Sunday, December 30, 2018

Why I am I still writing about this? An additional (and final) wrap up of my smog test saga.

photo source:ozone park
Behind the eight ball, that's where I've put myself!

I went down to the Smog Hut and asked the technician about my resetting the CEL He told me some bad news, That the computer was now in reset mode and the car would immediately fail the test. He said that I would need to drive at least one hundred miles to reset the computer.

That might be a bit of a problem, the front end of the XJ6 is kind of wonky, It's not like I want to pile the miles on. I especially don't want to drive it on the freeway in the condition that it's in.

I went to seek advice from another Star smog provider. Actually a former provider, his certification to perform that test was pulled by the State, he claims that it was because he wasn't failing enough cars.  I really couldn't say if that was true or not.  Either way he told me that one hundred miles was on the long side and that it should reset at around forty miles. He explained that the procedure was to wait for the CEL, scan codes, perform necessary repairs, reset code, drive car and if the CEL stayed off, then have the smog test performed.

I could see that this might be a lengthy process. I decided to drive the car to work and sure enough just as I reached  forty miles on the trip odometer the CEL came on. The car was still running fine though.


The next day I got a call from my Daughter who told me that there was something wrong with her car, again. Actually she was pretty distraught as she said the the car was smoking badly but she  at least found a place to park it at at the curb. She was only a couple of miles from the house so I went to pick her up. A quick look under the hood confirmed that there was coolant sprayed all under the hood. I first thought that a hose must have been left loose and slipped off but no. I thought that maybe that plastic thermostat housing had cracked again, but no. I noticed that one of the coolant sensors was missing and it was obvious that all the coolant had come streaming out of the hole. Luckily the sensor was still attached to the wire so I inserted it back into the hole and tried to screw it in. It tiurned but didn't tighten. I realized that it was a push fit and retained by a clip ( just like the other sensor!) Okay, I decided to let the car stay there overnight and drive it back tomorrow after work. On the way home I stopped at Winchester Auto where I ordered the sensor clip, 7.50 for a two clip package seemed a little steep to me.

I found these offered on the Internet for 17.98, I guess that I got a good deal!

I returned with a gallon of water to top up the radiator. I drove the car home and arrived before the motor was hot enough to boil the coolant. I carefully inspected the sensor opening and didn't find any damage or cracks. I must have pushed the clip partially off when I was wiping down the top of the housing. I replaced the sensor with the new clip, cleaned everything up and drove the car for fifty miles to check for leaks. There were none. Success? Not really, my Daughter asked me where the whirring noise was coming from, she had never noticed it before. I responded that I didn't hear any noise, and I really didn't at the time, but a day or two later when using the car for errands, I did notice a sound while driving around the crowded Downtown area.

I thought that it might be from the belt and idler wheel, both were the original parts. I bought the two items for 67.00 at Winchester Auto. I replaced them in less than an hour. Was the sound gone? Hard to tell. Still, the car is running fine.

Does it ever end?


Besides dealing withe XJ6, I think that I'll take the XJS to get smogged before the deadline in the middle of December. If it passes, I'll be done with it for now. I can get started on rebuilding the suspension later, or not. If not, maybe I'll put on non op status and suspend the insurance. It wouldn't hurt to save a bit of money.

Smog Test anxiety.

I'm the one that put myself behind the eight ball.

I've got a collection of cars that are not easy or cheap to fix. Obviously I referring to my three Jaguars.

However there is no need to jump to conclusions. I just need to take it one step at  time.

My '96 Mustang passed the smog test and will be okay for the next two years.

My XJS passed it's last test without any problems and is currently insured, running and registered. My hopes were high.

The Bay Area finally got some much needed rainfall. Quite a gully washer of a storm. Once it passed and the weather reports have predicted a short break. I decided to take advantage of the dry weather and drive the XJS to the Smog Hut. I knew that the car would have plenty of time to arrive completely warmed up. This is important so that the catalytic converters are nice and hot.

I gave the keys to the tech and tried to appear as nonchalant as possible as I sat in the waiting area. Time passed slowly as I looked through the collection of several years old magazines, occasionally stealing a nervous glance at my car in the service bay. I suppose that all this angst could appear to be kind of silly in the grand scheme of things, after all it's just a car. Well that's all true, but like most of you I've got a life full of responsibilities and commitments that I have to take care of. My old cars are just a little reward that I allow myself. Yeah, they are important to me.

The good news is that the car passed with flying colors. So that worry is gone, for at least a couple of years. I had quite an interesting conversion with Hugo, the tech. He told me that the car had passed the test with wide margins and he said that it should be good to go for another six years, (three testing periods?)

I told him that I was concerned about replacing something like the four catalysts, two which are built into the exhaust manifolds. He told me that pre 1996 vehicles were allowed to replace the original catalysts with after market units, as long as the configuration and ratings were equivalent. That was good news to me. I had been concerned about the future of older catalytic converter equipped vehicles, at least in California.

An example of a Walker after market C.A.R.B. compliant catalytic converter.
Keep hope alive!

Well the future can wait. I stopped by the local AAA on the way home, paid my fees and left with those treasured registration tags in my hand. I've got plenty of work ahead of me for the next couple of years. Tonight though I will relax.


While I had a few days off I decided to see if there was anything that I could do with the XJ6, meaning simply, Can I fix it myself, or is it time to start paying someone money to fix the car?

I've been poring over all the possible OBD II threads on the Jaguar Forum trying to glean some understanding. There were some discussions about bad engine grounds causing some problems and throwing codes. There have been many threads that advised that the cars are very, I mean very, sensitive to bad and failing batteries. It seems that even a full twelve volts just isn't enough to satiate these beasts electrical systems. I've read that this is more of a problem with cars newer than model year 2002. The cars will start easily, but the low voltage throws an electrical monkey wrench into the works. It kind of makes some sense to me. I'm pretty certain that even my older car has a multi plex wiring system that runs current back and forth to various systems using the same wires. Kind of like an Interstate highway system for electrons. I guess the low voltages hinder them from merging smoothly, or passing slower traffic or causes them to conk out before they reach their exit!

My car was treated to new battery before I bought it, but I was foolish and let it die numerous times during it's down time. I should have maintained it with a battery tender (float charger) during that period, now I'm looking at a 180.00 expense for a new battery. I charged the old battery up but it only registers a little over twelve volts and drops off if the car isn't run over several days. The alternator has to run quite a bit to maintain the charge and I think that causes the idle to be higher than ideal.

First, I decided to add a new ground strap to the engine. It couldn't hurt, right? I found some unused threaded bosses on the intake manifold. I could run the 15 inch ground strap  to an existing hole on a bracket that supports the air box. I just needed to run the strap under the MAF (mass airflow) sensor. I removed the top of the air filter box first. The filter was in good shape, so that was ruled out. I was going to remove the MAF sensor housing and tubing that connects to the throttle body bellows. I looked closely at the junctions. The clamp to the bellows was loose! Even worse, it looked like it had come slightly apart and was allowing an air leak. This could throw off the system, resulting in a malfunction that might (fingers crossed) trip the CEL. The clamp on the throttle body where the bellows attached was a little loose also.

A loose gas cap or even failing to completely seat the oil dip stick can trigger a code, so this situation might be the cause of my problems.

I carefully seated the MAF sensor housing, to the throttle body tube and bellows and tightened everything securely. I used my OBD code reader and cleared all stored codes causing the CEL to go out. The last time I did that, the CEL was re-activated when I drove 40 miles. So I did. The CEL was still off.

I decided to go for a hundred miles and see what would happen, Still no CEL! Had I found the problem? I decided to replace the battery and rule that out as a factor. Maybe this wasn't a factor but I wanted to be sure that it wasn't contributing to my problem. I drove the twelve miles to the Smog Hut. Hugo hooked up his reader and told me that not all the programs were reset. The car needed to be operated at over 40 mph. and the evaporative system check required the fuel tank to be three quarters full. He suggested that I drive it for 40 miles at freeway speeds. I said that I didn't have time for that.

As I drove off I thought, why not drive down to Morgan Hill, It was still early and the traffic was not that bad, yet. I stopped and added 30.00 worth of gas, that would bring it past three quarters. I drove it down US101 at 65-70 mph. The round trip would be well over fifty miles. I had been a bit concerned about the sloppy front end but it turned out that it wasn't as bad I remembered it to be. There wasn't any wandering or darting under braking.

When I returned to the Smog Hut Hugo checked for codes and found that all the cycles testing had been completed. The car was good to go. Another nervous twenty minutes passed until I got the all clear report. Finally! On the way home I stopped by the AAA and picked up my new, very hard won registration tags.

Lessons learned?

Definitely. I've written that after my Mustang and XJS passed their tests that I was free for two more years. Yes and no. Sure, I wouldn't have to sweat the test for another couple of years. But I shouldn't have waited until the last minute for the XJ6. It had lit the CEL quite a while before the test was due. I had plenty of time to look into it. The Mustang and XJS did not display any CELs so there was no indication that there were any existing problems. Even so, it's best to run the cars through the tests a couple of months early. This way if problems develop you have time to deal with them. Operating your car with expired registration tags can be quite stressful, you are a case of "rolling probable cause." You are subject to being stopped by police at any time. Yes, I carried all my paperwork with me, report of deposit of fees, ( probably the most important document, the State wants it's money! ) smog test request form and proof of insurance. I had even taped a one day trip permit in my rear window. Even so, I ended up driving car for another month while sorting things out. And, my registration tags were expired from 2017! Even if you can avoid  being issued a ticket, the traffic stop can make you late for work. Luckily, a fellow of my advanced years driving a demure white Jaguar must fly under a cop's radar. That's one thing good about getting old!

And that wraps up the Smog saga, at least for the next two years!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Happy New Year 2019!

photo source: the web

As the last days of the year wind down it's good to review the events of the past year. Not World News, there are plenty of outlets to do that. I'm just going to look back on what's been happening in my garage and driveway.

It arrived on a roll back.
Will it depart in the same manner?

First of all, I directed lots of attention towards my Mark VII, hoping that I could get it moving under it's own power. I finally rebuilt the wheel cylinders and cleaned up the drum backing plates but it's the seized up master cylinders that have got me stumped. I sourced a set of Buick wheels with okay tires to make it mobile. The dead cat was rolled into the side yard in October. My plan is to replace the old masters with a new universal unit. More on that project as it develops. I suppose that I should get around to rebuilding and reinstalling the carbs also.

My "No Drama" Queen

Internal leaks this time.

My '96 Mustang had it's own issues with another leaking plastic intake manifold. I replaced it in April and it's been fine since. I think that I only got five or six years of service out of the replacement. Not the anticipated result. The first manifold I sourced through Late Model Restoration. The second was a cheapie from Rock Auto. Perhaps the unit sold through Ford Performance products would be of better quality.  In the fall it was time for a new battery. Six years is not that bad! It just passed the Star smog test again. But I'm beginning to worry. Mileage is approx. 210,000.

Some of us have to work for a living.

The '07 F150 needed both tires and brakes. The brakes were done by my mechanic, pads and rotors over 500.00. It also got a new set of Hankook Dynapro HT tires. Obviously I must like them, this is the second replacement set. These tires make the truck a smooth riding and good handling machine. Mileage is around mid 130,000.

Maybe there's a problem here.

Plastic just doesn't last as long as cast iron. Drip, drip.

Even the "new" 07 Mustang had it's share of issues. One of tie rods came loose after I had a new set of tires installed and alignment done. It ruined a pair of new front tires. That was fixed. under the alignment warranty. Then there were issues with the thermostat housing, I also replaced the belt and idler wheel. It still needs the steering rack replaced. I had chosen a set of Falken Azenis instead of the pricier Bridgestone Turanzas that I replaced the original Pirrellis with. I've got the same Falkens on my '96 Mustang. There a good performing, economical choice. Mileage is up to approx. 155,000.

Been there , Done that!
Hopefully I won't spend so much time under there this year.

The XJS only saw limited use, although I did drive it to work several times. One of my coworkers decide to sideswipe the rear bumper side trim. Luckily it only left an abrasion on the rubber strip. I've been hesitant to take it back to work. The big issue this Fall was the need to be Star smog tested. Lots of anxiety about that. But not to worry, It passed and it's waiting for the suspension work. Been thinking about appropriate replacement tires. It's hard to find a good performance tire in that 235 60/15 inch size. I think that I've decided to go with the Cooper Radial GT. It's a good looking tire but it only comes in the Touring speed range designation. However, I doubt that I'll be driving the XJS many times over 110 mph. Oh, and I need to replace the top. I've only added a few hundred miles since I bought it at 106,000.

La Casa del Gato Escondido
( The house of the hidden Cat!)

Just a beauty.

The XJ6 has been sitting for almost a year and a half.  Well, until a month or so ago. I've been posting about the issue with the smog test. The suspension rebuild is needed but luckily the car didn't drive as poorly as I remembered. I did start it up and run it through the gears but I didn't maintain the battery properly so, 180.00 bucks for a new battery. I started to drive the car to run it through it's testing cycles and just to get some use out of it. I have managed to put a couple of hundred miles on the car in the last month. Unfortunately the CEL came on again. Need to track down the problems. I Need to replace fuel tank sender and fuel pump, the fuel sender sticks in the empty position and that might be the problem. Mileage is in the mid 150,000's.

A handsome pair. I find that the size and
styling of the Explorer is just perfect.

The Explorer has been doing pretty good for something that is often overlooked. The problem with the door locks seems to have been resolved. I replaced the blower fan for the A/C after that broiling trip to the Gold Country this last Summer. The rain finally started in earnest this November and I decided it would be a good idea to replace the worn rear tires. A couple of cheapie no names set me back 250.00. I've started using the Explorer more than ever. Mileage is creeping very close to 260,000.

I've got a lot of cars, but unfortunately none of them has been problem or need free. What else can you realistically expect from an aging fleet? A couple of them weren't in the peak of health when I bought them. One was clinically dead. It's been a year of hands on intervention.

Oh, the house and yard and the sheds. I still have to seal and paint the second shed. Lots of work to be done on the fence and yard and around the house. Any thoughts of selling and moving out to the country are banished at least for now. I't's a good thing that I'm retired, or it none of it would ever get done. Most of it still hasn't.

So It's clear that I haven't been sitting idly on my rear, all last year.

What do I see on the horizon for next year?

Is this lifestyle even sustainable? ( life style? I'm defining a life style?)  Am I living the dream?

That's a very good and a very tough question.

Am I achieving something of value through all these automotive and other shenanigans?

An even better question.

It would be easy to see me as a somewhat delusional retired old man, clearly lacking focus. However things are actually moving forward. In the latter part of this year, cars are being repaired and others are being returned to service. Progress around the garage, house and yard is being made.

I have put myself behind the eight ball and I keep myself there. Like most of us I've got enough to do just dealing with my everyday responsibilities. I don't really need any of this hobby car/ stuff headache. However I chose it. If you're going to choose it, you might as well own it. It is clear, even to me, that I've got too many irons in the fire.

That being said, I admit that I could streamline my operations by reducing the fleet. It might be better to redirect my resources into fewer projects. Yes, that is a valid observation. However you don't want to get too rational in this business or you might rightfully conclude to junk the lot of them! This is an emotion based enterprise, that's where the pay offs lie.

Maintaining and producing this blog site has been both a challenge and a pleasure. I have been steadfast in my commitment to produce a weekly posting. Luckily my menagerie of old cars provides a constant source of content, which I add to with my reminisces and commentary.

Last fall there was a sharp increase in the number of page views on the blogsite. I was quite excited to see the growth in my readership. It led me to believe that what I've been writing about has connected and resonated with a lot of people around the country and even a few around the world. An exciting thought! It has always been my hope that my journal could help inspire, encourage, educate, and even amuse other car enthusiasts out there. It might even encourage one of them to take the plunge.

So to answer the first question, "is this lifestyle sustainable?" The answer is yes, at least for now.

The second question, "am I achieving anything of value from all this?" The cars and the blogsite are interwoven in this pursuit and I am deriving a lot of pleasure and satisfaction from this whole mess. So the answer is yes. Let's see what the future holds.

Happy New Year to All! Good luck in all of your endeavors!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

In praise of Sweeeeet Project cars.

"Secret" tips and shortcuts from the owner of a car detailing shop.

It true that you can find almost anything that you want on the internet, you just have to know where to look. You Tube has been a great source of automotive videos. Some beautiful and professionally produced like Petrolicious, and some obviously from home garage based DIY ers.

Sometimes the Net knows just what you want and it slips a gem into your queue.

From my very first post I stated that this site was all about low buck, hands on, accessible solutions to the problems and challenges that the regular car guy was confronted with, and finding solutions that he could benefit from.

I have watched lots of videos that have demonstrated how to perform maintenance and repair procedures, usually with some time saving "Hacks." Sweeeet Project Cars (SPC) displays some very practical and affordable answers to handle some thorny solutions, such as broken and cracked plastic components.

Plastic parts make up an annoyingly large part of automotive interior construction over the last thirty years. Many parts are made just good enough to survive through the original owner's warranty period. Sometimes they don't even last that long!

Broken mounting tabs or plastic hinge assemblies such as glovebox, ashtray, console or door panels can be irritating and give the car a real down at the heels vibe.

The plastics used haven't always been easy to repair and the repaired part is sometimes very fragile afterwards. I've used aluminum flashing material, epoxy and pop rivets to repair broken plastic framing. Sometimes there just isn't enough space to allow this kind of repair.

Using Locktite super glue backed up with baking powder seems like an unlikely pairing but it seems to work and is very adaptable.

Fixing broken control knobs with super glue and copy paper ?

Cleaning and detailing under the hood with spray on tire preservative?  Quite impressive.

That's not the only cheap fix, he gives his own recipe for a plastic, vinyl and rubber  preservative    that's not only cheap, but seems to work pretty well. The secret is to combine equal parts of baby oil and mineral oil.

A lot of attention is given to repairing, restoring and preserving your car's paint. Faded and weathered clear coat areas will make any car look old, tired and neglected.

Touching up scratches and rock chips. Do this as they occur to maintain the appearance and value of your car.

Buffing out cloudy plastic headlights. Cloudy headlights are like the bags under an older person's eyes. They make your car look tired and run down. Not only that, they reduce the amount of illumination that your headlights can produce.

Buffing and sealing the windshield. It's amazing on how dirty, hazy and cloudy your car's windshield can get. I don't know about you, but now that I'm older I really feel the benefit of having a clear windshield to look through, especially on a two lane road at night. The glare from oncoming headlights makes it hard to see the road markings.

Lots of cleaning tips. Lot's!

Carpet, upholstery, seatbelts,

Low buck repair and refinishing tips for upholstery and vinyl components.

There are lots of videos claiming how to make certain items "last forever." Pure hyperbole! It generally means treating these items to a good cleaning and adding a regular coating of vinyl and rubber preservative. Of course these items can't last forever but they will last longer and stay in better condition.

Inspired by these videos I decided to do something about the scuffed raised white letter tires on my Explorer. These make the car look run down and neglected. I had the two rear tires replaced and installed blackwall out. I 'm planning to either replace the fronts (if they are too old) or have them remounted BSW out also. But I didn't have the time or money to do that right away. The left front tire suffers the worst because it picks up curb rash more often. In my case there was a chunk of sidewall torn out revealing the white rubber underneath. Very tacky.

You can see the divot on the bottom.

I cleaned the area then sprayed a bit of satin black paint on. A couple of light coats made everything black again. When that dried it was a bit darker than the surrounding area. I applied some preservative to the tire which evened out the sheen and color. A big improvement in appearance for a little bit of effort.

Looking 100% better.
All the little improvements add up.

Center consoles with cup holders gradually pick up a layer of coffee and other spills and the spilled liquid often runs onto the carpet. The Explorer had some noticeable stains running down the driver's side of the transmission tunnel. I used a solution of Castrol Super Clean, an extremely strong agent, to clean the carpet and mat, using an upholstery and carpet brush. The trick is to wipe up the solution with an old towel quickly, so that the dirty water doesn't run deeper into the nap.

This is the strongest cleaner I have found.
Use full strength or dilute.It's really strong and can burn sensitive skin.
Be careful when using.

Thsese are really dingy looking.
My next little project.

As an enthusiast I enjoy having my cars look the best they can. That doesn't mean that they look like brand new or like restored show cars. It means that they look like they have been regularly used but constantly cared after. It's a lot of little things that add up to a favorable presentation. Being able to make real, visible improvements to my car's appearance is extremely satisfying. It also motivates me to continue to maintain the mechanical condition of the car.

You cannot take any pride in a filthy vehicle that has been abused and ignored.

Preserve, improve and maintain. The Better Beater mantra.

Sweeeet Project Cars is a site that can help you do that.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Star Smog, the menace continues.

photo source: green

My '97 XJ6 enters the ring. But wait, there's more! It's always something.

The smog check will have to wait.


You may have read one of my earlier postings about the haunted Explorer. I did a work around that was kind of Mickey Mouse but was satisfactory for a time. A couple of days ago I was coming home from the store when the car locks went totally crazy. They cycled continually until I feared that there might actually be a melt down. They just wouldn't stop. I drove the few miles to my house and parked. Disgusted. I could always just drive my truck, right?


I was driving My F150 and the "door ajar" icon kept lighting up and buzzing. I checked both doors, slamming them shut. Eventually even this didn't work. This persisted for another day. Why was my truck turning on me?

photo source: ebay
Ah, simpler times.

Older cars used to have a simple plunger switch to activate the dome lights. Even my plain specification model truck has a more complex set up. The "door ajar" icon, the dome light time delay and the digital  odometer read out screen, are all controlled by some kind of hidden switch. I looked all over the door jam and couldn't find anything resembling that. Oh well, I could always go look something up on the Internet.

I found a video concerning a somewhat older Ford Expedition with a similar problem. The takeaway was that the "door ajar" icon and dome light were controlled by a switch that was located within the door, attached to the actual latching mechanism. This switch can get gummed up and stuck, resulting in the icon being activated. The car doesn't know that the door is actually closed. The guy in the video said the fix was to spray each lock assembly with a spray lubricant. That Expedition had a total of six locks, four doors and two at the rear. The lift up glass panel and the actual hatch. Any of these locks could be the source of the problem. He sprayed them all, then worked the assemblies a few times. This freed the switches which solved the problem.

I applied this concept to the F150 spraying the lock assemblies with WD40. This  solved my problem after a few false alarms.

This got me to thinking. The Explorer like the Expedition in the video, has six locking points. Maybe one or more of the locking sensors is sticking. One could be stuck in the open phase while another could be stuck in the closed phase. I imagined that this could easily confuse the logic of the system. It could lock the doors and one sensor would be stuck, indicating that it was still open. So the system would try to activate the locking system again, but would open some of them again! I could imagine a very confused system operating off of very bad information, clicking on and off not knowing what was what!

Always have a can on hand. It works wonders.

So out comes the can of WD40 and all the latches were sprayed, heavily. WD40 is a solvent and a lubricant, and it may have just done the job. I drove the Explorer to the store and the doors did not cycle off and on. A hopeful sign. I locked it with the switch and entered the store. Usually I would return to find it unlocked. But it was still locked.

After unloading the groceries I parked it at the curb, locking it with the switch. My Daughter had a problem with her car and I gave her a ride to work. The Explorer was still locked! There wasn't any cycling activity with the system during my two trips. Tonight I parked it at the curb, but I still used the  battery disconnect switch. I'm going to keep an eye on it for a while. It has to earn my trust!

Okay, now to get on with the XJ6. But of course something else has come up.

My Daughter had been planning to drive off last night, but she came inside and said those always wonderful words. "Dad, there's something wrong with the car. It making a high pitched whirring sound that I've never heard before." This was a good catch and I told her so. I gave her a ride to work. I'd look into the problem the next day.

Sure enough there was a weird whirring noise. I listened at different areas then started looking for obvious problems. It kind of sounded like a belt or idler noise. What could cause the belt to slip? Some kind of liquid dripping on the belt. The hoses looked okay but right at the thermostat housing I noticed a big puddle of liquid. That would do it!

That seepage could drip on the belt. Coolant is slippery.

I dried the area off then started the motor, sure enough there was fluid seeping out of the thermostat hose housing. I had replaced this several years back when I discovered a small crack in the housing. Could it be cracked again? After dealing with the intake manifold of my 4.6 V8 twice, I didn't doubt the fallibility of Ford design plastics.

I removed the hose connection and removed the thermostat housing. I cleaned the unit looking for cracks or splits. It looked okay. I looked and felt around the housing seating rim and didn't see any faults. The only thing sealing this junction was an o ring. I had wiggled the hose and detected a very slight movement in the connection. Maybe this had worn down the o ring enough to result in a leak. Of course I also considered the possibility that the housing had warped enough to result in a leak. So I considered pulling the entire housing.

Kind of dirty, but okay.

But maybe it was just the o ring. I decided to replace the ring and see it that would solve the problem. If it was still leaking than I would replace the entire housing. Always try the simplest solution first! Off to Winchester Auto.

The housing and thermostat look a bit dirty.

The o ring cost me three bucks, but I also bought a couple of gallons of coolant. I had topped up the coolant tank with plain water when I was looking for the leak. I installed the o ring, ran the engine and the leak was cured. Feeling buoyed by my success I decide to remove and clean  the coolant tank, it was pretty dirty. I washed that out, and reinstalled it. I didn't know if the radiator had a drain plug so I just jacked up the car and pulled the lower radiator hose. A somewhat messy but quick way to drain the system. I buttoned everything back up and refilled the system with new coolant. No leaks. (For now!)

I got it as clean as I could.

I was reminded that it was time to replace the radiator and heater hoses and the drive belt. That will have to go on the back burner for now. The steering rack needs to be replaced soon. A big buck repair.

Now, can I get back to playing with my Jaguar?

I hooked up the OBD reader and found three stored codes. I wasn't sure if these were the right codes but I wrote them down anyway. I started fooling around with the reader buttons and it asked if I wanted to erase the codes. Of course I did! I pushed the buttons some more and it read that the codes were cleared. Wow! Even the CEL was out! I thought that I was flying high. With the CEL off I thought that I could just take the car to the shop for the smog test. Wrong! That's what I get for thinking.

Why isn't anything easy?

Friday, December 7, 2018

My life on the Riviera continues. Things got so bad, that in desperation, I actually took the Riviera to a mechanic.

This is a place that looks like it's dealt with old iron.

The building is at least one hundred years old
 and used to be a blacksmith's shop.

There are usually several vintage machines waiting to be worked on.

All photos from their website.
The shop is well respected in the community.

I was at such a loss that I decided that I had to spend some money and get a professional's opinion. I had totally run out of ideas. There was a nearby shop that inspired some confidence. I dropped in to discuss my problem with the shop owner and he told me to bring the car in. So I fired up the Riv and clattered my way down the road.

The owner asked if I was in a hurry to get the car back. I told them that they could take their time. He agreed to take a look at it in between other jobs, in order to save me a little money.  That sounded good to me.

I made it a habit to occasionally stop by the shop after work to see what progress has been made.

They told me that they haven't found anything, so a top end tear down was needed. They removed the rocker shaft and the first issue made itself known. They showed me that the valves are not all at the same height, some are standing taller than the others. It seems that my random machine shop ground the valve seats excessively, so that some were sunk pretty deep into the head. They should have then trimmed the valve ends to keep everything even. While this is a workman like approach to a non performance rebuild, that would have worked okay. But this could lead to some problems. The shortened valves would not have opened up as much, and they would be shrouded by the valve seat, reducing air flow. Still, good enough for a grocery getter.

The best repair would have been to replace the valve seats with hardened inserts and maintain  the original valve position and operation. This would have cost a lot more, however.

Could they fix the problem?

The cure would be to dissemble the heads, remove the valves and machine the tips of the valves to shorten them.

But would this uneven valve situation have caused the noise? Probably not. So they pulled the heads and got quite a surprise.

After pulling the heads they found that some of the valves were actually hitting the piston tops. That would definitely make a tapping sound! But how could this have happened?

During a rebuild the head is usually surfaced to make sure that it is flat and will seal properly. Care has to be taken so that adequate valve clearance is maintained. Sometimes, the valve reliefs cast into the piston crown may have to be machined a little deeper for clearance. Sometimes a thicker head gasket might be called for. If a thicker head gasket is not available sometimes two gaskets are used. Now things are getting a little Mickey Mouse! Still this was a common work around back when these engines were run of the mill.

That is what made that tapping sound.

What? That machine shop just ground down the valve seats and machined too much off the surface of the head. Now, a couple of the valves may have gotten a little bit bent. Luckily the mechanic didn't think that there had been any damage done to the connecting rod or bearing

These heads could be saved with a lot of work but it would be better, cheaper and easier to find another set. I just have to provide them another set of  heads and they can do the valve job and reassembly. I just spent 500.00 for them to find the problem and now the engine is in pieces! Time to regroup and stop the bleeding.

The shame. I drove the car down to the shop, but now I'm having it towed back to my house!

photo source: engine basics .com
Typical OHV set up.

photo source: grumpy's performance .com
This is what valve seats look like.

Now I needed to find another set of heads.

Where else to go but Pick and Pull?

In the early 1990's There was still quite a few 1960's cars available in the yards

I found a fairly clean, almost complete motor in a wrecked '66 Riviera. I noticed that the wheel wells were painted white inside. This led me to believe that the car once had nice wheels on it. Probably not too long ago.

I looked at the block and found an engine rebuilder's plate above the oil pan. It belonged to a shop located in Oakland,

It was neat and clean under the rocker covers, a very good sign.

I decided to buy the whole engine, it was on sale anyway. It's the cheapest route. Unfortunately the the distributor and carb were already gone. No discount for that, since the motor was only 300 bucks.
This is the smartest way, buy the complete motor. Just be sure to take all the nuts, bolts, brackets and accessories that are included in the purchase price.

I was pretty sure that this motor was going to be a good one. After seeing that rebuilder's plate and how clean the engine was inside the the rocker covers. Another clue were the painted wheel wells, I'd bet that some body had a nice set of wheels on the Riv before it was crunched. And it was crunched. The left rear quarter panel and rear bumper were pushed in at least a foot.

That meant that the car was scrapped because of the collision damage, not because the motor or tranny were shot. As long as the accident didn't damage the power train it's good to go. If you see a straight old car with weathered, worn out paint, and a filthy tattered interior, you can bet that the motor is as worn as the body.

That was what was meant by mistake number two.

Oftentimes you can find a good deal on a good used engine. It is faster, easier and cheaper if you can swap in a complete wrecking yard motor than to rebuild the original unit. I had invested quite a bit of money in the rebuilding of the original motor. Unfortunately I had not done my due diligence in my first choice of the machine shop to rebuild the heads. I then did not check the clearances of the valve train before installing the motor in the car and firing it up.

Luckily, that junkyard motor turned out to be a real jewel.

Despite all these mistakes and all the unnecessary money spent, I still finally ended up with a strong running Riviera that gave me many years of service. An education never comes without a cost.