space of about 45 minutes, had the same thing happen. Sometimes it would be one at a time, other times it would be two or more. I also noticed that the inside […]

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Gary writes:

Good Afternoon,

Today when I got into my 2002 Saturn SL2, the power door locks started chattering. Each door, over the space of about 45 minutes, had the same thing happen. Sometimes it would be one at a time, other times it would be two or more. I also noticed that the inside locks – the “up/down” button, not the little lever you use to manually unlock the car – would not work, only later to work. For now I have removed the lock fuse and that stopped the problem. I wait and plug the fuse back in, and the sporadic chattering once again begins. Sometimes it is completely quiet. Any thoughts?

Thank you!

Sajeev answers:

Whenever a problem like this occurs, I blame something Body Control Module like. When guidance systems break down? When there’s a struggle to exist? To resist?  That’s not a mere switch panel or short in chassis wiring. Oh no, Son, this is some heavy duty FAIL right here.

A body control module that’s scared out of its wits is the only culprit behind such berserk behavior. My apologies to the TTAC mothership (and all Torontonians) for such a shameful riding of RUSH’s coattails.

 

bcm

1-0-0-1-0-0-1… (photo courtesy: saturnfans.com)

If I’m right, the video (below) is helpful. Ditto this Saturn forum link, complete with the body control module’s pinouts for your testing pleasure. A replacement is over $200 at Rockauto, rebuilders on eBay want over $150 for the privilege. So you’d be wise to test the wiring, get a factory shop manual and perhaps learn the proper BCM diagnosis method.

And don’t forget the BCM recall, 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.

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Piston Slap: Minivan or SUV to Take the “A” Liner? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-10/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-10/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 11:30:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1074810   Clark writes: Sajeev, We plan on buying a hard-side folding camper (a.k.a. an Aliner) with a dry weight of about 2,100 lbs. Which minivan or SUV would you recommend? Sajeev answers: I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I kinda want a pop-up camper to tow behind my Ranger. Kinda the same thing…sorta. Anyway, if […]

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Get to where you’re goin’ in a hurry. (photo courtesy: roamingtimes.com)

Clark writes:

Sajeev,

We plan on buying a hard-side folding camper (a.k.a. an Aliner) with a dry weight of about 2,100 lbs. Which minivan or SUV would you recommend?

Sajeev answers:

I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I kinda want a pop-up camper to tow behind my Ranger. Kinda the same thing…sorta.

Anyway, if you stick with an Aliner and don’t totally overload both the trailer and exceed the tow rig’s GVWR, almost any late-model V6 powered CUV or minivan is fine. I’d go vanning, for practicality and stretch out comfort; ideal for a small family, a couple, or just one person with mucho outdoor stuff. And their boxy shape (usually) punches a larger hole in the air for the trailer to “rest” inside.

Consider these minivan parameters, in no particular order:

  1. The option for a large, standalone, transmission cooler. And maybe the same for power steering. Or, as previously discussed, a super trick bolt-in setup in the aftermarket. Or perhaps give up and get the largest universal-fitting tranny cooler you can slap in. The latter could be the best and most affordable alternative.
  2. Size of brake discs and, to a lesser extent, any variance in caliper surface area between manufacturers. While I’m not holding my breath for a minivan with 4-piston front calipers, that would be sweet.
  3. Towing Capacity: checking the manufacturer websites, Chrysler wins the minivan towing race for MY 2015. Not only does it have available trailer sway control, there’s an extra 100 lbs of tow rating beyond every 3,500 pound rated minivan. But is that extra rated 100 lbs a tangible improvement?
    1. Another option: The Nissan Quest offers the same 3,500 pound towing capacity, but is the CVT gearbox is a good or bad thing? Good: CVTs work so well to put down power with efficiency, no steps for downshifting must be nice with the extra demands from towing. Bad: well, who here actually knows people who tow with CVT gearboxes over long periods of time?
  4. Tires: with all that load, finding the van with the most tow-worthy rubber is also important. Or switch to LT tires.
  5. Ease of adding aftermarket camping accessories: if you want it, can you get it for non-Chrysler minivans?
  6. U-body with LS4-FTW. Obviously, the rightest of the most righteous answers, if not the easiest to acquire. How sad for everyone!

What say you, Best and Brightest?

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

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Renault Kwid Unveiled, Ready To Battle Maruti Suzuki Alto In India http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/renault-kwid-unveiled-ready-to-battle-maruti-suzuki-alto-in-india/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/renault-kwid-unveiled-ready-to-battle-maruti-suzuki-alto-in-india/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 17:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071530 As the Datsun brand stumbles in India, Renault-Nissan unveiled the Kwid Wednesday to take on the challenge of beating the best-selling Maruti Suzuki Alto. The Kwid hatchback is underpinned by the alliance’s Common Modular A Family platform, boasts a ground clearance of 7.1 inches, and has a starting price of ₹3,00,000 ($4,700 USD), Automotive News […]

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Renault Kwid 01

As the Datsun brand stumbles in India, Renault-Nissan unveiled the Kwid Wednesday to take on the challenge of beating the best-selling Maruti Suzuki Alto.

The Kwid hatchback is underpinned by the alliance’s Common Modular A Family platform, boasts a ground clearance of 7.1 inches, and has a starting price of ₹3,00,000 ($4,700 USD), Automotive News Europe reports. Power is set to come from an 800cc unit, though no other powertrain information was announced at this time.

Like the Tata GenX Nano announced Tuesday, the Kwid has a feature set normally found on more upscale vehicles for the Indian market, including hands-free voice-calling with Bluetooth, 7-inch touchscreen display with navigation and infotainment, and optional airbags.

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said the Indian market was not an easy one during the Kwid’s unveiling in Chennai, and expects the city car to be “a game changer for Renault India.” The alliance’s current attempt to crack the market — the Datsun Go — sold 16,000 units since its introduction in 2014. The Alto manages to sell over 16,000 units per month in comparison at a starting price of ₹2,46,163 ($3,865).

Renault India also plans to expand its dealership network from 157 to 280 by the end of next year, though the target still pales to Maruti’s 1,500 stores.

The Renault Kwid is expected in those showrooms in September upon leaving the assembly line in Chennai.

[Image credit: Renault]

Renault Kwid 01 Renault Kwid 02 Renault Kwid 03 Renault Kwid 07 Renault Kwid 06 Renault Kwid 05 Renault Kwid 10 Renault Kwid 04 Renault Kwid 08 Renault Kwid 09

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Piston Slap: New Tricks for an Old Car Phone? (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-new-tricks-for-an-old-car-phone-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-new-tricks-for-an-old-car-phone-part-ii/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1069594 Tony writes: I have a 1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo with a built-in cell phone (analog) that doesn’t work. Could you help me convert it? That would be amazing. Sajeev answers: Well I can help, as I mentioned before, but making a car phone upgrade happen? Oh, it’s gonna be a huge pain requiring creativity, electronic knowledge and […]

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Tony writes:

I have a 1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo with a built-in cell phone (analog) that doesn’t work. Could you help me convert it? That would be amazing.

Sajeev answers:

Well I can help, as I mentioned before, but making a car phone upgrade happen? Oh, it’s gonna be a huge pain requiring creativity, electronic knowledge and wiring diagrams on your end. But the end result on this video? Worth it!

No car must live on with its factory stereo intact more than a Toronado! The amount of gee-whiz tech GM loaded into the Toronado (and the Riviera/Reatta) means it’s your duty to keep everything period correct and/or 100 percent functional. And that Motorola 2700 certainly looks the part.

To help make it happen, here’s the above YouTuber’s write up on LincolnsOnline.

KGrHqFk0E3Gzey500BNyFu4jH_3

We don’t need no Google Maps! (photo courtesy: saabsho @photobucket.com)

Oh yes!  Someone needs to make this display work with a car phone once more!

Who will make it happen? And will they take us along for the journey?

 

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

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Piston Slap: Occam’s Razor Cuts Hardbody Headlight Headaches? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-occams-razor-cuts-hardbody-headlight-headaches/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-occams-razor-cuts-hardbody-headlight-headaches/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1069498   Robin writes: Hi Sajeev, It’s me again, steady reader, random poster/questioner, with another D21 question. My good old ’94 Nissan D21 is soldiering on, 213,000 and steady on. Of course I don’t ever thrash it which I’m sure makes a difference. But to get to the point: the other day I went out to […]

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My bad. (photo courtesy: imgflip.com)

Robin writes:

Hi Sajeev,

It’s me again, steady reader, random poster/questioner, with another D21 question. My good old ’94 Nissan D21 is soldiering on, 213,000 and steady on. Of course I don’t ever thrash it which I’m sure makes a difference.

But to get to the point: the other day I went out to go to work and presto! No low beams. High beams, check. All signals, markers and brake lights, check. Just no low beams.

Forum surfing ensued, all seemed to point to the switch stalk. I checked fuses. No headlamp fuse? WTF!

unnamed

What the… (photo courtesy: OP)

I’m hoping against hope that it’s something simple and stupid that I’ve overlooked in my attempts to shoot the trouble. And that another Piston Slap reader has a tip.

Because Piston Slap is only run twice a week, Robin beats us to the punch:

Hi Sajeev,

I emailed you not too long ago about my D21’s low beams going out all at one time. Replaced the switch stalk (a common culprit per several forum threads I browsed), scratched my head furiously over the fuse panel, girded my loins for the big $ hit of having someone with a clue troubleshoot the electrics. In the meanwhile, I drove around with my high beams on, undoubtedly pissing off my fellow North Texans.

So this morning I decided to just replace both sealed beams. At worst I’d still be in the same boat but new bulbs. Voila! It was the ultra-rare concurrent low beams burnout phenomenon.

Old Bill from Occam really knew his stuff.

Sajeev answers:

I’m glad to hear you fixed it. Perhaps you also needed that new headlight switch, as it sounds like a multifunctioning switch which are known to misbehave in the oddest ways after 10+ years. Anyone with even a passing interest in Nissan Hardbodies should download this PDF. Yes, it’s for a 1990, but it’s a start.

I looked at page EL-41 and saw nothing fishy about Hardbody headlights: fuses, connectors, grounds, etc as expected. I am stumped as to why your 1994 fuse box doesn’t list a fuse a la the 1990 shop manual. While I think Occam’s Razor applies to the 15A fuses (if you have them!), having both headlights blow out simultaneously is odd but the obvious problem after that. Why?

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom: 

Because headlights are a wear item. I’ve said this multiple times before, if your halogen bulbs are 5+ years old and the filament’s shiny finish isn’t chrome-like (it’s tungsten, but you catch my drift) in perfection, they probably need replacement. Hell, I’ve seen a certified pre-owned, two-year-old used car (presumably with thousands of night miles under its belt) need new bulbs so the new owner can see safely at night.

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

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Piston Slap: The Express’ New Mission? (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-express-new-mission-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-express-new-mission-part-ii/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 12:11:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1067010   TTAC commentator Celebrity208 writes: Sajeev, here’s an update to an old Piston Slap that I wanted to share: overall I love my van. My wife and I have used it to keep visiting family together when touring DC (instead of using 3 cars we took one van). As I eluded to, we also used it […]

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Not so Holy Roller? (photo courtesy OP)

TTAC commentator Celebrity208 writes:

Sajeev, here’s an update to an old Piston Slap that I wanted to share: overall I love my van.

My wife and I have used it to keep visiting family together when touring DC (instead of using 3 cars we took one van). As I eluded to, we also used it for a Christmas road trip/road tour through Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati and Evansville (IN). Lemme tell you, attending to a crying child in the back is a breeze in this thing. In less than 10 seconds the wife can be re-buckled a row or two back to deal with a toddler that dropped [fill in the blank]. 

I am most definitely a “van guy” and this van is now going to be hauling my family and toys around for years to come. The van has been awesome but I did need to “invest” in it…

An exhaust manifold gasket leak that would close up when hot turned into a giant noisemaker that needs to be addressed. I could have lived with it for a little while longer but a VA “safety” inspection was the forcing function. The salty roads that the church traveled throughout the Midwest took their toll on the aluminum AC lines to the rear HVAC and needed replaced. Also, as I had expected but hoped wouldn’t be necessary for a while, the transmission sprung a leak around the TCM module plug and upon inspection was TOAST. 185k miles of Holy Rolling, an homage to its former Mission, (puns intended) will do that.

The swapped-in rebuilt 4L80E didn’t last long either when the torque converter started whining a month later at Christmas. The shop rightfully rebuilt it again but said they installed a billet TC to ensure I don’t have to come back, all at no cost to me. Props to HiTech Trans in Merrifield, VA for standing up for their service and doing right by their customers. I installed new shocks myself, a brake controller, and I’ve added a Pumpkin Pure Android 2-din stereo to the rig (see attached). I still need to learn how to mod it and I haven’t setup Torque with a Bluetooth OBD-II plug yet but it’s on my to-do list. I did install a backup camera. That’s nice when hooking up to a trailer.

Speaking of trailers, I went and bought a new-to-me ’05 Crownline 250 CR in Lexington, KY during the ice storm a few weeks ago (see attached). I chose to drive to KY to get this one because it has the 496 Mag HO (425 hp) instead of what every other 250 around me has (the 300 hp 350 Mag). The drive from DC to KY by way of Columbus (to see family) was fraught with very slow going and spun out cars left and right but going light on the gas kept the open diff. rear-wheel drive beast on the road. If people think the empeegees of a 1/2 ton pickup are bad, they don’t know shit. Pulling ~8500 lbs through WV I was getting 8 mpg. Whatever. The L96 was a Bull!!! She passed the 190,000 mile threshold on the trip back from KY (see attached). On level ground I was easily maintaining >60mph and not once did I need 2nd to maintain >50mph climbing the WV hills on I-64.

PS: Props to “beefmalone” who dropped the knowledge like Galileo dropped the orange with the comment about finding a junkyard axle with a “G80″ code. I haven’t had the time/$ to knock that project out yet but it might be soon as that 250 CR is heavy and the tidal boat ramps in Alexandria can get quite slippery.

Sajeev answers:

The other perk to beefmalone’s G80 axle swap is you might get a better rear gear for your needs. If applicable, it’ll boost fuel economy around town (going into overdrive sooner, less throttle to accelerate) and relieve driving stress significantly (less downshifting, less throttle) when towing big loads in the Express.

I look forward to a future with more vanning stories. The full size van market is flush with new offerings from Chrysler, Nissan and Ford, so there’ll be nice offerings hitting the used market in the next 3-5 years. Perhaps they won’t be terrifying to DIY repair like the stereotypical Sprinter Van we read about? Because the old American van is history, so fingers crossed on that last part.

Thank you for the update. This was a fantastic story!

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

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