Monday, April 22, 2013

Well, they say all good things must come to an end. Update: The End

Well, the ol' fella finally sold. I paid $1,800 for it seven years ago, drove it about 70,000 miles, and wound up getting $1,700 for it. In addition to the $1,300 I got from the insurance company when the dude ran into the back of me on the interstate a few months ago, I figure I did okay. "Okay," being a very malleable term of art that means I didn't pay someone else to take it away. I never did quite get it to the level of perfection I initially envisioned, said vision to have included such things as a suspension upgrade, maybe some paint, and a 427 side-oiler with a Detroit Locker and a close-ratio toploader. Oh, and maybe a nice set of new wiper blades. But, still, it was fun for a long time, and made the days go quicker when it came time to putter about with it. Now it's time for someone else to see if they can get it to 300,000 miles. Only has 18,000 more to go, so I figure it won't be too long.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


As noted in the comments in the previous post below, the fine upstanding American Sgt. Mom of The Daily Brief has had to make the heart-breaking decision to retire her '75 242. It has two million miles on it, so it's just now gotten broken-in good, and it's seen more of the world than most people.

If you live in the San Antonio area, drop her a line and see if you can't find a home for a long-serving Veteran Volvo.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Oh, yeah--I AM a moron!

That last post from back in April? Where I mention that I'd cured my rear window defroster issue with a simple fuse change?

Well, oddly enough, some time before I'd noticed the defogger not working, I'd also noticed the air conditioner wasn't blowing cold air. I thought at first it was a freon leak, and had gotten a retrofit kit to fix things, but then found that the system was well charged. Hmm. Then I figured out it must be that thermostatic switch, and that it was beyond my ability to fix, both mechanically and monetarily.

So, I suffered through three Alabama summers with the ol' standby 460 air conditioning (all four windows down, and drive 60 miles an hour), until a couple of weeks ago, when on a whim, I turned on the A/C switch again.

HEY! Cold air's coming out!

Hmmm--I wonder...

Yep, sure enough, the same fuse that runs the rear defogger also runs the air conditioning switch. All those months of misery, which could have been avoided if I'd just looked a tiny bit closer at that fuse.

Ah, well. Live and learn, eh?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

No, I'm not dead! Well, not yet, anyway.

Has been a while, though--apologies to the random person dropping by who had an expectation of semi-regular content.

IN ANY EVENT, I had the rare and much welcome chance to hit the junkyard today. Thrice. But not by choice.

First, I'd saved up enough good-husband points for months now to be able to get out, so bright and early I headed out to the Pull-A-Part. I was on a quest for a sunvisor hook, the old one on the passenger side having snapped off a year ago. Found my first donor car, and flopped out the toolbox and...


Wrong box. I thought when I picked it up something was a bit odd, but in my haste and joy, I didn't think to think more closely, and managed to pick up the great big box full of Black and Decker battery tools. Not a plain ol' nut driver to be found. (Yes, yes..."Aside from the author." You're NOT bein' funny, y'know.)

So, back to the house, got the right box of sockets, and headed back to the yard.

This time, a much more leisurely stroll, found several hooks, and decided I should get a visor, too, since the passenger side one was so warped. And hey! What about a passenger side rear 'hockey stick' bumper molding! Lost that about three years ago and haven't been able to replace it since. (And paying $50 for a semi-newish one is mucho crazy.)

Odd find--two '92s parked nose-to-nose, and both had all-black grilles. I rarely see these, and here were two right together. And both in good shape. Hmm. Should I?


Went and paid the princely sum of six bucks for the molding and sunvisor, went home, replaced the hook and visor, and...


Boy, you know, I sure should have gotten the driver's side visor, too. I didn't realize just how warped it was, too.

Well, why don't I just go ahead and make the third trip!

So, I did--went straight to the previous visor-donor, got the other visor, and decided I would get that grille, too. Cleaned up nice, although I'm not sure I like it better or not.

In other things mechanical, after two winters of scraping ice off the back window due to what I thought was a bad relay, I found the actual cause--bad fuse. Seems that even though I'd checked it, it actually had a burn-through, but it was right at the very tip, so it was invisible by just looking. When I took it out, I finally found the break. So, now I have a newly operable rear-window defroster! Now that it's spring.

AND SO, the ol' homely lump of iron continues to chug along, all 253,000 miles of him. Still averaging 20 mpg, too!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

December 1, 2008...

...6:28 p.m., about half a block from my house, the ol' Brick finally turned over the quarter-million mile mark, which had to be memorialized by the following dim and blurry cell phone image:

Well done, little lumpy buddy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yes, I am still alive.

And so's the ever-trusty Järn, for that matter. I note that it's been almost a YEAR since my last post, and that's a bit too long. Although in fairness, I've not done anything to the ol' brick in that year, other than keeping it on the road. And I'm getting close to that 250,000 mile mark, as long as nothing untoward happens.

As for the car itself, it really could use some work, but nothing that's really up my alley--it needs an A/C rotary switch (crapped out last year), and a rear tailshaft bearing and U-joints (mostly crapped out nearly a year and half ago due to age and the results of replacing the center U-joint bearing, which I think I might have done badly enough--or roughly enough--to accelerate the wear on the tailshaft bushing), and a rear-window defroster relay (I have an assortment of relays, but I can't quite figure which one is the right one), and it really needs bushings (although it still rides pretty well), and the rest of the list of things over on the sidebar To-Do List that still have gone unmarked. OH, I did get a new radio for myself for Christmas last year. Nice--even has a USB port so I can listen to stuff on a jump drive! I gave up trying to get the original radio to go back in there, and it's probably just as well. Gas mileage has taken a bit of a dip, and I'm not sure why, but where it was averaging around 21 mpg, it's down to around 19 or 18.

But you know what?

It still works, pretty much the way it was intended. And that's hard to say about a lot of cars. I've been driving our 2001 Focus lately (better gas mileage) and although it is still a nice peppy little car with about the same amount of space and features and such as the 240, it has a frightening variety of odd noises and shakes that just feel bad--like "money flying out of my wallet" bad--and it only has 118,000 miles on it.

I don't think it's going to make 250,000.

Anyway, I do thank everyone who's come by over the past year, and to those of you who take the time to write.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Yet another one of those odd little milestones...

But first, yes, I know there hasn't been much to see here lately. If you've kept up with things over on Possumblog, you know I've transferred to a new job (same department, different group), which has left no time to play on the 'puter.

Except for the occasional post such as this, whereby I celebrate one of those offbeat sorts of things that make owning a homely lump of Swedish iron so special. Or something.

ANYway, the old man continues to chug along, and today passed a particularly spiffy milestone for any numerically-designated car. As a 240, he is particularly proud of having achieved 240,240 miles today!


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fair Question

Dr. Reynolds links to Amazon's page where they're selling diagonostic code readers for cars, and wonders:

SO HOW MANY MECHANICS WILL THIS GADGET PUT OUT OF WORK? Not as many as if you integrated it with a Web service that took the codes and gave you step-by-step instructions on what to do, specific to vehicle type. I wonder if anyone will try that?

Good question. They've been selling code readers at parts stores for several years now, so it's not exactly like it's a new thing, but I figure they won't put much of a dent in mechanic's pocketbooks for a few reasons.

First, trouble codes and check engine lights don't come on a lot nowadays. Cars, despite what you might think about your heap, are generally pretty reliable, and spending a goodly sum of dough on a reader that you might use once or twice over the car's life isn't that attractive.

Second, few people, even if they know the trouble code and had step by step instructions, are actually equipped to work on cars. It's not quite like sharpening a pencil or installing a lamp. You have to have specialized tools to fix most of the things that would show up as a fault code, as well as a place to work on it, as well as the time to do it. Even back when cars where akin to Fred Flintstone's in their technical sophistication, it was still a chore to fix them yourself. With the rise of urbanization (and hoity-toity communities where they don't like it when you have your ancient Volvo up on jackstands in the driveway for weeks on end), there are fewer areas where you can actually do mechanical work of this sort.

Third, if you're like me and you DO have tools, and DO have a place to work on your car, and DO have some practical experience with how to work on cars, and DO have several old beaters that you're financially bound to keep driving because you're barely able to keep enough money in the bank, and you've kept them long enough for them to start requiring an increasing amount of diagnostic attention, you'd probably be better served to do what I do, which is a modification of Glenn's suggestion.

Most of the parts stores around town will, as a courtesy, use one of those diagnostic readers to read your code and reset your check engine light, then give you a little readout of the code. Again, not knowing anything, this is useless, but the online part Glenn mentioned can still be done, although you actually have to do a bit of Googlefu to find it.

Every time this has happened with our Focus, I take it down the hill to the Advance (or AutoZone--sorry, never can keep them straight) and they check the code, reset the light, give me the readout, and then I plug in the code and bit of verbiage that comes with it into Google along with something like "ford focus" and after a few minutes you generally will find links to manufacturer's technical service bulletins or other online professional mechanic's websites that will give you some good, useful information on the fix and parts and tools and time required.

Of course, there is an alternative to this, although it does require killing trees.

Simply get a Haynes shop manual for your car. It has all the codes in it, and detailed instructions on fixing it, and it's pretty cheap. Sometimes you can even find copies at the library.

SO, in conclusion, mechanics don't really have to worry about these things cutting into their business, and they are handy if someone you know owns one and doesn't mind you mooching off of them to let you use it, and the link to the way to fix things is not that hard to establish, especially if you know how to read a book, and it sure would be nice if I had enough dough not to worry about having to fix my own cars, but it's nice that I can.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Boy, a lot sure can happen in half a month!

Let's see--I found out that if I allow my car to be totalled, and decided to keep it as part of the settlement, I can't drive it until I get a new, "rebuilt" title issued for it. Big fat hairy deal, which consists of me having to get a rebuilder's license, get a notorized copy of all the parts invoices, post a $10,000 bond, have proof of insurance for your garage, have the car inspected, and pay a hundred dollars in fees.

Needless to say, I'm negotiating with the insurance company again. So far, it's been difficult, in that very few people seem to want LESS money from the insurance company than they're willing to give you.

AND in other things, that center driveshaft bearing support that has been bad since I bought the car got worse when I got hit. It was barely holding on anyway, and the accident made it break. It was acceptable for a week or two, but finally, the vibration and booming noise was too much to endure.

Decided to take off last Friday (yes, the 13th) and fix it.

Problem Number One: I didn't know exactly which shaft size I had (1 3/4 or 2 inch), and couldn't get a good answer from IPD if there was a correlation between U-joint size and the size of the shaft. And I wasn't really in the mood to jack up the car just to measure the shaft. Measure it, folks--it'll save you a lot of heartache. I called IPD and told them of my quandary, and the helpful guy on the other end of the phone suggested ordering both kits and returning the one that didn't fit, but I didn't want to spend money twice on shipping if I didn't need to.

Problem Number Two: I guessed wrong. I'd done a bit of looking on the Internet, and had concluded (erroneously) that the larger-sized driveshaft was mostly used on Turbos or GTs, and the smaller-sized one on regular sedans. So I ordered the small one. It came right on time, but it was of no use to me.

SO, on with the story.

Scooted home Thursday, got my work clothes on, ran outside, and began earnestly and vigorously jacking up the car. In the front, a set of giant ramps my Dad made from locomotive parts (well, almost--1/8 inch solid steel plate and 3/16 x 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 angle iron) but since they're so high, I had to jack the front up a bit, then slide them under the tires. Of course, the jack won't go high enough to get the ramps all the way under the tires, so I had to drive the rest of the way up. Which is nerve-wracking, because if you drive off the end, it's A Bad Thing.

But, this time, no problem. Put a wedge behind each of the tires and hammered it in, and set about to raise up the rear end. After much calisthenics, I managed to get the rear axle up high enough to set the iron jack stands my Dad had made, also made from locomotive parts. (The ramps and stands could hold up a dump truck.)

That done, time to get that shaft loose. I skritched underneath with my crappy creeper, and saw for the first time just how bad the center bearing support had worn out. Basically, nothing but rubber crumbs. Marked the driveshaft so I'd put it back right, unbolted the four bolts from the differential flange, and dropped the shaft gently across my Adam's apple, managing not to completely throttle myself. Although I did wind up with a lovely smear of dirty grease as a necklace.

Pulled the shaft gingerly out of the end of the other driveshaft, laid it inside the garage. Pulled loose the bearing support, dropped it down, and at that point began to feel a bad feeling. That hunk of rubber looked awfully biggish. And the new one I'd just gotten seemed awfully smallish in comparison.

Walked into the kitchen covered in black grease and got the new part--sure enough, my driveshaft is of the 2 inch variety, rather than the 1 3/4 inch variety. My new parts? Useless. One tiny little quarter of an inch sure does make a BIG difference.

Kicked myself for not taking the advice of the parts guy out in Portland--"Order both, and then send back the one you don't need." Pish-posh, said I. No need for that.

Because I am a moron.


Well, the quickest thing was to do what I was going to do before I ordered the wrong parts--go to NAPA Friday morning and get the bigger bearing and bearing support. Also, decided to go to the Volvo dealer to pick up the little rubber bellows that goes around the joint where the shafts connect, which was completely gone.

ANYway, I went to the shop down at the foot of the hill Friday morning, and got the bearing. They didn't have the big rubber donut there, but it was available at the main distribution center in Birmingham. Got in the car, and raced over to the seedy industrial part of town where stray bullets sprinkle down from the sky like cherry blossoms. Got there, finally was able to make the guy understand what I needed, and he said it would be just a minute while they pulled it from the warehouse.



Was accosted by a talkative fellow who works out at the airport and had come in for a starter. Heard all about the fence he had built, the hassle with the neighbors, the NEW fence he had to start building, the above-ground pool he made in the backyard, the fact that it's 8 inches too low on one side, his plans for fixing it, his wife's craft room he had to stop working on to work on the fence and the pool--THIRTY SOLID MINUTES of him talking a blue streak, with me wanly nodding in assent and offering the occasional "Hmm" or "Well" or "I tell you what." The parts guy kept calling back to see what the holdup was, and finally became so exasperated that he went to pull the part himself.

Fence Guy kept right on talking, got his starter, paid, kept talking, and talked his way right out the door.

Parts Guy came back with a rubber donut. Same size as the one that doesn't fit. "No, this one's not the right one."

"Well, we had two back there like this, which is they couldn't find the one I'd called back for, and so they didn't know what to do, but I brought this one out just in case it was the right one. We can order it for you. Be here next week sometime."

Oh well.

I'd only wasted an hour.

Maybe the Volvo dealer has one! I tried to call from there, but couldn't get them. Dang.


Got there, walked in, had to make the guy understand what I wanted, finally got the part number. "Uhh, no sir, we don't have that in stock, but we can order it. Be here on Monday." They didn't have the little rubber bellows in stock, either.


Well fart. I needed to work on either Friday or Saturday, and this was messing up the schedule something fierce. The only way I could possibly make this work is for the folks in Portland to next-day the parts to me.

I am a moron.

Headed home, saw a flock of four wild turkeys standing alongside the Interstate around Liberty Park, wondered where their car was, got back to Grandma's house to pick up the kids (who'd been over there while I chased parts) and wound up back at NAPA to return the bearing I'd bought first thing that morning.

Got home, and the rain started. Looked outside and saw Sarah the Bunny eating birdseed off the ground. Called the IPD, got a return authorization, ordered the other set of parts, paid extra for the next day shipping, paid extra for Saturday delivery, and kicked myself for being a moron. Repacked my too-little parts, went to the UPS store in an increasingly heavy rain and sent them back.

Made lunch, got supper started, and began to reconsider my previous decision to not be superstitious about silly things like Friday the 13th. The only bright spot? Even with paying for three different shipping fees, my parts from Portland are still going to be cheaper if I'd bought the stuff here. But I dared not make too big a deal out of that, because you never know what sort of bad juju that might be unleashed.


Remember that extra dough I paid for Saturday delivery for my bearing and rubber donut?

Well, apparently everyone forgot about it. Oh, it got next day air service alright--and it landed at the Birmingham airport at 6:48 Saturday morning. And sat there. And despite my best efforts to let the UPS hub come let me pick it up there, they came up with every excuse under the sun to say no. So all day Saturday, and all day Sunday my car sat up on the stands, its little half driveshaft dangling underneath, while the part to fix it waited ten miles away.

Now I've picked up stuff there before, so it's not like it's impossible. But the guy kept saying, "Well, they're not going to unload a plane for just one package."

No, but they had to unload the plane, right?

They're not going to let a fully loaded plane sit on the apron until Monday, are they?

No, they unloaded it, and it was routed to the proper delivery rack, where it sat until Monday. It was frustrating to check the tracking number and see that it was on the truck bright and early Monday, speeding its way to my house where I found it when I got home yesterday. You know, rather than on Saturday. When I could probably have picked it up at the airport, only about 15 minutes away from the house, if the UPS guy had actually been interested in doing a customer a favor, rather than sitting around reading the latest issue of Swank.

Of course, I'm peeved at IPD as well, since I stressed how much I wanted to be able to drive my car today, and told them explicitly I wanted it delivered on Saturday, and I was more than willing to pay extra for that service.

Called IPD, got the guy I ordered from last Friday.

"Let me see...uhhmmm, sir, yes, I'm afraid I'm the one to blame for that. Usually we fill in any special instructions to the warehouse, and I didn't put Saturday delivery on there. I apologize for that, and I'll refund the extra charge to you right now."

Which is good customer service. Not truly great customer service--which would have entailed the company trying to find some way of making up for the added inconvenience that their mess-up caused me--but, still, good. And I suppose good enough to not make me swear them off forever.

But next time I'm going to be more careful--measure first, order both if not sure, and make danged sure any special instructions are written down while I'm still on the phone.

SO ANYWAY, got home last night and got my new parts and raced back outside to get them installed. I had not pulled the front driveshaft, which was probably not a good idea, but the bolts were rounding off and I didn't want to get them halfway off and then have to resort to a hacksaw or cold chisel. Got a length of 2 inch pipe nipple and cap to use as a bearing driver and tapped it onto the shaft, which was harder to do than it should have been. Bolted up the carrier, reinstalled the rear driveshaft, and managed to get the car down off the stands and ramps without dropping it, and took it for a drive.

No more vibration from the center bearing, but there is an awful lot of other growling from underneath that might be a bad tailshaft bearing on the transmission. 238,000 miles worth of wear, combined with the vibration and lash associated with the center bearing, and then finally my beating the new bearing on the shaft probably is what's done it in. But at least there none of that terrible driveshaft vibration, and at least now it's no longer tearing itself apart.

As I said--a lot sure can happen in a few weeks.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Reader Rides!

I got an exceptionally nice note this morning from a fellow who stumbled onto Revolvoblog, and wanted to share the story of his shiny Swedish lump o' iron:
Hello Terry,

On a search I came across your REVOLVOBLOG. I’m submitting this information to you because I have a similar car of which I perform all of my own work. I have an injury that I am healing from, and I still work on my car. I’m buying a good dual stage air compressor down the road, but for now, I use mostly hand tools along with some electric tools, such as an impact gun in sizes of 3/8” and 1/2”.

I’m currently working on the only car in my driveway: a 1986 244DL, a relative’s former vehicle with light use. I’ve had it since 92,000 miles. It currently has 177,00 miles. The 240 is maroon with a tan cloth interior. The body is in great shape.

I just replaced all of the front engine oil seals, the water pump (a GMB – don’t use the bolts that came with the new pump), and am getting ready to torque the sprockets.

Then, I have the exhaust to replace – front pipe, and everything rear of the cat w ext. pipe.

Next, I am installing an engine wiring harness. I bought a used engine wiring harness, the upgraded version, from ebay. The cable has been prepped – the connectors were cleaned with CRC QD contact cleaner and then silicone greased.

I already replaced a defective kick down cable but I still have an OD problem: The relay will get resoldered and the wiring checked for chaffing, etc.

Additionally, I’m replacing the trailing arm bushings with the sectionalized ones from IPD, that eliminates having to press the bushings in/and out. The original springs will get replaced with a variable rate wagon spring (best price from O’Reilly). I’ll replace the rear shocks with the best gas shock from KYB.

From ebay I bought used seat foam to fix my drivers seat. The best prices on seat covers that are close to the original cloth are the units from IPD.

Also, I have to replace the front struts. KYB inserts will go in. For now, I’ll leave the original upper mounts in as Volvo dealers have told me that they are stronger than the replacements today, so if a part is working, leave it alone.

The AC compressor seized up; the original compressor was a Diesel-Kiki, using R-12 refrigerant. I have done some homework on the AC system, and I have talked with the owners of AC shops here in the Atlanta area…one shop owner informed me that as long as the system was sealed when the compressor locked up, about the only things to definitely replace for the R134a conversion are the following:

1. compressor (use Pag 96 oil)
2. condenser (the original condenser could have metal particles in it and it is extremely hard to properly flush out a condenser that has been in a car for 20 years, give or take.
3. o-rings
4. fittings for conversion to R-134a
5. receiver-dryer
6. expansion valve (the old one might be ok, but they do get clogged up over time)

I’ll remove all of the hoses (which are more than likely good from R-12’s barrier effect) and flush them, and then the evaporator will be flushed while in place. 4 seasons makes a flush kit with just enough solvent to do this work. I have to buy a vacuum pump (saw a combination pump/gauge set for around $130 on ebay). And, I have to purchase a compressor. I found a rebuild Diesel-Kiki on ebay for $115. Be wary of Diesel-Kiki rebuilds though. A Sanden 508 compressor would be a better alternative. Yet, the AC shops told me to get the exact replacement concerning external design due to the facilitation of mounting.

There is a place in Atlanta called Bens Volvo Disassembly to obtain good used body parts, such as bumpers, and any part for the 240. I use Voluparts too.

Another thing that should be replaced on this car is the oil trap. And when you do that replace the intake manifold gasket since it’s easier to replace that canister if the intake is pulled.

Back in the late 80’s, I stopped at a graveyard of a body shop for import cars. This shop, located in my home state of PA, was about 50 miles north of Harrisburg, and there I observed 240s and 700s hit in every way imaginable, concerning angle and magnitude of force. What I observed was that the structural integrity of the cab remained very much undistorted, yet these cars were totals. I was very impressed by those Volvo cars back then, and I made a good mental note that I would try to futuristically obtain one in good shape.

Therefore, I am a fan of these cars and I believe that they are worth investing reasonable money in to replace parts to get them road worthy.

From doing a lot of research, I’m aware of the idiosyncrasies in the design of the 240 model. For example, I would use synthetic oil in the ‘86 B230F engine due to the smaller main bearings used in the early B230F engines (from ’85 through the ‘88’s). Flush the tranny once a year. I have talked with 240 owners of cars from the early B230F era who have driven those engine to 400,000 miles without a major problem, minus the practice of good maintenance.

If you ever have to take a good hit in the Volvo, remember the cars reputation for safety was well served from the Design. And if you get hit, you can always get another Volvo. I’ll always remember the Volvo wrecks that I saw back in PA.

Kennesaw, Georgia
Thanks, John, and I know we'd love to see some photos if you're so inclined.

Chapter Five: The Reckoning

Well, I had a phone message from the appraiser yesterday, but it was late when I got it, and then when I got in touch with him this morning, he said he'd just called to introduce himself and that he'd looked at my humble hoopty and sent his information to the home office in Mississippi.

Who I just got off the phone with. Seems they're ready to just call it a total and be done with it. "But, but..." stammered I. Not that it helped. And not that I actually didn't expect that.

I suppose I'm satisfied with the offer --$761. As I noted yesterday, the total loss threshold in Alabama is 75% of fair retail value, and by my reckoning based on NADA that would have been somewhere around $1,300, being as charitable as possible. The values ranged from $775 for something in slightly worse condition than mine all the way to an astounding $1,800 for a museum piece. And also the price I paid for it. The value they gave me? $1,015.

Now I know noted negotiation professor Dr. Jim Smith is probably wincing that I didn't haggle about this more, seeing as how he wrote me yesterday not to be a pushover, and to get as much as I can out of them for this horror that has been visited upon me. And they pretty much came back very close to what I told Jim would be the worst case scenario--that being, offering even less money than it cost to fix it.

All his valuable negotiation skills were trumped by the fact that I really have no inclination to drag this out any longer. I've actually got someone with insurance, and the amount will cover the major part of the damage that was done, and there's still enough left over to salve my wounded pride, and I'll still have my car and be able to once again go in harm's way with it.

No, you do NOT have to take their first offer. You can present to them your own research about value, which can include what you paid for the car, and what you found that cars sell for on places such as eBay. You can request an independent mediator to decide on the value if you can't reach an agreement. You can fight as much and as long as you want.

But dang it all, I'm just glad I'm not going to be personally out $625.01. I had steeled myself for just that bit of savaging--that would have REALLY been the worst case, so I suppose it all works out.

Should have the check waiting on me next week sometime.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Totally Chapter Four

Just had a very pleasant conversation with the insurance lady, who says that they'd gotten word from their appraiser that they might have to consider my vehicle as a total loss.

"For only $600 worth of damage!?" I asked, with a hint of quizzicality in my voice, but also having already pondered the possibility that the damage--when totalled all together with the bumper damage--could begin to press upwards toward the market value of the car.

"Well, the body shop there at the Volvo place gave us a $1,200 estimate just on fixing the bumper."

Obviously, they have a very high opinion of their work, which is fine, but still.

I explained my odd little view that there should be no reason to total a car that is running and servicable and only needs a small amount of bumper repair. She said the local adjuster/appraiser/agent had some more checking to do before she would know for sure, and would contact me sometime this afternoon or tomorrow with their conclusion.

It does seem strange, but it is the way things work. In Alabama, as in most states, unless your own insurance has replacement-value coverage and you try to recover some from them, if someone runs into you, their insurance company isn't expected to pay more than the car's worth to get it fixed. In Alabama, the total loss threshold is 75 percent of the fair retail value. Despite the moronic amount of attention I lavish on my humble lump of iron, it's still only worth what it's worth, and let's face it--it's not quite a Rolls-Royce.

So, now the trick is to keep the insurance folks involved and negotiate around the bumper damage and prevent them from issuing a declaration of total loss. Which should be quite fun, yes?


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Chapter Three--Light at the End of the Tunnel

Sunshine? Or a train?

We shall see.

Got a call this morning from a nice lady with Safeway. Seems that there IS an insurance company involved! Exchanged pleasantries, and she got out the tape recorder. Basic information--name, rank, serial number. Oddly enough, she asked if the accident happened on June 10. Uh, well--no.

Went on to describe the events as they occurred, that I'd already authorized the Volvo shop to go ahead and fix the car, and that the bill for the engine work was $625.01, but that there was still the issue of the bumper damage that, although minor, still needed attention. Got through with factual matters, then in my closing remarks noted that the attempts I'd made to contact SOMEone to pay for this. Gave her the policy number I'd been given, and oddly enough, she says that IS the right number, and explained that maybe the Alabama office thought it was an Alabama policy. Which is odd, because I would have thought that all policy numbers were unique, just to keep down any confusion. And it had an "MS" in the middle, too. Peculiar.

Recounted my repeated polite calls to the driver for information, then the call from the driver's father telling me NOT to call his daughter ANY more, and that I really would like to have my car back as soon as possible.

Oddly enough, she still didn't have a copy of the accident report. Even though they are available online. And the other driver could have gotten one the same way I did, by going over to the police department. So I was very nice and faxed her a copy.

Now then.



I guess I wait and see what happens.

I wonder what that odd, high-pitched sound is? And that odd rumbling?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Well, now.

Apparently it pays to continue to leave phone messages. Just now got a call from the young lady's father. Who seemed quite perturbed that his daughter had been receiving all these telephone calls. Seems his daughter was also offended by the fact that almost as soon as the wreck happened, I was on my cell phone.

Hard to imagine I would have had such nerve, eh?

He said he was going to go talk to his insurance company, the name of which he would not give me. He said he'd take care of it. And not to call his daughter ANY more.

Well, fine. At least I did get an actual land-line number for him, which I was able to look up and find. Apparently it's his business line. Again, that's fine by me.

Says he'll call me back Thursday.

We'll see.


That was fast.

Martin just now called and said the car was ready. And on the even brighter side, it turned out to be $75 less than what he thought it was going to be. The dark side is that it's still $625.

On the plus side...

...I did manage to diagnose my problem accurately. Yesterday afternoon, I was going over in my head the symptoms of my car's distress--a sudden, violent shaking of the engine and the inability to get it into park that all happened at the moment of impact. Kitchen Hand alluded to a possible driveline misalignment, but I got to thinking and it suddenly dawned on me--engine mounts! Or a transmission mount. Or all of the above.

Just got a call from Martin over at Royal. They found a huge amount of problems, but there were some that were present before, such as a general weepiness of oil from the rear main seal. But the ones causing the problems?

Both motor mounts sheared, and the trans mount. So I get a prize for guessing correctly!

That being, this:

Trans mount = $60
Two engine mounts = $160
Shifter bushing set = $30
Labor and towing = $450

Getting hit by ["someone who seems to act oddly much like an"--Ed.] an uninsured, unlicensed motorist?


I feel so special.

[Remark added 6-20-07 to indicate that this is only my opinion, based upon actions. Could be perfectly legit, you know.]

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Intricate Dance With The Tortious Offender and Her Insurance Company, Chapter One

Ever have one of those nightmares where you're being chased by someone wielding a GIGANTIC ELECTRIC SCREWDRIVER?

All I know is that if Dante ever came back to life, he'd tear up the Divine Comedy and start writing about car insurance.

SO, let's see--I get hit, and my car won't run. Have to have it towed in. I expect that the police report will have the other driver's information such as a local address, phone number, and oh, I don't know, maybe their insurance policy number. Because before the other driver left, I asked the officer if the report would have all of her information on it. He said it would. Wait 72 business hours for report to be readied.

TODAY, go to PD and pick up report. Notice that there is no insurance number on there. Let out a little high-pitched imaginary scream.

Back to the phone. First find the girl's name and do some preliminary Googling. UAB student, pre-nursing. No local number. But she does have a MySpace page. I do know that she works at Brookwood Hospital. Call there first. Get the runaround from the charge nurse on the floor where she supposedly works.

"Will she be in today?"

"I don't know."

"Do you know what days she's scheduled to work?"

"NO. She might be here tomorrow."

Gosh--that gives me all kinds of confidence in the quality of care I'd receive at Brookwood!

Okay, I have her number in Mississippi, but before I chase that rabbit, I'll try some interaction with her insurance company, the mighty vaunted Safeway. Call, nice young man tells me he has no one by that name in his system. Tells me he has no one by that address listed in his system. I ask what I think is a darned good question--can they search by Vehicle Identification Number? You know, since they insure Vehicles, that all have Identification Numbers. "No sir, I'm sorry, but we can't search by VIN. You're going to have to get your insurance to pay for this."

[internal monologue] Well, you see, little weasel rat, I don't carry collision on my car, although I do have insurance, unlike your supposed client. In any event, there IS no one to go after except the person who hit me. [/internal monologue]

"Okay, well, let me see if I can find her and get the insurance policy number."

I have absolutely no hope of finding anyone at the number she gave me. Call, and darned if she doesn't answer! Maybe it's a cell phone number. Anyway, I introduce myself as nicely as possible, ask her for the insurance policy number, and she rattles it off after a second or two. I thank her profusely and happily call back her insurance company, the obdurate, yet obtuse Safeway.

Get another person this time, confidently give her the policy number. "Jamie Forehand?"

"Uhh, no." I gave her the name of the girl, and the vehicle, and guess what? That person was not listed on the insurance, and it was for a different vehicle. And it had been cancelled two years ago.

Which means either she showed the officer a valid insurance card at the scene, and mistakenly gave me the wrong number in her haste, OR she gave him and me the same number, and he neglected to notice the card was TWO YEARS OUT OF DATE. [Update 6-20-07--Just got off the phone with the actual insurance agent, and oddly enough, she shows that number as valid, and offered the explanation that the Alabama agent may have thought it was an Alabama policy, rather than a Mississippi policy. Which is odd--you'd think policy numbers would be unique. Oh well.]

I was offered some consolation by the claims person on the phone, who laughed in a smirky sort of way and said I might have to sue in small claims court.

Yep, it's a real laugh riot, ain't it.

Called back my rearender, apologized for the bother, and told her the number she'd given me showed up as having been cancelled two years ago. She said she must have gotten the wrong number, and said she'd have to look for it and call me back later. I gave her my number, which she said wasn't showing up on her caller ID. I'm glad I was able to help her screen her calls better! That's me--Mister Polite Helpful Man!

With Internal Rage Issues!

Who's Probably Going to Drop Dead With A Giant Bursted Aorta Caused By The Unresolved Stress Caused By Various Disaffected Losers Who Can't Seem To Lose Their Attraction To Him!

Called my agent just to get some advice on what all to expect in the coming days. He was on vacation. ::sigh::

Called the Volvo shop, told them to go ahead and start working up an estimate for me so I'll know just exactly how many times the person chasing me with the gigantic electric screwdriver is going to have to change batteries before they're done with me.

And thus ends Chapter One.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Well, ain't THAT a kick in the head.

Or an exceedingly firm shove in the back.

Had gotten through with an early meeting this morning, made a run to the store for nothing of consequence, was waiting to turn right into traffic and WHAM!

A girl in a Chevy pickup truck rammed into the back of me.

Luckily, she wasn't going that fast, but it was enough to send my rear bumper askew, and worse, to do something that made the engine start running like a washing machine full of bowling balls. Couldn't get the transmission into Park, either.


Called the police, waited, a motorcycle cop showed up and took our information and wrote up his report (which won't be available until Monday), and then waited until the tow truck showed up. Got flat-towed over to Royal Volvo, waited for the service guy to get me written up, got a ride back here, and I just realized that I don't have anything like a piece of paper or form that says Royal has my car, and that is it MY car, and not to give it to some bum who walks in off the street (because bums LOVE 20 year old Volvos), AND I don't have my parking deck card, and I didn't realize the police report wouldn't be ready until Monday, so I didn't worry about getting the girl's name and phone number and insurance company because the cop said it would be on the report and I figured I could pick it up tomorrow.

AND all I can think about is what will happen if her insurance is some company that consists of a desk, an answering machine, and a Bahamian bank account.

But other than that, it was a very nice morning.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Word of Thanks...

...to all of you who've been kind enough to drop by the Revolvoblog CafePress Shop, and even MORE thanks to those of you who've actually purchased something! I don't make a lot of money from this (around $25 per year so far), but every little bit helps fund the I Am A Moron Project.

So, again, thanks.

AND REMEMBER, Father's Day is coming up fast!

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.

Friday, May 18, 2007

And speaking of working on your car...

...I've just been sent a link to some very handy advice.

I got this from one of my regular commentors over on Possumblog who goes by the name of Steevil. In addition to being a famous rocket scientist, he is also the proud owner of a Triumph Spitfire that he drives and tinkers on. Steevil is a member of NASS--The North American Spitfire Squadron, and occasionally comes across some very good articles, and one in particular that was posted to their message board is this one: Bodywork Lessons I Have Learned.

Of special note are the admonitions to keep your work area clean and tidy, keeping your tools clean and in their proper places, and having some sense of what you're trying to do. A bit of planning on the front end can save a lot of bruised knuckles and broken parts.

(He said, ignoring his own mental debility.)

Anyway, read the whole thing, or better yet, print it out and tape it to your garage wall.

Forest, Trees, Etc., Etc.

I finally had a few minutes free yesterday afternoon, so after I got home I hopped outside to do a couple of things--change out my glovebox, and see if I could do a bit of prep work for my new sidemarker lights.

It turned out to be more than I thought it would be.

Well, first, the easy part, the glovebox. I thought I might be able to jimmy the latch without breaking the plastic catch, but obviously this won't work, so I just popped it free. Seven screws later, the new one was on and it looks very nice--no marks or waviness or crookedness. And I think the thing to do is remember to be VERY careful shutting the box door. Again, the catch is plastic, and if you just close the box without turning the knob, the catch is constantly being pushed in a way that causes it to snap off. Always turn the knob, and turn the knob slowly.

NOW THEN--trying to fix those side markers!

I wasn't quite sure where to tap into the turn signal wires, and the online instructions you can find (Google something like 'volvo 240 side marker light installation') are, as usual, light on photographs or actual dimensions. Automotive electrical junk is one of those things I'm just baffled by, and I need to have actual pictures, and not diagrams, or worse, "find the proper wire and splice into it."

Well, I figured there has to be a set of wires in the harnesses that go along the tops of both front wheel wells, but I'm not that keen on cutting into the outer tape covering for fear of creating problems with the other wiring in the bundle. I thought I might be able to discern a bit if I looked at the fuse panel. I don't know why, because if you think about it, that's a silly place to look.

I pulled the cover, and stupidly looked at the array of fuses, hoping for a sudden flash of inspiration. Then I espied a burnt fuse, 8A, third from the bottom.

"Hmm," said me. Looked at the list--taillights? WELL NO DANGED WONDER!!

I've been fighting with those danged taillights for months now, never seeming to be able to get them working right and figuring it must be something to do with damaged wiring in the loom somewhere up the line. I'd lost just about all the taillights and was having to rely--tenuously--on the rear fog lamps. I'd also lost the front marker lights, and the license plate lights. Grr.

So, let's see what happens when I change out that fuse.

As you can guess, I HAVE TAILLIGHTS AGAIN!

In addition, I found that one of my problems was a burnt out bulb on the passenger side. Seems the lens in the housing has a gap at the top and had been filling up with water. Get it full enough, it sloshes against the bulb, pops it, and I would assume, blows the fuse, too. Changed that, fished out the broken remains of another bulb, and sopped up the water out of the chamber, then did the same thing on the driver side. I need to finish that up with a bit of clear sealer on the top of the seam on the housing to keep it from happening again, but no matter, I'm thrilled to have my lights working again! AND I got the front markers to working right again, too!

If I'd only checked the fuse when all this first started happening, I could have saved myself a LOT of trouble. And an embarrassing late-night stop by the Trussville constabulary for not having any rear lights. (Thank goodness it was only a warning.)

Now then, having successfully managed to fix two things, it was back to the side marker light. I have come to the conclusion the best way to handle this is to run a couple of wires all the way up to the front of the fender to where the front turn signal wires are located and tap on to them there, rather than attempting to find the right one in the wire looms on each side. That project is for Saturday.

But while I had the time yesterday, I figured I could at least go ahead and expose the mounting hole in the fenders by removing the Volvo name plates.

Best thing to use is a piece of dental floss. Get a fairly long piece and put it behind the edge of the plate, then pull both ends firmly from one end of the emblem toward the other, sawing back and forth as you pull. This cuts through the mounting tape that holds the plate in place, without marring the paint or bending the emblem if you have a desire to re-use them.

The bad thing?

The black foam tape on my car is (was) so old that it had set up VERY hard. I spritzed it with both WD-40 and some carb cleaner, and worked on it a bit with a razor blade, doing my best not to scratch the paint. Work slowly, and don't try to take it all off at once, and keep it saturated with solvent. It all eventually came loose, although it did leave a few marks in the paint. I will be doing a repaint in the future, so it's not the worst thing in the world. (Especially considering the poor shape of the paint as it is--you can't really see it.) A few more swipes with a cloth and some carb cleaner got the rest of the adhesive residue off, and then I followed this with a bit of polish to help cover some of those fine scratches.

Now I had two holes in the fenders. I probably should have waited to do all this when I was doing the wiring so that I could have plugged the bulbs in and been done with it. Why? Well, the way it is now, someone could very easily just pop the lights loose and walk away with them. Or worse, they could fall out, not being hooked up with their electrical umbilical cord/safety belt. But, anyway, to keep from having a set of open holes, I went ahead and popped the marker housings into the fenders, and I have to say, they do look slick as a whistle.

Tomorrow I'll take some pictures and show how I'm wiring them up. If I don't get sidetracked doing unfun stuff like cutting the grass.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Good Morning, Fans of Aging Swedish Iron!

It's been a while since I've had anything to report, mainly due to the intrusion of real life into the Fun Zone. BUT, there are a couple of things to rejoice about--one, I just got another glovebox, and this one looks very, VERY nice. Came from Canada, and it's nice and even and the front panel doesn't look like it's about to fall off (yet) and best of all, THE LATCH WORKS! (For now.) As I mentioned earlier, my other glovebox latch failed, which means that my box was locked with several important things inside, notably some copper crush washers for the oil plug. Yes, I know they sell them at the store, but I can never remember to get them. ANYway, that box is actually the SECOND one--the first one that was on the car went into the can when I replaced the dashboard. Maybe this time the latch will last a bit longer.

Yeah, I know--I crack me up, too!

Second, and an even sweeter deal--I scored a complete new Hella (see update*) sidemarker lamp set with harness off of eBay for only $53. This actually is pretty steep given the value of the car itself, but I figure when IPD sells the same lamps for 76 bucks each, and the wiring kit is another $20 or so, so it's a pretty good purchase. (He said, trying to convince himself.)

Anyway, add those to the other stack of stuff I need to work on. Time for an oil change again, and I still haven't gotten a new rubber o-ring or nitrile hoses for the filter relocation kit, and the recent addition of new tie rod ends has put a crimp in ordering new struts and shocks, and I still have to get a thermometer sending unit so I can hook up my ambient temp gauge, and the driveline vibration is getting progressively more pronounced.

So much to do, so little time.

*UPDATE: Well, dang. They aren't Hella, but DJ Auto Components Corporation, the same Taiwanese company who made my headlamps. They look the same, and the price I paid is pretty much what you pay from someone like FCP Groton, who sell them for $30 a pair. They did come with the harnesses and splice clips that FCP doesn't sell (but IPD does), so I didn't overpay, but I also didn't get quite the screaming good deal I thought I had.

Ah, well. Caveat emptor.

Friday, April 20, 2007

It makes me feel warm all over!

I was wandering around the Internet last night (no, you don't need to know why) and came across the EPA's automobile fuel economy website that lists the government rating for cars both past and present. Being ever the curious sort, I thought I'd check on what the ol' homely lump of iron was originally rated at.

I have been somewhat concerned about mileage, and thought I might not be getting as good useage as I should, because one does tend to hear about some REALLY impressive consumption rates. Some of the Stupid People boards I haunt have people claiming nearly 30 mpg, which I found disturbingly high. No real reason to think mine should be quite that high, but still, you don't want to be wasting too much.

I have a daily round-trip commute of 30 miles, with about 22 of that being Interstate, and the remainder a variety of surface streets. Weekends vary, but mostly they're spent doing local driving around home. Anyway, you figure maybe 70 percent highway, 30 percent city. Second, I run that A/C all the time, even in winter (although not on high, and obviously the heat control is turned to hot, but it does help keep the windshield defogged), and I don't drive particularly slow--on the Interstate, I follow traffic speed and it it's moving at 75 or 80, by gum, so do I. But I don't do a lot of floorboarding the accelerator and constant speed changing by stomping on the brake then back to full throttle. Anyway, with all that and based on my scrupulous record-keeping for the past two years, it looks like I average about 22 miles per gallon.

I looked up the Brick on the website, and was pretty surprised to see that an '86 Volvo 240 with an automatic was rated at 21 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 22 mpg average. Pretty darned astounding, I'd say, for a 21 year old hunk of metal with 235,000 miles on it would do pretty much exactly what the sticker said it should.

And let's face it--it really is just so darned sexy.

(Crossposted over on Possumblog, too)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Well, it's bound to be better than using a brush.

As you all know (yes, all both of you), one of the things that keeps my humble lump of iron from being as snazzy as it could be is the paint job. Or lack thereof.

The original owner loved and cared for his car as best he could, but twenty years of daily exposure combined with silver metallic paint have conspired to give the upper surfaces the appearance of something like gray flannel. When it's wet with rain or the sun is low in the sky at twilight (like in the photo over to the right) it still has a hint of shininess to it that hints about how nice it would look with a fresh coat of paint.


Painting a car is not cheap. Even the places that DO advertise cheap painting aren't really the best places to try to get a car painted. They don't call 'em "spray and pray" for nothing--the quality is highly dependent on what you pay--yes, they CAN paint your car for $99.99, but it'll look like someone painted your car for a hundred bucks. Or rather, painted it for five bucks, and then pocketed the other 95 to buy smokes and lottery tickets. If you do manage to get one of these places to give you a quote, you'll see that simple things like masking and taping and high kwality kristal kleer kote and "shop materials" and "environmental fees" and "guarantees" and tend to pile up dollars quickly, making even an ostensibly cheap paint job pretty expensive. These guys make money on volume--nothing really wrong with that, but you definitely get what you pay for.

Painting a car correctly so that you get a nice, even, durable, glossy coating requires a fairly large investment in labor to ensure a good substrate, and proper preparation of any damage, and an attention to cleanliness and shop conditions to give a good result. And again, all that labor isn't cheap.

There is a shop here in town that my family has used before who have a great reputation as one of the best and most honest shops in town, and I took the ol' Box to them last year sometime just to get an idea of how much a good paint job would cost. I'd already been to one of the major hi-volume/lo-dollar shops, and after much hand-waving and jiggery-pokery, the red-faced toupee-clad shark who ran the place finally arrived at a price of $900.

The good shop?

He wouldn't quote me a price.


Well, although the car is straight and has no rust, it still requires just as much effort and care to do a good job on it as it would on a car that is much more valuable. The estimator knew his estimate was going to be high, and in fact, probably about as high as the value of the car. But he wouldn't paint it for less, because it would have his company's name on it (so to speak) and he wouldn't put out any work that wasn't top quality. Best I could tell by reading between the lines, though, was that it was going to cost north of $2,000. Yep--too rich for me, and even if I could afford it, it still sorta doesn't make good sense to pour that much money into the car.

But it also doesn't make sense to waste $900 on a crappy paint job, either.

What I needed was a good quality inexpensive paint job. And about the only place to get something like that is akin to going to the barber school to get cheap haircuts, or the dental school to get cheap fillings. I figured, and the Honest Shop guy agreed, that maybe one of the local vocational schools could do a better job than the fast-talking slicks who barely have time to clean the spray gun between jobs. There is no premium placed on rushing jobs out the door, and generally you only pay for materials. The downside is that you've got someone learning on your vehicle.

Well, it needs paint, and it deserves a good quality job. Maybe the finish work wouldn't be that great, and there might be some drips or specks that mar the work, but at least there is some sense that the instructor will make sure the thing is properly sanded and sealed and wiped down and sprayed correctly.

ANYway, that was last year, and I'd pretty much let it go, until here lately. I've noticed that the oxidation is seeming to accelerate. Something needs to be done, and now. My memory was also jogged by the fact that my kids were going through their course selections for next year, and I'd noticed in their catalog that one of the local schools teaches bodywork and painting.

SO, I got out the magical Internet and found the school's website--they've got a nice little PowerPoint that shows some of the various voc-ed stuff they do--and found the instructor's e-mail address. After some back and forth messages, I took the car over to the campus Wednesday, and it looks like good ol' Järn might finally get a new suit of clothes!

They'll have to wait until August or September when classes are back in session, but otherwise, it's a go. The instructor explained that he orders the materials and by law (at least I think it's state law--it could just be board policy) has to charge a 25% surcharge to make up for the fact that the students don't get paid, and he said they can take only about four cars a month during the school year. He went over some of the stuff they'd have to do to get it painted, and finally gave me the cost. Again, it's material cost + 25%, and he said the maximum charge was going to be about $780. He wasn't sure of the exact cost yet, and said it would more than likely be lower, but he wanted to make sure he was covered. It's still kinda pricey, but I don't think I'd get a better deal unless I had a buddy with a paint booth and some time on his hands.

Now--time to start saving up some cash.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"And she only drove it to church on Sundays!"

Actually, not even that much. Kitchen Hand details his latest acquisition, namely an Australo-Swedish time capsule from 1976. For those of us who ditched the English monarchy but kept their measurements, his new prize with 40,065 kilometers on the clock translates into 24,840 miles.

I have a feeling there are a lot more stories in that car.

UPDATE: A photo album awaits you of the Tangerine Dream!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Running Late. Or not running, as the case may be.

Just a reminder to you all--the most important piece of emergency equipment you can have in your car is a cell phone.

Got the kids rousted and fed and in the car this morning with time to spare, cranked up the ol' lump o' iron, put it in Reverse, and had to wait while Boy jumped back out to run inside and get his assignment for art class.

As we waited, I caught a whiff of a most peculiar odor that I at first thought was something like burning friction material, coming in through the vents. Hmm. That's probably not good. I quickly put the car in Park, thinking (hoping against hope) that it wasn't the reverse clutches or something inside the transmission. Got out and lifted the hood, and nothing was out of place. No smoke, everything perking along as if nothing was wrong.

Well, that's weird.

Boy came back and off we went, first to the middle school, dropped him and his big sister, then it was on to the elementary school with Cat. The car didn't miss a beat, and it began to mightily bother me about that smell. It smelled expensive, but maybe it was nothing since the car wasn't a pile of cinders.

Dropped her off at school, then stopped at the Publix to get a box of sodas for the office. Paid, got back some cash so I could pick up Reba's repaired shoe and Boy's Scout cap, walked back outside and got in the car, hit the switch, and...


The radio and fan and all the dashboard lights were going, but there wasn't a whir from the starter or even a click from the solenoid.


So that's what the smell was.

I figured it had to be something in the starter circuit, and more than likely was the fusible link.

But what to do about it!? I HAD TO GET TO WORK!

Lucky for that handy cell phone.

Could I get Reba on the phone? No, she was already too far from Trussville to turn around and come back for me. Let's see--7:20. Maybe I could get Oldest, especially since she refuses to turn her phone off. I could get her to come get me, then I could take her to school and take the car on with me to work, then get Grandma to pick her up, and...

"Your call is being answered by an automated voice message system. Your party is not available...."

The one time when it would have been a good thing to have the phone on, and it was off.


Okay, I'm going to be late for work.

First order of business, look at my insurance card and call the number to make sure I still have emergency road service coverage. (I.e., the second most important piece of emergency equipment you should have.) Yep, but then had to call a different number for that. Called, got a woman from somewhere very far away, told her all my personal information, told her where I was, "Publix supermarket in Trussville!" "Public market in Russellville?"

Finally got all that figured out, then it was a question of where to take the car. There is a new shop right down the road about half a mile from where I sat, but I had no idea what the name of it was. So I told her that.

Alas, she needed a name. I finally figured I'd have it taken to the shop that worked on the Focus, so I gave her that name. Did I have an address?

Well, no.

I thought about getting out--IN THE RAIN, which was now beginning to fall--and going inside the store for a Yellow Pages, but the heck with that. She finally decided to put in her computer that I was going to have it towed to a shop on Gadsden Highway.

"Gasten Highway?"

"No, Gadsden. Gee-aye-dee [pause] Zee-dee-ee-en."


We finally got it figured out.

Hung up and waited. Got a call back that the tow truck would be there in 45 minutes.

::sigh:: That means around 8:30. Oh, well.

Waited. Watched various professional women and housewives go to and from Publix. The rain picked up. Then slacked off.

About 8:20, the phone buzzed again and it was the tow truck guy. Had to explain where I was, since he had no clue. You figure tow truck guys are like cabbies and know every place in town, but apparently not.

Got there right at 8:30, and soon thereafter my phone buzzed again with a robot asking if the tow truck guy had gotten there, and if so to press 1. I did as instructed.

The rain picked up again and he kept right on working, while I pretended to be a big sissy dork and hid under an umbrella. I felt even worse when I saw a couple of women walking out of Publix without umbrellas, so I thought maybe I was only thinking it was raining hard enough for a cover. I moved the bumbershoot to the side, and was severely misted by at least three raindroplets. Too wet for MY tastes. What with being a big sissy dork and all.

Clambered up in the cab after he'd gotten everything secure, made the short hop to the car place. AHhhhh. "Hey, it's called Panos Automotive Service!" I said proudly.

Walked in and gave them a rundown of my problem and told them what my diagnosis was so they'd have something to ignore, the counter guy said it might take many hours, I said I'd have to wait no matter what, then I went in the restroom and peed.

All that rain, you know.

They got it backed off the flatbed into the first bay, and I read the variety of magazines they had. This was the first time I'd ever used this place, and from what I could tell, they seemed to know what they were doing. It's usually covered up with cars, and it seemed reasonably tidy, and while I was sitting there reading the doormat and uniform delivery guy came by delivering door mats and uniforms. You figure any shop that goes to that much trouble is pretty stable.

Or at least I sure hoped so.

Along about 9:30, I heard the tell-tale clickwhirPUTT-putterputterputter WHOOOOSH of the car cranking up in the shop. SUCCESS! I wonder what was wrong...

Turns out I wasn't quite on the target--it was a defective neutral safety switch that had shorted, then burnt out the wire leading to the starter. Same type of symptom as a bad fuse, but harder to fix.

Or was it?

I have now much more fondness for this place, because the mechanic (who allowed that he had a couple of Volvos, too) said he could just bypass the switch. Now this isn't the preferred fix, and most shops are so scared of litigation that they swear such a thing was not only inadvisable, but simply beyond the ken of mere mortals to accomplish.

The alternative was to order up a switch and replace it.

Which was going to be more money, and I knew it, but I had them ask anyway.

50 bucks for the part, 50 bucks for labor, plus the labor they'd already done on the car to figure out what was wrong with it. Call it close to $200 with tax. Which really isn't bad, but was still more than I wanted to spend.

Which meant that the tab to get me back on the road came to $80. I just have to be really REALLY careful to make sure the car is in Park to start it.

Out of the door before 10:00 a.m. and on the road.

But still really, REALLY late for work.

"Beware the ides of March," indeed!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

For lovers of Furrin Cars, Parrots, and Mechanics with a Literary Streak

I was looking around last night for a variety of junk, and did a search for some things for the ol' Volvo and somehow ran across one of the most interesting places I've ever seen on the Internet.

The place is called Foreign Affairs, and is the website of a repair shop and used car dealer in the Staunton, Virginia area, and it sounds just like the sort of place I would enjoy working in (should I ever decide to ditch my current vocation). Although it combines two of the most disreputable sorts of businesses (no offense to honest used car dealers and mechanics--all five of you), you simply have to admire any shop that prides itself on "avian entertainment, and pointless pettifoggery." The avian entertainment consists of Remington and Kuzo (scroll down past the lovely wife of the proprietor), both of whom I'm certain will appeal to Miss Janis.

I found this page first, which is a documentary of sorts of customer complaints about their cars, and the photos and explanations of what was wrong. Some of them are frightening to see, but the prose is certainly entertaining: "Most engines don't operate well with a hole in the piston. Maybe a small hole. When your engine overheats, STOP and call a tow truck."

That's a photo of the mighty Volvo B230F. Proving even anvils have their limit of abuse.

Anyway, a thoroughly engaging website and what sounds like a great bunch of folks. I sure wish they had a location in Trussville...

(By the way, I had some trouble getting some of their pages to load this morning--just keep hitting reload if you have to. Also, this was crossposted to Possumblog.)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Well, how about that--even MORE routine maintenance!

I had most of the day to myself (with the able assistance of Tiny Terror) on Saturday past, and decided to take care of some long-neglected work.

On Friday, I had dropped by Advance Auto Parts and picked up a set of Bosch Platinum Plus spark plugs (with the magical flavor of yttrium!), a distributor cap, and a rotor button, but they didn't have a set of plug wires. After dispensing with family things on Saturday morning, as well as another bit of car work on the Focus, I called the other parts place down the hill (Westwood, which more of a parts supply place than a mainline mass market retailer such as Advance) to make sure they had a set of plug wires for the old brick, which they did. Got Cat dressed (more or less) and made her quit whining by promising her that if she would be good and help me, I'd take her to Sonic for lunch and then we'd have a picnic on the old footbridge over the Cahaba. (Not a current picture, but still a good one.)

THIS she understood!

Off down to the foot of the hill, walked in and saw that the genial old fellow (who smelt of stale coffee, Marlboros, and grease) already had my set out there waiting on the counter. THAT'S SERVICE, my friends!



Admittedly, they were top of the line bits called Magstar Gold, and had the nice metal shields on the plug ends and all that, but that's still awfully steep. Then I saw the list price--$132. I figure I must be getting a real deal.

Paid, and went back home ready to get started.

I don't know how long ago the plugs were last done, but I know I haven't done it. (I suppose I could look at the voluminous records kept by the previous squirrelly owner, but I didn't want to.) Anyway, it's been idling rough for a year now, and although the mileage is relatively good at around 21 mpg, I keep thinking it could do better. New ignition parts might be the trick.

First thing was to replace the rotor button and cap, which turned out to be more trouble than I gave it credit for being. Seems the rotor takes a bit of persuasion to fully seat itself down on the shaft, but I didn't know this until I cranked it and looked on in horror as the whole distributor cap was wildly oscillating like a Tilt-a-Whirl. After shutting it down and yanking everything back off, with a few smears of silicone on the underside of the rotor and then a polite tap with a screwdriver handle, it was where it was supposed to be.

BUT, before all that, there were the plugs to install. I was a bit fearful of what I might find on the ends--carbon, or worse, oil. Happily, they were each and every one a nice shade of toasted bread, with only one having a bit of tan-colored scaley stuff on the ground electrode. The center electrodes, though--oh, my. They were all nearly burnt down to the insulator. No WONDER the thing has been running rough and hard to start in the cold!

In with the new set (actually, these are done one at a time to keep junk from blowing into the cylinders) and after a bit of a brain cloud with the screw-on tips (which weren't needed with the type of wires I had) that caused me to have to REMOVE all the little screw-on tips, the wires were all snapped on, and the engine cranked to life. Again, there was that slight mishap with the bobbling distributor cap, but after that was squared away, things worked just like they should.

And I have to say, Catherine was a great help through the whole process. She even got to wear her own pair of blue nitrile gloves to keep her hands clean, which she thought was super keen. She would fetch tools for me and throw boxes away, and was kind enough to go get my shop manual so I could remember the proper firing order, (1-3-4-2, by the way), and asked what this was, and that was, and what those were, and generally hung around far longer than I ever thought she would. Of course, she's still a kid, so as her attention wandered, she went and bothered the cat for a while.

SO, time for a test drive, and LUNCH.

Cleaned up, gathered her up and off we went. Now I might be full of wishful thinking, but ol' Järn felt like a brand new car--well, almost. But a lot more peppy and without the shakiness at idle he'd had before. So, that turned out just fine.

After a nice lunch with my sidekick and a brisk round of rock-skipping and Pooh Sticks, we had one more stop to make. Luckily, Catherine was tired and ready for a stop in all the fun, because we spent the next HOUR waiting at the Express Oil Change for them to do a radiator flush. Another task that's been on hold since I bought the car, even despite the dire warnings of the previous owner that it was time to have it done. And it is important. I'd just not gotten around to it. And despite knowing how to do it myself, I wanted someone else to do it, simply because it's messy and tiresome and I didn't want to fool with it.

I also didn't realize it was going to take an hour, though, but that's okay, because now there's one more thing on my To-Do list over there on the sidebar!

So, that there's what all has been done of late--check back in a few days and we'll see how the mileage does.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Okay, I just THOUGHT I had myself a worthy moron project!

This fellow has the time and ability to REALLY go all out in the “wildly improbable” sweepstakes. (Thanks to my buddy Nate over at Wasted Electrons for digging this one up.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Man, I LOVE Jury Duty!

Some. I had to show up Monday and yesterday, but thankfully got released at lunch, so I had some time for once to get some needed maintenance out of the way, in the form of a transmission service.

Now my humble hunk of iron does have some issues, namely a leaking rear tailshaft seal, which means I need to replace that along with the bearing (along with the driveshaft bushing and bearing), but that's more than I had time to do, so I settled on taking it to the local Express Oil Change so they could at least drop the pan, flush it out, put on a new filter and gasket, and put a little stop-leak in there to get me a few more thousand miles before it completely blows up.

I figure 70 bucks is a pretty good deal, and the mechanics were nice to the ol' feller since he has so many miles on him. Took a bit longer than planned since they had to send for the proper kit--IMAGINE! Not having a trans part set for a 21 year old foreign car!

Anyway, it took a while also because the dipstick tube and everything else was bound up with years and years of immobility, but eventually it all got undone, then done back up, and I was on my way. Be interesting to see if that Valvoline stuff works or not, but at least I feel a bit less guilty about neglecting everything!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Wonder of wonders!

I actually did manage to get the oil changed this weekend! For some reason, this was much harder than usual, I think mainly because I decided to use my newish multi-quart used oil tub, which is ever so slightly too high to simply slide under the car, meaning I had to jack it up a bit, meaning I couldn't really get under there very well to loosen up the drain plug, meaning I had to say some bad words. I really started the latter in earnest when oil blurped up over the rim of the oil tub because I had neglected to open the little vent on top. Oil all over the driveway.

I am a moron.

ANYway, got all that cleaned up and did a little underhood cleanup as well. Everything continues to click along, although it's well past time to change out the rear tranny seal and bearing and the driveshaft bearing.

But at least I don't feel so bad about not changing the oil--SINCE JULY!!


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An answer at last!

Hello everyone! Still plugging along with no time to spend on the ol' Brick, but I was lucky enough to get a comment to a post from last year when I had purchased my ambient temperature gauge.

I got a complete NOS gauge and harness, fresh in the box, but it didn't include the temperature sensor itself. Not knowing exactly what to get, I figured these would be either pricey, unavailable, or both, and resigned myself to scouring eBay for one.

BUT, a nice anonymous commentor directed me to this thread on the Brickboard, where we find out from the ever-wise Dave Shannon that the sending unit in question is the same as a VDO water temp sending unit.
Volvo used a VDO water temp sender for the air temp gauge. Long ago I found myself with 3 gauges and only one sender so I went to a local parts house and the guy looked up the number. The egauges/VDO part number is 323-095 it's a 1/8"x27 thread 250 degree sender ~$7.00. I tested it against the stock Volvo sender and it's an exact match reading wise.

I mount the senders under the front bumper this gives a good reading of road/air temp. The gauge has standard VDO wiring, + power, - ground, and G for sender input. One wire from the light is spliced into the ground wire and the other gets spliced into the light brown wire carrying power to the console lights.
SO, there you go!

Now to find time to get all this done, when I don't have time to do anything at all!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

231,000 Miles and...

...nothing to report in the New Year!

Thanks to all of you who continue to drop by, and I wish I had something to post, but the last couple of months have been a complete no-go for any Volvo-related wrenching. Although there's been plenty of OTHER car repair--had to put a fuel pump on our Ford Focus, and it was quite an entertaining and restful experience.

Not really.

Luckily for me, the Volvo has soldiered on despite the lack of proper babying and attention, and it now has the above-noted set of miles on it. I suppose it's good that I don't have any stories, but it certainly does make for HIGHLY boring blogging.

But then again...