Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Zup date

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Oh Clutch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The 80-20 Rule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

MGB - Ug-lectrical

One of my least favorite things when it comes to working on cars is electrical issues. Unfortunately, most people feel that way so when an older car starts having electrical problems, that's when they start appearing on craigslist. Today, I will cover my efforts on the "green" circuit in the little British car as I try to figure out why the turn signals don't work. First, for my US friends, happy Thanks Giving.

But I Thought...
Just about every electrical realization starts the same way. You're cruising along, doing your thing when some system just stops working. That sinking feeling is universal. As much as you want to direct your mind to a simple and easy explanation, it's not that easy. 'it could just be a really old fuse went bad". Yeah, sure. That's happened. I'm sure we've all read of an account on the internet when it was just a single fuse that went bad for no reason. I've never had that kind of luck. When a fuse pops, it pops for a reason. Regardless, that is the first place to go: check to see if any fuses are bad. Today could be your lucky day.

Wiring Diagramming
Once you've ruled out the fuse just popping for no reason, you need to start thinking about a viable reason for it popping. If it isn't a fuse, your problem is the same: rooting out what stopped working and why. This starts with a wiring diagram. With the advent of the interweb, lots of full color diagrams are available for free (or a small fee). Older cars have much less complicated diagrams, yet they have more problems because of age. I was able to find a nice electronic version of the MGB diagram at advance auto wire.

Diagram Analysis
This could be kind of fun, at least for a simple diagram like this one. When I look at the pages and pages of diagrams for my 2000 Jetta, its really not nearly as much fun. BUT, the modern diagrams are sub-divided well once you get the hang of it. Either way, find the sub-system that isn't working. On the single diagram, it might seem easier, but the many pages style have a table of contents. You just need to know the name of the system you're looking for. "Electrical thingy" won't be specific enough. Anyway, once you find the sub-system on the diagram, study the colored lines, and figure out where they connect with other things. In my case, I can see many components riding on the green wires. Some of them work and some of them don't. Since the turn signals leverage lots of the hazard wiring, I checked the hazards and they didn't work. So, I was able to isolate the areas of the green circuit which are the most likely sources of my troubles: the ignition relay, the wire from the ignition relay to the hazard relay, the hazard switch, the wire from the hazard relay to the hazard switch, the wires from the switch to the lights and the turn signal stalk/switch.

On-car Analysis
Equipped with this, I started looking at the most likely issue: the hazard switch. These are old and crusty, and they fail. The hazard switch pushes out from behind and a multi-wire plug can be removed to enable testing and replacing the switch. With my multi-meter, I checked continuity on the various posts (continuity test position is the icon with an arrow pointing right into a vertical line down near the bottom). I found that the switch would not send a signal to the right-turn post, so the switch was bad, but it should be sending signal to the left side. The switch is part of the problem, but not all of it. I moved on to the relay. I know the car can run, so the relay should be fine. To rule it out, though, I put the negative battery cable onto the negative post and verified that there was 12V at the relay post which powered the hazard circuit. There was, so this leaves the wire from the relay to the flasher, the flasher or the wire from the flasher to the hazard switch. I disconnected the battery again, ran a long tester-wire from the relay to the flasher, reconnected the battery and tried the hazard switch. The left side blinkers started flashing. Cool... except that meant that the issue was the wire from the relay in the engine compartment to the flasher behind the glove box.

Tearing into It
the 3-pin relay. 31 goes to ground
I figured the wire had a kink or was broken. To remedy, a new wire would need to be put in. Rather than have a lone wire routing back, I chose instead to open up the harness and identify the wire failure first. I couldn't find it. I did discover, however, that the previous owner had put an in-line fuse between the ignition relay and the flasher. I verified that there was continuity from the relay to the far side of the fuse, and again confirmed that the wire was not conducting. So, I removed the wire harness wrap. Inexplicably, the wire started working and the blinkers on the left side would flash when I flipped the hazard switch. Relieved that I wasn't going to have to route new wire, I decided to show Boo.

Unfortunately, the hazard switch chose that time to completely fail, so we could hear the blink-blink-blink from the flasher, but no lights. GAHH!! I love electrical issues. I swapped out the hazard switch, but the new switch had no effect. I checked the voltage on either side of the relay, and it shows 12V all the time now. So, maybe its a bad harness plug that the hazard switch goes into. More multi-meter time needed. Times like these, I ask myself how much work would it be to install an entirely new harness? The answer according to the interweb is 40 hours and $550 for the harness (See AdvanceAutoWire). Eek. Maybe I'll just keep playing whack-a-gremlin.

Relay and Pins
In case you discover your issue is the hazard relay, here's some useful discovery I had while investigating possible causes with the relay: The original 2-pin relays are still available, but 3-pin versions are more so. The 3rd pin (31) goes to ground, which, with old cars where the grounds can get dicey, that's a really good thing. Also, the 3-pin variety are very widespread and used as relays for all kinds of cars, bringing their cost down below $5 each. The original 2-pin relays are around $15. For some, that originality is worth the difference. I just want my flashers to work. Having a relay that is available everywhere is a bonus.

Unfortunately, this is as far as I've gotten on these electrical issues. Lots of cross-wind with the 280ZX, a daily-driver suddenly out of operation, and then there's the usual holiday crazy. Last, work is increasing in intensity as we approach "year end" and managers everywhere are realizing that bonuses are tied to delivered work that hasn't materialized yet. That usually means more pressure from above to get more done which leads to working more hours in the evening or on weekends. Looking forward to January and the return to a measured pace.

As always, thanks for following along...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

MGB - Test Start, Test Drive

Today's post covers the initial tests of all the changes that I did this past year on the little MGB. It's been quite a year. In August of 2016, I picked up a little British car to bust my knuckles on over the winter. I needed a break from the bus, and it looked like it was going to be a cosmetic fixer. As you've read along this past year, you learned as I did that there was much more to it than that. The brakes were squishy on the drive home, so I went to redo them only to lose the master cylinder in the process. I went to replace the brake master cylinder and had that scope explode into redoing the clutch master cylinder as well. We found rust-through in the floor under the nasty carpet. We found the front suspension bushings has been replaced with window insulation... or at least it looked like it. The coolant pump was failing. The fuel tank was leaking. So much to do and fix. Before I turned the key, though, I changed the oil and oil filter.

We replaced both front disks, pads and hoses. In the rear, we replaced all of the brake parts: shoes, hardware, drums, wheel cylinders and the one hose. We replaced the brake master cylinder and polished the vacuum assist. Last, we replaced the fluid from end-to-end (kinda obvious with everything else getting redone). On the clutch, we replaced the master cylinder. Between the two master cylinders, we tore down, cleaned and painted the pedal box and pedals. The pedals got new rubber pads as well. Detailed postings 1, 2 and 3.

We ripped out the passenger and driver floors. The rails were repaired, flattened and ground to bare metal. We measured, drilled and ground-to-metal for plug and seam welding the new floors and then had a party to weld them in. The seams were sealed with black seam-sealer and then we experimented with flex-seal to 100% fill the little gaps. Undercoating was applied. I didn't post on it, but in the rear of the little cabin, a prior owner (PO) had cut a big section out of the wall between the cabin and trunk. I repaired that big hole while leveraging the opening to install 2 6x9" Polk Audio speakers. The trunk lid was removed, cleaned, splits were welded and the underside painted. The trunk floor was cleaned, painted and sound deadener was added. The lid had new hinges installed, and the gap on the driver-side accounted for with washers so the trunk now seals all the way around. Detailed postings 12 and 3.

The tank was removed and sent to a radiator shop for cleaning and lining. All new fasteners were used during install, and we replaced the hoses, hose clamps, and float / level-sender. Up front, new hoses were installed and a discovered-to-be-faulty upside-down safety switch was replaced with another filter. I will be restoring a safety switch later. We discovered this system leak during final system testing. Detailed posting here.

One of the first things we learned about from British Auto Works was the failing coolant pump. This system was the last to get our attention, though. We pulled the pump and the radiator. The radiator was treated with a vinegar and distilled water solution to de-rust / de-scale as was the heater (though it was done in-place). The coolant overflow bottle was paint-stripped and polished and a new pump installed. All new hoses and mostly-new hose clamps were installed as was the thermostat and thermostat housing. Detailed postings 1 and 2.

Front Beam
Second in scope only to the floor replacement, I spent last winter rebuilding the front suspension and steering. The steering mechanism got a clean-up, new gaiters, oil and new tie-rod ends. The suspension was completely refreshed, including new poly-impregnated rubber bushings all around, lots of paint prep and painting, new lower control arms, new front shocks, new front wheel bearings and upgraded sway-bar bushings. It's practically an entirely new front end. Detailed postings about the steering here and here, the front beam 1, 2, 3 and 4. Let's not forget replacing the engine mounts. That was fun.

Along the way, everything was tested to some degree. The cooling system doesn't leak at rest. The suspension doesn't make noise no matter who is jumping up and down on the bumpers. We stomped on the floors from above and beneath. The clutch engages when the pedal is depressed... and the engine isn't running. The brakes stop the car from rolling when nudged in the garage. These little tests gave us confidence to keep going, and believe that the system was ready. Eventually, you have to put gas in the tank and turn the key.

The last thing you do before you test is hookup the battery. I verified that the battery still had 12V (I was shocked it didn't need a charge), and then connected the leads. The key had been turned to RUN to unlock the steering, so the fuel pump started up. Fuel fountained under the hood, so we tightened a few things, and ultimately removed a broken flip-over safety switch. Once solved, I hopped into the driver seat, put the car in neutral, pulled the hand brake and turned the key again. Fuel pump started up, so I waited a second. After confirming that the gas-fountain wasn't happening I turned the key to start. The engine fired up almost instantly. I revved the engine a few times, and looked for exhaust color. There really wasn't any exhaust, so early concerns about running rich may not have merit. No black smoke to indicate oil nor sweet white smoke to indicate coolant either.
Test Successful.

A Drive
Running the engine in my garage felt awesome, but to really test many of the systems, we need some straight road, and more gas.. and a seat for a passenger and some seat belts. With the new floor came new embedded nuts for the bolts for the seat. this made the seat install a 10 minute effort even as I helped C on his new ride. Add in the retractable seat belts I bought last fall and I'm ready for a street test. Once the rain stops. Oddly enough, during the overnight after the test start, the battery ran down to nearly 0. I must have left the key in the ACC or RUN position, causing systems to stay active all night. Jeez. Road test has to wait while I charge the battery. While waiting, I noticed the front driver running light wasn't working and fixed it with some DeOxit and some patience. I rooted around and found a couple of bolts which could hold the steering column plastic covers on and put that together. I found myself wiping down seats and fiddling with things waiting for the nice weather to arrive.

Finally, I had an opportunity. We had an unseasonably nice stretch during the week and the weekend following was absolutely stunning: upper 60's and clear skies. So, I moved the herd of cars around the driveway, and pushed the MG out of the garage. With a clear rear-view to match the clear sky, I jumped in, fired it up and backed down the driveway. It's loud, and after a little it's-cold sputtering, it settled down. I was able to move through the gears easily; the clutch responded very well. The brakes still had some spongy in them, but I sped off down the street anyway. I drove maybe a mile around the neighborhood, and then started noticing all of the systems that were not working: everything on the green circuit. I chose not to drive to the gas station and instead drove home.

Upon arrival, I discovered that the thermostat housing was leaking. I torqued it down with a plan to look for a leak there on my next test flight. No gas leaked from any fuel line, the brakes remained consistently spongy so I'll need to do another round of bleeding there. The exhaust is loud everywhere with pop-pop-pop noises on deceleration, telling me there's an exhaust leak. Maybe multiple. Let's not forget the green circuit isn't working. Ultimately, though I declare Test Successful.

It was awesome to get that little car going. The throttle response is great, the steering is tight, the suspension over bumps is mellow. I have a few things still to do before it's really road-ready, but none of it is scary. Except maybe getting a top. That may have to wait until I can pay someone else to do it.

Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Oh Gee, How bout a Z?

Today's brief post is about finding and acquiring a project car for my 16 year old son. To our former service men and women, happy Veteran's Day and thank you for your service.

Not our Z: rust in usual spots
Long before my divorce, and re-marriage, I had made a commitment to my sons. I promised that when they were ready to commit to a car, the project that it represented, the time it would require, etc, that I would invest $1000US on something. When T was 17, we drove up near Seattle and got him a late 90's A4 (See Gotta Keep Moving). Well, his brother C has just turned 16, and while he doesn't yet have a license, he is now ready to commit. To be fair, $1000US bought more car 10 years ago when I made the commitment, but we've had pretty good luck, and good finds are out there. You just need to work that much harder.

C has been keenly aware of this money-for-car arrangement. Last Summer, I drove to Vancouver WA to look at a project 280Z, but the rust had affected too much of it. The body had large nasty rust holes in the rear quarters, rust pinholes in the rear lid and a couple of flat tires. The interior was kind of sad too, but it was complete. After a few minutes of looking, I knew it wasn't passing muster, so I walked on it. C was disappointed, but that didn't dissuade him from looking harder. He likes sports cars. So, he was looking at BMW's, Camaro/Firebirds and, always, Datsun 240/260/280's. We talked to lots of people, emailed more and drove by a few, and after a year we thought we may have finally found one worth looking at.
not our Z: more rust

C found a 1979 280ZX project that had hit a hard patch. He had rebuilt the engine, fixed up the transmission and replaced the clutch. He had stripped the interior of everything but the seats and door-cards and slapped on fancy rims and tires with a plan to turn the car into a drifter. Unfortunately, while driving to the brake shop to get the brakes done, he was hit, damaging the driver door and front driver fender. The owner was working multiple projects and needed cash for the Mustang he was almost done with. Meanwhile, the 280ZX wasn't getting much focus and the accident had pushed away some of the love for the project. Listed at $1200, we figured the engine / transmission was probably worth the money. Add in the rims and tires and we could probably get our money back and more just by parting it out. BUT, if the frame wasn't bent or damaged in the accident, we could pop new body panels on there and make a car out of it. So, C made an appointment to go look at it on one of the final nice days of the fall.

That'll Work
C's Z
Since C didn't have a license yet, we brought his brother T with us. I decided to make this a learning opportunity for both of them by having them lead the conversation, inspection and test driving. We walked the car, searching for rust and weird frame issues first. The rust we found was surface stuff. The floors were perfect: no rust, and well protected. I thought they might have been replaced, perhaps by the person this owner bought the car from. We did our other look-sees as well, using all of our senses as best we could and then T took it out for a test drive with the owner while C and I stayed with the owner's friend and asked a ton of questions. T came back grinning from ear to ear. Clearly, he enjoyed driving it. Rather than get too deep into that, though, he jumped into giving us feedback: the brakes were good, same with the steering. Neither one impacted the other. Hard stops were good. Held firm over bumps. All the switches and dials work, lights, turn & brake signals too. I made the decision to let them make the decision. They had asked all the right questions, and got good answers. They wanted to do the build, so I shelled out $1100US cash, C signed the title, and the deal was struck.

not our Z: interior trashed, but complete
The appointment was in Newburg, which is around 30 minutes from my place. Since the boys made the decisions, they got to drive the new project home, while I followed in the chase car. That little car has some get-up-and-go. They turned the corner from the side-street onto the 99W and simply took off. They didn't speed; they just arrived at the speed limit much faster than I did. We stayed together, though, and they pulled all the way into the driveway and under the awaiting canopy. The smiles on their faces remained for quite some time after the engine was turned off. I think this is going to be a fun build.

Since we got it home, C has been over a few times and has made some headway. I'll post on that soon. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

MGB - coolant pump replacement (Part 2)

Today's post continues the efforts around replacing all of the smaller pieces of the cooling system. It started with just swapping out the coolant pump, but the hoses were old, the hose clamps rusted on, some parts desperately needing paint, etc. So, today's post covers the second phase. In the last post, we identified parts and tore everything down. Today we clean it up and start putting it back together. But first: Hapy Halloween.

Clean Up
There were a few original pieces that needed to be cleaned up and painted before they were re-installed. I reused the pulley cap, the accessory pulley, the pipe that connects the heater to the system and the overflow bottle mounting strap. Using 80-grit sandpaper, I took down the rust and then followed with steel wool to prep for paint. I then shot them with high-gloss black Rustoleum. When I sanded on the overflow bottle, I discovered it was brass, so I spent a bunch of extra time cleaning and polishing it instead. It will probably be the shiniest thing under the hood.

bottle while cleaning
bottle as removed
While the parts dried and cured, I decided I would de-scale / de-rust the inside of the radiator. I knew this was my opportunity to get after it, especially if I didn't want to open the cooling system again. The radiator is held on with 4 bolts, accepting a 1/2" socket. Once removed, the radiator lifts straight up. If you don't lift straight up, some otherwise not drained coolant will come out. I drained the rest into a disposal bottle and then ran water through it using a garden hose. I kept sending water through until the water coming out was clear. the discharge went mostly into a disposal bottle with some spilling on my driveway. Between the rain and a post-cleaning hose-off, I think the local animals are safe. I then poured 2 quarts of vinegar into the radiator and topped it off with distilled water.

harness pull-back
Something very similar to the radiator treatment I did to the heater unit. I attached old hoses to either end and flushed with tap water until it ran clear. Then, I added vinegar to the heater by filling from the lower bib until it started to bubble out the top. Through raising and lowering the hoses, I was able to get the heater core completely filled with vinegar.

I left the radiator and the heater with their de-rusting solutions in place for a week. Then, I drained them into a disposal bottle. Vinegar is an acid that will leave the remaining metal prone to rusting if left alone. To neutralize, mix one cup of baking soda with a gallon of water. I poured this mixture into the radiator and heater units and left them alone overnight. The internet says it only needs 10 minutes, but I was out of time that day anyway. Once the neutralizer is drained, flush again with water. Once they were both running clear, scent-free water, I taped off the radiator fins and shot the rest with very high temperature (VHT) flat-black paint. The same paint I used on the brake calipers. While the radiator shouldn't get anywhere near the heat that brakes or exhaust get, I figured better use that than Rustoleum which may not be able to handle 200*.
heater flush

While everything was broken down, I had an unexpected garage visit from my now-19 year old son T. He wanted to jump in and help. So, we pulled the main harness off the passenger inner wheel arch and taped it off for paint. After he left, I pulled back the engine seal, and masked off the outer wheel arch (fender / wing). I tossed a moving blanket over the engine, cleaned the inner wheel arch and shot it with the same orange I used on the driver inner wheel arch. Similar to that paint job, orange paint dust settled on lots of parts, but I'll hit that with the shop vac after the rest of the bits are assembled.

I started with setting the gasket on the coolant pump and threading the bolts through. The bolts will help hold the gasket still. The internet doesn't agree on whether a layer of goop on the gasket is necessary or not. I did not put any on, believing that if it leaks, I can always tear things apart and add it. It leaked after all, so I tore it down and re-did this part using Permatex blue gasket maker. This stuff is designed for something like this. Simply peanut-butter both sides of the gasket with a thin (about as thick as a sheet of notebook paper) layer of the Permatex. Carefully set the gasket onto the pump and then the pump onto the head taking care not to get goop into the head. I did this by pushing the bolts through and using them to line things up. The 4 bolts which hold the coolant pump to the engine are different lengths. Since they are threading into the engine, make sure you use the right bolts in the right spots. Too long, and too much torque could create a crack.
rad flush

Once in place, the manufacturer and the interweb says that the coolant pump gasket needs to be heat-set. One way is to assemble everything and then run the engine (without coolant!) for 30 seconds or so to generate the heat necessary to make the seal happen. I found that alarming, and chose to go with option 2: using a drill. This was really kinda weird. Either way you need to put the pulley on the pump. With option 2, you put the accessory belt around the underside of the pulley, and the other end around the chuck on my drill which I held near the thermostat housing. I created tension by pulling upwards on my drill and then fired the trigger. Once I got it running consistently, without running off either end of the chuck, I let it spin for 2-3 minutes... or the length of one old Black Sabbath song on the radio. War Pigs, I think. When I did all that, it leaked. So, I re-did it with the Permatex like I described above, and didn't heat-set the gasket, and it's holding fine. Use the goop.

With the pump ready, I re-installed the radiator. 4 1/2" bolt/nut combinations later, the radiator was in. This was super-easy and with the new paint it looks much better too. Then, I put in the thermostat housing.. without the thermostat. There's a reason for this: the thermostat sits closed so coolant can't pass, but the coolant filler is above the thermostat, so you need to wait while coolant trickles in. Who has that kind of time? Instead, once the hoses are on, you fill without the thermostat in until you're full just below the lip of the head. Then, drop the thermostat in.

Next, hook-up the hoses, starting with the lowest radiator hose to the coolant pump followed by the upper radiator hose to the thermostat housing. In each case, I considered where the screwdriver would need to be in order to loosen/tighten the hose clamp before putting on the hose. Taking a few seconds to consider that, and even popping the clamp on there loosely, but in the right position, saved me a headache later.

Connect the lower radiator hose to the narrow pipe that leads back to the heater, and then the heater hoses. If you have or used to have a coolant-based choke, you have the small hoses that lead from the rear of the head to the narrow pipe, though the carb. My carb had been swapped out, so there was a hose connecting these two. I will form a more formal blank for both ends, but knitted things together for now. And then there's the hose from the radiator to the overflow bottle. And installing that overflow bottle. That's easy. The bottle is held by a steel strap which is held in place with 2 1/2" nuts addressed through the passenger front wheel well.

Fill as much as you can with the thermostat out, and then remove the thermostat housing, and install the thermostat. The new cork gasket held very well, not requiring any Permatex. Add more coolant, burping the system by squeezing the lower radiator hose until you can't reasonably get coolant into the filler hole. But then what do you do? The MGB cooling system is simple, but the routing of the hoses and location of various components creates many opportunities for air bubbles. For example, the heater core is at the system high-point, but there is no facility to bleed air. I used the little hose bib sticking out of the back of the head to fill once the coolant filler at the front of the engine was full. I continued to burp the system until I heard coolant start to appear in the overflow bottle. The interweb advice is to have the bottle at 1/2 full, so I continued filling from the back of the head, holding the hose above the heater until the overflow bottle was 1/2 full.

That's it for today. All that remains is a test start and then a test drive. At some point, the seemingly endless rain will pause long enough for me to take this roadster out to verify the clutch hydraulics...  brake hydraulics... coolant re-do... steering... front suspension.... fuel system revitalization and, of course, the floors. It has been a year since the little British car drove around, so I'll be dedicating a post to that... once it happens.

Thanks, as always, for following along.