Weekend Warrior

mostly about cars, driving them, fixing them, rating them and occasionally fixing computers, phones and things around the house

Mazda B2000 1991

A few days ago something good happened. I was totally not expecting it. I don't drive this bakkie often enough, so the battery died. I had a look at the date scratched on it and it's 2015 and I thought damn, it's probably done.

I took it in and like the eternal optimist that I'm, I asked them to test it. The last time I tried that with the corolla's battery they said it was dead and I had buy another one. It was a Friday and they said I should come get it the following day but like the pessimist I fully expected to show up Saturday to fetch it and get told well, we did our very best but we are afraid it's too old, it's like 90 human years. 

I decided to sleep in Saturday, because according to Google Willard Battery Center closes at 15:00 on Saturday. When I finally gotten around to going around 13:00 it was closed. As I found out when I went Monday, a battery place, with Willard boards everywhere, selling and specialising in Willard batteries is not actually called Willard Battery Center. I don't why I would even assume that. It has a different name that I can't even remember now but had I used that name I would have found out it closes at 12:00.

Anyway my battery was ready and I paid R40 instead for the more than a 1000 I was expecting to pay had the battery needed replacing. Gotta celebrate the small victories.

The Ford Ranger Raptor

The Ford Ranger Raptor is a beast. Something about the face doesn't work though. I'm not entirely sure what. I think it's the bumper and the tires. The tires smaller than they could be and bumper comes out a bit on the sides. I could absolutely live with these things though. I like the rest of it.

I love the twin turbo engine and fox suspension, it's based on the ranger which in XLT or Wildtrack spec is lovely and I would really like that. I imagine it's a great drive. I would book a test drive at my local dealership Human Auto but I'm pretty sure they won't let me drive one. They were once asked by head office to let me test drive a Mustang and they simply refused. They didn't explicitly say so though they cowardly just didn't do it. I was updated a few times by the representative in Joburg who tried her hardest to get it done but was getting nowhere with the dealership.

I wasn't particularly surprised though, living in Bloem it happens. I once got an invite from Harley Davidson to go have a test ride at the dealership, the local manager guy was so rude to me on the phone and wouldn't commit to an appointment for something I assume lots of people who have offered the same opportunity got to go with no issues. The best treatment I ever got was at Mercedes Benz to my surprise. They given me a C220 to take on a drive unaccompanied, an 800 grand CLS500 I was accompanied but still they still let me take it out. They have also let me have a go in a C63AMG. Needless to say if I'm ever buying a Merc I will call on them but if I'm buying a ford or Harley it's never gonna be in Bloem but I digress, The Ranger Raptor looks amazing, probably is amazing.

However, the main issue about it is it's 900k. Would I buy a souped up bakkie for 900k or something else? I mean that's 200k more than my house. The thing is absolutely great but where would I use any of its capabilities. Well I realise now saying this that I like the G wagon and would have it in a heartbeat. Ok scratch that part about me not being able to use its capabilities, I just hate that I would have to drive 400k to Joburg to go buy one because I'm sure in hell not buying it from Human Auto.

Toyota Corolla 1.3 2001 2E - Let me down again

Toyota Corolla 1.3 2001 2E has once again let me down. On the way to Joburg it started overheating and I had to go fetch it. I had seen some rust in the radiator and had gone to the trouble getting radiator flush and antifreeze to address the problem, had even checked the cooling system twice before it left but didn't help as it turns out.

As it turns out there are blockages in the radiator. When the car is at speed the water is pumped into the reservoir until it's full and then it overflows until all the water is on the road instead of in the car leaving the car without coolant and resulting in overheating. It's an easy issue to fix. I can have the radiator serviced but since a new OEM one is 200 rand more than doing the service, I'm just gonna buy a new one.

This has been the second time the car has not completed a journey and unfortunately the sentence has come down, it's gonna be sold. I'm disappointed since I quite like the car. I actually had considered buying it about 7 years ago but on the advice of my father and friend didn't. I regret that decision. Their concern was it's mileage was too high and that the 1.3 is unreliable. This car used to break down all the time back then but once I took over its maintenance it hasn't broken down till recently. The reason it has broken down, was due to it's mileage or it's 1.3 engine.

The first time, the alternator stopped charging the battery because its brushes were finished. Well I guess that could be mileage related but I have a Mazda bakkie with double it's mileage and it's never had this problem so I didn't anticipate it. This time which is only the second time in 7 years that it's broken down was the radiator. Had I bought it, it would have been as reliable as a typical car it's age.

I really don't want it sold. Selling a fully operational paid off car to be in debt for another one doesn't seem like a good idea to me, just because the old one broke down twice in 7 years. Other people, cars are just tools for the job and they don't represent anything beyond that and if they seem unreliable even if statistically they aren't really they get rid of them. I wish I had money to pay it's worth and keep it but I don't, and I can't make a convincing argument why it should stay. Like most things in my life that I really wanna keep but have no means to do so, I'm gonna have to just let it go. I hope its bought by someone out of town so I don't have to see it around town. My biggest fear with cars, is always seeing your old car being mistreated and being powerless to do anything about it.

1999 Opel Corsa Sedan radiator replacement

I got woken up from my Sunday snooze by my neighbor because when she refills the coolant reservoir the water runs out immediately from the radiator to the ground from the radiator of her 1999 Opel Corsa Sedan. I had a look, and told her she would need a new radiator. On Monday she gave me the money I went to buy the radiator. In the process of replacing it, as it's so often the case in DIY there was a problem. The fan was loose from it's housing and as it turns out this was the reason for the hole in the radiator.

It seems someone had done this work before. I assume there was something wrong with OEM fan and this person thought to save money, they would not replace it with an OEM version. They bought a very cheap generic fan and attached it to the OEM housing with cable ties. This was a bad idea because cable ties aren't great at holding things that move. The fan had clearly broken off it's cable tie restraints and smashed into the radiator and a big bolt in front of the fan started grinding against the radiator fins and pipes till it punctured it.

So I told her we need a new fan assembly. She agreed, I went and bought a new fan assembly, basically a fan and it's housing attached together the way Opel intended. When I attached the fan I rand into a problem. The old fan had male connector, which connected to a female one on the fan harness. Not only that, the new fan's connector was female and was much larger than the one on the car. I went looking for a big male connector, but no one sold it. 

I decided I was gonna make something. I cut off the cable from the old fan with its connector. On the cut side, I stripped the wires and crimped a couple of electrical connectors. so instead of worrying about the big male connector I don't have and can't find, I used the electrical connectors and the other end that has a male connector, I connected to the harness as it used to be. I thought great, job well done. Yes you guessed it, not even close.

I took the car out for a test drive, the car was just getting hot and the fan was not coming on. It was now dark, I had my tester out, no power was coming to the fan. No fuse was blown, Continuity was there on the wires, on the connectors and on the fuses. As per usual, I was now frustrated. Unfortunately though once someone has given you money you have to give them back something that works. I called it a night.

The following day I must have taken the fan assembly out and put it back in 3 or 4 times with no luck. I ran the car, again the car overheated and burst a plastic pipe that connects the reservoir to the water pump, radiator and the climate system inside the car. A small, about 2cm crack appeared and steam came out. I let the car cool down and decided i wouldn't worry about it for now. I was going to prioritize the fan.

I was really not looking forward to returning this fan. Not only because it would be inconvenient but also because the uncomfortable nature of a return. So before I put myself through that I thought I should make sure the fan doesn't work. I, for what felt like the millionth time, took the fan assembly out, I got my jumper cables and connected the fan directly to the battery. The sweet relief of a working fan came about. So the fan works great but the problem still persists, when it's connected to its wires it doesn't.

I followed the fan harness all the way into the car through the firewall. I thought it was wired that it seems to be independent. I looked at the fuse box again in the light of day and something jumped out at me. There was 2 wires, one earthed on the metal casing of the fuse box and the other squeezed into the prong of the big fan fuse. This means that the guy who put in the cheap fan, by passed the regular harness, which means the thermostat which at this stage I thought might be the problem, has nothing to do with the fan anymore. The fan has been wired directly into the fuse. So what switches the fan on? Surprise surprise, there is an unlabelled toggle switch on the dashboard that the owner neglected to tell me about. I flicked the switch and the fan came on. Knowing about this switch would have saved me a day.

I went looking for the plastic pipe, couldn't find and got to the last store just after it closed. That meant another day of this seemingly simple problem not solved. The following day I got the pipe and put it in and the war was won.


The premature demise of the Mercedes Benz X-Class

I can't say I'm particularly happy to see the premature demise of the Mercedes Benz X-Class. I'm however not surprised by it. I was among the people who didn't expect it to be a success. It's not a bad car as a Nissan but it's completely unacceptable to pay Mercedes prices for it.

If Mercedes wanted to build a bakkie, they should have done what VW did with the Amarok. Start afresh, put in the time and effort to build their own car. They have the G-wagon which is one of the most capable 4x4s out there. So they know how to do it, they just decided to cut corners.

This might idea of rebadging other less expensive cars will not work in the luxury market. GM couldn't even make it work with normal passenger cars. But then again it could be American car makers don't know how to run car companies outside of North America. It definitely was never going to work with Mercedes.

I hope Mercedes doesn't give up on that market segment. The reason it didn't work isn't because it was a bad idea but because Mercedes tried to sell us a Nissan for Mercedes money.

Dealerships just don't care

I have dealt with four dealerships now, Ford (Human Auto), Honda, Toyota (Oranje) and recently Mazda. They all have one thing in common, they don't care much about the parts department. You get a feeling that the person working there is just doing a job, They have no specialised knowledge of what they are doing. There is almost always waiting involved, even when there is no queue. The aftermarket places on the other hand are much better.

Ford, I went there looking for some parts for my Mazda B2000. Mazda and Ford used to be together for many years, even sharing platforms where the only difference would be maybe an engine and the grill, the rest of the car is the same. It's sort of like those couples who bombard you about how in love they are on social media and they break up, not only are you now expected to not ask what happened, you expected to know that something happened. If you are one of these I unfollow immediately. The people at Ford would not only not help me, they wouldn't even tell me where Mazda is. Nevermind that my Mazda came from their dealership. They were so rude about it also. I'm just some how supposed to know that they don't deal with Mazdas anymore because they now had a divorce, and not even bring it up.

The Honda dealership, it's a small counter with one guy working there. He is an ok guy but you get a feeling he would probably rather be doing something else. I have been there and had to wait half an hour while the sales people tell me he will be here shortly. If you don't provide the vin he will have difficulty providing the right parts but at least he is a cool guy not rude like Ford.

Toyota, The guy was a bit more helpful but he also didn't know a lot. He wasn't super friendly but line at this point is not rude and he wasn't rude so that's a win I guess. The biggest problem with Toyota is they keep nothing in stock, everything is 3 day business wait your order.

And then there is Mazda, where I recently went. After standing for a while with no help, I got asked if I needed help. Then the help took forever. I could see the screen and this guy was struggling to use a computer system to select the right part and find a price for me. It took more than 20 minutes to find out how much a brake padel boot would cost. Then after finding out, I have to wait 3 days also.

I guess they all make their money from car services and selling parts so they don't care much about the parts side of the business. In contrast my Midas car not only is quick helpful and passionate, he knows the car you need help with, and they deal in most cars not just one brand. If he doesn't have the part he knows where you can find it. I don't know what the deal is with dealerships.

Honda Civic FD - Window washers not working

I was driving Ironbelly, my FD Civic, the other day and the window was dirty. So I flick the switch almost absentmindedly because this is the "new car" in the house, it's a 2009 model but for me that's new but anyway, so I flick the switch and nothing happens. I can hear the pump humming but no water on the window. I'm thinking damnit, another unexpected expense.

I ignored it for a few days and just drove with a dirty window. This weekend I finally worked up the energy to go investigate and find out what's wrong. Since I could hear the pump humming I knew it can't be electrical since that's prove the pump is receiving power, so it can't a fuse. Might be out of water, I added some nothing, I can still hear the pump but nothing at the washers.

So I disassembled the plastic covers on the sides and the one at the window and immediately noticed what looks like a pinch in the water hose. Someone had clearly disassembled this covers before put them together and forgotten the window washer hose, saw it afterwards and instead of re-disassembling the covers again just took the lazy way out and squeezed the hose under one of the covers. I have no idea how it's been working fine for the 4 or so years I have had the car. Immediately after relieving that pinch the water started spraying normally out of the washers.

While I had it disassembled I decided to clean the mud and leaves that had collected under there. This required me removing the wipers which let to discovering the were swapped, so I first had to put them right. I forgot to mark where they sit on the window though which let to a trial and error way of reinstalling them in the car.

Third DIY job concluded with no pain. I'm cautiously optimistic lol.

No hot water - Geyser silent

I expected this to be a complex job but it wasn't. I definitely wasn't looking forward to paying a callout fee to plumber or electrician. So I fetched my toolbox and my multimeter and went for it.

Switched off the isolation switch, removed the cover. Something was immediately apparent, there was what could only be described as a scorch mark on the Live wire and the thermostat. I tested the voltage, all 240 volts were arriving safely at the thermostat but it could still mean the heating element is the one with a problem. So I removed the thermostat and tested it for continuity and the test was negative, no continuity. 

The element had continuity so I took that to mean the thermostat is the issue. I went to Builders warehouse, got a new one. I put it in, connected all the wires, put on the isolation switch and it immediately started with that familiar hum of a kettle after you put it on. I assume this means it's fixed. I still don't know what caused the issue with the thermostat though. I expect there will be hot water soon.

Second DIY job getting knocked out in a short time. I don't know if I'm getting better or it's just easy jobs. who knows. I'm glad it worked though. 

Brandt BRV

I was parked at a petrol station and a very muddy raised bakkie carrying a quart bike pulled up. It looked like a defender but something about it's proportions wasn't ride. It had no badges on it so I couldn't make up what it is. I briefly considered going to the driver and asking him what it is but that seemed uhmm imprudent. I saw the letters BRV on the back when I left. 

So began my quest to identify what this vehicle is. I tried googling but I only came up with Hondas. I thought maybe being dyslexic I have the letters in the wrong order so tried other combinations but no luck. What could it be? Is it a Chinese brand, what is it? I get very irritated when I can't come up with an answer for something I am curious about. I have stayed up all night before trying to find a video I once saw, till I found it lol, waste of time I know but nothing like the relief of finding the answer I'm seeking, must be like what others experience in the bathroom but that's another story. I digress.

I saw another one some 6 months later, it definitely says BRV in the back. Again I couldn't find anything on line about what this vehicle is. This week while driving to a home affairs office I drove through an industrial area and I saw a handful of them parked outside. The giant board on the fence said Brandt BRV. I went and googled this and this time I found their website. I went through it and it turns out they are a local manufacturer based in Bloemfontein.

They make 3 variants with varying trim and engine sizes, They use Cummings engines. I was utterly shocked that there is local car maker in Bloem. I wonder how much it takes to get a new car certified especially one not based on an existing Chassis. They seem to not be body on frame so that means from scratch design. 

The prices seem a bit expensive but I guess it makes sense for a boutique car maker. I wonder about other things too like where the rest of the parts come from. I at least have that sweet sweet relief of knowing the answer to question, What the hell is a BRV? well turns out it's a locally produced offroad bakkie. 

Toyota Corolla 1.3 2001 2E - Rear speaker update

I did a thing, I did a thing, I did a thing. This is strange especially for this car. I went late in the day and got something done. Usually I get problems with this car but not this time. I replaced the speakers and it took less than an hour. They worked perfectly. This is weird for me with this car.

Ok so, the speakers on this car are the original speakers that came with the car. They are old panasonics made of paper. They have cones which I haven't seen since I was a child. The cones were just falling apart from just barely touching them.

So I replaced them with this JVCs from takealot.com. I don't know much about speakers, the just looked affordable with the discount on them and their numbers seemed high. I'm kidding I read up and they were ok for the price, I'm not an audiophile. 

I wanted solder them but as it turns out my iron is dead. Long story short, I left it on for a long time and I have been scared to put it on and check if it still works and as it turns out it doesn't. So I couldn't use it. I just wrapped the wires and in cased them in insulation tape. They sound great and whole thing took less than an hour. This is like a never happen in DIY.