Category Archives: Jaga kereta

Car maintenance issues

Music to my ears!

From VW Passat: My endless sorrow

The dreaded “SAFE” mode which plagued my car radio for over a year.

In order to reset the SAFE mode for another attempt to enter the radio code, I needed to switch on the radio for one hour. So I took a very long drive (52 minutes) to the Korean grocery store, sat in the idling car for another 8 minutes, and tried the new found radio code and it worked.

From VW Passat: My endless sorrow

The revived non-SAFE radio!

And now, music (or noise) once again.

DIY: Unlocking the VW radio SAFE mode

One year ago, my car radio went into SAFE mode (meaning it stopped working) due to battery problems. Initially driving without any music was almost intolerable and in order to get the radio to work again I had a list of things to do that I listed out in my post on September 16, 2007.

1. I need to locate the specific radio code to unlock the audio player anti-theft mechanism. I’ve looked through all the documents and manuals that the previous owner left me and no radio code. So tomorrow, I’ll have to check the trunk and look at the area around the spare tire for the 4-digit radio code. Why spare tire? Because in some of the online forums, some people found the codes there, supposedly left by the dealer.

I’ve searched everywhere, no code found.

2. If I don’t find the code anywhere, I will have to try to remove the player (following instructions that I found online), get the VW code on it somewhere, call a VW dealer and get the radio code from them. I’ve learned that some dealers will charge money just to provide the code, so I may have to call several dealership to find one that will do it for free.

I tried the credit card method but it didn’t work.

3. If I’m not able to remove the player on my own, I may have to bring it to a dealer and have them remove the player, get the VW number and then the radio code. They will probably charge me $90 for the labor, OR I could go to circuitcity and buy a new in-dash player for $99 and have them install it for free.

No. 3 seemed like a lot of work and money, and after a while I got used to driving without any music so I just let it go. No music…I can live with that.

But about 3 months ago, I decided to tackle the radio problem again. I asked Klein the mechanic to give it a go. He tried the standard “1111” or “0000” and it didn’t work. Then he tried to remove the radio but he didn’t have the right tool and couldn’t get the radio out. I think he was just not interested in spending his time on a radio of an old car. In the end, he told me to go to a VW dealer.

Undeterred, I went on ebay and searched and bought a set of radio removal tools. I made sure that I got the one that fits my car radio model.

From VW Passat: My endless sorrow

The “tool” arrived. I was in the midst of preparing for my trip back home, so I gave it a half-hearted try (with the flat part on the handle at the top) and the radio did not move. I put the process on hold until I came back from Malaysia.

Today, I decided to give it a try again. I tried the pushing the 2 removal tool keys (with the flat part on the handle at the bottom) into the 2 slots in the radio and pulled. The left side of the radio budged but the right side remained stuck. I kept pushing the right key harder but the right side won’t move. I decided to turn the right key around (with the flat part at the top) and …. VOILA!! the radio slid out without much effort.

From VW Passat: My endless sorrow
From VW Passat: My endless sorrow

And to my wonder, the radio code is written on top of the radio (I blurred the code for security reasons), so I didn’t even need to call a VW dealer to get the radio code.

From VW Passat: My endless sorrow

I immediately pulled out the sound system manual so I could enter the radio code and unlock the radio. But the SAFE mode remained. I remembered that Klein the mechanic did try the “standard” codes before and according to the manual, if the radio code has been entered incorrectly twice, the radio must be left on for a whole hour before entering the radio code again.

It was getting late, so I decided to wait till tomorrow to continue on with the radio unlocking process. Hopefully, by tomorrow evening, I’ll hear music in my car again.

DIY: Fixing my car’s headliner

Tuesday (June 10)

I was driving up to the department for a meeting with my advisor, when I noticed that something has blocked my rear view.

The fabric covering of the headliner (or roofliner) was peeling off from the back. I turned down my windows, hoping the wind would blow the headliner up so I can see through the back windscreen. But the stronger wind blew more of the headliner down. By the time I reached the campus parking lot, the headliner looked like this.

After my meeting, I tried to use the hand grips to hold the headliner up.

When I got home, I did some temporary emergency “repair” to remediate the situation until I figure out what to do next. I rolled up the headliner, tied the ends with rubberband and tied it to the handgrips with ribbons.

Surfed the web for some do-it-yourself information and I actually found forums discussing what to do with a headliner that’s peeling off.

Wednesday (June 11)

Drove to Walmart to look for the stuff that I would need: (a) a can of 3M Headliner adhesive spray, and (b) 1 or 2 packs of twist pins (available at the sewing dept).

Thursday-Saturday

Did nothing…too lazy 🙂

Sunday (June 15)

Brought along my handheld vacuum, packaging tape, scissors, rags, brown paper, stapler, a big bottle of water for cleaning, ipod, cap, drinking water, the adhesive spray, and the twist pins. Drove the car to a nice shady spot.

Step 1: Remove as much of the crumbly gluey sponge material sticking to the fabric and to the “ceiling” of the car. I started doing that with some sandpaper but found that it’s much faster if I just use my hand.

Step 2: Vacuum away as much of the orange/brown sponge material from the car seat and the floor.

Step 3: Cover the seat with brown paper.

Step 4: Spray on the 3M Headliner adhesive. Spray one layer, wait 10 minutes, spray second layer, wait 10 minutes.

Step 5: Quickly walk back to my apartment to get camera to document my hard work.

Step 6: Press headliner fabric to the car’s “ceiling”. Unfortunately, the fabric won’t stay stuck to the ceiling.

Step 7: Quickly get out the twist pins and start pinning the fabric to the headliner board. The ceiling is made out of cardboard-like material. Place the pins in strategic places all over the ceiling. I’m not sure if the adhesive spray is needed since the fabric doesn’t seem to stay stuck to the ceiling.

Step 8: Use a scissors to push the extra fabric into the side paneling. Since I rolled up the fabric when I temporary repaired the headliner, the clean side of the fabric is now covered with sticky specks of sponge material..and it won’t come out 🙁

DIY job completed!!

Time needed: 3 hours.
Cost: 3M headliner adhesive spray ($7), 16 twist pins ($1).
Self-Reward: Combo meal #1 at Wendy’s plus a small frosty ($6.55).

Happy Father’s Day!!
My dad would be proud of my car DIY job 🙂

Gas prices

When I got my first car in July 2006, I bought a notebook to keep a log of the cost of maintaining her. And for some crazy reasons, I also kept the receipts whenever I pumped her up with gas (petrol).

The cost of feeding her and feeding my lifestyle.

2006
Month: Average price of gas (money spent on gas this month)
July: $2.88 per gallon ($81)
August: $2.74 ($67)
September: $2.32 ($80)
October: $2.13 ($52)
November: $2.20 ($41)
December: $2.34 ($39)

2007
January: $2.23 per gallon ($64)
February: $2.22 ($22)
March: $2.42 ($73)
April: $2.90 ($79)
May: $3.05 ($47)
June: Vacation in Malaysia
July: $2.78 ($59)
August: $2.68 ($28)
September: $2.68 ($22)
October: $2.65 ($61)
November: $2.94 ($25)
December: $3.04 ($44)

2008
January: $3.00 ($43)
February: Lost the receipt
March: $3.24 ($38)
April: $3.42 ($40)
May: $3.70 ($43)
June: $3.96 ($45)

It’s so painful….

I sent my car to Garage Klein yesterday. The car was making a lot of noise at the beginning of the drive and occasionally I noticed a burning smell.

I just received a call from the mechanic. He explained to me that the belt tensioner has busted and the serpentine/fan/drive belt was affected too. He had to replace the belt and tensioner. He went on to say that because it’s a VW, it’s going to cost more. I took a deep breath and he said, “$350.”

I can actually feel my heart aching 🙁

It’s a miracle…again!!

The check engine light has turned off again. Unlike the last time that this miracle happened, this time I didn’t even spray any WD-40 anywhere. But I did, while I was driving to church on Saturday, say a short prayer asking for all the components of the car to work well and to work for a long time. And after the service while I was driving off, I noticed immediately that the check engine light didn’t turn on. The last check-engine-light miracle took place in March and lasted about a week. Let’s see how long this miracle will last this time around. It’s one of those unexplainable car-related phenomenon. Perhaps the check engine light will never turn on again?

The car has been running pretty good lately. During the last oil change, I got garage Klein to do a transmission flush. That seemed to have gotten rid of the jerky stop-and-start (I believe the technical term for this is transmission slip) that I’ve experienced for quite a while now. Occasionally the jerky stop-and-start was accompanied by squealing wheels. One time, when I was driving with a friend, I saw her grabbed the dashboard as my car jerked forward when moving out of an intersection. That was so funny.

During the last oil change, Klein informed me once again that the left rear wheel bearing was breaking and making some noise. When he first mentioned the bearing problem a few months ago, I remember looking at him and thinking, “What is he talking about?? What bearing? Ball bearings? Where in the car is this bearing thing?” Anyway, after some long distance calls to my Malaysian car expert, called Papa, I have been reassured that I won’t drive into a drain (masuk longkang) because of a wheel bearing problem. But as the problem progresses, the noise may attract a lot of unwanted attention.

One more car-related issue: gas (petrol) prices. It’s going up and up ($3.07/gallon now). Because of that, I have seriously limited my driving this month. I topped up the gas tank on November 1 and my car is still running on that tank of gas (about 5 gallons left now). I believe I can make it through till the end of the month without filling up. That’s quite an achievement!

Car audio update

I tried to remove the car radio player following some instructions I found online 😛

– I cut 1cm wide x 2 inch long strips from an old plastic reward card.
– Pushed 2 strips into 2 slots in the player, pushed and pushed but the player refused to pop out.
– I give up. I’m putting aside this need to do something about the radio player till next year.

I’ve decided that silent driving may be a good thing for me. I’m constantly bombarded by media: the tv while I cook and eat, the iPod while I run, the macbook while I work. Some silence is good for my soul, my spirit and my ears.

Battery problem





On September 16, I lamented about the myriad of car problems that I faced. I listed out many things that I needed to do but I only did one: I checked the area around the spare tire for the radio code – Nothing. Since at that time I was still working on my comprehensive exam, I thought I could put everything on hold till after the exam. I thought wrong.

September 24
On the day before the exam was over, the car died (or so I thought). I drove home from the office, parked the car, closed the sunroof and windows, and before I could turn off the ignition the car just died. Usually if this happened, the alarm would sound when I opened the door, but that didn’t happen. I thought that was odd. Anyway that’s great, no alarm, so I tried to close all the doors using the key but only the driver’s door would lock..this was very odd. So I got into the car and tried to start the car but no sound nothing. No cranking sound, nothing happened. Yikes….the battery died and it wouldn’t wait till my exam was over. I manually locked all the doors and was very grateful that I was home and the sunroof and windows were closed before the battery died. What to do? I still had to work on my exam, so I just mentally put this stress aside and focused on the important and urgent task at hand. But at the same time I was planning all the things I needed to:
1. Call Garage Kleins to inquire about the battery.
2. Call AAA and get them to come and either jumpstart the car or toll the car to Kleins.

September 25
I handed in the second part of my comprehensive exam. I took the shuttle bus home. As I walked past the car, I thought I might as well try to start the car one more time before I did all the calling. When I opened the driver’s door, I was pleasantly surprised that the other doors would unlock too. And to my absolute amazement, the car started so I quickly drove to Kleins, crossing my fingers that the car would not die on the way there. I got there, told the mechanic my long long car problem history, stretching back to last winter. He looked at the battery and started the car many times and each time without fail the car started. Isn’t that the usual case?!! When you finally bring it to the expert, the problem cease to exist. He said everything looked fine but from what I told him, it sounded like a battery problem. So I suggested that I get a new battery instead. He went to look up a manual on battery-types for my car but then he didn’t have the exact size, so he took one off the shelf and said that that should work. And I was thinking, “Huh?! Can he do that? Is that safe? Maybe I should wait till he gets the right battery size.” But as usual, he’s the expert, so I should maybe just keep my mouth shut. As he was working to remove the battery, he eureka-ly found the source of all my car battery problems: the battery terminals were corroded, lots of oxidation on the areas that should have been clean and metal-shiny. And he went to get a battery terminal cleaning gadget and worked on it. This trip to Kleins cost $21.20.

October 8
So far no stalling, electrical shut-off, or car alarm problems. I haven’t worked on trying to remove the audio player to get the serial number yet. I suspect that I won’t be able to do it on my own. Even so, I should give it a try one of these days. Anyway, I’ve gotten used to driving in silence.

October 9
I promise I will get the car washed today.

How I hate auto-rheumatism!


All of a sudden the weather changes and the temperature drops to 18C (daytime) and 6C (nighttime). I just close the apartment windows, put on a jacket, and I’m ok.

The passat, however, is more susceptible to the cold weather. In an instant, I encountered several of the car problems that I had last winter (e.g., stalling, electrical shut-off, car alarm problems), plus one new BIG problem….the audio player is now in SAFE mode and will not play! I guess the funky electrical problem that I had last night really messed up the player. Now I drive around in complete silence. Having music in the car is the highlight of driving, now driving has become rather intolerable. It’s funny, I can deal with a chronic leaky power steering rack and no air-conditioning, but a non-functioning audio-player pushes me off the edge.

After spending a whole night of problem-solving googling and finding forums like this (plus I called my dad), here are some things that I’ll need to do to hopefully clear off the first round of auto-rheumatism:

1. I need to locate the specific radio code to unlock the audio player anti-theft mechanism. I’ve looked through all the documents and manuals that the previous owner left me and no radio code. So tomorrow, I’ll have to check the trunk and look at the area around the spare tire for the 4-digit radio code. Why spare tire? Because in some of the online forums, some people found the codes there, supposedly left by the dealer.

2. If I don’t find the code anywhere, I will have to try to remove the player (following instructions that I found online), get the VW code on it somewhere, call a VW dealer and get the radio code from them. I’ve learned that some dealers will charge money just to provide the code, so I may have to call several dealership to find one that will do it for free.

3. If I’m not able to remove the player on my own, I may have to bring it to a dealer and have them remove the player, get the VW number and then the radio code. They will probably charge me $90 for the labor, OR I could go to circuitcity and buy a new in-dash player for $99 and have them install it for free.

4. I’ll have to check the fuse box and look for blown fuses, go to a store, buy the specific fuses and replace them. I suspect that the radio and cruise-control fuses could be broken.

5. I’ll have to check the terminals on the battery for signs of corrosion. And possibly take it to Kleins to check if the battery needs to be replaced.

6. I’ll have to get the car washed. There’s like tree sap (or amber in Jurassic Park’s terminology) and other stuff on the car that’s corroding the paint. After fifteen months, a car wash is waaaayyyy overdue (and very much needed).

Sometimes I wonder if all this effort, headache and money put into the car is worth it. Would I rather go back to my days of limited mobility: walking to the nearest not-so-fresh market and buying only what I can carry with both hands, waiting at bus-stops, taking the bus, and following the bus-schedule, relying on rides from friends, and weekends stuck in Duh? Unfortunately, it’s not a choice – I’m expected to have a car, and that includes all the problems that come with maintaining a car.

Still leaking…



It has been more than a week since the tire repair, it’s obvious now that the tire is still leaking. I actually think that the two leaks that Klein saw were imaginary, but who am I to question his eyesight and his years of experience. I pointed out these deep cracks to him but Klein said that those were normal.

So now we wait for the special tire to arrive.