Saturday, October 26, 2019

Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!

photo source: Kimberly T.
Why is everyone so judgmental?

It's no surprise to anyone that has read this blog for any time that I'm always trying to do things on the cheap side. That's the basic premise of this site. Usually, I don't feel any shame for my tightwad tendencies. I guess that I'm lucky that I don't have a group of close friends around that can pass judgement on my efforts. All my efforts take place in a kind of social vacuum which works out well for me.

Not having a bunch of readily available disposable income to dump into my cars keeps me from becoming financially upside down with them. However, it has caused me to have to be physically upside down under them quite a bit!

I ordered the cooling temperature sensor (CTS) for the XJS from Rock Auto a week ago. I wasn't in any hurry so I didn't spring for the expedited shipping like I did for the throttle microswitch that I ordered from SNG Barrat. (And still haven't installed! What was the rush on getting that?) I had seen another online vendor with the CTS at a similar price, but they had shipping posted at over 12.00! This time Rock Auto had the best deal, though I had even considering ordering it at my local auto parts store.

The internet forums can be an invaluable resource that can save the enthusiast hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. Using that free checklist, Grant's List, I was able to work my way through a systematic diagnosis and repair. Various members of the forum, including Grant himself, contributed helpful suggestions. It wasn't as though taking the car to an actual mechanic was considered as an alternative, at least at this time. The work that I've done with the sparkplugs and the ignition problem has given me a better understanding of how the different systems on my motor work and helped me to identify what the actual components look like, how they function, and where they are located. Knowledge really is power. Not only that, but this process has helped me to build a bond with the car, something that is very important to me, and that I haven't yet been able to do. Also, thoughts of selling the car are gone, at least for now. Now, when I look under the hood I can see an actual automobile engine, instead of a nuclear reactor.

You can't put a price on that.

Realistically, I'm not sure where I would even take the thing. It's not like I would just have it flat bedded out to the local Jaguar dealer. I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't even want to work on it. A lot of dealers have a policy of not working on any cars that are over twenty years old.

When you own a car of this type your goal should be to become an expert on the car. Why else would you bother with it?

Now that the car is running again I will be able to report how effective my limited suspension repair has been. I'm not expecting any miracles but I am anticipating some degree of noticeable improvement.

That's all I'm hoping for. Enough improvement to allow me to actually drive the car again and warrant further work and investment.


Meet Mr. Good(Enough) Wrench!

Another entry into my "Nothing to Proud of here!" series.

Looks kind of cheesy, but it worked for quite a while.

This photo shows how my previous repair was accomplished. The first time the bracket weld broke I had it redone at a local muffler shop. That repair lasted several years, but the second break left too big a hole to bridge with weld build up. I decide to use some coat hanger wire to wrap around the round hanger bracket and then secure the wire to the exhaust pipe with a hose clamp.

I try to keep a few of these on hand.

Wire coat hanger repairs were once a staple of driveway mechanics for years. These type of hangers are not as common as they once were. The strength of the wire left something to be desired, but at least the hangers were plentiful and free.

A good bench vise is invaluable.

I thought that I would be "trick" and use a double wrap of wire for the main portion of the new splice.

You've got to work carefully.

Like I said, the strength of the wire does leave something to be desired. I started off again with a little less enthusiasm.

Easy does it.

I wound the wire around a large bolt to make it conform to the round hanger. I'm always trying to improve my fabrication skills.

A small hose clamp secured the wire to the hanger while a large clamp held it to the exhaust pipe.

It may be time for a new set of tail pipes.

Believe it or not, the previous repair held for several years.

It really doesn't look too bad.

The repair is not too visible from the side.  I know that I'm going to have to fork out some money in the future to replace these tail pipes. My cheapie repair will hold that day off a little bit longer. Mission accomplished!

If this segment isn't embarrassing enough, I've got another little skinflint gem to share.

Time to retire this basket.

What can you do with a broken down old laundry basket? Patch it with duct tape? Been there done that!

Why not transform it into something that you can use out in the garage. While the sides are tattered and broken the bottom is still intact.Just cut off the sides flush with the bottom.

This tray has been featured in an earlier post.

Now you're left with a handy little half inch deep tray. Add a little kitty litter and you can use it as a drip try under one of your oil leaking beaters, or a parts cleaning tray, or whatever. And best off all the price was right!

Now, what else can I do that won't cost me much money? My hobby car credit card balance is getting out of hand!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Happy Halloween! Beware, and fear things that go bump in the night!

This is an altered book that my Wife produced at one of the Art classes she attends.

It's all about the fear.

Fortunately or perhaps, unfortunately, most of the bumping is going on under the front end of one of my old Jags. The prospect of compressing and pulling coil springs and stripping out ball joints now fills me with dread. That must be why I've procrastinated on doing the job. My last foray into that area has left me with a dead XJS.

Do old car guys ever suffer from FOMO?  Fear of Missing out?

I'll admit  upfront that I do. Maybe that's why I've collected a rag tag collection of project vehicles.
They are all cars that I really wanted, even though I knew going in, that I couldn't really care for them the way I would like to.

But I've read so many articles about average guys with amazing collections and they all did the same thing. Bought desirable cars of no particular monetary value when they were unwanted and cheap. They held onto them through thick and thin until the values finally started to climb. Then they sold a couple of vehicles to free up some working capital to restore some of their stable. It seems so  simple.

Of course the stories are written Today, when the cars are greatly valued and the owner is pictured as a shrewd, far sighted investor.

The stories skip over the part where the guy is surrounded by a bunch of dead or poorly running vehicles.  Cars that need a lot of work and might be kind of junky looking. The part where his neighbors get tired of looking at all his old junk taking up valuable parking spots in the neighborhood. So they sic the Police on him and he is forced to play a tiring game of musical parking spots.

They definitely skip the part where his long suffering spouse finally issues an ultimatum, "It's the cars or Me!" Many times our hero chooses the cars. If he didn't, there would be any story to be written!

So maybe the story really isn't all that simple!

I'd better be sure to keep my Wife happy!

I was at my favorite car browsing establishment, Wheels and Deals last week. I try to visit them every couple of weeks. I'm always curious to see if I stumble across anything that whets my appetite for unusual cars.

Besides the unusual cars I usually meet some interesting people cruising the sales lot. I've gotten pretty good at striking up conversations with complete strangers. This time I was checking out a very nice 2006 Jaguar XJ8.

A well dressed gentleman came up besides me and advised me that he wasn't that familiar with cars of this type. He was a bit older than me, and I'm well into retirement age. So I launched, tactfully I hope, into the XK8 tutorial mode. I ran down the list: Cam chain tensioner problems, bore wash, "A drum" failures etc. I finished off by telling him that these 2006's were the best developed of the breed. We commiserated about how these later model cars had so many electronic components that could go bad.
He said that he missed the good old days when cars were simpler.

He told me about some of the old muscle cars he had owned. We talked a bit about the automotive scene in the 1960s and 70s. He said that he had owned lots of different cars. He had fixed up and painted quite a few. I told him that I had worked for General Motors in Fremont Ca. and he said that he had also worked there for a time. What was really interesting was when he told me that he had worked at Disneyland, building the exhibits. He said that they had treated him well, and had provided him with lots of training to develop his skill levels. Now that, was really interesting.

Then he told me that he had a late model Camaro. I told him I thought that they were fine cars.

He added that he had just purchased a new Corvette. I asked if it was the new mid mid engine model and he said, "No, not yet."

Then he dropped the bombshell. He said that he had once owned a gull wing Mercedes! I remember reading an article that mentioned that many hot rod builders and painters had owned gull wings back in the early 60's.

Who was this guy? Was he just a champion BS artist? We had engaged in a nice conversation, even talking about our families and kids. I don't think that he was lying about anything. As I was taking my leave, I thanked him and introduced myself. He told me his name was Art.

As I walked to my car and started driving away I was mulling things over in my mind. Had I met an automotive celebrity?

What really stuck in my head was that he had worked at Disneyland, back in the 1960s. Boyd Coddington, a very well known hot rod builder and painter had also worked at Disneyland. His having worked at General Motors also struck a chord. During my time there in the 1970s I knew that there were a couple of chopper builder and custom painters that were working there. Then there was the mention of the gull wing that he had owned years ago. His appearance also reminded me of the older car and chopper guys from the East Bay, especially Hayward. His hair was carefully and neatly combed back, his goatee, neatly trimmed, and he was dressed in slacks, a long sleeve shirt, nice windbreaker, and leather dress shoes. These guys didn't go in for the black shirt, Levis, and engineer boot look even when they were young.

Maybe he was, or maybe he wasn't, and maybe he was just an average guy. Either way, he had quite an automotive history.

I don't think that my story will ever equal his and I might be a tad bit jealous, wondering if I had made the right choices. Either way, good for him. I'll do what I can with what I have. I can't forget that I've been luckier than some other guys, and I should count my blessings.

But I'm still afraid.

That's why I haven't tried to start up my XJS. I don't want to have it wheezing and smoking, stinking up the neighborhood.

So I decided to avoid the subject and spent a couple of my free days looking for something, anything,  else to do.

I finally painted my Wife's second shed.

Painting always gives me. a real sense of accomplishment.

I even went to look at a car I found for sale on Craig's List. I was seriously thinking of just getting rid of my XJS.  What did I go to see? Another XJS, but a slightly newer one with a six. As usual, low priced used cars can be a bit disappointment. This one was no different. I'd bet that any prospective buyer of my XJS would also go away disappointed!

I couldn't keep avoiding the subject. Coaches always advise their players to face their fears. It's the only way to overcome them. Today was my Day to clean up and rearrange my garage and my cars. So I thought that I would just get it over with. Fire it up, choke on the smoke, choke on my disappointment, then just shove it back into the garage for a later day.

I had to overcome my fear of failure. So I finally decided to bite the bullet, grab the bull by the horns, and other cliches that might come to mind. I pushed the car backwards until the rear end was clear of the garage opening. Hopefully most of the smoke would be directed outside of the garage.

I turned the key and the engine started right up and settled into a high idle close to 1,000 rpm. But it was running smoothly and there was only a little smoke. My plan was to let the motor run until it heated up and burned off all the excess fuel that had collected in the system.  It was running well and I could tell that it seemed to be hitting on all cylinders. ( I hoped!)

Things seemed to be going according to plan until I decided to rev the engine up. As soon as I opened the throttle it died. And it wouldn't restart.


Well at least it started up and had been running pretty good. That was something, actually quite a lot. The engine had warmed up quite a bit. Maybe it had something to do with the cold starting system transitioning to a warm running state. I decided to let it cool down and see if it would start again.

I started running through Grant's list in my mind. One thing that had always concerned me was that I'd never heard that "injector click" when fully opening the throttle with the key on, and the engine off. Maybe the throttle position sensor was bad. But I had recorded some varying voltage readings when I checked it before. I sure hoped that it hadn't gone bad.

Although I'd never checked for adequate fuel flow, I knew that there was fuel, how else could it run for so long?

The full throttle enriching switches shouldn't have any effect on low speed running, should they? Even so, they were both disconnected at this time. And the engine had run pretty well anyway.

I didn't want to run through that ECM terminal plug check. What else could it be?

I remember reading about the CTS (coolant temperature sensor) and how a malfunctioning sensor could prevent the engine from running at all. But it did run, at least until it warmed up. Maybe it was working when it was cold but quit when it was warm, killing the motor. Grant said to disconnect the plug and jump the two terminals with a paper clip. Certainly worth a try.

There's the connector. I could reach it with my fingers.

Those two pins were a little dirty so I cleaned with contact cleaner.

Instead of a paper clip I used a bit of wire.

After cleaning the contacts I wrapped the plug in tape to secure and protect the jumper wire.

Did it work? Yes it did! The motor fired right up, running even smoother than it had earlier. This time I did not try to rev it up, I just let it run. And it did. There wasn't any noticeable smoke and it sounded very smooth and strong. The contacts in the CTS plug must have been dirty also as wiggling the jumper wire would cause the engine to falter. Later I also cleaned those. I let the motor warm up completely, then I let it idle it's way into the garage. Once inside I opened the throttle a bit. I figured that even if it died, at least I wouldn't have to push it anywhere! Instead it just revved up to 3,000 to 4,000 rpm. So I backed it out of the garage again to let it warm up enough to reach "normal" on the temp gauge. I was checking for leaks and found that a vacuum line had been disconnected from the fuel pressure regulator. I connected it and the engine smoothed out a bit more. I ran it forward and reverse up my driveway until the engine had been running for half an hour. Then I turned it off and it restarted immediately. Finally! Progress.

I'm going to order a new CTS then I'll work on the full throttle enriching system. I'll install the new throttle micro switch, I ordered a couple of weeks back, sort out the wiring and test the vacuum solenoid.

Looks like me and this car might still have a future together.

FDR was right when he assured us that there was nothing to fear, but fear itself.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Trouble shooting for fun and profit. No mention will be made of desperation.

Nothing to be worried about here!

Not the sight that warms the heart of the DIYers.

The Jaguar V12 is a complex assemblage of every automotive engineering feature that you could possibly imagine. Gazing into the gaping maw of the engine compartment, the uninitiated might imagine that it looks like a gigantic shark got a nuclear reactor stuck in it's mouth!

Evaluating the problem is going to require a systematic approach. I am following the list provided by Grant Francis on the Jaguar Forums. From now on I will refer to this document as "Grant's List."

I will address each section in order.

The prevailing assumption is that it ran when it was parked, but now it doesn't. This rules out a catastrophic mechanical failure of the internal spinning bits of the motor or a complete over heating and melt down episode. It just won't run "right" when it used to.

The first check is for fuel flow, this could mean the failure of the fuel pump, or a blocked filter, pressure regulator, or injectors. I have already added a couple of gallons of fresh premium fuel.

I didn't check for fuel flow by cracking open any fittings. The engine has run for several minutes at a time. On several different instances. The spark plugs look dark and sooty. I take it to mean that there is some fuel flowing into the motor. There may be some fuel flow problems, but I'm betting that they shouldn't prevent the engine from running at low speeds. Though I may have to revisit this issue in the future.

I'm going to jump ahead to the issue of "spark." I checked and rechecked that the plug caps and distributor terminals are fully seated. I checked and rechecked the firing order and the routing of the plug wires. All were okay. Then I pulled the A3 plug and held it against the intake manifold while I engaged the starter. There was a spark visible at the electrodes. I can't say that it was a super strong blue cracker. Grant advises that it MUST be a "fat blue crack" of a spark. Anything short of this will not start the engine.

This might be an issue, the motor will run, but poorly. Maybe the spark is too weak.

This is the ignition amplifier.

It could be a failing coil or ignition amplifier. I decided to check the amplifier first. I did some researching and found some great info and pictures on line. Both Grant and Kirby indicate that a common GM ignition module is housed along with some other components inside the amplifier box.

Just flip it over and undo four little screws.

That black rectangle is the GM ignition module.
It is usually housed in the HEI distributor.

It never hurts to sketch a quick diagram
to keep track where the wires go.

In the above photo you can see the condensor and ignition module. Luckily this is just a common GM V8 ignition module. On GM cars it is located inside the HEI distributor. I paid 40.00 dollars for a new AC Delco replacement. From what I've read, since the module is working some 50% harder firing 12 cylinders as opposed to 8, the increased load leads to an earlier failure of a lower quality replacement. So I went with the better quality part. Grant recommends discarding the condensor as they are not really needed. They can fail, resulting in a grounding short that will cause a malfunction. I followed his advice.

There was some corrosion  on the terminals and connectors.

I was careful to apply the heat transfer grease to the back of the module. It helps cool the module by transferring heat to the housing. I noticed that the module that I removed did not have this grease. This may have lead to the failure of the module.

This is where the grease goes.

Replacement ignition amplifiers are available from RockAuto for 130.00 SNG Barret charges four hundred dollars for a replacement. Knowledge IS power and thanks to the forums I'm saving a ton of money rebuilding my amp.

This might cure the problem, but then again, it might not.

I was concerned about the co ax wire that runs from the ignition amplifier to the ECU. This essential wire is unprotected routed along a hot water pipe that runs along the intake manifold.

You can see where the insulation flaked off.

In thts picture I have moved the wire to make the inspection easier. You can clearly see that some insulation has flaked off of the wire. I carefully wrapped electrical tape over the co ax portion and the wire itself for support and insulation.

I don't know how the wire was protected when the car was new,
but this doesn't inspire confidence.

The wire just sits here quite vulnerable. I decided that I would at least add some protective wire conduit to offer some protection.

That looks a little better.

That looks a lot more reassuring. That's the hot water pipe running directly underneath,

According to forum members the coax is either a go, or no go situation. If the wire was damaged and shorting out, the motor would not run at all. The motor has run poorly before, and after, my repairs to this wire, but it has always run. I suppose that the wire should be okay.

Grant also advised that the carbon point of the center distributor terminal can fall out. This would result in the terminal having to jump quite a distance. This would result in a very diminished spark out put. I'm going to check this, just to make sure, before I try restarting the motor. I just want to eliminate that as a possibility. I'm very tired of inhaling that stinky exhaust.

Last night I went out to the garage to check for this potential problem. I undid the three screws securing the distributor cap. It wasn't easy to move the cap enough to check underneath with a mirror. I tried using my new "Lizard Cam" cheapie bore scope, but I couldn't maneuver it into the proper position. I finally settled for reaching under the cap with my fingers until I could verify the presence of the carbon button by feel.  It was there, so I re-seated and secured the cap. Now I'm ready to fire up the motor and see what happens.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Changing the 12 sparkplugs in my XJS. Epilogue.

It aint over until it's over.

Do you remember those great Quinn Martin television series like the Fugitive, Cannon and the Streets of San Francisco? They were always narrated by a dramatic, gravel voiced announcer, The segments were always divided into individual "Acts" then followed by an Epilogue.

Unfortunately my story also contains this addendum.

The perfect ending to my story would be the successful start up of the engine. It would be my moment of triumphant celebration and satisfaction.

The engine did not roar to life. It wheezed to a smoky mis -firing, shaky life. Then it stalled out. I managed to restart it and back it into the street where it again died and refused to restart. I was lucky to have my Wife come to my aid and we pushed it back into the garage.

My Wife likes this car more than I do. She thinks that it is beautiful. She is right about that!

What could be wrong? All I did was change the plugs.

Of course there was a problem before I changed the plugs.

My first reaction was of course, annoyance, I had spent more than the entire weekend of my time trying to fix the car, but it just didn't work. Yes, I was a bit angry, but that wouldn't fix anything and it's a very bad plan to work on a complex mechanism, which that V12 is, when you are in a sour mood. So I closed up the garage  and went into the house. The car could wait.


While I was waiting, I started to look for answers on the internet which means going to the Jaguar Forums. Searching through the XJS forum I found the "Stickies" at the front of the forum listings. There were many helpful troubleshooting and service procedures available.

Distilled Wisdom!

Grant Francis is an extremely knowledgeable contributor to the forum. Over the years he has transferred a vast amount of his knowledge to grateful forum members. His sticky, "So you've got a HE V12 that won't start" is 11 pages of pure gold. I printed out the down load so that I could peruse it at my leisure. I read through the whole thing once completely, then started looking for things that could help me specifically.

I also started a written log that describes what situation proceeded the problem, the description of the problem, my thoughts about what could be wrong,  and documents the steps that I'm taking to trouble shoot it. I just wrote it down in plain linear fashion, in short declarative statements and partial sentences. This will help keep my thinking straight. It's also easier to review my actions on paper instead of morosely staring at the motor standing in the garage.

Nothing fancy, but it helps.

Okay, the initial situation:

The car was driven into the garage for some suspension work.

It drove in without any problems. The car had been driven successfully for many many months prior to this and was actually used as transportation on a few occasions.

It sat for at least a couple of months afterwards. I was busy on my Summer vacations.

I consistently maintained the battery at full charge.

I decided to "prime" the motor, (excessively it appears!) before attempting to start it.

The motor caught, ran very poorly, smoking heavily, did not rev easily, and died several times.

I managed to back the car out into the street. Pushed car back into garage a couple of times after backing it out into street. Luckily my Wife was available to help.

I added a couple of gallons of fresh gas and attempted to restart it.

Same result.

Decided that the engine had been badly flooded, fouling the plugs.

Concluded that a new set of plugs was in order. Proceeded to initiate a plug change.

Changing of all spark plugs was completed.

Unfortunately, things were not improved, as I described at the top of the post. What to do next?

Systematic trouble shooting. Preceded by a lot of research.

My problems began when I started the car after completing the suspension work.

Obviously my work on the suspension could not affect how the engine runs, could it?

No, but things can happen suddenly, or coincidentally, events can follow one another but that doesn't imply causation.

Perhaps an ignition or electrical component just happened to fail at this time. Electronic components are known to do that, often without warning. 

For example, the fuel pump in my Mustang expired on the freeway late one night without giving me any indication of trouble. The engine just died and would not restart. Luckily I was able to stop safely on the right shoulder. This is when having AAA comes in handy, There was no pretense in diagnosis or repair at this time and location. I just had the car flat bedded to my house and diagnosed the problem at my leisure.

I performed a couple of diagnostic checks and determined that the fuel pump was the culprit.

Now I am facing a similar task.

As a a disclaimer I have to admit that the following series of posts are probably going to be pretty tedious. I'm going to be following a checklist and I'm going to document the process.  However this is where I am at, right now. I've got to find a way to fix this car. The question is, "Am I up to the challenge?"