Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Quick post today. C, T and I have been looking for a cheap and viable cleaner for our car projects. This mini-post looks at using a vinegar and baking soda combo as an all-purpose deep cleaner.

Starting Point
So much of our time working on our projects isn't the fun sexy part of removing parts or putting new parts in, or even really fun stuff like welding. At least half of our time is cleaning stuff. Those car-fix TV shows don't film or broadcast that, because it's really not interesting. And viewers would change the channel. But, cleaning is so important and so central to everything we do. In retrospect, I've done a horrible job of highlighting this along the way, falling into the same trap of "not interesting" for readers. So, today, I'm doing a tiny post on the topic.

We usually go the route of dish-soap, glass cleaner, de-greaser, goof-off or brake cleaner depending on what we're cleaning. Ultimately, the real work is scrubbing or rubbing by hand with shop towels, sponges, paper towels and maybe steel wool. Our first priority is to not damage the part, and so that sometimes means we leave it not quite as clean as we would want it to be. We are always looking for new cleansers that do the job, do it well and preferably do it without a big negative impact on the environment (which is why we try to avoid brake cleaner).

The Impetus
before. at night w/flash camera
The new A4 had been parked for at least a year when we picked it up. The PO said it was much shorter, but unless he was just driving it up and down his driveway, he was driving it without tags. So, we're pretty sure it sat longer. Anyway, the Pacific Northwest has lots of things it is famous for. Not on the list is the amount of moss that grows here on pretty much anything that sits still during the rainy season. Even pure and perfect paint will have a dull green haze come summer, if it hasn't been cleaned or even just moved during the rains. Putting the A4 non-movement with that non-published reality nets us an A4 that had itself some green haze. This green haze was especially bad on the headlights, reducing their usefulness. T thought they were scratched. Having no money and no special headlight de-scratcher tooling, we hit the internet for cheap home-grown alternatives.

Headlight de-Hazing
We came upon a YouTube of a guy fixing his headlights with vinegar and baking soda. I had heard of this combination as a recommendation for cleaning carpets, and intended to attack the keeperZed carpets once we got that far. But I hadn't heard of using vinegar/soda for getting scratches out of glass. Feeling unconvinced, T mixed up a small paste in a glass dish and grabbed a microfiber cloth. First, he shot the headlight with window cleaner and wiped it "clean" with a paper towel. Then, he dipped the microfiber cloth into the paste, wiped it on and rubbed it off. Seriously, that's all he did. Then, he rinsed with another window cleaner spray and wipe to make sure there wasn't any paste residue left.

after. next day no flash
The results are pretty amazing. We aren't entirely sure if the headlights were really scratched up or just covered in mossy haze or just hazey from age. They look much better now and the light shines through them much better than before. Total cost: virtually $0. I had leftover dollar-store apple vinegar from when I cleaned the radiator in the MGB (See that MGB Coolant Pump Replacement (Part 2)). We had an open box of baking soda in the fridge. Put together with about 10 minutes of clock start-to-end, and the A4 went from hazey, ineffective and unattractive headlights to clear and bright headlights.

During the radiator experiment, I used baking soda and vinegar separately: one to neutralize the other. When used together, they froth like mad. Based on my reading, it is this frothing / oxidizing action that does the cleaning. I've read that you can mix in some lemon or orange dish soap into the mixture to leave a fresh smell (not vinegar) behind. C experimented with that when he started looking at the carpets in the 280ZX.

Carpet Deum
C arrived with a great energy and interest in getting his carpets cleaned on the 280ZX. We had finished pulling parts off the donor, but hadn't yet dealt with the carcass. The renewed energy was very welcomed, and he wanted to focus it on the parts pile that was now overwhelming the keeper Zed. On the top of the heap was the carpet. In the ZX, the carpet is extremely simple: there are 2 pieces, one for the cockpit from the back of the seats to under the dash and one piece for the trunk space. With the newly learned lessons with the headlights, he grabbed the dollar-store vinegar and the commercial-grade soda from the blasting and started in on the rear carpet.

All in, he spent about 30 minutes working on it. He poured soda onto a section of carpet, spreading it around with his hands. Then, he spread lemon dishsoap in a wavy thin line across the same area. Last, he took a bottle of tonic water in one hand and a bottle of vinegar in the other and poured fluids on top, creating a thin lather. Once the lathering action started to slow, he attacked the area with a plastic scrub-brush. Once scrubbed, he let it sit and moved on to another area. Each section got no more than 5 minutes of attention. When he had done enough of the carpet for his experiment, he let it sit for an hour while we ate dinner. After dinner, he grabbed the garden hose, put a standard tip on it and hosed off the carpet.

The results were pretty amazing. While it didn't come clean like it was factory-new, it does look like it was a very well cared for carpet. He will be doing the rest of that section as well as the front carpet so he can re-use them in his keeper Zed. Now that we've proven it works, I'll be trying it on the interior hard plastic in the MGB... maybe the tail lights.. who knows?

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

MGB - floor pans (Part 4)

When I completed the last segment of the floor pans (MGB - floor pans (Part 3)), I mentioned that I was going to get some seam sealer and some paint on the floors, and that it may not warrant another posting. Well... now that it's been a few months, I think maybe it is.

Seal the Seams
Seam sealer is this sticky black goop that makes sure the seams are weather sealed. I guess that's kind of obvious. Anyway, it comes in a caulking tube and is applied like caulk around a window in your house. Except its not that easy. And you're probably outside. And you're all scrunched into some crazy twisted body contortion because getting the tip of a caulking gun against the underside of a little British sports car is virtually impossible without a lift. Like caulk, you need to press it into the seam with the tip of your (gloved?) finger, and make sure the edges are tapered down so there's not a spot for water to collect. I did this on both the underside and the topside of the floors. It was actually kinda fun.

Flex Seal
You've seen the commercials. "I cut my boat in half!" he cries as he completes the cut from stem to stern with a cut-off wheel on an angle grinder. In an older advert he replaced the bottom of his boat with a screen door, painted it with some clear stuff and then by the end of the ad he's paddling around while sitting on a screen door. Yeah, that's pretty crazy, but the picture here shows it. I thought I'd experiment with it, since I guess that's what I do. So, once the seam sealer dried, I got a quart of the black Flex Seal and painted the edges and then the floors and then up the sides of the MGB tub. I made sure to keep the drains cleared, and the areas around the plastic plug-pulls cleared as well. I wondered if it would meaningfully change the amount of noise. I found that banging on the floor with my knuckle before and after did see a reduction of around 10dB. From that, I've concluded that it would suppress the noise from a rock hitting the underside. All of the interweb sites dealing with noise reduction insist that the noise associated with vibration is a very special animal not to be caged by simple things like a rubber-y paint. Okay fine. I tried it anyway and there are noise reducers in paint form now too, so I don't know what to make of that. I guess the interweb can't agree on it.

Sound Deadener
Once the Flex Seal paint was dry, I thought I'd go after the traditional asphalt, rubber or butyl sound deadener. I've used a couple different things before, and had leftovers of both. The foil-backed stuff costs more than the plain rubber-ish mats available from McMaster-Carr, but back when I experimented with them before, I couldn't really tell how well they worked because I didn't have a decibel tester. This time, I put the McMaster-Carr stuff on the big open spaces in the trunk, and tried the knuckle banging test. It didn't deaden the sound nearly as much as I expected. If memory serves, it was within the margin of error for my inconsistent banging force. Same went for putting the foil-backed stuff on the floor of the cabin. But then I noticed something: the foil backed stuff wasn't really sticking to the Flex Seal. Grr.. Piece by piece the foil-backed, expensive sound deadener lifted off the floor, no longer sticky. I decided I didn't want to deal with it right then. So, I installed the seats and moved onto other things for the winter.

Paint Again
Now, many months later, I'm back with some time and interest in the little car. I've spent many weeks clowning with rims and stripping parts of a 280ZX, so I'm ready for something a little more satisfying. I have a bunch of interior bits and a new convertible top on order from the UK, so I figured I better get the steel and noise containment solved. Knowing that the noise reduction won't stick to the Flex Seal, I concluded that a coat of regular paint on top of the Flex Seal might work. In my gut, this felt like putting lipstick on a pig or just throwing darts in the dark. Still, the thinking was that if regular paint gripped the Flex Seal and the noise reducer sticks to the regular paint, then it worked. Of course, will the noise reducer actually work? First, let's get the paint and the deadener on there, eh? For paint, I used some black paint I had in a touchup can. As described by the Flex Seal folks, the paint adhered very well. In retrospect, the problem could have been that the old noise deadener was just that: old. Maybe it didn't stick because it's stickiness had dried out or faded over time.

Deaden Again
Since I was effectively out of the 2 kinds of sound deadener, and I wasn't terribly impressed with their noise reduction anyway, I bought a third kind: Noico 80 mil butyl automotive sound deadener. With a focus on just doing the parts of the car that were going to be covered with carpet, I bought 18 square feet, their smallest ship-able size. I eventually will want to cover more area, like inside the doors, but I'm not going to do new door cards yet, so why make this project any bigger than it already is? I'm not sure this is the right stuff for under the hood (the manufacturer, of course, says it's great anywhere that doesn't get super-duper hot like a muffler), so I'll probably do a test-stick of a small piece to see how it handles the heat and vibrations under there.

For the tub, though, it gripped very well. In my usual experimental fashion, I didn't paint over the top of all of the Flex Seal. In some of those other areas, I lightly sanded with 220 grit sandpaper and in others I left it just as it was. The butyl stuff I bought was a little different in that it had diamond embossing (see picture). The directions indicated that an area installation was complete when the diamonds had been pressed flat, preferably with a roller. I hadn't a roller. I looked at Harbor Freight and they didn't have one. I could order one online for $12US or more, but then I'd have to wait for it to arrive. So... I tried some other things I did have in the garage.... and one from the kitchen.

Sticky Tuna
I found 2 tools were very effective at getting the butyl to adhere and the diamonds to flatten out. First, I used a can of tuna. Yeah, that's right. It's round and flat like a hockey puck, so it was able to flatten the bigger areas pretty quickly. For pressing on edges and tight spots, I used the plastic handles on the scissors I was using otherwise to cut the sections. I didn't do other things exactly like the directions either. For example, the manufacturer (and the interweb) say to draw a template on paper and then translate that template onto the paper-backing of the sound deadener. That's a lot of time and paper. Instead, I used a sheet of aluminum foil over and over again. I would take the piece, press it into the spot where I want the material to go and then drag my fingernail along the edges. I would then transfer that edge to the backing, cut and apply. For applying, it is recommended to pull the paper as you install, and I followed that advice. I also followed the advice of cleaning the area with a degreaser (I'd cleaned these spots so many times, I just used window cleaner as a final check) before fitting deadener. Even with the foil time-saver, this is quite time consuming even on a little car. I spent over 4 hours and got 2/3 of the driver side done and about 1/3 of the passenger side before I ran out of material. Of course, getting down behind the pedals on this thing takes some doing, so there's time lost there. I expect the trunk will be much faster.

I'm waiting for more material, and I'll be finishing up the floors once it arrives. After that, it's carpet pad and carpet, unless I discover something else that needs to be done to the floors first. I really can't imagine anything, but I'll continue this thread if it does. Otherwise, that's it for today. Thanks ,as always, for following along-

Apologies for the post-fail where an early draft of a future posting got released. That post (about replacing the radiator in the TDI-powered microbus) will appear later on, once I've re-written it a few times.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Bye Jaws, Hello A4

Our stable of cars has had a small change. Today's post covers that, and the fun a new car brought with it.

Bye Jaws
I didn't really post much about the '87 Jeep Cherokee, except during a complaint about having too many cars (See Oh Clutch). Jaws was T's daily driver, transporting him back and forth from home to Reno Nevada and back multiple times, back and forth to Sacramento, the mountain and his job for over a year. He poured plenty of money and love into that Cherokee. Brakes and oil, like any other car, of course were changed. He also replaced the clutch, and I replaced the rear window. He installed a bluetooth stereo and other creature comforts. In the end, though, he didn't want to put any more money into it, and at over 330k miles, I can't say I blame him. Within a couple days of posting on craigslist, he had multiple respondents and he sold it off.

Our A4 History
T's first car was an A4. It was a 2.7L non-turbo, but he loved it from the day he bought it (See Gotta Keep Moving). The guy he bought it from was the original owner and he babied it. Unfortunately, the timing belt needed to be done (see Planning Winter Break), but that wasn't obvious until much later. He got a stereo earlier and had it butchered by Car Toys (see Flash Gets Sounds), but moved it into the A4. Ultimately, he decided he wanted something different, and traded it for a Subaru. The guy with the subbie said he was an Audi guy, but ultimately, the trade may not have been a very good deal for either of them. We saw the A4 back on craigslist a few months later with a blown engine, so we guessed that the "Audi guy" didn't heed the warnings about doing the timing belt immediately. The Subbie got broken into in Reno and totalled by the insurance company so neither car fared especially well. T did learn some things through the ownership of both cars, so, maybe it wasn't all bad.

Hello A4
the 2.7L at purchase
This brings us to the newest member of the herd. Once Jaws was gone, T drove Dude (our 2000 Saturn) to work while he saved up some money. He wanted a black A4 again. He found one without having to look for too long. Same make/model/year as his old one, but the new one has a 1.8L turbo and a deep brown leather interior. So nice. T is the third owner, and while it has higher miles than the last one (225k), it has lots of fancy bits like an upgraded suspension and a bigger exhaust. It needed a timing belt done, had a really bad coolant leak from the pump and has a leaking power steering system. Of the issues, the timing belt and cooling pump were most immediate. T bought it and had it delivered on a wrecker on a Friday night. T and I attacked the coolant pump and timing belt the following morning.

Timing Belt Discoveries
We shied away from the 2.7 timing belt job a couple years ago because it was a dual-overhead cam. Keeping everything aligned and getting the belt on correctly with 3 gears (2 cams, plus crank) felt too big. Yeah, we got a-scared and begged off. T wanted a different car anyway, or so he thought. Anyway, one cam felt do-able.

We followed internet directions, but there were things that we discovered that were unexpected. For instance, I was really surprised how easily everything came apart. Seriously, after working on VW's, I expected the Audi to be equally difficult with a gazillion different fastener types and weird tools needed. Nope. We needed a big Allen key for the large serpentine gear on the end of the crankshaft and Torx for getting the front radiator / core support and a few other things off. Otherwise, it was pretty common hex nut/bolts. The internet directions were spot-on. I'll find and share the link. We suffered no rust, but there were a couple fasteners that were torqued on so tight, we needed to solve for a breaker bar. For example, those Allen bolts holding the serpentine belt gear. We took the pipe that is used on the floor jack and slid it around the Allen key. That allowed for a smooth application of force, and the bolts released without stripping.

Zoom Zoom
After a Saturday of pulling it apart and starting to put it back together, we spent a few hours on Sunday finishing the put-together. To be fair, T did almost all of the work while I continued the tear-down of the donorZed. Still, the timing belt parts fit cleanly, and after flushing the cooling system we were ready to test fire. It started right up. Seriously, it started like it hadn't sat for 6 months and then gotten towed and a timing belt service. The aftermarket exhaust gives it a nice low growl. So, after a very short test drive where a charged-air hose popped off, the rest of the front end was put together and T took a longer, more spirited test run. In his words... "that thing can pull!" Clearly, he likes the turbo. It's his first turbo, and now that he's felt it, he probably won't ever willingly go back to naturally aspirated.

Well, that's it for today. T did discover that the sunroof is not operating correctly. With the rainy weather not going away and 2 cars already occupying the garage, we'll be tackling that soon. Outside... in the sprinkles. Neat. Oh.. and there's a coolant leaking from somewhere. Ahh.. the joy of new-to-you cars.

Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Strip Tea Z

Okay, maybe that name is pushing the pun envelope a little too far. So what? I'm gonna push it a little more. Anyway, we're due for an update on the 280ZX project, so here it is.

Let's Strip
C and I increased our focus on the tear down of the donor car over the last few weeks. The seats came out with relative ease and they are sitting in the shedroom (see 280ZX * 2 = Y for an explanation) with the bare-steel front fenders from the keeper Zed. Next, C pulled the center console and radio/climate control console. These were held on with Phillip-head screws and removed fairly easily. Then, C pulled carpets. They don't look like they got much love over the years, but we are going to try to deep-clean them. We thought about just buying a new set for the front, but the newer carpet won't color-match the rear carpets perfectly. Worst case, we buy them anyway. First, we're going to try some cleaning tricks.

Plastic Surgery
Next came the plastic cards that cover the rear 1/2 of the interior. They are all held on with Phillips-head screws and pop-in tabs. Considering that these panels have never been removed, I expected all of the plastic tabs to break off (like they always do on VW's half this age). To my surprise, we only lost one or two tabs. But the plastic cards were filthy. An hour with the hose, soapy water and a scrubby solved that, though. Once dried, the plastic cards joined the growing pile of parts in the shedroom. We also pulled the rear speakerbox which the prior owner (PO) of the keeper Zed chose to remove for weight. Since it weighs less than 2 pounds and provides great utility both as a keeper of 2 plastic bins, but also retains the lines of the car, this decision seems especially dim-witted. No matter. The donor box was in pretty good shape with just a little surface rust around the bottom edge. Another hour of sand-prime-sand-paint, and it's ready to join the other parts in the shedroom.

Screw Holes, but No Screwing
C removed the after-market steering wheel so he could get after the dashboard. The dash should be held on with a handful of screws. As C went looking for them, he found the holes where they should be, but no screws, except for 2. So, the whole dash was held on with 2 screws and tension on the wires and speedometer cable. Zoiks. We removed 2 screws which held the defrost control cover plate to the dashboard from below. Then, we were able to pull the dashboard away enough to slip a hand behind and detach the speedometer cable. The dash then came out as one large piece, with a thick pigtail of wires running out the passenger side. C will need to decide whether he wants to try to get the newer dash components working with in the (slightly) older model or just remove bits down to the covers and swap them. The raw dash has a nearly flawless cover so either way the keeper Zed will be vastly improved by the swap.

We have also pulled the door cards, the wiring harnesses, power door lock motors, and the power window switches and motors from both doors. Since the door glass is so hard to come by, we are keeping those too. We are going to pull the outer scrapers from the doors as well, effectively gutting the doors of anything useful.

Grind Grind Grind
Meanwhile, the grinding on the keeper Zed paint continued with the rear-end almost complete. The rear tail lights are out and C is looking at the rear tail gate as the next, and final, piece to address before we make decisions about swapping in the T-top or restoring the moonroof. When we removed the rear bumper from keeper Zed, we discovered that it was more rust than steel, so we will be sourcing an after-market or salvage one. Unlike the MGB parts I've sourced lately, these Zed parts are hard to find and expensive when you do.

Rim Job
If you followed the Around the Rim saga (see parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5), you already know pretty well what's been going on in this space. I bought a set of mid-90's Honda rims and cleaned them up so I could put the nasty rims that came with the MGB onto the donor Zed. This frees ups the donor Zed rims to put on the keeper Zed; which was the whole reason for getting the donor car in the first place. Once the Honda rims were cleaned up and painted, an afternoon was spent rotating sets from one car to another.

That quick post covers many many hours of work. We are in the home stretch for getting the donor Zed out of our yard, though. I vacillated between keeping and not keeping the transmission, selling the engine or not, etc. In the end, it's just not worth it. I don't have another car to put them into, and I don't have the storage. Besides, someone else can really use them. So, we resolved to posting the car in its mostly-stripped condition, on craiglist. We figured that someone would pay the price of one core charge to get a working engine, transmission and various other parts we didn't need, but are serviceable.

Thanks, as always, for following along. More next time-

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Around the Rim (Part 5)

I really can't believe it took 5 posts to cover cleaning up and painting a set of rims. It took fewer posts to cover replacing the floors. I guess there were more steps on the rims. I can't believe it took longer, calendar-wise either, but getting things done in the cold winter is much harder than getting them done in the warm summer. I should probably remember that when I plan things. It could be at least in part because most of the rim work has been done outside since the garage is full of project cars and assorted parts and painting in cold weather forces some creative thinking. Hmm... anyway.. on to the paint!

Prime and Sand
Once everywhere you don't want paint is covered, you're ready to prime. By "everywhere", this includes the rubber tires, and the inside of the rim. If I had a paint gun, I would have gone that route, but I don't. So, I did the best I could with what I had: rattle-can primer, paint and clear. After all the time I'd put in the prep, I really wish I could have used a real paint set-up, but that's just how it goes. Follow the directions on the paint. Use many light passes with the primer. Make sure all of the deep spots (like the holes where the lug nuts go) get hit before going after the easy spots.

Once dry, let it set for an extra stretch of time. I let them sit for a weekend in a warm dry room, but I'm just like that. Using 320-grit sandpaper, I smoothed out the primer on all 4 wheels. I expect some would prefer to sand with even higher grit paper, and if this were going to be a 6-digit car, I'd defer. I expect to drive this car, not show it. The road will wear the rims no better nor worse if I sanded more. Anyway, similar to the treatment before taping, I wiped the wheels down with glass cleaner after the sanding was completed.

Color Up
First, I wanted a body-color matching edge. I've been looking specifically at rims on cars almost as long as I have been looking at cars. Where having one-color rims was the only way for years, a blending of shiny alloy and color is becoming much more common. I waned to go one more step and do 2 colors plus alloy. So, I started with the body-color match. This brings the rims to the car, helping bridge a gap created by not going with a common rim for the MGB (Rostyle or wire).

To do the color, I first tried to mask off the rest of the rim using thin-wall cardboard, but I could not get tape to stick to the old primer-covered tape. So, I dug back into my old house-painting bag of tricks and cut a make-shift paint shield out of a pizza box. By holding the shield up along the side, but not touching any to-be-painted area (against tape), I was able to deflect any over-spray without getting the cardboard into the fresh paint.

The weather here has been cold and wet. Neither of those conditions are good for painting. To offset some of the bad, I kept the rims inside my living room up to the moment I was going to apply paint. When there was a break in the rain, I quickly moved a room-temperature rim out into the yard, popped it onto an upside-down 5-gallon tub and shot color. Two times around for solid coverage and then I set the rim flat under the front porch eave and ran inside for another rim. I did this until all 4 rims had a vermilion ring.

Black Out
About this time, we were hit with successive snow storms that delayed my progress a bit. That's why the 4 different parts of this post didn't come out one right after the other. Anyway, once the vermilion dried and set for a few days in my semi-warm garage, I planned for the black paint. Before I could shoot the black, I had to cover up the vermilion, remembering that tape wouldn't stick well to primer. By contrast, the painter tape stuck very well to the orangey finish-color. As gently as I could, I covered the orange ring. I discovered while striping the tape that some spots were soft and the paint pulled away with the tape. I chalk that up to the cold conditions and did some isolated touch up.

Anyway, once the orange was protected, I shot the exposed rim with a reasonable coat of black primer, sanded (600-grit) and then shot hi-gloss black. I intended to do two light coats with the high gloss, but between the weather conditions and the paint, I couldn't get a light coat to lay down. So, I did a heavier-than-I-intended coat and then quickly followed with a light coat on top of that. The end result was pretty good, leaving only a couple of sags. I caught them early enough that I was able to scrape them away and re-shoot. A few marks were left behind, but they disappeared during color-sanding.

Color Sand
After I shot the black and let it set a couple of days, I pulled the tape off the orange. It looked pretty good, with a couple spots I knew I'd need to address. I opted to get the wet-sanding done first, and grabbed a bucket of warm water and 1000 grit paper. I cut the paper into 2" squares and wet-sanded each rim with a fresh square, rinsing the paper in the bucket every minute or less. This took down the gloss, but also removed little paint anomalies. I also wet-sanded the vermilion. I had virtually no burn through, with a few little spots near the lug holes. I simply covered around them and fogged-in some black and let that set for another couple of days before color-sanding those areas.

Strip and Final Prep
Once color sanded, I could remove all of the tape and get a good sense of how the final product would look. I knew there would be some clean up needed. Some tape had pulled away from the aluminum, so some paint made it past. Elsewhere, the tape wasn't at the exact edge, so some clean-up was needed. This took a few hours, but the result is better than I'd expected. To remove the over-spray, I used 220-grit paper on the raw aluminum. To set the fine edge, I used a putty knife along the contour to mark the line from black to raw aluminum and then sanded the rest of the paint on the aluminum side with the 22-grit. Once it was all sanded, I hosed it off, cleaned them with glass cleaner and then hosed them off again.

In the Clear
The funny thing about paint is that you find every little minor defect after you've applied it. I spent a few hours just nick picking on the paint edges and still they weren't perfect. I decided it didn't matter and I was pushing it too far. These rims were $100 with barely-serviceable rubber on them. They had deep gouges and the clear coat was flaked. I decided to just shoot the clear and be done with them knowing full well that the more time I put into them the more heartbroken I would be when the inevitable piece of gravel scratched one.

Once I had the rims cleaned, I moved them into my living room (thanks for your tolerance, Boo) so I could get them up to room temperature. Remember, it's in the 40F's during the day and getting below freezing at night, so getting the paint to adhere is a concern. So, I had an afternoon when it wasn't actively raining, so I followed the same process as before: one rim at a time, I bring a rim out, set it on an upside-down 5-gallon bucket and shoot. I was able to get a light coat of clear to lay down, so I followed the suggestions on the interweb (as well as on the can) and shot 2 light coats within 10 minutes of each other on all 4 rims. Then I moved them under cover and set them flat to dry.

The picture to the right, here, was taken the following morning, after it had completely dried. They aren't perfect, but I think they look really good. The concept of a 2-color plus chrome was executed, and once the tape came off the rubber, and they were mounted on a car, I think they look pretty amazing.

So, that's it for the Rim Job. I had a morning of swapping rims around the cars in the yard, but it was totally worth seeing the car transform. I think the next big effort will be addressing the radiator in the bus. I did promise Hapy that I'd replace his rad before the next festival season began. 4Peaks is less than 3 months away!

As always, thanks for following along-

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Around the Rim (Part 4)

Continuing the saga of the mid-90's rims, today's post covers damage repairs, and masking. If you haven't read the prior posts that got us this far, the links for the other 3 parts are here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Basically, I got a set of rims, they were kinda beat up, but I'm going to use them anyway because a few hours of my time is worth the $700 I would have to pay for a new set of 15" rims. This is just one more way to express that the journey is the destination, and why incur the environmental cost of new rims when you can keep another set out of the landfill? Everybody wins. If the set you're messing with doesn't need repair, and you don't plan to do any fancy paint, you could skip to the end and shoot a few coats of clear and be done with it.

Filling the Gouges
The mid-90's Honda rims had been on a daily driver for most of their lives. There appeared to be some bad-parking days when the rim ate into the curb. There were snow and ice days when the owner put on tire chains which scratched up the face near the lug nuts. Because of how bad the damage was on a couple of the rims, I decided that I would fill and paint the bad areas, and have a consistent color plan across all 4 wheels.

I could have used "bog" or Bondo, but I had a small tin of Lab Metal from when I swapped out the Westy poptop for a Riviera/ASI top a few years ago. It had dried up a bunch, but a after letting a few ounces of lacquer thinner sit in the tin overnight, it softened it right up. Similar to bog, or spackle the Lab Metal applies like a paste. Work the stuff all the way into the damage. If the Lab Metal won't hold, you may need to dig some material out of the damage so the Lab Metal has something to bite into. It's sort of like how the dentist sometimes has to drill out some good tooth material in order for the filling to set without an air bubble, and then hold.

Either way and whatever material you use, over-fill the damage so there is extra filler all around and on top of the repair. Consider that you will be sanding this down, so don't go crazy with it, but if you try to make it all nice and flush when it is wet, the material will shrink as it dries so you'll have a concave patch relative to the size of what you filled. Once it is dry, lightly sand with a high-grit paper (like 220 or something) until it is flush with the surrounding undamaged wheel. I followed this step with a general light sand with 320-grit paper on the entire rim and then cleaned it with glass cleaner so there was no dust remaining.

Masking and Cutting
Masking sounds so simple. Just tape over where you don't want paint. When you're painting a door frame for your closet, it is that simple. The dry-wall is flat, the edges are square and tape sticks really easily. When you're talking about a rim, none of those things are true. It's round. The various lips are not hard-edged; they are usually beveled or rounded off and tape doesn't stick as easily partly because of those 2 factors and partly because tape just doesn't want to stick to raw aluminum.

But, it can be done. First, use tape like a tack-cloth, pulling the surface dust off the raw aluminum. Doing this immediately before you tape will definitely help the tape stick. I also found that over-taping, or applying tape beyond the edge of where I wanted the paint to be allowed me to direct the tape better. Once on, I would set the edge with a razor-blade held mostly parallel to the rim but at a fixed angle, sliding along the rounded edge. This defined a very clear and consistent edge that I couldn't do with just the tape-edge. Each transition from taped to not-taped where I could get a razor-blade I defined this way. Yes, this takes considerable time. For those areas where cutting the line with a blade wasn't possible, I followed the old axiom from when I painted houses: use tape to prevent paint from getting where you don't want it. More simply, if you can't get the tape right on the edge, err on the side of getting a little paint where you don't want it versus covering up where you really wanted it in the first place. This sounds obvious, but in practice we all are such perfectionists that we try to get the tape right on the line. Sometimes, this means you cover up a thin line where you wanted paint and you don't see it until you pull the tape. That moment really sucks. So, get that paint a little too far onto the raw aluminum and then work the line afterwards with a razor. This is much easier and looks way better than trying to do touchup or retaping/shooting. Between the sanding and the taping, this is where you spend 95% of your time and makes the difference between a not-that-great paint job and a looks-pretty-good one. It's all in the prep.

I can't believe how long this has gotten or how long it has taken to finish these rims. Anyway, I should be finishing this thread of posts with one more: next time with priming, color, wet-sanding and clear-coat. Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hapy cube-inet

Taking a leave from the sports car (280ZX and MGB) projects, today's post covers a little side thing I've been clowning for Hapy the Wonderbus. It's not quite a cabinet, it's more than just a cube... it's a cube-inet.

No Stove/sink
pre-cut, starting assebly
I guess this all started when I put the middle row Vanagon seat into the middle of Hapy's floor (See Vanagon Seat Install). I couldn't fit the bench seat with the sink/stove unit that came with the '79 Westy interior installed. The unit jutted out 3 inches too deep into the bus interior. In retrospect, the sink/stove unit never really got used. I hadn't installed the propane tank because the '72 bus comes with an under-panel below the sliding door that I would have had to cut out/off. I have read that that under panel and it's partner panel on the other side (behind driver where a slider would be on that side of the bus) were added for more rigidity. Since this was the first year of the pancake engine, and the non-removable rear valence, this was probably a case of over-engineering. Still, I didn't remove the panels, I didn't install the propane, and I didn't use the sink/stove. I didn't even hook-up the external water source. I sold off the kitchen unit to a local bus guy a couple of years later. I hope it is being put to good use.

Regardless of all that backstory, once the kitchen was removed, it left a dead spot inside the bus. Over the next few years, the dead spot has been a great place to put coolers or milk crates full of gear. When we weren't travelling (read: full of gear), though, it looked pretty bad. The pile of gear didn't look all that great either, but I'm not so concerned about aesthetics, if you hadn't noticed.

The thought occurred: what if we build something that could fit in the dead spot that was the same height/depth as the fridge storage thing. Remember how I pulled the guts out of the refer to make it a storage cabinet? (See From Fridge to Storage if you're curious.) Our thought was that we could have one relatively flat surface running the whole length from the tail gate to the back of the driver seat. If done right, it could serve as a spot for a passenger to put a drink or a book while traveling, serve as visually blocked storage and then get removed so we have another surface in the camping/parking lot. Then, let's take that concept up another level. What if the thing we built could also stand up tall with something like a counter-top that was still the whole width from fridge to driver seat, but around counter height?

The next level sounded too hard at first, and probably sounds confusing to you. The picture below helps, but I didn't have anything like that as a guide. So, I focused on the dimensions and landed on building a hollow box out of 1" x 1" square balusters. This ended up being a pretty brilliant decision in my humble opinion. The design literally allows us to keep "out of the box" that hard sides would have created for us in how we can use it. Without sides, we can stuff things inside when its in the bus, or use it in much broader ways when we're set up for camping. Again, the pictures below will help.

For a top, we had an old dresser that was completely falling apart. It was pretty cheap when it was built 40 years ago, but because it was so old, it wasn't made of glue-board; it was a combination of solid wood and the plywood of the time. One of the side panels wasn't too beat up, and only had bad splits along one edge. Once I measured down what I needed, I could cut off most of the damage and all that's left is a distressed looking counter-top.

standing tall
As I said, I started with 1" x 1" balusters. Why? I had a pile of them lying around from an old guinea pig hutch we had torn down last spring. A cube has 12 legs, 4 each for length, width and depth. There are 24 90* angles that join these 12 legs, and for that I used 1" angles from Home Despot. That's a lot of drilling and screwing (4 screws per angle * 24 angles = 96). In the end, the box isn't perfectly square, but for an initial concept it worked out very well.

I took the side of the dresser and cut it down to fit flush against the back and sides with a slight overhang over the front. Since it was a side of a dresser, it had wood slats along the inside to keep the tongue-and-grove plywood together. I cut these down so they fit between the legs regardless of the orientation of the box. These create tension, a friction that allows the top to snug-in. I hadn't expected that. After some test fitting and some trimming down, we have a hollow cube with a removable top that can stand tall for a counter or short for a bench or drink table.

standing short
Boo and I tested it for weight and both of us could fit, sitting side-by-side without the cube wavering at all. Quite the contrary, we tried to get it to wiggle while sitting on it and it wouldn't. Since the top isn't secured with fasteners, we won't be trying that with the "tall" version.

Hapy is in storage for the winter, so I haven't yet had the pleasure of setting the cube-inet into the dead spot to confirm it fits as well as I expect it to. That expectation? I think that it will sit snug against the fridge and driver seat partition and flush with the inside edge of the fridge, but there will be a gap along the outer wall because the bus isn't square. Fortunately, I don't care about that gap. Maybe a subsequent version will have a slightly deeper counter top that will cover the gap. I should probably test fit before I start planning the next thing... Anyway, if the rest isn't perfect, I'm out around $20 for the 90* angles I had to buy. Otherwise, the materials were free from the scrap pile. I love projects like that.

Anyway, that's it for today. I have a replacement radiator on back-order, representing the one big thing I need to do so Hapy is ready for festival season. Thanks, as always, for following along.