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.

Moar winzohrs

There have been two more events since my last post, and I managed first place in both. The latest event I won my class with a 3 second margin. If I make it to enough Miata Club events this year, I'm pretty confident I'll get a season trophy. Not that it's a big deal, since it's just the Miata Club, but despite what I said in my last post, I won't be running any SCCA events this year. I'm saving that money for repairs, for LeMons, for whatever else might come up.

In other news, I finally got access to the Mazda Motorsports (aka Mazdaspeed) online store, with the fancy competition discount. So now I can buy all sorts of OEM parts below list price. I'm going to start with a bunch of Ye Olde Miscellany* that need fixing up, like the stupid plastic joints in the headlight lift mechanism.

Expect several short posts to follow this one; I have many updates, and I don't have necessarily the time to lay out a big narrative to cover it all at once. Get ready for a major blast.

Yes, I skipped a night of welding class to do this (among many other things).

*Amanda insists that I give her credit for this phrase. Here you go.