CAR CLINIC: What an alert on the dashboard could mean - Daily Nation

Don’t assume the worst when you see alert on the dashboard

Wednesday September 12 2018

Don’t assume the worst when you see an alert on the dashboard

Don’t assume the worst when you see an alert on the dashboard. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH 

By Baraza JM
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Dear Baraza,

Reading your article on the above subject shocked me. Shocked by the solution you gave.

A few weeks ago we discussed overheating of my Nissan Dualis, 2009 model. It is great now. Smooth, and all. However, there is an alert at the dashboard, which has been there, I presume, since I bought it direct from Japan in 2014.

I didn't think much of it at the time, thinking it is just because the seat belts (passenger or driver) are not fastened as there are two alerts. It is only after reading the article did I release it is a problem. But your solution — sell it. To who? When that person who buys it comes to you requesting for advice what will you tell him? To sell it? So the person who sold it to me was because of this airbag problem?

Anyway I have driven it for four years now. Still a smooth car. Mileage nearing 200,000. I don't expect that alert to ever be a problem. I expect to drive it for another four years before deciding on a replacement — if I will still be alive. And if I die before then, you can bet that it won’t be because of the airbag!

Thanks for your great work. I guess we would be paying a hell of a lot of money for this advice we get from you.

Tony

Nissan Dualis.

Nissan Dualis. PHOTO | FILE

Hello Tony,

I see the ghosts of past responses will not let me rest. I rethought my response and gave another option which is a part out of the afflicted vehicle rather than transferring the problem to someone else, but if we were to revisit my initial reply: is the problem the airbag itself or could it be something more benign like a dirty seatbelt clasp? Be sure before assuming the worst.

I know I spoke against selling it, but I did mention there are few individuals out there who are not intimidated by such. I'm not asking you to actively seek out these happy-go-lucky characters (for their own good as much as for the good of your conscience and as a moral responsibility as a thoughtful member of society), but they do exist. If they come asking for advice, don't hold back; or alternatively, pre-empt this by going full disclosure at the point of sale. But that is if and when you sell the car rather than break it down for parts.

I don't know if the person who sold you the vehicle was dodging the airbag issue and letting you catch the bullet instead. If he was, it was not because of this column: you say you have driven the Dualis for four years yet I gave the controversial feedback a mere two weeks ago.

The morbid atmosphere in this correspondence is not doing either of us any good, but have that SRS setup in your car checked. It may sound ballsy and brave to declare that if you go out it won't be airbag-related, but how can we bet on that? Ever heard of freak accidents? Is your car one of the victims afflicted by the Takata scandal? If it is then your airbag may just as well be the one thing that does you in in the event of an accident.

I am thinking of charging a consultancy fee, by the way...

WHAT THE CHECK ENGINE LIGHT IS PROMPTING YOU TO DO

I have been an ardent reader of your columns and I really appreciate it. I recently acquired a Toyota Corona Premio, year 1999 and 1800cc. I realised the check engine light pops up after a short drive or if you rev the engine hard. The diagnosis has generated code p0105, which is MAP malfunction. The mechanic replaced the sensor but still the check engine light appears. He even removed the thermostat but the problem persists.

However, I have realised that when the engine gets hot, the radiator hoses become very hot and hard. When you relieve the hardness by letting some coolant to flow out, the engine light goes off or it doesn’t appear when you fill the radiator with little coolant. The fuel consumption is at an average of 13km/litre. What might be the problem and its solution? Looking forward to your response. Thanks in advance.

 Toyota Corona Premio.

Toyota Corona Premio. PHOTO | FILE

Hello,

Automotive repair is not like corrective surgery whereby vestigial trouble spots can be excised as a solution. Removing the thermostat for a code P0105 is like having your appendix removed because of joint pain. The relation between the two is hard to find.

Now clearly the problem is not the thermostat, so how about we address some real issues. The error code is P105, which is indicative of the MAP (manifold absolute pressure) sensor or the TPS (throttle position sensor). There are a variety of causes for error code P0105, so go through this checklist until you find the cause:

— disconnected, blocked or broken vacuum hose for the MAP sensor. The connectors to the MAP and/or TPS sensors may also be faulty or damaged.

— wiring gone on the fritz.

— the MAP sensor itself may be faulty, but you say the mechanic replaced it, so that is not where the problem is.

— the TPS may be the one that is faulty. Have that checked too.

— faulty powertrain control module.

 

The idea here is to get an OBD II expert who will be able to differentiate whether the problem is with the sensor itself or if the check engine light is symptomatic of another problem further downstream (this is usually easily done by comparing voltage figures at sensor level against a set of predetermined factory numbers).

The cooling issue seems fairly straightforward and could be unrelated to the check engine light. You have a cooling system problem, and the first suspect may be that you overfilled the coolant, which is why there is some relief when you bleed the system just a little. The hard radiator hoses, if not hardened by age, could be from very high pressure in the cooling system which is the direct result of heat.

Overfilling your cooling system is very risky because if the pressure builds up high enough, something will have to give, and it won't be pleasant. When topping up your coolant, do not fill the overflow bottle because this is what acts as the runoff area for the hot coolant as it expands with rising temperature.

A 13km/l consumption figure seems like par for the course for a 20-year-old 1.8-litre engine, depending on driving factors such as location and style, and on environmental factors such as load and use of accessories such as air conditioning. The mechanical state of the car is a determinant as well, so deal with the CEL and see if the figure changes. It should.

 

WHY I LIVE AND DIE FOR LOYAL READERS...

Hello,

I have just finished last week's articles.

I'm an avid reader of your column and never miss a single article.

However, I must say that the main article published on August 15 is, to me, by far the best piece I've ever read; it’s hilarious, informative, exciting, scary, sarcastic, enjoyable to read — all these rolled in one. It's simply a masterpiece!

Do keep up the good work!

Phyllis Ndung’u

 

Thank you, Phyllis. I live and die for readers like you who appreciate the finer things in life, such as my writing — don't be alarmed, it is normal for a penman to go on a self-osculating ego trip once in a while.

I will keep it coming, that's a promise, provided you keep reading...

 

ASTON MARTIN IS IDEAL FOR MOTORWAYS

Salutations Mr Baraza,

First of all, let me just say I am a big fan of your column. Whenever I am on a business trip in Kenya, your column is one of my preferable forms of entertainment when available.

Now, let me get straight to the point. Lately, I had a little accident on my way to East Yorkshire that permanently crippled my Mercedes AMG-GLE.

The following are my shortlisted cars: The 2016 Aston Martin Vanquish S (James Bond), 2016 Mercedes G65 AMG (Bond villain) or the 2016 Mercedes AMG- GT R (villain henchman).

I have shortlisted these cars because they each make a statement although I need your opinion on their performance, reliability and other mechanical traits. To determine this better in terms of fuel efficiency and practicality, I am a regular commuter between Chelsea SW3 and Curzon Street in London and once in a blue moon a commute to Cheshire or East Yorkshire. What would you recommend?

Richard Arthur

 

Hello Arthur,

I am glad you enjoy my reading. Did you know that in this age of the internet, you don’t have to wait to visit Kenya to read my articles? These are available, fresh off the oven on a weekly basis, by going online to the Nation newspaper website www.nation.co.ke.

My sympathies on your maimed GLE. I hope you came out of the incident unscathed (unlike your poor vehicle). Your shortlist of potential successors is interesting, to say the least, partly because of what they are, partly because of what they cost and mostly because I have never driven any of them. Let’s see what we can make of them...

An Aston Martin DB9.

An Aston Martin DB9. PHPOTO | FILE | AFP

Performance is on a high level on all three counts, but the ranking system is bookended by both Mercs, with the GT R at the apex and the G65 on the inglorious end. A close second to the top is the Aston. Reliability is, well, it is not. High performance cars are not known for their dependability, especially under hard use. Sometimes even everyday use will see them pitch a fit or two. The Mercs are not that bad, but watch out for that G65 with its twin-turbo V12 engine. It is an ancient battle tank with an old (somewhat) engine that has to battle the laws of physics to toss that concert hall down the road at motorsport speeds. So not only is it an anachronism, but the various systems that comprise it may find themselves working antagonistically. I didn’t know anybody needed a 604hp city hall. Aston Martin, by sheer power of reputation, may be the most likely to haunt garages more often than not.

Mechanical traits? The G65 is awful. The steering is awful, the brakes as worrisome, the ride is discomfiting, the handling is scary, the seating position could be better and that 40-year-old aerodynamic profile is exactly the same as that of a tall brick wall surrounding a consulate building. The G65 weighs as much as a consulate building, while we are on the subject. There is no rational reason for this lorry to even exist, let alone enjoy the kind of sales success lesser vehicles can only dream of attaining.

(*Note: the sales success is of the Gelandewagen as a general model and not the G65 as a specific vehicle. The G65 is ridiculously expensive so it is mostly the preserve of the 0.01%. The 1% drive lesser Gs. The 99% are only aware of the G Class from magazine pictures and Top Gear’s Richard Hammond).

While the G is awful, the GT R is a track car, which sometimes means it is not very ideal for everyday use. As I said, I have never driven any of these vehicles (I have driven a lesser G, to be pedantic, just not the V12-powered twin turbo). I don’t want to be one to reproduce someone else’s research at length, so let us just surmise that the GT R is optimised for track use but is still luxurious because this is Mercerdes-Benz: hearty but hoary harbingers of hedonism and haste to hoons. Judging by reputation, the Vanquish S should be the best grand tourer, because it is a true GT car unlike the Benz coupé whose GT tag may be more for sounding cool rather than its mettle as a road trip companion.

Fuel efficiency? Forget it. One twin turbo V8 and a pair of V12s, one of which is also turbocharged, does not constitute fuel economy, which I believe is what you were inquiring about.

But if we are to be pedantic again and unpack the word “efficiency”, then we find the AMG GT R is the most fuel efficient vehicle here. Not only does it return the best mpg figure, but to eke those performance figures from only 4.0 litre is the epitome of reduction of waste and/or loss. The Aston follows closely at second. The G65 converts 90% of its petrol into noise, then a further 9% into forward motion, so that makes it very wasteful and extremely inefficient.

I don’t know how far apart Chelsea SW3, Curzon Street, Cheshire and East Yorkshire are, but on the motorways, I’d rather have the Aston Martin because of its driving characteristics. But for Cheshire I’d rather have the G65 specifically because it will fit right in with the Cheshire crowd who are the exact target market for that monstrosity.

***

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