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:

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Celebrating 20,000km

My Micra is celebrating 20,000km of trouble-free service today with an oil change. This one is different, as I’m using an aftermarket oil filter – a Fram – which is a couple of dollars cheaper than the genuine Nissan oil filter.

Fram aftermarket oil filter
Fram aftermarket oil filter

The past 20,000km have been great. The manual transmission has been a pleasure, even in heavy traffic. It’s made my commute fun again. Happy 20,000km, Micra!

20,000km milestone
20,000km milestone
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Milestone reached

 

 

 

 

 

Haven’t had much time to blog about the things I’ve been doing, but I passed a milestone today and thought I’d share it. Happy 10,000km, Micra!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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DIY oil change

Changing the motor oil in the 2015 Micra is incredibly easy. There’s no need to jack the car up, nor is there any reason to crawl beneath. Both the oil pan drain bolt and the oil filter are easily well within arms’ reach; simply put a comfortable pad in front of the Micra on which to lie upon, and prepare to save even more shekels!

The Shopping List

The Micra’s engine takes 3.5 liters of regular 5W30 oil. No need to waste money on synthetic; the engine has been engineered to minimize running costs, so 3.5 liters of regular oil is good for up to 8,000 kilometers. Change it along with the filter by then, and this engine should last for a long time.

Buying the large convenience containers of oil can make it difficult to determine how much oil has been poured into the engine, as these containers typically hold 4 or 4.4 liters of oil. It can be done, but then you’ll either be wasting half to 0.9 liters of oil, or you’ll need another container to store either the waste oil or the left-over oil. Just pouring all the oil in isn’t advisable, as this can cause damage to the engine. Going with single 1 liter containers makes this a lot easier. I buy seven one liter bottles to provide enough oil for two oil changes.

2015 Micra oil filter
2015 Micra oil filter

There’s also the oil filter. Part number 15208-65F0E, it’s $10 at the Nissan dealership, and is the smallest car oil filter I’ve ever changed on a car. I could probably have saved a few more shekels buying an aftermarket oil filter, but I decided that, at least for the first couple of oil changes, I’d go for the official Nissan oil filter. Since I bought enough oil for two oil changes, it made sense to buy two oil filters.

The drain plug bolt on the Micra uses a copper crush washer to create a seal; these are 99 cents each at the dealership. The purpose of the crush washer is so that a perfect seal can be created with very little torque, which means less stress on the oil pan threads, ensuring trouble-free oil changes for years to come. I bought a dozen of these, but for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll only need two.

Uncrushed crush washer
Uncrushed crush washer

Next, we’ll need something to catch the oil in. I bought an oil drain pan from Princess Auto for $2.99. It doesn’t need to be very large. In addition to this, I’d pick up two funnels; one for the clean oil, and one for the dirty oil. The one for the dirty oil should fit in the neck of a bottle of oil, and the one for the clean oil should fit nicely in the oil fill normally closed off by the oil cap.

As for tools, the only one that’s really needed is a wrench. An adjustable one will work, but if you want to do a proper job, a 14mm box wrench or socket is the proper size. If you don’t have a metric set, then a 9/16 will work. In addition to this, you may wish to opt for an oil filter wrench. This can make the removal of the old oil filter much easier. Take the filter with you to test the size.

To summarize what’s required for two oil changes:

  • Seven one liter bottles of 5W30 motor oil
  • Two oil filters, part number 15208-65F0E, or equivalent
  • Two crush washers
  • One Oil drain pan
  • Two funnels
  • 14mm or 9/16 socket or wrench, or adjustable wrench
  • Small oil filter wrench

Pre-oil change steps

Oil flows better when it’s warm. It’s also easier to remove the old oil filter when it’s warm. As such, I like to start with my engine warmed up. I do let it cool down to prevent the possibility of burning myself, so while I’m waiting, I prepare with the following steps:

  1. Draw a line in black marker at the half liter point on one of the bottles
  2. Place the oil drain pan in a location under the plug, with most of the pan positioned towards the rear of the car
  3. Record the mileage and date on the part of the oil filter box that has the bar code, and file it in the package that contains my owner’s manual.

With that done, it’s time to start.

The drain bolt, located a mere 61cm (2 feet) from the front bumper
The drain bolt, located a mere 61cm (2 feet) from the front bumper

Step 1: Drain the oil

This is simple enough. Using the wrench, turn the bolt counter-clockwise. Be aware that you’re facing the opposite side of the bolt if you’re doing this from the front of the car, so if you’re looking towards the rear of the car from the front, this would be a clockwise turn from this perspective. Do be careful; it’s important not to turn the drain bolt in tighter, as this may damage the threads. It’s only necessary to use the wrench to loosen the drain plug bolt; once it’s loosened, it can be removed with your fingers. I recommend wearing blue nitrile gloves to prevent oil from dripping onto your hands, as used motor oil is a known carcinogenic.

Step 2: Remove the old oil filter

Relocate the oil drain pan so it can catch the drips from the drain plug hole and the oil that will fall from the oil filter when it’s been removed, then simply unscrew the old filter. It might be on really tight like the lid to a new jar of pickles, so this is when you’ll be glad you got that oil filter wrench. After removal, dump the oil into the oil drain pan.

Step 3: Replace the drain bolt

The old crush washer will be crushed onto the bolt, so you may not notice it at first. I used a utility box cutting knife to remove it, then I threaded the new one on, with the smaller end towards the top of the bolt. I threaded the drain bolt in until it made contact, then, using my wrench, I tightened the drain bolt just past hand tight.

Step 4: Install new oil filter

If the new oil filter has plastic wrap on it, remove that first. Open up a bottle of new motor oil, and using your (gloved) finger, dip a finger in, get some oil, and smear it around the rubber O-ring gasket on the filter. This will ensure the gasket will create a proper seal.

As you may have guessed, the new oil filter screws on where the old one came off. Don’t use any tools to tighten it; the filter only needs to be hand tight. The official Nissan filter requires it to be turned past 2/3 of a turn after the gasket makes contact with the engine block; I managed to get a full turn easily.

Important locations
Important locations

Step 5: Add the oil

Using one of the funnels, I add the oil in three steps. I add the first liter of oil, then check for leaks. If all looks good, I add another two liters of oil, then I start the engine and let it run for a few seconds. This gets rid of any air pockets, which could cause the crankcase to be overfilled if I had filled it up completely. After that, I add the final half liter of oil and put the cap back on.

Step 6: Dispose of used motor oil

Using the second funnel, I pour the used motor oil into the now empty bottles and cap them. I then set these aside with the oil filter for proper disposal at my local waste management facility.

Step 7: Update your records

While a car is still under warranty, it’s important to keep records of your oil changes. I tear off the bar code portion of the oil filter box, and record the date and mileage on the back of that. I then store that with my owner’s manual.

Some people use the second trip counter to calculate the next oil change by resetting it, others like to note the actual mileage. Pick a method and stick to it. It’s okay to change oil early, but to protect the warranty, I wouldn’t let it go a single kilometer past 8,000.

That’s it! Once you’ve done it, it becomes easier the next time. The whole process can be done in under 20 minutes at a time that’s convenient for you. I believe it not only saves money, it also saves time and I know the job has been done right.

I’ve made a video highlighting the elements of my first oil change with my Micra:

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My Micra visits Bancroft, Ontario

This past weekend, we filled the tank, loaded up my Micra, and left Oshawa to visit family in Bancroft, Ontario.

At the base of Eagle's Nest mountain
At the base of Eagle’s Nest mountain

After climbing to the top of Eagle’s Nest in my Micra, we continued on a little further to Bird’s Creek. The next day, we went to Peterborough for a family reunion.

My Micra climbed Eagle's Nest mountain!
My Micra climbed Eagle’s Nest mountain!

When I got home, I still had plenty of gas left in the tank to drive to work the next day. Work involved an early morning drive to Concord, Ontario, followed by a trip from there to Woodbridge, Ontario, then a return trip home from Woodbridge back to Oshawa, where my fuel gauge finally registered empty and needed 35L of gas to show full again.

It’s quite amazing that a mere $46 worth of gas in this day and age would cover a weekend road trip for a family of three with all our stuff, and still cover a long distance commute both ways Monday morning.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.


 

 

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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.

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Ready for work

Monday morning, Micra is the perfect companion for my work week, loaded with the meters and tools I’ll need.

Ready for work

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