Friday, December 13, 2013

Yahoo mail blows it again

Do any of you use Yahoo mail? I have for years, lately it seems like Yahoo goes out of their way to piss off the users. Just last night they instituted another change so now each email is previewed in the subject line. This makes the subject like all cluttered and ugly.

Yahoo started pissing me off last summer when they canceled classic mail and required the new interface which I hate. Its much slower and crashes. All I need my email to do is show me my messages and let me reply. I don't need a happy ending that crashes half the time anyway.
A lot of my friends say "go to Gmail!" as if it were the greatest thing since sliced bread but honestly I don't like gmail at all and I hate the way Google automatically sorts my mail for me.

Its weird right? I've got very simple needs in my email:
Show me the messages in a list (NO conversations, I hate those)
Allow me to reply
Let me sort mail into folders
Let me search those folders.

Yahoo really falls down on that last one, today I wanted to search by keyword "verizon" because I couldn't remember the username for my Verizon account. The problem is that Yahoo kept providing every message I'd ever gotten from anybody with a Verizon email account. They also provided every REPLY I'd ever given to anybody with a Verizon account and every email from my trash. What a dumb system, it should show me my replies and my trash last if at all...

I could of course use an email reader like Thunderbird but I like having webmail because I use many computers through the course of the day. In the end I may end up writing my own email service. The old saw comes true, "If you want something done right you need to do it yourself"

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sold a stove!

I think this marks the first time I've actually sold any Coleman anything. Oh no wait, I sold a 242C to Fuzz back at the original TrueNorth gathering.
What, no pic? I thought we had a pic...

Anyway the other day I sold my 502 single burner stove. Honestly I never really liked that stove, it didn't put out all that much heat for its size and when I bought my Peak 1 I knew it was time for the 502 to go. The Peak 1 is physically smaller, weighs less, lights easier and puts out way more heat than the 502. I also paid less for it. In the sale I got back what I paid for the 502 which I consider a win.

502 on the left, Peak 1 on the right. Its hard to tell in this picture how much more fire the Peak 1 puts out...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Oil change day!

Just a quick one for your Cyber-Monday.
Decided it was time enough to change the oil in the '84 190D. It'd been either 10,000 or 20,000 miles, I don't recall and I can't find the slip I wrote, or should have written. So I took it for a quick spin to warm and shake things up, then hooked my topsider up and sucked the oil out. It looked like MB diesel oil always does, black and nasty. Something is wrong with my topsider I had to pump it a million times to get all the oil out. Thats no real surprise though, its always been like that ;)

With new oil and a new filter in the 190D I figured I ought to get the lawnmower changed out too so I fired it up, or at least I TRIED to fire it up, it was all fire and no up. A shot of starting fluid go it to go but it quit right away. I finally realized it had no gas...

Whoops, a quick splash of gas and I took it for a spin around the yard to warm up, a quick drain and fill later and its to bed for the winter. I still need to move it back to its wintertime sleepy spot but the garage is FULL of recycling and garbage. I meant to go to the transfer station well before now I really did but I just haven't had time. Hopefully Thursday I'll get a chance since the weekend looks absurdly busy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Concern abated?

Its been just over a month and this blog has gotten just over 1000 views. Thats a large multiple of what I was getting in the past (around 1000 a year) so apparently my plea has helped at least a little.

Anyway last week was deer camp. We didn't shoot any deer although with some good snow Monday/Tuesday I was able to spend some time tracking a couple around the farm. At one point I wasn't far behind one but never could catch up. I spent the week hunting with my friend Mike, we saw:
1 rabbit. Well 1 rabbit in the wild, there was another hanging around camp but I don't shoot our "tame" rabbits.

4 partridge. We never really had the chance to shoot. Mike probably could have gotten a shot at one of them but it would have been questionable so he was probably right not to.

A couple squirrels. Mike managed to shoot one. Red squirrels are a bit of a menace so this is more pest removal than anything else.

And the deer I hit with the truck. Yeah, hit it with the passenger side front bumper. It broke the lower plastic surround on the headlight and knocked out the fog light which I never did find. I couldn't find the deer either so apparently it didn't die.

Overall it was a fun week at camp, it was fairly cold, in the high 20s during the day most of the week and in the teens at night. Our new insulation worked out perfectly, we still had snow on the roof after 3 or 4 days even with Eric getting it up to 85 degrees inside. We do need to put in a better supply of wood, although our consumption has been cut about in half we still burned maybe 1/8 cord during the week and while we had plenty of wood if we'd tried to stay a few more days we'd have had to use some stuff that was pretty wet. My Mark 2 wood rack (which I forgot to get a finished picture of) worked out great, its exactly the right size. In the spring I'll build another one, we really do need two piles, one for dry wood and one for drying.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I think I should be slightly concerned.

Here I've got a blog, my blog has 178 posts and over 6,000 views. The ads on the blog make me something like $0.07 a week. Over on YouTube I've got 75 videos from which I get around $15 a month.

Today I stumbled on the list of followers for this blog, that number is zero. My YouTube channel has 199 subscribers. The blog has 6 comments, the YouTube channel gets that every month.

Conclusion? I'm a much better videographer than blogger.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Transmission oil

The Jetta has had a persistent transmission whine since I got it. When I checked it was a little low on oil. Interestingly this car wants a GL4 gear oil. This is strange to me as every other manual transmission I've ever owned from my '88 GMC to my '78 240D wanted ATF. It also seems that everybody has an opinion about what to use in there. Everything from G70 which is what VW provides and is water thin, to 75w90 synthetic gear oil. There are 2 different complaints, thin stuff like G70 makes the trans whine, heavy stuff like gear oil makes it hard to shift when cold.

With that all in mind I decided to do the "2 quart method", a quart of Redline MT-90 which is heavier and should handle the whine and a quart of Redline MTL which is lighter and should help cold shifts.

To drain the transmission that blasted underbody panel has to come out so the car has to be jacked up. Other than that its really no big deal with a big allen socket to get the plug out. Remember on a job like this to always remove the fill plug first, that way if something goes wrong you haven't drained out all the fluid with no way to put it back.

As you can see the stuff I got out is nasty, it smells vaugely of gear oil which it should but wasn't see through, very cloudy. Thinner than I'd expected too. I wonder if nobody had ever changed it and the gear whine was yet another reason the car was donated.

With the Redline in the transmission is much quieter. I'm well pleased with this and although the Redline (I got from Amazon) is fairly expensive at this point I feel its worth it. We'll see how the shifting is when it gets colder but for now its smooth, maybe smoother than before I started but I'll need to drive some more before I go that far.

Still got quite an oil leak going on. I can see where Keith changed the oil pan gasket an the leak now appears to be above that on the back side of the engine, maybe somewhere around the turbo. Its quite a challenging place to get at without a lift. Its possible that this car wasn't using synthetic oil before and maybe by changing to good synthetic oil some seals will swell and stop the leak. I'm not real confident but I'm willing to give it a shot. Otherwise I'll feed it and watch it close for awhile and then get it back to Keith for another shot.

Not many truck choices anymore

My Ranger has about had it. Sure we've only had it for 5 years but it was 5 years old when we got it and on its 10th anniversary its got rust catching hold. At last count there were 5 holes in the bed, the rocker panel under the passenger's door was perforated like a book of stamps until I covered it with fiberglass and one of the gas tank straps is head together with wire. Its got just under 100,000 miles and runs like a champ but the body is just falling away to nothing. I'll keep it together one more year but the end is clearly approaching. In 2003 my folks bought a pair of 2004 Jeep Liberties owing to a drunk driver smashing both of their vehicles in their driveway. Both their vehicles are coming due for replacement and so I've been thinking a lot about new vehicles.

If you take your vehicle offroad on any kind of regular basis you are clearly in the minority and the car makers have basically written you off. For 2014 Jeep has reintroduced the Cherokee but its based on the Dodge Dart chassis and while it has loads of technology and has been lauded as a good offroader the air dams down low tell the whole story.
My Ranger has lived a tough life, its hauled wood, snowmobiles, cars and junk. Its gone to the dump into the city and into the woods. The limited slip differential has made it much more capable than I ever expected and I'm pleased with that. Its rough riding on the highway but its backwoods prowess more than makes up for its lack of onroad manners. Fuel economy is terrible, its almost exactly the same as the V8 Dakota it replaced which is crazy considering its V6 engine is a whole liter smaller in displacement, its shorter, narrower and lighter...

So anyway what are our choices? Well the Ranger is no more, Dakota is no more, Liberty is no more so we can't go back to where we came from. The Colorado was a leading choice in the last round but its no more leaving the big 3 with zero choices in a mid-size or smaller truck. Same goes for SUV, the Durango is a car, Escape and Explorer are cars, Chevy's midsize appears to be the Equinox which is a car. The Wrangler is the last real SUV standing from Chrysler corp.
From the east the only players left are the Nissan Xterra and Toyota's FJ Cruiser. Both are available with offroad specific models but you're going to pay for it. I'm always amazed by the people who pay $30,000 and then take the truck into the woods.

On the pickup front we're looking at either a Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier. This is driven by the fact that there just aren't ANY midsize pickups other than those 2. I don't particularly want a full size truck, especially not an extended cab, they're so big and hard to park. Interestingly the full size Chevy and Ford with a v6 don't really get any worse gas mileage. I'm thinking we might be able to get away with a single cab pickup if we got a cap on it. Traditionally we use the pickup to go to camp and carrying our luggage and the dog has been a big problem. Realistically we could get away with an SUV and be better off but as I wrote above there really aren't a lot of choices and strangely the Xterra gets slightly WORSE mileage than the Frontier...

In the end it'll be what we can find. As I've said before I really don't want to drop $30,000 on a truck that gets worked, I'd rather find another $10,000 (what I paid for the Ranger) truck and run it for 5 more years. We've had to put some money into the Ranger but not a terrific amount, certainly not $20,000. Angie says we should buy something brand new but I think she doesn't realize that we'll be buying a new truck every 5-10 years for the rest of our lives and that the amount per year is probably more important than anything else. At 5 years the Ranger has cost (based only on purchase price) $2,000/yr. The Dakota cost me $16,000 but was only 3 years old. We ran that for 9 years so I got that for $1,700/yr. If we pay $30,000 for a truck we'd have to run it for almost 18 years to get the same kind of numbers and the issue here is of course that it'll rust out before we get anywhere near that...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

De-stickered and got a sticker!

I'm way out of order now but the other day I finally got down to removing the ugly bumper stickers on the Jetta. One had weathered to the point it was completely illegible, the other was for some place in Puerto Rico that I've never been to. I'm really not a fan of bumper stickers anyway, especially not political ones. Does anybody ever vote for anybody because they see a bumper sticker? Are you driving along debating Romney vs Obama and suddenly that sticker puts you over the edge?

Fortunately most stickers aren't that hard to remove. I used a hair dryer and a razor blade and it was quick work.

Now that I've been all down on bumper stickers I have an admission to make.We went to Pickety Place for our anniversary dinner and I found this little critter:

I couldn't pass it up and the best part is that its on a magnet so I can remove it with no hassle at all. Its really just a sticker on a magnet so I gave it a quick shot of clearcoat to make it last longer. We actually got 4 total of these magnets, look for the others in future posts.

Last note I got the car inspected, that is to say I "got a sticker" which means we're fully legal and on the road!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Shifter boot

The shifter boot on the Jetta was a little tatty so I ordered a replacement from Redline goods. It arrived just before the car was to go into the shop and knowing Keith was going to be working on the shifter bushings I decided to hold off on installation. The Redline product is very nice, real leather with a different color stitching at no extra cost.
Shifter installation is very easy, unscrew the shifter knob, pull the bottom of the boot off the base and slip it out, then reverse. I accidentally ordered graphite at the time not remembering the interior on my car is black but I like the contrast between the two especially with the white stitching.

I'd also ordered the parking brake boot. I probably didn't need that but wanted them to look the same. This is where things got weird, the parking brake boot is considerably harder to get out of place, theres a trim piece around the nose of the handle (where you push to release the brake) that has to be pried out, then the console has to come up, a trim ring gets removed and the boot is actually stapled to that trim ring...

I finally got it all apart and was disappointed to find that the was no way the replacement was going to fit. It'll slide about 60% of the way on to the parking brake handle but no more plus the bottom of the boot wouldn't fit the trim ring and has its tabs in the wrong places so even if it did fit the trim ring wouldn't be able to clip on. My guess is that this boot is for a mk4 Jetta while mine is a mk3.

I emailed Redline and got a response (Saturday morning no less) asking me if I would be willing to send my old boot so they could make an exact custom fit. I'm going to do that next week. We'll see how that works out.

Overall for now I'm going to rate my experience with Redline as positive, they were quick to respond and the offer seems like a good one. We'll see how getting the custom boot works out.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A little lantern talk

I know at least a few of my readers come from the lantern world and in review I haven't posted anything about lanterns for a long time. Thats not to say I haven't done anything with lanterns lately although I must admit I haven't been doing a whole lot with them.

Last spring a co-worker came to me with a lantern that had been hanging on the wall of his camp for years and years. His family had given up on it some time in the '60s and periodically considered sending it to the dump but refrained because it had been grandpa's.
He sent me a couple pictures:

I made the mistake of immediately offering him $50. If I'd told him it was worthless and I'd take it if he wanted to get rid of it he'd have just hung it back on the shelf...
Look close at the second picture and you'll notice the winged fuel cap and slant R55 generator. I knew this was an odd duck and was excited to get my hands on it.
Here it is on my bench a couple weeks later:

It came apart quick, the pump leather was completely dried out:

Otherwise it seemed in good shape:

I was shocked when I cleaned the fount with a dish scrubber and soap and got this:

Apparently years of hanging over the old wood stove had protected the nickel. With a little polish the shine came up nicely.

The brass parts got a soak in citric acid and quick polish with steel wool:

It didn't need much for parts:

NOS R55 generator with the proper square nut, fuel cap gasket, new burner screens and packing. Not shown here is the beautiful mica chimney from Fred Kuntz.

Here it is all dolled up:

This was probably one of the easiest builds I've had, the inside of the fount was very clean. I didn't spend much time on the outside of the fount as I didn't want to polish through the nickel. I also didn't want to over restore the burner frame since the vent has a couple chips and I didn't think the owner wanted to have it re-enameled. If we were going to re-enamel the vent I'd suggest re-nickeling the fount and then polishing everything to a high shine, since we didn't I wanted everything to look like the nice, clean 1929 lantern it is.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

While I was at it

So the other day while I was doing the oil change I figured I should check the transmission oil. I already had the belly pan off and the car jacked up, and its right there. Also I'd noticed a whine in the transmission I didn't like.
The fill plug is a big head allen but its quite short. Fortunately I had one as it came in the kit I needed for the diff on the Mercedes. With the plug out the oil is supposed to be level with the hole. In my case is was well below level. Well that explains the noise...

I stopped over at Car Quest and bought some GL4 gear oil. Its surprising that VW specs gear oil for this job. Every other manual transmission I've ever had used ATF. Theres big debate on TDI Club about exactly what oil to get but this gear oil was the only thing I could get that met GL4 and not GL5.

The big debate centers on the fact that the stuff VW uses is more like ATF and the stuff they recommend is gear oil and way heavier. I'm thinking to get some Amsoil Synchromesh which is more like thick ATF than gear oil and give it a shot. Hopefully it'll be thin enough that winter time shifting won't be impaired. I haven't ordered any yet because I wanted Keith's (of KMH Motors) opinion before I tried anything.

The oil change!

If you read my last post you might have noticed that I forgot to tell you about the oil change. I figured I'd done enough running around on oil that was at least 2 years old and had who knows how many miles.

VW is pretty picky about what oil you can use in your car. Of course as old as this car is it doesn't really matter and lots of oils meet the old standards but I like using good oil. My local Car Quest has a great selection of oil and there I found Pentosin 5w40 which meets the VW 505 standard. My car actually only requires VW 501.1 but I thought it'd be nice to get an oil which met the better standard (current cars require 507 which is only 5w30). In consulting with the fellows there for a price one of them pointed out that the Car Quest brand 5w40 synthetic meets 505

The bottle doesn't actually mention the VW standards at all although it does give an older Mercedes-Benz standard. I found a flyer online that has the 501.1 and 505 references. A search online suggests the stuff is made for Car Quest by Valvoline and is probably pretty good (but not spectacular) oil. Its also $7 a gallon cheaper than I've been paying for Mobil 1 5w40 that I use in the 190D. I bought a couple gallons. I figure the first oil change is just making up for whatever garbage the previous owner used anyway. I'll run it up to 5,000 miles and pull a sample, based on the sample I'll decide my next step. 

The VW guys really like Rotella T6 but nobody can say WHY they like it. Oil is one of those quasi-religious decisions made mostly on feeling rather than facts. I've been using Mobil 1 in the 190D with oil analysis out to fairly long durations. The longest I've gone so far is 12,000 miles although analysis suggests I could probably go to 15 or 20k without problems. I get nervous...

Anyway the actual oil change on this car is a PAIN IN THE ASS! Lets compare it to the 190D, on that car you:
  • Pull out the dipstick, hook up the siphon hose
  • Pull a vacuum on the siphon container. This can be done with the hand pump or a vacuum cleaner.
  • Remove the 2x13mm bolts that hold the oil filter housing lid, remove lid and filter
  • Put in a new filter, add some oil, put the lid back on with its 2x13mm bolts
  • When the siphon is done remove it and add new oil
Easy peasy right? Compare to the Jetta:
  • Jack the car up, put a stand under one of the front wheels. The car is LOW, I can't get my head under there and without my big mellon under their I can't reach the belly pan bolts.
  • Remove the under car belly pan, 2 bolts at the rear of the pan, 2 plastic nuts and 2 more bolts up in the wheel well.
  • Remove the 19mm (!) oil drain plug
  • Remove the oil filter - This is why we removed the belly pan. The filter is at the front of the engine facing down. Pain in the butt to remove. Apparently this can be done from above but I had an AC line in the way that I didn't want to push real hard on.
  • Put the plug back in, new filter in. Again this job stinks. I pre-oiled the filter and added too much oil so when I tilted it to get it in place oil ran down and I couldn't hold the filter tightly enough to tighten it in place.
  • Put the plug back in and fill back up with oil
  • Put the belly pan back in place, 4 bolts and 2 plastic nuts remember!
Ugh. I'm hoping the Car Quest oil works out so I don't have to change the oil real frequently...

More bodywork and a trip to a real mechanic

Sorry kids, no pics of this just trust me that it was a horror show.
If you look back you'll see that I replaced about a 1 foot portion of the rocker under the driver's feet just aft of the front wheel. Well this time I cut from the rear of that part nearly to the rear wheel (and that wasn't far enough) and over the course of two days spent four hours each day welding back in.

In the course of the work I managed to cut a hole through the rusty floor under the driver's seat which required the removal of said seat (so I wouldn't burn the carpet) and produce some of the best (and not so best) body work I've ever done.

It still needs just a couple more inches at the rear of the car but I ran out of time, with luck I'll finish that side on Saturday. Not looking forward to the fact that the other side of the car needs equal time...

Tuesday I took the car for its longest single run to date, all the way to work. It behaved perfectly other than the sloppy shift bushings that prevented me from finding 5th gear. I was real worried about the timing belt (which turned out to be a good worry) so I wanted to keep the rpms down, thus I commuted 56 miles at 65mph which is about 3,000 rpm. The car acted perfectly even in heavy traffic and drove pleasantly.
The reason for taking the car to work pre-inspection was to drop it over at KMH Motors in Lowell. On the fixing list for Keith:

  • Timing belt - plus the tensioners and seals right by it
  • Water pump - this is not technically required but the pump lives behind the timing belt and if the pump failed I'd essentially need to do the belt again...
  • Coolant flush and fill - important since after the water distribution pipe job its mostly water
  • Shifter bushings - get 5th gear back!
  • Diagnose Check Engine light - I went over to Autozone and they pulled a P1550 code which is a pressure differential, could be a vacuum line, worst case could be the turbo
Today I got the call from Keith, most everything had been done, the CEL is probably the N75 valve which controls boost. They're known for crapping out and aren't too expensive. Interestingly when I dropped off the car the CEL was out, Keith said that kind of behavior was stereotypical for the N75, I said to do it. He also noticed a big oil leak from the oil pan gasket. I'd noticed a bunch of oil down there when I did an oil change (forgot to write about that, oops, next post!). I told him to go ahead and do the pan gasket too, I want to start my ownership of this car with as few problems as possible!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The legal stuff

Also known as a trip to the registry.

I was a little worried about this, the donation program I bought the car from doesn't actually take ownership of the car so I technically bought the car from a woman in Connecticut whom I never met. The other complicating factor is that the donation program held onto the car for 2 years and the last owner had dated the bill of sale. Never the less I figured I'd press on and see if ignorance and a happy disposition would pull me through.

It did, in the end I had to pay $56 in fines. Apparently you're not supposed to hold onto a car for 2 years without registering it. Somehow the whole deal only came out to $256 though, I'd thought the tax would have been more but I think in the excitement of "catching" me they forgot to check the value of the car and just accepted the value I gave on the bill of sale. Ironically I didn't even lie about what I'd paid for the car. Maybe honest is in fact the best policy.

After the easy trip to the registry I put the plates from the 240D onto the Jetta (no point in keeping the 240D registered and insured while it sits) and headed to Keene for tires. I'd noticed a Tire Warehouse up there and decided to give them a shot. I usually go to Gardner for tires but I wanted to go to the VW dealership anyway. This turned out to be a good choice, my sunny disposition continued and the guy gave me 4 tires with balancing, installation, nitrogen inflation (which is just a gimmick but whatever) and road hazard warranty for $300. Tack on another $65 for an alignment (which Gardner wouldn't have been able to do) and I was pretty happy. I'd planned (after researching my tire options on TireRack) to spend around $400...

Next Up: More rust repair and off to see a man about a timing belt

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Coolant leak

That, my friends, is a coolant leak.

Its called a water distribution pipe, you can see it here with the replacement. Apparently this is a fairly common failure, VW only put one coat of paint on the pipe. Still it did last 15 years so I can't complain too much. I spray bombed 2 more thick coats onto the replacement pipe this one ought to last 16 years anyway.

This is where it lives. The picture was taken looking over the driver's side fender. The pipe nestles down against the engine which means the intercooler piping has to come out of the way. Somehow in doing that I managed to trip the Check Engine Light (CEL) for code P1550. I think I got some of the vacuum or pressure hoses back on poorly or maybe broke a hose. I messed with it some, replaced a couple hoses but didn't make any difference. The car will run for a few minutes before the light comes on so I bet it would pass inspection but I want it fixed right, its got an appointment at KMH motors for the timing belt anyway...

Up next: The legal stuff

Friday, September 20, 2013


This (courtesy A2Resource) is the backside of the fuse box in my Jetta. Well okay its a diagram of the backside of the fuse box. You can see it, along with what every wire does here. When I posted questions about my electrical faults everybody kept pushing to this diagram so I finally sat down and really examined it. If you look at the top row on the outsides there are two grey/white spools, that helps you orient yourself when standing on your head under the dash. Not really knowing what I was looking for I went through the list looking for anything that pertained to horn, headlight, daytime running lamp or wipers. That finally took me to H2 and J, you'll find them in red in the upper right. This time, knowing what I was looking for, while probing around under the dash I finally spotted that J was unplugged and falling out of its socket. This shouldn't be able to happen, if you look at the bottom right of the connector there a little tab. Just below it theres a white bar that comes out on the right, thats the locking bar that ensures everything is plugged in and stays plugged in. I think somebody must have removed J at some point and not gotten the bar back in place.
Anyway I got J plugged back in and knew I was on the right track when I reconnected the battery and the hazard flashers came on.

Next: Coolant leak.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


My '98 Jetta TDI has something like 25 fuses, there are 22 in the main fuse block ranging from 10a to 30a. A big 50 amp blade fuse which I presume is for the starting circuit, a random 10a hanging out by itself above the relays and an 80a strip fuse for the glow plugs.

One of the old guys (now sadly departed) that used to be on the Okiebenz list always said to "REPLACE THE FUSES" in all caps just like that. He suggested that all sorts of electrical gremlins could be caused by fuses that looked good but were in fact bad or at least marginal. In all honesty I can't remember ever having that happen but with the current electrical issue driving me batty I figure anything is worth a try.

Here lie the remains of the fuse replacing. I didn't replace the big 50a starting fuse or the 80a glowplug fuse since the car starts and runs great, I did replace all of the smaller blade fuses. No change in the condition of anything though.

Honestly I didn't expect any big changes really, this was mostly to appease everybody on the Okiebenz list who kept reminding me to "renew the fuses".

On another note I've got a good big collection of parts coming in. Today I picked up an airfilter and shifter bushing kit. The shifter is a little sloppy, I want to tighten that up some. I also put 2 coats of paint on the water distribution pipe. This is a metal coolant pipe that goes from the overflow bottle to the heater and water pump. Failure at this point (15 years old after all) isn't apparently terribly uncommon and they seem to rust from the outside in because the paint is thin. I figured more paint couldn't hurt. I did (for once) think to mask good to keep the paint where it should be.

Finally I pulled the airfilter, which is more involved than I thought it would be, and found a good NAPA unit that was mostly clean. I'll run with that for now. Interestingly I found the "snow screen" to be present. I was given to understand those were frequently removed due to requiring more upkeep. The snow screen is a cup of metal screen, its very tight weave like on the "forever" coffee filters. Mine was full of mouse nest. It'd be surprising the car could run with that in place if it weren't for an alternate air intake in the airbox, if the snow screen is plugged the alternate opens via a spring loaded flap and pulls warm engine air. Obviously for performance the cold air is better. I cleaned the screen good with a brass brush and reinstalled. Then took some time to clean around the plastic components of the engine bay with Simple Green and then with "Back to Black" tire cleaner/shine. The plastic components like the engine cover and intercooler pipes started to look really good.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ignition et al

This was supposed to be a happy little story about using the right tool for the job, then things got out of hand...

Remember the other day when I did a great job troubleshooting and got the sunroof and interior lights fixed? Well at some point during that the horn, turn signals, flashers, wipers and washer quit working. Apparently this is a fairly common problem with the mk3 Jetta and a simple fix in replacing the ignition switch. The switch itself is cheap but unfortunately the one screw that holds it is in the most obnoxious place possible which requires pulling the steering wheel and the whole lock assembly. In the picture above I've just put my new 5 ton 2 arm puller onto the sleeve that adapts the steering wheel to the steering column. I'm sure theres a special place in hell for the guy who decided to not make the hole in the steering wheel the same diameter as the steering column and then only put a little tiny flange on the spacer. See the big wrench (1 1/16") below the puller? Its giving the puller something to pull on. I had to buy the puller because none of my 3 arm pullers would fit...

After I got the sleeve off I didn't realize that to remove the lock assembly I had to unlock the lock and managed to rip the assembly apart. Whoops! Fortunately a local junkyard had a replacement, I actually bought the whole steering column because I managed to bugger the threads on the end too, it was quite a morning. Here's a shot of the junk car I pulled from:

Now the new lock assembly came with a different lock tumbler but I don't want to have to use two different keys on my car so I want to transplant the tumbler from one lock assembly to the other. VW apparently never thought anybody would ever do this so they didn't make the lock tumbler removable. Fortunately they used a standard lock tumbler barrel so all you have to do is drill a hole in the lock assembly and stick in a pin. Well the instructions from VW are fairly vague so when I drilled the old lock assembly apart I had to also cut a groove to find the lever to push on.

Since I knew where to drill I did a much better job on the second one. Thats good because this lock assembly is staying in the car.

Anyway after considerable swearing I got the new steering column installed, this is a really lousy job because the column only goes in one way with 39 ways to do it wrong and you can't really tell which of the 40 possible positions you're in until you find out you did it wrong. Meanwhile you're standing on your head under the dash.

So finally, finally the new column is in, the lock is keyed correctly, the new ignition switch is in and ARGH, the horn, wipers, washer, lights, daytime running lamps, and high beams still don't work.
I went back and tested the original ignition switch and the one from the junk car, all act the same. So I guess it wasn't the ignition switch at all. Oh well, at least it was cheap.

Post Modern Amazing!

Taking a break from the Jetta, its driving me a little crazy...

Anyway have you seen/heard the Post Modern Jukebox?

Start with modern music and take out the schlock, re-set it back to the jazz/swing/ragtime era and make it actually good... Bieber, Selena Gomez, there is seemingly nothing they won't attempt.

My favorite is actually one of their early ones:

In all cases the music is outstanding as are the costumes, the period dress really makes it...

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I'll admit I got a little taken in on this car, its pretty much rust free from the top of the rockers up but pretty heavily rusted from the rockers down but only about 4 inches wide, the bottom of the car is actually pretty good.

To start I took the wire wheel on my angle grinder and ground off some surface rust. I started at the front of the car on the driver's side working from the rocker up so just above the really bad part.

Once I ground off the rust back to clean metal I brushed on some POR15. I'm using their gas tank sealer because I had some. I like using the gas tank sealer because its very thin and brush strokes are pretty well hidden.

So then I'm left with a choice, the surface rust is stabilized and while there aren't any holes underneath I know that there will be holes soon and since winter is on its way this problem will become very bad by next year and that will ensure this is a three year car, maybe even just a two year car. So after a lot of debate and some poorly considered fiberglass I went to the hardware store and bought some new cutting wheels. So with my new cutting wheels I sliced out a 4" x 12" segment from the front of the car and welded in a piece of old computer case. I like working with old computer cases because the metal is very dense, this is because we'd like to have computer cases be non-magnetic. This is actually some of my better welding, I wish I'd gotten a picture. Its a LOUSY place to weld, I jacked up the car and got a stand under it but I still had to lie on my back and weld up, the outside wasn't bad but the inside was a drag. Once that was done I ground down the welds and wire brushed the whole thing before brushing on more POR15. In a couple places I filled in little holes with fiberglass and more POR15. It would have been very hard to weld behind the front fender and I didn't want to go through pulling the fender. Maybe next spring I'll have a chance.

So anyway I figure this side of the car needs 2 more feet of 4" wide on this side and if this side needs it I'd bet the other side needs it too. Thats probably going to use up this whole computer, fortunately we just replaced our microwave and I'm told old microwaves make good repair metal too.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Removing the human slime!

That should give you an idea how dirty the Jetta was when I got it. The Mighty Car Mods guys call that "human slime" and I'm inclined to agree. I started cleaning the car with my shop vac which of course chose that time to fail, it'd run but on shutdown howled like a dry bearing and it have very little suction. I pulled it apart to find the impeller full of dust bunnies and the bushing (no bearings here) dry. I lubed the bushing with a little Marvel Mystery oil (everybody's favorite) and cleaned out all the bunnies. I also took a second to put the filter in place :)

An hour later the car was much cleaner but still pretty filthy and I was thinking about soaking the seats in cleaner and sucking it back out with the shop vac like a carpet cleaner. Then I suddenly remembered that we have a carpet cleaner. Angie's grandparents gave it to us. It took some time for me to figure out how it works, Angie is the only one who had used it and I couldn't find the book but I got it going and we went from this:

to this:

Actually I took another pass at it after the picture, this time I put Simple Green right on the seat and ran clean water in the carpet cleaner. I should have taken a picture of the grime that came out of the seats.
Anyway its MUCH better. I won't say it looks like a new car but it looks like a much less dirty old car.

With all that going on I also have the following parts on order:
Coolant distribution pipe - to fix a minor coolant leak
Shifter boot and parking brake boot - both are cracked and ratty looking
Vacuum pump - for the central locking, I wasn't going to replace it until I found one cheap on eBay.

Today I need to order:
Ignition switch - Gotta get the headlights back on
Timing belt - I have no idea when this was last replaced. Its an 80,000 mile schedule which would seem to indicate 240,000 but considering failure of the timing belt ruins the engine I don't dare chance it.
Serpentine belt and power steering belt - Both have to come off for the timing belt so I figure its a good time to replace 'em.
Water pump - When replacing the timing belt the water pump is right there, I figure it should be done too. With that done I'll put in all new proper G12 VW coolant.

Next up: Rust repair

Sunday, September 8, 2013

1998 Jetta TDI fuse #21

It turns out that the sunroof and interior lights are controlled by fuse number 21 which on my car was blown when I got it. I grabbed a replacement and the instant it touched its seat it blew again. The owners manual for the car says its "interior lights, power roof, clock" okay, lets start disconnecting things.

I pulled all the interior lights, and disconnected the power roof, tried another fuse and it popped again instantly. Strangely the clock still works, further research indicated that "clock" really means "analog clock" which I don't have, mine is a digital in the gauge cluster.

Well phooey, now I'm thinking maybe something from the aftermarket radio is shorting out because that doesn't work either so I start pulling the dash apart...

Note to self, research FIRST.

In the end great mother internet saved me. Not listed in the manual the central locking module is also run off fuse 21, it lives in the trunk on the mk3 Jetta.

Interestingly the module itself (its that brown topped thing in the picture) is very similar to the vacuum pump responsible for locking the doors on my '84 190D. I've got a spare for the 190D but the electrical connections are totally different. I found online a writeup for repairing the comfort control module for a Passat but it appears to not be the same thing. At some point I'll open mine up and have a look around inside. For now central locking is not all that important to me.

So now the sunroof and interior lights work, awesome but wait, now the headlights, wipers and washer don't work. BLAST! More research shows this is almost certainly caused by the ignition switch, not the lock part but the electric switch itself. Put one of those on the "to purchase" list.

Up next, removing human slime!

New battery

First order of repair had to be a new battery. For a car that starts so easy it seemed wrong to have to jump start. I was dismayed to find the Group 49 I pulled out of the '84 190D (when I replaced the battery in that car I turned in the one from my '83 240D which was really old keeping this one as a spare) would fit the battery box acceptably well but the cables wouldn't stay on. My local Car Quest sold me a group 48 for $25 less than Autozone wanted for a smaller group 47, love my local Car Quest.

Before installing the battery I thought I should clean up the battery box some. Battery boxes (really a battery platform in this car) get all nasty and corroded from battery acid dropping on them. I couldn't get the box out so I brushed the worst of the rust an corrosion off and vacuumed out the debris, then hit it with some Rustoleum.

I soaked the hold down bracket overnight in Evapo-rust and painted it also. Hopefully this will keep rust at bay for awhile.

Next step: Why don't the interior lights and sunroof work?

Friday, September 6, 2013

What have I done?

Oh dear readers, I'm sorry to have deserted you but I promise there will be posts a plenty for awhile. You see yesterday I sinned, oh how I have sinned.
Some might remember a few months ago when I looked at a '98 Jetta TDI. Well I wrote about it on the Okiebenz list and it turns out my friend Tom runs a program for troubled kids which takes car donations. They had a '98 Jetta and did I want it? It took some time to work out the details but yesterday Fred and I drove down and came back with a Jetta.

Refueling the Ranger on our way home.

24x,xxx miles with a bad battery, a coolant leak, iffy parking brake and some body issues like typical A3 Jetta rust under the rockers. Otherwise its in remarkable shape. When jumped it starts with just a touch of the key. It roars along pretty good, Tom has a good big parking lot we could try it out in. Fred really flogged it around, enough to make Tom nervous which was pretty funny. No funny noises from the turbo or transmission, it does need some shifter bushings but those look pretty easy.

Anyway its home now:

First mission is to replace the battery and clean the interior, the cure a coolant leak and stabilize the rust...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


A big day for my 1984 190D last week:

200,000 miles. When I bought the car it had just over 165,000 and a "broken timing chain". It turns out the timing chain wasn't broken, the timing chain cover was broken. Fred gave me a new timing chain cover and we were on our way. I've found this car to have a lot of deferred maintenance, which is probably how the timing chain cover got broken. The serpentine belt tensioner lives on the timing chain cover and the bearing in the tensioner dries out and starts to make noise. Ignore that noise and it rips the cover apart like on my car.

I also found a dead rear shock and a missing rear shock. From the looks of things the passenger side rear shock broke loose from its lower mount and thrashed around in the wheel well. Rather than replacing it the previous owner just removed it. Fortunately for me he was kind enough to put the bolt back. The first time I drove the car the rear end literally hopped around corners, it was a harrowing way to drive. Lucky for me rear shocks are very easy to replace.

I've had this car for about 3 years now and its been an interesting time, including 3 alternators and now a battery. With any amount of luck we'll have another 3 years and many more miles together.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jetta TDI

Forgive me for I have sinned, again...

Its a 1998 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, 177,000 miles at a used car lot in New Hampshire. Considering the ongoing problems with my 240D and the rising price of fuel (28mpg is about the best to expect of the 240D) I thought it might be wise to look around for something newer and more efficient. As much as I appreciate the 240D it'll never be all that fast or efficient, it is a big heavy car after all.

The Jetta Mark III (or A3) was made from '92-'99.5 in some fair numbers. The later TDI pictured above has a 1.9l 90hp 4cyl turbocharged diesel. The numbers thus far really don't tell the engine, its the one that comes after 90hp, 149 lb/ft of torque, compare this to the 72hp, 96 lb/ft for my '84 190D which is also a longer and probably heavier. The TDI is quick, the turbo spools right up and its quite fun to drive.

This particular unit has issues though, theres typical New England type rust, along the hood at the grill, in the wheel arches, at the bottom of the trunk lid, nothing too scary but theres probably more underneath. The central locking doesn't work, it seems to be a pneumatic system with an electric pump like on my 190D so it shouldn't be too hard to fix. Check engine light comes on about 30 seconds after starting the car and it started hard cold which make me think the glow plugs don't work. The radio and parking brake both don't work, I think the radio is asking for a code but its generally beat and would get replaced if I were to buy the car.

At this point my iPhone decides that I want to delete all my notes about this car. Well thanks iPhone, just another reason to hate you.

Heres the thing though, around the used car lot this all seems to me to be no big deal. In fact later on I did a cost analysis and figured the car would need around $700 in parts to fix everything I've found so far plus some missing badging and a missing engine cover. Then I took it out for a ride on the road.

Again, zippy little car but I kept hearing this whine not unlike the noise in this video: which bothered me. Upon further inspection this probably means the bearings in the turbo are bad. If I were to guess I'd say this is from using oil not up to the standard VW requires for this engine. There was a bundle of documentation in the back seat which I took a few minutes to look through. Looks like the last owner lived in Watertown and had the car serviced wherever she was nearest to at that moment so I suspect somebody has put conventional oil in it and its cooked the bearings in the turbo.

Surprisingly a bad turbo is not the end of the road, apparently the swap is actually pretty easy, the problem is that a new turbo is expensive. Fortunately used aren't so bad. I decided if I could get the guy to come down $1000 from his asking price, which was $1300 above "excellent" blue book value, I'd buy the car. In the end I got him down $500, which considering I'm a pretty lousy negotiator I was reasonably pleased with. Not good enough for me to buy the car but enough to make me feel like it wasn't a Saturday wasted, I definitely need the practice in negotiating.

Anyway its not all bad news, after I put out on the OkieBenz list that I'd looked at a TDI a friend responded that he has one he might want to sell. Same year although its white, its been sitting in a garage for a year and a half. He runs a charity for kids and this was a donated car so I should be able to get a bit of a deal on it, we'll see.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Some good news for a change

Just got back from "the proving run" which is about a 25 mile lap I take from our house up into New Hampshire and back. The reason for tonight's proving run was today's replacement of the radiator and last week's brake job.
The brake job was required because of a failed caliper. Actually the caliper locked up last fall (disengaged fortunately) and since it was a rear I made a note to fix in the spring and ignored it. Interestingly a couple weeks ago the bugger started working again. This was a problem only because of the amount of noise it made grinding the rust off the rotor.

Rear disc brakes are pretty easy to replace, especially when you go all the way, rotors, calipers, pads and hoses. Other than the parking shoes theres nothing else to do back there. The first one took me awhile as I had to remember how to get the hoses off the car and to loosen the parking brake adjuster but after that it was a snap. Except I couldn't get the air bled out. Angie came home and I put a pint of fluid in the master cylinder and on the rear right didn't get anything out...
On the advice of one of the guys on the OkieBenz list I bought a pump oil can and another pint of fluid and tried pushing fluid up from the bottom. I again used a pint of fluid to no avail. Tail between my legs I went back to the parts store (Car Quest in town, great shop!) and ordered a master cylinder figuring it was hosed.
I brought the issue up again on the OkieBenz list and was told I still had air in the system, Fred, who is about the greatest guy in the world, offered the use of his Speedy Bleeder which I accepted and picked up Sunday. Sunday afternoon I  gave it a shot and 5 minutes later the brakes were done.
Seriously, I'd dinked around for 2 hours and the Speedy Bleeder got it done in 5 minutes. A bunch of that time was just spent figuring out how to use the thing. Fred's is great because it connects to your tire and the air pressure forces brake fluid through the master cylinder to wherever you've opened a bleed valve. I'm going to use it again this weekend to flush the system on the Ranger. Who knows how long that stuff has been in there?

Today's job was to replace the leaking radiator. I'd had this done once in the past but its clearly leaking again. Fortunately its not a big job, unfortunately it POURED rain the whole time. When it first started raining I put up our EZ Up tent which was better than nothing, better still would be a big garage I can work inside of. Anyway I got that replacement done with relatively little fuss other than messing up the transmission cooler lines. The guys on PeachParts helped with that, I was just having trouble figuring where the lines were supposed to go is all.

After doing the radiator I finally took some advice I'd gotten to fill the cooling system through the upper radiator hose. I'd tried it once and couldn't remember why I didn't like doing it that way. Today I discovered the trick is to be patient. The hose fills up and you need to wait a sec while it runs into the engine. You keep filling until coolant runs out the upper hose fitting on the radiator at which point you connect said hose, add a bit more to the expansion tank (on cars that have such things) and you're done. This is a big improvement on the old fill and burp and wait and fill and burp and wait method...

Oh for Pete's sake!

Who is Pete anyway?

So that *&^%$! 240D...

Trent turns out to have gotten himself in over his head and has everybody mad at him including me. The 2 hoses I really needed for this car turned up but they're wrong, both for a gasser, not even close to what I needed.
I finally got some standard heater hose and crammed it into place. Really crammed it since its supposed to be bigger at one end than the other. The other little hose I took to the parts store and they let me look around until I found one that was close. What I bought is too big but it should do short term.

So I get it all assembled and guess what? The friggin thing bubbles coolant out of the radiator again...

ARRRGH! The boys on the Mercedes list ( came up with a bunch of cockamamie theories but have finally settled into thinking its probably a cracked head or block.

Angie is going away this weekend so I think I'll make one last ditch effort and re-torque the head bolts. Its possible they've stretched a little since I've had the engine running. Unfortunately thats a bit of a PITA because the cam has to come out of the way. I intend to zip tie the cam to the chain so the timing can't shift, we shall see what we see...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Peoples is CRAZY

The 2014 Coleman Collectors Convention is due to be in Michigan, 2015 in Ohio. Both of those are quite drivable for us but the idea of driving that far and sleeping on the cold hard ground doesn't really suit so I thought maybe it'd be nice to have a little camper. I LOVE teardrop campers, especially the wood, stainless or aluminum ones. As soon as you make one white or god forbid beige and plastic or fiberglass you've taken all the fun out of it... That said I can't afford what they go for, or rather I don't want to pay $5,000 or more for something I have plans to use twice.

An admission here, doing somewhere in a camper, even a teardrop is not "camping". Camping involves a tent and ideally, hiking. If you've got a roof and can watch TV thats bringing your house with you. Now as I said at the outset I'm not opposed to bringing the house with me and sometimes it has a lot of advantages, not sleeping in wet bedding is a big one. The thing is I can't see myself using a camper all that much, I've got stuff to putter around the house and do so I don't think I'd be running to some campground on the weekends. In high school I dated a girl who's parents had a camper and I went with them on a couple trips but really that kind of "camping" is best done at home, we did an awful lot of sitting around watching TV.

So anyway I don't want to spend a ton of money on a teardrop and really I'd like to have somewhere we could sit up so my research brought me to Little Vintage Trailer, a blog about, well look at the name. There I learned about "Canned Hams" which are small, aluminum trailers of yesteryear. Go on there and take a look at the '65 Trotwood Lark. Thats what I'm talking about, just over ten feet long with just enough space for 2 and no more. The problem is that a nice one costs as much as a brand new (but ugly fiberglass) teardrop.

Take a look at campers or Craigslist, you'll find a TON of 20-30 foot monsters, mostly in a tragic state of disrepair. The smallest you're likely to find easily is nineteen feet although there is the occasional fifteen footer. What happens is the roof leaks and it ruins the interior. Travel trailers are built on a wing and a prayer, the walls are generally 2x2 with an aluminum or fiberglass skin, a little (dammed little) insulation and an interior panel. If the wall gets wet its ruined. Some people will (strangely) continue to overlook the leak and let it ruin the floor too. You can buy big trailers in the $1000 range all day, of course they're total crap but they're out there. A small trailer, if you can find one, will command twice that price, even when its a total wreck. Strangely almost all new trailers are either teardrop, pop up, or HUGE. Seriously, theres almost nothing being made today under 15 feet.

So lets review, used big trailers are worth almost nothing, little used trailers hold their value but almost nobody makes new little trailers, which of course explains why the old ones hold their value so well. I'd bet that Trotwood sold for more than its original purchase price. After all in 1965 $6800 was two to three times the price of a new car...

People are crazy.

Okay, I take it back, there are several companies making new small trailers, but I'll go back to my hatred of plastic and fiberglass. Scamp is a good example, sure they're small but they're UGLY. Also they have a terrible website and that seems to be a common factor among camper websites. If I get a main page that doesn't prominently feature a trailer I'm immediately put off, after all what are they trying to sell? I never have gotten Scamp's website to show me pictures of the 13' trailer, its perpetually loading or "connecting to server".

What really makes me laugh is how the new trailer manufacturers seem to go out of their way to make the inside look like the inside of my house with no real thought for style. I refer you again to Little Vintage Trailer but this time to The 1951 Cozy Cruiser which is my absolute favorite. Its a bright color, the inside has everything you need and nothing else. Sadly its sold, but I think what it all boils down to is I need to work hard, continue my economy measures and just buy something like the Cozy Cruiser. Then keep it nice and consider it an investment we can travel around in...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

MORE 240D repairs

The following morning I managed to just loosen the 4 bolts holding the fan so I could retrieve the trapped belt, got everything finally hooked back up and the alternator tensioned and fired it up. No leak that I could detect from the tensioner. Thats not totally a win yet because the tensioner is hidden under the thermostat housing and behind the AC bracket but you can get a relatively good look at where the oil has to fall when it drips. Anyway back out on the road for another test.

This time the road test is a complete success, 20+ miles later I'm happy and as the day is heating up I retreat inside.

In the afternoon I decide its probably time to tackle the broken wire to the AC compressor. This is the trigger wire for the AC clutch and without it the AC won't come on. Before the head gasket debacle I'd done some testing and it looked like this was the only reason the AC wouldn't work. I'd had some work done on the AC last year and it worked pretty well then although used up a lot of the limited power the OM616 engine could provide.
Anyway I crimped on a new wire with a new ring terminal and found a bolt (which we appear to have lost when I disassembled for the head gasket job) and got everything together nice. Then I had to fart around trying to get the AC belt tensioned enough. The tensioner on the AC belt is a weird system that looks like it should be spring loaded but isn't.

Unfortunately at some point I had decided to put the radiator cap on tight, I hadn't done that in some time because I had been worried about the head gasket. With the radiator cap loose I theorized the limited pressure in the system might keep from breaking a fragile head gasket. At some point I'd decided since the new head gasket is good I could pressure to the system which will make it cool better which would be important if I were running the AC on a hot day.
The tensioner for the AC belt lives just under the upper radiator hose and to loosen or tighten the bolt on it I had to push the hose out of the way. At some point doing so stressed the LAST cooling system hose which hadn't been replaced on the car. This hose (which Mercedes calls a bypass hose) goes from the thermostat housing to the water pump. Its about two and a quarter inches in diameter and maybe three inches long. It lives just under the timing chain tensioner...

You know what that means right? Lather, rinse, repeat.

I called Trent at and ordered up the hose. While I was at it I ordered a thermostat and a gasket for the thermostat hosing where it connects to the block. I put a new gasket there when we did the head gasket but I hate reusing gaskets and it was only a buck for a new one. I also ordered the 90 degree heater hose that lives just under the AC compressor. That one has been swollen by oil dripping on it for years and looks as if it'll fail next.

Angie asked me if this was the last straw, am I ready to junk this car and move on? She's got it all wrong of course. I'm so close, I've replaced so many parts in the past year:
Head gasket
Radiator hoses
Oil Cooler
Oil Cooler hoses
Now I can't possibly give up, I've got too much money, time, blood, sweat and yes I'm not to proud to admit tears invested in this car. It WILL ride again!

240D repairs continued

Guess I should bring you all up to date on the saga of my 240D.
When we left our intrepid heroes the team had successfully replaced the head gasket on the 1978 Mercedes-Benz 240D. The next few days I was busy and didn't have any chance to work on the car so it waited patiently for me to give it a longer run. I finally snuck in an hour, got the radiator and hoses and whatnot installed and ran the car for awhile. It sounded good but as usual (for me anyway) there were air bubbles in the cooling system that made the temp go higher than I like. Of course just when I gave up and shut the car off a big bubble popped out of the radiator and the coolant level dropped considerably, typical...

Anyway then we were on our yearly spring trip to camp where it rained almost the whole week, so no car wrenching.

Upon our return I ran the car some more and make some tentative runs around the neighborhood. I really hate idling the car in the driveway waiting for it to warm up and putting the engine under load warms the cooling system much more rapidly. That seemed to go pretty well until I discovered the upper radiator hose was leaking. This could in part be attributed to the old hose clamp but considering all the work we've put into the car thus far I didn't want to take any chances so I ordered new hoses from my local CarQuest. They were cheap enough (under $30) and they had them the next day. While I was at it I changed the oil. I figured any bits of schmutz or whatever that we had dislodged during the head gasket job would have worked through to the oil filter (or would be suspended in the oil) by now and it would be a good idea to get it all out of the engine.

New hoses in I had to do the bleeding the coolant dance which is actually considerably easier after this job as I only lost about half a gallon of coolant in the process. With the engine temp stabilized I took a couple more rides around the neighborhood before I decided it was time to head out on a longer ride. This longer ride gave me the opportunity to put some speed on and I'm pleased to report that the engine seems to perform better than it did in the past, especially the recent past. Unfortunately after about 5 miles there was a strong smell of burning oil and I figured I'd better turn back. Good thing as when I got home I discovered a truely massive oil leak. This engine has always leaked some oil somewhere above the alternator but now it was really bad. I searched around with a light and decided the leak had to be coming from the timing chain tensioner.

The timing chain tensioner does exactly what it says it does, keeps the timing chain tight. Its a spring with a hydraulic dampner of some sort that uses engine oil to damp the movement of the spring. It has to come out when you pull the head and if I remember correctly we originally tried to just unscrew the spring which doesn't actually work, you have to pull the whole assembly. Unfortunately it would appear we left it loose.

Unfortunately for me the timing chain tensioner lives behind the AC compressor. This in itself isn't a big deal but the bottom front bolt for the AC compressor bracket lives behind the water pump pulley. The water pump pulley lives behind the fan and since I wasn't removing the radiator to get the 4 bolts that hold the fan out requires working between the radiator and its shroud in a way my wrists and elbows just don't want to bend.
I managed it all in about an hour, the tensioner cap was loose (very loose, like turn with your fingers loose) so I tightened it and got everything back together only to find that I'd trapped the alternator/water pump belt behind the water pump pulley. Theres a little gap there just big enough to allow you this mistake without (fortunately) harming the belt.
That was it, I was all in, my back was killing me from hunching over so long and I was sweaty and tired so I quit for the night...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

4 stoves, *snort*

I like looking through the analytics and seeing what people are reading from my blog. Apparently recently several people read my "4 stoves" post from 2009. Interesting how things can change in a couple years. Back then I listed my 4 stoves as:
#1 is the Coleman 425 I got from my grandmother
#2 is the Coleman 413 I got from Angie's grandfather
#3 is the Coleman 502 I bought on Craigslist
#4 is the Prepo I got from my grandmother

Now add to that, in no particular order:
#5 Coleman 425E my Dad bought at a charity auction, this one lives at camp now

#6 AGM KampKook I bought at the Coleman Convention auction

#7 Thermos Holiday Stove I traded a 220E for
Now undergoing restoration, I got so far as repainting the tank and burners, got stuck on the body, it really needs sandblasting but I haven't got a blaster. Need to find somebody who has experience on light metal so as not to warp it.

#8 Butterfly stove, a birthday present

#9 Coleman 520, found in my in-laws garage

#10 Thermos 3 burner, from a bundle of stuff, I still haven't worked out the NRV on the pump so I haven't played with it much.

#11. Optimus 8R bought at the Coleman Convention
Probably my favorite stove

#12. Coleman 413C, got this from Tim, it needed a new tank so I got a good deal, not sure why I bought this other than I'm a sucker for round tank stoves. Curiously I can't find a picture...

So anyway 12 stoves at this counting. I really should get rid of some of them and I tell myself "its only stuff" but then I can come up with a host of reasons I can't live without this one or that one. Its an addiction I swear. That said there have been a number of stoves I've turned down. When I bought my Sears bighat for instance. Recently I told a guy not only would I not pay for a stove I'd charge to take one...

It could be worse, I'm definitely not a stovie, my friend Steve has a shed that is packed floor to ceiling with stoves.

Firewood rack Mark 2

I like firewood. In fact I probably like producing firewood as much as I like producing wood fires. I'm not much of a carpenter or carver or sculptor but I'm a good cutter and splitter. As a good firewood producer theres nothing worse than watching your hard work go for naught as it rots or gets wet or is buried under snow. Over the years I've toyed with a few different techniques for keeping the wood off the ground and dry. Heres the mark 1 wood rack:

It doesn't look like much now but 9 years ago this was the top notch of my wood storage empire. The design is very simple, 2x 8' 2x4s laid parallel, 2x 4' 2x4s as uprights at each end and some spacers. The parallels are separated by one foot. I've since tried wider spacing but one foot is about as close to perfect as you can get. Not shown in this picture are 2 angle braces holding the backs of the uprights. I'm not sure these really add all that much but they don't cost much and are probably worth doing. Theres a rope across the top which helps to keep the tops from bowing out and helps to hold a tarp as seen in this shot of the second mark 1 rack which sits in my backyard:

This is the same basic design as mark 1 but displayed here with a tarp over the wood. This does a pretty good job keeping the wood dry but has a few problems. The first is that tarps don't really last all that well. I use leftover tarps once they're not good enough to cover other things so while they're "mostly waterproof" some water gets through. This is not a big problem, dry firewood sheds water naturally anyway. Another issue is snow which builds up on the tarp and has to be removed. This is a drag because its hard on the tarp. High winds will tug the tarp around, at best this means the wood gets uncovered at worst it means the tarp gets shredded or lost. Oh sure you could strap the tarp down tight so it doesn't move but then getting the wood out is a hassle. Any method for holding the tarp is going to end up being a compromise between weather proofing and convenience. I use hardwood blocks cut from old pallets tied to the corners. I've also used bricks with holes in them which work well but are somewhat fragile when tossed around by a tarp in the wind.

Finally a tarp covered woodpile is at a distinct disadvantage when in comes to drying. This is a drag because the basic design of this pile is great for drying. The wood is supported only by 4 inches of 2x4 and gets airflow all around. but then we trap that moist air with a plastic tarp, bad plan.

As you can see from the original rack using untreated wood for this is a bad plan, that rack has rotted badly and isn't held together by much...

Enter wood rack Mark II:

Shown here partially complete on the deck at camp. This features pressure treated 2x4s for the lower end which is actually in contact with the wood, with standard 2x4s forming a 2'x8' roof on a 6 in 12 pitch which is probably too much, before I finish it I'll probably lower that to 4 in 12 which will give better coverage over the wood. I chose 2'x8' because I can cover 2 with a single sheet of OSB or plywood but in reality 2.5'x8' would be better as again it would better cover the firewood. Before final construction is complete the upper wood will all be painted or polyurethaned for greater protection. It will be covered with a piece of 3/8" OSB which will also be painted or polyurethaned, a metal drip edge installed and then asphalt shingles for roofing.
Its hard to see but there are a pair of 2x4s halfway down to give more structure to the roof. I didn't trust an 8 foot span with snow load.

Unfortunately I got caught by rain and wasn't able to finish this wood rack on my recent trip to camp but I'm confident I can easily get it done on my next trip. This is an important addition to our camp because with recent improvement inside the camp we have the ability to go there in the winter. Assuming we can make it to camp on snowmobile we will need good, dry wood to heat the place...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


When we last left our hero his 1978 Mercedes-Benz 240D was down for the count with a failed head gasket. What to do, what to do? Call out the troops of course! Saturday three of my good Mercedes friends came over and the four of us got to work.

I started before the others arrived, at about 7:30am I started by pulling the washer fluid bottle, radiator, hoses and radiator shroud plus the air cleaner and its hoses. Finally I disconnected the battery. My friend Fred arrived and we had breakfast. While we were eating Dimitri and Dwight arrived, with our team assembled we went back out and really got going. The air conditioning compressor gets moved out of the way but not removed. Mercedes recommends pulling the power steering pump out of the way but I didn't want to deal with the mess so we just pushed it out of the way, same for the oil cooler. With the front of the engine exposed the fan and its pulley get removed, all the belts are now out of the way. The thermostat housing comes off, then the injection lines, glow plug wiring.
Throttle linkage injector return lines and injectors which leaves the valve cover.

With that removed we see the cam shaft, timing chain and lifters, and Dwight's finger :)

Getting the head off and not screwing up the timing was one of our top goals so we spent a lot of time mucking about. It turns out you cannot leave the top sprocket on and remove the head, don't even bother. Fortunately as long as you maintain tension on the timing chain you can lift the head off without changing its alignment on the bottom end. A couple friends are helpful there.
So pull all the head bolts, put them in a piece of cardboard to keep them ordered.

The pull the head, its not super heavy but a helper here is a great idea, an engine lift would do the job too but is probably overkill.

Now clean the mating surfaces of the head and block real good. We scraped with razor blades to get a good clean surface, then ran a wire brush in the drill over them to be sure. We also cleaned all the headbolts good with a wire wheel. These are the hex head bolts which can be reused, unlike the later type which are torque to yield. Fred measured bend in the block, its slightly banana shaped which is normal. Mine is between 0.003 and 0.004 which is well within spec.

With everything cleaned a coating of Hylomar on the mating surfaces:

Thats some interesting stuff, it ate right through my gloves...

Re-install the head and torque it down. Theres a procedure for that of course...

Tighten, tighten some more, wait 10 minutes, tighten some more. You end up at 100Nm, a good long torque wrench is nice.

The rest is reversal of dissassembly which of course leaves out all the fun. Getting the timing chain back together was a bear, we probably wasted an hour on it. First we got the sprocket on but forgot the top guide, then we got the sprocket on backwards. FINALLY we got everything on and in the right orientation, I spun the engine over with a ratchet a couple times to prove it was all going in the right direction and nothing hit or made bad noises. Dwight and Dimitri had to head home, I can't blame them, they both drove many miles to be with me. Fred bless his soul stayed until the bitter end. Finally at 10:30pm we fired the engine up. Of course with no fuel in the injectors it was a tough start but with Fred working the primer pump and me cranking the starter it fired to life. Sounded weird which I realized later was the lack of air cleaner. I backed the car out of the garage and buttoned it down for the night.

I haven't had time to put in the radiator so I can run it up to temp and know for sure the head gasket fixed the problem but I'm pretty confident. If it weren't raining I'd be out there right now. Maybe tomorrow night...