mymicra.com is for sale

I’ve duplicated the content here over at my new domain, micra.quirk.pro, and am putting this domain up for sale. If you’re interested, make me a reasonable offer, and this domain name can be yours! Send your offer to paul at pquirk.com.

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New dash cam

I’ve been obsessed about dash cameras ever since I was involved in an accident where I was not at fault, but the police officer blamed me because the other driver lied and she was a woman and I was just a dirty construction electrician. Fortunately for me, my insurance policy provided me with accident forgiveness, but that was my one and only get out of high insurance rates for free card. I knew if I had a dash cam, I would have been able to prove the officer’s prejudice.

My original dash camera was a great camera, but it had an Achilles’s heel: It had a lithium ion battery. A dash cam needs its own small power source so it can finish writing the video files and close them off properly before shutting down, because a modern dash cam is essentially a computer. The problem with batteries is they are affected by extreme heat and cold. My battery stopped working properly after about a year, likely due to the extreme temperature swings. I later found out that lithium ion batteries can explode if they get hot enough!

Another problem I’ve found with dash cams offered at local retail outlets is that they record video in some proprietary video format, so I had to install some questionable software on my computer just to view the video files. The obvious problem with that is twofold: One, you better hope the company that makes the crappy software you need keeps it up to date, and two, you can’t just plug the card into your phone to play the video.

After careful consideration, I came up with a top 10 list. I’ve determined that the perfect dash cam must:

  1. Be powered by a capacitor instead of a battery, as capacitors are unaffected by extreme temperatures.
  2. Produce non-proprietary video files that can be played on anything without the need for any special software.
  3. Be discrete and not obstruct my view (ie; behind the rear view mirror).
  4. Mount directly to the windshield with super sticky tape. No suction cup mounts, as these tend to create vibrations that distort the image, and can come undone at the worst possible moment.
  5. Accept MicroSD cards, because these fit in my phone.
  6. Offer a sufficiently wide angle of view.
  7. Work adequately at night.
  8. Provide enough detail to resolve license plate numbers on the cloudiest of days.
  9. Provide decent cable management options.
  10. Cost around $100.

I’ve found the perfect dash cam. As of this writing, this has had 294 Amazon reviews, and is nearly 5 stars. It’s the Auto-Vox A118-C B40C stealth dashboard camera:

This is the ultimate dash cam; I cannot imagine a more perfect design. It checks off every one of my needs, and then some. This thing disappears from my field of vision behind my rear view mirror, and the cable management is exceptional. I can’t believe the quality and attention to detail that went into this design for this price.

The horizontal angle of the lens can be adjusted with the knob at the side, and it clips onto a plate that’s taped to the windshield with super-sticky tape. From the outside, it’s very discreet, and hard to tell that it’s actually there unless you look for it very closely.

For nighttime performance, it does the job adequately. While I’m not able to resolve license plates (unless I’m really close), it’ll still be the eye witness I would need to absolve myself.

But yes, when someone does something extremely stupid, even on a cloudy day, their license plate number comes through loud and clear.

This is it. This is the ultimate dash cam. It even came in a very nice box that made me think I was un-boxing an iPhone! Very straightforward installation, even came with little stickies to help with cable routing. For this price, and even at higher prices, there really isn’t anything better.

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Micra: Escape capsule to Florida

There’s nowhere a Micra can’t take you, as long as there’s a road. Our 2015 trip to Florida for Christmas demonstrated how capable this car really is. When I had my original 1990 Micra, a road trip from Ontario to Florida was an item on my bucket list. When I got married in the mid-90’s, the plan was to drive down to Florida in my Micra for our honeymoon. At the last minute, we decided that, since Sally’s Chevrolet Cavalier had air conditioning and the Micra was in need of new tires and brakes, the Cavalier would be a better choice. Ever since then, air conditioning and cruise control were priority options on my cars. Now that I own a Micra with these options, it’s time to put these rumors of “Just a city car” to the test.

Pack light

Packing light has its own benefits, but when it comes to the Micra, it’s an imperative if you want more than two people to travel in this car. For two people only, fold down the back seat and there’s more than enough room to pack everything and anything. Once you have people in the back seat (I recommend no more than two back there for a road trip in spite of the middle seat belt), you’ll want all of your luggage to fit in the trunk.

Fortunately, the trunk of the Micra is perfectly engineered to contain everything up to four people would need for a trip to Florida: Two full sized suitcases, and two medium sized duffel bags. I also packed around two dozen bottles of water in and around the trunk.

All packed up for the trip!

In order to make the luggage fit, I had to remove the trunk shelf, put everything in, and then put the shelf back in. I had to leave the cords that pull the shelf up down so it wouldn’t rise with the hatch, because the luggage didn’t leave enough room for it to open. Had I not used the shelf, I could have fit even more in the trunk; but since one of my duffel bags was actually a large camera gear bag, I opted to keep the shelf in to hide my camera gear. After this trip, I think that I might let my smartphone capture all the video and photographs, and just leave the privacy shelf out.

5th gear all the way!

We punched in Cocoa Beach to Google Maps, and set off on our adventure! We left the snow tires on, as there was plenty of snow to contend with as we drove through New York State and Pennsylvania.

Lunch time!

As we ascended into the mountains of West Virginia, cruise control in 5th gear kept us in pace with the flow of traffic easily without downshifting, providing more than adequate power pulling myself, my wife, my six foot son, and our luggage up into the clouds. When it was time to come down from the mountains in Virginia, that same 5th gear kept our speed in check without needing to apply the brakes. During this journey, we realized exceptional fuel economy, given the circumstances. Seeing the weather change for the better before our eyes was very uplifting for all of us!

Dinner time!
It’s a wonderful life.
Lunch on day 2 on the drive down!
Made it to Florida in a Canadian Micra!

Cocoa beach in Florida at Christmas time is really the right thing to do. They really do go all out with the decorating and celebrating, complete with Surfing Santa’s flying down from the sky and surfing in the ocean.

Our trip to Florida was all about the space coast, so it was no wonder that we spent our first night at La Quinta, Florida, the astronaut motel. A lot of history to be experienced here, for sure!

First Canadian 2015 Micra parked next to a palm tree. 🙂

Of course, we could not go to Cocoa Beach without visiting the Kennedy Space Center, and with the money we saved on gas coming down, we could easily afford a day for the three of us at this historic place. They really do celebrate Christmas, including an evening Christmas-themed light show. This is a must-see for anyone who loves Christmas.

The people of Cocoa Beach really do go all out at Christmas time. It really is a wonderful place to spend the holidays, especially with the surfing Santa‘s flying out of the sky and then surfing in the ocean. The Christmas culture at Cocoa beach is really amazing. 🙂

Of course, no road trip to Florida would be complete without driving on the historic Daytona Beach. 🙂

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The Nissan Versa

I remember the introduction of the Nissan Versa in the North American market around 2006. I had a 1990 Nissan Micra up until 2000. I bought my Micra in the pre-Internet days, when I thought my choices were either a rusty used car or a Yugo, because even a 3 cylinder Suzuki Swift and Geo Metro were still expensive, but then the Micra showed up, bringing back the magic of cheap, reliable, small Japanese cars of the 1970’s in the late 1980’s. Of course, it had been around for a few years, but it was the first time I saw one, and never regretted buying it.

K11 Micra

I really wanted the next generation Micra that came after, but was told that they would not be available to the Canadian market and that I should just buy a boring Nissan Sentra. I was so mad, I actually bought a Dodge Neon instead. Then the K12’s came along, and I was like, “WTF? Why should Europe keep getting Micra’s and not us?” It was clear to me that the car was continuing to evolve in interesting ways, and was just not available in our market. Then Nissan said to me, “We are going to bring back a small car to your market, this car will be the Versa.”

K12 Micra

At first, the Versa was an insult. It was nothing like the new Micra’s that Europe was enjoying. It looked bland, boring, the engine was too big, the car was too big, it was a misfit that just didn’t belong in the Nissan line-up. Then Nissan brought the Micra back to the Canadian market in 2014 as a 2015 model. A real, genuine Micra, straight from Europe, with a perfect 1.6L engine. Of course, I bought one right away, and since then, I’ve grown to really like the Versa, and so has my wife.

First generation Versa Sedan

The first thing Nissan did right was to drop the bland sedan. Cars in this class should only be made as hatchbacks. It also shares the engine and other components with the Micra, which means Nissan ditched the 1.8 for the proper 1.6L. It’s still bland compared to the Micra, but that’s perfectly fine.

I now see the Versa as a logical move up from the Micra. Sure, a six footer can sit in the back seat of a Micra with enough headroom and just barely enough legroom, which is a feat for such a small car, but after our trip to Florida, we all agreed that an extended Micra would have been perfect.

The Versa is a perfect compliment to the Micra; it’s like a “Grown-up” responsible version of the fun little go-kart with all the sensibilities inherent with the Micra. Like the Micra, it’s designed from the inside-out. The new CVT promises greater fuel economy on those inevitable family road trips, and allows for a fuel-efficient 1.6L engine to deliver adequate power in the process.

The Micra-Versa lineup of today reminds me of the Civic-Accord cars of the mid to late 1970’s. Of course, back then, Nissan was known as Datsun, and the Micra was then known as the Cherry, with its larger companion known as the Violet and then Stanza, but those cars were unknown to me at the time as Honda captured the headlines. Still, I firmly believe the Micra and Versa Note of today are closer in design and execution to the Civic and Accord Hatchback of the late 70’s than anything Honda makes today. It’s almost as though these two cars are a modern day representation of what was great about Japanese cars in the late 70’s, as though there’s a division of Nissan that wants to keep alive what made them great in the first place.

So we decided to buy a Nissan Versa. This one, specifically. We take delivery of it tomorrow. It’s my wife’s new car, and joins my Micra in our family.

 

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P0075

Just as I passed the 86,000km mark in my otherwise trouble-free Micra, the check engine light came on. It was rather unceremonious; the car didn’t do anything dramatic, I just looked down to check my speed and noticed that the light was on. I got home and plugged in my code reader (something I needed with my Pontiac and never thought I’d use on my Micra), and found out what the problem was.

P0075
Checking codes with my code reader

P0075 means that there’s something wrong with the camshaft timing oil control solenoid valve. I didn’t know exactly where it was on my engine, so I disconnected the wire from what I thought it was, started the car, then checked for any new codes. If no new codes showed up, then I found it. If I got another code, then I note what was disconnected with that code, reconnect it, then move on. Lucky for me, I got it on the first try. It’s located here:

Location of the Camshaft Timing Oil Control Solenoid Valve
Location of the Camshaft Timing Oil Control Solenoid Valve

It’s held onto the side of the engine with a single 8mm bolt located just below the solenoid valve; I found an 8mm deep socket was perfect for reaching it.

The Camshaft Timing Oil Control Solenoid Valve removed
The Camshaft Timing Oil Control Solenoid Valve removed

I removed it from the engine and blasted it with WD-40. After doing a thorough cleaning with WD-40, I put it back in, reconnected it, cleared the codes, and started the car back up. The check engine light didn’t come back on.

This part is exactly the same as found in the 1.6L Nissan Versa, and could probably be purchased inexpensively from a scrap yard. Another alternative would be to purchase a refurbished one from overseas. However, mine seems to work fine after the WD-40 cleaning. I hope all my repairs will be this simple!

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Micra Fame

Turns out the K10 Micra has made some appearances on the Canadian television show, Trailer Park Boys.

I first noticed it in the opening credits; though I was never 100% sure it was a Micra, I was reasonably certain it was, seen towards the center of the left hand side.

Trailer Park Boys opening credits
Trailer Park Boys opening credits

Then, in Season 4 episode 4, entitled, “The Green Bastard,” we see what I assume is the same Micra:

Micra in season 4, episode 4 of TPB
Micra in season 4, episode 4 of TPB

We don’t actually see either of these two cars running, so I would presume the Micra was in non-running condition. When Ricky jumped up on one of these cars to urinate, he chose the Mercury. Sadly, both the Micra and the Mercury get demolished towards the end of this episode.

A sad day for this Micra
A sad day for this Micra

Ah, but that wasn’t the end of this Micra; it reappeared in the same junkyard Ricky’s dad was living in in the episode, “Give me my F**king money…” Season 6, episode 6:

Ricky's Micra
Ricky’s Micra

That was in 2006. I would have liked to have seen this car incorporated into the story line more, but as Ricky’s dad would say, that’s the way she goes.

 

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Rear facing camera

Forward facing dash cams have become very popular these days, and for a very good reason: Traffic accident scams are on the rise, and without the benefit of an impartial eye witness, a victim of one of these scams can be held liable for the accident. Just type in “Dash cam scam” at Youtube to see some examples.

Rear facing dash cam
Rear facing dash cam

The only problem is, what if the scam accident happens from behind? This had happened to me in my previous car, where, while merging into the middle lane on the Don Valley Parkway in extremely slow moving traffic, the scammer decided to accelerate into me. When the officer arrived, he indicated that it appeared that I was at fault, as I was halfway into merging into the lane. The scammer left me a gap to merge into, and waited until I was halfway into the lane to make it appear as though I was at fault. If I had a rear facing dash cam, I would have been able to capture this scammer in action. Fortunately, I am a very good driver, so my insurance company gave me one free “At fault” accident, and my rates were not affected. The ridiculous “Dangerous driving” charge the cop levied against me was also dropped, so my driving record remained clean. However, this taught me a valuable lesson, and the idea of a rear facing dash cam had been burning in the back of my mind since.

There are some challenges when installing a rear facing dash cam. Running the wire in a hatchback is more complicated than is running the wire for a front facing dash cam. I wanted one that delivered decent quality and reliability, but didn’t incorporate an LCD screen. It had to be small in order to not obstruct my rearward visibility.

Fortunately, Nissan left access holes to make fishing the wire easy. Right above the dash cam mounting point is a plastic sticker covering a hole left over from manufacturing:

Dash cam mounting point
Dash cam mounting point

Using metal fish tape, I fished the wire up the driver’s side, and up through the rubber housing that protects the wires that run into the brake light and wiper motor in the hatch. I removed the driver’s side tail light to get access to the cavity, and fished the wire up through the point where the carpet and plastic meet.

There's a wire in there...
There’s a wire in there…

The real challenge was bringing the wire up through the rubber seal. I first fished in a piece of twine, then used that twine to pull the power wire through. This was the most difficult part of this job.

The power wire does fit in there, honest!
The power wire does fit in there, honest!

After that, I fished the wire through the cavity of the hatch to its final destination. I have a 3 way splitter beneath the driver’s seat, powering the front camera, back camera, and my cell phone which doubles as my GPS.

I hope you found this article helpful! If you did, please clear your cookies and follow this link to Amazon before shopping:Amazon.ca

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2015 Micra headlight change

Last week, the passenger side headlight burned out on the low beam side. While this might seem premature (I’ve had the vehicle for less than a year), consider that I’ve put on around 35,000km on the car, and most of that driving has been with the headlights on due to the fact that I generally drive to work before the sun goes up, and always have the headlights on when it’s raining, snowing, or foggy…and we got a ton of snow this year. It’s a wear-and-tear item.

On my previous car, a Grand Am GT, the headlight change was a bit of an ordeal that required removal of the entire headlight assembly and typically the replacement of a plastic ring. On the Micra, the headlight change is remarkably easy. Things I liked about Nissan’s design over what I had before:

  • Steel retainer ring is much less likely to break than a plastic screw-on ring
  • Easily accessible without needing to remove anything
  • Smaller light inside headlight housing illuminates headlight assembly after headlight has burned out

And so, with no further ado, my video on changing the headlight on the 2015 Nissan Micra:


Part number 9003, or H4.

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New wheels

Today was the first real nice above zero day this year; a reprieve of a terrible winter with sub-zero temperatures in the double digits and a ruthless onslaught of snow. It was warm enough to hand-wash my Micra, and, I decided, warm enough to put the all-seasons back on. I had the snow tires mounted on the stock steelies, deciding to have the factory all-seasons mounted on 15-inch alloys.

IMGP5937I started my search at Midway Nissan, who had, on hand, one set of black and chrome alloys with “Fast” emblazoned in the middle. Too dark, I wanted bright silver to better match my car; and, more importantly, I’m not going to falsely advertise this car as fast. Quick maybe, at best, but certainly far from fast.

The man at the parts counter was honest; they wouldn’t be getting any other alloys in for another couple of months, and directed me to a place in my own back yard: Taunton Tires.

IMGP5941I wanted to stick with a 15 inch rim for two reasons: One, 15 inch tires are less expensive than 16 inch tires for this car. Two has to do with aesthetics: The gap between the edge of the rotor and the inside of the wheel well should not exceed the radius of the rotor that is showing beyond the hub of the wheel. Sorry, SR owners; it’s nothing personal, and purely subjective to my own personal tastes. I am thinking that a thicker sidewall on the tire would fill the arch a lot nicer.

IMGP5940The curves of the spokes, divided with lines, ties in to the contours of the body of this car, working much better, aesthetically speaking, with the overall flow of the design of this car than do the SR rims. The 5 spoke design ties somewhat resembles the hubcaps of my original Micra. Then there’s the brilliant silver colour: Understated, tasteful, and classy.

IMGP5938The people at Taunton Tire went the extra mile, spraying the callipers and drums with black paint to make everything look better. All for $519.80, with my factory rubber installed. Excellent value.

IMGP5936

 

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Upgrade: Boot LED light

Almost as dismal as the stock interior dome light is the stock boot light. This takes a very small Festoon style light, around 28mm or so, which is very small and explains why it’s so pathetically dim.

Stock boot light
Stock boot light

I found a 30mm LED festoon light at Canadian Tire for $12.99, which really brightens things up and matches the colour temperature of my new interior light. It was a tight fit, but I found that I could bend the tabs back to accommodate it easily enough.

LED boot light
LED boot light

A nice, cheap upgrade that makes a big difference. You can buy yours by clicking here:

 

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