Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Hapy B-Day to Me

So.. no real post this week since I'm celebrating my birthday with a once-in-a-lifetime / first-time-ever trip to Hawaii. I may post on what happened or not. Not really sure. As of right now, though, I'm in HI, enjoying the not-freezing (82*F daily high temps versus ~45*F daily high temps). Being thousands of miles from my projects, all I can really do is watch the waves.

I need to call out how grateful I am that Boo encouraged the idea, underwrote a large portion of it and really helped drive this, uh, home. It started with one of those internet /InstaFace things where you indicate the states you have visited. I realized that I had visited all but 3: Hawaii, Alaska and Louisiana. We decided the next big birthday (one that ends in either a 5 or a 0) we would knock one off the list. Hawaii in February sounds like a better idea than Alaska, so that was picked. I don't know which will be next. I guess it depends on how much it costs, and whether it is hurricane season (Boo b-day is in August) or winter again when we get to thinking about it.

When I consider how much money this trip is costing, it gives me pause. Normal people just can not afford to do this so it is no wonder that this is my first and probably only time. We have been saving since Summer (just saying we're normal people and that is how we managed to make this happen). For posterity, the cost breakdown is pretty severe, with an almost perfect balance of around $1200US each for flights, a condo rental and a rental car for a week for 2 people. The true math is more like $3500, and then I added my 2 boys (T and C) for another $1200 in flights. Costs for things like food and gas are much higher on the island too, so once I do the full accounting of just the grocery store and the gas station this will easily top $5k for a week in Hawaii. That is some serious scratch and that number just goes up when we think of places we went, lunches we grabbed, etc. This topic is way too heavy for this view so I am going to think about something else.... like drinks at sunset this evening... on the beach... in my flip-flops.

The money will solve and while it does we will dine at home. But that's for when we get back. I'll get back to the regular stuff next week. Enjoy this picture of the beach in the meantime...

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

New Seat, What a Treat - Part 3

Today, I'll complete the story of getting the driver seat stripped, recovered and installed. When we left off (See New Seat, What a Treat - Part 1 and Part 2) , the old covers had been removed and set aside with the old padding, hog rings and ratty hard-back. The upper seat had been re-foamed with a heat unit, and recovered with a new hard-back. Now held in place with hog rings, it is a completed unit.

Back to One Frame
Before getting to the lower seat, the upper and lower halves need to be put back together. This is quick work with a couple of 1/2" spanners per side. Over each of the hinge points, a plastic protective cover is installed. These keep fingers, cover material and grime from getting into the hinges. They are held on with a single Phillips screw each and are side specific. I had washed these with dish soap, removing 30 years of gross beforehand. At this point, I tested the action of the seat release lever and the movement of the hinge to make sure nothing was binding and that it had a smooth movement. Check.

Lower Seat - Webbing
The upper cover was similar to a pillowcase, with an opening at one end (the bottom). The lower cover only has 4 sides: top, front, left and right. So, it is more like a fitted table cloth. No forceful stuffing to get everything to fit this time. While that sounds easier, the material does not stay put as easily, so I found myself double and triple checking everything at each step.

First, we start with the webbing. I found little advice for how to do this, and based my entire plan on pictures I found on the internet (like this one on the right from MGExperience). The webbing has 4 straps which run left-right and 2 straps which run front to back. These straps are loosely threaded onto a thin, 3-sided, u-shaped metal bar (I'll refer to as the U-bar). The replacement kit arrives with 12 little hooks which hold the webbing contraption to the lower seat frame. The frame has 16 little holes: 2 along the front, 2 along the rear, 5 along each side... and one in each front corner. Apparently, those corner 2 are unnecessary and there is an extra pair along the sides for personal comfort configuration. The bottom of the "U" faces the front of the seat, so the 2 holes in the rear of the frame are for floppy straps that are not dire-connected to the thin metal U-bar. I started at the front, threading one hook each through the gap at the end of the strap, around the U-bar and then into the hole in the frame. With the front done, I worked my way down to the rear, doing holes a strap at a time, one side, then the other. I left the last pair, closest to the rear unused, choosing for the more forward pair thinking it would be more supportive. Last, the rear-end of the straps are hooked into the frame. To help prevent the straps from cutting through the foam, I put a small thin white hand towel on top of the webbing. Others use burlap or canvas. The hand towel was available, free, fit, and will do the job at least as well. There was nothing between the foam and the webbing when I tore the seats down.

Unlike the upper seat covers, the lower seat covers and foams are side specific. On the underside of the foam, you will find either LH or RH embossed into the foam. This is because the little notch-outs nearest the seat hinge are not the same. Also, the seat edge along the transmission tunnel is more straight and narrow than the seat edge which runs along the door sill. This allows the seat to move forward and aft on the seat guides much more easily, without hanging up on the transmission tunnel. Since your backside sits in the wide center anyway, you may not really notice. The covers are cut differently, just as the foams are, so match them carefully or you'll be re-doing part of the job. Ask me how I know :)

Lower Seat - Covering
With the webbing in, I pushed the lower seat foam onto the frame and took a seat. Wow. It was like the difference between an old saggy couch and a nice new desk chair. Firm, but totally comfortable; I felt I could sit in it for hours. Those few minutes were inspiring. I pulled the foam and attached the other seat heat unit to it. Similar to the upper, I didn't cut the heater. Instead, I ran it from just behind the front edge all the way to the front edge of the upper cushion. I'll have warmth from the back of my knees to the top of my shoulders. Ha! Once I got the double-sided tape figured out, it attached and held well through the process. For more wiggle room, I tilted the seat upper slightly forward. I took out the new cover, oriented it where it belonged on the foam/heat unit pair and pressed it onto the frame. I say "pressed" because with the seat upper, it took more than just setting it. There was resistance to my getting it all the way back in place. Again, there were many cycles of fitting, adjusting and re-fitting to get the foam aligned with the seams. Minutes taken here are where you'll see the difference in the finished product.

Ring It Up
With the seat bottom where I wanted it, I tested it again (Ohh.. soo nice). If you are following this as a how-to, I strongly encourage you to try this in-the-car! You may find the seat too high. I, regrettably, didn't do this test. Instead, I started on the hog rings. I made sure the heat unit wiring was on the transmission tunnel side, like the upper. With the seat upper helping hold the rear in place, I started there (along the rear) with the rings. Like the upper, I pulled the material until it was well aligned and put 2 rings about a fist apart in the center. Again, following the pattern from before, I did each side of the rear, checking for alignment. Then, I switched to the front, and followed the same pattern: center first, then outer edge, checking for alignment, no wrinkles, etc. Last, I did the rings along the sides, starting with the edge nearest the transmission tunnel. Since the hog ring pliers I got at Harbor Freight were useless, I used my fingers to get them in place (not easy) and channel-lock pliers to snug them down.

So, there were things I did, and things I would encourage others to do differently. I changed my disposable gloves often so I would keep the seat clean. I covered the seat with a large trash bag for the same purpose. One of the things I had failed to do was test out the seat in the car before hog-ringing the lower cushion. Had I done that, perhaps I may have omitted one or more of the webbing straps. I say that because with all of the straps in, and the seat tilted fairly straight up, my line-of-sight out the windscreen is too high. Since the straps are what hold the foam up, I could have tested, removed one, tested again, etc before putting on the cover.

Instead, I carried the finished light-cream-colored seat into my cramped, filthy garage. I held it overhead and found that getting it into the car with the top up was simply frustrating. So, the seat went onto the dinner table while I lowered the top. Take 2: carry the seat high overhead, lowering into the cockpit. For some reason, all of the challenges I expected when I put in the old seats on top of the new carpet happened this time. I couldn't find the holes, then, when I found them, I couldn't get the bolts to thread. Then, once they were finally threaded, I realized that the seat runner was oriented incorrectly.... Last, one of the worst things happened: the front outer bolt and captive nut pairing got stripped.

Fix It
The bolt wouldn't come out of the captive nut, so the captive nut had to be separated from the new floor.... while holding my light-cream-colored seat loosely on top of it. I went the brute-strength method and used a pry bar. In retrospect, this was a great test of the welding of the floor we had done; the welds held better than the sheet metal. The nut released from the floor, the seat was returned to the table and I went looking for a replacement nut. I found one, and, with the welder I had used 18 months earlier to install the floor, I welded that nut into the hole created by the removal of the old one. I covered everything with canvas painting tarps before I welded so any possible errant spark would not land on my new top or new carpet. Since the top of the new nut didn't sit exactly flush with the floor, I slid a washer on top of the other front seat-mount hole to level the front of the seat. I left it alone overnight and the next day the seat went in easily.

I fiddled with the seat incline and found a spot that, while tilted a little further back than I usually drive other cars, the angle totally suits the MGB. This little car has a deep foot well and a short reach of the steering wheel, so it is almost designed for someone who has long legs and a short torso and arms... until you tilt the seat back a little bit. Now, instead of having the steering wheel nearly against your chest, you have some living space... and the angle lowers your line-of-sight through the windscreen such that your eyes are below the sun visors.

That's it for today. I will wrap up with a post about the head rests. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

New Seat, What a Treat - Part 2

When I last posted about Oliver's seat (See New Seat, What a Treat - Part 1), I had completed the tear down. The old covers were sitting in a pile with the nasty foam and rusted up hog rings. The seat frames and head-rest metal were painted with black Rustoleum and hanging from the beam on the front porch. Today, I start the re-assembly process.

The new covers are a leather / vinyl blend where the part that you sit against is leather but the back of the seat upper and the edges which hang down from the seat are an advanced vinyl that feels leather-ish. This vinyl is fairly durable. The blend reduces the overall cost of the cover by a couple hundred dollars US versus all-leather. The leather is backed with some thin foam padding.

Seat Gets Heat
I decided that going through all the trouble of redoing the seats would be even better if I had seat warmers when I was done. While our Pacific Northwest is well known for it's long periods of rain, we actually do get stretches of sunshine, and not just between July 4th and October 15th. We get some nice fall and spring days. Every once in a while, we will get a few days of dry, but cold weather in the dead of winter. On those days I would like the choice of putting the top down and driving in the sun. Actually, having warm seats when it is cold nasty would be super welcomed too. So, as I acquired the foams, seat backing, webbing, hog rings and all the other bits needed to rebuild the seats, I bought a universal seat warming kit for 2 seats. I got a very simple kit with a 3 position switch for each seat that I could install into a fairly small hole. The heating part is a simple white rectangle that rests between the seat foam and the new cover. The base and the back have separate heating elements. While the instructions indicate that the pad can be cut to fit, I chose not to, recognizing that I could render it useless by cutting it incorrectly. Besides, the pad covered the entire seat back and the entire seat base, so we will be getting warmed from the back of our knees to our necks. Yeah.. that is going to be sweet.

These attach to the foams with basic 2-sided tape that runs the length of the rectangle along each edge. The instructions say to tape the pad to the foam before putting on the cover. Cool. Finding the edge of the 2-sided tape was the hardest part.

Upper First
So, with the heating elements figured out, and taped to the face of the upper seat foam, I started with the upper section or the seat back. I had read different techniques, but tried my own. First, I took the new seat hard-back and worked it into the lip around the rear side of the foam. The seat frame will later fit into this groove. With the foam and the hard-back as a unit, I fit the seat cover over the top and stuffed the corners of the foam into the corners of the cover. This is similar to putting a duvet cover on a big old comforter. The corners need to fit right first. Once the corners were in, I set the seam edges of the foam and then the seat back so the lines ran along the edges of each. Now that the foam, back and cover were aligned, I slid the seat frame between the foam and the hard-back. I did this slowly so the foam did not shift inside the cover. The result was exactly what I had hoped. The lines were right on the foam where they should have been. I realize that most auto upholstery is done by setting the foam onto the frame, turning the cover inside-out and slowly rolling the cover onto the foam while applying glue. It did not occur to me that I had missed the glue because the old covers slid right off the old foams, leading me to believe that maybe they weren't glued on before. I should note that after everything was assembled, I have seriously considered removing the upper cover and re-installing it the auto-upholstery standard way.

Ring the Back
With the cover in place, I grabbed at the bag of hog rings and the hog ring pliers I had purchased at Harbor Freight. The pliers were useless, so I chose not to use them. The hog rings that were supplied as the hog ring kit for this seat only had one size of hog ring, but the front edge of the seat back cover needed a larger size if it was going to be mounted the original way. So, I had to solve for clamping down the front edge different than how it had been or find a different set of rings. I decided to mull that over while I did the back. First, I needed to route the cable for the seat heat to the inside edge, so the wiring for activating the seat heat will run along the transmission tunnel rather than along the door sills. The rear side of the cover is held onto the frame with 4 square clips. I pulled the seat back as tight as I could while still retaining the shape and straight lines. Starting in the middle, I pushed on the inner 2 clips. These held the cover in place so I could do each outer clip with just a little tension. The seat back looked really good, so I started looking at options for the front edge.

Ring the Front
The front edge had been held on by 4 larger hog rings clipping to the large tube across the bottom of the back. Next to that large tube is a small tube through which the seat release is controlled. I decided to use the one-size rings on that smaller tube, and, after compressing the rings a little bit with my channel-lock pliers, I was able to use them. Similar to the rear, I pulled the material as tight as I could without distorting the lines (but centering the pleats) and did the 2 center rings first. I did the outer 2 rings one at a time similarly holding the material firm. Ideally, the large pipe would have been used. It occurred to me afterwards that as the seat back incline angle changes, the tension on the cover will vary because of the tube I used. If I am able to source an 8-piece set of larger hog rings, I may change these out without removing the seats.

Outer and Inner Edges
With the cover held on, I considered how to address the lower outer and inner edges which had been held in place with Phillips screws. I did not mention these in the tear down post, mostly because at the time they were a non-story. Down at the bottom, there is one screw on each side that passes through the cover, through a semi-circular, heavy, flat cardboard and then into the frame. You can see the screw head in the picture on the right. The cardboard fits into a little pocket on each side of the cover. I have been unable to find a source for a replacement. So, I put the old flat cardboard bits into the respective sleeves in the new cover, thinking that they, at the very least, would help the cover retain its shape. I chose to not re-install these screws since I could not determine how to best identify where the hole in the frame was without boring exploratory holes. I may come back to this later, though.

That's it for today. I will post about the lower seat, and the big fun of re-installing a light colored seat in a dirty garage later. Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Flash fixes continued

I left off my last post about Flash with a summary of fixes stemming from replacing my 3 seasons tires with studded snows. Today, I finish the work by repairing the not-operating wipers and getting the reverse lights to work again.

Wipers No Wiping
The RainX held us for the handful of days while we waited for the new linkage to arrive. I got new wipers and a wiper-arm puller as well. Everything arrived on a Friday night, so the next (Saturday) afternoon I tore into the job.

Before you start, make note of where your wipers are. Similar to getting your engine into TDC (Top Dead Center) firing position for cylinder #1 before you start removing things, move your wipers into the rest position (all the way down) before you start or getting things to line up at the end will take much longer. The arms remove with a 13mm socket, hidden under a small plastic cap. Save that cap and the nuts. Once the nuts are off, the arm puller popped the arms right off. Next, the plastic cowl needs to be pulled away. The rubber seal along the front edge should remove easily, leaving just the 4 snap-on bits along the rear. These pull away by getting your fingers under the plastic along the windscreen and pulling more towards the front than straight up. I have seen others post about using a pry-bar; I found that excessive and introduced more risk to breaking that plastic cowl or scratching the glass. I removed and re-installed this cowl a few times while trying out various parts, so I can say for certain that a pry bar should not be necessary.

nicked from VWVortex
With the cowl out of the way, you should see the unpainted metal linkage connected to the wiper arm bolts. It is held to the car by 3 10mm bolts. Remove the bolts, and the washers underneath and save them. The linkage should now be free, but it can't be removed until you unplug the electrical plug from the motor. It is a flat 6-pin plug with a little catch on the underside. Press the catch and pull it away from the motor. Now you can wiggle the whole operation free from under the windscreen. Note how the motor connects to the linkage. There are 3 10mm bolts holding them together and a central 13mm nut holding the business end of the motor to the operational part of the linkage. Consider the orientation of that "operational part". If the wipers were in their resting position before you started tearing things apart, the short arm is pointing directly to the right (front is front), making it difficult to get the 13mm wrench in there to remove the nut. Remember this when you're putting it all back together.

I took the opportunity to clean out the little wiper controls bay at this point. There was all kinds of organic debris in there from years of parking outside. I dug around with a stick and used my shop-vac to get it clear. I also started testing things. First, I compared the new linkage with the original. I noticed that the new and old operated the same. In fact, the old one moved more freely. So, I concluded that the linkage was not the problem. So, I plugged the motor back in, and tested its operation with the wiper switch. The motor made noise, but did not turn the threaded end. So, the motor was the bad item. I needed a new one today or we were going another week, this time a projected-stormy one, without wipers. Eek.
wiper motor

Local Auto Parts
With Discount Import Parts now 1-1/2 hours away round-trip (no, I just can't let that go), I started looking around at the common local places. NAPA reportedly had one just down the street, according to their website, but after ordering one for pickup, I was called by the store and told that they actually didn't have one, but they could have one to me by Tuesday. Hmm.. this is why Amazon is crushing typical retail; I could have one in-hand tomorrow from Amazon. I want one now. Today. Next, I tried O'Reilly's about 30 blocks away, who also claimed to have one. They did. I failed to test it before I left the store, and it failed to work, right out of the box, when I tried to install it. No motor movement; no motor sounds. By the time I got it returned, it was getting into Saturday evening, so I aborted for the day, knowing that the Hillsboro location (20 minutes away) had 2. One of them would probably work.

Sunday morning, I hit the Hillsboro store, swapped a $100US bill for a motor and tested it in the parking lot. Bad the same way as mine: motor hums but the threaded end didn't turn. I've come to the conclusion that this transition part (I refer to as a transmission) is a fail point that is not looked at during rebuilds, or at least not often enough to prevent bad parts going to stores. For reference, it's the silver section of the motor in the picture on the right, here. Anyway, the other motor they had looked much better. The transmission looked new, the paint on the motor was not all over the transmission (like the others were), and best of all, it passed my driveway test of plugging the motor in while it was resting on the hood/windscreen and flipping the wiper switch.

I had brought my old linkage and the fasteners so I re-assembled the wiper motor and linkage, re-installed them and attached it all to the car right there in the O'Reilly's driveway. That's one more plus for them over NAPA: NAPA has a big sign on the side of the building forbidding patrons from doing spot repairs in their parking lot. O'Reilly's guys will come out and help you do it. Anyway, with everything under-cowl put together, I tested the switch and watched the wiper bolts rotate. Regretting that I had not brought at least the driver-side wiper arm and blade with me, I nosed the car east and back home.

Clear Screen
Bosch ICON wipers
The finish-up of the job was very simple. Between the linkage and the cowl resides small rubber boots that I had not mentioned earlier. I think these protect the linkage from rusting, so I re-installed them. Considering how rust-free and genuinely operational the original linkage is, I think this a fair assumption. Then, I wrestled the cowling back under the hood (bonnet for my non-US friends), setting it tight along the front edge before snugging the 4 snaps along the rear edge. I re-set the seal along the front edge, and then put the wiper arms back on, snugging them down with the 13mm socket and finally pressed the plastic caps into the arms. Like all things, test before you call it done. I had been doing all this in a steady Pacific NorthWest rain, so there was plenty of water on the windscreen for a valid test. The new Bosch ICON wipers ran smoothly from park to post and back again.... and completely cleared the glass in one pass. So sweet.

Reverse Lights
The last thing I needed to fix on the old Jetta was the not-operating reverse lights. Start with the simple, obvious things first: the bulbs. While they do not fail at the same time very often, I find coincidences like that happen more often with this car than many others I have owned. Not this time, though. Next, test the switch. The switch sits under the battery tray, behind and to the left of the starter motor. If you unplug it and then jumper across the 2 pin holes in the harness, you simply turn the ignition to "run" and you should see reverse lights. If you do, the switch is bad. If you do not, the issue may lie elsewhere.

Remove and Replace Switch
reverse switch: do not use the washer
I read a few how-to's on the reverse switch, and they all sounded very involved, including removing the battery and tray, removing the air box or both. Yikes. I looked at the location and considered that I could see the hex edges of the switch, so I could probably get a spanner in there. Sure enough, a 7/8" spanner fits the switch perfectly and can thread behind the battery box, but far enough ahead of the transmission to gain purchase on the switch. Unplug the switch first. Then, just pop the spanner on that switch so it can move. I didn't have to move my spanner more than 30*. Facing the engine from the front, reach along the rear of the radiator (under the upper hose) and under the battery box until your fingers reach the switch. I had my elbow brushing the driver-side radiator fan. The switch removes fairly easily (lefty-loosey). The install is the reverse, seriously, and then snug it tight with the 7/8" spanner..

I applied some thread seal on the switch, dropped on the included washer, reached around and under the battery box and threaded it home. I plugged it in and... nothing. Huh? I backed out the switch, and tested the switch by plugging it in, holding it depressed with my new wiper arm puller and saw the reverse light illuminate. Yes, I could have asked someone inside to come out, but it was raining... and raining hard, so why get everyone wet? I concluded that the included washer is NOT for the Jetta TDI engine, but may be used in one of the switch's other applications. Great. So, I pulled the washer, re-installed, plugged it back in and... it worked. Hapy dance.

So, now, the only thing that is still broken on old Flash is the hazard switch. I have bought multiple new ones and they all arrive failed. I think it stems from manufacturing moving away from Germany and Brazil to China, lowering the quality of the soldering along the way. I will just get one from the junkyard the next time I go. I still need to solve for the heated seats one of these days, but I am content to have all of the lights and wipers working for today.

Thanks for following along, and I will be getting back to Oliver's interior now that the daily-driver is safe again.