Tuesday, January 16, 2018

280ZX * 2 = Y

This math problem is actually a little harder than it looks. Simplifying this does not follow the classic, standard pattern, and today's post explains it.

Unobtanium
thank you WikiPedia
The 280ZX is an iconic car. Based purely on the hit rate on my posts that mention it, the car remains very popular. It was one of those cars that every boy wanted in the late 70's and early 80's. From 1969 through 1983, Datsun built 4 different versions of the Z (240, 260, 280 and then the 280ZX). None of these versions had a run for more than 4 years, though, so there are a limited number of them out there. Even within the 280ZX, there are differences between the early and late (series 1 versus 2) which you may see in the picture to the right here and some years had a 2+2 version which included a rear seat. Scarcity of the car aside, finding parts for these is an arguably greater challenge. Lots of the bits and pieces just aren't available anymore. For example, the car we bought had virtually no interior. The carpets can be found online, but none of the plastic pieces are made aftermarket. I can't blame the plastic-injection companies; there are probably just too few people wanting the bits and too many variations between the 4 major models. Finding other things like a window regulator, or even an ashtray are virtually impossible.

In our efforts to leave no stone un-turned, we spent a lot of time on eBarf. Those with parts know their scarcity and are charging a premium for them. Next, we try the pick-n-pull yards. Well, there aren't any 280Z or 280ZX donors in the Oregon / Southwest Washington yards. T and C drove almost to Bellingham to pull parts only to be disappointed with the yard management: they have the cars so close together you can't get the doors all the way open. T drove down to Sacramento to pull a replacement door, but most of the interior was so trashed, it couldn't be used for donor material. He grabbed what he could anyway.

Take 2 They're Small
C had started shopping around for rims shortly after getting the 280ZX. The ones that were on it at purchase were okay, but they were chrome-y flat-faced rims that looked like they belonged on a 1/4-miler. While they allowed the car to move around okay, he didn't like the look. The original rims are classic, and like so many other original parts, they are hard to find at a reasonable price. Usually you'll find 1 or 2 selling for $200US a-piece. If you want a full set of 4, you can find them for at least $600US, but at least one will be damaged such that it can't hold air, and they'll be scratched up enough that you'll need to completely refinish them if you want them to look nice.

While searching for rims, C found a car north of Seattle that had the original rims, but had rust, poor body repair and title problems. Based on the pictures, the interior looked mostly complete. So, he and T hopped in the trusty '87 Cherokee and drove off to take a look. A road trip filled with chatter, fast food and music sharing later they arrived at the set of rims with a car attached. It started right up, and drove around fine. Steering was pretty good, suspension not too soft or fluttery but once up to temperature, it won't restart until it's cooled down. Ha. (For those of us with old VW buses, this is a familiar "hot start" problem. It's so common the aftermarket online sellers offer a wiring and relay system to fix it.) A short negotiation later, they bought it. Since C doesn't have a license, we got AAA to tow it. This transportation ended up costing 1/2 of what the car cost (AAA only does the first 100 miles after that it's a cash business), but when I awoke the next morning, it sat in the driveway outside the door of the garage where the no-rust 280ZX lives.

Simplify
In theory, stripping a parts car could be a weekend of intense wrenching. In practice, it rarely works out that way. This ZX will probably be more on the "in practice" end of the spectrum. Our plan is pretty simple. We're going to video the engine running and post it on craiglist as a whole unit. We don't need it, and we suspect someone else does. We may keep the 5-speed, thinking it might be a good runner for the MG later on. Pretty much everything else we pull off will get swapped onto the '79: full interior, rims, power window regulators, power door locks, door handles, rear hatch (has the wiper and a good seal), power steering unit, hoses, steering rack, radiator and chrome bits. We may sell other things that we pull off along the way, but that depends on whether they're in decent shape. Anything else will be re-attached and part of what's sold to the scrapyard.

Shedroom
Reading that list, there's a lot of stuff coming off that car. If we're not going to turn around and slap them onto the '79, we need to store them somewhere. Aaaaand.... we're not gonna just slap them on. Instead, we're getting the '79 ready for paint first so that really means more parts will be coming off before parts go on. So, with 2 project cars already in the sub-sized 2-car garage and a driveway full of other cars... where do the parts go? Well... we just cleared out a bedroom for C, so he's decided to use that room as a shed where he'll sleep when he's around. There isn't really any furniture in there yet, so it kinda makes sense. It just seems a little nuts. Fortunately, it's only while the car gets prepped and painted. If all goes well, it'll be a couple of months. So, we're probably going to have a partially torn down 280ZX in the driveway and a steadily increasing pile of 280ZX parts in C's bed- or should I say shed-room until the car has paint which could not happen until Spring.

For those of us who dreamed of owning a 280ZX when we were boys, with posters on our walls, this concept is almost unimaginable: your room is not decorated with poster of your dream car, it is decorated with PARTS of your dream car. Need to sit? Take the driver seat from a '83 280ZX. Beware, they're kinda low.

That's it for today. Thanks, as always, for following along,

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Capturing an Escaped Captive... Nut

Rain. and cold. and blustery wind. All of my projects except one are sitting in the driveway under tarps held down with whatever I could get my hands on. My new-ish job has a policy about how much paid-time-off you can carry forward into the next year, so I find myself with days at home. So... what to do? Work on the one project that's sitting in the garage so one day it too can sit in the driveway under a tarp while one of his brothers are in the garage getting worked on. Today covers one of the final steps to achieving that goal.

Captive Nut
test fitting a panel
On the convertible MG, the top fabric is attached to a steel frame. Depending upon the year, the frame could take on one of a few forms. Mine is the last style, which folds straight back with large scissor-style hinges. These hinges mount to the sides of the car just behind the door latch. The steel inner body panel has a flat surface into which 3 holes were drilled at the factory. Inside the panel a nut was welded behind each hole. These nuts are what holds the convertible frame to the car, and therefore hold the top onto the car. Yes, there are clasps along the top of the windscreen and there are little hold-downs along the rear deck, but most of the work is handled by these 6 bolt-nut combinations.

The Escape
With any car, rust and wear take a toll. On the MGB, the little captive nuts (1/4 - 28) can detach from the inner body panel. Once separated, the frame can be attached, but the person doing the attaching must hold the nut with a wrench or pliers or something. Since the entire inner steel skin is usually covered with a vinyl panel (on top of which the convertible frame is usually attached), the owner has a choice: no more panels, no more top or re-capture the nuts. The PO had decided to select multiple options: no more panels and no more top, leaving the frame stripped of canvas and disconnected, but sitting behind the seats after discarding the vinyl cards prior to selling it to me.

Alternatives
I've driven around in plenty of cars which didn't have all of their inner panels. The operation of the car is in no way negatively impacted. It just looks trash. So, I decided I would get the nuts re-captured. There are a few ways to go after it.

Go Crazy, Tear down and Weld - Since these were originally welded into place at the factory before the body was assembled, getting them welded back in the same way is virtually impossible. I imagine someone industrious enough could take enough of the car apart to get access to the nuts. I don't see the value. Maybe if you have dreams of showing your car at concours or something, this would be the most-like-original path. Or maybe you're just sadistic. Either way, rock on.

Ugliest welds ever
Get a Repair Panel - Moss has a repair kit (link here) that could be used to fix this, so clearly this happens often. They run $18 each, which isn't bad, but as I noted at the beginning, I have some time, and I don't want to wait for shipping. I imagine the kit is a pretty easy solution though: set it so it is aligned with the holes, mark the mounting spot with a pen, drill, install. Easy peasy.

Make your Own Panel - While not necessarily the easiest, if you have some time and either don't have the money for the Moss panel, or don't want to wait for it, it's not that hard. I chose this path and I detailed steps below.

Recapture
I have the nuts in hand and plenty of super-thin scrap steel lying around. I considered that the steel to which the nuts were attached did not need to be terribly stout. It just needed to be strong enough to hold the nuts in place against some modest pressure during installation. Once the bolts seat into the nuts, the plate doesn't contribute to holding the top on: its still the bolt-nut combination. With this in mind, I cut a couple (one per side) small pieces of HVAC sheet metal with tin shears to they fit in the hole, around the nut(s) which were still clinging to the inner body panel. I held them in place, marked the nut-holes with a pen and step-drilled holes large enough for the bolt to easily pass. I then sanded the steel to get any zinc coating off. This is important as the off-gassing from welding a zinc coating is really bad.

For some reason, my top had an extra bracket that looked like this, but not chromed. I think it is for a wind blocker (like this) that wasn't with the car when I bought it. Love that. Anyway, I took that bracket thing and used it to provide more meat for the next steps (see the top picture). I aligned the HVAC sheet with the holes in the bracket and then threaded the bolt through, tightening the nut against the HVAC sheet.  Next came some of the worst looking welds I have ever produced (see middle picture). That is saying something, because my welding skills are pretty bad. Still, I was able to get the nuts to hold to the sheet and hold well enough for me to remove and re-insert the bolts multiple times.
"Pop" goes the Rivet

Install
Whether you did the Moss repair panel or you made your own, the mounting to the car is very similar. The panel sits flush against the outer-side of the inner wall (inside the cavity) with the nuts pointing out (away from the cabin). With the Moss panel, you can hold the thing on from the inside and see where the hole will be because it's symmetrical. Must be nice. With the home-made job, its not. Instead, I made judgments based on where the holes in the body were, and where the panel was as I held it up against the wall from inside the cavity. I marked 2 holes on the inner wall, pulled the panel aside and step-drilled to 13/32". This is just a hair larger than 3/8" so a 3/8" pop rivet will fit snug without binding as it goes in. To make sure I got the holes in exactly the right spots on the panel, I bolted it into place and drilled through the holes I'd just made in the body and then through the panel. With the panel still bolted on, I pop-riveted the panels in. I was still able to easily remove the bolts from the nuts (without touching the nuts), so the convertible top frame should now be capable of being installed after the interior cards are in place.

That's it for today's post. Yes, I could have simply ordered panels and this would have taken far less time. Instead, I got to play with my MIG and save myself about $40US. Thanks, as always for following along, and I hope you're having a wonderful holiday season. Hapy NewYear!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Z - Work that Body

Today's post covers some more of the efforts on the 280ZX.

Rain Rain Go Away
In my last update about the 280ZX, I described some of the efforts that were going on. The oil and oil filter were changed, but the main focus of the work was dismantling the body. This included removing and stripping body front fenders, removing the dented driver door and removing the hood. If we had a garage larger than a freight elevator, this would have all been done in the friendly, climate-controlled confines of my garage. Instead, we were doing this under 10x10 canopy. Enter a wicked storm. The first night, the wind blew so hard that the canopy flipped over, leaving the Z exposed. We righted it and that afternoon set some things on the feet so they wouldn't move in the wind. Well, they didn't move from the wind... exactly... but they moved.

The torrential rain that fell the following night destroyed the canopy. All four legs were broken, the supports under the main tarp were twisted and mangled. The car was kinda dry, but the canopy was suspending huge bowls of water over the top of it. Boo and I got the water away from the car, but all over ourselves. Hahaha.. The canopy frame was moved to the yard where T could cut it into pieces with the angle grinder. The canopy top was laid on top of the Z to try to keep it dry. The wind remained relentless, so we held it down with whatever we could find: pain cans, old rims, etc.

If you thought the front yard looked bad before, imagine the scene now. Like many yards, it is in it's late-fall least attractive state anyway with leaves and overgrown landscaping. Of course, we have the 7 cars in various states of repair. One is in pieces under a make-shift tarp that is covered in paint cans and rims and other stuff. The canopy frame is sitting in a heap. And, of course, there are bits and pieces of the Z project strewn about the driveway and lawn. Did I mention the large blue tarp where some parts had been primed and left? Yeah.. it's a mess. So so bad. Or it was. And the inside of the Z was still getting watered better than my yard in the summer.

Move-a Move-a
C has been working very hard on this car. He comes over on the afternoons he doesn't have work and spends at least one day every weekend on it. He usually works at least one day every weekend at his job, so, basically, if he isn't in school or at work, he's on his car. Proud dad. He is steadily preparing the car for a re-paint, but the more he exposes, the more he is creating opportunities for rust on the panels or water to get into the inside. The panels have been getting stored inside the 2-car shed (technically my attached garage, but it's really barely 18 feet deep) where the MGB sits awaiting funding.

On his last visit we noted how much moisture was still getting inside his car. By moisture I mean standing water, not just vapor or dampness. Standing water. So, we moved things around in a full-scale version of Tetris. We moved cars all around, some car parts got aggregated into big unwieldy piles, and found a way of fitting the Z next to the MGB in the garage. Now, C can climb in and out the driver side and work on removing windows or tail lights inside. When necessary, we'll move the Z straight back into the driveway for grinding and then move it straight forward into it's indoor storage spot. We were all very pleased with the net results. Overnight, we ran fans to get the moisture off the car so with every step he takes forward he won't be watching his car deteriorate from the weather.

So.. Where's the Progress
Yeah, Okay. I know. Lots of words there but no tangible update about the car itself other than it is now stored indoors. Here goes: T went down to Sacramento and picked up some interior plastic bits as well as a driver door (Thx T!). The door, like the fenders and the hood, has been stripped down to metal. We swapped out the power window guts from the donor door, replacing with the manual crank style from the folded up original door. We test-fit the door card and rolled the window up and down. Perfect.

On the next dry day, C will be setting all bare metal outside on that awful blue tarp and shooting them with primer. Of course, he will follow the standard process of wiping the parts down with mineral spirits first so the primer adheres well. Also, he has started to remove the small triangular rear windows. It appears that these were installed with that black windshield caulk, making their removal more difficult. Still, those are the places where rust can go unnoticed, and he wants his paint job to last longer than a few months, so he's going where rust hides.

Ahead, he plans to remove the trim around the windshield and remove the glass so he can address the small rust spots he can already see. Next is removing the tail lights, rear gate and the glass from the gate so the rear tailgate can be prepped. Once all pieces are ready, he wants to learn how to shoot his own paint, so we'll be looking into that. I sincerely hope we get a dry spell or we'll have to figure out a temporary painting shed. Since so much of the car is in smaller pieces, the "shed" may not need to be as large as a car. We'll see.

One last thing: when it came time to move the 280ZX from where it has sat almost since it arrived in October, it started right up. The only other car we have that starts that fast is the VW bus. I took that as a really good omen.

That's it for today. As always, thanks for following along.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dashing Thoughts

Today's post is just musings about how to improve my visibility into the health / well being of the diesel engine pushing the VW bus without retrofitting a NewBeetle or MK-IV Jetta instrument panel into the spot where the current original dash lives. This is actually all related, though it may seem a little scattered. I blame the holiday season.

Speed
With a planned change in tire size, the speedometer will no longer be accurate. It's really more of a guide as it is. I know there are converter bits that can be attached to the cable to gear up and down, but I'm not really sure how well those work. There's the option of doing surgery on the speedo, like this page here suggests, but that's a little scary. Still, if I want the original speedo to show the right speed after putting larger tires on, is does read like a viable alternative.

I could figure out a means of getting the speed from a Hall-effect sender. These are basically a magnet on the rotating wheel and a magnet sensor picking up the magnetic field as it passes. This signal is effectively a square wave that an electronic speedo can interpret. OR, the computer could know how fast I'm going, if I route the signal to the ECU. But, I'd still see the old needle on the original dash, showing the wrong speed. I like the idea of being able to keep the original dash operational so I may need to do something to the original speedo no matter what I do about the ECU.

Fuel
I am currently unable to determine how much fuel is in the tank. I tried swapping out the fuel gauge when I thought I had confirmed the sender was good, but that didn't work. So, I have to consider that the fuel sender has failed. If replaced with a ALH-ranging sender, the computer would know the fuel level. But, that would also mean that the fuel gauge on the original instrument panel wouldn't work. So, maybe I could figure out a way of installing an original sensor in the tank and then splicing a second signal from that, but shift the signal in the second signal to match the modern sensor.
Original VW Bus sensor       TDI
10ohms (full)                          35ohms
75ohms (empty)                    285ohms

If the bus range is 65ohms and the TDI computer expects a 250ohm range. For each ohm change in the sender, I'd need .26 ohms of change. Plus, the floor resistance would need to be increased by 25ohms. I haven't done electrical work like this since high school, but I'm not sure how this would work. In the table below, I've split the target ohm values into 13 5ohm increments from the original bus side. The diff column represents the difference between what the sender would provide and what the TDI gauge would expect. The step increase is the additional amount of resistance needed from the more-full to less-full increment. Nothing is simple.
Bus diff step increase TDI
full 10 25 25 35
15 39.23077 14.23077 54.23077
20 53.46154 39.23077 73.46154
25 67.69231 28.46154 92.69231
30 81.92308 53.46154 111.9231
35 96.15385 42.69231 131.1538
40 110.3846 67.69231 150.3846
45 124.6154 56.92308 169.6154
50 138.8462 81.92308 188.8462
55 153.0769 71.15385 208.0769
60 167.3077 96.15385 227.3077
65 181.5385 85.38462 246.5385
70 195.7692 110.3846 265.7692
empty 75 210 285

Maybe, I could get a converter like the Fuel Gauge Wizard. These are designed to meet this problem for any gauge/sender pair which provides less resistance the fuller the tank and is empty at 500ohms or less. I could splice it in to the original wires so the stock signal is untouched while the new signal goes to the ECU.... hmm... Then, the stock gauge could still read while also informing the ECU to support the digital gauge.

Back to Dashing

If I had solved the fuel and the speed, only the turn signals would remain from the original dash that I'd need to retain. I wonder if there's a way of telling the computer that the turn signal is on....

Continuing down this mental thread, the space available for dash concepts: 13 or 14" across. 5" high. So, fitting a Jetta IV instrument panel (even if I wanted to) wouldn't fit. The one that came from the donor Beetle definitely wouldn't fit. Maybe a tablet could. A typical 7" Android is 19.2cm x 12cm -or- 7.559055" x 4.72441"

Perhaps, if oriented such that the thick "bottom" (or the far right end in the picture here) were set on the outer edges, we could support two screens for a dash.

Seeing that there really isn't an iOS comparable, I looked around for a cheap tablet. $40 gets you a bluetooth enabled, 4GB tablet (link). I couldn't use two of them without modifications to either the vent / heat controls or something else more drastic. Still, its an interesting mental exercise. Maybe it's worth only doing one, covering the blank spot where a tachometer should have been installed stock from the factory (Really VW?, Really?) and most of the speedometer, leaving the cluster with the fuel gauge, turn signals and idiot lights still visible. If the tablet can be easily removed and installed, I could pull the tablet out of the way at will, leaving the stock dash in place. I got one of these tablets just for laughs and the low price comes from the weak battery. Still, this is an interesting idea.

So, assuming the tablet isn't unattractive, how to get the engine computer to tell the tablet what's up? There are a surprising number of tools out there for this, actually. I went and bought this one from scantool. It came with free software for the tablet which I played around with a little bit.

For now, this stuff is sitting in a heap while I consider how I want to address the fuel tank level sender. Ultimately, the sender needs to be replaced, and it makes the most sense to just replace it with an original ohm-range sender. If I want to go further with the ECU stuff, I can do the fuel gauge wizard, build a hall-effect speed sensor and really jump into the electronic dash all while keeping the original functionality.

That's it for this week. Thanks, as always, for following along. With the holidays upon us, and family descending upon us, I may not have much time to post. I am taking some time off, so I'll have some time to generate content of course. I just may not get to telling the stories until some time in January. I appreciate your following, rare comments and more regular emailed thoughts and ideas. Please keep sharing.
Last, if you're in the Portland area and need a place to fix your daily, I'd be hapy to help. You can even use my driveway. Hapy Holidays and Hapy New Year-

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Zup date

Its been a few weeks of sporadic work on the 280ZX we picked up in October. Today's post covers some of the work that's been done thus far.

Oil
When we bought the car, the owner was pretty up-front about the condition of the car. He had the transmission gone through, put in a new clutch and rebuilt the engine. My first thought when I heard that statement was "yeah, right". When we looked the engine bay over, though, the paint tells the story: the engine block has been recently painted purple. The exhaust, intake and all other components haven't any purple on them. So, either he went through considerable trouble to make it look like he rebuilt the engine or he actually did. He did share that the valves will need their post-rebuild adjusting, so we'll have to remember that.

Still, any used car probably has old fluids in it. With a recent rebuild, engines need oil changes more often, so one of the first things C did was an oil and oil filter change. Good man. The oil was not terribly black and we did not find any little metal bits in it. Even the magnetic drain plug was clean. All good signs.

Hammertime
Once the oil was done, C wanted to get after the bodywork. The front driver fender had a pretty good dent in it and the driver door was bad dented badly enough that it wouldn't close properly. The fender was extremely easy to remove. There is a series of bolts along the top, like any other car fender, but only a few on the bottom and none along the door frame. Stunned, we had the fender off in a matter of minutes. C thought about the cost of a replacement fender and decided that trying to get the dents out was a worthwhile learning experience. So, he grabbed a framing hammer, set the fender on an old tire and started wailing on the dents from the inside of the fender. Now, that sounds pretty horrible, but the execution was actually pretty damn good. He spent about an hour working the dents down smaller and smaller until all that's really left are framing hammer markings. We will need to finish the fender out with some real body tools, but I think for his purpose (daily driver) he will be able to get it looking decent.

The driver door was a bear to get off because of the dent. We needed to hammer and pry-bar the lip just so we could get a wrench onto the hinge bolts. Still, with a 12mm crescent, the 6 bolts came off with relative ease and the door was soon on the ground. We sourced a replacement outside Sacramento, but for now the driver door opening is protected with a tarp while the new door is stripped. As you can imagine, our front yard looks stunning.

De-Purple
As you could see in some of the pictures, the prior owner wanted the accent color to be purple rather than the stock blue. So, he painted all of the blue areas a plum color. It may have been great for him. C hated it. So, he went at it first with my angle grinder. It created lots of dust, but didn't really take out much of the purple. So, he bought some aircraft paint stripper. Now, this is some nasty stuff, but it totally worked. The key was letting a first coat of stripper set up and then put a second coat on. Once that's set up, we could strip it off. Some areas we did one coat to get the clear coat and a second pass to get all of the paint. Either way, C stripped all of the purple paint off: passenger fender, driver fender, passenger door, hood and even the little bits on the rear quarters.

That's as far as C (with a little help and guidance) has gotten. His progress has slowed as he has decided to get a job to help pay for things. Since school is his first job, and hourly wages for new-to-the-workforce jobs are rather low, the inflow of capital will be slow, so the rate of improvement to the 280ZX will reflect that.

Thanks, as always, for following along. If you happen to have a cache of 280ZX interior bits, we're looking for those too-

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Oh Clutch.

Today's brief post covers the swift demise of the clutch in Flash, the 2001 TDI Jetta.

Full Yard
The stable of cars in my driveway and garage has steadily climbed over the last few years. During my humble beginnings with the ex, I had the '72 camperbus (Hapy) and a '01 Jetta TDI (Flash). I fixed whatever car she had along the way, but generally speaking, I have the car I drove and the bus I worked on. When I met Boo, her 2000 Saturn (Dude) was her daily driver. She has had the same mechanic for that car for years, so I pretty much don't touch it out of respect for their relationship. Between kids' cars: '01 Jetta Wagon TDI (unnamed), '87 Jeep Cherokee (Jaws) the '79 ZX (not named yet) and my extra project car (the oft-posted about MG), our yard and garage have 7 cars packed in. Of those, at least 3 are daily-driving: the old Jeep, an FR-S and Flash the Jetta. The most often used of them all has been Flash.

Flash
He is a real trooper. After re-doing the front suspension a couple of years ago (See: Daily Driving), and replacing his steering rack after Les Schwab failed to tighten the baffles during alignment (letting water in and fouling the rack), he's been very reliable. He has crossed over 200k miles and while the body has looked better and there are all kinds of little things that bug me, he runs great. At least until a couple of weeks ago.

Oh Clutch
A couple of weeks ago, something in the clutch pedal went "pank!" and a little hiccup could be felt about an inch above the floor when raising the pedal from fully depressed. The clutch had been slipping a little bit in first gear, and I had started hearing some noise when the pedal was depressed and engine at idle. So, I knew something was going. As I write this, I'm inclined to think it's the throw-out bearing, but a new one of those comes in the clutch kit and in order to replace it, you need to get that far in anyway, so I started thinking about the job. And then things went from screwy to un-drive-able. We had started driving the FRS more, and Flash had sit for a few days when the need arose for me to drive Flash to work. The clutch started acting weird almost from go. Everything was fine so long as I didn't depress the pedal, which sounds silly, but I knew I couldn't make it to the transit center and then home again so I aborted the drive and turned around. I got home, but he was banned from travel until I do the clutch job.

Planning
As I mentioned at the top, I have 7 cars littering my driveway and garage. The garage is officially a 2-car, but you really can't fit 2 cars in there, though there are 2 doors. Behind door #1 sits the MG, without a top. It can't move out since the steady fall rains have arrived. So, I will need to do the job similar to how I did the last front-end job on the Jetta (replacing the steering rack): with the rear-end sticking out the open door. I really don't like the idea of the garage being left unlocked like that, so this will take some extra planning. But first, parts need ordering, and I need to verify I have all the requisite tools.

Parts
I really don't prefer car parts from the NAPA or O'reilly's of the world. The parts for some cars are okay, but for the European imports, they generally aren't that great. Since Discount Import Parts (DIP) closed their Beaverton location, I'm effectively forced to buying online. Fortunately, TDI owners have a few in-community vendors like IDParts.com who offer OEM and better-than-stock parts.

I like the dual-mass flywheel in the Jetta, and am choosing to keep it rather than swap it out for a single-mass. There are lots of cheap "conversion kits", especially at the NAPA's, etc where you can get a clutch, pressure plate and flywheel for $200. Sounds too good to be true? It probably is. Especially when a good clutch and pressure plate (with throwout bearing, grease and an alignment tool) is close to double that. If you're gonna spend 6 hours tearing your car apart, put in a good part, right?

So, I ordered the dual-mass flywheel fitting clutch kit ($300+). I decided to get a new real main seal as well. These run around $35, and are the last line of defense between your engine oil and your clutch. When these leak, oil gets on your clutch, forcing a new clutch job. I have not yet decided if I will replace the seal. I just figured that having it in-hand could stave-off Murphy's Law.

Tempted Fate
I thought I was being smart getting the rear main seal. Maybe I was. Unfortunately, there is something more serious going on within my engine bay that has me stumped. I can't start the engine anymore, and the battery dies after a handful of attempts. Maybe the cheap NAPA-replacement alternator I put in had gone bad. Maybe the recently replaced battery failed prematurely. Maybe my starter failed. Maybe there's something more serious happening inside like the timing belt or injection pump skipped a tooth. I don't know. I can say, though, that I entertained thoughts of simply parting the car out and thinning the herd of cars by one. Since the Jetta Wagon doesn't currently work (bad automatic transmission), now I got thinking of combining those problems: I take the working transmission and all the other manual transmission bits out of Flash, combine them with the new clutch kit into the Jetta Wagon and part out the rest of Flash.

And then I was able to get him started. It required a boost from my charger, but he started and I was able to back him up a few feet. Sweetness, the engine is fine. It's a pure primary electrical issue: battery, starter or alternator or a combination. A couple of days after I moved him, I tried to start him again. No start and the clutch pedal wouldn't return back up by itself. Neat.

Projects Pile
I'm increasingly loath to look out my front window at a growing list of broken things needing repair. Hapy needs a radiator. MGB needs a top. 280ZX needs a door and an interior. Dude needs a headliner. Jetta Wagon needs a transmission or a 5-speed swap. Jaws (the Jeep) and the FRS are the only consistent cars and Jaws' transmission is starting to go. Clearly, I'll have plenty of material for the blog. It's just a question of when I'll have the time to do the work.

The forces at work these days (holidays, boys need my time, icy weather approaching) have led me to the decision to take the clutch kit and Flash to the local clutch place to do the work. I can't drive him in his current condition, so I'll just haul him over there. I'll get the battery checked first (pretty sure this is it since an overnight on the charger doesn't get enough juice in there for the engine to start), but if it's the alternator, I'll need to do that replacement after the clutch is done. Since the clutch job requires the removal and re-install of a starter, I sent a replacement starter (from Discount Import Parts, so it's not crap) with the clutch kit and Flash. It is actively getting worked on, so if things go well, I'll be driving him home tonight.

UPDATE (2017-12-10): the no-start issue was resolved by replacing the starter. The new clutch is so easy to depress, the gears engage nicely and he starts right up. The Clutch Doctor did an awesome job and Flash is back to being our daily driver, shifting the FRS back to occasional use.

Thanks for following along, and I'll have something with pictures next time :)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The 80-20 Rule

I'm sure you've heard the phrase 80/20. If not, its a theory that the last 20% of the project takes 80% of your time. No where is that more true than working on old cars. In one of my last posts about the MG, I detailed all of the various things I had done, and how close it was to road-worthiness. Since that fateful drive, I have spent many many hours trying to diagnose the small electrical issues that remain (See Ug-letrical). Today runs through some more of that fun.

Seeing Green
The MGB has 4 major circuits running through 4 fuses. The brown circuit is "always hot". It basically runs from the Alternator to the Battery, providing juice to the headlight switch and power to the hazard relay. Red is for the courtesy lights: side marker, running lights, and license plate. Purple runs the horns, the clock, cigarette lighter and "dome" light. There are 2 lesser circuits: blue-stripped between the headlights and the headlight switch and red-stripped for illuminating the gauges. Everything else is on the Green circuit. Seriously everything else: gauges, wipers, turn/hazard signals, even the reverse lights and radiator fans. So, when there is a break in the green circuit, lots of weird things start to happen. It was odd behavior in this circuit which drove me to replacing the fusebox last fall. On my recent test drive (See MGB - Test Start, Test Drive), most of the things on the green circuit didn't work: wipers, turn signals, tachometer.

Following my own advice, I started with the fuse, and demonstrated to myself that electricity was making it past the fuseblock to the next step in the wiring. Fiddling with the fuse and testing wires must have shaken something free, though, because after simply testing voltage and wiggling wires, the wiper motor started working. So did the cooling fans. So, I started to focus on the turn signals and hazard flashers, recognizing that wire shaking could just as easily cause those things to suddenly stop working too.
taken from MG experience posting

Hazard
The hazard switch is one of the more complicated bits in the MGB electrical system. I covered the early diagnosis of this circuit earlier (see MGB - Ug-lectrical). It has 6 pins coming out of the back, with 4 clustered at one end and 2 at the other. The 2 pins allow voltage through when the switch is in the hazards-are-not-on position. This permits the turn signals to work. The 4 pins clustered together map a brown circuit wire from the hazard relay (into pin #3) to light up the "hazard" light in the center of the dash (pin 4) as well as fire both left and right turn signals (pins 1 and 2).

The Interweb says these switches get crusty and need to be flipped up and down a bunch of times to get them to work again. I tried that, but it didn't work. So, I moved back to testing wires and electrical bits. I thought I'd proven that it was the brown wire which led to the relay, by routing a new wire around it, but I actually proved that the original brown wire wasn't seating. Once I pulled the wire off and onto the relay a few times, the hazards started working.... on just the driver side. I concluded that the switch was faulty. Be forewarned: the new made-in-China switches fail often, and can be short-lived. In fact, the replacement that I got from Moss appeared to have failed right out of the box. Neat.

I shot DeOxit into the plug in which the hazard switch is attached. I took a short stretch of wire and tested the plug, to prove that it was indeed the switch and not the plug. One at a time, I jumpered from pin-hole #3 to holes 1, 2 and 4. The jumpers worked, and I was able to get the dash light and one side and then the other to act properly. This confirmed my suspicions: bad hazard switches, even out of the box. I plugged the originally-on-the-car hazard back in, and tried the turn signals. Now, they worked. So, the DeOxit cleared whatever was wrong on that side, but the hazard part of the switch didn't work. To remedy, I bought a New Old Stock (NOS) part off of eBarf. While expensive at $45, having a hazard switch is a safety item I should not be driving without. Even with the new, proven functional hazard switch, the lights wouldn't flash. The hazard relay, though, made the tick-tick-ticking sound. Now, I've read that the original Lucas hazard flasher relays are a bit touchy. So, I dug around in my electrical stuff and found a bunch of relays from the TDI swap on the bus. One of them matched the pin pattern from my MGB - Ug-lectrical post. With a basic black (black for grounds in British cars) wire grounding pin #31, I connected the wire from the ignition relay and the wire heading for the hazard switch. Viola! We have hazards and directionals!

Stopped
Once I solved the hazards, I moved on to the brake lights. I'd solved these before (See MGB fuse box), but with the work on the pedals and master cylinders, they stopped working again. Knowing what worked last time, I went straight to the brake light switch on the pedal box. With it in-hand, and the ignition turned to run, I pressed the little nub on the end (that lightly rests on the brake pedal arm), and the brake lights lit up. Perfect. This is a basic adjustment issue. I turned the adjustment nut further up the switch. Then, I fit the switch through the side hole and threaded it into the pedal box. I think I got some paint into the threaded hole as the switch started to bind. I cleared the holes with a bolt and re-threaded the switch. I had to employ needle-nose pliers to fully set the switch, but now, when the pedal is depressed about a 1/2 inch, the brake lights fire. I set the adjustment nut down against the pedal box, and one more little nagging issue is solved.

That's it for today. I'm still working through other 80-20 issues and hope to have the MGB ready to put to bed until the rains stop (and my money replenishes) so I can drive it to get a top put on. While I wait for that, I have a radiator replacement I need to do on the bus and C will need a second pair of hands getting the 280ZX road-worthy. And then, there's that broken daily-driver I mentioned last time... its a true target-rich environment.

Thanks, as always, for following along.