Tuesday, March 30, 2010

GoMiata Stubby Antenna - And Another Thing...

As though I didn't have enough bad to say about the GoMiata Stubby Antenna the first time I reviewed it, the thing goes and gets even worse on me.

At least then it passed the 30-foot test. But after just one winter of handling road salt, the thing is getting corroded and looks like garbage.

If I get excited later on, I'll clean this thing up and spray on some clearcoat. But it pisses me off, because that's not something I should have to do with an accessory that's only a few months old.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Always with the surprises

This is what happens when you start prepping a 19-year-old car for racing. You find holes in the floor.

Background, because I feel it is always necessary: (It probably rarely is.)
I tore up the carpet on our racecar on my lunch break. A 14mm socket, a screwdriver, and a bit of really boring lunchtime NPR is all it took. I removed the front seats (socket), popped off the retaining clips for the carpet under the edge of the rear seat (screwdriver), removed the center console (screwdriver), and started yanking that shit around the pieces that were still screwed down. Vehicle carpeting is neither plush nor resilient against tearing. In fact, the pattern of the supporting thread is a lot like vinyl reinforced adhesive tape, so I could tear it into big chunks with my hands.

Never mind how unbelievably filthy that car is (I forgot to photograph the crayons and toy cars, and the smell, while unphotographable, is pervasive). I found two surprises under the carpeting. Rust holes in the floor pan. Right about where the forward roll cage supports will need to go. This is not good news.

Hopefully we can roll the cost of repairing that into the cost of installing the cage. I figure if whoever is building us a cage can't fix that and make it safe, they shouldn't be building us a cage. I guess we'll find out.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On oversimplification

I have a problem. It's called oversimplification. I have a feeling most car guys get this when they start to think about a project.

Today, for example, I was telling Eric that we should probably go ahead with the drivetrain swap on our Escort (ZX2 into a 2nd-gen LX). He asked me what was involved in the process of pulling an engine and transaxle from the wrecked ZX2. This is how it initially played out in my head:

  1. Bend shit out of the way.
  2. Disconnect hoses.
  3. Disconnect wires.
  4. Remove motor mount nuts.
  5. Lift entire assembly out.
  6. Remove wiring harness.
Sounds easy, right? Well, it is. Sort of. It's the details that get in the way. Each one of those steps can take a lot of time, because they all involve many, many substeps. Also, things like hammering, bending, prying, wiggling, and dealing with rusted fasteners are very big time-eaters and muscle-fatiguers.
The actual process is something more like this (which is what I sent him):

  1. Remove the hood (4 bolts).
  2. Disconnect and remove battery.
  3. Hammer/pry/smash/pull the radiator support out of the way, along with any other bent shit that interferes. This may be the most physically strenuous and improvised portion of this exercise.
  4. Inspect for broken shit.
  5. Disconnect the radiator hoses (2), heater core hoses (2), power steering hoses (2), and any other hoses I can't remember.
  6. Label all electrical connectors with tape and sharpie, on both sides of the connection.
  7. Disconnect all electrical connectors, and unbolt any ground wires to the engine.
  8. Disconnect positive starter wire.
  9. Pull out axles.
  10. Attach engine hoist to engine.
  11. Remove the nuts or bolts on each of the 4 motor mounts (max. 2 each).
  12. Slowly lift the engine and transmission out of the car, watching for any remaining connections.
  13. Roll the engine hoist (with drivetrain) into the garage.
  14. Disassemble car interior to locate the entirety of its wiring harness.
  15. Remove wiring harness, engine computer, CCRM (a control module), and instrument cluster.
Not quite as simple, right? It suddenly went from, "Yeah, we can do this" to: "... that's pretty intense." And I'm still leaving out quite a bit (especially in terms of the interior). Once this is done, we do it again to the other car. Then we swap sway bars and steering racks, overhaul a transmission, and then reinstall one of the drivetrains. Two removals, one installation.

Nobody ever said racing was easy. Or cheap. But at least it'll be fun.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Behold, failure!

Last Saturday, my friend Brad came over to help finish the brakes on El Shitbox. Since the caliper mounting bolt was seized in place, I asked him to bust out the Sawzall and cut the fucker in half.

Then, when the caliper still wouldn't come off, I realized the caliper mounts to a bracket, which is removable. Two 14-mm bolts later, and the caliper-and-bracket assembly is off.

But then the caliper wouldn't come off the bracket, which is necessary to mount the new caliper. So I asked Brad to bust out his MAPP gas torch. He's a plumber.

We proceeded to heat, wiggle, and hammer that thing to separate the caliper from the slide/guide bolt on the bracket. At which point, this happened:

Which is about when I realized I had a complete new bracket sitting upstairs. So I grabbed that, grabbed the new caliper, and put that shit together.

Steps necessary to complete job:
1. Remove caliper and bracket assembly.
2. Install new caliper bracket.
3. Install new caliper.

Actual steps taken:
1. Cut caliper.
2. Remove caliper and bracket assembly.
3. Lubricate, wiggle, torch, and hammer caliper guide bolt until something breaks.
4. Install new caliper bracket.
5. Install new caliper.

I am a genius.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Meet the new style...

...definitely not the same as the cliche reference to The Who.

Photo credit goes to my co-conspirator in crap car crime, though with my (mostly obvious) touches. The color/style is from a Blogspot template, with some tweaking.

Stay tuned for more stupid steerable shitbox stuff! And annoying amounts of asinine alliteration! Aaaaaa!

Friday, March 5, 2010

** VERY DIRTY!!! **

I've done a lot of heavy wrenching in my black Carhartt coat over the years, in various locations and with varying degrees of cleanliness and success. I've had it since late in my high school years, and I don't think I've ever cleaned it. After these last couple weekends under two very rusty cars, one of which was out on a gravel-and-snow driveway, and getting covered in even more dirt, rust, grime, and brake fluid, I decided it needed a thorough cleaning.

A professional cleaning. So I had Amanda take it in when she was getting a zipper fixed on her coat. Amanda said they told her, "I think we'll need an extra day on this one" when she dropped it off. You can see above the note they put after the coat.

Very dirty indeed, with three exclamation points.
Well, it was true. I wish I had a photo of it in its full filthy glory. All I have is of it clean, and they did an amazing job.  Green Acre Cleaners is a pretty excellent place.

I haven't seen the coat this black practically since I bought it, though there are plenty of worn spots in the denim by now. After all, high school ended 8 years ago; this thing is probably about the same age as my old Caterpillar boots. Anyway, I'm happy it's clean now, though the season for this heavy a coat is practically over. It's fresh and ready for next year, and it no longer smells like earth and grease and sweat. It's ready for another 10+ years of service.

Well, maybe not quite that many.