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. Thu, 03 Sep 2015 19:10:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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: Mad Vulcan Powah? (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/piston-slap-mad-vulcan-powah-part-ii-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/piston-slap-mad-vulcan-powah-part-ii-2/#comments Thu, 03 Sep 2015 12:30:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156506   Tony writes: Sajeev, My new wife brought to the marriage her ’07 fleet-queen Taurus. She’s not a car pamperer by any means, but she does change her oil. This car got flogged like a racehorse in its previous life. Its body tightness is well-nigh gone, it unpredictably emits a strange unidentifiable groan from the […]

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I’d buy that for a dollar. (photo courtesy: www.clubedotaurus.com)

Tony writes:

Sajeev,

My new wife brought to the marriage her ’07 fleet-queen Taurus. She’s not a car pamperer by any means, but she does change her oil. This car got flogged like a racehorse in its previous life. Its body tightness is well-nigh gone, it unpredictably emits a strange unidentifiable groan from the depths of the dashboard center on moderate acceleration, the dime-size floormats are practically ground into dust, and the trunk barely agrees to open even when unlatched.

But the heart of the problem is in the engine bay. At 130k, the engine light has been chronically on for the past year-plus and the car flunks smog tests. A couple of good independent mechanics have variously identified the problem as being the catalyst or other things; I’ve read the PVC system is a typical offender in aging Vulcans, and these guys were smart enough to check it. Each of the last two test intervals, the mechanic coaxed the car through the test to keep it legal for another two years.

For all that, the car doesn’t drive badly, and it’s quit over the road only once as she’s continued to rack up the miles. It’s also got enough visible wounds outside and inside that it’s virtually worthless in resale. I know the typical answer in this situation would be “drive it until it drops dead.”

But one thing that gives me pause is that stranding incident — a year ago the engine sprang a leak and starting puking its coolant all over the ground, prompting an emergency service. I don’t remember which gasket it was (head?), but I heard it was endemic to that engine and set her back about a thousand bucks.

I’ve got my wife pegged as a dream customer for a 3-year-old Prius, since she’s born for its combination of stratospheric gas mileage, eternal reliability and utter void of driving entertainment. I’m not made of money, but I suspect the price of these will jump back to its old higher level when the price of gas does. She doesn’t mind the Taurus a bit unless it fails.

Keep flogging the old bull? Try to outguess the Reaper? Thoughts?

Sajeev answers:

ZOMFG SON, if I met a woman with such a sweet ride, I would totally marry her so I can do this to her Vulcan Taurus.

 

While an Eaton M90 blower fixes everything on your wife’s sweet ride, the sad reality is that neither of us could make it happen. How sad!

I heard the last Vulcans had a cylinder head defect leading to OBD-II trouble codes, and I reckon yours is in the same boat. So yes, it’s a case of run it ’til it dies. If the Taurus is still a decent runner and it’s worth more to you than anyone else, I wouldn’t scoff at replacing the long block with a low mile junkyard unit. That might get you another relatively trouble free 80-100,000 miles in an otherwise reliable vehicle. Maybe. If that’s what you really want.

That said, as gas prices continue to spiral down, I suspect a used Prius (or Nissan Leaf) on the cheap is in your future.

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

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Piston Slap: Justy-fied Freestylin’ over CVTs, Part V http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/piston-slap-justy-fied-freestylin-cvts-part-v/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/piston-slap-justy-fied-freestylin-cvts-part-v/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156466   TTAC commentator Anomaly149 writes: Sajeev, here’s one for you: I have a CVT-equipped 2004 Saturn Ion Quad Coupe with ~140,000 miles. While you can write a book on the things that are weird with the car (key won’t release from cylinder sometimes unless you push this button inside the steering column, sometimes the neutral safety […]

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TTAC commentator Anomaly149 writes:

Sajeev, here’s one for you:

I have a CVT-equipped 2004 Saturn Ion Quad Coupe with ~140,000 miles. While you can write a book on the things that are weird with the car (key won’t release from cylinder sometimes unless you push this button inside the steering column, sometimes the neutral safety switch actuator machine-guns when stopped at a stoplight, it eats front sway links like it’s a contest, etc.), so far it’s been reliable and efficient.

The thing I’m worried about is the longevity of that CVT. I’ve read a lot of bad things, and recently the transmission has started “shifting” hard from a stop. Sometimes the vehicle starts moving from a stop with a fairly violent jolt, even if the gas pedal is barely pressed. The problem is very intermittent, but has been getting a little more frequent. The dealer says they find nothing wrong. Is this worth investigating? Do they even make repair parts for these CVTs anymore?

I’d love to keep the car running a bit longer, but the last thing I need is a dead transmission on an hour-long commute.

Sajeev answers:

Wow. You got 140,000 miles out of a VTi transaxle: the centerpiece of terrible ideas leading up to GM’s decision to burn 2 billion to NOT buy Fiat.

No surprise TTAC did the Death Watch thang, but Farago himself couldn’t imagine a world where Fiat dusts off a classic move, hostile takeover style.

Does anyone remember the VTi and the lawsuit? Repair or rebuilding is out of the question: consider yourself lucky and shop for a new vehicle. Or perform a gearbox swap with a Delta-bodied GM product with a more conventional auto or manual transmission, if you are the “save and restomod” type. I did quite like the Cobalt XFE I tested way back — it was super-cheap fun!

And don’t laugh, an ION Quad Coupe is the AMC Pacer of the last decade: the restomod route isn’t totally stupid, especially if you can cram LS4-FTW into the Delta’s engine bay. A more believable 5-speed automatic swap sounds pretty sweet.

I’d do this in a heartbeat. Parts will be dirt cheap, especially if you buy a complete car on Craigslist. Take out the gearbox, spend a weekend swap, scrap the rest and lose less than a grand on the deal.

Or just sell it now while it runs, telling the new owner about the swap and it’s future as the next AMC Pacer.

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: At What Rate, the Falcon’s Restomod Wings? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-rate-falcons-restomod-wings/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-rate-falcons-restomod-wings/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151185   Stephen writes: Sajeev, I drive a ’65 Falcon convertible with the 289 and a T-5, hydraulic clutch, and 4-wheel discs just like it came from the factory. (Wink – SM) I replaced all of the rubber in the front suspension about 15 years ago and it’s past time to do it again. I’m up […]

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Wendy 473

Envious. (photo courtesy: OP)

Stephen writes:

Sajeev,

I drive a ’65 Falcon convertible with the 289 and a T-5, hydraulic clutch, and 4-wheel discs just like it came from the factory. (Wink – SM)

I replaced all of the rubber in the front suspension about 15 years ago and it’s past time to do it again. I’m up in the air between sticking with factory stuff or upgrading to some of the aftermarket Mustang stuff (i.e tubular A and control arms). While the aftermarket stuff is significantly improved over stock, I actually drive the car; earlier this summer I did a road trip from Denver to Bozeman, MT via Yellowstone, a total of about 1800 miles. I can go to any auto parts store and get replacement parts, while I could wait for TCI, etc to FedEx me something.

Second question. I still have the 4bbl carb on it for the same reason. Do any of the aftermarket fuel injection system use mainly OEM parts (i.e injectors, fuel pump)? I did get between 23-28 mpg on the Bozeman trip.

Sajeev answers:

First we discuss:

  1. How that Falcon is disturbingly awesome.
  2. How restomods are usually done wrong, except here.
  3. How beautiful your part of the country is.

Ahem! So, about the suspension upgrades: look at the bushings. Bushing size (diameter, thickness) and composition (rubber, polyurethane) have an impact on ride quality and NVH control.

My experience with aftermarket suspensions on old Fords is personal: take this restomod Mercury Cyclone seen in Hemmings. The stance is sinister and it’s a blast to drive in the twisties, but the aftermarket (Mustang II style) control arms with teeny-tiny, non-rubber bushings are tough on Houston roads. It’s a bad-ass persona ideal for most restomodders, and I respect that. But, if I was in charge of this project, I’d ditch the kit’s control arms for factory Mustang II control arms with big, juicy, plump and delicious rubber bushings. A regression-mod restoration, perhaps? 

Granted your roads are a far cry from mine, but I wouldn’t add an NVH-averse suspension on a droptop Falcon without chassis stiffeners like subframe connectors. I’d add those connectors no matter what! Since you can (?) grab parts designed for the 1964 Mustang, I’d recommend the stock (rebuilt) suspension with the best shocks and springs you can find.

And what about EFI conversions? Many reputable setups use GM sensors attached to custom wiring harnesses, so don’t sweat that. In the spirit of your T-5 swap, add EEC-IV from a 5-liter Mustang, provided hood clearance is no different than ’60s Mustangs. Aside from the occasionally wonky TFI module, it’s a great swap: Fox Mustangs are losing their EFI systems for LSX-FTW swaps on a regular basis! You can pick up an entire EEC-IV setup (intake, fuel rails, wiring, sensors) for a couple hundred bucks!

Fuel pumps get dicey depending on the easiest fuel tank conversion. I’d put faith in expensive Aeromotive parts, but maybe these guys got the Falcon covered better. Often these assemblies use the same tube-shaped pump available at any parts store.

Your current mileage is impressive and proves that a well-tuned spread bore (?) carb runs nearly as efficient as EFI…provided it stays in tune. Swapping to EFI nets greater consistency in all driving conditions…if that’s what you really want.

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: Express-ions via More Data Points? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-12/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-12/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 12:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1150873 TTAC commentator TrenchFoot writes: Hey, I’ve got a problem in that I like data. As an engineer and car enthusiast, I want to know more data points than the manufacturer thought I would/should. So I want to add some tech to my ride, and I want it all. The problem is, no one seems to sell […]

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TTAC commentator TrenchFoot writes:

Hey, I’ve got a problem in that I like data. As an engineer and car enthusiast, I want to know more data points than the manufacturer thought I would/should. So I want to add some tech to my ride, and I want it all. The problem is, no one seems to sell the all-in-one solution I’m looking for.

I have a 2007 Chevy Express AWD 1500 (backoff with your comments, I love that van!), but tech in that rig is limited to a power locks. Since I use it to tow a smallish travel trailer, I’m always wondering about the state of the tranny. So my wish list is:

  • Backup camera
  • Bluetooth
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring
  • Tachometer
  • Tranny temp/gear/Torque Convertor Lockup
  • Do I want a tuner, too?

Some of what I want is available with low-cost double DIN stereos (backup camera, Bluetooth) and some is available with a tuner like one offered by Bully Dog (camera, gauges). Even though the van has most of the running gear from a Silverado, Bully Dog is one of the few tuner companies that support the Express/Savana vans.

Adding TPMS is the tough one. I’ve had 3 flats this year and lost both a summer and snow tire that probably could have been saved had I known I was losing pressure. I don’t want to end up with a tuner, standalone TPMS, and new stereo as the cockpit will start to look cluttered and inviting to thieves.

Any thoughts on a Swiss Army device or how I can get it all with just a new stereo and one extra display?

Sajeev answers:

I, as a former engineering student, understand your need for data. Hopefully there’s a 12-step program to rid you of a future with analysis paralysis. But let me be the enabler to your addiction!

There are 2DIN stereos that not only have the backup camera and Bluetooth, but also interface with the OBD-II port for useful vehicle information. As this video — disgustingly cute music aside — shows, Android has a nice tachometer for you!

Apple users aren’t left in the cold, either.

Either way, spending a couple hundred more for one of these is worth the upgrade from whatever you see at Best Buy. These new stereos cover a large number of your requirements in one clean(-ish) interface.

The vehicle tuner? Yes, you both need and want it to upgrade air-fuel ratios, transmission algorithms, etc. from the conservative factory setting to something that will perform better and likely net you a modest increase in fuel economy, and assuming the factory settings for torque/throttle management, cushy transmission action, etc. are not up your alley. I mean, you are an Engineer…right? 

You’ll want the tuner to see those transmission parameters, as I suspect they’re unique PIDs your average Apple and Android interface cannot grab. Damn those unique PIDs!

So you now have a replacement stereo in your dash hole and a BullyDog display. Brace yourself for an aftermarket TPMS monitoring system. Nobody’s gonna interface with an aftermarket system — unless later model Express’ have factory TPMS and you are willing to re-wire the chassis (and install a new powertrain control module) to make it work. I reckon that ain’t happening, no matter how strong that data obsession lies within your soul.

It’s really not a concern, considering your canvas.

2004 Chevrolet Express. X04CT_EX015MX

(photo courtesy: www.autoevolution.com)

Take it from the dude that left engineering school to pursue a career in car design (i.e. styling) now doing that Vellum Venom thing: You got ample choices to install both the TPMS and BullyDog modules. Cut a hole, mount them in: use glue, sandpaper and charcoal paint if needed for a super trick installation.

The Express was designed to be upfitter friendly. This is perfect for your needs and maybe 20 more modules!

Go make it happen!

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

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Piston Slap: Fresh Air on the Topic of Re-circulated Air? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-fresh-air-topic-recirculation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-fresh-air-topic-recirculation/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1143489   TTAC Commentator sastexan writes: Hi Sajeev, Hope you are doing well. I haven’t seen a lot of activity from you on TTAC lately (but I haven’t been as religious a reader lately either between work and kiddos). I find it interesting what cars default to having their climate control (manual or automatic) on re-circulating […]

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Bp-vOgyCEAAnLD7

Mmm… (photo courtesy: twitter.com/Simpsonspalooza)

TTAC Commentator sastexan writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Hope you are doing well. I haven’t seen a lot of activity from you on TTAC lately (but I haven’t been as religious a reader lately either between work and kiddos). I find it interesting what cars default to having their climate control (manual or automatic) on re-circulating versus fresh air. One of the things I like about our Odyssey is that it defaults to fresh air unless the cooling load called for is very heavy (in auto mode, in manual mode it won’t switch).

This is as opposed to most Toyota products (namely my mom’s 2010 Lexus RX350 and my mother in law’s 2015 Toyota Camry LE) that seem to rush to re-circulating all the time. I prefer fresh air, but understand that re-circulating is more efficient (I guess?) as the AC can work less changing the temperature and humidity of the inside air rather than the outside air. It probably doesn’t matter on short trips, but on longer highway trips fresh air with more oxygen seems like a much better idea.

What criteria do car manufacturers use for these settings? Why does Toyota force re-circulating on manual climate control? Am I just being over sensitive about the mix of fresh and re-circulating air?

Sajeev answers:

I write a minimum of two posts weekly ever since Neidermeyer ran the joint, and I gotta hear this? Oh, a shot thru my heart this is…but I digress.

Re-circulated air is, in theory, more efficient. Instead of working hard to condition outdoor air, the vehicle now works with a more manageable sample. Down in Houston, neck deep in a heatwave, the need for re-circulated air is real: why try to constantly condition 100+ degree air when you can recondition air inside the car? It’s more efficient; it can save fuel.

Hence when an owner asks for “MAX A/C” they get re-circulated air sucked from the cabin and forced through the A/C evaporator. Many vehicles push the blower motor to full speed on max A/C, provided there’s a separate recirculate button, like the BMW X5 pictured below.

 

(photo courtesy: autoevolution.com)

But not all is perfect with re-circulated air. If, for a horrifying example, the front seat passenger takes off their shoes and their stank-nasty feet are (usually) right next to HVAC’s inlet for re-circulated air, in less than a minute you smell the stench through the dashboard. Yuck.

More to the point, rip one while running MAX A/C and not open the windows, I dare you!

Fresh air is nice, especially when the outside air isn’t significantly hotter than your desired in-cabin temperature. If you only need to knock down a few degrees and/or compensate for the greenhouse effect, go ahead and enjoy outside air.

All manufacturers should force re-circulated air as default when a user wants air conditioning. This ensures maximum efficiency and better fuel economy. There’s always (usually? maybe?) an on/off button for re-circulated air that’s easy to defeat for the stanky feet among us.

Bad idea? Well, it’s no less insane as BMW’s start-stop tech, or active grille shutters on a vehicle fascia with all the wind-cheating sleek-osity of a barn door.

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: Commandeering The Commander’s Electrics? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-commandeering-commanders-electrics/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-commandeering-commanders-electrics/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 11:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1144313   Brett writes: Sajeev, Brett here. Got a weird one, or maybe it is not that weird since it involves a Chrysler product and electrical gremlins. My father drives a 2006 Jeep Commander, 5.7-liter HEMI, basically loaded. Overall, he likes the Jeep. It has about 104k miles on it. Anyways, it is his forth Jeep […]

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2010_jeep_commander-pic-6910025025120850825

(photo courtesy: productioncars.com)

Brett writes:

Sajeev,
Brett here. Got a weird one, or maybe it is not that weird since it involves a Chrysler product and electrical gremlins. My father drives a 2006 Jeep Commander, 5.7-liter HEMI, basically loaded. Overall, he likes the Jeep. It has about 104k miles on it. Anyways, it is his forth Jeep and he is having some weird electrical problems.

Imagine that, a Chrysler product with electrical problems…

So, randomly it wont start. Currently happens about once a week. He drives it to and from work about 5 miles each way. Fortunately, his wife works with him and they drive 2 cars everywhere so he is never really stranded anywhere. Family dysfunction here: there were many times that he, his wife, myself and my brother would all drive somewhere separately. Anyways, my dad and the Jeep were at my house the other day and I was taking the Jeep to the store. Tried to start it and it just cranked and cranked. Stopped, waited a minute or two and tried again an it started right up. It was like it wasn’t getting spark or fuel.

Second random issue was the front windshield washer pump stopped working. While troubleshooting, I realized that the rear pump didn’t work either. I listened for it but could not hear the pumps turning on. I decided to check the fuses. Once determining that Chrysler indicates that 4 different fuses could affect this on some random forum I figured what the hell. I pulled each fuse from the two separate fuse boxes under the hood and from the one under the dash (one at a time). I didn’t find a failed fuse — but guess what? The pumps started working. Should I slather some dielectric grease on the fuses and hope for the best?

I am guessing these two issues are related. My google-fu didn’t turn up a likely culprit. Any suggestions? He had previously indicated that he is considering a new vehicle, my suggestion was to trade it one a new vehicle before more gremlins show up.

Sajeev answers:

Hey Brett. With no shop manuals in hand, I’d be surprised if these problems are related. Most newer vehicles have unique body control wiring/modules and a mostly sovereign powertrain control module. I mean, Chrysler’s done some bizarre R&D things in the last 40+ years, but…

I reckon we need more information for the no-start condition. Maybe there’s a stored trouble code in the computer? Perhaps the crank position sensor (or maybe its wiring) is intermittently bad, hence the Jeep cannot know the right time to send spark/fuel to the motor? The intermittent nature makes me think that sensor is toast.

According to this thread, there’s one pump for the Commander’s front and rear windscreens. But this thread says there’s two pumps? 2006 might be a transitional year, if the part numbers between 2006 and 2007 on RockAuto are any indication. Fun stuff without a shop manual and no way to leave the Internet for this query!

I’m stumped: considering both front and rear sprayers are not working, I reckon you got one electric motor…and it’s flaky. The replacement looks pretty cheap. It might be worth testing the motor and its wiring with an old fashioned multimeter. Well, after you purchase a proper shop manual to get real insight into the circuit.

Have fun with that!

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

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Piston Slap: PATS on the back for Panther Love? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-pats-back-panther-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-pats-back-panther-love/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 12:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1137106 TTAC commentator supremebrougham writes: Hi Sajeev, Sitting in my Grandma’s garage is her pristine 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, with a whopping 24,800 miles on the clock. Grandpa bought it right off of Mr. Sesi’s showroom floor not long after he retired. About two months ago, my Mom and Grandma took the car out for […]

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TTAC commentator supremebrougham writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Sitting in my Grandma’s garage is her pristine 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, with a whopping 24,800 miles on the clock. Grandpa bought it right off of Mr. Sesi’s showroom floor not long after he retired.

About two months ago, my Mom and Grandma took the car out for the day to do some shopping. They stopped by my house, and when they went to leave, the car wouldn’t start. I got in and noticed that when I turned the key, the fuel pump was not making any noise.

I pushed the car into my garage where my uncle said he would come and look at it later in the week. A couple of days later, I decided to try it. Sure enough, the car started right up. I took it back to Grandma’s and put it in the garage. A couple of weeks later I went back and started the car — it ran perfectly — so I took it across town and washed it and brought it home, with no problems. Two weeks ago, my uncle and aunt took the car out for the day, and while they were out, the car wouldn’t start, so they had it towed home. A couple of days later, I went out to the garage, and it started right up! We have no idea why it’s doing this. Any suggestions? I want to take the car to the Woodward Dream Cruise to use as my Staff Car for The Brougham Society, so I need it fixed fast!

Sajeev answers:

Pretty easy one for a fanboi like myself, and it has little to do with Panther Love. This thread encapsulates the possible faults. Assuming the car will not crank when twisting the key, I doubt a shredded fuel pump (or frayed wiring) exists on such a low mile vehicle. The fuel pump relay? Maybe, but nah.

The last post on that thread (regarding the PATS key) is the culprit. PATS keys have a transponder in the head, and perhaps yours is damaged in a fall: kinda like smartphones, things happen when falling from a few feet to a solid surface. Check if the PATS warning light in the gauge cluster stays on longer than the normal (2-3 seconds upon startup) or if it flashes. If so, that’s why your Panther ain’t starting.

A new key (either a universal or a factory Mercury branded key) is easy to get at a locksmith, dealership or even eBay. The last link presented also has programming instructions for the new key, so its a cheap and easy fix.

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: Strutin’ Around a Loaded Question? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-11/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-11/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2015 14:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1137058   Harry writes: My daily driver is a ’99 Honda CR-V two-wheel drive I took over from my kid when she went to work overseas. It has been in the family since 2007 and has always been economical on gas, reliable and needed only regular service. It is fine for the 20 mile drive to […]

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quick_strut2

A loaded question? (photo courtesy: shockwarehouse.com)

Harry writes:

My daily driver is a ’99 Honda CR-V two-wheel drive I took over from my kid when she went to work overseas. It has been in the family since 2007 and has always been economical on gas, reliable and needed only regular service. It is fine for the 20 mile drive to work in suburbia — but we take our Pilot on trips because my wife refuses to ride in the CR-V.

At the last regular service my mechanic told me the ride is terrible because at 237k the struts/shocks are completely toast and it would be north of a grand to replace them. I checked online and the shocks are about 75 each but a complete strut assembly is about 225. All the sites I checked say degree of difficulty in replacing is high so I won’t be doing this myself.

My questions are:

  • Does the labor to pull apart the struts to replace the shocks wipe out the savings in parts cost?
  • Are there other parts that should be changed like bushings, spring rubbers and the like since we are already in there?
  • Will not doing the struts cause the springs to fail?

I plan on keeping the vehicle until I retire in four years, approximately 40k miles from now. What does the B&B say?

Sajeev answers:

Damn near any vehicle with that kinda mileage is likely to have terrible struts/shocks and (coil in this case) springs. Why? Because, as we’ve mentioned before, these are wear items that are neglected even more than worn out headlight bulb filaments. I wouldn’t be too surprised if you’re running on the original bits. Odds are your mechanic is right and they are making a pigs ear of your CR-V’s ride.

Question 1: With the advent of aftermarket damper+spring combo replacements (Monroe and Gabriel, for example) for MacPherson Strut configured vehicles, you always replace both the spring and the damper together. Even if they aren’t clearly bad, odds are the springs have fatigued to the point that replacement is a good idea. Factor in the labor involved to replace a strut damper (in a MacPherson strut) by removing and re-using the spring, and just throwing away the whole assembly for a new one is often cheaper. Considering the benefit of new springs and shocks, this is a no brainer. Always get the combo. Get new springs when renewing MacPherson struts.

Question 2: Maybe. Only your mechanic’s eyeballs will know for sure. I wouldn’t go digging around to replace control arm bushings as that’s more labor to remove, but if they are bad, I assume you trust this person enough to be fair with you. I wouldn’t be surprised if the end links for the anti-sway bars could be bad, but again, that’s for the mechanic to judge.

Question 3: In theory, a bad strut causes the spring to cycle up/down more frequently. In theory, every moving part has a finite number of cycles it can handle before it breaks or distorts to the point you (or your wife?) finds the ride to be unbearable. In practice? A bad strut doesn’t directly cause a spring to fail. Usually abuse (big potholes) or rust will do that instead.

Since you are keeping it for a while and I see replacement Gabriel “Readymount” spring and damper assemblies for your vehicle are $190 for the rear and $153 for the front, replacing the dampers and springs are a total no brainer. Hell, this place I’ve never heard of before has the whole set for much, much less!

Do 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 Saab SID, the Dead CD Stereo! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-saab-sid-dead-cd-stereo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-saab-sid-dead-cd-stereo/#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2015 11:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132193 Seth writes: Sajeev (and your evil twin) OK, you asked for it so here goes: I have an 2005 saab 9-3 5-speed convertible that is having issues. I use it as a summer car. It is my third saab so I am use to some weird stuff. Last year, I parked it for the winter […]

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Seth writes:

Sajeev (and your evil twin)

OK, you asked for it so here goes: I have an 2005 saab 9-3 5-speed convertible that is having issues.

I use it as a summer car. It is my third saab so I am use to some weird stuff. Last year, I parked it for the winter and everything worked. I lost my garage space for the winter so I had it under a car cover. When spring came my SID (Saab Information Display) did not work. I know the SIDs in previous generations were an issue but not on this model. As a bonus, my CD player also died, but the radio still worked even without its display.

So I get the SID replaced — really the only reason was so I could see radio the current station — by an independent Saab mechanic, but now the radio does not work. The indie said the amp is bad. The Saab amp setup (I have a 7-speaker, 150W ARC sound system, I think) is fiber optic and a PITA. He checked the fuses and said they are fine. It seems odd the radio does not work the minute the new SID is in. I can replace the amp, but it’s a 4-hour drive one way to do so and I would prefer not to kill a day to find out it was something simple.

I checked the board but it seems I have the one in a million issue. Got any ideas? And no Panther advice, please.

I will have garage space from now on and I do not mind getting the amp fixed. I love the car but a radio and a working SID would be nice.

Sajeev answers:

This thread suggests you check the amp and wiring for water damage. Not a bad idea, and there’s also a conversion harness for eliminating OnStar if your old connector is damaged by liquid.

I suspect your Saab indie mechanic is right: the amp’s internal guts are indeed dead and you gotta replace it. If you doubt him, get a shop manual and follow the diagnostic yourself. Sometimes a book, a multi-meter and a lot of spare time is worth it. But I’d probably stick with your trusty Saab mechanic’s advice.

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: 6L80E…eeeeeek? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-6l80e-eeeeeek/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-6l80e-eeeeeek/#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2015 11:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132041   Nathaniel writes: Sajeev, Long time listener, first-time caller. I’m responding to your plea for new Piston Slap questions. I purchased a gently-used 2008 GMC Yukon Denali AWD a couple of months ago. Other than its appetite for fuel, the only negative is that it has 141,000 miles. I believe the previous owner changed the […]

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gearshift

Leather is better. (photo courtesy: image.automotive.com)

Nathaniel writes:

Sajeev,

Long time listener, first-time caller. I’m responding to your plea for new Piston Slap questions. I purchased a gently-used 2008 GMC Yukon Denali AWD a couple of months ago. Other than its appetite for fuel, the only negative is that it has 141,000 miles. I believe the previous owner changed the transmission fluid at 100,000 miles (Carfax shows that the transfer case fluid was changed at this point, and I can’t imagine doing that and not doing the transmission). The fluid was relatively clean but I changed out several quarts via the dipstick tube using a fluid extractor after I purchased the vehicle, replacing them with the specified Dexron-VI. I believe the fluid level is correct but it’s difficult to read.

On a recent road trip, the 6-speed automatic (6L80E) transmission stumbled during the 2-3 shift while driving through the mountains and went into a failsafe mode. The check engine light came on. I pulled over, turned the ignition off and on again, and the truck operated normally. The CEL remained on for the next several ignition cycles. When I called OnStar to obtain the fault code, they could not retrieve it because the CEL was no longer on.

I was able to reproduce the problem by giving the truck wide open throttle. The 1-2 shift occurred normally. The 2-3 shift was delayed (the engine revved higher than the normal shift point of about 5,500 rpm), it eventually shifted into 3rd, and stayed there. The CEL lit up and the truck slowed down to about 40 mph, but it eventually allowed me to speed up, staying in 3rd the entire time. I pulled over, turned the ignition off and on again, and again it was back to normal. I called OnStar again, and they pulled codes P0700 (a generic code indicating a transmission problem) and P2714 (clutch pressure control solenoid stuck off). The CEL disappeared after a few ignition cycles.

A few TSBs, #PIP4304A and #PIP4184B, and 09-07-30-004A, appear to be on point. I’m not that familiar with how automatic transmissions work, but the TSBs appear to involve disassembly of the transmission and the possible replacement of valves, control modules, etc., which sounds fairly involved. I have not noticed a delay in the engagement of forward gears after putting it in drive, which I think is mentioned in one or more of the TSBs.

There appear to be no other mechanical problems with the truck. I see the options as follows:

  1. Do nothing for now, try to avoid full throttle upshifts, see whether the problem gets worse (how much danger is there in doing this?);
  2. Bring it to the selling (GM) dealer, beg for mercy on the cost of any repairs since they only sold me the car a couple of months ago (on the theory that any assistance they might provide is less and less likely as time goes by); or
  3. Take to an independent transmission shop. (Does anyone actually do repairs anymore or do they try to swap in a remanufactured transmission?)

Any advice?

Thanks,

Nathaniel

Sajeev answers:

Fantastic assessment, especially the two hyperlinks. Kinda sad, however: the 6L80E is quite an impressive gearbox most of the time, like the robust GM 4-speeds before it. However, if your vehicle is (one of?) the first GM trucks using this gearbox, perhaps teething problems are par for the course.

Since you did the work for me, I’ll be brief:

  1. Not a bad idea, because this problem will likely take a long time to get bad enough to warrant removal/rebuild.
  2. A better idea: talk to your salesperson and ask for a referral to the service manager. Granted its a 6-7 year old vehicle with well over 100,000 miles, but there could be some goodwill in your purchase. Maybe a steep discount, hopefully a free diagnosis of PIP4184B (as per your Corvetteforum.com thread) with their fancy pants Tech 2 diagnostic gizmo.
  3. Consider this after 1 and 2 run their course. Also consider something like a Jasper reman gearbox shipped to the mechanic of your choice; whatever works best in your part of the country.

I’d start with #2. If the dealership deems the fix within their tolerance for goodwill repairs, that’ll be great! If not, stick with #1 until the gearbox’s bad behavior is unbearable: save your repair/diagnosis for a bigger problem. Adding a new valve body to a gearbox that might have 140,000 hard, clutch-wearing miles of towing by the previous owner isn’t my idea of money well spent. You never know!

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 Aftermarket Performance? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-fallacy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/piston-slap-fallacy/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 16:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1125361   Evan writes: Hi Sajeev! How do people get your name wrong when it is in your email address? But that wasn’t why I was calling. My question: are aftermarket parts for brand spanking new cars sensible? For instance, I’m picking up an Audi SQ5 and there are these ‘x-brace’ things and mount inserts. Why would Audi […]

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034-505-2016-animation

(animation courtesy: store.034motorsport.com)

Evan writes:

Hi Sajeev!

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

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

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

Thanks for the insight!

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Merkur? ZOMG SANJEEV Y U NO LS1-FTW?

Merkur? ZOMG SANJEEV Y U NO LS1-FTW?

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

Promises: kept.

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

1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

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

IMG_5310

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

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

IMG_5323

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

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

IMG_5338

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

IMG_5326

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

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

IMG_5336

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

IMG_5324

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

IMG_5329

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

FullSizeRender

Nothing I can’t handle.

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

FullSizeRender IMG_5326 IMG_5322 IMG_5314 IMG_5315 IMG_5313 IMG_5336 IMG_5328 IMG_5311 IMG_5333 IMG_5323 IMG_5316 IMG_5338 IMG_5310 IMG_5324 IMG_5325 IMG_5317 IMG_5321 IMG_5329 IMG_5327 IMG_5320

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

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

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

Bob writes:

Good Morning Sajeev,

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

Just skip it all and go aftermarket.

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

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

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

Greg writes:

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

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

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

Here’s the report in PDF form.

Of interest:

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

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

Sajeev concludes:

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

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

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

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

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

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

Thank you,
Mark

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

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Make your Mark so Sanjeev doesn’t have to.

Sajeev writes:

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

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

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

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

Don’t be shy.

Stop lurking.

Make it happen.

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

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

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dirtycar

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

TTAC commentator cwallace writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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They didn't make compromises, they made Saabs?

They didn’t make compromises, they made Saabs?

Ron writes:

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

You can see the question coming, of course.

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

Thanks for any light you can shed on this.

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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983841_10152678794963269_545388958358539097_n

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

Casey writes:

Hello Sajeev,

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

New Cadillacs and Lincolns = Cooler in Houston

Now to make inferences, and foolishly justify them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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002966_engine

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

Dennis writes:

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

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

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

Your advice is always appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

Some great fanboi he is…

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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tint

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

Mark writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

Both Sajeev and Sanjeev are disappointed with you!

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

2N1DKn8

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

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

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

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

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

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

ad_ford_taurus_sho_silver_1994

 

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

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

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(photo courtesy: OP)

Matt writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

Any help would be much appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

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

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

With that in mind, I suggest:

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

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

 

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

 

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

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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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