Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Paul Newman races a Nissan



Sunday, January 01, 2017

Volvo "male" symbol

Ever notice that the Volvo symbol looks like the male symbol?


I've always wondered what the story was behind it. Are Volvo's designed for men only? Why aren't the feminists boycotting Volvo? After a bit of research I think I know, and I found out some other interesting info too. First, Volvo means "I roll" in Latin, that's cool! The company symbol (not a male symbol?) stands for iron ore and means "Rolling Strength". The Volvo plant originated in Trollhättan, Sweden, known for its iron works and is probably the reason the symbol is used. I also found out the symbol for Mars is what's commonly known as the Male symbol. So, I'm not convinced the Volvo symbol is not the Male symbol but at least I'm more informed. Now the question might be, which car company uses (or should use) the female symbol?



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The service light, OBD-II, and the quest for a tool, part 001

About every 5K miles the service light goes on in my Volvo. In many Volvo's it can be reset using some combination of pressing the odometer reset and the brake (or something like that). However, in my model (I'd find out why later) the service light can only be reset using the OBD (On Board Diagnostic) II interface. It's probably not a big deal for most people who take their cars in for service, the person doing the service usually will have the OBD tool to reset the light. For me, most of the basic maintenance (oil change, spark plugs, air filter, etc.) is done with the help of a very knowledgeable family member and of course we can't reset the service light. The light bugs me, every time I start the car the light stays on for a couple of minutes. Some people have suggested disabling the light by taking apart the dash and removing the bulb (danger, no thanks) or putting a piece of black electrical tape over the lit up "service" word so you can't see it (lame). Inevitably I'll need to grovel to the Volvo dealer or independent shop and ask them to reset the service light. I'm usually met with varying degrees of interest in helping. In some cases they're happy to reset the light and in others they give me a hard time and want to charge or have some other excuse to not do it. One approach that is sometimes helpful is to buy an oil filter then ask for a light reset after. That way they don't feel like they're doing something for free. But recently, even this approach is not working and I've been getting denied.

So, I finally decided to put in a genuine effort to get an OBD-II scanner and reset tool of my own. Pretty exciting eh? Little did I know what an effort it would turn into... stay tuned for part 2.


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The service light, OBD-II, and the quest for a tool, part 002

(This is part 2 of the story that started here)

So, I searched the Internet for an OBD-II tool. It turns out there are tons of them. I almost couldn't believe it. I thought, why didn't I get one of these tools before? They range from about $40 to well over $1000. Most are called OBD-II scanners. Some just scan and read codes, some can also reset/clear codes. Some are really cool and have a USB interface and software that can be used for advanced diagnostics. The nerd in me got excited about the thought of plugging in the ODB tool to the car and then connecting it to a laptop that would display all sorts of cool graphs and graphical gauges (see screenshot). Many tools I found appeared to be "homemade". Meaning, they're not made by a large commercial manufacturer but by someone who produced them themselves, have a website, and sell them using eBay or paypal or something like that. Many of them appear like they'd work. One of the big selling points is the ability to clear the "Check Engine" light. That wasn't exactly what I was looking for. I couldn't find any that specifically said they clear the "Service" light (I have a "Check Engine" light too). I found many that said they worked with my Volvo year/model... but still not specifically for the "Service" light. I decided to take a chance that since they worked for the "Check Engine" they'd work for the "Service" light. I was on the verge of buying one off the Internet when I discovered that some of the auto parts retail stores carried the tools. I did a search on Kragen website and sure enough they had ODB-II tools. I thought that would be a better approach in case anything went wrong. Returning something bought off the Internet can sometimes be a pain, especially if it's from a "homegrown" manufacturer. I decided I'd stop by the local Kragen to check out the tools in person.


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The service light, OBD-II, and the quest for a tool, part 003

(This is part 3 of the story that started here)

The next day I went to Kragen. I found the ODB-II tool section. As I suspected, the selection was much lower than what was on the website. They conveniently were "out" of all the lower priced tools. I wasn't about to spend $175 on a tool that I wasn't even sure would work. So I left disappointed and got back in my car and drove off (with the "Service" light still on of course). Going down the street, I noticed an AutoZone on the other side. I'd never been to one before so I decided to make a U turn and check it out. I walked in, looked around, nothing, no ODB tools in sight. I ask the guy at the counter and he points me to a rack behind him holding lots of ODB tools! He even says they "rent" the tools. The way it works is you pay the price for the tool and get a 100% refund when you bring it back after using it. I got really excited when I saw one of the name brand (Actron PocketScan Code Reader CP9125, see picture) smaller sized tools that they carried. It was one I'd seen during my internet searching and had a reasonable price. I asked to take a look at it, read the packaging and decide it would work. I was going to spend $70 to own a new tool, reset the "Service" light and never have to deal with getting it reset at a dealer ever again. What a score! I bought it, walked out of the store and to my car to try it out.


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Volvos of Hazzard

What would a Volvo wagon painted like the Dukes of Hazzard car look like?

Someone must have done this. It's been done for other cars, check out the Chevette.

I wonder what kind of bumper stickers a General Volvo Lee would have. Would they still have the "Save Mono Lake" or "Free Tibet" ones? I decided to search around and I found a video of a Volvo sedan painted and doing donuts... sketchy for many reasons!




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The service light, OBD-II, and the quest for a tool, part 004

(This is part 4 of the story that started here)

On the way to the car I inspected the scanner and the package and tried to get it open. The packaging was thick, clear plastic and apparently designed to survive a nuclear holocaust. There was not going to be an easy way to open it and I didn't want to completely rip the thing apart in case I needed to return it. Fortunately, I found a new razorblade in the car door compartment and proceeded to slice the back of the package near the edges and made sort of a door. The plastic was freaking tough, even the razorblade had a hard time making it through. Why would it need to be packaged like that? Without even reading the instructions I plugged the scanner into the OBD-II interface. I pressed scan and after a few seconds I got some sort of error. That's when I remembered I needed to have the ignition on before scanning. I switched the car on and pressed scan again. This time I got a message that said "No codes" or something like that. I got a feeling it wasn't going to work for resetting the Service light. I decided to calm down and take my time later to read the instructions and try the scanner again.


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Volvos in Movies and on TV

I recently came across the Internet Movie Car Database. It's sort of like IMDB but for cars. I'm not sure why I hadn't heard of it before. The Volvo section is decent and there are lots of great screengrabs. Below are some that may be of interest and to give a sample of what's available. It's a fun site, check it out.

Geeze, I could post a hundred more. Some of the scenery is great and a lot of people spend a lot of time to get the screengrabs and identify the cars. Maybe I'll follow up with another post later on with some more pictures.



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The service light, OBD-II, and the quest for a tool, part 005

(This is part 5 of the story that started here)

Later that day, after reading the instructions and trying the scanner some more I concluded that it just wasn't going to work for the Service light. I decided to search the Internet for more information and also email customer service at Actron to find out what the problem might be.

After searching around for a while I finally found some valuable information. It turns out that in 1998 (my year) Volvo implemented some non standard OBD-II functions. One of those functions is the Service light reset. Crap! The commercial off the shelf OBD-II scan tools weren't going to work and that includes the one I bought and sliced out the package. After more investigation, I discovered that the tools that were going to work would now be limited to a single "homegrown" one, some tools distributed and available only outside of the U.S., and some other very expensive commercial ones. Double crap! Once again I decided to calm down and at least try to return the one I bought. So, off I went to AutoZone to grovel for a refund or at least a store credit. I got to the counter, asked to return the item and was asked "What's the reason for return?". I replied "The tool is incompatible with my car" and that was it, I got my money back and felt better. Once again I drove off with the Service light on and with a new task of investigating the special "homegrown" tool and the expensive Professional ones. Would I ever figure this out?


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The service light, OBD-II, and the quest for a tool, part 006

(This is part 6 of the story that started here)

It looked like I wasn't going to be able to reset my service light on my own any time soon. I also needed to get a smog check for my pending vehicle registration renewal. Since a smog check requires a trip to the shop, I decided to combine it with a reset request. I made a morning appointment at the independent shop I usually go to and prepared to once again grovel for a reset and also deal with whatever else might come up.

I got there a few minutes before my appointment and it was busy and crowded. Eventually, I was able to talk to one of the service advisors. I explained my need for a smog check and also requested a service light reset. He said no problem. Things were going well, I thought, hmmm... too well. I figured while I was there I could pick up an oil filter for the next oil change. I asked to buy one and that's where the problems started. The service advisor said "sure" and made a trip over to the parts department to get a filter. He came back with a box that was smaller and a different brand (not Volvo) than I was accustomed to. Volvo parts have a distinctive blue packaging but the one he had was beige. He handed me the filter and it was much lighter than I was used to. I knew there was a problem. Even though I knew it wasn't a Volvo part I asked if it was. He then said it wasn't and proceeded to explain that sometimes they use parts that are a different brand than Volvo but just as good. I didn't feel like arguing with the guy so I just said ok. I then opened the box to investigate why the item inside could be so much lighter and smaller than I was used to. Well, it was smaller and lighter because it was totally the wrong filter. He gave me one of the cartridge/insert type filers rather than the spin-on metal filters that my car uses. While I was investigating the filter, the advisor was trying to move my car into a different spot so it could be in the queue for service. I turned around just in time to see him start it up and stall it. This happens almost everytime I take my car in. I realize there aren't many 5 speed wagons around but geeze, at least pay attention! The guy started laughing in an embarrassed way because there were lots of customers around watching him stall my car. He said something like "Wow, a 5 speed, that's rare!". At least he didn't crash into the car in front of mine. To be fair, I've never seen one of the mechanics stall my car, it's usually someone else.

I took a seat on a bench and waited for my car to be smog checked and have the service light reset. The whole time I'm trying to figure out how to nicely tell the guy that he gave me the wrong oil filter. I didn't want to get in a hassle or make a really big deal about it. I sort of compare it to giving a waiter or someone else at a restaurant a hard time. I don't want to piss off the people involved in my food and I don't want to piss off the people involved in my car service. After a while, my car was next up. The mechanic drove it into position and connected the smog check equipment. He saw me and asked how the car was running. I said the car was running good. He's a nice guy and had worked on my car before. I'm not sure if he recognized me or not. He always does a great job. After a while more my car was ready and I met up with the service advisor back at the counter. He said my car passed the smog check and they reset the service light too. I said that was great. I told him I'm used to a different type of oil filter and put the one he gave me on the counter. I described the kind that I usually use and expressed my concern that the one he gave me might not be the right one (even though I knew for sure it was the wrong one). He immediately started typing away on his computer. I assumed he was doing a lookup on my model and the appropriate oil filter. After a bit, he walked over the the parts department again. I guess he didn't find what he was looking for there because he then walked over to the mechanics area. He came back with a familiar looking box. He handed it to me, I said thanks and opened it. The box was blue like I was used to but the brand was Mann rather than Volvo. The filter inside looked like the right type but it was missing a gasket. I told him the gasket was missing and he seemed to not sure that it was supposed to come with one (the Volvo ones always come with a gasket). He said he could try to dig one up but I said I probably had an extra. I really didn't feel like hassling any more over a $8 filter. I paid my bill, grabbed the filter and got out of there. For the first time in a few weeks I was driving off without having a service light on.


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