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A Pleasant Accident

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My name's Steve and I've just joined the Lexus owners club, all thanks to my darling wife.

You see about two weeks ago she went out on a quiet Saturday afternoon with a teacher friend of hers on a visit to Kelly Tarltons (which is like a mixture between an aquarium and a penguin farm, but also with sharks) ahead of a school trip (she was scouting it out to prevent the children from swimming with said sharks).
As she was merrily chatting away to her friend and not looking at the road ahead while driving (a skill that females seem to be well versed in) an innocent Holden Commodore with a huge towball appeared in front of her. Her friend (let's call her Sue) said "lookout!" My wife slammed on the brakes but it was too late and she unintentionally caused some extensive modifications to the front end of our 1998 Toyota Corolla (see photo for reference) post-8373-0-38727400-1440186097_thumb.jp
Not really the kind of modifications one usually appreciates, however there are exceptions to the rule (like when your insurance company pays out more for the car than what you think it's worth). This was one of those exceptions.
Barely ten minutes after they had left it seemed like they returned home again, my wife looked rather sheepish and said to me "Do you want to go car shopping?" first thoughts through my head 'Oh no, please don't tell me something's broken. Maybe the power steering belt has finally snapped...' "Why?" I replied. "Well, I may have had a little accident..."
My eyes lit up at this new revelation, I had been forbidden from purchasing a new car at the start of the year due to saving for sensible grown up things like a house (I'm told you need one of these before you have those things called children), this despite the fact that our Corolla was heading for 300,000kms quite rapidly. A door of endless possibilities had just been opened up, and my hopes were dashed as I remembered the car was only insured for a paltry $4,000. In reality how much more could I convince my wife to spend over the insured amount?

I was hoping beyond hope that the car would be written off, but when I took it to the panel beater he told me all the parts that had been damaged were bolt on and it may not be written off. I tried to hold back tears as I digested this devastating news, but it turned out that thankfully he was wrong. Once the quote for parts and everything came back the insurance company said "We'd rather give you a check than fix your car!" To which I jumped for joy and continued scouring the web for cars within my limited budget.

My Lexus was actually on Trademe for more money than I was permitted to spend by the boss, however it did say 'or near offer' on the listing and that gave me a some hope that I might be able to procure this fine piece of automotive engineering.

It's a 1999 Lexus IS200 2.0 with the 1G-FE. It has 191,000kms on the clock and it has been looked after superbly. The first thing I noticed when I went to take a look at the car was the condition of the paint (although it had been valeted), ooooh it was shiny! The headlights looked perfectly clear, no oxidization at all which for a car of this age is surprising, but the reason for this is that the previous owner had garaged the car for the seven years he'd had it.

I had a chat with the owner and found out that the cambelt hasn't been changed yet and it also hadn't had an oil change for a while (so she wasn't quite as perfect as she looked). Then I took her for a test drive, she drove smooth and firmly planted on the road. The straight six in this beauty is a really nice engine, however there are two faults that I notice almost immediately with the car:

1.) One of the brake discs up front shudders lightly under braking at neighbourhood speeds and more noticeably on the motorway at higher speeds (I have bought new discs and pads to replace the front discs and pads this weekend which I will post on later).

2.) More concerning for me (as I have lead foot's disease - I don't think it's heriditary?) was that the car has some hesitation in first gear when you put your foot down (got it checked by my mechanic, he doesn't think it's the transmission which made me happy enough to purchase the car).

The interesting thing about this problem is that it's only when you put your foot flat on the accelerator in first gear that it happens, it just sits there for a few seconds as if its being choked from behind and then it hits 4k rpm and she's off into the sunset. Also first gear changes up early at about 5.5k rpm whereas second gear will keep going up to just over 6k rpm before it changes up.

Although when I took it on the motorway I noticed that it feels underpowered in second gear until you hit 5k rpm and then the VVTI kicks in and snaps your neck back into the headrest like an angry bear (after you've just touched one of her cubs).

This leads to a potential third issue which I believe must be connected to the second issue - poor fuel consumption. My wife doesn't drive very far, only to school and back each day, and maybe to the gym (so that she can stay strong enough to keep me in line), or the supermarket. I brimmed the tank full the other day and after 50kms it was already below the top F line, now this may just be due to the way the fuel gauge reads in this car or it could be that she's got a serious drinking problem (the car I meant, not my wife).

Overall I'm very happy with the purchase, I bargained the guy down to $3,500 an extra $200 over what the insurance company gave us after they'd taken out the excess (this is a steal as similar cars on trademe with higher mileage were around the $5k mark) and the car is the tidiest I have ever seen with this kind of mileage. Yes there are some minor issues but I will be working on fixing them and I will aim to keep you updated with the progress and any learnings I make during the way.

Today I will be replacing the lower ball joints, brake discs and pads and doing an oil change with my good friend Luke, (he likes Hondas but please don't hold it against him) and if I still have time I'll change the fuel filter and check to see if the cat is clogged (might take the exhaust off inc the cat and take it for a drive just to annoy the neighbours - I mean all in the name of troubleshooting... I know that cars don't run great without the exhaust but if it's the cat that's causing the hesitation/flat spot then taking it off might just illuminate the problem).

I'll also take some pictures of the work and a short video of the hesitation problem and upload it to youtube.

If you've read my entire longwinded post, well done! I've uploaded some photos of my new IS200 for your viewing pleasure.





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