Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Never Time To Do It Right, Always Time To Do It Over.

In the past, when a project that should have been something like A then B then C eventually came to include D then E then F, I'd sort of file that away in my brain somewhere under "that irritating jackass of a thing really got out of hand," or in the "things that are mostly a bunch of hooey" files. The trouble with this, if your brain is as rigidly organized and neatly laid out as my own is that the vagaries of labeling events thusly leads, counterintuitively, to a lack of organization, which in turn makes it harder to remember what went badly and what you might wish to avoid next time around.

For years, I considered these scenarios as 'times that things got out of hand because one small problem unearthed another, larger problem that simply had to be addressed.' Like you need new tires because your old ones are worn, and at the tire store you learn that your control arm bushings are shot and that's not only worn out your tires but has also led to other issues that make the car less than safe.

Another kind of problem for the homeschooled wrencher is making a simple mistake that leads to a much larger problem than you were trying to solve in the first place. (HINT.)

A really simple example of this would be forgetting the drain plug in the middle of an oil change. The first time you do it, you think 'whoa. I'll never do that again,' and the lesson sticks for a while. The second time, you think 'whoa dammit crap! I'll never EVER do that again,' and the lesson sticks a whole lot longer. If you're lucky, you remembered to add oil and you made a mess and you noticed this before you tried to start the car. If you're not, you didn't, and then you learned about replacing main and rod bearings and stuff.

For the record, I've never forgotten the oil drain plug. That's just an example.

My problem (one of them - there's lots) is that for a long time, I collapsed both kinds of issues into one vague description or another and failed to identify them by using accurate and tidy and neat labels that would allow my brain to fetch the appropriate file when a similar threatening opportunity presented itself in the future. Overall, one kind of problem is self caused and generally the result of making a mistake. Stupid mistake or smart mistake, it doesn't matter. Mistake.

The other kind of issue has nothing to do with the perpetrator user but is the result of How Stuff Is. That's the 'fixing one thing uncovers other, important things that must be addressed.' I lamented this phenomenon and it wasn't until I'd been its frequent victim for more than a decade that my good friend Phil shared with me its correct label: Scope Creep.

Having a name for the thing made the thing less scary. But not less aggravating. I don't yet know the proper name for the other kind of problem - the one that arises as a result of my own ignorance or oversight or mistake, so things that happen in this realm are still relegated to either the "irritating jackass" or "bunch of hooey" files.

Few things offer as many rich opportunities to revisit my mental acuity or sanity [or lack of same] as effectively as an old car. My current quandary is twofold: (1) the car is (2) driving me crazy. So I have to address the car thing and then I can address the crazy thing. But the crazy thing calls for identifying which of the car factors are the result of Scope Creep (which I cannot control and ought not be bothered by) and which are caused by My Own Shortcomings.

The most likely approach to these irritants will be the same it's always been. Make the car work right, tell myself I'll remember the lessons this time around (both those related to factors I can and cannot influence), and end up with little more than a vague recollection of how I got there. And really, that's for the best. All this philosphicalness overthinking really does is take up a bunch of what little RAM might still exist in the grey matter. All that really matters can be boiled down into a simple question: Is it fixed, or isn't it?

So let's get on with it already.

The weird thing about this whole project is that all the stuff that I'd never done before is working nicely. And all the stuff that's been done from scratch is working nicely. Converting the cooling system is a cool project on its own, and it's nice that nothing went badly. Ditto adding the oil cooler. And the Crane Ignition. And all the new wiring and the new fusebox and the new warning lights and the new rear facing aux lights. All those things went perfectly. And the brakes, which are exactly like the brakes on the 40 or 50 different cars I've dealt with in the past, continue to give me achy brains.

After the last installment, I took the car out to run a bunch of errands around town only to find that once I was as far away from home as I was going to get, that they were sticking again. Sticking. Again. Very sticking. Very frustrating.

I did the sensible thing. I bought a pair of new, not rebuilt but brand new, front calipers. And thinking that 'new is better than old,' I got some new braided stainless flex lines to go with them:

... the really cool thing about these is that they're available off the shelf and were instantly available. Calipers came via iRoll Motors, and the lines were in stock at Oil Filter Service here in Portland. Both lines, plus some cool adapters that connect to the hardlines on the car, plus some 45 degree fittings (which I didn't end up needing) set me back about $60. That seemed like a great deal.
Especially cool are the adapters. They secure to the hardlines as normal, but to fully seal them up with the flex line requires 'hand tight plus 1/8th of a turn.' The flex lines will be really easy to remove if I ever the next time I have to.
And because it was apart, this was the obvious time to mount the Terratrip Wheel Probes. A Terratrip is a rally computer that has a really accurate speedometer, a couple stopwatches that can count up or down and are resettable on the fly, tracks average speed, current speed, top speed and distance in either miles or kilometers. Super trick gizmo:
Crappy glare photo courtesy of the author.

The probes are supposed to fit behind the wheel studs, so that as you drive along, they can smell or see each stud as it passes by. The acceptable range is 1-1.75mm (that's small, for those of you not keen on the metric system). The backing plate is too far away to just drill a hole and screw the probe into place, so we needed some kind of bracket. And what could be more fun than putting errant bits of hardware behind your brake rotors?
This is the target distance, roughly:

... and this is how far the probe has to be from the backing plate:

I found some brackets in the Culch Heap and played with a hammer and vise and drill:

Culch Heap: spare parts collection made up partly of actual spare parts and other things that might become spare parts. I learned this from George Downs, who was one of the very best among us.

Odd bracket as found on right, as modified on left.
 The bracket goes onto the backing plate, courtesy of an existing allen head bolt. Then it gets more bent and twisted so the probe will line up with the wheel studs:

Without probe.
A little hole in the backing plate allows the wire to pass through:

Probe in place. For now, anyway.
 ... and then all the brake stuff goes back on. There is no need to discuss this because we've already spent way too much time on it. Presto:

Last time I made the dumb mistake took the honorable path and said something about full disclosure. Now that there's a precedent for that, I probably have to continue though the truth is that I'd like to avoid it, because this next part is embarrassing and has likely cost a lot of money.

There's a circlip in the end of the master cylinder. They all have them. Yours does too. And there's a little groove into which that circlip fits. And I'd removed my circlip when I received my new Wilwood master cylinder so that I could futz with the thing, and when I put it back into the cylinder, up under the dash with bad lighting, I placed the circlip further inside the master cylinder than the groove dictates.

This means that, though the pushrod wasn't preloading the master cylinder (I'd checked this more than once), that the circlip was doing exactly that. I'd think that the pressure that seemed to be building up in the system would have popped it outward (either into the groove, which would be sweet; or onto the floor of the car, which would be horrible) but it didn't.

Bottom line: I think I rebuilt the rear calipers and replaced the front calipers and lines all because I'd incorrectly installed the circlip, which I didn't need to remove in the first place. The very good news (and I really do mean this) is that other than the rotors, the brake system in this car is as new as it can be. That's absolutely the smart thing to do.

I drove the car around a little, and the brakes aren't sticking even a tiny bit. I'm cautious about it, though, because that happened once before and it didn't get really apparent until I'd taken a longer drive. I'll be doing that next. And assuming this attempt is successful, I'm going to drive the car every chance I get.

Next time, we'll see what kind of things I can screw up as I try to install the Terratrip. Sheesh.

Cheers -


  1. I've got a page in my Word files for pithy remarks and two below a version of this articles title is this.
    "Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment."

    It is sometimes the little things. Graham Hill in the STP Turbine car failed to win Indy due to the failure of a 10 cent oil seal. Could just as easy have been a circlip.

    Keep it up, you're doing well. I might consider putting the Terratrip sensor above the hub to reduce the chance of stone damage. Knocked out of place by 2mm could destroy it when it hits the studs or lose you the signal if knocked away from them. Making a more substantial bracket may also be a good idea after proving the system. Are you reading from all 4 studs and then using a divider in the Terratrip processor? Maybe a pad of weld on the back of one of them would work better and allow the sensor to tucked in a bit more. Just thinking over my breakfast coffee.......... :)

  2. Thanks Derek. I thought the same thing about the probe placement but the contours of the backing plate were such that it was easiest to put the bracket where it is in the pics. After they were in place, it occurred to me that I could still have oriented them so that the probes would be at least a little higher, but I decided to let them be as they are. At least for now. I'm hoping the dust shields do a good job...

    The probes read all of the studs. There are probes on both the left and right front wheel/backing plate and they each plug into the main unit. I don't know how it decides which one to heed, or if it averages the two. I do know that if one stops giving a signal that the device knows to pay attention solely to the other. I don't even know how to program the thing yet.

    Cheers -

  3. Cheer up Cam! At least your problem wasn't completely random. I've had a couple of those in the recent past. One of which was caused by a $20 ignition switch[ wildly intermittent miss was the symptom] which ended up causing an outlay of about $5K in various parts. The other was consistent but caused by a new replacement part [a lower ball joint] that was too tight & caused a 2,5 year frustrating search that only was discovered by going back to an old set that came off a parts car. Cars are the things the universe sends us enthusiasts to teach us patience, resolve, & logical thinking. Everything is simple in hindsight.

    Mike M. Chelan Wa.