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. 🙂

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!

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.

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

 

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:

 

Upgrade: LED interior and license plate lighting

The days are getting shorter as the year goes on, which has made me increasingly aware of just how pathetic the single little yellowish interior light is in my Micra. Today, I decided to do something about it: I bought the Philips T10 twin pack LED light for $19.99. This is a direct plug-in replacement for the existing bulb.

Before:

Standard interior light
Standard interior light

After:

LED interior light
LED interior light

The difference is much more dramatic in the dark.

The license plate light takes the same bulb, so I put the extra bulb there.

Before:

Standard license plate light
Standard license plate light

After:

LED license plate light
LED license plate light

The same bulb is used for the parking and side marker lights; I will replace those as they burn out with these LED’s.

If you want to get a set for yourself (probably for less than I paid), click on the image below:

Fuel economy: computer vs. real world

There is no doubt that my Micra delivers excellent fuel economy. Filling the tank from empty costs less than $50, even when the price of gas soars, and yet I can drive a lot before I need to fill up. Last time, I drove around 600km before I had to fill the tank.

WP_20140707_003

How far I can really go on a tank of gas depends on various factors, but I’m not afraid to use the air conditioning when I want to. On my last tank, I had two other adults in the car besides me with a full boot. My car’s computer told me I was getting 5.5L/100km, but Fuelly told me different: 6L/100km doing the full-tank-to-full-tank distance traveled calculation. I still consider that phenomenal fuel economy all things considered, but, based on my experience, the Micra’s fuel economy computer is optimistic by roughly 0.5L/100km. That translates to roughly 4.3 miles per imperial gallon, or 3.5 miles per US gallon.

besttank

This has been fairly consistent; when my car reported 5.8L/100km, Fuelly reported 6.3L/100km. Looks like something for Nissan to tweak to bring the Micra that much closer to perfection.

My Micra visits Belleville

Yesterday, we decided to drive My Micra to my adopted hometown of Belleville, Ontario.

My Micra at Loyalist College
My Micra at Loyalist College

I lived in Belleville for three years, where I went to Loyalist College to study Information Systems. I graduated with a 3 year diploma, and learned the valuable lesson of investing in myself.

My Micra at the Quinte Mall
My Micra at the Quinte Mall

I bought my first Micra after finishing my second year of College. I saved up the money I earned working for EDS that summer to put towards a car that would be reliable and economical, so I would have a good start in life after college. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, and demonstrated to me that a car could be an investment.

My Micra in downtown Belleville, in front of what used to be Maxwell Paper.
My Micra in downtown Belleville, in front of what used to be Maxwell Paper.

Because of its low running costs and reliability, I was able to successfully complete my final year of College while working at three related part-time jobs: Peer tutoring at the College, lab technician at the College, and working in the IT lab at Maxwell Paper.

My Micra under the bridge to Prince Edward County
My Micra under the bridge to Prince Edward County

The combination of savings with the ability to work when and where I was needed while attending College meant the Micra provided me with the means for me to save up for an engagement and wedding ring set for my girlfriend. By Christmas, I had saved up for and bought the engagement ring, and she said yes. We married after I graduated.

Trip down memory lane
Trip down memory lane

Thanks to the Micra, I was able to start my career in Toronto, my wife and I were able to save up a down payment for our first new house, and I was able to pay off my student loan, all within three years of graduating. This trip to Belleville was really a nice trip down memory lane for us both, and a fun trip for my son.

Some things get better with age.

Amazingly, Reid’s Dairy still has the same sized loony milkshakes we used to buy whenever we went out on a date.

Loonie milkshakes!
Loonie milkshakes!

Of course, no trip to Belleville is complete without a visit to the Big Apple next door.

The Big Apple
The Big Apple
Enter the Big Apple
Enter the Big Apple
This would be considered delicious cargo.
This would be considered delicious cargo.

A fun trip for the whole family, this one has us looking forward to our next family road trip in My Micra.

 

The bicycle fit test

I love riding my bicycle; it’s been a lifelong passion for me. A requirement for any car I’ve owned is that it must be able to hold my bike inside the boot. This is no small feat; at 6’4″, I ride a very large framed bike with a large crank. Only specialty bike shops carry bikes big enough for me.

I assumed the new Micra would be able to hold my bike, based on the fact that my original Micra was also capable of holding my bike. Today, I put that to the test.

bikefit1

Once I removed the front tire, it fit easily with the seats folded down, even with the bicycle seat in the fully extended position. I did have to slide the passenger seat up a bit, but I did not have to compromise my driver’s seat position.

bikefit2

With the hatch closed, there was still plenty of room for other things I might need to bring with me on an extended trail ride. The nice thing about the Micra is that the hatchback design makes it extremely easy to get this bike into and out of the Micra. It is the perfect car for me.

My Micra visits Pontypool

I decided to take the Micra to the village where I spent an unfortunate amount of time of my childhood. On the way there, my Micra passed the 1,000km milestone:

1000km

We started out visiting Nippigon Memorial Park, where chugging beer and playing baseball always go hand-in-hand. We used to hang out there when we were kids, hoping to find empty beer bottles left over from the ball games to take back for a refund.

Nimigon Memorial Park

Next, we paid a visit to the local United church where I spent an unfortunate number of Sunday mornings during my childhood. The movie Pontypool is supposed to have taken place in the basement of this church, but I can assure you, nothing that interesting would ever have really happened here. The most controversial thing that ever happened was that we once had a woman preacher who may have not been into men. The church in the movie is clearly not this one. I do recommend watching the movie, it is very good.

Pontypool Church

 

We drove by the old house where I grew up, but it looks quite frightening there now; it looks as though the movie Pontypool were real and maybe zombies really do live there now; eerily, there were no signs of life and nobody was outside on this glorious June Saturday. We didn’t feel safe stopping, so we drove right on by, and made our last stop by the famous Pontypool grain elevator. It’s obviously been restored; it was much older looking when we used to go inside and play. It was far more fun than the park was.

Grain ElevatorIf you want to see what it used to look like, click here.

That concluded the Micra’s first trip to Pontypool; during this trip, my mileage computer remained steady at 5.8L/100km. It was fun to visit to see what’s changed; I can’t wait to see what other adventures we’ll take in my Micra.