Category: Piston Slap

By on July 12, 2019

After our last installment, I feel nothing but regret for misrepresenting butchering TTAC Commentator Arthur Dailey’s query.  Because people do get in their car to warm it up before beginning the process of rooftop snow removal. And they’d prefer to remove roof snow, not snow that fell into power window switch pods.

So after multiple emails, a promise to try again. To which Mr. Dailey’s reply was:

“OK.  But perhaps you could expand that to explain something related to car design?  Which is why I sent the question to your attention.”

Find Out >

By on July 11, 2019

Clear Snow from tops of cars. Image: Ottawa Police Twitter

TTAC Commentator Arthur Dailey writes (and edited to remove confusion):

Sajeev,

Opening my 2011 Hyundai Sonata’s door this morning after a beautiful overnight snowfall (Yes, it takes that long to answer Piston Slap questions – SM), I once again was confronted with a driver’s seat and inside door panel, covered in snow.

Those living in the snow belt will often park their car at the rink, library, ski hill, mall, at work etc. and return to find it covered in snow. You don’t bring your scraper with you in these situations. And even if you use your glove/arm/hand to clear some of the snow, when you open your door, the residue falls. Onto your power window/mirror/door lock mechanisms. And often onto the seat. You get into your car and start it to warm it up and help clear the windshield. And that residue melts.

This is a re-occurring problem: happening in many other vehicles that I have recently rented/owned. With the sloped roofs now common on cars, snow regularly falls into the passenger compartment when you open the door. There used to be gutters/sills along the edges of car rooflines. In fact I believe that up until the 1960’s they might have been an optional extra, as they were often chromed. Later they were just an integrated part of the roof.

I can’t remember exactly when roofline gutters disappeared from cars, but I understand that this was probably due to aerodynamic issues. I also noticed that there are a number of aftermarket options now available, sometimes referred to as ‘rain guards’.

However why can’t auto designers develop a roofline that prevents snow from dropping onto the car seats whenever the door is opened?

Find Out >

By on July 3, 2019

Kurt writes:

Hello Sajeev,

Appreciate your postings!  Perhaps in future you or associates can find out why the USA (and by eventual inclusion, rest of world) has become infatuated with Lifted Trucks to point of lifting anything SUV or wagon under the sun (locally, we have folks trying to lift Foresters and Outbacks)?

Find Out >

By on June 28, 2019

Perhaps you’ve read about , the pioneer online car scribe that never lost his “voice” as he rose up journalism’s ranks.  He was a  for my autoblogging career (at it were), a  and a willing partner in the Mehta brother’s 

And now, every time time I see the red lights on TTAC’s , I’m reminded how his SEO-unfriendly  weaved a story with seemingly no connection to the automobile covered, but he made it work before you had to click to see more. Nobody did it like Herr Johnson: making my last face-to-face with the legend even more bittersweet. 

Because the finale to our conversation is so suitably Davey…  Find Out >

By on June 27, 2019

TTAC commentator Blackcloud_9 writes:

I currently own a 2014 Kia Soul. I’m looking to use it as trade-in value for a new (or new to me) car. The Soul is an imminently practical car. Does most everything reasonably well, it’s very reliable but it definitely does not stir my “soul”. I’m usually a “keep it forever” guy but the time has come that I can finally afford to buy “my” car.  The question for you (and the B&B) is that the car has a couple of cosmetic issues and I’m wondering if it’s worth reconditioning a car for sale.

The only reason I would do this is to raise the trade-in value of the car.

  1. The windshield has a quarter-sized star/web crack in the lower right corner. I’ve had it filled and I know it won’t get any worse. However, the repair person did a poor job and the top resin fill fell out so the crack is very noticeable. The best estimate I’ve been quoted for a windshield replacement is ~ $235 (US).
  2. The front bumper had an unfortunate meet-and-greet with a garage doorframe and stucco wall. It is not dented but the plastic cladding has some pretty good gouges and there is a 1” wide x 3” long ellipse of removed paint. So, it’s not going to be a buff and wax job to get it looking good. I haven’t gotten an estimate for this repair but I’ve had front ends repaired before (other cars & teenaged children) so my best guess would be about $900.

I’m thinking the windshield might be a good investment but I’m not sure if I would get a good ROI on the bumper repair. The Soul has 77k miles and very mechanically/cosmetically sound otherwise.

Please note: I am NOT a wrench-it-yourself kind of guy. I admire anybody who can but I have a long history of self car repair frustrations.

Find Out >

By on June 20, 2019

Matt writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I wrote to you a few years ago regarding a water leak in the moonroof of my old 2010 Ford Fusion. I traded that car in 3 years ago on a brand new at the time 2015 Fusion Titanium with the 2.0 Ecoboost and AWD.

I have had this car for 3 years and just rolled over 100,000KM with it. My issue is that under hard acceleration from a low speed or a stop there is a whining noise that sounds like its coming from the front of the car. The whining noise sounds like the whine a supercharger makes. If i accelerate gently there is no noise and if I floor it on the highway there isn’t a noise I can hear either.

It seems to be only a low speed thing and heavy on the throttle that recreates it.

I took the car to the dealership last week while it was under warranty and they claimed it was the turbo and replaced the turbo and a number of associated parts. The car is still making the noise under the same conditions and now my warranty is done. I’ve googled the issue and been on the Ford forums and couldn’t find anything related to the noise i’m experiencing.

Any idea why my turbocharged 2.0 Ecoboost sounds like a supercharged engine?

Find Out >

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.

Find Out >

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? Find Out >

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? Find Out >

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!  Find Out >

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. Find Out >

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?

Find Out >

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! Find Out >

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 . 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? Find Out >

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  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?

Find Out >

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