Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Warranty honored on Raceland header

I found out last night from their website that they offer a 2 year warranty on materials and workmanship of their products. That was somewhat reassuring, but I was a still skeptical about a relative newcomer to the US market and a company that seems to have a lot of presence on eBay. My skepticism has been assuaged a bit.

I received an e-mail response this morning from Raceland USA. The person (who did not give a name) said they've never seen that kind of problem before, assumed it was defective, and would gladly send me a replacement. This rep said that s/he'd talk to their tech department, and would send me a return shipping label if they wanted to study the rusty one.

I've received a tracking number. Having to redo the work is no fun, but it's nice to know they respond quickly to problems and honor their warranty. I will continue to document this experience.

Update, 1/6/10: The replacement arrived. They did include a return shipping label for the failed header, so I'll be sending that back as soon as it's out. Quality of the welds and materials on the replacement looks about as good as the original. Here's to hoping that the actual alloy used is a more proper mix so it doesn't rust.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Raceland header rusts and breaks

Update at bottom.
On my commute home tonight, my car backfired badly twice on consecutive upshifts. Immediately after the second blast, my car was ear-bleedingly loud. I knew something bad had happened to my header; it had been looking and sounding iffy for a couple weeks. When I got home, I jacked the car up and saw this.

After a trip to Farm & Fleet for a patch kit and a set of jack stands that I would later return, I came home and applied the patch. It worked for about 5 minutes, and quickly became nearly as loud as it was before. I blame my poor patch job and not buying enough patch material. But it's quiet enough to get me to my parents' garage without making me deaf.

I'm going to send the picture above to Raceland and ask for a replacement. T-304 stainless steel shouldn't rust, especially not like this, and not after barely more than a year. For now, I'm driving Amanda's car to work the rest of the week (the university is closed, so she's off work) and I'll apply a more permanent repair.

My original post about the install is here:

Update: The 2-year warranty was honored, and I'm impressed with their customer service.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The hottest mans alive

Myself and Eric, always with teh sexiness.

Amanda and Jenny, welcome to your futures.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Did you expect something classier?

I got under my car to fix my broken exhaust hanger for a second time. The strap I used before broke shortly after I got this car back on the road. I took this opportunity to put in a new muffler.

So I grabbed a Thrush Turbo universal muffler with 2" ID connections. Since the Miata's stock piping is 1-7/8" OD and I, of course, was too cheap to buy adapters; I just stuck exhaust clamps on and cranked the shit out of them. I sealed up the gaps with muffler cement. I cut the hangers off the other muffler and welded them on the new one, but I welded the inlet-side one (that was broken off the OEM muffler) in the wrong place. It was late, the sawzall blade was shot, and I'd lost interest in perfection in my already ghetto setup, so I did the strapping job again on that side. I may revisit this oh who am I kidding? It's gonna stay shitty forever.

I had a glasspack on the ZX2 for a long time and it droned unbearably while cruising, which is why I went with a more normal muffler. I have a long commute.

This setup is quiet at idle and even at a fast 4,000 RPM cruise (at 80 mph). No booming, no droning; perfectly civilized. It rips pretty nicely when you're on the gas above 3k RPM. No, it's not a classy burble and it's not a low tone by any means, but I'm enjoying it. I'm sure it's not good for my gas mileage.

Horsepower? Pfft. Who cares? It's quiet when I want, loud when I want, and the pipe doesn't bang on the subframe brace anymore. I call that a success.


In other news, I'm now using the wet weather tires from my LeMons racer on the Miata. They're taller than stock by about 1.5 inches, which means they rub the fenders and fender liners often. But they look nicer than the shitty 13" steelies I had on before, give much better grip, and best of all, don't make the car shimmy at highway speeds like an alcoholic detoxing.

I also switched oil to Castrol 20w-50, and it has stopped burning oil entirely. Gas mileage also dropped about 15% (to ~27 mpg), and anyway that heavy oil isn't ideal for winter. I'll be searching for a happy medium with my next oil change.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A eulogy.

And so it goes. I tapped the rocker panel with my foot as I left work last Thursday. Really, it was a light tap. And the tip of my shoe busted it in, because it was nothing but paint. I suppose it's just as well. When it happened Thursday, I snapped this photo with the expectation of making a humorous post about it here. Instead, it has become bittersweet.

I'll spare you the details; Eric will be posting soon on the Team Resignation blog about how it all went down. Suffice it to say that the race car's engine blew up, and swapping in the one from my ZX2 was the only viable option to keep us on the track.

So that's what we did.

Which makes it pretty official. After roughly a hundred thousand miles across six and a half years of service in my hands, my daily driver is dead. Its 210-thousand-mile engine lives on in the race car, and soon too will its wiring harness and perhaps front control arms. Which gives it a status not unlike an organ donor (except, you know, less important).

Little car, you have served me well. I'm sad you're gone, but your final days weren't exactly your best.

  • You had an evap system leak I refused to fix. I had pulled those vacuum hoses and plugged the intake manifold with electrical tape. This also meant the HVAC fan would only blow at the windshield.
  • You had a loud clunk from the front suspension which I'm pretty sure was broken sway bar links, but never put in the effort to check.
  • You had been backed into a faucet and your rear bumper was screwed back into place. A week later, the mirror got busted off on the corner of the same house and was reattached with the same screws as the bumper.
  • Your exhaust was beginning to leak, making you noisier by the week.
  • Your third gear hadn't been working for several years.
  • Your shifter bushings were completely shot, and the shifter buzzed loudly at nearly all times.
  • Your rear defroster never worked.
  • You had bald tires on ugly Escort GT fan-blade wheels.
  • Your rear speakers would crackle at the mere suggestion of bass.
  • I planned to never wash you again.
But despite all this, you unfailingly, albeit noisily, carried me to work. Took Amanda and I on a camping trip to Michigan. Were flung over a set of railroad tracks daily at 70 mph so I could get sweet air. And so on, and so on.

Goodbye, dependable commuter car. I have no choice now but to keep what I need and part out what I don't. It's not an elegant death, true. But I hope your heart lasts long enough to propel us into the top ten next year. You can do it. You've survived worse.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Righting past wrongs.

This car is finally gone. I had it for almost exactly 3 months, and oh holy crap am I glad it's gone. That's the Mazda 323 GTX that I picked up in July, without a transmission or turbo, and with a blown engine and hacked-to-fuck wiring harness. The car itself was free, but it did cost me a vacation day and about $100 worth of gas -- and a LOT of sweat because I wisely picked it up on the hottest day of the year.

I did manage to scavenge a few things from it. Most notably, several aftermarket gauges, a battery terminal and some battery cables, and an old 5-point safety harness.

I sold it to a local man for $300. He owns another 323 (non-GTX) and will use this as a parts car. I hope he can put it to good use. Pictured is my dad hooking up the winch on the guy's trailer.

As for that spot in my parents' driveway? I hope to fill it with my brother-in-law's been-sitting-in-his-parents'-garage-for-several-years 1988 or '89 Toyota Supra Turbo (with hot start issues!) while he's away for a year or more. And I still need to rebuild the Miata's engine.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Slutting it up

If you read me here but don't follow the Team Resignation blog, you should head over there right now. There's something very special waiting for you; Eric and I are whoring ourselves across all the media we have access to.
So, go there. Get your fill of details of how to join in on the inevitable fiery death fun!

This made me laugh a lot

Facebook comments on a friend's link to a Busta Rhymes music video from the '90s.

Kevin: The 90s were awesome. The vidya gaemz were better, the work was less, and the cars were lighter and less concerned about health and safety.

And hip pop hadn't been spawned yet. Coolio was somebody. A gallon of 87 was worth pennies-on-a-dollar. The Bulls won the Finals and the Dream Team cleaned house at the Olympics.

How are the 90s NOT better than today?

Duncan: I can watch porn on my phone.


I love America.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Out Campaign: Support your local atheist

I am an atheist. I don't apologize for it, but I usually don't make a big deal about it. I've added the Out Campaign's scarlet letter to my sidebar. Atheism is not a religion in that atheists do not have a common set of beliefs or practices; we don't gather once a week and compare clothing.* Atheism is, rather, a simple statement of disbelief in supernatural beings, be they part of an organized religion or not. Personal beliefs on morality, science, and so on can vary.

I identify as a secular humanist. But regardless of your moral standing, it's important for atheists of all stripes to make themselves known to society. Maybe, eventually, we can garner some respect in the socio-political world to the point where religion is not part of the equation when someone runs for Senate (or, God willing,** president).


*RIP, George Carlin.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Lady of Infinite Patience

My girlfriend, Amanda, recently went out and got some mats cut for various posters and frames of hers in the apartment. This particular poster is mine, and it was already framed. It was not matted, nor did I expect it to be. This was a nice surprise, especially considering how much stress and time apart this particular racing series has caused us.

This doesn't mean she's not excited to have me back after October 24th. But it's good to know my obsession hasn't driven her to murder... yet.
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Monday, September 20, 2010

The definition of badass

This is the cheapest combo pack of approved fire-safety apparel available through the LeMons store. That's right, I'm cheap even when it means I could start on fire.

I think I'm trying to do a muscle pose, but as usually happens when I try to look manly, I do it wrong. Somehow "muscle pose" became "walk like a retarded Egyptian." Maybe the heat (the outfit is very warm) and the excitement of getting stuff in the mail were acting on my brain.

All my regretful expenditures racing supplies arrived on Saturday. They saved on shipping by stuffing the fireproof long johns, racing harness and gloves inside the helmet. That was weird, but efficient.

The harness is blue, and so will match the epically uncomfortable Kirkey aluminum racing seat. My suit, all black except for gloves and neck brace, fits fine but is far from flattering. I was hoping red-with-black-accents would look badass. It does not. It will, however, keep me from starting on fire. So that's a nice perk.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Save the Manuals!

Everybody who can drive a stickshift, get on board. The manual transmission is at risk of disappearing from this country, and without it, enthusiasts will suffer. It is my firm belief that people who know how to shift their own gears are more aware drivers, and have more fun at it too. A clutch has borne more car enthusiasts than any poster of a Lamborghini or Porsche.

This isn't about decrying new technology. It's about learning a simple skill that can save you money, help the environment, and make you a more versatile driver. Manual transmissions are better than automatics in many ways. Let me briefly list a few:
  • Longer lasting
  • More efficient (better mpgs!)
  • Better car control
  • Cheaper to buy
  • Cheaper to maintain

Join the fight! Get yourself a sticker or a button. Spread the word. Offer to teach friends and family how to row their own gears (or learn from someone, if you don't know). If you're shopping for a new car, insist on seeing one in a stickshift. Help make America a better place for drivers.

I voiced my support for this movement early on, and for that, Car & Driver sent me a sticker and a button. Amanda wanted the button for her purse. I, the sticker fanatic, have yet to decide where I'm putting that sticker (in the background of the photo above). Don't worry, it'll be on one of my cars soon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How to make a billiard ball shift knob

This is something I've wanted to do for a while. I was intimidated because people on the internet suggested fancy things like drill bits for glass and tile, and using a drill press (which I don't have), and so on. I found a set of used balls on Craigslist for $10 and decided it was worth a shot. Below is a slideshow detailing how to do it. Turn the captions on and off with the button on the bottom left. (Or click here to go directly to the photo gallery with captions.)

If you're feeling lazy, I could make one for you. Click my face in the sidebar and send me an e-mail; we'll work something out. The M10x1.25 thread works for many imports (Mazda Miata and Protege for sure) and Ford Escorts. Probably lots of Hondas and VWs too.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tool Review: Task Force mini locking pliers

Edit: Brevity! I got this mini locking pliers (Vise-Grip knockoffs) at Lowe's for $2. It is awesome. I keep it with me all the time. It's saved my ass on more than one occasion, and I haven't had it more than 2 months. Highly recommended. The End.

These were an impulse buy at Lowe's. Cost me all of $1.99. They've really small, but fully functional locking pliers. These are also known as Vise-Grips, though that's a brand name.

This thing is cheap, but surprisingly well built. The jaws line up like they're supposed to, the rivets hold tight, it doesn't wiggle or feel insecure when you lock it up.

It does everything you expect locking pliers to do. They open, close, adjust, lock, and unlock. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how wide the jaws open; they open wide enough to grab the thick part of the Miata's shifter, and you can lock them down tight enough to mar the living fuck out of said shifter. Yeah, those jaws have real, functional teeth that get excellent bite.

They do not open far enough to grab a spring-type radiator hose clamp, however. When I went to procure a radiator hose at a junkyard last week, I used these along with my multi-tool to open the clamp up. The locking feature came in handy there.

That multi-tool and these locking pliers are the tools I keep with me nearly at all times. They take up little space and are excellent performers. And at a tenth the price of that multi-tool, these locking pliers are a performance bargain.

Off Topic: Power supply fire

A little over a year ago, Amanda bought a new Dell Studio desktop. During an electrical storm recently, it awoke from standby and started smelling of burning electronics. This smell woke Amanda up (it was the middle of the night), and she, naturally, woke me up. She had tracked the smell down to her computer by this point, and noted that one of the fans was running loudly.

I opened the thing up so I could tell Amanda something comforting and go back to sleep. I made sure important components weren't actually on fire.

The smell dissipated by morning and her computer was still working, though it would regularly hang for a few moments, the power supply fan would kick on high speed, and it would then it would continue working.

The following evening I opened up the power supply and found these things:

Burn marks on the board (center, dark brown spot), and...

capacitors and other components showing signs of overheating. The capacitors are swollen, though that's hard to tell here. That small ring with the wire coiled around it and the cracking white stuff is called a choke, and, as I suspected, is used for reducing electrical noise/interference. I didn't know what it was until I went looking on the magical interwebs. The white stuff is not supposed to be flaking off like that.

I don't know what, exactly, sprayed onto the heatsink (large aluminum block) like that. Anyway, all these stressed components resulted in the power supply working inefficiently and causing the fan to kick on whenever you demanded processing power from the computer.

I found a replacement among mine and my dad's pile of computer parts. All is well.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pocket multi-tools actually ARE useful

I changed the fuel filter on the ZX2 today, using nothing more than this, a Leatherman knockoff using the Columbia name. I did this on my lunch break. It took no longer than it would have with the proper tool(s): about 10 minutes, including hand-washing. All I would've needed was a flathead screwdriver, and my tool has one. Sort of. It did the job, anyway.

On a related note, I've discovered that my skin doesn't really like gasoline. It turns red and blotchy where I come in contact with the stuff. 

Pardon the shitty photo. I don't think my cell phone camera focuses at less than a few feet.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Timing Belt Blues

This was the tensioner spring for the timing belt on Amanda's new car. Look closely at the clip on the right. Scary, huh? That's crazy worn out. It's also stretched beyond spec: the spring coils should be touching each other.

With 90k miles, the timing belt had not yet been replaced on her new 2000 Protege ES*. This is a 100k mile service in California (with inspections every 30k); a 60k mile service everywhere else**. So it was due. In ordering the parts, I neglected to order a new tensioner spring. It's only $3. To get it locally, however, it costs $90, and you can only get it with the two pulleys. Circumstances being what they were, Amanda had to buy the $90 set.

Next time, I will know. And so will you, dear reader who happens to own a Mazda product with this type of spring tensioner, and happens to replace his/her own timing belts, and is expecting to do so soon.

You can get this spring at If you work at RockAuto, please send me free stuff. I need to fix a lot of stuff. Come on, what's a Miata steering rack between friends? We are friends, right? Right? ....


*Pedantic aside: that's the F-series 1.8L engine, the same family used in forthcoming Proteges; the 1.6L engine was a B-series, related to the Miata and Protege engines of previous years, and also the Ford Escort GT.

**I'm sure this has to do with California laws more than engineering.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another Two Hundred Thousand

After nearly 30 thousand miles in her possession, the Escort ZX2 is mine again. I got it back about 150 miles short of 200k. My second drive to work in it gave me the final rollover, the third car I've owned that's hit that ludicrous number -- and the second Escort to do so.

The first was my 1991 Ford Escort Pony, many years ago. Then the Miata. Now this.
I gave Amanda the ZX2 a couple years ago as a xmas gift. I have it back now because she has bought her first car. Quaint, that, since I got my first car about 10 years ago. Expect a guest post soon by her, about her new wheels.

So it's official: the Miata is my pleasure and race car; the ZX2, my daily driver. It's nice to commute in a reasonably quiet car with a compliant ride. It's not so compliant as to be infuriatingly dull -- I have an undying love of Escorts for a reason -- but it's not the torture box that the hard-steering, hard-riding, uninsulated Miata is. I have the added bonus of only having to maintain the Miata for race duty, I don't have to worry about wear from commuting as well; it can be out of service for weeks at a time while I rebuild the engine or order parts.

The down side? I won't have super-buff arms anymore, since I'm now spoiled with one of those amazing modern luxuries: power steering.

What do I do with the Escort now? Neglect washes. Do only the most necessary maintenance. Maybe do a few aero tricks and such to improve fuel economy. Treat it like the beater it has truly become. Eco-mod rat rod, anyone?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What the fuck is wrong with me?

I took a day off work this week to drive down to Bloomington in a borrowed Chevy 3500 van loaded with garage door repair supplies and tools. I'm thinking the thing got 12 mpg.

It was also about a bazillion degrees outside. I drank about a gallon of Gatorade and was still dehydrated.

I went there to pick up this car. It was free. I was also offered a shitload of extra parts and stuff that I couldn't take because the van was full of the aforementioned garage door parts.

It's a 1988 Mazda 323 GTX. Turbo 1.6L B6 4-cylinder engine making 130-some horsepower. Yeah, the Miata got a version of the B6 that made 120 hp without a turbo. That may be what I put in it if I ever get it running. Oh yeah, and this engine is blowed up. 

This thing also has 4-wheel drive with a lockable center differential. The transaxle is not in the car. It's not even currently in my possession. I've been told it's "rebuildable." So who knows.

The owner was getting rid of it for the magical price of zero dollars for all these reasons, combined with the fact that the city told him to GTFO OR BAN. Well, get rid of the car or pay $100+ every day it's not gone. So now I wait for my parents to get the same ultimatum, as it sits in their driveway with a hacked up wiring harness, Vice-Grip pliers for a steering wheel, an engine hanging on by one motor mount, and... whatever. I have no idea.

And as it turns out, it's a BF chassis, not a BG. So who knows if anything will actually bolt up to it. I had planned to swap the drivetrain bits to make an AWD Escort, but now compatibility is suspect. Hopefully I can still use the rear hubs for my eventual mid-engine Escort.

This is a project for later. Picking this up made me realize I already have more projects than I can handle. It was a healthy reality check. I've gotta focus on LeMons.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


This post contains random sightings, in the form of photos taken with my cell phone. Pardon their shitty quality. With that out of the way, BEHOLD!

Super fast cigarettes! They are filled with win!

...if lung cancer is a form of winning (says he who smokes on occasion).

Sweet retro Mello Yello dispenser! If I were a hipster, I'd cream my pants. If I were a scientologist, I'd be retarded. I actually just drink the stuff.

Why does this remind me of the awesomest movie ever? Is it just because it's got a guy whose name is kinda similar to Peter Weller, and John Lithgow, and what seems like a joke title?

Shit, you can get everything at Wal-Mart. Even dildos and/or ass plugs disguised as sidewalk chalk! Are we even talking about cars anymore? Where did this come from?

Ahh, that's better. Wait... what's going on here?

Oh yeah, epic overkill. Welcome to America. And speaking of America...

This is what it was like to be livin' in America after The War. Eric spotted this in the junkyard while we were hunting for Zetec parts. It's a beat to shit DeSoto with plates that were last renewed in '77. 

The body was in impressive shape in terms of rust, but the frame was completely rotted. You could tell because while the front of the car was still on the frame, the back half of the body had slid off it.

We would've looked at it more, but there was a wasp nest somewhere in it that we clearly disturbed. Eric held it open long enough for me to snap this, which gives you some idea of the amount of room under that hood with a flathead six cylinder.

But I digress.

Spotted in the driver's seat of a car in a junkyard. Probably in a Contour. An apparently fruitless attempt at saving the car. Oh god, I'm really boring you aren't I? Please don't leave! Here's some eye candy!

Fine, maybe it's shit-flavored candy. If you can taste shit with your eyes. Maybe if you've dropped acid and are getting that sensory confusion thing I learned about in psych class. Sorry. But it's still candy. This is an Audi R8 V10 that I spotted on the highway a month or two back.

Yeah, that's all I've got right now.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Team Resignation

Updates about the 24 Hours of LeMons car, the 1991 Ford Escort LZX2 (ZLX2?), will now mostly be on the Team Resignation blog. Head over there to see the latest.

Shift turret boot and insulator

When your shifter insulator boot (the big one) is this badly deteriorated, you can see your Miata's driveshaft if you take out the center console. Heat from the exhaust likes to warm up your drinks and/or electronic devices in the cup holders in the summer; cold air keeps cabin temperatures down in the winter. You also get to enjoy the fine smell of exhaust if you have a leak.

About a week ago, I replaced that and the transmission shift turret boot (the small one) on my lunch break. 4 screws gets the console off, and it's all 10mm bolts from there. A short extension helps.

Getting the insulator off is trivial; removing the small boot from the shifter is a little trickier. It's pretty small, and fits very nicely into a recess on the shifter. I cut it off with wire cutters that are on my little multi-tool.

After filling up the turret with fresh gear oil (it was empty, of course) I spent some time trying to figure out how to get the shifter apart to get the new small boot on. I consulted the interwebz, and found out the shifter doesn't come apart. It's just like sex: lubricate, and slip the shaft in the hole. I'll let you guess which is more satisfying.

Put your 10mm bolts back in, screw the console back on, and go back to work.

On my ride home, I noticed a quieter cab and a distinct lack of Disconcertingly Warm Cell Phone And iPod Syndrome. Which is nice, considering heat probably isn't their best friend, and spending money isn't my most favoritest thing to do.

Speaking of spending money, these were real cheap through Mazdaspeed. About half to one-third the price, if memory serves, of what these go for on Good-Win Racing and elsewhere they're available. In fact, I think those places charge about as much, perhaps even more than dealer retail. Since these aren't aftermarket parts, you're probably better off just getting them at your local Mazda dealer and saving the shipping cost (if you don't have a Mazdaspeed membership, that is).

Good luck, and happy wrenching!

Sunday, June 27, 2010


In the spirit of Eric's recent material, here's a completely off-topic photo I took this weekend. They're pawprints of my parents' dog, Lucy, in the gravel driveway. We think Lucy's a beagle/rottweiler mix, but I know for sure that she makes some photogenic footprints. She's also a friendly, sweet dog, and a whore for attention. I... ahem... love Lucy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dudes putting it in the butt

Amanda insists that my repeated references to PB Blaster are actually veiled references to bhutte secks. They are not.

Glorious free parts!

This is the engine block and transmission I got for free. I've always been jealous of people with stories of a friend who was throwing out a turbo, or had a coilover kit sitting around collecting rust, or a big block race motor they never used. I also never believed I'd be on the receiving end of such a bargain, but I am once again proven wrong. These were listed in the Rockford Craigslist. The guy apparently had several people express interest in the thing merely so they could scrap it. He held on to it in the hopes of finding someone who could get some use out of it. Enter me.

This drivetrain sat outside, exposed to the elements for a whole winter. Yes, without a cylinder head on it. Surprisingly enough, I think it's salvageable. I had to separate the engine and trans in order to carry the things a hundred yards up a steep hill to my car. It was exhausting, but well worth it. I'm regularly making liberal applications of PB Blaster and/or WD-40 to the cylinders with the hope of breaking them loose eventually. This is a project for late summer, fall, or winter, depending on the progress on my other project(s).

In the plastic bag is a head, sans cams or lifters, that I borrowed from Duncan. Once I get around to actually attempting to rebuild this thing, I may rebuild his head so everything is ready to just drop in when I swap it. I probably won't use the transmission but to take it apart, clean it up, see how it all works, and sell it.

Here's a closeup of the pistons and cylinder bores (shitty picture, I know):

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Zetec timing belts

The Zetec engines in ZX2s are famous for timing belt problems. Well, with the pulleys anyway. (Many sources incorrectly indicate that the Zetec is an interference design, but it is not, and I will cut my timing belt with the engine running to prove it. But that's another issue.)

Amanda's car started making a squealing noise recently. It sounded suspiciously like a slipping belt, but I had just put a new serpentine on there not long ago. I checked the serp belt, removed the belt and checked the pulleys, and decided I'd check out the timing belt while I was there. And I saw this:

If you look closely, you can see a ridge on the left (front) side of the belt. That's where the belt is not riding on one of the idler pulleys. This immediately told me that the squealing noise was coming from the timing belt, and that it was dragging along a pulley with a worn out bearing. I loosened the belt and found the top left idler pulley was fairly close to seizing. I've had this problem before, not long after I got this car. My timing belt snapped -- shredded, I suppose is more accurate -- due to seized and disintegrating pulleys.

So, by my limited experience, I must go ahead and make a maintenance suggestion for any owner of a Ford Escort ZX2: replace those timing belt pulleys every 80 thousand miles or fewer.

I got a new kit, including belt, tensioners, and both idlers (later engines had just one idler in addition to the tensioner) on for less than $80 plus shipping. The local O'Reilly had it in stock as well, but they wanted a ridiculous $180. Amanda said no. Considering the price of the belt alone at most stores is around fifty bucks, the extra thirty for a set of pulleys is a good deal.

This is how we fail

This is how Eric fails. Wondering why he can't get the taillight to fit back on properly, he realized that the wires and sockets weren't quite in their proper locations.

To soften the blow, since I have failed in similar ways many times myself, here's a wonderful photo of how, exactly, I fail.

That's the pushbroom I gave my dad for Father's Day.

Ah, consequences

It's usually a good idea to make sure the boots are on and the clamps are properly tightened after you replace certain parts. This in particular is an inner tie rod I replaced sometime last year. The grime and salt and shit that got into the boot caused some surface corrosion on the steering rack as well. I cleaned it up, put a new one on, and put new clamps on the boot. Here's hoping I don't fuck that up again.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New parts, part two

The second package has arrived, straight from Ontario. It includes such exciting bits as: a spare tire hold down plate and bolt; a cup holder; the plastic "xmas tree" things that hold down the carpet; and the original reason I made this order in the first place, a headlight retractor rod. The only "competition" part in this shipment is an aluminum shifter bushing, which replaces the plastic one. I can't remember why it's an upgrade, but it was cheap. I figured as long as I'm replacing both rubber shift boots (also in the order), I might as well change that.

There's some rubber caps in here whose purpose I can't even begin to fathom. I don't remember what they're for, or why I ordered them. So, if anyone knows what a KA01-51-SD6 is for, let me know. I'm at a loss. The description is "Cap, Hinge."

Oh, nevermind. Found it. It goes between that retractor rod and the headlamp bezel.

These parts are going in today, I hope, shortly after I find out what noises Amanda's car is making and why. I'm pretty excited to have a real cup holder.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Go Brasil!

A couple of my parts arrived yesterday. The rest should be showing up on Tuesday. Yes, I ordered a tiny little screw. It's for the hinge on the center console. It cost me sixty-three cents.

My country isn't playing today, but I watched the Argentina v. Nigeria game this morning. Sadly, Argentina scored in the first 5 minutes and Nigeria never managed to bring it back. Boo Argentina. Though really, Nigeria wasn't playing very well. They couldn't get a shot on target.

I only have basic cable, so I don't get ESPN3. Which means my only options for watching World Cup games are Univision, which I get in HD, and, which is terrible video quality if you're watching it live. So I tune the TV to Univision HD, hit the mute button, plug the stereo aux input into my laptop and bring up Bam! I'm in business.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lookit paw, I'm on the teevee!

I am famous. I star in the newest motion picture from Studeria Molina*, the film division of Scuderia Molina.
(also on the blogroll at right)

*I just made this up.

Ghetto fabulous

I broke an exhaust hanger at an autocross event a few weekends ago. It's entirely possible that it was broken beforehand, but it took the crazy cornering at autocross for the thing to start banging around. It definitely scared me at first, because it just sort of showed up halfway through the day and I was afraid I'd broken suspension, steering or drivetrain parts.

My repair, though not classy, was easy enough. I just removed a heat shield bolt and stuck it through some exhaust strapping. It'll hold until I eventually hack the muffler off and clamp in a Cherry Bomb or something equally high-end.

My dad is a clever bastard.

As you can see here, the valve cover on our Zetec engine was busted into pieces. One of these pieces fell behind the cams and got itself into an oil return galley. We tried reaching in for it with tweezers, but they couldn't reach and still open enough to grab it. Removing the cams and lifters would have been really annoying and would not have made things any easier, since it was actually buried in the middle of the head casting.

My dad, always with the clever ideas, grabs a small metal rod he has laying around. Then he gets some glue (in this case, a silicone-based general adhesive) and plops a dab on one end. He then puts that end against the chunk of valve cover buried in the head and lets it sit awhile.

About 20 minutes later, I come back and carefully pull the rod up. The adhesive holds, though barely, and I manage to just get it out of the head before the glue lets go and it drops into my hand.

A few more minor repairs and this engine is ready to drop in. The only parts left: swap some pulleys around, find a serpentine belt that's the right size to bypass power steering and A/C, and repair/replace the thermostat housing. I think that's everything, anyway...





(The header wrap starts to unravel.)

One step above the bleachers

I picked up a Kirkey Racing aluminum seat with a cover and a neck brace a few weeks ago. This is gonna go on the Team Resignation Escort. I found it on Craigslist. It's a 17-incher, so it's a bit wide for me and all our current drivers. But it was cheap, it was local, and we can always add padding. Besides, we won't have to buy a different seat if a fatter driver joins the team.