Weekend Warrior

mostly about cars, driving them, fixing them, rating them and occasionally fixing computers, phones and things around the house

The unmistakable whistle of a fan belt

For a while now Silva-ki has been whistling in the mornings. You know the tell tail unmistakable whistle of a fan belt. You never know how long you can put it of which I had been doing mostly because the actual job of doing it not so much the parts because fan belts for this car are a price of a meal. So this weekend I took the plunge late in the day, around 3 pm which was awfully optimistic since it's almost winter and the sun is starting to set early.

I hadn't dealt with this specific car's belts before. It wasn't the first belt had dealt with though, Yellow bone has had a new belt a couple of times. If you don't know, Silva-ki is a 2E corolla and Yellow bone is an FE Mazda. Yellow bone being older by about 10 years is easy to work on, it has a lot of space and in relation to belts it only has one.

I started by looking through how I would do this. Being front wheel drive, Silva-ki has transverse mounted engine. That means the engine is sitting sideways on top of the front suspension. The fan belts therefore don't actually drive any fans. The fans are in front and electrically powered. The engine pulleys like the crank, the alternator, the air con compressor, the water pump and the steering wheel pump are connected with 2 fan belts. When this belts are old they whistle. They are situated in very narrow gap between shock tower and the engine.

There was no access to loosen the bolts that hold the power steering pump because of the windscreen washer reservoir. So it had to come out. it's held by one 8 mm bolt so it's easy to remove, although unplugging it's electric pump requires some cat grabbing sized hands, which I fortunately have, though I should point out I never use them to do actual cat grabbing lol unless invited to do so. Once the reservoir is out, I could loosen the bolt attaching the power steering pump to the engine block, then loosen the adjustment bolt below the pulley, the pump then drops down and I could simply slip the belt off. The belt was in terrible shape, it looked like it would break at any point if it had been left in place.

This main belt is thicker and longer than the other. I don't actually know if it's main but I have decided it is just based it being bigger and longer. It connects the crack, the power steering pump and the aircon compressor. Now I could tackle the small belt. it connects the crank, the alternator and the water pump. I marked the alternator bracket just ensure I would put it back where it was, then loosen it on both sides so it can move and be disconnected from the alternator. The lower bolt was harder to remove, after a whole lot of struggle I managed to remove it. Strangely the alternator is already as close as it can be to the water pump. So removing the belt, even with the alternator loosened, it's quite a challenge to remove the belt.

Now putting the new belts on was interesting. I quickly realised that it wasn't gonna work the way the taking out of the old ones had worked. In general it's much easier to take things apart than to put them together. So installing the new belts, required jacking the car up, removing the wheel cover inside the wheel well so I could access the pulleys from below and from the wheel well.

I put the belts on lowered the car ran it fast while watching the belts to make sure they are working correctly. I also put the aircon on but the air con was on auto and this was a very funny episode. The air con ran and stopped over and over and I thought the belt wasn't tight enough. I jacked the car back up and removed the covers and tightened the belts only to remember not to watch the middle of the air con pulley which is controlled by the air con compressor clutch and instead watch the outside of the pulley which is always being pulled by the belt and therefore always spins.

Anyway in the end, the belts have been replaced, the car is silent again. The war is won warriors.

High Beams

Warrior won the war this weekend lol. Silver-ki has high beams. If you don't remember not too long ago high beams were not working. So first I thought it was the bulbs. Checked the bulbs which was a mission because the space you have to work with is so small you would need cat grabbing hands to work there comfortably. The bulbs were fine.

Next port of call was the relay. The relay was clicking and the flashes worked so it couldn't have been the relay but I replaced it anyway. The last possible thing was the actual switch itself. So this weekend I put a new switch in. 

It was quite annoying thought that I had to remove the steering wheel, which is hard. It isn't hard in the sense that it's complicated, it's actually very straight forward. It's hard in the literal sense of the word. The steering wheel is held by one nut but don't let that nut fool into thinking the steering wheel is coming out. I had to pull and pull and brace against the floor and pull, sweat and pull, loose breathe and pull, did I mention there was some fair amount of pulling involved? Then I had to require some assistance and it came off.

I then remove the steering column covers which isn't hard either but there is a fair bit of fiddling to remove the covers after removing the 3 screws that hold them on. The switch is held by two small screws and it just slides out. I slid the new one in and Bob is your uncle, I have no idea why Bob is your uncle or where he has been all your life but there we are, High beams...

The new switch like most after market parts isn't as smooth as the original but it works and it has all the right markings and it looks like the original. The other thing is it's all shiny and new but the rest of the switches are showing some age.

I also did a minor service, you know oil change, oil filter change and air filter change. However, as seasoned warriors this is unremarkable and just worth a small mention...

DIY, The rabbit hole...sometimes all you need is little luck

A great outing for the warrior this weekend. The day started as a downer somewhere around noon or was it afternoon, it's all a blur. So dusted out the tools went to the garage and started Yellow bone up. She is old, at 27, it's more like 80 in human years. She rumbled and shook with the enthusiasm that's is characteristic of her. I pulled half way out of the garage and thought for a minute about what I would like to tackle.

So where to begin, the number plate lights is the extra ordinary answer to that question. The lights were just blank, so it couldn't be bulbs. The chances of both bulbs going dead at the same time are minuscule, hi I don't think I have ever used that word before, but yea minuscule. The lights are housed in this little cone shaped pots. I tried turning them, pulling them and pushing them but nothing was working. How do you open this damn things.

So comes googling and youtubing but no result. Most of the results as usual are American and their Mazda B2000 have different lights with screws. Anyone could take those out. Just that instant I remembered before I discovered google I had spent a good chunk of money importing a heinz manual. It had nothing about how to change the number plate lights bulbs. It has a whole section on bulbs, head lights, indicators and reverse lights but nothing on the one set I wanted to change.

Eventually I just got annoyed, grabbed a long nose and yanked them out. As it turns out that's how you open them. They grab on to the rubber housings and you squeeze them in to put them and you pull them to take them out. So how can both bulbs be dead? In short there weren't. One was dead, and the other had a broken cable. After about half an hour dust and rust particles falling onto my face, the cable was fixed and the bulbs replaced. Let there be light, it was glorious.

Infused by my success I decided to tackle one of the things that really annoys me. The driver's door doesn't open unless you have made the attempt at least 3 times. I removed the screw that holds the handles and removed the door cover to access the door opening mechanism. There was nothing wrong with it from what I could see. After 10 to 15 minutes of trying to figure out what's wrong with it I gave up out frustration I just sprayed the lock with penetrating oil as they say Bob is your uncle, I don't know why they say that though, makes no sense. It worked. I still can't believe that it does. I now and then just open and close it to see if it still works and I'm fascinated that that's all it took.

Now I was extra motivated. A while back the bonnet latching mechanism broke but not the whole thing, just the part that attaches it to the dashboard. So I have sort of tug it in below the dashboard to keep it from hanging over my feet and potentially coursing an accident. Non OEM parts however always never fit right and finding them for this car is very hard anyway even if I wanted to pay those type of prices.

The OEM version has a little metal ball at the end to make it hook in the mechanism but the pirate manufacture thought uhmmm how can I make life interesting for weekend warriors, yep don't include the metal ball. I thought it could be solder but it wasn't because my soldering iron couldn't melt it. Eventually I figured out a way to tie it around the mechanism because you know sometimes all you need is little luck. However it wasn't latching which I later figured out was coursed by how tight I had pulled it. This made it stay open. I had to tie it at the position it would be when the bonnet is closed. 

And voila this warrior could finally retire to the comfort of the couch But first took a spin around town just to enjoy it. I can't remember the last time I took a drive...just because and when you just drive to drive you can ignore the little things about an old crappy car that you love.

Radiator woes

Old cars love to keep things interesting. My Mazda B2000 is almost 30 years old. Every time I fix something it thinks mmm what else can I give him to do. I rebuilt the engine, the master cylinder went, I fixed that, then came the starter, replaced that then came the radiator.

I was just driving and I heard the telltale whistling sound of a wet fan belt, not to be confused with the whistling of a fan belt that has seen better days. The radiator is aluminium with plastic top and bottom tanks. I stopped to go have a look and there was trickle flowing from the joint between the aluminium radiator and the top tank.

I spent time disassembling and reassembling it. I used silicon for a gasket and that worked all of 3 minutes after which it became a flood instead of a trickle. It was a hack job I know but I was broke and hoping for the best. I took it to Silverton Radiators but they managed to crack it. Although they claimed it was already cracked I don't see how I could have missed that crack. Conveniently the new one costs R1200. 

I went to the scrap yard, OFS to see if I could find a replacement and a very helpful guy told me of another radiator place called Corenet. Here I was able to find an OEM spec one for much less. Putting it in took all of 15 minutes, although some of the holes were different sizes, the top 2 to be specific. In the end it went in, it works, no leaks.

I wonder what she is gonna throw at me next...

Final Destination

Remember the movie Final Destination. If not or if you haven't seen it, the basic plot is someone or some people escape death from an incident or an accident where they were supposed to die. Death in this instance needs to have balanced book, if you were supposed to die and for some reason you don't it (death) has to find a way to kill you in order to get back to the balanced book. It usually found creative ways to do it, the victim would do everything they can to survive but in the end they would be dead.

Well, I feel like this is what happened with a little project I was working on a few weekends back. I had a laptop which would not boot. No idea why, it would come on and a few seconds later switch off. Apparently the owner had interrupted the boot process absentmindedly once and ever since she has been having this problem.

I thought maybe it's the BIOS. I flashed the BIOS. It had no effect. I thought I would run a windows repair, however I couldn't use the dvd drive because on this laptop it wasn't working. The button to open the dvd drive wasn't working as well and I had to use the money clip in the hole thing to open the drive manually. This was the beginning of a very hilarious effort to try to find an alternative way to boot from this drive to see if it's the problem.

I have another old laptop I was working on. I put the harddrive in it but this laptop screen was suddenly not working. I could feel the drive spinning but I had no visual way of checking if it has booted or not. I had another desktop computer I was meant to check why it isn't working, lets call PC-A. I quickly had to check why it isn't working so I can use it to boot this drive. This computer wasn't coming on, I suspected dead power supply unit. I had another desktop computer I was also meant to diagnose, lets call it PC-B. PC-B had no RAM. Let me take one ram module out of PC-A  and put it in PC-B, I innocently thought. PC-A is DDR3 and PC-B is DDR2. Damn it.

Oh wait, I have my old pc in the shed, lets call it PC-C. I go to the shed to fetch PC-C. I take out RAM module, you probably guess it....damn it, it's DDR. It doesn't fit either PC-A or PC-B. Now what? Use PC-C to test the drive, nope, PC-C doesn't have SATA connectors, it's old schooool. Ok fine take either PC-B or PC-C's power supply unit and use them to power PC-A. Ok that sounds like a plan.

I took PC-C's power supply unit, plugged it into PC-A. Now PC-A doesn't have an in board graphics card. The graphics card it has on has DVI and HDMI connectors for the monitor(s). And surprise, surprise I have an old ass monitor that only has a VGA connector. So I go digging in my drawer of everything, you that drawer that doesn't have a specific purpose, is just full of cables, plugs, glues etc. Hi some luck. An HDMI to VGA converter. Great now we are getting somewhere. Death is loosing.

I connect the monitor, fire up the pc, monitor is black. Now what? I forgot to plug in the power supply for the graphics card. So stupid, laughing at myself, how could I? As it turns out, there is a valid reason why I forgot, the Power supply doesn't have a power connector for the graphics card. 

It's now 04:00 I have to throw in a towel. So I did. I have 4 computers including the laptop and I'm unable to check if another computer can boot from this damn drive. 

Death won...

Snap, Crackle and Pop

The storage compartment between the seats has this spring latch that keeps the lid closed. Yea you guessed it. Last week it decided to break. I opened it, took somethings out and closed it. I didn't even slam it or anything like that but the snap, crackle and pop that followed told me something had gone wrong.

I held it down for a couple of minutes as if it would magically not be broken but when I let go it rose slowly like a toll gate. I knew it would rise because the lid is spring loaded. However, it was disappointing seeing it go up.

So fixing time. In the weekend I disassembled it and put it back together with super glue. I didn't even check what a new one goes for but knowing Honda, it isn't cheap. I put it back in and it worked. Well when I say worked, it lasted for 3 operations and there was another snap and crackle without a pop. So I cheated this time. I just removed the spring that keeps the lid up so the lid can stay closed.

It hasn't affected how I use the box though. It would still be nice to have. I prefer when things work as they were intended or better. I will fix it some day.

The Dunlop disappointment

I was running one bad tyre. Before taking a trip to Sun City for a birthday weekend I decided, let me be safe, let me replace the bad tyre with a new one for the long trip. Was I wrong...

Since I was running 3 Dunlop Sp6060 and one crappy tyre that I can't even remember the name I thought, let me shell out 800 rand of my hard earned money to buy a new Sp6060 to go with the others. Exactly 3 days to day, driving at night I had someone shinning high beams in my face. I hit a pothole I had not seen. I felt that hurt in my soul, followed by the dreaded pssssssssss.

Yea you guest it, that was my brand new tyre gone, massive bubble on the side incapable of keeping air contained. I was upset to put it mildly. I could have run the old tyre, ruined that and only then replaced. I now was faced by the terrible reality of having to buy another new tyre in 3 days.

I contacted Dunlop to see if there is anything they can do for me. it's literally 3 days. I don't mean literally like teenagers say literally. I mean literally as in the definition of the word. They could not help me. Their sales representative called to explain to me how tyre walls are now made of nylon and not steel and blah blah blah blah. As a result they can't help me replace the tyre.

Firestones are expensive, probably because of their warraty. However, the warranty is worth it. Having to buy a tyre twice within a space of 3 days is not a joke especially when you couldn't afford one in the first place. So as you might have guessed it, Next time I replace my tyres I'm getting Firestones regardless of how much cheaper the Dunlops are.

Maybe I'm being unfair but I don't think people loose tyres with 3 days of buying a brand new one everyday. They must have at least demonstrators. They could have done something. I paid twice for one tyre, for someone of limited means that was a train smash. 

I will no longer buy Dunlops....

Some girls are just never happy

Meet Silver, she likes to invent new issues every time. Actually she isn't that different from the other two. They all love to invent problems. Well on the bright side parts are relatively cheap. 

The issue of the day, high beams don't work. Tested the relay, Checked all the fuses and checked the bulbs. Talking of the bulbs, Toyota in their infinite wisdom decided to put the right bulb behind the air intake tube leaving a space so small that removing the bulb takes at least a year. Luckily I have Trump sized hands so it only took 6 months.

However, after all this High beams still don't work. Surprisingly flashing the lights works. I have to conclude that the problem is with the switch. So basically when I pull the light stalk to me for flashing it works but when I push it forward for high beams nothing. I will have to disassemble the steering covers and see what's wrong with the switch.

Silver is a 2E Toyota corolla from 2001. 

Nothing like new Shoes...

Two or tree years after getting this bakkie I was able to improve its look by only changing the wheels. I didn't change the size as that would have been quiet expensive at the time but the look is just ridiculously amazing.

Before:

weekend warrior my mazda before

After:

weekend warrior mazda after

The struggle of firsts...

Firsts are always interesting. What makes them particularly interesting is the gap in knowledge. It brings pain and frustration but also an amazing sense of accomplishment when it's done.

My 1991 Mazda B2000 bakkie (pick up)'s brakes were squealing. This represented an opportunity to do them myself. I knew it was the back ones because well that's where the sound was coming from. This, even if I have to say so myself was an exceptional work of diagnosis. The bakkie has drums and shoes in the back. I had no idea how complex this would be.

so one fateful Saturday morning I came out with my tools and began the 8 hour adventure. There was some breaks in between but this was hellish. If you don't know, there are a few springs inside the drum in this brake system. Removing this springs and putting them back on was so hard for someone has ever done before. 

The worst part is when I was done 4 hours, I realised that I had put the hand brake cable on the wrong side. It rubbed against the drum as the bakkie was moving, making a terrible sound. I had to spent another 4 hours to correct it hence 8 hours.

Changing the back brake pads on my Honda civic. Up until then I only knew that you have to press the brake piston back into the caliper in order to put in new pads. As it turns out, on Hondas you don't press but instead screw them in like a bottle cap. It was an interesting 40 minutes to figure this out. Thanks Google for YouTube.

Changing an oil filter on a 2001 corolla. Among my tools is an oil filter ranch but mine just to teach me lesson is slightly bigger than the corolla's filter. I rushed to Midas (car spares store) and bought a chain ranch. As it turns out just to keep things interesting Toyota decided that the best place for the oil filter on their 1.3 2E engine is just right under the exhaust manifold. I'm not a big guy but I doubt even Trump with his tiny hands can remove it. At the end I had to wrap the chain ranch around the filter, then put the normal ranch on top of that and as they say Bob is your uncle. Now it takes 4 - 5 minutes to remove, that day it took me all afternoon.

The corolla being an over achiever decided to later give me new problems. The left CV boot was torn and as a result from dust and whatever the left CV joint was making a knocking sound. The current wisdom is it's always better to change them in pairs. After having struggled remove the CV joint from the drive shafts for 4 days, a Mechanic friend of mine let me in on a secret that for this specific car they do not come out. They should but they don't. You have to grind and chisel them off. I could have used this information on the first day. It 30 minutes to remove them and put new ones.

Pain and struggling is a gap in knowledge. Once that gap has been filled through pain and frustration and struggling life is a breeze.