Posts By: Sajeev Mehta

By on June 14, 2019

SUV Headlight, Public DomainRandy writes:

A few weeks ago I installed a pair of 9003 Philips Vision Plus 30 bulbs in an attempt to improve my wife’s Tucson headlight output. The light down the road is pathetic yet the headlight lenses are clear and the reflectors are still mirror like, at least to the extent I can see from the bulb mounting opening. And the light patterns are well defined, both low & high beam, which also suggests the reflectors are okay. But no joy whatsoever from the new bulbs.

I then did some voltage tracing down the headlight schematic. There is ~14.4 V coming from the alternator & battery into the SJB (smart junction box) that the Tucson uses to switch power to the bulbs. But only 12.5 V on the pins out to the bulbs. And then another couple of 1/10th V loss down the 0.5 mm2 (~20 AWG) wire to the headlamp connector netting 12.2 or 12.3 V at the bulb. The lead electrical tech at a local Hyundai service department says this is 2V headlight wiring voltage drop normal, even as much as 2.6V.

BUT, by my calculations, this means that although DOT specs for 9003 bulbs indicate 910 lumens (+/- 10%) at 12.8V, my wife’s car will be generating a little less than 800 lumens at the voltage actually supplied to the bulb. No wonder night driving is such a frightening experience.

I’ve toyed with the idea of trying some off road 90/100 9003 bulbs under the notion that at this lower voltage the output would be only 30 percent or so above the DOT standard and not likely to be blinding to oncoming traffic. And one hopes not so hot as to melt anything in the headlight assy. But I’d still wind up putting ~7 amps down a pretty thin wire which at 14 A/mm2 is double the recommended maximum current density I’ve seen for automotive wiring. I don’t wish to trade better light for burnt wiring or perhaps a fried SJB @ several hundred $.

My best idea at the moment is to wire the headlights via some fused relays using the car’s high/low circuits to switch the relays. I’d happily trade shorter bulb life for safe night vision.

Can anyone suggest an alternative solution? And yes, I’m aware of HID and LED “conversions” but am not willing to go that route, trading more lumens for rogue beam patterns.

BTW, is it common nowadays for headlight bulb voltage to be so low? Or is this unique to Hyundai? I realize that this improves bulb life … but at such a cost to safe night vision.

(Read More…)

By on June 7, 2019

Cadillac ATS Brembo Brake Caliper, Image: automotiveaddicts.comTTAC Commentator 1500cc writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I have an odd problem with the brakes on my 2014 Cadillac ATS 2.0 AWD. It has 35k miles on the clock and the Brembo brakes up front. It started happening last spring: when I’d apply the brakes I’d feel (more so than hear) a grinding or gritty feeling through the brake pedal. The odd part was that the brakes were nice and smooth when cold, and only started to act up after I drove a little bit and the brakes warmed up. Also, it only seemed to do this in the final few feet of a stop, say from 10 mph down to zero (or maybe I just couldn’t detect it at higher speeds). The grinding was proportionate to how hard I pressed on the pedal, but pulsed a bit with the rotation of the wheels as if the rotors were warped.

So the first thing I did was pull the front wheels (for some reason it felt like it was coming from the front) and while the rotors were good and rusty, there was lots of meat left on both the rotors and pads. But just to be sure, I installed new front rotors and pads (a shop said the rotors were too gnarly to turn). Didn’t help. Okay, let’s look at the rears, then. They actually were worn to the point of needing replacement, so on went new pads and rotors there, too. But the problem is unchanged, including the pulsing sensation.

Searching the internet, I’ve seen a few forum threads with pretty much the exact symptoms (fine when cold, grindy/gritty when warm) on everything from Explorers to pickups to Porsches. Unfortunately I couldn’t find one thread that actually had the answer. There were some left-field suggestions like an overfilled master cylinder (I took an ounce or so out of mine just to be sure), but nothing fixed it. What could it be? (Read More…)

By on May 31, 2019

Smashed Mustang Quarter Panel, Image: OPTTAC regular Mikey writes:

A lady backed into my Mustang a few weeks ago. She was cool and fessed up. I let the insurance companies figure it out. The Ford dealer says “we need to do a quarter panel replacement.” The body side is one stamping, so they need to cut into the roof and the door sill. They have a quarter of the car torn apart — deck lid off, interior trim, fascia, all in pieces .

I know the world has changed, but I’ve seen a lot worse banged out. I guess I should be happy that it’s not stuffed with body fill. I’m just a little worried about all the electrical, plugs, sensors and who knows what else? The damage didn’t look that bad.

Should I be confident that the Ford dealer can put it back together correctly? (Read More…)

By on May 24, 2019

Chris Writes:

Greetings Sajeev!

We’ve just been informed that our 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth has 180-180-180-20 compression and likely needs a new engine. Options are somewhat clouded by a remaining note of about $6,000.

Looks like this boils down to:

  1. Get out, despite the sunk costs and remaining note, and get into a
    more conventional car.
  2. Go the used engine route to save a few $$.
  3. Source a new engine and commit for ~5/6 years +

The SU (spousal unit) is the primary driver and adores the car. I drive it infrequently and find it tedious. It has about 80,000 miles and has been OK on other maintenance issues. All work will be done by a pro – this is so far over my head, mechanically, that there’s just no way – and the car is a daily driver, so commute/mobility issues create additional urgency.

Help!  (Read More…)

By on May 17, 2019

Ford Focus Low Oil Pressure, Image: Alex Simon YouTubeEmmanuel writes:

I own a 2016 Ford Focus SE. The oil light came on, so I went and put a quart of oil in. Unfortunately, I forgot to put the oil cap back on, and realized it too late — when I came to a complete stop, I noticed oil was on the ground.

Luckily, the cap was still under the hood where I sat it down. So I put the cap back on, but the oil light was still on. I went to get some more oil. On my way to the store, I happened to be going up a small hill. My car sounded like it was straining to go up it. Anyhoo, once up the hill it shut down, so I waited a few seconds and start it up again. It went a few car lengths, then stopped completely. Now it won’t start at all, or turn over either.

My question, really, is what could it be, or did I damage my engine more than I think? I’m sending you this because I read one of the reviews (the one with the Impala) and it’s a similar problem/question to mine. (Read More…)

By on May 10, 2019

Chevrolet Camaro Visibility, Image: Camaro5.comTTAC Commentator Volvo writes:

Why does the design of most newer vehicles have very poor driver visibility for objects close to the car? This is pretty much all around but especially the rear. I find the current design even makes it difficult to judge front and rear bumper distance from an object. This definitely was not the case for most cars prior to 1995.
  • Is it to lower drag?
  • Safety mandates?
  • Just design esthetic?

(Read More…)

By on May 3, 2019

1994 Buick Roadmaster Interior Dashboard Steering Wheel, Image: momentcar.comTimothy writes:

Sir, I have a problem with my 1994 Buick Roadmaster. You remember the one that I inherited from my parents but didn’t care for the way it rode? Yeah, that one.

I followed a lot of your advice in making it a much more desirable car for me: big sway bars, rebuilt the front suspension with police grade goodies. Same with brakes. Redid the steering box, too! But now there’s a problem: the darn thing keeps blowing its horn!

Usually I’m in a store when it goes off and the call comes over the loudspeaker that my car is screaming at the top of its lungs. And those triple horns are loud!

Please tell me how to get this fixed! (Read More…)

By on April 26, 2019

K&N Panel AIr Filters, Image: OPJosh writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I can remember many times where I’d hear, in passing, someone say that K&Ns and other performance air filters were actually bad for my car… daily or otherwise. Their argument was always that the performance filters allowed that 1 percent of dirt to get through. This argument came up again as Engineering Explained did an air filter comparison. His tests showed a small increase in power at a very minor risk of extra dirt (which seems to be less than 1 percent in many cases).

My question is: If an engine is an air pump and you’re filtering the majority of the dirty out, who cares about the 1 percent that gets through and enters the combustion chamber? When was the last time you heard of an engine dying due to dirty air? (Read More…)

By on April 19, 2019
NB Miata Engine, Image: forum.miata.netTTAC Commentator Majda writes: 

Sajeev,

I recently bought a 2002 Miata, manual transmission, in silver. The prior owners appear to have been followers of the sans souci school of maintenance, so I have been wrenching on it quite a bit. It has only one problem I can’t solve: a persistent P0301 code, showing a misfire in Cylinder 1. The actual experience of driving the car is fine — I don’t feel a miss or a drop in power. That light, though… it isn’t constant. It doesn’t come on instantly; if I clear it, I might get a few minutes of light-free driving, or an hour, or a day. But after that, the CEL goes blinky-blinky.

Logic suggests that the misfire can only come from spark, air, or fuel, so I went at each as follows:

  • Spark: I’ve replaced the spark plugs (NGKs), plug wires (ditto) and boots. I swapped ignition coils to see if the code would move; it didn’t. The ignition wiring harness has some broken protective tape, but I don’t see any broken wiring.
  • Air: I’ve replaced the air filter and checked for vacuum leaks.
  • Fuel: I replaced the fuel filter, and, to make sure I didn’t have a fuel injector problem, I swapped the injectors between cylinder 1 and cylinder 4. I spilled a bunch of fuel, but the code stayed put.

I’ve been busy fixing other issues (leaking valve cover gasket, cracked radiator, soft top made of cheesecloth) on this Miata, but the P0301 has me stumped. I checked compression, and it’s good across all four cylinders. Forums mostly argue in favor of ignition problems, but I feel like I’ve covered that area.

The big question is this: Do you think new driving shoes will fix the problem?

(Read More…)

By on April 12, 2019

Hyundai passenger occupant detection system (pods), Image: HyundaiDavid writes:

Sajeev,

Almost every rental car I’ve driven, regardless of make or model, in the last 18 to 24 months, particularly in the Bay Area and especially if the car has 20,000 or more miles, has the passenger detection system for turning the airbag on/off broken. Ford, GM, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, it doesn’t matter. Sedan, SUV, sports car, again it doesn’t matter.

The first time it happened was in a Malibu. I’m driving with an alarm going off and I keep scanning the dashboard for a message or idiot light. Pulled over and checked the doors were all closed and trunk closed. Then I noticed the blinking light for the passenger seat seatbelt not being buckled and that a passenger is detected in the front seat. Nothing was in the seat, not even a piece of paper. After I secured the seatbelt for the invisible passenger the alarm stopped. I had to drive the car that way for the rest of my trip.

This has repeated itself in almost every rental I’ve had since. The most recent frustration was a 2017 Kia Optima I just had, which again required me to drive around with the passenger seatbelt buckled for the invisible passenger.

Does this mean that my personal vehicles will eventually befall the same fate? Is there something that rental car drivers are doing that abuse this system? Does California have a different standard? What gives? (Read More…)

By on April 9, 2019

My first installment centered around the neglected, beancounted “heart and soul of an American hero,” with a sense of pride in bespoke platforms and powertrains. But the re-killing of the Ford Taurus lacks nationalistic sorrow: the hometown hero was a name looking for a globally-engineered sedan, in a declining market, foolishly butted up against another Ford sedan with cooler stuff […]

By on April 5, 2019

2016 mazda miata cutaway top , Image: MazdaMark writes:

In my 2016 Miata, the electric power assist for the steering has died but the fuse for it is fine. It was working fine when it was towed to a dealership to have the manual transmission rebuilt and it was dead when I picked it up. Any ideas? (Read More…)

By on March 29, 2019

1988 Mercury Cougar Window Run Channel, Image: Sajeev MehtaTony writes:

Sajeev,

This automotive design element has perplexed me for years. What is the small, usually black bump or protrusion on the front window glass run channel of certain cars? The 2010 Nissan Versa has the most obvious one that I have seen recently. Thanks!
(Read More…)

By on March 22, 2019

GM Gasket Maker, Image: performancetrucks.netTTAC commentator slavuta writes:

Something came into my head related to break-in period and time of purchase of the car. These days, modern engines often don’t have actual gaskets; the gaskets are formed from a chemical compound spread on one surface and pressed-on with another.

As everything liquid becomes hard or nearly hard, it requires a curing period. From the time an engine is assembled to that time when it starts seeing real usage could pass months or even a year+. Of course, the engine sees some usage from testing and from the car being moved around during shipment.

But let’s say you buy this car in the middle of a harsh winter. We know that materials shrink and expand as temperatures goes down and up. Do you think buying a car during summer gives more curing and settling time to these gaskets vs buying in the winter, especially in the areas where winters are really cold? Yes, engine becomes hot during operation but many materials seem to get more elastic with heat and more hard and fragile with cold. Ever tried to leave even an empty garden hose outside in the cold? Your thoughts – are there any break-in advantages from buying in the summer? (Read More…)

By on March 15, 2019

2019 Buick Enclave Roof Rack, Image: Buick Steve writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I am a family man and typically have a family hauler in the stable — minivan, three-row crossover, and what-have-you. I always get the manufacturer’s trailer hitch and roof rack/crossbars.

So, I like the size of the new Traverse/Enclave, but have you seen the ridiculous crossbars? See photo above.

They must be 8 inches or more off the top of the car. I usually like the look of the roof rack on larger vehicles, but hate the new setup. I know, I could get aftermarket accessories, and probably would. I Googled around for a reason why they are so high off the top of the car but found nothing. My working theory is that by holding a cargo carrier, or other items on the roof high enough, the airflow from the windshield can pass underneath the cargo unobstructed, resulting in a smoother, more perfect, more aerodynamic vehicle-cargo union rather than running into an air-dam of cargo, effectively forcing airflow around the obstruction.

In any event, thought it was an interesting unanswered question and if we will start seeing this as the norm on new vehicles. Maybe it’s just me, but it looks pretty goofy to my eye. It also looks more dramatic in person, if you have seen them riding around.

(Read More…)

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