Sunday, August 13, 2017

It's Been Awhile



It has been awhile. Actually,  it's been so long I had trouble remembering how to log into this stupid thing. 

No excuse really, but I just kind of fell off the wagon, and stopped writing. I work a lot, have a GF that monopolizes (kidding, put the knife down) some of my time and spend the remainder out in the garage, so this was real easy to put by the wayside.  It's also kind of labor intensive, since writing doesn't really come naturally to me. 

Which is strange, because I LOVE to read and you'd figure that love of reading would help on the other end with writing. 

Nope.  Not really. 

My GF can hammer out a blog post, like it's nothing with pictures, diagrams and unicorn rainbow GIFs all up in that bitch.  You can check it out HERE .  She's pretty good at it.

Me?  Mr. "Two Finger Typist?"  Yeah, right. See you in two hours.

Enough about that, let's try to get back into it with what's been going on with the garage and the cars.

 So, What Gives?

The reason why I even thought about this thing, was that I started reading a blog a guy had started on a DSM site detailing his efforts to fix/modify/repair/exorcise a 1991 Eagle Talon TSi/AWD.  You should check it out, HERE .

 It kind of reminded me, "Hey Stupid.  Don't you have one of these too?"  

So yeah, I'm back for however long that lasts.


There have been a few changes since my last post.  One car left, and others have made their way into the garage.  Actually that's one of the changes...I had to get another garage, so I'm now leasing two garages from the complex.

I honestly don't know if that's a good thing, recognizing the need for more space or indicative of a future long term issue.

The Lineup

99 Miata- Sold it in February.  Kind of kicking myself for doing so, because I got kind of lucky with that car, minor issues notwithstanding. 

I liked this car, A LOT

But I didn't love it. 

 So, I had an opportunity to pick up something that I did love (hate, whatever), and unfortunately that meant, the Miata had to go.

I sometimes find myself perusing Craigslist looking for a cheap NA or NB to pick up, but need to stop torturing myself and wait until I get into a house with more room, for more projects.

93 Eagle Talon TSi/AWD- The replacement for the Miata as "Jackstand Queen" and "Permanent Garage Occupant."

Picked it up from a buddy of mine back in Texas, and I'll do another post about what led to the decision to get it and how it got up here.

 It's like a roomful of Baby Daddies on the set of the Springer show.  Plenty of material to mine here.

2001 VW Beetle 1.8l Turbo-  Picked this up as a Valentine's Day gift for the GF.  Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to be too interested in getting it tagged...insured, or even in driving it.  Which really bums me out, because it's really a cool little car.  There's material a plenty here as well.  It took some time and effort to get it road worthy.

2005 VW Golf TDI-  Yeah, The Helmet has been giving me issues as well.  Spent way too much time under the hood of this thing as well.

So, that's where it stands right now.  4 cars, two garages and one cranky guy. 

Let's see what the future holds, eh?

Alpha, Mike, Foxtrot.....

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The TDI Gets A Little Love....

"The Helmet" Gets A Little Polish....

(Wait.  That sounds ALL sorts of wrong.)

I really don't give my VW enough love.

It's got a pretty rough gig, dragging me to work and back at least 5 days a week, with a total trip that sometimes goes over 100 miles.  I do take care of it, because I have to.  It's what I rely on to get me to and from work.  So if something goes wrong, I tend to spend money to get it fixed.

A month ago, I realized I had put over 50K miles on it since I had gotten it, and hadn't thought to check or find out what the service interval on the automatic transmission was.  A quick text to the previous owner, and a consultation with the owner's manual had the car in the dealership two days later to get the tranny serviced.

The dealership noticed that my tires, were pretty much worn down (Surprise!), so they needed to be replaced.  Two days later, the Helmet was riding on new rubber (That Didn't Sound Good Either..).

Your Point?

My point is, while I take care of the car, I don't do a lot of things to make it look or handle better, and I definitely don't do anything to make it faster.  I figured, it was time to show it some love, so I hiyt up Craigslist to look for something to try and address one of those three things.

Craigslist Crawling

I hit up Craigslist and started searching for something to put on the car.  Suspension, exhaust, exterior stuff...oh wait, I know what it needs.  New Wheels!  Entering "5x100" soon yielded a promising ad, that showed a set of wheels that should fit the Golf, perfectly.

Old School

A guy up in the Kansas City Area (Again? Really?)  had a set of Borbet Type C wheels for sale in the right bolt pattern and a inch wider than the factory rims on the Golf.  At about $200 for the set, it was a steal.  After confirming with the seller that the centerbore and offset would work, I set up an appointment on Saturday to drive up and meet him.

From a little research I found out the Type C was a fairly popular wheel with European vehicles, and it was also no longer in production.  Judging by the size (15x7), centerbore (72.5mm) and offset (+35mm), I think these wheels were originally intended for a BMW of some type.  No problem, that's why they make hubcentric rings.

Here's what they look like:

Thank You Google Images
Met up with the guy, picked up the wheels and headed back home.  Got the wheels unloaded and found one had a slight bend on the inboard side.  No problem had a local shop straighten it for a small fee.

Here's a shot of an older Golf with the Type C's installed:

It'll Be Fine..

Why Aren't They On The Car?

Because it's cold outside, and I want to put more performance oriented tires on this set of wheels and save the stockers, for winter use.  Which it is now.  Unfortunately.

Also, along with the new wheels and tires, I figure a slight suspension drop is in order as well.

 Can't have new wheels with stock ride height, right?

It'll Happen.

Alpha, Mike, Foxtrot...

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Looking For Surfboards...In Texas

Ow....That's Gonna Smart

 I installed a Blackbird Fabworx Single Diagonal Rollbar in the car a few months back to get the car ready for track days and also as a added safety feature on the street.  

One thing I noticed about this roll bar was that it comes really close to my head, with the NB1 seat in a comfortable driving position.  I now see why the Hard Dog Single Diagonal roll bar has the diagonal brace offset slightly,  to allow the driver some extra head room.

I don't regret buying the Blackbird bar, but I think that for a mostly street driven car, the Hard Dog might have been a better choice. 

I have the bar padded with SFI approved padding, but the thought of hitting the bar with my oversized noggin, just wasn't that appealing to me.  Unfortunately this is a real possibility with the shorter NB1 seats. Since I primarily plan to drive the car on the street, I wasn't really interested in installing a set of aftermarket seats at this time.

So, I hit up Car-Part and started searching for a set of NB2 "Surfboard"seats.


The factory seats used in the 2001-2005 Miata/MX-5 cars, had a much taller seatback and headrest than the earlier seats.  They look kind of like a surfboard, so that's the name that stuck for them.    It's a popular upgrade for earlier model NB1 cars (like mine) and NA Miatas as well.  I've been keeping my eye out for a set locally, but haven't had much luck.  I thought using might net me a set locally, or at the very least, in Kansas City.

Foiled Again!

Surprise, surprise.  There's not a very big supply of used Miata parts in this area.  A search in the Kansas/Missouri/Arkansas area didn't show a lot of promise, unlike my search for the same parts in Texas. Plenty of hits there.  Go figure.  I figured it was a good excuse to go see my folks and snag some seats for the car.

Road Trip!

Mazda Heaven....Indeed

Stopped by Nissan-Mazda Heaven in Ft. Worth, TX to check out what they had, before I headed further south to my parent's place.

If you need ANYTHING Miata related in the TX/OK/KS area, this is the place to go to. They ship as well, so I have a feeling I'll be talking to these folks again.

   Found a set of blue cloth NB2 seats in "decent" shape. Definitely pricier than what I was used to paying for seats from a junkyard, but I needed them and they had them, so..yeah capitalism and stuff.  I also picked up a 2001+ Header and a spare gauge cluster for a possible future project.

"The Doorknob", Earning Its Keep

Time To Make The Chimichangas...

Got them home after spending the weekend with my folks and tore them down to properly clean the seat covers, and the foam.

Bought a plastic storage tub and filled it with water and some liquid upholstery cleaner from a spot carpet cleaner. Washed the covers by hand (gently) and then hung them to dry.

I'm glad I washed them, because the water was pretty filthy after I was done.

Wiped the seat foam down with some Clorox Spray Cleaner with bleach, and painted the seat pans with POR15.The pans got a little rusty while in the junk yard.   Rattle canned the pans with some semi gloss black to cover the POR15.

Battleship Grey

Did a slight "foamectomy" to both seat bottoms, before reassembling everything.

"Slight" Foamectomy

Seat Backs Reassembled

Reinstalled everything. From the first picture, you can see the difference in height between the NB1 and NB2 seats.

See What I Mean About The Rollbar?

Blue And Tan?  Yeah...No.

I went ahead and drove the car to work a few weeks ago and after spending some time in the new seats, I had to make a few adjustments.

Removed a section of rollbar padding directly behind the Driver's Side seat. It interfered with reclining the seat enough for it to be comfortable.

Reinstalled the foam section I cut out for the "foamectomy" on the Driver's Side. The angle that I was sitting at with the foam cut out, just wasn't that comfortable on long drives. I might take it back out and cut some more foam out to try and get it perfect, but I think I'll see how I like it for right now.

Need to order some aftermarket upholstery to change out the blue cloth for tan leather. I thought I wouldn't mind it that much.

 I was wrong.

I think the NB1 seats were a bit more comfortable than the NB2 seats, but I can't question the fact that the NB2 seats offer a lot more protection with the rollbar installed.  So, until I make a final decision about the "Surfboards", I'm going to hold onto the NB1 seats for awhile longer.

Who knows?  I may grow to like them.

Alpha, Mike, Foxtrot...

Track Weekend Bro!

Seemed Like A Good Idea... 

Took the Miata out to my first ever driving even on the weekend of the 15th and 16th of October.

Driver's Edge was holding an event at Motorsport Ranch in Cresson, TX and I took my all season tired, stock 170K suspension having butt out there to see what the car could do.

My plan was to drive the car down, beat it on the track and then drive home. No sweat, right?

I didn't go completely unprepared....I put new rotors and Green Stuff pads on all around. So I had that going for me.

See? That's me being prepared.

Seriously though, I went over the car as best I could.  Checked fluids, looked the car over on the underside, checked the suspension, made sure wheels were torqued, along with the brakes.

Heading Out..

This was going to be my first real road trip in the car, since I had gotten it, so just a bit nervous.

 I drove from Wichita KS, pretty much straight through to Plano, TX to meet a friend at the Mercedes dealership he worked at. We bullshitted a bit, and he threw a quickie alignment on the car for me, and then we headed out to Cresson, to check into the hotel for the night.

It's Too Early For This...

Got to the track as early as we could and staked out a spot for us and another friend who was driving his new M3. Once we got settled in to our spot, got checked in, attended my first driver's class and got the car ready for the day.

Nice Numbering Job, Eh?

Getting it "ready" consisted of slapping some numbers on it, emptying the trunk, adjusting the seat, doing a last minute fluids check and yanking the floor mats out.  Before too long, the call over the loud speakers came for the Green Group, and I was off to my first session with my instructor.

How Was It?

I had a blast! Definitely more intense than I was expecting At first I was very hesitant with the car, and definitely a bit stressed.  Lots of traffic out there, and a lot of information to process.  The track was set up for a full 3.1 mile course, so it was kind of a beating for my first ever track day. I got passed (a lot), but I enjoyed pushing the car once I relaxed a bit. Also the instruction I got from my instructor and the classroom sessions went a long way as well.

High Resolution Yo

Little Car, Big Track

Next Time...

I wanted to take the car out there mostly stock to see what it felt like before I started modding it with suspension parts, and different wheels and tires.

This is one tough little car.  I beat the dog snot out of the car, and it handled everything like a champ. Had a few close calls, but I didn't stuff it in the dirt.

Made the 6 hour drive back to Wichita on Sunday, without a real hitch, besides the one in my back.

Now, I really want to get some suspension and new wheels and tires for this thing.

Oh and improve the "loose nut" behind the wheel as well.

Alpha, Mike, Foxtrot....

The Turtle Gets Stripped

Just A Little Work...

  One thing that bothered me about the car when I got it was the condition of the front and rear bumpers.

The front was pitted and looked to have been repainted a few times, along with a small puncture mark on the driver's side.

The rear bumper wasn't that great either, with evidence of a few resprays and some cracked paint, showing down to the primer.

So, while the car was down for the rollbar install, I went ahead and pulled the bumpers, and hood off to give to the guy who had painted my hardtop for me. The plan was to have everything painted and reinstalled before the track day in October.

Needless to say, the car looked a little funny:

Kind Of "Mad Maxish".

The Turtle And The Helmet

 Dropped everything off and waited a few weeks for him to get done. He said that the bumpers had definitely been repainted a few times, but he managed to strip them down completely. Charged me a little more than he quoted, but was happy with the job for the most part.

Except For This..

For some reason, he decided that the metal support plate in the front bumper, needed some Mica loving, so I ended up drilling the pop rivets out and spraying the whole thing with semi gloss black.  Nothing too terrible, just annoying.

He Even Painted The Rubber Seal For The Hood!

I Hate Gold...

Since the emblems had to come off, and I wasn't a fan of them being anodized gold, I shot them with some of the Shadow Cast paint for chrome, and painted them semi gloss black as well.

Put everything back together and it was looking a lot better.

Track Day Ready!

 Now I just need to do something about that dent in the driver's side rear quarter panel.

Alpha, Mike, Foxtrot....

Friday, November 25, 2016

VW Alternator Antics

It's Been Awhile..

Haven't updated this thing in a while.  I have no real excuse other than the CW started airing their Superhero shows again, and I get home late sometimes. 

Hmm.  Stay up late banging out a blog post or park my big ass on the couch and catch up with what Supergirl, The Flash, The Green Arrow and the Legends of Tomorrow crew are up to?

Let's just say that my couch has a rather nice, Muttski shaped dent in it now.  What can I say?  I'm a sucker for a blonde in a red skirt and a cape, flying around and dispensing justice.  And don't get me started on the White Canary.

Nevertheless, this doesn't mean things haven't been going on in the old garage, it just means I've been too lazy to document it.

So, since I have some downtime due to the Thanksgiving Holiday, I guess some posts are in order.

You Have Failed me For The Last Time....

Usually, I write about the Miata, because I'm always qworking on it.  However this time it was my old faithful and reliable daily driver that decided to act up. Yes, "The Helmet", my stalwart, diesel powered steed, has decided it needed some attention.

Did It Always Make This Noise?

 So, there I was driving the Helmet around town to run some errands.  Pulled into a parking spot and noticed it made this horrible, growling noise whenever I turned the wheel.  It was loud enough that people passing by were giving me the "What a hoopty" look.

This would not do.

Well, What's Wrong Now?

Determined to fix whatever was wrong with the car, and get rid of the God awful noise, I started troubleshooting.

In the parking lot.  Of a Target.  On a Saturday Night.

Do I know how to party, or what? 

I turned the wheel a few more times, and was able to repeat the noise, but noticed that it went away whenever I gave it a bit more throttle.  It struck me as weird that the noise was affected by RPM.  I popped the hood and checked the power steering fluid level, and noted that it was VERY low.  Well there's my problem!!  Right?  Just top that sucker off and it's back to noise free high MPG shenanigans.

Thanks VW

The power steering fluid used in most MkIV VW products, is something that's not available in the automotive section of your typical Wal-Mart or Target.  After some hurried research on my phone in the parking lot, I found out from several online forums, that in no uncertain terms  to NOT use off the shelf stuff, and instead use a dealer approved fluid.

Great, would totally do that...if a dealership was open at 8pm on a Saturday. 

Feeling defeated, I got the car home and started looking around in the garage and found a box of extras that were included with the car when I bought it.
 Found a container of power steering fluid in my box of junk and topped off the reservoir.  I figured, problem solved.

I was wrong.

I cycled the steering from lock to lock to try and bleed the system, for about 10 minutes and only succeeded in making more noise, pissing off my neighbors and thoroughly disgusting myself for not having noticed the power steering fluid was low.

At this point I figured either the power steering pump or rack had nuked itself, and I was going to have to spend some money to replace both components.  I resolved to just drive the car and live with the cringe inducing noises it made, until I could replace the parts or it blew up. 

Noisy Cricket

I drove it for about a week, with the noise haunting me in every parking lot, or low speed turn.  The "hooptification" of my vehicle continued unabated, and I wasn't happy about it.

The noise would go away, whenever the RPM's climbed past idle, and to me that didn't sound like a bad steering rack or power steering pump. Plus, there was no sign of fluid or leakage anywhere that I could see.  If it was making that much noise, there had to be some serious contamination in the pump and rack.  Surely it should have started to leak somewhere, right?

So, once again the hood was popped with the engine running.  I wanted to see if I could spot any leaks, with the rack under pressure.  I didn't see any leaks, but I did see something else that was unusual.

Twerk, Twerk, Twerk..

With the engine running at idle, the spring loaded tensioner for the serpentine belt was rocking back and forth so hard, I thought it was going to fly off and whack me in the head.  I know that tensioners are expected to move slightly during operation, but this one looked like a cracked out hula dancer.

Once again, I searched on the forums and researched what could possibly cause the tensioner to act like that.  A post on TDIClub (The "Go To" Forum For VW TDI Owners) stated that not only was the tensioner not supposed to do that, but the cause of the tensioner shaking, could also account for the horrible hoopty inducing sounds my car was making.

Thanks Volkswagen...Again

According to some forum members, the tensioner issue and the noises, were possibly due to a bad pulley on the alternator.  The alternator used a one way clutch incorporated into the pulley, for some dumbassed reason.  If it seizes up, then the serpentine belt would load up under tension at low speeds, causing a noise somewhat akin to a power steering setup, shitting itself.

I blocked the armature of the alternator with a screwdriver, and loosened the belt.  Sure enough, the pulley was locked up.

Fortunately, the pulley was replaceable in the car.

Unfortunately, it required a special tool set to replace it, along with a new pulley.
Off to ID Parts to order what I needed. A new pulley, and a tool kit to remove and install the pulley in the car. 
 Check out Metal Nerd for all your specialty and oddball  tools and bits for VW's and other cars.

This Is What I Needed: Metal Nerd MN3400 Alternator Bit Set

Adapt, Improvise....Hit It With A Hammer

After a few days, everything showed up and I was ready to tackle this thing and "Make My VW Great Again."  

Loosened the serpentine belt again, with a 17mm Open End Wrench and a tensioner lock tool to hold the tensioner in place.  Moved the belt out of the way.

Consulted the directions on the Metal Nerd Tool Kit and got a breaker bar with a 12mm socket to hold the center bit in place and  used the 17mm wrench to turn the bit on the alternator pulley.  Held the breaker bar in place, while turning the wrench in a loosening (counter clockwise) direction and.....

*STRIP!!!* (DAMN IT!!)

  The splines inside the alternator shaft, were either already stripped out, or the tool stripped them out when I applied my God Like torque to the wrench .  Either way, it was hosed and the alternator was going to have to come out.


The alternator is pretty easy to remove. 2 13mm bolts hold it in place.  There is a electrical plug on the rear of the alternator, with a ring terminal held on by a 14mm nut with a lock washer.  There's also a clamp to hold the wiring in place, but it can be removed after the alternator bolts are removed to allow access to the 7mm nut holding the clamp in place.

With the alternator out, it was time to get "froggy" with the pulley.  Using the splined Metal Nerd bit and a 17mm socket, a electric impact gun was used to remove the old pulley.  The new pulley was threaded on along with a few tightening taps from the impact gun. A couple of "Ugga Uggas" if you want to get technical about it.

I Think That's Got It..

Reassembled everything, and I'm happy to report the tensioner doesn't shake anymore and the steering rack is quiet once again.

I've learned a few things from all this.

1.  Don't always assume the worst.  -  I was all ready to buy a new steering rack and a power steering pump, when the problem turned out to be a $39.95 (plus shipping) bearing, plus a $29.95 (plus shipping)  specialty tool kit. A little more troubleshooting and a clearer head, saved me some money and aggravation.

2.  VW Engineers Need A Kick In The Ass-  Seriously?  A special bit set to pull off a freaking pulley?  Was a bolt and lock washer too mainstream for you guys?

3.  I've Got Nothing-  I'm just glad the stupid thing isn't making the noise anymore.

And, I think the door sensor switch on the Driver;'s Side Front door is going out now.


Alpha, Mike, Foxtrot....


Monday, September 26, 2016

Intake Addendum

Well, I Already Have It..

As I mentioned before, I got a "custom" crossover tube with my Racing Beat Intake for my 99 Miata.

I remember taking a look at it when I got it, and a cursory examination revealed it SHOULD work on my car, albeit with some slight modifications.


Why Do This?

The piping used is of a larger diameter than the OEM Plastic Crossover Tube.

Maybe it could act like a Poor Man's ARC Plenum Chamber?  Possibly?   Just Way Cheaper?

Pricey Japanese Parts

Ahhh.....Probably not. 

 I seriously doubt this particular piece will do anything power wise.

It'll probably look very nice, and possibly strand me on the side of the road one night because that's what "custom parts" do.

Screw it.  Let's put it on the car.  I'm tired of tripping over it in the garage.

What Are We Working With Here?

The pipe wasn't really anything special.  Just 2 pieces of polished 3 in diameter piping, with 90 degree bends at each end.  The two pieces were welded together in the center, with beaded edges welded onto the ends of the piping that went into the Throttle Body and MAF Inlet.  There was also a  aluminum nipple welded into the O.D. of the piping for the breather line from the valve cover.

I'm no welder, but the welds didn't look to be done very well.  Better than anything I could do, but not very good in general. Along with the welds, I was also concerned about welding spatter or debris from the installation of the nipple in the pipe.

There were a couple of nice quality 2.75 to 3.0 in silicone couplers included, but no hose clamps.

The previous owner of the intake kit said he had a buddy make the pipe up for him, but never got around to installing it.

OK, I can work with this.


 Let's Make This Work

A quick test fit showed that the overall length of the piping, was a bit too long to fit properly.

Since it was too long, and I wanted to inspect and clean up any possible internal debris that I couldn't view easily, I decided to cut the piping in half.  The cut was made pretty much right in the middle, with a cutoff wheel in a die grinder at first, then finished with a electric jigsaw.

  Knowing that the pipe would have to be cut, I had already ordered a Black 3 in Hump Coupler from Silicone Intakes , to join the two sections together.  The hump coupling would also offer some flexibility in the piping to accommodate engine movement while driving.

I carefully ground down the edges of the cut pieces to allow the pieces to fit between the TB and MAF properly.  This also allowed the hump coupler to fit easier, with the welds on the OD of the piping to act as beaded edges for the coupler and clamps.  The edges were filed to remove any flash, or debris and sanded smooth.

As I suspected, there was some potential debris present from drilling and welding the aluminum nipple in place.  I knocked off the loose metal and welding slag, and hit the area with a file and sandpaper to try and clean it up.

Ran a clean rag through both pieces of piping to clean the ID of the piping of may debris. 

Needs More Hose Clamps
Installed hose clamps on the coupler ends, and tightened everything down.  Hooked up the breather line and started the car.  No issues, appeared to be working well and even seems to clear the hood when closed.


Was It Worth It?

Probably not.  It just looks a lot better than the stock plastic tube, and it probably has no performance benefit whatsoever.  I was just tired of looking at it.

  Hopefully nothing comes loose and leaves me stranded on the side of the road.

I probably should start carrying tools when I drive this car from now on.

Alpha, Mike, Foxtrot...