Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Great Progress Continues

I haven't been diligent about posting to this blog, but I figured it was time to note something worthwhile.  I have pictures that I'll get around to posting some day.  I admit that I haven't been as diligent about taking those, either.

I've made enough in-flight missile repair progress to get Lola into shape as a semi-daily driver.  I have:
  • Changed the oil.
  • Fixed the glovebox door light to eliminate the drain that was killing the battery.
  • Sort-of fixed the rear view mirror, which was flopping between 'day' and 'night' modes.
  • Replaced the little clamp that holds the driver's side vent window shut.
  • Judicious use of wire keeps things inside together, but it's not perfect by any means.
  • Replaced the return fuel line, which cracked after 33 years of heat exposure.
  • Replaced the fuel filter and tested fuel pressure, which appears to be at the low end of the acceptable range. 
  • Revamped the cooling system with a new radiator (which I replaced with the original after being cleaned out--it fits better), new hoses and thermostat.  The thermostat was horribly clogged and probably sticking.  Lola now runs at a tick over 175, and I have heat with no leaks!
  • Got the A/C working with a simple recharge.
  • Fixed the aux cooling fan by fixing the power lead to the fan, which had melted away at some point.  I put a 20A inline fuse to protect it.  It works, both when A/C is engaged and when the fan shroud temp sensor trips.
  • Replaced the driver's seat bottom cushion.  I now sit much taller but the cushion is still pretty stiff (made for those small Italian posteriors).  I will have to give it time, or get a smaller butt.
  • Replaced the alternator voltage regulator and belt.
  • Replaced the lead from the alternator to the main power block with an 8 gauge wire.  I now have more amps as far as the gauge reads, but when I turn lots of stuff on at once I drop to the 10-11 volt range.  The alternator itself is probably going to get replaced at some point with a higher-amperage unit.
  • Cleaned and lubed the ignition switch after a harrowing moment where the car just quit running at 70, but came back with a sharp slap and a turn of the key.  So far, all is well.
  • Replaced all the ball joints in the steering assembly.  After taking her in for an alignment because tires were wearing badly, I was told there was too much slop to be able to 'take' an alignment.  After the replacement and a do-it-myself alignment, the steering was more accurate but still pulled to the right.
  • Replaced the castor arm joints.  The sides attached to the body weren't bad, but the sections attached to the axles were shot (like, moved a half inch in an out).  The replacement wasn't too difficult, and it got rid of a lot of noises except for the creaking when the passenger's side moved up and down.
  • Replaced the drop links for the anti-sway bar, which eliminated the creaking.
  • Replaced the tires, which had actually worn at a slant.  Lola now steers properly with no pull while coasting.  I measured my alignment settings for toe--and I am within spec, so I'll leave it alone for now.
  • Replaced the muffler, which fell apart at the pipe joint.
  • Fixed some rattles underneath the car.
  • Replaced the transmission and rear end fluids.  The trans fluid came out a horrible black and not enough, but pretty OK metal-wise.  The rear axle fluid was cleaner but there was more wear, which I expect is the friction plates in the limited slip diff.  They'll have to be replaced at some point.
  • Replaced the universal joint at the diff, which was binding and causing a shake at 45 and 70.  The shake is reduced but not eliminated at 45, but is gone at 70.  The giubo and front universal joint appear to be in good shape.
  • I tightened the driveshaft coupler, which reduced some rumbly noises.
  • I fixed the VVT solenoid mount, whose bushing had disintegrated.  (I didn't know what it was without some research--and I was surprised to find that this engine had VVT.)  I used Permatex black silicone gasket maker and set to what appeared to be the right height to dry.  So far, it holds tightly.

    Reinstalling it was originally disappointing--VVT didn't work when I tested it (the idle test) before installing the solenoid (which does work).  But a couple of days later, I accelerated in 5th gear and felt like there was something extra happening, and it was good.  So I retested VVT--and it's working!  The idle goes lumpy when I engage the VVT control pin.  I figure it had gotten clogged or stuck after not being used for a very long time, and freed up under repeated engagement.  I am super excited by this!
That is quite a bit of work to do part time on weekends while driving 2-3 times per week (200-300 miles per week).  But it means I can drive safely and in reasonable comfort.

The next set of problems to solve:
  1. Replace the radio, which is dying.  It is a cheap Insignia unit that is falling apart.  I realize that's not a high priority mechanical item--but I use that sucker two hours a day when I drive to work.
  2. Replace the lights in the instrument cluster--they mostly work if you slap the cluster around a bit.
  3. Drop the springs and wishbones, measure the springs (and replace if necessary), and replace the wishbone bushings and lower ball joints.  Replacing the bushings should remove the tendency to pull right on braking.  Replacing the springs might improve what seems to me to be significant brake dive.
  4. Examine the upper arm ball joint and bushing--I am hoping they're ok, especially the ball joint, since the arm was replaced with an adjustable unit at some point.  If not, I'll be doing some work there (I have the bushings, but not the ball joint).
  5. Check and repack/tighten the front wheel bearings, which I suspect will remove most of the remaining shake.
  6. Think about replacing trunnion bushings and things in the rear axle.  This work along with the wishbone revamp ought to remove the pull on acceleration and deceleration.  But man, this looks like a lot of work without a lift (which I don't have).
  7. Fix the passenger's side seat belt, which locks too quickly (you can't pull the belt out easily).  Then I can have passengers!
  8. Fix my driver's side high beam, which is either a broken wire or a problem in the switch.
  9. Shampoo and repair the carpet.
  10. Pull a bunch of dents and cut/polish the paint.
Stuff for the future:
  1. Replace the rear main oil seal and cigarette seals to cure that leak.
  2. When I do that, I have to drop the gearbox--so replace the clutch assembly, rear gearbox oil seal, and think about some minor refreshing of the gearbox proper.  Lola has the typical 2/3 gear crunchiness when shifting rapidly, but the gearbox itself is pretty quiet.
  3. Rebuild the differential a la "Wheeler Dealers" to tighten the diff.
  4. Replace the exhaust system, which is cobbled together and looks and sounds terrible (to me).  It does pass emissions testing, so I can live with it for a while.
  5. Probably replace the fuel pump.
  6. Do something about the dash, which has two ugly cracks.  I could probably repair these myself and resurface the panel with some nice vinyl.  It will also give me a chance to tighten up stuff that's gone somewhat floppy.
I'm pretty happy with how things are going, and Lola is more and more fun to drive as I bring systems back up to par.  She gets lots of looks and questions.  I haven't seen another older Spider in the Valley (yet), so it's neat to drive something uncommon.  And hey, she's Italian!

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