Friday, December 12, 2008

'04 Ford Ranger

So the first truck on our shopping escapade was an '04 Ford Ranger, extended cab but 2 doors (interesting) base model truck like the '05 Dakota, hand crank windows, rubber flooring, no jump seats in this one. 5spd manual transmission with the 4.0l v6 which surprised me, the big engine but otherwise a total base truck.
This truck was a BLAST to drive. Our '03 feels powerful but this thing flew, the manual trans really makes a difference. I'd have definately bought this truck if it'd had just a few more options like carpet in the rear space and if the price was a little lower... The dealer wanted about $2000 more than we paid for our '03, it had more miles and had a small amout of body damage. We worked with them for awhile but the '03 was just a better deal.

'05 Dodge Dakota

I know, its been awhile but I've been mega busy and today we're in the midst of an ice storm so I've got some time to catch up. I'll make the last 2 truck posts rapid fire.

The dealership with the Colorado I tested months ago had suggested I stop in and try out an '05 Dakota. Turned out to be a club cab, thats extended but not 4 door, which isn't really right, it has 4 doors but they're those backward suicide doors. This was a super stripped down base base model. It smelled wierd from some cleaner they'd used in it. The v6 engine is supposed to produce 210hp but I think this one might be geared to high, it felt gutless where the '04 we tried felt fine if slightly buzzy.
Overall Angie and I both disliked this truck. '05 was the first year of the 3rd generation of Dakota and it shows...

Friday, December 5, 2008

05 Chevy Colorado

Continuing in reverse order: an '05 Chevy Colorado Crew Cab. This is a 4 door like the '04 Dakota but I think the Dakota has more space, and more power. The Chevy seems to sit a little higher.
The thing that interests me most about the Chevys is the paint wears off the buttons on the RADIO... Think about that one for a second. From what I've seen on the Colorado forum this is pretty common but it wasn't until I drove this '05 that I saw it for myself. The other thing that interested me about this truck is that no matter how I hammered the throttle I couldn't break the rear tires free, couldn't even make them squeak. With over 200hp the tires ought to fry...
Fine truck, this particular model had a bad windshield seal, I could actually see the seal down by where the dash meets the glass, not good... The dealer said they'd replace it. Damn right, in fact it ought to be replaced by now...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2004 Dodge Dakota

At the dealership where we bought the Ranger we also tried a 2004 Dodge Dakota quad cab. I was pleasantly surprised with the rear leg room of the Dakota Quad cab, I wouldn't want to ride a million miles in it but I was fairly comfortable. This truck was a v6 which is supposed to produce about 210hp. It makes the power quite high in the powerband and has far less torque than the v8 in my '96 Dakota.
2004 was the last year of the 2nd generation Dakota and you can tell. I'd driven a '98 back when I bought the '96 and didn't like it much at all, by 2004 though the interior felt quality and other than the lower power of the v6 vs the v8 I'm used to I was well pleased with this truck. The big reason I didn't want to buy it was the $4,000 premium over the Ranger. I also didn't particularly care for the short bed you get because of the quad cab.

BTW Angie had the Ranger to the dealership today, the ABS problem was just a loose sensor wire, no problem...

Monday, December 1, 2008

We bought a new truck!

The time had come, my 1996 Dodge Dakota had 222,000 miles on it. Thats outstanding mileage for pretty much any vehicle but it had more than its fair share of issues and I was tired of fixing them. The worst was the transmission going out and I hated to pile any money into that knowing the transfercase was close behind.
So on Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) Angie and I set out to find a new truck. If you remember I drove a Chevy Colorado a couple months ago so I had that as somewhat of a baseline. We tested 5 trucks and I'll talk about all of them but I want to start with the one we actually bought.

Its a 2003 Ford Ranger, yeah its 5 years old but its only got 25,000 miles and is in excellent condition. This particular truck is an extended cab 4 door, the rear doors are reverse opening and can only be opened when the front doors are open. Its four wheel drive and has the 4.0l v6 SOHC (single overhead cam) which the Ranger first got in 2001. Apparently the motor produces around 207hp which compares favorably to the 200 and change my Dakota had. Our truck has a 4 speed automatic transmission and many options including nerf bars (really steps but they're round on the bottom like nerf bars), a sliding rear window, AC (although all the trucks we looked at had AC) cd player with MP3 capability, fog lights (driving lights really) and probably some other things I've forgotten.

I hadn't driven a Ranger since my highschool girlfriend had her '94. That truck was, put politely a crapbox. The '94 would have been generation 3, this '03 is generation 4 and its interesting to see how much more truck a generation buys you. Its bigger, more powerful and just feels overall better built. I also LIKE that its smaller than my Dakota, it feels more nimble, it turns tighter and its easier to park. The smaller bed isn't a huge problem as with the Dakota we would usually run out of weight capacity before we ran out of space... The Ranger sits slightly higher than the '96 Dakota which is a good thing when it comes to pulling my snowmobile trailer, the receiver hitch would frequently hit the ground with the Dakota, and a bad thing when it comes to loading stuff into the truck. Fortunately its only an inch or two higher, not a huge difference.

I love having a transmission that shifts smoothly and predictably although I'm iffy on the electronically controlled 4wd system. Right now it seems to work fine, turn the knob and its in 4wd quickly with little fuss. Hopefully things stay that way, and to ensure it we'll be putting it into 4wd once a week to keep things lubricated...

There is one minor issue that needs to be addressed. Right now every time you make a full stop the ABS activates just before forward motion ceases. In some cases this means the truck goes an additional 4-6" farther than you think it will. Not safe and not fun. Apparently this is a pretty common problem and that the sensors are just dirty and should be an easy fix which the dealership should fix under our 30 day warrenty.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More on Hammie

Got 3 out of 4 studded snow tires on, Angie forgot to stop at Wal-Mart to get the last one put on today. I'm actually pretty impressed with Wal-Mart putting the tires on the rims, yeah its not that hard but their price is competative and they seem to do good work. Hopefully this will fix much of the horrible highway speed vibration.
The rear shocks showed up yesterday but not the upper control arms. Talked to Hursty and apparently his supplier screwed up so they're being next day shipped at the supplier's expense. We'll see...
Interestingly it turns out to do the shocks I have to remove the back seat, that surprised me! The hole to get the top bolts out is behind the seatback (so the whole seat doesn't come out just the seatback). Doesn't sound like that hard a job, just have to be a little careful because if I don't support the lower control arm the spring will come out which can be dangerous...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hammie rides again!

A quick update, got the brakes done on the 240D (Hammie) done yesterday. The parking brake still needs a little sorting but its pretty much there. I took him out for his first drive of any distance (Angie and I did take him around the block Friday night) to go get some fresh fuel. The brakes seem spot on (except of course the parking brake) but the suspension seems squishy and I'm concerned about the front upper ball joints and upper control arms. The ball joint boots are cracked open and the UCA bushings look poor. Interestingly though to my somewhat untrained butt the worst of the squishyness is coming from the rear, I'm thinking I need shocks. Of course the problem could also be a soft tire or two. The snows on the car are really pretty terrible. They were cheap tires when I bought them 4 years ago and although they don't have a ton of miles they need replacing. I've got 4 studded snows Dwight gave me, just need to put them on.

So I think Saturday I'm going to take him for inspection and see what the inspector thinks. I don't want to go replacing stuff I don't need. I just sat down and figured and the whole of the brake job cost me just about $360. Thats pretty cheap when you consider thats all 4 rotors and pads and 2 new calipers (ouch!) plus I'll be keeping the old calipers to rebuild, the caliper repair kit is a mere $15.
I priced all 4 shocks and the upper control arms and its $310 (shipping is free at that point). Add the two rear parking brake cables (the likely culprits) and we're up to $370 or thereabouts.

I've resigned myself to not ever getting my money back out of this car. If I make this purchase (I'm thinking I will) I'll have over $1000 into a $400 car that is now worth approximately $1000...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


The problem with driving an old car is that crap happens. Well okay crap happens to everybody and everything, the problem is that crap happens to older cars with greater regularity. Don't get me wrong my 190D has been a great car but the rear diff is getting really noisy and needs replacement bad. I've got a couple options for getting a replacement but none of them is working the way I'd like.
So my plan right now is to get my butt in gear and get the 240D (Hammie) back on the road. The thing thats keeping that car off the road right now is brakes. Specifically the front brakes and the stuck parking brake cable. I think the parking brake cable will free up with some solvent and a hammer. The front brakes however get us into the scary world of bearings. On this particular car the brake rotors are super rusty. I've already replaced the rear rotors which is a really easy job. The fronts however are bolted to the wheel hub which is supported by the wheel bearings, you can't remove the rotor without removing the hub and you can't remove the hub without disturbing the bearing.

I have this image of my screwing this up, the bearing chewing a channel through the spindle and the wheel falling off while I'm cruising down the highway. I have this other image of the rear diff on the 190D failing and catapulting me into oncoming traffic. Neither is an image I'm real excited about. It must be really nice to be ignorant... Anyway I'm reasonably sure neither of those situations is going to happen, what would probably happen in both cases is the noise would get so bad I'll pull over and get the car towed...

So I'm just terrified of this job and I don't know why, millions of idiots replace wheel bearings all the time and I've made a point of pride in myself of not being afraid of anything, I'm a teacher for God's sake, I hang it out there in front of people every day!
Okay good, I've built my dander up, in fact I really wish I could just do the stupid bearings right now.. Alas that isn't going to happen. I don't have the correct grease and what really makes me nervous is that while I'm sure Mobil 1 wheel bearing grease is just fine I don't know how much to use. Part of me says "hell just use some, the correct grease is on its way, just do it again later". Legions of rednecks are screaming "USE WHATS IN YOUR GREASE GUN"...

Sigh, I blame this all on my parents, my Dad somehow lost some of his redneck roots at some point and I never got to learn any of this from him. I'm not a redneck but for some reason I have the desire...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Talking to a car dealer

Just got a call back from the dealership where I test drove the Colorado last week. He was sort of beating around the bushes as it were and I came out with that I thought his price on the Colorado was kind of high, remember I'd checked the blue book and all. Turns out its already sold and he commented that he didn't like people calling his prices high, acted kind of upset with the whole thing. He also told me the Colorado is sold and delivered so their price couldn't have been that bad.

I'm a lousy negotiator. I bought my Dakota for list price and then bought the two Mercedes on eBay so I didn't have to negotiate on them. The best I've ever done is at Meineke getting brakes and exhaust and all and thats just me saying "you can do better than that" and taking whatever he says for his next price. I doubt I've really hurt Rick's (the salesman) feelings but I bet he knows that I won't push as hard if we enter into negotiation on some other vehicle...

I hate this, I love getting a new vehicle I just don't love BUYING a new vehicle. If one could just magically appear that'd be awesome... Rick did say they have an '05 Dakota for considerably less money than the Colorado. I consider the Dakota to be more truck too... Thats 9 years newer than my Dakota, it has 180,000 fewer miles too. I may have to go check it out.

I just checked, the '07 Colorado is still on their website. Do you suppose they have 2 '07 blue Chevy Colorado's with 40,000 miles and the Z71 package? Or maybe they're just slow to update the website.

Make sure you VOTE tomorrow!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chevy Colorado - Test drive

So today I met Angie for lunch and on the way home stopped at the local Chevy dealership and took an '07 Chevy Colorado for a ride. Its a pretty nice truck, Z71 offroad package, 245hp I5, auto trans, spray on bedliner, rack behind the cab to protect the window, blue...
Rides nice, the seats are not overly padded but comfortable, plenty of power although its high up in the rpm range. 245hp is more than my Dakota that has a v8 although the 318 has more torque and makes power down low.
They want $19k which is a crazy starting price. Blue Book is more like $18k and a little research shows comparable trucks for more like $16k. This one has been on the lot for at least 2 months so I'm reasonably sure I've got negotiating power. I've never had any luck negotiating for anything but I resolve not to pay the asking price on the next vehicle I buy.

Anyway I've tried to find less biased reviews on these trucks for awhile and got nowhere. Today it occured to me to try a forum and right off I found The tech section shows the facts right off, stay AWAY from the early years. '04 was the first year and seems to be a disaster with fewer complaints from each year after that. Few complaints I could find on '07s but I'm not sure if that might just mean there aren't all that many...

I've got to talk it over with Angie as I'm reasonably sure we don't have $320 a month to spend on a new truck no matter how much I like it. There are a couple cheaper trucks around that I need to get time to try out...

Anyway my quick review is that the Colorado seems like an okay inexpensive truck. If you're not expecting super high quality. The interior is cheap plastic, I already spotted one broken clippy in the '07, fortunately its a clippy you probably don't need anyway...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The economy

Its not a new great depression folks, its not a good depression, not even an okay depression... Recession is here, long live the recession. We NEED this recession. "Yeah right" you say "I need a recession like I need a hole in the head". Well I can't see why you need a hole in the head but you do need this recession.

We're in this trouble because the idiots in finance believed their own press. They've gotten too big for their britches and need to be taken down a peg, they need to lose some money and some of them need to learn how to do legitimate work. Unfortunately we've all become part of the "financial system" as its never been easier to own stock in companies. I own stock in a couple companies directly and more through my 401k fund. I know I'm losing money as I write this but I'm actually glad.

Companies will go out of business in this environment and thats good. The companies that die will be the weak and sick. This is the natural order like the herds of animals in winter the weak and sick die, the strong survive and become stronger. Once the recession works itself out my investments will come back better than they were before.

Or rather they will if our government doesn't screw it out. With the 700B bailout they are essentially rewarding the idiots who got us into this trouble. They say companies are 'too big to fail' but what they really mean is "I have too much invested in that company to let it fail, I need to bail me out". Make no mistakes, the jackasses in Washington are writing money for themselves and their cronies...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Next week is our the second of our twice yearly trips to camp in Maine. Its a camp, not a cottage you pilate. Cottages are things useless rich simps have a the seaside. They go there to complain about it being too "rustic" because there isn't cable tv or the cable doesn't have enough channels and they might miss out on finding out who Paris' new BFF is...
Its a camp, its 16'x24', all one room. Heat comes from a woodstove light is from propane lamps. When its real cold you huddle down in your sleeping bag and pretend you're dead hoping somebody else will get up and stoke the fire...
We don't have any real plans for this trip, usually we'll be planting trees or have some major improvement project but this year is pretty much open. I'm going to take this time to work on Dad's swamp buggy. Dad built the swamp buggy in the '60s, used it for awhile but had trouble with the exhaust. This was back in the day before just about any shop could custom bend you an exhaust pipe. So it sat in the barn for years. When Uncle Reg moved he took it with him and so its sat out for ~20 years now. The engine is stuck but considering it was covered I'm fairly confident we'll get it going again without too much trouble... Good fun.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Another rental car

You might remember back in June I was raving about the Hyundai Elantra I had for a rental car. Here I am again in Burbank, California and this time I've got a Ford Focus.

Search around you Youtube for a bit and you should find Hamster reviewing it when the new Focus came out. I'm a fan of the old Focus, I had one for a rental way back in '01 (nearly this same time of year too) and loved it. This one I'm totally under entralled with...

Of course the big issue is Avis stuck me in a base model. Lesson learned, take the 9:30am flight from Boston to Long Beach. This car hasn't got a sunroof, hasn't got satellite radio although it teases with its "Sirrius" button, and it hasn't got a remote door unlocker.
It does have a bucket of power with all the torque steer you could want. From a dead stop of you really mash the pedal it'll squirm to the right so hard you'd think it was an inline engine...
Its also got the world's worst headrests. Your head isn't allowed to tilt back at all which I find quite uncomfortable...

All in all an entirely forgettable ride...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Honda lives again

Haven't been riding the Honda (which is in my profile pic) for awhile. The last time Angie and I took it out we ran out of electricity. Thats bad, when your bike runs out of electricity its just like running out of gas.

At first I thought the problem was the battery. The one that was in it was 4 or 5 years old and thats really all you can expect from a starting battery. So I replaced it but the problem still plauged me.

Tonight I cleaned my desk and found the spare set of brushes I'd bought for the alternator. The old ones had worn out and I'd made a set (cut down some from the hardware store) but I didn't really trust them. I installed the replacements, used some 600 grit sandpaper (from the Hammie's hood project) to clean the commutator (thats where the brushes run) and then cleaned it good with contact cleaner. The alternator tested out fine which is to say it wasn't shorted out anywhere. The rectifier/regulator also tested fine so I fired it back up and....

Son of a gun, it works. At just over idle its running 14v when I put the multimeter across the battery. The "voltmeter" on the bike is very slow to respond but the multimeter was quick. Thats great, a weight totally off my shoulders.

On the downside the 190D has a bad differential bearing. Bob is loathe to replace it because he's worried about getting the pinion shimmed correctly. He thinks a good used one will be a better bet anyway. I don't really know what to do, maybe try someplace else? Bob's been good to me, he didn't even charge to diagnose the issue.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lets clear up something about yesterday

Interestingly when I tried to make yesterday's post Blogger wouldn't save with the title set to "death and other entertainment". I saved the post without a title, then went back and added the title again and everything was fine. Odd...

I'd like to point out that I don't have a deathwish or anything like that. I'm not looking to die, I'm not suicidal, what I wrote yesterday was satire...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Death and other entertainment

Death is inevitable, theres nothing you can do about it. In the words of Jim Morrison "no one here gets out alive". The one thing about death that worries me is dying in a hospital bed hooked up to a million machines or in a nursing home after an extended illness has left me without my mind.

If I could choose my death I'd like to die quietly like my grandfather. He laid down on the couch to watch baseball like he had a million other times, just this time he never woke up. No fuss, no muss, no trouble.
Alternately I'd like to get hit by a bus. In fact lets take that one up a notch, I'd like to get hit by a bus full of nuns. Hows this for a headline "Man in clown suit killed by bus full of nuns" I'd like to see that printed somewhere other than the Onion.
In fact while I'm dreaming I'd like the Onion to do a totally serious story on the accident while every other news source is printing the insane reality.

Okay, thats it, I need to go out and buy a clown suit. That way if I ever find myself seriously depressed and contemplating suicide I'll be ready. I figure it pays to be prepared for these things. Think how upset I'd be if I were all ready to off myself and I couldn't find a clown suit....

I'm trying to figure out

Who should I vote for in the presidential election?

I can't vote for McCain, I believe in a woman's right to choose, I believe in gay rights including the right to marry, and I don't believe in drilling for oil.

I can't vote for Obama, I'm against gun control, I support gay marriage, I'm not for government meddling in health care.

I can't vote for Bob Barr (liberatarian), he's a nut.

I can't vote for Alan Keys, he's an even bigger nut.

I can't vote for Cynthia McKinney (green party), she loses focus when it comes to issues around black folks and she doesn't have a hope of winning.

I can't vote for Ralph Nader, he's burned too many bridges, he'll never get elected. That said I do agree with him more than the others except for gun control.

So who's left? Nobody...
I guess I'm going to write in Ron Paul.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The days of cheap oil are back?

Apparently those who said cheap oil would return are right. Well we don't know yet if its cheap, cheap oil or just cheaper cheap oil. Either way I'm okay with it. I've been real worried about heating my house this winter and how much that was going to eat into my toy and entertainment budget...
With oil back under $100 a barrel we should see the cost of gas, diesel and heating fuel continue to slide, I'm pretty pleased with that news. The thing I'm worried about is that Mr. and Mrs. American idiot are now immune to $2 or $3 a gallon gas and will go back to buying big stupid SUVs to haul their crumb grabbers in. We've made some advance in the last couple years in cutting our consumption, lets not let that slide. 30mpg minimum standard for cars and 25mpg for all trucks up to 1 ton capacity is something that can be done within the next 5 years, it should be done and indeed friends it MUST be done or we'll be even deeper in the crapper the next time theres an "oil crisis". Lets not backslide like we did in the '80s. Make no mistake, the next "oil crisis" is just around the corner.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Went to the first occasional ChowdaQ in Warwick, RI last weekend.
The ChowdaQ name comes from the form, other Mercedes enthusiast gatherings have names like IowaQ, OkieQ and RustyQ. In fact Rusty is the one that gave rise to the form with his yearly customer appreciation barbeque.
I'd tried to arrange one of these a few years ago and failed miserably. Dwight did a much better job and I got to be the grill master.
We had 9 people and 6 cars which is a pretty good turnout for our first year I think. I'm not sure we could have handled any more people from a food perspective as the grills at the park were not what I'd have hoped for. Next year we'll be sure to haul along a proper charcoal grill.
Undaunted we spent several hours looking at each other's cars and swapping lies. Some even swapped parts, Fred brought me a new blower motor switch and a seatbelt warning buzzer. Dwight gave me a replacement wheel center cap to fix the one that got blown out with a failed wheel bearing a couple weeks ago.
Goddard Park where we held the event is a really nice place and I wish the weather had been a bit better, we'd have spent some time wandering around. Angie and I got a hotel room for the night so we didn't have to drive home right away. Next year I'll consider a hotel for both nights so we can get an earlier start. Its a solid 2 hour drive from our house to the park and it'd be nice to be able to start cooking sooner.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cold starts

People who drive gas powered cars made in the last 20 years generally don't pay any attention to temperature. Those of us with older diesels (23 and 25!) do, at ~10F my 240D will get a little ornery at -10F it'd be difficult and at -20F it won't start without help. With the magic of the block heater it'll start no problem at all temps.
Anyway if you take a look at Youtube there are tons of coldstart videos. The interesting thing I find in those is that they're mostly from metric countries (not the US basically) so you get "Coldstart, 10C" or "Coldstart -10C".
This winter will be the 6th in which I've driven a diesel car, so 3 winters each the 240D and the 190D plus one winter screwing around with my 300TD. The 190D has a more modern engine and starts WAY easier than the 240D but either way I figure I've got a masters degree in diesel engine cold starts. Let me start by saying -10C isn't cold... Thats 14F which isn't even the beginning of cold. Cold starts at -10F, real cold starts at 0F and bitterly cold starts at -10F. Here in central MA we can expect one or two mornings a winter at -20F which is the start of take your breath away cold. The guys in the extreme north scoff at all this of course.
Anyway what follows here is what you need to know to start your old diesel Mercedes in the cold. This should basically apply to other makes too but I dunno...

#1. Throw that starting fluid away and smack yourself for even suggesting it. The MB is an indirect injection diesel with glowplugs, you use that crap you'll crack a prechamber and the engine is toast.

#2. If your battery is older than 3 years its automatically suspect, if its older than 5 you need to replace it. Don't kid yourself into thinking you can get "just one more year" out of it, you can't. I spent one miserable winter where the 240D wouldn't start even at 15F because the battery was bad. It finally failed completely and I was amazed when a new battery fixed a host of issues. If the battery is older than the toddler next door it needs replacing.

#3. Synthetic oil is your friend, Mobil 1 5w40 is best followed by 0w40. I'm not a huge fan of the 0w40 as my cars both clattered a bit more with it, I don't think it hurt anything but still... 15w50 will do in a pinch if its all you can get. 15w50 will still flow better than conventional 15w40 at cold temps but the other two choices will flow better still. Put a bottle of conventional 15w40 oil in the freezer and you'll see it turns into honey. How well is that honey lubricating your engine when its cold out? If you've got a block heater you can get away with conventional oil but remember you might want to travel somewhere that plugging in isn't an option...

#4. Glow plugs. Marshall used to chide me for my suggesting to change the glowplugs before they failed. He said that glowplugs would go 100,000 miles without being changed. I contend that when glowplugs fail its always at the least opportune time. If you've ever change glowplugs outside at -10F (I have!) you know what I mean.

#5. Water is the enemy. It'll condense into your fuel tank then freeze and you're in trouble. It'll also give a place for algae to live. Treat your fuel tank with a water remover at least once in the fall. I use isopropyl alcohol at 2x the recommended strength once in October sometime. Then I run a bottle of Diesel Kleen (from PowerService) in Novemeber sometime. I use a whole bottle of Diesel Kleen in about 1/4 tank of fuel which is probably 10x the recommended concentration but I never have water or gelling issues.

#6. Make sure you've got winter fuel. When I first got my 190D it had been sitting for months and had summer fuel in it. It would start but wouldn't go in any gear but first. I put a full bottle of Diesel Kleen in and ran it. That car has a fuel thermostat that heats the fuel so after 20 minutes or so I could drive fine. I drove until the tank was mostly empty and refilled.

-The actual cold start -
So its -10F out and you need to start your car. Lets say you don't have anywhere to plug it in either. When I was driving the 240D that was how things went most of the time for me as we lived in an apartment...
Okay get in the car, turn off all electrical loads. You made sure to turn off the wipers last night right? Make sure the heater fan is off too. We're going to need every amp available. Key on, the glowplug light should come on. Wait the 20 seconds or so until the light goes out and then wait 10 seconds more. Cycle the key back to off and then on, wait the 20 seconds again and then again 10 seconds more.
You're only going to get one shot at this, if the car doesn't start you're in the hurt...
Pump the throttle (gas pedal) to the floor 3 times, then hold it all the way down, FULL THROTTLE!
Okay key to start, the engine cranks, HOLD THE KEY ON START. Yeah I know, your dad told you to only crank for a couple seconds, he told you you'd ruin the starter otherwise because it'd overheat. Hey, its -10F, its not going to overheat. If you stop cranking now the car will be harder to start than if you don't and it will thus put more wear on the starter, crank until it starts. This is what momma benz says to do and thus the best thing for your car... Except maybe for my alternate start method, more on that later.

Within 20 seconds you should start to hear encouraging noises. If your battery starts to die at this point it needs replacing, even if the car does start. The battery should be able to crank for a good minute at this temp without dying. The encouraging noises should get more and more consistant (pop.....pop, pop......pop, pop,pop.....pop,pop,pop,pop...etc) don't give up yet keep at it until the car is actually running. Once the encouraging noises are mostly constant release the key and ease back on the throttle. On these older cars when its real cold out if you come off throttle too fast at this point lots of times they'll die, so ease back on the throttle, keep it at high idle for maybe a minute. You've used up a lot of what your battery had to offer, if the car dies now you might have a hard time restarting. My 240D has a high idle knob for situations like this, it'll keep the idle above what it normally would be. I've never had it working enough to try it. I've bought all the parts so I hope to try it out this winter.

So your car is running, take off eh? DON'T hang around waiting for it to warm up. All cars warm up best (most quickly, most evenly) by driving around. That isn't to say romp on it and merge with freeway traffic right away, drive easy for a mile or two and you'll be all set.

-Curt's alternate diesel Mercedes starting proceedure-
So the above didn't work, or you've got bad glow plugs or a bad battery or heavy oil or your block heater croaked or its -20F and your 240D won't start no matter what, what now? I had this a lot that year the battery in my 240D wasn't any good.
Start your pickup truck, its a gasser right? It always starts, no worries. Why do you drive a diesel then? Well economy of course.
Go wake up your wife, you'll need help for this. Get out the strap and connect the pickup to the car.
Let your wife drive the pickup, give her CLEAR instructions on where to go and how fast to drive. Don't make her guess about anything and remember not to yell at her.
Your car is manual trans right? So she doesn't have to pull you very fast so lets say 25mph. A fullsize pickup is better at this but any truck (or car) will do a smaller vehicle may have traction problems so your tower may have to go faster, you'll need to experiment.

So at 25mph you put the car in 2nd gear (maybe 3rd, experiment) and ease out the clutch. Don't just dump the clutch or the tow vehicle may lose traction... Ease out the clutch and you should hear the engine cranking over. You may need to let it crank over for awhile (especially at -20F) before it'll fire. Careful with the throttle here, you don't want to smack into your tow vehicle! Once the car is running and everybody's stopped get out and take the strap off. Put the strap in your car with you, you might need it later...
Thank your wife, appologize for yelling at her, bring her something nice that evening.


I love stirring things up.

I changed the oil on my '89 Kawasaki 454 LTD motorcycle yesterday. I put Mobil 1 5w40 synthetic oil which is a little controversial. The problem is some synthetic oils aren't okay for use with wet clutches like motorcycles have. So you switch to that oil and uh oh, now the clutch slips and you can't go anywhere.
The magic seems to be "energy conserving" on the oil label. Theres a circle brassard kind of thing on the back of the oil bottle which would have the words "energy conserving". The 5w40 I use in my car doesn't have that so I figure its okay.
The 5w40 thing scares people too. I've been using 10w40 for the 4 years I've had bikes, its pretty much the standard for Jap bikes. So plenty of people are telling me I need to use Mobil 1 15w50 since thats "better" than 5w40.

I don't want to get into get into a big discussion of oil weights and all that foolishness right now. Lets leave it at from what I understand about oil weights 5w40 should protect my bike at least as well as 10w40 when its hot and better when its cold since it should be lighter when its cold and should thus flow better.

Anyway I swapped in the 5w40 yesterday (burned myself removing the old oil filter) and took the bike for about a 5 mile ride during which... nothing happened. Nothing bad anyway, the clutch seems just the same as it was, the bike shifts fine, nothing bad at all. Thats sort of the downside with this, you do a change fraught with controversy and then nothing exciting happens, which is good but sort of a downer....


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Busy times

Apparently the Chineese have a saying, "may you live in interesting times" which basically says may you be so busy you're screwed...

The hood for the 240D is done, 10 coats of paint (or was it 9?) and the hoodpad is installed. I really need to do another coat on the underside, I painted it some just for continuity and it kind of looks worse than before. Another coat (brushed on with a foam brush) and it should be fine, doesn't take long to do anyway.

It'll be awhile before I get it installed since its really a 2 or 3 person job. This weekend is the Chowda fest MB gathering in RI so I won't be able to do it. Maybe Angie will have some time to help me this week, doubt it. I'd rather get another guy to help but I'm not sure if thats gonna happen either...
I still haven't gotten the rear brake parts yet, I'll need to email Rusty....

Friday, September 5, 2008

More on the hood

8 coats of paint down, 1 disaster passed, 3 different types of roller used and the end is in sight.

Okay lesson #1 it really does need to be thinned 50%.
#2 you NEED a HIGH DENSITY foam roller. Not the thing that looks like a mattress pad. The proper roller is tapered at one end. Spend some time squeezing rollers and pick out the stiffest one. Do NOT use a fabric roller, it'll leave brick like patterns.
#3 if it doesn't feel right wipe it all off and start over. I almost left a bad coat on to sand off later figuring it would cost me 2 coats to do so. Thats dumb, if its going to be WORSE I should just clean and repaint, which is what I did.
#4 more prep work (ie better sanding) at each step will make for a better job. I was too slow to get into 400 grit and didn't spend enough time there. Thats okay, this is a 50 foot car. If your car wants to look better don't worry as much about painting, spend more time on prep.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hoodwork continues

I have my doubts that anybody reads this but what the hell, I might as well continue in my own private Idaho. I'd always wondered what that phrase "private Idaho" ment. Hail mother internet, click on the link for the Urban Dictionary definition.

Anyway I worked from home yesterday, before work I put some POR-15 body filler on the dings and dents on the 240D's new hood. The stuff is basically fiberglass resin jelly with some fiber material in it. Its not bad but hard to get really smooth, should be strong though and its supposed to stick really well to POR-15.
At lunch I sanded down the filler (my $10 Harbor Freight sander worked well) and used some actual bondo brand filler to skim the low spots. Its important to not use a lot of bondo as its not flexible and will crack and fall off if used in big globs.
After work I sanded the bondo down and hit all those spots with POR-15 again. This time I painted out farther onto the exisiting body work. I also tried to flow a little extra into any little imperfections I found. I'm using POR-15 gas tank filler which is I think just thin POR-15 and it seems to work well for this.

Anyway hopefully today or tomorrow I can sand one more time (need to buy more sandpaper) and start rolling on the color coats.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I'm a big fan of odd things, if I weren't would I drive a diesel car? I'm not generically a big fan of Jay Leno which itself is kind of unusual since he's pretty odd. That said he's got a cool website and one of his newer videos is pretty amazing:

Its a Tatra T87. I'd never heard of Tatra before, but its a Chech car with a 3l aircooled v8, how neat is that? Check out his site, theres lots of other interesting cars. I like the Packard twin six and the old Saab especially. Only a couple Mercedes though and they aren't diesels, maybe I should see if Jay is interested in my 240D?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Quantum

So it was a crazy idea, fly out to Iowa, pick up a 25 year old car, and drive it 1300+ miles home. I didn't start to get really nervous until the day before when I starting thinking the whole thing through. Worse my wife wanted to come with me. Its one thing to beat the snot out of yourself driving 1300+ miles, its another thing entirely to do it with another person.
The car was okay, keep in mind it was a $1500 car so I wasn't expecting perfection. It starts good and runs nice. The speedo is off, Don (the owner) said he thought it was like 7mph off, I think its alot more like 20mph as it said we were going 70mph in 3rd gear. He also said it was "crazy fast" when it fact is just about the same as my 190D... The rust was a little more extensive than I'd thought but thats not a big surprise as he'd told me his pics made it look better than it was.
What did surprise me was the lack of working door locks. We'd hoped to spend a day in Chicago with a friend of mine but with no working door locks (no trunk lock at all) that surely wasn't gonna happen.
Then there was the missing radio antenna, one rear window that wouldn't work and a bunch of other little piddling stuff (oh, bad bad rear shocks, felt like you were at sea) that all compounded into me having a really bad feeling about driving 1300+ miles.
If I had that car here and it was for sale for $1500 it'd be a no brainer, bring it to me now. I'd have time to fix the little things at my leisure and all would be well... I just didn't feel comfortable with that distance a drive with a car I wasn't really sure about. Don didn't seem to want to sell the car either, witness that he fixed the locks the day AFTER I left...

So anyway I'll be fixing the 240D, the warts will be removed and it'll go back into service. It'll become the $1500 car it was when I bought it originally. I'm going to keep my eyes open for another VW though, I liked what I saw...


On selling cars

So my 240D is not for sale any longer. The Quantum in Iowa was not what I expected and we declined to buy, thus the 240D will become Angie's daily driver.
What amazes me is the stupid questions people asked, it was an $800 car remember? I got a lot of "Does it have issues?" Of COURSE it has issues, its an $800 car. If it was perfect it'd be a $10,000 car...

I spent some time looking at cars on eBay today and noticed one common thread, "The A/C works but doesn't blow cold." Guess what kids, if the A/C doesn't blow cold, IT DOESN'T WORK. The A/C's whole job is to blow cold...


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Selling Christmas presents?

Didja ever get something for Christmas that you just didn't want? What about your birthday? My grandmother was great for giving me clothes that didn't fit or were not even remotely something I would wear. The great thing was that she bought EVERYTHING from JC Penny so I could return it and get something I liked. Then I could wear it and tell her how much I loved it. She'd never remember that she hadn't bought it for me and everybody was happy.
This year for my birthday my Mom got me a Nintendo game I already had. Its cool though, its a great game. I sold the one I already had and kept the one Mom got me. I figure that one is totally inbounds, I kept the one my mom got me, I know I did, it was still in the plastic wrap. For Christmas my inlaws got me a game I don't like. Ninja-breadman. Its not a bad game, I played it a couple times, its kinda fun but its just not something I'm into. Its been on the shelf now unplayed for months.
At work we've got a forsale and wanted board. Its where I sold the game my Mom bought me a dupe of. I've listed Ninja-breadman there but I feel kinda funny about it. I'm selling a Christmas present. When I was a kid selling or trading Christmas presents was strictly verboten... What am I supposed to do, keep it forever?


Monday, August 11, 2008


Does anybody reading this freecycle? I've given away a couple things and gotten a couple loads of wood from it. The thing that gets me is the people who appear to be asking for stuff they really should go out and buy. I guess if you view it as recycling thats one thing but sometimes it seems like people are just too cheap to get stuff or are so stuck on having stuff they're using this to get stuff they don't really need or deserve.

For instance: "I would like a AC that would cover a 4 room apartment, or at least the 2 rooms." Thats pretty specific. I think if I didn't have any money and I wanted an airconditioner for FREE I'd just ask for what I could get. What if its too small for 2 rooms are you gonna be a turkey and not take it? Hell there was a time I'd have taken ANY airconditioner and called it the greatest thing ever! I also note the lack of thanks in the message like freecycle is where you go and place your order and stuff appears. Once I requested wood fencing to make a sign from and I was super polite and thankful these other folks amaze me.

Heres a good one: "looking for a canoe, doesn't have to be perfect just has to float! thanks in advance"

And one I replied to " Pie pans, clean jars with lids,containers,old cd's,milk covers &
bands,bottle caps, cork, etc. Anything crafty and recyclable!" which is for a business that has kids make little craft projects. I responded with an offer of stuff and even a suggestion on how to use it and they can't even bother to reply... I was a little perturbed about a business posting a request on freecycle and then they can't even reply when somebody offers, thats lousy. If you think my stuff isn't good enough just say so.

Ahh to have your craft stuff turned down, bottom of the barrel.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Odometer repair

Ever wonder how the odometer works in your car? Its actually a pretty simple gizmo. The odo in Hammie the 240D is suffering from old Mercedes odometer syndrome (omods). When I owned the car before the odometer worked fine but the trip meter would count up to .9 and stop. Now nothing works at all. A guy from the Mercedes list sent me a bad odo (along with the speedo) that had similar symptoms (no complaints about the trip but the odo didn't work). I took it apart and discovered that there is a metal wheel that is driven by the speedo and then drives the odo. That wheel was slipping on its shaft and thus couldn't be driven properly. After some trial and error I carefully built up the inside of the wheel so it gripped the shaft more tightly and refitted everything together. Now odo and trip meter work fine.

With any luck tonight I'll pull the odo from the 240D and find it has the same problem and the trip meter is similar. Easy fix for no cost with glue I've already got...


Monday, August 4, 2008

The best things in life

It'd appear the best things in life for me right now are the things I don't have. I don't have an ex, don't have alimony payments, don't have cancer. I don't have a mortgage I can't pay, I don't need credit counseling services and don't have a therapist. I don't need fast women or loose cars. I don't want for much of anything or much for want of anything...
All in all I'd say I'm pretty lucky.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Too many projects

This post title appears in both my blogs but the content is different, check 'em both out.

With the Quantum coming in a couple weeks I need some more space. To get that I need to get rid of a vehicle, so Hammie's got to go. Of course as Hammie is a project vehicle I realize I'm going to take a bath on this.
So, for sale: 1983 Mercedes-Benz 240D. Good running 2.4l diesel motor capable of 28mpg, the best tank I had with it was 32mpg but 28 is the average. Its got a brand new exhaust, replacement fog lights and rebuilt door locks. It still needs a replacement hood and to have the parking brake free'd up. I need to put the driver's door panel back together but will do that before sale.
The biggest thing it needs is to be driven, in Mercedes circles we say it needs "An Italian Tune up" which means it needs to have the stink driven out of it.
Anyway I've got $800 into this thing, I want $800 back out of it. Before sale it'll have a fresh oil change, air filter and fuel filter. I should also have the power locking system working again.

If you're interested drop me a note

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I bought a chainsaw

Where I come from you don't buy chainsaws, its a practice which simply isn't done, nobody buys a chainsaw. Okay so everybody has a chainsaw, you might wonder where they come from. At camp we have 2 right now, and I had one at home. One at camp was my grandfathers, I dunno where he got it but Dad and I didn't buy it. Dad's big Echo fell out of a truck one day in front of the house. No joke, I remember telling him "hey, theres a chainsaw in the road". Nobody every claimed it so he's had it for years and years.
My other chainsaw was Uncle Reg's which I sort of aquired right after he died. We HAD an old Remington on the farm at one point, my cousins had filled the gas with bar and chain oil... Dad and I drained that out and we got it running. Then somebody (hmmm) stole it... I wonder if it'll come back when they get drunk and fill it with bar and chain oil again?
So anyway the saw I had is just a little one, 14" bar, little engine, good for cutting brush or limbs but no good for real serious work. So I drove up to Jaffrey to Coll's and bought a Husqvarna 445. I bought a Husky because thats what they sell and have sold for years. Theres also several other places to buy Huskys or to get somebody to work on them. I was concerned about parts and service availablity so this seems like a good choice.
Some people say I should have bought a Sthil but the nearest Sthil dealer of any quality is in Leominster. Leominster is farther away and as its in MA you have to pay sales tax. Jaffrey is in tax free New Hampshire.
Some people would say I should have gotten a Rancher 455 but those run $100-$150 more than I paid for the 445. The 455 is a great saw but I just don't need that much saw. I'd be very surprised if I ever managed to wear out the 445... If I'm lucky I'll cut 4 cords in a year and that'd be a big year for me...

Anyway, the first use last Sunday shows the 445 to be fantastic for my needs. I've never used a saw that cut with so little effort on my part. I just line it up, pull the trigger and it blows through the log. I move over a bit and repeat... What more could I ask for?

What a week!

Monday morning my Angie woke up to bad stomach cramps. I called the ambulance around 3am.

Today the dog had to go for shots, he had a bad reaction to one of them and started vomiting. We spent most of this afternoon at the vet's watching Buster (the dog) barf...
Fortunately today was a "work at home" day for me which turned into an "accomplish nothing at home" day.

On the plus side the dog now appears to be fine. He had to get a shot of benedryl a steroid which he HATED and made him twitchy for an hour and then he slept like the dead (I checked his pulse and breathing several times to prove he hadn't expired) for several hours. Now he's back chewing on his nylon bone and pissed because we won't feed him... The doc said he's only to have a little bland diet (chicken and white rice) tonight so we'll get to that in a little bit.

On the minus side I haven't really slept since Saturday. My wife while she's feeling better is still not 100% so she's not sleeping well. She's not sleeping well so I'm not sleeping well which mades for an unpleasant me and just not a fun time. I'm planning on an 8pm bedtime tonight.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to take the new chainsaw and cut some wood...

And here its only Wednesday!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Weight loss continues

218# today which is a record low for me. I haven't been this light in a decade and a half... Its neat because now the weight seems to nearly shed itself, I've lost maybe 4# this month, walking the dog every day seems to be paying off.
I've been telling people the Ring Ding story that I wrote about the other day and apparently most people don't see the irony in a fat man eating a ring ding or perhaps its that other people don't think that irony is as funny as I do...

Monday, July 21, 2008


Angie's got a stomach bug, she woke up at 3am in terrible pain. I had to call for an ambulance. It was weird, I heard her cry out and I was up and out of bed before my eyes were open running totally on instinct but once I'd come to I was pretty well useless, she had to direct the show. The EMTs were fantastic, got her to the hospital where they gave her some medicine that made things better (not fantastic, but better) and got some IV fluids in her. She stayed home today.

I had to work, it sucked. The thing is theres no backup for me, I work without a net. If I don't teach my class doesn't get taught and these guys that have traveled to see me teach get screwed. I like to think I did a pretty good job but I know I was pretty scattered and not terribly coherent but I explained what happened last night and told them I'd try my best. Its just on 8pm now and I'm so tired I don't know what to do with myself but I can't go to bed yet. The dog needs walking and I'm afraid that if I go to sleep too early I'll have to wake up to take him out later and not get back to sleep again. Then tomorrow would be worse than today.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Flame wars

I got onto these here interwebs back in the early days of '95. Some people will call me a newbie for not having used Arpanet. I used Gopher back in the day to talk to other idiots in innane sentance fragments...
Anyway today I found which is an index of the different idiots you'll find on different webforums that will attack you for pretty much anything you say.
Which flame warrior are you? I like to think I'm the evil clown. Not because I like to get into flame wars although I'll admit I've been through a flame war or two in my day, maybe even started a couple, but I like the name "evil clown"..

That said I'm not sure I'm evil.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I love cars

My first car was an '84 Ford Tempo, it was a blast I have great memories of it even though it was a fairly cheap car.
Then I had: '88 GMC Jimmy S15, '96 Dodge Dakota, '81 Mercedes-Benz 300TD, '83 Mercedes-Benz 240D, and '85 Mercedes-Benz 190D.
I currently have the Dodge, the 240D and the 190D. The idea was that I'll drive the 190D since I drive 110 miles a day (yay 40 mpg!) Angie will drive the 240D on her 20 mile commute (28mpg!) and the pickup gets used for pickup stuff (12mpg).
Now a guy on the Mercedes list is selling his '83 VW Quantum diesel (45mpg) for a very reasonable price and I WANT it. I've always kind of wanted a VW diesel, they're pretty cool. When I was in high school the drama teacher had a Dasher diesel wagon in her barn and I thought it was very cool.
The downside with the Quantum is its in Iowa... I don't think thats going to stop me, I've planned to fly out and drive the thing back. Its about 1300 miles and I know from experience I can do 1400 miles in 3 pretty easy days. It looks like about $500 for airfare, fuel, food and lodging. Less if I eat sandwiches and sleep in the car. Angie is on board with the idea so add $150 for her airfare...
Justin that I work with says theres a big amusment park in Ohio that has loads of rollercoasters. I enjoy a roller coaster so maybe we can stop there on our way back. My friend Krista lives in Chicago as does my friend Matt. I've never been to Chicago, might be fun to stop and I bet they'd put us up for a night...

So the great American road movie, before fuel becomes so expensive it's inconcievable...


Sunday, July 13, 2008

I wonder if he knows?

Eating lunch in the breakroom at work the other day I had the opportunity to watch a fat man eat a ring ding.

He is an actual fat man, about 5'8" maybe 250 or 275, one that has to swing his arms out when he walks because otherwise they'll bounce on his belly. It was a real ring ding too, I could read the label.

I love ring dings. If you don't remember them, think a hockey puck of chocolate goodness. They have a corner at the top which is my favorite part, they're cream filled too which is nice but not a requirement in my book. I haven't had a ring ding in I don't know how long. Probably 8 years at least, since I graduated from college and stopped going back to my parent's house anyway. I can still remember the texture of that chocolate corner though.

You might wonder why I haven't had a ring ding in so long if I like them so much. I'm 6', 220#. Chunky but not really fat as such. The problem is a couple years ago I was 240#. Its taken me about 5 years to lose 20#. I'd really like to lose another 20# and while I'd prefer to do it in less than 5 years if thats what it takes I'd be happy with it. 20 pounds in 5 years is 4 pounds a year. That may not seem like much but if you were gaining 4 pounds a years... Anyway its the gaining of pounds that makes me not eat ring dings.

I didn't see what else the fat man had for lunch but I'm guessing the ring ding was representative. I suppose if it makes him happy good for him...

Door locks

Got Wilton's package yesterday with 2 replacement door handles and locks, thank you sir!

Turns out the lock tumblers basically fall out of the cylinder when everything isn't all jammed up. So I cut my old driver's side cylinder apart (finished cutting anyway, I'd started last week. Cleaned each tumbler good with a wire wheel and 400 grit sandpaper.
Interestingly my tumblers didn't fit in Wilton's cylinder the same as they fit in mine, odd... I had to use a mixture of his and mine to make it work. Never the less we got there.
So based on what I now know I realized the lock I'd already "freed up" was only set to fail again. So I took it apart once more and freed ALL the tumblers rather than just the 6 that came easily. Then took them out and cleaned 'em real good. I don't know what MB used in these for lube but its yellow and grease like and mine had picked up lots of dirt and turned into concrete. I sanded the cylinder and tumblers with 600grit to make it all work perfectly smooth and then lubed with graphite from a spray can (its in some kind of carrier).

So the locks are DONE. The doors still need to be buttoned up, they need moisture barriers too. I want to hold off on the drivers door as I haven't tested for vacuum leaks there yet. I already did the passenger's side.

Out of time though, gotta go to a barbeque.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Done and done

Heres the before. This is with all the rotted metal removed.
And after.
Thats a coat of paint and a good thick coat of undercoat.

Tomorrow theres a rust spot behind the rear wheel to take care of. I don't know if that'll require welding but it'll get POR15. Then I want to get the new antenna installed so I can see if the one in this car can combine with the one from Hammie to make a working one. Otherwise Hammie gets an eBay antenna too.


Don't touch, HOT!

Yeah, after you weld a piece in and then grind off the excess weld, don't touch it without gloves on. I don't care if the gloves are in your way and you can't feel if your welding was good enough...

The burn is 22ga, the same thickness as the metal I was welding in and goes right across where the blister I got from Hammie a couple weeks ago had healed up...

Buttttt the second jack point is all welded, ground down and painted. Pretty soon I'll go hit it with the undercoating.


Welcome to July!

Summer is here and what better time to weld up the ravages of winter? Yeah its 95 degrees out, lets haul out the welder! Genius...
Anyway the area around the jack points on my 190D is in pretty terrible shape so I started with the passenger side. What I'd thought were streamers of metal hanging out were in fact the rubber undercoating, there was basically no metal there. I cut back to good metal and welded in a bunch of 22ga sheet metal. 22ga seems about like what I was cutting away, maybe slightly heavy but this is an area that'll have a hard life...
I had to weld 2 plates into the side, one big one to cover the old jack point (I hate those jack point jacks, I use a scissors jack and lift from underneith anyway) and a small one up under the door. Then another big plate underneith the car. I slapped some black Rustoleum on and when it had dried sprayed some rubber undercoating on for good measure.
Not too bad I don't think.

This is the driver's side. I spent a few minutes last night picking the rust and undercoating off. Its pretty much the same as the passenger's side, actually this side isn't as bad...

Well, back at it...


Friday, June 27, 2008

Time killer

So while I was away I found which is a truely excellent way to kill time. If you decide to play and then upgrade your account be sure to mention my name Curtludwig. That'll give me a bonus and won't cost you anything extra.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Door locks!

So I decided to try cutting the door handles out of the door. Meaning I decided to try cutting the link from the key bit to the lock bit.

Yeah right. Its way up there and goes the wrong way, almost impossible to get at with a dremel, file or hacksaw. Totally impossible for the angle grinder.

So I sat and stared awhile and finally it occured to me to take out the latch mechanism. Thats what the rod attaches to. Once I had that loose I could push it toward the outside of the car, pull the door handle out and rotate the whole handle to free the rod.

Knock the pin out that holds the rod and the lock falls out of the handle. The lock is simplicity itself and is not working because the tumblers won't pull in around the key. I've got the lock assembly sitting in a yoghurt cup of SeaFoam Deep Creep. With luck by morning it'll be all free'd up and I can do the other side.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Not much

Sittin in Burbank, California doin not much of anything. I've been here for 7 days now. My guts are messed up from eating too much restaurant food. I think tomorrow I'll investigate the yoghurt place for breakfast.

I get home Thursday morning at ~8am. Saturday afternoon we go pick up our new dog. He's a dachshund, corgi, basset hound mix. We're getting him from Arkansas where he's apparently in what they call a "high kill shelter" meaning a lot of the unwanted dogs are put out of their misery. His name is Feisty and with any luck at all we'll have a grand time.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Ignorance was bliss

We need a new pickup. My Dakota has 215,000 miles on it and is on its last legs. The body is rusting badly, the heater leaks the transmission is getting sloppy, gas mileage is down. The engine still runs great though...
I'd been thinking about a Chevy Colorado, they're cheap, decent gas mileage, good options list, lots of places sell 'em...

The reviews I've read are really mixed, some people love it, some people hate it. 2004 seems to be a particularly bad year...

I just checked for reviews of the GMC Canyon which is essentially the same trucks and there are still negative reviews but on the whole much more positive. Apparently the dealer you choose makes a huge difference too...

I wish somebody that knew something about these (like somebody that had one) would give me a shout.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What I do

When your family asks what it is you do is there an easy answer? It must be nice for carpenters and the like: "Oh, I'm a carpenter".
The company I work for makes video and audio editing hardware and software. Thats kind of a mouthfull to get out as a quick explanation. I had been saying "I work for a company that makes the things that make TV" but that required alot of explanation. If it seemed like the person was real interested I'd follow up with "Stanley makes hammers right? Stanley doesn't make houses, they make the things that make houses. Avid doesn't make TV shows, we make the things that make TV shows."
I'm a trainer. I thought the name "trainer" was pretty clear. Now that I think about it though I wonder if people thought I was a personal trainer. If you've seen me you know my physique doesn't lend any credibility to that... So "Instructor" works better and is actually on my business card. It does lend the question "Well what do you instruct?" I teach people how to support large shared storage arrays, but nobody knows what that means. So now I tell people, "I teach how to use really big harddrives." I kind of like thinking that people envision harddrives big enough to ride in....


Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Already I'm not good about updating this thing, what a drag.
Heres part of the reason why:Thats Hammie, my 1983 Mercedes-Benz 240D. I'd bought him in '03 and then sold him to Devin in '06. Now I've bought him back from Devin again. The economics of the whole thing are astounding. I'll post them if/when I get the car on the road.
You can read the chronicle of the 240D here:

Other than that we spent a week at camp which was great. While we were there we pulled my Dad's swamp buggy to the new garage. That was quite an event. I rode from where the buggy was parked to the garage with the Super M tractor in second gear, thats about 2mph... It took forever but any seat time on the tractor is good time. I'll post pics of that later on.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Something different

Heres something else I've been working on. Its a 1965 Snapper Comet 30. As near as I can tell it has a '67 8hp Briggs. The story goes that my great Uncle Paris bought this after it had been used on the Fort Fairfield, Maine golf course for a couple years. Apparently the golf course was hard on it and it had to be re-powered hence the '67 motor. It got used on the farm until about 1990 or so when Reg bought a front engine White mower that we've still got. Of the two the Snapper looks better...

The Snapper then sat under a tree until last fall (2007) when I hauled it to my house.
Anyway its now in my garage, the motor is off but I'm having a terrible time trying to get the pully off it. I've tried drilling but the screws must be made out of magic because no drill I try will cut them. I'd like to repower this with a brand new motor at which point (well, with new tires) it should be pretty much good to go. The next step would be a cosmetic upgrade but it'd be cool to cut the grass with this old mower...

If you've got a pulley for an old Snapper I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What I'm up to

What I'm up to now is mostly waiting. My Honda '82 CB900f motorcycle is down for the count waiting for a new tachometer seal. The seal goes in the valve cover and should (along with a new valve cover seal) stop the flow of oil onto my pants.
My '89 Kawasaki LTD 454 is waiting for the CB900f to get fixed so I can do basically the same fix on it. The idea was I'd have a bike to ride while I was fixing one. It suddenly occurs to me how stupid that sounds... I think tonight I'll take the Kawi apart too. I've got what I hope are all the parts that one needs. That assumes it either doesn't have the same tach seal problem or that if it does the seal won't come apart and I'll be able to fix it with some RTV. The seal on the CB900f totally shredded so there was no chance of sticking it back together.

Sometime this weekend or next week I should get my old '83 Mercedes 240D (Hammie) back. I'd sold it to my friend Devin a couple years ago when I lived in an apartment and couldn't have 3 vehicles. Now we're at a point where a 3rd vehicle would be handy. The plan is for Angie to drive the 240D since it'll get much better fuel mileage. The rub of course is that diesel fuel is more expensive than gas. So I made up a spreadsheet. For giggles I even included myself and my 190D just to see. Assuming the Dakota is getting the 14mpg the EPA originally estimated (the new estimate is 13mpg) and giving the 240D only 24mpg (when I used to commute with it I was getting more like 28) She's paying $5.00 a day now, thats $1250 a year. With the 240D she'll pay more like $3.67 a day which is $916 a year.

So basically she'll save enough to pay for the insurance on the car.

Theres other benefits though. We'll have 3 cars, if one goes down we're covered. This'll allow us some latitude to actually fix up some cars and save money doing it because I can do more of the work myself without worrying that I'll get us into a spot where we won't have a car available. It'll take miles off the Dakota which is nearing the end of its lifespan and finally it'll give us a 4 seater sedan should we have friends over and all want to go someplace together. The Dakota and my 190D are both 4 seat vehicles that only hold 2 people comfortably...

Anyway the first big mission on the 240D will be a new exhaust. I had one put on right after I bought the car 5 years ago (5 years ago last month actually) and the rear muffler has fallen off. A replacement exhaust is around $200, I paid $450 installed last time so we already see big savings. Its also a good excuse for me to buy lift ramps and a floor jack that a guy at work has for sale...

If anybody is interested in the spreadsheet drop me a note and I'll send it to you.

Gratuitious link back

I mentioned I have another blog "Dead Sled Wrenching" its my life and times playing with old snowmobiles. As its summertime (well spring really) my focus is decidedly NOT on old snowmobiles right now....

So here we go

Its summertime and as my main blog is all about old snowmobiles I'll be doing alot of stuff in the next few months that doesn't fit, hence the need for another blog. There'll probably be alot of cross-polination between the two, theres only one me after all...