Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Is the warranty of your giant good enough?

I lost access to the Internet for couple of days as my PC “died”. It started with the Vista operating system partition extremely fragmented causing excessive disk activities.

When I try to defrag the Master File Table and the partition using the so called boot-time defragmentation the defrag software somehow go haywire. When the system rebooted it complained that the windows loader was missing. Yeah big time mistake.

I had another partition running Windows 7 so I booted it up and it “senses” that my Vista partition is corrupted and tried to recover all the orphaned files. During the recovery the PC suddenly shut down by itself.

Pressing the power button doesn’t power the system anymore. Initially I thought it was the power supply unit so I took it out and indeed it has some burn smell emitting from the power supply unit.

Since it comes with 5 years warranty so that’s good and I took it back to the computer store when I bought it. Unfortunately the warranty claim cannot be processed immediately as they have to send the unit back to the dealer to get a replacement. This whole process will take one month!

So I bought another power supply unit and upon fitted it the PC still doesn’t want to power up. Another hour of investigation and I finally found the culprit. It was the new graphic cards that I bought a month ago. The moment I removed the graphic card from the motherboard, the PC immediately power up.

Again I took the graphic card back to the computer store and initiated a warranty claim. As expected the same one month waiting period apply.

If you have assembled your own PC lately than you would know that the latest motherboard from Asus/Gigabytes doesn’t come with any onboard graphic adapter. Without a graphic card, you will not be able to connect the monitor to your PC. I can either wait for a month for the warranty claim to be processed or my PC remained non functional during this period.

So I bought another graphic card (ouch) and reassembled the PC. Now I am back online and but still sore with the warranty system for computer parts in this part of the world. Apparently they favoured the seller rather than the buyer.

Their current practice is that if you return the part within 7 days, they will give you a one-to-one replacement on the spot. If you come back after 7 days, then they put the liability back to the dealer. Some even charge your some small amount for the delivery fees to send the part back and forth from the dealer.

This is the standard practice for most of the computer parts dealer in Low Yat Plaza. The main the reason they do this is to reduce their risk of carrying too much inventory just to cater for warranty claim. Given that some components like motherboard and high end graphic cards carry a 3 year warranty nowadays. They don’t want to keep stock for that long so they put this responsibility squarely back to the dealer.

My reading of the many posts in computer forums that the warranty claims in other places like the United State is much fairer. Most warranty claim will be processed within a week and the owner can get their PC up and running again. Over here we are at the mercy of the computer parts dealers and will have to fork out money upfront to fix our computer.

This reminded me that when I bought my giant, I only have one month warranty from my dealer. Luckily my giant was in good shape so I don’t have to make any claim from the dealer. I understand that some dealer gave longer warranty period but I think at least they will honour the warranty claim.

The most the owner will have to do is to leave the car for a day or two and then you are back on the road again. In fact I would imagine that the warranty costs for any fault parts on the giant will be much more expensive than those computer parts. Well I think the warranty claim for our giant is fairer than the computer parts!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Retrofit Doesn't Equal Original

I received several queries from my reader what are their options if the giant that they are looking at don’t have some of the minimum features I mentioned in this post.

I thought it would be a straight forward job to retrofit the missing features but I was wrong. Yes some of these features can be retrofitted locally but then it wouldn’t be the same like the original. I checked with my regular installer and it seems they are also providing the alternative solution meaning they can’t do the retrofit like those that come originally with the car.

For example if the giant that you are looking at don’t have the front camera, you can retrofit the front camera but then the installer cannot retrofit the front camera button onto the steering wheel for you. They will provide an alternative button somewhere at the dashboard in front of the steering wheel.

Similarly the installer that I frequent doesn’t have the know-how to retrofit the hands-free button onto the steering wheel. Therefore if a buyer wants to retrofit the Bluetooth function into the NFL model, he/she will have to find someone who is familiar with the wiring of the giant to do the retrofit. I have not come across anyone who can do this yet. One of my readers was quoted RM5K just to retrofit the Bluetoth function. I suspect the cost is so high because instead of retrofitting the button the installer is changing the whole steering wheel with one that comes with the button.

Another reader also highlighted that he is worried about the quality of the power door that is retrofitted locally. I don’t have experience on this but I think the worry is genuine. My understanding from my regular installer is that the retrofitting kit is fully imported from Japan. However I am not sure of the quality of the installation.

I have seen quite a lot of earlier batch giant from circa 2002-2003 doesn’t comes with any power doors. Also many dealers would like to entice their buyer with model that have twin power doors. They may retrofit the unit that don’t come the power door at the driver side to make it a twin power door model. Therefore retrofitting power door is a niche market and I believed if the installer has done enough of installation job they will get it right.

I know it is getting harder to find a unit that has all the features that you are looking for and you may be looking at the retrofitting route. As long as you have no issue with the result there are installers who can do the retrofitting job for you.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Location of Fuses in Toyota Alphard

In previous post, I mentioned that one of the ways to check for problem with power door is to look at the fuse. Where are all the fuses located in our giant?

There are several fuse boxes installed in a Toyota Alphard. The main fuse boxes are located in the engine compartment. The location of the fuse boxes in the engine compartment is slight different between the 2.4L and 3.0L model. On the 2.4L 2AZ-FE engine model, it is located on the right side of the engine compartment as shown in the photo below.
On the 3.0L 1MZ-FE model, it is located in the middle section on top of the engine.

There is another smaller fuse box below the larger one as shown in the photo below.
This is for the 2.4L model. The 3.0L model has the same smaller fuse box in front of the radiator.

There are two more fuse boxes located under the dashboard, one is on the driver side as shown in the photo below.

You will have to unhook the smaller coin box from the dashboard before you can have access to the fuse location which is located deep inside the dashboard.

The other is located behind the glovebox at the passenger side.

Again you will have to unhook the lower glovebook before you can access to the fuses located next to the aircon filter box.

Now that you have located each of the fuse boxes, you’ll need to identify each of the fuses within the fuse box to ascertain which one controls which component. The following tables show the fuel name, the ampere and the description of each fuse. The diagrams before each table list the location of the fuses within the fuse box.

Main fuse box (in engine compartment)

Fuse NameAmpereDescription
2H-LP (RH)15AHeadlamp high beam (RH)
3H-LP (LH)15AHeadlamp high beam (LH)
4H-LP (RL)15AHeadlamp (RH)
5H-LP (LL)15AHeadlamp (LH)
6RAD NO.325AAudio
7HAZ-HORN20AHazard Light, Indicator Lights, Horn
8EFI15AEngine Computer
9RAD NO.115AAudio
10ECU-B10AMeter, ABS, Power Window
11SPARE15ASpare fuse
12SPARE7.5ASpare fuse
13ETCS10AElectronic Toll Collection System

Secondary fuse box (in engine compartment)

Fuse NameAmpereDescription
3DOOR NO.130ADoor Lock

Fuse Box at driver side

Fuse NameAmpereDescription
1STOP15AIngition Light
2GAUGE10AEngine Computer, Power Slide Door, Clearing Sonar & Park Sonar
3CURTAIN- RH15AElectric Curtain - Right Hand Side
4CURTAIN LH& BK25AElectric Curtain - Left Hand Side and Rear
5MIR HTR10AMirror Heater
6CURTAIN5AElectric Curtain
8AC 100V15AAccessory Console Center
9P/W RH25APower Window
10ODB-II7.5ADignostic Connector

Fuse Box at Passenger Side
Fuse NameAmpereDescription
2DEF30ARear window defrost
3FOG15AFront Fog Light
4DOME27.5ARoom Lights
6P/SEAT30APower Seats (3.0L only)
7BACK DOOR30APower Boot
8AM17.5AEngine Switch
9RR FOG10ARear Fog Lamp
10P/W LH30APower Windows - LH
11DOOR30ADoor Lock
12DOME7.5ARoom Lights
13TAIL10ARear Tail lights
14PANEL10ASwitch illuminator, Aircon illuminator
15ECU-IG10AABS, Power Slide Door, Cruise Control
16RR WIP10ARear Wiper
17A/C10AAircon, Audio
18DEICER30AFront Wiper Deicer
20SEAT HTA10ASeat Heater
21INJ15AEngine Computer
22UGN10AEngine Computer, SRS Airbag
23MET IGN7.5AMeter
24ECU ACC10AShift lock, Door mirror, Audio
25CIG15ACigarette Lighter
26P/POINT15AAccessory socket

Please note that the above write up cover what I know on the fuse locations for the new facelift model of 1st generation Toyota Alphard. Other model may have different fuse locations.

PS. Phew. This is the longest time I ever took to write a post because the formatting I have do for the table HTML code outside of the blogging platform.

PPS. A reader was asking where exactly is the fuse box on the passenger side. I am away at the moment so I can only attached a schematic diagram as a reference. I will take a better picture of it location when I am back.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Toyota Alphard Power Door Problem?

One common problem most often reported by Toyota Alphard owner is that the power sliding door stops responding to the buttons that “tell” it to open, or that pulling the handle outward the door doesn’t slide electrically.

The step to investigate this problem involves the following sequences.

If you are handy in troubleshooting yourself, first check the fuse then check if there is power at the motor when the buttons are operated, then check for power at the buttons, then for power at the fuse. Look closely at the wires at and near the motor and the button and as far as you can follow them, look for obvious problems, loose connections, look for frays where the wires take a bend or go through a hole or are near anything moving. The problem can have many possible causes such as a poor ground, loose connection, frayed wire, bad switch, blown fuse, faulty relay, blown motor, or possibly even a problem with the mechanical aspect that opens the door.

Phew, that's a mouthful.

Well that's the steps the service personnel would have to go through. We mortal just operating the doors probably don't even know how to start.

If you do not want to handle the thorough investigation stated above, then try a reset. The power sliding door can be reset simply by disconnecting the battery, reconnect the terminal (which reset the power door), turn on the power door button and press the open/close button. If this does not fix the problem then you have to look at other area like door’s motor, cable etc. A worn battery might not deliver enough power to the driving motor so you might want to check the condition of the battery when you have a power door problem. At the minimum change to a 60Amp or higher battery, if you have other equipment like ICE that drain you battery.

If all else fail, please check with your mechanic :)

What Options Should You Choose for Toyota Alphard?

In my previous post I mentioned that it is very rare to find a full spec Toyota Alphard as the number of such car is very limited, unless you opted in for a full spec MZG (of course at a premium). If you can find a high spec AS/MS typically it would have most of the important options covered in this post. If not then the potential buyers may have to opt for a lower spec giant like an AX/MX/MZ. Even then at the minimum the buyer should choose a unit that has as much option as possible so that he/she doesn’t have to fork out more money to retrofit one or more of this option later.

When I mentioned at the minimum it should have at least a single power door at the passenger side, original head unit, sonar sensor, front and rear camera, and ideally with multifunction control at the steering wheel.
Power door (or power slide door as the manual called it) is very important as it ease the opening and closing of the heavy door. Ideally you should use the button on the dashboard or the button on the remote control unit to operate the power door. If not then just pull the handle once and let the power module slide the door to open or close. One should never pull or push the door with force as it may damage the power module. If the option is there one should preferably go for twin power doors. The extra power door will comes in handy if the family has small children or elder who will have difficulty in pulling the heavy door on the driver side (assuming they have to enter from that side). Also with twin power doors, you can use the remote to open whichever side that allows convenient access as you approach the giant. I find this very useful especially when I have to park my car at the road side where one side of the door is not accessible as it is next to some bushes or side wall.

If you have bought a unit with single power door (normally on the passenger side) and you want to retrofit the power door kit into the driver side, the current price is approximately RM5,000.00. Therefore if twin power doors are important to you, choose one with twin power doors fitted to avoid this cost.

The sonar sensors help you to gauge the distant between your giant and the surrounding object. The peeping sounds, the flashing indicator and the flashing image on the HU all helps the driver to judge how safe is the distant of the car from surrounding object. I know many owners have bought their giant without the sonar sensor. It is quite expensive to retrofit the aftermarket sonar sensor hence I would recommend potential buyer to choose one that comes with sonar sensor.

The front and rear camera provide the visual aid to the driver on the “distant” of the car from objects in front or the rear. In conjunction with the sonar sensor, the driver has ample sensory and visual image of the safe distant of the car from any objects in front or the rear. Do note that the camera and the sonar sensor only can “sense” or “see” the objects in the same level of the sonar sensor/camera. It will not help in situation where there is high hanging object above the front/rear bumper. This is especially tricky as many of the basement car parks are not designed for MPV with the height like our giant. I know some owners either scratch their roof or reversed into some piping hanging from the ceiling.

The multi-steering control function on the steering allows you to operate the head unit or use the hands-free function.

Some AX/MX will come with sunroof/moonroof. This option is really a decision of the owner to consider whether it is useful in our kind of weather condition. Many will opt not to take it as many will hardly use the roof on daily basis. If you have a unit that has sunroof/moonroof, do remember to regularly clean the surrounding of the sunroof and the rail so that it is not clogged. If it is clogged water may seeps into the car from the sunroof.

On very rare occasion, some AX/MX/AS/MS/MZ will come with power boot. Again this is a convenient option if you use the boot often. With a press of the button on the dashboard or the remote control you can open the boot remotely. Again you can press these button or the button on the boot to close if electrically. Not many owners will choose to retrofit a power boot but there are accessory shops that cater for this niche. It cost upward of RM8,000.00 to retrofit the power boot.

Hope this post help you making your choice on what minimum options to go for.

Why Full Spec Toyota Alphard is Rare

One of the challenges that many potential buyers of the 1st generation Toyota Alphard faced is finding a full spec model. Due to the fact that Toyota provides so many options to their buyers on top of their specification for AX/AS/MZ/MS/MZG, and the need of owners vary, not many giants will comes with full spec. Therefore when a full spec unit landed in a dealer yard it will be quickly snapped up by the buyer. The question remained what is the definition of full spec from Toyota perspective? Looking at their brochures I couldn't find one.

My definition of full spec means the giant will have the following options installed:

The above options are most likely can be found on either the AS/MS/MZG models assuming the original buyer have specified all these options. However in my search so far I found that not many AS/MS comes with sunroof/moonroof , power boot and power curtain. Some AS/MS also comes without adjustable suspension and VSC/TSC. Even without these options the AS/MS are still more expensive than the normal AX/MX because they comes with bodykit and 17-inch rims. The MZG is the flagship model so typically they will have all the above options. On top of that they will also come with front seats with heaters and leather seats all round. Most MZG also comes with the side mirror with signal indicator. Another option that is rare on the AS/MS is that some will comes with Alcantara seats. This of course will add to the price of the car.

The 5.1 theatre sound system is an option for all models but generally it can be found in most MZG. However I have come across some MZG that doesn’t come with 5.1 theatre sound system probably because the owner decided not to include it. I have also come across MZG that doesn’t have adjustable suspension. That is probably the main reason why the price differences between various MZG units. Some time there are rare occasion an AS/MS also comes with 5.1 theatre sound system. Because of this most dealers will typically add about 10K to 15K to the selling price of these units. I just saw two unit of 2005 PFL AS at my dealer yard this morning and the one come with 5.1 theatre sound system is price at RM15K more than the other unit without 5.1 theatre sound system.

There was another 2007 NFL AS that is almost full spec (without sunroof/moonroof) comes with half leather and alcantara seat but unfortunately it has been sold. This is expected as many owner still prefer the sportier AS model.

If you are looking for a full spec model you will have to be patient. You can either make a booking with your dealer so that they reserved the next available unit for you or they will inform you when the car landed in their yard immediately. Given that many dealers are not focusing on selling 2nd generation Toyota Alphard/Vellfire, the chances of finding a full spec AS/MS now is not that favourable.

Monday, November 16, 2009

You Need The English Toyota Alphard Manual?

A reader sent me a query asking if I have a copy of the ENGLISH manual for the 2nd generation Toyota Alphard. Well I know that is a nice to have but unfortunately the Toyota Alphard/Vellfire are Japan Domestic Market (JDM) models so they really cater for their own market only which means they have never thought about having an English manual for their owners. So I have politely let the reader know that I don’t have such a manual. If your dealer is really nice they will provide the original Japanese manuals to you when you buy the car from them. Some dealers I know of don’t even bother to provide these manual because they don’t think the owners will either read it or need it.

Even though I don’t speak Japanese nor do I read Japanese well I still managed to “decipher” most of the content from the Japanese manuals provided with my 1st generation Toyota Alphard. In fact there are 3 set of manuals were provided for the NFL model as soon below. Toyota Alphard Japanese ManualsThe one on the left is the owner manuals, the middle and the right are the 1st and 2nd volume of the HDD navigation system manuals. The Japanese really provide very detailed descriptions on how to operate each of the functions in the car as well as the HU in these 3 manuals. I got most of my information on this blog from these three manuals.

If you really want an English version of the 1st generation Toyota Alphard, there is really a version available but you have to order it online from this publisher. However you will have to wait as these manuals are not ready in print. What happen is the publisher will collect enough of orders before they print the whole lot. My understanding is that they wait till the orders reaches 150 before they start printing. Therefore you will have to wait for quite a while. Some AOC members waited for more than 2 months before they got their copy.

So far I haven’t seen this publisher come up with the English version for the 2nd generation Alphard/Vellfire manual. In the meantime we will have to make do with the Japanese version. I guess if any owners of the 2nd generation Toyota Alphard/Vellfire need help on how to operate their HU, you can contact me via email to see if I can help to “decipher” the content for you!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

After The Fact - Learn More Before You Buy Your Toyota Alphard

It is always disheartening to meet a fellow AOC member in a TT then to find out that he has been kind of short-changed by the dealer. Last night I met a fellow AOC member who recently gotten his 2006 NFL AX-L. However his unit comes with only single power door without the original head unit and the front camera.

I don’t know if this is the latest trend but just this week I found also a few units of NFL AXs in my regular dealer come without original head unit. I know many owners have purchase their car with aftermarket head unit but in this case the car was not fitted with one at all. I consider myself lucky as my AX-L come loaded with all the features that normally not available in an AX-L. At least in all the TTs so far I have not seen another AX-L has the same spec as mine.

So what do the new owner losses when he bought the car?

Without the original head unit, he can’t make use of all the buttons on the steering wheel. He loses the hands-free function and the Bluetooth function. He loses the default reverse camera guide lines. He misses out the function to have the 30GB hard disk. He can’t play CD/DVD with the built in DVD function on the head unit. He doesn’t have the roof-mounted LCD monitor. At the end of the day he has to spent a few thousand dollars to retrofit an aftermarket head unit and other accessories just to be able to play DVD and to have the reverse camera view (but without the original guidelines). Since his unit doesn’t have the front camera, he will have to buy one if he wants the front camera view. If he wants to retrofit the other power door, that will cost him another few grand.

Therefore when I show this owner all the functions in my car that he could have gotten if he has opted for a different unit or one with the original head unit I can only imagine how unhappy for him to find out what he has missed.

I guess the new owner doesn’t know much about Toyota Alphard and probably hasn’t done much research on this subject. At least in the AOC forum I read that there are owners whose has done a lot of research and have scouted at many dealers before they commit to the unit that suits them. I think this is the way to go as there is no point in rushing to get something less at a higher price. In this case this particular owner is relying on the trustworthiness of the dealer who happened to be his friend to advise him on the best option to take. However like any dealer they just wanted to sell their car so they will take the easy way out by convincing the buyers that those features doesn't comes with the car. If the owner has done their homework then he would have not taken this car. I know this is after the fact and that the buyer should know what they are getting when they commit to buy a car. It would be nice to know that they gotten a better deal rather than to point it out to them the hard way.

I put up this blog with the hope it will help more potential buyers to learn more about this car so that they always get the best deal. If it is convenient I don’t mind meeting up with potential buyer to view the car with them so that they can make a better judgment before they commit their purchase. Send me a comment and I'll contact you if you need help.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Door Lock and Unlock Programming

I have been trying to verify that the programming of the door lock and unlock functions in my giant for quite some time. I really didn't have it work out right initially as I wasn't putting too much emphasis on it. I know from my reading of other Toyota cars that when you put the ignition to "ON" and depressed the brake it will lock all doors. That's function is available on the my other car as well. Similarly when you stop the car then shift the gear lever to "P" the driver door will unlock automatically.

I recently spent sometime looking into this again I think I have figured out how this work now.

To program the door to unlock when you shift the gear lever from any position to "P", do the following:
  • Shift the gear level to "P"
  • Press the unlock side (see photo below) of the door lock switch for five seconds and release

Toyota Alphard Door Lock SwitchIf this is done correctly then the doors will unlock automatically to confirm that the programming has been completed successfully.

The same procedure will also enable other doors to be unlocked if the driver door is opened within 10 seconds. Please remember to unlock and then lock the door manually after you have completed this programming.

The above procedure act like a "enable" and "disable" switch. If you feel that automatically unlock the doors when you shift the gear lever to "P" position is no a good practice from safety perspective then you can repeat the procedure again to "turn it off".

There is another mode called the "speed sensing auto lock" which enabled the function to automatically locked all doors when the car speed reach 20km/h. The procedure is as follow:

  • Put the gear level in any position except "P"
  • Press the lock side of the door lock switch for five seconds and release

I believed this will also program the doors to automatically locked when you press the brake when the ignition is in the "ON" position.

One more feature is driver door linked auto unlock. This will unlock other doors when the driver door is open within 10 seconds when the ignition is turn from "ON" to "ACC" or "LOCK" position. The procedure is as follow:

  • Put the gear level in any position except "P"
  • Press the unlock side of the door lock switch for five seconds and release

Have fun doing the programming.

Why They Keep Coming?

I received an interesting email last night from an AOC member asking me what’s happening to the AOC forum. He was asking why many other former active members are no longer posting and it seems all the latest postings are non-Alphard related crabs (not literally), and the moderators are not doing their jobs properly. Well I guess I don’t really know the answer to that as my membership was removed since I wrote this post. Well I can only think that the old AOC forum is still pretty loosely organized and to quote this member comment below:

“It'd transpired to me that they had came to some sort of mutually beneficial agreement among the hypocrite, admin & the appointed moderators. Some will be benefited socially, while other seeking publicity, business or financial gain. Nevertheless, some of the crabs were good for a laugh. Never ever have i seen such a disorganized forum!”

I guess what they have done so far is to put on a new coat of paint but leave the interior untouched.

What is more interesting to me is that after some offline discussions among the members of the old and new AOC forum, the common understanding is that once the old forum ownership and administration have been fully transferred to a new team, the majority will move back to the old forum. The URL of the new forum will be redirect to the old forum. This was done about a month ago and I think it is a pretty good arrangement for the benefits of all. I don’t expect anyone to be looking at the new forum at all since then. In fact I haven’t been monitoring the new forum since early October.

Recently I had to remove the redirection so that I can access to some information. Before I knew it there is already new member registered with the new forum on the hour I removed the redirection! That keep me thinking why not keep this new forum open for a while and see if there are other will come to the new forum. Well I just checked and there are five more new members registered. And some members continue to post in the new forum as recent as last Friday.

I don’t want to know why but I guess it is the choice of those members are making to visit which forum. Is the reason why they prefer to post in the new forum because they have the same sentiment like the member who emailed me? I guess I will never know as I don't have the motivation to re-register to the old forum. For those who are registering now, do they even know that there is the existence of an old AOC forum.

I still keep in touch with many of the active members of the old and new forum and I regularly join in their TT when time permit.

I wish to highlight here that almost all active members of the new forum have since moved back to the old forum so the new forum is really inactive now. It is really up to the new team in the old forum to do a better job of house cleaning and to actively promote their existence. I know a group of active members had very grand plan for the formation of AOC but somehow the current state of the forum seems to have derail that dream.

Update: I just found out today that there is a high cost associated to the transfer of the domain. Apparently some members has to pay a big sum of money from their own pocket just to facilitate this transfer. It looks like there will also be recurring cost on a yearly basis. I find it hard to accept but it is the decision of the new team. Well this all could have been avoided at all as the new forum has a very low maintenance cost that is almost negligible.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Delete Playlists Or Tracks from HDD

In my last post, I described how to initialize the content in the HDD. If you would like to delete only specific playlist or tracks from the HDD then you can do the following:

Touch the DISC button on the HU to acces to the HDD function. Once you activated the HDD function , it will automatically play the previously selected Playlist as shown in the following screen.

Toyota Alphard HDD Start Screen Touch the "PLAY LIST" button at the top right and it will bring you to this screen.
Toyota Alphard HDD PlaylistTouch the "Next Page" (次ページ) button on the screen, it will bring you to the following screen. Toyota Alphard HDD Playlist Next PageTouch the "Delete" (削除) button to bring up the "Playlist Delete" screen.

Toyota Alphard HDD Playlist SelectiionTo select the playlist to delete, just touch on the playlist to highlight it and the touch the "Delete" (削除) button. If you want to delete all playlist, touch the "Select All" (全て選択) button and then touch the "Delete All" (
全て解除) button. In either case, when prompted on the next screen, just touch "Yes" to confirm the deletion.Toyota Alphard HDD Playlist Delete Confirmation

Similarly, to delete tracks from the HDD, do the following:

Touch the TRACK button to bring up the Track List as shown below. Toyota Alphard HDD TrackListTouch the "Next Page" (次ページ) button on the screen to bring up the next page.

Toyota Alphard HDD Track Next PageTouch the "Delete" (削除) button to bring up the "Track Delete" screen.

Toyota Alphard HDD Track Delete The operation to delete a track is the same as those for deleting playlist as described above.

Just be careful with your selection. If you accidentally deleted any of the playlist or track, then you'll have to record them again.

Initialize the Content in the HDD

Previously I wrote a post on how to operate the HDD function on the new facelift model. Many Toyota Alphard owners like the fact that the HU has a 30GB hard disk so they can store their favourite songs into the hard disk. Normally the content of the hard disk is not erased when the cars are imported into here. Therefore there are a lot of Japanese songs stored in the hard disk. Many owners either don’t listen to Japanese songs or they don’t like to cluster the hard disk with songs that they don’t need. In this post, I will post instruction on how to erase the content in the hard disk.

If you want to erase the entire contents in the hard disk then here are the steps.

Start by pressing the G-Book (情報-G) button to bring up it main menu.
Toyota Alphard G-Book InfoTouch the “Next Page” (次ページ) button to access the next page.

Toyota Alphard Erase Personal Info Touch the "Erase Personal Information" (個人情報消去) button and it will bring up the "Initialize Personal Information" (個人情報初期化) screen.

Toyota Alphard Initialize Personal InfoOn this screen you can initialize the stored contents related to GPS location information, telephone phone book, songs recording etc. Touch the "Initialize" (初期化する) button to perform the initialization.

Toyota Alphard Initialization Confirm Touch the "Yes" (はい) button to confirmation the initialization process. It only take a few seconds to complete the initialization! Well I did it on my HU and I lost all the Japanese songs that I like! If you are not sure, then just touch the "No" (いいえ) button to back off.

In the next post, I will describe how you can delete individual playlist or track.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Toyota Vellfire in the Lime Light

I was reading the headline in the Sun two days ago and saw that a Toyota Alphard is in the limelight for the wrong reason. The article was on Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) probing the allegation that the wife of the Health Ministry had received a Toyota Alphard as a birthday gift from a contractor who won a ministry tender. I am not much into politic so I am not really that interested in the motives and timing of this allegation. What interest me are the details that goes behind the allegation.

The allegation was that the wife of the Health Ministry had received a Toyota Alphard which cost RM574,884.10 in January 2009 as a birthday present from a Health Ministry construction contractor. The Sun article then reported that a check by them revealed that a Toyota Vellfire (not an Alphard) manufactured in Japan in February 2008 was imported as a used car and registered in January 2009. The reported purchase price was RM384,884.10 and the loan approved by a bank was for RM250,000.00. The report even quoted the actual engine specification and the chassis number of this car! The same article also reported in this news but the difference is in the actual selling price of the car. A check with the chassis number provided in the article confirmed that this car is manufactured in February 2008. However without the full model code I can't confirm if it is really an Alphard or a Vellfire as mentioned in my previous post.

The reason I was interested in this article was that during that same time period I was actively looking for my giant. At that time the 2nd generation Toyota Alphard and Toyota Vellfire were brought in for the first time by a few dealers to sell as a new car. As I was going in and out of the Cheras Autocity dealers' premises I saw a couple of unit of Toyota Vellfire then. Just to satisfy my interest I did asked for the price of the Toyota Vellfire 3.5 model and was quoted a price around RM570K. This is consistent with what was reported in that article. Well I guess what the reporter did not do is to find out how did the buyer managed to secure the car at 35% discount from the dealer price!

Due to the high price of these high end models there were only a handful of units were available but even then they get snapped up pretty fast by those who can afford it because of the exclusivity of owning one. Then about 3 months down the road, I heard from some of the dealers that they have stop selling these models as these model cannot be sold as new car under the Approved Permit system. Since the 2nd generation Toyota Alphard and Toyota Vellfire was only launched in May 2008 in Japan, it has not reached a minimum of one year period at that time to qualify as an imported used car. Therefore for a period of I think 3 months from April 2009 there were no dealers bringing in these models. Then in late July 2009 only some dealers started to bring in these models into the country again. By then the price of these model has started to drop as the demands pick up.

Back in late July 2009 I think the top of the line Toyota Vellfire was still going for about RM490K and recently in my last visit to Cheras Autocity, it has drop to about RM440K. Even the lowest spec model, the 2nd generation Toyota Alphard 2.4L model, has finally dropped below the RM300K mark beginning of this month.

In fact in the last visit to Cheras Autocity, the number of 2nd generation Toyota Alphard/Vellfire on display has actually out-numbered the 1st generation Toyota Alphard. Look like the dealers are now focusing on selling higher priced model to try to catch the demands while it is still hot.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

ICE Setup Photos - Part II

This is the 2nd part of the photo sequence of my ICE installation process.

Step 14: Before the center console panel is removed to access to the wiring behind the HU.

Step 15: Once the panel is removed, released the two screws on each side of the HU and the HU can be detached as shown

Step 16 - Look at the cluster of wiring behind the HU. Not easy to identify which is which if you are not familiar with the wiring!

Step 17 - The default wiring will turn off the LCD when the car is on the move. Jumpered the wire on this switch to by pass this feature.

Step 18 - Connect the wires from new DVD player to the wire-clusters at the side that run to the side speakers and the rear speakers.
Step 19: Lay out all the wires that connects the DVD player, amplifier and the speakers below the console box between the two front seats

Step 20: Mount the DVD player. My original plan is to mount the player inside the tray underneath the center console. However the DVD player is too wide to fit into the tray so I decided to mounted it here instead.

Step 21: To power the DVD player, the installer tap the power from the back panel behind the center console box which provide power source to accessories like external DVD/CD player or game console.

Step 22 - Here is a close up of the power source from the back panel.

Step 23 - Mounted the Bazooka tube subwoofer behind the 3rd row seats. This arrangement allow me to remove the subwoofer (if needed) to maximize the space at the rear of the car.

Step 24 - I also installed a voltage meter next to the battery to give me reading of the voltage that is supplied to the car.

Hope these photos give those who plan to ICE their giants a sense of what is involved in such an installation.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

ICE Setup Photos - Part 1

Here are the photos I took during my ICE installation process. Enjoy.
Step 1 - The driver seat is removed

Step 2 - The driver side side step is removed

Step 3 - The Amplifier is mounted below the driver seat

Step 4 - The seat bracket is reinstalled Step 5 - The driver seat is reinstalled. To access to the amplifier, just slide the driver seat to the front.

Next is to replace the door speakers and the tweeters.

Step 6 - After the door panel is removed. The main speaker is now visible.

Step 7 - The speaker is removed. Prepare to install sound damping materials on the front doors.

Step 8 - Here is a comparison between the original speaker and the new component speaker. The original speaker is make of thin paper while the new component speaker is make of aluminium die-cast and micro fiber composite cone.

Step 9 - Sound damping materials installed. I used the following sound damping materials Step 10 - The sound damping materials used on the two front doors.

Step 11 - Re-tape the original plastic cover

Step 12 - Install the new component midrange speaker

Step 13 - This photo shows the size of the original tweeter. Since the new component tweeter is too big to fit into the original location, it is mounted on each side of the dashboard as shown below.

I planned to mount the tweeter onto the pillar in future.

Step 14 - New speaker cable is ran from the new DVD player to the tweeters on the dashboard.

I will post the rest of the photos in the next post.

My ICE Setup

When I started planning to improve the sound systems (the local like to call it to ICE the car) of my giant I initially was planning to bring over the ICE equipment I had in my old car. But then I was conscious of the space it would take up to mount all the equipment given the size of some of my old ICE equipment, I decided to take a different approach. I started by reviewing what I need and where potentially I can put each of the equipment before I start on acquiring them.

My priority on my ICE setup was to have audio and video capabilities coming from a single source. Since I have already have an 8-inch LCD in the HU and another 9-in roof-mounted LCD, All I need is to get a better source to replace the radio and CD/DVD functions on the HU. Given that the standard HU is fully functional I decided to take a slow approach to acquire the equipment.

On one of the trip to Singapore I managed to buy a DVD Receiver and a 5-channel amplifier at steeply discounted price. The only thing I brought along from my old car is the subwoofer.

My ICE setup includes the following:

Pioneer DEH-P4150UB DVD Receiver (bought from Singapore)
Pioneer TS-C171PRS Component Speakers (bought from the ICE installer)
Eclipse XA5000 5-channels amplifier (bought from Singapore)
Bazooka 8-inch tube subwoofer (brought over from my old car)

Overall the new sound system setup is pretty decent compared to my previous setup. The major contributing factor is the TS-C171PRS component speakers. The rich natural midrange a wide sound staging with very clear and sharp tweeter output. The smoothness and linearity of the sounds is so much better than the Eton A160 I used to have in my old car. I think there is still room for improvement as the source (DEH-P4150UB) is a DVD receiver which never be able to provide the pure sound output of a Component CD Receiver. Since I don’t really use the DVD function that often, I might replace the DVD receiver with a component CD receiver. I haven’t decided which model to go with yet but I have narrow it down to either the Pioneer DEH-P80RSII or the Alpine 9887.

In the next post I will share some photos of the installation process.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Myths About Maintaining Toyota Alphard

During the last TT I had several questions from fellow AOC members on the maintenance of our giant. They wanted to know specifically where I send my car for service and if there is any specific knowledge needed to service our giant. Well it seems that there is this myth that since Toyota Alphard is a fully imported (used) car then there might be some specific requirements to service the giant. Another myth is that since this is the flagship minivan than the quality of the car should be at par or better than those assembled locally hence there shouldn't be that much annoying noise coming from the car!

The 1st generation Toyota Alphard uses the 2AZ-FE engine on the 2.4L model and the 1MZ-FE engine on the 3.0L model. The 2AZ-FE is the same engine used in the local Toyota Camry model, 2.4L model of the 2nd generation Estima, Harrier and Ipsum. There is no 3.0L model of Toyota Camry available locally but the same 1MZ-FE is also used in the 3.0L model of the 2nd generation Estima and Harrier for a long time.

Since the local distributor of Toyota, UMW, doesn’t accept imported used car for service, which means the owners of these imported used car has to send their cars to other workshops. Actually because of this reason there is a mushrooming of workshops specialize in servicing imported used car from Japan as well.

On the higher end, there is workshop like Vision Motorsport in (Sunway and Bangsar) that carry the Tom's after market performance product and has servicing agreement with the principal which is Toyota Motorsport in Japan. They specialized in servicing and selling after market performance parts for Toyota cars. Of course their charges will be much higher as they used only original parts from Toyota or from Tom’s. They even have come up with service package for imported Toyota model like Alphard, Estima and Harrier that offer comprehensive maintenance for these cars which runs into thousands of ringgit on per annum basis.

There are also other workshops that specialized in servicing only Toyota vehicle such as Hong Lee Motors Sdn Bhd. This workshop made a name for taking the risks to start the servicing of high end Toyota model like Lexus LX470 or Lexus LS430 when it was brought into the country back in the 1990s. They also have the diagnostic equipment for Toyota model while providing reasonable maintenance charges. This attracted a long list of loyal customers who bought imported used Toyota car and find this workshop as a good source for maintenance service.

At the low end of the scale, there are many smaller workshops that provide cheaper alternative as they focus on cheaper labour charges and give the owner the options to bring their own spare parts. In fact there are AOC members who buy their own spare parts and send it to these so called “bawah pokok” (refer to workshop without a proper shop outlet) mechanic for service.

Even my own mechanic has been doing servicing for imported Toyota car for one of the used car dealer near his shop since 1990s. There is really nothing special about the 2AZ-FE and 1MZ-FE engine that required specialized knowledge to service it.

On the other hand, there is also some accessory shops that has branded themselves as a one-stop-shop. What they will do is that for those customer who buy accessories (well at some quantum) they will help to arrange to have the giant also serviced by one or two nearby workshop that they trusted.

What is important is that these workshops should follow the maintenance specification that Toyota specified in their workshop manual. For example Toyota specify that the viscosity of the engine oil for the 2AZ-FE engine should be SL 10W-30 while the viscosity of the engine oil for the 1MZ-FE engine should be SL 5W-30. Whether the owner uses mineral, semi-synthetic or fully synthetic oil is more of a maintenance interval preference rather than the quality of the oil. Similar another example would be that the quantity of engine oil required for just engine oil change for the 2.4L model is 4.1L and 4.3L if the engine oil and oil filter are changed together. The 3.0L model would require 4.5L and 4.7L respectively.

The second myth is really related to the question of “what are those sounds that come from the front or from the back when I drive my car”. The steering rack on the Toyota Alphard and Estima is known to have quality issue. In fact during my search for the giant I have spoken to some dealers and they admitted that they do stock some spare steering racks in case the buyer of these imported used car claim warranty from them. Many owners did post in the AOC forum that when they turn the steering during the start of the day they hear some squeaking sounds from the front. This is very common and from the description of those who experience it, it seems like the problem could be emanating from the steering knuckle.

The question than can this problem can be resolved all together. Yes I think it would be possible but then it would take quite a bit of time and effort for the mechanic to pin-point the root cause and fix it. My take on this is that if the steering knuckle is not really broken, don’t fix it. In fact on my car, there is this one time squeaking sound coming from the steering knuckle whenever I turn the car steering for the first time. After that the sound won’t appear anymore as I drive for the rest of the day. I come to live with it as it is not affecting my drive at all.

For those who are driving a 4WD model, one of the common complain is they can hear some squeaking sound coming from the back when they drive the car. Since 4WD model has two drive shafts at the rear, if there is any likely hood of anything generating the sound, it is most likely coming from the drive shafts. It is not easy to isolate exactly which component of the drive shafts that make this sound so again time and effort is required to really resolve this.

Would these symptom described above impede the driving performance of the car? Would things fall off the car if it is not fixed? Of course it is a resounding NO. Toyota is known for it reliability and it is inconceivable that a Toyota Alphard would suffer such a fate given than it is the flagship minivan from Toyota. A bit of sound can be a nuisance at first but should not be an alarm for concerns for the owner on everyday driving unless it has really deteriorate so bad the sounds come on consistently.

On the subject of spare parts it is interesting that even though the model like Toyota Alphard, Estima and Harrier are not imported directly by the local Toyota distributor, because of the volume of cars brought into the country by the parallel importer over the years, the local spare parts suppliers understood the supply and demand, and actually carry most of the spare parts for these models. Therefore there shouldn’t be any concerns in terms of availability of spare parts as there are several major spare parts suppliers for Toyota car in the country.

How To Tell If It Is A 2WD or 4WD Toyota Alphard?

One interesting question I got asked very often when I met with fellow AOC members is “how to tell if a Toyota Alphard is a 2WD or 4WD model?”

Well from the exterior there is no indicator to tell you so. If you don’t mind bent down and look at the undercarriage, you might find the rear axle and the rear drive shafts connected to the rear wheels on a 4WD model.

The other way is to look at the model code. In this post, I have briefly mentioned that the first 5 alphanumeric of the model code will tell you whether the car is a 2WD or 4WD model. I thought it would be easy if I put up a simpler table below to help you to differentiate between a 2WD and a 4WD model.



Engine Code





1MZ-FE (3.0L gasoline)


Front Wheel



2AZ-FE (2.4L gasoline)


Front Wheel



1MZ-FE (3.0L gasoline)


Four Wheel



2AZ-FE (2.4L gasoline)


Four Wheel


As mentioned in this post, the model code is printed on the chassis plate. For pre-facelift model, it is on the left side of the engine bay. For new-facelift model, it is on the door pillar at the passenger side.

Look at the above table and if the model code is 10 then it is a 2WD model. If it is 15 then it is a 4WD model. Very straight forward to do the identification.

Being able to identify the correct year and model can really help a potential buyer in getting the right car for him/her. During the last TT as the members are going through each other car, it is unavoidable that the question of how to you determine the year of the car comes up. It is very unfortunate that one of the long time member discovered that a new member has bought a 2002 model that was advertised as 2004. That mean that member has paid more money for that car than it is worth.

I still don’t know how the AP process actually work but it is obvious that whoever approved the assignment of AP to this car didn’t check what year this car is really manufactured in, or that process doesn't have such a need. Anyway, if that person really follows my post here, then he would know right away this is 2002 car and probably reject the car because it is way over the five year periods validity of that AP. Anyway it is too late now and I don’t know if there is any way for this new member to make his claim against the dealer.

I started this blog with the intent to help those buyers who are interested in acquiring a Toyota Alphard. I really wish that those who are looking for their giant at least have a look at some of my postings related to this topic so that they don’t get into such sad situation ever.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

AOC October TT

Last night a total of 29 AOC members gathered at Car Park F, Bukit Jalil for an impromptu TT gathering. Impromptu in a sense that it was organized in a very short time frame and the original plan was to allow regular AOC members to meet up with one of the AOC member from Kelantan who is visiting Kuala Lumpur. Due to the last minute announcement (I only got an invite through SMS) the organizer was not expecting a big turnout. However it ended up being the largest gathering of AOC members since May 2009. A total of 28 Toyota Alphards gathered together this time exceeding the previous record of 25 cars.

From 8:45pm onward, the members started arriving and everyone sat down to chat with each other. Even though this is not planned as family event, many members brought along their spouses so while the members are having lively discussion among themselves the spouses also took the opportunity to mingle among themselves. It was encouraging to see many new AOC members join us for this gatherting. And it is nice to see some long time members who hasn't been attending recent TT turn up for the gathering.

Toyota Alphard TT Gathering 1Toyota Alphard TT Gathering IIWell since the car park is not properly lighted, the photo come out blurred as my old faithful digital camera don't work well.

Half way through the lively chat some members wanted to have a look at each other cars so everyone headed toward the cars.

Toyota Alphard Car Line Up 1Toyota Alphard TT Car Line Up II The main attraction again is none other than the two “show” cars. One has the distinction of being the only Toyota Alphard in the country to have 22-inch rims. Of course he has many other nice features added such as 6 projector lamps and a collection of VIP accessories. The owner was busy answering questions like how is the ride with the 22-inch and where to get those accessories. The other is the only Toyota Alphard with a set of air suspension. Of course those lucky AOC members get to see the air suspension in action on that night. Also of interest is the lighted door step and the lighted arrow on ths side mirror of one of the member.

Toyota Alphard Side Step LightedToyota Alphard Side Mirror Lighted Arrow
I was kept busy the whole time as I was interacting actively with many members. I chatted with one AOC members on various topics. I also showed one member how to operate the hands-free function, maintenance items and HDD songs maintenance. I assisted one member to confirm the exact model specification of his car. I then show another member how to recognize through the model code whether a particular car is a 2WD and 4WD. Overall I was very happy with this opportunity to be able to interact with the other AOC members since the last gathering.

Since the Car Park F is rather dark so it was not easy to take a group photo. Again the members improvise and lined up a few cars with the light switched on. That provided enough lights for those with camera to take a group photo.Toyota Alphard TT Group Photo
After the group photo, some member starts to leave while other stay back on more chit chats and at time technical discussion and the TT officially ended around 11:50pm when the last group left the Car Park.

If you want to see more photos on this TT, please check out the AOC website.

Looking forward to bigger turn out of AOC members for such TT.