Noise detective: episode four

Skoda Octavia GTEC engine opened

For the first time since long, today I was excited of having a one hour drive before getting to work! 🙂 Like a kid with a new toy I was looking forward to driving and having some time to listen to the new noises of the car. For the moment being there is one, which is really, really interesting. Everytime you switch the ignition on, before the engine starts, you hear a metallic “chunk” coming from the back. I believe it might be something to do with the valve of the gas bottles which activates. Aha. I like it.

But now I will stop playing with you guys and post at least one more picture. I actually have done like a ton of pictures but either the reflections or the light conditions made my pictures look bad. While selecting them I almost decided to go back to a real camera and take some decent shots. Truth is that even with phones, if you know how to take pictures, you get amazing results. I need to improve on that.

Maple brown Skoda Octavia (2019).
La Terrona

By continuing the nickname game that we started with La Celestona, its older sister, we decided to baptise the new car La Terrona, which I could translate to “The big earth”. We had laugh when we came up with it…

Driving it is really relaxing. First of all no more noisy differential as main companion. The automatic gearbox lets you forget about the existence of your left leg. Activate the automatic control of the speed and you may as well switch off your head for the next hours. Needless to say, knowing that you are not producing that life threathening particulate while driving makes you feel really light. Finally!

The first thing I have noticed is that while driving down hill, shifting to lower gears does not brake the car by much. I was told that it depends on the compression ratio of the engine, which is different from diesel (my older Octavia) to fuel engines.

You do feel the difference between the two engines: 150 HP of the previous car were definitely more satisfactory during overtakes. With the current 130 HP I have no problems driving in the city, accelerating to get on the motorway… before starting an overtake though, I believe I will now double check if I have time/room enough to perform it.

And range. Range is what keeps my breath hanging as for the moment being the statistics have not enough data to work on and are showing numbers which are not real, in this case, way lower than what it should be. But I believe it might depend also on the quality of the natural gas (now defined as 70% by the on board computer). We will see when I get high quality gas and some more km how the range changes. I am expecting of having at least 400 km range while running on natural gas and 200 km more while running on fuel. We will see if it reaches that high values in the next episodes.

Have a good week everyone, enjoy your holidays… if you have time, go hunting for some noises, ahah! 🙂 I should try to record that misterious, initial “chunk”…

Noise detective: episode three

First of all, did you miss the first two episodes? Catch up by clicking on the following two links: Episode one and Episode two. And now let’s get to it.

The new car has arrived…

I believe that if you did read the two previous episodes you will be a tad surprised to know that the new car has already arrived! In fact by reading the last episode (number two) I had not even decided if I should buy a new one or risk it all by staying with the noisy differential.

If those are your thoughts than, yes, you are right and I beg your pardon. Before buying it I did have a test drive, I even took some pictures of the display showing consumption and some other data. I even took some notes about the selling process, which in my modest opinion needs to be revisited at least in Switzerland. But I was not able to write about it: so this why you get the big news out of the blue. 🙂

… and with it a new adventure starts!

It will be a new adventure. Lasting, I hope, at least 200’000 kilometers. I call it an adventure as the car I have invested in uses natural gas as fuel: in Switzerland this kind of fuel is not distributed as diffusely as gasoline or diesel, in fact it is quite the opposite. As one friend told me I will be one of the few to buy such a car. Other friends firmly advised me to avoid such an investment. We will see. Together.

As you might remember my last car was a Skoda Octavia 4×4 2.0 liters, 150 HP: when I bought it 5 years ago I had two options. Either go for gasoline or diesel: given the fact that I cover long distances each the year I decided that diesel was the best solution, from both point of views, economical and ecological.

During the last five years some things have happened that made me regret my choice:

  1. A quick chat with a friend of ours about the size of particles
  2. The VW scandal and the brainwash
  3. “Il metanaro”

Let’s have a quick chat about those events.

Particle size

Being the car classified as Euro 6 I was convinced that the particulate issue was solved for good. This belief lasted until I discovered that the solutions which are used to decrease the amount of exhausted particles work by further decreasing the size of the particles. This tecnique allows the car to successfully pass the tests but creates particles which are capable of penetrating even deeper into the respiratory system, being even more dangerous than the original particulate.

From that day on a disturbing feeling started to grow in myself. And I believe this was one of the most important drivers which pushed me to such a radical change.

The VW scandal

Luckily my car was not directly affected by the diesel gate: I did not need to have it modified in any way. Still I was very disappointed by the company and by the people running it: apparently the most important thing to them, was to be the first car company in the world. As if, being the second one, is not enough. Of course, being the first company in the world it is huge. But at what cost?

Nevertheless I believe that I did not change my mind about the quality of the cars: even my new car is a product of the VW group.

On the other hand I am quite sure that the brainwashing which started as a result of the VW scandal had an influence on my considerations during the choice. By the way… did you ever wonder if what is now common belief (“diesel is the worst fuel ever”) is the truth? This is why I am calling it a brainwash… I am pretty sure that all us are getting manipulated/brainwashed to believe something. Could be a very nice topic for a further blog post, in the like of:

How to tell if we are getting brainwashed. How can we reach the most non biased opionion about important topics without being an expert in everything.

I believe I will need someone else to write it for me as I have no idea which could be good advices in order to achieve that.

Il metanaro

Il metanaro is an italian popular way of calling either the person filling your car with natural gas or to identify the whole filling station.

One lucky day it happened that I discovered that a new “metanaro” had opened very near to my office: this had a huge impact on my choice because it makes my day by day so much easier…

Mixed feelings

Enough with the “rationalities”… since I have ordered the car almost six weeks ago I have got mixed feelings. From one side I feel a little disappointed, as I did not manage to win my 500’000 km joke/bet (see previous episodes for details). Even a little melancholic as I liked very much the car and its almost unique colour, which today is not available anymore. It was because of it that my uncle gave the car the nickname of Celestona, which I could (mis)translate in The big sky blue. And it was my and my family companion for many years and we did many trips with it, so we started to treat it a little as of a member of the family.

Picture depicts a sky blue Skoda Octavia (2014).
A very long Skoda Octavia in a beautiful colour.

On the other hand I am really happy and relieved: the new car will have an automatic transmission, will be definitely cleaner and cheaper to run. And I also do feel a little excited to try something new: as natural gas distributor are not so common to be found, longer trips need to be planned with some anticipation.

Just noticed that I did not share any details about the new car… and no pictures either. But after all the information shared, do you really need further details? Maybe in the next episode…

Noise detective: episode two

The image displays the speedometer of a Skoda Octavia, showing the yellow icon of the engine, indicating the presence of some issues.

Finally I found some time to write down the second episode! For those who wish to read the first one, here the link

How much to repair?

I have been waiting some news from my usual retailer regarding the cost of repairing the differential. During the second half of January I finally received the “official” answer: the price of the differential is of about 5’000 CHF. To the already high cost of the mechanical part I should add the work needed to make the repair: the total amount goes up to 6’300 CHF.

In the meantime the noise did not change. Sometimes, mostly when I leave the car rolling, it changes tonality and seems to be louder. Funny enough, if I drive faster than 100 Km/h, maybe around 130 Km/h, the noise fades almost completely.

TCS: a neutral point of view

Given the high cost of the repair I thought it would be a good idea to have the Swiss Touring Club (TCS) double check if the noise was really coming from the differential. Past Saturday I took the car to their workshop and after some routine checks we put the car on the auto lift: I stayed in the car and once it was high enough for the mechanic to stand below it, I started accelerating as agreed with him. It was quite strange to be “in the air” giving gas and changing gears. Around 100 Km/h the noise is the loudest and once I reached that speed I told the mechanic to start listening: he went below the car and with help of the stethoscope he was able to recognise the noise and to define that the noise was coming from the right end of the differential.

It was really helpful having a neutral point of view. And of course, although I would have preferred that the answer was something different, possibly less expensive, I am now happy to have the source of the noise confirmed. The whole operation, being member of the TCS, cost me 50 CHF.

Worth speculating?

Every mechanic I speak to tells me that it is very unusual for a differential to brake down. This led me to play with the thought, that maybe it was just a dose of bad luck and that actually, although an expensive repair I might have luck for the next years to come. Spending 6’300 CHF is still way less than 40’000 CHF for a new car. And as the car itself is still looking absolutely good I am kind of recalcitrant to change it. Also, as I use the car to go to work, reaching almost 35’000 Km per year, I do not want to invest in a new one. Ideally today’s car would be awesome.

But… a few days later, I got proof that my thinking was too optimistic: the emission control light turned on. Of course this happened the day before leaving for a business trip of about 4 hours drive. I decided to swap car and use one which the company has at disposal for such events.

This is the symbol of the emission control.

Once back from the trip I took the car to the mechanic: in 30 min time he was able to tell me that the issue is most probably related to a fan not working properly in the exhaust vent. Nothing to worry about. Still, in case it would turn on again I should consider changing the exhaust vent, with and estimated cost of about 1’300 CHF. I drove to work hoping not to see the light anymore.

But there it was! In the evening, as I started the car to drive back home the yellow warning light was staring at me, with a rather static expression! Oh well… between the noise in the back and the yellow light in the front, for sure I was not feeling alone!

Now what?

Given the value of the car which is around 10’000 CHF everyone is suggesting to leave the car as it is and to buy a new one and I am seriously taking into consideration that option. I believe that all in all I am going to stay with the same model of car as love the roomy interiors and the big trunk, but I am seriously considering to change from diesel to the natural gas engine. 2019 version is a 1.5 L with 130 HP which should be enough for my driving style. In a few weeks I should have the possibility for a test drive: I guess it will be the topic for our next episode?! 😉

Noise detective: one more episode!

Noise madness

I have noticed that I get somehow “attracted” by noises that might be indicators of something not working properly. For example, I already bored all of my followers about the noises of our heating system. And trust me, the ones that I manage to write about are the ones that give me to think the most: there are many, many others noises that get me suspicious that I do not write about, yet intrigue me as I am sincerely worried about the fact that whatever the mechanism is, is not working as it should.

Celestona and the 500’000 km bet

In this “episode” the protagonist of the noise is Celestona, our family car. It is a 2014, all wheel drive, Skoda Octavia. The engine is a TDI, 2.0L, 150 PS. I use it for my daily commute and from April 2014 until today I have collected almost 175’000 km. Mostly motorway.

I have bet with myself that by driving safe and carefully I could bring this car up to 500’000 km without suffering major break downs. The bet might seem crazy, to me though, it seems fairly possible as I am driving always on the motorway, trying to respect all the speed limits and saving as much fuel as possible. This brings be to drive like an 90 years old grandfather with speeds not exceeding 105 km/h… unless I am very late for work. 😀 The question is… will Celestona make it to 500’000 km?

The noise

Let’s get into it!

It is very difficult to describe it in writing. If someone already has experience with ballbearings slowly wearing out… that is the genre of noise. It could be also exemplified by the rolling of very deep profiled tires as in off road cars (e.g. jeeps). I can hear it coming from the back of the car, it starts already at 50 km/h and changes tonality while speeding up. But it does not get louder or unbearable, it just changes its “voice”. I have been hearing it since months now: as I had it classified as a ballbearing being worn out I did not feel the urge to go to the car dealer and have it repaired.

First tests

The first test I did was to wait out. I started to notice the noise during the end of the summer and I decided that I should wait for the change of the summer tires into winter tires. This way I would understand if the culprit were the tires or something else. I did the change of the tires in November: the noise was/is still there.

Posterior right ballbearing?

I kept my noisy companion for one more month until it was time for the 180’000 km service. This was my occasion to have the ballbearing changed! From an organisational point of view it was a great idea as I could take the car just once to the dealer and have the service as well as the noisy issue solved.

As usual, the Volkswagen team is very efficient and in one day my car was serviced and the rear right bearing substituted. Fantastic.

I was less enthusiastic when driving home I noticed that the noise was still there. It was quite a big disappointment realising that the car had not been tested after being repaired: in my naive mind it should go without asking that repairs should be checked once executed.

But then… where is the noise coming from?

Having changed the posterior right ballbearing, my suspects were on the left one: I asked to Volkswagen mechanics to double check that.

I took the car once more to the dealer and during the afternoon Marco, my reference person in Volkswagen, called and informed me that in their opinion it was not the posterior left ballbearing the culprit: the differential was it instead!

Pricey stuff

Changing a differential is very, very expensive. When I got the news I was definitely sub enthusiastic. Marco confirmed my fears by anticipating me, that the differential by itself would cost 5’000 CHF. To that I should add the cost of the work for changing it.

I quickly did a research of the on to have at least a feeling of which is the market of value of my car on the Swiss market. Around 12’000 CHF. Given the market value and the cost to change the differential the “new car scenario” started to show up. Not only that, but also the “I have lost my 500’000 km bet” scenario showed up… It is a personal challenge, so nothing serious. But somehow I was disappointed!

Not the last word… yet!

After a few hours of overthinking the matter I took the decision to have a second opinion of another mechanic. I took the car a Skoda dealer very near my work place, together with the mechanic we took her for a quick spin and guess what?

In his opinion the possible culprits are two: either the tires or the ballbearings. Considered that the tires have already been changed once and that the noise stayed there, we have a second opinion indicating the posterior left ballbearing.

Very important is the fact that the mechanic defined a faulty differential as not an option as it would sound in a very different way, if it was damaged in any way. Another thing that reassured me was the fact that the differential is not in use at all when the car is driven at motorway speeds. Basically it gets activated only if the front wheels slip. If they do not slip it does not get even connected.

In conclusion we decided that I should keep the car as it is. The noise should worsen and make it easier to understand whether the source is the posterior left ballbearing or something else!

And that makes me happy…: the bet is still going! 😀


There is one thing that keeps my mind grinding: why has my usual Skoda dealer, Marco, told me that the differential should be changed? What was the issue they noticed?

As soon as I have more news I will create a second episode and keep you posted about who was right… 🙂

Should anyone have suggestions regarding the matter… please let me know!

Have a nice afternoon!

Changing wipers

Really proud of sharing this my new conquest. Back from the Treviso trip I still had a few moments to change wipers to my car as well as to my wife’s. I remember that while I was browsing the online site where I bought them from  I was worried about a few things:

  • Will I be able to install them correctly?
  • Will they really fit my car and how will their performance be?
  • On the model which is said to be compatible with my car it is said that the rear wiper is shorter than the original one: will it work correctly? Or maybe even better than the original one?

I’m happy to announce that I was able to install them: it is really easy, and that yes, the ones I bought which were for my Skoda Octavia 4×4 and for a Panda 4×4, work great.

For my future memory I’m writing the article number as well as quick description in order to know which one to buy in the future:

  • 3 397 007 292, Panda 4×4, front wipers kit (contains 2 wipers), 16.22€
  • 3 397 004 802, Panda 4×4, rear wiper, 5.15€
  • 3 397 007 620, Skoda Octavia 4×4, front wipers kit (contains 2 wipers), 11.79€
  • 3 397 008 713, Skoda Octavia 4×4, rear wiper, 4.41€

Prices do not include VAT. I did spend59.72€ in total.

As you can see from the image below the difference between the new rear wiper for my Octavia is there, but it is really small, probably less than 1 cm. If you look carefully you will note how the new wiper is shorter than the clean arc made by the old wiper.


My car really needs some cleaning!

After a few days of driving I have noticed that the rear wiper is shorter even in the inside not only on th exterior. Check the pictures below and you’ll understand.

I also took a few pictures from inside the car: you can see two different layers of dirt at both ends of the wiper. Therefore the wiper is shorter than what I thought: I don’t care as long as the wiper cleans and doesn’t make noise.