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.

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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?

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.

Raining Idiots


Let’s start the week with a vengeance…

It was raining cats and dogs on the North South Highway yesterday – the traffic was not that heavy but it was still dangerous to drive. Visibility was all time low and there were huge puddles of water on the road in some areas. Still, it was a good opportunity for me to test out the new car’s ride and handling in worst road conditions. I dare say it passed with flying colors.

Then we had this added to our worries:-

(The scary part is you are not being sure whether the sight of a dark item in the middle of the highway is a car still moving or a car has hit the barrier and is lying on the middle of the road)

(Those who put their emergency indicators whilst still flying on the highway at 110 km/h still fared better than those morons who drive expensive cars but do not switch on the lights so that others can see them. Seriously)

(The weather improves slightly but still, should I count my blessing that the drivers who did not make themselves more visible with switching on the lights was driving large, darker colored vehicles instead of one with white or silver paint?)

To tell you the truth, I am lost for words. What these people expect to save by not switching on the lights when it was raining heavily and visibility was low? A couple of headlight bulbs?

We have low visibility and yet, we have some drivers who do not want to switch on the lights to make themselves visible to others. If you are at the front, it is not so bad but you may need to take care when slamming on the brakes. With such a huge vehicle on the fast lane, the outcome would be tragic. But if you are the back, it simply gets worse – it may be too late before you realize that there is a vehicle at the front. With huge puddles of water on the road, try braking and see if you could stop in time.

But then again, who would expect idiots who would refuse to switch on the lights when visibility is low to know about aquaplaning and concern for fellow road users, right?

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Open Letter to Datuk Suret Singh

Sometimes they take us for fools…


Smiling at face of death – trusting your life on bald tires for RM4 (Picture source: The Star)

I always had dreamed of going to Maxwell Hill every time I go back to Taiping to my in-laws’ house and decided that I will do so with my family during the Deepavali holidays. However, as I was reading The Star’s article titled “Risky way to ferry visitors to Bukit Larut”, I realised how stupid some people can be and even worse, they take us to be fools.

The Star reported:-

Visitors to Bukit Larut face danger each time they travel up and down the hill as all of the vehicles used to ferry them have worn out tires. A check by The Star yesterday showed that all of the six jeeps used to ferry visitors up and down the hill had worn out tires. One of the hill’s management staff said an application had been made to the district office to change all the tires for the six jeeps over a month ago but to no avail.

We know it is dangerous but we have been quite lucky so far,” said a driver who declined to be named.

District Officer Mahmod Morsidi could not be immediately reached for comment but it is learnt that the delay in changing the worn out tires was due to the appointment of a middleman to undertake the delivery of the new tires unlike the past, where the district office could order the tires directly from any shop here.

The source said the middleman had apparently defaulted on his payment to the tire supplier, forcing the latter to stop issuing the new tires to the district office.

After reading the article, couple of things comes to my mind:-

1. It rains cats and dogs in Taiping – in fact, Taiping is the wettest area in Peninsular Malaysia. I don’t think the drivers’ luck is going to stay for long. The Hill Management is aware of the impending danger and should the unthinkable happen, can they be charged with manslaughter? From what I know, they can but then again, we are talking about Malaysia where at times, you can get away with even murder

2. A clear lack of responsibility can be seen here. Was the application for the new tires were made only after the tires had been worn out? Is there anyone doing the follow up? Where things pertaining to safety of the public is concerned, isn’t a month is way too long to be taking such careless and unnecessary risk?

3. Why there is a change in procedure requiring middleman for the tires? It seems that the middleman is not the tire supplier. This meant the District Office is spending more for a tire using a middleman compared to the price if it was ordered directly from the supplier. Is there a fraud here? It is clear that the ACA should be investigating this unnecessary and wasteful spending of public money

4. If the tire supplier had stopped delivery of the tires due to default of payment by the middleman, is this meant that payments were actually made to the middleman before the goods were delivered? If the answer is yes, this meant the middleman is going to use the money, less his commission and order the tires with the balance. Now that, there is a default in payment, does this mean the middleman had pocketed the money to himself? If the answer is no, what is stopping the district office from buying the tires directly from the tire supplier? Clearly there is a breach of contract by the middleman – so why afraid?

Perhaps Kavyeas should be looking at the more pertinent issue regarding safety of public at his own constituency instead of wasting time looking at the local authority issue as whole. Because let me tell you this – once the unthinkable happens, Malaysian authorities will fall into the ever normal act of “Kita akan siasat dan akan mengambil langkah langkah seterusnya”. Should we wait for the drama to start all over again?

Oh by the way, adults are charged RM4 and children RM2 per head for the trip uphill. That is value of our life for using the jeep – just RM4.

Think about it, will you?
.