Friday, March 6, 2015


Everything but the same old cars

Archive for the ‘Project Buckets’ Category

Tool of the Week: Digital Scale

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On April - 19 - 2010

digital-scaleFrom the turbocharged G54B-4G54 Astron engine department of Tool of the Week comes the digital scale, shown here in the process of measuring more Astron connecting rods than we have engine blocks to put them in. As yet another Mitsubishi engine buildup is in the near future, a small investment in an inexpensive digital scale seemed a good way to figure out was going on with two sets of connecting rods. One set of rods appeared to have been worked and balanced, and was also bushed for floating piston pins that held on a set of beat forged pistons. The other set of rods was stock except for being resized in preparation for a rebuild. Both sets of rods were fitted with ARP rod bolts. The digital scale was used to get a general idea of mass, and produced surprisingly repeatable results despite its low price. Actual connecting balancing requires a fixture that measures the mass at one end or the other, and is either made or sold separately. What the digital scale revealed was that the worked and bushed set of rods were all within one gram of each other, scaling in at around 805 grams each. Bonus! The factory connecting rods were as far as 18 grams apart, with the heaviest one scaling in at 843 grams. Quick math made for a 128 gram total weight difference between the two sets of rods. For under 20 bucks, the digital scale helped determine which set of connecting rods to haul into the machine shop, along with a crankshaft and yet another engine block.

No recalls for 1982 Toyota Starlet!

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On March - 4 - 2010

no_starlet_recallIt might need a few new valve springs. The input shaft bearing in the transmission is whining a little. There’s a wobble or two here or there. One of the camshaft lobes may be in trouble. Clunks? Plenty. We’re really hoping the clutch cable doesn’t finally give out either. The good news is that even with 230-plus thousand miles on the original 4K-C engine – there are no recalls for the 1982 Toyota Starlet! We drove the Starlet down to Toyota Santa Monica in hopes for a new old stock replacement shift knob or some other eighties-era Toyota gem, but were told that the Starlet was free of any recalls by virtue of age and durability. A quick search over at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database confirmed that the Starlet was recall free. There is no entry whatsoever for the 1982 Toyota Starlet. Not to worry. We can personally assure the NHTSA that the Starlet is mostly trouble-free, and that the 50 or so horsepower from the mighty 1300cc peanut grinder engine under the hood presents no possibility of unintended acceleration.

Bring the Amber Lamps!

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On March - 1 - 2010

amber_lampsFrom the internet meme department of repairs comes this quick and E-Z tech tip for those looking to find the amber lamps. In this case the two stock amber inboard headlamps for a 1969 Citroen iD sedan proved not only near-impossible to locate, but à prix élevé for the purposes of drivable restification. The inexpensive solution comes in a can for under ten bucks. One can of Krylon Stained Glass Color spray paint in yellow can convert standard sets of clear lens fog lights or headlamps into the amber lamps in a few minutes. The task of prying the lamps or fog lights out of whatever mounts they are fused or screwed into will of course vary by vehicle. Consult your service manual or favorite forum for guidance in removal without breakage. Once the lamps are out and ready for paint, make sure the lamp surface is clean and free of grease or crud. The spray-on finish is translucent and designed for use on glass. Apply the paint in thin, even coats. Better two thin coats than one heavy one to avoid light blocking drips and puddling. Additional thin coats will bring a deeper yellow-amber to the lens. Our Citroën driving man in the field provided these photos of his own amber lamp spray paint conversion. He reports unimpaired luminosity and no breakdown in finish after nearly a year of extensive all-weather testing and actual use. With a couple hours and about ten bucks you too can bring the amber lamps.

Thanks to the SoCal Citroen Club and Andy Takakjian for the photos and tech tip.

Economy Seat Covers

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On January - 28 - 2010

replace_seat_cover_leadThe dry climate and salt free roads of California are kind to older cars like the Starlet. The same warm California sun has detrimental effects on vinyl interiors. Throw in twenty plus years of sitting and sunbathing, and it’s a good bet that even the rich Corinthian leather in those 1981 Cordoba seats has seen better days. Drivers seats take the biggest beating. While the foam inside the Starlet seats is still mostly there, the stylish light and dark brown vinyl piping is clearly toasted. In the time between now and when our vintage Mitsubishi ECU collection is worth enough money to trade for a trip to a real upholstery shop for the madras seat cloth conversion, investing 14 bucks into a pair of seat covers was a thrifty solution to tattered bucket seats. Sliding economy replacement covers over crusty old seats takes just few minutes and is a usually tools free process. Read the rest of this entry »

Replace Oxygen Sensor

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On August - 4 - 2009

o2_sensor_leadJoining Space Invaders, the personal computer, and perhaps Sputnik in the pantheon of modern technological achievements is the oxygen sensor. Most every modern fuel injected automobile has one or more of these sentinels threaded into its exhaust pipe. Elements inside the oxygen sensor tip measure the amount of oxygen gas in the exhaust, and convert the ratio into a signal that makes sense to the engine computer. The computer uses this signal, along with input from other sensors, to feed the right amount of fuel into the air entering the engine. If all parts are working correctly the fuel, air, and spark balancing act succeeds in ideal combustion! If the oxygen sensor goes haywire, the engine computer can add too much or not enough fuel. Poor fuel economy, lousy emissions, or both can be the result of a spent or malfunctioning oxygen sensor. The good news is an oxygen, or O2 sensor is about as easy to remove and replace as a spark plug.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tool of the Week: Engine Code Reader

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On July - 10 - 2009

engine_codeWelcome to the one if by land, two if by sea 50-in-1 electronic playground edition of the Tool of the Week. This time around we’re peering into computerized technology. The 1987 Mitsubishi Starion is a fuel injected car, but by no means modern. The transitional period between carburated and electronically injected engines produced some interesting if not cantankerous systems. The two-injector throttle body injection on the Starion falls into the island of misfit toys category, but the car is equipped with fully transistorized Electronic Control Unit. Any ECU made after 1995 can be accessed with a readily available universal engine code reader to help sort out check engine lights. The only people that had a Mitsubishi code reader back in 1987 were Mitsubishi (and Chrysler) dealerships. These machines were a few steps ahead of ENIAC, and about as expensive. Proving that you can learn and save money on the internets is the forum post that provided the knowledge to solder together this simple engine code reader from a two-dollar 12V LED and thirty-cent alligator clips from the local Radio Shack. Just find the pin outs and count the blinks.

More: Checking ECU Engine Codes on StarQuestClub

Clean Battery Posts and Terminals

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On July - 4 - 2009

battery_leadDespite promises of atomic power and limitless propulsion, the lead-acid battery under the hoods of most automobiles is not very futuristic. Cleverly named maintenance-free batteries are updated versions of the same basic lead-acid automotive battery design that first kicked over a production Cadillac in 1912. Even maintenance-free batteries require occasional wrenching. Regular battery inspection and maintenance can make the difference between a five-year battery lasting five years, and one that gives up before its time. Inspecting the battery terminals and posts for corrosion is easy. Fluffy white crud means it’s time for a battery clean up. Read the rest of this entry »

Oil and Filter Change

Posted by Mike Bumbeck On June - 26 - 2009

oil_changeChanging the oil and filter on a regular basis is the single best way to keep an engine running as long and best as possible. A thin film of oil molecules is the only thing that keeps gnashing engine internals from turning into an expensive heap of scrap metal by way of friction and heat. Another function of engine oil is to keep those same engine parts clean. Dropping out the oil and swapping in a new oil filter takes but about an hour, and can mark the beginning of a do-it-yourself tradition of maintaining your engine and wrenching on your ride.

Why Change the Oil?

Even though engines run cleaner and more efficiently than ever before, some of the by-products of combustion end up as junk in the oil. A certain amount of metal will also float into the oil as the engine normally wears. Engine oil and oil filters can only suspend and contain so much crud and combustion by-products, before the balance of lubrication shifts away from trouble free motoring and towards engine wear. Changing the oil and filter gets rid of the crud. The engine stays cleaner and lasts longer.

E-Z Step-by-Step How-to Change Oil and Filter

When to Change the Oil

The best advice to follow as far as engine oil and filter changes comes from the folks that built your car. Every 3000-5000 miles or three months is conventional thinking. Stop-and-go city driving can qualify as “severe duty” when it comes to maintenance schedules, and require more frequent changes. Spending 20 bucks on an oil and filter change every few months is still less costly than a new engine – even over the course of multiple oil changes. Always prevent oil spills by containment. Drain containers and drip pans are also cheap, making it easy to recycle the used oil and properly dispose of the filter.

Useful Things:

  • Drive-on ramps or a jack and jack stands
  • The biggest drip pan that fits under the engine
  • A container or oil drain pan to catch and store used oil
  • A wrench for the drain plug
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Recommended oil and oil filter
  • Disposable gloves
  • Shop rags, and lots of them
  • A new drain plug gasket

Tool of the Week: Fiat SST

Posted by Mike Bumbeck
Sep-3-2010 I 1 COMMENT

Replace Window Regulator

Posted by Mike Bumbeck
Aug-28-2010 I 1 COMMENT

Five Tips for DIY Automobile Repair

Posted by Mike Bumbeck
Jul-21-2010 I 8 COMMENTS