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. Fri, 30 Jan 2015 16:13:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Piston Slap http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/piston-slap/ Piston Slap: A Fusion of Malcontent? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-fusion-malcontent/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-fusion-malcontent/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:08:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988370   Casey writes: Dear Sajeev, I love your column! Anyway long story short I’m an idiot. When I met my wife she had a 2003 Ford Explorer Sport Trac that was in ROUGH shape inside and out, cosmetically and mechanically. She liked her truck though and it worked for us for a few years. Recently […]

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2006 FORD FUSION

(photo courtesy: autoopinion.blogspot.com/)

Casey writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I love your column! Anyway long story short I’m an idiot. When I met my wife she had a 2003 Ford Explorer Sport Trac that was in ROUGH shape inside and out, cosmetically and mechanically. She liked her truck though and it worked for us for a few years. Recently we (I) was tired of it. So I traded it in on a 2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6. It’s a beautiful car, black on black, lots of power and nice ride. I paid $7,200 for it with 108,000 miles.

The problem is, only about 5 months into ownership and 4,000 miles later several issues have revealed themselves.

The power steering pump is going out, something is going on with the ABS where whenever they engage (only 2 times since we bought it) the brakes take hours to recover, the oil pressure light comes on at idle, and the heater is to be described as tepid, at best.

I only owe about $2,000 on the car and could easily trade it in. My wife refuses to drive it so she took over my 2013 Camry and now wants a Camry of her own (likely a 2007 or 2008 on our budget). So what should I do? Stick with the Fusion for a while and then trade it in? Trade it in now? Or spend the I don’t know $2,500 to fix all the issues and keep it for the long haul?

I Feel Like an Idiot,

Casey

Sajeev answers:

Wow, where to start?

Let’s say all those problems have minor fixes: flush out the crap from the heater core (or repair/replace the blend door system), fix the leak in the power steering (i.e. the pump is still fine), flush out the ABS pump/accumulator, and replace the failing oil pressure sender/switch?

What are the odds of those problems being that easy? Is it more likely that a new heater core (pull the dash to do that), a new ABS accumulator, and a new engine are in your future?

Probably not, I covered two extremes without mentioning the likely middle ground. But who cares when it’s gonna cost a ton in diagnosis/repair relative to the value of a 8-9 year old car? You’re aching for another (used) Camry, so make it happen. And get a PPI to make sure it isn’t a lemon like this Fusion.

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? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-fusion-moonroof-drainage-problems/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-fusion-moonroof-drainage-problems/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:24:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988290   Matt writes: Hi Sajeev, I’m a long time lurker on the truth about cars, it’s probably of my favorite car website‎! The problem I’m having is with my 2010 Ford Fusion SEL, I bought it brand new back in May 2009 and now with 175,000KM (Canadian!) it’s been a great car until this recent […]

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2012_ford_fusion_sunroof_spoiler_8600062416271215145

The Sun, Moon and Stains? (Photo courtesy: car.mitula.us)

Matt writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’m a long time lurker on the truth about cars, it’s probably of my favorite car website‎!

The problem I’m having is with my 2010 Ford Fusion SEL, I bought it brand new back in May 2009 and now with 175,000KM (Canadian!) it’s been a great car until this recent issue has popped up and neither I or a glass shop or a Ford Dealer can figure it out. I’m getting water in the car on the passenger side A pillar where the plastic trim meats the headliner, the water doesn’t gush in, the floor is never wet just that corner gets wet during heavy rain.

The Fusion is equipped with a moonroof but I’ve had the drains cleaned and even went as far as pouring water down the drain tube that runs along that part of the car and it stayed dry inside, I thought it might have been the corner of the windshield but after using some heaving duty caulking along the top of the windshield it’s still getting wet inside.‎ I checked the moonroof drip tray when the headliner was wet but it has very little water inside the drip tray, I thought it might be the passenger side door seal leaking but it’s also dry inside when the headliner is wet. I can’t seem to figure out where it’s coming from, every time I think I’ve pinpointed it, it gets wet again. I have also noticed that it seems to stay dry most of the time when parked on a flat surface but when parked on any sort of incline it seems to get wet and of course my driveway is inclined. There is these long black plastic trim that runs along the roof on both sides, I always thought it was held down with adhesive but is it possible there are holes underneath that trim?

I’m feeling extremely frustrated at the moment with it, I am?! don’t want to trade it in, I love my Fusion I’ve got the 3.0 litre V6 which gets good mileage and is quick, it’s comfortable and has been reliable only needing one repair under warranty to replace the shifter because the switch for manual mode died, so any help you and the best and brightest can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

Thanks for no longer being a lurker! Woot!

I’m thinking the moonroof is the problem, the alternatives are not likely. Bad door weatherstripping? That normally causes leaks further south, as water runs down to the carpet.  A leaky windshield isn’t likely considering today’s bonding process at the factory. Remove that caulking you crammed in there, it’s only lowering the Fusion’s resale value and curb appeal.

Plus, if the windshield was the fault, I reckon it’d also be a howling nightmare in stiff cross winds at highway speeds.

The plastic rain gutters are often held with nuts/bolts, but it isn’t a likely defect. Wait just one second! Remember what our friend from the UK, Mr. Edd China, did to find a water leak?

Click here to view the embedded video.

The smoke machine is a brilliant idea, but I suspect it couldn’t find a leaky rain gutter: those are probably sealed away from the headliner quite well.

I keep going back to moonroof drainage for multiple reasons. Put another way, A Fusion of Moonroof Drainage Problems:

  • Glass is out of adjustment, allowing for excessive amounts of water when parked at an angle.
  • Drain tubes are slightly crimped/blocked which exacerbates the problem.
  • The glass’ rubber seal is dirty; dirt reduces the seal’s effectiveness.

A tough problem for sure.  I’d clean the seal, clean the moonroof gutters, have someone make sure the glass is adjusted correctly and hope for the best. If not, time to drop the headliner and go for a closer look. No fun, but certainly not impossible.

 

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: Smart Key Fob or The $30,000 Brick? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-smart-key-fob-30000-brick/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-smart-key-fob-30000-brick/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 12:49:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985026   Clueless about Keyless writes: Dear Sajeev, I recently bought a 2014 Acura TL and am having trouble coming to terms with keyless entry. It goes like this: You get exactly 2 pre-programmed key fobs, labelled #1 and #2. You can never have more than two active key fobs. You can buy a third, but […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

 

Clueless about Keyless writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I recently bought a 2014 Acura TL and am having trouble coming to terms with keyless entry. It goes like this:

You get exactly 2 pre-programmed key fobs, labelled #1 and #2. You can never have more than two active key fobs. You can buy a third, but it once it is programmed to be fob #1 or fob #2, the original fob #1 or #2 will no longer work. There is no back up normal key that will start the car. You will either have one of these two fobs, or your car is a $30K brick.

The keyless systems proximity sensors work well. You never have to take the key out of your pocket. When you are near the door, simply touching the handle unlocks it and once in, the ignition button starts the car. You cannot lock your keys in the car or the trunk, which is nice. But it also means I can’t hide the second key somewhere on the vehicle without enabling pretty much anyone to walk right up and open the door as if they had the key in their pocket.

So here’s my problem. Suppose I am hundreds of miles away from home on a road trip and I lose my key. What can I do? I used to carry a spare key in my wallet for just such situations (the fobs are big and fat and won’t fit in my wallet). Given that a replacement fob has to be ordered from the dealer and the car has to be present to program it, it seems the only strategy for me would be to have the vehicle towed to the nearest Acura dealer. WTF? Am I forced to keep two big fat key fobs with me, in separate pockets at all times, just in case?

So I’m wondering, do you or any of the B&B have a good idea for a makeshift back up plan? Also, is this the way all keyless systems work? It seems to me Acura didn’t put a lot of thought into this.

Sincerely,
Clueless about Keyless

Sajeev answers:

Hmm!

You should slap Velcro on the spare fob and an easily accessible location under the car (inside the rear bumper, for example), locking them together after slipping the battery into your wallet. But if someone steals your wallet, or even worse, get rear-ended HARD and then they grab your wallet and keys…ZOMG TEH HORRORZ!!1!

I’m only kind of joking.  While Acura insists that you can still start the vehicle with a “dead” keyfob battery, that won’t help if you lose the fob.  And if they don’t have it yet, the aftermarket will re-pop an alternative to the factory part: find a trusted locksmith in your area and give ‘em a call.

I’m liking the “fob with no battery inside the rear bumper” idea more.  If you lose the battery you’ll get another from a local parts store, or drug store with a quick (acura key fob battery 2014) Google search on someone’s phone.

Punt! Best of luck with this one, oh fantastic B&B.

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 Primer on Wheel Offset and Backspacing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-primer-wheel-offset-backspacing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-primer-wheel-offset-backspacing/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 13:26:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=984898   Long-time TTAC Commentator 86er writes: Hi Sajeev, Could Piston Slap furnish me with a be-all/end-all explanation about wheel offsets? The more I try to read up on it on the web, the more confused I get. I’m pretty clear that RWD (at least traditionally) went with the low-offset while the FWD revolution made high […]

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Yum. (photo courtesy: www.crownvic.net)

 

Long-time TTAC Commentator 86er writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Could Piston Slap furnish me with a be-all/end-all explanation about wheel offsets? The more I try to read up on it on the web, the more confused I get. I’m pretty clear that RWD (at least traditionally) went with the low-offset while the FWD revolution made high positive offsets the industry standard, at least in passenger cars.

A few years back, I had purchased a set of winter tires on rims for my trusty ol’ 92 Vic and later after research found out that the rims were medium-offset that went on a 4×4 Ranger of similar years. I’ve heard that putting on a different-offset wheel can hurt steering/suspension parts like ball joints, but I’ve never seen it in black-and-white, so to speak.

Sajeev answers:

Let’s cover the basics of both wheel offset and backspacing: offset is the location of the mounting hub in relation to the center of the wheel’s barrel.  This mounting hub goes to flat surface where car’s suspension holds the wheel (i.e. the hub on the spindle).

http://www.fastcar.co.uk/

Image Courtesy: www.fastcar.co.uk

 

A positive offset pushes the wheel’s hub away from center, closer to the outside of the car. Negative offset is the opposite: sucking the wheel’s hub closer to the inside of the car. Zero offset means it’s smack dab in the center.

I question if the traditional FWD/RWD offset difference still holds water.  While FWD wheels often have a more positive offset than their RWD counterparts, all (most?) modern vehicles have flat faced wheels (for aerodynamics and countless suspension needs?) stemming from a more positive offset wheel. Need proof? Look at your own platform: peep the redesigned front clip and the mandated wheel redesign of the 2003+ Crown Vic.

CrownVicFrontSusp05_06_edited

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

Oh wait, the Crown Vic barely changed at all from 1979 to 2011.  It was such an antiquated pile: must remember to toe the autojourno line, never speak of Panther Love! But I digress…

In theory you should keep a close-to-factory offset to optimize steering geometry and wheel bearing health.  In practice, it might not matter: especially for a set of winter tires. You probably can’t drive aggressive/fast enough to care.  Probably…

There’s also the matter of torque steer on FWD machines, mostly for those with unequal length half-shafts. But most modern vehicles use equal length shafts?  (Have at that, B&B!)

You also need to consider backspacing. This ensures the width and offset of wheel you chose will clear your body or suspension, especially on cars with strut suspensions.  Instead of my usual ramble, I think this video really nails it.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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: Justy-fied Freestylin’ over CVTs, Part IV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-justy-fied-freestylin-cvts-part-iv/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-justy-fied-freestylin-cvts-part-iv/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 13:40:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=975865   Mark writes: Hello, I enjoy reading the piston slap series. I have a 2009 Altima with the 2.5 4 banger and the CVT transmission. I’m not a big fan of the CVT, but it works ok and gets decent mileage. I bought this car as it was the cheapest car I could find that […]

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NS-1 For the Win? (photo courtesy www.cockramnissan.co.nz)

Mark writes:

Hello,

I enjoy reading the piston slap series.

I have a 2009 Altima with the 2.5 4 banger and the CVT transmission. I’m not a big fan of the CVT, but it works ok and gets decent mileage. I bought this car as it was the cheapest car I could find that fits 4 adults and qualified me for the cash-for-clunkers handout. I didn’t expect to keep it long or pile the miles on it this quickly but now it has 90k on it. I mostly drive it without any passengers as we now have 3 kids and the minivan gets used for family duty (just had one kid when we bought the Altima). I’m trying to decide if I should hold onto it or sell it – it’s kind of at that point where if I keep much longer, I’ll probably end up driving it into the ground.

The transmission is the wildcard to me – is there a consensus whether these trannys can be expected to last for 150k or more miles? The trans warranty goes through 120k but by that point the vehicle probably won’t be worth a whole lot.

Sajeev answers:

That body style Altima was my favorite rental in its class for a while, its CVT was surprisingly on point. Compared to other manufacturer’s downright slothy 6-speed automatic transaxles, Nissan’s CVT (from 2007 and up?) was no slouch in any metric.

Even if the transmission fails right after the warranty expires, this isn’t an unobtainium gearbox like the Subaru Justy.  Nissan’s been in the CVT game for years now, odds are they’ve spent millions investing in this future (including warranties). There’s a learning curve in rebuilding/diagnosing them, but (in theory) CVTs are fairly straightforward.  This webinar brings a ton of valuable pros and cons of CVTs from the perspective of a local transmission rebuilder.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I know, I know…it’s a long video. But what we think is a black box full of magic and devilish thoughts, others have dug in there and know how to fix them. The more I watch, the more comfortable I feel in owning a CVT car to run cost effectively for 200,000+ miles.

If you need a new CVT and a rebuild is not ideal, finding a low mile replacement from the junkyard should be simple and somewhat affordable. But the best thing you can do is RTFM and change the fluid as needed.  And ONLY use fluid recommended by Nissan, or a fully compatible counterpart. Use regular ATF and you’ll probably grenade the gearbox in a few months.

More to the point: NS1-FTW SON!

 

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

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Piston Slap: Feelin’ Rotten sans Seam Sealer? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-feelin-rotten-sans-seam-sealer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-feelin-rotten-sans-seam-sealer/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 13:22:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=975809   TTAC Commentator Calgarytek writes: Hey Sajeev, I enjoy reading your posts on TTAC. This one is a chassis related question and concerns rear quarter panel rust issues on old school Hondas. I’ve got a 2000 Civic SiR and I’ve poked around the rear wheel wells to figure out why that may be. It seems […]

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rusty quarter panel

(photo courtesy: www.tamparacing.com)

TTAC Commentator Calgarytek writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I enjoy reading your posts on TTAC. This one is a chassis related question and concerns rear quarter panel rust issues on old school Hondas.

I’ve got a 2000 Civic SiR and I’ve poked around the rear wheel wells to figure out why that may be. It seems that Honda didn’t seal the rear quarters well enough. There is no sealant present on the inner skin of the outer portion of wheel well. The outer skin just tends to ‘fold’ into the inner well and just ‘sit there’ as exposed metal.

The question is – would applying seam sealer to the above mentioned locations protect the quarters? If so, can you recommend a brand?

If you’re wondering, I’m helping my younger cousin buy a non-rust-belt-based 2000 Acura EL. We’re planning to winterize the vehicle during the summer time when he eventually gets it.

Sajeev answers:

Thank you for your note, and for reminding us Americans that cooler Hondas are available outside of our borders.

Before answering, one point of clarification: what you see isn’t “exposed metal” waiting to rust.  As part of the assembly line process (all?) manufacturers dunk their cars into a rustproofing bath to minimize corrosion.  Peep this vid:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Also note how BMW’s machine applies seam sealer after the rustproof dunk. But in the case of Honda rear wheel arches…well, I wonder if any manufacturer uses seam sealer there. It’s gotta be a messy proposition.

On to your question: if you are positive you’re applying seam sealer to a rust free, dirt free, dry and solid meeting of two panels, by all means go ahead! My big concern is trapping dirt, water or anything else that can cause the panel to rust under the seam sealer.  Hence why the rustproofing “dunk” at the factory is so cool.

A company called POR-15 makes a host of products for the pre-seal, I do not know of an alternative that works as well. OTOH, seam sealer is available from a host of manufacturers sold by even more vendors. Not being a body man by hobby or trade, I’m offering this as a guide instead of making a recommendation.

There you go, Best and Brightest.

 

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

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Piston Slap: The U Body, The Relay Bad Idle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-u-body-relay-bad-idle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-u-body-relay-bad-idle/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 13:26:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=970665   TTAC Commentator APaGttH writes: Sajeev! Long time listener, first time caller. The patient: a 2005 Saturn Relay FWD3 with 151K miles, GM 3.5L V6 and 4-speed automatic. I am the fifth owner and this is our grocery getter and general abuse vehicle. I’m the longest owner – 4 years and about 55K of those […]

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U Relay Got A Problem? (photo courtesy: APaGttH)

TTAC Commentator APaGttH writes:

Sajeev!

Long time listener, first time caller. The patient: a 2005 Saturn Relay FWD3 with 151K miles, GM 3.5L V6 and 4-speed automatic. I am the fifth owner and this is our grocery getter and general abuse vehicle. I’m the longest owner – 4 years and about 55K of those 151K miles have been in my garage. I can’t comment on how well it was cared for from year 2 to year 6, but I have done everything by the book since 96K miles.

The Saturn developed a rough idle of sorts about a year ago. I swapped out the spark plugs, changed the fuel filter, and flushed the fuel injection. The car continues to idle rough. No CEL and no CEL history.

Rough idle doesn’t start until the engine is warmed up. There is an occasional difficult hot start, but nothing that falls into, “crap, I’m going to be left for dead because this won’t start,” hard. The rough idle isn’t shown on the tachometer, which is as steady as a rock. But the engine definitely feels like it is vibrating for a lack of a better way to describe it, and far beyond the general coarseness of the GM “high value” 3.5L V6.

The hood is resonating and making metal vibrating noises from it – which isn’t as alarming as it sounds as the fit and finish on the panels isn’t as tight as it should be. Put a few finger lightly on the hood and the noise goes away. The vibration is worse under load, like when the AC is running, and reaches a point you can feel it in the car seats. Acceleration is perfectly normal, driving is perfectly normal, and fuel economy is perfectly normal. No issues outside of idle. There is no rotten egg of burning match smell, and van recently passed emissions. Another thing we’ve noticed – living close to sea level, the problem is worse. If we cross the mountain passes and go to altitude, say about 2.5K feet or higher, the problem goes away. If I give the car light gas at idle, to say 1.2K RPM, the vibration goes away.

I’m stumped. Possible candidates in my mind include the IAC has gone, or is going bad, vacuum leak Hell, bad motor mount, or a dirty MAF and/or throttle body. Given the book value is under $4K and my plan is to drive it to 200K or death, whichever comes first, I’m not interested in pouring a ton of money into the van at this point, but I would like to get this addressed as it feels like something I can’t ignore.

Sajeev answers:

You “relay” should scan the computer to see if there’s a latent code that isn’t triggering the CEL.  And U “relay” should consider the smooth idle of LS4-FTW instead of this High Value LX9’s bad idle.

The engine vibration turning into body (hood) problems means that the mounts to the body are the problem. But perhaps new mounts aren’t in your budget, as you’re saving up for LS4-FTW, obviously. In the meantime, there was a TSB with a recalibration resolution to address the hot-restart issue. Get that done first, if applicable.

If that doesn’t cure the bad idle, or if it isn’t applicable? Well… maybe the Relay “relay” needs new mounts, especially the torque mounts (I forgot their name) as seen in the photo below.

Very professionally highlighted in red. (photo courtesy: gtcarlot.com)

Basically, LS4-FTW is the only answer.  We gotta believe, we must ensure the notion of a bad-ass V8 U-body actually turns into a trend.

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: Improper Engine Warm Up Procedure? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-improper-engine-warm-procedure/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-improper-engine-warm-procedure/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 13:40:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=970561   TTAC Commentator Arthur Dailey writes: Sajeev, Thanks very much for posting my question. Your answer and the comments from others were most informative. How about another? We now have only 2 licensed drivers in our home. We do however have 3 licensed cars in the driveway. Please do not ask about the project car […]

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(photo courtesy: chuckmanchicagonostalgia.wordpress.com)

TTAC Commentator Arthur Dailey writes:

Sajeev,

Thanks very much for posting my question. Your answer and the comments from others were most informative. How about another?

We now have only 2 licensed drivers in our home. We do however have 3 licensed cars in the driveway. Please do not ask about the project car in the garage. 2 of the cars are our ‘daily’ drives, the 3rd is used primarily on weekends. We live less than 3 minutes from a 400 series highway in Ontario. That means that the cars can be required to reach highway speed before they are ‘warmed up’.

My normal practice last winter was to get up, start all the cars, turn off all possible drains on the batteries. Then take the dog to the park across the street, stretch our legs and let him do his business. After about 10 minutes we return. I then turn on the heater/defrost on the 2 cars that we will be driving and scrape/brush them. When this is completed, I turn all 3 cars off and go back into the house to get myself ready for work. You may all remember what last winter was like and the upcoming winter is supposed to be similar.

Now I understand that idling is environmentally irresponsible. And possibly against by-laws in some areas. That however is a discussion for another forum.

My questions are:

  1. Is this OK for the cars?
  2. Am I better off warming up/idling our weekend car like this or leaving it all week and hoping that it is OK to start on the weekend.

Please do not suggest:

  1. A trickle charger
  2. Engine block heaters

I would love to have those as options, however none of the cars have block heaters installed and there are no electrical outlets available for either of the above suggestions (thanks to the project car).

Thanks,
Arthur Dailey

Sajeev answers:

Okay!  I will not mention your Project Car, nor your need for conventional starting aids in cold conditions. Even if your engine warm up procedure absolutely demands otherwise!

In general, start-up a cold motor and drive it ASAP in a modest, moderate manner.  What does that mean?

Perhaps that means not accelerating past the motor’s torque peak, unless necessary for merging onto a freeway. If you own a torque-less, rev-intensive motor à la Scion FR-S, the torque peak notion is invalid. No matter, avoid heavy throttle application until oil temperature is up to normal: think about your unique engine type/driving condition and apply common sense.

Thanks to advancements in fluid technology and the widespread use of synthetic-blended oil, it’s gotta be disturbingly cold (handy chart here) to do otherwise. On to your questions:

1. Why are you turning off the cars after warming them up? No! Do your stuff while they idle/thaw (when needed) and then drive!  You are only hurting them more by letting the fluids cool down again. Change your morning routine ASAP.

2. There is no reason to start-up your weekend car just to charge the battery.  If the weekend car is impossible to start after 5 days, get a battery blanket (Oops! No power right?) and disconnect the negative cable to minimize drain.  Or just give up and yank the battery, leaving it somewhere isolated from the ground, like a wood table.  More work, but if you can physically handle that heavy of a load, the exercise won’t kill ya.

No matter what, you gotta change your warm up procedure.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Remember that oil temp isn’t measured on the (coolant) temperature needle on your dashboard. Oil takes longer to warm up, so if you aren’t fortunate enough to have a sub-menu showing oil temp, or you don’t have an app for that, wait a little while after the temp needle is happy. That makes the oil happy 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: Divorced Sleeper Flew The Coupe? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-divorced-sleeper-flew-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-divorced-sleeper-flew-coupe/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 13:21:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=963722   TTAC Commentator raresleeper writes: Hello, Sajeev! I need your wisdom and sound advice, Kind Sir. After what could be called a much needed separation from my wife (undoubtedly the beginning of a very long divorce proceeding), I purchased myself a vehicle. A 2006 Accord Coupe v6 6-Speed. On cold mornings, I have noticed that […]

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TTAC Commentator raresleeper writes:

Hello, Sajeev!

I need your wisdom and sound advice, Kind Sir. After what could be called a much needed separation from my wife (undoubtedly the beginning of a very long divorce proceeding), I purchased myself a vehicle. A 2006 Accord Coupe v6 6-Speed.

On cold mornings, I have noticed that the steering is hard to turn if the car isn’t moving. Once the car revs just slightly, anything other than idle, the steering effort gets “normal” again. I also hear a whine under the hood on cold mornings, so I am fairly certain that is the power steering pump showing its weakness. Every once in a great while, there is a slight intrusion upon shifting into 3rd. It rarely affects my shifting, but there is a slight notch (best way I can describe it) that I sometimes need to put the extra effort to guide the shifter into while grabbing third.

I paid $9K. The car is the EX model, it has everything besides navigation and the “sport” appearance package (spoiler, etc.). 120k miles. I love this stinkin’ car. I went right to a car which I love and the fact that my estranged wife would hate everything about it makes me smile a little more. It’s a quick little machine.

Is there anything else I need to have checked maintenance-wise (other than timing belt) before getting too comfortable tossing it about during my morning commute?

As always, thank you kindly. Your assistance here is certainly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

That’s not a bad machine to celebrate your newfound singlehood!  Congrats on this next step in your life.

“I also hear a whine under the hood on cold mornings, so I am fairly certain that is the power steering pump showing its weakness.”

I am certain that’s normal, most vehicles are less than thrilled with molasses-cold fluids.  These parts are designed to spin warmer liquids, hence the need for a proper warm up routine.

Regarding the transmission and the current mileage, perhaps its time for a fluid swap with fresh Honda fluid or maybe–MAYBE–aftermarket fluids compatible with your transmission.  Or perhaps it’s totally normal with cold fluid, if that’s a valid correlation in your case.

We’ve discussed the basics of used car upkeep before, and I focus on neglected rubber bits: tires, belts and hoses. And new shocks might be a worthwhile upgrade at this age, if a like-new ride (or better than new, with performance parts) matters. Always RFTM for the basics and do a comprehensive visual inspection to make sure nothing else is wrong. (i.e. physical damage from the last owner’s mistake)

Don’t be afraid to get that visual inspection from a mechanic if you have any doubts, especially since they can put it on a lift.

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

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

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Piston Slap: Riddle Me This, Timing Chain Rattle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/super-piston-slap-riddle-timing-chain-rattle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/super-piston-slap-riddle-timing-chain-rattle/#comments Wed, 24 Dec 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=964602   Sajeev writes: As the Christmas Spirit draws near and Pistonheads relax with thoughts of good vehicular cheer…screw it, I’ll get to the point: Can timing chain rattle on start-up magically resolve itself after a mere tune up? Sajeev continues: Yes, after changing plugs, fuel filter, PCV valve, and a very necessary cleaning of an […]

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But wait…there is less???

Sajeev writes:

As the Christmas Spirit draws near and Pistonheads relax with thoughts of good vehicular cheer…screw it, I’ll get to the point:

Can timing chain rattle on start-up magically resolve itself after a mere tune up?

Sajeev continues:

Yes, after changing plugs, fuel filter, PCV valve, and a very necessary cleaning of an ancient K&N filter. The vehicle in question is my lightly-modified 1995 Lincoln Mark VIII LSC with 180,000 miles.

The early 32-valve, teksid block Ford V8s suffered from an obnoxious (yet harmless) timing chain rattle on start-up.  I’ve owned this car for 11 years and, like all of its ilk, the rattle almost always rears its ugly head. Even after switching to Mobil 1 Synthetic.

That is, until this tune up.

IMG_3866

Snakebitten.

I’ve been driving the Mark for 100+ miles over 4 days to-and-from work and Christmas shopping destinations: the timing chain has yet to rattle on start-up.

It’s the textbook definition of “added perk” to go with the improved idle, extra power and 1-2 MPG fuel economy improvement normally earned via tune up. But it’s still running the same oil and the outside temperature/weather hasn’t changed. This makes absolutely no sense, and Google agrees with its lack of click-to-quick-resolution.

Perhaps the Mark remembered what the MKS looks like, deciding to straighten up/fly right as it’s the last Lincoln that people would maybe-kinda give a crap about? (oops, sorry LS fans)

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

 

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

 

 

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Piston Slap: American Rust vs. Japanese Rust? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-american-rust-vs-japanese-rust/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-american-rust-vs-japanese-rust/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 12:49:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=963650   Stefan writes: Sajeev, I recently had a conversation with my cousin in Wisconsin. He claimed that cars assembled in North America are more rust prone than cars assembled in Japan or other oriental countries. Apparently his observation was based on several cars in our extended family: An elderly Dodge Durango and a not-so-elderly Honda […]

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Rusty Mazda Protege5 (photo courtesy: old Piston Slap post)

Stefan writes:

Sajeev, I recently had a conversation with my cousin in Wisconsin. He claimed that cars assembled in North America are more rust prone than cars assembled in Japan or other oriental countries. Apparently his observation was based on several cars in our extended family: An elderly Dodge Durango and a not-so-elderly Honda Odyssey with the traditional clapped-out transmission.

I have never seen any statistics to support these ideas and really don’t recall reading suchlike statements in the TTAC in the past. That older American cars rust more than newer Japanese, and vice versa, seems natural and I recall seeing many old Japanese cars with severe corrosion damage, but what is the truth in this matter? Over to you and the B & B!

Stefan (’97 Fat Panther without a speck of rust)

Sajeev answers:

This is pure Internet Troll Bait, but whatever…I’ll bite.

Cars made in Japan used to be inadequate for use in the American Rust Belt, back in the 1970s.  That’s history, as Japan wised up and eventually made the vehicles that would dominate the marketplace in every American market they compete in. (well, except trucks #murica)

The only modern cars that I’ve seen (and I live in Houston) or heard to be chronically rusty are Mazdas from the last decade.  Discussed here, here and here. Oh, and the Toyota Tacoma, witnessed by the massive recall.  One person mentioned a Ford Focus, and that’s about it.

And in this most unscientific sampling, only the Mazda is not made in North America.  So your cousin is wrong.

UNDYING PANTHER LOVE (photo courtesy: syracuse.com)

Dead Wrong: USA, USA, USA!!!

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

 

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

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Piston Slap: High Profile Rubber, Lube with Real Silicone Spray? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-high-profile-rubber-lube-real-silicone-spray/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-high-profile-rubber-lube-real-silicone-spray/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 13:34:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=963594   Bill writes: Hi Sajeev, {the usual crap about long time reader, first time poster} I know you just answered a few emails about tire / tire size, but this has been sitting in my drafts folder for a while (the efficient side of me), I’m going to send it off before you answer more […]

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Getting serious about Rubber and Lube. (photo courtesy: cargurus.com)

Bill writes:

Hi Sajeev,

{the usual crap about long time reader, first time poster} I know you just answered a few emails about tire / tire size, but this has been sitting in my drafts folder for a while (the efficient side of me), I’m going to send it off before you answer more questions about tires..

My first question to you was ORIGINALLY about my now departed ’97 Volvo 850 a few months back when you were asking for more questions, but I answered my own question after reaching 3 pages of problems and issues. So I traded it in, more or less at scrap value, for a ’09 Lexus GS450h which came with a nice set of performance summer tires at 245/40R18. And as they say, winter is coming, and I’d be foolish to drive a RWD with summer tires north of the 49th. I’m planning to run 2 sets of rims + tire, got my eyes on some not so shinny Nokian “Hakkapelitaeraerfdaf?” R2 tires, but they are $300 a pop at that size.

If I can minus size to 225/50R17, I’d save $40 per tire, 17″ rims are cheaper than 18″s, have more rubber for potholes, and something about skinnier tires dig deeper into the snow. For some odd reason, none of the Canadian online retailers list 225/50R17 as an option for my car. It’s odd since the base GS350 rolls on 225/50R17. The dealership down the street also only want to sell me 18″ tires. However, as far as I can tell, the GS350 and the GS450h have the same part numbers for the caliper and rotor, so if one can take a 17″ rim, both should be able to? To add to the mystery, TireRack in the US thinks 17″ will fit just fine. Unless the Canadian spec GS450h has a different rotor, I don’t understand how everyone in Canada could be wrong.

Since it’s in my nature to be efficient (lazy), I’d like to order the rims online (and I guess better selections). I guess my 2 questions are:

Should I minus size?
Will 17″ rims even fit?

Thanks,
Bill

Oh, sorry, I lied, 3rd question: Speed rating, does it matter? Do I need to match the speed rating on my winter tires with the rating on the OEM tires?

Sajeev answers:

1. Of course you should minus size!  92.3% of the people reading this should!  Unless you really like the look of the factory 18″ wheels, or larger wheels in general.  Everything gets better with the rubber-to-wheel ratio of that 225/50/17 for most applications and user demands.

2. Your part number analysis proves they will. If the rotor was bigger and the caliper was a different size…well they aren’t, they are gonna fit.

3. Tire speed rating is a red herring for 98.4% of you readers: have you noticed the lowest speed rating for passenger cars (i.e. not trailers and spare tires) is 112 mph? When was the last time you felt the need to spend the night in jail, son?  Especially on winter tires supposedly driven in winter conditions? Instead focus on tire quality via UTQG ratings.

Bill amends:

Hi Sajeev,

So I got lucky and my other toyota rolls on 17″ rim so I did a quick swap and confirmed tirerack is correct and 17″ fit just fine. Now I got another question, reading an earlier post of yours, “In Praise of the 2005 Honda CR-V“, I was going to lube up the rubber weatherstripping with silicon spray. When I started reading the label on the can I got scared by the warning, something about containing perchloroethylene and paraffinic petroleum. As far as I know [from using some other non automative product], petroleum based lube breaks down latex rubber. My google-fu is not strong enough to find out if those two chemicals are rubber safe or not, so does it matter what brand of spray I use? Are there any other lube related wisdoms you’d like to share? Thanks,

~Bill

Sajeev concludes:

You should get a non petroleum silicone spray, also known as “food grade.”  And no, not to lube the food, it’s for industrial machinery coming in contact with food.

I thought this stuff was also commonly found at auto parts stores, but perhaps those use petroleum-based chemical as a propellant?  And maybe perhaps the “spray it in a Styrofoam cup and see if the cup melts” test is a good idea. I wonder how bad a not-100% pure silicone spray is for rubber parts, it’ll certainly do better than WD-40 or similar.

No matter, find food-grade silicone lube if this is a big concern.  It should spray on easy (as opposed to rubber bushing safe greases in a tub) like the petroleum-based stuff, and you’ll never worry about it melting your rubber.

 

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 Fireball of a 3.8L Oil Leak? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-fireball-3-8l-oil-leak/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-fireball-3-8l-oil-leak/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:34:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961145   Robert writes: I have changed the seal 2 times on my 3.8L Chevy and it still will leak. I had a place on harmonic balancer.I put the recommended slave to repair.It was not long enough to cover the bad spot on the balancer.It was close but they seal was damaged.They offer a different one […]

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(photo courtesy: underhoodservice.com)

Robert writes:

I have changed the seal 2 times on my 3.8L Chevy and it still will leak. I had a place on harmonic balancer.I put the recommended slave to repair.It was not long enough to cover the bad spot on the balancer.It was close but they seal was damaged.They offer a different one that is$30+.This all occurred just out of the blue.I rebuilt the engine and it has 30,000 on it.I was wondering if there is something causing pressure around this seal.Pressure check on cylinders was good.Any ideas what to do or pressure is good too good.

Thank you sincerely – Robert

Sajeev answers:

The problem seems common, a leak behind the harmonic balancer at the crankshaft’s front seal.  Or maybe I misread your letter, or googled incorrectly.

I also presume you installed this “sleeve” to repair it, but it didn’t work because it was too short. The correct one, or perhaps General Motors makes a revised seal/harmonic balancer that supersedes your part number should solve the problem.  But the real problem?

I can’t find a clear solution. This thread on 3800pro.com mentions blow by: excessive crankcase pressure that exacerbates an oil leak. You could bypass the PCV with a crankcase breather filter (if it won’t trigger a check engine light), then clean the motor and check for leaks…

…or install LS4-FTW the “different one that is $30+” as that might be the permanent solution.

Help us out, 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: It’s not you, Drain Plug…it’s Me? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-not-drain-plug/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-not-drain-plug/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 13:14:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961025   Seth writes: Dear Sajeev, I have terrible luck with oil drain plugs. Of the last 4 oil changes I’ve done, only one has been successfully completed in a single day, because I can never get the drain plug loose. The culprits in these comedies of errors are a 1999 Saab 9-3 and a 2006 […]

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You are still a good person. (photo courtesy: Dealer.com)

Seth writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I have terrible luck with oil drain plugs. Of the last 4 oil changes I’ve done, only one has been successfully completed in a single day, because I can never get the drain plug loose.

The culprits in these comedies of errors are a 1999 Saab 9-3 and a 2006 Honda Pilot. The first time I came across the stuck plugs, the Saab was a recent acquisition, and the Pilot had had its last oil change done at a local mechanic’s shop down the road. Therefore, I assumed that an overzealous shop jock who got trigger happy with an air gun was to blame. In the process of getting the plugs out, I managed to mangle the Saab’s bad enough to require the purchase of a new one, and should have also bought a new plug for the Pilot, too (but didn’t). When I reinstalled them, I put them in fairly snugly, but with the mindset that I didn’t want to get myself into this mess again.

Fast forward to the next oil change, and the Saab’s plug came out easily. Too easily. In fact, the wrench wasn’t even necessary, which makes me think that I was too cautious when I installed it. The Pilot, on the other hand, is stuck solid and won’t budge.

Like anyone who’s had a few failed relationships, I’m starting to think that “it’s not them, it’s me.” So, what’s the secret to getting the plugs snug enough that they don’t work loose, but so that I can still get them off when the time for the next oil change comes?

A few bits of info you might find useful:
-Both drain plugs that are currently on both the cars have fiber gaskets. The one that initially got stuck on the Saab had a copper gasket, which was theorized by a friend to have contributed to my stuck plug predicament.

-I was recently defeated by an oxygen senor in the Pilot that I also couldn’t budge. After a month of wrenching on it with then engine hot, cold, and everywhere in between, as well as dousing it with multiple varieties of chemicals, I caved and had a shop change it. Therefore, the possibility exists that I’m just a weakling when it comes to these things.

Thanks,
-Seth

Sajeev answers:

Is the oil change guy using air tools on your pan a valid concern?  Granted they do have uber-leverage with the car in the air/underground work area and aren’t necessarily concerned about the next guy who might do the job on their back. The real concern is the condition of the threads on both the pan and the bolt. (And the condition of bolt’s washer/gasket thingie…)

For starters, new oil pan bolts are cheap insurance and readily available online or at a parts store. But–and I did this last night on a T-5 shift knob’s fussy threads–reconditioning threads is a great idea and free…once you buy the tools.

This thread is worthless without pics. (photo courtesy: shop.grfasteners.com)

Using a thread chaser set (less aggressive cutting, more like cleaning) or a tap and die set (more aggressive cutting, be careful!) ensures your threads stay healthy and unstripped. Again, while that new oil pan bolt is cheap insurance, running a thread chaser on the pan can’t hurt.

My cars are old enough to need a tap and die set from your local Chinese tool import house. It’s paid for itself after 3 months, fixing radiator mounts, throttle body threads and two shift knobs. I also used it (gently!) like a thread chaser on a recently painted body part, freeing the metal threads of paint. I recommend these tools, practicing on a few throwaway parts before workin’ on your ride.

And no, I wouldn’t try this on seriously loaded/stressed parts like engine internals…research and listen to experts before you go crazy with a tap and die set.

BONUS! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Oh, about your oxygen sensor defeat: get a metal pipe (6+ inches long) from the hardware store and slide it over your wrench. This provides much of the leverage found in a breaker bar without paying for one. Wear gloves so the unfinished metal pipe won’t slice up your pretty hands: break the stuck bolt free, slide off the pipe and resume your normal wrenching to fully remove 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: Start with Spark Plugs! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-start-spark-plugs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-start-spark-plugs/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 13:07:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=956274   TTAC Commentator Supaman writes: Hi Sajeev, Haven’t visited TTAC in a while but I’m back! My Mazda 6 has now crossed the 101k mileage marker and all your nuggets of wisdom have helped keep this classic functional and beautiful. However, there’s another problem rearing its head that has plagued even the Mazda forums I’ve […]

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Done Duratec’d Out? (photo courtesy: Supaman)

TTAC Commentator Supaman writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Haven’t visited TTAC in a while but I’m back! My Mazda 6 has now crossed the 101k mileage marker and all your nuggets of wisdom have helped keep this classic functional and beautiful. However, there’s another problem rearing its head that has plagued even the Mazda forums I’ve visited for a resolution.

It involves the car’s driveability at anything below 3000 rpm. Doesn’t matter whether the engine is just warming up or at operational temperature, the car will hesitate (sometimes violently) in a stuttering/bucking fashion when accelerating from a stop through the gears until I crest that magic 3000 mark on the tach. Out on the highway, passing in top gear is almost impossible because of the engine’s hesitation if revs fall below that number, requiring a downshift to 4th to keep them up. At first I thought my manual skills were to question but then I never started experiencing this issue until around the 87,000 mile mark. It has since gotten worse. Sometimes the bucking is enough to trigger the CEL but then it always goes away after a while.

Browsing the forums I’ve tried everything from cleaning the MAF sensor, fuel injector cleaner, throttle body cleaning as well as replacing the O2 sensor. I’ve narrowed it down to either spark plugs (some forum members replaced theirs but the problem came back hours later), the coils or possibly a vacuum leak. One post I read indicated a potential cylinder misfire. Even Mazda dealers were confounded.

Sajeev answers:

What codes did you get with a scanner?

Supaman replies:

Haven’t scanned the codes because more often than not the CEL light doesn’t trigger.

Sajeev answers:

There’s a (remote?) chance that an intermittent code isn’t triggering the light. So scan now.

Supaman replies:

Hey Sajeev,

Took matters into my own hands and decided to throw some new parts at the Mazda. I bought new spark plugs and ignition coils and decided to dedicate a Saturday to replacing them. What was supposed to have been a three-hour job turned into eight hours of wrenching, ughing, cursing, awkward body positioning, pulling and beer (yes, beer lol).

Anyway, inspecting the forward bank of spark plugs, I found oil coating the middle plug (see pic). The forward left plug was clean (save for carbon deposits I suppose) while the forward right plug had just a hint of oil on it. This (along with the many forums I looked up) tells me my valve cover gasket is bad. I was able to use a clean cloth and mop up as much oil as I could before placing new plugs and coils into the forward bank. Apparently, the leak was so bad it made it up to the coil itself at some point.

The rear bank of plugs were clean, except for signs of normal wear. After buttoning everything up and taking it for a test drive, the hesitation and stuttering are gone and she drives as great as she did 20,000 miles ago. While at it, I cleaned the throttle body, replaced the intake port gaskets, and cleaned the EGR valve and MAF sensor. Of course I know this is a temporary fix and I’ll have to replace the valve cover gasket, hopefully sooner rather than later. Just wanted to give you a heads up and to anyone that works on their car, believe me, it’s a money saver.

Total cost in parts? $95. Total labor? 8 hours on a Saturday and a six-pack of stout. Thanks again!

Sajeev concludes:

I did a similar job to a Duratec Sable with well over 200,000 miles.  While the plugs were toast and the EGR was coked up to near complete blockage, the motor still ran reasonably well.  A good cleaning and new plugs were all it needed: odds are your coils were fine, just like mine were.

Working on wrong-wheel drive cars with bulky DOHC V6 engines is no fun, but the basics? The basics gotta be done.

 

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: Flat Plane Crankshaft Design? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-flat-plane-crankshaft-design/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-flat-plane-crankshaft-design/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 12:37:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=956042   GCH writes: Sajeev: Could you/somebody please explain what a “flat plane crankshaft” is in the new Mustang GT350, and older Porsches and Ferraris? I have seen numerous references to it online and in print but nobody, including Wikipedia explains it in non-calculus terms. Sajeev answers: Dumbing it down sadly glosses over hundreds (thousands?) of […]

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My 98 booming with a trunk of funk, Don’t Believe the Hype. (photo courtesy: Ford)

GCH writes:

Sajeev:

Could you/somebody please explain what a “flat plane crankshaft” is in the new Mustang GT350, and older Porsches and Ferraris?

I have seen numerous references to it online and in print but nobody, including Wikipedia explains it in non-calculus terms.

Sajeev answers:

Dumbing it down sadly glosses over hundreds (thousands?) of salient details in casting technology and/or computer-aided design. But I left Engineering school for a reason, so let’s simplify: rest a flat plane crankshaft on a table and it’s flat like a sheet of paper.

Ford Powerstroke 6.0 crank (photo courtesy: mkmcustoms.com)

Ok, maybe not “paper flat” with those boomerang counterweights at the ends…but compared to the crossplane crank in most V8 passenger vehicles?

Capture

LS9 crankshaft. (Photo Courtesy: General Motors)

Crankshafts, like damn near everything else in our lives, benefits from the KISS principle. A flat plane crankshaft has the potential for significant weight savings to optimize a motor’s moment of inertia and more even firing to benefit the exhaust stroke, allowing for more revs/horsepower. And that unique sound!

But NVH control is a problem: hence widespread adoption of crossplane crankshafts.

Which means flat plane crankshaft-ed Mustangs shall be completely pointless moot when trapped, idling at a red light in American surburbia…which is precisely where 88.7% of Mustang GT350s shall live. 

The stock Coyote V8 is a better option, cool/brag factor aside. Why? Because it’s got a damn good crank, and here’s 8000+ reasons why:

Click here to view the embedded video.

When comparing modifications side-to-side, will a modified GT350 rev harder and make more horses than a similar GT?  Probably.

Will it, in the process, lose valuable low-end torque needed on the street?  Probably.

So go kick some GT350 ass with the Mustang GT’s phenomenal aftermarket support, of which many retain the factory warranty. Come on Son, were you expecting breathless PR boosting for Ford’s latest hot one from TTAC?

 

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: Fanning the Dakota’s Fail Flames for Cherokee LSX-FTW? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-fanning-dakotas-fail-flames-cherokee-lsx-ftw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-fanning-dakotas-fail-flames-cherokee-lsx-ftw/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 13:19:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=953801   TTAC Commentator anti121hero writes: Hello Sajeev! Very long time reader, but first time I’ve ever reached out. To start, I happen to be a huge RWD ford fan, (I’m actually helping my best friend put together his 94 mark viii). Now with your interest gained… I have a 1993 jeep cherokee, 2 door, 4.0 […]

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The Obvious Choice. (photo courtesy: forums.vwvortex.com)

TTAC Commentator anti121hero writes:

Hello Sajeev! Very long time reader, but first time I’ve ever reached out. To start, I happen to be a huge RWD ford fan, (I’m actually helping my best friend put together his 94 mark viii). Now with your interest gained…

I have a 1993 jeep cherokee, 2 door, 4.0 high output, AW4 trans. It has been a pleasure to own, as I’m a jeep guy at heart, and i have lots of money into well done suspension and offroad modifications, far too much to list. To be frank, I’m in love with the thing. But about two months ago, it started rattling at idle. I chalked it up to something in the engine bay or possibly flywheel bolts. It always ran and drove perfect.

All of a sudden, one day after leaving work it was slipping hard into gear, and a mile down the road I lost all gears. (Automatic “bulletproof” AW4). I checked all linkages, changed the fluid and filter, tried it in 4 wheel high and low, but nothing. It can run all day and the transmission wont get hot so I think the pump went out. So I bought a 1987 dodge dakota, carbureted 3.9 v6, AT 2wd for 700 bucks to drive while I hopefully swap a transmission in my jeep.

My problem now is, with a full tune up, all new filters, this Dakota idles extremely rough, it shakes and wants to die. It wants to stall going up hills. Other than that, the truck runs great and is a good beater. I don’t know what to do to fix this dodge to be more reliable, and if I should do the swap in my jeep or if I’m possibly looking at another problem with that. My goal would be to have my jeep as toy, and the truck as backup vehicle. I don’t know if maybe I’m thinking this out wrong and I should sell both and get something more reliable/ better shape, or focus on fixing one and selling the other. The truck is a beater and will only last a few more years, and will be a nightmare in winter being 2wd and carbureted. I guess I’m looking for some good professional advice here. Thank you for any input!

Sajeev answers:

You are in the same place I was before buying a new truck…except you’re working on a Mark VIII that you do not own.

I reckon you need a newer, more reliable, less shitty vehicle and have the Jeep as a weekend project/toy.  Because no man can live on project cars (or trucks) alone!  Unless you are chronically single and dependent free, work from home, have a time value of money equal to zero, etc.

But I find that hard to believe: everyone has commitments requiring a reliable vehicle.  So get a cheap-ish, fuel-efficient car that gives you plenty of monthly income (i.e. easy on insurance/gas) left over for your project. Get a FWD, compact-ish (depending on your physical size), mainstream Japanese, American or South Korean sedan for maximum cheapness. You might be a hard-core Mopar guy, so get a Neon.  They are fun. And you can probably fix most problems in a single weekend, for cheap.

Why so thrifty?  I think it’s time for a professionally rebuilt and/or upgraded trans for the Jeep.  Or better, swap to a GM transmission.  Or even better…wait for it…LSX-FTW SON!!!

The Neon, with the right tires will also be decent in the snow and most people hate them to the point that depreciation is right up your alley.  Tidy up and sell the Dakota.  Get a boring sedan so you can continue as a normal human on the weekdays, and a bad-ass Jeeper on the weekend.

That’s how you win at life.

 

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: Byzantine Transmissions in Frozen Highlands http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-byzantine-transmissions-frozen-highlands/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-byzantine-transmissions-frozen-highlands/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 13:12:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=953745   Mehran writes: Greetings to you Sajeev and your evil twin Sanjeev, (yeah he’s dead to me – SM) First of all thank you very much for answering my other question, just to give you an update on that, I ended up not buying the extended warranty. Now we recently bought a 2012 Toyota Highlander […]

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Dat Complexity. (photo courtesy: byzantineempire1.weebly.com)

Mehran writes:

Greetings to you Sajeev and your evil twin Sanjeev, (yeah he’s dead to me – SM)

First of all thank you very much for answering my other question, just to give you an update on that, I ended up not buying the extended warranty. Now we recently bought a 2012 Toyota Highlander Limited to replace my wife’s old car(V6, 5 Speed automatic with the towing package which adds the trans cooler) it has 34K miles and this one has the extended warranty (100K or 2019). The issue that we have with the car is as follow, after a cold start (in the morning) if I put it in any gear (D or R) something funny happens, the transmission acts funny, it goes in and out of the gear couple of times. For example if I want to back-out of the garage when I put in R and give it a little gas it starts going but for a quick second it seems like that the transmission dis-engages and then re-engages and the tachometer jumps from 1K to 3K. If I wait about 10 sec after I start the car and then put in gear everything is OK.

The other day something strange happened, 3 min after cold start, I wanted to merge onto the highway so I mashed the gas all the way to the floor but it stayed in the same gear and did not kick down, now this has only happened once.

I did take it to the dealer and they gave me the “Could not replicate the issue” answer. I looked at the Highlander forums but did not find anything.

Any idea what might be the issue? I looked at the trans fluid, it seems OK and there is no evidence that the previous owner has done any towing with the car and it has always been serviced at the dealer.

Regards,
Mehran

Sajeev answers:

Automatic transmissions (and transaxles) are smart cookies, what with all their fancy electronic controls controlling a byzantine system of fluid pipes, valves, clutches, fans etc. There’s a reason why internal transmission problems are normally handled by repair techs with a particular set of skills. Like this guy:

Click here to view the embedded video.

If there are no check engine lights, the electronics are probably spot on.  That leaves the fluid or that byzantine system to blame. Since your ride is under warranty, I’d leave it with them overnight to see if they can recreate the problem first thing in the morning. Pick an especially cold week for this, and insist it’s kept outside (if they don’t already).  Odds are the dealer is right, it’s operating within specifications. It’s just that the fluid is maple syrup-ish when cold.

There’s a good chance that switching to fresh fluid (maybe even synthetic, if this is true) will help the byzantine system work better when cold, mostly because newer fluid could be more viscous when cold. That is, cold fluid can be thicker, harder to move in the system and resulting in everything moving much sloooooower.  Be respectful of that and the transmission will respect your time and money.

If you want to keep the Highlander past the warranty, consider a preemptive fluid change at 75,000-ish miles.

 

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: Take My (Suspension) Abuse And Like It? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-take-suspension-abuse-like/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-take-suspension-abuse-like/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:58:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949833   Sam writes: Hello, I have a 2006 Mazda 3 S with 120,000 miles on it. I live in Oakland Ca, where the pot holes shoot back. I blew out a front strut a last year and had both front struts replaced. After replacement, one of the struts squeaks like a rusty spring at slow […]

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Or not? (photo courtesy: www.mazda3forums.com)

Sam writes:

Hello,

I have a 2006 Mazda 3 S with 120,000 miles on it. I live in Oakland Ca, where the pot holes shoot back. I blew out a front strut a last year and had both front struts replaced. After replacement, one of the struts squeaks like a rusty spring at slow speeds and is annoying. What is actually driving me crazy is a week ago the other front strut started making loud thunking under acceleration at slow speeds.

My mechanic, whom is one of the good ones, replaced both front shock mounts, assuming this would fix the problem. It didn’t, but one of them was all shredded. Now, I feel like I’m going down the rabbit hole, there are engine mounts and sway bar bushings that can be replaced, but this shouldn’t be so complicated.

My car is supposed to take my abuse and like it.

Sajeev answers:

Excuse me Son, but when in the history of Autoblogging did a (non-Ranger based) high mileage Mazda ever take suspension abuse? Have you not listened to my screeds re: Panther Love?

Stupidity aside, engine mounts are kinda easy to check and it’s likely your problem, as discussed before.  And sway bar bushings are cheap and usually easy to swap. This car is an 8-ish year old non-Panther with over 100k on the clock. Aside from big things like engines/transmissions/etc, be cool with any wear item failing at this point. It won’t happen often, but being “cool with it” is the right state of mind at this age.

Your mechanic is probably doing the right thing.  Problem is, cars aren’t built like they used to.

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Not built like they used to? Damn right!  No more tune ups before 100k, engines are that good.  Suspensions don’t need regular lubrication, though DIY-ers wouldn’t mind a greasable zerk fitting renaissance. Read the owner’s manual?  Only if I can’t get the dash to talk to my smarty-phone or adjust the clock for daylight savings time.

How does this prove my original point?

Cars are now so good that we set ‘em and forget ‘em.  Even with tighter suspensions, higher revving engines, loads of fragile(ish) electronics and idiotically thin tires, a modern car with over 100k will be in better shape than one from 25+ years ago. Especially when applying the same amount of maintenance. Hell, good luck getting that older car to even run past 100k with a modern car’s servicing regiment. 

 

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 Looooooong Cult of Panther Love? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/cult-of-panther-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/cult-of-panther-love/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:48:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=948985   TTAC Commentator Nick 2012 writes: Archangel of the Panther Platform – A nice looking 2005 LWB Lincoln Town Car with only 107,000mi popped up for sale at a nearby dealer with a what-I-hope-to-be-optimistic $8,000 asking price. As any follower of the good book of fat Panther Love(tm), I keep my eye out for a […]

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Because SedanLimo. (photo courtesy: forums.vwvortex.com)

TTAC Commentator Nick 2012 writes:

Archangel of the Panther Platform –

A nice looking 2005 LWB Lincoln Town Car with only 107,000mi popped up for sale at a nearby dealer with a what-I-hope-to-be-optimistic $8,000 asking price. As any follower of the good book of fat Panther Love(tm), I keep my eye out for a good one on the local boards.

I took a new position a while back that has me commuting about 65mi a day – about 90% interstate. Going from my comfortable, competent Accord to the extremely comfortable TC would cost me about $10/week in increased fuel costs if I exclusively used the TC (which I wouldn’t do).

For a number of reasons – weekend trips to the lake, grandparents needing a real car with room for car seats, traveling to-from LeMons build sessions, conveying gravitas and refined taste when showing up at friends’ houses, hoonage, and taking stress of the DD Accord that is accumulating mileage like a space shuttle, a third car would be a nice thing to have, even though I’m aware it is probably cheaper to just run the Accord into the earth.

But I miss the cult of Panther and secretly want one and all the fun parts my kids and I could bolt on it. Also, my folks would probably use it somewhat regularly. In my first ‘third car’ experience, they were happy to informally allocate running costs as they used it a lot more than they thought. My Dad’s Focus just isn’t the kind of freeway ride he wants at his age, so I think he’d secretly be rooting for this purchase.  Long term, it might be an appropriate car hauler or cart hauler if Jr is interested in such things.

The LWB is more than I planned to spend for a third car, but not an unreasonable amount. LWB models with well in excess of 300,000 miles seem to go for no less than $4000-5000 on eBay. As long as its not wrecked, I’m figuring that the thing wouldn’t depreciate much if kept in good shape.

Which leads me to my questions:

- Am I self rationalizing about the depreciation and would it be better to scoop up a Marquis/Vic/regular Town Car when one hits the sweet spot for me for less than half the price?
- How much better are the 2003s than the earlier models?
- Does the LWB body bring any special challenges or limit tasteful aftermarket modification?

– anything to look out for with these?

I think the dealer is selling this through the wrong channel and I’m hopeful it’s going to not attract a lot of foot traffic at a retail car dealer.

Sajeev answers:

Well this archangel certainly thinks the LWB Town Car (black on black, if possible) is totally the way to rise up the ranks in the cult of Panther Love. But since most of our readers are of the boring “ZOMG Panthers are horrible” crowd, let’s keep it brief. To your questions:

Am I self rationalizing about the depreciation? : It’s a safe bet that LWB Town Cars (and Marauders) with good paint/interiors will hold their value well.  Not true for other Panthers, but it is The Great American Sedan: even for GM guys looking for a newer ride.

How much better are the 2003s than the earlier models?: they are still “skinny” Panthers (skinniest is 1998-2002, especially 1998), as the 90-97 models (especially 1995) are the Fat Panthers in terms of fit/finish and overall lack of bean counting in everything from dashboards to the number of Lincoln-y tail light clusters.

But the 2003 model has significant chassis (hydroformed bits, aluminum bits), steering (rack and pinion) and electronic upgrades that make them better…even without yesteryear’s plush ride and creature comforts.  They are still better because they soaked up engineering advancements over the years. Except journalists say the Panther hasn’t changed much since 1979, they’d rather not do their homework and shame FoMoCo for neglecting it to death

…what a load of trash! 

Does the LWB body bring any special challenges or limit tasteful aftermarket modification?: Suspension, engine, transmission, etc are all the same.  Honestly they look better than the short wheel base model, I don’t expect any challenges. Even the rear stereo controls are probably compatible with aftermarket stereos, as they have conversion harnesses that work with auxiliary controls (normally the ones on the steering wheel.)

Anything to look out for with these?: Be careful of how awesome you feel after owning a “skinny panther” Lincoln Town Car. But seriously, check for normal wear and tear and the condition of the transmission and ATF.  Everything else is pretty robust, even if a module goes bad, replacement bits are cheap and plentiful.  Also try not to go nuts with Panther Love modifications after you do an SCT engine/trans tune, because that’s one of the few bang for the buck modifications that’ll work.

I think the dealer is selling this through the wrong channel: Wrong!  You think fleet buyers don’t look for cars in your corners of the Interweb? You think their employees don’t have buddies in the fleet car trade that are foaming at the mouth for it? Be it Panther, Land Cruiser, or whatever automotive poison, the fanbois are all over the web looking for 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: An Airbag Light Away From Death? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-airbag-light-away-death/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-airbag-light-away-death/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 13:21:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=947225 TTAC commentator “Stuck in DC Traffic” writes: Hello Sajeev, B&B and your evil doppelganger Sanjeev, I have a 2004 Acura TSX 6MT with 263,000 miles on it. The car runs great, owned out right, still looks good, and is almost problem free except for an airbag light. Being that I live in the DC metro […]

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(photo courtesy: kdeissy.files.wordpress.com)

TTAC commentator “Stuck in DC Traffic” writes:

Hello Sajeev, B&B and your evil doppelganger Sanjeev,

I have a 2004 Acura TSX 6MT with 263,000 miles on it. The car runs great, owned out right, still looks good, and is almost problem free except for an airbag light. Being that I live in the DC metro area and we are rated one of the worst places in the US for accidents, that light makes me nervous. What I want to know; is it worth getting fixed? Or for that matter is it even worth getting diagnosed?

Part of me wants to fix it as the car runs fine, it’s a great commuter and I don’t have to finance anything(read that as I’m cheap). I probably will get it diagnosed at least, but the other part of me remembers a money pit of airbag issue I had in the past. Twelve years ago I had a ’00.5 Audi A4 avant 6MT, but not in brown, that had an airbag light on. The airbag computer had shorted out and I replaced it. Then a seat sensor when out, then the other seat sensor, finally the airbag computer went again. At this point I had a dumped $2k plus into it and was told the only way to find the fault causing the airbag computer failure was to just start replacing every in the system till the issue when away. But in the mean time I could look forward to more new airbag computers while finding the fault. There was talk of replacing the entire wiring system for the airbags. Being 30 at the time, and with no kids, I didn’t think it was a big deal and I said I’ll drive without airbags, but my wife said no. The mechanic told me I should just trade the car and not even both trying to fix it. I ended up trading it because it was more cost effective than dumping money into it.

The Acura has high mileage and I add about 8k per year to it in dc traffic. It burns oil, about a quart a month as all old vtecs do. First clutch went about 135k miles, so I could be looking at another one soon. OBD 2 has told me nothing about the fault so this probably a dealer trip to figure out the issue. The car hasn’t reached hooptie money pit status yet, but it has soldered on enough in the trenches to make me think spending major money on it is just not worth it. Having kids and being in my 40’s now makes me uncomfortable just driving without airbags. SO … should I fix it, and how much would be acceptable to spend on fixing it?

Oh and for Sanjeev … yes LSxFTW would fix anything, but what about a panther wagon with a LSx …now that would be FTW.

Regards,

Stuck in DC traffic

Sanjeev answers:

Evil doppelganger? How dare you!

Look, you are a sweet person but sadly you fell for Sajeev’s pleasant-smelling yet mind-numbing bullshit.

So listen to Sanjeev! He knows that the older and wiser you, now that you have kids and are in your 40s, needs a four-cylinder, front-wheel drive, automatic CUV with leather interior. But Sanjeev recommends adding “The Gold Package” on the outside emblems. Then everyone knows you as a family man on the inside, and a classy man for everyone to appreciate on the outside.

Sajeev retorts:

CUV? Clearly a Mercury Colony Park (i.e. fully loaded Grand Marquis wagon) with LSX-FTW is perfect for your needs. They even came with a driver’s side airbag; what better way to care for your passengers than with a driver’s side airbag?

I bragged about such airbag selflessness once before, reassuring my prom date’s mother with that line…she probably totally didn’t hate me afterward!

Sanjeev says:

Driver’s side airbag jokes before prom? You are such an idiot, get to the point already!

Sajeev concludes:

Soooo anyway, it’s time for a new car.  The super-high mile Acura served its purpose and now you (and your family) deserve a safer car. Why now?

Because this Acura will reach “hooptie money pit status” the moment you fix the airbag light. It’s literally one large repair away from turning into a wallet sucking repair vortex, relative to the money spent NOW on a newer car.  We all know that older Audis (like your story) are huge money pits, but they are premature money pits.  This Acura is how all cars should “die”, so to speak.

And that time has most certainly come.

Enjoy the hunt for a 2011 long wheelbase Lincoln Town Car new machine.

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: Suspension Wear and Tear to Infiniti? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-9/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-9/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:32:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=946522   TTAC Commentator CoreyDL writes: Hey Sajeev, I have had several questions floating around in my head for quite a while about proper suspension maintenance. My story begins a couple of cars ago when I couldn’t find answers, and ends here with this multi-part, OCD-approved question. My 09 M35x has just gone over 56,000 miles […]

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2009_infiniti_m35-pic-14982

TTAC Commentator CoreyDL writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I have had several questions floating around in my head for quite a while about proper suspension maintenance. My story begins a couple of cars ago when I couldn’t find answers, and ends here with this multi-part, OCD-approved question. My 09 M35x has just gone over 56,000 miles and I’m thinking I am past due for shocks (they’re originals, I believe). After riding in a G37xS the other day and noticing how much more compliant it felt over speed bumps and the like, my awareness of the issue increased.

When I go and look at various message board/etc. sources online, seems like whenever someone has tried to ask a serious question about their suspension, some dudebro usually replies with, “Aw man just put Bilstiens on there and lower it brah.”

So my questions are of the general variety. What sort of mileage intervals can someone reasonably anticipate a need for replacing suspension components? I’m talking passenger cars here, and what parts need replaced: shocks, struts, various bushings, sway bars, control arms, linkages… how far does this list go mayne?! I know putting new shocks on won’t be nearly as effective if the bushings and struts are worn out as well.

I want to take proper care of my suspension and keep it riding correct!

Second portion:

Since all these people here at the B&B love talking used (Cadillac), usually higher mileage (Town Car) rides (including myself) (LS400), what would you recommend as far as a “suspension refresh” if someone buys a decade-old car with 100k miles or more? I know you can help us all out.

Thanks for your help.

Sajeev answers:

Let’s quickly answer Question One about suspension wear and tear, partly with your comment:

“OCD-approved question. My 09 M35x has just gone over 56,000 miles and I’m thinking I am past due for shocks (they’re originals, I believe)”

There could be a good reason for needing new shocks at this age/mileage, but it’s just not that likely.  I’m pretty frickin’ OCD about car stuff myself (see photo below) but if an Infiniti M rides worse than a (newer?) G37 with a (maybe?) more compliant wheel/tire package, I wouldn’t blame the car.  Blame the manufacturer, and do a -1 or -2 wheel/tire package like we’ve discussed recently.

More to the point: odds are the shocks are fine, but you go right ahead and test them.  Now for Question Two, using a quote from Question One:

“What sort of mileage intervals can someone reasonably anticipate a need for replacing suspension components? I’m talking passenger cars here, and what parts need replaced: shocks, struts, various bushings, sway bars, control arms, linkages… how far does this list go mayne?!”

Well, okay mayne…I’ll show you how OCD you can be:

How ’bout ‘dem Chocolate and Caramel coated Apples?

At some point a “keeper” could get stripped/reconditioned.  Because at some point all the rubber goes bad.  Or too many potholes busts up the ball joints.  And maybe the wheel bearings might be shot. And if you’re gonna spend the time/effort/money to do all that, fully addressing suspension wear and tear via 100% replacement isn’t totally stupid.

I know what I just wrote about the above photo is an illogical extreme.  But your question merits discussing all aspects. So if you live in Boston, you probably need new control arms/shocks/ball joints before you’ll need new shocks in Wyoming.  And if you drive something fragile (which these days is more of cars than we’d like to admit) with tiny tires on pristine roads, don’t be surprised if they need more replacement “stuff” than a Panther on somewhat horrible roads. (i.e. not Boston)

This is the part where we list common wear items, and let the B&B take it from there:

  • Shocks, too loose or too tight (they can gum up inside).
  • Springs, they get softer, saggier and even (sometimes) break.
  • Spring pads: the rubber underneath the springs can go bad too!
  • Control arms: changing bushings (or ball joints) here isn’t that common anymore, now it’s easier/cheaper to get a new control arm instead.
  • Tires: even if there’s plenty of tread, rubber degrades over time and ride/handling suffers.
  • Swaybar links/bushings: these tend to work very hard, but they’ll get noisy before they totally die.
  • Swaybars: check if yours are hollow.  Don’t be surprised if they are toast, especially if you live in the Rust Belt.

 

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: 2 More Years from the (Mazda)3? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-2-years-mazda-3/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-2-years-mazda-3/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:34:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=943185   Mike writes: Hey Sajeev, Long time reader first time writer. So here is my dilemma. I have a 2007 Mazda 3 sedan 2.3L with a 5 speed manual that currently has 97,000 miles on it. It is modified with a Mazda branded CAI and cat back exhaust. It’s been a pretty much trouble free […]

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Edging out a bit more? (photo courtesy: www.productwiki.com)

Mike writes:

Hey Sajeev,

Long time reader first time writer. So here is my dilemma.

I have a 2007 Mazda 3 sedan 2.3L with a 5 speed manual that currently has 97,000 miles on it. It is modified with a Mazda branded CAI and cat back exhaust. It’s been a pretty much trouble free car for its life. I’ve always maintained it in terms of tires, brakes, suspension, and oil changes every 4,000 miles. This summer I recently even took the car round trip across the country. Before leaving for that trip I had the power steering fluid, brake fluid, and coolant fluid flushes and new spark plugs. I also had the strut mounts replaced and the rear shocks done.

So after getting home from my cross country road trip I let the car sit for two days. When I went to start it up it would crank a bunch but no start up until I cranked, stopped, and cranked again. The mechanic confirmed my suspicions when he said it was the fuel pump, more specifically the check valve. He said replacing the pump could be close to 800-1000 dollars.

Now I’m not entirely sure what to do with the car. On KBB it shows the car is worth about 5,000. But I have other costly things that need to be done. I also need to do the clutch soon which I understand is close to a 800 dollar job, I have to replace a lower control arm in the front which is about 400, and I need a new set of tires.

I really like the car a lot as it is still fun to drive, but economically speaking I don’t know if I should cut my losses now and look into leasing or purchasing a new car, purchasing something lightly used, or keeping my car. Realistically I wanted two more years out of it. I like not having a car payment each month and if I did purchase my cap price would prob be low to mid 20s.

Any insight would be great.
Thanks,
Mike

Sajeev answers:

Unless you’re being coy and actually want a new car, do the basic repairs and keep for 2 more years.  But only you know how worn the clutch/control arm is on your Mazda. Clutches, when driven properly with lots of highway miles, can last longer than 100,000 miles. This may, or may not, apply here.

Let’s assume the converse: your Mazda 3 does need tires/clutch/control arm.  It’s worth anywhere from $4000-6500 (wide range on purpose), be it trade in or private party sale. You won’t get the repair money back ($2000 or more) and could easily sell as-is. This is a well cared for vehicle with tasty modifications that won’t scare off anyone.

So punt, give up, trade-in for another vehicle. Maybe even the original fuel pump is good enough for a top dollar trade!

So maybe you are right, it’s time for Panther Love a new machine in your life.

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: Get Ready to Lose Much More! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-get-ready-to-lose-much-more-c-class/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-get-ready-to-lose-much-more-c-class/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 14:33:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=943113   TTAC Commentator LordMurdoc writes: Sajeev, I’m finally ready to lose my BORING 2002 Geo Prizm. Checking eBay for older Lexus LS or a Mercedes C-class(about 2004-2006) . If I went with the Merc with the gasoline V6, what type of Gremlins might I expect to attack me when my wallet is most vulnerable? The […]

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Know what that triangle is for? (photo courtesy: www.drive.net)

TTAC Commentator LordMurdoc writes:

Sajeev,

I’m finally ready to lose my BORING 2002 Geo Prizm.

Checking eBay for older Lexus LS or a Mercedes C-class(about 2004-2006) . If I went with the Merc with the gasoline V6, what type of Gremlins might I expect to attack me when my wallet is most vulnerable? The Prizm is turning my brain to mush and my right foot is in despair!

Thanks for your excellent advice.

Sajeev answers:

That’s a good question, insofar that I’m answering the question I heard you to ask…not your actual question.

“Why yes, the 2003+ Lincoln Town Car with an SCT tune, a cop car air box/rear sway bar, late model Mustang GT mufflers and a quicker axle ratio is PERFECT for you!  Considering otherwise is foolish, and thank goodness you are no such fool.”

But somewhat more seriously, these questions are fun: the OP knows he’s about to do something stupid.

Like buying a neglected Lexus LS with an explodey timing belt. Or the litany of little things to drive you nuts on most W203 C-class Benzes. Or big things, like certain V6s with balance shaft issues. But, on the plus side, the C240 looks more robust, perhaps even having less body mounted electric gizmos to fail as it’s a lower level model. Maybe even with super durable MB-Tex coverings!

I’d go with the C240, for the stout motor.  The rest of it? 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.

The post Piston Slap: Get Ready to Lose Much More! appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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Piston Slap: Mazda’s Rust and Tire Size Trust Gap? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-mazdas-rust-tire-size-trust-gap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-mazdas-rust-tire-size-trust-gap/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 13:42:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=939433 Greg writes: Hello Sajeev, David Holzman says I should write to you about my Mazda concerns. 1. Concern #1. In two out of three dealers there was significant rust at the center of the wheels due to the wheel caps not having been put on. I only took three pictures, but essentially: at New Country […]

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Curb Appeal? (photo courtesy: Greg)

Greg writes:

Hello Sajeev, David Holzman says I should write to you about my Mazda concerns.

1. Concern #1. In two out of three dealers there was significant rust at the center of the wheels due to the wheel caps not having been put on. I only took three pictures, but essentially: at New Country Mazda in Saratoga Springs NY 100% of the Mazdas had no wheelcaps on in the lot and were all showing various degrees of rust. That includes the one in the showroom, you can see it in the pic with the tile floor.

I only took three pictures, I wasn’t intending to do a 60 minutes expose. The other two pictures were taken at Orange Motors in Albany NY. At Orange Motors about 40% of the cars had no wheel caps. One had light rust and the other shows advanced penetration of the surface–not quite sure what we’re looking at, an axle nut and lug of some sort maybe–but this is rust that won’t wipe off, on a 2015 Mazda 6, and I don’t have anything comparable on my 2004 Corolla. Yes, I know that brakes get rusty–I see what’s going on every time I change my tires in the winter and spring–but I just don’t have anything like this.

I contacted Mazda North America with the pictures but they are extremely non-committal. I find it odd that a car company would be happy with dealers’ not installing wheel caps and showing rust on the show room floor. But that’s just me.

So the question: should this issue be a deterrent to purchasing a Mazda 6?

2. Concern #2. While I was talking to the Mazda North America “marketing experience” rep (the title was something like that) I indicated that I was having a hard time getting a dealer to commit to the idea of selling me the intermediate trim level Mazda 6 (the Touring) with 17″ alloy rims instead of 19″. The reason I am concerned is that currently tirerack.com is showing only two available tires for the Mazda 6. I would prefer series 55 to series 45 tires in order to have increased protection from the abundant pot holes in my area. But the OEM default for the Touring and Grand Touring is series 45. Not only are the series 45 tires less protective, they increase road noise and all seem to have low 200 to 300 tread wear ratings. But if you have series 55 tires you have about two dozen different choices, with a wide range of prices as well as considerable choice in speed and wear ratings.

One dealer indicated that he might be willing to switch the rims and tires from a Sport to a Touring to accommodate my request, but the Mazda North America rep said this was not recommended because of some design differences in the undercarriage between the Touring and Sport models. Is that true? I was not able to get detailed information from the rep who seemed to be more of a marketing person.

This is not just a question about the tires. If I want certain things that seem like a good idea, such as a back up camera, and I really need to stick to the “Sport” trim level to get 17″ rims, then I can’t get a manual transmission and also have the back up camera. So I’m thinking hard about the Accord LX manual, but the lack of a 60/40 split rear seat makes it tough for me, that’s a feature that I need from time to time, and when I need it I really need it.

Anyhow I’m wondering why Mazda is being so coy about 17″ rims on the Touring trim level, and it is also important for me to figure this out because I would like to get some steel rims with snow tires for the winter months. Here the choice of snow tires is also sharply limited in 19″ alloy rims, but 17″ steel is pretty easy to find snow tires for. And of course steel makes more sense for winter use.

Hope that’s not all too complicated.

Thanks,
Greg

Sajeev answers:

Let’s get to it.

Concern 1: Not a concern.  While it is bizarre that Mazdas are displayed sans center caps, that rust is on the hub. Not the wheel, behind the wheel.  Hubs (or brake rotors with integral hubs) are not rustproofed like other items, because these thick metal castings need 100+ rusty years for actual damage.  Just like surface rust on an engine block, it means nothing.

0821141329Not buying a Mazda 6 for this reason is silly.  And let’s hope the rust issues from 5+ years ago are history.

Concern 2: One man can’t make a difference.  No matter the groundswell seen in my inbox and the last few Piston Slaps revealing a sad new Truth About Cars: big wheels and low profile tires are kinda seriously dumb.

Forget about the base model wheels on a higher trimmed model.  And don’t rock the boat, nobody at the factory wants to say anything to make YOU happy that’ll get THEM in hot water.  Until smaller wheels (and bigger sidewalls) become a must-have feature, the bigger ones will continue to boost the profit margins of all manufacturers. (not just Mazda)

Your dealer (or the aftermarket) offers the right move: 17″ wheels with the correct minus sized tire (discussed here) will give you the same circumference and a similar (probably the same) footprint.  The “not recommended because of some design differences in the undercarriage between the Touring and Sport models” is hard to verify without seeing in person (or asking a Mazda PR rep) but I doubt it. Again, see my comment about non-committal statements to save one’s own bacon.

You can’t blame someone for toeing the company line to keep their job…can you? We’ve all been there!

The real question we need to answer is twofold:

  • When will manufacturers abandon tall bodies that need tall wagon wheels and pointless sidewalls?  
  • When will they offer more diverse options for buyers who refuse to be pigeonholed by restrictive trim packages? 

That requires a serious commitment from high level execs for cash (design new cars with old car proportioning) and…well honestly I don’t know who would approve the solution to the latter. Good luck with that.

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

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