Thursday, June 28, 2018

Annie Turns 30!

Annie Turns 30
                                             WOO HOO!  ANNIE MADE IT TO LEVEL 30!

Maybe it is an age thing. 

We remember a time when we used to celebrate another year for our Annie with a photo and words beaming with pride.   Although we are still very prideful and beam when we think or talk about her, it seems that it just isn't enough these days.

Our girl wants more!  And, the general maintenance we had planned while visiting relatives in PA, apparently wasn't what she had in mind.  It seems that we aren't "playing" with her enough these days.

We are used to seeing a small river of oil on our drip sheet.  Coolant, on the other hand, is not something we expect to find.

So spotting this was not exactly exciting.

Even less exciting was discovering it was coming from the engine block (see tiny white arrow).  Um.... bummer!

Oh but wait, it is only a core plug.  These are "typically" replaceable.  Things are looking up!

What is a core plug? 

First off, you have holes in your engine block.  They are there as a result of the process used to form the block of your engine.   They exist so that the sand used in casting can be removed after the casting has cooled. 

However, once it is time to put your engine together, they must be closed off or the block could not hold coolant.  Thus, a need for plugs in the core.  Core Plugs.

On our engine there appears to be ten total.  Four are completely unreachable without removing either the engine or the transmission from the car.  The other six are within varying degrees of difficulty in terms of replacement without engine removal.  Though all six typically require the removal of something or some things.

Thankfully, Annie decided to grace us with a leak in the easiest of all to replace.  The one just behind the starter.

No problem!  We've removed the starter before.  So, off it came.

Next up, drain the radiator.  No problem.  Again, we've done that before.  Just open the petcock and wah-lah!

What?  That didn't drain the block too?  Ah, so!

Simple enough.  The block has drain bolts.  Just put a good lever arm on the end of a socket and boom.  Like that.


Our Annie was not going to permit such things.  No worries.

In the interest of not creating extra work for ourselves by breaking off a bolt that has been in the block for 30 years, we opted to instead drill a hole in the already leaking plug.

Yes, in hindsight, we could have drilled a larger hole for quicker drainage but instead we just eventually put another one in beside the one in the photo.

Next up, we took a screwdriver and a hammer and gave the plug a good whack on the top section (which in our case was the most solid part remaining on the bad plug).

That whack makes the plug tilt and allows easy removal with a good pair of pliers.

Do you see how relatively round the top portion of the hole is?  What's going on with the bottom portion and all of that other stuff inside the block?

What you see there is actually some of the deteriorated metal from the plug that had peeled off the back and either fallen inside the block or fused itself with the block.

(topside view)    Yup.  That plug was toast! 

(underside view)  You can almost see the layers of metal peeling apart.

All cleaned up and ready to be re-plugged.  We dug all of the nasty stuff out and wet-sanded the hole to ensure a smooth surface.

Some comparison shots with the new steel plug.

A bit beefy compared to the original.

Yup.  That should do it.  Looks like a good fit.  Just slightly larger than the original hole.

Um..... NOT!  That booger was not budging.  It may look good in the hole in the photo above but that was as far as it was going. 

"Use a bigger hammer" we kept hearing.  Despite our many hours of research that indicated this wasn't necessary, we did consider that we have the tendency to swing like women especially when upside down in limited space. 

O.K.  Bring on the big hammer. 


Darlene with two of our hammers.  The third, a good sized and more heavily weighted, metal mini-sledge is in use.

Two days, two people and many different hammers, angles and creative attempts later...  It was time to put our foot down. 

This plug was not going into our block.  It must be the wrong size. 

So, we grabbed a pair of measuring calipers and measured and compared down to 1/64th of an inch every angle of the original with the new and then we went to the store and pulled every one they had and measured them too.

Although not our desired choice, we eventually settled on a brass plug for two reasons...

It was 1/64th of an inch smaller than the solid metal and brass is said to be a softer metal.

Back at the ranch, only a few whacks in a few minutes and the brass plug was in.

Purdy and it only cost $2.10.  We thought the .70 cents of the steel plug was pretty great but at least this one went in the hole so they extra $1.40 wasn't the worst thing.

To work on Annie, we moved her to cousin Candy's house (.2 miles up the road, down the hill, up the hill and back down a bigger hill from Uncle Al).  We rode the bikes back and forth and, since we're pretty sure there was actually only two feet of flat terrain on our route, we gained a greater appreciation for our motors. 

Our original intent was to simply fix the core plug.  However, as we dug through everything we realized that there were other things that might be worthy of accomplishment given all of the coolant was drained out of the van. 

Since liquid in a pressurized system will find the weakest link, we decided that it was finally time to address our hose situation.  Believe it or not, some of them were still original!

This 30 year old heater core hose was mostly still going strong.

However, when we bought the van it had a rear heater and AC unit that we removed.  For years now we've simply capped the juncture.  Those caps though do not hold up well to under hood conditions and often spring leaks.  It was finally time to pull this juncture and run a new solid line.

As it turned out, when we followed the line to the other end, we discovered replacement was a really good idea.  The black arrow points to a coolant leak. 

Not only had this original hose developed a small leak

but the inside section that attaches to the block had started to deteriorate.  After 30 years it was time.

Also located in the same line was this vacuum activated heater control valve. 

Although the metal on the barbed end had started to corrode and had become sharp we originally planned to just file that down and put it back inline.

However, upon testing it appears that the diaphragm inside was beginning to deteriorate and not retaining the liquid as it should.  So, we had to replace it.  Unfortunately, they don't make one that looks like the original so we went for the design on the left above as it was close in size.

One of the reasons we prefer to keep original parts as long as possible is that we still have fully functioning parts on the van that are 30 years old. 

The newer parts we are putting on the van (like this hose above that was replaced 8 years ago) last only a small portion of that time.  Having realized this early on is one of the reasons that we will utilize the originals as long as we can or rebuild them whenever possible.

While digging through the engine bay and cleaning up around the thermostat housing which we planned to remove to replace the thermostat, we discovered this...

a bit of exposed wire on one of our ground wires.  We taped it up and cleaned the contact surfaces for good measure.

Another thing we accomplished since we had the coolant drained was a long-term project of Nicole's.  She has been wanting to sort through and more cleanly route all of the under-hood wiring.  However, much of it was for some reason or other wrapped in and out of the heater core hoses. 

Since we were taking those off it meant that we could re-route them away from all of the wiring and turn

Wiring 1

into THIS.  Neat-o.

Once we got the coolant system all put back together there were just a few remaining leaks to work through.  Two to be exact. 

Both were a result of being the last hose clamps we did at the end of a long day.  We were tired and just hadn't tightened them enough.  After a few cranks on the screws all was sealed and leak-free. 

Annie made the drive from Candy's place back to Uncle Al's with no problems and we set out to finally do a few of the things we had planned to do while here.  While we were waiting on our parts to arrive though we decided to do a few more things.

We pulled and checked all of the spark plugs and then ran a vacuum test on which Annie performed splendidly.  Woo Hoo! 

The potting material on the back of the 60 and 90 sec timers tends to lose its ability to stand up to heat over time.  As a result it begins to drip and run all over the rest of the engine.

Trying to cut down on some of that literal hot, sticky mess we filled in the backs with a non drippy hi-temp RTV.

Additionally, prior to the oil and transmission fluid and filter changes we decided to take a look at a few other things.  After changing the thermostat our girl still runs cool.  This has been something of a steady issue from the day that we got her. 

So we picked up an infrared temperature gun and started measuring temps all over the place.

As a result, we discovered a few things we were not intending to find.

2015-10-05 Mini Cat Catalytic Converter (1)
First is that neither our pre-cat (a.k.a. the mini ox)

2015-10-05 Mini Cat Catalytic Converter (2)
nor our catalytic converter are working. 

The good news is that they are not clogged at all.  So, since the lack of functioning is not affecting drivability, we can address this issue at a later date.

As for the always running cool issue, we have questioned the functionality of our fan clutch from the first day we got Annie.  Is is running as it should?  Is it changing speed or just running constantly on high?

A 'spin' of the blades while the engine is off gave some resistance and indicated that it might be in working order.  We attempted to use a photo tachometer to measure fan speed and compare that to engine speed but couldn't get one that worked as intended. 

It's only four bolts.  Why not just take it off and have a closer look?

O.K.  Off it is.  Our fan clutch is original and is the of the thermal variety. 

That means it has a small bi-metallic spring that responds to air temperature, opens and closes a valve which distributes the internal fluid to speed up or decrease the rpm of the fan.

Can you see the spring?  What about the valve in the center?  It was locked in solid with grease and grime. 

Pretty sure it would have a hard time responding to temperature much less turning the valve.

And, here it is after Nicole gave it the once, twice and thrice over.  Not too shabby. 

We tested it several times with a hair drier and watched the spring expand and contract and move the valve.  What we still don't know though is at what temperature the spring is supposed to respond or how much it is supposed to turn the valve.  What we do know is that they typically are set to open at a temperature lower than the thermostat but that is the extent of what we know about this 30 year old part.

Either way, in terms of functioning,

THIS has got to be better

than THIS.

Back to our original maintenance plans... Our transmission gasket started leaking a bit ago.  We were overdue for a fluid change anyway so we dropped the pan, swapped the filter and put a new gasket on her.
One thing we don't own is a torque wrench.  Although we've gone back and forth on owning one we have not settled on a brand, style, etc.  Knock on wood we haven't actually "needed" one yet either.  But this time around, we thought it might be a good idea to properly torque the transmission pan bolts to spec. 

So, Nicole did what anyone in our situation would do.

She built a Redneck Torque Wrench.  

Not our exact set up but the photo gives you the idea.  Use a foot long wrench or do the math if it is shorter or longer.  Attach fish scale and pull at 90 deg to wrench.  Wah, lah.  1 ft wrench pulled to 1 lb = 1 ftlb.  Need other calculations.  Just do the math.  150 in lbs on each bolt achieved.  Awesome-sauce!

When we were in FLA we began a project to increase ventilation in the van during situations where it is typically lacking; like when it is pouring down rain and we have to close all of the windows or when the van is going to sit in the hot sun while we are away and we don't want to leave the windows open but we'd really love for it to be cooler inside when we return.

1 (3)
Enter... the Port Hole (a.k.a. a Deck Plate)

1 (2)
This looks like a good spot for it.  That is the step up to the rear of the van.

1 (1)
Although the hole creates really nice passive air exchange, the combined use with our roof vent creates quite the cool breeze.

When not in use and especially when driving the hole is closed up with the watertight seal to keep exhaust from entering the van.

What we hadn't completed yet was the installation of the screen across the backside of the hole.

It is done now so no more temporary screen placements when we go off for the day.   Just open, turn on the roof fan and enjoy cooler interior temps when we return.

Lastly, we finally got a long overdue opportunity to sanitize our water tank.  So, that was exciting. 

Now, we've got some zerks to grease, some tires to get rotated and balanced and Annie should hopefully consider all of that a really great BIRTHDAY and grant us with some more fun time on the road!