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.

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