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.