Monday, May 30, 2011

New Odyssey Battery

While diagnosing the faults my Land Rover was reporting, two dealerships told me that my OEM battery was weak and should be replaced. The truck is now 3 years old and it seemed a good time to upgrade to a high performance battery. Years ago I bought an Optima Red Top for my previous vehicle, but I was surprised to find a lot of negative reviews about them. Apparently the quality of Optima batteries has dropped. The online forums show many owners reporting them failing after just a few years. I saw several posts by Land Rover owners who have been installing Odyssey batteries and are very happy with them.

I bought the Odyssey 34R-PC1500 (aka PC1500RT). This is bigger than the BCI group 94R OEM battery. I could have bought the PC1220, which is 94R, but chose to get the bigger 1500. I bought it online from West Coast Batteries (the links above) and it was delivered in just a couple days.

Since the battery has a slightly different profile, I had to make a new hold-down bracket. Skipping the methods that failed, I'll just describe the final solution. I bought a piece of aluminum (3ft x 1 inch x 1/8 inch) from OSH and headed to a friend's house where he has lots of tools. We cut it to size, bent it, and drilled holes, so I could use the OEM bolts (which seem to be metric M6 size). The photos show the final installation. Since the Odyssey is taller than the OEM battery, it barely fits under the plastic cover (not shown in the photos). The end of the bolt on the positive terminal touches the inside of the plastic cover.

Now I'm ready to go adventuring off road again. Good thing, since I'm headed to southern Utah and northern Arizona in a few days.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Land Rover Woes

I've had a spate of problems with the rover lately. Luckily, it's not been too bad. I would get the famous "three amigos" of Land Rover faults: ABS, HDC, and suspension. I did lots of googling to learn about these. Many suspect it's caused by a weak battery, and some dealerships also suggested this to some owners. The theory goes: the ABS system sensors require a minimum of 11.7 volts and when the battery gets weak, they don't get that minimum voltage and so it triggers an ABS fault. The HDC then sends a fault because (obviously) it requires the ABS to work. And the suspension is like the drunken college kid who's heard there's kegger: it joins in immediately. Many have replaced their batteries, but some people have reported their faults continuing.

I was getting these faults while driving on suburban streets, almost always after I came to a stop at a red light. I discovered that I could easily clear the faults by turning off the car, and restarting. At that point, it wasn't too big of a concern.

Then while off roading in the Mojave desert, I experienced a new set of faults. These began with a transmission fault. That was then followed by the suspension fault, and sometimes the ABS/HDC combo. I could still clear it easily, but it began to bother me. So I took it to the dealer.

They discovered a stored code: P186D. This is indicated when either (a) a motor in an actuator inside the rear differential is faulty, or (b) the sensors for that actuator are sending bad signals to the computer.

The repairs would be expensive (>$1,000), but I luckily bought an extended warranty when I bought the truck. I strongly encourage all Land Rover buyers to get an extended warranty. I ended up paying $100, which is my deductilble. The dealer replaced some part in the rear diff, and also replaced the front control arm bushings.

Since then I have had no more faults. Yay.

The dealer also reported that my battery was weak. It failed their battery test. So, I just replaced the battery (see future post for details).

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Little Bets

I finished the new book "Little Bets - How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries," by Peter Sims. I enjoyed it. I also think I can use some of its material in several parts of my life.

Little bets is about achieving complex or difficult goals by intentionally taking a path of small steps, trying, reviewing, changing, trying again, and iterating. One phrase that I liked was "experimental innovators."

Fundamental elements of little bets include: experiment, play, immerse, define, reorient, and iterate. It is not simply trying lots of things and seeing what works. Successful practitioners are rigorous, analytical, strategic, and pragmatic. Sims illustrates this by examining the experiences and methods of Chris Rock, Jeff Bezos, Frank Gehry, Pixar filmmakers, Steve Jobs, Bill Hewlett & Dave Packard, and US Army officers, among others. The US Army counterinsurgency approach is called "developing the situation through action." The Pixar guys summarize their creative process as "going from suck to nonsuck."

This is counter to the commonplace mindset Sims calls the "HiPPO phenomenon", wherein the highest paid person's opinion (HiPPO) dominates how people make decisions.

Sims summarizes: "...the fundamental advantages of the little bets approach; it allow us to discover new ideas, strategies, or plans through an emergent process, rather than trying to fully formulate them before we begin, and it facilitates adapting our approach as we go rather than continuing on a course that may lead to failure."

The core ideas of Little Bets are not new. They've been employed by many people for many years, and this is illustrated by the examples the author describes. Heck, the Stanford classes are famous for employing these methods, stirring the energies of all who take them.

The second chapter is an overview of the amazing research by Carol Dweck and the growth mind-set. I call attention to it here in order to encourage everyone to read about Dweck's research, since we can leverage what she learned and positively influence our lives and our childrens' lives.

The chapter titles help to illustrate the author's framework:

1. Big Bests Versus Little Bets
2. The Growth Mind-set
3. Failing Quickly to Learn Fast
4. The Genius of Play
5. Problems Are the New Solutions
6. Questions Are the New Answers
7. Learning a Little From a Lot
8. Learning a Lot From a Little
9. Small Wins

There's a section at the end of the book titled "Further Readings and Resources" that is a nice outline of related books that many will find useful. You might browse through that section if you come across this book at a bookstore.

Here is the author's web site for the book. Here's the Amazon page.