Overheating, Take Two

I have a friend that likes to suffer, so in order to expedite his suffering he owns two BMW’s.  One of the BMW’s was $700.  Do you have any idea how many problems you’ll have with a $700 German ultimate driving machine?  Lots.  Anyway, this friend has another friend who he has somehow suckered into fixing this $700 BMW.  It started with a clutch (nothing like starting small).  The car developed an intermittent starting problem and somehow friend two got suckered into fixing that.  I wanted to meet the man rumored to have a cool shop and foolish enough to fix that horrible money pit not once but twice.

I dug out the FireTurd and headed towards the address given to me.  I was just tooling along–the smokeshow was scheduled for later that evening after I checked out this shop and made fun of this poor fool.  The temps climbed up to an indicated 245* (220* on the ECU).  I wheeled the car around and headed for the shed.  In my haste to get back to safety without having to put the car on the hotrod shop flatbed I pulled out in front of someone.  I gave it a bit of gas and to my surprise the temps dropped right before my very eyes.  Like–you could watch it dropping, it was noticeable.  It went down to an indicated 190* in seconds.  I decided the thermostat was stuck shut and now it had popped open.  I pulled a u-turn again–the smokeshow was back on schedule.

Except it wasn’t, the temps crept right back up to an indicated 240*.  I did notice that rolling on the gas dropped the temps and coasting increased the temps.  This behavior seemed to be the exact opposite of what should be happening–although it matched the behavior of a car with low coolant.  Before pulling it into my garage I laid newspaper out on my floor so I could see where my coolant leak was.  I pulled the car in on top of the newspaper and popped the hood, expecting to see steam everywhere.  There was nothing.  No drips, no steam, nothing.  My overflow tank was almost overflowing as it was when I filled it the first time.  Odd.  But it must be leaking coolant somewhere–I was always adding coolant every time I drove the car.  And if it’s leaking coolant somewhere then it can’t build pressure, right?  Right.

So I grabbed a welding glove and a rag and slowly cracked the pressure cap on the surge tank.  Immediately I can hear what I incorrectly assumed was water surging out through the overflow pipe and burbling up through the overflow tank.  I’d never opened a hot radiator cap before (it’s always a bad idea kids, don’t try this at home) so when it started making noise I immediately clamped it shut.  I evaluated what happened, realized I didn’t boil the skin off my hand or otherwise almost die, so I gently cracked the cap again and let the pressure spurt out through the overflow tank.  I’m intently watching the overflow tank and listening carefully to the sound of the pressure going through the line.  I’m extra careful because the sound suddenly changed–what did this mean?  Why was it different?  I was still pondering those things when my leg caught on fire.

My leg turned out to not be on fire but to actually be wet.  Hot water was spraying from a nick on the overflow hose.  I used a piece of leftover fuel line as overflow and nicked it with the right angle grinder when I was prepping to weld the hood latch supports on the car.  Fuel line is super thick so I knew I hadn’t cut through or anything.  Except I had cut through, and so for the last 300 miles or so driving the car I’d push water into the overflow tank when I got hot but when it cooled off it would suck air through the nicked hose.  Mystery solved.  I cut the nicked part of the hose off, reconnected everything and topped it off.  I ran the car up to temp and let it cool and noticed that for the first time ever the overflow tank went down.  Mystery solved and on to the next one.

And if anyone was wondering about the guy with cool shop who is easily suckered into fixing money pits?  He was all of that and more–an awesome standalone shop with two post lift, eating area, wet bar, giant wood stove, 1928 Dodge project in the corner, and more swear words and racy jokes than you can shake a stick at.  I think I’m in love.

The FireTurd is a show car now

I spotted a small-ish car show in my town.  It was a comfortable evening and they had food trucks there–a perfect mix.  I went home, invited my wife, and got the FireTurd ready.  The “getting ready” in this case was 45 seconds of dusting with one of the car dusters and then I threw two lawn chairs in the back.  Ready.

We hung a right into the event and coasted down a driveway lined with people.  We had no takers.  And being honest with myself, I’d only notice a car like that because it was so crappy looking.  It doesn’t sound particularly mean (turbo cams don’t have much overlap).  It looks terrible.  The Rustoleum isn’t a very hard paint, it shows scratches from where I was leaning over fenders and into trunks.  There are wires hanging down under the dashboard.  And speaking of dashboard, that’s the only interior piece in the whole car other than the uncomfortable Chinese race seats.  We parked and piled out of the car.  One of the organizers dropped off a bag of stuff for us.  I popped the hood and we started looking out over the food trucks.  Before we selected a food truck delicacy two guys walked up and started asking me about the engine.  I went over the basics quick because I’m a fat guy and food was just minutes away.  They took off and we grabbed a bite.

We decided to drag our lawn chairs down to the shaded entry driveway to eat.  I walked up to the car to get them.  There were another two guys there with their heads jammed down under the hood.  I snagged the chairs and was making for the shade when one of them asked what brand turbos I was using.  Eventually my wife got tired of standing at the entry driveway waiting for me so she came up and flagged me down.  I excused myself and we headed for the shade.

We ate and watched cars pulling in.  One of my kids dropped me a line and asked where I was–I offered him food if showed so he said he was on his way.  My wife and I headed up to the FireTurd to wait for him.

As I’m crossing the parking lot I see five guys circling the front of the car, three of them buried under the hood.  One of them is tracing wiring and another is following the oil lines.  Twenty questions later and they’re on their way.  Another group or two comes by, questions are asked, Chinese turbos are laughed at, etc.  Finally my son and my daughter’s boyfriend show up.  My wife isn’t a big car person so she opted to relax in the lawn chair while me and the two boys strolled around to look at the other cars.  I made it through one row of cars before my phone started ringing.

“Greg,” she said, “There are people here asking me questions that I don’t know how to answer.”

“Just make stuff up, that’s what I do.”

“Greg, these people really want to know about this car.”

I headed back up to the car.  The number one question is “How much horsepower?”  The computer simulation says about 550 on 12lbs of boost.  “What’s it run in the quarter mile?”  It should run 10’s all day long.  “Did you build it?”  Yeah, these are all my terrible ideas.  “Does it smoke the tires?”  Does a bear shit in the woods?  Did you not notice the huge chunks of rubber slathered over both rear quarters?  Nearly everybody walked away with “I’m going to do that to my (fill in crappy old car name here).”

Long story short, I was “that guy”.  I’ve been taking a 1928 Chrysler all Mopar street rod to shows for about five years now.  I get maybe one person per show commenting on the car.  I was never “that guy” that had a crowd around my car.  I never had people taking a real interest in my car.  But on this night, at this show, I was The Man, complete with proper capitalization.  I was proud beyond proud.  I called the honest guy at work and bragged.  I called my Dad and bragged.  I bragged up at the local hotrod shop.

Let’s be honest though, not everyone was impressed.  The guys with money weren’t interested.  “Do it original” type guys walked on by.  I had all the rednecks, all the poor people, the DIY types.  I had them in spades.  I was parked next to a gorgeous ’59 Pontiac ragtop.  Fabulous restoration.  Must have had $60K plus in it.  The guy sat there alone.  Next to him sat my $7300 burnout machine and a crowd.  On the other side of my car was a slammed Miata, wheels cambered like crazy and laying on the asphalt on air bags.  The kids were coming to look at it and then were walking over to stare at the twin turbos.

It felt great.  And it’s official–the FireTurd is a show car now.

This car is Hot! But not in a good way, it’s overheating

I have a 26″ x 15″ Griffin aluminum dual pass radiator in the car.  At least half of the radiator is blocked by the big two-into-one intercooler.  I have a pair of Chinese 8″ fans zip-tied through the radiator.  It’s not enough.  If it’s under 70*F ambient I’m okay, but anything above that sends the temperatures rising.  I have two sending units installed.  The original two-wire GM sending unit is in the factory location at the front of the left head.  The other sending unit is a Chinese one wire sending unit at the rear of the right head.  It’s a 1/8NPT thread so it doesn’t actually fit in the LS1 style heads (862 castings).  I used an adapter so the sending unit is sticking out from the head a bit.  The ECU reading from the two-wire GM sensor reads about 195* while driving down the road and will climb to 210-215* when sitting in traffic with the fans on.  The gauge reads 20-30* higher–I’m not sure if the sending unit’s Chinesium is impacting it or if there is that much of a temperature differential from the front of the heads to the back of the heads.

I believe I already detailed the need to run an actual LS1 style thermostat despite the existence of an adapter to run an SBC thermostat.  If you want to go bask in that knowledge, go ahead, I’ll wait.  Out of my choices between a 180* and a 200* thermostat, I chose a 180*.  Out on the road, once everything gets good and heat-soaked I can’t get the temp below 195* at the ECU.

The proper fix is to cut apart the whole front support and figure out how to get the next size up radiator to fit (31×15) or perhaps go to a 26×19 radiator.  I happen to have a 26×19 radiator sitting in my garage.  It’s the first radiator I bought for the car but ended up ripping out because it stuck too far out the bottom of the front end.  Nobody comes to this blog to read about proper fixes though, so hike up your britches and let’s get on with this jury-rig.

In order to keep the car driveable I opted to slap in some additional cooling surface area in the form of a 9×9 motorcycle style radiator hooked up to the heater circuit of the waterpump.  I stuffed it up inside the front bumper with a poorly fabricated bracket made out of pieces of 1″ flat steel.  I ran one hose down from my surge tank (yanked from a C4 Corvette).  The other hose I ran to the previously capped outlet heater port of the waterpump.

It was with bated breath that I fired up the car and ran it around.  For some reason, despite all rational thought pointing to this being a failure, I had high hopes.  I was wrong.  The temperature remained the same.

I think maybe this winter I’ll tear the front end apart and go for the bigger radiator.  Or maybe I’ll just lay up some fiberglass and shroud the radiator and fans.  That should make for a good blog post–nasty chemicals combined with bad ideas and a smattering of hope.  Any good ideas feel free to let me know.


More Distractions

I bought a bunch of junk cars for my loved ones.  What better way to show your children that you care then buying them vehicles that don’t run?  For my youngest son I bought a 2005 Colorado with a fried electrical system and for my daughter I bought a 2006 VW Beetle Convertible with ruined transmission (but Dad it’s like sooooo cute).

The Colorado turned out to be the deal of the century–a junkyard ECU and a bunch of trial and error programming and voila–a running driving quad cab 4wd pickup for a total of $1200.  ABS remains a problem but I have a plan for that.

The Beetle is another story.  The 09G transmission used in those models is known for valve body problems.  I bought a Trans-Go rebuild kit off of my good friend eBay, strapped up my big boy pants, and went in.

My father is the wisest man I know (wisest?  or most wise?  See, he’d know the correct answer to that, that’s how wise he is).  He restored antique cars my whole life.  Lately he’s been doing everything himself except paint and transmissions.  “Son”, he’d say, “Your mother wants you to eat your vegetables.  Oh yes, also never tear into a transmission.”  Words to live by.

Dear Dad–you were right.  Transmissions are scary places that designed by sadists who are into small valves, springs that all look alike, tiny check balls, sticking round thingamabobs, and fear.  All of these items are carefully designed to appear to be installed firmly and then fall out when you are not paying attention.  Aisin Warner, the designer and manufacturer of the VW 09G transmission valve body must be haven for these sick and twisted individuals.  Mission accomplished, gentlemen.

Props to Trans-Go because their directions were exceptional.  They document the length and wire gauge of every spring, show detailed photographs of every check ball, stack-ups of every valve, and even notes on which side of the separator plate to hold to minimize the amount of parts falling down and rolling under your toolbox.  Thank you so much Trans-Go.  With their directions I rebuilt all eight solenoids on the valve body, cleaned every valve, drilled the separator plates, and replaced a valve as per the directions.  I got the valve body reinstalled with a minimum of fuss.

The transmission sadists weren’t quite done with me yet though.  The New Beetle has a ‘lifetime fill’ in their transmissions.  As such, there is no need to provide a dipstick or even a method to fill the transmission.  I had to wait a few days for a special tool to arrive from Amazon to be able to fill the transmission.  It screws in to the drain plug.  Yes, you fill the transmission by screwing a tube into the drain plug and then have to pump fluid into the bottom of the pan.  After you get two quarts in it starts to leak out, so you have to fire the car up and let it pull the fluid into the trans, then get pumping again to get the additional four quarts in.

The sadists will be happy to know that after clearing the codes on the car it immediately set a check engine light for a transmission sensor.  Adversity had struck so it was time to quit for a week.

During the week I did a bit of Googling and located the sensor in question.  It exists above the valve body but plugs in below the valve body.  I distinctly remembered unplugging a wire to reroute and couldn’t remember plugging it back in again.  I decided to hope really, really hard that it was just that wire and that I did’t need to pull the valve body back off again.

Fast forward a week, I drain the pan, drop the pan, and sure enough the wire is not fully seated in the connector.  I had planned on reusing the fluid but it was already brown, presumably from mixing with whatever 130K mile fluid was left elsewhere in the trans.  Feeling confident, I ponied up another $80 for fully synthetic Castrol Transmax (acceptable for use in Aisin Warner transmissions as used by Volkswagen).

After refilling the trans (I pressed my daughter’s boyfriend into helping pump the six quarts of fluid into the drain hole) we hopped in for a drive around the parking lot.  Everything seemed smashing.  We ran down the road and filled up with gas.  We buzzed down to visit my daughter at work.  As we were buzzing back to the shop, the car hopped out of 3rd gear again (which was it’s problem in the first place).  I slowed down and eased up through the gears a second time and was able to repeat the problem.  It only flares in 3rd and 4th gears, only when warm, and only if you are babying the car.  If you are 3/4 throttle and above it shifts into those gears properly.  I suspect not enough line pressure so maybe the pump?  I suspect it, but am too pissed off at the car to care.  Dejected, I parked the car.

For sale–creampuff 2006 VW Beetle Cabriolet, 130K miles, shifts like a dream when cold, just don’t let it warm up.  Make me an offer.

It’s all paying off now

Some of the more fiscally responsible may question pouring thousands of dollars into a completely impractical vehicle.  Well, naysayers, the fine proprietors of ICT Billet are sending me a T-shirt free of charge.  That’s right ladies and gents–free as in no dinero, no dollareenies, eff are ee ee free.  That shirt probably has a value in teens or even twenties of dollars.

Free T-shirt aside, when it comes to LS swap parts and fittings, ICT Billet are your guys.  I just searched eBay for ICT_Billet and the part name.  I’m using their motor swap plates, valve cover spacers, and a billion or so AN and other fittings.  They are priced right, they ship fast, and the parts arrive quick.  I can’t recommend them enough, even if they didn’t give me a T-shirt.

Anyway, it’s good to see it all paying off.  I’ll remind my wife when I’m selling this car and buying some other hopeless basket case.

What can I work on in the air conditioning

There comes a time when you need to invest in what’s important.  A time when it’s too dang hot to work in the garage.  It was hard to find something really weighty, something that would be impactful to the whole project but that could be done from my air conditioned living room.  And then, like a baseball getting larger, it struck me.

I already have a catchy racecar name, the Fireturd.  But now I need a logo.  Luckily the internet has a little bit of everything including lots of places that will design a logo for you.  I found one that was having a sale–logodesigncafe.com.  For $39.95 they give you an account rep, two designers, six concepts, and unlimited revisions.  Sold.

I hit the online chat and a friendly rep answered all my questions.  It soon came time to describe my, uh, business, as well as my thoughts for a logo.  I began describing the logo as I envisioned it.  The rep suggested that perhaps I could communicate this idea better with a phone call.  We connected over the phone and I hit him with it.  “My idea for a logo, my friend, is a poop emoji, on fire, with two turbos jammed into its head.”  Silence.

“Sir, you want a poop emoji?”

“Yes.  But on fire.  And with turbos.”

“And what is your business again?”

“Well it’s less of a business and more of a logo I want to stick on my racecar.”

“So you sell auto parts?”

“Nope.  I fix computers.  This whole car thing is just a hobby.”

More silence, a couple of throat clears.  This poor guy is doing damndest to be a super professional logo designer person.  He’s being very polite, using all kinds of business buzzwords, and I’m talking about a drawing of poop.  The guy was a crackerjack, I really felt bad for him.  He probably had dreams of landing some big business instead of drawing turds.  Anyway, the guy put together some great concept art.  I went through a couple revisions and this is what we’re at now.  Look for it or something close sticking to the side of the car in the near future.

Enjoy the logo as it stands now.



Distractions, Distractions

It was about this time that the leaking front forks on the Z-Rex (Kawasaki ZRX1100) really took a turn for the worse.  Ok, maybe not a turn for the worse as much as gross negligence over a year or more let things get to the point where the front brake pads got oiled down to the point it was like rubbing a pair of wood blocks on the rotors.  Time for a change.

Seasoned readers will guess that I turned to eBay for a rebuild kit.  For those that don’t want to get bogged down by the details, the story has a happy ending but it took a while to get there.

You’d have thought that I would have carefully checked the pieces in the kit before beginning the project.  Who has time for that malarkey, amirite?  Surprise, surprise, the kit is not a direct replacement.  Or maybe it is and the forks on the bike currently are not the correct ones (I bought a salvage title bike–it was cheap).  I started with the left fork–it was the leakiest–and disassembled carefully, only shooting one or two springs across the garage.  Anyone deciding to take on the job themselves be warned that the gagging stench of old fork oil surpasses the wretch inducing odor of old gear oil.

I reassembled with the new bronze bushings, reused the old washers and spacers, and installed the new fork seals.  Then cussed, swore, and generally behaved badly for the next hour or so trying to get the retaining clip in above the fork seal.  I eventually hit myself in the head with the fork and decided a higher power was instructing me to go in and drink a rum and Coke.

The following day went slightly better when I disassembled and studied the parts and noticed how much taller the replacement seal was when compared to the original seal.  I tried various stackups of the seal and the washers until I landed on one that was as close to the original as I could get with the parts I had.  I reassembled and got the c-clip installed, and then I noticed both bronze bushings laying on my workbench.  Time for another drink.

Day three culminated with the successful completion of both forks.  The second fork went off without a hitch as well it should considering the three times I disassembled its partner.  Forks were reinstalled and the bike was ridden.  The left and leakiest fork appeared to have a bit of oil seeping above the dust seal but I believed as hard as I could that it was leftover from assembly.  When I rode the bike to work the next day it was proved that, in fact, the fork was still leaking.

I did what comes naturally when facing adversity.  I parked the bike and worked on something else.

While perusing the internet one day I figured I’d read up on what I did wrong with the leaky fork.  The internet provided as it always does.  I cut up a milk jug and pressed a pointy shard down between the seal and the fork and worked it around the fork tube.  The idea is that dirt gets lodged in the seal and the thin plastic pushes it out.  It appears to have done the trick and the leak hasn’t returned.  See–I told you it has a happy ending.  Wheelies for everyone, huzzah!

Methanol tank bracket and boy is it hot today


I started fabricating a methanol tank bracket.  I haven’t found any place in the trunk that I’m super happy about.  I ended up deciding to mount on the drivers side of the trunk parallel with the trunk opening.  I think it will be ok although the pump will have to suck through two feet of hose.  Time will tell and will determine whether I am revisiting this in the near future.  You’ll notice that the pictures don’t show my welds.  This is by design–my welds are ugly.  I do pound on them with a hammer when I’m done to make sure they are going to hold and (most of the time) they hold up.

I ran the car to my parent’s house today for another show and tell.  It is miserable to drive–heat is coming from everywhere.  I’m getting heat off the road through my uninsulated floor and I’m getting roasted through the firewall.  For now I’m going to suffer, perhaps someday I’ll add the current cheap equivalent to Dynamat.

Speaking of heat, the car runs hot.  I rejiggered the radiator support and am running a second aluminum radiator already (I do a lot of things twice) but it is not enough cooling.  Engine temperature hovered around 220F when sitting at traffic lights.  Once underway the temps dropped to 195F or so.  I’ll keep you posted.

A bit of interior work

And when I say “A bit”, I really mean it.  Just the tiniest bit.  The honest guy at work with the ’61 Falcon mentioned he was going to work on and improve the shifter on his car.  I wanted to beat him to having a completed shifter.  So I dug out the box that the shifter came in and grabbed all the accouterments that went with my B&M Pro Ratchet shifter, like the case, the red indicators, the stickers, etc.  I slapped it all together and sent him the photos.  He was unimpressed.

More Problems, Solutions, Lifts, and People are Funny

At the end of May, when I got my oil pressure problem squared away, I thought that was the last of the “new build problems” I’d be dealing with.  This was an incorrect assumption.

On the shakedown cruise I noticed a bit of oil sprayed around the passenger’s side of the engine bay.  I vigorously ignored it.  The next time I had the car out, the bit of oil spray appeared bigger, but maybe I just didn’t remember how large it was.  Then I had the car out doing some pulls, and that’s when I smelled it–the unmistakable smell of oil burning off something hot.  I shut the car off and checked under the hood and saw the smoke coming off the of the right header.  I saw the oil spray on the bottom of the hood and the front of the firewall.  Not a-frickin-gain.  I cleaned off the header with a rag and babied the car home.  No more oil burning as long as I stayed out of the boost.  Ugh.  I parked the car and went inside to mope.

After supper I was feeling refreshed enough to at least start Googling for what might be wrong with the car.  I went to the place in our home where you can get the most privacy and solitude–that’s right, the shitter.  I Google for LS1 spraying oil.  Every hit describes people spraying oil out the dipstick tube.  And that’s when the proverbial light went on over my head.  There wasn’t anyone around to yell “Eureka” at, but if there were they’d have gotten it.  I didn’t have oil spraying out my dipstick tube simply because I had forgotten to put the dipstick tube back in the block.  It was still laying off to the side where I had kicked it when it was in my way.  And when reinstalling all the parts, I installed what was laying on my workbench, not what was laying in the dark corner next to the welder.  After a purposeful and thorough wipe I was out to the garage, grabbed up the pickup tube and jammed it into the block.  Victory.

I mention lifts because I have a lift.  It’s a QuickJack and I’m in love with it.  Keep in mind, this is definitely not a big in-floor lift like at the service center.  You won’t be walking under it and it is often in the way, but for a home garage like mine it’s great.  It’s light enough I can pick it up and put it out of the way when I’m not using it.  It’s open in the middle, unlike a lot of the other mid-rise lifts out there aimed at home users.  And it’s affordable-ish, depending on what affordable is for you.  I paid around $1200 for it.  You can find them here https://www.quickjack.com/.  I highly recommend them.   I think I can speak for Dad when I say he recommends them as well.

As for the funny people comment, my son and I had run to the hardware store in the trusty and totally reliable Fireturd.  I parked it and strolled on in.  When we came back out to the car, there was some lady taking pictures of it.  “Smokey and the Bandit, right?” she asked while snapping more pictures.  It’s funny because I drove my Corvette a lot of places in the six years I owned it.  It was a great looking car.  I had beautiful aftermarket chrome five spoke wheels, it was lowered almost two inches, great interior, I spent a ton of time polishing the glossy black paint.  And nobody gave it the time of day.  Yet here sits this crappy flat black painted Firebird with no interior and it gets noticed everywhere I take it.  The Corvette was spotless and the Fireturd literally has rust holes through it, but the Fireturd takes the cake when it comes to attention.  Huh.