Monday, March 19, 2018

Jade Gets Shanked

Haven't done a lot about Jade here, because there hasn't been a whole lot to post about, but now I've got a couple things. A couple weeks back we were driving home one evening, and there was a loud noise from under the hood and the alternator light came on. Pretty instantly I correctly analysed the problem to be the serpentine belt to have let go. We're around 7 miles or so from home still, but on the freeway and moving pretty good, and it's been California-cold these nights, so I kept her moving with an eye on the gauges. Coming off the ramp by our home, and it made a pretty bad sound going around, so I pulled into a parking lot for a quick visual inspection. Sure enough, there's tattered belt, but nothing else seems out of sorts. I proceed home, going around the back way, which is not as steep so as not to get the engine any hotter than it already is. About halfway, it starts not going, like the engine has lost power or the transmission is slipping a lot. Parked and walked home for the other car to fetch my wife.

On my way home the next evening I pick up a new belt, then head over with my tools and a scissor jack. The belt is a little tight, but is a lot easier if you pull the top engine mount off and jack up the engine a bit. Only five nuts to pull the mount, but I'd forgotten to grab my 15mm deep socket, so it didn't come off so easy. Tried with my combo wrench, and could only get one. Oh well, I'll try just snaking it in and working the tensioner to see if I have any luck. I start trying to get the belt in position, and notice it's short an idler pulley. Hmmm... I start looking closer, and there it is, down by the crank pulley!!! I fish it out, and even find the bolt that is supposed to hold it on resting on the frame rail!!! Looks like the bearing on it has seized up, and I theorize that having done so, it unscrewed the bolt. Looks like I'm not finishing tonight (and it's just starting to rain) so I try starting her up and driving her, and she works just fine for the little bit over the hill and down to our home. The next night I picked up a pulley and finished that job off with no further issue, and she's been running fine since.

THEN, this last Friday, We're out on our way to pick the younger up from school and head out for some dinner, and as we're getting near I start hearing a tick-tick rotational noise coming from the rear right. Huh. When we arrive, I go to investigate, and as I near the offending corner, I can hear the air hissing out!!!

I check it out, and discover it feels like a spike sticking an inch or more out of the inner sidewall!!! I ask my awesome shadetree mechanic friend if he's got a local place that'll sell me a tire, and he says he's got one guy who'll set me up with a used one for $35, or another place that will sell me a new one for around $55. Of course, for $20 difference, I'm going new!!!

We head over, and since he knows the guy he goes in and asks the guy if he's got a tire for $50, and the guy right off says yeah. Should have said less!!! I say at that price I'll take two!!! That's all mounted and balanced, for just a bit more than some shops charge just for the labor!!! A bit more background, Jade had two nice Goodyears on the back when we bought her, and a couple cheapies worn off on the edges in the front, and a pretty good pull to the right. Early on, we took her for an alignment where the guy noted the disparity in tires and suggested rotating the good ones to the front, which I'd already been planning. He did so at a bargain rate.

Anyway, that's the good news, it got the bad tire. When he got it off, it turned out to be a hex driver bit that had nicely speared the sidewall. In the shot of the strut, you can see it has an area where the paint is chipped away to metal!!!

Turned out, it was a lot longer than it originally appeared!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Since my last post, I've managed to get a couple things taken care of. I took her to an alignment shop and got that taken care of. I also disconnected the idle control valve and sprayed the connector with some contact cleaner, and that seems to have fixed that problem. When I was getting the steelie out of the shed, I'd discovered a BF Goodrich tire I'd saved when I'd bought tires last for Scruffy, because it was in great condition. Another project altogether, the back tires on the Falcon have been going flat again for a while. I had one off already, so I jacked up the other side to pull the other one. I was using the jack from the Camaro, which is like a horizontal bumper jack with a cantilevered arm at the end. As soon as I got the tire off and was going to set it down on a jack stand, it tipped the jack up and slid about a half a foot over, onto the floor pan!!!

Took the Falcon wheels and the oldie but goodie BF Goodrich over to a tire shop while I was getting the alignment done and had it mounted on the back right that kept going flat, and bought a new pair of tires for the Falcon. With that steelie on the front left and the BF on the rear right, I've got a half decent set of tires on Scruffy!!!

The new tires for the Falcon were largely so I could move her around some, and have some driveway room opened up!!! Not to mention, it pretty much gets it back to road ready at any point, only other things would be going through the exhaust hangers and replacing them. As previously mentioned, 3 is up for a smog check, and preparatory to that I was doing an oil change and piston soak. We went on a quest for Shamrock Shakes and Szechuan Sauce on Monday in the Falcon, and parked her on the street. Tuesday I drove 3 to work, and backed her into the driveway when I got home. After I'd eaten, I pulled the plugs and started the piston soak procedure. Wednesday I cranked all the oil out, and did round two on the soak. Friday I cranked the oil out again, did the oil change, and rotated the tires for the first time in a while. I'd been hoping to get the 17's onto Scruffy, but ran out of time. This morning I went out to drive her, and hitting the remote to unlock her did nothing. Huh. Used the key on the door like a caveman, and discovered why the remote wasn't working!!! The battery was completely dead!!! I've got the charger on her now, and discovered that I'd popped the trunk, probably Friday afternoon, so it was likely the trunk light did the deed.

Anyway, I've been rolling more miles than usual on Scruffy this week. Mostly she's been doing fine, but there's one thing. Long ago, I'd bought a replacement radio for Scruffy (can't remember, or find a post if I did one, may even have been for Janice) that seemed pretty sweet. It's "mechless", meaning it has no physical drives, but has input for Aux cord, an SD card slot, and a USB jack you can play music through, as well as AM/FM tuner. Also was a bit before Bluetooth connectivity was much of a thing for car radios. It seemed pretty good, but it doesn't tune AM very well at all, and the display is pretty dim. Recently it has gotten to where the display will go out completely. Another thing she's doing is sometimes the fuel gauge won't work. The last couple weeks, if one is working, the other doesn't!!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Down With the Other Half!!!

Last Friday I finished off the lowering job on the back end of Scruffy. It was considerably easier and more straightforward than the front!!!

Of course, it was just springs and struts on this portion, no suspension components other than those. I'm quite pleased with the way it sits!!! Even with the bald tires, it still seems to corner quite well, too!!! Scraped the exhaust on two speed bumps and a driveway so far.

I think I'd better start carrying around some blocks, it's almost impossible to get a jack under it now!!! In addition to the passenger rear tire, the driver's side front tire has been losing air, so I stuck the one remaining steelie on the front for now.

The end of the tailpipe had been tweaked where it was pointing right at the rear tire in the center of the tread. I managed to get it bent to where it's way forward of it.

One other thing, it had this flexy plastic air dam under the front. I have a feeling it wouldn't last long at this altitude. It's gone!!!

On the way home, it was running strange. Idling high, around 2,000 to 3,000 RPM. Way back when we were still shopping for Jade, I'd replaced the idle control valve because it had been stalling. Now it's gone the other way. I'm not sure it might be because it hasn't gotten much driving since I put it in, and the computer hasn't quite adjusted to it yet. I popped the hood that evening, and pushed on the connector a little, and it came down to where it should be. Maybe just dirty contacts??? Hopefully this coming Friday I'll get the alignment done and start driving it a bit more!!!

Thursday, February 08, 2018


Over the weekend I changed the air filter and spark plugs on Jade. The previous weekend I'd performed a "piston soak" on it. Most S series Saturns usually end up burning oil at higher mileage, and short of taking the engine apart and drilling drain holes in the stock pistons or getting new ones, this is about the only fix. I have performed this operation many times, but had recently come across a detailed procedure. I had been using maybe a quarter ounce of Marvel Mystery Oil on previous rounds, but the procedure actually calls for about two ounces in each bore!!! That, and letting it sit for a good 24 hours or more, rotating it, and repeating it if you are able. I did so on Scruffy, but since I haven't lowered the back end, I've been holding off on the alignment, so I haven't been driving her, so I have no idea how well that's worked. Anyway, at the low miles Jade has I wouldn't have expected her to be going through much, if any, oil, but I was mistaken. Don't know how much good that's done yet, either, but while I was doing it, I noticed this!!!

I've never seen a spark plug with this much wear!!! Look at that!!! It actually burned a circle opposite the electrode!!!

The side view shows that it's considerably thinner, too.

I'm not sure if they were the originals or dealer installed replacements, but I'd bet they've been in there at least 50,000 miles. They were AC Delcos, and I think the factory ones were NGK's.

Interestingly, 3 is the only Saturn I've owned that hasn't had oil useage issues, but it's just past 90,000 miles thus far. I don't believe either of the others began with much oil use, either, but the mileage was also lower when we got them. 3 is up for an oil change, and I'm thinking I'll give her a piston soak before I do it, too, just as a preemptive measure. Also, it's nearing it's 2 year anniversary, and thus is up for it's first smog check since I've owned it. I don't predict any issues with that, but also this year Scruffy will be due. That may prove more problematic.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Creepy Caterpillar

This was pretty cool. I probably can't really take credit for it, but I'm going to anyway!!! Back in October on the Woody Show, Greg was telling about a nightmare he'd had of caterpillars. I sent them over this text:

Well, just last week they posted this video!!!

I thought there was a detail that got edited out where there was a camera inside and Woody had a screen where you could watch inside. I was thinking of trying my hand at doing a drawing of this situation. The other scene I'd like to try to make a drawing of is when Menace fell asleep on the floor before he could make it to the couch, and have his dogs thinking about eating him!!!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Half Drop

Since a month and a half (or so) back, when I got started, I've been collecting parts...

Before I mount up the new rims and tires, I wanted to get it aligned. Before I got it aligned, I wanted to replace the tie rod ends, ball joints and struts. While I'm at it, I wanted to drop it down just a bit. Auto Zone had a deal going on for struts, buy two and get the 2nd one half off. Not bad. Of course, no one has them in stock, so I had to mail order them. Rock Auto had about the best prices around for Moog suspension components, so they got my business for that. Dropped springs, I ended up buying from some place I'd never heard of before, but they had the best price on about the only brand that you can actually get anymore.

Most of the stuff came pretty quick, except for the front struts. Auto Zone sends me a message a couple days after I'd ordered them saying there was going to be a little delay. OK, no big rush. A couple weeks later, and they still haven't shown up. Got in touch, and they say so sorry, we don't have them in stock, and the manufacturer doesn't know when they will make anymore. Nice. I start shopping around. Amazon has a vendor who's got one on closeout for cheap. Sold!!! Only problem, the key word there is one. Look around some more, and Rock Auto has some on clearance for around twice as much, but still it comes out to a decent price altogether. Last Friday I head over to my parents house to try and get it all together. Start on the passenger side, and after pulling it apart, I'm getting ready to put the new spring onto the new strut. I open up the box from Rock and go to put it together, and discover that the strut is already pretty worn out, it would seem. It didn't automatically extend, and had very little resistance to movement. Huh. It looked pretty clean, but the top threads look discolored, and it has a hex drive for the shaft instead of a torx. I suspect someone returned their old one. I pull out the Amazon one, and it's much better. Put that side together, and it's around the end of the work day already.

I had to work the next day, but afterwards I found an Auto Zone that has a strut in stock, and swung by there and picked it up. It was late by the time I finished it, but got it wrapped up in time to get the spring compressor and the inner tie rod tool returned. Still have rear end to do, but it should be half the job of what the front was. It pulls to the left, but everything feels tight!!!

Not a huge drop, but I wasn't going for that anyway. You can also see in the final shot the black replacement fender.

More to come...

Monday, January 15, 2018


Or, "Will it Fit: Mobile Edition"

Last Friday we stopped in to a Goodwill store, and there was a fine looking recliner. Great condition, and a great price. On Christmas I had been lamenting that another Christmas come and gone, and still no new recliner. Of course, with the three of us, there was no room to haul it. Headed back the next day, but in the interim, came across a futon!!! My younger has been wanting one for quite a while. I actually told my parents that if they could find a good used one, he'd like that for Christmas, but once again, no dice. See, I was hoping that would happen, as they have better equipment for hauling.

So, him and I took Scruffy out there the next day, first stop where the futon was. Brought along much rope with the thought of, if it'll fit, hang it out the back and strap the hatch down with rope, a la the water heater adventure. Try as we might, it was a big no go for that, too. Headed over to the Goodwill, and picked up the recliner, which of all amazements, fit!!! As I had thought, it has to be in a reclined position, but that's all.

Called up my dad and asked if I could borrow his Trail Blazer. Don't think I'd made mention, but he got a Trail Blazer. Someone turned left in front of him in his Durango around a year ago and totaled it. The Trail Blazer is its replacement, and a fine machine. He took it off road a few months back for the first time in 29 Palms along with my mother, and they managed to get turned off the trail onto a crossing dry streambed, so they did do some trail blazing!!! Anyway, they got stuck in the loose sand and ended up spending the night in the desert, and found the cargo area to be lacking in length to sleep in. Thus, when I asked to borrow it to haul a futon, they said they didn't think it would fit inside. Well, still have ropes and tie downs, one way or the other, we got this. Well, surprise!!! Just a little tilt, and it fit in without any trouble!!! I took this picture and sent it to my dad with the message, "Don't know what your problem is!!!"

This last shot is the recliner again, only with no flash. It's a little fuzzy, but I liked the look!!!