Saturday, June 18, 2011

Breakin' the Law

Smashy smashy!

Part of my preparation for the long-ass trip to Florida was to stiffen up my car for the excessive load it would carry. That meant I'd install Flyin' Miata's frame rail reinforcements, to hopefully undo the damage I've done to the stock frame rails, pictured. It turns out they're not intended to be jacking points. I was hoping the FM rails would also cure my notorious Miata shimmy. (It did not.)

The install itself was pretty straightforward and didn't take a whole lot of time. I spent a bit more than half an hour with a hammer pounding the old rails approximately into shape. My dad showed up to help, so he sprayed the holes with undercoating from inside the car while I drilled from underneath.

It's tough to get undercoating off your face. Ask how I know.

Tip: Make sure your face isn't on the other side of an aerosol can.

It does make a difference.

After putting everything back together, the difference is immediately noticeable. Well, it was on crappy Illinois roads. It's not perfect -- it didn't go from a floppy NA to an S2000 -- but I'd call it much improved, not a gimmick product. I don't know how it affects lap times, but I will say that I hope no one at the autocross course notices. This is definitely not an SCCA-legal modification, but I'm going to keep running in the same class as before. That's right, I'm a rebel. Breakin' the (inconsequential) law.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tracking and repairing a coolant leak

Miata nerds will know all about the water plug on the back of the cylinder head, and how difficult it allegedly is to reach. Follow this link and scroll on down to the Troubleshooting section; you'll see what I mean.

I saw that cap when I rebuilt my engine, but decided to leave it alone. Because I was lazy, and because I already had enough to do. Running to the parts store to replace something that wasn't broken when I already had enough problems to deal with, well, that was a low priority.

Once I reached Florida, however, it decided to finally break and leak. I noticed when the coolant temperature started to creep up, and water would leak from somewhere at the back of the engine when I refilled the radiator. When I discovered the source of the problem, I feared what could be a job so distasteful as to warrant spending several hundred dollars at a repair shop. I was, very thankfully, wrong.

I was able to reach the spring clamp with one of the two pliers pictured above. For the replacement, I stacked two caps from the cap assortment pictured (stacked so they were thick enough to make use of the clamp) and reinstalled the OEM spring clamp with the same pliers. A worm clamp would be nearly impossible to install. With the engine cold, it was a pretty easy job. You can see what remains of the old cap at the bottom of the picture.

Conclusion: this job is not nearly as difficult as I previously thought.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I'm gonna be an oracle for a minute here...

This building used to be a lamp store. Yeah, go figure.

...and pretend like I know the future

This blog has its place. So does the writing I do for Motorsport Marketing's paper publications. And while I have a staff blog there, it is somewhat more limited in scope and style than The Sentimental Mechanic cares to be at times. 

So! The magazines will get, of course, the stories I'm assigned as well as the longer pieces I come up with and research on their time and dime. The GRM staff blog will get a more distilled, shorter version of what you might normally see here. I'm going to venture a guess that I shouldn't be writing, for example, product reviews on the staff blog without any editorial oversight or input from other people on staff, so things like the forthcoming (strongly negative) speedyracerparts header review will remain here at As will road sightings, longer personal blathering about cars and detailed worklogs, and, of course, off-topic ramblings.

Keep in mind that GRM does not in any way support The Sentimental Mechanic, and the views expressed here do not necessarily relate to anything the GRM staff believes. /obligatoryDisclaimer

My current plan is to post a link here whenever I post something on the staff blog and when one of my pieces gets posted to the website. I may reduce that to periodical aggregates if it gets to be too much -- this isn't a Twitter feed, after all.

As of this writing, I've made two posts on the GRM staff blogs. They are as follows:

You can see a list of all my GRM posts at this permanent link:

Keep watch there for the full up-to-the-minute Sentimental Experience. Otherwise, just stay tuned here and buy a subscription to Grassroots Motorsports to help pad my paycheck.

And I thank you once again, loyal readers, for being loyal, and for reading. I sure as shit couldn't do this if you all were illiterate.*

Keep your wounds greased and your wrenches handy,


*and that's one sentence you'll likely never read in a GRM blog.