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.

 

Routine engine maintenance checks

The first thing I learned when I got my original Micra was how to do my own routine engine maintenance checks. It’s a process that takes all of two minutes, costs one tissue, and stands to save me a lot of money in costly repairs, as well as keeping me safe from the inconvenience of being stranded.

The routine engine maintenance check is something anyone can do, even if they have very little mechanical aptitude. Imagine you telling the mechanic what is wrong, instead of the other way around. You could tell your mechanic whether you need a new belt or if there’s a problem with your cooling system with confidence, your mechanic will know you are right, and there will be little room for “Misunderstanding.”

You’ll be able to find small problems before they turn into big problems. You’ll gain a better understanding of how your car works. Most importantly, you’ll look like a champ every time you raise your hood and perform your basic maintenance check.

Raising the hood

Many people avoid the basic engine maintenance check because they don’t know how to raise the hood of their car properly or safely. That’s too bad, because it’s really a simple process once you know how. The first part, which everyone knows, is to pull the appropriate lever located next to the fuel filler door lever:

IMGP5348 (800x531)Most people soon discover that this is only one step in a two-step (well, three step) process. The hood will pop up, but there is a safety mechanism that prevents the hood from fully opening. This is to protect you; if you were to inadvertently pull this lever while driving down the highway, the hood would otherwise fly open and smash into the windshield. And so, the trick is to release the safety mechanism, which is very easy to do once you know where it is.

IMGP5349 (800x531)Find the right side of the Nissan emblem on the front of the car. Directly up from there, in between the hood and the front of the car, is the release lever. Simply push it to the left (towards the center of the emblem), and lift up on the hood. Hold the hood up with your right hand.

IMGP5350 (800x531)I’ve circled the prop rod above so you’ll know what to find. It sits right inside the fender, and pops out quite easily. Raise it, and ease it into its slot in the support bracket, as shown:

IMGP5353 (800x531)Just like that. This is the most difficult part of this process, and it really wasn’t that hard at all. Everything else is just knowing where to look, and what to look for, which I’m going to show you now.

IMGP5355 (800x531)

You can “Read” the engine bay like you’re reading this page, from left to right. I’ve labelled the points of interest in the image above of the left side of the engine bay, towards the front.

A is the windshield washer fluid reservoir. There’s nothing to check here, but if the low washer fluid light appears on the dashboard, this is where to pour in a bottle of fresh windshield washer fluid. This is for both the front and back window washers.

B is the belt. All you’re looking for here are cracks or signs that the belt is fraying. If you see small cracks or signs of fraying, don’t fret; these belts are very well engineered and can run for a little while with a few cracks or frays. However, you will want to make arrangements to have the belt changed in the near future, because it will eventually break if you don’t change it.

C is the dip stick. Stick your finger through the yellow loop, pull up to extract the dip stick, then wipe the dip stick clean with a tissue or paper towel. Since the engine had been running, oil had been splashed up all over the stick, so it needs to be cleaned first. Now, stick it back in all the way, then pull it back out. Keep the tip pointing downhill, and read the tip.

IMGP5359 (800x531)

There are two letters, L and H, separated by a space marked with crossing hash marks. L means low, and H means high. If the oil level is below the line at the L mark, you need to add oil, or have oil added to the engine. I’ve labelled that with “D” two images above. If the oil registers past the “H” line, there is too much oil in the engine. If this happens suddenly, there may be some other issue that’s causing this, and that needs to be addressed. Anything between these two points  is ideal.

Another thing you can check is the condition of your motor oil. In the image I posted, the oil is a good colour and doesn’t need to be changed. If the oil is looking black, you’ll probably want to arrange to have an oil change performed.

Moving on to the right side of the engine bay…

IMGP5356 (800x531)

E is the brake fluid reservoir. There is a “Min” and a “Max” line. Your fluid is probably at the “Max,” and will be clear if your Micra is new. However, if you can clearly see fluid below the “Min” line, you’ll want to address this as soon as possible.

F is the positive battery terminal cover. Lift this and check for corrosion. It looks like white fuzz. If you see no white fuzz, you’re okay. If you do, you’ll want to get that cleaned up before the car stops starting.

Now, look down towards the front of the car…

IMGP5358 (800x531)There’s a cap that has an orange warning. To the right of that is the engine coolant reservoir bottle. If you look down towards the side of that bottle, you’ll see it as a “Max” and “Min” line. You want to ensure the coolant falls between these two lines; if it’s above the Max line, there may be an issue with the engine that’s causing it. If it falls below the “Min” line, you’ve likely got a coolant leak somewhere, and, at the very least, you’ll want to top up the bottle with properly mixed coolant. Water can be used in a pinch, but the next stop ought to be addressing this problem.

That’s it for the check; all of this can be done in about two minutes. Now, take the pressure off the prop rod by lifting the hood gently with your right hand, move the prop rod out of the support bracket,  snap it back down into its clip, and drop the hood. Literally. Hold it approximately 8 inches (20 centimeters) above the front of the car, and let it drop. If it doesn’t snap down on the first try, re-release the safety catch, raise it a little higher, and let it drop.

That’s all there is to it. I do this check with every other full tank of gas, or every 1,000km. It provides me with peace of mind and confidence.

To help further illustrate, I’ve made this video. Enjoy.


 

 

New Micra > Used Lexus

I’ve heard the argument before: Why not buy a used car instead of a new Micra? I’ve already addressed this in a general sense here and here, but this time someone provided me with a specific car: A Lexus IS250. Here’s the challenge:

For less than 10grand, you can get a roomier, more stylish, just as reliable, more fun to drive, V6 power, great efficiency for a V6, and a super luxurious interior with the IS250. Now I don’t like Lexus. I’m more of a German type of guy. I like my Dubs an Mercs. But you can get a 100% better car with the only sacrifice being fuel efficiency. And if you buy a car 2 gran less than the new one, fuel costs won’t be higher in the old one until 15 years of ownership! Who in today’s world will keep a car that long?”

To be fair, I paid more than $10,000 for my Micra. I got the SV trim with convenience package, which ups the price to $14,333, but also leaves me wanting for nothing, including roominess. I get all the goodies I want, as well as more headroom than I’d get in the Lexus IS250. We’ll just forget that he even mentioned roominess, and we’ll see how the numbers add up.

usedlexus

 

I checked the AutoTrader for an $8,000 IS250; for $8,888, I can get a 2006 with leather, automatic transmission, and sunroof. This is an eight year old car with 208,000km on the odometer. That is extremely well used, but meets the criteria. To make this comparison 100% fair, we must include Freight & PDI on my car, which puts the total price at $15,733. We will also assume this Lexus isn’t a previous wreck being sold by a curbsider. My car costs $6,845 more than this Lexus; we’ll work with that.

First up is fuel costs. According to Fuelly, the Lexus will yield around 9.8L/100km, versus the 6.4L/100km I’m currently attaining in my Micra. I drive around 45,000km per year. We’ll use today’s cheapest gas prices, which right now in my city is at Costco. The Lexus requires high octane fuel, which now costs $1.424 a liter, and will have an annual fuel cost of $6,279.84. The Micra takes regular octane, which currently costs $1.324 a liter, and will have an annual fuel cost of $3,813.12. The Lexus, at today’s gas prices, will cost $2,466.72 per year more to run than the Micra at today’s gas prices. In less than three years, the gas savings of the Micra alone will make up the difference. That’s not all.

A Lexus is a premium high end car. How good do you think the tires are going to be on car that’s eight years old? At $8,888, you could probably count on replacing the rubber within those three years. The Lexus requires fancy 225/45R17 tires. The cheapest I found at the local Canadian Tire is around $200 per tire for all-seasons, and close to $300 each for snow tires, resulting in a $2,000 expense. Meanwhile, all-seasons and snow tires for the Micra are less than $100 each. All I’d be needing for the Micra would be snow tires. The resulting tire savings is approximately $1,600.

This doesn’t tell the whole story, though. We’re making certain assumptions in favour of the Lexus. Even with these favourable assumptions, when a person buys an 8 year old car, they are buying a car that’s in maintenance mode, no matter what the brand or level of luxury. They’re replacing worn out parts and components, flushing and filling critical fluids, and dealing with deteriorating trim. Meanwhile, my Micra is in new car warranty mode. This means regular oil and filter changes, a top-up of the washer fluid, and that’s it for the next long while.

All things considered, in roughly two years, the savings of the Micra makes up for the additional cost of buying new. By then, the Micra is two years old with plenty of life ahead of it, while the Lexus hits the 10 year old mark. The Micra’s going to continue to save me money, and by the time it’s hit the 10 year mark, it will represent savings so significant, I would be able to buy another brand new Micra with those savings with money to spare. That’s what makes the Micra such an incredible value. Micra, FTW.

Using the spare tire

I decided to make a short video on how to use the spare tire in the 2015 Nissan Micra.

Just a couple observations and thoughts about maintenance:

  •  I would lower and remove the spare tire every six months as part of the maintenance schedule. This will give you an opportunity to check the air pressure of the spare tire, and ensure the mechanism is working properly. I’m going to do mine once in the spring, and once in the fall.
  • I think a light coating of grease on the threads and the clip should protect it from corrosion and keep it working trouble-free.

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.

 

The first tank of gas

I left to go to work this morning with two bars left showing (a quarter tank). By the time I got to Toronto, it dropped to one bar and started flashing. It also displayed the estimated distance to the next refill. By the time I arrived to the job site, right in downtown Toronto, it showed I had 70km to go.

Passing the 500 kilometer milestone
Passing the 500 kilometer milestone

When I left work this afternoon and merged onto the Don Valley Parkway from the Gardiner Expressway, it was still showing between 60 and 70km left to go, but partway up the Don Valley Parkway, it dipped below 50km and the estimated range disappeared. I had one bar, and the display was flashing. I decided to get off at Salem Road and get gas at the Costco in Ajax.

First fillup
First fillup

I was surprised to see the pump stop at 36.697L of gas. I know the Micra has a 41L gas tank, and I drove what I thought was a considerable distance on empty. This means the Micra has a very good amount of reserve gas left when it shows empty.

firsttankofgas

I was happy to spend so little time at the pump to fill it up, and I drove an impressive 575km on that first tank of gas. Doing the math, that works out to 6.38L/100km. A little lower than what the car’s computer has been telling me, but definitely still very good considering that I have not been trying to drive economically, and it blows away the EPA estimates for this car. All in all, I’m very pleased.

Great day for the Micra

Today was a great day to be driving my Micra. The morning started out with pouring rain, but the Micra parks easy in my garage, so I stayed dry getting to my car. The drive in was heavy with traffic, and I had to turn on the defroster to keep the windows from fogging up because of the rain, which caused the air conditioning compressor to turn on, which made the drive in comfortable. Then I got to the jobsite, and was able to park in a great parking spot that nobody wanted because it was too tight for a larger car.

Spot the Micra
Spot the Micra

It was hot and humid on the drive home, but the air conditioning kept me comfortable all the way.

The best part? In spite of running the air conditioning condenser a lot today, my fuel economy actually improved to an average of 6.1L/100km, and I’m not even trying for better fuel economy. I spend more than my fair share of time in the hammer lane, I accelerate briskly (within the limits of the break in requirements), and I spent a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic. I travelled 448km so far on my first tank of fuel, and still have three bars (out of eight) showing on the fuel gauge, so between a quarter and half a tank. My old Grand Am GT would have run out of gas by now, in spite of having a larger (54.1L vs. 41L) fuel tank.

I really love this car; all smiles today. 🙂