Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Out of Commission

I hate to say it, but my mountain bike is out of commission. Hard out. It's a wheel hub problem and if you keep reading you are in terrific danger of hearing all about it.

I have very little experience with bike wheel hubs. Especially the "cup & cone" bearing type (which most of them are unless you paid more for the bike than your first car). Right after I bought this bike I was thrown into learning about hubs by the failure of the freehub, the part that goes click-click-click-click when you stop pedaling. On the first trail after assembling the bike the freehub broke and I could no longer pedal. Fortunately, I was on a hill and was able to coast most of the way back.

I called the local bike shop, but they were booked three weeks out. No way was I going to wait that long. Next I called the guys I bought the bike from, Chile Bikes in Moab, to see if they could sell me some parts. Not only did they have the parts, but they sent them for free since I had just bought the bike. Good people over there.

So replacing this thing was my first foray into bike hubs. Well, after a few youtube videos I thought I was ready. I'm happy to say that I made the repair, reassemble hub and wheel, and put a year of riding on it.

The hub is clamped into an axle vise on 
my mill table for adjustment.

Then recently I started to notice some little wobbliness in the back wheel. Nothing major, just a little movement that didn't seem right while riding. Then I adjusted the hubs a little. I didn't seem to help and I started to feel a strange vibration. Right at 15mph the bike would take on this vibration. It wasn't a lot, but it felt like the whole bike vibrated. I was curious, so of course, I monkeyed with it.

This is what I found.

What you are looking at is the cone from each side of the hub. The picture below shows how all the parts go together to make a functional hub. You can see "Bearing Cup" and "Bearing Cone" and it see why we call it "Cup & Cone".

(Image courtesy of kiethonearth.) 

So, normally, the cone surface is nicely polished so that the bearings can roll smoothly across it in their interminable journey round and round the hub. As you can see from the first two pictures, this smooth journey has been rudely interrupted by the presence of some fairly deep pitting.

From the outside, this kind of damage would manifest itself as a feeling of grittiness that you would feel if you used your thumb and forefinger to rotate the axle while holding the wheel stationary. The axle may even bind a little if the pits were bad enough.

Being my first bonafide failure with regard to hubs, I have to investigate this and find out the cause. The main culprits are insufficient lube, over-tightening, or under-tightening. (Cup & Cone bearing require a pretty good "feel" to get right.) My money is on insufficient lube, since it was drier that I thought it should be at disassembly. The good news, though, is the cubs are OK, which means if I can get parts, I can save the hub.

So that's where I am. I want to fix this so that I can say I saved it, but I've also decided to build a new wheelset. The awesome wheelset is another post for another day, and since I'm pretty excited to be doing another wheel build, I'm sure it will end up reported here.

The wheel build parts are taking their sweet time getting here, and I haven't been able to locate new cones to repair the old hub. So now it's the waiting game. In the mean time, my bike hangs like a slain beast awaiting the butcher's block. Hang in there buddy.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Here's Something Fun

Today's post is another one of those "engineer monkeying around in the garage" posts. It's fun though, because it's the first productive usage of the mill drill that that I've had in my garage for the last couple of years. It's not on its table yet, so I have to work on my knees, but that will come.

Anyway, the foot rest on one of our kitchen chairs broke. You can see the mis-colored piece in the picture. This was a test fit of the test piece.

And when I say it broke, I mean it really broke. The tenon broke off of one side. Behold. Normally to fix this you would need complex woodworking machinery including (but not limited to) router, this cool jig, and a table saw.

So after I thought about it for a while I came up with this idea to use three dowels to replace the oval shaped tenon. Here's a picture of what they look like while drilling the hole. 

I used a forstner bit so that I could drill away part of the adjoining dowel. Regular drill bits would wander when adjacent to a dowel, but forstners are designed to drill a hole with essentially a flat bottom. Here's a shot of the setup. I had to put the drill head all the way at the top of it's travel to fit the piece. I held the bit with a 3/8" R8 collet.  

 Here's a shot of drilling the test piece. You can see how the middle dowel gets partially consumed. This worked out really well because it allowed each dowel to fit very snugly with the next.

 Here's a shot of drilling the actual part.

Now my chair is all back to good. Finally.

Well that was fun. Now I have to get the lathe going so I can make some bike tools.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sport Utility.....

I love to go Outside®. Of course, both of you, my loyal readers, know this. The first world problem of the ages for folks like me is how to get myself (and all my toys) Outside®. That problem compounds when you begin to have children and insist on taking them Outside® too. Oh, there's a dog in the mix. Almost forgot about that.

Getting Outside® with the kids.

For our needs, we had narrowed the field down to a midsize SUV or a minivan. The SUV probably would have been a Toyota Highlander (admitted Toyota fanboy that I am) or that hot new Pilot that I was raving about a few weeks ago. Things that were dismissed early on were things like a Sportsmobile Ford van or Suburban. These things are just too big since we have to balance this vehicle between the daily business of toddler transport and the occasional use that we're discussing here. (If I'm being honest, that Sportsmobile was never an option anyway.)

So basically I was facing the decision between the social stigma of the minivan or the or the extra capability of the SUV. Of course when you phrase it that way there's not really much of a debate. The truth is, though, that minivans have so much more space than a midsize SUV. They even have more space than most full-size SUVs. And when you throw the dog in the mix we really don't have enough space in that midsize SUV for everybody. Thus, the debate becomes more complicated. At this point you may be saying it may be bigger but it's still got to get where you want to go Outside® and a minivan may not get you there. That may be true but to refute that I'd like to paint a little picture for you.

My other car is a Land Cruiser. That's definitely SUV you want to have if you want to get where you need to go and take a lot of stuff there. I can't carry as much as a half ton pickup but it can go a lot more places. All too often I've headed out for some trailhead in some remote location only to be greeted with huge potholes and all kinds of rough road along the way. At this point in the journey I congratulate myself on having an SUV capable of getting where I want to go. Those potholes and stream crossings and stuff pose no problem whatsoever. When at last I pull into the trailhead and find the last available spot next to......a Prius.

So that Prius with its five and a half inches of ground clearance got to the same Trailhead as me at the cost of only 35 or 40 miles per gallon instead of 12 miles per gallon. Of course they clearly didn't look as good doing it, nor did they bring as much stuff along with them, but I guess they feel like they need to offset their carbon footprint or something.

So an honest accounting shows that having something with less ground clearance than an SUV will get me to 95% of the places that I want to go, especially seeing that I'm dragging small children along and they won't be able to go too far into the backcountry. And I can bring that up to 96% or 97% if I'm willing to live with a little bit of ground scraping along the way. I'm not by the way.

So a minivan it is, BUT, I will do this on my terms. There are a few requirements that will need to be met before this van is acceptable. The first one, all-wheel-drive, eliminated most of the field. I was really only seriously considering the Honda Odyssey or the Toyota Sienna, but the Odyssey has two inches less ground clearance and the Sienna comes in all-wheel-drive. That made the choice pretty simple. Also, if you do your research you will find that the Sienna ages better than the Odyssey. (And if you're looking for a used one, for the love of all that is holy, google "pax" and read up.)

Now, of course, we need to get all our stuff Outside® with us. We gotta have a hitch for the bike rack and possibly towing in the future. The SkyBox will go on the roof rack and someday I hope to buy longer load bars so I can fit a boat or a couple more bikes up top. The hitch is easy I've already installed 3 of those, now four. All this weight is going cause problems unless we can get some extra stability. The extra stability I addressed with Airlift air Springs. In my opinion the springs improve the van's handling in ways I hadn't expected, even when unloaded. I ran it for the whole trip at 20 psi, even though 30 is the max. I had planned on going up to the max somewhere along the way, but never got around to it. 20 psi is what I run it at under normal around-town driving.It's probably not meant for that, but as I said, I think it handles so much better.

Hitch. Non-optional equipment.

AirLift 1000 suspension enhancement. Also non-optional.

It's all set up now. The only thing I will add later is a Yakima Timberline Rack with some 70 inch load bars. Probably next year.

The only negative I have is about the in-dash navigation. How is it that a nav system from 2013 does not work as well as an old Garmin from 2004? The touches are less responsive, it takes a long time to think between selections, and can't navigate forest roads, logging roads, or other little used roads of the like (even though they are displayed on the map). Of course, this last consideration is a BIG negative given my use case. It's also a pain that you can't search destinations while underway. I understand the reasons behind this, but it also means that my wife can't search for the next rest stop as we fly down the freeway. I hate to say it, but I may actually need to keep a Garmin in there on road trips. Toyota needs to figure this out.

All in all, it's working great, and hopefully it will live up to its Toyota badge.

See you Outside®.

Friday, June 03, 2016

A Little Night Wrenching - Conclusion

At long last the radiator is in and the truck is up and running. As I said in the last post, sometimes the gremlins teach you the meaning of pain. That was the theme of this job.

I've been working on this old truck for many years and in all that time I've never really had problems with broken fasteners. The only other one I can remember is one that held on an access plate under the front of the engine. In that case I still had three good fasteners and it was only holding a small plate. I didn't repair it.

In this case, two of the broken bolts attach the steering damper to the frame. Being unwise to live without the steering damper, I had no choice this time.

The other broken bolt is one of four that hold the driver's side headlight assembly. I probably could have gotten away without that one, but since I was setting up the bolt-drill-out shop, I figured I might was well get that done too.

In all I fixed three holes and managed to drill none of them straight through. They all ended up being off center and at some angle. For the two large holes, I think I removed about 1/4 of the threads, but the bolts went in easy (after chasing with the tap) and took the torque I put on them.

The next picture is at an intermediate step. The holes to be repaired are the right and left holes. The middle hole is not part of the project. You can see that for the right hole, at this intermediate step, it was pretty much centered. For some reason when I went up to the final size the bit dove to one side and ended up way off center. The picture below is of the fastener after I got it out. you can see how far off center it was.

The other fastener was much more stubborn. Even after I drilled the final size, the remnant was still locked into the nut. I had to eat away at it using a carbide bit in my Dremel-dentist fashion. There wasn't a big enough piece left to photograph. This operation unfortunately cost me two expensive Dremel carbide bits.

The smaller bolt (for the headlight) was a little more challenging because it was harder to reach. It was pretty far inside so I had to come up with a long extension. I had this hex shank extension for those quick change bits and I found this little drill chuck that I could use with it. My only complaint about the little chuck is that it wasn't very strong and this 5mm drill slipped more than I thought was ok.

When it comes to working on cars, extensions are golden. Over the years I've collected quite a number of them including a 24" 3/8" drive and a 16" 1/4" drive. There's also this 12" hex shank adapter. These combined with all the little adapters and universal joints make the work go so much easier.

The last major hurdle in this job was that the new radiator did not fit well. It was about 3/16" too wide. that doesn't seem like much, but it's enough to prevent it from fitting without modification. I had to grind the mounting brackets as well as the mounting holes.

I did not end up putting in the power steering cooler, but I have figured out how it's going to go in and I'll do that later this summer. Taken with all the extra repairs and modifications I figure this job took about twice as long as it would have otherwise. On the up side, I got a bunch of new drills and taps and that cool little drill chuck out of the deal. Not to mention the satisfaction of success hard won. Even considering all the extra tools I had to buy, I still only paid out about a third of what it would have cost at a shop. Of course, when you weigh that against the amount of time it ended up taking, your cost-savings argument is destroyed. But as we determined in the last post, it's not about the money.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Little Night Wrenching

I like to wrench, and that can be difficult to work in around raising toddlers and the other business of life. That's why it ends up being done at night. Toddlers give you no peace when they know you're out in the garage using tools and they are not, so you find yourself waiting until they are unconscious.

So anyway, last week while I was on an outing with the scouts I came into some power steering trouble with the Land Cruiser. About six years ago I replaced the entire power steering system except for the fluid cooler. That cooler finally gave it up. While correcting the problem (temporarily) I discovered bubbles and fluid coming from the radiator.

As Jeff Foxworthy once said, if things seem to be going smoothly, you're obviously overlooking something. And so it goes with car problems. I found the coolant level to be much lower than I thought, and that just highlights the importance of checking the fluids regularly.

A while ago a mechanic said I should replace the radiator. I actually agreed with him, but I didn't want to do it right away. I knew it would have to be done sooner or later, so when I found what I found, it wasn't really a surprise.

This project has been memorable in several ways. It has gone fairly sideways in some respects. Also, I have to open more systems than normal, simply because of how they all relate around the radiator. This is my third radiator done shadetree-mechanic style. When I was about 18 I did it on my 1989 Mazda 323. I did the whole thing in about four hours. The next one was in the summer of 2007 when my 1986 Toyota SR5 Pickup barely made it home. I'll probably end up taking as long to do this one as both of those took together.

This truck has a transmission oil cooler built into the radiator, so swapping it requires opening both the coolant system and the transmission oil cooler circuit. Add to that the extra restorations that are required of the power steering system, and the project scope begins to creep up.

In the next picture, you can see the inlet and outlet of the transmission cooler at the bottom of the radiator. On the floor to the left you can see the new aftermarket power steering cooler. Using an aftermarket one saved me $300.

I have been surprised at the level of disassembly that has been required. On the others I didn't remember having to basically remove everything from the front that I could.

Here's the new thermostat just before closing it back up in there.

Now, you may be asking what had gone sideways? Well, I sheared off three bolts and rounded one nut. The nuts pictured below came loose for the most part, but the last one rounded off and was being utterly unyielding. I looked over Youtube and found a great technique for rounded nuts that only involves the judicious application of a small cold chisel. This method worked great.

Those three bolts that I sheared off are going to be more problematic. I still haven't dealt with them, but I do have the plan outlined. One of them I could live without. It is one of four that hold the headlight assembly on. The other two are both of the mounting bolts that attach the steering damper to the frame. I can not drive without the steering damper, so I will have to sort that out before calling the project complete.

Now, I have never actually done this. I came close on my motorcycle project where I had to repair a sheared bolt. That one had some very challenging tight space restrictions. These ones are relatively open, but they will be difficult because I have to either extract the bolt or drill it out by hand, which means I have very little room for error. Today I bought some drills and taps to that end. I'll test my mettle on Monday. That will be the very last step because that piece is basically the last one to go together.

This is a good place to insert a plug for PB Blaster. I didn't give these bolts long to soak under the PB Blaster, but others I did came off just fine. If you plan to work on a car that is more than a couple of years old, go buy the PB Blaster. It will save you lots of heartache.

So, sometimes you start out thinking it will be really hard, but it turns out to not be so bad. Sometimes you start out thinking it will be easy, and the gremlins teach you the meaning of pain.

So why do I do it? What draws me to this self-abuse, if you want to call it that? I'm not sure. It would be tough to make the argument that I'm doing it to save money, although I do save money. I think I do it because I love to learn. I always finish a project with more knowledge than I had at the outset. I also derive a lot of satisfaction from repairing things.

I also think I do it to stay grounded. In my job I spend a lot of effort telling mechanics how to do work. Things look a lot different from your cubicle than they do when you open the system and get an adrenaline rush because water is just gushing out in front of you. It's difficult to describe the feeling when that bolt twists under your wrench and you know that it's head is coming off. Your stomach just sinks a little. In those cases, there usually is nothing for it. Since they don't let me turn wrenches on the ships, I have to do it in my driveway, and that's just fine by me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sweet Ride

Look at this...

This is a 2016 Honda Pilot.

I have never bought a brand new car in my life. Heck, I've never even wanted a brand new car. I know a lot about working on cars so I feel like I can leverage my skills and save money by buying older cars that have demonstrated quality.

I bought my first Toyota with 155,000 miles and my second with 154,000. We bought our CR-V with 94,000. Most people consider cars spent at that point. But not me. My Landcruiser is 22 years old and runs better today than it did when I bought it.

The point is, I like older cars because I feel like I get more value from it. I also get satisfaction from getting my hands dirty under the hood. My first truck (the Toyota), I owned for five years and I sold for only $1,500 less than I paid for it. And in that time I had my first experiences with changing a transmission (me and a buddy in the driveway), oil leaks, and disassembly and reassembly of front four wheel drive hubs.

I balk at the cost of warranties because I feel like the effort and heartburn associated with obtaining warranty service is just about on par with simply doing the work. This is particularly true with older cars that have some sort of third party or non-manufacturer warranty. These are uniformly designed with the interests of the warranty provider's bottom line at heart rather than providing service. (If I bought a brand new car, I would gladly accept the manufacturers warranty.)

Some say that cars are too smart to work on any more. To me it's an opportunity to get smarter, not roll over and concede defeat. The basic functions are the same, there's just some extra systems to help it along.

So why would I even consider a brand new car?

Maybe you didn't see picture. Look at it again.

That's a hot ride. It looks like a larger version of the CR-V, which I love. I've always liked the CR-V, but never more than the current model. In my mind, though, the chief failing of the CR-V is it's light carrying capacity and its small size. It fits the niche that it's designed for very well, I just want something that looks like it but has higher towing capacity, and it would be great if it had third row seating. Also, I'd like to see some suspension upgrades that would make it more stable under heavy loads.

I've essentially just described the 2016 Pilot. The availability of suspension upgrades is still slim, but it is brand new.

This new model also overcomes previous Pilot's chief drawback: its looks.

I'd love to drive one home today.

Don't misinterpret this to mean that I'm about to buy one of these magnificent beasts. It's simply a financial impossibility to drop $36,000 on a car right now. And then there's the philosophical implications of putting two car seats, their occupants, and a furry beast into this lap of luxury. It already makes me cringe to put them all into an 8-year-old CR-V with 120,000 miles.

Anyway, philosophy aside, its not going to happen. What's new here is the desire to have this brand new car. It's not something I'm accustomed to. Maybe in a few years I'll be able to pic up a nice used one.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Some Spring Camping

So this weekend we had planned on going on a scout outing. Fate, however, had other plans and the outing was rescheduled to a weekend I can't attend. Since the outing was to Tubal Cain Mine and the plane wreckage, I felt I needed a make-up tent night. (Don't have time for the hike.) Here's a confession, part of the reason I was so anxious for a night out is I just bought a new tent and was desperate to take it for a spin.

Since the outing was rescheduled, I was also able to attend a wedding reception I wanted to go to. So there you have it, cram in a night in a tent while also attending a reception.

Fortunately, I have both a willing co-conspirator and a very nearby campground, so we made it happen. The outing was pretty simple because we only had a little time, but it covered all the main bases. We had a fire, roasted some marshmallows, and then the kiddo decided to it was time to go to bed. All in about 35 minutes.

Of course, he was tired until we got into the tent, then he was too hyper to calm down. Lately I've been reading Roughing It at bed time, so that helped a little. It was also fun to text with mommy at bedtime, reading him the texts and texting what he told me to.

Of course, when you go camping, the only thing better than going to bed late is getting up early. Around 6:00 he decided it was time to get up. So we wrapped it up early. He finally got me up at about 7:15. We started the fire back up and had some muffins and juice boxes. After a few minutes he decided he was cold and started packing up.

The whole thing wrapped and we were home by 8:45. Camping with toddlers. Can you beat it?