Thursday, April 24, 2014

More Problems with Toyota

I've been watching an auto refurbishing show, Wheeler Dealers, where Mike and Ed buy a used car and fix it up for resale. It made me wonder if I should try the same, only buy an old car to fix up for a runabout. That made me think back to my favorite car ever, a dark blue 1986 Toyota Celica. And that reminded me of yet more dealer disappointments, these from a different dealer.

1. The 86 Celica had a timing belt, not a timing chain, so it needed to be changed periodically. I was informed that the 1.8 liter engine was an "interference" design, which meant that if the timing belt broke, the pistons and valves would collide and destroy the engine. So I agreed to have the timing belt replaced. Long story short, the dealer stretched the wiring while lifting the engine, breaking an ignition wire. As a result, I'd be driving down the street or on the freeway and the engine would suddenly stop. On the freeway, this resulted in a desperate attempt to restart the engine, which was successful after several tries. I took the car back to the dealer, who (1) completely disowned all responsibility for the problem and (2) couldn't find out what was wrong, since the problem was intermittent.

I took the car to a third part foreign car electrical specialist, who couldn't find out what was wrong, either, but suggested replacing the igniter, which I did to no effect. I finally had to trade the care in when I changed to Honda because, even though I loved that little car (in spite of its lousy brakes and underpowered engine).

2. Earlier, I bought new tires at a tire store, and there they pointed out some inside-edge front tire wear, symptomatic of an alignment problem. So I took the car to the Toyota dealer and had the wheels aligned along with some other service, such as an oil change. Not too long after that, I noticed some inside-edge front tire wear appearing on the new tires. The dealer said there would be a charge to recheck it, so I took the car to a third-party alignment shop. "After they aligned your wheels," the service manager of the shop said, "did they give you a printout showing before and after settings on all four wheels?" I told him I didn't get any printout. "They probably didn't align your wheels," he said. I had the wheels aligned and got a printout and had no more unusual wear.

While I'm complaining about Toyota, I might add that the fly-by-wire design of the accelerator is problematic for two reasons. (Fly-by-wire means that there is no longer a mechanical linkage from the gas pedal to the fuel injector system: it's all electronic.) (1) it's very difficult for me to accelerate from a stop gradually; instead, the car tends to leap from a stop when I push down, trying ever so gently to get a smooth takeoff. (2) What's really bad is that when I take my foot off the gas pedal, the car continues to go almost the same speed for some time before it begins to slow down. With the old, mechanical system, when you take your foot off the gas pedal, the engine heads for idle immediately and the car slows down rapidly. That's the preferred driving experience.

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