Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Casual Trip Around Penang Island With My Toyota Alphard

After the AOC Northern TT, I stay back two more days in Penang and took the opportunity to travel around the island. I stay in a hotel in Tanjung Bungah which has a nice view to the sea.
The beach in front of the hotel
Nice sunset view

The next day, I took a slow drive up to Batu Ferringi and Teluk Bahang to check out some of the hotels and beaches there.
A nice stretch of beach in Teluk Bahang

After that I head south to check out Queensbay Mall. I have heard about this new shopping mall from TV quite often and always wonder how it look like. Well I finally get to step inside the mall and look around some of the shops. It gave me an impression that it is similar to our Mid Valley Mall in KL.

From the open car park outside the mall, it has a nice view of the Penang Bridge as well as Pulau Jerejak.
The bridge is too far. The right patch of land is Pulau Jerejak

After lunch, I head further south toward Batu Maung again looking for a fishing village to buy some seafood. The timing was just right when I reach the village as the fishermen just got back from sea with their catches.
The entrance to the fishing village

The signboard on the left in the photo above is the same restaurant where the AOC Northern TT was held the night before. The right signboard shows the way to a small fishing village about 50meter away.

I bought a kilo of big prawn for RM36 only which is rather cheap compared to what you can get in KL. I only bought the prawn as I wasn't sure what fish to buy as they have so many variety.
One kilo of big prawn, yummy

After that I head back north to visit USM. It has been more than 23 years since I left this university so a lot has changed. Some of the old hostel that I had stayed before are no longer in their former form. Most of the old wooden long houses are now replaced with multi-story building.

Driving around the campus in the giant feel a bit odd compare to those time when I ride around in a 80cc motorbike!

I went up to the Chancellery Rock to try to catch a glimpse of the Penang Bridge and Pulau Jerejak.
The Chancellory hasn't changed much

This spot used to be the favourite place for undergraduates to come here to catch a view of the open sea as well as looking out to the majestic Penang Bridge then. However that view is no longer visible anymore. Right in front of the campus now stands the Penang Twin Tower which block off most of the middle section of the bridge.
The Penang Twin Tower!

To the right, there used to be a clear view of Pulau Jerajak but now that view is blocked by condominiums that sprung up recently.

After I have spent some time checking out various schools building in the campus, just as I did 23 years ago, I passed the small roundabout at the top of the slope heading toward the main gate.

The sculpture that greet all newcomers.

In the middle of the roundabout is a stone-made sculpture that has two sides with different carving. The front section facing the entrance is rough which signify that those who are entering the university is still unpolished. The rear section which you'll see as your drive out is smooth to indicate that (hopefully) you have learned wisely and bring with you your newfound knowledge and ready to go out to face the world. With that I bid farewell to USM again.

On the way back to the hotel, I drop by at Ghee Hiang to buy some Penang biscuits (tau sar pneah and hneoh pneah) as souvenier for the relatives.

I spent the night meeting up with my former univeristy mates before I left for KL the next day.
Clear traffic on Penang Bridge toward Butterworth

Traffic on the way back to KL is smooth but slow as there are a lot of traffics. As this is the week before All Soul Day, a lot of people took the opportunity to go back to their home town to pay respect to their ancestors. That's why the traffic over the weekend in Penang was very bad.

I am not sure when I will visit Penang again but I thoroughly enjoy this trip.

A Trip To The North To Join AOC Northern TT

Last Friday, the AOC members organized their TTs at three different locations simultaneously. The northern group has scheduled their TT long time ago and when the central and southern groups found out, they also decided to hold their TT at the same time.

The idea was to hold the TT at each location and then each location will provide live updates via Internet. However I guess it didn’t work out that way since the TT location for the northern group was not ideal for Internet access. Updates were done via mobile phone so there is no live images beam across locations.

I was informed of the TT at the last minute hence I was undecided whether to attend or not. Then I found out that one member of the central group is heading up north to join the northern group TT. That’s gave me an idea that I should make a trip up north too. Besides joining the northern group TT, I also want to take this opportunity to visit Penang as I haven’t been there for quite a while.

I graduated from USM so it is probably a good time for me to go back to the campus and check out the place to see how has it progress since I left there 23 years ago. Also I wanted to meet up with some of my university mates from Penang that I have not met for many years. So good enough reason to take a long drive!

This is also a good time to give my giant another long distance run as the last one I did was 7 months ago. I left Kuala Lumpur city at around 2:45pm and the drive up north was rather casual. The original plan was to meet up with another AOC member at Ipoh and then convoy together from there. However due to last minute changes I didn’t stop by at Ipoh. Instead I stopped at Sg. Perak R&R area to wait for two other AOC members, one from KL and another from Cameron Highland.

The 3 giants then convoy together the rest of the journey to Penang Island.
Crossing the Penang Bridge

The traffic on a Friday afternoon is pretty smooth and we arrive at Penang around 6pm and had to bear with the after work hour traffic before we reach our hotel respectively.
Before Hitting the After Work Jam

Once we have freshen up, we meet up again at E-Gate with the rest of the AOC members coming from other locations before we convoy to our final destination.
Checkpoint Behind E-Gate

The convoy took off from E-Gate heading toward a restaurant in Batu Maung. As we had to wait for everyone to depart together, it was rather late when we reach our final destination.

Where We Had Our Dinner

This TT is slightly different from the other I have attended as we have a sit-down dinner instead of a teh tarik session. We only have 11 giants in our convoy but we had 40 attendees sharing the foods in 4 tables.

Two Of The Tables With Food Ready

This is slightly different from other TT as the family members of the AOC members are more involved in this TT compared to others.

AOC Memebr Enjoying Their Foods

Also it is commendable that some non-AOC members actually took the trouble to join us at the very last minute at the invite of one of the AOC members. One of them was in Muar in the morning and after he fetch his family, drove all the way up to Penang. Another was visiting Sg. Petani and drop by last minute to join the TT.

It was nice to see all the family members enjoyed the TT and have their share of fun along the way.

After the dinner, the group convoyed back to an open car park at E-Gate and start to have a group photo session and the customary showing off each other cars and sharing of technical information.

Line Up For Photo Shoot

As it is getting late, those with family have to leave early while other proceeds to Padang Kota Lama for the real teh tarik session. However the nearby stalls at Esplanade are closing at 1am so the group only spent a short time there before we all call it a day.

All in all, it was a good TT as we have very good turn out from the members and their family. Not only the AOC members get to enjoy this outing, their family members also can share their passion during the TT.

I think this is a good sign that the TT for AOC members are more family oriented and I believed more and more members will bring their family to such future events.

Having done a northern TT, I am wondering if I will be doing a southern one in future.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Late Reminder From Your IES Alarm

Yesterday after I reached my brother house with my giant, as usual I pressed the remote to lock the car. However the alarm system beep 8 times instead of the normal 3 beeps. I checked around the car and make sure that all doors are closed and tried again, still it keep beeping 8 times.

Since it is already late in the day so I left it as it is since the doors are locked and the alarm is armed. I just don't know what is going on at that time.

The next morning I decided to call the installer and only to find out that this is a indication that the SIM card is not functioning. That remind me that I have to renew my pre-paid SIM card. I bought one of those 360-days pre-paid validity SIM card last year and I thought it is not due yet.

Well today I went to Maxis to check on the status of the SIM card and apparently it expired two days ago. So SIM card is no longer functioning hence the alarm system is "smart" enough to warn the owner.

However since that pre-paid SIM card is already expired, there is no way to renew it and the only option is to buy a new SIM card. Also the alarm module is concealed inside the dashboard I have no way of replacing the SIM card mysef.

I sent the car to the installer shop to get the SIM card replaced and now everything is back to normal.

I know some of you have been asking me about the IES alarm. I thought I want to share this with you in case you are also using pre-paid SIM card. Remember to top-up your pre-paid SIM card regularly or use a post-paid SIM card.

I spoke to the installer enquiring about the price of the IES GSM alarm and it seems the price that my installer got for me is much cheaper than the suggested reselling price given by the official dealer. Also the IES alarm with the suffix M that I am using now is no longer available. It is replace with a MS model now which carry a higher price than previous model.

Just for comparison sake, the dealer quoted me the RM2,600 for the IES GM60MS model. You can get it cheaper if you go to other accessories shop to install it.

Hope this help.

Update. A reader reminded me that the manual for IES GSM alarm does provide explanation on the 8 beeps reminder. It stated that "1. No GSM coverage this could imply: No network coverage, Sim Card not functioning properly, among others."

I guess I hasn't been reading the manual since the day I install the alarm!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Should I Keep the Forum Alive?

The original idea of setting up the AlphardOwnerClub.com forum was to provide an alternative to those members who wanted to have their own forum as they move away from AlphardAsiaClub.com forum. Also the domain was acquire in anticipation of the setting up of an official Alphard Owner Club and this domain will be used for that registration, hence becoming the official website for that club.

However since the inception of this forum, things has change quite a bit hence it is time to review if there is a need to keep this forum alive. Currently it is kept alive as an information source as it is felt that some of the discussions and reference information might still be relevant to those who want to learn more about Toyota Alphard.

However since the last major meeting among the members from various regions in October last year, it was agreed that all active Toyota Alphard owners will participate only in one forum which is the AlphardAsiaClub.com forum. Since the domain registration for AlphardOwnerClub.com is still active therefore it is decided that it should be kept open until such time when the official Alphard Owner Club is registered and then a decision will be made on the existence of this forum.

However, lately there has been a lot of registration of new members from the western world that has no presence of Toyota Alphard in their own country. Most of the IP addresses shown that they are coming from UK, USA, Canada, and Russia.

I think most of these registration are done by the so call "robots" that go out to search for forum and try to do an automatic registration. The idea is that once they are registered, they can either spam the forum with whatever they have to offer or try to trick members to click on certain link that will cause some malicious codes to be executed and infect their PC.

Luckily the Alphard Owner Club forum is set to required activation before anyone can participate in the forum. Therefore those registrations can be safely rejected and remove from the forum.

However the frequency of new registration is getting higher and higher each week so clearning up these new registration become a chore. I am thinking of temporary shutting down this forum for now. If you are registered in this forum, please take note that this forum will no longer be active from April Fool day.

If you have any other questions on this forun, you can post a comment here or send me an email at askds@live.com

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why Do You Choose Toyota Alphard

I had a discussion with another giant owner and we go were sharing why we love our giant.

We summarized that the two main factors why we fall in love with Toyota Alphard because:

We like the style of Alphard, the spacious, comfortable interior and the abundance features.

  1. From anywhere, any place or anytime you see Alphard from far or near, you'll see the sharp edge and muscular look of the Alphard from the front or the 3/4 view.
  2. There are plenty of space inside the Alphard. You can stretch your leg straight anywhere inside the Alphard, be it in the front, the middle seats or the rear seats. You normally expect this kind of spaciouness in a limosine and now find it in the Alphard.

    The seats in the Alphard are comfortable. You can slide the middle seat along it track to accommodate whatever space size you need. Unfortunately the 2nd generation Alphard has do away with this sliding middle seat feature.
  3. The Alphard is fitted with a long list of features that is ahead of many of it competitors (even as early as 2005). It has DVD, MP3, Mini-disk, HDD, Satellite navigation (only in Japan), bluetooth, front and rear camera, sonar sensors, cruise control (two versions), power sliding doors, roof-mounted LCD, Automated Front Lighting System (AFS), sunroof/moonroof, electric curtains, heater seats, sound theatre system etc etc.
The Alphard is easy to drive, it is rather quiet, smooth revving and bring a fresh look to the local automotive industry. Although some who are used to the soild build of the continental car tends to think the Alphard can do better in the sound proofing department.

Of course we also agreed that it is a Toyota brand. Toyota car is know to be reliable and easy to maintain. The fact that it share the same engine and mechanical components with Toyota Harrier, Camry, and Estima means that there are plenty of spare parts and venue to maintain your giant.

The low point of the Alphard is the it is not generous in fuel consumption. Of course we can't expect too much from a car that weight almost two tons. After all it is fitted with petrol engine and fuel consumption depends on how heavy is your right foot!

We think the the 3.0L 1MZ-FE has plenty of torque and horsepower to drive the Alphard. However with a maximum speed limit of 180k/h, you can't fully utilized the full power of the 1MZ-FE engine on our road. Most owner of the 3.0L model will probably be cruising at the official speed limit on highway so the 1MZ-FE power is under-utilized.

The common complain about the driveability of the Alphard is that it understeer when pressing into corner. It has soft suspension setup (for comfort) so you cannot throw the giant around corners.

The evergreen 2AZ-FE engine has been around for a long time and it has powered many generation of Camry, Estima and Harrier. It is long lasting, economical and has lower road tax. Despite it lower power rating, it can still haul the Alphard on long haul or short trip. I have take it up to Genting Highland with the incline from 20-30 degree and I don't need to use 2nd or 3rd gear at all.

It would be nice if the Alphard come fitted with a diesel model.

So what's your reason for choosing your giant?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Update Maintenance Schedule for Toyota Alphard

Previously I shared with you a maintenance schedule a reader of mine gave me.

He has graciously provided an updated copy to me and I would like to share with everyone.

Click the link below to download the updated schedule.

Maintenance Schedule for Toyota Alphard

The schedule is now in Excel spreadsheet format. There are a "Status" column for each maintenance interval that you can tick off each of the maintenance item after every service.

Let me know if this maintenance schedule is helpful to you.

If any owner of 1MZ-FE has a maintenance schedule that he/she would to share with other, you can sent it to me at askds@live.com.

As I continue to learn more about the 2AZ-FE engine, I found the Haynes Repair Manual for Toyota Camry which share the same engine with our giant. If you want to learn more on how to maintain your giant, you might want to get a copy through link above.

Hope this help.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Trip Up The Hill With Toyota Alphard

For a long time I wanted to take my giant (Toyota Alphard) up to Genting Highland but never get a chance to do that.

Some AOC members have been sharing their experiences of driving their giant up the hill and some of them are not too happy with their giant capability. Some say the suspension is too soft to handle those corners and slopes while other said they felt the 2AZ-FE engine is too sluggish.

I wanted to test out these two areas with my own giant so I took a trip up the "hill".

The stretch from the Gombak toll to the foothill is an easy drive as there was not much traffic. The last stretch of the road before reaching the foothill is an uphill slope followed by S curve before entering the slip road toward hill. I didn't have any problem with this stretch as I just hang on to the throttle and let the gearbox do it job. There is no kick-down at all so there is plenty of torque from the 2AZ-FE engine to handle that stretch.

As I start the ascent, there were some light traffic so I just let off the throttle and follow the queue. Once I passed the police hut I start to tackle the corners going up the hill. I decided leave the gear in 4th and continue to use the aircon and see how the giant perform.

As I ascent I continue to lightly hold on to the pedal and let the gearbox to it job. At several places after I come out from the corner it slight upshift on it own momentarily to maintain the speed. From the first police hut until the second police beat I didn't have to kick-down manually once. I felt that there is sufficient torque to pull the car up the hill so I continue to drive at a leisure pace.

After the second police hut right at the small roundabout next to the entrance to Awana Genting Resort, I decided to switch off the aircon. With the aircon switch off, the giant now feel much lighter and I continue to drive at an leisure pace up the next stretch of road. I didn't switch to 3rd gear as I want to see how the giant perform at 4th gear. Even though this stretch of road is steeper, the giant can easily pull itself up the slope without any problem.

Even at the steepest corner, all I need is to let off the gas pedal, turn the corner and then lightly tap on the pedal to continue the journey. I didn't felt any drama at all as far as negotiating the corners are concerned.

I stop at the car park just right below the Ria Apartment to take a snapshot of the giant.
The giant might look big but against the backdrop of the car park the building behind it, it looks a bit small!

When I reached the peak, I decided not to park in any of the covered car park as I am not sure of their height. I choose to park at the open car park next to the Genting Resort Hotel just behind the theme park.

I saw a lot of Alphard and Estima at the open car park as well so these people have no problem getting their giant up the hill as well. I spend some time up on the peak looking at surrounding before I start my journey home.

The decent is very smooth as there were not much traffic at that hour. I shift the gear to the 3rd throughout the journey except the flat section in front of Gotong Jaya. I kept the speed of the giant below 60km/h on most of the stretch. With this speed, there is ample time to brake before each of those road humps and take the corners. The brake of our giant is sufficient to slowdown the car before each hump and also when you go a bit too fast, the gearbox will also momentarily upshift slightly to help to slow down the giant.

Overall I didn't find a lot of body roll when I negotiate any of the corners nor I felt there is any squatting from the suspension. I suppose it is because I am not using the stock absorbers. I have fitted a set of TRD Waydo Sportivo absorbers some time ago and it probably help to reduce the body roll. I don't know if this is the same with the stock absorbers set up. I think the wider 17-inch tyres I have also help a bit on the stability of the giant maneuvering those corners.

Even though I was driving it leisurely there is sufficient grunt from the engine to pull the giant up the hill without much drama. I believe if you have a full load of passengers, pressing the pedal harder would have no problem in taking your giant up the hill too.

Overall I don't feel any sluggishness from the 2AZ-FE engine if you can throttle the engine properly. If you are driving the 1MZ-FE then I would think it would be an no issue with your giant going up the hill.

I have driven up the hill many times with other smaller size cars and I must say the giant gave me a very comfortable ride going up the hill. As long as you are not in a rush to reach the peak, the giant can maintain it comfort level even going up the hill.

So, what is  your experience driving your giant up the hill?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Maintenance Schedule for Toyota Alphard

I have a reader who drive a 2.4L Toyota Alphard has come out with his own maintenance schedule. This schedule is based on the maintenance schedule published by UMW for Camry. I think it is useable since our giant share the same 2AZ-FE engine with the local Camry model. He has kindly sent me a copy so I thought I would like to share it with the rest as well.

You can get the schedule from this link.

Since I didn't purchased all the parts listed in the schedule before I cannot confirm all the parts numbers. I can only confirmed that the part numbers for oil filter (90915-YZZE2) and air filter element (17801-28010) as I have bought them personnally.

Since a reader also asked me where can he get original Toyota spare parts, I thought of listing the two that I know of in this post.

If you are looking for original Toyota spare parts for your giant, you can get it from either:

Wing Hin Auto Supplies Sdn Bhd
Wisma Wing Hin
No 27-5, Jalan Loke Yew,
55200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 603-9221 8867 Fax: 603-9221 9217
E-mail: spareparts@winghin.com



No. 97, Jalan Ipoh,
51200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: 603-4042-1669 Fax: 603-4042-2782
E-mail: parts@stauto.com.my
Website: http://www.stauto.com.my/

I am not related to either of these companies. I just happen to have bought original spare parts from them before and they are two of the largest Toyota spare parts dealers in Malaysia.

Hope this help

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Just Serviced My Toyota Alphard

I just serviced my giant (Toyota Alphard) today and I thought I want to share my experience here.

Previously I wrote about the myth of maintaining the giant and I think I have debunk that myth today. Regular maintenance of your giant doesn't has to be expensive.

As I prepared to for my regular maintenance I bought the following spare parts on my own:

1. Original Toyota Oil Filter (90915-YZZE2) - RM24
2. 4.0L of Penzoil 10W-30 mineral oil - RM48
3. Workmanship for the service - RM10

So my expenses for this service only cost me RM72!

I have been hearing from many sources that Toyota Service Cente actually uses engine oil supplied by Penzoil. I decided to give this a try this time as it meet the engine oil specification as specify in the owner manual.

I didn't change the air filter element because it is still very clean since the last change. The workshop personnel did check through the rest of the maintainence items like brake fluid, brake pad etc and they are all found to be in good order so there is no need to change/service them.

In fact I bought more than I needed this time as I just wanted to be ready. I also bought

4. 4.0L Toyota Original Automatic Transmission Oil () - RM72
5. Oil Pan Gasket for Automatic Transmission (35168-21020) - RM 26
6. Original Toyota Long Life Coolant (Red -  088891L) - RM18

However after the workshop foreman checked the automatic transmission oil, it is still pretty clean and he suggested not to change the transmission fluid this time. Also he doesn't recommend to just change the coolant as the coolant in the tank still show plenty of red colour. In fact they only recommend to change the coolant when they service the radiator and not on regular basis. So now I have some spare parts with me that I will probably use it on my other car (which incidently also can use the Toyota automatic transmission oil).

I know an owner of new generation Alphard from Singapore than come down to Kuala Lumpur regularly and his regular maintenance of his giant is also pretty similar to mine. Change the engine oil and oil filter at every 5,000km and then he is back to the island again.

Also spare parts for Toyota Alphard is not difficult to find. In fact many parts are share among different Toyota model so you can always find original Toyota parts for your giant. The oil filter that I bought with part number 90915-YZZE2 has the following Toyota engines series written on it label:

  • 4A-G series
  • 3S-GTE series (excl. Celica ST165)
  • 2Y, 3Y, AZ series
If you do your maintenance regularly, it is not expensive at all for routine maintenance of  your beloved giant.

Edit: Actually the workshop I used is located in Kampung Sungei Kayu Ara. I don't know why I mentioned Sungei Penchala which is in another area in PJ.