Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Little Fleet Work

So the fleet’s been behaving the last week or so – at least behaving well enough that those needing daily-drivers have had them. Monday I drove Lucy to work in the morning. Towards the end of my highway blast, the TEMP/PRESS light started to flicker. I slowed down from 70 to 60 and it stayed off. She’s had this behavior before when there was a vacuum leak around one of the carb’s throttle shaft. This may be the case again, so I’ll be checking the carbs before driving her again.

It’s wonderful to have Heidi as a backup. It’s been nice top-down driving weather, and I’ve made the most of it. She’s running flawlessly, but repairing the left front blinker is still on her to-do list. I’ve also added changing the oil and filter since the odometer says it’s time.

Ariel’s been putting the miles on Ringo without him giving her any problems. A big TYL for that.

Now to the work. Luna is so close to being road-ready. The only problem we’re having trouble solving is getting both brake lights to illuminate. After removing the blinker switch assembly (through which the braking circuit runs), I had to slightly bend one of the spring contacts to get both blinkers to work. After plugging the switch back in, I was able to verify that all but the left rear brake circuit was operating properly. At that point last night, it was time to knock off for the day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Luna’s Almost Roadworthy

Victoria and I spent a few hours in the garage last evening. We were, with some prying and banging, finally able to remove the right rear brake drum. The assembly behind looked great, and Victoria cleaned off the hub surfaces and applied some anti-seize before reinstalling the drum and wheel. With Luna back on the floor, Victoria turned her attention to masking and painting the surfaces she’d primed last night while removed and repaired the blinker switch assembly. My task went surprisingly well and I found a contact in the switch mechanism that needed a little bend. After that, the switch worked perfectly on the bench. How it behaves in the car will hopefully be the same. Once Victoria had finished painting, she referred back to our to-do list and the only thing left she could do was clean out behind the fresh air vents. In order to do that, she first removed the sill plates, and then unscrewed the hex-head fasteners holding the kick panels in place, took off the panels, removed more screws and finally out came the vents. When I told her to stick her hand in the cavity to see what she could find, she started to, but then paused to ask me what she might find. When I replied, “dead mice,” she immediately drew back giving me a piece of her mind. Needless to say, she’ll be using a shop-vac to clear out the cavities and not her hands.

It was Luna-time Last Night

“Is there any way possible I could drive Luna Saturday afternoon?” Victoria asked me during dinner last night. My immediate response was, “No way.” Then I thought some more about it and told her, “Maybe; if there are no issues with her brakes, the weather’s nice, and we get the blinker switch to work and the rest of the lights to function.” So right after dinner, she and I made our way to the garage to knock some items off the to-do list.

The first check of the evening was a hard, harder test on the brake. I sat in the driver’s seat and pressed the brake pedal as hard as I could a few times. No leaks; no descending pedal; test passed. While Victoria attacked more of the rusted areas, specifically the battery area and the engine and trunk weatherstripping channels, I disassembled the front wheel bearings, cleaned the parts (with Victoria’s help) and re-packed the bearings with grease. With the hubs off, I took a close look at the front brake assemblies. Everything looks new. How nice. Even nicer was the lack of leaking brake fluid, rust-free brake lines and crack-free brake hoses. We’re calling the brake system good-to-go – or in this case good-to-stop-going.

While I had the front wheels off and the font end up on jackstands, I cleaned the zerk fittings and lubed the front suspension. I’m a little concerned that the tie-rod ends don’t move freely. While the steering is responsive, I can’t move the tie-rod ends independently from the tie-rod. I’ll keep my eye on them over time and hopefully they’ll loosen up with usage.

On to the rear. We removed the left rear wheel, and then, after some beating and banging and a liberal application of penetrating fluid, the drum. Again, more new-looking brakes components behind the drum and a nice rust-free line and a crack-free hose leading to it. On to the last wheel. This one had to give us issues, of course. We beat, we banged, we applied liberal amounts of penetrating fluid, and we even broke out the torch. All without success – the drum would not budge. We let it soak overnight and knocked off for the night.

One other task Victoria insisted we complete and that was putting and hooking up the new battery. That went well and included wire brush-off and primer coating of the hold-down bracket.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An Odd Thing

I guess Lucy felt ignored, so she had to put a scare into Mikhaila and I this morning. I was doing a little over 70 (according to the who-knows-if-it’s-correct speedometer) driving down I-70 taking Mikhaila to school when the GEN-FAN light popped on. Once I’d gotten into the slow lane, I turned off the engine and pulled far onto the shoulder. Hopping out and heading to the car’s rear to open the engine lid, I braced myself for a thrown fanbelt. That was not the case, however, as everything appeared fine. A seized generator? Nope it turned under the belt without issue. A broken wire? I jiggled the two coming off the generator and the one going to the main feed at the voltage regulator and nothing broke apart. After checking the oil level just for kicks, I returned to the driver’s seat and cranked the engine. It turned, grudgingly, but wouldn’t fire. Back to the engine compartment to check for fuel and spark. A blip on the throttle was rewarded by shot of gas in the left carb’s throat. I then had Mikhaila turned the key while I held the coil wire’s end next to the body – nice, regular sparks arced across the gap. At that point I discovered the rubber tube at the vacuum advance canister had fallen off. I pushed it back on, but after noticing how loosely it fit, I pulled it back off and cut off one inch of oil-sodden gooiness. It slid on more snuggly after that. Back behind the wheel, and this time the engine started right up with a turn of the key. Best of all, no idiot lights were on. I cautiously entered back into the flow of traffic and kept it below 60 the rest of the way to the school. The drive from there to work was without incident even with speeds nearing 70. Bizarre.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Nice Saturday, …

…but it could’ve been better. This month’s meeting of the local chapter of CORSA was scheduled for 9 AM Saturday morning in my driveway and by 9:30 no one had shown up. By noon, only three guys made it. Pretty sad. I’m thinking it’s time I start looking for a different club that’s more active than this chapter.

Around 11 Victoria came out to work on Luna, and after she removed the last of the Rally wheels, we played electrical detective for the next couple hours. She hooked my charger to the ends of the battery cables and we started with headlights. Nothing illuminated until she pressed the hi-beam switch a couple times and then all four bulbs lit up. Another press on the button and all four went out. Looks like a replacement switch needs to go on the shopping list. On to the blinkers. First the right side. After replacing the right front bulb with a new one, both front and rear blinked vigorously and brightly. The left, however was not cooperative. Both front and rear wouldn’t blink even with new bulbs. The voltage checker showed the issue is with the switch behind the steering wheel. Part number two for the list. By that time, she had to quit to go to a job.

Funny experience dealing with the local Firestone franchise. I called them on the phone and asked how much they’d charge me to mount and balance four tires I’d purchased from Tire Rack. I was told $76. This was cheaper than Mr. Tire, so I told them I’d be right there. The lovely Loriann and decided to make an afternoon out of it, so I loaded the Surburban with the wheels and tires, and we headed down the road. After unloading the stuff in front of the shop, I went in to start the process. The counter guy was not the one I’d spoken with on the phone, so he punched in the info and printed out the work order with a bottle line of $66. Okay, I like saving money. I noticed there was a $12 charge for tire disposal even though I’d told him I would take the old tires back and get rid of them myself. Just then, the guy I had talked to on the phone walked in. He looked at the work order and said, “That’s not right.” He procedes to hit a bunch of keys and tells me it’ll be $85. Wait, we’re going the wrong way. I told him that was more than he’d told me over the phone and reminded him I wanted the old tires back. He then asks me if I was guy that had the Tire Rack tires. I said yes, and he replied that makes a difference. More keystrokes and he announces, “$44.” Sold. The lovely Loriann and I left the tires there, and a couple hours later, they were ready.

Also, while we were out we made a stop at Sam’s Club where I purchased a new battery for Luna, group 24F. Now, I just need to remember to go back with the old battery and get my $9 core charge refunded.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ringo’s Gone Again & Making Summer Plans

Yesterday I had Ariel get the two new tires mounted and balanced during the day so I could install them on her car in the evening. I was able to do that for the front end and then also swap the two better tires back off Heidi and back onto Ringo’s rear. After making sure the air pressures were correct (22 front, 32 rear), I took him for quick spin on the highway to make sure there were no untoward vibrations – there weren’t. By the way, each time I turned the key, the starter spun up. Looks like the new solenoid fixed that problem. This afternoon, I received a text from Ariel that she and Ringo made the trip back to PA without issues or incidents. Thank You Lord. Please note that expenditures for Ringo have now topped the $5000 mark (see sidebar).

As the end of school approaches, my thoughts are more frequently turning towards CORSA’s national convention. We’ve already got reservations at the state park down the road from the convention site. Our plans are to drive the Suburban and flat tow one of the fleet’s members. Which one? I have no idea. I plan on driving in the autocross, but since it’s my first time, I have no illusions of being competitive and a car with a Powerglide would be the best for a first-timer. Additionally, I'm hoping Ariel, Victoria, and even the lovely Loriann will want to compete, so an automatic tranny would really be desirable. That rules out Lucy. Right now, Ringo is in the nicest shape, but since I don’t plan on putting a car in the show (that could change), that really doesn’t matter. From what I gleaned from the CORSA website documents, a convertible can be autocrossed without a rollbar as long as I use street tires. So that means either Heidi or Luna could be used. I don’t think, however, Luna and her rotten rocker panels would appreciate the abuse of a few laps of high-speed turning. Then there’s the Rally. Hours of driving around the Massachusetts countryside would certainly be more enjoyable with the top down, so that makes Heidi an attractive choice. Finally, Glinda must also be considered. She’s got a Powerglide and her LM suspension is more conducive to cone-carving while providing a nicer ride for the long-distance rally. It may come down to which car is running the most reliably come July 20 when I’m ready to attach something to the tow-bar behind the Suburban.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Little Corvair-cation

It started when I delivered Ringo to Ariel and ended last night when I spent the evening wrenching on Ringo and Glinda. My vacation from fleet maintenance lasted ten whole days!

I am very thankful that Ringo transported Ariel safely and without breakdown from PA to our home while we were in Myrtle Beach. I was on pins-and-needles last Sunday until I received the “I’m home” text from her. Whilst he hasn’t had a breakdown since his key replaced Lucy’s on Ariel’s key-ring, his bouts of starting stubbornness have become an almost-constant occurrence. Yesterday, he required hot-wiring every time Ariel wanted to start his engine. In response to that misbehavior, I stopped by Carquest on my way home from work and purchased a new starter solenoid. After putting his rear up on the ramps, I pulled the current starter assembly and replaced it with a different starter with the new solenoid. First, though, I tested the replacement assembly on the ground and it spun up with each excitement of the solenoid’s S terminal.

With the starter swap completed, I turned my attention to the other end of the car. I was never satisfied with the Pittman arm bushing-bolt install I’d done a couple weeks back, and my concern was confirmed when I discovered the nut had turned enough to shear off the cotter pin. Thankfully, it hadn’t loosened any more than that. Normally, the joint doesn’t exert a torque on the nut, but the way I’d had to add washers to the stackup had resulted in a binding condition between the arm and the mating piece of the tie-rod. I hadn’t discovered this issue until I was on the road and heading for Corvair Ranch Sunday before last. After removing one of the washers from the stackup, the joint freely turned with the spinning of the steering wheel, while all play between the mating parts was still absence. Success!

My final task on Ringo last night was a simple one – thankfully. I tightened the screw holding the rearview mirror to its bracket. Now Ariel knows that when she glances in the mirror she see the cars behind her rather than the Ringo’s floor.

Tuesday morning, during Victoria’s drive to work, Glinda’s engine died a few blocks from the house. Victoria tried getting it re-fired, but it refused to comply. She coasted the car against the curb, walked back home, and took Ariel’s car to work. A couple hours later, Ariel went to the car, turned the key, and Glinda started right up. She drove her the short distance home and everything went fine. Yesterday, Victoria went to drive her to work, didn’t like the way she was idling, so left her at the curb and again used Ringo. After playing musical cars swapping Glinda for Ringo in the space in front of the garage, I tried to smooth out Glinda’s idle. Using the hand-over-the-carb method, I determined there is something wonky with right carburetor. I pulled the idle mixture screw and blew out the passages. With the screw back in, the idle improved slightly. I then attached the engine meter and found the idle speed was about a hundred rpm low, but more disconcerting was the discovery the dwell changed with engine rpm. This could be caused by two problems – loose distributor shaft bushing or loose pivot on the points’ plate. It’s easy to determine which by just disconnecting the vacuum advance and if that fixes the problem it’s the points’ plate. Well, that was Glinda’s problem, so I left the vacuum line disconnected and plugged with a golf tee. The dwell needed adjusting, and once that was done, I checked the timing and it was spot on the 14 degrees BTDC the ’68 shop manual specifies. It took a half-turn on each carb’s idle speed screw to get the idle rpms up to the directed 600. All this should result in a more reliable engine. A rebuilt points’ plate from Clark’s has been added to my shopping list.

Actually, the first ‘vair related incident yesterday was the arrival of four new Kumho Solus KR21 tires, size 205/70R14 for Luna. They’ll be mounted on Luna’s cool blue Firebird wheels and should end up looking like the photo at the head of this post - until we change Luna’s paint scheme.

Monday, May 7, 2012

He’s Gone, but Not Forgotten

Well, the only male member of the fleet isn’t really gone-gone, he’s just not in Baltimore anymore. Victoria and I met Ariel and her buddy, Matt, in PA yesterday and swapped Ringo for Lucy. That exchange wasn’t without its drama, but first I’ll back up a day and a half.

Friday evening I swapped the last two of Heidi’s wheels onto Ringo so his was now a matched set of four. Since I had the jack and jackstands out, I pulled back the rear wheel hubs and added grease to the wheel bearings. Then, with rain on the way, Victoria helped me move Luna out of the garage so I could put Ringo inside. With his leaking backlight, I still needed to apply more sealant.

Saturday’s time in the garage was spent masking off backlight trim, laying a bead of black silicone around the weatherstrip, checking the front alignment, adjust the front brake shoes, and making sure I’d properly installed the dust shield when I’d worked on the rear bearings.

Yesterday was a very busy day and it started early with Ringo getting a bath before 8 AM. Sadly, the backlight still leaks, but my attitude now is, “SCREW IT; I’ve done what I can.” After a nice breakfast with the family, Victoria and I headed up to the Corvair Ranch for their annual Open House. We spent most of the time wandering the back field of retired ‘vairs snapping photos. I’ve uploaded mine to Flickr. I did buy the two GUP tires Jeff had set aside for me. They are slightly smaller than stock at 175/80-13, but with the correct size, 185/80-13, unavailable, beggars can’t be choosers. After availing ourselves of the delicious buffet lunch, we hit the road to meet Ariel in York. The night before she had fallen and hurt her wrist and was unable to shift Lucy, so Matt drove from Millersville. Victoria and I arrived a few mintues early and I did the nice Dad thing and filled Ringo’s gas tank at the Sheetz station. When I turned the key to start his engine though, nothing happened. I tried a few times without success and ended up hot-wiring the engine to get it to crank. It fired right up and ran as usual. While waiting for Lucy’s arrival, I rummaged through the trunk and found a plastic coated metal coat hanger that I quickly unbent so it could be used as a jumper “wire” in case Ringo decided to pull the non-starting crap again. I showed Ariel how to use it if necessary, and sent her and Matt on their way. She was behind the wheel as they pulled off since she insisted she needed to be the driver regardless of how useless her right wrist was. They made a couple stops on the drive back, and Ringo started right up each time.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Repelled Water Repellant

I’m still doing battle with the backlight weatherstripping trying to keep out the rainwater. I thought I might have beaten it with last night’s application of silicone to the outside bottom corner, but a subsequent thunderstorm resulted in puddles on the inside of the car again. I’ll have to go at it with the blowing air and soapy water next.

The other Ringo repair I undertook last night was the replacement of the Pittman arm bushing bolt. I didn’t like the way the original one went on when I replaced the bushing, so the last time I was at the Corvair Ranch, I bought a GUP bolt with a new nut from Jeff. This one seemed to go together much better.

Meanwhile, Victoria kept up the enthusiastic work on Luna by applying a few coats of medium blue metallic paint over the previously primered rust spots. Next on Luna’s list is getting her up on jackstands and inspecting the brake system.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Working Side by Side

Last night Victoria commenced work on her convertible. She’s currently trying out the name Luna since the family rejected her first choice, Dudley. Our intention at this point is to stop the current rust growth and make the car drivable for the summer with the serious bodywork to take place late-fall and throughout the winter. With that in mind, she attacked the bubbling paint and exposed rust spots with a wire wheel and then coated them with Rusty Metal Primer in preparation for a couple coats of hopefully-close metallic blue.

Just for kicks, I rubbed out a small patch on Luna’s lower fender to see what kind of shine could be brought back, and we were pleasantly surprised with the gloss. So much so, that once the newly painted spots are safely cured, Victoria will break out the buffer and pretty up Luna’s entire body. In addition to rust-stopping, we’ll need to install a battery and four new tires, make sure the brakes are up to snuff, and get all the electricals functioning. I had her plug the battery charger onto the old, dead battery and it put out enough power to do a light check. Fortunately, more circuits worked than not, but we’ll still have some sleuthing ahead of us before everything that blinks and shines are doing just that.

Meanwhile, I had some odds and ends on Ringo I needed to address. During my drive home yesterday, I noticed the engine was pinging. When I put a timing light on it, I found the timing had moved about six degrees advanced. I hadn’t gotten the hold-down nut tight enough and the distributor had rotated on its own. I spun it back where it belonged and cranked down on the loose nut. Because there was still some vibration at highway speeds, I swapped another wheel from Heidi onto the right rear of Ringo. Also, when I installed the replacement muffler, it was touching the heat shield. I decided to bend the shield back so there was no contact. Finally, there’s still water coming the corner of the backlight, so I ran silicone across the entire inside bottom joint of the weatherstrip-to-body joint. While the vibration was less during this morning’s commute, there was still water inside the backlight after last night’s rains. I’ll be getting out the soapy water and air blower again. I’m to the point where I’ll have to start applying the black silicone to the outside of the window.

Finally, I was able to complete a task and strike it from Glinda's To-Do list. I rebuilt the wiper switch and now it works swimmingly. I forced back the swagings, cleaned and lubricated the contacts, put the assembly back together, and swaged it snug. After installation, a quick test proved the success.