Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First Snowfall with our Yukon XL Denali

Originally uploaded by istargazer.
We finally got snow today. We've had unusually cold temperatures this past week, but wasn't until last night and today where we got enough snow to really mean anything. That gave me the opportunity to try out our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali.

I have to say, I was quite impressed with the way the Denali's AWD handled itself in the snow. We've been having unusually cold temps the past week--tonight it's going to drop to around -9° C (about 16° F)--and we received about 4-5 inches of snow through the night and during the day. It was the first snowfall of the season.

Coming from my 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI that had AWD, no traction control and was super fun, I was a little worried that the nanny on the Yukon would be too intrusive. Our 2003 Toyota Sequoia had a button to turn off the traction control, but it never really turned off completely--it was a total fun-killer.

I tried the Yukon with and without traction control on and I was very happy. Traction control off meant it was really off and I was able to do a little side drifting around some S-curves as I climbed the mountain back to my house. That brought back fond memories of the STI.

Now I'm looking forward to getting more snow and finding some empty parking lots ;).

Friday, December 05, 2008

Baby Enzo

Well, the reason why we bought our Denali arrived yesterday:

Baby Enzo, originally uploaded by istargazer.


  • Gender: male
  • Weight: 7 lb 0 oz.
  • Length: 19.5 inches
  • In-service date: 4 December 2008
  • Build date: classified
  • Production number: 005

Mom and baby are doing fine :0)

Monday, December 01, 2008

VW R32: Disappearing Coolant

A couple years ago my R's coolant warning light went off. I had it checked and the dealership couldn't find any leaks. Huh. I topped it off and everything was fine... until this weekend.

Click below the fold for more.

I'd just come back from an 830+ mile round-trip drive to Canada and back. After reaching home I popped the hood and to my shock the engine coolant level was 2 inches or so lower than normal, right at the "min level" mark. The engine was warm, too, which is when I always check the coolant.

No one could check my R that day, so the coolant was topped up to 1-2 inches above the "max level" mark. The next morning, with the engine cold, the coolant level had dropped back to the "min level" mark, where it stayed until I took it to the dealer the following morning.

The dealership put the coolant system under pressure (15 psi) for 40 minutes and couldn't find any leaks. Eh?

What the heck? Anywhoo, the coolant has been topped off -- again -- and I'll keep an eye on it. I can sort of figure that my long trip might has used/evaporated some coolant, but then why did it drop even more after I got back?


Monday, November 24, 2008

ATX Thug on a GMC Yukon XL Denali

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
I was able to wash our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali yesterday and take some new pictures of the 17" ATX Thug winter rims I installed last week.

Now I can explain why it ended up taking me two days to complete the install. Everything was going fine that afternoon and I was on schedule. I had all the wheels installed, nuts properly torqued, and TPMS sensors successfully reprogrammed. In fact, I had already inflated two of the Firestone WinterForce tires to the proper PSI when I noticed the directional arrows on the sidewalls were pointing the wrong way. I discovered that had installed all four tires on the wrong side of the vehicle. So I had to remove and swap them around--that was eight tire changes!

But that wasn't the end of it. I had to reprogram the TPMS sensors again. The procedure to get the car to relearn the sensor position is to let air out of the tire. When I let air out of the first tire, I was a bit hurried and I somehow jammed the valve pin so that it would not seal air anymore. Air kept escaping at a very rapid pace and not matter what I did, it wouldn't stop. I finally decided to hook up the air compressor to it to keep it pumped up and prevent it from going completely flat while I finished the process of relearning the rest of the TPMS sensors.

Once that was done, I jacked up the Denali again, removed the damaged tire, and installed the spare: Tire swap number nine! It was too late in the afternoon on Sunday to go to a tire shop so we had to go out and complete our grocery shopping on the spare. The next day when I went into the tire shop I was fully prepared to swallow the cost of another TPMS sensor to replace the one that I had broken. Luckily for me, after a little bit of investigation by the guy at Volco Tire, the sensor was not damaged--the valve pin was simply loose. Once tightened it held air normally and was happily on my way home without a cent leaving my pocket. I did have to swap the tire one more time though, but I was in a much better mood for tire swap number 10!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

GM Navigation: I take it back... Again!

Well, I think I spoke too soon. I tested out the new navigation disc on our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali with the "limitations" off and it's not what I thought it was. The capabilities of the nav don't change much with the limitations on or off.

First of all, with the limitations "ON" you are only allowed to choose a previous destination or the address book or one of your favorites when the vehicle is moving. (With the old system, I believe you could only choose from your favorites or one that had been voice tagged.) When you slow down or stop--full function returns.

I didn't find any other differences or additional functions with the new update.

With the limitations "OFF" you get the additional option of picking your destination from the map. To me this is useless because it doesn't help my wife find where the closest McDonald's is to the hotel we are staying at when we are still 3 hours away from the hotel. You could probably come up with a bunch of other road trip scenarios where it would be handy to search for a destination or POI. It's just not convenient (or safe) to have to pull to the side of a freeway to do that.

To me the update disc is still worth it though because my old disc was so out of date. Plus, it was free so I shouldn't complain. I'm still glad that I bought a Garmin Nuvi 750 to supplement the factory nav because with it there are no restrictions at all.

Type rest of the post here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

GM Navigation System: I take it back!

In a previous post I complained about the factory navigation system in our 2006 GMC Yukon XL Denali. The data was old and software was excessively restrictive, not allowing even the passenger to enter any destinations while the vehicle was in motion.

I take it all back. With the latest disc update I received last week, (GM p/n 25974486U) all those deficiencies have been removed. It now has updated roads and POIs and the restrictions for using the nav system are now optional. There is a setting on the Radio Menu that allows you to turn off the limitations. No nag screen (that's better than Honda!) and full function while driving? Whoo, hoo!

The only thing that could make it better is if someone found a hack to modify the splash screen :biggrin:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali - Winter Tire Swap: 13565 km

I installed the winter tires I bought from Tire Rick on to our Yukon XL Denali today--and what an ordeal that was! I'm too tired to tell the whole story right now, but I'll just let you know that I swapped tires 9 times and I'm still not done! Tomorrow I'll have to get one of the tire valves repaired before I'll be finished. I'll spill the beans later. For now, I'm riding on one spare.

The ATX Thug wheels do look pretty good, though, and I'm looking forward to taking some pictures. The weather has been pretty mild and is predicted to stay like that for at least next week, but with my wife due with our 5th child in 3 weeks, I didn't want to leave it too late.

Here's some data from Tire Rack:
  • Firestone Winterforce 265/70R17 = 41 lbs.
  • ATX Thug Black w/Teflon Coating 17x8.5 = 28 lbs.
When I weighed 2 of the rims I got 70 lbs. each for both of them so it looks like Tire Rack's numbers are pretty accurate.

Click below to read about the weight of the stock 20" chrome wheels....

I put all four of the 20" OEM chrome wheels with Bridgestone Dueler 275/55-20 tires on the bathroom scale and got 79 and 79.5 lbs each for three of sets, but one surprisingly came out at 81 lbs.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

GM Nav Disc p/n 25974486U

It finally arrived. The updated GM Navigation Disc version 4.0c arrived in the mail almost 3 months after I ordered it. The wait was so long and the nav disc I had (version 1.10) was so old that I got frustrated enough to buy a Garmin Nuvi 750 in the meantime. But I'm not complaining. The actual ordering process was very efficient and I received this disc update for free as part of a special program offered by GM.

Updating the nav system was very easy. It was just a matter of swapping discs and the software installed automatically in under 5 minutes. After the install, my address book and favorites were deleted and my location showed up as Washington, DC while the system tried to acquire the GPS signal.

The disc that came with our 2007 GMC Yukonc XL Denali had data from 2004. Many roads in our area were missing and it could find almost none of the points of interests we were looking for. The new disc has 2007 data and includes the roads that were missing and a lot more POIs. It even includes map data for Alaska and Hawaii. In fact, it even as one POI that our Garmin Nuvi 750 refuses to take us to: the Costco on Ottawa Street. There's a few other differences that I've noticed. One is that the nag screen has been reprogrammed so that it doesn't come on all the time anymore. I guess I'll learn more about the changes as I use it.

Click below to see before and after screen shots of a road that was missing.

Before: The blue dots show the route when the Denali is "off-road."

After: Yaay! The road is there!

GMC Yukon XL Denali: Locking Fuel Cap Removed - 13600km

I decided to remove the locking fuel cap that I installed on my 2006 GMC Yukon XL Denali a while back. There were rumors that the Yukon had an anti-siphoning device but I could not find confirmation myself until today.

I bought a Flo 'N Go gas pump to use in the garage so that I could fill up the Burgman without having to make a special trip down the mountain. After I put it together I tested it to see if I could siphon some gas out of the Denali....

I couldn't. There was no way to get the tube far enough down the fuel neck to reach the gas because of obstructions. I shoved and shoved the tube and then it got stuck between 12-18 inches down. So I feel confident enough that siphoning gas out of that 119L tank would not be an easy task. (Of course, drilling holes is a completely different issue!)

The locking cap was not all that convenient. With it, I would always forget to take the keys with me and would have to run back to get them out of the ignition. That of course turned off the stereo so that my wife and kids would have to sit in silence while I filled the tank. And then, unlocking and removing the cap without applying pressure to the key (as directed by the instructions) was nearly impossible. Plus, once it was off, there was no tether to keep it close-by. Putting the OEM fuel cap back on will make filling the tank much more convenient.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

VW R32: Bumper side markers

While I was having my city lights wired like DRLs I learned that one of my bumper side markers had partially melted. Eh... what!? These particular clear side markers were from 42 Draft Designs.

Anywhoo, upon learning of this I immediately ordered new clear bumper side markers -- from a different company! -- as well as yellow LEDs to reduce heat output.

Bumper side markers are easy to replace. Push in towards the front part of the side marker (there’s a spring behind it). Slide side marker slightly to the right and then remove by angling it out to the left. Bulb pulls straight out from bulb holder.

For some reason pictures I upload are all over-sized, so here are the links:

Melted side marker (jpg) from 42 Draft Designs.

ECS Tuning Diamond Clear bumper side marker with yellow LED

Additional details

Type rest of the post here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

New Toy: Garmin Nuvi 750

My first experience with in-car navigation was during our 2005 road trip from Thunder Bay to Washington, DC. I had a Magellan Roadmate 760. It was large and clunky and could not easily be carried in your pocket, but I quickly learned how valuable portable GPS could be. We made sure that the 2006 Honda Odyssey we bought had a factory navigation system and did another road trip in 2007, going from Vancouver to Washington, DC. In town, there might not be a great need for GPS but it sure helped us get across North America without fumbling with maps that can lead to car accidents or getting lost.

So it was no surprise that we wanted navigation in the Denali and we got it.

Despite that, I recently bought myself a little gift for my birthday: a Garmin Nuvi 750. Yes, I know it’s indulgent since we already have a factory navigation system built-in to our 2006 GMC Yukon XL Denali. But Costco Canada Online had it on sale at such a great price ($270) that I could not resist. Besides, I was tired of waiting for GM’s updated navigation map disc to ship. I posted a few month ago about how impressed I was with the GM NAV Disc Center. They were professional and efficient and offered two free annual updates. But the new disc has been back-ordered since late August, and the disc that I have right now is from 2005. That probably means that the data on it is from 2003 or 2004. It’s much too old to be of any real practical use. On top of that, unlike the Honda Navigation, it was impossible to enter any information into GM’s Nav system while the vehicle is in motion. This was a major annoyance during any of our road trips because pulling to the side of the highway just so my wife—the passenger, not the driver—could check the location of the next fast food restaurant or gas station seems ludicrous.

Portable GPS units offer much more features and are more frequently updated than factory systems. The Garmin Nuvi 750 is no different. It came in the box with 2008 map data (dated 2009) and includes over 6-million Points of Interest. During our extended road trips, having a large number of POI’s made the biggest difference in how effective the Navigation unit was—even more so than encountering a new road or two that wasn’t on the map. A neat feature about Garmin GPS units is that you can customize the vehicle icon used on the maps. That's why there's the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean in the picture above. It was the closest thing to a barge that I could find :wink:

Why was Costco selling the Nuvi 750 for so much below MSRP? I don’t really know. The Nuvi 750 does not have Bluetooth capabilities and does not come with a real-time traffic antenna. But we’re not big cell phone users and the traffic antenna can be added on in the future. Besides, real-time traffic (as well as MSN Direct) requires a paid subscription that I’m not that interested in pursuing right now. Another factor might be the fact that many new GPS units like ones with voice-recognition are also being introduced. We had voice recognition on our Honda navigation system, but other than being neat to use when it worked, I hardly used that feature at all. That made the former top-of-the-line Nuvi 750 a really good bargain.

The Nuvi 750 allows you to download extra voices and vehicle icons as well as play MP3s and store pictures. And because it accepts high-capacity SD memory cards (SDHC) it will store enough music so I won’t get bored. I bought an 8 GB SDHC card for $20 and am having difficulty filling it. It takes a bit longer for the 750 to load all the songs, but it gives me hours of listening.

The Nuvi 750 also came in handy this past Halloween when I took the kids out trick-or-treating because I put it into “pedestrian” mode and used it to track our progress around the neighborhood. I should have marked the positions of all the houses that gave out the best candy :LOL:

I can’t wait for our next road trip!

Here are a few more screen shots from the Garmin Nuvi 750:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

VW R32: City lights as DRLs

I previously posted that in the near future I'll be heading up to Canada for my next job. To meet Canadian safety requirements I need to have daytime running lights on my R. Stock, the 2004 R32 does have DRLs but stock the R doesn't have HIDs. I disabled my DRLs to prevent damage to my OEM HIDs caused by running them at partial power.

I'm not getting rid of the HIDs, so I needed to look for a way to have DRLs at the same time. I considered a few options:

  1. Install fog lights and wire them up as DRLs. For a time this option was leading the group but cost and time eventually ruled it out.
  2. Some R owners have wired up string LEDs in their front vents, a much different looking and cheaper alternative to real fogs. When the LEDs are on they look pretty good, when off they look a little chintzy if you notice them. I didn't see a problem with wiring them up like DRLs. But... what if down the road I have to replace the LEDs? When I talk about wiring things to DRLs please don't get the impression that I'd be doing anything like that myself. I feel much more comfortable letting a professional do the job. So back to a shop to replace LEDs/wiring? I don't think so.
  3. The option I'd settled on was to wire my DRLs to the city lights and replace the city lights with high-intensity LEDs -- the stock city bulbs aren't being bright enough to act legally as DRLs. Replacing city light bulbs should be something I can do myself (I've changed the low beams, before) though I've since taken a closer look under the hood and it looks extremely tight.
Anywhoo, after talking to my shop they recommended a different idea: connect the city lights to the ignition coil (or something like that) so they turn on whenever the R is turned on.

We have a winner!

For some reason pics aren't uploading properly for me, so follow this link for pictures.

Type rest of the post here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! 2008, originally uploaded by istargazer.


Red Eye Skull Denali - closeup, originally uploaded by istargazer.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes:

Open, locks,
Whoever knocks!

~ Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Denali-HDR1, originally uploaded by istargazer.

Round about the cauldron go:
In the poison'd entrails throw.

Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

~ Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Denali-HDR2, originally uploaded by istargazer.

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

~ Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I

Sunday, October 26, 2008

GMC Yukon XL Denali - 12995 km: Custom Front Splash Guards

Originally uploaded by istargazer.
Yesterday I took the family and the Yukon XL Denali out on some gravel roads to test the way it handled during full-on ABS braking and how the 20" rims felt over potholes. ABS was loud and noisy and the dubs weren't that uncomfortable.

You can tell from the picture that the Denali was in great need of splash guards, particularly so in the front because kick-up from the tires hits directly on to the sheet metal of the fender and front doors. Today I took some truck splash guards I purchased from Canadian Tire last year(really they were just large rectangular pieces of black plastic) and installed it. No pictures, yet--I have to get used to the look but hopefully they'll do the job and protect the paint.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Spoke too Soon

Whew. False alarm. There was a time where I religiously checked the Canadian U.S. vehicle admission list, but I stopped in 2005.

Luckily. Fortunately. Thank the stars -- my brother checked the list and told me the R32 is now admissible in Canada. When did they make the change regarding importing R32?

I don't care!

More beneath the fold

It was a close call, too. This weekend I was going to look at a couple cars. I might have actually pulled the trigger.

So... good news. But earlier today I also had a funny/odd/irritating experience at Rockville Audi. The salesman wouldn't give me a quote. He would only give me MSRP (which, by the way, I'd already looked up online). Eh? I couldn't quite believe what he was saying.

To paraphrase, "I can't give you a quote because quotes are based on individual cars, and unless you actually decide to buy an Audi I'm not going to bother looking to see if a car with your options is available...." Eh!? Same thing happened with financing options.

Isn't cost and financing important considerations when debating which car to buy? How did he expect me to decide on an Audi if I didn't know how much the Audi would cost!? Idiot.

Even worse, I felt like I knew more about the Audi than the salesman. He had no idea what options were available. He also seemed puzzled when I specifically mentioned I wanted HIDs. I guess he doesn't think they're as important a safety feature as I do.

Car Quest

Now that I'm looking for a new car I'm getting a little excited despite the upcoming loss of my R. My absolute requirements are navigation and HIDs. Navigation from manufacturers are often massively over-priced, but with my R I've realized the exorbitant prices might be worth it.

More beneath the fold....

There was no nav option with my R, so I've been making do with a portable GPS. Except I don't carry it with me all the time, and I don't leave it in the R. A few occasions I found myself wishing I had brought my GPS with me -- only a few occasions but nonetheless highly aggravating ones.

Anywhoo, I liked the navigation system on my dad's G35 so that's what I looked at first. The dealer has an excellent deal ($7-8k < MSRP) on a 2008 G35 sport 6MT they need to get rid of to make way for the 2009s. Great, but not practical -- I've read that the rear seats don't even fold down. I'd like more space than that.

I looked at the 1- and 3-series, but they're expensive and not too practical. Pity.

When I think of practical I think of space, which means hatchbacks. I kind of like them. Big surprise, eh?

I looked at a MazdaSpeed3 -- great price but only a FWD, and it must have massive torque steer.

So... at this moment in time, and the situation may change, but I'm debating between a 2009 Audi A3 quattro and a 2008 STI. The problem is that with the options I want the A3 may have to be ordered -- which would take too long -- and the A3 will probably be more expensive with the worst financing compared to Subaru. My concern with the Subaru is that I've read that there's a lot of turbo lag in the STi.

Oh well. Hopefully I'll be able to get a test drive this weekend to see for myself.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

VW R32: My Inconvenient Truth

I have to sell my R.

I accepted a job in Canada so I have to sell my R.

I thought it might happen. I considered the possibility it might happen but I didn't think it actually would happen. It looks like it is in fact happening. It looks like Volkswagen's decision to not have the 2004 VW Golf R32 comply with Canadian regulations is soon to bite me in my posterior.

Why? Because it's not just a matter of changing a bumper. The 2004 R32 is completely inadmissable in Canada until 2019. I can drive my R in Canada with U.S. insurance, but I can't insure the R in Canada.


Monday, October 20, 2008

A Visit to the GM Dealer... What a total waste of time! Three and half hours of wasted time!!!

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali - First Service Visit (12866 km)

When we picked up our Denali from the dealership back on August 21, 2008, I noticed right away that the Seat Belt Comfort Holder on the 2nd row passenger seat was broken. It was no big deal. It just meant that my oldest daughter would have to sit on the driver's side because the belt didn't sit properly on her shoulder without it. Our salesperson ordered the part right away. With subsequent follow-up calls, we were told that the part was back-ordered.

A few weeks ago, we got a call from our salesperson telling us that the part had finally come in and that someone from the service department would give us a call to arrange an appointment. That appointment was today and I was told that it would be quick, that it would be done in about an hour. However, when I checked back in an hour they had said it was not finished yet. Despite me seeing our Denali in the service area with no one around working on it, we waited for ANOTHER HOUR for them to tell us that they had ordered the part and to make another appointment. AAAARGH! I waited, wandering around the dealership for over two hours with my wife and 19-month daughter, just for them to tell me that they didn't have the part?!!! Do you know how challenging it is to keep a 19-month-old occupied for over 2 hours?!!!!

To be fair, I did ask them to check a few other items. They pulled a fuse to disable the heated windshield washer system (because the parts for fixing the recall aren't available) and replaced a missing clip on a splash guard. Oh yeah, they put a meter on the battery to test it, too. Now if all service departments charged GM corporate headquarters for over 120 minutes of labour for warranty work like this service department, it's a miracle that GM has survived this long.

This is totally frustrating because the whole point of making this appointment was to fix the seat belt. It was NOT for them to pull a fuse. I would NOT have driven 45 minutes--each way--to the dealership and waited over 2 hours just to have them pull a fuse!!!

I talked to the service advisor afterward to voice my dissatisfaction. He said simply that they did not have the part. He had no explanation why we were called and told that the part was in. He also had no explanation for why we were made to wait over two hours for them to tell us that. He did offer us that the next time we came in, they could install the part very quickly because it was not a complicated thing. Now that's good to know. Their 5 minutes of work is going to really make my 90 minutes of travel time, really worth my while. Aaarrgh!!!!!

So the bottom of the 2nd page of the invoice says:

"You may receive a survey from General Motors in regards to your last service visit with us. If for any reason you cannot answer "COMPLETED SATISFIED" please call us at ###-###-#### thank you."

Well, since that number is the number to the service department, and I already voiced my frustration to the service advisor with limited satisfaction, I'm really, really, really hoping that GM sends me that survey!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

GMC Yukon XL Denali 12788 km: Dead Battery

We were at Lion's Park today to take advantage of the sunny autumn afternoon. It was warmer today than it had been all week. We ate a little picnic lunch in the Denali and then the older kids went outside to play. Aston was napping so I sat in the Denali listening to the XM Radio. We had canceled our Sirius subscription last week, and I was using this time to get familiar with the new XM channel line-up. When Aston woke up from her nap we took her out to join the other girls in the playground. What I didn't realize was that Aston had napped for almost two hours.

After playing at the park for another 45 min, we got the family buckled and strapped into the Denali to go home and discovered that the battery was dead. Well, it wasn't completely dead--the lights, radio, windows, memory seats, power mirrors all worked. There just wasn't enough power to start the engine. Luckily enough, the first people to walk by had jumper cables and they were kind enough to help us get on our way.

Why did I use the Stabilitrak symbol for this post? Because I learned about how the GM stability control system works on the Denali. After getting jump started, the Stabilitrak light went on indicating a problem with the traction and stability control system. At first I thought maybe the next time I restarted the engine the light would go off. But when I got home and restarted the engine right away, the light stayed on. I thought maybe a blew a fuse when I was trying to crank the starter. But I couldn't find a fuse related to the Stabilitrak system.

So after hooking up the Denali to the battery charger, I took out the owner's manual and read the following information about the Stabilitrak system:

When you first start your vehicle and begin to drive away, the system performs several diagnostic checks to ensure there are no problems. You may hear or feel the system working. This is normal and does not mean there is a problem with your vehicle. The system should initialize before the vehicle reaches 20 mph (32 km/h). In some cases, it may take approximately two miles of driving before the system initializes.

If the system fails to turn on or activate, the StabiliTrak® light along with one of the following messages will be displayed on the Driver Information Center (DIC) (TRACTION CONTROL OFF, SERVICE TRACTION CONTROL, STABILITRAK OFF, SERVICE STABILITRAK).

If these DIC messages appear, make sure the StabiliTrack® system has not been turned off, then turn the steering wheel clockwise from the nine o’clock positions to the three o'clock position. If this does not clear the messages(s), then turn the vehicle off, wait 15 seconds, and then turn it back on again to reset the system.

Sure enough, after I disconnected the battery charger and restarted the Denali, the lights were off and everything was back to normal.

I didn't expect the battery to die so easily, but I guess I hadn't driven it very far each day this past week. And maybe the XM Radio/GPS antenna system uses extra power. I know I'm uncomfortable about everything retaining power even with the key out of the ignition. From now on I'm keeping own jumper cables in the back of the Denali.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Aston and The Denali

Aston and The Denali
Originally uploaded by istargazer.
Our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali is definitely earning its keep.

Last weekend, in addition to our busy schedule of birthday parties and grocery shopping, I loaded up the family to take the set of wheels from our Subaru Impreza WRX STI to get the tires dismounted. It was no problem at all fitting the four 17" rims and tires in the cargo area behind the 3rd row. But after removing the tires, the space required to carry them almost doubled. Not a problem. I folded down one side of the 3rd row and Calista sat up in the 2nd row with Sydney and Aston. Four separate tires and four separate rims along with 2 adults and four kids, 2 booster seats, and 1 child-seat--all swallowed up by The Beast.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Chrome: How much is too much?

I know that our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali started off with a lot of chrome from the factory. But because we first started shopping for an Escalade, when I look at the Denali now I only see the chrome that is missing :LOL: It's a long, long way from my European/Japanese sport sedan sensibilities, but maybe it goes back to my Dukes of Hazzard childhood :biggrin:

Today, in between storm systems, I washed the rear hatch and added another piece of chrome trim. I had been looking for this piece from Putco on ebay for the last couple of weeks but noticed that it was a two-piece set. I only wanted the top piece. On a whim, I searched and to my surprise found that they carried the exact same piece at a lower price with free shipping! Because the price was lower than anything I had seen on ebay, I assumed that it was just for the top piece. Even the picture they showed focused on only the top piece. When I picked up the part in Point Roberts on Friday, I discovered it was actually the same two-piece Putco set I saw elsewhere making a really good deal.

I only installed the top piece for now and probably won't install the second one. That is until I feel that the Denali needs some more chrome trim :0)

See below for the finished look.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali - Hardwired V1 Radar Detector

I've had our Valentine1 Radar Detector for a long time now, ever since we bought Dixie, our 1999 Volkswagen Passat. The V1 has saved me numerous times from an expensive ticket. In fact, driving without its warning arrows makes me feel like I'm driving blind. I really appreciate using the hardwire kit to tap into the fuse box because moving it from vehicle to vehicle has been very easy. Almost 10 years later, the V1 recently moved into our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali. The picture at the top shows the lights all lit up, but normally, the main unit stays dark and all information is relayed to the hidden display.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a switched source in the Denali's driver-side fuse box. (It's a weird GMC thing that all accessories and outlets are powered even when the key is out.) I was too lazy to go looking for another source so I just kept it like that. I just have to remember to turn on the V1 when I'm going to do some spirited driving and off when I get out. Although, I've left it on plenty of times and haven't had a problem yet.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali - 11541 km: DRL disabled

Originally uploaded by istargazer.
The debate over daytime running lights is on-going with very passionate people on both sides. That being said, I'm an advocate for freedom of choice and the control as well as the responsibility over one's own actions.

I take pride in myself for driving defensively and being aware of my surroundings at all times. Being a driving enthusiast, I focus on my own driving and on those people driving around me. Riding my Burgman around town, I know how much other people on the road can be pre-occupied with everything else but driving.

I also understand that to take a particular skill to a higher level you need control. Being hampered by electronic nannies that cater to the lowest common denominator does not maximize your safety. One of the biggest problems with DRLs is at night where some people drive around with them on, not realizing that their headlights are not on, their tail lights are not on, and the road in front of them is barely lit.

On our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali, the automatic headlight system paired with the DRL renders the headlight switch almost completely useless because it is impossible to control the lights to suit driving conditions. I'm glad that disabling the DRL on the Denali is as simple as removing a couple of fuses in the engine bay. Now I have full control.

It's really easy to disable the DRL on the Yukon (and I'm sure that they are the same for all of the next generation (2007+) GMT-900 SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade and the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban). There are two fuses in the engine compartment that are clearly labeled. Once the fuses are pulled, the DRLs are off. No other functions or features are affected.

UPDATE: I re-installed the fuses shortly after removing them. The automatic headlight system is more sinister that I first realized because they too cater to the lowest common denominator and even with the DRLs disabled, I still had little control over the headlamps.

Monday, September 29, 2008

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali - The Search for Winter Wheels and Tires

One thing that I've learned over the years is that nothing performs better in the winter than a dedicated winter tire. Since I've always believed that tires are critical to vehicle safety, it was no question that I would be buying a set of winter rims and tires for our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali. Even thought the Denali has full-time AWD, winter tires would make sure that we would be able to stop as well as we could go.

The only question was the type of rims I would on the Denali. Ours came with 20" wheels. The standard Yukon comes with 17" so those were the two options that were available on I looked at 17" rims at first because I figured that they would be lighter, give us the most options for tires, and allow me to install chains if I encountered anything really serious. Plus, I was sure that 17" wheels would be much cheaper than 20" ones.

The Hankook Ice Bear W300 performance winter tires I bought for our previous two vehicles (a 2006 Suburu Impreza WRX STI and a 2006 Honda Odyssey Touring) were....

...not available in light truck/SUV sizes, so after doing a little research online I decided that the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3 in 265/70-17 would be the best choice for us. I originally wanted to pick a cheap 17" rim but discovered that some weighed a whole lot more than others and not all rims accepted TPMS (tire-pressure monitoring system) sensors. That made the selection process a little more complicated because I don't like making mods that reduce performance--especially with a heavy wheel. Don't forget that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and not all wheel styles were appealing to me.

What complicated the decision even more was that I started to think (which is a dangerous thing!) that I would get more use out of an A/T tire like the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO tires that I had on my 2003 Toyota Sequoia. They are rated with the mountain snowflake symbol for severe snow conditions and I know they worked well in the snow. (See Brohm Ridge Trip Report.) I thought that in addition to using them for the winter, if I wanted to explore some logging roads in the summer, the BFG A/Ts would perform way better than the all-seasons on 20" rims.

Would that mean I would run 17" rims all year long? Or would I just swap the wheels each weekend for some fun? Knowing how much I dislike extra work, I started to wonder if I would like having 17" wheels on the Denali full-time. I really do like big rims and I think it suits the Denali well. Maybe I wouldn't be doing too much off-roading anyway. I did a search on TireRack for a 20" winter tire package and found that they had some rims that looked reasonably nice on close-out at $119 each. That was a lot cheaper than even some of the 17" rims I was looking at.

Having a limited budget (cheaper is better) and realizing that I liked the look of 20" rims, I decided that off-roading was not the primary purpose of the Denali (which couldn't do real off-roading anyway without true 4x4 capabilities). I placed my order with TireRack. The only winter tire available in 275/55-20 was the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3 that I wanted so that was good. What wasn't good was that they were back-ordered and not expected to be available until the beginning of November. I canceled my order and thought maybe I would try this season without winter tires.

That didn't sit well for me so I started looking at 17" options again. The wheels I liked were much more expensive than the close-outs so I decided to make a compromise on the tires. I chose the Firestone Winterforce (studdable winter) 265/70-17 which got fairly good reviews on TireRack. They are only $85 per tire and will off-set the cost of the wheels at $182 per rim. I went back and forth between black and silver rims, but decided on ATX Thug 17x8.5 wheels that are black with a Teflon coating. That should help protect them from the winter elements. Also, with 17" rims, if I want to get the BFG's in the future, I still can without having to buy a whole new set of rims. So after a couple of weeks of hemming and hawing, I placed another order with TireRack on the weekend. These tires and wheels are in stock, so hopefully I'll be able to pick them up at the end of the week.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali - 11500 km: DENALI badge added

There are quite a few extras that that differentiate a "Denali" from a regular GMC Yukon. One of the most obvious from the outside (in case you miss the over-sized chrome grille and 20" chrome wheels) is the "DENALI" badge on the driver's and passenger's doors. However, from the rear, there is no way of telling if you are following a Denali with a 6.2 L - 380 HP engine or regular Yukon with only 5.3 L and 310 HP. After seeing a lot of other Denali owners customize the looks of their trucks, I decided to do the same thing and put a Denali badge on the back hatch, too. I've debadged many a vehicle in my time and am past that phase of my modding career so simply swapping one for another was a good compromise. After checking prices on Ebay (and seeing excessive shipping costs), I ordered the badge from a local GM dealer on Thursday and picked it up the next day. I wanted to take advantage of the warm weather while it was still here, so I put it on yesterday before dinner.

The first thing I had to do was to remove the GMC badge on the bottom right corner of the hatch. I didn't bother heating up the badge at all. I just used some fishing line and cut through the double-sided tape. When the GMC emblem came off, I handed it over to Kendra (our 6-year-old) and she said it was very "bling, bling" and asked if she could take it to school for show and tell :LOL:.

See below for pictures of the finished work.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali - 11440 km: Chrome Mirror Covers

I knew it couldn't last long before I started getting the itch to personalize our 2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali. I bought some chrome mirror covers from Ebay last week. There are a lot of different styles, but I liked this style with just the lower part of the mirror chromed mostly because that's what I noticed the Escalades had when we were test driving them :0) Plus, I think it's a bit more subtle than a full-out chrome mirror that a lot of vehicles have.

In the picture below, I'm half-way through my work and you can see that the passenger mirror is chrome, but the driver's side is not.

Look below to see more pictures.

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