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.

Foaming
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.

Install
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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Flash fixes

I realized that I hadn't posted on a collection of things that broke all around the same time on Flash, the Jetta, so today I'll cover what went wrong and what I did to fix them.

Snow Shoes Grow
With a plan to hit the mountain for a taste of snow over the Christmas holiday, I pulled out the snow tires I got for Flash last Thanksgiving (Nov 2017). I got them new off of craigslist for $400 already mounted on universal steel rims. I say universal because they fit the 2 standard VW 5-bolt patterns. In looking back on my old posts, I don't think I ever posted on this purchase. Anyway, they are i-Pike tires and hold firm in ice and snow like no tires I have ever owned. Since we were down to one car, I had to swap the tires after Boo got home from work, so, on the night of December 23rd I set to swapping out tires in some nasty weather. I found, however, that the brakes were in pretty shabby shape and needed to be done as soon as possible. I found some locally-sourced pads (Adaptive One brand) and on Christmas Eve I did a brake job before we left for the mountain.

Lights? Who Needs Lights?
The pads fit well, and have performed extremely well, considering I'd never heard of them, and I didn't go with one of the usual VW-friendly brands. If Discount Import was still on the West Side, I would have gotten pads there. Anyway, while I was digging around the driver front wheel, I noticed a light bulb dangling by a wire. I concluded that it had fallen out of it's holder on the front bumper on one of the many times the bumper got ripped off by a parking curb. Yes, this happens often, and apparently happens to anyone owning a Jetta MK4. The TDI engine is an engineering marvel; the body it was delivered in, however, is not. Anyway, I put the bulb into the little hole, and finished the brake job. When I went to take a test drive, though, the brakes were great... but I lost my dash lights. That is, I lost all of the lights on the dash except the idiot light telling me I needed to replace my brake pads. Suddenly that light was on now. Love you, Flash.

Mountain Fun
We drove to the mountain anyway, having no idea how fast we were going. While we were still near the city, this was not much of an issue. We just stayed with the speed of traffic. Once we got onto US26 east of Sandy, though, we were alone. So, I checked speed periodically with a flashlight. We arrived in Welches after the local grocery closed for the holiday, so we just hit the cabin for the night. Christmas morning, we (me, Boo and T) drove up to Timberline Lodge, and we rode snow until sunset. We drove down, again without the benefit of dash lights, but the traffic was so heavy it didn't matter. By the time we hit the Damascus turn-off, the traffic was so crazy it really didn't matter how fast we were going; someone else was going to come racing up from behind anyway.

Dash Light Fix
As you may have surmised, the cause of the dashlight failure was that otherwise uninteresting bulb I found hanging. A small section of bare wire had become exposed, probably when it was force-ably removed from the bumper. When any one of your running lights creates a short, it blows a fuse... which also routes 12V to the lights on your dashboard. Either side can cause this. I find it so hard to understand how a fuse box with so many fuses doesn't isolate the dashboard from the running lights. Engineering marvel. So, I taped up the bare wire, replaced the fuse and the dashboard lights returned.

Brake Warning Light Fix
When I did the brakes, I plugged in the sensor in the new pads. Apparently, the sensor doesn't work. Maybe there is not enough metal material in the pad to conduct electricity or maybe these AdaptiveOne pads are NOT that great. Regardless, I check the condition of my car often enough that an idiot light should not be necessary. So, I cut the wire from the "sensor" in the brake pad and removed it from the car. I stripped and spliced the two wires together and plugged it back in. Warning light off: but also will never light up. So, I will be sure to check my brakes when I switch over to regular tires in March, and may just add that check to my oil-change routine.

Wipers Not Wiping
No sooner were we back to having an operational car than the wipers stopped working. Seriously, I fixed the lights on a Sunday night and on Monday morning the wipers stopped working. If you turned them on, the wiper would move a few inches and then stop. You could hear the motor, and since they tried to move, but failed, I thought the problem was in the linkage between the wiper arms and the motor. While waiting for linkage to arrive, I applied Rain-X water repellent. That stuff is magic. The following morning, we were greeted by ice on our windows. While letting the car warm up, I set to scraping. The windscreen was the only glass to which I had applied the Rain-X, and it was also the window which was freed of ice the easiest. Also, as we drove down the road, the little bits of left-behind ice quickly melted and beaded away.

I'll post on the wiper repair and the other fix (reverse lights) next time. Both of those jobs have more tale to tell than I can put in one post. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

New Seat, What a Treat - Part 1

I had a few days off, so rather than spend them playing in the snow or taking a personal trip, I stayed home, and re-upholstered the driver seat of Oliver, the MG. Today's post covers the start of that journey. Sorry today's post is a few hours late.

Old Seat Out
Remember when I installed the old seats on top of the new carpet (See MGB - carpeting (part 2))? Even with the nuts jammed under the seat rails, the seats placed the driver kind of low in the car. Sure, it is a little British car, so you're supposed to sit low. But, there are limits. I figure my eyes should be about 2/3 of the way up the windscreen, and I was around halfway. It felt like I was sitting a hair over the floor, suspended by the vinyl seat cover and little else. I had planned to replace the seat covers, foams, etc last Spring when I had the small win-fall that netted me the new carpet. I just hadn't gotten to the work because I had other things going on, and I wanted to drive the car. So, with this small break, I had my chance. Starting with a basic 7/16" spanner, I removed the 4 bolts which held the driver seat to the floor and removed the driver seat.

I moved the seat upstairs to the shedroom. That room is clean, and all of the interior bits are stored there, so it made more sense than trying to do it in the packed garage or in one of the general living spaces. First, the headrest needs to come off. With the seat on the floor, I stood on the seat bottom and whip-sawed the headrest: pushing it all the way down and then yanking it back up. This violent push/shove blend actually worked, freeing the headrest in a handful of reps. I set the headrest aside, and moved to the Lower Cover.

Old Lower Cover Off
The lower cover is held on with 4 sets of 4 hog rings: one set along each of the sides. I was able to work them free with a small slotted screw driver, exposing the padding underneath. The padding was orange and tattered near the edges. When originally constructed, this foam would sit on top of a 3-sided metal hoop to which 6 rubber straps are attached. This webbing creates a little give to the seat, and provides the lift from underneath. On this seat, the webbing was in disarray. Most of the ends were disconnected and tattered. Fortunately, I had a replacement set for the refresh effort. The pad, cover and webbing were tossed towards the shedroom door and I shifted to the Upper Cover.

Old Upper Cover Off
The upper cover is held on with 4 square clips along the back and 4 hog rings below that, holding the front down. The hog rings flew off with a little pressure with a slotted screwdriver. I did my best to not damage the cover. The square clips needed more coaxing, and since I did not know about them, I had not ordered replacements, so I needed to be careful with the originals. Before the cover will slide off, the seat-angle arm needs to be removed. It is held on with a Phillps head bolt. Once the 2 sets of clips and the angle arm were removed, the cover slid right off the top.

Within the cover, I could see a few interesting things. First, the original foam was orange, and had tattered along the edges. The "hard back" was cardboard that appeared to not be original, nor standard-issue. It looked like a square of cardboard had been cut from a shoe box, or something. It had been taped, with duct tape, to the orange foam. Cool. The tape, cardboard and foam fell apart without much prompting. I think the cover was holding everything together. I tossed the mess atop the Lower Cover mess.

Separate
Now, I was down to the metal. I could see the rust spots, and recognized the need to address the frame. There are 2 plastic hinge covers that protect fingers and the covers from the seat hinge. These remove with a Phillips screwdriver. With the plastic covers set aside, the bolts that represent the hinge can be removed with 1/2 inch spanners. Before I could deal with the rust, though, I removed the seat runners from the bottom of the seat. Moving the seat forward and backward had become difficult, so I wanted to get all that nasty grease and grit out of the runners. I took the seat frame and the runners downstairs, and then focused on the head rest.

Headrest
The seam for the headrest cover is on the bottom, hidden by a small plastic strip, held in place by 2 Phillips screws. With the plastic strip removed, the staples which hold the cover on can be addressed. I used a small slotted screw driver to loosen them, and finished the job with a pair of needle-nose pliers. The cover slides off fairly easily at this point, taking the old foam with it. I had new covers and new foam, but I hadn't anticipated small wood slats along the bottom edge. It is to these slats that the staples and Phillips screws attach. Not all of the wood was bad, but the bottom-most pieces were. I took one good sample from each side and cut pieces that would fit from some scrap wood I had lying around. In a pinch, you could cut up a paint stir-stick: it is the right thickness. The key is finding something thin enough to fit in the channel along the underside of he headrest.

The headrest steel was in a similar state to the rest of the seat frame: some surface rust spots, but no rust-through. I brought it downstairs as well, and moved all 3 pieces to the front porch.

Rust Treatment
Some aspects of working on cars does not change no matter what you are working on: dealing with rust. I attacked the rusty areas with 60-grit sandpaper and then sanded the whole thing with 100-grit. This left a decent edge for paint to bite into. I painted all surfaces with Permatex Rust Treatment, and let them dry overnight. The following morning, I shot them with some black Rustoleum I had in the garage, and hung everything to cure on the front porch with bailing wire.

All of the random other bits got the cleaning treatment. The seat runners, for example, were soaked in de-greaser and cleaned up. All of the little plastic bits and handles were deep cleaned as well. Even the fasteners which I intended to reuse were cleaned up and scrubbed.

I was feeling pretty good at this point. The tear down was easy, the rust invasion was not too bad. I figured the easy part was over, though. Turned out, I was right, but I'll get into that next time. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Speaker Box Finished

After months of sporadic work, the speaker-box is finally finished. Today's post will go over the final few things I did to complete it.

Where Were We
test fit with rear panel in place
When I last posted on this thing, I closed the post with "...after a bunch of hours with the Dremel and hand planer, the wall mate-points are smooth enough where I think it will be hard to see how out-of-alignment they are once covered with carpet. That's what I'll do for next time... as well as get some wiring in, and the 6th side of the box attached... and then the edges planed.... ". I had 5 of the 6 sides attached and planed, baffles installed. I felt ready for the final side, carpet, and wiring.

One Wire
The route from the wire cups on the right side of the box (front-is-front, so the "right side" assumes the 6x9 speakers face forward and the 10-inch sub faces rear) to the left 6x9 speaker needed to go through a baffle. The other wires, for the sub and the right speaker, were not so constrained. So, I left those wires out until after the carpet was on. For the one, left, speaker, though, I drilled a hole through the baffle, threaded speaker wire through, and then routed it along the bottom seams to the wire cup. I glued it into place so it wouldn't flop around, nor create an internal vibration. My concern about a vibration may seem a little without basis, but I thought with a wire that was running the length of the box, it might find it's way against the sub woofer cone. Regardless, a few extra minutes and some wood glue was a very small cost. I filled the speaker wire drill-hole with glue on both sides as well.
papering for pattern

Rear Panel
With that one wire installed, the rear panel could go on. When I set the panel in place, I could see gaps that couldn't be resolved with wood screw force; I needed to plane the edges of the side panels. To get things flush, I started by setting the panel on, and marking the high points on the sides with a pencil, and then planing those areas down. I repeated this process a few times; each time taking less material between checks. I was not aiming for perfection, rather close enough to fit where I could make up the difference with torquing down with wood screws. Otherwise, I would have spent many hours clowning with perfection. As it was, I spend about an hour planing before spreading generous wood glue along the edges and setting the panel in place. I swiftly applied wood screws around the edges, using more screws on this panel than on the others to get it to set flat.

carpet pattern
I tested the seams with a flashlight, shining it from inside the box (hand through the sub-woofer hole) to confirm that the seal was good. To my surprise, it worked quite well. Maybe having a pilot hole every few inches isn't a totally bad idea. Once the glue had dried, I filled the holes with spackle, waited for it to dry, sanded it flush and repeated 2 more times to make sure the holes were smooth enough to not be noticeable through carpet. I probably over-revved on it a little bit, but I'd come this far, and spent so much time on it now, a few extra minutes was not going to make much difference.

At this point, I painted the outside of the box black. I wanted to make sure the box was sealed, though afterwards I was concerned that I might have made it harder to attach the carpet. My thought about painting was that if I jacked the carpet, any open spot would be black instead of raw MDF, so it would not be as obvious.

Carpet
carpet cemented
With all of the panels in place and all of the pilot holes filled, I was ready for carpet. I found some basic black trunk carpet online for about $8US for a 4-foot by 5-foot rectangle. This was about twice what I needed, but I bought extra with a plan to carpet the trunk of the MG with the same stuff eventually. So... how to carpet a box? Off hand, it sounds simple: you have 6 sides, so cut 6 pieces of carpet, glue them on. Yeah.. that creates 12 seams. I wasn't going to carpet the bottom, so it would have been 5 pieces of carpet and 8 seams, but still, that's way too many.

Instead, I mocked up a single piece of carpet that was shaped like a "T" using paper to construct a pattern (see pictures). Imagine the "T" upside down. That long side ran along the bottom edge of the rear and the two sides. The vertical part of the "T" wrapped over the top of the box and down the front. I cut the vertical part of the "T" wider by 1/2 an inch on each side so the edges of the top on the right and left sides would fold down and get covered by the side pieces when they wrapped around. This created 2 seams: one on each side along the top edge and down the front... and each seam was double-thick for a 1/2 an inch Once the box was installed into the trunk of the MG, you couldn't see them, and the seams are facing away from anything else in the trunk so the edges won't catch.

The carpet was attached to the box with DAP contact cement. This is nasty stuff, so I did this on my front porch under the overhang. Wear disposable clothes, and gloves because if the glue gets on, it doesn't come off. I followed the directions, thoroughly covering all 5 sides of the box (no carpet on the bottom, just black paint), as well as the inside of the carpet. Well, I did that best I could on carpet with a paintbrush. Using a glass tabletop as a guide for keeping the bottom edge flat and using my thumbs to mark where the sides were, I started applying the carpet to the rear of the box. Contact cement adheres on contact (hence, the name), so you really have one chance to get it right. I was able to get it lightly attached while checking the angles and had to adjust it once. After that, though, I started pressing it down into place, wrapping from the rear over the top to the front, leaving the sides flapping. Then, I brushed contact cement onto the little 1/2 inch flaps, waited a few minutes and then pressed the sides into place. This part of the assembly was probably the most nerve-wracking, knowing that misalignment during this process would make the whole thing look amateurish. Which, if I hadn't spent so much time on it, I would have been fine with, but now, I wanted it to look good.

Cut In
wire cups and 6x9's in
The contact cement needs at least 24 hours to cure. I waited a day for the stink to dissipate and then moved the box into the garage for a couple of days. Once I was confident that the cement was solid, I took an exacto knife and cut in the holes. I started with the wire cup holes, cutting across the diameter of the hole first and then laying the edge of the knife against the hole in the wood to direct the cut of the carpet. This worked very well, and allowed me to cut all of the holes without any mistakes.

Installs
With the holes exposed in the carpet, I was in the final stretch. I did the final wiring first: Laying out a length of wire for the sub and the right speaker, attaching wire ends and heat-shrinking. To these wires, I attached the wire cups, set the cups in the holes and then screwed them in place. The 6x9 speakers are held on with nuts, so the bolts which protrude from the box needed to be cut free first, but otherwise the wiring was straightforward and the speakers went in without issue. The sub-woofer had barely been out of it's box since I purchased it. It wired up and installed relatively easily, though. I needed to pilot the holes for the bolts through the carpet, and I did that by pushing a roofing nail through from the outside. Once bolted into place, I set the protective grill in place, and the box was done.

The construction could not be complete without installing and test-firing. So, I took the box out to Oliver and set it in place. It fit without difficulty, and the speaker wires easily reached the wire cups on the side. You can see the extra wire on the far side of the box in the picture here. There remains work ahead for wiring up an amp and wires for the sub, so I'll address the extra speaker wire then. In the meantime, I fired up the stereo (local metal station was joyously playing Ronny James Dio), and verified that all 4 speakers were running.

That's it for today. This post contains work effort that spanned a few weeks, completing New Years Day. I intend to paint the bottom of the box with some flex-seal so we can use the box outside, but that will wait a while. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying the sounds, and eventually getting an amplifier installed so I can power the sub.

Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

MGB now in service

Just in time for the snowy winter months, Oliver, the convertible MGB, is now ready to be pressed into service. Today's post highlights the final touches: tires, brake bleeding, preparing the windshield for rain and the dash lights. oh, Hapy New Year.

New Shoes
I had lamented the body roll during the last test drive when I did the alignment (See MGB Alignment). I knew the tires were old, and wanted to remove that variable first. So, on a day when I had to miss work for a routine dental cleaning, I bopped past the local Les Schwab Tire Center and got Oliver some all-season tires. I haven't forgiven the other Schwab for not tightening down the boots on the steering of Flash (Jetta TDI), but I thought a different Schwab might be okay. I hit the Schwab on Lower Boones Ferry, which was under construction. For a mid-week, mid-morning, the place was buzzing. They were able to serve the need though, and had a new set of 195/65R15 tires on within an hour. I asked them to give the brakes a bleed while they had it on the rack, but they didn't. They checked the brakes and indicated that they might need a bleed, but didn't do anything about it. Les Schwab, you are just not the same tire shop that you were 10 years ago. This may be the last of our business together.

The tires are nice, though a little louder than I expected. Perhaps that will shift as they age, though I've found tires usually get louder, not quieter. The drive from Beavo to the dentist, then the tire shop and then back home was a great test. Morning rush hour meant lots of rubber-band driving, so lots of clutch, brake, low gear driving. Oliver did that in stride. On the way home, the morning rush was over, so the highway was fairly clear. So, I could get Oliver up to a much higher speed. That was super fun, but the brakes still were a little softer than I'd like. I made a plan to bleed the brakes the following weekend.

Brake Bleed
I have tried to get the last air bubble out of the brake system a few times. I bled the master cylinder (see MGB Sponge Brakes) and thought I had the air out of the system then. I was wrong. And, after having that belief confirmed by the Les Schwab folks, I knew I needed to get it right this time. I started on the rear wheel furthest from the master brake cylinder. I put the rear end up in the air, removed the rim and got out the MityVac. The bleed screw is a 5/16", and I think my prior challenges before came from a combination of little errors that I corrected this time:

First, rather than use the box-end of the spanner, I used the open end this time. I found this did not encourage the vacuum line to lift off the bleed screw.
Second, never let the vacuum drop below a few pounds of vacuum in the line. In fact, I made sure I had no less than 5 pounds of vacuum in the line when I closed the bleed screw.
Third, I started with brake fluid in the vacuum bleeder canister, and made sure it always had some. I think this prevented air from working it's way back up the bleed line.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, I never let the master cylinder reservoir fall below half-full. By doing all these things, no air was introduced into the system.

So, I was able to follow all the other good practices: monitor the fluid coming out of the bleeder for bubbles, minding that tiny and/or large bubbles mean the seal of the vacuum bleeder is not perfect. You are looking for a small bubble. Also, bleed far more than you think you really need to. There is nothing wrong with completely replacing the fluid in the line from the reservoir to the bleed screw.

Windscreen and Wipers
While driving Oliver late last Summer, I found that seeing through the windshield was virtually impossible when I turned into the sunset. This is a fairly common problem in Oregon because so many of the roads run due east-west, and the low-hanging sun finds its way directly in your face in the weeks nearest to the equinox. I think this is why the US-26 west of Portland is called the Sunset Highway. To remedy, I used the Rain-X Xtreme Clean. I'm sure there are other and arguably better products out there, but I had it in the garage. Like the directions said, I cleaned the windshield with glass cleaner, then applied a small amount of the RainX stuff onto a damp clean cloth. I rubbed it a bunch in a circular motion and then wiped it clean. Except for a few deeper gouges from bad wiper scratches, the windshield looks considerably better. I failed to take a picture before I started. Honestly, I just jumped in and did it before thinking about taking pictures. To complete the rain-readiness, I replaced the 2 nasty stiff crumbly old wipers with a pair of new ones I got in one of my other orders from Victoria British.

Dash Lights
I had one last thing that I needed to solve before Oliver was road-ready: his dash lights didn't really work. I tested them in a dark garage and found that the tach and the cigar lighter were the only things that lit up when I turned on the headlights. That won't do. The rheostat that controls the brightness of the dash lights is a common failure part, and finding a replacement for the late-model (read: rubber-bumper) MGB is pretty difficult. Many of the usual part places don't carry it. Many owners simply wire around the switch so the dash lights are full-bright when the running or headlights are on. I did this on Oliver (leveraging a 10amp fuse from the feed line to a wire-splitter which I then wrapped with electrical tape), but I may still replace the switch.. Getting the old switch out was a real bear, since the nuts had frozen in place and the set-screw for the knob had as well. I effectively destroyed both, so I'll need new for both if I decide to install a dimmer. Still, with the hack in place, all of the lights come on so no bulbs needed to be replaced. Winner! I had been thinking about adding some fog lights, so if I don't replace the dimmer, that hole in the dash would be perfect for a fog light switch. Hmm..

So, now with the number of cars available meaningfully reduced (See Herd Thinning), Oliver will be seeing some road time. We really only have one regular-driver car: Flash. Flash will continue to see 95% of the drives through winter, but when we have those rare needs to be in two places at once, and mass-transit can't abide, we can safely drive Oliver. I intend to slowly work through the interior replacement work, but won't be officially taking Oliver off the road to do it. This will make for an interesting few months.

Thanks, as always, for following along.