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, 31 Oct 2014 14:42:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Piston Slap http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/piston-slap/ Piston Slap: Cooling to the MAXX? (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-dex-cool-maxx-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/piston-slap-dex-cool-maxx-part-ii/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 11:40:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937498   CJ writes: My name’s CJ I have a 04 (Malibu MAXX) with a 3.5 V6 and I have the same problem with the car running hot (as Part I) but here’s the kicker :when the a/c is on the it runs normal, completely normal under both situations.  I’m thinking fan switch, but the radiator sounds […]

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>>>Insert Greenhouse Joke Here<<<

 

CJ writes:

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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TTAC Commentator Sam Hell Jr. writes:

Hi, Sanjeev!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sajeev writes:

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

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

Sanjeev writes:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Gavin writes:

Dear Sajeev:

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

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

Cheers,

Gavin

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Sonata-Manual-Transmission

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

TTAC commentator Arthur Dailey writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

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

So my questions:

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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(photo courtesy: www.tacomaworld.com)

Gregg writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

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

What do you think about using DOT-4 fluid?

Thanks,
Gregg

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

Whew!

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

 

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

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

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

TTAC regular psarhjinian writes:

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

Only slightly joking, considering your follow-up email…

psarhjinian added:

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

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

Question 3: Still here.

Sajeev concludes:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Justin writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Even Google knows our first question!

Keith writes:

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

Here are the pros and cons of each:

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

Mostly because I agree with your Pros/Cons.

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

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

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

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

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

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TTAC Commentator Sobro writes:

Hi Sajeev and your goateed evil twin Sanjeev!

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

Which brings me to my question.

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

Long time lurker, first time caller!

Sajeev answers:

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

(photo courtesy: www.teamknightrider.com)

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

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

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

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

Sanjeev answers:

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

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

 

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

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

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(photo courtesy: new.minimania.com)

TTAC commentator WheelMcCoy writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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Piston Slap: Factory Tune, Power On The Table? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-6/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 12:02:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916986 TTAC commentator Raph writes: Hey Sajeev I’ve got a a bit of a conundrum with 09 GT500. I recently purchased a blue-tooth OBDII dongle and the Torque Pro app for my phone which provides a variety of useful functions including monitoring various PIDs (On Board Diagnostic Parameter IDs). While checking over the various PIDs I […]

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TTAC commentator Raph writes:

Hey Sajeev I’ve got a a bit of a conundrum with 09 GT500. I recently purchased a blue-tooth OBDII dongle and the Torque Pro app for my phone which provides a variety of useful functions including monitoring various PIDs (On Board Diagnostic Parameter IDs).

While checking over the various PIDs I noticed the throttle body was limited to 75% of WOT and I’m not sure if that was just a limitation of the app or perhaps the tune was limiting the range of movement on the throttle body?

Also I noticed that the boost inferred by the car’s factory boost gauge does not correlate to the boost reading in Torque Pro? The Torque Pro app has an adjustment feature to scale the boost reading by either setting it to zero, a positive value or 14.7 psi or a negative value of 14.7 psi.

I’m unsure how Ford references boost with the MAP sensor since fiddling with the scale adjustment in Torque Pro hasn’t produced any worthwhile results (a best 4 PSI but the blower on the car is pullied to produce in the neighborhood or 18 psi.

Long story short: Am I leaving some power on the table and what about that damn boost reading?

 

Sajeev answers:

Whoa duuude, you mean that the fancy smarty-phone app says you are only at 75% throttle when you floor it?

We’ve been down this road before, as these apps often read parameters sans the accuracy of tools available to powertrain engineers or even shade-tree tuners with EFI hacks. While it’s been proven many times over that the GT500’s stock tune is pretty conservative, it surely ain’t 75% throttle conservative.  As much as I love new tech, while my career revolves around Web 2.0, we need a reality check: sometimes apps aren’t that awesome, they can kinda suck.

To wit, I sent your queries to a real tuner, Mr. Torrie McPhail, who is both a trusted friend and a well-regarded dude in the tuning world.  This isn’t an endorsement (even if it is) because I can’t possibly know the stuff in Torrie’s brain. So let’s do it, to it:

“First point: what calibration is in use? If you are using something non-stock, I would request calibration information from that source as to vehicle output.

I doubt anyone would be limiting throttle angle on a car like this, most likely that is how the phone app construes the PID output while at WOT which would put it squarely in the shadow of the shaft anyways.

And the factory boost gauge isn’t actual and just calculates inferred manifold pressure from sensor output. I would stick a good Autometer boost gauge in the car to solve that.”

So there you have it: if you have a stock tune, you are leaving PLENTY of power on the table, even a conservative tune will unlock plenty more power. And don’t take the engine app too seriously. 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: Sleepless Above The 4Runner? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-sleepless-4runner/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-sleepless-4runner/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:07:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916370   TTAC commentator markholli writes: Hi Sajeev, I saw your call for reader questions for the Piston Slap series, and as a diligent and loyal TTAC supporter/Kool-Aid drinker, I will do my best to do my duty (did I just recite the Boy Scout motto?). You’ve been kind enough to respond to my previous question […]

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baby-meme-funny-crop-201302016

(photo courtesy: http://knockoutmama.wordpress.com)

TTAC commentator markholli writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I saw your call for reader questions for the Piston Slap series, and as a diligent and loyal TTAC supporter/Kool-Aid drinker, I will do my best to do my duty (did I just recite the Boy Scout motto?).

You’ve been kind enough to respond to my previous question regarding the failing health of my wife’s Subaru Outback. By the way, in the spirit of CarTalk’s Stump the Chumps question follow-up feature, we ended up dumping the ailing Outback via Craigslist at a discounted price with a full-disclosure of all the mechanical issues (Love. It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru…or something like that…). We got a 2nd gen Acura MDX and we actually love it. Take note Subaru.

Anyway, to my question: my daily driver is a 2007 4Runner with the lovely Lexus-derived 4.7 V8. The V8 part is important because in the 4×4 variant, as mine is equipped, the power is delivered to the road through a full-time 4-wheel drive setup, rather than the part-time 2H-N-4H-4L system found in the 4.0 V6 4Runner. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

Now, for a story about babies–don’t worry, I’ll tie this all together. Last October the newest addition to our family was born. He’s a super cool dude, and we love him a lot, but he has never been a good sleeper. Even now, 9 months in, he is easily stirred from his nighttime slumber, and usually isn’t happy or easy to put back to sleep when awoken.

As it happens, both of our children’s bedrooms sit right above our 2-car garage, and unfortunately we discovered after moving into our home that sound insulation was pretty low on our homebuilder’s list of priorities (priority #1: make lots of money!). Pair this with the fact that I leave for work in the wee hours of the morning, and the fact that the 4Runner makes a loud roaring noise when fired up, and you see the problem.

To prevent my early morning departures from upsetting the oh-so delicate sleep patterns of the baby, I have started popping the 4Runner’s transmission into neutral and then rolling the car backwards down the 20 foot driveway into the street, where I can safely start it up. My question is this: is this little insane routine of mine causing damage to my drivetrain?

Because it’s material to the discussion, I will note that the full-time 4-wheel drive system and transfer case cannot be shifted into neutral. Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

How dare you reference Subaru’s Love-Centric marketing campaign for an Acura MDX?  The fanbois are gonna raise up the “TTAC’s Anti Subaru Bias” flag because these whips are the best thing for you and your family and HOW DARE YOU love an Acura MDX like an Outback?

Now to the 4Runner: odds are the initial kick of that heavy-duty, big-ass finned aluminum clutch on your cooling fan is what howls/growls loud enough to upset the little one resting above the truck. Too bad about that, but hopefully the problem solves itself as he gets bigger and less of…well, less of a baby I guess.

Are you causing any damage by rolling down the driveway, 20 feet a day?  This question is much like flat towing a car (especially behind an RV) with one difference:  20 feet ain’t no thang.  If you’re still concerned, change the drive line/transmission fluids to fresh and fully synthetic oils (if not already) so you’re ensured the good stuff splashes around when you fire the 4Runner from a dead cold start.

20 feet every week day until he gets old enough to not care about a whooshing fan clutch?  Totally not worth worrying about: 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: A Grey Market Global Ranger? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-global-ranger-management/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-global-ranger-management/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:57:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912394 H.Y. writes: Hi Sajeev, the global Ford Ranger is still sold overseas now.  What are the challenges for a person to import a modern used Ranger these days? how much addedcostsontopofthepurchase/transport price? 25% truck import duty?  even with a 4-door model ? how much paper work?  US customs, EPA, State safety inspection, DMV plate? what if the truck […]

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H.Y. writes:
Hi Sajeev, the global Ford Ranger is still sold overseas now.  What are the challenges for a person to import a modern used Ranger these days?
  • how much addedcostsontopofthepurchase/transport price?
    • 25% truck import duty?  even with a 4-door model ?
  • how much paper work?  US customs, EPA, State safety inspection, DMV plate?
  • what if the truck has a broken or no engine/transmission, would that make the import any easier/cheaper?
    • if it has no engine, install a local used engine in the US?
  • does it matter if the truck is from Mexico,Thailand, South America…?  any easier rules?
    • RHD personal vehicle is allowed in the US?
Thanks.

Sajeev answers:

Importing a Global Ranger?  Oh hell no!  As per NHTSA:

“As a general rule, a motor vehicle less than 25 years old must comply with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) to be imported on a permanent basis.”

There’s a reason why I imported my Sierra.  Well, aside from the sheer stupidity of wanting a brown jellybean-shaped hatchback from London: it was also over 25 years old.  It just comes in like any other car, and depending on your state, obtaining a title involves extra paperwork, classic car insurance and a (sometimes) basic vehicle inspection. No need to get federal approval over emissions tests, crash standards, noise regulations and who the hell knows what else?

So it’s time to give up. Instead buy one of the Last Great Compact Trucks in the USA:  especially since I got 30.1 MPG in my 2.3L Duratec 5-speed Ranger on a recent trip to San Antonio/Austin/Round Rock in mostly highway driving.

The time, money and stress you’ll avoid makes you forget about that cool Global Ranger.  Console yourself with one of these 25 year old beauties:  it sure worked for 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: Have a SEAT in Spain? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-seat-spain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-seat-spain/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 12:20:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912322   Phil writes: I am going to Spain for 2-3 years for work but I have decided to sell my truck and only ship my motorcycle. Once I am there I will be looking to buy a cheap used small car, preferably a hatchback with a manual transmission. I am aware of some European brands […]

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greeting Medas Islands

(photo courtesy: www.whattoseeinibiza.com)

Phil writes:

I am going to Spain for 2-3 years for work but I have decided to sell my truck and only ship my motorcycle. Once I am there I will be looking to buy a cheap used small car, preferably a hatchback with a manual transmission. I am aware of some European brands like Seat, Alfa, Peugeot, Renault, etc. but do not know much about their modern line up. Gas or diesel is fine, can you help me with some recommendations?

Sajeev answers:

Since I don’t live in Europe and don’t know your budget–what’s up with you people not telling EVERYONE ON THE INTERNET how much money you have to spend on a car?–I say what I usually say: test drive a lot of cars in your price range.

And do a lot of virtual touring via Google Image search to see if you like a particular design.

Me? After seeing the SEAT Ibizia in person, I’d kinda go for that.  Or a Rio Brown MKI Ford Sierra Ghia…no wait, that’s already been done. Plus, SEAT is the Spanish offshoot of VW, with nice regional flare inside and out.  Lastly, depending on your budget, repairing a warranty-less VAG product in Europe is far easier/cheaper than in the Toyota-centric U.S. of A.

Luckily you have a motorcycle, there’s no reason to rush into anything.  Enjoy the buying process, and enjoy the local flavor by brand. Me thinks you’ll have a preferred brand in no time. Of course you can’t go wrong with a MKI Ford Sierra Ghia…even when you do.

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

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

Josh writes:

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

Will minivans ever be cool to own?

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Click here to view the embedded video.

TTAC Commentator furiouschads writes:

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

1988-1989 Mark VII LSC

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

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

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

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

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

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Tailgate-theft-lock-it

(photo courtesy: hardworkingtrucks.com)

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

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

Yeah, not quite…

photo 1

Just a little trip to my local Home Depot.

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

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

tailgate

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

(photo courtesy: pickupspecialities.com)

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

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

photo 2

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

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

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

 

 

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

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Click here to view the embedded video.

TTAC Commentator Eiriksmal writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sanjeev answers:

It’s about time you people demanded my presence!

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

TPSreports

photo courtesy: heatherpierceinc.com

 

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

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

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photo courtesy: www.flyinmiata.com

TTAC Commentator johnny ro writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

What suspension would make it more civilized without less comfort?

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

80e940196e_640

(photo courtesy: www.empireautos11.com)

…Panther Love…

…SON!

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

 

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

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

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

Longtime TTAC Commentator ajla writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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(photo courtesy: autozone.com)

(photo courtesy: autozone.com)

Pete writes:

Hey Sajeev, I got one for you.

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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(photo courtesy: surftherenow.com)

Pat writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

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

 

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

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

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(photo courtesy: www.8thcivic.com)

TTAC regular David Holzman writes:

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to view the embedded video.

Oooooh yeah, muuuuuuch better.

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

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

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photo courtesy: flickr.com

Gareth writes:

Good afternoon Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

Your thoughts?

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTAC commentator Land Ark writes:

Sajeev:

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

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

Symptoms:

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

4624-062-speedometer-tachometer-480

So what do I suggest? In this order:

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

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

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

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

5. Replace compressor.

6. Give up and sell it.

 

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

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