Tuesday, July 17, 2018

MGB - carpeting (part 2)

This is a continuation of the previous post about installing the carpets into the MGB. At this point, I've mapped all of the various pieces of carpet to where they go in the car and I've traced and then cut thick or thin insulation to go under the carpet for the respective sections. Now, it's time to play with spray epoxy.

Back to the Directions
For the install, I followed the directions for the order which carpet first, second, etc. For each piece of carpet, I had something to go under it (except the transmission tunnel). For each piece which directed gluing straight to steel, I would test fit the insulation, then test fit with insulation and carpet. If necessary, I would trim the insulation a little bit so it wasn't visible. Then, I'd spray epoxy onto the insulation and install it, holding it in-place for a 30-count or longer. Then, I'd test fit the carpet on top of the glued-down insulation, then epoxy it into place by spraying epoxy onto the carpet underside. Remember to let the epoxy set-up a little bit before slapping the things together. Wet won't hold; it needs to tack-up a little bit: spray the underside well away from the car, let it set up for 15-30 seconds and then apply in-place. If you, the reader, are looking at this for guidance, take care with the transmission tunnel carpet. I realized after mine was in that a shifter cover plate hadn't been put back in, so I needed to cut a small line in my carpet in front of the shifter to enable that re-install. Since it will live under a console, it doesn't really matter, but I really don't like cutting when I don't need to. Honestly, it is really hard to tell that the carpet was cut there now even without the console.

No Glue, But No Snaps
The carpets that sit on the floor under the persons in the car and the piece on the back deck are not glued in. Instead, they were held in place with snaps from the factory. Since I replaced my floors, many of the old snaps were gone. I had a decision to make: install the snaps or try something else. Knowing that the snaps had to be in exactly the right place for them to align with the snaps in the carpets, or there would be lumps in my brand new carpet, I decided to not install snaps. But, I needed something to hold the floor mat especially under the driver's feet. Otherwise, it could slide around under the pedals making for a dangerous driving condition. I found Velcro at Ace Hardware that was designed for wet conditions and it could hold up to 30 pounds. Since we just need to hold carpet, this felt like a good way to go. I cut sections out of the insulation, glued the Velcro to the underside of the carpet and corresponding spot on the floor. Now, the carpet holds in place, and retains it's original ability to be removed for cleaning and access to drain plugs. And no lumps.

Cutting Holes
In order to re-install seat belts and the seats, this brand new carpet needs to have holes cut into it. I found this a little hard to embrace at first. Since I was putting insulation under all of the various pieces, though, I could figure out exactly where the hole was supposed to go with something that wasn't carpet and then transfer that spot onto the carpet. This worked well for the sill carpets (that section from the ledge along the bottom of the door to the main floor) where the lower seat belt mount hole is, but greatly complicated an already difficult wheel arch. Fortunately, the transmission tunnel carpet had the holes pre-punched. This made aligning the carpet easier in that respect, but made the overall install of that carpet much more harrowing because everything had to line up perfectly.... with epoxy sprayed on it. Move quickly.

The last holes to put into the carpets are the holes for the bolts to hold the seat rails. In the MG, each seat is held in with 4 7/16" bolts. The carpets do not ship with the holes pre-punched, so you need to locate them yourself. Not all of these holes pop out the bottom; in fact, only one does. The front 2 pass into a cross-member and one of the rear ones does too, leaving just the one. I started with just the insulation down, and pushed a finish nail up through the one hole. This removed front-back and left-right sliding of the insulation while I located the other holes. These, I found in a more traditional way of folding back the insulation until I could locate the hole, and guestimated where it passed through the insulation. While some holes took more than one try, I located the holes with finish nails, leaving them in the insulation for transfer to the carpet. Taking the insulation to a table, I set the carpet on top of the insulation and pushed the finish nail through the carpet, marking the hole, and then put blue tape on top of the nail to hold the mark. With an exacto-blade, I cut a small "X" at each nail, testing the size with the seat-rail bolt so the hole was only as large as needed to be. With the bolts pushed through the holes in both the carpet and insulation, I could set the carpet in place and then put in the seats.

Seats In
Once the carpets were in, I put the seats back in. The seats were originally installed with a wood slat running under the steel rail to lift it up off the carpet a little bit. Not surprisingly, these wood slats were rotted away. Instead, I boosted the seat up off the carpet by putting a slightly over-sized nut under the seat rail where each of the bolts passed through to the floor: one per bolt. These 4 nuts created little stands for the seat rail so it sits just above the carpet. I expected this to be a challenge, between the low ceiling created by the convertible top, the small holes, getting a nut under the rail, juggling an old seat, etc, but it really wasn't. The blue tape gave me clear targets for the holes in the seat rails so I could get the seat in the right spot without the carpet moving. Then, one corner at a time, I lifted the rail, slid a nut under the rail and the the bolt through the rail, then the bolt and finally into the hole in the floor. I would lightly thread the bolt and then move on. I tightened the bolts snug as pair: front then rear.

I finished out the rough-in by making a small cut in the transmission tunnel carpet and installing the shift plate. I followed my now-usual pattern of soaking the old plate in vinegar for a few days to get the rust off; then, cleaned primed and painted it. The install of the plate was simple: re-use the 3 Phillips screws at the front. I re-used the original shift boot after cleaning it up with some Meguiar's vinyl cleaner just to get the shifter together and looking fairly good. I'll be switching out the shifter boot with the rest of the interior panels and seat covers later. The boot is held down with a new black ring and chrome bolts. The ring and bolts were less than $10US, but that change greatly improved the finished look.

I installed new door rubber seals and the stamped-steel transoms (with new screws) to complete the effort. The ends of rubber seals are held in place with small chrome bits, and otherwise just press onto the lip which runs along the edge of the carpeted sills. The stamped-steel transoms are held on with 6 small screws, and after some polishing, look fairly decent for original pieces.

Now, it looks and sounds like a "real" car. When the doors are shut and windows up, the car purrs. When I stomp on the fast pedal, it has a little roar to it. I still need to put the center console in (for climate control) and it could use a radio, but the little car is about ready to be a daily driver.

Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

MGB - carpeting (part 1)

Today's post covers getting the carpets into the little British car. Like so many of my posts, this got a little long, so I'm going to cut it into 2 pieces. At least there are lots of pictures this time.

How Did We Get Here
With a top now keeping out the elements, I was ready to install the carpet I had intended to install over a year ago. Recall Winter before last... I had a willing volunteer in K2 wanting to help on the little car. I was up to my elbows in front-end rebuild and couldn't fit a second pair of hands into what I was doing. I thought he could pull the front seats and the carpets (so we could replace them) while I finished the front end. The seller said that the floors were good but just the carpets needed to be replaced. At the time of purchase, I couldn't really see the floors because of shadows or whatever. So, when K2 pulled the carpets out and we saw a rust hole, it lead to a lost Summer of driving the roadster. Instead, we spent weekends cutting and prepping the floors, had a welding party and sealed in the floors. We added paint and noise reducer. Now, we were ready to lay some carpet, so I ordered "standard" set of carpets (versus the expensive wool or deep-pile ones on the market).

Noise and Temperature Containment First
In my years of working on the bus, there has been a steady drumbeat of containing noise. Driving an empty bus is like sitting in a metal shed through a thunderstorm. Its crazy loud. Lots of MG owners like the loud, so what I did at this point may not sit well with them. I don't care. It's my car, so I'll do what I please.

I know from driving this car around that the heat from the engine bay and exhaust heat up the interior, even without a top. While this might be nice in the winter, it's not so great in mid-Summer. To reduce heat, I chose to put closed cell foil-sided insulation (like this) behind the carpet sections in the footwells as well as under the driver and passenger seats. This should reduce both heat and noise. But I didn't stop there.

Except for the carpet over the rear shelf and the carpet on the main floor, the carpet is supposed to be glued directly to the steel. This includes the very front of the footwells, the sills, the rear wheel arches, etc. As I said earlier, I put that closed cell foil-backed insulation in the footwells and under the floor carpets. I wanted to add some additional soft to the other carpeted areas both for noise and for carpet depth when touched. The foil-sided insulation was too thick in the other areas, and I wasn't looking for temperature containment anyway, so I got some 3/32" closed-cell packing sheets from UHaul (like this). You wouldn't think it would make much of a difference, but simply tapping the steel with and without the foam was significantly different. These sheets are closed foam, so they don't absorb water and are very malleable.

Whether I was using the foil-backed or the UHaul foam, I used the carpet piece as a guide, traced it onto the planned under-layment and then cut with sharp shears. In some cases, I further trimmed the insulation to it wouldn't be visible after carpet was on top of it. I put some form of insulation under every piece of carpet except the transmission tunnel. I know the tunnel gets warm and I didn't know how the packing foam was going to perform with the heat. I wasn't sure how the carpet would appear on top of the foil-backed insulation, and whether the console would sit properly on top of it. Since that is the most visible section of carpet, and I'm not sure if I'm even going to install the full center console, I installed that section of carpet as directed: directly on top of the steel.

That's it for this part of the post. As you can see from the picture below, the cat continues to prove that he's a real shop-kitty, getting into whatever project we have going on. Of course, his help comes in the form of bringing work to a complete stop, but he's a cat. That's about all you can expect. Well, he could sit down right in the middle of the work; yes, he does that too. Thanks for following along, and I'll finish this up next time-

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Turbo-Bus Turbo'ing Again

Quick post today. I've had recurring issues with the charged-air plumbing. I think I now have them solved. Before I get into it, for my fellow Americans: Hapy Independence Day. May we all live a little less dependent upon corporates and money and a little more dependent upon each other this year.

On the test-drive I took following the install of the radiator and starter (see radiator 1 and 2 and starter here), the charged air plumbing separated again. This time, it was whiel stomping on the accelerator up a hill so when it separated, it made a huge bang. I thought I'd back-fired it was so loud. Backfiring a turbo'd diesel? Nah.. I don't think so. So, I gingerly finished the journey and popped the rear flap behind the license plate. Yep, that cursed charged air pipe had worked itself apart again. After solving the post-turbo / pre-intercooler plumbing a couple of years ago, the pipe running along the rear frame from the intercooler to the elbow up to the intake has become the weak-point. It has been coming apart with increasing frequency, exposing the engine to unfiltered air while removing the turbo from the power. The first one is engine life-threatening, the other just annoying. It needs to be solved.

Simple Solve
In a considerably marked contrast from pretty much everything else I do on this bus, the solution here was actually quite simple. The elbow had been zip-tied to the rear engine mount so it would not work itself free from the intake tubing on top of the engine. I had done that when I solved the turbo-to-intercooler separations a few years ago. I had thought that suspending the intercooler with wire would continue to be sufficient to hold the rest of it together. Yeah.. that was wrong. The weight of the intercooler presented a constant tug on the plumbing. So, to solve, I isolated the intercooler from the plumbing by better securing the plumbing. "How's that," you ask. The pipe running from the intercooler towards the intake runs right along the rear engine support bar that Hal fab'd up 10 years ago. Once I got all the rubber and aluminum parts back together, and hose-clamped snug, I simply zip-tied the charged air pipe, and each of the rubber ends, to the frame support. The weight of the intercooler is now supported by the wire from the bottom, and through zip-ties holding the top to the bar. It doesn't move any more.

So, that's it for the charged air, and that's it for today's post. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

MGB topped

After having this little car for almost 18 months, I finally scratched together the money for a new cloth top. Today's post is about getting that top and then it getting installed. For my fellow do-it-youself'ers, prepare to be disappointed: I didn't do it. I'll explain.

When I bought this car, it was early autumn. The days were warm and the summer nights were just starting to shorten. I could tell that the prior owner had put some love into the car, but then abruptly left it in a barn next to an open window. The top fouled and fell apart. Water got into the interior, eventually rusting the floor. I fixed the floor, and closing in the interior before getting that improved seemed like the next logical step.

Pick Your Poison
Having not owned a convertible before, I didn't realize there were so many different kinds of convertible top. They run the gamut of pricing as well, ranging from a couple hundred dollars (US$) for a plain black vinyl top to well over a grand (US$) for a high-end cloth top with glass windows and a defroster element.

For the MG, the standard has always been a "Robbins" top. Robbins was a convertible top manufacturer in England. I say "was" because that company is no longer in business and their name was bought by another. So, when you buy a "Robbins" top, it may not actually be a Robbins anymore. There are low-price "EZTop" tops which some report are quite good. Others have struggled with them. After reading and researching for a few months, I decided to get a top from a small outfit in England: Prestige Auto Trim. They offer 3 different price ranges, with a few different options within.

I believe that there are some areas where buying for price makes sense, but there's an old adage about price, quality and regrets that's basically "you only regret buying for quality at the register, you regret buying cheap the rest of the time". For items which are expensive to replace because of the hours it takes to do the job, buying a cheap part is all the more regrettable. For example, consider how much work it is to replace your clutch. You could buy the cheap no-name brand. You'll save, like $30. That clutch will not last as long. In fact, it could fail immediately after install, and the hours you spent installing gets to be done again... and you get to buy the part again. So, did you save $30?

Take this, and apply it to a convertible top. Installing a top isn't necessarily hard, but it is time consuming. It was with this time consideration that led me to get a top that could last 30 years, if well cared for, and will look phenomenal once in place. The weather where you live is a factor, too. Here in the Pacific Northwest our weather can be all over the place. For example, we have a long Spring where temperatures vary from the upper 40's(F, ~7C) at night to into the lower 80's(F, ~27C) during the day. Mixed into that are days that range from spotty rain to clear skies. Having a convertible is ideal for skies like that. But those cold mornings are all the colder when all you have overhead is thin cloth. After years of driving a bus with little-to-no heat, I decided to get a cabriolet top; those are the ones with a headliner and a little insulation between the headliner and the outer cloth top.

Shipping from UK
Once selected, ordering and shipping direct from the UK presents unique challenges. First, your bank needs to be aware of the fact that you are making an overseas order. Otherwise, the fraud alerts go off and your account gets locked. Yes, that happened. Once they removed the lock, and allowed an international order, I got my order in. Since these tops are made-to-order, there was a delay for the top to get fabricated, but within a couple of weeks it was boxed (extremely well) and on it's way to international flights to LAX. Passage through LAX includes a stop in customs. This was an additional 3 day delay followed by a (~$100US) import duty fee to get it through to domestic shipping. Factor the time and the fee into your international ordering decisions. Finally, after almost 6 weeks from the time I ordered the top, it arrived at my doorstep.

Do I Really Want to Do This Myself?
As I said earlier, installing a top isn't necessarily hard. Getting it right is. If you pull the fabric too tight, the top won't close. If it is too loose, it will sag, collect water and make an awful racket on the road flapping in the wind. In between, there is a sweet spot. Finding that sweet spot is where the science meets art. Those who do installs like this for a living are just far better equipped or schooled to hit that sweet spot. I decided that paying someone a few hundred (US$) is worth having a top that doesn't make noise, closes properly and keeps the elements out. While I suppose it is possible that I could have done it myself, I sincerely doubt I could have gotten it nearly as nice as it turned out. For posterity, I had the folks at British Auto Works (BAW) in North Plains do the install. Because of my timing, their shop took almost 2 weeks, but it was worth the wait.

While British Auto Works had the car, they checked other things out. They confirmed all of my work to date, checked compression (190 in all cylinders) and pressure checked the fluid systems. They found a small oil leak at the oil cooler bypass and found that the charging system wasn't working too well. More for the list.

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

MGB exhausting

After cobbling together a quieter exhaust to reduce attention at the DEQ, today's post covers the effort to remove the pop-pop-pop from the exhaust that could also attract attention. So, more on the MGB exhaust...

Leak Finding
Again, remember that I hadn't made it through DEQ yet when I did this. With the muffler replaced, I shifted back to concerns which might interest the DEQ: the backfire. To find the exhaust leak, I simply started the engine with the hood up in my garage and listened. Nothing interesting... so I started feathering the throttle cable at the carb. With just a little rev, it was clear that the leak was coming from where the exhaust manifold meets the head closest to the firewall (#4).

Free Your Head
This is a pretty easy fix, even with the weird head on the MGB. I got a replacement gasket from NAPA, with a tube of the copper exhaust gasket sealant. After removing the gasket from the cardboard, I set the cardboard down next to it so I could align the fasteners to the relative position from where they came. This was so I could track which ones came from where when it came time to put everything back together again. I started with the nuts which held the intake manifold on. One at a time, I would remove the nut and washer, and then set them down relative to where they belonged on the cardboard. Once the nuts holding the intake were off, I slid the intake off the studs, put a latex/rubber glove over each intake to keep foreign debris out and then gently set the intake against the inner wheel well.

With the intake off, I shifted to the exhaust nuts, following the same pattern of one-at-a-a-time and setting it in its relative location. Once the nuts and washers were off, the exhaust manifold slid off and it could be lowered out of the way. Now, the old manifold gasket was exposed.

Scrape Your Face
Most of the old gasket came off in one piece, but some bits held on, and needed to be scraped off. Once the main gasket was off, I took a razor blade and scraped the entire area clean. I followed that with 150-grit sandpaper to make sure the head surface was completely clean. I checked the manifolds for residue, but scraped and sanded to be absolutely sure I had clean, flat surfaces. With the surfaces on both the head and the manifolds shiny clean we were ready for reassembly.

Copper Permatex
There are so many kinds of sealants and gasket makers on the market, going simply by color can be a dangerous thing. When it comes to Permatex, the genuine article, the colors match what you think they would be. Still, read the package before you use any. For helping the exhaust and intake manifolds on a MGB to mate to the head, you want to use the copper. It has thermal qualities which assist in keeping the temperature between the head and manifolds consistent while holding the seal at very high temperatures. I put a thin bead on both the head-side and the manifold side, not knowing which side needed is more. Following the instructions, I attached the manifolds finger-tight, waited an hour and then torqued them down.

The following day, the car was ready for another test drive. This time, I took T with me and we laughed as we tore around the neighborhood. The brakes felt good, the gears shifted tight. Most importantly, the exhaust wasn't popping incessantly and the overall din wasn't too bad... under 30mph. The next day, T took the car out, picked up his brother and ran it through DEQ. I posted on that earlier.

Since the car made it through DEQ, I can focus resources on a good exhaust versus the strung-together with bailing wire and soup-cans exhaust that's in there now. I looked high and low for a Peco, but they aren't manufactured any longer. The few that are on the market are the leftover stock, and they are priced accordingly. I considered the Tourist Trophy, but the sound samples I've heard didn't grab me like the Peco did. Part of that could have been the tinny-ness of the stainless steel, but I have heard that as the stainless ages, the tinny-ness fades away. Then, I learned from the fine folks at EnglishParts.com that the stainless steel Bell systems are built with the same design (and tooling) as the mild-steel Peco ones were. So, given time, the stainless Bell system would age into a sound just like the Peco... in theory. Food for thought.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

MGB muffled

Continuing the saga of getting the MG summer-weather ready, today's post covers some fun with the exhaust system. I started this post a few months ago and forgot about it, so recognize this was before I got through DEQ. So, I was doing things that were lowest possible cost in case I needed money to get through DEQ (think engine rebuild, etc).

Quiet You
In each of the test drives where I verified my fixes, I couldn't help but notice 2 things. First, the MG was loud as #$%!. Second was the unmistakable sound of an exhaust leak (pop pop pop). Out of curiosity, I pulled out a decibel tester app on my phone and checked. Parked in the garage with the doors open, sitting in the driver seat, I started the engine, and pushed the revs up to 3k and back down. I peaked at just shy of 100dB. According to the application, that's as loud as a blender. In the driver seat.

When we had the donorZed, I noticed that the exhaust was the same smaller-diameter piping as the MG had: 2". In the interests of getting every usable part off that thing, I cut off the rear muffler (which was surprisingly not that rusty), and the catalytic converter (cat). I figured that one of the two cars could use one or both of those parts, and with DEQ smog a part of ownership of these cars for the foreseeable future, one of them would eventually have use for the cat.

So, with the blender-loud exhaust reality in my face, I decided to start with the muffler going onto the MG. One would reasonably think that the crazy-bending exhaust plus muffler wouldn't "just fit". And, it sort of did.

Soup Can Exhaust
Most of the exhaust system on the MGB is coated with rust. The pipes, the little cherry-bomb mufflers, even the exhaust manifold. There is deep rust everywhere. This makes welding replacements all the more difficult because you have to get to clean steel to have a good strong weld. Fortunately, there are no-weld joiners available for most standard diameter sizes. These are somewhat simple in their design with a straight section of pipe with an integrated band clamp at each end. You put 2 cut ends of pipe into each end of this thing and tighten. Simple. It reminds me of the old-skool way to patching a hole in the exhaust: cut a soup can into a patch and get it to hold on with hose clamps.

All of this leads us to my noise reduction. The MGB had 2 cherry bomb mufflers in sequence which were not really muffling noise at all. So, I cut off the one on the back and fitted the one from the donorZed. With some careful cutting, I was able to get the 2 straight sections to abut, but there is not an off-the-shelf no-weld joining thing to connect them. So, I went back to the old-skool roots and cut up a small can, and hose-clamped it together. Yeah, I'm not that proud of that, but remember, this was done before I got through DEQ.

I re-used the hangers that were there from the cherry-bomb muffler, and it was ready for testing. Total cost: $0. I tested the noise level the same way: car in with the garage doors open. dB levels hovered in the low 90's, so I shaved up to 10% of the noise just by putting a bigger muffler on. Truth-be-told, the muffler from the donorZed looks an awful lot like the stock MGB muffler. During the test-drive, it became clear that the rubber had completely dried up, so I had to resort to holding the center section of pipe off the ground with bailing wire. Yeah.. not too proud of that either.

I'll get after the backfire in another post. For now, the exhaust is quieter, if not in a better long-term disposition. My thinking: don't attract unwanted attention by the tester at DEQ. That includes disconnected things under the bonnet and a super-loud exhaust which might imply something non-stock is going on.

Anyway, that's it for today. I'll post on my attempts to solve the backfire and other developments as I do. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Bus starter replaced

Brief post today about replacing the starter in the TDI-powered microbus.

Beginning by Not Starting
After getting the radiator replaced, I was unable to take a test drive because I couldn't get Hapy started. I assumed it was the annual ignition wiring issues, but I was wrong. The great unwiring I did two years ago (See Another Tow) actually worked two years later. The true issue was the starter finally failed. The starter that I was using was a gift from Justin. He had a customer who was complaining about noises coming from their starter, even though it worked fine. It kind of ran-on a couple of seconds after releasing the key post-start. While this is an indication of impending failure, it was working fine. Justin replaced it, and offered me the starter for the project microbus. It being free, I obviously accepted it, knowing that the day would come when the starter would become inconsistent and then just not work. Well... the becoming inconsistent didn't happen; it just failed.

Start Out
Removing a starter is not complicated, but I'll cover it anyway. Disconnect the battery cables from the battery first. This should be obvious, but so often we get excited about the job, and forget. Next, unplug the trigger wire that comes from the ignition and plugs into the solenoid with a small black square clip. Pinch-and-pull. Next, remove the bundle of wires which are ring-terminal'd onto the back of the starter. This should be a 10mm nut. With the electrical out of the way, grab the (IIRC) 19mm socket and remove the top bolt. This bolt is longer than the other, and you go after this one first on the bus because it is the one that is harder to get to (you're on your back facing up). Then, remove the lower, smaller bolt from the bottom, keeping a hand on the starter as it loosens. It is heavy, especially lying down underneath, so brace against it falling on your face.

Start In
I took the old starter over to Discount Import Parts (now only on the east-side - don't get me started) and got a rebuilt Bosch from them. Since I had the old starter in hand, I didn't have to pay a core nor drive all the way over there a second time. The install is literally the reverse of the removal: wrestle the starter up into position (solenoid above the starter) and rotate it left and right while pressing the smaller bolt into the lower hole. Once it catches, thread it in with your fingers until it is holding. Then, finger-in the top longer bolt. Once they are both finger tight, tighten with the sockets. Wire up the ring-terminal wires with the 10mm, then plug in the trigger wire.

Once the starter was in, Hapy fired right up. His test drive was pretty great. A charged-air pipe separated from one of the rubber connectors again, so I'll need to solve for keeping that together. Otherwise, I drove to the gas station and filled up with B20. Last tank of fuel: 39mpg. When compared to the 16-19 mpg I was getting with the gasoline engine, 39 is absolutely astounding. I rewarded Hapy with an oil change.

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