Piston Slap: A Self-defeating Technology Disorder?

Felix writes:

Got a Mazda 3 hatch to replace my 29-year-old MR2, and while it’s no MR2, it has its own benefits. But I detest Hill Launch Assist, and the power steering is the biggest reminder that it’s no MR2.

The Mazda power steering is better than I expected, but it’s still the first thing I notice when I start it up and always makes me want the MR2 back, three years later. I tried turning the engine off on a private road with just enough slope to keep moving, and it’s kind of scary to imagine that happening on a freeway, it’s so stiff and jerky. Is there any way to disable it and having just plain manual steering, to see what it’s like?

As for Hill Assist, what annoys me the most is not knowing if a slope is enough to trigger it or not; if I expect it, and it didn’t engage, there’s a tire chirp for no reason, and if I don’t expect it but it did engage, I sometimes kill the engine unless I’m paying attention. I can understand its attraction for weenies who are just learning stick, but I don’t need it and don’t want it.

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Piston Slap: There Once Was a Mark X in Myanmar...

Tamar writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Hailing from Myanmar, I have a first-gen Toyota Mark X. Forbidden in the U.S., and of interest to many JDM enthusiasts, I happen to think it’s just a stretched Lexus IS 250 (but not quite a GS). It’s got the 2.5-liter 4GR-FSE engine, and I’ve had this cold start rattle for a few seconds every morning, and sometimes during the day as well. The issue’s well known and attributed to the cam gears in the VVTI system. Mine is a 2005 model with more than 100,000 miles on it, so I wouldn’t want to spend a substantial amount of money if it’s not necessary.

So, if there are makeshift fixes that’ll hold it up until I let it go in a year or so, I’d like to know. If it is a real issue that threatens engine failure, I’ll get it fixed. What would you do?

Another problem: I think the Mark X is well made and mostly a nice car, but I have gripes with its (surprise!) steering feel. So I swapped out the steering rack bushes with aluminum ones (pretty hardcore, huh?). The on-center feel improved a whole lot, and I now have this hands-on-asphalt feel in a Toyota midsize sedan. The problem is, once I start to turn the steering wheel (this being electric steering), it’s floaty and I still can’t feel how far I’ve turned the wheels! I never thought a car with so much feedback on center would have problems with feel while off-center. For better steering feedback for the EPS system, I’m thinking of pulling the fuse for the electric steering. I looked for the answer on the interwebs but couldn’t find any — would running the electric power steering system without power assist harm the innards of the system or not? I find a lot of people encouraging it as an enthusiast’s option, but no mention of possible harm to the steering system or not.

What say you?

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