Monday, May 21, 2007

A Weekend Well Spent

Good afternoon, Lumpy Iron Fans!

A nice weekend just past, working on the car.

Up early Saturday, but not too early, got Catherine to go help me do some stuff outside--fill the bird feeders, dump the litter box, wash out the cat pen, douse the frog fountain with bleach (quite an algae bloom going on there), then inside to fold up the towels, put the jeans in the dryer, and the dark clothes in the washer. The reason for the sudden flurry of activity? Doing my best to convince someone that I had been a good boy and should be allowed an hour to go explore the junkyard.

AND IT WORKED! I recited my list of Good Boy Things, and she relented. Her task for the day was supposed to be to clean out her closet, and she'd ominously mentioned that she needed help. Friends, helping Miss Reba clean out her closet is a task best suited for girl children--they can lift and tote as well as I can, and enjoy playing dress-up with the discards. And I knew the last thing I needed to be was stuck carrying boxes up and down the steps. Children are good for that task, too.

SO, bright and happy, I got my old bucket of used motor oil to go drop off at the auto parts store at the foot of the hill, got another gallon to go in the crankcase, and I was off to the playground.

Got there, strode in confidently, paid my buck, got my hand stamped, and quite nearly flew out the door to go play amongst the rust and wasps. Walked, walked, walked--hmm.


I am a moron.

It happens EVERY time, so I should know better by now. The foreign junk is NEVER in the same place twice. How can they move it all like that!? One month it's over toward the far back, the next it's over to the side, then it's back to the back. The easy thing is to check the computer at the desk and see where it is, but stupid me always just goes to where it was the last time. And then waste valuable plundering time going to find where they REALLY are stashed. Just like this time--instead of being over on the front to the side, they were in the far back corner.

No matter. Finally found them and started wandering up and down the aisles to see what there was to see.

Junk, mainly.

Oddly enough, there weren't a lot of Saabs this time. I always look for them because they came with nice tools, and occasionally you can still some squirreled away under the tire well cover. None this time, though. Did find a BMW with a couple of rusty wrenches that I picked up--very good quality, and I don't mind a little rust as long as it will brush off.

Volvos--which is why you're reading this--well, quite a few, although none with anything all that interesting. Did find a couple of ones with the old style hubcovers I prefer, but they were dented beyond fooling with. AH!! A high-mount brake light cover! As you know, these things sit in the back window and bake, and crack like egg shells. I got a new one not too long ago, but it's never bad to have a spare.

Did I mention what a beautiful day it was? Bright and sunny and cool with a nice breeze blowing--hard to top that when you're crawling around fetid junkers!

My allotted hour having ended, I went back to the office to check out, stopping briefly to tell the lost Mexican guy that I didn't know where the Ford F-150s were, but that there was a computer in the office he could use to find them. Although that takes some of the fun out of spending time wandering around lost.

Showed the guy my few pieces of junk, and he waved me on through, figuring I'd gotten no more than my dollar's worth. SCORE! This is turning out to be a very good day!

Toward home, stopped to get some eggs, then hopped outside to begin the second round of car-related playtime.

Oil change. Jacked up the driver's side a bit, slid the empty catch can underneath, gingerly undid the drain plug, scalded myself, and neatly dropped the plug right into the drain hole in the catch can, stopping it up sufficiently so that all four quarts of oil stayed right in the reservoir on top without draining into the can.


Got Boy to come over and help me--he and Cat had decided to ride bikes on the driveway while I covered myself with petroleum products--and asked him to give me one of the rags on the fender up above me. I neglected to tell him that the plastic plug for the catch can and the new copper crush washer I'd gotten were both on the rag. He picked up the rag, and sure enough, I heard the tell-tale ::ping:: of the washer and ::plunk:: of the plug.

Grr. Oh well. At least I could get the oil off my hand. And at least I did find the plastic plug. The copper washer was firmly unfindable, though.

Got another washer, screwed the drain plug back in, changed the filter, filled up with new oil and leak stopper, gave it a crank, and cleaned up my mess.

Next item on the list--fixing that pesky leak in the taillights. As I mentioned last week, I've got a seam in the lenses that has been allowing water in, and this is a bad thing when you combine several ounces of water with a hot bulb and an electrical circuit. Did a bead of clear silicone sealant around both sides, hoping it will be enough to ward off future lighting irregularities. Maybe.

Next on the To-Do list, fixing my headlight on the driver's side. Although of generally okay quality (DJ Auto), the rear housing is a slick, somewhat softish plastic. The mounting studs, although grippily gnurled for tight holding power in the soft plastic, have a habit of simply pulling free.

Leaving the headlight to sadly avert its gaze downwards to the roadway, rather than up toward the large animal darting out in front of me.

So, some JB Weld epoxy putty for all of those holes, and tap the studs back into place. Hopefully this repair will last a bit longer. Or maybe the epoxy putty will just pull out of the soft plastic, too.

Next, the big happy chore, the installation of my new sidemarker lights I'm so proud of. As with every project I've started on this thing, this is one of those that promises to be done in 15 minutes, and takes 2 hours because I don't know exactly what I'm doing. And yes, after I got it done, now that I know, I figure 15 minutes is about right.

Problem is that although the Internet is a godsend and a boon for old car fixing, it still has its drawbacks--namely that the people who write some of these old car websites are barely literate, and further that they decide not to avail themselves of a digital camera to explain what they're talking about.

Those two little fender-mounted turn signal/running lights with only two wires apiece are about as basic an electrical thing as possible, but getting them hooked up requires getting the wires from the fender, up through the several unreachable and nearly impassable inner fender chambers, out into the open, and up to the front where the turn signal wires live. Everything I read said a hole needed to be drilled. Somewhere. Or that there might be a rubber bung or grommet I could thread the wires through. Somewhere. "Simple," it was said.

"Not," say I.

I fished around with a piece of welding rod on the passenger side, before figuring out I had no idea where to drill a hole. I got my drill out and drilled in a likely spot, and by sheer luck, it turned out to be usable.

This is what it looks like:

Now to get the wires though. Needed something to fish the wire through the maze inside the fender, and it needed to be more flexible than the welding rod I had, but stiff enough to be able to get from one hole to the other.

As luck would have it, for once my packrat-itis came in handy, as I had some baling wire, savior to mankind. Just flexible enough, just stiff enough, and it worked like a charm. Pulled the wires through, then routed them right alongside the other lighting harness wires underneath the strut cap, alongside the washer bottle, then up to the front, and attached them onto the turn signal wires.

There are three ways to hook up the wires, which I never really understood until I actually looked at the wiring and figured it out myself.

1) Turn signal only,
2) Running light only, or
3) Combination turn and running light.

I decided to go the #3 route, simply because I liked the idea of having an extra side running light. I am almost certain, though, if you want to do this you will need to use amber bulbs, white light anywhere except for front facing or backup lights being discouraged. (I think.) Anyway, all this requires is for you to find the two turn signal wires, and splice the marker light wires to them. For the other two options, you figure out which lamp is either the turn signal (for #1) or the parking light (for #2), splice one lead from the side marker light to that wire, and attach the other lead to a ground by soldering or splicing a ring terminal on the end and attaching it to one of the many screws on the body.

Moment of truth, flipped on the lights and the blinkers, and HOORAY! IT WORKS!

However, I failed to heed Han Solo's advice, "Don't get cocky, kid."

The OTHER side proved to be more frustrating. I had intended to drill right where I had on the passenger side, but there was that pesky brake booster in the way. I scratched my head for thirty minutes trying to figure out how to get a hole where I needed it, then took a trip to the hardware store to see if they had a right angle attachment for the drill.


Back home, frustrated and beginning to sweat, and I decided to drill from the outside of the fender. This worked quite well until the drill bit caught and yanked the collet of the drill into the previously undented sheet metal of the fender and bent the edge of the light mounting hole inward from the impact.

Grr. And how.

To make it worse?

I fished and fished with that bailing wire, trying my dead level best to work it from the outside of the fender back up inside to someplace where I could get it.

I was about to say a bad word. Or two.

I stood there stupidly for a very long time. Walked around. Felt around some more. Got the baling wire and ran it back through a small gap in a panel inside the fender and...


Felt the other end poke my finger that I had where the light was supposed to go.


Meaning I didn't HAVE to drill a hole--there was already a clear passage from the inside of the fender to the outside. (See my note on the picture above.) Meaning I didn't have to mess up the paint around the outside mounting hole. Meaning I didn't have to drill a hole in the OTHER side, either. Meaning that if I'd known what I was doing, I could have been done in TEN minutes instead of two hours.


Fished the wires out, ran them to the turn signals, clipped them together, and as before, perfect little amber running light/turn signals. I feel so Europeany and sophisticated now!

Next, cleaned up again, and went on to the next task of the day--replacing the little plastic covers above the rear shoulder belt reels. Once again, these little pieces of trim had been baked to a crisp, and they looked horrible. And one was actually disintegrating right before my eyes. I'd gotten some new old ones a while back (black, not blue, so maybe it'll not fade quite so quickly), so I popped off the old and popped on the new. Perfect.

And now that it was nearly 6:00 in the afternoon, the final task, trying to get some of the grime off that set of Virgos I have out in the shed. I'd gotten some stuff that promised that brake dust would flee in fear, never to return. And tougher coatings of dust would require only a swipe with a brush.

Hah. And hah again.

I doused the wheels, and although they are somewhat cleaner and smell nice and fruity, they still have a tenacious bit of black grime down in the spokes and lug holes that is going to require sterner stuff to get loose.

Oh, well. A task for another time.

As it is, lots of things knocked out of the way that needed attention, and it's nice to know it's all working the way it's supposed to.


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May 24, 2007 8:47 PM  

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