Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Thursday, June 18, 2009

BLUE Renew

Yes, it was time to be shaken again. No, I mean SHA-KEN (車検), though "shaken" is a common way to feel during and after the process. It was time to take the BLUE RAV4 in for its mandatory vehicular inspection and all the various tune-ups, adjustments, replacement of parts, financing of fugitive Nigerian royalty, etc. that go to turn an already overpriced bureaucratic hassle into the financial equivalent of sticking your hand into a Cuisinart. Sure, it's cheaper than buying a new car, but since it's something one has to do every two years, does tend to add up.

Basically, you have to take your car to either a mechanic or a dealer. (Doing it yourself ist streng verboten.) They test your car and tune it up until they are confident it will pass the test. Then they truck it to a government testing center located on a moon of one of the gas giants (or so it would seem). If it doesn't pass, it goes back to the garage, and the whole thing gets repeated until the thing DOES pass.

My BLUE RAV4 is nine years old. That's about forty-five years old in Japanese reckoning. And naturally, the older your car, the more bloated the bill gets.

Since I knew it was going to cost a lot anyway, I decided to give my car the works and go for all the options. They really did sock it to it, too. My engine got a thorough cleaning. All the various fluids got replaced. They also replaced my fuses and spark plugs with something a bit less cheez-whizzed. A burnt-out light in my dashboard got fixed up, so now I can read all the switches on the air conditioner at night (though I'd gotten used to doing it all by feel). About the only thing that didn't get replaced was my tires (which have wound up being part of shaken in the past...much to my chagrin). I also went for the maintenance pack option, which added about a third to the price, but at least I get free tune-ups and oil/brake fluid changes at intervals until the next shaken.

One nice thing was that I got a real cool loaner for the two-day period. It was a Toyota Auris, which was apparently developed by Toyota UK as a replacement for the venerable Corolla. I got an Auris when I had my last shaken done in 2007, it was a baseline version, and I wasn't all that impressed. This time I got a brand new 2009 model with some options attached, and it was loads of fun! It's not a big car, but the interior is roomy (at the expense of cargo space), and I liked its design. The one I got was a 1500 cc model (There is also an 1800 cc version), which has a smaller engine than my RAV4, but it accelerated quickly and had nice, punchy handling. Another cool feature was that funky "smart key", the first I'd ever experienced. It never came out of my pocket. As long as it was on my person, I was able to lock and unlock the doors from outside the car with a touch, and starting and stopping the engine was done by pressing a button on the dashboard. I'm certainly not getting rid of my BLUE machine anytime soon, but the 2009 Auris was kind of fun to drive for a while. wife has been talking about getting a new car...

I also couldn't help noticing that the Pruis is on sale right now and therefore available at a substantial markdown...

Naturally, the car shop person kept reminding me that, as part of the shaken package, a new car purchase in the near future would be at a substantial discount.

Oh, well. At least I got this biannual ordeal out of the way. As usual, my car came back with noticeably less power (kind of like when one passes the DEQ inspection back home in Oregon), but it's running smoother, sounds nicer, and looks all nice and sparkly BLUE. Besides, I can read all the buttons on the dashboard for the first time in at least a couple of years!

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  • Hm, sounds very expensive!

    I will hug my bike before riding it home tonight. It never costs me more than around £50 for a good fix up!

    By Blogger Chief Rock Chef, at 12:30 AM  

  • That definitely sounds good right about now!

    Zen and the Art of Getting the Government's Hand Out of My Pocket...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 1:15 AM  

  • Shaken, not stirred.

    I'll miss the BLUE RAV4 when it finally leaves your service.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 3:03 AM  

  • FOr a small fee you can ship your car to California and have it go through emissions there. Rumor has it that the newer greener Obama administration wants to adopt California emission standards nation wide.

    By Anonymous Dave, at 4:22 AM  

  • The Prius is the top seller in Japan right now and they literally can't make them fast enough. People who buy one today won't see it until next year sometime.

    One reason we let go of K's 15 year old Toyota as a sticky throttle linkage which was going to cost about $800 to replace. That and the engine and trans were both making "funny noises" (not funny to us).

    I didn't like the costs of shaken, but our dealer always did excellent work at a reasonable cost - they just found a lot of work to do!

    Enjoy your re-NEW-ed RAV4.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 9:42 AM  

  • At least you'll have peace of mind for the next two years or so.

    By Blogger HappySurfer, at 2:16 PM  

  • After reading the post a second time, I couldn't help but wonder, do you have electronic fuel injection?

    By Anonymous Dave, at 12:22 PM  

  • Snabudon-
    I'm not getting rid of it anytime soon!

    It's supposed to be a high-tech, fuel-efficient, low-emissions engine, so it probably would do okay in Californoidland.

    One of the biggest worries about shaken is that your car quite often comes back with numerous problems. It's almost expected. I've always had the RAV4 done at the Toyota dealership where I bought it, and so far I've had no trouble. In the past, however...I've had to take a car back in for servicing within a week of shaken before because of engine problems, improperly attached wheels, etc..

    With regard to that one issue, yes. As for everything else, well...

    Dave (again)-
    To be honest, I'm not sure. As I said before, when I bought the thing (in 2000), they were touting the engine as a new, high-tech type that was more fuel efficient and had cleaner emissions without sacrificing much if anything in the way of power. It has certainly performed a LOT better than that "fuel-efficient, low emissions" (read "gutless") engine in that Plymouth Reliant my parents used to have!

    I know its spark plugs cost a helluva lot more than those of any other car I've owned or operated before...

    Why do you ask?

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 5:03 PM  

  • The reason why I ask is because a properly designed fuel injected car has a computer which is supposed to automatically determine the correct fuel mixture for performance and emissions. So, if it does, and the tune up says that they had to tinker with the fuel air mixture to pass emissions they are feeding you a line of crap. On the other hand, if the car is carberated then yes, it will require ever increasing and fussy adjustments to get it to pass as the carberator can wear out. EFI systems require little more than air filter change and spark plugs. I couldn't tell you rocks from sticks which you have with out looking at it, but you should see a legend plate on the car that says EFI.

    By Anonymous Dave, at 5:34 PM  

  • Dave-
    I looked. It has EFI.

    No tune up to pass an emissions test was specifically mentioned by the mechanic or in the bill. Everything was carefully itemized and even more carefully explained. The fee for getting the car to pass the test is a flat one based on the size of the engine (i.e. everyone pays the same rate regardless of how little or how much tinkering is done) plus extra for parts or options. In my case, the only "extra" I paid was for the oil and brake fluid, engine flushing (an option I opted for), coolant, and spark plugs. I also had them put a water-repellent coating on the windows since the summer rainy season has started.

    I just noticed afterward that my car didn't have as much oomph as it usually does, and that has happened every time I've had the shaken done on it so far. It usually goes back to normal after a little while, especially if I take it out on the expressway and open 'er up a little.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:24 PM  

  • Ah, carbon buildup. I think.

    By Anonymous Dave, at 8:54 AM  

  • Although you mention taking it in yourself is forbidden (My German is crap but I think that is what verboten means) I distinctly remember taking my BLUE ISUZU MYU in to get the shaken done myself. I don't remember how old it was but I could afford it which means it was pretty old :) and I remember that it went over 100k miles on the odometer while I had it. Anyway my point is that I didn't do anything special to prepare for the shaken, I just went in with an Irish guy who spoke better Japanese than me and we took it through each of the check stations, passed, and got the certification. I don't remember how much I saved anymore but I think it was considerably cheaper doing it myself. Then again, your FIL might pass out if he found out you wanted to try it yourself...

    By Anonymous The Intrepid Adventurer, at 7:50 AM  

  • Is it my imagination or has your samuri avatar disappeared?

    By Anonymous Dave, at 2:10 PM  

  • T.I.A.-
    In a words, WHAAAAAAAAAT?????!?!??

    I was told it was not possible for anyone except a certified mechanic to bring a car in for shaken! In fact, I heard it from several people including one gaijin that actually tried...and apparently got turned away.

    I'll have to look into this.

    (I thought flushing out the carbon build-up was one of the things I ordered, but anyway... Every time I've brought a car back from shaken it has seemed gutless for a while.)

    The samurai is still there. Things in the sidebar have a habit of not loading from time to time.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 5:32 PM  

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