“Car Wash” Workouts


Read these first:-

(This is one of the more scary car wash made for an advertisement. But the true horror is seeing your loved vehicles being man-handled at the car wash centers and being blasted with cheap detergents & shampoos that can rust the car body and wash half done properly and you still need to pay for it. This was one thing that we decided not to do when and if we decided to open our own car wash center)

The dreaded GST came into effect from 1 April 2015 and one have to admit that while it has saved the Government’s hide for more than one occasions (especially when the price of oil went down), it however had brought a cascading impact on the country’s economy. The consumer have ended paying more for basic goods and services – in some cases, with an unnecessary spike in price even by those small traders who now have to pass on GST charges in their prices because the bigger traders have done the same. Guess who gets whacked left, right and center in the end?

On the positive side of the GST is that we have been forced to relook into the items we buy or consume on monthly basis and start to eliminate luxury items away. We end up scrutinizing our needs and then buying things that we really need for daily consumption and opt for more home cooked food than going for expensive menus at some fancy restaurants (and sadly that included our favourite Sushi restaurant). And soon, this list included McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Kenny Rogers. Nowadays our go-to-place is our local mamak restaurant.

2015 was a bad year and eventhough things started to “stabilise” in 2016, it was not a good year as well.

One day in 2015, I got a call from my cousin who was retrenched when his company decided to downsize the staff. Despite his good experience and skills, he was not retained and it was a bad timing indeed as his wife was also retrenched from her company almost the same time (but later found a position opened in the same organisation). My cousin after considering whether to go back to his 9 to 5 routine with another company decided instead to go into business with his friend. Together they opened a car wash center near to a car workshop. Business was slow on the weekends especially because the center was not next to the main road (where there are other car wash centers) and as most office in the vicinity were closed. I would occasionally bring my car to his car wash as well – I know he would do a good job and at the same time, I was able to support his business as well.

My cousin however was always on the lookout for a better place for the car wash – one that fronts the main road where it is easily seen by potential customers. And one day he called me saying that he got the right spot – when I visited him, it was good place indeed although he was not alone to provide car washing services in the area, there was another 2 – 3 car wash centers in the vicinity. First day at his place, I asked him to polish my car – it was cheaper than other places I often go and having my own cousin doing the polish works alone is a good reason to have the polish done here and not elsewhere. But then I saw his problem – he was doing the work all alone (another cousin joins in occasionally). Then when he was free, we had a chat – one thing I noticed he looked healthier (a bit darker but healthier). He slimmed down a lot as well (compared to the time when he was working in an air-conditioned, cozy office). And because he was his own boss, he looked less stressful as well – he had time to kill this time around.

Considering that he could use extra help especially on the weekends and since I don’t have much to do on the weekends (other than eat, sleep and watch TV), I decided to join-in to help him – I had always wanted to help him for all the things he had done when I first started to date my wife (back then he had already married, so although I am elder than him, in a way he was a “senior” than me when it comes to relationships, ha ha). I did not much money to spare for his business (good thing, he had other “investors” coming in) but I had the time and myself to help him. After discussing with him and getting his green light from my HEO, I came over on fine Saturday morning, wearing an old T-shirt and my short pants. No pay for the work done, which was ok for me as money was not the reason I joined him.

I have washed my own car many times before this but I found out that it is a whole different ball game when it comes to washing someone’s else car. Firstly some of the cars that comes in is clearly not driven by humans. Yes, I repeat it – not humans. Vomits, chips, spilled milk, dog furs, mud, black oil and dusts is just a small part of things that you will discover in some of the cars (especially, sorry to say, women drivers). It is amazing that there are humans out there who are willing to be driving on daily basis in a car covered with those things. Secondly some of the drivers who came in for the car wash are simply too impatient before we get the car all done. I noticed this mainly from the lady drivers, the male drivers on the other hand, don’t mind the extra time taken to clean their cars. Sometimes it is the other way around – too many cars lined up and very less time to get the car washed up and me and my cousin get too impatient to clear them.

At first, I follow the so-called “routine” – often looking for queues from my cousin and often limit myself to wiping down the car after it has gone through the snow wash. Then slowly I moved on to interior cleaning, vacuuming, tire polish and later on to shampooing the car (we did not use the cheap detergent but a proper car shampoo). And we embarked on improving the quality of service, gradually – one that immediately sets us apart from our competitors. We decided to wash the cars in the same manner we wash our own car or rather how we want car wash centers to wash our cars. Yes, it takes longer to complete the washing but in the end, the effort taken is much appreciated by our customers – the car is a lot more cleaner and we included a small effort of detailing of the interiors.

Which car wash centers dusts off the dusts on your dashboard. the dial meters and the finger prints on the mirrors and the old stain under the car plate number? Yes, we do all that. In fact, if we have time, we actually wipe and clean each strand of the tire rims to make it clean and shiny. Detailing is part of our services for no extra cost. And once we have done all the washing and wiping and before we hand over the keys back to our customers, there is one final round of quality check. And our customers loves that and so much that we often see them bring their cars, their wife’s car on weekly basis and telling their friends & family members to visit us as well. We got a lot of referrals and that pushed us to ensure quality is always maintained eventhough we have cars waiting to be washed. No rushed work as far as we are concerned. Surprisingly people wait for us – once a customer waited for 2 hours for my cousin to open shop. This is excluding those who are coming in for wax & polish (which took at least half a day to be done but we still had customers) and some to clean their headlights.

There were other developments as well – I started to meet my daily active minutes, consistently meeting it on the weekends when I am “working” at the car wash. And if there are enough cars to wash, I can easily clock in the minimum 10,000 steps. I sweat a lot so much so I started to drink gallons of water – sometimes within minutes my large 1.5 liter water bottle would be empty and I have to replenish on a regular basis. Interestingly drinking a lot of water when I am at “work” did not mean frequent visit to the toilet and in fact, all the days I was at the car wash, I did not once went to the toilet, no matter how much water I had been drinking the whole day. I gather most of the water that I drank is dispensed when I sweat a lot. It was a good workout from morning until late evening and by the time I come back home with a very soaked T-shirt, I would be energy drained – just enough to take a light dinner (sometimes a burger near the car wash) and knock off for a good night sleep. Yes, I started to lose weight and feel healthier as well.

Business was good except when it rains – there were days when we hardly had any cars due to the heavy rain. We will sit at the sofa, waiting for customers to come in once the rain had stopped but never once there have been a dull moment at the car wash except maybe when the cats from the nearby workshop decided to mess up the place (you know I hate cats right?). No dull moments because me and my cousin share the same passion for old Tamil songs especially one from MSV and Illayaraja – we will fire up our smartphones and sit down to listen to the songs whilst waiting for the rain to stop. On other days, we will recall back our childhood and incidents such as the meet up at our Grandma’s house for Deepavali. There were plenty of funny & interesting stories, some unknown to me from that “era” and we would end up laughing on that events. Usually after the rain had stopped, we will see cars now muddied coming over for a good wash.

My stint at my cousin’s car wash was however a short one – just several months short. My cousin soon found that despite good business and a string of loyal customers (ha, I even had one, coming in on the weekends for detailing), it was not enough to continue. He had other issues well to resolve – one had been manpower. It is hard to expand with just one person handling the whole thing. So ended my weekly workout at the car wash – I was kind of sad to leave that active & fun environment but my wife was relieved to see me at home on the weekends. My cousin had moved on as well – he got busy with other work but both of us agreed that if we have the chance and opportunity, we would open a proper car wash center but maintain the same level of commitment and quality. Car wash center is one kind of gym that gives you work and works you at the same time.

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Wiper Scare & Kapchai Ban


Read these

wipers-signs-of-wear

(Things to keep an eye for – failing wipers. Image source: http://www.kempenfeltauto.com)

It has been raining cats and dogs lately…

It was raining heavily when I went to work one fine morning – I predicted an increased traffic jam due to the rain and a couple of morons speeding and changing lane without any indicators during the heavy rain. I switched on the wipers and immediately I noticed something not right. It was squeaking and as the wipers goes up and down, it started to bend considerably. Damn, something indeed was not right. And half way as I was nearing my kid’s school, one of the wiper bent and dislocated. I now left with only one working wiper and it also started to bend. I know that wipers was due for a replacement but I did not expect it to be too soon and too obvious. It was still raining but I could not use the wipers – so I slowed down and drive with extra caution. It was too late to drive back home as I was nearer office by then and I managed to reach it without any incidents.

Lunch time, I had only 1 mission – to get the wipers replaced. I headed to a workshop near to office and picked silicon blade wipers. It was not cheap though but at least the wipers were new. The mechanic was fast to replace them but he took the wrong size as when I tried the wipers on, both wipers got entangled and got stuck. He quickly replaced the wiper to a lower size and it looked well (it did not get entangled this time around).

That evening, it started to rain again but this time, I was very confident – I had brand new wipers. I happily switched it on but then noticed, it was not wiping effectively – as if the blades was not touching the windscreen in some places. There was a loud squeaking noise as well. I was pissed off and was cursing the workshop for selling a defective wipers. I intended to reach home first and then head to the nearest hypermarket to buy new wipers (I was ready to go to workshop next day to make noise and get my money back). And as I was driving back in the heavy rain, only using the wipers when I had no other choice, I noticed that some kind of strip hanging from the tip of the wiper. Was the silicon coming apart? I could not see for sure.

I reached home and in the rain, I checked the wipers and soon felt relived – the mechanic who replaced the wipers had forgotten to strip away the protective plastic from the silicon blades and that was what making the squeaking noise and unlevel wiping. Once the plastic strip was removed, I had a very effective and silent wipers. Phew!

Anyway, that ended rather nicely – it has not been a cheap month for me when it came to fixing my car to the best level of driving. I have a phobia whenever I hear some funny noise from the car these days, especially after the accident last year.

(One reason to ban kapchais in this country. Image source: http://meuzangelo.blogspot.com)

Recently there was a very interesting piece of development when it comes to pesky motorcyclists in this country:-

The government is considering banning underbone motorcycles, known locally as the “kap chai”, from entering Kuala Lumpur as part of its effort to reduce carbon emission.

Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Mansor was quoted by The Star as saying that the government may prohibit these motorcycles and other commuters from driving into the capital city once public transportation reaches a more reasonable price.

“During the day, the population (in the city) increases to between five and seven million because workers commute to work,” he said at the launch of the Kibar Bendera Wilayah Persekutuan campaign on Sunday (Jan 15).

“Many cities do not allow ‘kap chai’ to come in. But studies have shown that a lot of people still need them because they are poor and can’t afford [other modes of transport] as their salaries are low.

“Once cheaper public transport is available, we will be looking at the possibility of not allowing ‘kap chai’ motorcycles into the city,” he added

(Source)

And of course, there was immediate opposition to that idea:-

The government’s proposal to ban underbone motorcycles in Kuala Lumpur could burden low-income earners who are already under pressure from rising living costs, employers’ and workers’ groups warned.

Criticising the idea as “ridiculous”, associations like The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said the proposal would push traveling costs up for the bottom 40 per cent of income earners, most of whom rely on small capacity bikes to commute to work.

They said fuel costs for the bike, popularly called “kap chais”, are much cheaper than current public transportation fees, which can go up to RM10 a day. In contrast, someone who uses a “kap chai” will only need to pay RM7 for a full tank of fuel, which can give the bike at least five days worth of travelling.

(Source)

And it seems that there was a major impact on the businesses as well:-

Putrajaya’s proposal to bar the kapcai (small motorcycles) from entering Kuala Lumpur will cause a significant decline in the sale of motorcycles in the country.

“The ban will have negative effects on the motorcycle industry, which sees more than 500,000 motorcycles registered each year,” said PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil in a statement today.

Fahmi called the proposal “nonsensical and irresponsible”, coming as it did in a time of economic decline.

(Source)

Before I put down my take on the proposed ban (the idea have been shelved anyway), let me emphasize that I was a biker once and I rode a “kapchai” bike too. I rode second handed Honda Cub (one of the best bike around) and the iconic Yamaha RXZ before I decided to buy a new bike. Main reason for that is because I used to ride pillion on my brother’s bike but he gets so tense up when I ask him to slow down and follow the rules. It was time for me to get my own bike and ride like a big biker. I rode a small bike but I had tear-proof jacket, leather gloves and a good, branded helmet. I opted for a Malaysian made Modenas because firstly it was cheap and secondly the bike shop was just next to the house which makes service easy but due to some problem with the Modenas dealer (he was half bankrupt and my deposit got stuck), I changed my option to a Yamaha Y110SS which was stylish, very dependable (even though it was on 2 stroke) and fast (I preferred Yamaha 125ZR but it was too expensive and was “hot” with bike thieves). And the reason for me using kapchai was because that was one of the cheapest mode of transportation that I could afford without taking the bus (petrol last me almost a week) and riding a kapchai in KL was the best way to avoid the crazy traffic jam in the city. So I do understand the situation from a biker’s point of view.

But over the years, seeing the number of deaths on the road and being menace to other road users, I do think that kapchai’s should be banned.

It should be banned not because of the nonsense excuse of controlling the emission (car, truck and bus emissions are even worse) but because of the number of traffic rule offences incurred by these kapchai riders. Too many bikes on the road are of poor condition too. Never passes a day without me seeing a bike without lights at the front and back – endangering themselves and their pillion riders. The worse of the worse are those sending their kids to school in the morning without any helmet or having more than one pillion rider including babies. And breaking the law is the signature of most (I say most) kapchai riders – you name it, they do it – riding without helmet, riding against the traffic, changing lanes without any signals, running traffic lights, illegal racing and doing stunts on public roads (aka as Mat Rempits). Kapchai is also the preferred mode of transportation of snatch thieves as it is easy for them to make a getaway.

And it should not be banned on in the city but rather banned nationwide – in the cities, towns, small towns, residential areas, etc. You may ask what happens to the motorbike manufacturers and distributors? Push for sale for bigger capacity bikes – yes, it will be more expensive but in the end, there will be enough demands to meet up the loss. 250cc bikes which was out of reach during my time is actually cheaper nowadays. You can get a KTM Duke 250 for less than RM20,000 or a Benelli TNT 250 for less than RM15,000. And with bigger bikes, push for proper safety gears to be worn by riders & pillion riders (jacket, gloves, boots, etc). Not cheap I agree but we need to move from a small bike nation to a bigger bike nation mentality eventually.

Interestingly the same notion was made in a letter to The Sun:-

REPORTS of opposition to the proposal to ban small motorcycles from Kuala Lumpur are off-target. On the contrary, such a ban will be welcomed by those who live and work in the city. Let me explain.

First, nobody feels safe when motorcyclists are around except the motorcyclists themselves. Even drivers of four-wheel vehicles are harassed and forced to brake suddenly to avoid hitting them.

Second, traffic rules seemingly do not apply to motorcyclists. They ignore traffic lights, no-entry signs and other rules, perhaps because they can evade the law so easily.

Third, many pedestrians are menaced by motorcyclists who ride on the walkways. I have not seen a motorcyclist booked for this offence.

Fourth, snatch thieves love the motorcycle as it best suits their modus operandi.

Fifth, pollution. Random comments are made that all vehicles pollute and motorcycles are not the worst culprits. That needs to be proven. One needs to look not only at the vehicle size but also their numbers, and the noise.

Surprisingly, I have seen no reports on urban pollution in Malaysia. As a rapidly urbanising society, Malaysians need to know how healthy the air is.

To understand the situation at street level those involved should take public transport for a day. Personal experience would be a far more impactful experience than third-party stories.

There are other reasons that argue against small motorcycles on city streets, including comparative costs. While petrol consumption may be low, there are repair and parking costs, which would make the bus cheaper.

(Source)

Do I need to say more – who knows once we start to ban the small kapchais, the incidents of Mat Rempit and snatch thieves may just go down. Just a wishful thought – who knows, right?

In the Year of the Monkey


Frankly speaking, I had Part 2 in mind (had half way drafted the content) but over time, the passion for one subject fades away and another subject grabs of one’s attention.

Read these first:-

 

(One good way to damage the sidewalls but modern tires is designed to absorb such sudden shocks)

Last month – on the month of the CNY – had proved to be a rather very expensive month for me as an owner of a car.

Firstly I accidentally scrapped my left back tire against the kerb and caused a small portion of the tire sidewall to be sliced off. I know for fact that whilst you can abuse the main tread and still drive safely, the same cannot be said for the sidewall. And it was painful because the tire was still new – barely a year since I last changed it. I took it to 2 different tire shops – the first one looked at it and said it was nothing to worry. The mechanic went back into the shop, brought back a bottle of super-glue and simply glued the sliced piece of the sidewall back into the tire. Feeling unconvinced, I went back to the shop where I first changed the tires a year ago. Unfortunately there were too many cars at the tire shop and the mechanics were busy. I managed to convince one of the them to check the tires. He came over and very lazily said it was nothing to worry as well.

But deep down, I was not happy or feeling safe, driving around with a sliced sidewall. As far I can remember, I never had damaged sidewalls before this and this was the first time I encountered this. It was time to do some goggling on the net and find out from the experts out there if I am feeling worried for nothing. Unfortunately for me, it looked like I had a very unique situation and generally most experts do not suggest driving around with a damaged sidewall (mine was not damaged but sliced). A few days had passed and for a moment I had forgotten that I was driving around with a sliced + patched up sidewall but that notion of not feeling safe kept bugging me, more so when I have my kids in the car. And one day, somewhere in a motoring forum, I finally read what I was looking for – someone had commented that no amount of money saved can come close to the safety of the people in the car.

That caused my mind to be made up but I had to wait for few more days as most of the shops were closed for CNY. But once the shops were opened, I headed to the nearest shop and talked to the owner. He too said that the tire were still driveable but the point is, the sidewall strength is compromised. So one need to be very careful when driving. I pondered on his statement – I do drive fast in the morning and I am the one who send my youngest to school in the morning. I could not imagine the carnage if the tire decides to blow out.

I decided to change the tires and considering the old tires were still new, the owner decided to give good discount for my new tires. But lesson well learned and I have now become more careful and patience when I am driving – another sidewall damage is the last thing I want.

It was not the only problem I had with the car and interestingly I only discovered this second problem by chance. My wife wanted me to check her car engine bay and to check the water level. Since I was doing that, I decided to check my car as well. When I opened the engine bay, I noticed that black oil splashed all over the place. I have seen this before – the engine gasket worn out and the engine oil was leaking. I had the same problem once with my old car. That probably explains the loss of power when I am driving to work in the morning.

Good thing was my car’s scheduled service was coming up and despite a last minute call to the service centre, I managed to get an early appointment at about 8.30 am. I don’t want the leak to continue and damage other components. At the service centre, despite making appointment at 8.30 am, I had to wait for other cars (from previous days) to be done first and only at 10.30 am, the car was brought into the service bay. I knew the mechanic from previous visits, so standing next to him whilst he worked on my car was not a problem and he was also explaining on what he was doing. The engine oil was indeed leaking and it was time to replace the sealants and cleanup of the leaked oil.

Another cost to the car so soon after I had changed the tires. It was another costly affair but once again, it was necessary. The service took almost 3 hours to complete (partly because they had to order some of the parts) and as I chatting away with the mechanic, he asked me if I had changed the timing belt. It was time to change based on the mileage but as I checked my car service records, I don’t see any indication of the manufacturer had changed the timing belt but I can guarantee that I have adhered to the service schedule to the dot.

And I was very tempted to allow the mechanic to proceed to change the timing belt. I decided to call the other service centre to check their records and was relieved when they confirmed that the timing belt had been changed and I had nothing else to worry. The car is back to it’s perfect state and it is great to be driving again, feeling safe and confident and with a set of good music in the background, the morning traffic was not so bad and somehow and surprisingly I can find a sense of calmness to allow the morning queue jumpers, road hoggers and other morons on the road to do what they do and don’t get angry so easily (unlike the previous time).

Two incidents involving the car and it burned my pockets very badly but the fact is that no amount of money can replace one’s life and that should be the case all the time.

Do You Listen To Your Car?


Screw on tire2

(The thing that you do not want to see sticking out from your tires)

Before I start, I was not meaning “listen” in this sense

Couple weeks ago, we suppose to make a trip to Kuantan to visit an elderly aunty who was not feeling well. And to ensure we don’t inconvenient the relatives (who I know don’t have much space in their house), I even booked hotel rooms for the family. It was long holidays too, so I decided to set the time to depart from the house during the non-peak hours so that we will reach Kuantan without getting caught in the massive traffic that was expected. But at the last minute, I could not go due to an “emergency” at work place and we had to get a replacement for me (since I was the designated driver for the trip). We looked around but everyone already had plans for the long holidays.

In the end, my sister volunteered (or rather was strongly persuaded to take over). At first she said wanted to use her car instead of mine for the journey which made sense but after a second thought, she decided to use my car instead. After all it was more spacious and more comfortable for that long journey to Kuantan. The main reason why she decided to use my car was because she said she had to pump air into her back right tire on weekly basis and she suspected something not right with the tire. But she has yet to bring the car to the mechanic for a proper check-up. So, not wanting to take any risk of the whole family stranded by the road side on their way to Kuantan or worse, losing control of the car near Genting, it was better to take my car instead – after all, it had 4 brand new tires and the car just completed its periodic service and I had high confidence on the reliability of the car.

With my car not available, I decided to use my sister’s car for work instead and almost immediately I noticed a loud sound from the back tires. I had to pull over and check. And when I pump air into the tires, the right back tire was indeed had much less air than the rest of the tires (for normal wear and tear, the air should be reducing almost the same pace on all tires. If one reduces more than the rest, it’s time to bring the tire for check-up). I know there was a leak somewhere but I could not pin point the source. Much later, when my sister took the car for service, there was indeed a leak from an old puncture. Good thing we made the correct decision by not using her car for the long trip.

Then last night as I was driving past the toll booth, there was a faint “thud, thud, thud” sound. I rolled down the window and as I drive past the road barriers (where the sound would bounce back and it will clearer to hear), there was no mistake of the “thud, thud, thud” sound. The last time I heard that sound was when there a screw firmly lodged on the tire.

Now I am hearing the same sound again. I just shook my head in despair and slowly moved to the left lane. No point being a “hero” on the highway with one flat tire. I kept driving slower until I cleared the highway and entered a commercial area. I parked my car and took a quick look at the tires. I did not notice any screws or nails but then again, checking by the road side with poor light conditions did not help either. The sound was still there. So to minimize the option of having a flat tire before I reach home (where I can jack up the car and have a better look), I drove to the nearest petrol station and pumped air on all tires. One thing I noticed was that there was no drastic reduction of air. That was strange because if there was a screw or nail, there would have a considerable lost of air to one of the tires compared to the other tires. Something was not right. In fact the tire that I thought had a puncture had almost nil lost of air.

Not taking any chances, I continued driving slow, taking the back lanes where there was a less traffic and where it is easier to stop by the road side. It took longer time than usual but I somehow made it home in one piece. First thing to do after I had parked the car in the porch was to take the torchlight and make a more thorough inspection of the tires. Then I found the culprit – a small stone wedged in the middle of the tire and that made sense. I had the same problem when I changed the tires to Michelin couple years ago as well. It has a wider grooves than other make – it makes an excellent tires on wet roads but it easily picks up small stones. Some how I don’t have the same problem with Continental or Goodyear tires. This is the last time I am going to use the Michelin tires. And to be sure, I drove around the residential area after removing the stone and there was no longer the “thud, thud, thud” sound.

And over the years, there have been many types of sounds emitting from the car and I have made mental note of what sound means what problem.

Once there was an intermittent sound of something knocking against the interior of the car. I stopped the car and double checked and noticed that the passenger side seat belt was twisted and the metal part of the belt was hitting against the side of the car whenever I am changing lanes. Low tire pressure usually give a growling sound and although it is not a bad thing but it still dangerous to drive around (especially when cornering) and obviously it is fuel inefficient. And there is the usual “trrrrrr” sound which comes from the USB stick – the cover of the USB stick vibrates and makes that “trrrrrr” sound. And in my previous car, there is a sound of plastic being flipped around and that comes from the plastic covering inside the doors and the sound comes from the sound vibration of the speakers. Another is the whining sound when closing the doors – this indicates lack of lubrication on the door. And if one drives the older Proton models, the squeaky noise is part and parcel of driving a national car. The newer models don’t have that problem to some extent – they are well built and the NVH insulation is quite good.

The thing is, I make a point to listen to the car every morning as I am leaving the house and does the same before I leave the office. The sound of the engine, the sound of the tires and any other sound that is out of place. If something sounds out of place, always stop and check. The last thing you want to do is to have trouble when you are flying at 110 km/h. And early morning is the best time to listen to the sounds – it quiet (which makes it easier to listen things) and there are no other cars and if there are any strange sounds, home is just nearby. The sound that I fear the most is of course the “thud, thud, thud” sound. It has caused me more headaches than any “other sounds” over the years.

There are times when the car actually talks to you and if you listen to it closely, you can understand it’s language. And here’s a quick guide for more sounds that could indicate problems to your car (another is here). That takes the surprise element out from the equation and makes driving a bit more safer and economical. Well, do you do the same? Have you listened to your car lately?

Ending The Year 2014


najib golf

(Not everyone can be the PM – very, very hard at “work” overseas. Some had said that there is nothing wrong for a leader to take a break. Well, that is correct but not when the country is seeing one of the worst floods around. The big mamma still on holiday, its so seems – no one had seen her wading through the high water in downtown Kota Bahru. Image source)

Before I go further, my deepest condolences to the family and friends on those were abroad the Air Asia Flight QZ8501 – the 3rd tragedy in the year that involves a Malaysian linked airline. I don’t know why Malaysians had to face this – not once or twice but three times in the same year. MH370 is still missing and MH17 just had to be at the wrong place, wrong time and QZ8501 must have met mother of all storms. One just hope that there will be some kind of closure in 2015.

Heartfelt prayers also goes to the flood victims in the East Coast (and also in the West Coast now) that saw one of the worst flooding since 1971. Prepping is no longer a joke – with such flooding is due to be a yearly affair, we need to look at prepping in a wider scope. Management of the rivers and coastal areas would be critical aspect of prepping from the Government. Citizens on the other hand should look into making their homes to be flood-proof or have an alternative place to stay and of course with proper stockpile of food and water. Stories piling up on instances of people running out of food and water and the situation looks hopelessly lost. Nonetheless it is a grave reminder of things to come. The more we put off prepping for such instances in the coming years, the more painful it is going to be. It is a reminder to me too as I have been focusing less on prepping in 2014.

My own 3 weeks break came and went without a blink and I will be soon be traveling again on work assignment. My flight back to Malaysia was scheduled to take off at about 8 plus in the morning and knowing that I need to be in the airport at least 2 hours before boarding and it is about 1 hour plus from the apartment to the airport, I booked a taxi to fetch me from the apartment at about 4 in the morning (that taxi driver came and waited for me since 3.30 am!). With the taxi booked and all luggage packed for the trip back home by 9 pm, I contemplated of taking a short nap. The night was still early and I was sure that I could woke up at 3 am. Just when I was to jump on the bed, I had a dreadful vision – the alarm ringing but I casually switching it off and going to bed, only to wake up at 10 am in the morning. I did not want to miss my flight, so I made a big pot of coffee and watched movie on TV. Good thing I was not feeling that sleepy and hours went off fast. A good shower in the wee morning ensure I was awake as I took the luggage down to the awaiting taxi.

I must have dozed off in the taxi – there was a bump and when I opened my eyes, we were just arriving at the airport. Another long wait for the airport for the check-in and breakfast but at least I was at the airport.

wolf

(Although I was disappointed on missing some of the titles that I saw in the previous year, this should be enough to last me until the next Big Bad Wolf Book sale)

When I came back home, instead of the usual nap I often take whenever I come back from overseas, I had to go off and do some work for the house (haircut however came first before anything else). My kids were excited to see me back, so they hardly allowed me to catch up on my sleep. Then at night, we went to the Big Bad Wolf Book Sales and I spent almost RM300 on books (this time around, my choice of books was less compared to the stack that my son had). It was however worth the trip – RM300 bought us almost 3 boxes of new books.

We came back late and decided against driving off to north in the morning (you see, I had promised my son to take him to the water park in Ipoh for the holidays). We decided to go after lunch which was not so bad as the traffic by then was fine and we did not have to slow down in many areas. The only “funny” thing that happened was my car door automatically unlocks itself and locks again when I press the brakes. By the time, we reached the in-laws house to stay for the holidays, it was already evening and my relatives were coming back from work. We stayed up late again, chit-chatting and watching movie. I was already feeling like zombie when I finally went to the bed (I was given a room of my own) but had a very disruptive sleep because I had to wake up a few times at night going to the bathroom (had too much to drink).

In the morning, the weather was great but I had something to do first – go and fix my car central locking. Still remember when it unlocks and locks itself when I was driving? It became worse – I found the car unlock when I went to check on it in the morning. That means if I lock up the car, a few minutes later, it will unlock itself and that is all that was needed for a car jacker to have an easy access to my car. I called the service centre and good thing was they had few cars on service schedule in the morning. The mechanic “managed” to fix it within 30 minutes – loose wiring they said. Happily I took the car out and barely 100 meters from the service centre, the problem started again. I drove back and this time, the mechanic followed me in the car. It was apparent then, that he had not fixed the problem. He took it back to check and this time, it took him almost 2 hours (including replacing the whole central locking mechanism) to get it right. Almost half day had gone by then. I went back and seeing that it was too late to go to water park, I decided on something that I have been holding back for past few days – catching up on my sleep.

rain

(I think this is Kuala Kangsar after our lunch in Chemor – we made a pit stop here because there is a famous bakery here where we wanted to buy bread. Situation was not ideal to bring the kids out for the fun day at the water park)

The next day, when we suppose to go to the water park, it started to rain cats and dogs. The situation looked gloomy. Even my son did not want to go out as the weather was very bad. My father in law however decided that we go for a lunch at one place he knows in Chemor (very near to the water park that we wanted to go). It was raining when we left the house, it was raining when we were on the highway and it was getting even worse when we drove into Chemor town. After parking the car at the back of the a small restaurant (it looked quite old as well) and struggling with the umbrella in the heavy downpour, we managed to get the 2 car load of people in front of the restaurant. We walked in and the atmosphere immediately changed. Inside was very modern and roomier. Lunch was extraordinary with my son ordering spicy crab curry and a good load of crabs to go with it. It was still raining when we left the restaurant and decided to take the old road instead of the highway and drive through the places where my grandmother used to live.

The so-called break from work at my in-laws place ended up with a bang (literally). We head back home on a working day, hoping that the highway would be free (and it was indeed) and the ride would be more pleasant. Nearing KL, things started to slow as we caught with the on-going road works with 2 of the 3 lanes closed. The traffic started to move slower and at some places, it was almost bumper to bumper. It was just after lunch time too and things was getting were warm in the car (despite the air-cond high). That coupled with the crawling traffic started to show its ugly side – I was falling asleep.

Often there was enough space in between for me to recover and stop the car but this time, there was none. Just when I thought of stopping at the next R&R, I must have dozed off as the next thing I realised is that I have bumped into the car in front. For moment, I was blur on what had happened. The driver came out and started looking at his bumper. Fearing the worst, I came out from the car, expecting to confront an angry driver but instead the man looked at me and said that there was no damaged and extended his hands. I shook his hand, said sorry and went back to my car. Rest assured, I stayed wide awake the rest of the journey but I still stopped at the next R&R for a break (and also to check if there is any other hidden damage). Imagine if I had dozed off when the traffic was fast (and me traveling at 110 km/h) and rear-ended a truck instead. I must have done some good karma to walk away from this with nothing more than a word of “sorry” and an handshake.

2014 had not been a very good year but it has not been a very bad one too. I had good times catching up with my primary school mates – some not met for almost 30 plus years recently. Blogging had taken a very back seat this year with me hardly having the time (but not ideas – thanks to travels and good old Malaysian politicians) to blog. I traveled to a new country this year, met good friends there, enjoyed the food & culture and hope to go to another in 2015. Work compounded this year compared in 2013 but that was expected – when one moves up in the organization structure, there will be more responsibilities, tasks and plans.

Happy New Year everyone and I will see you next year!

Dumbass Mechanic 2


Update 1: The problem finally solved! I went to my usual workshop (with proper appointment) and I did not had to wait for long. The mechanic took almost 1 hour to resolve the problem. The ECU was flashed and the brake switch was checked and reinstalled. The check engine warning light went away and it remained so. The mechanic informed me that I should not have the problem (not like the previous dumbass mechanic) but went further to say that if the problem still remained, the next course of action would be to change the entire brake switch itself.

Back to the original post…

Read the first instance here

check engine light

(The last thing I expected to see on any car is the check engine warning light and that too on a well maintained new car. But I understand that over time all things will deteriorate and breaks down. The important thing is to get it fixed on time and without much hassle. The last thing we need is a dumbass mechanic in the equation. Image source: http://www.progressiveautogroup.com)

It was almost a perfect ride up North last weekend – the morning was cold, the traffic was light and the music on the radio was good. It was a good time to “clear those carbons” from the exhaust (I noticed that the fuel consumption often improves greatly after a long journey north).

I had my grandma in the car (she followed us to go to her younger brother’s house which was on our way) so I had to ensure that I make the necessary stop for this fragile old lady who is still going strong at a very old age. Just when I was thinking of stopping at the next R&R after Tapah, I noticed something flashing up on the dashboard – something I missed earlier because I had my left hand “covering” it (I hold the top of the steering wheel with my left and the bottom with my right). The check engine warning light was on – it never appeared before and I just did a major service to the car couple weeks ago. Maintenance has been top-notch and I don’t push the car to its limits.

Certainly something was amiss here and stopping at the next R&R made a lot of sense – I was also worried that there could be a bigger problem with the engine (although I did not notice any difference in performance and the fuel consumption kept improving). We stopped and immediately my wife, my son and my grandma got out stretching their legs and then head to the toilet, leaving the baby at the back seat (she was sleeping) and under my care. I double checked on the baby and she was sleeping rather nicely. I checked on the buttons inside the car – to make sure I had not pressed any of the wrong buttons or dials. I switch off the ignition and on again but the check engine warning light was still on. Since the baby was sleeping and my wife had came back, I switched off the engine and got out of the car and did a quick check to the air-intakes – nothing out of the ordinary. I went back in and counted to ten and switch on the ignition – the check engine warning light came on for a moment and then it went off.

I thought that was the end of it until after we had reached our destination and after driving around the town, the warning light lighted up again (good thing, it was not flashing which is an indicator of a more serious problem). Unfortunately it was a Sunday and the authorised service was closed. As before, I tried to switch off and on the ignition and as before, the check engine light went off.

I decided to head to the nearest service centre near home first thing in the morning the next day. I decided to go to the one near my house instead of the one in Taiping because I already expecting to be wasting my time at the service centre for the whole day (hallmark of any car service centre in the country, I suppose). We left to KL quite early in the morning – hoping to reach the service centre near the house as early as possible. Throughout the journey back, the check engine light did not lit up and the journey was smooth and uneventful. By the time we reached home, it was already 9 in the morning. The warning light still did not lit up. So I decided to go for a quick runabout for lunch and some investment and 2 packets of cold cendol first (it was worse in Taiping). Perhaps the long run back to KL had perhaps cleared something and everything was back to normal. So I thought. With plenty of time to kill, I decided to cancel my trip to the service centre and head out for some chores in PJ. Just as I drive out from my residential area, the nagging check engine warning light was back!

Feeling frustrated, I made a U-turn and headed straight to the nearest service centre, hoping that there will be few cars on queue on the appointment. It was not. I reached there almost at 12 pm and saw the customer area full of people (some were even sleeping on the sofa – they must have come in early) – thankfully I already an early lunch. I told the sweet lady behind the counter that I did not have an appointment but I was willing to wait as long as I could get to the bottom of the nagging check engine warning light. The lady told me that there were plenty of cars to be checked for the day but she was willing to slot me in (those who came in later without any appointment was promptly turned away).

So I waited for my turn by drinking the freebie water, reading the same old magazine over and over again and of course, taking short naps on the sofa.

It was almost 4 pm when I saw the mechanic looking at the charge sheets on the wall and selected mine. I followed him to the working area as he parked my car in the working bay and hook it up to the diagnostic computer. I stood next to him and explained on what had happened but he was not listening to me. He was seriously looking at the computer screen and waited as it run through a series of tests. I gave him the benefit of the doubt – after all, he is the professional, well trained mechanic and he knows what he is doing.

All were in green until one red mark popped up – the stop light seemed to have short-circuited and need to be grounded (the stop light were still working though). He checked something in the car. He ran the test again and I noted the same error message was still displaying on the screen. He went back and checked something – I could not see what he was doing under the dashboard and then suddenly he disconnected the computer and started to drive out the car from the working area.

He did not update me on what was the problem and what has been fixed. I caught him and asked him what was the problem and has it been fixed – he with a blur face (or rather surprised face) remarked that it has been “solved”. He then drove around the car, slammed on the brakes a couple of times and then parked it. He walked to me and passed back the keys and said settled. I asked if the problem would occur again and his remarks (with the same blur face) were “maybe, if yes, bring back the car”. It was not as assuring as I wished it to be. What the fuck he meant by “maybe”? Did he and did he not fixed the problem? And why the comment “bring back the car” – as if I had nothing better to do in my life.

I didn’t trust the mechanic, not by the way he responded to me. Just to be sure, I drove around – I still had to settle some of the outstanding errands but I kept with one eye on the dashboard. The check engine warning light did not come back for rest of the day. Perhaps the mechanic did fixed the nagging problem for good. I had a good night sleep that day – at least one problem has been resolved. The next morning as I got ready to drive to work, I was suspicious but the check engine warning light remained switched off. Is everything back to normal? Unfortunately it was not – I left the workplace in the evening and barely 10 minutes into the journey back home, the check engine warning light lit again and it has been so for past few days. Switching on and off the ignition somehow solves the issue but not on long term basis – I am not sure what else is being damaged in the process.

Damn that mechanic! Now I have waste my time again to make appointment and get my car checked again at another service centre – hopefully one that has less dumbass mechanics.

Damn, I Got Screwed!!


I got “screwed” twice over, couple weeks ago and I almost got “screwed” for the third time around.

Screw on tire2

(Not the photo of the screw that “screwed” my tires weeks ago but it’s close to what I experienced. Good thing was it did not lead to more serious consequences like my car flying off the highway and causing a bloody mess along the way but still it was a major annoyance . Image source: http://www.the370z.com/)

Let’s start on a fine Monday morning where I got up before the alarm which is a rare these days.

The baby had slept early the night before and rarely woke up in between, leaving us to take a good sleep. So I woke up feeling rather fresh. The morning was great too – the air seemed fresher than usual. My spidey sense should have tingled by now but it did not. The time on my watch showed it was still 6 in the morning. I got into the car and as I started to drive, I felt the steering to be a bit sluggish. Then I heard the loud scrapping sound from the front – I immediately knew that my tire was flat even before I got down from the car. I usually do a “pre-drive” inspection (just like how a pilot checks before he flies a plane) but somehow this morning, I failed to do it. The tire was flat and the front body kit had scrapped the road (but it was not obvious). It was too early in the morning for me to drive to the nearest tire shop.

With a mixed feeling (I was both furious and shocked), I parked the car back into the porch (another scrap of the front body kit, ouch!) and decided to change to the spare tire first. But first thing first – I need to change my clothes first – I know it is going to be hot, sweaty and dirty. It was a good exercise in the morning if you asked me – I was profusely sweating and legs & arms aching by the time I got the car jacked up. The opening of the wheel nuts was a big challenge – it was tighten using a powerful air-powered wrench, so I knew it will not be easily opened using a hand-held wrench. The wheel nuts simply refused to budge even after I used all my strength to press down the wrench. I then decided to stand on the wrench and do several small jumps. With a loud “thud”, the nut finally started to get loose and I did the same for the other 3 nuts. Nuts taken out and the car well jacked up and you will be thinking that it will be easy from there onwards. It was not the case. I could not move the tire – I then decided to kick the flat tire from the wheel hub and only then it started to move and I managed to get the wheel off the hub. Then I found the culprit for the flat tire – a small screw right in the centre. How it got there was a mystery since the tire seemed fine as I drove in to the porch the night before. We suspected that the bloody f**cking screw must have dropped on the porch when we did house cleaning a day before.

The flat tire taken out and the spare tire were fixed without much hassle but then I had nothing else to do until the tire shop opens late at 9.30 am. As my shirt was rather wet with my sweat and the dirt from the tire and a couple of hours to kill, it was time to take the shower and go back to sleep. So much so for waking up earlier before the alarm goes off.

(The right way to change the flat tire – I missed some of the steps mentioned here though)

I thought that was the end of my troubles. After the first flat, the drive did not feel as smooth as it used to be before the flat. It could just be my perception but still, I decided to check the tires and alignments at the tire shop – it has been sometime since I did that so I would be “killing two birds with one stone” – get alignment done and also to check on any damage to the rim. The current tire had plenty of tread left (thanks to the low mileage and having 2 cars in the house) but I was prepared to change the whole tire if need to. The place I usually go was packed so I decided to drive around until I saw a large tire shop with fewer cars at the bay and some of mechanics sitting down, waiting for the next customer. I drove in and asked them to do the wheel balancing and alignment which was done rather half-heartedly especially on part of wheel balancing (the guy claimed that is the best that they can do, which I know was untrue).

They did not do a good job there and I regretted coming to this run-down shop. And what the mechanic said to me after taking my car to test confirmed my impression of the shop. Seeing that my car had low mileage (compared to make year), he probably mistook me for a newbie and said that I need to change my front shock absorbers as it has been ‘damaged’ due to the rain & sunshine (come on lah brother, this is Malaysia). Yes, it was clear that he was pulling a fast one on me – if he had simply said that shock had damaged and was leaking, I would have believed him and would have been ready to throw hundreds of ringgits on the spot for a new set. But no, his reason to persuade me to change the shock absorbers was rather dumb. I knew I need stop on my tracks and get second opinion elsewhere (unfortunately I got an equally dumb answer from the authorised service centre). I know that firstly a good shock absorbers can last for at least 50,000 to 80,000 kilometres (it lasted almost 83,000 on my old car) and secondly a quick bounce test (not necessarily accurate) shows that the shock is still in good working condition. The mechanics were urging me to change the stock shock absorbers (with even dumber excuses) but with an equally dumb face, I said no – even if I had decided to change, certainly this would not be the shop I would go to. This is one kind of “screw” I do not want to be whacked with at the moment.

Despite the wheel balancing and alignment, something was still not right – at a distance of my mind, I started to wonder if the mechanics at the tire shop had told me the truth but as I drive more, the drive was not that bad. And after the periodic service, it got much better but I know I need to deal with tires and shock absorbers when the time comes.

Then I ran into another disaster on the weekend when we went over to Putrajaya where they had the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. We have been planning to go there for sometime now (the Big Boss have been bugging me day and night on this) but could not find the right time to go. My son had swimming classes in the morning and it was too early for my wife and the baby to wake up (I too dread the thought of waking up so early on a weekend – who wouldn’t right?). We decided to go in the evening when it is cooler and when they will fly the hot air balloons again. But sensing that it will be a bit too much trouble if we bring along the baby, we decided to leave her with my mother this time around. We barely drove out from our residential guard house when we seemed to have driven over something. As we continue to drive, there was a loud “thud, thud, thud” sound so we quickly stopped by the road side and checked the tires. Although it was not so visible when I first checked but another close inspection revealed a large screw firmly entrenched on the tire.

Kicking myself (in my mind), I checked and suspected that the tire was loosing air, so there was no time to lose – as the tire shops are closed on Sundays, I had to drive back to the house before the tire goes completely flat and we are “stranded” by the roadside. It will not be easy (and safe) to change tire by the road side. It was a blessing in disguise that we did not drive far from our housing area and we had decided to leave the baby at home. With the loud “thud, thud, thud” sound, I slowly drove back to the house and parked the car on the porch and checked on the tire again – it has yet to go flat but there was no time to change the tire. We quickly hopped into my wife’s car and went to the hot air balloon fiesta. When we came back almost at 8 pm, I had expected my car’s tire to be completely flat but it was not (the air in the tire to be holding well despite the large screw stuck to the tire). My wife and my sister commented that it may be possible for me to drive to the tire shop the next day but before I agreed to that, there was one more test to be done. I took a bit of the soap water and ran it on the place the screw was stuck – the tire was indeed loosing air (bubbles was forming) and I knew that another 7 – 8 hours later, the tire would be indeed flat. So it was time again to change my clothes and take out the spare tire. I rather do it in the evening than in the morning.

Flat tires was nothing new – since I started driving a car, I probably had about 7-8 of them but it was the first time I got screwed twice within a week and thanks to my past experience with car workshops & dubious spare parts, I managed to avoid getting screwed for the 3rd time. It is still a phobia to drive out – sharp end of screws and nails and any sharp objects that can puncture the tires are damn hard to see. The good side of the story was that it happened near to my house and I must thank my good karma for that. It would have been bad if I had to change my tires by the road side or worse, driving fast without me knowing about the puncture.