Piston Slap: Sam Hell's Scion Grab Bag
TTAC Commentator Sam Hell Jr. writes:
I read with deep concern your notice that the Piston Slap mailbag was empty. You kindly answered my previous query about putting more conservative tires on my ’11 automatic tC (now at 51,000 miles), despite the fact that I erroneously addressed the email to your parasitic e-twin Sanjeev, and I’m happy to pester you/be of service once more. Please find, below, my questions, and thank you for your time.
- Almost all of the driving I do — work, parents’ place, the gym, the grocery store — is within 5 or 10 minutes of my apartment. So basically, take the common advice about limiting short car trips and cold starts, and I do the opposite. It really can’t be helped. These are not walkable or bike-friendly routes even in the six annual weeks that northwest Ohio isn’t sweltering or freezing. How much of the old wisdom about making fewer short trips still applies to modern vehicles? What, if anything, can I do from a maintenance standpoint to mitigate the consequences of my driving habits?
- Have you ever come across a rattling windshield? Occasionally, at freeway speeds on hot, sunny, windy days, the top of the tC’s windshield vibrates. When it happens, it is not subtle; it sounds like there’s a Goldwing on my roof. After a few minutes, the rattle will slow and deepen in tone gradually and then eventually dissipate altogether. There was actually a service bulletin on this issue, and I had the fix performed, but whatever they did hasn’t really helped. Is there anything I can do? It doesn’t occur often enough to be a deal-breaker for me, but it sure is infuriating when it happens.
- Is it worth learning how to drive a manual transmission properly as a grown-up. If so, how would I go about doing that? I learned to drive a manual transmission in high school in friends’ cars and I don’t have any concerns about, for example, being able to operate a stick-shift car in an emergency situation. But I’ve never felt any compunction to perfect the craft and pursue driving stick as an adult, and it wasn’t a priority for me back when I bought my own first car. At the risk of sounding like another one of those lazy ungrateful Millennials who’d rather check the Facetweets on his iBerry than [incomprehensible stick-shift enthusiast rage noises] … I like to drive, I like cars, but I really don’t feel that strongly on this issue. Should I give stick shift another chance? If so (short of, you know, going out this afternoon and buying a manual-transmission car), how?
You’re quite the kind gent and it’s an honor to be answering your automotive queries before letting them loose on TTAC’s Best and Brightest.
1. While it’s important to limit short trips in theory, modern cars benefit from the latest in oiling technology, metallurgy and engine design. Low friction this, synthetic that…it all means you run a full synthetic oil to ensure you minimize wear. There’s advice on keeping a load on the engine to ensure the oil gets up to temperature sooner. Perhaps you can improve your odds by keeping your automatic transmission in the lower gears: don’t putter along at 1500 rpm when you could warm up faster at 2500 rpm.
2. Windshield rattle? That’s unpossible, son!
Or not. That rattle usually caused by a bad seal between the windshield’s seal/trim panel and the top of the roof. Since the panoramic roof has a separate black roof plate (that does not tilt on later model tCs), I reckon it’s either the glass’ upper frame or that roof plate that’s out of alignment. NVH problems are tough to fix, sometimes only a fraction of a millimeter is all that’s needed to cause a noise. Supposedly Toyota has a TSB, but I can’t find any details with my Google-fu.
3. Dude, you gotta be you. No woman is gonna think you’re less of a man and any man that gives you grief for it is a jerk. Because you’ve been reading my [s]crap[/s] masterpieces for a long time, I strongly suggest you learn to drive a stick just for the experience — it’s fun! Call local driving schools to see if they have a stick shift vehicle you can learn on in an afternoon. Or visit Mid-Ohio and practice on one of theirs during a driving school event. A fantastic bonus is that you’ll get track time and fully understand why people love to row their own gears.
Send your queries to email@example.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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Modern engines heat up so quickly I'm not sure water buildup and sludging are still much of a concern. I live in a warmer part of the country, but my average drive is even shorter than yours, mainly consisting of weekly move-the-car-before-street-sweeping runs and short shopping trips of a few miles. I have not changed the oil for about a year because I put so few miles on the car. Even though I'm a fairly neglectful car owner, I was still concerned that I was damaging the engine, so I sent an oil sample to Blackstone Labs for analysis. The report said that the viscosity of the oil was normal, there were virtually no wear metals, and the oil still had a good amount of additives. They claimed the oil would be good for another 2000-3000 miles. The oil analysis was only $35 and is well worth the peace of mind. If you do the analysis right before you would change the oil and it comes back normal, it seems like you have nothing to worry about as far as the engine is concerned. http://www.blackstone-labs.com/
Just go easy on the engine while it's cold and change the oil twice a year regardless of mileage, using a thin oil. So 5W-20 or, even better, a 0W-20. 0W-20 needs to be synthetic to cover the spread. 5W-20 doesn't unless you're comforted by marketing.