The Truth About Cars » Freestyle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 01 Aug 2014 21:12:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Freestyle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: Justy-fied Freestylin’ over CVTs, Part II http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/piston-slap-justy-fied-freestylin-over-cvts-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/piston-slap-justy-fied-freestylin-over-cvts-part-ii/#comments Wed, 19 Oct 2011 19:06:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414925     Brian writes: Not sure if this would be appropriate “piston slap” fodder or not, but here goes: Our blossoming family recently expanded to five. My wife and I, and a three year old, a 20 month old and now a 2 month old fill up the house. We occasionally travel with our 75 […]

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Brian writes:

Not sure if this would be appropriate “piston slap” fodder or not, but here goes:
Our blossoming family recently expanded to five. My wife and I, and a three year old, a 20 month old and now a 2 month old fill up the house. We occasionally travel with our 75 lb dog. Knowing the Volvo Turbobrick would not handle the cargo/dog/people, and the PT Cruiser remains the most reliable vehicle ever built (even if the timing belt changes are a big pain) we decided to sell the Volvo for something more appropriate, if a lot slower and FWD.

Enter the Freestyle. We routinely get 28 mpg on trips, parts are cheap, we have lots of cubbies for kid’s junk and the car seats fit easily. I purchased a high mileage (150k) example that was a one owner (ish) with all receipts. It was a fleet car for some guy who then bought it when his company was done with it. It had the CVT replaced at 118k miles with a remanufactured transmission from Ford, installed at a dealer.

A few weeks ago the CVT died on us. At 153k miles. There was just over 1,000 miles left on the warranty. We all got home safe and sound, and the transmission was replaced. Again. With a remanufactured unit. Again. It’s apparently the only thing available. No new ones exist and nobody rebuilds them. I have a connection with the transmission rebuild world. I’ve called transmission parts suppliers and they don’t even sell a manual for it.

I’m not what you’d call ‘shy’. I do all my own work on my cars with the exception of this, flashing the ECU for a TSB on the aforementioned PT Cruiser, putting tires on wheels and replacing windshields. I’ve done a fair amount, but I’ve never owned anything this expensive. I fully expect this remanufactured transmission to die in roughly the same amount of time. My theory is that while the original certainly seemed to fare decently (118K on a conventional transmission is not terrible for a heavier people mover), the reman probably was rebuilt by the same folks who do the $34.99 starters for small block chevies that seem to last just a day over the one year warranty that you find in the local pep-advanced-zone’s. The choices are basically as follows:

Take a big depreciation hit and attempt to sell it (we bought it in March) and buy a Taurus X with the conventional automatic and the better 3.5L engine. We cannot afford this now, but I have a few years to see that mileage on the reman CVT.

Replace the CVT in the Freestyle with the 6F in the Taurus X. I know this isn’t easy. The engine should bolt right up, and the mounts should be pretty close (I have a welder and a hammer) but the ECU is the tricky part. This is not a slam dunk.

Replace the CVT in the Freestyle with the Aisian in the 500. This is only slightly more of a slam dunk, because it’s probably the same ECU. I just need to find out how to flash it.

Learn to rebuild the CVT myself and build a great one and keep it onhand as a spare. My neighbor has a lathe and Bridgeport in his basement. I am a degreed engineer. It would take a while, but it could work.

Sajeev answers:

Oh yeah, this is totally a Piston Slap worthy article. Not like we haven’t done this before, ya know. And while I am (a little) surprised that a Ford Reman transmission does this poorly, who knows who actually did the rebuild! It’s an orphan design, which is never good. The ideal transmission for the long haul of ownership is something with tons of support, and GM transmissions have usually done the best for decades, for this reason. And if you can’t procure a 100% new, never rebuilt CVT assembly, I agree with you.

Having done transmission swaps before (and truly hating myself during that time) and knowing a bit about Ford electronics, here’s my recommendation: do that 6-speed swap. Get a Hollander Interchange manual to find out which Fords used the same vintage 6-speed as the same year of your Freestyle. If you can easily snag that gearbox from the same vintage Five Hundred, you are set. But who knows, maybe there’s a cheap wrecked Fusion nearby that has the same part for much less! It all depends on the market and availability.

From there you will need to see what’s different in the mounting and wiring of the transaxle on the subframe. Maybe you need a different mount, maybe not. Perhaps there’s an extra wiring harness, or a completely different one! Maybe a new shifter in the console too. Hopefully not, and a factory shop manual with wiring diagrams will help.

Once you clear that hurdle, the final part is easy. The ECU’s are pretty simple, as Ford hasn’t made a significant change in them during this era. Odds are you can take any one of them and re-flash the correct transmission logic with a brilliant person and an SCT tuner in his pocket. Which will set you back up to $500, I suspect. That’s your fallback, because I suspect getting a matching computer from a donor Ford Five Hundred will make it all work great…but if not, the SCT-tune is the way to go.

It will be a ton of work, both in research and sweat equity. But I suspect a smart dude like yourself can get this done for under $1500, if you get lucky with the cost and quantity of parts needed for the swap.

Best of luck.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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New or Used: MAXX-ing out Mom’s Next Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/new-or-used-maxx-ing-out-moms-next-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/new-or-used-maxx-ing-out-moms-next-wagon/#comments Thu, 02 Jun 2011 16:52:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=396296 Michael writes: My mom’s 1998 V70 with 215k miles is starting to leak coolant, with no major puddles on the ground.  I told them to look at the oil to see if there were any signs of the coolant in the oil.  I personally think the time with the Volvo is almost over as the […]

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Michael writes:

My mom’s 1998 V70 with 215k miles is starting to leak coolant, with no major puddles on the ground.  I told them to look at the oil to see if there were any signs of the coolant in the oil.  I personally think the time with the Volvo is almost over as the dealership (an independent dealership) said that its time was slowly approaching about a year ago, but they couldn’t promise how fast.  My mom loves this car and my dad likes it too.  Her requirements are preferably station wagon, heated leather seats, and automatic.  They live in Michigan so it gets cold.  AWD is not a necessity, and she knows that snow tires work just fine.  She does haul a bike on occasion, so it must be easy for her to haul the bike without having my dad there at all times.

She loves her Volvo and would like another if she could find one that would be reliable.  I recommended the Outback, especially the 2005 and later models.  What are other possibilities?  Their budget is around $15,000 or less.  They tend to drive their cars into the ground, so reliability is more important than the badge.  What should she look at?

Steve Answers:

This is a very tough call. On the used side I tend to encourage folks to keep their vehicles. Your post doesn’t mention anything about where the coolant is leaking. I would like to know about what the mechanics did find and whether there are any rust or powertrain issues.

A new low mileage engine would cost perhaps $1500 at most if or when it’s needed. Throw in some new shocks, a detail, and any other minor issues and she may need only about $3000 at most to keep it for another five years. If it’s been garaged and diligently maintained, it’s definitely a consideration.
A good wagon replacement for a Volvo V70?  A Ford Freestyle Limited loaded up with perhaps 50k miles on it. You have the exact same underpinnings as the far pricier Volvo XC90 with plenty of interior space and excellent fuel economy. If she likes a more enclosed feel like her old Volvo she may also go for the Ford Flex. It’s a bit pricier than the Freestyle. But it has a very high level of features (just like Volvo’s had in days of yore) and has a stellar reliability record.
Sajeev Answers:
Steve, as per usual, is right.  The Volvo is probably just a few weeks and a couple grand away from being a nice and reliable driver for your mom. Think of that trip to the mechanic as a spa vacation for your ride!  Too bad that doesn’t work for most people.
That said, the Freestyle (or Taurus X) is a good alternative.  The Outback is a good choice, but they aren’t a homogenous grouping like said Ford.  Some need timing belt replacements, some get really upset if you don’t follow oil changes to the letter of the owner’s manual.  And some require premium fuel, which is a concern to some.  It is hard to know which one you will recommend to your Mom, make sure to Google up the goods before pulling away from the seller’s lot.
My choice? None of the above.  The Chevy Malibu MAXX does it all: wagon, leather and heated seats in LT trim.  Unlike the sedan, the outside styling has gotten better with age. While the interior is pretty terrible for the OCD car nut, every non-Volvo discussed here isn’t exactly inspiring in that arena.  And if anyone in the family has a penchant for performance motoring, get the SS model. Like many half-baked treats from GM (from the Corvair to the G8) the MAXX deserved a better fate.  That baby had some legs to it.
Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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