Category Archives: Department of DIY

Happy SAD

For those not up on the current jive SAD is Singles Awareness Day, AKA National Condom Day, AKA Valentine’s Day and a bunch of other stuff. I chose this particular headline because it is a contradiction when read as the words they appear to be, but not in their literal meaning. I mean “Happy NCD” has meaning but no ironic subtext like “Happy SAD”.

Also a reminder that there are many suicides today by people who think they will never be in a relationship and a lot of these are single-vehicle “accidents” that sometimes involve innocent bystanders like pedestrians or cyclists. So stay alert out there especially between 2300 and 0100 tonight, that is peak time for Singles Awareness Day suicides.

Since I’m temporarily stalled on the 1:1 hot rod I have been doing some minor piddling around with the Mini Sprint-T, specifically the wheels. As delivered the Wide 5 wheels were way too wide for the street tires but too narrow for the race rubber. I have engineered fixes for both those problems but I only have the tools to fix one of them. As delivered the back half of the rim is almost exactly the right width, but the front side is way too wide. Since I still don’t have that lathe I’m going low tech, wet or dry sandpaper and an old mirror to get a flat surface to sand off the outside of the rim to the right width. Just as a reminder the W5 wheels I got from the vendor were for a 10″ wide (bead-to-bead) scale wheel while the street version uses an 8″ wheel and the race version uses a 14″ wheel. Also don’t forget there are 1″ wide bead flanges on each side of the wheel so the overall scale width is not the spec width*scale but the flange width*scale. Basically I need to take 0.08″ off the outside half of the wheel for the street wheel. The scale race wheel will be made with a vacuum forming machine that I’m building from the stack of broken toasters that have 2 settings: off and charcoaled bread, and the centers from the outer halves of the wheels that will be sanded down to glue inside the vacuum formed outers. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is how to form the flange on the outer street wheel so the tire doesn’t fall off the rim before the glue dries.

I know this is early but I want that travel warning to hit as many people as possible so they don’t get hit later tonight.

PSA, Opus the Unkillable

Bye-Bye Money

Today was a fun (not fun) day. After making sure we had money in the bank to cover the checks I went and paid all our property taxes today. Almost $3K flushed down the government sewer. All I can say is all that BS does a wonderful job of making the grass grow. I’m mostly upset because that was a large chunk of change, not for what happened to it. As someone pointed out from before I was born, taxes buy an important thing, they buy civilization. Without taxes we have no government, without government we have no laws, no streets, no water systems, no sewers, no public education, NO CIVILIZATION! So, yeah I like paying taxes, I just don’t like paying so much in taxes.

Naturally I had to do a lot of walking as it was about a mile between all the offices and while there was a bus it only ran once an hour, so it was tons faster to walk. Inhale. After spending close to two hours doing the tax thing (including walking between offices) I grabbed a bus to get the latest issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and since it was after 1500 and the next bus wasn’t until 1551, I grabbed a bite at the burger place on the corner. Inhale. Also between paying taxes and heading home I picked up some high-point check-ins on my game.

On the hot rod front I found there was an LS series engine built for transverse FWD cars, the LS4, and a special automatic transaxle to go with it. It was installed in the GM W-body cars in the early 2ks and made famous as the “You get a car!” car on Oprah. Anywho the LS4 is slightly shorter than the standard LS V8 and puts out just over 300 HP in stock, new form. Thing is that because it’s an LS engine there are tons of GM and aftermarket performance parts to pump up the power until the transmission turns to shrapnel in a few seconds/feet. Using this combination results in a power unit that weighs right at 700 pounds, or slightly lighter than the 350/350 standard for T-Buckets, by about 10 pounds. Most of that is because of the aluminum heads and block of the LS compared to the cast iron block and heads on the SBC 350, because that 4T65E transaxle weighs more than the TurboHydromatic 350 by 94 pounds. But the final car would still be even lighter than the 350/350 Bucket because like with the minivan powered bucket there is no 120 pound rear axle, or driveshaft. So maybe 1600 pounds or a touch less for the LS4/4T65E bucket, basically 100 pounds less than the SBC 350/350 bucket. And I could get the same HP out of the 3.6L DOHC V6 Mopar engine that weighs more than 100 pounds less. Less low-end torque, but that’s why the 62TE transmission has a 4.1 1st gear and the 4T65E transmission has a 2.61 1st.

And It’s time for me to go to bed now. I have a busy day coming tomorrow.

Billed@€0.02, Opus the Unkillable

Fornicate it!

Yeah I wanted to use another word starting with the letter “F” but that would make for a bad headline.

I have decided that since I can’t do the hot rod the way I wanted, or the alternative way that was offered, that doesn’t mean I can’t continue working on either one. I will work on BOTH switching back and forth as my interest waxes and wanes. It would not be the first time I have built something in my head I couldn’t make IRL. There is a lot of cross-pollination already between the two projects in frame design. And the good thing about building in your head is there are no budget restrictions unless you decide there are. That’s kinda what I was doing with the LS7 version of the Sprint-T. And for the Fantasy version of the mid-Bucket what should I use? There is a DOHC 4-valve per cylinder 3.6L Mopar V-6 in the current minivans that puts out 283 HP through a 6 speed OD transmission to motivate 4500 pounds of minivan, supercharge that to 350 and drop it in a 1500 pound bucket… But there are other transverse mounted V-6 and V-8 options out there I should be considering…

And recent events have me pondering if something or someone is trying to tell me something. I have been trying to ride this bike since early fall of last year and I still haven’t ridden it since I got it home and fell off trying to get off the bike when I got home. I have been trying to build a hot rod since the 1970s, and you can see how well that’s going. It’s like the things I want are the football, the universe is Lucy, and I’m Charley Brown… D:

Well I need to go pay for my phone and get a bit of exercise so I’ll cut this off before I get to crying in my Shiner White Wing.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable

It never rains but it pours, my luck

OK I was going to get the extension hose today so I removed the gauge from the pump to take the fitting to the parts shop to get the right sizes on the hose. After I got it off I thought just for due diligence I should leak test the unit to make sure of where the leak was. So guess where the leak was? The end of the hose where it joins the gauge. Now if the leak had been on the other end of the hose or the other side of the gauge I could fix it, but where the hose connects to the gauge is a crimped connection and not something I can fix at home. So now I have to do a warrantee replacement of the pump so I can ride my bike. Fortunately Amazon is sending a replacement pump assembly.

Getting back to the design of the pump, this pump was designed to be non-repairable. What I thought was a male pipe-thread fitting on the gauge turned out to be a self-threading fitting with a sealing ring at the top, sorta like the legendary self-sealing stem bolts of ST:DS9 . This means they didn’t need to worry about clocking the installation of the gauge because it would clock itself without leaking. That also means I can’t just stick another original gauge and hose in there because the threads are already cut and probably wouldn’t match up to the new unit. And to make matters worse the hose connection to the gauge is not one that can be done or undone in your average home shop. So I’m screwed, and not in the fun way. The only thing I can do is see if I can screw a hose into the pump and run the pump without a gauge. But I’m still going to see if I can fix this one because that’s what I do, play with busted stuff and see if I can make it work. I have a brand-new pump that just needs a hose and chuck to work. I WILL make it work.

On the hot rod front, I have sustained a setback but I’m only out about $90 including taxes because everything I bought since the design change to a mid-engine will work with the more traditional design except for the car cover for a 1990-2005 Chrysler Town and Country mini-van. The books on reprogramming the Chrysler PCM are generic enough that unless I end up with a carb instead of fuel injection I’m still good on that, so that brings it down to $45 for the car cover and tax. The steering arms will work because the front suspension and steering are the same for the front and mid-engine versions except for springs and shocks, which I haven’t bought yet.

Something all the design work for the mid-bucket has made me want to do is to use something like the engine and transmission to make a SCCA Solo racing A/Mod car. There are very few rules in A/Mod: 72″ minimum wheelbase, 42″ minimum track, 900 pound minimum weight with driver, roll bar minimums and maximums, and all 4 wheels have to be sprung. There are maximum wing rules, driver coverage body rules, but nothing that would keep me from doing my thing. I really wished over and over I had the budget to do both the hot rod and the A/Mod car. Towing the A/Mod car behind the hot rod would be doubleplus rad.

And I think I have gotten everything out of my system for today.

PSA, Opus the Unkillable

I need a pussyhat

Seriously. I want to show my support, I need a warm hat for long walks at night, and I can’t knit. I also don’t have the funds to buy one even if I knew where to get one. Also I strongly disagree with and disapprove of Cheeto Jesus. For a guy who sponsored a bike race he doesn’t seem to care much about actually being able to use bikes.

Also I got a PM on Twitter (@opusthepoet) that I should do a political blog. Sorry but while I care about politics to a degree I care much more about what politicians are doing to things I care about, like clean air and clean water, and my grandson not having to swim to work when he grows up because of sea level rise due to climate change. I really don’t care which political party is in charge as long as the things like that and personal liberties are protected. Unfortunately we seem to have one side that only protects corporate profits ahead of clean air and water and personal liberties.

On yet another front, my new pump doesn’t work. Instead of using a compression fitting for connecting the gauge to the pump they used a pipe thread fitting. Both of those connect and hold air, the difference is you can’t “clock” the pipe fitting to make it tight when facing a particular direction like you can with a compression fitting, and the gauge keeps hitting the pump frame during the pump action and getting loosened up. The solution of course is to get a hose with a female pipe fitting on one end and a male fitting on the other and use that to bridge the gap between the gauge and the pump so they don’t hit. I could ask for my money back, but I got almost the cheapest pump on Amazon so I guess this is as much my fault as theirs. On the bright side I can use this as practice for building brake lines for the hot rod, and the extra hose length will make using the pump easier as I can hold the gauge in my hand as I pump instead of trying to read it on the ground as it bounces back and forth from being on a foot pump.

On the hot rod front I have discovered the hub spacing using the stock drive axles is going to be too wide for the front axle. I have four alternatives: buy a wider front axle so the front and rear widths match up (expensive, requires custom manufacturing), 2) make the de Dion cage so that the rear axle width matches the front and shorten the stock drive axles to fit (tricky but barely within my capabilities), or 3) get the widest front axle width available without spending for the custom work and live with the difference as it will actually reduce the theoretical difficulties I was having getting the front and rear grip to match through the middle of a corner. Getting a wider front axle also reduces a problem I was trying to work around for wheel lock. Not lock as in too much brake but lock as in how far I can turn the wheel from side to side, in this case wider is better as the frame is a fixed width, and the further I push the front wheels out the more I can turn them from side to side, without hitting the rest of the car. 4) Mix of 3 and 2. Buy the widest axle and then narrow the drive axles to fit. Cheaper than 1 with all the work of 2 but the car will look right. Handling would still be interesting to sort out.

So, tomorrow I have meetings about the church, then grocery shopping, looks like a busy day.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable

It’s strange what will pop into your head sometimes

I was reading my web comics today when totally out of nowhere came the thought of reducing my NOx output on my hot rod without affecting my fuel economy, complete with graphs of NOx output over a range of fuel/air ratios and spark advances and NOx outputs compared to other pollutants (HC, CO, and CO2).

Basically NOx is the odd man out when it comes to reducing pollution. It is almost possible to get rid of everything except NOx with the same fuel economy tune and nothing else because what prevents making all the other pollutants is the ideal environment for creating NOx. What you need to prevent unburned HC and CO and to get best fuel economy is a high temperature combustion with excess O2. And guess what you need to make that nasty NOx that causes acid rain and smog? You guessed it, high temperatures and excess O2. And NOx is not just a progenitor for other forms of pollution but harmful in and of itself. That shit can burn the lungs, and irritate people who are already predisposed to breathing problems. I was exposed to high levels of NOx during industrial processes while I was in the electronics industry, I mean levels that were far beyond what you would see even on the worst days outside, and let me tell you that shit is NASTY!

So, what I can do is go ahead and tune for best fuel economy for part-throttle operation, best power for WOT situations, do an interpolation between the two with bias to fuel economy at lower power settings with a knee transition to WOT and a lot of transient enrichment to cover going between the two settings in a hurry. That covers the tuning. I would also need a reducing catalyst on the exhaust to take care of the NOx from the high temp modes the engine would operate in most of the time at cruise. Now the real fun part is getting a pair of those in the proper size for the engine. That will take more than a Google search, I’m afraid. Too big a catalyst would turn my CO2 back into CO and other pollutants, too small and it creates a restriction in the exhaust without cleaning up the NOx.

TBH I’m tempted to just tune for best economy and best power and just ignore the small amount of NOx I generate at best economy, because it’s just the one car, and I’m not required to meet any emission tests, but if I did that what kind of example would I be? After all transportation is the biggest contributor to the high NOx in the DFW airshed, but it doesn’t come from one vehicle, it’s the cumulative effect of millions of vehicles in the area. Even though my car would be exempt from pollution controls because it is a replica 1923 vehicle (kinda sorta) and I can almost eliminate my HC and CO emissions without a catalyst, I’m still going to install one to take care of my NOx.

So, how was your day?

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable

Learning the limitations of my new software

After I posted yesterday I found a tutorial for the OBD2 software I found for my Chromebook, and it turns out it won’t let me reprogram my ECU. What it will do is tell me error codes and what they mean, and clear out the error codes. Still unknown at this point if it will let me bypass stuff that was on the donor vehicle that isn’t on or needed for the hot rod.

Something else I learned was I will need to get a Windows laptop or tablet to run the reflashing programs available for my ECU. And a fairly recent one at that, the other working laptop I used to have was running Win98 and that wouldn’t cut it, the flashing program requires XP or higher. There are lots of used computer shops around here, I should be able to get one fairly cheap. Unfortunately Mrs. the Poet’s Android tablet will not work. There are apps that will remap ECUs from an Android tablet, but not the ECU in the 1996 Chrysler donor vehicle.

On other subjects I’m still counting the days until I can sell my blood plasma. Because I was testing an unapproved medication I have to wait longer than usual to make sure all of the drug is out of my system, roughly the second week in February instead of the last week in January. I think I can cope until then. The last check from the secret shopper gig was straight pay, no bonuses, so things are snug around Casa de El Poeta, but not tight yet.

And on that note I’m signing off. Y’all have yourselves a great Sunday tomorrow.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable

I found a better alternative to the phone app/hardware

After I posted yesterday I did some idle googling looking to see what kind of apps are available for my laptop and found one that reads the output from the OBD2 port and lets me reprogram to bypass missing systems by permanently setting the input as valid. I have to buy a cable to connect my laptop to the car but otherwise I’m ready to go.

This way is better for a number of reasons: The screen on my laptop is easily 4 times the size of my phone, there is an actual physical keyboard instead of a touchscreen for input, and the battery on my laptop lasts a lot longer in continuous use than the battery in my phone. Oh the connector cable for the laptop is $0.99 less than the phone connector cable, that’s important, too.

Unfortunately there will be a learning curve for the software to make it log everything when an error triggers so I can see how that error affects the rest of the engine. That will affect the measures I take to correct it. Right now I have 3 choices in dealing with error codes: tell the computer everything is fine and ignore the input, kluge something up that makes the computer think whatever triggered the error never happened, or pull the system off the donor car and install it on the hot rod. The last one is only going to be used as a last resort.

And while I was trying to type the previous paragraph Clint decided it was time for lap-sitting which interrupted the typing for about 2 hours. Nothing is bleeding, I just had to move the seat back so he didn’t knock anything off the keyboard tray which moved said keyboard out of arm’s reach. But he’s cute and cuddly so it was OK.

Also today was the first day there was enough sun to make my little solar-powered dancing alien decoration move and temperatures high enough to open the doors and windows and air the house out a touch. I don’t know if there is a correlation but my foot felt better today than it has in ages. It still hurt some, but nowhere near as bad as it did Sunday. I think I will be able to get that adaptor tomorrow and pump up my bike tires soon.

And now I have other things that need to be done so I’ll finish this here.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable

It’s just a dinky piece of brass that’s keeping me off the bike now

All I need to ride my bike now is to pump up the tires. All I need to pump up the tires is a small brass adapter that lets a Schrader pump fit a presta valve stem. All I need to get the presta adapter is to be able to walk the two miles to get to and from DART.

That’s it. All that is keeping me off my bike is the two miles separating origin from destination before/after using transit. And that I can barely get from the front door to the mailbox at the moment. Just walking to the kitchen from my office is A Pain. I’m not doing a “poor, pitiful me” here. I’m angry. What I’m angry about is the fact that a trip to the store is a 2 mile walk or more pretty much wherever I’m going, because this entire town is built around everyone driving everywhere in a car, for everything, and transit is kinda stuck wherever it will fit, not where it’s needed.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is some retail about 0.6 miles (1 km) from the house as the worm flies. There’s a Dollar General at that distance and also a C-Store slash gas station going a different route right next to a laundromat and donut shop, and about 0.8 miles to 2 more C-Stores/Gas Stations, a Family Dollar, and a couple of restaurants. But the round trip is still over a mile to anything. And that’s bad. Especially if the trip was to buy something heavy or bulky. That’s one reason why I have kept my ALICE ruck in good condition in case I need to grocery shopping and there’s nobody available to haul the stuff back while I can’t use Francis/es.

On to the Other Subject, the hot rod and talking to the computer after I do a Dr. Frankenstein and swap it out of the minivan and into the hot rod, where it will lose its mind. I did some googling and found there are many devices that will connect a cell phone to the computer to read and clear the codes and software that I can load to change the fuel/spark maps. I will need to add the SD card to my phone to load the software because it is a monster app, but that’s tons cheaper than the dedicated reader/writer hardware at the parts store. This part of the project just started looking a lot more do-able than it did at the beginning of the week. Now whether I’m going to be able to tell the computer just once that it is in a 1500 pound hot rod instead of a 3900 pound minivan, or if I will have to do that every time I have to start the car is a question yet to be answered. But the existence of the hardware and software at a price in my budget makes me feel better about the project.

I mean, 15 years ago whodathunkit? Connecting your phone to your car to fix the car? It would have been science fiction. But today it’s just hooking one computer to another computer to fix things that are controlled by the one computer. The facts that one computer is sometimes your phone and the other computer runs your car are incidental.

So, a rant about walkability and transit, and looking at the DIY wonder of diagnosing and repairing your car by using your cell phone. Lot of ground between those two subjects.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable

While I was stuck in the house I did some reading

I was reading actual dead-tree format books on installing and calibrating a stand-alone EFI system. Now I’m bummed out. It is starting to look like my best bet is getting a scan tool and figuring out how to bypass the error codes that will pop up when the factory controller finds out it is no longer sitting in a 1996 Chrysler Town and Country minivan but something a lot less in terms of mass and systems. There is already one minor system down that’s causing the Check Engine light to come on, what is going to happen when almost everything in the car is disconnected? I mean seriously my car will have no climate control, no doors or windows to check to see if they are closed and locked, no alarms on the seatbelts, and pretty much no anything else that doesn’t directly contribute to making the car go or stop, and on the stop side none of the hardware used in controlling the antilock brakes either. I might have to use the factory dash to get working instruments on this thing (but I still want to use the fake AM radio for starting the engine).

Now why would I be all bent out of shape on this after reading some books? Because the books pointed out I’m going to be going into this with no baseline fuel or spark maps to load into my standalone engine controller and no information about the injector flow. They do say how to create those maps the way the OEMs do, there is just one stumbling block: I would need to rent a chassis dyno for as long as it would take to create those maps, which could easily cost as much as the rest of the car, one place advertises $179/hr, another $100/hr, and a third place advertises $150/hr. The place with the $179 rate has a flat rate $700 tune for a speed-density system (like the Megasquirt) and I don’t know if any of them could program a flex-fuel map that would let me refuel with 93 octane if E85 wasn’t available.

There are piggyback controllers that would let me remap the fuel and spark for E85 and also leave the original maps in place for fallback when E85 was not available. But I would still need to use a dyno to tune it accurately. I could just multiply by the difference in Stoichiometric ratios to get a ballpark figure for E85 and get pretty good performance, but that would still be leaving horsepower and fuel economy in the engine.

Well, it is late and I may have things to do in the morning. so bye! Opus the Unkillable