Living with an upgraded Kei Car – 2006 Daihatsu Cuore / Mira

Chapter 1 – The Initial Purchase

When it was relatively new, shiny and entirely adorable

Sometime in 2010, I bought a 2006 Daihatsu Cuore as my first car in Pakistan. Of course, when I say ‘my’, it is in the loosest sense of the term as my elder sister fell in love with it immediately and bought it from me. This was before she even knew how to drive. In the next six months, I gave a few lessons on driving, had a few near heart failures in the passenger seat. Fast forward the next two years, the little Kei car went to a new home along with my sister when she got married, carrying quite a bit of luggage and dents both. It was not the last that I saw of the little Kei car.

Chapter 2 – The Exchange

What is a car, after all? There is nothing like family.

Fast forward a few years to 2016 and I got myself a shiny, re-conditioned 2012 Daihatsu Mira – JDM version of the Cuore with a 660cc engine. That was in January 2016. Bought it for the wife who never got around to driving it and at the end of 2016, it had grown on me to a point where I’d actually look for excuses to show my baby off. Unfortunately, by this time the Cuore my sister was driving wasn’t doing too well and was leaking oil, coolant, electricity and everything else that could leak. I could see that the years had not been kind to the Cuore – a lack of maintenance and preventive work meant that the Cuore had a long, long list of problems. I advised my sister to get rid of it and got saddled with the task of finding a new car for her first, subject to approval from my brother in law and then getting rid of the Cuore.

I hunted high and low, near and far. Showed the B.I.L quite a few cars but he always had some issue. Stuff like”It’s ugly” or “It has no resale value” or “The paint job is terrible” or “its’ an automatic” and so on and so forth. 2 months later, I’m exasperated to put it mildly. It is mid January; I’ve been hunting since November last year for something that would please his highness. In a fit of quixotry I tell him to keep my car and give me the damned Cuore since my sister has been complaining non-stop about how it fails everywhere and would I hurry up with my search. After all, it isn’t fun to be stranded with a toddler at the side of the road every other evening and I am kind at times – when I think of it. To my brother in law, all his previous objections no longer existed as he didn’t have to spend a dime on getting what was practically a new car while getting rid of an old, troublesome one. My sister was hesitant but I was quite fed up with hunting for the holy grail-esque car and insisted she exchange the car and be done with it. The things one does for ones siblings.

Chapter 3 – No Pain, No Gain

It’s not what you buy that gives you pleasure. It is what you build with your own hand that does.

What did I get in exchange? Constant pain. The problems the car labored under were manifold. Please, share my misery, for misery loves company.

  1. Old, useless battery
  2. Leaking coolant & brake fluid due to punctured pipes
  3. Worn out (read as non-existent) front suspension
  4. Unbalanced & misaligned wheels
  5. Weak headlights
  6. Poor fuel economy due to a removed thermostat valve
  7. Worn out piston rings, engine seals, noisy main crank bearing and faulty camshaft
  8. Blown head gasket
  9. Worn out front brake pads
  10. Worn out electrical system including the spark distribution system
  11. Choked up air-conditioner
  12. Worn out clutch and pressure plates
  13. Dents and scratches all over the car
  14. Slight rot in the rear driver side wheel arch.
  15. Worn out front CV joints
  16. Worn out steering rack
  17. One of two speakers not working

All the above would have been enough to give most people a pause and the chance to quietly dump the car in the nearest junkyard. Not me. True, I was quite furious at what I was dealing with at times but then remembered a few good things that this little car also had.

  1. An excellent 4 wheel independent suspension system that was discontinued on later models
  2. Fairly new tires including the spare
  3. A good air-conditioner (minus the wonky blower fan)
  4. A relatively neat and clean interior

I had a lot of work to do. This is something I enjoy. So I got cracking.

Chapter 4 – The Rebirth

Death is merely the beginning of an end.

I was busier than a bee during the first 4 months and energetically went about the following tasks:

  1. Changed all the liquids – Engine and gearbox oil, brake fluid, coolant, washer fluid.
  2. Replaced the complete spark ignition system
  3. Put in a thermostat valve
  4. Replaced the clutch and pressure plates
  5. Replaced the battery
  6. Got the radiator serviced
  7. Replaced the faulty water circulation pipes
  8. Got the complete wheel balancing done
  9. Replaced the front brake pads and faced the front discs
  10. Removed the CNG gas cylinder and its kit. Good riddance.
  11. Got the rear glass tinted and the front windshield buffed for scratches, installed new rear lights and replaced a few bulbs.

This entire replacing and servicing etc was done in 4 months. At times, I was madder than a wet hen and for two pins; I could’ve set the car on fire and walked away. Why? Because now I was forced to stop and fix whatever was wrong with the car (overheating, electrics, and low coolant / brake fluid levels) after every two hours of driving. I couldn’t use the air-con during the heat of the day (overheating), couldn’t play music on the stereo (bad electrics), couldn’t see out at night because the lights were too dim and couldn’t turn too quickly because the steering rack had a will of its own. The ride was harsh and noisy as the bushings and the rubbers of the front suspension were non-existent and the air-con fan was pathetic.

That being said, the car was now less problematic to drive daily but it was time for an upgrade. Starting with the engine. Rest in pieces, little engine.

Chapter 5 – The Upgrades

With great power comes great hooniganism.

Out went the main cause of my misery – the 850cc naturally aspirated (wheezy) engine with a blown gasket, leaky seals, worn piston rings, faulty camshaft seats and crank bearing. I replaced it with a 660cc turbo-charged engine with a top mount inter-cooler, upgraded the air intake to a pod filter one (better induction sounds), changed all the front suspension and steering components, replaced the punctured brake lines and took a look at the air-con. Turns out that the airflow of the air-con was blocked by the leaves and mud that the fresh air mode of the air-con sucked in. Removed them, serviced the compressor, replaced the small 1 inch exhaust to a free flow, 2 inch straight exhaust pipe without resonators and a cannon at the rear end, a couple of aftermarket LED fog lamps, a hole in the hood for an air scoop and I’m not done yet.

Turns out, the replacement engine came out of a vehicle that had suffered an accident and as a result, the compressor for the air conditioning unit sits slightly tilted at one end. The results – the compressor belt wears out every 300 kms. I need to get that straightened at a denting shop. There is also the small matter of the turbo leaking oil. Not quite sure about that – may be something as simple as a PCV (Positive crankcase ventilation) valve or a worn out shaft in the turbo. If it is the latter, I’ll need a new turbo and if not, I’ll have to hunt around and find out where the damn valve is. The speedometer cable is also gone – I have no idea – the cable connectors may be loose or the cable may have snapped and that job too will have to wait as I’m without tools at the moment.

As it is, the car is now a handful. It will spin the wheels in second gear (I blame the grip less General Tyres, not the engine), the acceleration feels like nothing, nothing and then boom! turbo kicks in and whoa! Off you go. Top speed? Well, enough for the car. I’ve managed to cross 160 kmph and that should tell the tale. I couldn’t take a snap since I was too busy keeping it on the road and the slightest distraction could spell disaster at those speeds in a Kei car.

I’ll keep you guys posted. In the meantime, happy motoring.

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About

An erratic, absent minded individual with a curiosity level equivalent to that of a dead cat. If I do something, it's probably on a whim and not planned, just like my blogs. Which are, like me, erratic, boring and certainly worth wasting time over since it's yours anyway.

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