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About JamesB

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  • Birthday December 20

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    Nova Scotia, Canada
  1. Been busy with the Aspen. Decided to go straight to studded winter tires instead of spending money on replacement summer tires right as winter was about to start. The tires that were on it when I bought it ranged from barely legal to dangerous, so I parked it until I could source some safe/legal tires. Got a set of alloy 17x7 wheels off a 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 and fitted a set of 245/70R17 studded winter tires to them (wheels cost $175 and the 60% tread remaining tires were a steal at $150). There's only a limited range of "inexpensive" used factory wheels that will fit the 2nd Generation Durangos and Aspens as they have a less than common 5x5.5" PCD. You're pretty much limited to 2002 and onwards Dodge Ram 1500s, 2nd Generation Dakotas, and the odd early 5 bolt Ford F150s, so it took me a while to find a suitable set of wheels. I'll wait until next Summer to get new set of 265/50R20 tires for the 20x8 factory wheels for use when there's less snow and ice on the roads. Once the winter wheels/tires were fitted, I could get the vehicle licensed and run it through the safety inspection. Other than needing the backing plates for the handbrake shoes replaced, everything else was good. I'm now waiting for replacement backing plates to arrive. Unfortunately the rear axles have to be pulled to fit new plates, and I really don't have a suitable workshop to do it in, so I'm letting my local service centre do it. Once that's done, they'll sign off on the inspection. I'm currently learning about TPMS sensors. When I got the Aspen, the sensor in one wheel wasn't working. I knew absolutely nothing about the TPMS systems, so I taught myself about them. Once I started to research TPMS systems and learn what to look for, I found out that the failed sensor in the left rear wheel was not so much failed as totally missing. It appears that somebody had replaced the sensor with a standard tire stem. There are no TPMS sensors fitted to the winter wheel/tire combo, but I plan to add them and learn about the programming/activation/sensor repair process. Got a couple of the right frequency (315MHz) sensors with another set of Ram wheels, but like many sensors of the same vintage, the alloy valve stems are so badly damaged that those tires can't be properly inflated. Fortunately that's a cheap fix if you know where to get inexpensive repair kits. I'm going to need a decent TPMS diagnostic tool so I can do things like read the battery voltage, etc, but this is something for the future. I don't need TPMS sensors to be legal here. Haven't done anything with the Media Player/Nav system, or the backup camera. Things have been just a bit too hectic. Decided that my wife's car (2002 Saturn SL1) will cost too much to get it through the 2 yearly vehicle inspection (it's due in 3 days), so we'll put it off the road. We have an Identical model Saturn that we bought as a "parts donor", and it is actually in far better shape, so the parts we robbed from it will be refitted, and we'll get that one inspected and on the road. It'll be a stop gap, as my wife has decided she wants something like the Aspen but just a bit smaller. She's got a preference for Dodge/Chrysler vehicles, so we have decided to look for a 2007-2008 Chrysler Pacifica for her. We don't care if it takes 6 months to find the right one .. we can wait.
  2. The Aspen is a lot more "stealth" than the Durango ever was, and all the "Toy Truck" styling of the Durango is gone (I think only the front doors and tailgate are interchangeable). Without a "size reference" people just assume it's another ubiquitous Chrysler Minivan, so it doesn't get a second glance. I have the wiring diagram for the same vintage RAM trucks with the camera, and I know what to look for, so it's not going to be a difficult fix. I updated the system application software and the Gracenotes music identification database last week. Those two are free downloads that just need to be burned onto a disk and installed from the disk. Went from (the 9.807 application software was renamed as 1.055 for the 2009 model year radios): To: It's also easy to update the navigation data, but the disk comes with an unlock pass code that is tied to the vehicle VIN. Only way to get a cheap copy of the data is to get someone that has already paid for the update to supply an image of a hard drive that's had the update installed. I can get a replacement hard drive with the latest Navigation Database on it delivered from Florida for less than half the cost of the database DVD disk from NavQuest. I'm waiting to see if a contact in Canada can do the same sort of deal. He's waiting to get a copy of the latest 2017 map data DVD. In the mean time, I'm experimenting with the hard drive. The Nav/Entertainment system currently has a 30GB drive, but of that only 17GB is available for music. Fitting a bigger drive and re-doing the partitioning for more capacity is easy (although it's been reported that access slows dramatically once you go past about a 40GB of music files). The real challenge is replacing the PATA mechanical drive with an eSATA SSD drive. I'm looking at fitting a 64GB eSATA SSD in a PATA to eSATA adapter. I've heard conflicting reports about the level of success doing this. The big thing is that the domestic rated drives tend to stop spinning at temperatures below 10F, and you need the automotive grade drives to deal with low temperatures. A SSD drive should eliminate that problem.
  3. Finding the right vehicle to replace the Durango has been a battle. The critical details were an AWD/4x4 station wagon with high ground clearance (can be a battle here in Winter, and my wife has managed to get the Durango stuck on our driveway), an 8,700 lb towing capability for "project vehicle transport" (a full 1,200 lbs beyond the maximum capability of any vehicle trailer that U-Haul will rent), and a price that was less than or no more than the insurance payout for the Durango. That challenge was solved 2 weeks ago.
  4. Following my wife's little "off road excursion" in my 2005 Dodge Durango, I spent just over 6 months looking for a suitable replacement. I knew I wanted another Durango, but I wanted at least a 2006 model so I could get a Hemi wit the Multi Displacement System, and the replacement had to have AWD, the factory Class IV towing package, and the 3.92:1 axle ratios. I had the funds from the insurance payout, as my price limit (although in a pinch we could have found another thousand or so). I saw vehicles that were practically swiss cheese with rust that people wanted real money for, and dealers trying to convince me that a vehicle had a particular set of factory options, when 5 minutes with the VIN and the Dodge/Chrysler "factory build equipment" site would tell me otherwise. I wouldn't even consider a vehicle if the seller wouldn't give me the VIN. In the end it was a 2008 Chrysler Aspen that I found in Montreal that I spent my money on. Picked it up 2 weeks ago and drove it home. It's high mileage (almost exactly the same mileage as my Durango had when it met its untimely end), but it's a single owner vehicle, and the owner's wife worked in the service department of the same Chrysler dealership that the vehicle was purchased through. It has EVERY option that was offered in the Canadian market, so it has all the features that were on my "Must Have" list, plus more that I'd never have considered. It's well maintained (some rust minor non-penetrative rust bubbling under the paint) and because it was owned by a French speaking family, the English user manuals were still factory sealed. Even the two wireless headphones and the remote control for the back seat DVD player are still there (and working). Every other Durango I looked at with the factory roof mounted DVD player was missing the headphones and often the remote as well. The Aspens are rare in the US, but they are even rarer in Canada (just 4,063 sold in Canada from the entire 3 year model run). It needs new tires and a wheel alignment. The spare was missing (just the broken end of the tire hoist cable where the tire should have been), and things like the back-Up Camera, rear park sensors, and drivers' side exterior mirror defrost don't work (minor details). The maps in the GPS are at least a decade out of date (2006 maps were the latest installed when the vehicle was manufactured), and the software in the entertainment unit hadn't been updated since a "Bug Fix" recall in 2008. I got a seriously good insurance payout on my 2005 Durango (more than I paid for it), and the insurance company even returned my deductible as an apology for the inconvenience when there as an issue in their office that caused a 2 week delay in getting the payout cheque to me. The Aspen, plus the travel to and from Montreal, and all the taxes, left me with $5 out of the insurance payout. The tires are an extra cost, but at least two of the tires on the Durango were just about ready to be replaced, and maintenance of a few "issues" on the Durango (water pump, exhaust, plus some niggling minor things), were going to cost me more than a set of tires for the Aspen. The Hemi in the Durango had a best economy figure of 13.1 litres/100 km (18 miles/US Gal) if I really drove it carefully on the Highway. With the same axle ratios, transmission, and drivetrain, the Aspen returned 12.4 lit/100 km (19 miles/US Gal) after some driving in peak hour Montreal traffic, and about 1200 km on the highway on my drive home from Montreal. Looks like the MDS feature in the Hemi has already proved its value.
  5. The tires were P265/65R17 and the rim was chipped in two places. The cast alloy rack and pinion housing was split right open. We are pursuing the government department responsible for the road maintenance. The pothole had been reported a number of times to the local councilor by the house owner of the front yard through which my wife on her way to the power pole (and beyond). The house owner contacted the councilor immediately after the crash, and the pothole was repaired with "indecent haste". She was doing the legal speed limit (80 km/hr on this section of back country highway) and had pulled over a bit to allow a vehicle heading the other way a bit more room. Seven months later, we are still trying to get a copy of the accident report out of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (they have the jurisdiction for the area). Two officers in two cars attended, and they took lots of photos of the pothole. Normally the paperwork would have been held at the local area station, but for this incident, the paperwork was sent to their headquarters in Ottawa, and we are having to go through a "Freedom of Information" process to get a copy of it. Six months after we sent in the request, all we have heard back is that they have received our request.
  6. My wife turned my Durango into a "total loss" in late February 2017. Hit a pothole on an 80km/hr stretch of road ... took out right front wheel, tire, and rack and pinion ... uncontrolled result including a trip down an embankment also took out a power pole. Both front airbags were Takata and we were still waiting for their replacement under the recall, but fortunately the airbags didn't fire. She was very lucky that the muddy ground turned the vehicle sufficiently that the impact with the pole was just a glancing blow and not head on. She was OK other than a bit of rope burn from the seat belt and bruised knuckles from them hitting the dash.
  7. Name: Dodge Durango (2005) Date Added: 17 March 2016 - 03:20 PM Owner: JamesB Short Description: Bought in mid-January 2016. "Limited" trim level with Hemi, and 3.92:1 axle ratios. Optioned with towing pack (including coolers and Class IV receiver), plus skid plate pack. Dropped it off to have brand new tires fitted before we'd even gotten it home. Had persistent overnight phantom battery drain for the first 6 weeks until we identified the problem as a damaged 6 stack CD player that was trying to load and eject jammed CDs all night PLUS a worn out ignition lock that allowed the key to be removed in the "Acc" position. Had rear brakes totally rebuilt (everything from the axles outwards was replaced) in the first week of March. Currently fitted with a 7000lb rated forged ball and hitch. View Vehicle
  8. I've found downloads of the Service Manual starting at $15 (and most likely they are totally illegal copies), but so far I haven't found any Owner's Manuals other than printed editions on eBay. I've gone over to the Dark Side. The pair of Saturns and our ancient 1980 GMC Vandura G35 based RV are the only GM vehicles in the household. My daily driver since 2 months ago is a 2005 Dodge Durango. Really thirsty with the Hemi and the 3.92:1 differentials, but it's built for towing. Hauls a vehicle on a U-Haul transporter with ease. Looked at similar vintage Chevy and GMC alternatives as well, but the Dodge just turned up first.
  9. Hi Guys, My wife has just recently bought a very used 2002 Saturn SL1 as a cheap to run commuter vehicle for her 110+ km nightly commute to work. We even bought a second identical model to use as a parts donor. The trouble is that neither one still had the Owner's Manual, and while the Canadian GM site says that it is possible to download any owners manual from 1999 onwards, when I spoke with them, they told me that a 2002 Saturn was too old for them to bother carrying a downloadable manual. The US GM site won't let me do anything because I don't have a US address. My question is does anybody have a PDF of the manual? Thanks
  10. The above information was taken from the Brock Dakar/ProRace Engineering web site. Link to technical information Due to the death of the project head in 2006 in another motor racing event, the car was never completed (the engine has never been installed), and it is currently up for sale.
  11. Happy Birthday JamesB!

  12. I like car builders that think outside the box and creatively interpret the rule book. Like the infamous 1997 Hendrick Motorsports T-Rex car that was specifically constructed to take advantages of grey areas in the NASCAR rule book. It won its first and only race, and then NASCAR rewrote the rule book before the next race to specifically outlaw the car. clicky
  13. A short but interesting read that puts the myth to bed.

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