Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Where There's Smoke...

With a title like that, this post could go almost anywhere. I could ramble about the elections, or about newspaper articles, lying public officials, whistle-blowers, conspiracy theories, you name it. Instead, today I will focus on literally smoke. As in the smoke that has sat outside my house, and up and down the west coast for almost 2 weeks. Fortunately, we were hit with a big storm at the end of last week that washed the smoke away. Still, 10+ days of hazardous air was absolutely post-worthy. Before I begin, Hapy first day of Fall.

The various Star Trek series like to have moments sprinkled through episodes where they get to say how "adaptive" humans are. While this is awfully self-congratulatory, we see it every day, if we look for it. Case-in-point, we have the "AQI" (Air Quality Index) that tells us how badly polluted the air is. I'm sure this measure has been around for decades, and folks who are much closer to air quality or environmental spaces have known about it and its importance for years. For the rest of us, this is a new number, like when we learned about Kelvin or Hg (vacuum measurement, not Mercury) in science class. 2 weeks ago, someone would say "it's, like, 90 in here" and we, Americans, would all know that they were saying it is hot. For my worldly readers, 90*F is about 32*C.

Fast forward 2 weeks where we have had dangerous air in the Willamette Valley. When it started, we just heard "it's bad. don't go outside" and that it will be gone in a couple of days. Knowing that the weather folks are about as good at predicting weather as coin-flips, the industrious, curious Oregonians searched for something that would give us a little more to go on than "its bad. stay inside watching our program, after this commercial". I first spotted the PM on the AccuWeather app on my phone, but it would only show current state. I want to see if it is getting better or worse. So, I downloaded the Plume Labs app. This thing shows a pollution forecast. While it isn't very good at projecting, or showing historical data, at least it tries. I can see that it will be getting worse, so if I have to go outside for something, I understand that waiting would be a worse idea than just going now... with a mask on. By the way, the picture on the side here is a T-selfie fighting the Obenchain fire in Southern Oregon.

Going back to talking to our friends and relatives, 2 weeks ago, we would talk about temperature and compare how much cooler it was on the west side versus downtown Portland. "It's 85 here". "Oh, it's over 90 there?". That was pre-LaborDay2020 thinking. Now, our conversation is like "it was 350 earlier today, but now it's 460". Or "overnight it looks like it dropped down below 100, but now it's over 250 again." The number itself is super important, but without context a 3-digit number could be super-bad (like over 130*F mid-day outside temp would be) or a 3-digit number could be virtually meaningless (like how many meters from my house my mailbox is). So, what do these numbers mean?

0-20Excellenttypical air in Oregon, perfect for any outside activity for everyone
20-50Fairgenerally good for most. Sensitive people might feel some minor to moderate symptoms from long term exposure. So... sensitive folks can take short walks, but no soccer
50-100Poorunhealthy for sensitive folks. non-sensitive people may feel some minor to moderate symptoms. Sensitive people should reduce time outside
100 - 150UnhealthyHealth effects felt immediately by sensitive. Healthy folks may have difficulty breathing or feel a sore throat
150 - 150Very UnhealthyHealth effects felt immediately by sensitive. Healthy folks will probably have difficulty breathing or feel a sore throat
250+DangerousHealth effects felt immediately by everyone. Any exposure, even for a few minutes, can have serious health effects

So, when I tell you that it's 368 here, you understand just how bad that is.

Car Content
I bring all this up because the smoke has been keeping me from my cars. Mostly. After a week of dangerous smoke, I heard that we were going to be getting rain. Before the rain was supposed to arrive, we were supposed to get fog blended in with the smoke. So, smog. Literally. The ash from the forest fires is not a big deal to your car while it is dry. Once it gets wet, however, it can start to damage your paint. So, before the rain was due, and shortly after the fog rolled in, I pulled on my old house-painting respirator and hosed down the herd. I was not looking for clean, I was looking for dust-free. The fog passed, and the rain did not arrive for another week. Instead, we got morning dew, in the smoke. Still, my preventative placement of a tarp on the stripped-to-metal Zed and a tarp on the convertible top of Oliver should help them from getting damaged even worse.

... there's FIRE (Political Rant warning)
One upside to all the mask-wearing we need to endure to protect our fellow citizens from CoViD-19 is we have grown accustomed to wearing one. So, when pollution is so bad that we need to wear a mask outside to simply get the mail, we already have the masks on hand (I hope, for your sake). Thanks for screwing up the CoViD response, Mr. Trump, or many of us wouldn't have had a mask available when the forest fires grew so large that most of the population on the West Coast now needed to wear a mask all the time just to avoid pulmonary issues. But, will this finally get the anti-maskers to put on a mask? Unlikely, based on the pictures of the Estacada gun-toters who are stopping cars they don't recognize and asking the persons inside about their political views. When better to debate politics than maskless, in "Dangerous" air, in the middle of a pandemic, while a forest fire is forcing an evacuation around you, at gunpoint? Really... just... wow.

/Political Rant
Looking back, my first post of this year, or last post of last year, was on December 31, 2019 (See GenXplained). Looking at that post about a dystopian present seems almost prophetic. When I consider how much has gone down the tubes in this country since I wrote that post, it is staggering. If you told me then that I would have spent 6 months working from home followed by 2 weeks locked inside because of a pandemic and historically unprecedented fire season respectively, I would have thought you were a total doomsdayer. Let's not forget the police violence, protests, unmarked vans nabbing people off the Portland streets and protester-versus-protester violence. And yet, here we are.

I have spent my woulda-been-wrenching time watching how-to-paint-your-car videos. I hope I will learn enough to paint the Zed well enough that Boo will want to drive it, and proudly so. Time will tell.

Thanks, as always, for following along. This has been a hard few weeks/months for all of us. I sincerely hope this rough road is coming to an end. Better days lie ahead, I'm sure of it. I wish they would just arrive already. In the meantime, please wear a mask when in public and remember that a mask covers your mouth and nose. It is not a fabric chinstrap.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

More A4

Today's post gets us that much closer to being done with T's old A4, Nemo. I still have to replace a button and mess with the hood, but after today's post, I am very close.

Before I begin, a couple quick personal notes. First, T is fighting forest fires around Oregon this Summer. If you are not tracking the fires in the news, this is one of the worst fire seasons on record. So, having a son out in it, makes this all the more scary. It makes working on his old car quite surreal, of course, with the air quality this past week, I haven't been working on anything. Second, yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of our dear brother Travis' motorcycle accident. In an odd twist, we just long-term loaned Flash to his niece. We really miss you, Travis. One year later, we think of you every day.

We are living through some strange days, between police behavior, the protests, the violence, the CoViD, the anti-maskers, the widespread fires, recurring power outages and brown-outs, and the lead up to the election, I greatly look forward to some semblance of stability sometime soon. 2020 has been emotionally exhausting; 2021 can't arrive soon enough.

If you live somewhere hot, having Air Conditioning (A/C) is pretty important. Here in the western side of Oregon, A/C is nice to have, but not as critical for the hot weather. The system's ability to remove moisture from the cabin is much more important. I have lamented this before, but our temperature likes to float around the dew point. This leaves moisture hanging in the air and residing on surfaces. This includes the inside of your car's windows. This moisture is quickly removed by flipping on your air conditioning as your car warms up in the morning. For this reason, I felt it was very important to get the A/C working. All I needed to do was charge it.

The instructions on the A/C charge bottle are fairly accurate. First, get your engine running with the A/C system on full. This is to get the system pressurized. In my case, the air blowing out the vents was quite warm. Under the hood, locate the 2 A/C lines. The thicker one is the lower pressure line, and that's the one you want to work with. Thread off the protective cap, and connect hose from the recharge bottle to the nipple. The gauge should show you current pressure in the system. On the A4, it was negligible. Disconnect the hose from the nipple and shake the bottle. Adjust the target pressure based on ambient temperature by rotating the cover on the gauge. The ambient temperature is on the bottom and the target window is between 2 lines on the pressure-read side of the gauge. Then, re-connect the hose to the nipple, and while shifting the bottle from an upside-down orientation to horizontal, pull the trigger to dispense A/C charge into the system. I counted slowly to ten while holding the trigger and then releasing so I could see how the pressure responded. It took 3 pulls like that to get the pressure into the target pressure zone.

With the engine still running and the A/C still on full blast, check whether the temperature coming out of the vents is any better. In our case, the air was nice and cool. Solved!

lid where latch goes
The trunk lid on the A4 used to work. The button on the trunk lid used to open it, and the button on the dash used to work as well. At some point, they stopped. Then, the trunk wouldn't stay closed for a while. T would hit a bump and the trunk would flap open and shut. Most recently, the trunk wouldn't open at all. It was effectively locked shut. Loading your trunk through the rear seats is not really viable. T had purchased a replacement lid from a junk yard, but it was gold, rather than high-gloss black.

We start our efforts by removing the carpeted inner skin of the trunk by crawling into the trunk from the passenger compartment and removing the 10 +/- Phillips head screws holding the skin to the lid. There are 2 hiding in the pull handle. Once all are removed, the panel will flop down, exposing the latch. Using a screwdriver to save my fingers, I pushed against the latch workings to get the lid to pop.

old on top
Once open, we can see what's what. It appears that there are 2 styles of latch mechanism on these trunks. The one on Nemo lacks a key-lock. The latch on the donor has one. The part that actually latches, however, is pretty much the same. And, that is the part that was not operating correctly on Nemo. The button under the dash didn't work regardless, and the button on the trunk still doesn't work, but it was the latch that was the real problem. The latch is held to the lid with 2 13mm nuts, and is activated by a lever which moves the mechanism from right to left to unlatch. In the upper picture on the right, here, you can see it's rusty end protruding from the left in the little hole. I discovered that the actual mechanisms are slightly different beyond the key / no-key difference. The point at which the lever attaches to the mechanism is not in the exact same place, so I had to re-locate the activation motor about 15mm to the left in order for the latch, when at rest, to remain closed, and open when activated.

Since the activation motor had been mounted with bolts threaded through mounting holes in the trunk, I felt uncomfortable just boring holes. Instead, I set the bolts aside and used cable-ties to set the activator in the right spot. I threaded on the replacement latch mechanism, connected the lever and set the motor. Once the cable-ties were taut, I confirmed the activation of the latch by jumping across the wires that connect to the broken-and-removed trunk switch on the dash. Several tests were followed by multiple trunk closing/opening trials before I was convinced that I had it right. I decided to leave the cable ties in-place because the right-hand bolt hole for the activation motor was over a natural hole/gap in the trunk so I couldn't effectively mount it with the old fasteners. The right edge of the hole is visible on the left edge of  that upper picture. The cable-ties should hold for a good long time as-is, even if it does feel a little janky. With the inner skin back in place, you can't see the new latch or the janky-installed activation motor, so it's all good. And, it works. I just need to replace the button on the dash. I'd like to get the button on the trunk lid to work, but there is some mystery wiring in there, and getting to that button is fairly difficult. It is possible that it is shut-out because of some lock somewhere that I haven't been able to find. German engineering strikes again.

trunk card
The hood on Nemo is the last big visual issue I wanted to improve. This is T's second A4, so I can't remember if we replaced this hood or if it was on his old one. Regardless, this hood was painted with what looks like black primer. There was no sheen. None. The rest of the car is a high-gloss black color, so the hood didn't look that great. Additionally, the front grill was also painted flat black, but over the course of many miles of driving, some of the paint had chipped, both on the grill and on the nose of he hood. It looked bad. So, off to the parts store I go to get some paint. The card in the trunk says the paint code is LY9B. The duplicolor paint-match sheet didn't have a reference to that paint code, so I got the one they DID have for black.

The hood removed very easily. The hood stand is held on with a little C-clip, and then the little post slides out. I set my tool box on the engine intake to hold the hood up, and then removed the front 2 bolts from the hinge (13mm). I loosened the rear ones before carefully removing them all the way with my fingers so I could keep control of the hood when the last bolt gave. It surprisingly didn't shift around. I moved it to a pair of sawhorses on the lawn, and proceeded to sand it with 250-grit sandpaper. I got all of the weird anomalies off, and then washed it to get all of the dust off. I felt ready to paint.

I blew 2 cans onto that hood, but the color just didn't get as dark, nor as shiny as I expected. Audi offered 2 colors of black, and the one I needed was a super-deep super-shiny black. The one I got, however, was more of a dark charcoal and sort of satin finished. I will need to paint it again, with a different, blacker, paint. Before I repaint it, I will play around with 1000 grit sandpaper and maybe a buffer to see if I can get this paint to look decent. I figure this is an opportunity to practice buffing new paint, so I will take the opportunity before painting over it. Who knows? Maybe I can get the it looking good enough that I don't re-paint it... but I doubt it. Currently, it looks like a carbon-fiber hood, which might work for some, but not most, drivers.

I think that's it for today. If the sanding buffing experiment becomes a thing, I'll post on it. Otherwise, I will probably be reverting to the Zed (1979 280ZX) after I have Nemo's hood installed. As we move deeper into September, I am feeling the pressure to get the body-filler spread and sanded. Wet season is coming! Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

A4-ward Progress

Apologies for the late publish. Not sure what happened; I'll chalk it up to user error. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I mentioned that in a charitable move, I bought Nemo (the 1997 A4 1.8Turbo) from T (See If You Love...). Today, I go through the fixes I have done to get Nemo ready for someone to proudly drive, while avoiding work on Zed, the 280ZX. In an earlier post (See Dust Dodging), I mentioned the replacement of the window and the front side marker. I did a few less obvious things that I'll cover today. Before I begin, Hapy belated Labor Day to my US readers. Traditionally, this is the start of the most productive period in our calendar year: from Labor Day to Thanksgiving. So, if you feel like you're working a ton over the next couple of months, it's probably because you are.

Oil Leaks
Old Volksies like to mark their spot with a little oil. Old buses and bugs do it. Now that Jettas and Passats have been around long enough, they do it too. It seems that VW's German brethren, Audi's, mark their spot as well. For Nemo, there are a few sources. I focused first on the leaking motor oil. I slid under the front end, and after having sat for a few days, the oil that had been flung up from below during a drive had dripped away, leaving fresh oil only where it was actually leaking out. There was a nice big droplet at the oil drain, so I checked the torque on that bolt. It was a little loose. Next, I could see fresh drops on the cross member under the oil filter. It was hand-loose. As in, I was able to twist it tighter with 2 fingers. I think we found our main culprit. With oil filter pliers, I tightened the filter snug.

The power steering rack has a leak, and before I do another steering rack removal and re-install, I am trying the Lucas Power Steering Stop Leak first. This has been leaking since T bought Nemo, and T had been managing the level regularly with just topping it off with regular fluid. I intend to eliminate the leak. The steering is still really good and tight, though I expect the upgraded suspension helps with the road grip and cornering on rails. I looked back through my blog and I can't believe that I never posted on the steering rack remove/replacement I did on Flash, maybe 4 years ago. I think my dislike of the banjo may have started with those banjo bolts. It was a really tough job, so I'm all the more puzzled that I didn't post on it. Weird.

Dented Front Fender
With increased confidence from my efforts on Zed, I wanted to tackle the dent in the passenger fender. I pulled the front side marker, following the process I described in Dust Dodging. Through the hole presented when the light was removed, I fed a pry-bar. I did NOT leverage against anything, I just pushed/pulled outward and the dent popped out. My efforts left a small convex ding, but it is much better than the cereal-bowl sized dent that was there.

Under-Dash Panel
this is from an auto-trans, but similar
With the outside looking fairly good, but needing a wash, I started looking at the interior. There are a few things that need improvement, but I'll really only get after a subset. I started with the under-dash panel. T had removed this panel to replace the clutch master cylinder and had not re-installed it yet. We had the panel, but lost the fasteners. I made-do with things I found in the garage. During the install, I discovered that the remote trunk opener button was faulty, so I will need to replace that. Otherwise, the install was about what you would expect. The panel should be held on with 3 bolts, 2 through the front and one from the side, near the fusebox. Threading the bolts from the front is a great opportunity to practice patience. Gravity is working against you, and you can't see where the bolt needs to go once the panel is in place, so breathe deep and expect it to take many attempts. Once bolted into place, these panels are supposed to have 2 pop-in covers which fit over the bolt holes. I only found one so I'll add one of those covers to the junk-yard list.

Passenger Sunshade
The last thing I got after in this car-fix session was the passenger-side sun-shade. This was sitting on the floor since T bought Nemo. It looks fairly simple to mount. The plastic hook-looking thing goes in with the hook facing towards the rear, and you press up and back until it rotates flat, leaving the mounting hole near the hole in the steel above. At least, that's the theory. The prior owner had replaced the headliner and when he did, he mis-routed the wire for the light on the mirror. Instead of routing the wire through the hole in the steel where the mirror "hook" goes, it was left just dangling below that steel. So, the options were: don't hook up the wires to run the lights, return the route of the wires so it passes it through the steel from above -or- hack something. I didn't want to not hook up the light. I tried to figure out how to re-run the wires, but it appeared to require removing a considerable section of headliner because of the shape of the steel ceiling, so that left me with some kind of hack.

I took my hacksaw (aptly named) to the sunshade housing that, when installed, disappears into the ceiling. I cut a channel for the wire to slide down, reducing the mount of wire that would be pressed between the plastic and the steel ceiling. This actually worked, and I apologize for not taking a picture. Hopefully, you can see the shape of the mount from the picture on the right, here. With the wire pushed into the channel, I plugged the wire into the plug hanging from the hole in the ceiling. I pushed the rest of the wire into the headliner, and then followed the "theory" I described above. It pressed into place with not nearly as much effort as I expected. Once rotated around, I threaded a bolt through, and the sunshade is not in-place and operable.

The other bits of the interior that need to be resolved include fixing the cover on the driver seat cushion, and replacing some of the brittle plastic bits. I may not get to those items, but I think I will try to get the AC working; it probably just needs a charge. The next most important thing to resolve is the trunk is stuck closed. I'll get after that the next time I choose to focus on Nemo.

Thanks, as always, for following along.