Category Archives: Department of DIY

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

OK here are the pictures before and after

Before I go for my walk today I’m going to make a quick post with the pictures of how the steering arms fit after a little filing on the register bits. This first pic is the one I did last night after finishing my walk. Note that the bits fit flat against the machined spots they are supposed to fit flat against on both sides now.
See how snug they fit?
And this is the one I didn’t do yet. Notice that the peg part of the arm sits on top of the machined hole in the spindle. There is only a few thousandths of an inch interference there but it is enough to make the part unusable without modification.
So close, but yet so far.

The difference is about 3 hours of work, 2 of actual filing and another hour of letting my hand rest so I could control the file better. I have to admit the ravages of age are catching up to me. I used to be able to rough shape bike fenders by pinching them with my fingers, now I have to take frequent breaks just lightly using hand tools. And this is the fun bit for me, the tedious fiddly bits that nobody will see unless they know where to look and what to look for.

Now that that’s done I’m going to get dressed for outside and go for my walk. My books on how to control the EFI on the donor engine came today so I have reading materials that have to be read soon, and the bike pump is due in tomorrow so I can cover more territory out hunting check-ins on my phone game, and get exercise without killing my foot.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable

Just chillin’

I need to go to the hardware and get a file or 3 to fix the steering arms so they fit the spindles, but right now my foot still hurts, so I’m sitting tight and just chilling and reading Twitter and web comics on separate devices. I prefer to use my phone for Twitter, and my laptop for webcomics, so until just now I was bouncing back and forth between the two like some kind of screen addict. Now I just have the laptop active while I do the blog post. The weather forecast is that tomorrow and Wednesday will be much warmer so I’ll do my walk then and get the files. Actually I’ll probably go to Harbor Freight on the bus and get a whole set of files. And I can also use these to make the Mini Sprint-T, files are useful tools.

So I just finished my walk to get the $$ for tomorrow’s shopping trip and it was about the same temp outside as it was in my office when I left, but now my foot hurts again. Tomorrow should be better.

PSA, Opus

Well, poop!

My neck was feeling good, my hip would let me get a leg over the top bar of the frame of the new bike, but the tires were low. So I hooked the pump up only to watch the head get blown off the valve repeatedly every time I tried to pump up the tires. So my 12 YO bike pump has gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds and I still have a garage full of flat tires and nothing to ride.😤😱 Presta or Schrader it didn’t matter, that pump head was not staying put on the valve. So it appears my next purchase will be new bicycle pump.

Speaking of purchases one made it home yesterday. There was a pair of steering arms for my spindles in the Garage Sale section of speedway.com. The posted regular price led me to believe they were just the regular mild steel steering arms, and the discounted price was very reasonable for that. But when the parts arrived I discovered that there was an error in my favor. I thought the parts seemed rather shiny to be mild steel, and closer examination revealed them to be stainless steel instead, which have a normal catalog price more than twice what was charged in the Garage Sale.
Shiny, ooohhh!

Shiny up close, too!

Needless to say I’m moderately happy with the purchase. I’m not outrageously happy because of why the parts were returned in the first place: they don’t quite fit as they came from the warehouse. This appears to be a tolerance issue on the machining of the arms where they bolt to the spindles. You might be able to see recesses machined into the back of the spindle around the hex nuts and under the steering arm. This was done to give a flat place for the steering arm to register against. But as you can probably see on the bottom of the second picture that is not quite the case with these parts, they are sitting against the unmachined back of the spindle because the part that was supposed to fit inside the machined reliefs was left oversized. Therefore I will be forced to hand-fit these steering arms to my spindles in order to save 50% off the retail cost. Oh, the horrors! 😂 I will have to perform fabrication to use these reduced-cost no-return parts! 😈 However shall I manage!

I’ll break it off here because I need to take a walk and get more points. Those gift cards aren’t going to jump into my Amazon account on their own, y’know?

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable Poet

Hope everyone had a merry Yule

Instead of a merry Yule I went on a 4.22 mile walk to pick up the car cover I ordered last week so my parts car doesn’t get stolen by Codes. I’m not allowed to have an unregistered/inspected vehicle on property but as long as they can’t tell it’s unregistered I’m good. In TX current registration/inspection status is indicated by windshield stickers so if they can’t see the windshield they can’t tow the car out of my driveway. This car cover is supposed to go all the way down to the rocker panels on the bottom of the car, so to see the windshield they would have to come onto my property (legal) and remove the car cover (not legal) to uncover the windshield.

The weather was slightly above normal temperature for the date, which meant I could walk in shorts and a t-shirt to the parts store to get my stuff. Of course I can do that down to about 55°F, but colder than that and I have to start throwing on layers toot sweet. If I keep moving and there is no wind chill 55° is uncomfortable but not excessively so, but the conditions were 60°F and light winds while I was out. On the up side with all the walking I’m doing I’m burning a lot of calories. Not as many as when I was riding my bike everywhere, but lots more than sitting at my laptop.

On the Mini Sprint-T front some of the changes I’m making on the mid T-Bucket will transfer over to the Sprint-T and because the one is supposed to be the other only smaller it will show in the Mini Sprint-T as well. TBH I see the changes as an improvement for frame stiffness and ease of assembly for the full-size version of the car. For the model, it’s ehhh 6 of one half-a-dozen of the other.

Time to hit the hay.

Opus the Unkillable Badass

People die, but life continues. Plus my Christmas list.

I finally processed another hero from my childhood shuffling off this mortal coil, and I can’t think of anything better to say than what Scott Carpenter said during Glenn’s launch into orbit: “Godspeed, John Glenn.”

Now what I need for Christmas (I need this regardless, but Christmas is a good excuse to send it to me).

The new bike needs head and tail lights and my DIY supply closet is fresh out of things I can hack for the cause. I would like a nice bright headlight that can use the 8.4 V lithium pack from the mega light that burned out, or a similar light that will let me stack two tail lights vertically and put one on blink and the other steady. I also have a diffusing lens from the headlight that fits a large variety of headlights like the Magicshine 303.

I really need some raw stock for the T-bucket project. The big one is 1.5″ square 0.060″ wall 4130 chromoly, I’m going to need like 40 feet of that. Also need 1.5″ x 0.120″ wall round for the roll cage (SCCA rules) about 20 feet, and another 20 feet of 1.5″ x 0.060″ round for frame rails. I’ll also need some light sheet but I haven’t figured out how much and what size I’ll need for that, so hold off on getting that. My welding supplies will handle 4130 alloy so I’m good on that.

If anyone has a small lathe they want to donate to the cause the wheels for the Mini Sprint-T will be much easier to mod to the right widths, and a lot of other things that need to be done as well. Otherwise I’ll have to figure out how to turn my Dremel into a lathe with hose clamps and 2X4s.

As always any cyclist will appreciate gifts of food. I have a weakness for Swiss Colony Summer Sausage and Mrs. the Poet loves their sharp cheeses and petit fours. Basically though anything sausage and/or cheese from the Swiss Colony is good.

And Amazon or Starbucks gift cards are always welcome. You have no idea how much a hot coffee or iced tea means when you’re out and about and don’t have cash on hand for a meal or snack. And there are always things we need on Amazon at a good price with free shipping. 😉

Last thing, there is a water-resistant windbreaker on Alert Shirt that would be perfect for this part of TX. It’s light enough to wear by itself in spring and fall rains and would also work as a wind-proof top layer over other stuff in the winter. I would need an XL for that.

Everyone have a safe day, especially those of you in the midwest in the blizzard conditions.

PSA, Opus the Unkillable Badass

My walks are in the upper 25% of walks

I have an app called Map My Walk that I use to track my progress trying to improve the way I walk. When I first started using it I was managing to cover a mile in about 32 minutes average. Now after just a week I’m down to 27 minutes per mile on my 3.74 mile walks. BTW the app tells me this distance is in the top 25% of all walks. Anyways, not only am I walking faster, I am walking smoother. I am forcing myself to not limp with the short leg. Well not to limp noticeably anyway. Anyone listening to the cadence of my walk will hear a limp even though I’m trying not to visibly limp.

Nothing new on the hot rod front. Mrs. the Poet is still of the same mindset that I can build the car in the garage, after enough stuff is cleared away that I can fit the donor vehicle in there.

And I’m going to play an RPG tomorrow, for my socialization.😈

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable Badass

A Compromise Has Been Reached

After much discussion with Mrs. the Poet (including several suggestions of where the other could go, both polite or not) we have reached an agreement on the hot rod.

It was agreed that placing an arbitrary veto on any activity was unfair, so we discussed why Mrs. the Poet was unhappy about building a hot rod. The primary objection was local codes’ propensity for hauling off parts cars after an unreasonably short period of time, and also their propensity for removing projects not completed to their satisfaction as when they came and sawed up my bench I made from a large fallen branch after the ice storm a few years back. I had finished the rough cuts and was waiting for the wood to finish drying out to install the lamp fixtures and cup holders when they snuck into the back yard with electric chain saws and sawed it up. The worry was we would get repeated tickets for the donor vehicle and if they allowed enough time to get all the parts needed to construct the hot rod at some point prior to completion they would remove the hot rod as well.

So the compromise we reached was we would clean out the garage so I could build the hot rod inside. That means we have some stuff that needs getting rid of, like the 12 bikes that were “donated” to my custom bike building business (dumped here when kids outgrew them most likely), the entertainment center my daughter didn’t know what to do with after they got the wide-screen TV, and a bunch of other stuff that was left here by the kids when they moved out or left by previous tenants when they moved out. Most of the stuff will be free or damned cheap. I also have an original engine from a BD-5 airplane kit that I bought for $200 that I’m willing to part with for $100, and a VW single-port engine and a stack of dual-port heads that I’ll let go for $5 for as a set. All prices F.O.B. Beautiful Suburb of Hell, AKA my garage door. You want it you gotta come get it with $$ in fist, no checks, no credit cards, and NO returns. No holds will be placed on any items, first come first served. Autographs sold for $1. 😀 I don’t really expect too much demand for autographs. If you want the engines or bicycles before the date eventually set for the sale leave me a comment or send me an e-mail.

I’ll post the sale date when determined, probably some time in the Spring.

Billed @€0.02, Opus the Unkillable Badass