Saturday, January 19, 2019

South Florida Explorations December 2018

Since we had so much video and so many photos this time around we threw together a short movie to share our South Florida Explorations from December 2018.  During the last month we visited Grassy Waters Preserve, Frenchman's Forest, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Green Cay Wetlands and Wakodahatchee Wetlands.  There were a lot of classic South Florida sightings as well as several exciting LIFERS spotted.  The beautiful and yet somewhat warmer than usual Florida winter weather provided us a great opportunity to get out and enjoy some beautiful areas and a lot of local wildlife.

As usual, the video is primarily a silent one.  Although the critters were quite vocal so were the other visitors to the areas thus it was not easy to grab a clip with only animal noises. 

Click enlarge and play below to watch the video.  We hope you enjoy the tour...

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Annie's 2018 Wrap Up

Last we spoke of our girl, Annie, we mentioned that we were increasing our travel pace back to GA due to a new fit she was having between 30 and 45 mph. 

Although it had all of the hallmarks of a u-joint failure, our usual tests indicated this was not the case.  We were starting to question the possibility of the transmission slipping between 2nd and 3rd.

There are band adjustments that can be done on the tranny.  Some recommend doing them every fluid change but we don't follow that belief and since the tranny had never given us trouble the adjustments have never been done.  So, we were hoping that perhaps it was finally time to do the adjustment and it would be all that is required. 

A few months back, when we were in WY, we realized that we needed to replace one of our idler arms but were putting it off until we were in a solid location.  Since loose suspension parts can bring about a shimmy we made it a priority to shore up the front end before addressing a possible transmission issue. 

Our readers may recall our post back in November where we let you know how the replacement of this one idler arm turned into a much longer project of:

1) Two idler arms
2) Two upper control arms (includes four new bushings and two new ball joints)
3) Two lower control arms (includes two new bushings and two new ball joints)
4) Two new front coil springs
5) Four new shocks
6) Four new brake pads (with integrated shims - no more shim slip!)
7) Painting of all new parts including nuts, bolts, washers and whatever old parts we had off

If you don't recall that post you can read it again by clicking HERE.

We had already shared some of our decisions and the reasons behind them in the previous post but we hadn't shared too many photos so we'll do that now.  Painting underbody components is something that Nicole had wanted to do for a long while now and since the ordering of parts had become such a cluster it seemed like a good time to tackle the project during some of the waiting. 

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (2)
A shot of the Sway Bar and Strut Rods pre-prep.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (3)
Here's the strut rods with one sanded to bare metal and ready for priming and the other not yet started.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (4)
Both strut rods are stripped and ready to prime.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (19)
A neat way to strip the inside of bolt holes - wrap sandpaper on the bolt and twist, twist, twist.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (9)
Here are the strut rods hung, primed and waiting on paint.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (16)
Here's the sway bar hung and primed.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (17)
The sway bar is painted and ready for re-install.

Although new parts often come 'coated' we have learned that this coating is not the equivalent of a good paint job and they begin to rust almost immediately.

2 Paint - Control Arms (5)
So, the new control arms got a scuffing and several coats of paint.

2 Paint - Control Arms (10)
Here are the lower and upper control arms with strut rods all painted and ready to install.

2 Paint - Coil Springs (2)
New coil springs and old original nuts and bolts all got several coats of paint, as well.

2 Paint - Sway Bumpers (2)
The bolt straps on these jounce bumpers got sanded to bare metal

2 Paint - Sway Bumpers (3)
primed and painted

2 Paint - Sway Bumpers (5)
then put back together and are ready for re-install.

2 Paint - Sway Link (2)
These sway bar links (one on the right has been stripped) are getting ready for paint.

2 Paint - Sway Link (3)
Here they are with all of the metal parts painted and ready for re-install (rubber parts are fairly new - albeit dirty and will be reused).

2 Paint - Sway Link Holder (2)
Here's a before and after stripping shot of the top

2 Paint - Sway Link Holder (3)
and bottom of the sway link holders.

2 Paint - Sway Link Holder (8)
Here they are all sweetened up with several layers of primer and paint.

Almost everything Nicole painted was done in pairs (one for each side).

2 Paint - Rotor Dust Shield (2)
When it came to the rotors though she only had time to do the passenger side.

2 Paint - Rotor Dust Shield (7)
But what a difference it made!  At least in this instance only getting the one side done will be a good test of our paint choice in relation to the heat generated on this part.  If it tests out fine we'll get the other one painted in a few months time.

Another part that we didn't have time to paint this time around was the brake dust shield.  We did have time to clean it up though.

2 Paint - Rotor Dust Shield (12)
When you find this much brake dust on your dust shields it seems you might could say that they are working?

The clock was ticking on our time and the deteriorating weather in GA so it was time to get Annie back together.

The upper and lower control arms are in and ready to receive the coil spring and spindle.

A trick for when you don't have a coil spring compressor is to use a jack.  Just be sure your jack will hold until you've got the ball joint nuts on or you'll be in for a not-so-good surprise!

The coil spring is in and the ball joint bolts are torqued and cotter pinned. 

The strut rod and sway bar link parts are all installed and the spindle is lubed and ready for the rotor.

Before we installed the rotor though a long standing issue was corrected.

We don't know when this lug bolt got changed to a longer one we just know that we didn't do it.  Either way, despite it not impacting the way the lug tightens on the rim, we always noticed that lug nut sticking out more than the others.

So, before the rotor was put back onto the van, Nicole cut that lug bolt down to the same height as the others.

Before we put the rotor back on we made sure to clean up, inspect and re-lube the original bearings and related parts.  Everything was looking good.

We put new wheel seals on (left) as the old ones (right) were losing their shape and not locking into the rotor as they should.

Then it was time for the rotor, brake caliper, pads and tie rod to be installed.

Finally, after several months, it is time to put the wheel back on. 

It was a pretty exciting moment until a wheel bearing check (rocking with hands at 12 and 6) revealed a problem.  At the time we were installing it the rotor did not go on as expected or as it typically does but it did go on so we went ahead and put the wheel in place.  However, upon removing the wheel again it was obvious that something had gone awry when the bearing would not come off of the spindle.

It did eventually come off but removal required a bit of destruction.

So, a new bearing was bought and packed and Nicole set to trying to figure out why this problem happened.  What she found was the tiniest of burs on the spindle.  Really tiny! 

When she had originally checked the spindle for burs the weather was in the 30's and so after cleaning and sanding it she didn't think to take her gloves off for a check.  This time around, after again not finding anything with gloves on, she took her gloves off and that is when the tiny bur was discovered and properly dealt with.

The passenger side rotor and wheel then went on without a hitch and the driver's side rebuild was also completed.  

Annie was lowered and sat on all four feet for the first time in several months.  The sway bar and sway links were then installed.

Before we could drive our girl though it was time for an alignment.  So, we went to setting up an environment that would allow us to do that ourselves.  Yes, we did our own alignment! 

We were excited to get Annie out for her first road test.  Our girl felt great and drove straight as an arrow.  Boy did the return to OE suspension make a difference in her feel and how she read the road.  It also significantly softened that vibration that we had been feeling.  Softened but did not fix. 

So, with only a couple of days left before we were due to depart GA we planned to look into doing a transmission band adjustment and hoped that would be all she needed.  We awoke to a day of pouring rain which resulted in a call to a friend who let us utilize the lift inside his garage. 

As soon as we had the weight off of all four wheels you'll never guess what happened! 

The driveshaft (which houses u-joints on each end) was able to be wiggled all over the place by hand.  Good thing we had already bought two that we carried with us 'just in case'. 

Lesson learned... our original u-joint tests with all four wheels on the ground does not reveal a problem when it is caught very early.  Nicole's ear is so finely tuned to Annie and her nuances that she often catches parts AS they are failing instead of AFTER they have failed which can make typical diagnostics a challenge.  So, from now on, if we suspect a u-joint problem causing a vibration but not failing our usual tests, we will also jack up the rear wheels and repeat those tests.  With weight off an early catch is more likely.

And, for those of you who managed to stick around for all of that, here is some visual relief.

DSCN4382 Banded Wooly Bear Caterpillar - Pyrrharctia isabella (13)
In between work on the van we spotted this Wooly Bear (Pyrrharctia isabella) Caterpillar. 

With Annie sitting dormant for so long the Harvestmen (and women) decided the tires were a great spot to mate.

Not quite sure how this threesome turned out.  Interesting fact:  As part of their courtship some male harvestmen produce a “nuptial gift”— a source of food produced from his chelicerae that the female consumes during mating.  Yum!

All of that mating can make an Opiliones thirsty!

While working on the van two members of the family Geometridae visited.

DSCN4479  Twig Mimic Looper Caterpillar (2)
These cats are known for imitating twigs

which has a little more effect when they are in a tree or bush as opposed to on the van or its parts.

We're pretty sure this is a lifer for us but the jury is still out...

IMG_2269 Green Darner (Anax junius) Dragonfly (3)
This pair of Green Darner Dragonflies (Anax junius) requested a bit of privacy.

IMG_1845 Brazilian Skipper (Calpodes ethlius) Butterfly (9)
Finally, in the Lifers category we were pretty psyched to see this new-to-us Brazilian Skipper Butterfly (Calpodes ethlius).

If you are still with us then we'll end everything by saying that we departed GA as planned to celebrate a late Thanksgiving with Nicole's family in FLA the first week of December and are enjoying a shorts wearing winter in the Sunshine State.

Ciao for now...