SOLD!

After two years of great motoring, playing, and learning, I have sold my 2006 Suzuki Swift.

Suzuki Swift

Goodbye, and thanks for the fun!

It’s been a great car, and I’ve learned a lot about car maintenance and repair (and the effects of Slovakia’s roads) over the last few seasons. However, I have a secret to admit: I have loved electric cars since I was a boy, and I finally got the chance to buy one last week.

Kiwi EV

This isn’t the end; it’s the beginning of something better.

I bought a Peugeot iOn electric car last week, and I absolutely love it. It’s clean, green, reliable, simple, fully-optioned – and most of all – utterly cheap to run.

I’ll be documenting my adventures from here on at www.kiwiev.com, and at that website you can even see how I converted a car to run on electricity back in New Zealand.

Thanks for visiting this site, and I hope to see you over at KiwiEV.com!

Slovak roads strike again!

Slovenské cesty. Slovak roads.

Slovak roads can be quite tough on cars.

I know all too well that Slovak roads can be pretty rough on cars. I’ve already replaced my ABS tone ring and replaced my radiator – both problems being caused by rough roads.

Another problem appeared recently which was getting worse each day: a clunking noise. The clunk sound happened when I stopped, and it seemed to be coming from the right hand (passenger) side.

After looking around the internet, the general consensus is that it’s typically caused by worn bushes (rubber blocks which absorb vibration) or worn out ball joints (a moveable joint, like a hip bone).

Delphi car parts - control arms TC1927 and TC 1928

Two high quality DELPHI brand control arms.

I checked my Suzuki Swift workshop manual and it recommended replacing the entire control arm if any of these things go awry. So, I bought two DELPHI brand control arms after reading good reviews about the quality of DELPHI parts, and got busy in the garage.

I’ve also included instructions, so you can do these repairs yourself.

Suzuki swift axle stands

To begin, jack up the car and remove the wheels.

With the wheels removed and the car sitting securely on axle stands, we can remove the offending control arms. We’ll start on the driver’s (left) side.

Tools needed for this job: a 14mm, 17mm, and 19mm socket (or wrench).

Tools needed for this job: a 14mm, 17mm, and 19mm socket (or wrench).

This isn’t a very technical job, so don’t worry. All that’s needed is a spare afternoon and a 14mm, 17mm, and 19mm socket (or wrench).

1 - How to remove the control arm on a Suzuki Swift - undo these bolts

Only three bolts? How hard could it be?

To remove the control arm, remove the three bolts shown above in order of green, yellow, and red. But before you do that, it’s a good idea to spray them with a healthy dose of penetrating oil. This will help in their removal.

2 - How to remove the control arm on a Suzuki Swift - spray penetrating lubricating oil

Spray the bolts with penetrating oil and leave them for 10 minutes.

Once they’ve been sprayed with oil and left for a few minutes, you can remove them. Start by removing the 14mm bolt (circled in green), then the 17mm bolt (circled in yellow) and finally the 19mm bolt (circled in red).

Funny car repairs!

You have permission to say “oh cock!” at this point.

I reckon your 19mm bolt (like mine) refuses to move, no matter how hard you pull on it. Don’t worry, this is normal.

This is the bolt that will cause you problems.

This (centre) is the bolt that will cause you problems.

Don’t panic! There’s an easy solution to this bolt being stuck: play with fire!

Come on baby, light my fire.

Come on baby, light my fire.

Grab a $15 blowtorch and aim the heat at the nut (not the threaded bolt) which is the cause of the problem. Blast it with heat for 30 seconds to a minute and this will make it swell slightly. Then, while it’s still hot, undo the bolt from underneath.

Removing the ball joint from the wheel assembly

Use a crowbar, piece or wood, or hammer to pop the ball joint out of the wheel assembly.

Then, with all bolts removed, pop the ball joint out from the wheel assembly with a crowbar or hammer (or a wooden stick, like the picture above!).

Once the bolts are out and the ball joint has popped out, the control arm will wiggle out and you can have a good look at it.

The rubber bush on the driver's side has perished and split.

The rubber bush on the driver’s side has perished and split.

No surprise here: the rubber bush has perished and split on the driver’s side. This means there’s excessive movement. This explains some of the rattle coming from the front.

To replace the control arm, just reverse the procedure. Start by connecting the big (19mm) bolt first, then go backwards. Seriously, get the big bolt secured first. If you don’t, you’ll be battling to line everything up.

Removing the other control arm is the exact same procedure, and once I’d got it out I had the chance to inspect it…

Passenger side: a broken ball joint.

Passenger side: a broken ball joint.

This is the source of my dreaded clunk. The old ball joint had not only leaked it’s greasy contents, but there was no resistance in its movement. It was completely weakened and – for lack of a better word – floppy!

New Suzuki Swift control arm - DELPHI

Shiny and new.

By comparison, the replacement part was stiffer and sealed & full of grease.

Once again, installing the new control arm is just the reverse of removing it.

Suzuki Swift control arm and ball joint replacement

Done and dusted.

Both sides of the car now have new control arms!

Better yet, I took the car for a test drive to see if the clunking problem has gone. Watch the video below to see for yourself:

Happy motoring everyone and drive safely! :)

Installing a hidden camera to watch my wheels!

Have you ever scraped your front passenger wheel against the curb? Yes of course you have, because you’re a human being!

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

One pure, untouched side mirror.

I decided to make sure this doesn’t happen to me by installing a tiny camera in the side mirror which would look down at the front passenger-side wheel.
This means that when I’m parking in a tight spot or I’m parking on a narrow street I can get super close to the curb without actually hitting it. Sounds good huh?

To install the camera into the side mirror, I had to remove it. Removing the side mirror in a Suzuki Swift is quite simple. First however, you’ll need to remove the door panel and I made instructions here.

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

The mirror cover pops off when pried out with a flat screwdriver.

At any moment you can easily pop off the external cover on the side mirror to have a look how much room there is in there. Quite a bit as you can see in the above picture. To remove the cover, work your way around the cover prying it off with a flat screwdriver.

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

This is the little waterproof camera I will use.

This little beast is the camera I’ll use. It’s a waterproof reversing camera I bought off eBay for around $9 USD. Can’t beat that, so I bought two just in case one dies!

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

Disconnect the cables and undo the three bolts.

With the door cover and tweeter speaker removed you can unclip the side mirror cable plug and unscrew the three mirror bolts, by turning them anticlockwise.

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

Hey presto! Side mirror removed!

Removing the side mirror was easy, but I also needed to remove the mirror glass itself. This was a little trickier.

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

Be careful not to break the glass.

You’ll find a series of clips which hold the glass onto its swivel base. To remove the side mirror glass, use a thin screwdriver to pop the bottom-left clip first by wedging it in there. It’s almost impossible to see what’s going on in there, so click on the following picture for a close-up.

See the clips on the back of the mirror? Click for a close-up.

See the clips on the back of the mirror? Click for a close-up.

I was scared I was going to break the glass at one point, but as long as you pop off one of the clips, the whole clip assembly will be weaker, and the rest will let go. Just pry the whole glass out, but keep the pressure as even as possible to avoid breaking the glass.

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

A good look at how it all fits together.

If you’re reading these instructions looking to replace a mirror yourself, just reverse the procedure from here.

As for installing the hidden camera, now the hard work begins!

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

I cut a fairly crude hole into the black part of the side mirror.

I used a soldering iron to melt a nice big hole into the side mirror. Unfortunately, soldering irons aren’t very precise instruments when it comes to melting plastic. This meant the hole was a bit bigger and uglier than I wanted!

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

It fits and the wires are nicely hidden!

Still, from the outside it looks fine and the mirror’s movement isn’t impeded in any way which is important.

I ran the wires for the camera (power wires + signal wires) through a hole I cut into the mirror’s plastic frame and pulled the cables through.

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

As you probably know, I love hiding cables from view.

Now that’s a tidy install, and there’s plenty of unused room in the mirror housing for the connectors.

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

It’s in but now comes the boring wiring part…

Running the power and signal wires from the side mirror wasn’t easy. There were a lot of flexible joins, seals, and tubes to run them through. There was also the problem of having the camera not running all the time, because it seems to get quite warm after about 5 minutes of operation.

Being a cheap Chinese camera I didn’t want it to die after running for a couple of hours, so I found a way to ensure it’s only on when I need it.

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

The side mirror defroster wires – the perfect power source!

The answer to my prayers was right there in front of me: I just connected the power to the side mirror defroster wires!

This means my stealth camera will only operate when I press the rear window defroster button. This is good because it’s close to hand, it has an orange light to remind me it’s running, it only operates when the engine is running, and it turns itself off automatically when you turn off the engine! Perfect!

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

What a labyrinth to get through.

To run the signal wire from the side mirror to the to the stereo I followed the existing wire paths, avoiding the window going up & down and running through the flexible rubber tubes & grommets to keep water out. This part took a little patience.

Raspberry pi with internet connected in the car

My car had the internet but I never used it.

Many of you might remember that I installed a Raspberry Pi computer under the dash last year. However I never got around to using it, so I unplugged the computer and instead plugged in the side mirror camera.

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

With the camera in position I held it with some sealant.

I did some positioning and fine-tuning of the camera’s angle and then held it in place with some silicon sealant. A couple of hours later the sealant was dry and I put the mirror glass back in.

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

My side mirror “Stealth camera” is installed!

It was a fiddly task but the results are superb! Unless you’re below the mirror, you can’t tell there’s a camera hidden inside!

Instructions on how to replace the side mirror glass in a Suzuki Swift - www.suzukiswift.info

No more scraped curbs.

The stealth camera is flipped horizontally which means it’s a little disorientating for the uninitiated (you’re actually looking at the right front wheel) but it’s pretty obvious where the curb is when you’re using it but I’ll look at finding a way to flip the image horizontally.

In combination with the reversing camera (which comes on as soon as the car is put into reverse) it means I can now squeeze into some really tight spaces without touching the other cars and without getting out of the car to check distances.

Check out this video below to see it in action!

Cool huh?! :)

Installing a new reversing camera

Some of you might remember I installed a reversing camera in the car last year and it was working fine until recently.

Suzuki Swift reversing camera

An upside down picture makes reversing very difficult.

For the last few months the camera has been sporadically flipping the image upside down, until recently when it now spends more time upside down than the correct way up. So I bought a new camera off eBay.

Suzuki Swift reversing camera

Getting the old camera out was tricky.

First I had to remove the old camera which was tricky. I eventually pried it out with a screwdriver, but then I was struck with a problem…

Suzuki Swift reversing camera

One of these things is not like the other…

As you can see in the above photo, the reversing camera I ordered from eBay had a much longer base which would look ridiculous on my car so I had to remove the old camera from its base and install the new camera onto it. I used a blob of rubber sealant because the screw holes didn’t match up.

Suzuki Swift reversing camera

I ran the cables to the same place and plugged them in.

The rest was easy as I attached the new cables to the old cables and pulled them through the existing path until they popped through the air vent above, then I connected everything together.

Suzuki Swift reversing camera

Much better!

The new camera is not only the correct way up, but the quality is much better too. Look at the difference in definition between this photo and the first photo on the page.

Now I can reverse with ease again. Phew.

You are welcome to use all images from this site, but please keep “suzukiswift.info” in the corner.

Fixing a crooked window

Recently I noticed an air-whooshing noise coming from the driver’s side front window on my Suzuki Swift. It only seemed to happen at about 70 km/h or faster, so I had a look and sure enough, there was a gap that wasn’t there before!

1- Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Notice the gap?

This worried me because window repairs can be expensive and I assumed the worst. I expected one of the mechanical parts inside the door had broken or warped.

So, I put the car in the garage, cued the A-Team music, and took the door cover off. I created instructions below how you can remove the door cover too if you ever need to.

8 - Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Don’t be scared, it’s actually really easy.

Start by unscrewing the screw in the handle of the door latch, and the screw inside the plastic pocket you pull the door closed with.

Next, remove the two plastic clips on each end of the door cover. The one closer to the lock needs to be pushed in with a screwdriver, then the whole thing will pop out. The one closer to the door hinge however needs a little more attention.

8 - Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Use an appropriately sized Phillips screwdriver and turn anti-clockwise.

Don’t put too much pressure on the above “screw” because it’ll just stay in the door. It’s pretty brittle, so don’t be too rough with it.

8 - Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Remove the door tweeter by simply pulling it outwards.

Next, remove the door “tweeter” speaker by pulling it towards you and then slightly upwards to move it away from the door. It doesn’t need to be completely disconnected and it’s only held in by clips so you don’t need any special tools.

Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Go around the edge pulling the door cover towards you.

With the two screws removed, the two plastic plugs removed, and the tweeter unclipped from the door frame, go around the edge of the door cover pulling it towards you. It will “click” as each of the plastic plugs holding it in come out. Don’t worry, they’re not broken; they’re designed to be reusable and will be clipped back in place.

Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Lift the door panel up and over the lip on the window sill.

Now that the panel is loose, lift it up and over the lip on the windowsill as shown above.

Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Unclip these two cables.

There will be two cables stopping the door skin from coming off, so unplug them. It can be a little tricky to do it with one hand, but you’ll get there.

Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Gently remove this plastic film. Don’t break it.

Next, remove the plastic film covering the door. It’s not very strong so take your time. It is resealable and you’ll need to be able to put this back eventually. It will also want to stick to itself a lot so you’ll need patience!

Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Done!

Now that the door cover was off, I was able to get a closer look at the inner workings of the electric window. Interestingly however, while I was taking the door cover off, two screws fell out…

Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Where did these come from?

The fact that screws fell out when I removed the door cover made me question if my window gap was actually caused by something quite straightforward.

Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

I connected the door controls back up and moved the window.

I removed the window/lock controls from the door panel (it’s only held in by a few screws) and connected it up to the electric window wires so I could watch what happens when I raise and lower the window. This is when I noticed something wasn’t right.

Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Door cam: a shot from inside the door.

I put the camera inside the door and took the above photo. I immediately noticed that there are two screw holes in the door, and two screw holes in the cog mechanism that isn’t connected to the door. Surely this thing should be affixed to the door?

Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

I put the two screws back into their holes.

I pushed the cog towards the door and installed the two screws which fell out back into those two holes. I tightened them both up and tested the window.

Removing the door skin cover on a Suzuki swift

Wow. That was too easy.

You wouldn’t believe it: that was the problem!

I guess (like my radiator) it was another case of bumpy and broken Slovak roads making my poor car fall apart! Let’s hope that my misfortune helps you somehow if your Suzuki Swift has the same problem.

Drive safe, everyone. :)

You are welcome to use all images from this site, but please keep “suzukiswift.info” in the corner.

Tightening a squealing belt

Colder temperatures are fast approaching, and with colder temperatures comes increased strain on your car’s moving bits. This means you’re more likely to get that often familiar squealing noise upon start-up. It’s almost always caused by your alternator or power steering belts slipping in the cold weather.
This is because cold rubber doesn’t grip so well, also because you’re more likely to have lots of electric things operating (fan/lights/wipers) in winter which adds more resistance against the moving belts, and also because the belts may be nearing the end of their lives and getting worn out and loose. Tightening a belt could be seen as temporary solution, but it generally works.

While my Suzuki Swift has never squealed, I noticed that one of the belts has started to make a chirping noise on cold mornings. So while I tighten the belts on the car, I’ll be taking photos so you can do the same. It’s not as scary as it sounds and you can do it yourself if you have some basic tools and a free afternoon.

How do I fix a squealing belt on a Suzuki Swift. How to tighten the belt on a 3rd Generation 2004-2010 Suzuki Swift. It's quite easy.

This square is where the alternator and its tensioner are.

There are two belts on the passenger side of the engine (on left hand drive vehicles). One looks after the alternator and water pump, and the other looks after the power steering and air conditioning. I’m going to tighten both belts a little. The picture above shows the area where the first belt is, called the alternator belt. For this you will need a 12mm wrench/spanner.

How do I fix a squealing belt on a Suzuki Swift. How to tighten the belt on a 3rd Generation 2004-2010 Suzuki Swift. It's quite easy.

Spray this bolt with lubricant first, then loosen it.

Looking straight down at the belt, you’ll see the alternator and this bolt circled above. Spray the bolt with some lubricant first because it probably hasn’t moved in years! Wait a moment for the lubricant to soak in, then undo the bolt by turning it anticlockwise. If you’re lucky, the alternator will move if you push on it (but I doubt it!) allowing the alternator to slide up and down the long hole in that arm.

How do I fix a squealing belt on a Suzuki Swift. How to tighten the belt on a 3rd Generation 2004-2010 Suzuki Swift. It's quite easy.

Jack up the right-front side of the car and remove the wheel and plastic engine splash-guard.

Jack up the car and remove the wheel on the passenger side (if your car is left hand drive) and remove the plastic splash guard. This will give you access to the bottom of the alternator.

How do I fix a squealing belt on a Suzuki Swift. How to tighten the belt on a 3rd Generation 2004-2010 Suzuki Swift. It's quite easy.

Spray all around this bolt with lubricant and give the area a few whacks with a hammer.

Now you can stick your head under the wheel arch and look up at the alternator. You’ll see the bolt (circled in red) that the alternator is hinged on. This is probably seized up with all kinds of mud and gunk, so give it a good spray with lubricant from all angles and both sides.

Let it soak for a few minutes and give the area a good whack or two with a hammer, just to shock it into loosening up. I admit that these tips aren’t pretty, and I’m no mechanic, but if you need a quick fix then they should sort you out.

How do I fix a squealing belt on a Suzuki Swift. How to tighten the belt on a 3rd Generation 2004-2010 Suzuki Swift. It's quite easy.

Grab a crowbar or sturdy metal rod and wedge it between the engine and the alternator.

With everything all lubricated nicely, and with the top bolt loosened, you can now put some pressure on the alternator with a strong metal rod. Make sure you’re putting the pressure of the metal rod against the metal of the engine, not a plastic part which could break. Then, pull your end of the rod towards the front of the car to push the alternator back.

How do I fix a squealing belt on a Suzuki Swift. How to tighten the belt on a 3rd Generation 2004-2010 Suzuki Swift. It's quite easy.

Pull the rod towards you, and tighten the adjuster bolt.

It requires a little multi-tasking if you’re alone, but you can use your foot to apply pressure to the rod, while using your hands to tighten the alternator adjuster bolt at the same time. It should be tight enough to stop any squeaking noises, but not so tight that the belt could break. This is where you have to use your instincts. A handy rule of thumb is that when complete, the belt should only move by about 3 or 4 millimetres when you push on it.

How do I fix a squealing belt on a Suzuki Swift. How to tighten the belt on a 3rd Generation 2004-2010 Suzuki Swift. It's quite easy.

Now let’s move onto belt number two: the power steering belt.

Once you’re satisfied the belt is tight enough, put the plastic splash-guard back in place, put the tyre back on, and we’ll move onto the second belt. This one looks after the power steering pump & the air conditioning compressor. This one’s also a little easier to adjust, although somewhat tricky to get access to.

How do I fix a squealing belt on a Suzuki Swift. How to tighten the belt on a 3rd Generation 2004-2010 Suzuki Swift. It's quite easy.

Do you have any idea how hard it was to get this in focus and in a photo?

Start by spraying these two bolts with lubricant. After you’ve let it soak in, loosen the tension pulley nut (circled in red) by turning it anticlockwise a few times. This will allow the whole pulley (the thing with the belt on it) to move up or down. Once the nut in red has been loosened, tighten the tension pulley adjusting bolt (circled in blue) by turning it clockwise.

How do I fix a squealing belt on a Suzuki Swift. How to tighten the belt on a 3rd Generation 2004-2010 Suzuki Swift. It's quite easy.

Here’s a cutaway diagram from the service manual to show you how it works.

It’s a pain in the butt to get a wrench in there but with each clockwise turn, the whole pulley will gradually creep upwards and the belt will tighten. Tighten it until it’s quite firm, but not overly firm. Again, you’ll have to use your instincts – or a belt tensioning tool – but they cost money. :)

Once the belt is firm, tighten the tension pulley but (red) again, to make sure everything stays in place… and that’s it! If you’ve done the belts up tight enough, then your squeaks and squeals should be gone and you can enjoy starting your car without waking up the neighbourhood!

And now for the disclaimer:

Your belts might be completely worn out and tightening them could make them snap soon afterwards. In that case, just buy new belts and use these instructions to install them. Also, I should point out  if you tighten the hell out of your belts then you could put lots of strain on the bearings in your pumps & pulleys. And of course I should also add the ultimate disclaimer: I am not a mechanic and you should do everything on this page at your own risk. Honestly, the world would be a happier place if we didn’t need to put disclaimers on everything but that’s life.

Now get out there and have a great day!

The car passed its safety test!

Woohoo! The car has successfully passed its 2-yearly vehicle inspection and emission check. The event was similar to the Warrant of Fitness I had to endure in New Zealand, so I was a little worried to say the least, especially as cars wear out pretty quickly on Slovak roads.

Technické a emisné kontroly - Technická kontrola emisií - Vehicle inspection, emission, and roadworthiness test in Slovakia or Slovensko

I’ll admit: I was nervous…

I had the appointment made for 7:30 AM at a vehicle testing station in Petržalka, run by the German firm Dekra. Mine was the first car o be inspected that morning.

I paid €60 at the counter which might sound like a lot of money but it covers the inspection and the vehicle registration for two whole years, so it’s actually the bargain of the century.

Technické a emisné kontroly - Technická kontrola emisií - Vehicle inspection, emission, and roadworthiness test in Slovakia or Slovensko

Forget drag races: this is the ultimate car proving ground.

To be brutally honest, I expected the test to be a bit easier than the overkill vehicle tests performed in New Zealand, given Slovakia’s approach to road safety. In New Zealand the tests are so over-the-top that some people drive their cars illegally and risk large fines rather than go through the often nonsensical hoops required to drive a car legally.

Now I should point at that I take road safety very seriously (as you can clearly tell from reading this blog) but statistics prove that 90% of all crashes are caused by driver error, not poorly maintained vehicles or improper road conditions. Of course vehicles must be maintained properly, but I would prefer it if governments channeled the bulk of their energies into solving the much larger problem, by teaching and enforcing safe driving practices, instead of compulsively measuring my headlights. Ok, rant over, back to the test.

Technické a emisné kontroly - Technická kontrola emisií - Vehicle inspection, emission, and roadworthiness test in Slovakia or Slovensko

The inspection is underway, and things are getting serious.

The first surprise of the inspection was how detailed it was, and how many computers were used. Because of the more relaxed approach to health & safety in Slovakia, I expected the car inspection to be a piece of cake. In reality, it was taken very seriously and in great detail.

Technické a emisné kontroly - Technická kontrola emisií - Vehicle inspection, emission, and roadworthiness test in Slovakia or Slovensko

No secrets: they even tap into the car’s computer to check the engine readings

It turned out that the inspection was actually pretty intense. They checked everything. The first step was to connect to my car’s internal computer so they could observe how the engine management was operating and if the car was running rich, lean, or just badly!

Apologies for the low quality of the photos; I had to use my mobile phone which is in desperate need of an upgrade.

Technické a emisné kontroly - Technická kontrola emisií - Vehicle inspection, emission, and roadworthiness test in Slovakia or Slovensko

They even check the quality of the brake fluid!

I was also surprised by the attention paid to the brakes. Before the car had even gone up on a hoist, a sample of brake fluid was extracted and analysed by a controlled burn and measurement on the table pictured above.

Technické a emisné kontroly - Technická kontrola emisií - Vehicle inspection, emission, and roadworthiness test in Slovakia or Slovensko

Next step: brake check.

At this point my car was feeling a little bit violated. It had its lights, wipers, engine management, and brake fluid inspected. Then the inspector checked to make sure the car has an up-to-date first aid kit, a safety triangle, and of course a spare tyre. After all that came the brake check, shown in the picture above. This tested how even & balanced the braking pressure was on each wheel.

Technické a emisné kontroly - Technická kontrola emisií - Vehicle inspection, emission, and roadworthiness test in Slovakia or Slovensko

Shake that booty.

The next and thankfully final act was to lift the car up so that the inspector could check the condition of the underside. At this stage I was glad that I’d spent a few hours sliding around underneath applying rust preventers and washing the underside after the last winter.

What was unusual about this inspection process is that once the car was lifted up, the whole raised platform violently shook from left to right so that the inspector could see how the suspension operated. I’m sure it’s designed as a safe method, but I didn’t want to be under a tonne of Suzuki it when it was being shaken around while lifted up in the air!

rozbité cesty - Most SNP Bratislava Slovakia, Slovensko

Driving across the Danube River with the taste of victory in my mouth.

15 minutes later, my car had successfully passed its safety and emission inspections and I was on my way to work with brand new roadworthiness stickers on the bottom-right of the windscreen.

So now I have two years to go before the next safety and emissions inspection. That’s two years of potholes and salted winter roads, so its up to me to ensure my car is healthy and safe during that time… wish me luck!
:)

Disclaimer: in the photo above I was stationary in bumper-to-bumper traffic on SNP Bridge. Please never take photos while your vehicle is in motion. Keep safety as your first priority.

Changing the oil

That time has come again. I need to change the oil on the car as another 10,000 kilometres has flown by. So, I got online and ordered replacement oil, a replacement oil filter, and a replacement air filter.

Suzuki Swift service with oil change - Aral Bluetronic 10W-40 motor oil and MANN W 6101 oil filter and MANN C 2448 air filter from Damo Slovakia

The goodies have arrived. It’s like an oil-themed Christmas morning.

I recommend changing your coolant when you change your oil, but seeing as I changed the coolant just a few weeks ago when my radiator broke, I skipped it this time.

I used MANN filters and Aral 10W-40 motor oil (as recommend by the Suzuki manual) for this basic service. In case you’re wondering, the replacement part numbers are:

Oil filter: MANN W 610/1
Air filter: MANN C 2448
Oil: Aral Bluetronic 10W-40 (4 litres)

I saw very cheap Chinese-made filters on the internet, but for peace of mind I chose German and European made oil and filters which I bought online from Damo Slovakia. In the photo you can also see a bottle of “Super Rost Killer” which I bought for a bit of pre-winter anti-rust prevention which I’ll apply in a few weeks.

I want to add that Damo Slovakia was very good to deal with. Sometimes Slovak companies don’t have very good customer service, but Damo was fast, cheap, and easy. They even called to apologise that there would be a delay on the oil, giving me the option of a different brand. Very thoughtful. Also, the courier delivery fee was only €1.80! I’m impressed and I’ll definitely use them again.

Suzuki Swift oil change - Aral Bluetronic 10W-40 motor oil and MANN W 6101 oil filter and MANN C 2448 air filter

Jack the car up onto axle stands and get to work!

Once you’ve turned off the engine and safely raised the car we’ll have a look at the two things we’ll be removing. The red circle is the old oil filter and the blue circle is the oil sump bolt. When you’re ready, you’ll unscrew both of these and whether you like it or not, lots of oil will come out!

710 cap

Remove the “710 cap” as it’s often nicknamed.

Once your engine has cooled to a safe temperature, remove the oil cap on the top of the engine and place it somewhere. With the oil cap removed, there won’t be any resistance stopping the oil from pouring out underneath.

Suzuki Swift dipstick

The dipstick shows the oil level in the engine.

Have a look at the dipstick while you’re there. It’s a long thing with a yellow handle. Pull it all the way out then wipe off the oil on it. Then, put it back into it’s hole for a couple of seconds, and pull it out again. Check where the oil level is. It should be somewhere between the top and bottom marker holes, preferably in the middle. In my case there was too much oil in the car.

Aral Bluetronic 10W-40 motor oil and MANN W 6101 oil filter and MANN C 2448 air filter

Get ready for the Exxon Valdez to arrive…

Make sure you have a big oil collection tray under the car, because the slimy black oil is going to come out – and come out fast – when you undo that oil sump bolt!

Suzuki Swift oil sump plug

This is the Kraken. Prepare to release it!

Right, here comes the potentially messy part. Make sure your oil collection container is in the path of the oil flow. As you can see, the bolt is aimed towards the back of the car which means the oil will flow out in that direction. Are you sure you’ve got the container in the right place? If not, it could mean a lot of scrubbing the garage floor afterwards!

Suzuki Swift service

Just wait, it gets even messier soon.

See what I mean? The oil flows out at quite an angle, so make sure your tray is aligned properly. Also, almost 4 litres of oil is going to come out, so make sure your tray is big enough!

Once that oily torrent has turned into a drip, it’s time to unscrew the oil filter. This is another messy job, so make sure you have the ground covered with many layers of newspaper. I mean it, don’t underestimate how messy this next part is.

motor oil change

This part is always messy so get ready.

The oil filter should come undone with a good strong grasp and a solid counter-clockwise turn. Occasionally, if it’s really tight, you’ll need an oil filter removal tool (like a giant lid opener) but fortunately I’ve never needed one.

Once you’ve removed the oil filter – actually, halfway through unscrewing the oil filter – a load of trapped oil is going to come out, so get ready!

Gulf of mexico and Exxon Valdez

This is the moment when you consider buying an electric car…

I thought I was prepared, but much more oil came out than I expected, so a few drops of oil splattered on the garage floor and I rushed into clean-up mode.

apply oil to rubber ring gasket - MANN W 6101 oil filter

Make sure you apply a film of oil all around this rubber gasket.

Once you’ve cleaned up the oil (unless you’re better prepared than I was) apply a film of oil to the rubber gasket on the new oil filter and screw it in, in place of the old one.

Suzuki swift oil filter location

Don’t worry, we’re almost done with the oily part.

Above is a better view of the socket where the old oil filter was attached. Your new oil filter will screw straight in there. It should be done up quite firmly.

Use a plastic bottle with a cloth around it to reduce oil spills.

Use a plastic bottle with a cloth around it to reduce oil spills.

Now you can screw the oil sump bolt back in place and move to the top of the engine, as it’s time to add shiny new motor oil. Unfortunately the oil is going to go “glug glug glug” spurting out of the container, splashing everywhere. To solve this problem, use a funnel or make one out of a plastic drink bottle that is clean and completely dry.

Adding fresh motor oil

This part is slightly more pleasant but still pretty slimy.

Now add the new motor oil. You’re going to use almost the entire 4 litre bottle, as the 2004-2010 model of Suzuki Swift takes 3.7 litres, according to the manual.

Once you’ve poured in almost the whole bottle, put the car down on the ground and run the engine for a bit to warm it up and slosh it around inside the engine.

Fresh motor oil

That’s more like it: Lightly golden instead of black.

Turn off the engine and check the oil level with the dipstick. It should be in the middle, between the two holes in the dipstick. Don’t go above or below these holes.

If you don’t have enough oil the engine could easily wear out its bearings & piston rings (very expensive to fix). Too much oil on the other hand and you could find oil burning in the cylinders, fouling your spark plugs, and the car struggling to start in winter. Therefore somewhere in the middle is the way to go.

Now replace the oil cap, clean all the horrible oil off your hands, and let’s replace the air filter so the engine can breathe properly.

How do I change the air filter in my car

You engine’s air filter is inside that big plastic box.

Start by un-clipping the clasp above in the blue circle and unbolting the bolt in the red circle.

how to i replace the air filter in my car

And now for the other side.

And do the same on the other side. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get away without undoing the bolts, but I couldn’t: there just wasn’t quite enough room to get the old filter out of the way with just the clips undone.

Replacing the air filter in a Suzuki Swift

Out it comes.

With a little wiggling, the old air filter will come out and you can play with its paper fins for a while (it’s ok, everyone does this).

Old and new air filters - dirty and clean

See the difference!

Look at the difference between the old and new filters. The car looks like it’s been smoking a pack a day for 20 years, but it’s last service was only 10 months ago!

Next, just reverse the process for installing the new air filter, and you’re done. Make sure you screw in the oil cap, and lastly, have a quick look under the car to check for any leaks.

As for the old motor oil, you’ll need to find a safe way to dispose of it. Many gas stations have oil reclaiming facilities, so ask your local gas station. If they don’t know, ask a mechanic as they all have oil collection facilities. They may even take it from you if you buy them a beer or two.

Motor oil reminder sticker

Motor oil bottles often come with these handy stickers.

If your motor oil bottle comes with a reminder sticker, fill it out and attach it somewhere convenient. I placed mine on the inside of the door, near the door hinge so that I can see it any time without having to open the hood.

And that’s it, you’re done!

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Installing a remote starter

Cold winter mornings suck. It takes 15 minutes to warm up the snow-covered car, which means you’re halfway to work before you can feel your hands again.

Suzuki Swift with Viper remote starter and XpressKit immobilizer bypass

A Viper 4103V remote starter and an XpressKit immobiliser bypass

Not anymore! Even though it’s still summer, I thought it would be a great time to install a remote starter in the Suzuki Swift for the coming cold months. So, I bought a Viper 4103v remote starter and chucked it in the car.

I created these basic instructions on how to install a remote starter in your own Suzuki Swift if you also get sick of waiting for you car’s inside temperature to be comfortable during cold winters (or hot summers for that matter).

Suzuki Swift with Viper remote starter and XpressKit immobilizer bypass

Turn the wheel to access each screw.

Start by pulling off the panel below the steering wheel, and lowering the steering wheel down so you’ll have access to all the screws. Start by removing the two front facing screws with a Phillips-head screwdriver.

Suzuki Swift with Viper remote starter and XpressKit immobilizer bypass

This is the third and final screw to remove.

Then remove the single screw which goes in from underneath the plastic steering wheel case. After you have removed those three screws, the plastic case will seperate (with a little force) and you can put it aside.

Suzuki Swift with Viper remote starter and XpressKit immobilizer bypass

View from below, looking up. Remove this metal shield by undoing two screws.

Once you’ve removed the metal shield (shown above), you can start to make sense out of which wires you need to connect.

Suzuki Swift with Viper remote starter and XpressKit immobilizer bypass

Where to start? Don’t worry, it’s much easier than you might think.

Don’t be scared by all the wires – most of them won’t be used! In fact, if you’re only using the basic remote start function (and not all the many options that come with the remote start system) then you’ll only be connecting about 9 wires in total.

I recommend using a Viper remote start system above other brands. I had a cheap Bulldog brand remote starter in an older car, and it was dreadful. It worked for only 8 weeks before malfunctioning and starting my car by itself in the middle of the night (then not shutting down unless I got out of bed and disconnected it inside the car). I learned my lesson and paid a bit more for a better brand. I really, really recommend you do the same.

Suzuki Swift with Viper remote starter and XpressKit immobilizer bypass

This is the main cable that does all the work.

Now, to start the installation, let’s connect the important cables first. Locate the main ignition cable cluster underneath the steering column (pictured above) and unplug it.

Suzuki Swift with Viper remote starter and XpressKit immobilizer bypass

The ignition wires are the most important in any remote starter connection.

At this point you should follow your instruction manual which comes with your remote starter to figure out which wires to connect. However, I can tell you what each wire in the harness does (listed in order, facing the plug):

YELLOW: Ignition output (+12 volts output when key in the “ignition” position)
GREEN & WHITE: Starter output (+12 volts output when key in the “start” position)
WHITE & BLUE: Main input (constant +12 volt supply from battery)
WHITE: Accessories out (+12 volts out when key in the “ACC” position – low current)
BLUE: Accessories out (+12 volts out when key in the “ACC” position – low current)
GREEN: Ignition out  (+12 volts out when key in “ignition” position – low current)

Some of these cables are high current, and at least one of them will be “live”, so be careful. Disconnect one of the battery terminals to ensure you don’t short-circuit one of those high-current wires. Seriously, just take 2 minutes and do it. You don’t want your Suzuki Swift to go down in flames. Just imagine the call to the insurance company afterwards, or the look on your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/landlord’s face.

Suzuki Swift with Viper Remote Starter and PKALL XpressKit immobilzer bypass

Always solder your connections. Any other wire-joining method is asking for trouble.

Follow your instructions to see exactly where each wire on your particular remote start system needs to be connected. In my case the system needed two high-power inputs ( 2 x red wires) but the Suzuki Swift only has one (1 x white & blue) so I connected the three together which works well. You’ll probably find that you’ll need to do the same.

Viper remote start installation instruction guide

This little wire is your parking lights wire. Tap into it.

Your remote starter will need a connection to your parking lights, so the lights will flash when you start the car, use the system to unlock the doors, go into Valet Mode, or even turn on the rear window demister (yeah, it even has that option!). I won’t be using any of those which makes this one a really quick and easy install.

Anyway, tap in the Light Flash Output to this little orange & yellow cable. Make sure you thoroughly wrap your soldered connections with electrical tape afterwards.

Viper remote starter brake light connection

Looking up: last of all is the brake light connection.

The last wire the remote starter needs to tap into is the brake light wire. This means that you can cancel the remote starter simply by pressing the brake. This also means that if someone manages to hotwire, or steal your car while it’s remotely running, as soon as they press the brake the engine will cut off.

Locate which wire becomes alive when you press the brake pedal, then disconnect the plug circled above and tap into it. The location and length of this wire makes tapping into it really tricky, but with a little patience and a lot of swearing and grunting, you’ll get there. Please don’t skip this step. It’s not worth the risk.

Viper Remote Start aerial under dashboard

Wires? What wires?

As you’ve probably figured out, I don’t like wires showing in my car. This means I have to go to some extraordinary lengths to hide cables, but the result is always pleasing. For example, in the above photo I put the aerial inside the plastic cover above the instrument cluster. Looks much tidier than being stuck on the windscreen. It also makes the car appear as boring as possible – something useful for deterring thieves.

Suzuki Swift immobilizer

This is the immobiliser unit.

Now it’s time to install the immobiliser bypass unit. This taps into the immobiliser transponder pictured above.

It’s actually really simple in how your immobiliser works. Your key has a little microchip in it, and when the chip gets close enough to the sensor (the round thing in the picture above), the sensor tells your car’s computer that it can start.

If you (or a thief) try to start the car when the sensor doesn’t sense the microchip nearby, your immobiliser dashboard light will flash, and your engine will just turn over and over but never actually start.

XpressKit immobilizer connected

This is an immobilizer bypass device.

The problem with immobilisers and remote starters is that they only let people with the key start the car. This means remote starters won’t work. So, you’ll need to install one of these things pictured above, called an immobiliser bypass unit.

The idea is really simple. You connect an immobiliser bypass unit to your car by tapping it into the wires on your immobiliser transponder (the round thing). Then you start your car normally with the key.

The unit then learns the “I can see the microchip; everything’s good” signal that your car says when it detects a key with a microchip nearby. Once the unit has learned the signal, you don’t need the key with the microchip to remote start the car anymore! This is because the bypass unit creates an artificial “I can see the microchip; everything’s good” signal and sends it down the cable. Now the car has been tricked into thinking it can see the microchip. 😉

Update: I’m having issues with this XpressKit immobiliser bypass unit and am currently in correspondence with XpressKit. Stay tuned.

XpressKit PKALL

This is what’s called the “nest” stage.

At this point there are wires everywhere, but don’t panic. Most of them are not used, so just wrap them up and tape them up to make it tidy.

Viper remote starter instructions

Clean and tidy.

Once your cables are organised, make sure they won’t get caught on the steering column or pedals, then secure the remote start unit and immobiliser bypass under the dashboard.

That’s it! It’s not complicated, and even someone with only a basic understanding of car electrics could undertake it. However, for safety’s sake, I recommend getting someone with an understanding of low voltage electrics and someone with soldering experience to help you out. You can’t put a price on peace of mind.

The next step is to create an additional safety system so that the car won’t start when it’s in gear. I did this with the help of two magnetic switches which I bought on eBay, and I’ve included instructions below.

Remote start on a stick shift

Getting access to the gear shifter is a piece of cake

First of all, pry out the plastic panel which surrounds the gear stick. A flat-head screwdriver will work.

Remote start safety system for stick shift manual transmission gearbox

Unclip the gear stick gaiter from underneath.

Next, unclip the gaiter from underneath. It comes out quite easily.

Viper remote start on a stick shift

Unfortunately the surface around the gear stick isn’t flat, so we’ll need to fix that.

Now you can see the workings of the gear stick. On the surface, surrounding the gear stick, I needed to install the magnetic switches. However there’s no flat area to put the switches on, so I made a flat area out of a cap from a spray can.

Remote start safety system for stick shift manual transmission gearbox

This plastic cap from a paint can will do.

You could use anything, but a cap from a spray can was easy to work with. Using a sharp blade I cut out a hole in the centre, and removed the sides of the cap. You’ll need to also cut a line from the centre to the edge, so that you can fit it around the gear stick.

Remote start safety system for stick shift manual transmission gearbox

This is one of the magnetic switches. I will use two.

Once your plastic leveler is sitting on the gear stick base, move your magnetic switches into position. They’ll need to be close to the gear stick, but not touching it.

I didn’t use the big white magnets that came with the magnetic switches, because they’re too big and they’re quite weak. As you can see in the photo below, I used a small neodymium magnet (from eBay) on the front and back of the gear stick. When the magnets on the gear stick are moved forwards or backwards, they trigger one of the magnetic switches.

Remote start safety system for stick shift manual transmission gearbox

I used two sensors and two small neodymium magnets.

I used a digital multimeter connected to each switch’s wires and I moved the magnets around until they activated the switches in every gear position. When it was perfect I glued the magnets in place.

Then I connected one wire from each magnetic switch to earth (the body of the car) and I ran the other wires to my “hood switch” connection on the remote starter. The hood switch wire is used so that when the hood is open, the remote starter won’t work.

I didn't use the big white magnets that came with the magnetic switches, because they're too big and they're quite weak. As you can see in the photo above, I used a small neodymium magnet (from eBay) on the front and back of the gear stick. These work much better than the magnets that come with each switch.

All done, tested, and working great.

I tested it to make sure it works, then put the gear stick cover back together. Easy, huh? Now I don’t have to worry about cold winter mornings, or leaving my car in gear by mistake.

I also made a video showing how the system works:

Pretty cool, huh? :)

UPDATE: Do not buy an XpressKit immobiliser bypass. As far as I can tell, they do not work with the 2006 Suzuki Swift, even though the manual says they do, and XpressKit “customer support” are useless. XpressKit wanted nothing to do with my request for assistance. They told me they won’t help me, and gave me no customer support. I repeat: do NOT buy an immobiliser bypass unit from XpressKit.

There, public service announcement complete. :)

Time for a new radiator

Suzuki Swift - Leaking Radiator - Unika chladic

Houston, we have a leak

Annoyingly my radiator developed a leak recently. It’s strange too, as I’ve owned more than 20 cars in my life, and I’ve never had such a recently-built car have a leaking radiator.

Even the rubber mounts can't handle Slovak roads.

Even the rubber mounts can’t handle Slovak roads.

I know why this happened, and it’s not because of overheating or hard driving, it’s just because the roads in Slovakia are quite poor and the base of my radiator has been shaken to pieces. I try to avoid as many pot holes as possible, but on Slovak roads you can’t always miss them all.

It seems driving in Slovakia is really tough on cars.

Suzuki Swift - Chladic

New radiator: €147

Finding replacement parts for Suzuki Swifts was a piece of cake however, and within a couple of days I had a brand new radiator in my hands for €147 from the supplier AutoKelly. Next comes the fun part: replacing it. First of all, remove the car’s bumper. 

It’s actually pretty easy to remove, and even the non-technically minded could do this.
As you can see, there are actually two radiators in the picture below. This is normal. The bigger radiator at the back is the one that keeps the engine cool. The smaller radiator in the foreground is the air conditioning condenser.

To begin, first you must drain the radiator. Do this by taking off the top radiator cap, then unscrew the plastic plug behind the radiator at the bottom. You can see where it’s located on the third picture on this page. The water will pour out, and you should really catch this and bottle it so it doesn’t go down the drain (it’s toxic). A quick phone call to your local council will tell you where you can drop it off for recycling next time you’re out & about.

How to remove or replace the radiator in a Suzuki Swift

Replacing it is a real piece of cake and anyone can do it.

Once your radiator is empty, undo all the bolts you see in the above picture, and put them aside. The red bolts hold the radiator to the car body; the purple ones hold the condenser to the radiator, and the yellow ones hold the hood release  mechanism. You will probably need a little lubricant on these bolts if they haven’t been undone recently.

Radiator hoses

Next, undo the hoses.

The next step is to undo the three hoses connected to the radiator. There are two at the top, and one at the bottom. Use a pair of pliers or poly-grips to squeeze the clamp, and move the clamp back down the hose. Let go, and it’ll stay there. Then you can wiggle off the rubber pipes.

Suzuki Swift - Removing radiator

Almost ready to remove…

Once the hoses are moved aside, you can move the hood release mechanism out of the way, and move the condenser up and away too.

Suzuki Swift - Radiator removal

So far so good.

The last step before removal is disconnecting the electrical plug on the far right. After everything’s disconnected, and the condenser is wiggled out of the way a little, the radiator (with the fan still attached) should lift straight out.

Suzuki Swift - Radiator Fan - Ventilator

That’s my car’s biggest fan (bah-dum-tishhh).

With the old radiator out of the way (which still looks in very good condition – grrrrr!), you can remove the four bolts which hold in the cooling fan & its metal casing.

Suzuki Swift - New Radiator Installed

New Radiator Installed

When you have replaced the fan & fan casing, reverse the entire process and re-install all the bolts. I recommend spraying all the bolts and holes with lubricating oil to prevent rust.

chladič kvapaliny a destilovanej vody. Topdrive destilovana voda. kapalina Sheron Antifreeze MAXI D.

Part of a healthy car’s balanced diet.

With all the hoses reconnected, it’s time to add fresh coolant with distilled water. Try not to use tap water as the minerals & metals in most tap water will lead to corrosion in your engine (which means spending lots of money in the future).

The anti-freeze coolant will have a guide to the correct dilution on the back. In my case I used one part coolant to two parts distilled water.

Testing the new radiator

Testing the new radiator

When you’re confident all the hoses are connected properly, the coolant system is filled up, and your radiator cap is on securely, you can start your car and warm it up until the engine is hot, and the radiator is run in. I let mine run for 30 minutes to be safe it can handle the heat.

Job complete!

Job complete!

Once the car has cooled down again (the next day for example), check the coolant levels again. You might need to add another splash if there was a little air in your car’s cooling system.

I’m confident I’ll squeeze a few more years out of that radiator. The only thing that worries me now, is what else the harsh Slovak roads could do to my poor car! Time will tell.

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My Car has Internet Access!

Raspberry Pi in the car

Time to get my car Internet-ready.

My WiFi adapter for the Raspberry Pi arrived, and I finally got the time to sit down and play with it. As you can see above, I bought a spare keyboard/mouse combo, and a little second-hand TV to make programming the Raspberry Pi really easy.

The raspberry Pi itself is hidden inside that black box on the desk, which I call my “Box of tricks”. It’s full of other cool gadgets too, which you can see here.

Raspberry pi wifi setup

I’m connected to the house WiFi!

It was a piece of cake to connect to the internet: It found our house connection, I entered the password, and that’s it. I had one problem however with my little “KP-810-10A” wireless keyboard. The mouse pointer was always down the bottom of the screen. No matter what I did, the mouse pointer was stuck at the bottom, and I could only move it side to side.

Raspberry pi wireless keyboard

Rpi wireless keyboard problem solved.

I found a really simple solution however: move the wireless keyboard’s USB adapter onto the top plug. I don’t know why, but this solved the problem and now I can use my wireless keyboard every time without the mouse getting stuck at the bottom of the screen. If you have this problem, try this solution and write in the comments below if this works for you too.

Raspberry pi RCA

Bumpy Slovak roads snapped my RCA plug.

While I was waiting for my WiFi adapter to arrive, I noticed that the end had snapped on my yellow RCA cable. It turns out that my cheap cable was actually a plastic prong with a thin metal film, not all metal like I assumed. Made in China strikes again!

Raspberry pi hidden under the dash

My Raspberry Pi is installed under the dashboard

I replaced the cable with a new one, and positioned the box of tricks so that it shouldn’t snap in the future. I also plugged the “Aux Audio in” into the car’s TV screen, so that I can play podcasts or watch YouTube videos with sound and video in the car.

 Raspberry pi connected to mobile phone

I’m connecting the Rpi to my cellphone

All that was left to do was to turn on the “Wireless hotspot” option on my phone, and to tell the Raspberry Pi to connect to it.

Raspberry pi with internet connected in the car

We have the Internet!

Woohoo! My car is connected to the Internet! Now while I’m waiting for my wife at shopping centres, or maybe warming up the car in the morning, I can relax and check my emails without squinting into my phone, or just browse the Internet.

Raspberry Pi Internet Access in Car

I wonder if this is the first Suzuki Swift with Internet access?

This is awesome, but only the beginning as I still have quite a bit of learning to do. First of all, I need to manually change the Raspberry Pi’s video resolution to fit the screen better which won’t be too hard. Then I need to create a very basic program to connect automatically to my phone’s WiFi signal as soon as the car & computer starts up. That also shouldn’t be difficult.

This should open up a whole new world of car connectivity. From here on I can create all kinds of stuff – maybe even voice-controlled commands while driving. Cool huh? :)

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I have a broken ABS sensor cog

ABS warning light

The ABS warning light is an unwelcome sight…

It’s been almost one year of driving my Swift and I’ve officially had my first mechanical problem. Admittedly it’s a very small problem which doesn’t affect the driving, but it’s a problem nonetheless.

I was driving home after work a couple of weeks ago and my ABS warning light came on. I thought the car might just have had a small computer error and needed a refresh, so I stopped and turned off the car, then restarted it. Unfortunately the light came straight back on, so I drove home and looked on the internet for likely problems.

garage heater

That heater was easily the best €9 I ever spent.

A few websites suggested that sometimes the ABS sensor cog, also known as the tone ring, can break. This means the ABS sensor will get confused and the warning light will appear. The websites I searched suggested I could easily determine if something was broken by jacking up the car and having a look. So, I put the car in the garage, turned on the heater (as you can see) and got hunting…

2 - suzuki swift CV joint and ABS tone signal tone ring replacement

Looks like we’ve found the culprit.

I was hoping that it was something simple, like a leaf or mud was covering the sensor, but within 10 seconds of lifting up the car I had found the problem. See that crack in the ABS sensor cog in the photo above? No? Let me take a closer photo for you:

Broken ABS sensor cog tone ring

Here’s the crack in the sensor cog. It’s a whopper.

That’s quite a crack, huh? Slovakia has quite rough roads which means cars here seem to suffer from worn out suspension and broken parts relatively quickly. What’s interesting is that massive welding blob above the crack which makes me think the ABS cog has broken in the past and someone’s just squeezed it together and welded it back together, instead of replacing it.

4 - suzuki swift CV joint and ABS tone signal tone ring replacement

The other side is in much better condition.

I checked the other side (above) and in comparison it’s in much better condition. I know I could save time and money by just welding the broken cog back in place like someone did in the past but when it comes to brakes, suspension, and steering I don’t like cutting corners. So I asked my mechanic friend down the road to replace the part for me with a genuine Suzuki part.

Suzuki Swift CV joint with broken ABS tone signal tone ring

Here’s another look at the old CV joint with the broken cog.

Unfortunately the  ABS sensor cog isn’t sold separately (although some after-market companies sell non-genuine parts) so I decided to just replace the entire CV joint on the driver’s side for €150 all up.

CV joint

It turns out the old CV joint was still in good condition.

My friendly mechanic gave me the old part to play with, and explained that although the cog was snapped and previously fiddled-with, the CV joint was in good condition and not worn out.

I was actually a little bit mesmerised by the CV joint and played with it for a while. It might just be my curious mind, but I found it to be a really fascinating thing.

Getting under the car

Getting under the car is now very easy.

Previously any time I wanted to get under the car and fix things, I had to drive the car up on some wooden blocks which, although very safe, was a pain in the neck and took forever. Now however I have a much easier and equally safe solution: I bought a trolley-jack and two axle-stands for a grand total of €48. Not bad, huh?

CV joint and ABS tone signal tone ring replaced

Good as new!

All done, cleaned, and lubed up, ready for the winter (which is approaching fast).

Now let’s hope I never have to do this again!

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Replacement Wipers

Admittedly it might seem like a mundane subject to create a blog post about, but today I installed new wipers on the car. If nothing else, I hope this clears up any questions about what size wiper refills to use on a third generation (2005-2010) Suzuki Swift.

Suzuki Swift Windshield Wiper

It was actually really hard to catch the streaking in a photo.

As you can see above, the current windshield wipers were streaking and came with the car when I bought it. God only knows how old they are. I tried cleaning them intently, but I couldn’t make them as good as new, so I bought new ones.

Suzuki Swift Rear Wiper Size

Rear wiper length is 25 cm (almost 10 inches)

I measured all the wipers first, and the rear wiper length came in at 25 centimetres (just under 10 inches), however the rear wiper is still in good condition so I’m not changing it. When I do change it however, I will have to replace just the rubber blade itself, not the entire wiper cradle, as the rear wiper is not a replaceable unit.

Driver's side wiper length: 53 cm (21 inches)

Driver’s side wiper length: 53 cm (21 inches)

The driver’s side wiper length is 53 centimetres (almost exactly 21 inches), although if your local auto shop doesn’t have this size, buying a slightly larger or smaller wiper blade assembly will not be a problem.

The passenger side wiper is 45 cm (almost 18 inches)

The passenger side wiper is 45 cm (almost 18 inches)

The passenger side is smaller, at 45 centimetres long (almost 18 inches). Most auto shops should have this size in stock.

Suzuki Swift - New wiper blades

I bought 45 cm (18 inch) wiper and 55 cm (22 inch) wiper assemblies.

I bought a slightly longer wiper assembly on the driver’s side as they didn’t have the exact replacement size. The actual fitting is easy; just pull off the old assembly from the end of the wiper arm, and clip in the new one.

Suzuki Swift New Windshield Wipers

No more streaking!

All done, and the streaking is completely gone. Now I can actually see when driving in the rain at night.

I hope these measurements make it easy for you to size/buy wipers for your Suzuki Swift in the future.

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My Carputer has Arrived!

Raspberry Pi installed in car, Raspberry pi installed in car dashboard, my mini computer or carputer is installed and working in the car.

It’s here at last!

After 2 months of shipping delays, getting held up in Slovak customs, and then costing me €108 in import taxes, my car’s media centre has finally arrived!

Raspberry Pi installed in car, Raspberry pi installed in car dashboard, my mini computer or carputer is installed and working in the car.

Fwoar! I’ve been waiting a long time for this!

I wasted no time in getting the unit installed. I put the car in the garage, rigged up some extra lighting, made a cup of tea and started taking the dash apart.

Raspberry Pi installed in car, Raspberry pi installed in car dashboard, my mini computer or carputer is installed and working in the car.

Wired for sound. And video. And GPS. And a Raspberry Pi.

As you can see from the picture above, the unit has everything you could imagine. It has a TV receiver, a very fast and intelligent GPS system (those are actually quite rare!), a reversing camera input – with a function that activates the reversing camera the instant I put the car in reverse, and so much more.

Raspberry Pi installed in car, Raspberry pi installed in car dashboard, my mini computer or carputer is installed and working in the car.

No installation can start without a cup of tea. If it’s not the law, then it should be.

The TV/DVD/GPS unit is specially designed for this model of Suzuki Swift, so it should be a matter of simply plug & play. I was hoping this was the case as I wasn’t really in the mood to start troubleshooting after this much waiting.

As many of you will know, I already installed a Raspberry Pi computer in my car, and it has been sitting under the dashboard waiting for this car monitor to be purchased for many months. Finally it’s time to put it to work.

Raspberry Pi installed in car, Raspberry pi installed in car dashboard, my mini computer or carputer is installed and working in the car.

Awesome! It’s alive and kickin’!

Believe it or not, the installation was an absolute piece of cake. I was expecting at least a couple of problems, but everything just plugged in and worked. It was almost surreal.

The unit even has two video in points. One for my reversing camera, and another for an auxiliary video – the Raspberry Pi in this case. It also has auxiliary audio inputs, so the audio from the Raspberry Pi can go straight into the car.

Raspberry Pi installed in car, Raspberry pi installed in car dashboard, my mini computer or carputer is installed and working in the car.

Star Trek: The USS Suzuki Swift

It works! It really works! I have to be honest: this is by far the coolest car gadget I’ve ever purchased. It has so many functions, and so much room for learning and improvement.

The first improvement that springs to mind? Let’s connect the Raspberry Pi. 😀

Raspberry Pi installed in car

The Raspberry Pi is installed in the car at last!

Woohoo! My geek gland is tingling! There’s something so cool about a Raspberry Pi booting up on your car’s dashboard.

Raspberry Pi installed in car

This is the pinnacle of cool car gadgetry.

The system works, the audio quality is superb, and the Raspberry Pi is ready for programming. I’m pretty happy at the moment as you can imagine.

So you can see and hear it in action, I made a simple video showing the unit, including the Raspberry Pi operating in the dashboard:

From here on things get interesting. I’ve brought the book “Raspberry Pi for Dummies” which should arrive any day now, and I plan on learning how to get the Raspberry Pi computer to do all kinds of cool stuff.

From turning on interior lights with voice commands, to reading my email to me as I drive, there’s a massive amount of things you can do with these versatile little computers. If you have any ideas that might work in my car, write it in the comments below!

Check back soon! 😀

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Installing a Reversing Camera

I finally bought a GPS/DVD/TV combo from eBay and it’s on its way! I can’t wait to install it. In the meantime however, I thought I should get a reversing camera installed.

Suzuki Swift

First step: Take off the plate.

I backed the car into the garage and removed the rear number plate to see what I was dealing with.

Installing a reversing camera

The view from below.

This is what it looks like from low down, looking up. The camera I purchased looked pretty simple to install as it was specially designed to clip into this model of Suzuki Swift, right into the rectangular hole between the number plate lamps.

Reversing Camera

Looks simple so far…

The camera took 5 seconds to install physically, which was great! The actual wiring part however was a whole different story, as you can see below.

Suzuki Swift Installing a Reversing Camera

Argh! How do I hide those cables?

I ended up taking half the back apart trying to find a tidy way to hide the cables, and without making more holes in the car. Cutting holes in the car, combined with salty Slovak roads in winter would be a recipe for rust.

Suzuki Swift Installing a Backing Up Camera

In the end, this vent was my best choice.

After 20 minutes of dismantling and climbing under the car I decided to run the camera wiring through the vent in the back of the car. I then tapped the camera into the ignition power that feeds my amplifier plug already in the boot, which you can see here.

Then I ran an RCA cable (which was supplied with the camera) from the boot (trunk) up to the front behind the stereo, ready to connect into the new GPS/TV stereo when it arrives.

Reversing Camera License Plate

Next problem: The license plate holder won’t fit under the camera.

Unfortunately I had another problem as you can see above. The holder for the number plate wouldn’t fit under the camera, and I didn’t want to add more screw holes into the bumper.

So I got out my soldering iron and gently melted a groove into the plastic number plate holder. That gave me the extra 3 millimetres I needed to fit the plate holder back in.

Štátna poznávacia značka ŠPZ

What a perfect fit!

Now the reversing camera is installed and pre-wired, ready for the TV/GPS unit to arrive. Both the in-dash TV unit have the option to automatically switch on when you put the car in reverse. So no matter what’s on the display, when I put the car in reverse, the backing camera will immediately show on the screen. It sounds like a really cool feature.

Suzuki Swift Mods

The reversing camera installation is tidy and barely noticeable.

The only problem now is that I have to wait for my TV/GPS unit to get to Slovakia from the other side of the world. It’s going to be a long, long three weeks!

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USB Power to the Glovebox

Have you ever parked your car and gone inside somewhere while your phone/GPS/dash camera is almost flat? If only you could charge your device inside the car with the ignition turned off. But, what if someone sees your device charging and steals it? Argh! If only you could hide everything inside the glovebox.

USB power in the car, power in the dashboard, recharge electronic devices when ignition is off, always-on power in the car, USB elektrina v aute, dobíjanie elektronických zariadení v aute

This was one of the easiest modifications I’ve ever done.

This is exactly what I’ve done in my latest car modification. I have installed always-on USB power to my glovebox. This means I can charge my dash camera, GPS, phone, MP3 player etc, even when the car is turned off, and all in the privacy of my glovebox so that no opportunistic thieves can see what’s going on.

This was a really simple modification, because I already have always-on USB power for my GPS tracking system, so I just tapped in a spare USB Micro-B cable (suitable for most cellphones) to my box of tricks, and ran the cable to the glovebox.

USB power in the car, power in the dashboard, recharge electronic devices when ignition is off, always-on power in the car, USB elektrina v aute, dobíjanie elektronických zariadení v aute

No longer will I have to be in the car to recharge my phone.

But what if I want to charge a device with a different sized USB connector? I just plug in my USB Micro-B to USB Mini-B adapter.

USB power in the car, power in the dashboard, recharge electronic devices when ignition is off, always-on power in the car, USB elektrina v aute, dobíjanie elektronických zariadení v aute

These little things are very convenient, and only $0.90 from eBay.

Now I can charge my dash camera (which has a USB Mini-B socket) any time I the car is parked. It means my dash camera will be charged by the time I get back to the car from a shopping centre or cafe.

odkladacia kamera

My dash cam is the most-recharged item I own.

This idea has been in the back of my mind for a couple of years, and I finally got around to doing it. It works well and I definitely recommend it.

My dash camera’s battery only lasts around 45 minutes, and often goes flat. Being able to top it up while I’m in a shop will be a real time saver. No longer will I need to wait in the car while my dash camera or mobile phone charges up. Now I can just walk into a shopping centre without anyone knowing my expensive gadgets are hiding (and charging) in the car. 😉

Suzuki Swift Slovensko

You’d never know there’s something charging inside the glovebox.

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Removing the Front Bumper

The roads are salted in Winter in Slovakia, which means that rust is a common problem for cars. My Suzuki Swift didn’t have much rust, but even so, I did some thorough rust killing a couple of months ago.

There was one area I couldn’t quite reach however, and I wanted to remove the front bumper/fender to get to it. I was terrified at the thought of removing the bumper but it turns out it was an absolute piece of cake. Even if you’re going slowly, it will take you barely 20 minutes to remove it!

So you can benefit from my endeavour, I’ve created some basic instructions for you to remove your Swift’s front bumper as well.

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

It’s actually really easy and I wish I’d done it sooner.

Start by putting the car on ramps, or jacking it up so you can get underneath it. Please don’t cut corners: make sure it’s stable before you get underneath your car.

Undo the 4 bolts circled above (all bumper bolts can be undone with a 10 millimetre socket), then remove the two plastic plugs next to the headlights, circled above. Use a flat-head screwdriver to pop the plastic grommet up, then the whole plug can be removed without damaging it.

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

The view from underneath. You might need a little lubricant on these bolts.

Next, slide underneath the car and remove the bolts holding the bottom of the bumper onto the metal frame. There are also a couple of plastic plugs to be removed. Because of rust, you might want to give each bolt a little spray with lubricant.

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

Only three plugs and one screw to go.

Next, remove the plugs in front of the front wheels. There is also a screw just above the tyres which the arrow points to in the photo. The plastic there is weak, so put a little oil/lubricant on that screw before you get to it, or it might snap the plastic around it.

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

Plastic plugs galore

These plugs make it easy to remove the bumper, but they are somewhat breakable. To remove them intact, make sure you pry the grommet up (like above) before you try to remove the plug. Then you can simply put them back in, and push down on the grommet.

Disconnecting the bumper: Lift it up and forwards.

Once you’ve undone all the bolts and plugs, the bumper needs to be disconnected from a series of clips on each side. It’s very simple, and means you need to life the sides of the bumper up (towards the sky) and forwards. This will allow it to jump off its hooks without damage.

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

Almost done: These hooks are all that’s left.

This photo (above) shows the hooks that hold the bumper on, between the headlights and the tyres. This is why you will need to lift the sides of the bumper up and forwards, to disconnect from these three hooks on each side. It’s as easy as it sounds, don’t worry. :)

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

Lift up, up, and away!

To recap: Once you’ve undone the top bolts & plugs, the bottom bolts & plugs, the side screws & plugs, and the side clips, the whole bumper will pop straight off. It’s really very simple, and the designers at Suzuki did a superb job in this respect. If you go slowly, removing the front bumper is a 20 minute job at most.

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

Ta-daa! Easy, huh?

With the bumper removed, I could finally get at the rust that eluded me when I was under the car last time. There are four horizontal impact beams running across the front of the Swift, and I could see a little rust on them when I was under the car, but I couldn’t reach them. I removed the plastic impact brackets (they’re simply held on by clips) and had a look at what I was missing! Was the rust really that bad?

Slovensky cesty. Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

Salty Slovak roads = rust, rust, rust.

Hmmm, it turned out that the rust on these impact beams was worse than I thought. The rest of the car is in quite superb condition after my rust killing efforts, but these beams are in quite a bad way.

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

It’s lucky I caught the rust before it got serious.

The rust was starting to become more than basic surface rust; it was starting to eat into the metal and paint was peeling off in big flakes.

Using a wire brush to remove rust. Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

Time to sort this out once and for all… Or at least until next winter!

I got out the wire brush and spent 20 minutes brushing like mad! The amount of rust flakes and paint that came off was incredible. I had no idea the car had so much rust behind the front bumper. It has been caused by many years of winter road spray from the cars in front of mine.

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

Loctite Super “Rost” Killer 7505 to the rescue!

With all the loose rust removed, it was time to get out a fresh bottle of Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 and to slap on a couple of very thick layers.

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

This stuff is really quite impressive.

It takes about half an hour to dry, depending on how thick the layer is. I put on one layer, then went back inside for a break. Then I applied another very thick layer and let it dry. I used half a bottle of rust killer on these bars alone!

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

Two thick layers later, the rust has been neutralised.

Once more I was very impressed with Loctite’s rust killer, it really works well and I recommend it to anyone with a rust problem. Loctite don’t sponsor me (they don’t even know I exist) but I love this product of theirs and would gladly recommend it. I’m not sure if you can get it outside of Europe however.

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

Partners in crime: Coyote Konkor 101 rust preventer and Loctite 7505 Super Rost Killer.

With the last of the rust taken care of, it was time to apply a rust preventer & lubricant. I used Coyote Konkor 101 “mazací a konzervačný olej” which basically translates into lubricating and protective oil. I used 75% of the can underneath the car, paying particular attention to areas which previously had surface rust.

Simple and easy instructions how to remove or take off the front fender bumper from a Suzuki Swift. Ako môžem odstrániť predný nárazník. Slovensko Slovakia hrdza opravy Loctite Super Rost Killer 7505 Coyote Konkor 101 mazací a konzervačný olej hrdza neutralizátor.

Alright, winter: Bring it on.

If you have a Suzuki Swift and live in an area where the roads are salted, I strongly recommend taking off your front bumper and having a look at those beams. Even if your car might look rust-free, you might be surprised at how much rust those beams can collect.

In my case however I can now rest easy. After a very educational afternoon I can relax knowing that I’ve taken care of the last of the rust on my Suzuki Swift.

Well, until next winter anyhow…

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I have GPS tracking!

An Android phone: the perfect solution for a GPS tracking system

Finally! I have a GPS tracking system installed and working after almost pulling my hair out due to endless problems with the cheap piece of junk GPS tracker I bought off eBay.

No, I didn’t not get that cheap Chinese GPS tracker working; I gave up and now it’s sitting in a drawer until I can find a use for it. That might be a while, considering how useless it is… Anyway, I was going to use the car’s Raspberry Pi computer as a GPS tracker, but I soon realised it was going to mean a sea of cables and hours of learning how to write programs so I quickly gave up on that idea too.

It turns out the best solution was to just use an old Android phone! My wife just upgraded her phone, and her old one became spare so I jumped on it and installed it under the car’s dashboard!

Even a basic Android phone has everything you need to track it.

First of all I installed Where’s My Droid, a free application which you can use to find your missing mobile phone. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be used as a car tracker instead! The installation and set up of this app was so easy my grandmother could do it.

A basic, sturdy 12 volt DC to 5 volt DC (USB) adapter

Of course I needed a way to keep the phone charged up all the time, so I installed this 12 volt DC power adapter. I didn’t want to use the USB adapter that my Raspberry Pi was using because the Pi’s adapter only operates when the car is on, and the Pi’s adapter gets quite warm, whereas this one above stays ice cold even when running for 10 hours. Obviously I don’t want any fire risk with an appliance running 24 hours a day.

Hmmm, I think my box is getting full!

My control box is getting quite full as you can see, but I left a space right in the middle for this little always-on power adapter to fit in. The Raspberry Pi and the headlight warning system only operate when the ignition is on to save power, and for safety. I had everything pre-wired for the GPS tracker, so installing it took only 5 minutes and it was ready to go in the car.

Spooky. It’s almost like this spot was made for the phone to fit.

Anyone with a Suzuki Swift knows that under the dashboard it’s chock full with electronics and ducting, so finding a spot near the top of the plastic where I could get to was near impossible. Eventually I tried removing the plastic cover above the speedometer – turns out the whole thing just pops off easily.

When I took the cover off it was like a gift from the Gods – there’s an absolutely perfectly sized space there for a mobile phone. It’s almost like the designers at Suzuki wanted me to put a mobile phone in that spot. I couldn’t believe it.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Telephone

Look at that! It fits so perfectly snugly that I didn’t even need any screws or glue or holders – not a thing! The power cable runs back to my RS-232 cable which connects to my box of tricks, so as always I can remove the whole control box and take it inside in less than 5 seconds. Everything in my car has been designed to be removed and installed super easily, and I thoroughly recommend you copy these ideas. :)

All wired up and ready for testing!

With the phone installed and the box of tricks all wired up, it was time to plug everything in and test it. After the nightmare with my previous nasty Chinese GPS system, I was pretty nervous…

GPS tracker? What GPS tracker?

I put the dashboard back together which didn’t take very long (the designers at Suzuki are masters of making things just click into place) and I set the car up in the midday summer sun. I want to check not only that it works, but that it can handle the hottest time of the year unprotected. I really wanted to make it suffer to make sure it can do its job.

The “Remote Phone Access” application is quite good.

First I installed the program Remote Phone Access through Google Play. This allows me to check on the phone’s temperature, its battery condition, and of course its location. The free version doesn’t allow you to access the phone’s SMS messages, but I can get at those through O2 Slovakia’s online page anyway. The phone started getting very hot under the dark dashboard in the midday sun and I monitored every few minutes from the online app.

10 - I can find my car on Google maps using Where's My Droid - I send the SMS message WMD GPS and it tells me the location on Google maps

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

I did a series of tests throughout the day using both my computer (Remote Phone Access) and through my mobile phone (Where’s My Droid) to make sure the GPS locator was working. It never failed once.

The car responds with everything you’ll need to find it.

Personally, I found Where’s My Droid to offer the best location information. Within approximately 12 seconds I received three SMS messages back from the car’s phone with coordinates, direction, accuracy, speed, a Google Maps link, and an actual street address.

“Oh, my God, they found me, I don’t know how, but they found me. Run for it Marty!”

This is awesome! At any time of the day or night, I can find my car if it gets stolen or if someone’s using it and I need to know how far away they are.

Some other benefits of having a phone in the car means I have an internet connection on wheels. This means I could turn it into a free WiFi hotspot, or set up a webcam under the dash running off the Raspberry Pi! Lots of possibilities for playing around!

Not only that – because the phone has its own battery which is always charged, if thieves steal the car and start stripping it for parts, or if they remove the battery, the GPS tracker will keep working for another couple of days running on its own battery!

♪ ♫ It’s getting hot in here, so take out all your phones. ♫ ♪

I kept a rough record of the temperatures in the car. The outside temperature reached about 32°C today (90°F) which was hot but not unbearable. Good testing weather though, and the phone really felt the heat. Normally I use a windscreen shield to block out the sun, but I wanted this test to be super tough so I let the car get ridiculously hot and parked it so the dashboard was in full sun for several hours.

As you can see above, the phone’s temperature peaked at 64°C (147°F) and at that point it stopped charging and began to lose battery capacity. It still functioned surprisingly, so I put my sunblocker behind the windscreen and watched what happened over the next few hours (we also went for a trip into the city for a while).

Once the temperature fell, charging continued.

The car and phone had a chance to cool down during the drive, and immediately after we returned home the charging suddenly announced the battery was full. I actually suspect it restarted charging before we even left, maybe when the temperature fell below 50°C (122°F). These Samsung phones are tough little suckers!

UPDATE: The system was reeeeeally tested hard today! I forgot to put the sun shade up and the car was parked in full sun on a seriously hot summer’s day. I got back to the car at 6 PM and the car was still roasting inside. I got home and tried to log on to check the tracker, and I even tried calling the phone but neither worked. I suspect the phone must have reached at least 70°C (158°C) for around 5 solid hours and the phone battery went so flat it wouldn’t even charge up again. I took it out and let it cool down, then charged it for a few minutes inside. I then plugged it back into the car and it was good as new. So there’s a lesson learned: don’t forget the sun shield on hot summer days! It also gave me a chance to turn on Roaming, so I can monitor the car anywhere on the continent.

So there you have it. I finally have a working solution to the GPS tracker problems that have plagued me. It seems that the simplest ideas are always the best, huh?

Please feel free to take any ideas you like out of this and copy them, and as always feel free to offer any ideas of your own.

You can use all images from this site, but please keep “suzukiswift.info” in the corner.

Summer Time is Rust Killing Time

After 5 days of cold wind and rain, and with the Danube River flooding, it means most of Slovakia has been hiding indoors waiting for the weather to improve. Now it finally has, so I got a chance to get in the garage and finally fix that surface rust on the Swift.

The tool for the job: Loctite 7505 Super Rost Killer

I bought some Loctite 7505 “Super Rost Killer” which is obviously for the German market, as there were no instructions in English available. My wife speaks German however so she translated the instructions for me.

Kiwi ingenuity strikes again!

I didn’t have any ramps, and there are a lack of good car accessories/parts shops in Bratislava so I had to make my own out of blocks of wood. Safety is important to me, so once the car was parked on top, I shook it as hard as possible by the door frames to check for movement. It didn’t budge thankfully.

Rust under the car on the rear suspension

The rust is not severe, but needs to be fixed.

This photo above shows the surface rust on the rear suspension after 7 years of very salty Slovak roads. It’s not a safety issue yet, and is not cause for concern, but I want to make sure the rust stops here.

More rusty bits to fix.

A lot of the rust is localised in strange places, such as the rear brake lines above, where one particular type of metal is rusted, but all around it is fine.

It goes on white, but thankfully it dries clear.

The “Rost” killer is white and is easy to apply, having the consistency of normal paint. It dries clear on normal surfaces, and it dries black on rust.

Hrdza neutralizačné chráni proti korózii pod autom. Front impact beams suzuki swift.

The rust was bad here. It’s lucky I looked behind the plastic.

Right behind the plastic of the front fender are two metal impact beams which protect the car in the event of an accident. The paint had been peeling off due to rust. To get at these I unbolted the plastic skirt under the car and pried it down while I applied two thick coats.

That should see it through the next winter!

That should fix those impact beams nicely. I’m thinking of applying another two coats next weekend if the weather’s good.

10 minutes after applying, it’s almost completely dry.

If you apply the rust killer in warm & dry weather then it dries remarkably quickly. By the time I’d finished one side, it was almost ready to apply another layer.

Hrdza neutralizačné chráni proti korózii pod autom.

Success! Two coats later, the rust is dead!

The bottle recommends applying another (third) coat after 24 hours, but as you can see after only two coats the results are impressive. I think another coat would be a good idea for extra protection. Otherwise I think it was money well spent and I can recommend the product.

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Time for New Summer Tyres

Slovak made Matador tires in Bratislava. Letné pneumatiky Zimné pneumatiky v Bratislave mesta.

My car likes getting high…

It’s mid April, which means it’s time to ditch the winter tyres and get a shiny new set of summer treads.

Hrdza na aute. Slovak made Matador tires in Bratislava. Letné pneumatiky Zimné pneumatiky v Bratislave mesta.

The salted roads mean surface rust is a constant problem.

I went to a place on Vajnorská street in Bratislava which gave me a good deal. Actually it was a very good deal: they were free!  Now before you start wondering if I’m in the Slovak mafia, relax, they were a gift from my father in law as it’s my birthday tomorrow.

Hrdza na aute. Pohľad pod auto. pod motorom.

A rare chance to look underneath my Suzuki Swift.

As you can see, there’s pockets of surface rust making their way across any unprotected metal areas. This is caused by the heavy amounts of salt used on Slovakia’s roads during winter in an effort to reduce the snow. It certainly takes its toll on the nation’s cars.

Surface rust under the car

There’s no serious rust, just patches of surface rust which should be tended to.

After seeing my car hoisted up on those lifty-things, it made me realise how easy it would be to get under there with a water blaster and a brush. I could really get rid of all that dried-up road salt.

This seems to be the worst of the surface rust.

This seems to be the worst of the surface rust.

I need to buy some rust converter which I can spray onto the affected bits under the car when summer arrives. It’ll turn those nasty surface rust patches into neutral patches, and then I’ll apply a healthy layer of spray-grease over it before the next winter.

The garage cleaned and coated my brake drums. hrdza neutralizátor ole

The garage cleaned and coated my brake drums.

The group of guys at the garage were really good. They checked each wheel for any play, and then brushed the rust-dust off and sprayed it with that brown rust preventing paint.

Kúpil som si tieto nové pneumatiky Matador. Sú vyrobené na slovenský. Where are Matador tyres made? They are made in Slovakia!

Matador tyres – Made in Slovakia!

The car rides great on its new tyres, which are also surprisingly quiet on the road. They are a brand called Matador, which are made right here in Slovakia.

I feel good knowing that I am helping the local economy in my own small way by buying locally produced goods.

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Big Problems with my Mini GPS Tracker Not Connecting

Mini car and motorbike GPS locator

The box it arrived in – not a lot of description there…

Full of anticipation, I bought an “H08” mini GPS tracker off ebay hoping to secure it under my Suzuki’s dashboard in the case that the car ever got stolen. Seems like a good idea, and it’d be kinda cool to chase my car down with the Slovak police in pursuit!

Kúpil som si tento GPS lokátor od eBay, ale to nefunguje na slovenskú. Mini GPS GPRS locator tracker not working and not connecting when send SMS SOS or DW

The H08 GPS Tracker: It’s a tiny machine – perfect to fit under the dashboard.

Brimming over with anticipation, I bought a new SIM card from O2 Slovakia, and soon afterwards the Mini GPS tracker arrived, and boy is it a tiny thing!

Mini GPS GPRS locator tracker not working and not connecting when send SMS SOS or DW. Kúpil som si tento GPS lokátor od eBay, ale to nefunguje na slovenskú.

I read this 6 times before I began to understand what they meant.

As you can see above, the instructions that came with the machine were… well, kinda useless. It’s in “Chinglish” (Chinese-like English) and it makes less sense than non-alcoholic beer. To read it, click on the picture above and it’ll open at full size in a new tab for you.

Bought a new SIM card, and loaded it up with credit! Here we go!

It’s amazing how they can fit such technology into one tiny little circuit. I’m planning on hiding in directly underneath the dashboard below the plastic, so it’ll be impossible to see and near-impossible to remove.

After installing a SIM card, I proudly fired up the mini GPS tracker on the windowsill with a clear view of the sky, and gave it a couple of minutes before I loaded the SIM card’s phone number into my phone and typed out the SMS message DW and pressed send.

agps.huashiwang.com

Sending the message “DW” gets a reply in just 30 seconds.

Just 30 seconds after sending the SMS with DW in it, I got a response back from the GPS tracker! It had a link which I eagerly pressed, to see if it could find where I was located in Bratislava…

Mini GPS GSM GPRS Tracking SMS Real Time Vehicle Motorcycle Bike Monitor Tracker. I bought this GPS locator from ebay but it does not work in Slovakia. Kúpil som si tento GPS lokátor od eBay, ale to nefunguje na slovenskú.

This is the same map page I see every single time.

According to Google Translator, the text just above the map 位置不详 means “Not Connected” which is bad news. I tried a different location on the driveway, outside and away from the house… Same thing happened.

Then I left it for 20 long minutes outside and tried sending the SMS again. Nope, 20 seconds later I get a link for the same 位置不详 (Not Connected) map in Chinese.

I tried calling the device. No problem, it picks up in less than one ring, and I can hear everything going on around the GPS tracker thanks to its little built-in microphone.

I tried the SIM card from the tracker in my phone. No problems there, it loads up immediately and finds a connection. I thought perhaps the O2 SIM card I bought just isn’t compatible with the GPS tracker, so  I tried my father in law’s Orange SIM card.

Once again, I could call the device, but when I sent DW to the device to get a precise location, I got another link with the same middle-of-nowhere map location.

My phone connects to a GPS location quickly, but the locator does not.

I contacted the ebay seller to ask why this might be happening and he seemed reasonably helpful during the 5 or 6 emails we’ve gone through, but ultimately I’ve reached this point where I’m not sure what to do next.

I get the feeling that these mini GPS trackers don’t work in Slovakia (and even Europe) because I found a discussion thread here, where users of a very similar Chinese GPS tracker are having the same problem.

UPDATE: A very helpful guy here Slovakia has also bought a GPS tracker (although a different type) and has suggested I try and change the APN settings to allow it to connect to the data network here. He sent me some advice on turning off GPRS, and setting the APN via SMS, which is suitable for his model of GPS tracker.

Turning of GPRS mini tracker not working - Tried to change APN by SMS to o2internet in Slovakia. GPS lokátor nefunguje. Ja používam APN o2internet.sk, ale bez úspechu. O2 mobilné.

I’m trying every combination I can think of.

As you can see above, I’m trying as many combinations as possible to change the settings. Unfortuantely I get the feeling that A: either this tracker’s connection details cannot be changed, or B: the syntax of the SMS message I’m sending is different to all the other Chinese-made trackers out there.

Factory reset by SMS of the GPS tracker works fine. agps.huashiwang.com

A factory reset responds with “OK”.

Normally, if I send the tracker an instruction via SMS such as factory# (for a complete factory reset) it would respond with ok but with the APN and GPRS instructions I tried, I get no answer from the tracker.

agps.huashiwang.com

I’m still in the middle of nowhere apparently.

As you can see in the two screen captures above, I tried (yet another) factory reset but as usual when I send the message DW to get a location, it gives me the same old link with “Not Connected” in Chinese, and a Google map of a non-existent ocean.

agps.huashiwang.com GPS tracker not working. Mini GPS tracker does not actually have a GPS satellite antenna aerial

Turns out this thing doesn’t actually have a GPS aerial at all…

Another tech savvy friend of mine has just studied the photographs of this mini GPS tracker and found that it doesn’t actually have a GPS satellite antenna. This means it’s only method of positioning is via cellular network triangulation (guessing a rough location by the signal strength from the nearby cellular towers).

Sadly this means the eBay listing was somewhat misleading, and at present I still have no solution to the connection problem. If you’re reading this and have managed to fix it then please let me know how!

UPDATE: Unless I can learn otherwise I have come to the conclusion that these mini GPS locators do not work on 3G networks, and I suspect this is the main reason it refuses to work. After looking on eBay, I have noticed that many Chinese made phone advertisements have the warning, “This will not work with 3G” under them.

I don’t know why, but it seems many Chinese mobile devices do not have 3G capability, and I suspect my mini GPS is no different. Someone else might be able to confirm or deny this but I reckon that’s what’s causing the problem. These Chinese mini GPS units simply do not work on 3G networks. :(

This means I’m now looking at using my car’s Raspberry Pi as a tracking device with a GPS antenna and a 3G modem. It’s just a very messy way (with a lot of cables and learning how to code) just to see where my car is. I wonder if there’s an easier way.

The eBay advert has been updated. I wonder how many others had this problem?

ANOTHER UPDATE: As you can see in the picture above, the sellers of these mini GPS trackers are starting to update their advertisements to include Slovakia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and El Salvador to a (growing?) list of places where these Chinese devices are useless.

If nothing else, I sincerely hope that my misfortune and experimentation has saved you from potentially wasting your time and money one of these GPS trackers. I gave up, and I created a GPS tracker using an old cellphone instead.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I’ve posted this problem in other forums, and one person has provided this site as a possible solution. It’s not the ideal answer we’re all looking for, but it’s a start: http://www.minigps.net/map.html At that site, enter in the details you got from your GPS tracker’s response, and you should get a rough location come up on the map (I got an address that was only 2 streets away which was good). I know it’s not perfect; the site is all in Chinese, the process isn’t automated, and it takes some time to fill in, but it did work for me.

Please leave a message underneath if you also have this problem and what country you’re in. That way we can learn what countries this problem affects. 

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Hey spammers: do you see any spam in the comments section? No, you do not. That is because I do not approve spam messages ever. Save your time: do not even try.

Creating my “Box of Tricks”

auto počítač Slovensko svetla systém varovania Installing a Raspberry Pi into the car with space for headlight warning system and USB power adapter and GPS

This is the box I will use.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m in the process of creating a box to store my Raspberry Pi computer, which I will install in the car. Along with this little Linux powered computer, I want to install a headlight warning system.

In Slovakia it’s the law to always have your headlights turned on, day or night. Unfortunately I sometimes forget to turn on my headlights, and this is something Slovak police take very seriously.

As I’ve mentioned before, the police in Slovakia are generally uninterested if you speed or if you overtake dangerously close into oncoming traffic, however if you dare to drive without headlights – even in bright sunshine – you’ll be stopped immediately and given an on-the-spot fine.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to me, I am developing a headlight warning system on my Suzuki Swift, so that if I drive without my headlights turned on for around 15 seconds, the car will say “Turn on your headlights”.

Everything fits. So far so good.

With the perfect sized box and all the components I need, I got to work making sure everything fits in ok. The Raspberry Pi is the circuit on the top left of the above photo, and when I finally have a TV screen installed into my dashboard, this tiny computer will allow me to surf the internet, check email, and play YouTube videos while I’m in the car (not while actually driving of course).

I even got the idea of having the Raspberry Pi powered up and running all the time, providing it doesn’t use too much power and drain the battery. The benefit of having the computer running all the time is that when I’m waiting for the engine to warm up, I can access the Internet immediately, instead of having to wait 40 seconds for the Raspberry Pi to power up.

The Raspberry Pi consumes only 2.1 Watts when running - 12 volts, 0.18 amps

The Raspberry Pi uses only 2.1 Watts when running.

The main question is then how much power does a Raspberry Pi use when it’s running? I found out by running the little computer through my ammeter.

As you can see in the picture above, the Raspberry Pi uses 0.18 amps on a 11.5 volt power supply. That equals 2.1 Watts which is barely noticeable. For example a car’s interior light uses around 9 watts. This means that if I decide to have it running all the time I don’t have to worry about my car’s battery going flat.

Auto rele počítač Slovensko svetla systém varovania Installing a Raspberry Pi into the car with space for headlight warning system and USB power adapter and GPS

I used silicone sealant on some connections to protect against accidental shorting.

Everything fits so far. In this photo above you can see the Raspberry Pi, the 12v-to-5v power supply (for the Raspberry Pi and headlight warning system), the white “chocolate block” connector, the main power plug, and the automotive relay (which will turn on and supply power to the headlight warning system if the car is operating without the headlights).

The headlight warning system itself is very simple. It’s basically a simple MP3 playing circuit with an SD card slot. I simply need to make an MP3 audio track with the words “Turn on your headlights” onto the SD card with 15 seconds of silence beforehand. This way, when the key is turned and yet no headlights have been activated, after 15 seconds a spoken warning will sound. The simplest ideas are always the best!

Auto rele počítač Slovensko svetla systém varovania

I tapped a simple DB-9 connector into the car’s existing speaker wires.

The headlight warning system has quite a decent output volume for its size, so I can connect it straight to the car’s speaker cables. Hopefully there won’t be any problem with the car’s stereo and the warning system both connected to the same speakers, but time will tell.

In the meantime, I used the multi-pin DB-9 connector (which was just a €3 serial cable cut in half) to tap into the car’s speaker wires, and I also ran a connection into it from the dashboard lights (which illuminate when the headlights are turned on).

While I was behind the stereo, I also set aside a couple of wires in the DB-9 connector to supply power for a GPS tracking system which I will install in the future.

6 - Connecting the headlight warning system system into the car's stereo system behind the dash - Using a DB-9 connector in the footwell

I made everything “plug & play” so that the box can be effortlessly installed or removed.

I installed always-on power, accessories power, and earth to come via a large 3-pin plug, and the speaker wires, GPS power, and headlight power will feed through the DB-9 connector (with a few pins spare for future uses).

This way, I can remove the box easily and effortlessly if I need to fix something or if I wish to add something new in the future. Why crouch down and unscrew wires when you can unplug the whole thing cleanly in 2 seconds. I used the exact same method with my subwoofer and amplifier in the back.

Interestingly, the pins on a typical DB-9 connector are rated at an impressive 7 amps.

On the box end, I connected all the pins on the DB-9 connector and super-glued it in place. Then I insulated it all with a good blob of silicone. It’s not going anywhere!

I coiled up the unused wires inside the box (such as the GPS power) for future use.

DB9 DB-9 konector auto rele počítač Slovensko svetla systém varovania Headlight warning system testing - everything works so far. The car is speaking to me.

I triple-checked all the connections then fired it up. Everything works nicely.

In the end I asked my Slovak wife to record the headlight warning message in her voice as female voices always sound better for nagging, uh, I mean reminders. :)

I got out my microphone, and recorded her saying “Zapnúť svetla” (which means turn on the headlights) as clearly as possible. Having the warning in the Slovak language should give the car a more native Slovak feel. Although considering this car was built across the border in Hungary, maybe it should say it in Hungarian?

The headlight warning system and Raspberry Pi are ready to go into the car.

The image above shows the box’s current appearance, with the DB-9 multi-pin connector and the C13 power connector (commonly called a “kettle plug”) at the front. On the top-right that black thing sticking out is the USB receiver for my wireless keyboard, connected into one of the Raspberry Pi’s two USB outlets.

On the back of the unit are holes for the audio & video output from the Raspberry Pi. Those will go into the car’s TV system when I buy it.

Annoyingly, I had a problem occur when I plugged the system into the car. Everything seemed to power up just fine, however the power output from the Suzuki Swift’s car stereo overloaded (and fried) my MP3 headlight warning circuit. I have a spare circuit which I will wire in, however to save blowing it up, I will not use the car’s existing speakers and instead I’ll install a dedicated speaker for the headlight warning system somewhere under the dash. I have brought a couple of new 10cm / 4 inch speakers for this purpose.

Raspberry Pi external speaker for Slovak headlight law lights must be always on

My new speaker ready to go under the dash.

I bought a set of two speakers, but I will only install one for space-saving reasons. The problem is, this generation of Suzuki Swifts have very little room under the dashboard – every space is used up for something. This means I’ll have to be creative in finding a place to install the speaker while making sure it’s hidden from sight.

Raspberry Pi external speaker for Slovak headlight law lights must be always on

To avoid screw holes, I held it in place with silicone windscreen sealant.

As you can see above, the hidden speaker is well and truly out of sight – although it’s not a pretty looking installation. The location was ideal, but I didn’t want screw holes coming through the plastic (on the other side is a storage box).

I raised the speaker slightly, so the sound shouldn’t be muffled, and if need be the silicone can be cut with a knife, and the speaker removed. Unfortunately I couldn’t do a very pretty job because I only had one hand in that very tight location.

Varovanie! Svetlometov varovný systém. Slovenská polícia zastavovať motoristov.

Everything’s hidden well out of sight!

Once I’d replaced the MP3 circuit and wired up the new speaker into the DB-9 plug, it was just a matter of plugging it in and hiding the box under the carpet, in front of the storage box. To see it in action, check out the video below.

Now the next step is to set up a mobile GPS system so I can track where my car is at any moment. I had some bad luck with the mini GPS tracker I bought, so instead I’m going to try and use the Raspberry Pi as a tracker with a USB GPS aerial and a 3G USB modem. Stay tuned!

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Installing a dash cam

The time has come to install my dashboard camera so I can record all the madness that driving in Slovakia has to offer. Actually, most drivers in Slovakia are fine, but there is a small group of idiots that do some pretty stupid things when big cars and bigger egos combine.

In Slovak they’re called “Cestni piráti” (road pirates) and they do some very dangerous things, such as overtaking into oncoming traffic, zig-zagging lines of cars to get one space ahead, and generally driving 50 km/h above the speed limit because they have an expensive car – therefore they feel the law does not apply to them.

808 16 Dashcam installed inside Suzuki Swift - Bratislava Slovakia 5 Slovenských ovládače. Prístrojová doska fotoaparát.

The “808” Spy Camera (model #16) makes a great dashboard camera.

This is the dashboard camera that I’m using. It’s called an 808 spy camera, and despite its tiny size, it records in high quality 720p High Definition. It’s not a Go-Pro, but for its price and size it comes pretty close.

You can buy them off eBay for around $30 USD, but make sure it’s a number 16 model. There are many models of 808 cameras, but only the #16 model offers high quality – hence its higher cost.

The camera takes a micro-SD card (I use an 8GB card – enough for around 3 hours of footage) and the battery lasts around 45 minutes when recording. Perfect for my trip to work and back each day.

Cestni piraty - pristrojova doska fotoaparat je moja ochrana proti cestnych piratov. How do I fasten the camera without damaging the dash board?

How do I fasten the camera without damaging the dash board?

The big problem is trying to find a way to connect the camera to the dash board, so that it can have a good view in front of the car and is easy to install and remove when I get in and out. My solution was to install a magnet on top of the camera (visible on the top photo) and a magnet under the rear view mirror.

Dash cam front of car. Placing the camera under the rear view mirror means it needed a leveling ramp.

Placing the camera under the rear view mirror means it needed a leveling ramp.

Because the underside of the mirror is not flat, I had to make a simple ramp to make it flat and level. I took a small piece of wood, cut it into a triangle, and the sanded it down until it was the perfect size and angle.

Once I had the right size and angle, I put another high power (but ultra-thin) magnet under it and painted it black. When dry, I glued it under the rear view mirror.

Now the dashcam sits perfectly level with an excellent view. Cestni piraty - pristrojova doska fotoaparat je moja ochrana proti cestnych piratov

Now the dashcam sits perfectly level with an excellent view.

When installing a dash camera it’s also important to make sure that the camera looks out the windshield in a place where the windshield wipers can wipe away the water. It’s tempting to put the camera at the very top of the windshield but trust me, if the wipers don’t wipe that part of the glass, then the raindrops will make it impossible for the camera to see.

Think of it as insurance for my insurance. 808 16 Dashcam installed inside Suzuki Swift - Bratislava Slovakia 2

Think of it as insurance for my insurance.

A dashboard camera is like car insurance: you pay for it, but you hope you never need it! Fortunately I consider myself a reasonably safe driver who has done a lot of driving testing (I have a car, motorcycle, and bus license). I drive at a safe speed, because I want to get home alive and without damage to myself or my car.

Good view: A frame from my dash camera positioned under the rear view mirror. 808 16 Dashcam Cestni piraty - prístrojová doska fotoaparát je moja ochrana proti cestných pirátov ulica Bratislava Slovakia

Good view: An actual shot from my dash camera positioned under the rear view mirror.

Unfortunately some drivers in Slovakia want to drive much faster than the speed limit even when it is dangerous to do so. This means I really need to have a camera just in case they lose control and have an accident and try to blame me. I like to think of my dashcam as basically insurance for my insurance. :)

As you can see, driving in Slovakia is quite different to driving in New Zealand or the United Kingdom. I have only lived here for a year and a half, yet I have already seen a number of severe crashes. I made this YouTube video when I had my previous Daewoo. In the above video the dashcam was on the dashboard at the base of the windscreen.

The new position in the Suzuki Swift is much better, and if you’re thinking of buying a dash camera (and if you have a Suzuki Swift) then I recommend putting the dashcam under the rear vision mirror.

I hope you have a happy journey, and please drive safely. 😀

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How to remove the CD player / stereo from a Suzuki Swift

I wanted to install my subwoofer into my 2006 Suzuki Swift but it has quite a clean dashboard with no obvious signs of how to remove the stereo.

Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú.

Its clean lines means there’s no obvious way to get it out.

I tried having a look on the Internet but there was no useful guides available, so I figured it out and took photos along the way to show you how to remove the CD player yourself, without problems.

If you want to see something closer, just click on the photo and view it full size.

How to remove the stereo from a ZC11S 2006 Suzuki Swift and install a subwoofer - 2 Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú.

Open the glovebox right up.

The first step is to open the glove box. It has two rubber stoppers on each side which keep the glove box only a few inches open. You need to push those towards eachother so that the glove box can open all the way and hang down towards the floor.

 

How to remove the stereo from a ZC11S 2006 Suzuki Swift and install a subwoofer - 3 Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú.

The glove box has removable hinge-clips.

Once all the way open, simply unclip the hinges at the base and put the glove compartment somewhere safe. Easy so far, right?

How to remove the stereo from a ZC11S 2006 Suzuki Swift and install a subwoofer - 4 Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú.

This is one of two bolts holding the stereo in place.

With the glove box completely removed, you now have reasonably easy access to a bolt that holds the stereo in place. It is circled in the above picture. Undo it with either a large philips screwdriver, or a 10 mm spanner.

How to remove the radio CD player from a ZC11S 2006 Suzuki Swift and install a subwoofer - 5 Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú.

Now we move over to the driver’s side.

Now move over to the driver’s side, and remove the plastic panel below the steering wheel. It uses no screws, only clips, so it’s quick and easy to remove. Just pull it towards the driver’s seat and it will pop out.

How to remove the stereo from a ZC11S 2006 Suzuki Swift and install a subwoofer - 6 Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú.

This is the hard part.

With the plastic panel removed, you now have (well, sort of) access to the another bolt on the other side of the radio head unit which is circled in the above photo.

It’s quite a hassle to get to this bolt, so just take your time and undo it one turn at a time. It helps if you’re nimble and thin. If not, then you get a free body workout reaching the darn thing.

How to remove the stereo from a ZC11S 2006 Suzuki Swift and install a subwoofer - 7 Stereo Head Unit Radio CD player removes easily. Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú.

Almost there.

With the two bolts undone, there’s only a series of clips holding the stereo unit in place. Take a thin flat-head screwdriver and pry the unit out from underneath. It will seem like there’s still something holding it in, but don’t worry, it will come out if you work your way around the edges prying it out.

The stereo is out. Easy to remove after all. Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú.

Hey presto!

As you can see in the above photo, there are 3 clips on the top of the unit, and a clip on each side too. There is enough cable for the stereo to come out, however it’s often bundled up in a loop with a white zip-tie. Release or cut this zip tie through the glove box space and you’ll instantly have another foot of cable length.

The back of the factory standard Suzuki Swift head unit. Single Din size, not double din. Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú. Na vzadu.

Lots of space in there.

Looking at the back of the stereo shows a fair amount of empty space in there, despite the large double-din sized front.

Which colour is which. Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú. kabelovy farby.

These four pairs of twisted wires are for the speakers.

This is the plug which goes into the back of the head unit. The socket next to it is unused and I’m not sure what it’s for. As for the four pairs of twisted wires in the photo above, each pair goes directly to each speaker. I worked out the colour code for you:

PINK + BLUE = LEFT-FRONT

YELLOW WITH BLACK STRIPE + YELLOW WITH RED STRIPE = RIGHT-FRONT

GREEN + GREEN WITH BLACK STRIPE = LEFT-REAR

GREY + GREY WITH RED STRIPE = RIGHT-REAR

Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú.

The remaining wires proved quite a challenge to determine.

The remaining wires were much harder to figure out. Some were always powered up when the stereo was going, others seemed to do nothing. Here’s what I could figure out:

WHITE WITH RED STRIPE = 12 VOLTS (always on)

BLACK = EARTH

RED WITH YELLOW STRIPE = PARK LIGHTS / HEADLIGHTS

YELLOW = PARK LIGHTS / HEADLIGHTS DIM (has 12 volts only when Illumination Cancel button is pressed, to keep the dashboard lights at full brightness)

GREEN = REPLAY TRACK / PREVIOUS TRACK

PURPLE = UNKNOWN (maybe steering wheel controls)

BLACK WITH YELLOW STRIPE = UNKNOWN (no power detected at any time)

BLUE WITH WHITE STRIPE = UNKNOWN (always seems to have 12 volt power)

If you have more luck, please leave some information in the comments. I expect the other cables are connected to the steering wheel mounted controls.

Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú. Amplifier. zosilňovač.

A nice and clean installation of a subwoofer & amplifier single unit.

I ran the cabling for the subwoofer underneath the plastic panels which clip on top of the sills of the car, down the driver’s side. I tapped into the main power input in the driver’s footwell and used a 10 amp fuse. The subwoofer is a little bigger than what I need (I have it turned down to minimum!)

Quick and easy disconnect plug in the back of the car. zosilňovač. Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú.

Installing a power & audio plug makes for quick & easy removal.

If you’re also installing an amplifier and subwoofer in your car, then I strongly recommend installing some kind of sockets in the back. This makes it super fast and easy to remove the subwoofer if you need to haul something in the back. Then when you’re done, it takes less than 5 seconds to put the speaker unit back in place and connect it up. No more unscrewing and de-wiring every time you want to use the boot / trunk.

A quick disconnect module makes it so fast. Slovenské Suzuki Swift - na Slovenskú.

It takes just five seconds to install or remove the amplifier/sub combo.

Consider installing a plug yourself if you’re planning on putting a sub/amp in the back of the car. It takes a bit longer to make the plug (I used the lid from a black can of spray-paint) but the end result is something to be proud of. It’s also a real time saver when you have to pick up something and need to move the speaker box out unexpectedly!

The versatile XLR 3 connector

The 3-pin plug and socket is called an XLR 3 (they also come in other pin configurations such as 5, and 7). The pins in the plug are:

1: Higher amperage constant 12 volts (I used a thicker 1mm² cable).

2: Accessories power (when the key is turned, the amplifier receives a signal through this wire and switches on).

3: Earth (wired securely to a nearby bolt, using a larger cable (same size as the higher amperage constant wire).

The 3.5 millimetre headphone jack is cabled to one of the rear door speakers. It taps into the existing left-rear door speaker wire. This means the amplifier only receives the left audio channel, but for bass this is not normally a problem.

While I had the stereo out I also decided to pre-wire some cabling for my box of tricks. It should allow my car to have a spoken audio warning when I drive somewhere without my headlights on (which is illegal in Slovakia). The box of tricks also has a Raspberry Pi installed, and will have GPS tracking. You’ll have to wait and see for that one however… :)

I hope this guide helps you in some way. Please feel free to share these photos if you wish.

You can use all images from this site, but please keep “suzukiswift.info” in the corner.

I bought one!

I’m the proud owner of this 2006 Suzuki Swift

Not bad for €4400 – especially when you find it had one owner, full service history, and has only done 59,532 kilometres!

In the end I didn’t need to the bank to get a loan as I saved up €2000 in cold hard cash, then just borrowed the rest from my parents in law. The big benefit of this is that I can pay them back as it suits me, and without a cent in interest. The banks just can’t beat that.

With only 59,532 km (36,991 miles) on the clock, €4400 = Bargain.

I’m pretty happy with this purchase. The buying experience from AAA Auto here in Bratislava was truly awful (5 visits in 6 days, an argument, and almost walking out twice after being  lied to) but the end result was good. Well, I’m exhausted from the awful experience, but at least I got a good price after many days of battling.

The car has ABS brakes, driver and passenger airbags, seatbelt pretensioners, power steering, electric mirrors, trip/mileage computer, and most importantly, AIR CONDITIONING! Although to be fair it hasn’t stopped snowing for 2 days so it’s too cold to test the air conditioning. I can only hope it works when summer comes around.

I wish it would stop snowing!

The stereo in the car is also pretty good. It has four door-mounted speakers (one speaker in each door) and tweeters by the front A-pillars. It also has steering-wheel mounted volume/channel controls which makes it easy to operate while driving. It’s a hell of a lot more comfortable, quiet, and steady on the road than my old Daewoo Matiz (which I traded in with AAA Auto for €400).

Quiet, comfortable, and safe. I’m loving my new Swift.

There’s only one problem with this car which I can do nothing about: The steering wheel is on the wrong side! Yeah, I’m used to driving on the other side of the car/road, and while I have adapted to driving on the right-hand-side of the road, it’ll never be as natural and comfortable as the “proper” side! :)

So what’s next you ask? I’m planning on installing a GPS tracker on the car soon, so that if my new car somehow gets stolen (even though it has an immobiliser) I’ll be able to track it by sending the car an SMS message. Then the tracker will immediately send me back Google Map coordinates so I can track the car and get the Slovak police after it.

Stay tuned!

You can use all images from this site, but please keep “suzukiswift.info” in the corner.

I’m Almost There.

hooray look at my bank account balance

I’ve made good progress with 4 months until my car buying deadline.

As you can see I’m making good progress on my car savings, with €1500 saved in my account. This means I have enough to apply for a loan for €3500 (to make a total of €5000 altogether) however I will keep saving for another month.

This is because I want to have enough money for a year’s worth of car insurance (somewhere around €400) so that I don’t have to worry about insurance payments for 12 months.

I’m still not sure how much a car dealer will take off the price for my Daewoo as a trade-in vehicle. I think the car could be sold for €900, so I would like to be offered somewhere around €500. Car dealers aren’t known for their generosity however, so we’ll see.

I still have 4 months from my April deadline to buy a Suzuki Swift so I can relax a little bit – providing no unexpected bills come up. The good news is that there are currently a lot of Swifts to choose from Slovak car sales sites such as this one.

So at this rate, I’ll apply for a car loan in late January or early February.

You can only see 3.142 of my fingers in that shot.

Additionally, my Raspberry Pi computer arrived, so my dreams of having a fully computerised car are getting closer. :)

 

Most Reliable Cars: Suzuki in Top 5

This is the main reason why I want a Suzuki.

This is just a quick update from the daily Slovak newspaper SME which (thanks to the German paper Auto Bild) compiled a list of the most reliable cars in our European neighbour, Germany.

As you can see from the chart above, the Suzuki Grand Vitara from around 2007 to 2008 is proving to be the fifth most reliable car they could find. This is an excellent testament to Suzuki’s design quality.

The story is available to read here (though it’s all in Slovak), and claims that the figures were collected from seven million technical inspections at German vehicle control stations.

Reading news like this makes me happier that I changed my mind about buying a Volkswagen Polo, and instead have decided to buy a Swift. From what I can find out, the Grand Vitara shares many of the same parts as the Swift too, such as steering wheels, electronics, switches & vents etc.

DVD, GPS, & TV System

Very cool indeed, but sadly very expensive too.

Maybe it’s the gadget freak in me coming out, but this looks awesome. They’re available on the Internet through eBay, and Alibaba to name just a couple of sites. They are expensive though: the model above is the entry level version, and it’s around €360! Ouch!

While I think the Suzuki Swift’s factory CD player looks pretty good and suits the dash well, having a real TV screen would be really cool. I love the idea of being able to watch my favourite pre-recorded TV shows or DVDs while waiting for my wife, or warming up the car on a cold morning/after work. It also can pick up regular broadcasting too, so you can listen to inane breakfast shows on the way to work.

Having a GPS navigator built into the dash would also be a perk, instead of having an awful bunch of cables sitting on the dashboard with a wobbly GPS leaving suction-cup marks on the windscreen.

Then there’s the added benefit of being able to install a reversing camera – or (my favourite idea) a Raspberry Pi computer.

It’s lean, mean, and can do almost anything

Pretty cool huh? It’s the size of a credit card, does pretty much everything a full-sized computer can do, and it costs less than €45. Also, because it uses only around 2 Watts, it can be left on day and night in the car without draining the battery.

Additionally, it has a composite output socket (the yellow thing in the above picture) which means you can connect it directly to that Suzuki Swift TV display which it has a composite input. Then, I can easily install a USB wifi dongle into the Raspberry Pi, pair it to my mobile phone, and surf the internet/check email/update this blog from the comfort of the driver’s seat!

I’m getting a Raspberry Pi for Christmas from my lovely wife, and in anticipation I have purchased a plastic case for it, and I’ve also bought one of these which I can keep in the glovebox:

It’s wireless, and about 5 times bigger than my cellphone keyboard.

The Raspberry Pi has a lean version of the popular operating system called Linux (similar to Apple OS, but free-er) and it can operate all the usual things you might use on a daily basis.

This smart little computer can also be programmed to turn things on and off using the outputs on its circuit board. For example, I’ve seen one guy program it to respond to voice commands which control a robotic arm.

That gives me even more ideas. I could start the day by saying “Suzuki: Start Engine,” if I can learn how to program it. Alternatively I could learn how to control things on the car via a WiFi dongle attached to the Raspberry Pi. This means I could turn on the car’s headlights via my phone, all from the comfort of the house. I could even start the car from inside.

Alternatively, the car could use its WiFi to tell my phone when the car’s battery gets below a certain voltage in winter, or maybe when someone opens the door. There are so many possibilities.

So as you can imagine I’m looking forward to Christmas.

I want to make my car talk.

Ahhh, my childhood in all its awesomeness.

Even though I don’t even have a Swift yet, I want to find a way to make it talk. Now, before images of Knight Rider start popping into your head, let me explain.

In Slovakia the law states that when you’re driving, you headlights must be on all the time, day or night. Yes, this is often pointless when it’s brilliantly sunny, but regardless it’s the law. The problem is, I have forgotten to turn on my headlights sometimes when driving. I don’t do it often, but I have done it.

Another problem is that Slovakia’s police will stop you for not having your lights on. As I have witnessed, they won’t bother stopping you if you are driving fast and dangerously, but they will stop you if you are driving without headlights. Before you ask, no, I have no idea why.

Therefore if I jumped in the car and started driving without headlights for more than 15 seconds, I wanted to create a system that would say, “Zapnúť svetlomety” (turn on the headlights).  Sounds easy, huh? Well, it kinda is, but it takes a little effort.

First, I need a circuit that activates a 15 second timer if the lights are off but the ignition is on. That means if there’s no power going to the lights, a timer will be started. That part is easy, because I can just use a normal €1.50 car relay like this:

It’s a bit overkill, but it’ll do the job – and it’s cheap.

So, the lights are off, but the ignition is on. By connecting a wire from the parking/dashboard lights to it, the simple relay above sees if the lights are on or off, and sends power in the direction of a timer circuit that I will make myself.

Now I need to point out that I know how a light bulb works, but I’m not very good at reading circuit diagrams and stuff like that. I blow up more things than fix them.

I had a look on the internet and found that I can make a simple 15 second, 12 volt timer for about €4 with a little patience and luck, using a popular microchip called a “555” chip. To learn more I went to an electronics parts shop and bought three last week to connect stuff to them and figure out how they work.

Fortunately there’s heaps of sites on the internet that teach you how to make simple circuits using this popular 555 chip. This site was very helpful for idiots like me, and I was able to build a flashing LED light in just a few minutes. I didn’t blow anything up either which was a surprise (and the reason I bought three 555 chips just in case!).

I reckon even I can follow that! I hope…

The circuit diagram above for example is from this site, where you just type in how long you want the timer to run, and it tells you what parts to use where. For 15 seconds I will need a capacitor rated at 47 uF to go where the letter C is, and a resistor rated at 290.14 Kohms to go where the Ra is. The + and the – is the power from the car’s 12 volt ignition circuit. I reckon I can manage that.

So, the relay is powering the above circuit, and after 15 seconds the above circuit will turn on and supply power to this thing below:

When power is supplied, it automatically plays whatever’s in its SD Card slot.

I bought a couple off this ebay seller for only €4 each including shipping. Cheap as, and yet so awesome. When it gets power from the 15 second timer, it will automatically play whatever MP3 is on the SD card (it has an SD card slot as you can see in the photo).

This little circuit above needs only 5 volts, but a car is 12 volts. That’s too much for this little circuit, so I bought a little step-down voltage changer from ebay as well. It looks like this:

It will take 12 volts and make it 5 volts.

So, to recap again, the relay will supply power to the 15 second timer; the 15 second timer will soon power up the sound player (running through the above voltage changer); and the sound player will play an audio recording of “Turn on the headlights” in Slovak.

Come to think of it, I could have it play anything I wanted. Maybe the sound of a dog barking, or the theme tune from the Simpsons – you name it!

Once powered up, the circuit will keep playing “Turn on the headlights” non-stop until you turn it off. And the way to turn it off is to just turn on the headlights. The relay will suddenly get power from the parking/dashboard light, and it will switch power away from the all the above circuits, and it will all go nice and silent.

The next little problem is how to get the sound nice and loud, because I want a decent volume. It doesn’t have to be really loud, but it should be noticeable over the road noise or the stereo.

Maybe I can use a couple of smaller speakers and hide them under the dash, but if the sound is too quiet, or too crappy, I’ll have to amplify it and try pumping it through the existing car speakers.

To do that I’d need a tiny little 12 volt amplifier, but I found out I can actually make one with a few little bits and pieces in a kit. They sell these kits at a lot of  hobby electronics shops and off ebay. They look like these:

This one will cost only €4 and pumps out 15 watts!

I can buy these little mono amplifiers at my local electronics shop in a kit for €4 which is nothing. Then I’ll have it connect to the driver’s door speaker and that’s it! I might have to use a diode (a little component that only lets current go in one direction) to protect this circuit above if I’m blasting the stereo. I don’t want the poor thing to go fizzle-pop if power from the stereo is feeding into it while it’s trying to tell me to put the lights on. :)

So that’s it. All this stuff that I’ve bought is probably still a few weeks away from arriving in my mailbox but it’ll give me a cool project. Now, what else could use a vocal warning in the car? Any ideas?

UPDATE: I’ve just had a brilliant idea. I realised I don’t even need the timer circuit. Instead, when the car turns out without headlights, I’ll just have the MP3 player turn on immediately, but I’ll put 15 seconds of silence at the beginning of the audio file. Genius!

I’m also getting a Raspberry Pi (mini computer board) which I’ll be installing into the car as well at some point in the future. More info on that later… 😉

Just looking.

This one looks good.

I had a look at the car dealer AAA Auto as their website has heaps to choose from and because I brought my little Daewoo off them. There are quite a few Swift’s there and the one above looks decent. The mileage is not bad, the options are there (ABS brakes are essential, as is air conditioning). Most importantly, the price is right.

The price says €4700, but that’s only if you use their partnered finance company. The cash price is in grey underneath, and it’s €5500. The reason you pay more with cash is because they make a killing off the interest on their financing. I used their online calculator and discovered that I’d end up paying about €1800 in interest if I arranged finance through AAA Auto. No thanks. I checked with my bank, and if I use the bank for a loan then I’d only end up paying around €850 in interest, fees, and insurance.

I want to keep the purchase within the realm of €5000 too, so let’s hope the car dealer is willing to be flexible. If you’re wondering, “Why don’t I buy privately?” the answer is mind-numbing Slovak bureaucracy. The amount of application forms and waiting in lines here is crazy. I’d rather pay more and just let the car dealer do everything!

Of course I’d love to just save up instead, but I’ve got until April before my rusty old Daewoo has to go for its inspection so I don’t have enough time. Also, there’s no way in hell I’m going through another summer in a car without air conditioning. In June it got so hot my in-car thermometer broke once it reached 60 degrees Celsius!

So, the savings are coming along nicely, the selection of cars seems to be good. The only thing to worry about now is what colour to choose? Silver sounds like the safe choice, but I’ll be honest, that burgundy looks pretty nice too. Hmmm. Choices.

Saving

It’s amazing what can happen when you stop wasting your money on junk.

I stopped buying loads of rubbish I didn’t need and look what’s happening; my bank account has begun to look nice and healthy after only three months of saving.

I’m aiming to save at least €1500 before I ask the bank for a loan. I think I’ll be able to save that much before April providing no major bills pop up any time soon. That reminds me, I’d better start thinking about buying Christmas presents soon. Uh oh.

So far so good though. At this rate I should be loan-shopping by February but normally as soon as I make grand statements like “Everything’s going according to plan”, something really crappy happens, like I need a €600 dentist bill or something. Touch wood.

I’m going to try and keep the bank balance above €1000 this month but it won’t be easy. I’ve got three weeks until pay day, and my cousin is coming up to Europe from Australia soon too – sightseeing’s not typically a cheap thing to do. How will my meagre savings look in three weeks? We’ll find out soon enough.

Its days are numbered.

The mighty 3-cylinder Daewoo in its natural habitat

This is my current car which, although running fine, is… let’s be honest… a Daewoo.

I bought my little 1998 Daewoo Matiz when I first arrived to Slovakia last year, and while it has never failed me, I never intended to keep it for more than a year or so. I quickly needed a car to get around, and this little blue transport solution was only €950.

The problem is, the little Daewoo has it’s vehicle inspection and emissions test coming up in April, and I don’t want to go through the hassle & cost of that when I know I’m going to sell it soon anyway. Also, it has some rust which I (somewhat unsuccessfully) fixed a few weeks ago. My rust repair was good, but my painting skills afterwards were atrocious.

So I have until April (that’s 5 months from now) to get myself a Swift. That’s plenty of time and I plan on buying one well before then. There’s only one small problem: I don’t have any money saved just at the moment. So I’m going to stop spending my cash on junk for a while, and start collecting it instead.

Additionally, while I often love a challenge, saving €5000 in 5 months is pretty impossible on Slovak wages. Therefore I will have no choice but to organise a car loan. The bank looks like a better deal than the car yard at this stage.

Watch this space.

Money.

This is what I need before I go car shopping.

First of all, I’ve got to arrange some money before I can buy the car I want.

The problem is, I really hate car loans. They suck. You end up paying craploads more than you want to pay, and then you have a loan – like a big knife – hanging over your head for three years or so.

Unfortunately I don’t have €5000 in cash, just sitting around the house. I had an awesome summer holiday and used most of my savings touring Europe.

So, I would like to save around 30% to 40% (between €1500 and €2000) and then get a small loan for the rest of the money. I might even find a good condition Swift for less than five thousand euro, which would be even better.

Problem is, I would really like to get a Swift before April when my current car has its next safety and emissions inspection. That’s a lot of money needed in a short time.

Stay tuned for my saving, buying, and loaning progress…