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, 19 Dec 2014 15:54:40 +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 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.

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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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Super Piston Slap: RIP Tom Magliozzi http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/super-piston-slap-rip-tom-magliozzi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/super-piston-slap-rip-tom-magliozzi/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 13:50:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=939921   Sajeev writes: I don’t know what Tom Magliozzi thought of our little Piston Slap creation, sadly we never met.  So I write to remember an inspirational person who did great things: Mr. Magliozzi made the undesirable job of fixing a car into an info-tainment legacy. NPR wrote a wonderful article, and one point about this MIT graduate […]

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(photo courtesy: www.usatoday.com and Charles Krupa, AP)

(photo courtesy: www.usatoday.com and Charles Krupa, AP)

Sajeev writes:

I don’t know what Tom Magliozzi thought of our little Piston Slap creation, sadly we never met.  So I write to remember an inspirational person who did great things: Mr. Magliozzi made the undesirable job of fixing a car into an info-tainment legacy.

NPR wrote a wonderful article, and one point about this MIT graduate really hit home…

He was on his way to work when he had a near-fatal accident with a tractor-trailer. He pulled off the road and decided to do something different with his life.

“I quit my job,” he said. “I became a bum. I spent two years sitting in Harvard Square drinking coffee. I invented the concept of the do-it-yourself auto repair shop, and I met my lovely wife.”

His epiphany eventually turned into Car Talk, the show we know and love.  And his situation was mine, I came up with the Autoblogosphere’s Automotive Self Help concept as an unemployed MBA (by choice, I dislike panic attacks) desperately seeking a new mission.  My only income was as a high school drum instructor, laughable since it covered the gas bill on the only functioning vehicle I had. (That’s it.) Good times they were not, but seeds were planted…and damn, I miss that 5.0 Explorer.

Here’s a complete fictionalization of how Piston Slap was created with the help of TTAC’s founder, Robert Farago:

SM: Hey Robert!  ZOMG SON I HAZ an idea to harness the extreme power of automotive message forums, the all knowing presence of Google Search, leverage the knowledge of our Best and Brightest and create something like Car Talk but with TTAC’s signature spizzarkle.  What do you think?

RF: (stops cleaning gun) Sound great dude, but you need to give it a name before we run with it.

SM:  Well it has to be funny, yet crude.  And the more you see it, the less funny and more visceral it gets. (Listing names)…and how about Piston Slap?

RF: Sure, if it works for you. I like it. Okay, write it up and let’s see what happens.

I never considered getting paid for Piston Slap, much less making it the biggest part of my autojourno career.  And yes, the Slap Happy bits that drive you nuts (Panther Love, LS-swap everything, Sanjeev the Jerk) came elsewhere in this series’ five year tenure. So what have I (we?) learned from Mr. Tom Magliozzi?

You will accomplish amazing things with the right people around and no unnecessary boundaries…and hopefully it’ll make you laugh. A LOT.

While Car Talk had no direct influence on me and Piston Slap, the similarities are clear. Most importantly, he had family/friends/customers/fans that supported his epiphany and let it blossom. He had a great brother who supported his love of cars, and I too know that feeling. So enough about why Mr. Magliozzi is important to me, it’s off to you…Best and Brightest.

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Piston Slap: UR U Joints Be Bangin’ Dat Stang? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-ur-u-joints-bangin-dat-stang/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-ur-u-joints-bangin-dat-stang/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 13:30:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=939361 Mark writes: Sajeev– Here’s a weird one to test your skills of remote diagnosis. Fire up your Magic 8 Ball for this one. Car: 2012 Mustang V6, manual gearbox, performance package (currently running some crappy General AS Max-03 tires), 33,000 miles. I’m the only owner; special ordered to get it just the way I want. […]

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Torque On The Left Hand side? (photo courtesy: www.moderndriveline.com)

Mark writes:

Sajeev–

Here’s a weird one to test your skills of remote diagnosis. Fire up your Magic 8 Ball for this one.

Car: 2012 Mustang V6, manual gearbox, performance package (currently running some crappy General AS Max-03 tires), 33,000 miles. I’m the only owner; special ordered to get it just the way I want. Mods limited to a Shaftmasters one piece drive shaft (scared into it by a few YouTube videos), a Draw-Tite receiver hitch to pull my one bike motorcycle trailer, and an 87 octane tune uploaded via SCT (on your recommendation). The car will go into a nearby Ford dealer for a look at this issue under warranty this coming Friday, but based on the “quality” of some of the work I’ve had done over the years, I thought it would help to give the techs some clues.

Problem: For the past few days, I’ve heard irregular “bangs” or “clunks” from under the car.

The noise is heard, not felt, and I’m unable to pinpoint the corner of the car from where the noise emanates. It doesn’t seem to be speed related: the noise can happen at a walking pace on up to about 40 mph, and the frequency doesn’t vary with speed; the noises can be 2 seconds apart or 30 seconds apart. I think the noise continues at higher speed, it’s just drowned out by wind/road noise. Some bumps set off the noise, some don’t…can’t seem to figure out any common threads on the bump-noise relationship. The one thing I have noticed: no noise if the brakes are applied. Even a very light drag of the brakes silences any noise.

My Own Research: I’ve had the car jacked up in the garage and I don’t see any obvious issues. The exhaust system seems to be well secured, as do the anti-roll bars. No obvious hanging parts. The brake pads have plenty of meat. No leaks from the shocks/struts. The receiver hitch is not loose.

This car has had a few chassis issues: a new steering box around 15k and a new rear anti-roll bar around 30k. I blame the poor condition of roads here in Illinois for those failures, along with the lack of give from the low profile 40-series tires.

Some digging in Mustang forums failed to uncover a smoking gun.

Bonus Question: When these crappy Generals give up the ghost, do you see a major problem with switching to 45-series tires in an effort to gain a little more bump compliance?

Thanks, Sajeev!

Sajeev answers:

I’ll answer the easier (bonus) question first: sure, no problem and it might help a little. But wanting bump compliance from 19″ wheels on a car is like expecting an honest answer from a politician.  Both are laughable: try minus sizing via 17″ wheels from an older S197 (as they get dumped on craigslist for dirt cheap) over the performance package’s upgraded front stoppers.  If not, maybe 18″.  If not, give up be awesome and get a Grand Marquis as a second car.

That was easy.  Now, I suspect your first question shall have no solution when a mechanic starts prying/wiggling suspension things to test for play.

I commend you on the modifications, but…there’s always a but. My gut thinks the new U joints on that new (and necessary) upgraded driveshaft are the problem. Can you (gently, with millimeters of throttle input) load/unload the drive line while the tires are losing/gaining traction?  Like maybe on a bumpy/slick road at highway speeds. If the thud/clunk comes back, it’s the U joints.

If not? Maybe it’s a shock/strut mount. Or maybe a sway bar mount, but the speeds you mentioned make me think U joints Über Alles.

 

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: Cooling to the MAXX? (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-dex-cool-maxx-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-dex-cool-maxx-part-ii/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 11:40:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937498   CJ writes: My name’s CJ I have a 04 (Malibu MAXX) with a 3.5 V6 and I have the same problem with the car running hot (as Part I) but here’s the kicker :when the a/c is on the it runs normal, completely normal under both situations.  I’m thinking fan switch, but the radiator sounds […]

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>>>Insert Greenhouse Joke Here<<<

 

CJ writes:

My name’s CJ I have a 04 (Malibu MAXX) with a 3.5 V6 and I have the same problem with the car running hot (as Part I) but here’s the kicker :when the a/c is on the it runs normal, completely normal under both situations.  I’m thinking fan switch, but the radiator sounds plausible. What’s your take and is there something in between all this that I’m forgetting?

Sajeev answers:

Oh Dex Cool, how you keep my coffers full of automotive queries!  I shall never go hungry as long as the metal forced to circulate you, oh Dex Cool, continue to roam this land.

Keep in mind there’s two fans on this vehicle, one is a secondary blower (sucker?) to help when the A/C kicks on. (Remember kids, the A/C condenser is in front of the radiator.) Which begs the question, does your primary fan work?

Let’s assume the primary fan works, otherwise the engine woulda overheated and warped itself by now.  Warped like an overheated I-6 Supra or 3.8L V6 Ford, that is. If the secondary fan is needed to assist the primary, all signs point to a clogged radiator. Just like Part I: the solution is a new radiator and a cooling system flush to get the gunk associated with Dex Cool out of the system.

Or maybe I’m just lazy, as recycling answers is a sweet way to make the nut.

And with that bizarre ending, off to the Best and Brightest.

 

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

 

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Piston Slap: A Scion’s Ideal All Season Tire? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-8/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-8/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 12:10:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935850 TTAC Commentator Sam Hell Jr. writes: Hi, Sanjeev! The first car I bought for myself was a 2011 Scion tC. Compared with some other decisions I made three years ago (cough, cough, career in human resources, cough), this one’s turned out okay — to date, I’ve put 40k on the odo with no repair costs […]

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TTAC Commentator Sam Hell Jr. writes:

Hi, Sanjeev!

The first car I bought for myself was a 2011 Scion tC. Compared with some other decisions I made three years ago (cough, cough, career in human resources, cough), this one’s turned out okay — to date, I’ve put 40k on the odo with no repair costs but regular maintenance, and the hatchback utility and decent fuel economy have both matched up well with my needs. I’ll probably have the tC paid off this year, and I’m looking forward to debt-free living, so the car and I are stuck with each other for some time to come.

My biggest complaint is with the car’s interstate manners. I take a handful of significant road trips every year, and at freeway speeds on anything but pristine pavement (of the kind one does not often traverse on I-80), the ride gets jittery, and the tire noise is, well, tiresome.

I’m still running the stock 225/45R18 high-performance Toyos; based on the treadwear, I’ll be shopping for tires sometime in the next 12 months. I’m willing to trade some responsiveness for a little more comfort and quiet.

Would moving over to a grand touring tire like a Michelin Primacy be a reasonable option for me? Or would I just turn my noisy econohatch into a noisy econohatch with less-capable handling? (All-seasons are my only option — I live in northwest Ohio, and I don’t have anywhere to store a second set of tires.)

Follow-up question — are there some other reasonable steps I’m overlooking which might make this car a little less Celica and a little more Solara?

Thanks so much for your time — I’m a big fan of your columns!

Sajeev writes:

You don’t like being in command of people’s careers as An Almighty HR Professional?  I enjoy blackmailing certain super-cheaty racers as a judge in The 24 Hours of LeMons. You can do that too!

Just get the dirt on key executives, or middle managers hot-to-trot up the corporate ladder. Think about it: you could be bribing your way to a 2-car garage with ultra-plush Mercury Grand Marquis levels of comfort in a matter of months. After a year, LSX-FTW swap on both vehicles! Problem solved!

Sanjeev writes:

Oh that’s just lovely advice, you are such a wise man.  No wonder everyone wants ME to answer their letters, even with YOUR mindless rantings in tow. My friends: listen to Sanjeev.  Sanjeev knows Toyotas.

Sanjeev knows that your tires are old enough to need replacement, no matter their tread life.  Their noise level is tiresome, quite common for worn-out high performance rubber.  You can probably downsize to a Scion/Corolla 16 or 17″ wheel for maximum effect, maybe you’ll regret the lack of coolness in your cool Scion-branded Toyota. Why is Sanjeev right about this?  Because he did a mere tire change after Sajeev failed in his choice for his mother’s Lexus GS430.

Sajeev put a “high performance” all season tire, they drove everyone nuts after 3 years.  So Sanjeev wisely installed a less aggressive “touring” all season tire. Now everyone is happy. Because now it’s a proper V8-powered Lexus, with tires that will last longer, ride better (probably) and stay quieter. So, with Sanjeev’s blessings, switch to a more conservative all season tire!

 

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: Tyre Size Minus 1 or Minus 2? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-minus-1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-minus-1/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:51:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933602 Gavin writes: Dear Sajeev: I have a Gen 7 Toyota Camry V6 and I am getting close to replacement of the factory 225/45/18 low profile tyres. The selection of long wearing low profile all season tyres in 45 series is pretty slim. The four cylinder version of my Camry has 215/55/17 tyres on 7×17 inch […]

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Gavin writes:

Dear Sajeev:

I have a Gen 7 Toyota Camry V6 and I am getting close to replacement of the factory 225/45/18 low profile tyres. The selection of long wearing low profile all season tyres in 45 series is pretty slim. The four cylinder version of my Camry has 215/55/17 tyres on 7×17 inch rims and the selection of long wearing 55 series touring tyres is much better. My question is, since I am not really a ‘sport driving type’, would it be better for me to find a nice set of wrecking yard alloys and downgrade to the smaller rim/taller sidewall size tyres? Is the difference in performance between 45 series and 55 series noticeable or should I stay with the original low profile tyres.

Finally, Discount Tire seems to really push their ‘tire certificates’, a road hazard protection plan for $20/tyre. Is Road Hazard really necessary on a vehicle equipped with TPMS?

Cheers,

Gavin

Sajeev answers:

Oh yes, we’re talkin’ about the last good-looking Camry!  Come 2015, we’re really gonna love seeing yours on the road. Well maybe not love, as auto blog readin’ fanbois are committed to hate anything Camry, appreciating the subtle differences is strictly off-limits. But, once again, my intro digresses…

So anyway, you absolutely can switch to a minus 1 tire size for those benefits, plus a better ride with less NVH on bumpy roads.  Excuse me, “tyre size minus 1.” This is a great idea for more people than we’d like to admit. Also consider a -2 size to the 16″ rims offered on the 2007+ Camry LE and XLE. It’s doable as they all used the same front calipers and 11.65″ front rotors. (I think.) And tire choices for such conservative driving?  You are covered, for cheap.

  •  Would it be better for me to find a nice set of wrecking yard alloys and downgrade to the smaller rim/taller sidewall size tyres?

Yes, much better.  And don’t fear the 16″ alloy!  Hell, go right ahead and get universal 16″ steel wheels, chrome trim rings and a chrome center cap for that cop car look!

  • Is the difference in performance between 45 series and 55 series noticeable or should I stay with the original low profile tyres?

Your admission of not bring a “sport driving type” means no, you won’t care. If anything you’ll love the better ride.  Also note how huge tires are on vintage race cars, and modern F1 machines: sidewalls are a GOOD thing.

  • Finally, Discount Tire seems to really push their ‘tire certificates’, a road hazard protection plan for $20/tyre. Is Road Hazard really necessary on a vehicle equipped with TPMS?

TPMS is great, but it’s not 100% effective against road-going hazards.  Consider debris like nails and bolts left in construction sites, or in trucks exiting those areas. The sensor can’t sense that shit going into the red zone between the tread and the sidewall. So should you get road hazard? Totally your call, depends on your comfort level.

 

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: MT 6-speed Hyundai Sonata…Coda? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-mt-6-speed-hyundai-sonata-coda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-mt-6-speed-hyundai-sonata-coda/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:04:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933514   TTAC commentator Arthur Dailey writes: Sajeev, Over 40+ years of driving, I have traditionally changed cars every 2 years and never kept one for longer than 5 years or 150,000km. However I made my most recent car purchase with the intention of keeping it for 8 years or 200,000km. With the belief that in modern […]

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Sonata-Manual-Transmission

This just happened. (photo courtesy: autojunction.in)

TTAC commentator Arthur Dailey writes:

Sajeev,

Over 40+ years of driving, I have traditionally changed cars every 2 years and never kept one for longer than 5 years or 150,000km. However I made my most recent car purchase with the intention of keeping it for 8 years or 200,000km.

With the belief that in modern autos perhaps the most expensive item to repair is the transmission (owning 4 Caravans in the preceding 15 years reinforced this), following the truism that “it is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow”, and being admittedly George Costanza like in my spending habits I ordered a vehicle with a manual transmission. Yes, a manual Hyundai Sonata.

Nobody at the dealership had ever seen one. They even had problems confirming that it came with a traditional hand brake (it does but in return you don’t get heated seats). But find one they did. Unfortunately after taking possession and performing some routine cleaning, I found that the filters were rather dirty for a new car. Checking the manufacturer’s plate I found that it had been made 14 months previously and therefore had been sitting on the lot for nearly that long , exposed to the elements for at least one full winter.

So my questions:

  • Will sitting out on a dealer’s lot for 13+ months reduce the longevity of some parts?
  • Was I correct in assuming that a manual transmission will both last longer and cost less to maintain than an automatic or was I ‘penny wise and pound foolish’?
  • Should I expect a modern car including a Korean one built in Alabama, to be relatively problem free as long as I follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, rust proof it annually and drive like the old fogey that I have become?

Sajeev answers:

Yes! We’re actually discussing the manual 6-speed Hyundai Sonata and its sister ship Kia Optima that I really, reeeeeeally wanted in brown with black cloth. Turns out I needed a 5MT truck more. But I digress…

Shine on you crazy diamond, enjoy your South Korean Unicorn!

Luckily, your first question was previously covered.  Assuming it’s been driven after purchase, you’ve cleared the “bad” gas and rusted brakes/flat spotted tires.  I think a good detail/cleaning of the vinyl/rubber/leather bits (both inside and outside) is all that’s needed to ensure the patient’s long term health.  Maybe do an engine oil change, if you haven’t done it already under normal maintenance. You got nothing to worry about.

Question 2: I can see why you are conditioned to fear transmission/transaxle replacement costs, but you’ve owned older Chryslers.  Own something from Germany and the fancy tv screens should absolutely terrify you. Or fixing bent rims.  Or a suspension overhaul from years of abuse causing bent rims. I’d be more terrified of any car rollin’ on twankies more than any transmission woe.  And is an automatic really more durable than a manual?

I donno, dude.  200,000km isn’t a long time by non-Chrysler-minivan standards. I’ve seen auto transmissions last 400,000km with nothing more than occasional ATF fluid swaps.  If you are easy on the clutch, you are fine. If not, you might need a clutch swap and completely destroy the value proposition mentioned. Don’t be that guy! 

Question 3: Problems with the Sonata and Optima have been sparse, just look at the TSBs generated.  Undercoat/rust proof, follow the owner’s manual, don’t abuse the gearbox (good luck finding a replacement in North America) and you’ll be fine.

And you might love the 6-speed Hyundai Sonata so much that you’ll keep it well beyond 200,000kms.  You “old fogeys” (your term) need to understand that most modern vehicles last longer than cars from decades past.  Rust proof this one well and I’m confident you’ll agree.

 

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: Liberal Bleeding, Flushing Brake Fluid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-liberal-bleeding-flushing-brake-fluid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-liberal-bleeding-flushing-brake-fluid/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 11:58:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930994 Gregg writes: Sajeev, I have a 2006 Tacoma with 50K miles and anti-lock brakes. I feel it is time to change the brake fluid as a preventative maintenance measure. I have the tools and have bled numerous non-antilock brake systems and have done some research into what it would take to fully refresh the fluid. […]

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(photo courtesy: www.tacomaworld.com)

Gregg writes:

Sajeev,

I have a 2006 Tacoma with 50K miles and anti-lock brakes. I feel it is time to change the brake fluid as a preventative maintenance measure. I have the tools and have bled numerous non-antilock brake systems and have done some research into what it would take to fully refresh the fluid. Some forum people suggest the usual bleeding procedure followed by causing the antilock feature to react by stopping quickly on a dirt road or similar circumstances and then re-bleeding the system. Also mentioned is using a code reader to actuate the antilock system.

Personally I wouldn’t mind paying for a lower end code reader if I knew it would do what I needed, but I certainly am not going to spend big bucks for one. Do you or any of the readers know what will activate the anti-lock system with minimal expenditure?

I also noticed that there is a hose about 3/8 inch ID attached to the master cylinder reservoir that appears to be the return form the anti-lock system. I could easily make up a catch container to keep the return fluid from mixing with the new fluid I would put in the reservoir.

What do you think about using DOT-4 fluid?

Thanks,
Gregg

Sajeev answers:

Because modern braking systems are a far cry from the old days, this is a time when RTFM is abso-Fing-lutely mandatory for everyone’s safety.

Either buy the factory manuals, or be a forum junkie (like reading this) as they regularly cover these concerns.  The forum suggests flushing brake fluid without the tool is no biggie, but honestly, the “correct” procedure doesn’t look that hard if you buy the right tool or its cheapy laptop alternative.

This loaded task implies you’re forgiven for taking it to a shop with the proper tools, like this cool sucky brake fluid machine. Time value of money and all that.

I can’t quickly Google the factory brake fluid for your truck, but regarding DOT 4: it interchanges with DOT 3 with a higher boiling point.  But it doesn’t keep the boiling point higher for as long as you might think. That said, everything suggests DOT 3 systems can be flushed and replaced with DOT4 and it is good idea if you flush DOT 4 on a regular basis. DOT 5 is different, its silicone (not glycol) based. DOT 5.1 is glycol, but I haven’t read anything conclusive about replacing older fluid designs with it.

Whew!

Off to you Best and Brightest, especially those with more firsthand experience in various types of brake fluid.

 

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

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Piston Slap: The E-Z Out for My BMW, Minivan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-7/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-7/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 12:19:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=929906 TTAC regular psarhjinian writes: I just bought a E46 3-Series that needs some care (hey, it was cheap!) and snapped off both bolts holding the alternator to (I think) the oil filter housing. I’ve gotten the alernator off, but the last inch-or-so of the threaded section of one bolt is broken off. Thank you, BMW for […]

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Gotcha! (photo courtesy: http://f30.bimmerpost.com/)

TTAC regular psarhjinian writes:

I just bought a E46 3-Series that needs some care (hey, it was cheap!) and snapped off both bolts holding the alternator to (I think) the oil filter housing. I’ve gotten the alernator off, but the last inch-or-so of the threaded section of one bolt is broken off. Thank you, BMW for using steel bolts in an aluminum block.

Question one: What’s the best method for getting these out? I might be able to back them out with a reversing bit, but there isn’t a lot of clearance (can’t centre-punch it; it’s not a clean break) and I would really, really not like to take the OFH off.

Same car, second question: these things leak PS fluid like crazy out of the reservoir (“they all do that”, but I’m replacing the reservoir and hoses anyway, and the clamps BMW uses just suck…). Combined with a hole in the fender and a prior owner who lived on a dirt rural road, this has created a mini Tar Sands in the engine compartment. What’s the best way to clean out an engine bay when you live in a rental and don’t have a outside water tap? I don’t want to take the car to a carwash and pressure-washer-blast it for fear of making things worse.

Third question: on my wife’s Pontiac Montana (2007) there’s an awful, junky rattling from the front driver’s side over even small bumps, and stretches of bad pavement sound like the van is going to shed parts, and if I rock the car side-to-side I can hear a clink/clank from the wheelwell. Since I need one working car, I need to keep downtime to a minimum and can’t go on a fishing expedition. Where should I be looking and what should I replace?

Sajeev answers:

The best way? It’s via screw extractor (aka E-Z Out) but that’s really the hard way: LSX-FTW swap is the far smarter route.  Sure, it’s more expensive and far more labor intensive.  But you’ll never have to curse BMW for their poor choice in fasteners, hose clamps, and everything else that nickel and dimes you at the E46’s age.  And when the engine is out, you go right ahead and get some shop towels, soak them in engine degreaser and wear some rubber gloves.

Only slightly joking, considering your follow-up email…

psarhjinian added:

Question 1: had to take the oil filter off, tried to use an easy-out on the bolt. Broke the easy-out inside the bolt. Local machine shops won’t touch it and a new OFH is going to be cheaper. So that’s that question answered, dammit.

Question 2: Let’s say that getting the PS reservoir off has made even more of a mess, so this applies.

Question 3: Still here.

Sajeev concludes:

Question 1: Getting a replacement junkyard part is often the best move (time and value-wise, even for BMW spec spares), even if a machine shop would take your money for the work. This isn’t a Cord 812 or something, there are plenty of spares lying around.

Question 2: Don’t worry, take it to the coin-op car wash and use their engine cleaner.  If you are really worried about your rubber lines, electrical connections, etc check the BMW’s “weak spots” that a power washer could get. Then cover them up with a plastic baggie.  Modern cars lack distributors, I don’t see a problem if you refrain from shooting every little thing with high pressure water.  If you are super paranoid, take a can of compressed air to shoot at the spark plug wires/ignition wiring plugs if the BMW doesn’t immediately fire up after being washed.

Question 3: Could be several things, but this seems to suggest worn strut mounts.  The replacements are dirt cheap, but don’t buy until you are sure that’s the problem.  A clean bill of health via mechanic’s diagnostic fee is worth the peace of mind, if you don’t trust your eyeballs when you remove the wheels and look for yourself.

 

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: Acceptable Oil Consumption? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-acceptable-oil-consumption/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-acceptable-oil-consumption/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 12:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927746 Justin writes: Sajeev, First I wanted to let you know that nearly everyday on my lunch break I check TTAC and each time I see a Piston Slap article I always make sure to read through it.  I admire your knowledge and have learned quite a bit from your articles. I guess that I have […]

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Justin writes:

Sajeev,

First I wanted to let you know that nearly everyday on my lunch break I check TTAC and each time I see a Piston Slap article I always make sure to read through it.  I admire your knowledge and have learned quite a bit from your articles. I guess that I have a two part question.

The first part being since when has it become “acceptable” that a modern (low mileage) engine can consume a quart of oil in less than 5K miles.  Audi and VW jump the front on my mind with their 2.0T mills, but I hear more and more through the woodwork about engines drinking oil.  The second part of my question probably has more to do with correlation than causation but it seems like direct injection plays a role in this IMO unacceptable oil consumption.

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Why thank you for your kind words! This series is a shared duty between you the reader, me the writer and The Best and Brightest’s comments. We got a sweet little gig here, ya know?  On to your queries…

I think one could write a PhD thesis on acceptable oil consumption, as it affects damn near every manufacturer these days. Yeah, blaming Audi and VW for that is a bit disingenuous. The V-10 powered BMW M-series burned rotary Mazda-levels of oil from day one.  And cheaper, mainstream Japanese and American brands are far from exempt.

Like this thread suggests,  I reckon acceptable oil consumption stems from two things: piston ring design (low tension?) and lightweight (like 5w-20) oils. Think about how many modern mills effortlessly zing the rev counter well past 6000 RPM and last for years with great horsepower figures AND fantastic fuel economy.  Perhaps the downside to living in this new Golden Age of Automotive Engineering is a fraction of a quart of oil burning between service intervals.

I’m not saying its right or wrong, as I don’t know the right engine design and oil weight to end acceptable oil consumption while keeping today’s level of performance and long-term durability. And that’s where the B&B comes in. Off to you!

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

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Piston Slap: The Sportcombi’s Gloomy Vue? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-vue-sportcombi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-vue-sportcombi/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 12:38:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=926233   Keith writes: Sajeev – I’ve gotta get rid of 1 of my 4 family of cars – the family consists of a 2011 Civic LX (for the kids), 2009 Taurus X (for the wife) – and the two on the chopping block – 2006 Saab 9-5 Sport Combi (with 154,000 miles) verses 2006 Saturn […]

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Even Google knows our first question!

Keith writes:

Sajeev – I’ve gotta get rid of 1 of my 4 family of cars – the family consists of a 2011 Civic LX (for the kids), 2009 Taurus X (for the wife) – and the two on the chopping block – 2006 Saab 9-5 Sport Combi (with 154,000 miles) verses 2006 Saturn Vue V6 (with 131,000 miles). I enjoy different aspect of each of these cars and I’m torn over which one should go.

Here are the pros and cons of each:

2006 Saab
Pros –
· Premium feel and build quality (real wood dash, heated leather seats, sunroof, etc.)
· Above average acceleration (especially in “Sport” mode)
· Handles the curves well
· Nice sound system
· Station wagon utility
· Makes a good impression
Cons –
· Drinks high octane fuel (19 mpg city/hwy)
· Requires full synthetic oil
· Has some minor interior and exterior age spots
· Dinky side view mirrors (big is beautiful)
· After thought cup holders
· Former “wanker” car (they switched to Audi since Saab’s demise)
· Constant fear of a high dollar repair

2006 Saturn
Pros –
· I LOVE the Honda 3.5 liter V6
· SUV utility (good for runs to the garden center and the dump)
· Good sound system (user installed)
· Rides tall in the saddle
· Beautifully big mirrors
· Decent cup holders and console storage
· Did I mention the 250 hp V6?
Cons –
· Basic interior (cloth seats, hard plastic dashboard and console, no sunroof)
· Noisy at highway speeds
· The brakes SUCK
· Doesn’t impress anyone

Finally the financials –
Saab – Bought it last year for $4900.00 with 133k miles and I’ve got about $3k (including taxes and title) in the car. Present value is about $3900 and dropping fast.
Saturn – Purchased 2 ½ years ago for $7000.00 with 83k miles on the clock. Upkeep has been minimal, about $1k, and the current value is about $5000 and holding steady.

Personally I’m thinking that the Saab needs to go… but I’m not sure.

Sajeev answers:

Personally I’m thinking that the Saab obviously needs to go.

Mostly because I agree with your Pros/Cons.

If the brakes suck on the Saturn, do a brake job with aftermarket aggressive pads (either ceramic or semi metallic) and maybe these rotors are higher quality.  We can’t possibly take the undesirable GM fit/finish/public perception problems out of the equation, but let’s be real: cars under $5000 have a tough time impressing most onlookers conditioned to the latest and greatest products. Especially since most folks don’t give a shit about station wagons.

Yes, the Vue lacks the “Euro wagonista” swagger. It will never have Saab grade leather/wood and Saab driving dynamics without imprudent levels of customization.  But the odds of needing repairs that’ll be 50% of it’s (superior) value is less likely. Which kinda beats it all.

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: To Battle The Moonroof Rattle? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-moonroof-rattle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-moonroof-rattle/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 12:32:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=921905 TTAC Commentator Sobro writes: Hi Sajeev and your goateed evil twin Sanjeev! Beige. We all know it, we all love it, especially when it comes in Lexus Pearl White as my wife’s 2003 ES 300 does. This vehicle has had exactly one non-maintenance item replaced since bought new: the A/C compressor relay. My wife installed […]

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TTAC Commentator Sobro writes:

Hi Sajeev and your goateed evil twin Sanjeev!

Beige. We all know it, we all love it, especially when it comes in Lexus Pearl White as my wife’s 2003 ES 300 does. This vehicle has had exactly one non-maintenance item replaced since bought new: the A/C compressor relay. My wife installed it since her office is near the Toyota dealer. And it was July. In Nashville. It was my research in the Lexus forums which led to this fix for the flashing LED in the A/C button.

Which brings me to my question.

The sunroof has started to clunk occasionally when hitting bumps, and the clunk is directly overhead of the driver. This sort of thing drives me nuts, so I’m glad I don’t commute in the wife’s ride. The Lexus forums have very little to offer, and what they do tend to start with “remove the sunroof”. Any ideas? Thanks!

Long time lurker, first time caller!

Sajeev answers:

Take it from someone working on moonroofs for 10+ years, you almost always remove the glass to do anything. The forums seem scant on info on a cursory glance but–ZOMG R U SAYIN’ ME AND SANJEEV COULD BE DAVID HASSELHOFF?

(photo courtesy: www.teamknightrider.com)

Wait, that’s no goatee on Garth!  (sigh of relief)

So anyway, moonroof rattle: since you mention the glass itself opens/closes/seals like new (no wind leaks), I betcha the rattle comes from the shade or the wind deflector.  Rule out the shade by pressing your palm against the shade and drive over a road known to cause the rattle. Start with light pressure and use more if the rattle doesn’t go away, to ensure the shade can’t possibly mask another problem with the track.

I have my doubts about the shade, as most Lexus’ products have a rather heavy and rattle-resistant shade, adding weight to silence a rattle isn’t likely. The (often spring-loaded) wind deflector is my bet. But other problems could be at fault: judging by the Sunroof Doctor‘s comprehensive repair kit.

What’s the fix?  Get a factory shop manual (no exceptions) to ensure you don’t break anything.  I’d venture a guess, but I’d prefer to remain lawsuit free after you install it wrong and the moonroof launches itself on the highway.

Sanjeev answers:

Wait, wait: you think anyone cares enough to actually want to sue you?

I’m too busy growing a goatee now, otherwise I’d tell everyone about that time you didn’t install a moonroof correctly and it flew off the car. If only people knew The Truth About Sajeev

 

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: Run Flat Tires and Parties A, B, C http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-run-flat-tires-parties-b-c/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-run-flat-tires-parties-b-c/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:25:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=920929   TTAC commentator WheelMcCoy writes: Hi Sajeev, With MINIs, fun is directly proportional to repair bills. A couple with a 2009 MINI Cooper S bought an extended warranty which expires in February 2015. They hope to sell their MINI around then, but the run flat tires are worn down to their wear bars. To tide […]

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(photo courtesy: new.minimania.com)

TTAC commentator WheelMcCoy writes:

Hi Sajeev,

With MINIs, fun is directly proportional to repair bills. A couple with a 2009 MINI Cooper S bought an extended warranty which expires in February 2015. They hope to sell their MINI around then, but the run flat tires are worn down to their wear bars. To tide them over for 6 or 7 months, I suggested they buy some good handling low tread wear all season tires (they are in the Northeast) and an air compressor with goo. With normal tires, I’d argue they’d enjoy their MINI even more and might even want keep it after the extended warranty. But they are inclined on getting expensive run-flats to not hurt the resale value. Most likely, they will trade-in rather than sell on their own.

Appreciate your input and any alternatives we haven’t considered.

Sajeev answers:

Be it friendly advice on cars, careers, love, or whatever, a conversation between Party A and Party B about Party C is often a waste of everyone’s time.

I am not telling you to mind your own business. Far from it!  Just make sure they aren’t getting reamed on the replacement tires’ price. That is, they need help saving money on the tires they want.

Considering the repair bills and America’s love of new vehicles, I reckon your (valid) truth isn’t applicable to your friends. If they want to trade in, instead help them get the most cash for the least effort.  That said, depending on where (and when) they trade in, the receiving party might not notice the tire type. But if they trade MINI for MINI, go ahead and get factory tires.

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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