The Truth About Cars » Piston Slap http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 29 May 2015 16:00:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Piston Slap http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/piston-slap/ Piston Slap: The Body Control Module Electric? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-body-control-module-electric/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-body-control-module-electric/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1074898 Gary writes: Good Afternoon, Today when I got into my 2002 Saturn SL2, the power door locks started chattering. Each door, over the space of about 45 minutes, had the same thing happen. Sometimes it would be one at a time, other times it would be two or more. I also noticed that the inside […]

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Gary writes:

Good Afternoon,

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

Thank you!

Sajeev answers:

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

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

 

bcm

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

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

And don’t forget the BCM recall, too!

 

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

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

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

Clark writes:

Sajeev,

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

Consider these minivan parameters, in no particular order:

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

What say you, Best and Brightest?

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

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

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Renault Kwid 01

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Image credit: Renault]

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

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

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Tony writes:

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

KGrHqFk0E3Gzey500BNyFu4jH_3

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

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

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

 

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

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

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My bad. (photo courtesy: imgflip.com)

Robin writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

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

unnamed

What the… (photo courtesy: OP)

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

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

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

Old Bill from Occam really knew his stuff.

Sajeev answers:

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

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

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom: 

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

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

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

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Not so Holy Roller? (photo courtesy OP)

TTAC commentator Celebrity208 writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTAC Commentator thirty-three writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Are you sure about that?

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

What makes your wedding so special?

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

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

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

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

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

The perpetually single guy demands you rent a Limo, hopefully with white wheels. Off to you, Best and Brightest!

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

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

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coloribus.com

Except Invincibility! (photo courtesy: coloribus.com)

TTAC commentator nutbags writes:

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

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

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

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

Thanks and keep up the great work,
Nutbags

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesse writes:

Hello, Sajeev.

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

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

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

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

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

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

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

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Chrysler Town & Country

TTAC Commentator BCalgary writes:

Hello Sajeev!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTAC Commentator r129 writes:

Hello Sajeev,

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

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

What say you, Best and Brightest?

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

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

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Jaguar-X-Type-033

Allen writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

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

Any wisdom you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

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

Allen writes:

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

Sajeev answers:

Ah-ha!  This problem?

Click here to view the embedded video.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(photo courtesy: headgasketrepairvognal.blogspot.com)

Chris writes:

Sajeev,

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

It’s kinda “Ludacris.” But I digress…

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

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

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

But then again, it’s a Cadillac!

 

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

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

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Take two… (photo courtesy: fakeposters.com)

Sam writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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

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

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

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

N.C. writes:

Sajeev,

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

 

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

10615957_10152343563823269_4882044344050485582_n

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

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

 

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

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

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Piston Slap: What makes Premium Fuel More Expensive? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-makes-premium-fuel-expensive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-makes-premium-fuel-expensive/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 12:21:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1041953   TTAC Commentator sastexan writes: Sajeev, I’ve been driving cars requiring premium fuel (91+ octane). When I bought my Contour SVT in 1998, high test was $0.20 more a gallon (just under a 20% premium over regular). But it was regularly always only $0.20 more. In the past decade or so, I noticed the delta […]

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Just the long and short of it. (photo courtesy: chemistryland.com)

TTAC Commentator sastexan writes:

Sajeev,

I’ve been driving cars requiring premium fuel (91+ octane). When I bought my Contour SVT in 1998, high test was $0.20 more a gallon (just under a 20% premium over regular). But it was regularly always only $0.20 more. In the past decade or so, I noticed the delta going to $0.30 and even more. The correlation did not seem to be to the price (eg, premium did not seem to track a consistent 15% increase). Rather, the difference appears to be a flat rate.

Question for the best and brightest – what in higher octane fuel makes it more expensive?

What inputs are there and how much more does it cost to manufacture?

This is not intended to be a debate about the “requirement” for premium – my SVT had an extreme dislike of 87 octane and I won’t try it in my FRS with the high compression engine. However my mother runs 87 in her  with no issue for the past 5 years despite the assertion from the salesman that the “premium product requires premium fuel” and did the same for her old I30 for 14 years (Camry engine and Maxima engine, respectively).

Sajeev answers:

I’m far from an oil and gas expert, but let’s hyperlink to relevant sources and give it the ‘ol college try.

What makes premium fuel more expensive is the effort to adjust the ratio of long to short chain hydrocarbons in grades of gasoline. A notable quote from the Quora link above.

“Effectively, the long-chain hydrocarbons (like asphalt and diesel) can be broken into shorter-chain hydrocarbons (like gasoline). You end up with more gasoline. You can also adjust the regular/premium output ratios with these methods.”

Perhaps more importantly, overall fuel cost is proportional to oil quality.

Not all crude oil is created equal. The Keystone XL pipeline (that everyone’s formed an opinion about) is proof: the quality of “tar sand” oil delivered to my Texas backyard is poor. Light, sweet crude is the good stuff: more expensive as a raw material but easier to refine. But there are varying grades here too: light crude oil is “defined as having an API gravity higher than 31.1 °API (less than 870 kg/m3).” 

Whatever that means.

Need more detail? Too bad I didn’t accept that Petroleum Engineering scholarship when I was a freshman. Perhaps there’s one within the ranks of our 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: FCA Makes the Case for Czech Bicycle Ownership? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-making-case-bicycle-ownership/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-making-case-bicycle-ownership/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 11:49:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038801 TTAC writer Vojta Dobes writes: Hello Sa(n)jeev, As you already know, I had to get rid of the borrowed ’98 Town Car which served me for last 15 months. When I mentioned to you that I’m getting a ’94 Chrysler LHS instead, you told me that it would be wise for me to purchase a reasonable, domestically […]

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(photo courtesy: eBay.com)

TTAC writer Vojta Dobes writes:

Hello Sa(n)jeev,

As you already know, I had to get rid of the borrowed ’98 Town Car which served me for last 15 months. When I mentioned to you that I’m getting a ’94 Chrysler LHS instead, you told me that it would be wise for me to purchase a reasonable, domestically produced (which means European for me) car, so I have something that’s easy to fix and easy to get parts for.

I found afairly nice Alfa Romeo 164 Diesel, with just a few dings and scratches and in mostly working condition, save for some unimportantelectricals. Is that what you had in mind?Do you think those two cars will be enough to keep me mobile, or shall I better buy a new bicycle for times when there’s no press car for me?

Thanks for your input!

Sajeev answers:

Oh. My. Damn. Son.

I must remember all those Sierra parts you shipped for TTAC’s project car before I proceed. Because it’s very, very hard to avoid internet flaming when considering a transaxle-munching Chrysler LH car in the Czech Republic! And then, salt in the wound, maximum FCA  pain via used Alfa?

But you got press cars. (Not jealous!) And maybe your city is like others in Europe; flush with a strong infrastructure for bicyclists. Ditto public transportation. With that in mind, why not?

What could possibly go wrong?

You tell us, 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 Tale of Mastercrafted, Aftermarket Dubs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-tale-mastercrafted-aftermarket-dubs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-tale-mastercrafted-aftermarket-dubs/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 12:18:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038753 Jimmy writes: I hope this new year finds you well. Back in 2007 I bought a new Hyundai Santa Fe. Nothing special, no ABS or four wheel drive. But it did have 20”s on it with low profile 12 inch wide tires. Later that year I had the chance to drive it in the snow. First […]

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IMG_8744

(photo courtesy: svtrichie @ www.Hyundaiforums.com)

Jimmy writes:

I hope this new year finds you well. Back in 2007 I bought a new Hyundai Santa Fe. Nothing special, no ABS or four wheel drive. But it did have 20”s on it with low profile 12 inch wide tires. Later that year I had the chance to drive it in the snow. First time ever. Was not a good time. 

The only thing I know about snow is take it slow. And that’s what I did. Driving down to the end of my block I gently pressed the brake to slow down easy. No problem, I’m almost stopped and got ready to make a right hand turn. When some where under 10 MPH the rear end whipped around and I found myself sitting sideways in the middle of the street. It took me some time to unclinch my anal orifice from the drivers seat.

I thought driving in snow was closer to suicide but I had to pay the gas bill if I wanted to keep the heat on.

The next four stop signs were no problem. But on the fifth stop sigh I had to make a left turn. And just like the first stop sign, the back end slid around to the right. Having never driven in the snow, I didn’t know if this was normal or not. Either way it sucked. Took it too the dealer and had it checked out. No problem. But of course no snow then either.

I just got the car back from the dealer after it’s secound oil change. It was cold but not snowing. It was 9 a.m. no wind. The snow wasn’t melting. And the roads were in good repair. The snow itself was 12 inches deep and even across the road. I was the first one down the road.

Their is no problem breaking on any other surface. During a hard rain last week I tried to make it do something stupid. It always stopped streight and true. These were not snow tires. They were Mastercraft with less then 7 thousand miles on them.

In each case I don’t think I was going more then 7 MPH. Is that too fast ?

I don’t know if this should go on the board or not. I’ll let you decide. I had one of the tires on my Hyundai Santa Fe come apart from the tire case. I took it to the dealer who said, those arn’t Hyundai tires or rims we won’t fix it under warranty. Makes since, not factory tires, but installed by the dealer. So I went to where they did the install. They said if I didn’t buy it from them, their’s no warranty. Before hitting the dealer I looked up “MASTERFCRAFT TIRES” on the internet.

They had a recall for the tires I had. But still no warranty. I’m still pissed off. 1650.00 dollars for a new set of Goodyears. Mastercraft tires according to tirerack.com had a price of 225 each with 80 thousand mile warranty. My tires didn’t make it past 7 thousand miles. Also screwed up some body work. But it did remind me to put a lug wrench in car to fit my fancy rims. After auto club took 4 hours to come and change the tire. On the first hot day of the year.

I don’t blame the dealer. After all it was almost a year since I bought the car and the window sticker did not have anything on it about the rims and tires. But I do think the mastercraft dealer should have done something.

As a side note: I was originally going to buy a Honda Pick-up SUV thing. But I went on my favorite site, TTAC, and found out the little Honda gets crappy gas milage. I did take the Honda for a test drive, and I couldn’t get the sales man to tell me exactly how many miles to gallon it gets. Just like TTAC predicted.

Thanks for the vent.

Sajeev answers:

My luck with off-brand tires on daily driven machines is horrible.  After enduring several sets of shamefully bad Maxima (off brand Generals) and Mastercraft tires on vehicles that eventually became my hand-me-downs, I said never more…except for limited use vehicles like my imported Ford Sierra with impossible to find rubber sizes.

And when you combine off-brand all-season tires, aftermarket 20″ wheels and snowy/icy conditions? Oh my damn, son…

That’s a terrible combination. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with big aftermarket wheels, in theory.  But they weren’t designed with your car’s suspension in mind, and those “recalled” tires were probably sub-par from day one. My advice?

Simple: keep the Dubs for the summer, if you really like them.  You need a proper set of winter wheel and tires (factory 16-17″ sizes) so you can go much faster than 7-mph on city streets. You could go, like, 14mph instead. Awesome.

 

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, The “Reliable” Subaru? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-saabaru-reliable-subaru/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-saabaru-reliable-subaru/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 22:50:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1036929 Adam writes: Hello Sajeev, I have a classic “keep it or sell it” question for you and the greater TTAC audience. Two years ago I bought my wife a 2005 Saab 9-2X Aero (sadly an automatic, which was a non-negotiable requirement for my wife). You may remember these as being rebadged Subaru WRX wagons, and that […]

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95% Subaru, 5% Saab…100% Awesome?

Adam writes:

Hello Sajeev, I have a classic “keep it or sell it” question for you and the greater TTAC audience.

Two years ago I bought my wife a 2005 Saab 9-2X Aero (sadly an automatic, which was a non-negotiable requirement for my wife). You may remember these as being rebadged Subaru WRX wagons, and that was the main reason I bought the car at the time. I assumed that since the underlying platform was basically a “reliable” Subaru, repairs would be infrequent and parts would be plentiful.

The reality is that I’ve never spent so much money trying to keep a car in good running condition. The car is now at 127,000 miles, and in the past two years we’ve done the following work: valve cover gaskets (twice), rebuilt heads and head gaskets, new power steering pump, replaced valve breather assemblies, new radiator, just to name a few things off the top of my head. None of these pending repairs were brought to light through the very thorough pre-purchase inspection, and the car appeared to be well cared for when we bought it.

The head rebuild alone cost us almost $3000 and kept the car in the shop for almost a month, mostly due to parts availability issues, which really surprised me. Even after all these repairs, we are still dealing with a mystery oil leak that periodically drips onto the exhaust somewhere and fills the cabin with a wonderful burning smell.

My question is one of sustainability. Even though the car is comprised of 95% Subaru parts, it seems that the 5% that was supplied by Saab is becoming increasingly more difficult to come by. Things like plastic body panels (rocker panel covers, bumper covers, etc.) are nearly impossible to find now, and even the struts are specific to the Saab model, having been tuned specifically for the 9-2X. Even if I have taken care of most of the major repairs for the foreseeable future, is it really a great idea to hold onto a car that is losing replacement parts support? Even the Subaru parts seem much more scarce than they should be.

I should note that despite all these issues, the reason we haven’t already replaced the car is that we really enjoy driving it. It’s a fun, powerful car that’s good in Minnesota winters and can haul a decent amount of stuff with the seats down. I have no idea what I would replace it with if I did sell it.

I am open to any and all suggestions and advice!

Thanks,
Adam

Sajeev answers:

The answer is clear by the overall tone of your message: put it on Craigslist, wait for the right buyer because it’s still in good running condition.

You really like the car, but not enough to deal with the crap.  Saabs are hard to live with because of parts/repair costs, Subarus are the same (to a lesser extent).  What’s the benefit of being 95% Subaru when their motor popped the head gasket?  Exit now, before you spend thousands more on a 10-year-old car at the bottom of the depreciation curve.

I can see why you might consider the alternative: all my old cars are in some state of serious disrepair. Only a fanboi fool like me does all this for no good reason. If I was a Saabaru fan, I’d love your car too.

Best of luck, and remember there are plenty of AWD hatchback utilities on the market for you and your wife to consider.  Test drive them all, you have nothing but time!

 

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: Ease of Right Hand Drive Conversion? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-ease-right-hand-drive-conversion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-ease-right-hand-drive-conversion/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:16:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032353   Jeremy writes: Hi Sajeev, Greetings (again) from Australia. I’ve got a question regarding converting from left- to right-hand-drive. No idea if you’re the right person to send this to (you could do worse – SM) but I’ll send it anyway. My question is this – is it (relatively) easier converting a mid- or rear-engined […]

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2016-ford-gt-08

Sure, why not?

Jeremy writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Greetings (again) from Australia. I’ve got a question regarding converting from left- to right-hand-drive. No idea if you’re the right person to send this to (you could do worse – SM) but I’ll send it anyway.

My question is this – is it (relatively) easier converting a mid- or rear-engined car from LHD to RHD? My very limited understanding is that, aside from things like the dash and trim that would need to be made, the biggest technical problem is where to feed the steering column, as it’s generally got a nice path through/under the engine/ancillaries etc etc. So would it be theoretically easier if the engine wasn’t there in the first place?

I’m assuming that things like the pedal box etc are easier to shift over.

This all came to my head looking at the new Ford GT, and lamenting on the fact that even if I had the money, I doubt I’d ever see one in our part of the world. That makes me sad.

Take care,
Jeremy

Sajeev answers:

From what I’ve seen while upgrading my RHD Ford Sierra with engine/transmission/suspension components from LHD vehicles available stateside, the engine’s location doesn’t matter. Cars are modular, especially those with steering (rack) and chassis (subframe?) parts specifically engineered for RHD markets. The location of the engine bay on the body doesn’t matter.

Steering columns, shafts and boxes/racks are never in the way of an engine, they mount to one side and the engine’s in the center.  The hard part is making or possibly procuring right hand drive conversion parts that mirror the LHD ones.

Since the new Ford GT is far from a Ford-based initiative, odds are it uses steering, suspension and maybe even chassis components previously designed, tested and road legal in another life. This saves time and money, the last Ford GT was full of screwball parts: Focus steering column and engine air filters, Econoline inside door releases, signal lights from the 2001-2002 Cougar headlight assembly, etc.  Granted this new GT is far more expensive, it’s probably far more bespoke.

But odds are the steering rack is made by a third-party that also offers a RHD counterpart. And it’s designed to bolt into the same place as a LHD steering rack. Probably.

Now if you wanted to convert to center drive on a front engine vehicle, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

 

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

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Piston Slap: The German TL’s Audi 5000 Syndrome? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-german-tls-audi-5000-syndrome/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-german-tls-audi-5000-syndrome/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:08:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028585   Mark writes: Hi Sajeev, I have a 2003 Acura TL-S with 106K miles. I bought the car in 2013 with 84K and it was/is in excellent shape. I checked and made sure the car had the transmission recalls performed (I know there were a lot of issues with Honda/Acura 5 speed autos) Back in July […]

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2003_acura_tl_picture (12)

Audi 5000 much? (photo courtesy: www.jbcarpages.com)

Mark writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I have a 2003 Acura TL-S with 106K miles. I bought the car in 2013 with 84K and it was/is in excellent shape. I checked and made sure the car had the transmission recalls performed (I know there were a lot of issues with Honda/Acura 5 speed autos) Back in July I noticed on a hot and humid day it was difficult to move the gear selector from P to Drive. It seemed stiff but there were no other indicators of transmission issues. 

I went to every Acura forum I could find and most issues were related to actual transmission problems and failures. There were some suggestions that the brake light switch might be failing. I replaced that (even though the brake lights work fine) no luck. It then started giving me fits about coming out of Park. I would have to use the key to move it into Drive or Neutral. Then it stopped doing that for a few months. Now it occasionally will not go into Reverse from Drive unless I shift down to then back up. The action is still very stiff but it will go into gear. Once you are going the Transmission is fine, it shifts perfectly, there is no missed shifts, clunking or any of the usual signs of an imminent transmission failure.

I live in Germany where Acura does not exist. The local Honda dealers are clueless since they have very little experience with Automatic Transmissions. Local mechanics are the same, very little experience working on automatic transmissions. I can’t find any useful information online or any examples of this issue. Perhaps you can help?

Thanks,
Mark
Stuttgart, Germany

Sajeev answers:

Stuttgart is pretty far away from Ingolstat, and yet your German Acura’s infected with Audi 5000 syndrome?

Such an intermittent problem suggests a mechanical bind inside the shift mechanism, or perhaps electronic fault (just not the brake light).  There’s also ammunition against Honda’s neutral safety switch, or Transmission Range Switch.  The TRS can indeed interfere with the “interlock” system.

Unless you regularly spill large amounts of milky, sweet/sticky flavored coffee on your console to really screw it up, I suspect the TRS (or its wiring harness?) is at fault. To wit, this YouTube video:

Click here to view the embedded video.

What say you, Best and Brightest?

 

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

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Piston Slap: The Sable Preservation Society? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-sable-preservation-society/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-sable-preservation-society/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 12:38:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028105   Matt writes: Hey Sajeev, I read your recent PS on engine warm-up procedures, and it got me thinking about my own situation. I recently started working from home. Now, the missus is able to let sit her 2003 Mercury Sable and drive my 2013 Chevy Equinox during the harsh Wisconsin winter. The Sable is […]

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Or not. (photo courtesy: www.downtown-automotive.com)

Matt writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I read your recent PS on engine warm-up procedures, and it got me thinking about my own situation.

I recently started working from home. Now, the missus is able to let sit her 2003 Mercury Sable and drive my 2013 Chevy Equinox during the harsh Wisconsin winter. The Sable is left in a parking spot, outside, for days and weeks on end without being driven. Aside from starting her up every 2-3 weeks and driving around, what would you recommend to make sure the Sable is in tip-top shape in the event the old gal needs to be driven?

Thanks in advance!

Sajeev answers:

Oh yes!  You and I, we are the same: we’d preserve an old Mercury and subject a new vehicle to winter abuse instead! Clearly you appreciate the Mercury Sable like a Lincoln-Mercury fanboi such as myself. If this were a 1986 LS Model in brown with chocolate velour and digital gauges…well, good thing it’s not. 

1987sable

It *would* look good next to his Brown Ford Sierra.

Since you’re probably being nice to your wife, giving her the safer/nicer vehicle since you don’t need it, I’ll stop with the Sable talk.

So anyway, driving it every 2-3 weeks is all you need.  Just don’t forget to do it! Exercise and fresh fluids is perfect for vehicle health during winter hibernation,  but remaining safe for occupants might be another story.

Make sure the tires are relatively new (i.e. not 8+ years old and hardened to death), change the wiper blades, change the headlight bulbs (if driven regularly at night, that’s often overlooked) and even the little things like a cheapy reflective windshield visor to keep the dashboard from cooking in the winter sun. You could get super picky via paint protection, any grade of breathable outdoor car cover, a battery tender, indoor battery storage and who knows what else the B&B will think of…

But you pretty much nailed it in your query. Off to you, Best and Brightest!

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Piston Slap: Avoiding Brutal CVT Step Gears? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-avoiding-brutal-cvt-step-gears/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-avoiding-brutal-cvt-step-gears/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:04:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1019698   TTAC commentator Raincoaster writes: Hi Sajeev, I currently drive a 2011 Honda Fit(Manual) and I’m mildly interested in a CVT for my next car purchase. I have never driven one, and one thing that gives me pause is all the “fake gears” that they set them up with. I understand that this is to […]

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A path too Brutalist? (photo courtesy: flickrhivemind.net/Tags/architectute,concrete)

TTAC commentator Raincoaster writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I currently drive a 2011 Honda Fit(Manual) and I’m mildly interested in a CVT for my next car purchase. I have never driven one, and one thing that gives me pause is all the “fake gears” that they set them up with. I understand that this is to make them drive in a manner familiar to traditional automatic transmissions, but this seems unnecessary and possibly inefficient to me. Are there any cars/companies that don’t fake it and just let the engine/trans cook up the best ratio at any given time? I’d like to test drive something like that to see how it feels.

A second and 2 part question. I work a 40 day on, 40 off shift and while working, my car (2011 Fit) sits. Is this bad and is there anything I should do for preparation or upon first start up? This also got me wondering about cars on dealer lots, do they periodically start sitting inventory?

-Raincoaster

Sajeev answers:

A 40-day stagnation period has been discussed, here’s the first example. Your only concern is having an older battery: newer cars in many geographic locations are rough on 3-5 year old batteries, so be ready for a dead battery that won’t come back from a jump start. Hopefully there’s an open parts store or a Wal-Mart nearby when that happens.

I also like the traditional, non-stepped CVT as witnessed by my 2014 Mirage road test.  The Mirage lacks flappy paddles and fake gears, but has a manual “low” for steep hills or maybe autocrossing in a serious sleeper. Add that with the fuel economy benefits, these CVTs are worth considering over auto-erratic slushboxes.

As I mentioned in the review, compared to the slow upshifts and the borderline-unsafe delays on WOT downshifts of modern 6-8 speed automatics (considering decades of performance oriented designs, both from the factory and the aftermarket) a stepless CVT is okay.  But public adoption sans fake gears is unlikely, Nissan’s D-step redesign is proof of that. Hopefully you, me, and threads like this mean that CVT step gears become a fad like motorized seatbelts.

Speaking of steps, I’m side-steppin’ your query.  Aside from the Mitsubishi, I don’t know which new CVTs run without steps. I assume Toyota hybrids stay stepless, as people are okay with a Hybrid being different.  This is why Piston Slap only succeeds with the Best and Brightest in play. So off to you!

 

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

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Piston Slap: Reverse Light My Way Home, General Motors! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-reverse-light-way-home-general-motors/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-reverse-light-way-home-general-motors/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 12:53:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018778   Jon writes: Sajeev, I read this column on lighting, thanks for the information! That leads me to a question… What is up with Chevy/GM truck and SUV reverse lights!?!?!?! Why do they come on when their drivers use their lock remotes????? It is crazy going through parking lots these days with all the SUV reverse […]

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(photo courtesy: seadoo2006 @ forums.fourtitude.com)

Jon writes:

Sajeev,

I read this column on lighting, thanks for the information! That leads me to a question…

What is up with Chevy/GM truck and SUV reverse lights!?!?!?! Why do they come on when their drivers use their lock remotes?????

It is crazy going through parking lots these days with all the SUV reverse lights coming on for no good reason. Help me understand please.

Sajeev answers:

Reversing lights, just like headlights, can be used for anything when parked. And headlights also remain lit on these vehicles, which has been a safety feature since at least the mid 1970s. Knowledge Drop time!

Peep the rheostat (Off, Max Delay) on the automatic headlight system below. There was about a minute (max) of headlight safety for a dimly lit parking space. Considering how many dimly lit streets there are at night, even in urban areas…considering how many 1970s cop shows had some seriously heavy shit go down in a dark parking garage, you better believe your 1977 Continental Mark V needs this system.

$_4

And the de-icing rear window too, of course. (photo courtesy: http://www.edsonian.com)

Maybe Starsky and Hutch would still be on TV if their damn low-brow Ford Torino had this Lincoln’s feature.  You think long and hard about that, Son!

 

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

While this notion is a safety feature for the vehicle’s owner, you aren’t the only outsider complaining.  I’m annoyed by them when looking for a spot, or looking to ensure someone won’t back into my ride.

So do this: slow down while approaching AND be on the lookout for the brake lights.  Most of these vehicles are automatics, and most people crawl out of a spot while riding the brakes. So no brake lights, no driver inside the GM product.

 

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

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Piston Slap: To Need a Gentrified Pickup? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-need-gentrified-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-need-gentrified-pickup/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 12:10:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1017634 Zach writes: Sajeev, I would like your, and the B&Bs, opinion on my dilemma, but first a love letter of sorts… I’m a proud owner of an ugly truckling, a 1988 Toyota single cab short bed pickup in all its carburated 22R goodness. The 4spd close ratio stick makes anything above 60mph interesting, but I’ve hauled 2200 lbs of […]

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The Cure for Gentrification? (photo courtesy: OP)

Zach writes:

Sajeev,

I would like your, and the B&Bs, opinion on my dilemma, but first a love letter of sorts…

I’m a proud owner of an ugly truckling, a 1988 Toyota single cab short bed pickup in all its carburated 22R goodness. The 4spd close ratio stick makes anything above 60mph interesting, but I’ve hauled 2200 lbs of radiators in it to the scrap yard, and other than having to hit the brakes to steer, it had no problems. No AC, no power anything. For a while I had a dump bed on it, which meant that trips to transfer station attracted every hispanic and african in the vicinity. I bought it for $700 from a gentleman who commuted around DC in it since new, and whose new wife forced him to sell it. I still run into him at the local HomeyD and he always looks longingly at it.

Unfortunately since I’ve finished renovating my rowhouse, it barely gets driven and sits rotting on the street. A couple of weeks ago I had to get the emissions inspected (in DC it gets a dyno drive cycle) and a hard brake line blew in the middle of test, causing them to rerun the test. I passed (!), but the drive home took two bottles of brake fluid and judicious use of engine braking.

I guess this is the long winded way of saying this truck as been most excellent to me in all ways and I feel terrible that it’s going to simply rust away on the street. Not to mention that my neighborhood, once a nice place to live once past the multiple muggings and burglaries, is becoming douchebag central as one of the hottest areas for development in the city, and so parking three vehicles (my 240 wagon, my girlfriends 850 wagon, and my pickup) has become onerous as the out-of-city asshats have no idea how to parallel park.

I’d like to get my fleet down to 2 vehicles (hopefully selling off the POS 850), but I’m way too attached to having a pickup in the city. Its utility is far greater than any negatives I can think of, but at the same time, I want something I can take my dogs to the park in, something the gf can drive to work in a pinch as well as something safer than a tuna fish can on wheels. Fuel efficiency really doesn’t matter to me (<3,000mi/yr, I put more miles on my bicycle), but price does since the damn thing won’t move most of the time.

So the DC Metro area is littered with 11th gen F150 supercabs used as commuters and while not being particularly attracted to the truck, they’re cheap and plentiful. On the other hand, I love me some Toyota, and I’d love to get the last good looking and right-sized Taco, a 1st gen double cab, but they must have made them out of gold. For roughly 2x that of a used F150, I can get an equivalently used Taco, which completely blows my mind. I’m not looking at mint examples either, and the enormous price differential is really pushing me to honestly consider abandoning my small truck love for a full-size. I don’t want anything the F150 supercab provides other than the back seats for the dogs and the bed, but a $4-8K price differential is a very persuasive argument in its favor…

Of course, the Taco is far more nimble and about 30″ shorter than the 6.5′ bed F150, but is the size, Toyota build quality, slightly greater fuel economy worth 2x+ the price of the best selling vehicle in America?

Sajeev answers:

Oh man, that 4th Gen Toyota truck is totally sweet.  I mean dumpy and crude, but I’d rock that bad boy in a gentrified yuppie-hipsterville portion of town all day.

That said, even baseline trucks have come a long way.  Take my daily driven 2011 Ranger, compared to 1990s models that are supposedly the same, it’s obvious newer trucks are superior: better interior electronics, refined engines, improved NVH materials, bigger brakes, safety equipment (like Volvo-esque seat backs Ford ripped off), and the list goes on.

That said, the last of the “good” Tacos was a terrible value in the used market for years, even worse now that newer F-150s fall into that price range.  Not worth it: those Tacos aren’t waaaay better than a modern Duratec (DOHC) Ranger, Frontier, or a newer F-150. If the F-150 fits in your parking space(s).

If you can safely park an F-150 in your world, buy it.

If not?  Try a Nissan Frontier, Duratec Ranger (2003+?, but no crew cab) or a Chevy S-10. No matter what, you’ll get almost the same quality of vehicle for less cash than the Taco. It’s close enough.

 

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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