Monday, December 16, 2013

My Car Was Stolen

I remember the day I first saw her. One of the last Proton Iswara sedan's to leave the assembly line. It was a downcast October evening at a Proton dealership in Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya. The salesman Mr Ong was a friend and all he asked me was "how much down-payment do you have?". He showed me the car and it was love at first sight. An Iswara? Love at first sight? You have got to be joking..

The car and I went through so much together. I remember the day I dented the left fender while parking. I remember the repairs, the maintenance, washing the car, the trips and drives all over the place. I remember the time I sent an accident victim to the hospital, the time I carried six people in the car, I remember the good times and the not-so-good times.

Last weekend, at Jalan Gasing around 10.30pm, the car was stolen. Strangely enough, I was calm until I started dealing with the police. Their "tidak-apa" (not-too-bothered) attitude sickened me. From the spelling mistakes in the report to the fact that all three photocopiers in the station are not working, the impression I got was not a good one at all.

Needless to say, I went home an angry man that night. The brunt of the anger taken out on my bed which broke into two from a well placed kick (to the dismay of my wife). I informed Pastor Allan that I was not to do the usual pick up run for church the next day. He told me not to worry and he will take care of it. Little did I know that God was about to use this occasion to display His awesome power. Pastor Allan started praying that the car be found and little Jekhan (his 6 year old son) being upset because his uncle Darryl's car was missing, prayed specifically that the car be found in front of his house.

Lo and behold, I receive a call from Pastor Allan the next morning. He was excited and telling me that the car was parked in front of his house. Hope was filling my heart and I couldn't stop smiling when I saw the car parked there. Jekhan was viewing his handiwork from the back window of his dad's car. I saw him waving a thumbs-up and a crisp military salute in my direction, which I promptly replied. That young man earned my respect. The next thing I did was to open the boot and yes, as expected, the toolbox was missing. A collection that spanned over 20 years was gone. That toolbox was complete with every tool needed to perform an overhaul. The tools were specifically chosen and not made up of random sets.

I would be lying if I said that it does not affect me today. I am still angry knowing that my tools (purchased with my hard earned money) is somewhere out there. However, I have decided not to allow this setback to get me down. Tool's can be purchased again but a testimony like this? It is too good to be kept to myself.
To God be all glory. My car was found and I realize that God honored the prayer of a fine young man. Seriously, what are the chances of a stolen car actually being recovered? It is usually driven to a secluded spot and stripped down within hours.

Now, I have to fit a new lockset and replace the damaged steering column. Figuring out what tools to buy etc is quite the unnecessary chore at my 'grand old age'. The "roaring fire" I felt in my late teens and 20's have now been reduced to glowing embers and the rebuilding task seems cumbersome. However, I feel a faint glow of hope growing again. Who knows, this could be me re-visiting my young man's days again or could it be the onset of the dreaded mid-life crisis?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Labor of Love

Yes, it has been awhile since I blogged. Ever since I cracked the screen of my laptop and delayed its repair, I have (I'm sorry to say) neglected this blog until someone visited me yesterday. His passion fueled my enthusiasm and I feel that the only decent tribute to this fellow gear-head would be to record for posterity the fruits of his labor.

I've interrupted the previous oil change blog to give my two-cents worth about this awesome rolling restoration project. My dear friend Joey who was a presenter with RTM is the owner of this 1979 Toyota Corona designated the T130 series. I will not bore you with the specifications which can be googled. Further technical and historical information could be found at

The above photo's were taken just after the car underwent a complete paint-job. I must say that it is a pretty good job. The color selection was spot on. At least Joey chose to remain true to his purist roots. Classics like this do NOT look good painted bright orange or neon green. There were some little hard-to-spot flaws here and there but they complimented the charm and unique character of this car. There is always something about the 'battle-scarred' veterans that command a certain amount of respect among connoisseurs. Most of the bright-work are still in very good condition and the body is still pretty straight. Off course in all fairness, the photo's taken from my Nokia E75 camera phone does not do justice to the effort put into the car.

Now why did I choose to upload a photo of the rear left tail light? This deserves very special mention simply because it reflects Joey's passion and attention to detail. He hunted down these parts for three years, finally finding them at a spare-parts shop in Sea-Park PJ. The owner had them in a box for years. These are the originals from Japan and not the ill-fitting Taiwanese reproduction items. Another feather in Joey's cap. The way his eyes light up when describing this triumph does inspire one to go out and buy a classic of his own.

Anyone who has owned a classic car would be familiar with Joeys experience. Hunting down that hard-to-find part and finding it in some obscure place in town. I've heard about original Mini Cooper parts found in Port Dickson and of some other old parts found in some deep corner of a shop somewhere. Whatever the car, whoever the owner, there's always that deep sense of joy seeing that hard to find part on the car.

Check out the interior. Looks almost like the day it rolled off the assembly line in Japan. There are no cracks on the dashboard, the meters still work and the upholstery is still in very good condition.

Over the years, I've used STP SON OF A GUN protectant on the dashboard of my car and I have complete faith in their products. It cleans and protects the plastic parts from fading and cracking. Further reading can be found at

I have chosen to forgive Joey for his moment of temporary insanity when he chose to paint the air filter that shade of apple green. Otherwise, this is an example of a well preserved engine. I found no evidence of oil leaks. She was a silent as a sinner in a confessional. Even running, there was ever so little evidence of vibration.

Joey has done a good job here also but like all projects, there's always room for improvement. I've used rubbing compound to bring out the shine on the aluminum surfaces such as the valve cover and thermostat housing. I'm sure I'll be pleasantly surprised the next time I see Joeys little baby again. Engine detailing has evolved over the years into an art form. A detailed engine always draws draws a lot of attention. The grand-daddy of attention seekers in this area would be the engine bay of the VW Beetle with so many options available from chrome plated parts to anodized parts.

Joey has done an excellent job with his car above. One cannot place monetary value on the amount of time, tears, sweat, passion, focus, dedication, interest and energy spent on this car. Engage him in conversation and share his infectious enthusiasm as he describes the restoration process. It will inspire you to go out and start a project of your own. I have been blessed to have known him and seen the fruits of his labor. Well done brother.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Engine Oil Change - Part 1

The first thing you need to know is the type of engine oil recommended for your car. Using fully synthetic Mobil 1 engine oil on your 20 year old Saga is not going to make it go like a rocket. It is only going to burn a hole in your wallet. Engine oil has several functions in your engine. Apart from lubricating the moving components in the engine, it also serves to a certain extent as a cooling agent. So therefore, go to your manufacturers manual and look it up. For reference purposes, we'll look at the oil used for my 7 year old Proton Iswara.

I've always used a 20W-50. This denotes the viscosity or in layman terms, the thickness of the oil. The higher the number before the 'W' is, the thicker the oil will be. So, 40W is thicker than 20W. I have always been a Castrol fan since the early 90's but got a little fed-up one year when they went up in price twice. I've switched to Pennzoil and have not looked back since. I've found it to be smoother and quieter on the engine

Now that you have decided on the engine oil, then its time to go down to your friendly neighborhood spare-parts dealer and purchase the oil and oil filter. The next step is to get an old engine oil container and convert it into a basin to catch all the oil that you're draining out like below:-

The Engine Oil Change

Yes, it has been almost 6 months since my last post. And no, while I've been procrastinating (what else is new?), I am not yet sounding the Last Post just yet.

Today, it gives me great joy to share with you one of the more basic of maintenance procedures you can carry out on your car- Changing the engine oil. You can actually save a lot of money doing this simple procedure yourself, just remember to follow this few simple rules, and you'll be able to save enough for an extra pair of shoes or two.

1. Always dispose of used engine oil responsibly. The earth (all of it) belongs to us and while we do not consciously litter in our own houses, it is also good that we do not do it on other peoples turf. I usually pour the used oil into a container and dispose of it at a nearby workshop. They sell the used oil to the re-cyclers so there will be no issues.

2. Safety should always be on the top of your priorities. As I go along, I will explain the safety procedures you should take heed of. So what are we waiting for? Lets go...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The 10 Commandments for Saving Fuel

  1. Wash your car. A clean car creates less drag. Have you ever noticed why F1 cars are all so shiny and clean? Aesthetic purposes? The highly polished surfaces causes the air to flow smoothly over the surface of the vehicle. Not enough motivation? Washing the car yourself is a good form of cardio and it saves you around RM10.00.
  2. Always fill up your tank and not run it empty. A good practice would be to re-fuel when the tanks 1/2 full. This will not allow the fuel to slosh about in the tank and evaporate.
  3. Inflate the tyres to its correct pressure. Over-inflating the tyres will cause bumpy filling loosening rides and under-inflating the tyres will cause an increase in fuel consumption. Ever tried running with wet shoes?
  4. Change your engine oil regularly. The purpose of the oil is to lubricate the moving parts of the engine. After awhile, the oil loses its lubricating efficiency or in proper terms viscosity. This will cause the engine to run under further load and lead to accelerated wear and tear. In simple terms, not changing oil regularly will lead to an early overhaul and more $$ spent.
  5. Stick to the same brand/ grade of lubricants. Always use a reputable brand. Lubricant companies have their own blend and additives. Mixing and using inferior grades of oil is detrimental to the long life of your car.
  6. Change the air filter and spark plugs at correct intervals. Ever went for a jog wearing a surgical mask? The engine needs all the air it can get to function. A clogged air filter will starve the engine of air and give poor fuel economy. The same for spark plugs. Using cheaper plugs doesn't necessary give you savings. Although an engine is rather forgiving, long term effects would include increased carbon build up from improper burning of fuel, plug cables losing its efficiency and the resultant increase in consumption.
  7. Drive sensibly. This is a no-brainer. Everyone knows that stepping on it will use up more fuel but you knew that didn't you?
  8. Do not modify or add 'fuel saving' gadgets to your vehicle. If your car was meant to have it, the manufacturers would have added it! Fuel saving tablets, spark enhancers, special air filters etc do not work. You may see temporary results but its mostly psychological.
  9. Do not carry too much junk in the boot. Ever tried running with a backpack full of rocks?
  10. Plan your travel routes and anticipate traffic jams, road works and other obstructions. Ever went running without knowing where you're going?
I hope these tips help you save some money as we don't know when yet another increase
in fuel prices will come. Thank you Najib..

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Cost of Owning a Vehicle

Congratulations, you finally got the keys to that pride and joy you've been dreaming of for the longest time. Sacrificing the inumerable teh-o-ais' at the mamak just to scrape together the down-payment necessary to get tied down with a 5/ 7 year loan, you beam ear to ear as the salesman give you the final briefing.

I didn't sacrifice my sessions at the mamak for my car but the down-payment came from a timely bonus from my now ex-employers Ford Malaysia. It was around October 2003 when I purchased one of the last Proton Iswara sedans ever to roll off the production line. It was a metallic grey, 1.3 basic model, but in my eyes, it was a Rolls Royce. Purchased with the sweat of my brow (wow), I spent the next 7 years servicing the loan, maintaining the car and learning a few lessons along the way which I would like to share with you

Purchasing The Vehicle

Firstly, I learnt that although the prices for the vehicles are generally fixed, scouting from dealership to dealership may actually get you a better discount. As car sales get more competitive, dealerships may offer discounts or throw in extra's such as extended warranty, tinting of the windscreens (be sure to ask what brand - you dont want the tint to be discolored or peeling after one year) and other accessories. Write down the options, compare prices before you commit.

Also, do not stop just at that. Calculate the interest rate and scout around. Various banks/ dealers have other rates that are more attractive. I remember purchasing my car a RM33,000.00 and after interest, I paid RM45,000.00 for the car. That's the price of going for the low down-payment option. I can only sympathize with people who tool 9-11 year loans on their kancils/ kelisa's.

Ask the salesman to provide you with the service schedule and cost. You will get a fair idea of how much the regular maintenance service is going to cost for the warranty period.

NOTE : Do not modify your vehicle during the warranty period. Some manufacturers are more tolerant than others and after-market modifications usually end up having your warranty null and void. That also applies to having the vehicle serviced outside (ie, cheaper workshops). While its true that an oil change may cost about 3 times more at a dealership, you're paying for the expertise (although in some cases, I beg to differ), genuine spare's and warranty.

In my case, I only went in for 1 service and that was it! I sent the car in at 7.00am and was told that I can only collect the car at 7.00pm. 12 hours to change engine oil? A typical 20 minute job? Also I had some problems with the steering which they could not solve at all. So kudo's to Proton at Glenmarie. It was fortunate that I know a little bit about vehicle maintenance and a Proton is fairly easy to work on. I wouldn't try it with the newer vehicles which require ECU resetting after an oil change - ie certain Volvo models.

Wear and tear is also a point of consideration here. Remember, you're gonna be stuck with the car for some time. Be gentle when closing the doors. Excessive slamming is not only going to cause rattles, it is also going to damage the power window motor located inside which is composed of mostly plastic. Also, go easy on the humps (stop sniggering). Speeding over road humps will cause unnecessary wear and tear not only on the absorbers and springs, but also the suspension arms. These days, they come complete with bushings and are not cheap. Replacing the whole assembly is another clever idea the manufacturers came up with to save time and increase profits.

Check the engine oil, water and tyre pressure regularly. This sometimes mundane and cumbersome task will save you the RM necessary for Christmas shopping down the road. As they say, prevention is better than cure. Later I will elaborate on how you can save money and gain some satisfaction on doing you own DIY maintenance. Happy motoring.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My New Tool Box

It has been 8 long, cruel, tiring and painful months since I accessed this beautiful piece of real estate in cyber space and it feels really good to be back again. Work and other commitments forced me to put this labor of love aside and now my patience, nail-biting, cursing and grumbling has finally paid off.

I bought a cantilever tool box recently to replace my old plastic tool box as the latter has lost its appeal. Actually, I had 2 trays in the box which kept the tools separated. This was lost along the way and so being the fussy toad that I am, I had to find a way to keep the tools organized, neat and praiseworthy. So off I went to Taimah's Hardware shop in Section 8 (opposite the police station) and for a princely sum of RM 60.00, purchased the tool box pictured...

Why fuss over a tool box you ask? Well, every gear-head worth his salt adds a personal touch to his equipment. Something that speaks of his personality. Some may re-paint the box to give it a unique identity, others will cover it with stickers. I'm choosing a practical solution. Something that will not only enhance the look of the box but will also lengthen its useful life. Who knows? this box will be worth something someday?