How I fixed my Car Audio with Zip Ties

I recently wrote how I replaced my factory head unit in my car with an aftermarket one. One of the problems I’ve been experiencing however, was intermittent sound AND no radio. I had a weird issue where the head unit also wasn’t powering up too. The speakers were dropping in and out, and also the next time I fitted the aerial wire, the head unit would no longer power up.

Needless to say this confused me, until I did a bit of investigation

Turns out that the ISO adapter harness I purchased to fit the head unit to my car, was connected to the block. However there was always a little bit of “play” where you could wiggle the connector in and out 2-3mm which I was never happy with

This small amount of “play” was enough to break the connection between the pins and cause a signal loss, and power loss. Hence why my previous testing on the head unit wasn’t showing any problems and why it randomly powered up again after I tested it

Basically I added two zip ties tightly against the harness, one near the speaker wires, and one near the power. It’s now permanently solid and worked flawlessly since

Views – 112

Finally some sounds in the car

This has been going on for some time now, but I’ve wanted to replace my factory head unit with a better one. The standard one in the Nissan isn’t exactly the best, it does the job but the CD player part was broken and it was annoying me.

I didn’t want to chop any of the wires incase I decided to sell the car at a later date, so I purchased an ISO harness.

As an FYI, the Nissan Almera doesn’t have an earth connection through the factory wiring harness. The earth connection is done to the chassis of the vehicle through the earth wire and the metal cage that holds the head unit in

Now, I fitted the head unit to the vehicle, wouldn’t power up. Balls. Went over it again, now worked. Great. I had to order an DIN–>ISO aerial adatper because the factory one didn’t fit my Alpine head unit. The standard aerial is one of those thick ones, and the normal adapter you get is usually the reverse (thin > thick), so I purchased a replacement

I went to it the next day, no power again…. annoying.

I pulled it out the day after, multimeter at the ready and tested the earth and +12 power wires. All working, test the head unit fuse, that works, ok, must be the head unit. No power… shit. Did head -unit

I unplugged the power wire and plugged in again, now working. What the hell. Sod it, it’s working for now. That will do

I’ll look into it further when I get the replacement aerial wire to see if I can figure out what’s wrong. It’s using a harness wire and there’s a connector which goes from factory harness (albeit it’s a bit loose) to the alpine ISO

I’ll post more if I figure it out

Views – 108

Old RAC Sat Nav Files

I’m busy working on an old Sat Nav for someone but one problem I’ve come across which seems to be regular. Is that the site which used to be used by them for all the files (it was known as Route 66) is no longer online

 

It was taken down due to more and more people going to mobile apps

 

This is a pain in the arse when you need Old RAC Sat Nav Files

My colleague uses an RAC5000Wide model.

 

If you have any (firmware, original maps, software, manuals), I’d love for you to email me a link to it so I can add it to an online database (admin – at – andrewhope.co.uk)

Views – 319

Volkswagen steering racks serviceable items

In relation to my article I wrote on identifying the steering rack version in a Volkswagen Golf. One thing I mentioned was that I argue whether or not the Volkswagen steering racks should be covered under warranty or that they should be serviceable items.

After all there are a stream of articles all over the web relating to the steering rack failure with Volkswagen Electromechanical Power Steering.

What is the Electromechanical Power Steering system?

Basically the VAG group (Volkswagen Auto Group) decided in their wisdom to replace the traditional power steering system fitted to most cars. The traditional system being a pump which is driven by engine belts and topped up with fluid in the engine bay. They replaced it with an ALL electronic system, a power steering rack which links into the steering wheel and the power steering assistance is provided by an Electric Motor.

Whilst this does give benefits to the driver…. (examples below)

  • Increased fuel economy
  • Better steering control & input with self-centering steering
  • Speed dependant driving assistance

In practical terms, it’s only so good until it fails. Steering racks on cars do fail from time to time, and they’re easy (AND CHEAP!) to replace. However the Electronic Power Steering on the VAG cars is a problem. The sensors that control everything are built into the racks themselves. Volkswagen don’t repair these they replace them when they go faulty. To replace a steering rack on a VW Golf MK5 you’re looking at around £2000 from Volkswagen, this takes the piss! Most people can’t afford to pay £2k to fix their cars when they’re realistically only going to be worth around £2k anyway

 

BUT – Here’s the big BUT…. when Volkswagen (or the VAG) replace the racks, it’s done on a surcharge basis they actually KEEP your old one and REBUILD it. This means the units are serviceable, if you look at the steering rack design themselves, the units which holds the motor, the sensor and the controller are all replaceable components, it’s just VW won’t do this. So when they remove your old unit, they rebuild it sell it on for another £2k job and it could fail 70k miles later and cost another £2k, a really bad con. This is why as far as I’m concerned this part should be a serviceable component that should be replaced every 70k miles on the car regardless or covered when the timing belt is replaced. It’s especially prone to failures on the MK1 steering racks. Plus a lot of customers would find a bill easier to chew if it was a £200 sensor than a £2000 rack job but then dealerships aren’t like that

 

I’ll be posting more photos as when I remove my old rack I’ll be removing the sensor. A common problem is the magnetic poles on them.

 

I’d love to know VW input on this as it’s clearly a fault, and they haven’t bothered rectifying other they’re just rectifying the problem at the customers expense

 

Views – 1034

Volkswagen Steering Rack Failure

Unfortunately with all the im.going problems with my car I’ve now come across a major stand point.

Volkswagen Group alongside a lot of other car manufacturers have switched to what is known as an Electro Mechanical Power Steering system

Some of you may ask what this is. Basically it replaces the standard power steering design on a car where you have a fluid filled pump driven by a belt running off the alternator. Instead you get an electric motor which runs from the battery through relays and provides torque assistance to the steering system based on the speed and demand via a torque characteristic curve that’s preloaded at the factory. You also benefit from better fuel economy because there isn’t any load on the engine from the pulleys

Now. This all sounds hunky dory.  Easier power steering. Better fuel economy. What’s so bad about that?

One VERY VERY big bad. Volkswagen and I’m guessing other manufacturers decides to build the sensor into the rack itself. The sensor is prone to failure. When it fails you get a red steering light on the dash which usually means buying a new rack from VW because it can’t be serviced

Now. I’d expect a steering system to last the life span of a car personally so if I want to fix my car. I either DIY it. Or take to Volkswagen to fix.

For reference here are the prices (from VW)

  • Steering Rack  (£1032)
  • Wiring Harness (£110)
  • Labour (£108 p/hr + VAT)

The job time is around 4 hours which means if you took this to Volkswagen you’d be looking at around a £2000 repair bill.

If that wasn’t enough. The part is only given a 1/2 year warranty. How about no Volkswagen. The steering system lasts the lifespan of the car. If you are saying this part only has a 12/24 month warranty it should be classed as a serviceable component if it fails again in which case it should be repaired FOC.

I’m left with a broken car to fix myself or sell. I love the car but things like this bug me. I’m going to end up repairing myself as £2000 is way too much to spend.
I’ll be updating this post with more information as I go

Views – 619

VW Golf Oil Warning Light

OK, one of the problems about being an owner of VW family cars, is you get lazy (or at least I did). I neglected to check my oil since the last change, because my cars have never used a drop of them. It always pays to do maintenance and regularly check your car fluids.

Today whilst driving to work I received the VW Golf Oil Warning Light (Yellow one), needless to say my arse was looser than someone who’d just been buggered by an elephant. I was crapping myself. If the light was flashing, it would mean sensor. Given that I don’t check my oil often, I was confident it was the level anyway

 

For information, here’s a quote directly from the above source:

Engine oil warning light Volkswagen

Engine oil warning light Volkswagen

Red warning lights mean you should stop the car as soon as it’s safe.
Yellow warning lights mean that action is required.
Green warning lights are for information only.

I knew I’d get to work and I’d just top it up at work, there are two warning lights on the VW Golf Oil and most other car systems. Generally speaking, the warning lights are:

  • Yellow (low oil level, it’s at the absolute minimum) – Fill urgently, ideally stop
  • Red (low oil pressure, this is dangerous) – Stop immediately, your engine will seize

Both situations are dangerous, I drove about 10 miles with the yellow light on, OK, I shouldn’t have, but I need to get to work, and knew I still had some oil in the car and driving that many miles wouldn’t cause it to fail.

I did however do some remedial actions, my car has never used oil. I do however drive my car really hard at times. I’ve always used the FULL rev range on my car so it gets the good old Italian tune up regularly to keep it healthy. The downside is it burns oil faster. That and I think I have a leaking intercooler which won’t help

Anyway, generally, the harder you drive your car, the faster the oil gets burnt. Basically hotter engine, faster spinning engine means more lubrication. So I took the safer option, I drove to work in 6th gear @ 50mph. Revs were around 1500rpm, which was really low, so didn’t put the engine under load much

Once I arrived at work, I went to top up Oil…… open boot, ermmm, hang on, didn’t I put the oil in the Garage at home one day?…. Oh, shit

I did check my oil when I got to work, and the dipstick wasn’t even reading at minimum…. by the way. Volkswagens dipsticks are REALLY badly designed on the VW Golf MK5. You get this crappy BLACK plastic with two balls on (for minimum and maximum). Yeah, it’s good in theory. You can read the oil level at any temp, however you have two problems here

  1. Oil is BLACK, dipstick is BLACK….. go figure
  2. Those little balls, yeah they stick out. Which means they SCRAP the oil tube coming up. So screws up your reading

If you are reading this VW, go back to the OLD style dipsticks. A metal based ones with little dotted ends, they’re SOOO much easier to read (I’m even thinking of modding my old Passat one). Even making the balls smaller would help

Anyway, long story short. I got my car home safely. Although I was expecting to receive the low oil warning light when coming home I didn’t… I didn’t want to chance it though. So repeated my driving conditions to keep the pressures low and reduce the chance of my engine committing a suicidial Harikari – if you’re reading this my little VW, I wubs you. Don’t break on me :O(

So, I filled up my car with about 3 litres of Mobil1 5w/30 ESP when I got home since it’s my preferred choice of Oil. Will do me until I buy some new drums, and chucked an old Castol Edge 5w/30 oil in the boot. I don’t like it, but it meets VW 505.00 standard (although the MK5 Golf is 505.01, or even 505.02 – I can’t remember) and end of the day, some oil is better than no oil. A car will still drive with shitty oil, it’s just not the optimum design for the engine

So as a future note, it always pays attention to those 2 mins. Avoid getting the VW Golf Oil Warning Light like I did, and save yourself some money in the long run from a potential rebuild

 

Views – 10424

Ford UK – Bad customer service

I don’t own a Ford, but decided to write this article after speaking with someone I know who owns a Ford being let down with bad customer service.

With regards to vehicle repairs under warranty. I decided to make this post to see what everyone else thinks, or if someone else has a story to tell

Background:
Basically, someone I know purchased a car from a Ford dealership (2nd hand). The vehicle was sitting in the yard before they purchased it for an unknown amount of time. The person I know has taken it back to Ford a total of 4 times and is being mugged off each time that there is nothing wrong with it.

Symptoms:
The person kept reporting that when they were driving the ABS was kicking in at low speeds and making a noise (ie braking normally on a motorway or roundabouts). Also there was a horrible burnt smell when stopping. Ford techs were adamant nothing was wrong but changed the Front Brake pads and discs. I believe his car is a Ford Fiesta

Diagnosis:
Now, to me after about 5 minutes of conversation. I diagnosed it was a seized brake caliper on the car, and to me this needs to be fixed under the warranty but the Ford UK dealership it was purchased from are adamant nothing is wrong with the car and that the “noise” he was hearing was because of the sensor being on the front left of the car so it will trigger whenever it hits a pothole. Generally the symptoms of a seized brake caliper on the car are ….

  1. Vehicle pulls to one side when braking
  2. Horrible smell (similar to burnt clutch)
  3. Excessive heat being produced from wheel. Generally when you pull over after a normal drive, most consumer brake discs are cool to touch. A brake caliper that is seizing however will be generating more heat. So if you walk around the car and move your hands over the alloys, you should be able to feel heat being emanated from the brake disc that has the seized caliper

I did all this diagnosis in the space of a 10-15 minute conversation. To me the above reason sounds absolute rubbish. End of the day, the fact that he said there was a smell when he was getting out AND the car has had NEW brake pads and discs would immediately tell me something is wrong with the piston on the caliper. It doesn’t take much to work out.

I’m a computer geek (and amateur DIY car mechanic) and can still diagnose a faulty issue with the brakes. The fact is, the car was sitting in the compound where he bought the car from. They should have done a FULL brake fluid flush when servicing the car before he purchased it. Brake fluid is in the region of £5. The problem with brake fluid is that overtime it breaks down and water inside it starts to cause rust build up. This is why the brake pistons stuck and don’t retract because of this build up. So it’s normally either a full brake fluid flush + rebuilt caliper, or if the caliper is REALLY bad a replacement caliper.

All the mechanics are fobbing him off, he did go back after speaking to me but they keep sending him away saying nothing is wrong. I’ve suggested he goes to trading standards. This is safety issue. Firstly a seized brake caliper will affect braking performance on the car and cause excessive brake wear. Most importantly, if the caliper is seized, there is potential that the brake caliper can cause excessive build up and actually bind onto the disc itself. Imagine driving along the road at 70mph, then the brake caliper sticks and locks your wheel……?

Overall, in my experience this is a poor experience from a Ford dealership, and the whole reason why I don’t let any dealerships work on my car. At least when I’m working on it, I only have myself to blame. I also know what parts are being replaced on my car, and they are quality items. The other reason is servicing cost, but considering this vehicle was under warranty it shouldn’t have mattered in the long run.

Pretty shameful customer service from Ford UK, especially when I was considering going to Ford for my next car aswell.

 

Have a story to tell? Let me know in the comments

Views – 823

Car Service

Decided it was time to treat my car to an annual car service. My oil gets changed every year or every 6000 miles depending on how hard I’ve been driving it. Whilst my car is on a fixed interval service, it still works like flexible servicing. So my car actually monitors the way I drive and gives me a dash warning when a service is due.

My car now has 84,000 on the clock so is about 2000 over due than normal, so decided to give it a fresh overhaul.

Items ordered :

  • Pagid Front Brakes (288mm x 25mm – discs) & Pads
  • Pagid Rear Brakes (255 x 15mm – discs) & Pads
  • 4 x Bosch Glow Plugs
  • Crossland Air Filter
  • Crossland Pollen Filter
  • VW OEM Oil Filter, Sump Plug & Washer
  • 5 Litres Mobil1 5W/30 ESP Oil
  • Bosch Aerotwin Front Wipers
  • Bosch Aerotwin Rear Wiper

I didn’t bother with the Fuel Filter since I use Shell diesel around 80-90% of the time I fill up my car. I don’t believe in supermarket fuel and my filter was only changed around 15K ago.

 

Problems encountered

  • Seized caliper piston on brake (NSF)
    • I actually didn’t know it was seized at first, it was tough to get in but I changed it. When going for a drive there was a horrible burnt clutch smell. The piston was stuck so it was burning the pad on my disc. In the end I got a replacement (which didn’t fit, my fault!) with no where open on a Sunday my brother had to recon the piston best he could. Piston was removed, sanded down and reinstalled. Brakes were bled. I know this method doesn’t work for long, but it will give me enough time to order a new brake caliper as a backup for when it goes wrong
  • “Seized” rear pistons on calipers – I was pissed off at this because they were new. Turns out I needed to clamp the flexi hose and open the bleed nipple completely, they wound back… few!
  • Snapped brake pad wear sensor (this needs doing) don’t want to turn it off, I know it can be fixed but I’m going to get a new sensor and wire a new one in

Views – 1036

Speeding

After driving for 10 years, I’ve finally been a bad boy and believe I was caught speeding. Stretch of road when playing taxi, going up a hill behind lorry and a few other cars I decided to overtake them because I was impatient.

I know the stretch of road to be honest, and I know it’s regularly policed with speed traps so it’s my own fault. I know speeding is dangerous and risks lives, I’m just impatient and need to calm down my driving.

I’m not worrying about it until I get my summons / NIP through the post. Although I’m expecting around 6 points and a £200 fine, I’m crossing my fingers at the opportunity to be offered a speed awareness course.

 

It feels weird to me, I’ve been driving 10 years and wanted to hold a clean license. I know these things happen it just bugs me.

 

I’ll update the post when I receive more information.

 

UPDATE :

I received a letter with an option for 3 points / £100 fine, or take it to court and contest it. I’ll be surrendering my license this weekend to get points on it then updating my insurance. No point contesting it, the court will just slap me with a larger fine and more points

Views – 855

AA Breakdown Renewal

Received my obligatory renewal letter through the post from the AA that I had been with for 11 years now. I do still like them, but the prices are making me think otherwise. I used to call them out at least once a year, but personally don’t think it’s worth it at the moment when I can put the money into savings

 

The letter I received

To make your Gold Membership even better value, why not choose one of our great offers? Take a look at the details on the flap below.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to take advantage of a special offer, simply check your cover details overleaf and the enclosed Terms and Conditions and we will collect payment of £230.44 on or around 21st of May 2015. AA membership may cost a little more than some others, but to the 14 million people we look after, we give unrivalled peace of mind

 

Now, when I first joined AA I only paid around £50 membership for everything, which went up to around £130 on renewal. Fair enough. The policies have been increasing around £20 each year and for those people who pay by direct debit, if you don’t remember to ring up, your paying an extra £20 more each year on top of your cover.

If AA have 14,000,000 members each paying around £130 that is £1,820,000,000 or in other words (£1.82 billion) per year. If all the members only paid £50 each every year, that would be £700,000,000 (£700 million) per year they would make

I highlight doubt they’re suffering their losses and simply ripping people off. I’ll make rough estimates on their expenditure

10,000 Call Centre Agents @ 20k P/A – £200 million

4,000 Vans @ 20k P/A – £80 million

1,000 Recovery Vehicles / Driver @ 30k P/A – £30 million

4,000 Technicians @ 25k P/A – £100 million

Miscellaneous (CEO’s etc) – £100 million

All the above totals £510 million per year

 

I don’t know all the figures for AA, although they are posted on the website, basically they’re ripping people off who aren’t wise to following their money.

I’m not going to bash AA for their service. I think they’re amazing. They’re reliable and I’ve never had issues. I am going to bash them for their practices and rip off prices. If they want to attribute their rising costs to running costs then design a business model with a fixed fee and use it!

 

Anyway, I went on moneysupermarket and took  out some new cover @ £50 and cancelled my membership. I got a bit heated on the phone with the agent so I apologise to the agent which is why I become so blunt.

 

Anyway.  Would I join AA again.. Yes, without question, but at this moment I am trying to save money and can’t afford to pay lump sums of £140 in one go when I pay bills. Nor do I wish do be charged monthly

So they have lost 11 years of my business because they pissed me off basically

Views – 827

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