Happy Merdeka Malaysia!

Today our country Malaysia celebrates its 53rd Independence day. We’ve come a long way since 1957. And it’s amazing that after so many years, we still stand united. I’m really honored to have so many friends from different races who tolerate each other’s religion, who are very open about racial issues.

Sure, we may hear one or two cases of vandalism in places of worship, or the occasional racist remark, or sometimes the stereotyping of races. But those are isolated cases and they do not represent the majority of Malaysians who are generally very friendly. If you have friends of another race, you’ll realize we are not so different after all. We share cultures, food and festive seasons. A little give and take will take us a long way.

So to all my Malaysian friends, have a happy Merdeka Day! Stick together and see what more we can achieve!

Bad Idling Problem

My brother’s car had a bad idling problem. In neutral, the RPM would hunt around 600-800. It’ll rev to 800 then drop down to 600 and the cycle repeats ever second. In drive it’s even worse, going from 600-1200 and sometimes stalling. Revving the engine made it worse. The RPM would jump and after letting go of the pedal, it takes a few seconds before stabilizing at 600-800RPM. All the time the engine felt like it was going to stall.

The car hasn’t been started for a month because he was at Perth for that duration. The mechanic suspected that it was due to fouled plugs but couldn’t look at it till next week because his appointment was full. Since I had plenty of time to kill I decided to troubleshoot

Bad idling can be caused by the following:

  1. Bad spark plugs
  2. Bad idle control valve
  3. ECU malfunction
  4. Damaged spark plug cables
  5. Damaged ignition coils
  6. Damaged ECU wiring harness in the engine
  7. O2 sensor damage
  8. MAF sensor damage
  9. Vacuum leaks

I didn’t have a fault code reader so I had to go through each and every item on the list to isolate the problem.

MAF Sensor

The first thing I checked was the MAF (Mass Air Flow) sensor. A dirty or faulty MAF sensor could cause a slow response to the ECU, resulting in overcompensation by the ECU and the engine to idle badly.

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This is the Bosch Hot Film MAF sensor. If you look into the tube you can see a thin film. This film is heated up to a certain constant temperature. As air flows through it, the film is cooled, therefore more power is required to keep the film at the predetermined temperature. The ECU then uses this information to calculate how much air is flowing through to the engine. There are two other types of MAF sensors, namely the hot wire type and the spring-loaded vane type.

I reasoned that if the film has been covered in dust, it would be effectively insulated from the flowing air and thus give out erroneous readings. Cleaned it with some sensor-safe carb cleaner. Installed it back. Same results. So it wasn’t the problem with the MAF sensor.

Spark Plugs

Fouled or mis-gapped spark plugs can also cause bad idling problems because the mis-gap will affect the ignition timing. I took out the spark plugs and also checked the condition of the wiring and coil packs but they were in good condition. The plugs were in exceptional condition, the ceramic portion showing perfect combustion (slightly brown deposits on the white ceramic). I didn’t take any photos of the plugs but the following diagram will help you in determining your plug condition:

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So I had to rule out the ignition system. Wiring were all good. Engine harness was still in good condition.

Vacuum Leaks

In most cars, vacuum from the intake manifold is tapped for the usage of other systems. One common vacuum user is the master brake cylinder. The vacuum is used to assist the driver in applying brakes. That’s why when your engine is off, it’s very hard to push down on the brake pedal.

Since idling is somewhat affected by the airflow into the manifold, any vacuum leaks will introduce extra air into the engine, thus messing up the fuel scheduling by the ECU. The ECU thinks that there is that much air going in, but in fact there is more because of the vacuum leak.

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The problem was caused by a disconnected vacuum line to ABS module (shown by the red arrow). I’m not sure why I didn’t notice that before. Could have saved me one afternoon.

The engine idled perfectly after reconnecting that vacuum line. No hunting at all, RPM stabilizes instantly once the gas pedal is released after revving the engine.

Sometimes the simplest of solution solves the problem. So the next time before you go check your plugs or idle control valve, check that all the vacuum lines are connected properly. Might just save you a lot of time troubleshooting.

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And I love working on this car because it comes with it’s own set of tools!

Mobile Mouse for Apple iPad

I’m back in Kuching right now so stay tuned for updates soon.

The Apple iPad is a versatile device. With thousands of Apps in the App Store, there is almost always an App that does exactly what you want. And developers have really been pushing the possibilities on the iPad with creative and innovative Apps. One App that caught my attention was the Mobile Mouse.

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Mobile Mouse is an App that turns your iPad into a giant multitouch trackpad. It uses WiFi to connect to your computer so your iPad and PC/Mac must be on the same WiFi network. You must install the App on your iPad and a server software that can be downloaded from their website on your PC/Mac. Setup takes about 5 minutes only and it is very straight-forward and easy.

1

Installing the server software.

2

Running the server. There are a few parameters that you can play around with in the other tabs and they are basically self-explanatory. The only thing you need to make sure here is that the IP address is correct and that it is on the same network as your iPad.

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Launch the Mobile Mouse App and you will be able to detect the server computer and connect to it. Your oversized trackpad is now ready for use.

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The whole surface can be used to move the mouse pointer. You can even pinch to zoom. On PCs, it will launch the Magnifier and zoom into your screen. Two buttons below are used for clicking. There are regions on both sides for scrolling. On the lower region, there is a dock-like interface, similar to the one found in MacOS X. This allows you to switch between applications quickly. For example, if you tap on “Firefox”, the Firefox window will come into focus.

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There are also special buttons on the top region that you can activate. The set shown above allows you to control Firefox with ease. You can go back, reload or favorite a page, stop page loading, and so on.

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You can even turn your iPad into a giant remote control for your home PC. Pause or fast forward through a movie, change the volume, skip video clips and so on. This is indeed turning your iPad into a very expensive remote control.

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If you need to type, it comes with a fully-featured keyboard as well.

Mobile Mouse is suitable for users who want to use their iPad as a trackpad because they do not want to lug a mouse around with their laptops. Or for those rare occassions when they need a bigger touchpad. Also for users who wish to control their home PCs. Instead of getting a wireless keyboard and mouse, the iPad is a more elegant solution. Mice and keyboards don’t belong in the living room.

DIY Apple iPad Stand

There will be times when you want to prop up your iPad on your desk to watch a movie, or to use it as a second screen, or to show your Twitter updates. It is times like these that you’ll need an iPad stand. However if you’re like me who refuse to be a sucker for overpriced Apple accessories, you can make one for yourself for free in under 5 minutes.

You will need the following tools and materials:

  1. A piece of cardboard the size of an A4 paper.
  2. Scissors.
  3. Ruler.
  4. Pencil.
  5. PDF template (taken from the Pizza Box iPad Stand)

You can either print out the template or draw it out yourself on the piece of cardboard. Once you have transferred the template over to the cardboard, proceed to cut out the stand.

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If you cut it out properly you’ll have a piece that looks like the one shown above. Finally, you’ll need to fold along the dotted lines. Your iPad stand is now ready for use.

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The stand is quite sturdy if you use a stiff cardboard. You’ll notice that I did not use the rectangular brace. It works well without it.

Now that you have a stand for your iPad, go ahead and try these Apps out:

  1. Air Display
  2. iDisplay
  3. Mobile Mouse
  4. Touch LCD (clock)