Mailbox solution

1109151000Been a while since my last post. Yes, I am still alive. Here’s a pic of my latest project as a solution to a vexing situation with my mail carrier. Seems that the boxes I get on occasion are too big for my regulation mailbox and the United States Post office has a policy that if a driveway is longer than 1/2 mile, they do not have to deliver. Our driveway is 1/2 mile and maybe one hundred yards long. Sometimes the mail carrier will deliver packages to the door, other times they won’t, depending on their mood, the weather or what phase the moon is in. When that happens, the mail carrier will put a pink slip in the mailbox notifying me that they are holding my box at the post office. I will then have to drive the five miles to town to retrieve said box, costing me time and gas money. If the notice is delivered on Saturday, I have to wait till the following Monday to retrieve my package, causing delays in my service. This situation has torqued me off to no end on numerous occaisions. So, as a solution, I crafted this little beauty out of aluminum deck plate salvaged from Ol’ Silversides after she went to the crusher. It is just a little bigger than the standard Postal Flat rate boxes that I usually get and I made it to accommodate two of those boxes if needed. The other day it got put to use. Hopefully, this will eliminate a lot of pink slips from the Post Office and cuss words from me.

Car Wars, the Saga Continues.

So after getting the Double-Ott road worthy and driving it to work for the remainder of the winter and fixing the little problems that it had, I finally felt that it was ready for a new owner, my daughter and her husband, who had returned from China in mid April. (Long story worthy of another blog post all by itself.) I had logged roughly six thousand miles on the old girl and my wife had taken it numerous times to Albert Lea and back when our “good car” the ’05 Forester was making strange transmission noises. (Yet another pending blog story!) Shortly before the official ownership transfer, I had popped the hood to have a check of vital fluids when I noticed a small puddle of oil on the top of the engine, near the head gasket. This was not a good sign, said I. A few days later I performed the fluid check again only to find that the coolant overflow bottle had more in it than previously. A quick check of the radiator and I found out where it was coming from; the engine. This could only mean one thing. The head gasket on that side was not totally sealing, allowing the cooling system to be pressurized thereby pushing coolant out of the radiator and back into the overflow bottle. I told my daughter to keep an eye on the coolant level an let me know if the temp gauge got into the red zone. A couple days later she called and said that the coolant level in the bottle was quite high. Not good. This could only mean one thing; the engine would have to come back out and the offending head gasket would have to be replaced before any engine damage could occur. Bummer. Note to self: When rebuilding Subaru engines, don’t buy El Cheapo gasket sets from Ebay, unless you like replacing head gaskets every six thousand miles or so.
While this saga was unfolding, my stepdaughter started having issues with her ’97 Outback transmission leaking oil onto the exhaust pipe and creating quite a stink when up to operating temperature. A check of the transaxle oil level revealed way too much oil in there and it smelled like ATF, not gear oil, as it should. The transmission had probably blown a seal between the two and now it was causing problems. I changed out the transaxle oil and added some ATF to the transmission and sent her on her way. A couple days later we got a call from her. Seems the car would not shift out of low gear until it was driven for about ten minutes or so. Looked like it was new tranny time for the ’97. I started checking Craigslist for donors and found a couple, however, most of the parts cars were in the Twin Towns and needed to be towed. Not having a tow truck or dolly available was a huge handicap but then again, how many times would I put it to use? After about a week of searching, I stumbled upon a running ’98 Outback in Eden Prairie that was pretty cheap. Best of all, it ran and needed minimal work. That’s the best kind of used car, for sure. The plan at this point was to go look at and test drive the ’98. If it was up to my standards, (which are quite low, by the way) then we would buy the unit, drive it home and use the ’97 for parts. Since they were of the same body style, many parts will interchange.
Turns out that the ’98 was at a used car dealer tucked back in an obscure industrial park. (Thank goodness for Google Maps!) It did run just fine but had a small oil leak from the power steering pump and also a check engine light on, which turned out to be just a minor emissions code. We bought the thing and headed for home. Made the trip just fine. Whew. Now the next maneuver was to make one good car out of two, something I am quite good at after years of practice.
So at one point, I had two un-roadworthy Subarus sitting in the driveway, along with my wife’s good car, my ’89 Toyota pickup, the Geo-trike and my project VW Jetta that has been on hold for two months. The place was starting to look like a used car lot. Long story short, I just finished up on both cars last weekend and so that situation looks like it is resolved, for now. Hopefully, the Double-Ott will last another hundred thou or so and likewise with the ’98 Outback.

The Mighty Atlas Lathe

lathe6lathe2Well, here’s the story. I bought this piece of equipment in April of ’82. My son was born in July of that year so I have had it longer than him. The previous owner told me his dad owned it and when he passed away it was acquired by him. He was not sure of the year of manufacture but thought it was made in the ’40s, probably. Over the years it has turned countless numbers of cylinder bores, starter armatures, bushings and a myriad of parts for my inventions and creations. I’m pretty sure I recovered my investment of $250.00, after thirty three years. When I bought my new, bigger Jet lathe in ’97 it got used a lot less. I let dad use it for a while until he left the crossfeed engaged too long and it ran out of travel, wrecking some of the leadscrew gears in the process. I found all the parts on Epay years ago and finally got around to fixing it this past winter. After starting on the project, I figured I may as well go ahead and repaint/restore the beast while I was at it. So here is the finished product. What’s next for the old girl, you ask? I just gave it to my son last week so he can play with it. Might as well let him have it, seeing as how he grew up watching me use it.

My next project: The VW Jetta Veggie-Car

So I finally got this thing home last week after borrowing a car dolly and making the slow trek from Lake City. I acquired this car from a guy at work after doing a bit of “horse trading” for repairing his Honda 500 Interceptor84 VW Jettajetta3. Seems this thing has been sitting in his garage for the better part of 8 years without running so the body is fairly rust free. Being that the beast is an ’84 version, it should not be too difficult to do the waste veggie oil conversion. I will let you know the progress, as it occurs.

Maiden Voyage of the Double-Ott

Here’s proof that the thing actually runs. I drove it to work all week with no problems, other than a leaky radiator hose due to a rusty hose clamp that I promptly replaced. The thing runs like new. Gas mileage seems to be very good as well although I will need to verify that after my next fillup. I would like to have a front end alignment done at some point because it does pull to the right ever so slightly. Not a big deal. Drove it to Rochester to get some Amzoil today so I could make the change to synthetic oil. That’s the best stuff! Change oil twice a year (spring and fall) and no need to worry about it the rest of the time. It’s a bit expensive but you actually save money in the long run because you are changing oil less often and getting better protection.
The thing is so cherry that it is more than Church Worthy, unlike a few of my other vehicles.

Maiden voyage

Maiden voyage

A Thing of Beauty

Back in and ready to run

Back in and ready to run

At long last the Double-Ott is a runner, although not without some struggles on my part. Installing the engine went fairly well even though I had to pick the coldest morning of the season do the install. (minus 15F). Once I had everything hooked up and ready to run it was the Moment of Truth time. I turned the key and there was cranking of the starter but no firing of the cylinders. Hmm, what could be the problem? After further checking of electrical connections and plumbing I determined that I had installed the two fuel lines to the injectors wrong, even though I had marked them so as not to mix them up, in my haste to finish the project they were reversed. I had a 50/50 chance of getting them right and I still got them wrong, leading to no fuel pressure at the injectors, so no starting of the engine took place.
But wait, it gets better. After correcting that situation and in my numerous attempts to start the car and getting out to check other things, I managed to lock myself out of the Double-Ott. In all fairness, its really my first car with a key fob and I didn’t realize that when you pull the key from the ignition the doors will lock. Shoulda kept a window cracked, I guess. Anyway, that little setback took an hour to rectify as I attempted to trip the door lock mechanism with a bent coat hanger.
After getting back in the car, finally, and being sure to put the keys in my coat pocket this time whenever I got out, it still would not start, only crank with an occasional pop. A call to my son, the car expert, was placed. He suggested to check for spark, and then pressure at the fuel rail. I checked for spark at the plugs when cranking the engine: good spark. Next I checked the fuel pressure at the fuel rail; not much there, certainly not the 40psi that he said I should have. Could the fuel filter be plugged? I checked fuel pressure before the filter. Nope, about the same. The problem was elsewhere, further upstream, at the fuel pump itself. Could that have gone bad from sitting for two months? Not likely. Or could I have damaged the pump somehow by reversing the fuel lines? Possibly. After a long and frustrating day, I decided to call it quits and start fresh the next day. It was a dissapointment but what can ya do? Sometimes the best thing to do is just walk away for a while.
A YouTube search the next morning of how to remove the fuel pump from an Outback revealed a plethora of videos to watch. Ten minutes later I had the process down pat and headed back to the shop.
Sure enough, after getting the fuel pump out of the tank and on the bench, the problem was obvious: there was a metal endcap on the plastic housing that was sealed with an o-ring. Reversing the fuel lines had pushed the endcap off the housing allowing the o-ring to be forced out thereby causing a lack of fuel pressure. After re-installing the cap and o-ring, I made sure this little situation would not occur again by installing a hose clamp on the cap. Problem solved! After installing the fuel pump and buttoning up the tank access panel, I tried starting the engine again. Presto! We had liftoff! The little engine purred like a kitten on a farm. After a few minutes of warmup and checking of fluids it was test ride time! The Double-Ott went down the road just fine, heater, cruise control, brakes even the power mirrors, seat and CD player all worked just like new. Next will come the Maiden Voyage to work. If all goes well on that trip she will be my daily driver for the remainder of winter. And that’s what I call a thing of beauty.