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, 03 Jul 2015 12:00:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Piston Slap http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/piston-slap/ Piston Slap: What’s so Hellabad about Hellaflush? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-whats-hellabad-hellaflush/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-whats-hellabad-hellaflush/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1100985   Casey writes: Hello Sajeev, I had a coworker who had an older Acura NSX that was lowered. He complained about having to buy new tires because they were worn on the inside edge (down to the belts!). He had, what I thought to be, extreme negative camber due to an improper lowering. He said […]

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

Casey writes:

Hello Sajeev,

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

New Cadillacs and Lincolns = Cooler in Houston

Now to make inferences, and foolishly justify them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Dennis writes:

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

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

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

Your advice is always appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

Some great fanboi he is…

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Mark writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

Both Sajeev and Sanjeev are disappointed with you!

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

2N1DKn8

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

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

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

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

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

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

ad_ford_taurus_sho_silver_1994

 

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

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

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(photo courtesy: OP)

Matt writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

Any help would be much appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

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

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

With that in mind, I suggest:

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

TTAC Commentator RS writes:

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey100’s quote is a brilliant assessment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anonymous writes:

Hello Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance.

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Gaurav writes:

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arley writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

Whew!

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

Question is, do YOU have a problem? 

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

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

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

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

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Taylor-2013-Scion-FRS

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

Brandon writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

The way I see it my two options are:

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

So here’s the deal:

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

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

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

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

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Civic_Pride_Delche

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

Chris writes:

Hello Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

If that resonates with you, run with it.

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

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

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Gary writes:

Good Afternoon,

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

Thank you!

Sajeev answers:

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

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

 

bcm

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

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

And don’t forget the BCM recall, too!

 

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

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

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

Clark writes:

Sajeev,

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

Consider these minivan parameters, in no particular order:

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

What say you, Best and Brightest?

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

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

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Renault Kwid 01

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Image credit: Renault]

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

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

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Tony writes:

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

KGrHqFk0E3Gzey500BNyFu4jH_3

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

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

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

 

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

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

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My bad. (photo courtesy: imgflip.com)

Robin writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

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

unnamed

What the… (photo courtesy: OP)

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

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

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

Old Bill from Occam really knew his stuff.

Sajeev answers:

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

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

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom: 

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

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

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

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Not so Holy Roller? (photo courtesy OP)

TTAC commentator Celebrity208 writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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Piston Slap: Panther Love Crashes a Monsoon Wedding? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-panther-love-crashes-monsoon-wedding/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-panther-love-crashes-monsoon-wedding/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066258   TTAC Commentator thirty-three writes: Hi Sajeev, Not sure if this fits into your usual line of questions, but I’m looking for suggestions on renting a car for my upcoming wedding. My problem is that here in Vancouver, BC, I can’t find anyone who rents premium vehicles like a Benz or a Jaguar. Really expensive […]

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True Love = Panther Love (photo courtesy: detroitweddinglimo.com):

TTAC Commentator thirty-three writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Not sure if this fits into your usual line of questions, but I’m looking for suggestions on renting a car for my upcoming wedding. My problem is that here in Vancouver, BC, I can’t find anyone who rents premium vehicles like a Benz or a Jaguar.

Really expensive cars are available (e.g. Ferraris, Maseratis), but I just want a luxury sedan that will seat 5 comfortably. I only need it for one of the five days. Yes, it is an Indian wedding.

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Are you sure about that?

But here’s the real question: why can’t I be okay with renting a limo like every other wedding?

What makes your wedding so special?

Well for starters, it’s your wedding. And many Indian communities (especially in wealthy cities with large Indian populations) demand a big deal from their ceremonies. It’s an obligation to friends, family and the community. Special events, top drawer venues, open bars everywhere, international guests, 1000+ attendees for the reception, etc. So wanting a nice car, especially when making a show for family members that care about such things, isn’t really a big deal…right?

WRONG SON: I demand you rent a Lincoln Town Car limo.

How dare you consider true love sans riding in Panther Love?

Even more off-topic: I do not understand the cash sucking, humility negating one-upmanship present in many weddings, especially those of my people. I’m (admittedly) a horrible Indian when it comes to ceremonies, but I digress…your problem has two easy solutions:

  1. Buy a used “premium vehicle” and sell it in 2-3 months. That shows far more commitment to our ceremonies, too! Why, you could have one of those 2+ week ceremonies with the keys to a premium machine in your pocket!
  2. Embrace Panther Love and rent a Town Car Limo. Or an Escalade/Navigator limo if all else fails. Just don’t let me catch you in some abomination like an MKT: Vishnu (or whatever religion applies here) would like, totally, disapprove!

The perpetually single guy demands you rent a Limo, hopefully with white wheels. 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: E39 Perfection or Unloved Lockstep Leasing? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-e39-perfection-unloved-lockstep-leasing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-e39-perfection-unloved-lockstep-leasing/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 13:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1065546   TTAC commentator nutbags writes: Hi Sajeev, I have been a long time reader and occasional commenter and thought I might write in for once. How many other readers have experienced this? I know you have Panther love in your system for many good reasons. Have you experienced this? Does this detract from the love? Now […]

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coloribus.com

Except Invincibility! (photo courtesy: coloribus.com)

TTAC commentator nutbags writes:

Hi Sajeev,
I have been a long time reader and occasional commenter and thought I might write in for once. How many other readers have experienced this? I know you have Panther love in your system for many good reasons. Have you experienced this? Does this detract from the love?

Now for the real question: I am a middle-aged guy with a wife and two teenaged kids. Recently the owner of my company, who knows my love of most things automotive and has been paying my auto lease (provided I keep the payment below about $350/month) for about 18 years, gave me a proposition.

He stated that I could lease another new vehicle with the same dollar limit or buy a used vehicle with a limit of about $15,000. The one catch is the used car has to last about 5 years and be my daily driver; I’m not sure why but that is his stipulation. My leases during this time have been some decent rides (’00 Passat 1.8T 5MT, ’03 Accord SE-L 5MT, ’06 Accord V6 6MT, and currently ’12 GLI 6MT) but now it is time for my next vehicle.

The only used car that really interests me is the E39 BMW 5-series. Decent ones seem well within the budget, but would this car make it the 5 years without a huge outlay of cash to keep it running? Or should I just stick to leasing new? New considerations are: GTI, GLI, Focus ST, Mazda3 (5-door), or Mazda6. All can be had with a manual transmission and all have received good reviews. So what are your thoughts, B&B?

Thanks and keep up the great work,
Nutbags

Sajeev answers:

First question: That link refers to the 3V motors, which were never installed in Panthers due to Ford’s insistence on letting this platform rot in neglect. I changed spark plugs on 2V 4.6’s that supposedly strip out their threads, but I didn’t screw them up. My trusted, local wrench agrees, suggesting the motors were “unforgiving to sloppy labor” instead of being a guaranteed fail. I’m changing the plugs in my father’s 2006 Town Car this week, so I’ll report back if I screw it up this time.

Second: you got some nerve to even consider an E39 as a daily for the next 5 years. Job security and any needy 15-ish year old premium car is a contradiction, considering repair costs, service complexity and availability of E39 parts. Because this isn’t even a 2000 Lexus ES, much less a new one.

Granted the E39 (M5 or 540i 6-spd Sport Package) is one of the few sedans from the last 20 years I’d love to own AND look respectable; mostly because a used Panther won’t pass muster with friends, co-workers/customers and random judgmental onlookers. Well, except for the Mercury Marauder.

Whatever: start test driving the future leased vehicle of your dreams. I reckon you’ll get either the GLI or the Mazda6.

They are E39-ish. They will do. Go have fun!

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

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Piston Slap: Hat Trick! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-hat-trick/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-hat-trick/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 13:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1059594   Jesse writes: Hello, Sajeev. My 2013 Outback 2.5i is fine and I don’t have any questions about it. Instead I wonder: 1. Why do car reviews measure acceleration in time but deceleration in distance? 2. Why do high performance electric cars need conventional brakes? I think there was a Mini concept a few years […]

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1st-Lincoln-Town-Car-with-hat

Honest Abe. (photo courtesy: uncyclopedia.wikia.com)

Jesse writes:

Hello, Sajeev.

My 2013 Outback 2.5i is fine and I don’t have any questions about it. Instead I wonder:

1. Why do car reviews measure acceleration in time but deceleration in distance?

2. Why do high performance electric cars need conventional brakes? I think there was a Mini concept a few years back that had 4 in-wheel electric motors that did all of the accel/decel.

3. Why don’t cars with CVTs have a ‘downshift’ button? Is it too hard on the transmission? Should I stop using the paddles to do so?

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Perhaps simple queries deserve simple answers. So let’s do this thang…

1. Relevance: people want to know how many seconds it takes to get to a certain speed, but not how many seconds it takes to stop.  A certain stopping distance is far safer for them. Even if reaction times vary and press cars come delivered with varying levels of brake degradation (from previous journos cooking the pads and glazing the rotors), apparently stopping distance and acceleration times still means something to readers.

2. After driving Code Brown, I can guarantee you that traditional brakes are still important in the world of regenerative braking. Nothing stops like a disc brake, both in terms of speed retardation on the highway to the ability to modulate from a high rate (for safety on the highway) to a low rate (for comfort at a red light). Even when you put Code Brown’s regen brakes to full power, they can’t stop in a panic situation. I suspect the G-forces created via panic stop would spike hard enough to damage some component of the propulsion system. No surprise, Wikipedia has a great article on its limitations.

3. Why? Because CVTs don’t need one.  You downshift (so to speak) via throttle inputs. You want maximum acceleration? Just go right ahead and bury the throttle in the carpet. Otherwise let the CVT work its fuel economizing magic. Downshifting (and upshifting) algorithms in CVT gearboxes exist to acclimate drivers to CVTs: a stepping stone (get it?) to the future. I mentioned the parallels to motorized seatbelts, I still believe this is true.

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: Registration For The Toronto & Calgary Minivan? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-registration-toronto-calgary-minivan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-registration-toronto-calgary-minivan/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 13:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1059530 TTAC Commentator BCalgary writes: Hello Sajeev! Last summer I finished a 2 year stint in Scotland and moved back to my native Canada. My family is from Toronto, however, I received a job offer in Calgary so my wife and I packed up our belongings and moved out west. Since my new job didn’t start […]

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Chrysler Town & Country

TTAC Commentator BCalgary writes:

Hello Sajeev!

Last summer I finished a 2 year stint in Scotland and moved back to my native Canada. My family is from Toronto, however, I received a job offer in Calgary so my wife and I packed up our belongings and moved out west. Since my new job didn’t start until September, we decided to take the couple of months we had off and do a dream vacation that consisted of driving across Canada while camping and kayaking at various points along the way. We ended up buying a well maintained 2005 Town and Country (3.8L) with high miles (269,000 km or 167,000 miles at the time) for the trip.

Fast forward seven months and it has 290000 km (180,000 miles) and I am at a crossroads as to whether or not to keep it.

The van itself has been awesome. My wife and I camp, kayak, go on road trips and sometimes sleep in it; perfect for all those things. We would like to get a couple more years out of it but it needs some work and I’m getting cold feet about dumping money into a 10-year-old high mileage Chrysler. Another complication is its registered in Ontario and needs to pass an inspection to be registered in Alberta. I’ve had a pre-inspection done and it needs a couple things I normally wouldn’t do on a vehicle this old (see list of problems).

I was hoping for fresh perspective from you and the B&B to help me decide what to do and also to diagnose some mystery problems. Here is what needs to be done or might need to be done in the future:

  • For the out-of-province inspection, it needs a new parking brake since the cable has snapped (quoted at 300$ installed).
  • New tire pressure sensors (again only to pass inspection). Cheapest I could find is about $55 each, so $220 before taxes and shipping plus $80 to get them installed.
  • For the past couple of weeks, a check engine light has been coming on intermittently. I haven’t had it diagnosed yet but I would have to address it to pass inspection.
  • It’s been cold here and noticed a small amount of exhaust gases coming from the middle of the van. It’s not loud yet but will probably need to be addressed sometime in the next year.
  • When I turn the front wheels to their extremes, the power steering pump gets very loud; sounds a bit like a whooshing (pitch going up and down) you would hear on an old radio as you are trying to tune into a station. It has been doing this for four months now but still works perfectly.
  • A creaking in the front suspension at low speeds. Consumer reports says there is a service bulletin for this, reading “2004-05 models may have a creaking/squawking sound from the front struts due to grease on the strut jounce drying out (02-004-05); they may also require replacement of a sway bar bushing (02-003-05).” The struts were replaced 30,000 miles ago so hopefully its just the sway bar bushings.
  • This one is a bit strange. If you park the car, turn off the engine and lock the doors while you’re still inside, an electrical buzz (like a short circuit) can be heard but goes away after a couple of seconds. All the electronics work perfectly so I’m not sure what is going on.
  • On very cold mornings (-10C or lower), there is a loud knocking coming from the engine when it’s first started. It goes away within 20 seconds, so I’m not sure if I should be worried or not. The engine feels good to drive; it hasn’t lost any power and gets normal gas mileage. The spark plugs were changed 20,000 miles ago (not sure if that’s relevant).

So there it is. Seems like a very long list now that I type it all out. If these problems didn’t make noises you would never know anything is wrong. It drives beautifully so we would like to keep it, but also don’t want to waste money on something that is on its last leg. Do any of these problems sound really serious? Should I get these items repaired or ditch it and get something a bit newer? Money is tight right now due to tuition and recent moving expenses so it wouldn’t be much newer, but I would go for something known to be more reliable.

Sajeev answers:

Thank you for the detailed assessment of your concern. It makes this much easier – leaving more time for filler like “LS4-FTW” or to embrace Panther Love. Neither is a horrible idea…but that’s not the point.

Sell this van in Toronto and buy something new when you move to Calgary. Rent a U-Haul (if needed) and Uber yourself to a good vehicle in Alberta. Then again, that’s a long trip in a U-Haul or to ship all your belongings via courier. It’s gonna rack up some serious cash. Perhaps you could save money by putting it into the Chrysler’s successful registration instead.

Clear cut answer it ain’t: keeping or selling is rarely very easy, even on a depreciated machine. The question is: can you easily find another vehicle if you sell yours in Toronto?

I suspect, considering the stress avoided by shipping your belongings/air travel (the time value of money), the smart move is selling in Toronto and finding something new(er) in Calgary.

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 Low Oil Pressure Safety Net? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-low-oil-pressure-safety-net/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-low-oil-pressure-safety-net/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054825   TTAC Commentator r129 writes: Hello Sajeev, My 2012 Impala with 20,000 miles was due for an oil change, something that I was too lazy to do myself, especially in winter weather. I know, I should know better. I went to a reputable quick oil change establishment (if such a thing exists) that uses name-brand dexos1 […]

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

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

TTAC Commentator r129 writes:

Hello Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

What say you, Best and Brightest?

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

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

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Jaguar-X-Type-033

Allen writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

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

Any wisdom you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

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

Allen writes:

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

Sajeev answers:

Ah-ha!  This problem?

Click here to view the embedded video.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(photo courtesy: headgasketrepairvognal.blogspot.com)

Chris writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

It’s kinda “Ludacris.” But I digress…

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

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

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

But then again, it’s a Cadillac!

 

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

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

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Take two… (photo courtesy: fakeposters.com)

Sam writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

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

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

N.C. writes:

Sajeev,

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

 

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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