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Editor's Quote:

It's not the speed or the price of one's ride that matters but the pride and passion that follows...

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Power Window Master Controller Replacement

Like all things that age over time, we do expect some fair wear and tear for our old rust buckets. Unfortunately for me, I had a broken power window master controller switch and being unable to operate my driver side window certainly sucked because I could no longer buy my burgers from drive thrus!

While I could have gotten it fixed at the local workshop, I wanted a budget fix for my 12 year old Daihatsu Terios. Because almost everything can be bought via the world-wide web, a quick search pointed me to a couple of compatible units being sold on eBay and Amazon. 

But before you jump into it, it is advisable to (1) ensure what you are buying was for your car make/model/year; (2) take a look at the original controller to ensure the number of pins for the connecting harness and the physical appearance (shape and button positions etc.) of the compatible unit is the same. This requires some panel removal so pictured above is a general guide on how to do it. While panels and fittings vary from car to car, the panels usual come apart relatively easily after a couple of screw(s) have been removed but do be gentle and not break any plastic snap-on clips.

 "I am sure you wouldn't want to sink hundreds of unnecessary dollars on simple repairs"

Now for USD25.99 and free shipping, I got a compatible "Made in China" power window master controller shipped and received in 2 weeks. 

Removing the plastic panels and a swap is just a walk in the park. No modifications were needed as the replacement unit was directly compatible to the stock original.

There may be some superficial differences (as you can see on the right, the switches are printed different), it is obviously no big a deal.

Installed, she looked and worked as good as new! 

For those of us who are on a budget, I am sure you wouldn't want to sink hundreds of unnecessary dollars on simple repairs when a Do-It-Yourself fix was almost no trouble. 

The good news is that with Do-It-Yourself, you get to appreciate your car, hone your mechanical skills while saving some dough. You really do win either way.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Michelin Pilot Sport 4 Review

The image of Michelin, as we know it, is that of a premium, high quality brand. From tyres to its acclaimed bible of dining guides, the company and its reputation is known to many since the early 20th Century.

Sometime in 2017, the company hauled a new performance tyre that's reviewed by many automobile magazines and articles to be an unrivalled overall product with superior silica compounds.

For the sake of science and to satisfy my curiosity, I ordered a set of Pilot Sport 4 to replace my outgoing Advan Sport v105. Now, I have not been using much of Michelins but my last Pilot Sport 3 experience was nothing extraordinary to brag about. Henceforth, I can assure you that my opinions here are expressed in the most unbiased means possible. Do note that this is not a "Top Gear" neck to neck tyre review because there is no control tyre used. To set the record straight, my opinions were based on grounds of familiar driving routes as well as driving habits on my daily driven GT86.

Here goes...


AESTHETICS

Although the circumferential grooves weren't as thick as I expected, I must admit that the tyres look really neat with deep thread patterns that perhaps suggest some good engineering. What I really liked about the PS4 is the nice sidewall design. The handsome and neatly curved sides reminds me of the "European flair" that's akin to that of the Continental Sport Contacts but with more aggression put into it. In short, I really like the way the PS4 looked on my GT86. Just look as those MICHELIN Pilot Sport 4 lettering!

BEHIND THE WHEEL

First impressions and I can swear that these tyres have a higher comfort level over my previous Advan Sport v105. Unlike the Advans, the road harshness have been dampened significantly compared to my Advans and I couldn't feel those pebbles on the road anymore. With the PS4, the drive on my GT86 felt less raw and more refined. The bumps from speed stripes no longer come with a 'bang' through the floor as they felt further away. It was as if the tyres were made from thicker rubber or something and I kid you not, the difference was very obvious.

While I think road feedback is absolutely necessary on the track, I am now 'religiously' converted to appreciate the more comfortable drive for the street. The past 2 years on the Advans were good fun but I think it's time for more driving pleasure.

A rather unexpected benefit but somehow, my budget sports car somewhat felt a little more expensive behind the wheel with the PS4. It's difficult to articulate but the ride is still firm with good feedback and all but its like the road is 'filtered' and only the better stuff gets to your hands on the wheel?

NOT ALL ARE MADE IN FRANCE

Weird but apparently, the tyres I got were not made from the same factory. For that matter, not even from the same country. Based on my understanding, this was because the importers here obtain some of their stock from Asian factories based on size for economical reasons. My 225/40R18 fronts were made in Thailand while the wider 255/35R18 rears came from France. For obvious reasons, the fronts were half the price. In this regard, the PS4 is competitively priced. 

WET ROAD HOLDING

As you know, all tyres need a fair bit of running in for optimal performance but I met with extremely bad weather on the day of install because it's kind of like the monsoon season in this part of the world.
With barely 40 kilometres on the odometer, mother nature put me up for the wet test rather prematurely. So I rolled with the punches and went head on with her design.

In heavy downpour, the PS4 was impressive. While I promised my installer that I wouldn't murder my tyres on the first day, I took on the wet streets with decent speed in the pouring rain.

If you live in Singapore, you should be familiar with the aggressive bend at the entry of Stevens Road after branching off Scotts and the final bend where Stevens Road merges with the Pan Island Expressway. This is one of my favourite test areas for wet conditions because the bends are quite challenging by design and can be catastrophic for the unprepared soul. 

The PS4s carried me through the stretch confidently with impressive steering control. Slamming through some puddles at 80km/h, there were no signs of hydroplaning. Quite expected performance for such a premium tyre so nothing "Michelin Star" about that because I would be shocked if it wasn't so. Paced quicker than all the cars in the pouring rain, the drive was as exciting as it was confident. The grin on me was yours to imagine!

Relatively hard braking on slippery roads were exercised and from 60km/h to almost a dead stop, my GT86 decelerated confidently without the ABS or traction indicator flashing. The PS4s were certainly made from superior compounds.

I couldn't say the same for my worn Advans but I recalled the they were pretty much as good when they were new. Braking in the wet, checked!

DRY DAYS

Two days later and about 150 kilometres into the compound of the PS4 and I finally had some good weather here. If you look at the picture above, you can see that the PS4 is quite a sticky tyre because it seems to pick up a lot of dirt from the tarmac. Again, this is quite expected for a performance tyre especially when it's new.

While the steering response and sharpness felt precise with good grip to craze the day, I couldn't say I enjoyed driving with the PS4s in dry conditions as much as I did in the rain.

MY VERDICT

As strange as it sounds, the PS4 was most enjoyable to me under wet conditions because the drive felt so connected when others around me struggled in the pouring rain. Thus far, having good runs with Japanese and German tyres, I must honestly say that the successor to Michelin's Pilot Super Sport is indeed a great performance tyre.

Reasonably priced for sheer driving pleasure, the PS4 comes highly recommended if you are looking for a street tyre that outperforms most with unexpected levels of comfort for a performance radials.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Paddle Shifter Extensions

With automatics gaining serious ground with quicker shift times and better responsiveness, the upward trend seems to suggest the 'end' of the manual transmission.

While I appreciate the traditional stick shift, I cannot disagree that pedal shift equipped trannies and Direct Shift Gearboxes (DSGs) are more driver friendly for the everyday car. Say whatever you want but a manual today will not necessarily be 'faster' than the modern automatic.

Like the shiny titanium shift knobs found in traditional racecars, pedal shift extensions are the highlight of any automatic today. Look around the aftermarket world and you will find anything from anodized aluminium to the almost weightless carbon fibers. The only thing they have in common apart from their investment premiums are how awesome they look in the cockpit. It doesn't matter if you are a fan of aluminium or carbon, they all do justice to the cockpit!

With the stock shifters extended with longer reach, your ability to shift will no longer be at the mercy of your wheel direction and you can expect better shifting even around corners.

Granted that these little extras won't add a single pony to your ride but it sure does add to the 'supercar' feel.

Here, I have a set of T-Carbon extenders I bought online. Chinese made from high quality carbon fiber, these 'extensions' were a direct fit onto the standard shifters of my Toyota 86 with the 3M adhesive tapes from factory. Unlike other variants out there that require mountings with grub screws of some kind (possibly due to the added weight of aluminium), nothing of this sort here that would potentially 'damage' the standard shifters.

Out of the box, the T-Carbons come finished and ready to mate. I was rather impressed with the quality of the carbon fiber and how it seemlessly molded to the shifters behind the wheel, making the extensions and the dash looking handsomely coupled like ebony and ivory. Not to forget those clear coated '+' and '-' icons for that added racecar feel. Absolutely awesome dimensions with curves of carbon fiber that complement the instrument cluster to give that sportier feel.

Certainly, the feel of the smooth carbon fiber at the tip of my fingers felt expensive and I cannot deny that it has always been a pleasure to touch and meddle with especially in traffic. Somehow, I felt like a little boy fiddling with the corners of his pillowcase before bed. How hilarious...

But there are a few flaws, though. For instance, the extenders do take up a decent amount of space and that narrows the gap between your shifters and your dashboard signal and wiper indicators. This is especially so for cars that have their shifters follow the wheel. 

I can overlook that shortcoming but the one thing that I seriously had to get used to was never to enter or exit the cabin with the steering wheel fixed at anywhere but straight because the extenders would get in the way and stab my leg like a knife. Henceforth, in the interest of not breaking the carbon extensions, some mandatory getting used to was needed.

While the extensions didn't turn my 86 into a Ferrari 812 Superfast, the enhancement certainly made the cockpit more appealing with a more lavish look. 

Granted that the idea may sound banal to some but the pedal shift extensions do manage to replicate the functionalities of longer shifters found only in supercars without breaking the bank.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Troubleshooting A Bad Ball Joint Behind The Wheel

The hard truth about keeping your ride in good shape these days is really about having some good knowledge or some idea about how your car really works.

Of course, you can rely on your trustworthy mechanic but I can bet you my last dollar that not everyone out there really bothers about your problems, especially if the issue is intermittent.

In the interest of sharing, I will articulate how you can validate a worn ball joint behind the wheel before you head down to the workshop to have it resolved. 

While there are ways and means of visual inspections and some physical checks, my intent is to enlighten the average driver so that one is not required to get your hands dirty by jacking up your ride and doing all sorts of crazy things only to hurt yourself. Do leave that to the professionals if you have absolutely no clue.

THE CLUNKING SOUND

When ball joints get worn, they usually produce a 'clunk' noise when there is an upward movement. Noise would be the first of all indicators. The best way to validate this would be to drive over a speed bump in the parking lot with your steering turned halfway into a certain direction. This would subject the ball joints to some flexing while the up and down motion of the suspension as you cross the speed bump would allow the ball joint to 'clunk' up and down. Behind the wheel, you would experience a 'knocking' sound that can be obviously felt at the floorboard and sometimes even at the steering wheel. Depending on the state of the wear, you may even be able to feel and hear the 'clunk' as you hit the brakes while your steering is at full lock in either direction at slow speeds.

THE UNSTABLE CORNERING

Now when ball joints of control arms (and for that matter tie rods) are worn, the affected wheel usually has some level of "free play" at the 12 and 6 o'clock axis of the wheel. At high speeds while negotiating a corner, this little "free play" can be felt behind the wheel, resulting in an unexpected directional pull or a sudden uncontrolled motion in one particular direction. While this is relatively insignificant at lower speeds, it can be dangerous at higher speeds simply because this effect is unpredictable and may happen when you least expect it, putting you at risk of losing control, particularly over uneven road surfaces. 

Because the steering of my Toyota 86 is rather precise, the feedback of this "free play" was rather obvious and the experience can be pretty nerve wrecking around bends. This issue is no longer just about the audible 'clunks' but now, road safety...

THE BAD NEWS REPLACING THE BALL JOINTS...

Now here's the downside about the replacement. Not all ball joints can be replaced because not every manufacturer or stockist have these ball joints in stock. Lack of a better word, you would be forced to replace the entire control arm. 

However, if you are lucky enough to locate a new ball joint and have a ball joint press at hand, that would save you a fortune. 

Unfortunately for me, a new lower control arm cost me S$400 to replace after sourcing the part from the local Subaru dealer.

On with life again...

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

HKS Hipermax IV GT Review (Toyota 86)

As it is, the stock suspension setup on the Toyota 86 is well balanced and comfortable for the street. Engineered and tuned, the already sharp steering coupled with exceptionally low body roll had me with no complaints for stock.

But...like all petrolheads out there, expectations bubble and the want for more constantly fuels the need for a more responsive driving experience.

Then there is the HKS Hipermax IV GT, a street friendly coilover that is as track worthy as it is comfortable. Having had these once before on my Lexus and toured the production line of the HKS factory myself, I am still convinced that I need not be spoilt for choice.

Much like those coilovers built for professional racing, HKS has developed and tuned each and every Hipermax coilover variant specifically for a unique platform. So, alongside one another, no Hipermax of each platform variant is the same as another. While these high quality suspensions are by no means cheap, they are still affordably priced considering the extensive developmental effort invested in them.

THE DRIVE

Despite the not too stiff spring rates of (6) and (4) kgf/mm for the fronts and rears, I would be lying if I told you that the Hipermax IV GT was as comfortable as stock because it is definitely not. HKS Garage R says that, for the Toyota 86, the recommended settings are (Front:12/30 and Rear: 11/30). As a result, the ride is stiff but within tolerable levels. Certainly not harsh but aggressively stiffer.

It is a good thing that the 86 is not a chunky front-engined sports car like the Nissan GTR or Lexus RCF because any heavier and the steering may not be as razor sharp with all that added weight transfer. As a baseline, the 86 is much more agile, making it a breeze to drive. Even so, the first noticeable difference out with the Hipermax was the heavier steering. Now, my wheels were computer aligned by Garage R so I reckoned that the difference was due to the new coilover geometry and caster/negative camber settings.

With the Hipermax, freeway cruising was still acceptably comfortable but the car bounces a little over uneven surfaces, a constant reminder that I am driving something 'aggressive'. At higher speeds, things start to become more comfortable, corners were executed effortlessly to the point that I felt the 86 could handle corners at greater speeds. The added stiffness did a lot of justice in lateral weight transfer, keeping body roll to a minimum and maximizing traction even after hitting bumps, cracks and road imperfections.

While I certainly did not push the car as much on the street in wet conditions (because I value my life and that of my beloved 86), she handles and brakes brilliantly with less nose 'dive' during aggressive deceleration. With the already responsive steering coupled with the Hipermax, the overall handling is like a dream. Still as predictable with good feedback, I could 'feel' and 'read' the road pretty nicely with greater confidence. Right now, I am more convinced that twists and turns are the forte of the 86 as the more addictive driving experience clearly overwhelmed that with the stock coilovers by several folds.

Lack of a better word to describe my appreciation, the Hipermax IV GT made me feel like I'm high on narcotics each time I take the wheel! Forgive me for this but I'm still as excited about the Hipermax on my 86 even after having it for a month...


THE YEAS

An acceptably comfortable ride for the daily drive with the flexibility for some occasional fun and aggression upon demand. With a ride that's not too hard, you won't bust your back. A justified value for money performance suspension setup that spots the "Made in Japan" satisfaction in terms of built quality and performance.

Front only camber settings with 30-point damping and ride height adjustments for both front and rear. Fully repairable and maintainable by HKS Garage R with 1-year product warranty.

THE NAYS

Damping adjustments may seem a little tricky for the front due to inverted tube design. Personally, I wouldn't trouble myself to get under the lower control arm to tweak it. The rears are a little more straightforward but requires an adjustment tool (included) that's nothing more than an elongated allen key with a nice knob.

Rears can be a little bumpy for fully grown passengers but my kids aren't complaining because they are all about excitement... (Not sure where this paragraph should go but it will remain here to avoid accusations)

Other than the slight 'squeaking' noise at low speeds from the springs/top mounts (particularly in the parking lot), there isn't a great deal wrong with the Hipermax IV GT if street comfort and performance is the impetus of it all.

THE ALTERNATIVE

Go for the stiffer HKS Hipermax IV SP if you are a hardcore track junky who couldn't care less about comfort or the well-being of your own spine.

For full product info:
http://www.hks-power.co.jp/en/product_db/hipermax/db/13673

Thursday, 16 February 2017

ERP Rates and Gantries, Intuition or Apprehension?


As per the recent article published on the 14th February in the local papers of Singapore, the public had been informed that 2 more Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries leading to the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) will be activated in the evenings from next Monday while the current evening operated gantries on the north-bound rote of the Central Expressway (CTE) will have its rates hiked by S$1 during evening peak hours from 20th February.

Based on my current travel patterns, I am already paying an average of S$6.00/day on ERP tolls just to get my daughters to school and home for dinner. So believe me when I say that I am not at all enthusiastic to be charged another dollar more. My heart goes out to all affected Singaporeans.

Here's the thing, we have consistently seen the increase in erected ERP gantries and its moderated charges (both up and down) over the years but I really wonder if this is a true solution to traffic problems? While I do agree that mitigating measures such as tolls will help ease traffic to a certain extend, it certainly isn't the true solution to traffic congestion. Tolls, in cities like Singapore would only divert/moderate traffic but not reduce them. 

Granted that these ERP charges are a way of government revenue as is the Certificate of Entitlement (COE), fuel taxes and road taxes but the crux of the problem will still exist. Yes, we know how everyone feels because rumour has it that the system is 'rigged' in such a way to generate revenue but let's focus on the identified problem. What exactly are these "road reviews"? Are they merely observations based on CCTV footage and collected ERP gantry data? How are these amounts of data put to use? Are these data used to merely fuel the existing ERP models? What's the broad plan for the next 10 years and how does ERP 2.0, the so called satellite-based pay as you travel system integrate with the holistic taxation system of the future to mitigate congestion?

I think the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and other relevant bodies should be more transparent to the public in their reviews and enlighten us with a longer term road plan. As the crux of the issue is as they say, traffic congestion, then wouldn't the true solution be plans to build better roads, more efficient highways and intersection traffic control systems? 

While I truly understand that managing traffic within a highly populated country is a challenge and is by no means an easy task, that shouldn't stop the authorities from innovating and being more transparent to the public on plans, particularly for those affected areas.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

HKS GTS800: The Tsukuba Record Challenger

Featured at the 2017 HKS Premium Day is the HKS GTS800 time attack Toyota 86. With highly classified new aero developments, this is a really neat next level time attack car that's equipped with the most modified 2.5L stroked supercharged 4U-GSE/FA20 engines every created.

Certainly a pity me and my friends had to give it a miss this year but check out the awesome write up by speedhunters!