I had a very productive day for car maintenance.

First up was changing out the purge valve to cure an evap emissions check engine code:

After that, changed out the engine coolant.

Then I decided to solve the problem that causes the transmission to pop out of 5th gear occasionally... a new 5th gear spring and nut set:

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So the first step... remove this nut (which I sprayed with penetrating oil and let sit ahead of time):

The nut sits on the top of the transmission and is easy to get to:

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(sidenote... if you look carefully, you’ll notice the side of the battery is bulging a little... more on that shortly)

See... easy peasy, right? Welllll... not really. That nut was in there TIGHT... with some thread locker.

I ended up having to get out my hammer drill and use it with my hex nut screwdriver bit... and even then it took a few attempts to break it loose.

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Installing the replacement spring and nut set was easy. This is the old spring and nut:

The new one looks just like it, only new and with a washer. As a dealer-only thing, that spring and nut was $85. But cheap compared to following the advice of replacing/rebuilding the transmission (you can get Suzuki dealer parts/service from some Kia dealers... at least one of which used to be a Suzuki dealer).

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After that... spark plugs. Got myself a new set of NKG Iridium Laser spark plugs. Here is the new vs old plug comparison:

I suspect these are the original plugs and the are supposed to be replaced every 100,000km I think. I wasn’t getting any misfires yet, but those old plugs definitely looked like they needed replacing. And according to this:

https://mechanics.stackexchange.com/questions/11441/what-does-a-healthy-spark-plug-look-like 

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Deposits like this are due to “oil leakage, fuel quality and the engine’s operating duration”

Given this car is 15 years old and only had 142,000km on it when I bought it, I’m guessing it was used for a lot of short trips which led to short engine operating durations, which led to the deposits.  

And while waiting for the coolant to drain, I looked at the battery to see how old it was... and it dates to December 2011. And I noticed a bit of a bulge on one side. The car also sounds like it cranks a little slower than expected. So... off to Canadian Tire and I have a new battery that I’ll install soon.

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Things left to do... install a dome light, fix the AC some time next year before the summer (AC compressor kicks in, just doesn’t blow cold), install chrome wheel lug nuts when they arrive in a week or so.

So far my $1000 Aerio has cost me about $4000 and I’ve driven it about 3000km. But that’s including ALL costs... even fuel, registration fees, insurance, new brakes and the preventative maintenance I’m doing.

Now that I’ve had this longer, I can give more detailed impressions. Compared to the Focus I had, the engine vibrates much less at all RPM.

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Below 2500rpm, it is impressively quiet for a cheap car. From 2500 rpm to 4000 rpm, it’s ‘a bit noisy’. And over 4000 rpm, it’s ‘fairly noisy’. It can be a bit surprising how it can go from quiet to noisy.

And the noises the engine makes aren’t as nice as the Focus’ engine... though the Focus’ engine is noisier below 2500 rpm.

In terms of power, the engine needs to be revved to get power. And it doesn’t have the same ‘eager to rev’ feeling you get with Mazda-based engines.

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The shifter is better than my old Focus... but the old Focus had twice the mileage. And the only surprise is it popping out of 5th gear every so often on long drives. In researching this issue, I found the TSB to fix the problem cheaply. Though in my research, I saw lots of bad advice, even from mechanics, saying that it required a new/rebuilt transmission.

The interior and the car as a whole feels like it’s higher quality overall compared to the Focus. And it’s for a bunch of little reasons... seats are more comfortable, door handles work more nicely and the way stuff is designed underneath makes it a little easier/more pleasant to service.

This is probably one of the easiest cars to service. Lots of space under the hood and a straightforward serviceable design.

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The ride is firm but not harsh. In terms of handling, a new Focus is better. But the suspension on the Focus doesn’t age gracefully. So this Suzuki is better than my old Focus. You also sit higher in the Suzuki... feels almost a little minivanish. Coming from the Focus, it felt a little tall and tippy at first and it would cause me to not feel confident going into corners. But I’m used to the car and its handling now.

There are only minor things I don’t like... no trunk light (fixing with an aftermarket LED dome light I’m gonna install soon, the wheel covers looked like shit (replaced them with chrome rings and chrome wheel lug nuts for a ‘rally wheel’ look) and the colour... beige.

That’s it for now.