Piston Slap: To Test in 4WD…or Not?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap to test in 4wd 8230 or not

Jonathon writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Long time reader, not a commenter though. I have simple situation, and a simple question. Last Friday my beloved, and owned from birth, 1995 Grand Prix GTP developed a head gasket leak. This is something I can, with father-in law help, tackle in the summer. However living in Northern Ontario, a driveway repair is just not an option right now. It’s time for a new ride.

Since all those years ago I did not give my wife (g.f. at the time) any option into the purchase, this time around it will be something we both are in love with. Sadly that leaves a V6 Mustang or the 2013 Genesis 3.8 out. Also we lost our niece at the beginning of the year in a highway car accident that killed three other teenagers (the quality of highway maintenance is now privatized and sub-par). Anyways, that has my wife eying a 4×4\awd even more then ever.

Top on her list is a 2012 Wrangler Sahara Unlimited (bare bones except auto & A\C). The mileage for this is 16\20. Our car, new, apparently was 16\24. From our sleepy little city to Toronto is ~360km. At the current 1.28\l, it would mean another $14 there and back for one of our escapes to the big city. So the question I have is, when the EPA tested the wrangler did they do it in 4wd, so that we could expect to see better mileage, or 2wd, and that is what we should expect?



ps…anyone have any suggestions for a driveway mechanic preparing to replace a headgasket on a 1995 Pontiac 3.4 with DOHC?

Sajeev answers:

Oh yes, I certainly do have some suggestions!

My first preparation? Take one of the larger wrenches in your tool box and use it to crack every finger on your hands…as this is what most GM service techs experienced when they had to work on the cool, yet terribly designed “Twin Dual Cam” motors when they were new. If you don’t have the proper GM service manuals, better get them on eBay now…and start drinking, too. Only then can you be ready for what nightmares lie ahead!

That said, I truly admire you for keeping a GM-10 on the road. While I didn’t appreciate them initially, they have aged well. Kudos to you, sir!

About your new vehicle concern: the EPA does indeed test 4WD vehicles in 2WD. So you can’t expect any better mileage, that’s the best the drivetrain shall give. But you are actually concerned about safety after a fatal accident of a loved one, the Wrangler is last on my list. Compared to a normal CUV and maybe most SUVs, the off-road ready Wrangler is less confident in emergency maneuvers, and that cramped footwell might mess up your foot. Get a car-based CUV instead, unless you must have the coolness only available in the Wrangler.

Not to mention that most (all?) CUVs in the Wrangler’s price range get better fuel economy too. Because, after all, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

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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3 of 59 comments
  • John John on May 09, 2012

    As a CANADIAN who has DRIVEN in Norther Ontario let me chime in: you do NOT want your wife driving to Toronto in a car with a fabric top. People in the U.S. do not understand how deserted the roads are. If you break down, it might be 8 - 12 hours before another vehicle comes along. I grew up in Montreal and EVERY WINTER some people got stuck in the snow at night NEAR THE CITY and FROZE TO DEATH because their engine, which they were using to heat the car, RAN OUT OF GAS. Learned to NEVER drive with less than 1/2 a tank of gas. Now imagine how fast and how chilly a soft top car will get when its minus forty five - and yes, I have walked around when it was minus forty five. Let's not even talk about driving in white-outs. You don't think you need 4wd or AWD? Have you ever seen your car get buried up to the roof in snow in TEN MINUTES? True story: I was in downtown Montreal driving up the hill to get to the Montreal General Hospital and my car lost traction in a blizzard. Had an aluminum snow shovel in the trunk. I got out - I was about 20 back then, I shoveled as fast as I could and COULD NOT KEEP UP with the snow drifting against the car. It almost got buried. Dug like a demon, got it going again and headed home to Notre Dame de Grace, which was all down hill. Have a friend who lost his son, and three other passengers dead when his Wrangler flipped. As far as I'm concerned, they shouldn't be street-legal. To the GTP owner - you probably know this, but the first thing to do is take the hood off. Take a Sharpie and mark the position of the hood hinges so when you put it back on, it won't be cock-eyed. Get TWO fender covers because you WILL drop something on the fenders. I spent the money for a genuine Ingersoll-Rand impact driver, and for loosening frozen bolts, it's the bee's knees.

    • Rpn453 Rpn453 on May 10, 2012

      I'd blame the obvious if someone freezes to death: lack of appropriate clothing. Carry real winter clothes and maybe even a blanket or two if you're leaving the city in winter.

  • Ian Anderson Ian Anderson on May 11, 2012

    Remove 3.4 TDC, sell to first Fiero owner who wants to rebuild it and point a turbo at it, then install boneyard 3.8 with 200K and smile when the tires scream at you. Then sell that 3.8 to the Fiero owner when they nuke the 3.4 TDC. Meanwhile, appease the wife unless it's a Wrangler and eat the gas bill.

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