Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I spoke too soon

Well I thought our car troubles were over, but it turned out they were only beginning. A few days after the new injector was installed the car started sounding rough again so we took it back for Fred, the mechanic to take another look at it. After a brief examination he though he saw sparks coming from one of the coils and anticipated that the housing was cracked. By this time we've learned the routine and head back to the parts store to get a new coil.

The garage and the parts store are on the same street just a few blocks apart, and this time, although the engine sounds bad, we can at least still drive it to get the parts. We are fortunate that Fred is willing to drop what he's doing to work on our car and he proceeds to remove the old coil. Sure enough, it has a couple of cracks in it, but when he attempts to use the new coil he realizes that we have been sold the wrong part and this one won't fit on our car so he has to pull one out of stock. That's all right because this particular part is only about $10 more.

The new part is installed and Fred starts plugging in the spark plug wires, only for some reason one of them doesn't make a solid connection. He pushes the wire further into the boot so that the connector inside is closer to the end. That's normally what you would do. While we are watching, he still has trouble getting it to connect so instead of fighting with it he sticks needle nose pliers inside the boot and pulls the connector up, which is good, and out, which is not so good. He gets the connector on and jams the boot over top of it. So half an hour later it's connected, but not very well.

Everything gets put back together and the car runs, but it's noisy and he assures us that it's just because the battery had been disconnected while he was working on it and the computer has to relearn everything. He suggests that maybe there's a problem with the spark plug wires (Well I guess, Bozo!) and maybe we ought to replace them.

The wrong part gets taken back to the store and we come home with the car chugging just like it did when we took it in. When we get home and inspect the old coil and see that although there is a crack in the housing, it's just on the surface and doesn't go right through. We test it with the meter and it appears to be OK. So it looks like we replaced a part that didn't need replacing. The only way to know for sure is to swap it out with one of the other coils and see what happens, but that's a lot of work and we already have a lot to do.

We check in with the garage around the corner and ask if they have an old spark plug wire we can use for testing. We put new wires and spark plugs on last year and we don't drive much so the wires should be OK. We use the test wire and use it to replace each wire one at a time. Everything checks out OK but just in case we bicycle back up to Canadian Tire and get a new set of spark plug wires.
I don't pay a lot of attention to car engines but I've seen some where the spark plugs are all lined up across the top of the engine. Ours aren't. 3 of them are along the bottom front, but 3 of them are behind the engine along the back between the engine and the fire wall. The only way to get to them is to remove the alternator which you can't do unless you remove the drive belt. Garages have a special tool for the purpose, but Rob has done this so often he made his own. It's like a metal yard stick with a bolt on the end that you can use to spring down the bracket and release the belt. Then it's just removing a few bolts and the alternator can be lifted out of the way. Rob's not a mechanic, but one of his first jobs was working on the assembly line building car engines, so he knows more about what makes cars go than the average guy.

We carefully test the continuity of each new wire to make sure they're all OK, then we remove the old set, clean and gap the spark plugs and replace each wire neatly fitting everything into the harness and wrapping the protective coils around them at the places where the wires lay close to the engine. The alternator goes back in place and gets bolted down, the battery gets re-connected and we give it a try. No change, it still sputters.

That means that we have another problem inside the engine. This time we've already seen the engine apart and Rob is confident that he can do the job himself so he started taking the engine apart. There's a lot of "stuff" attached to an engine that you have to remove before you can even unbolt the plenum and lift it off to look inside. All of the sensors and the intake manifold have to be removed and held out of the way while you work.

Then the wires to the fuel injectors have to be removed and the fuel rail unbolted. The hose ends are capped with rubber stoppers so that we don't leak gas all over the place. We have already tested and know that the spark is getting through to the fuel injectors so we take them off and test them one at a time. I don't know anything about this stuff, but my job is to be a third hand and hold things. Hold things out of the way so that other parts can be reached, hold bits and pieces as they are removed or replaced and hold parts or probes as things are being tested. The fuel injectors read 12 except for one which reads 8 and the new one just installed which reads 0. Zero, and it's new. We can tell it's the new one because all of the previously installed fuel injectors have black O rings. The new unit has a red O ring.
Rob takes pictures of everything. He scans the important information on the sides of boxes and takes pictures of all of the parts that he puts on. He also takes pictures of the things he takes apart. It's easier to take a picture and know which order things are in than it is to try to remember when you are reassembling. We know the new injector had the red O ring because we have the picture of it, in the box, that we took in the store, when we bought it.

The good news is that we know what's wrong and how to fix it. The bad news is that the store that has the parts is 7 km away and the engine is apart. Before we go back to the store we call to tell them what has happened and that we will be in to return it. In the interim a friend emails us to say that the company he works for has all the parts and he can get them for us much cheaper because he gets an employee discount. So we return the bad injector and get the refund then bicycle on to the next shop to pick up 2 new injectors and a couple of other pieces we need and back home again.

The new injectors get installed and we start replacing pieces in reverse order. Since we have the wires out of the engine we take the time to test each wire and carefully re-tape them and replace the old brittle wire coil with new. We get ready to hook the fuel line back up and realize we have a major problem. The flexible rubber hose that connects to the engine has a metal fitting, kind of like at the end of a garden hose, that screws onto the pipe going into the engine. It's a special kind of rubber hose that can withstand the high temperature and high pressure going into the engine and it has small split right at the fitting. If the split was in the middle of the hose we could just cut the hose, insert a connector and hold the pieces together with fuel clamps, but where it is there isn't anything we can do to fix it. No hose, no car.

This new problem is worse than all of the others combined because if we can't get a hose we can't repair the car. So we start calling first the dealer, because some things don't change and they might still use the same type of hose in newer cars. No luck there, they don't use that particular fitting any more. Then we try the after market stores, they don't carry it either, so we go to the recycling stores and see what we can find there. Our options are limited because most junk yards are on the outskirts of the city in remote areas and without the car working we only go where we can bicycle to unless we can get someone else to drive us out to get the parts in the middle of the day. One shop doesn't have anything but one of the guys who works there thinks he might have a hose and he's willing to drop it off at the house. He dropped by with a hose which was unfortunately too short, but after he sees the car and where it needs to fit he thinks he can get one. Thankfully he did, and after some adjustment the hose was attached.

Now it's just a matter of finishing off the re-assembly of the engine and we're good to go. Just to be safe Rob checks to make sure how tight the plenum needs to be and he finds that it should be torqued to 25 ft/lbs and he carefully torques each bolt in sequence. There is a specific order for these things although a lot of mechanics don't bother doing it properly, Rob always does. The last bolt is bolted the last clip is clipped and and the battery is re-connected. Then we get to turn the engine over and see if it runs. After a few little sputters as the air in the gas line gets moved through the system the engine roars to life. Success at last! I start supper and he takes it around the block to check it out.

After supper we decide to take it for a slightly longer drive so that the computer can re-learn the system. Rob starts the car and there's a loud clang and the car starts backfiring. That's not good.

Back under the hood again to see what's happening. Really, REALLY bad news. The plenum is cracked. The plenum is the top of the engine. It locks down over top of the engine and created the vacuum that makes the engine work. The backfiring is caused because there is no vacuum when the plenum cracked. At this point most people would give up. "Give up" isn't in hubby's vocabulary.

After looking at it he figures that if he can find some way to secure the broken piece back onto the plenum, that he may be able to get it working well enough to drive. He needs to be able to hold both pieces together accurately and tightly while he drills through both pieces. Then he has to use a drill bit long enough to drill through the side of the plenum without damaging the surface of it, because once the repair is completed the surface needs to be totally smooth and flat or it will leak air. Not having a drill bit long enough he first has to make one by inserting a bit into a rod and securing it with a pin through the side.
Once that is accomplished he needs to find a way of holding the pieces together. This gizmo is apparently called a chain grip. It's kind of like a vise grip with a bicycle chain where the gripping part is usually found. I wonder if the guy who invented it need to fix an odd shaped part like this?

It held the pieces firmly in place while two tiny holes were drilled. The holes were tapped and heat treated bolts inserted and tightened down. Miracle of miracles, it worked! The repaired plenum was bolted into place with some liquid gasket used along all of the seam lines of the repair. Once again we tried it out. Vroom, VROOM. We have car!
We're not stupid enough to press our luck, the next day we head out to the recycling yard, They used to call them junk yards, but we're so much more environmentally conscious these days. The have another Z24 with an intact plenum, we just have to disassemble the car to get to it. While we're at it we pick up all of the other little bits we need like hoses and clips that are broken on our car.
Hey, we're getting good at this,we can disassemble and reassemble the engine faster than a garage mechanic. We know where all the little bits go and the easiest way to get them in place....AND I HOPE WE NEVER HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


After days and weeks of feeling like I've been running as fast as I can, I think, I'm all caught up. In the spring I volunteered to teach the seniors at the local rec centre how to tat. After the open house several weeks ago I was told that they wouldn't go ahead with it unless there were at least 6 people signed up for the 12 week course. (12 weeks!, who came up with that number?) There were 5 signed up when I called last week so I didn't know if it was going ahead or not. They decided at the last minute that they would go ahead with it because they think more people will join once it's started. Yesterday was the first class. 3 got the flip for sure and the other 2 will probably get it after a few more tries at home.

I've done a review of all the designs posted in the Design-Tat blog. All of the participants have come up with wonderful designs. It's amazing at the diversity of designs all based on the same little piece.

With the first group I did a tutorial with screen shots showing how to use drawing software. This time the version of free software available has changed, so it meant re-writing chunks of the tutorial and taking all new pictures to match the new software. The first installment is done and posted now.

All of the designs are in the new book except that I need to juggle things around again because I've ended up with 2 blank half pages. I need some time with a clear head for that so I'll tackle it tomorrow.

After a really crappy summer weather wise, we've had a couple of nice days and today we took advantage of it and took the parrot out for another bike ride.She enjoys getting out and going for a ride. When I grab her leash she immediately puts her foot up so that I can strap it around her foot. The leash came with a metal clasp which I have replaced with a wide leather band. I know that parrots have ended up with broken legs from leashes, but I think that between the possibly of being scared and jumping into trouble like an oncoming car and being killed and the possibility of ending up with a broken leg, the broken leg might be preferable. She was wearing it when I was hit by the car in 2005 and both of us were thrown 20 feet down the road. I ended up with 5 breaks in my leg; she lost a tail feather. The leash does make it possible to take her with us on long bike rides down busy streets, which is more fun for her than being left alone at home.

Several of the update team have been posting to the 25 Motif Challenge blog, so it's caught up and I have the evening free to tat. I think I'm going to go put my feet up, grab a cup of tea and my tatting and see what's on TV. So with that, I'll leave you with another snippet of tatting from the new book.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Bikes, Cars and all that

I ride funny. Not in the sense of ha ha, he he, but in the sense of peculiar. For many years I rode an old bike. It wasn't a modern rugged mountain bike but a narrow wheel bike that we used to call a racing bike, but it's now called a street bike. The only padding on the seat was the leather covering so I often rode side saddle with one cheek on the bike to make use of my own ample padding. I rode in one gear and if I needed to change gears going up hill, I got off and walked.

That was partly because I was usually encumbered and partly because the gears slipped. Just as I was giving it my all to reach the apex of the hill the gear would slip nearly throwing me off the bike. Having nearly taken a header over the handlebars on more than one occasion, I just gave up on gear shifting and left it in the one gear where it would happily stay in place.

That was OK, it suited me. I'm not a speed demon, I'm not in a hurry to get anywhere, I'm riding the bike to get fresh air and take the bird for a ride. I DID say I was usually encumbered.

You don't do anything fast while riding with a macaw. At any moment something might startle her into spreading her 3 foot wingspan and totally obscuring your vision. Or she might decide that brake cables look like good snack food. Or she might just dig her claws in and yell in your ear. After years of riding with her I have learned that I have more control over her when she's on my forearm. Not only that, but I'm more likely to get home and still have clean clothes instead of a shirt with little birdie deposits on it.

Of course riding this way means that you can only change gears on one side of the bike anyway. So I have become accustomed to only gear shifting on the right. The old bike got demolished when I was hit by a car a few years ago and I was sans bike until I persuaded hubby that I was quite able to ride again. The new one is 18 speed. I'm not too sure what I'm supposed to do with the left gear shift never having had occasion to use it before, but the right ones have the familiar slipping problem. Well, not quite the same. These gears don't want to shift at all. After much struggling they go all the way one direction or the other, with nothing in between.

Lately, with the car in the garage, we have found it necessary to do most of our running around using the bikes. These trips were on busy roads and needed to be done as quickly as possible so Dusty has been left home. Long trips with both hands free have left me the luxury of trying different gears and with hubby constantly reminding me to change to low gear going uphill, I tried to comply, without a lot of success. The stinker is so stiff I can barely get it to move and my wrist is starting to give me constant pain from fighting with the gears. So the other day he took a look at my gear shift. Sure enough there was no way the derailleur could shift into high it just wouldn't go. After a few minutes of looking at it he realized it was missing a screw which he cannibalized off the old bike, but it still wasn't right.

He checked out a few videos on the internet and saw a really nifty stand that held the working bits of the bike at eye level so he built his own stand. He got my bike up on the stand and started adjusting the gears. Then the phone rang. It was the garage.

Initially they thought it was one of the fuel injectors which was going to run around $175. Ouch. We've had them changed before and knew we could get them for less. So we called around and got a price of $49. Much better, but it comes from a competitor's shop so we have to get the part first and they would install it. At least both shops are on the same street. This time they called to say it's not the injector, it's a faulty ignition module at $285. We've had them changed too and know we can get the parts for less. Considering the time of day we have to hurry by bike to get down to the parts store and back to the garage before closing.

So without making any adjustments to the gears we rode off to the garage. Three times this week we have gone the 7 km there and 7 km back all the while I'm fighting with the gear shift. My wrist started screaming at me every time I have to use the mouse from all the abuse it's taken trying to shift the gears. Rob's bike has Shimano gears properly installed and his move forward and back with almost no pressure at all. Conversely mine almost take 2 hands to shift. Last night he got the bike up on his newly made stand and adjusted the gears. They now move forward and back through the full range. They're still a little stiff, but much better than before.

This morning the garage called. The car's fixed.

In case you're curious, it wasn't the module after all, it was a burned out wire leading to it. So we took the module back for a full refund. We did replace the fuel injector, because if it's ready to go, better replace it now while the engine's already apart. And the PCV valve that Rob's had for years but couldn't face pulling the engine apart to put it in, and the gas filter he had, that's easier to reach with the car on a hoist. So in the end they did a good job and it didn't cost us anywhere near what we had anticipated and certainly a lot less than a new car.

Tatting? Did I hear someone ask about tatting? Who's had time for tatting.