New/Old Fuel Pump and Pressure Testing

Like a lot of stories with my car and its problems, this one starts with an attempt to take a ride with my kids. One evening we all piled in for a short jaunt around town only to get nothing but cranking when I turned the key. Listening when the key was turned, I wasn’t hearing the in tank fuel pump priming as it normally does. That thing had been getting louder and louder over the last few weeks, so its sudden death was not a huge surprise.

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Changing the Ignition Switch

On older cars, the ones from the days before RFID based ignition interlocks, ignition, starting the car usually involved a physical switch that would close the circuit to the starter motor. This switch was connected to the lock mechanism which would turn only when the key was inserted. Pretty simple. My car has one of these mechanisms, and ever since I bought her this switch, while functional, is touchy. “Touchy” here means that it’s possible to over and under rotate the switch and cause it to not fully make contact in the proper places. It’s annoying to say the least, so I decided to fix this.

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New Alternator

Like a lot of people, I suspect, we recently got a “pandemic puppy” in our house. My daughter had been agitating for one for some time, and since we’re all more or less stuck at home most of the day we figured a dog would be an ideal companion in lieu of other kids. This has worked pretty well, but like most dogs he doesn’t like the sound of the vacuum cleaner. A week or so ago my wife wanted to vacuum the first floor and asked me to take the dog out. Knowing how much I love to drive my car she suggested I put the dog in his carrier and take him for a ride. I happily obliged. Puppy and I loaded up into the car and started tooling around the neighborhood. I contemplated getting onto the local highway to get some higher speed time on the engine, but as I was heading towards there warning lights started slowly popping up on my dash. Knowing that my ignition switch is touchy and can be put into a situation where certain lights on the instrument cluster turn on and off erroneously. As I pulled up to a red light, I turned the car off and attempted to restart it only to hear the sad sound of a struggling starter motor. My battery was dead. When the light turned I pushed it through the intersection and parked it on the curb.

My first road breakdown
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Interesting Engine Problems

Since I’d gotten her registered I’ve been driving my car around fairly regularly, or at least as regularly as the current pandemic lifestyle both requires and allows. Happily there’s been no real issues. The engine starts when asked, the car rolls, and it stops when I push the brake pedals. What more could one ask for? Well, consistency would be nice. That was called into question one morning when I climbed in, turned the key, and almost immediately stalled out. Rats.

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Uncrossing Her Eyes

It’s not terribly noticeable, but the driver’s side headlight on my car has always been a little wonky. Very early on in this project I had tried to clean the whole assembly up a little bit but it just never sat correctly. I mostly attribute this to the fact that the support frame for the lens is a Taiwanese made aftermarket part of questionable quality, but from the looks of it there also seems to have been a small amount of damage to the front end metal at some point. I don’t think it was crash related as nothing looked broken or buckled, but a few edges were bent almost like they had a hammer taken to them. It’s a bit of a mystery.

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Harbor Freight Hijinx

Harbor Freight has a well earned reputation for producing garbage but garbage priced so low that a lot of people, myself included, just can’t help but buy it. Well if you have bought jack stands from HF recently you might want to stop using them immediately.

Road and Track writes

Back in May, we wrote about a selection of Pittsburgh brand three- and six-ton jack stands recalled by Harbor Freight because of a manufacturing defect that could cause them to collapse under load, potentially causing injury or death. Customers were asked to return the stands in exchange for a gift card, and affected units were pulled from shelves. Now, Harbor Freight has had to announce a second recall, covering the new jack stands that many folks purchased to replace those covered by the initial recall.

As a wise man once said “Buy cheap. Buy twice.” In the case of HF perhaps it’s “Buy cheap. Return recalled item. Buy cheap again. Still get crushed by your own car.”

Headlight Rewire

I’m a big fan of modular connectors. Nothing bugs me more than having to desolder or otherwise put in a bunch of extra work to undo a permanent wiring connection before I can even start to fix something. In the case of my headlights, over two years ago I used crimp connectors to wire up the bulb sockets.

This worked pretty well for awhile but I found that perhaps the crimps weren’t 100%. Road vibration would occasionally cause a bulb to loose contact. Obviously this was not ideal, so I decided to ditch the crimps and just solder the wires together. But that brought me back to the whole “I don’t like permanent connections” thing. So I got an idea.

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Small Touches

This past weekend was mostly one for yard work, but I did do a couple of smallish things on the car. The most significant one was the replacement of the belly pan. The original pan was long gone with only a couple of small bits still held on by the few remaining original bolts. I reused those and supplemented the rest with new 20mm long M6x1.0 bolts. This pan was a Uro brand replacement part, and like many after market trim the fitment was not perfect. The eagle-eyed amongst you might notice that one of the bolt holes (out of the seven) in the photo below is empty. This is because I just could not get the hole in the plastic to line up sufficiently with the threads to get a bolt to “bite”. Instead of drilling out the hole a little to make this happen I decided that six out of seven bolts was good enough for now and called it done.

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New O2 Sensor

About a week ago I noticed that I was getting a 1-1-3 code from the computer which indicated a rich mixture condition. More recently I got the code 2-1-2 which suggested the computer wasn’t getting readings from the O2 sensor at all. Doing some research on these codes will take one down a rabbit hole of “maybe it’s THIS or perhaps THAT or maybe even THESE!” so I decided to skip all that and just replace the O2 sensor. The model I went with was a Bosch 13034 which I believe is the OEM component.

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Engine Bay Before and After

Recently I was inspecting my engine after I had gone for a drive. I wanted to know if any new leaks or other issues had developed. Thankfully there has been nothing like that so far, but my mind was cast back to when I first got the car and just how filthy the engine and bay were. I too a few new photos and present them here in contrast to the initial state to illustrate how far it has come along in both function and cleanliness.

Old

New

Not showroom clean, but I’m quite happy with the results.

Edit: I’m glad I made this post because it helped me realize that I had the check valve between the intake manifold and vacuum tank inside the dash backwards. Remember: it’s black side towards the manifold,  white side towards the firewall.

Back to Her Roots

Gudrun made her first run as a proverbial “Grocery Getter” and performed the task with style and grace.

Cargo space for DAYS!

Plus I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting a lot of admiring looks from people I pass. I guess I’m not the only one nostalgic for these cars.

What’s Next?

Now that my car can be used it’s tempting to stamp “done” on this project, but that would be supremely premature. There is still a lot to do on this car both in terms of maintenance and improvement. I’ll use this entry to list those out for future reference. 

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The Day Has Come

After nearly two years of on-and-off effort, the big day has finally arrived. In the days, weeks, and months leading up to this event I’ve laughed, swore, strained, and cheered. Most importantly, I’ve learned a lot about a subject about which I previously knew almost nothing. I can now proudly says that this car that I have put so much time, effort and not an insignificant amount of money into is now legal to drive the streets.

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Rear Shocks Installed

By last Friday I had all the parts I’d ordered for this final push to get the car registered in hand. This included major components like the rear shocks and also a few extras like new hatch lift supports and a trim piece for the interior hatch handle (one of which I had already broken). Unfortunately I managed to aggravate a pre-existing back issue from a sports related accident I had when I was 13. I could barely walk let alone change car parts. I had to take most of the weekend to recover. Fortunately I was feeling about 90% better by Memorial Day, so I was able to get all my planned work done.

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