Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Can It Get Any Worse?

Well, of course it can, but right now things seem pretty dismal. While Ringo is back on the road and appears to be behaving, I still have two misbehaving vehicles – Glinda and the truck. The fuel issue with Glinda has been a real pain. After last night, I feel I’ve narrowed it down to the fuel pump. Yeah, yeah, I should’ve started there, but the frugal engineer I am was intent upon to misinterpret the symptoms and fix everything else but the real root of the problem. The truck has recently developed a horrible noise that I need the dealership to diagnose. Anyway, back to the specifics of the fleet work.

This weekend I spent part of Saturday afternoon in the garage stripping the bottom seat upholstery I’m trying to reuse off Ringo’s old driver’s seat. To do that I first needed to separate the bottom from the back which, fortunately, wasn’t too difficult. I then brought up my sewing machine from the basement and replaced a piece of rotten cloth on the seat cover. After putting some Gorilla glue over a cracking seam, I set the cover aside while I stripped the upholstery off the replacement seat bottom. Sunday afternoon I was back in the garage hog-ring pliers in hand putting black seat cover on new (to me) seat bottom frame. After bolting the seat into Ringo, I called Ariel and told her to come get her car.

Yesterday I pulled Glinda’s right front wheel up a ramp so as much gas as possible would shift away from the bottom access hole. After disconnecting the hose, I drained about three gallons out before the stream stopped allowing me to remove the fuel pickup assembly, and replace the sock that filters the gas going into the fuel line. The only problem was the sock I was sure I had was nowhere to be found. Irr. Knowing I had an inline filter farther down the line, I reinstalled the assembly without a sock. This morning I confidently sat behind the wheel and entered the beltway getting up to speed with no problem. Sadly, that confidence was dashed against the rocks a mile later when the motor quickly ran out of oomph and I barely made it to the next offramp. I nursed it home only having the engine die three times before I was able to back her down the driveway. I swapped key rings and drove the truck to work (with all its untoward noises). Tonight I replace the fuel pump.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ringo’s Almost Ready for Ariel

Yesterday evening I spent a couple hours fiddling with Ringo reducing the items on the to-do list to one. I started by thoroughly cleaning the portion of the Powerglide shifter cable between the transmission mount and the tunnel before wrapping it with Rescue Tape. This will, hopefully, prevent him from marking his spot with ATF. Then, I installed the two lower shrouds with their thermostats so the salon of the car will get warm air during these cool months. This is always a fun job where a third hand would really come in handy (pun intended). As it is, I usually emply a knee or my chin to hold something in place while I try to insert the thermostat rod’s end fitting into its home on the shroud door. It’s best to use my chin, since it forces me to keep my mouth shut and, thus, all the swearing I do is silent hence I shift the focus of the worklight. Next, I verified the backup lights worked – they did. This was followed by a check of the heater blower – it did NOT work. It took some probing to determine power wasn’t getting from the fuse block to the switch. A few plug-in/plug-out cycles and all was good-to-go (corrosion is not my friend). Finally, I retightened the steering box screw by about 45 degrees resulting in no more play in the steering wheel.

While I didn’t drive him Tuesday (and I’ve reported what a mistake that was), I have been using him during my daily commutes and he’s performed flawlessly (TYL). The finaly item on the to-do list installing the replacement driver’s seat. I’m putting off starting this until tomorrow night so I can do the swap in one fell swoop to minimize his time off the road just pull the current one out, skin it of its upholstery, skin the replacement, and put the vinly on the replacement before reinstalling with swapped hardware.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Starvation is Bad

Yesterday Glinda crapped out again - twice. First time I was going uphill on I-695 beltway and she started losing power. I nursed her to the next exit and, after sitting for a few minutes, turned around and headed home on surface streets. I got back on the highway and then tried to get it to die again by flooring it up the next incline. Sure enough, the engine started losing it again. I kept my foot all the way down to make it die completely and then pulled over, hopped out, popped the engine lid, loosened the air cleaner enough to verify there were no jets of fuel in the left carburetor’s venturi when I blipped the throttle. The gas tank was on 1/8th full, so I think the low fuel level combined with going uphill and high speed is the issue. I'm going to clean out the tank before I take her out on the road again.

Monday, October 21, 2013

New Parts are Oh So Nice

The above photo tells it all. Ringo is NOT up on jackstands in our driveway anymore, nor is his engine dripping 30 weight all over the pavement. Yesterday, I successfully completed replacing his #2 piston and cylinder.

The reassembly actually started Friday night when I carefully installed the oil and compression rings before cautiously tapping the assembly, bound by my ring compressor, into the well-oiled cylinder. I then took that over to the engine, guided the open rod end with its lubricated bearing half onto the crankshaft while inserting the cylinder into the bore of the engine block. Next, the cap with the other bearing half slathered with grease went on followed by the two nuts which were torqued down per the manual’s specification. With rain predicted, I wanted to get the crankcase cover reinstalled to protect the bottom end from moisture, so I went to my stash of gaskets, selected the best one available, placed it between the freshly cleaned surfaces and installed all the bolts again torquing to manual values. The fan assembly then bolted to its bearing that sits on top of the crankcase cover. The finally activity for the night was removing the oil pan, cleaning it thoroughly removing any crumbs (and there were a few), and reinstalling.

Saturday morning I got most of the shrouding installed before it was time to knock off and attend Mikhaila’s cheerleading completion.

Yesterday, I made it out to the driveway around 1:30 and had Ringo on the ground and running two and a half hours later. In that time I: removed Luna’s alternator and put on Ringo’s engine in place of his which had excessive axial movement; swapped the small plastic choke tripper from one of Luna’s carburetors (I’d broken it during disassembly); hooked up all the wires, hoses, and gas lines; remembered to tighten the front transmission mount nuts; attached the rest of the shrouding; replaced the oil filter; and filled the crankcase with Shell Rotella 30 weight. Before connecting the coil wire, I cranked the engine until the TEMP/PRESS light went off. That ensured oil would immediately flow once the engine started plus it served to refill the carburetor bowls. I did a dance in my head when, after reconnecting the coil wire, one more turn of the key rewarded me with a smooth running powerplant. While one of the lifters was clacking, I wasn’t surprised since the engine had sat for so long, and, sure enough, the clack went away within fifteen minutes. I made many checks under the engine as I occasionally blipped the throttle. Happily, nothing was dripping. TYL!

This morning, he started right up and provided me with a trouble-free commute to work, as well as nice run to the mall at lunch. Sadly, there are still a few less significant issues that need addressing - and I plan to do so before returning Ringo to Ariel. First, the transmission shifter cable still leaks. I have tried the heatshrink tubing fix and it didn’t work. I’ve also tried the cut fuel line with silicone and hose clamps and it didn’t work. Today I ordered a roll of Rescue Tape, and, hopefully, the proper prep and installation of this magical stuff will stop the drips. Second, the dashlights do not work. I’ll fix that this evening by bypassing the dimmer rheostat on the headlight switch. That means a pull of the knob should result in maximum dash illumination. Third, I really want to pull the driver’s seat out and swap the upholstery onto the new, firmer seat I got a few weeks back, and then install that into place. Fourth, I need to install the lower shrouds with thermostats since Fall has come to Baltimore at last. Finally, it’s been a while since the backup lights worked, and that should be an easy fix I can also affect tonight.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Little About Ringo and A Lot About Glinda

The Ringo update is quick and easy. The new cylinder, piston, and wrist pin arrived yesterday from Clarks, and wow are they pretty. I took the piston and pin along with Ringo’s old piston/rod assembly to a machine shop this morning to have them install the new piston on the old rod. It was finished by lunch, so I ran over and picked it up. Thirty dollars well spent.

Now on to the recently troublesome Glinda. As I described in Monday’s posting, Ariel was stranded once and inconvenienced a few more times by Glinda’s “chugging” followed by the engine dying while Ariel was driving her on the beltway. My thought all the time had been this had been caused by too much pinging due to the low-octane gas she’d put in the tank. Well, Ariel did come by that evening and took Glinda for her next day commute on the beltway. I didn’t hear anything from her that morning, so I assumed all was well, but as I was putting my first fork-full of a delicious dinner into my mouth, the phone rang. It was Ariel, and Glinda had done the exact same thing, and now they were sitting on the side of the beltway. I asked her if she thought she could make it to a gas station to fill the tank with premium, and she told me she’d try. I replied that if she got Glinda here, she could take my truck until I got Ringo back on the road. About twenty minutes later, Ariel walked in the door, we traded keys, and she continued on her way home.

I made the next morning’s commute with caution and trepidation, not exceeding 60 mph, and Glinda showed no signs of bad behavior. The same was true of the drive at lunch and the drive home. Thinking everything was okay again due to the 93-octane in her tank, I slept the sleep of a car-woe-less man that night.

My automotive contentedness was short-lived, however, as I traveled down the interstate the next morning. During a 70 mph cruise up a slight incline, all of a sudden, and without any warning, Glinda began to quickly lose power. I pressed down farther on the gas pedal, but Glinda’s deceleration continued until the engine died. It was as if she’d just run out of gas even though I knew she still had over three-quarters of a tank. I sat on the side of the road for a couple minutes typing and sending a text to the lovely Loriann telling her of my current situation. With a turn of the key, her engine went into a higher-than-normal idle, but it would respond to blips on the throttle. I put the shifter in Drive and eased away from stop staying on the shoulder and out of traffic until we were going at least 50. She seemed a little down on power, but we made it the last mile to my parking spot. That afternoon, I had to go to Walter’s house to pick up the Ringo bits I’d left there last Thursday. Halfway there, while doing about 60 on an uphill, she began to die again. This time, I let up on the gas, put the flashers on, and cruised along in the slow lane at about 45 until I exited the highway. On surface streets she seemed to run fine, but when I put her in Park in Walter’s driveway, she was idling high again. Irrrr. The rest of the drive home was on surface streets and we made it without incident.

After dinner, I disconnected the fuel line from the gas tank and blew air through it. It seemed to be clog-free since bubbling was heard almost immediately at the tank. I also, pulled the carburetor fuel filters and inspected them – both were found to be clean. This morning we made the morning trip to the machine shop again without any untoward behavior. I’m going to R&R the fuel pump tonight with a brand new one to see if that solves the problem. My drive in tomorrow morning will include another 70 mph blast, so we’ll see then if the problem is solved.

Monday, October 14, 2013

It’s Been Interesting

The last few days since my last post have been, car-wise, a myriad of disappointments ended by a single moment of relief. To begin the downward spiral punctuated by an up-tick, I went home early last Wednesday and pulled some more bits off Ringo's engine until I'd freed the #2 piston/rod assembly from his crankshaft. I found, sadly, that crumbs of damaged piston ring had made their way into the #4 and #6 combustion chambers. This disconcerting discovery does not necessarily spell the death knell of the engine, but does mean I get to do some more thorough cleaning before I button everything back up. To end the evening, I filled a milk crate with a half-dozen cylinders from my stash (an even mix of '64 and '66 vintages), the aforementioned piston/rod, and two others stamped with "2" from my stash (one from Heidi's original '64 engine and the other from CorsaVert's 140 powerplant). This, and an engine block half to be used as fixture while honing, were placed in the bed of my truck before I called it a night. The next evening I left my desk and followed a buddy from work to his garage where we intended to play matchmaker with the milk crate's contents. It was our intention to measure cylinder bores and piston diameters and create a set that met Chevy's specified clearances of .022-.031 inch at the top land and .0011-.0017 at the skirt. Soon after Walter began measuring parts, I had the "duh" moment when it occurred to me that half the cylinders I'd brought (the '64 ones) would not feasibly work in Ringo's current LM engine. Engine-wise 1964 was an odd year for the Corvair. While Chevy increased the stroke to increase displacement, and thus horsepower and torque, of the flat-six, they kept diameters the same.  Then, in 1965, they bumped up the diameter at the cylinder-to-head interface. While a smaller '64 cylinder would fit inside the larger head of Ringo's transplanted '66 engine, there were head gasket unknowns I didn't want to delve into. With that decided, I removed the three older cylinders from the matchmaking exercise. With the reduced number of players, it didn't Walter and I long to determine that even the largest piston placed into the smallest cylinder would result in a skirt clearance that significantly exceeded spec. And this gap would get worse still once he honed the cylinder's bore as would be required. The next morning I placed a call to Clark's Corvair parts and ordered a new LM cylinder and piston adding over $100 to Ringo's dent in our finances. Speaking of spending, Corvair Ranch's proprietor, Jeff, was able to dig up a couple loose GNP compression rings and is mailing them to me to replace the two broken ones. This saved me quite a bit since I didn't have to buy a full set (the way they're sold by the 'vair parts vendors).

The next afternoon (Friday), I drove down to NC to spend a short weekend with daughter, Brianna, son-in-law, Nicholas, and bro-in-law and sis-in-law. We all went to the NASCAR race Saturday night which was AWESOME! However, Corvair-wise, that day started on a bad note when I got a phone call from Ariel informing me that, while going round the beltway, Glinda was "chugging" and then lost power. The two rested on the side of the road for a few minutes, before Ariel was able to Glinda re-started and continued the rest of the way to work. A few hours later, a text from her informed me that she'd mistakenly put in regular gas. I quickly replied that this screw-up was putting Glinda's engine in grave danger, and she needed to get the bottle of octane booster off my garage shelf and empty its contents into the fuel tank as soon as she could make it home. Well, she never made it home, and I got "the call" from her that Glinda's engine had again died after chugging. This time, after waiting to let things cool down, it wouldn't stay running. She ended up being about 2 miles short of making it home, so the lovely Loriann had to go and bring her (Ariel) home. That bit of news put an immediate damper on my day, but, fortunately, the stock-car race started soon after and my mind was soon off my Corvair woes.

Yesterday, after my LONG drive back from Charlotte, I donned grungies, tossed the tow stuff into the truck, and went to rescue Glinda from the side of the road. An hour later I had her unhitched in front of the house ready for me to see if her engine would start, and if so, what kind of untoward sounds would emanate from her assumed damaged engine. Well, to my relief, the engine started right up settling into a typical idle – no nasty noises, no chugging. TYL!!!! After verifying each cylinder was contributing to the engine's output, I took her for a quick spin around the neighborhood. Finding nothing amiss, I poured the octane booster into the gas tank and then called Ariel to tell her she could cancel her rental car reservation.

All's well that ends well? Well, I do have to get Ringo back on the road, and for that I need to wait for tomorrow's scheduled parts delivery.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Busted Rings

Friday evening I ventured out to the driveway and set about determining the extent of Ringo’s malady. I started by pulling all the spark plugs inspecting the tips and not finding too much burnt oil. Next, I tested the compression of each cylinder starting with the right side (1, 3, and 5). Each measurement was in the 125 to 140 psi range – good numbers. I found number 2 to be the offending cylinder when a few rotations of the engine only got the needle of the tester up to 25 psi while attached to that spark plug hole. The last two, fortunately, were back up in the 130s. That ended my garage time for the day.

The next morning I woke up early, grabbed the keys to Glinda and drove up to Hunt Valley for the weekly Coffee and Cars get together. I was not disappointed as the highlight vehicles (to me) included a BRAND NEW 2014 Corvette (stunning), a right-hand drive Ford GT40 (smaller and lower than expected), a couple Alfas, a very nice NSX, an early-70s Westphalia (VW bus), and a ’68 Firebird with the overhead cam (OHC) Sprint 6 engine that I’d love to put in my LeMans someday. While wandering amongst the awesomeness, I was approached by a guy I’d met the last time I’d attended. He reminded me his name was Chuck, and then proceeded to tell me that, after our last conversation, he went out and bought himself a ’64 Spyder convertible. I congratulated him on his purchase and invited him to become involved in our local club. He replied by inviting the club to hold a meeting at his “shop.” His “shop” is a shared facility in a industrial park with a lift, a bunch of secure indoor and outdoor storage areas, and a meeting room complete with a HDTV. He went on to describe how the tenants of this shop have invited other clubs to come and, typically, they start early on a Saturday with donuts, have a demonstration such as splatter painting a trunk or installing weatherstripping, and follow that up with pizza for lunch. He left me with his business card, and I’ve already been in touch with him via e-mail about scheduling a January meeting. The lovely Loriann, after I related the story to her, recommended getting an upholsterer to come in and demonstrate installing a convertible top using Luna as the subject. Wouldn’t that be cool? More to follow.

Once back home, I returned to Ringo. It only took a couple of hours to tear down his engine far enough to remove the number two 2 cylinder exposing two broken compression rings. Close inspection of the piston showed it to be undamaged (TYL). Also, close inspection of the broken rings indicates very little, if any, of the ring material is missing.

Given that, I’m at a bit of a crossroads right now regarding how far I go to get Ringo back on the road. Since the damage seems isolated to the cylinder and rings, I could, as a minimum find a GUP cylinder from my stash with a bore that best matches the current piston, have it honed, and then install it with a pair of new rings; or, as a maximum, pull the oil pan, crankcase cover, and oil pump, clean everything, buy a new, matched piston and cylinder and reinstall all with new rings, gaskets, etc. I think I’ll go somewhere in between. I’ve already talked with my buddy from work who’s honed and measured parts for me before, and he’s willing to take an evening after work and do the same thing again. I’ve also called Jeff at the Corvair Ranch and asked him if he happens to have a single pair of compression rings saving me the expense of buying a complete set. I’m thankful for good friends.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

One of the Those Days

In a 24 hour period, the following has happened. Ringo became undriveable on the outer loop of the Baltimore beltway, Glinda failed an alignment check due to excessive play in the left front wheel bearing, the lovely Loriann was handed a $3200 estimate from a local mechanic to replace failed and failing items causing creaking and clunking in the front end of her PT Cruiser.

Around 1:30 yesterday, I got the call that I dread – the one that starts with, “Daddy, Ringo died and we’re sitting on the side of the road….” I had been warned by an early-morning text telling me he had been chugging during her twenty-mile morning drive. My hope was the issue would clear up. It didn’t. I left work, drove home, changed into grungies, loaded the tow-bar stuff, and drove to his location. In the meantime, Victoria had been nice and gave Ariel a ride to her next destination. Upon my arrival, I took a quick look under the engine lid – a lot of fluid in the right carburetor region.  Hmm; stuck needle-and-seat perhaps? I should be so lucky. I got him hooked up to the truck and we were parked back in front of our house by 3.

Loriann pulled up minutes later with a new grease gun and a cartridge of synthetic grease so I could finish lubricating the joints. The hand pumper seemed to do the job with a few strokes at each zerk fitting resulting in a small bit of grease peeking out of each rubber boot. Since Ariel was going to get to drive Glinda while I dealt with Ringo, I decided to keep the proven stock wheel and tire set on the car. Once off the jackstands, I took her for a spin around the neighborhood. No untoward twitching, no nasty noises – all must be good.

This morning the lovely Loriann drove Glinda to a 10 o’clock appointment at the local Goodyear shop. I had verified the appointment earlier and also verified there would be no charge. At 11:15, they finally drive Glinda onto the alignment rack. Ten minutes later, the technician backs her off the rack and announces the check can’t be made since the left front wheel is not tight. Hence the aforementioned loose bearing. Sadly, all it would have taken to tighten was a couple minutes for the guy to pull off the dust cover, remove the cotter pin, turn the nut, and replace the pin and cover. Irrrr. Now I get to take it back some other morning. I was VERY careful to mark the locations of the camber bolts, so I think everything is pretty darn close to where it needs to be anyway, but a free check is a free check.

Back to Ringo. With Glinda out of the driveway, I fired up Ringo’s engine and backed him to the entrance of the garage.  Yes, it was definitely chuggy, and worse still, it wasn’t gas around the right carb, it was oil. Additionally, there were signs of oil around the dipstick. These point to an excessive blow-by condition caused by piston rings failing to do their job. The chugging is probably is probably a few spark plugs that are too clogged with burnt oil to do their job. A compression check on all cylinders is the first step in diagnosing what’s causing the blow-by. Sadly, it was this same condition that prompted me to put in a rebuild in the first place. The problem, I’ll bet, is that I tried to re-use pistons and cylinders. Improper honing or too much clearance resulted in rings that never seated.

While the PT Cruiser isn’t part of the fleet, all the work I get to do on it will take me away from my ‘vair-time. I priced the parts and they came to about $600. I also went through the manual and none of the work looks like it’s beyond my skill level or will require expensive tools I don’t have. The question of the day is, “Where will I do the work?” TwoTone is Group Red (see sidebar) in the garage without front wheels, so rolling him out is problematic. Also, as long as Ringo’s out of commission, the family is one car short if I also take the PT Cruiser down for a few days.

Yep, it’s been one of those days.