Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jeep Cherokee XJ - Rusty Floors, Bedliner and Interior Recolor

So I finished pulling the nasty carpet out of the XJ the other day. The driver side floor is perfect, but darned if I didn't find a bunch of rust on the passenger side. The carpet went straight in the trash. I'd never reuse it. It was really nasty.
The rust went all the way through the metal in a few small places. It was not so bad that I needed to replace the whole floor pan, so I went to Home Depot and bought a few small pieces of sheet metal, trimmed them to size to cover the holes, and riveted them in place.
Here's the floor with the metal patches riveted in over an initial coat of Chassis Saver paint (POR-15 is a similar product).
I spent a couple hours with a wire brush on my die grinder and then slathered on another thick coat of Chassis Saver paint all over the floor and right over the patches I riveted in. It should neutralize the rust and keep it from progressing.
I then covered the whole floor with Desert Tan Monstaliner (truck bed floor liner) and it looks pretty good. It took an entire gallon to do the whole vehicle.
I used Duplicolor plastic and vinyl paint to recolor the interior from gray to black. It worked pretty well. In this photo you can see the original gray color on the door panel.
The fabric soaks up a LOT of paint and it leaves it feeling a little crispy, but overall it looks ok. I did the seats as well and the color has held up for a while now. It might need to be re-done every year or two if you sit on them a lot.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jeep Cherokee XJ update

Progress on the XJ has been slow. I've just not had the free time to work on it. I do have the engine running nicely now and it starts right up on the first try every time. Unless I disconnect the battery for any reason, that is. If battery power is interrupted for even one second, the ECU seems to completely lose its mind and the Jeep will barely start. Once it starts, it runs really rough for a few minutes, idles high, shifts hard, bogs on takeoff, and several other bad habits. This continues for a couple days and then everything is hunky-dory again. If anyone can tell me how to get around this, I'd love to learn about it. (Edit: I replaced the ECU and it fixed all the issues. Should have just done that first.)

Now I do have a few pictures for you.

My next task is to strip out all the carpet and install Monstaliner throughout the inside of the truck. I got a kit in desert tan.
Quite a bit of rust under the carpet! It was really nasty. Bugs living in it and everything. The rust is pretty minor, but I'll clean it up and stabilize it with some rust sealer before I put the Monstaliner over it.
I used a wire brush on my angle grinder to clean up the rust and take off a lot of loose paint.
Pretty much all the rust cleaned up. Next I have to pull out the front seats so I can get the rest of the carpet out.

The next post in this series is about the rusty floors.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Something not car related - The Mud Endeavor

Before the ugliness.
After. I thought I was going to die.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

$1500 Jeep Cherokee XJ Makeover, Stage 1

So for the last couple weeks I've been getting to know this '92 Jeep Cherokee. I've never had a Jeep before and I really don't know anything much about 4x4 vehicles in general. I've got a lot to learn. But first things first - this thing has 174,700 miles on it and needs some TLC.
As usual I'm not terribly disciplined when it comes to taking pictures of my process. So this post is a bit random in nature. I've not done anything complicated or difficult, though, so there's not much to document. This pic shows the engine just after I started pressure washing it, which was the first thing I did. It improved the grime situation considerably, but there's still a lot of filthy areas I haven't got to yet.
I installed an Amsoil EaA air filter in place of the old filter, which looked to be a K&N oiled gauze filter. The Amsoil will filter much better in potentially dusty environments. The same day I did this I also installed all new hoses and flushed the cooling system. I pulled off the valve cover and painted it and put it back with a new Felpro gasket because it was leaking badly and making a big mess of the engine. I also changed the oil and filter, using Amsoil ASL 5W-30 and an EaO filter.
The instrument surround panel was silver and quite ratty looking. A few coats with some Duplicolor plastic/vinyl paint and it looks 100% better! I'll probably do a few other bits of the dash as well. Overall it's in decent shape. I got some LED's for the interior lights but they don't fit quite right. I'll have to modify the housings a bit. I also plan to strip the carpet and coat the floor with bedliner, recover the seats and redo the door panels with something less stodgy looking.
The front brakes were almost down to the backing plates and the rotors quite scored. The first time I drove this Cherokee I was startled by how bad the brakes were. So a set of Bendix CT-3 pads and a pair of Centric rotors went on the front. It definitely has helped, but the brakes are still not great. I discovered a big bulge in the side of one of the brake hoses, which would definitely ruin the brake feel and limit performance, not to mention the obvious safety issue, so new brake hoses all around will be installed in the next week or so. I haven't even looked at the rear drum brakes yet. I'm sure they'll need attention.
I drove the Jeep to work one day last week and my nose alerted me to a coolant leak. A quick inspection underneath revealed a leaking radiator. That explains why the cooling system had no antifreeze whatsoever in it - the previous owner had just been keeping it topped up with water. So a quick trip to NAPA yielded a new radiator for just over $100 and I installed it today.
I also cleaned up and painted the radiator support bracket and the fan surrounds. I used Eastwood Chassis Black on the radiator support and it came out nice enough given the limited amount of prep I did on it.
Also today I installed all new battery positive and negative cables that I got from a guy on the Jeep Forum. They're made with big 4 gauge wire and sized exactly to fit the XJ engine layout. I also threw in a new Optima Red Top battery to replace the pathetic Advance Auto "Economy" battery the XJ came to me with. Finally some gold plated terminals tie it all together and replace the old tired lead clamps that were original to the Jeep. They were so worn they would hardly tighten down on the posts anymore. I also installed a set of new 8mm silicone plug wires and a distributor rotor and cap from Summit Racing.
Here's an external shot. I haven't really done anything to the exterior yet. After this photo was taken I yanked off the rubber moldings on the lower panels. I'm going to clean that area up and coat with a bedliner type material.

I took the XJ out for a 45 minute drive this evening and it's definitely running better than it was when I got it. I certainly can't trust the brakes yet, but they are better. The ignition system seems to be working nicely now as well. It's been a bit hard to start a few times, especially after sitting for a while, so I'm suspecting it may have some leaky injectors. The truck drives just fine. It just needs a whole new suspension. On smooth pavement it's fine, but on bumps or broken pavement it just comes completely unglued. I figure the shocks are long gone. I'll be installing a mild lift kit with new shocks before too long anyway, so it's not a problem.

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Toy - 1992 Jeep Cherokee XJ 4x4

This is going to be a lot of fun. There's a lot of room to apply TLC to this vehicle and make it a lot better than its $1500 purchase price would imply. More to come...

Monday, July 09, 2012

Mystic Blue BMW M3

I got a few new snaps of the M3 this weekend. It has 113,000 miles on it now and it's perfect. It was an overcast day with the strong summer sun filtering through and it seemed to give the car a softer sheen.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mini, not MINI

I meant to post this last summer. It's a classic Mini in its native habitat of Jolly old England. Perhaps a future project could be to find and restore something old and British.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Randall Cowl Intake Installation on '94 Miata

Time for a little more work on the '94. Since I got the fuel issues sorted, it's been running great. So today I installed the Randall cowl intake. It's just a carbon fiber tube that connects the factory airbox to a hole in the firewall that ingests air from the cowl area where the air is nice and cool. I bought it from Flyin' Miata and it's one of the few aftermarket intakes that actually shows a horsepower gain on the dyno. I didn't get it for the horsepower, exactly. Mainly it was just because my stock intake tube was cracked and I figured while I was replacing a part I might as well get something that could somehow be considered an upgrade. In other words, because racecar.


The tube.
The intake comes with a template, because you have to cut a hole in the firewall. You also have to bend the clutch hard line a little bit to get it out of the way.
Possibly the most imprecise cutting tool on earth, but it got the job done.
Two holes. Sorry for fingers in photo!
With Dremel tool, make one hole.
Touch up with paint.
Cram carbon fiber tube into place.
I found it best to loosen the airbox from its mounts to make it easier to snap the Randall onto the flange.

Driving impression: so far so good. There's a little more intake noise and my highly calibrated butt can detect a little more responsive throttle. Nothing dramatic, obviously. It's a tube.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Small Relief

I got my M3 back from the body shop today. The work was done by Gene Perez Body Shop in Tampa and I'm perfectly happy with the work they did. They did a good job of communicating with me and provided a high level of service. It was relatively quick and painless and the other guy's insurance picked up the entire tab.
The repair total came to just over $5100. This included a new fender, bumper cover, right headlight, and some other miscellaneous bits needed to put everything back together. They blended the color in to the door and hood and it looks to me like a perfect match.
The only issue is that now the left headlight lens looks shabby compared to the new one so I've ordered a new lens for $57. I also need to replace the fog lamps because they are very road-rashed and now look very bad compared to the rest of the car, which looks brand new!
It's good to have all my toys back in the garage. It's been 3 weeks to the day since the accident. It's strange where one finds comfort. I've had some difficult times the past few weeks and these machines in my garage make me a little bit happier.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Summer Has Arrived

Now that my fuel line blues have been solved, it was great to get the car out for a drive today. It was almost 90 degrees! I also got a new iPhone 4S, so I'm enjoying using it for higher quality photos and videos for my blog. Most of the photos used on this blog have been taken with an iPhone. Some were taken with a point and shoot camera but I find the iPhone photos are more than acceptable for my purposes and especially now with the new one, the photos are quite nice.

Update to '99 Miata Head on '94 Engine - Fuel Rail Issues

I've been waiting to post this until I had a definitive solution, but if you look a couple blog posts back you'll see my car on the back of a flat bed. The issue that cropped up was the fuel lines simply let go from the fittings on the fuel rail and I couldn't get them to hold on no matter what I tried. This led me down a path of learning more than I ever wanted to know about high pressure fuel injection hose and what type of hose is proper for this installation. Maybe this was obvious to everyone else who has done the '99 head swap but in all my reading about the subject I never saw it mentioned and I did find a few posts from people who were having trouble with leaking fuel hoses.

In this photo you can see the fuel pressure regulator. When installing the '99 Miata head on the '94 block, it's necessary to use the '99 fuel rail with the '94 fuel pressure regulator (FPR) because the '99 is a returnless system, while the '94 uses a return to the fuel tank from the FPR. The '94 FPR can only be oriented one way, due to a vacuum port that has to face out. That's no problem, but it dictates the routing of the fuel hoses. You can see this one sticking straight up, and the other one sticks straight down. The '94 fuel rail has an input that has a flared end on it so the fuel hose with a clamp on it will be nice and tight. The '99 uses the newer style fittings that click into place and require a special tool to remove, so the input to the rail has NO FLARE. The '94 FPR has an output on it that is flared, and so must be a clamped connection. Being ignorant when I embarked on this project, I blithely bought the first spool of high pressure fuel hose I found online and simply clamped the hoses to the fuel rail connections and on the other end to the fuel hardlines from the tank. It worked for 2000 miles.

Here's a view of the '99 fuel rail input. This is not designed for a clamped connection. After 2000 miles (about 5 weeks) of use, the fuel hose fell off and no amount of tightening of the clamp would hold it on. Even after replacing with a new length of hose, it would not stay on. The resulting spray of fuel in the engine compartment was quite undesirable! Interestingly, the hose on the '94 FPR fitting with the flared and clamped connection was leaking too! This meant that my problem was two-fold.
After doing a bit of research, I found that there are a multitude of SAE specifications for fuel hose. There is hose designed for high pressure (injected) applications, hose designed for clamped connections, and some for connections using barbed fittings (picture below). Some hose is designed to be compatible with diesel, gasoline, and ethanol, some is not compatible with all of those. So, you really need to understand the specs and make sure you get the hose for the application. Any fuel hose you buy will comply with one of these specs, however when buying online the spec is very often not indicated and you don't know what you're going to get. The hose pictured here is the "right" hose to use in this application. The spec is SAE 30R9. It is designed for a clamped application, high pressure, and low permeability to petroleum distillates (to meet environmental regulations). The original hose I bought was SAE 30R7, which is all of that, but NOT for a clamped application. This is why it eventually let go from my FPR fitting, even though there is a flare there and the clamp was tight. On the fuel rail supply fitting it was even worse. The lack of a flare meant there was no chance of it staying put and on my second try with this hose it fell off after literally 5 minutes of running.
So here's the fix. For the '94 FPR connection, it's important to use SAE 30R9 fuel hose (Gates P/N 27085), so the clamped connections will work. For the '99 fuel rail input, the 30R9 hose is fine, but you need to make the connection with one of these. It's DORMAN part number 800-081.5. It's a nylon 5/16 inch 90 degree barbed fitting. It needs to be 90 degrees because the space under the fuel rail is very tight and a straight fitting doesn't fit. I got 5 of them from Autozone online for about $12. It was a special order item so I'm not sure if you'll find them at your local store.
Here's the assembled hose and fitting. It JUST fits in the space under the fuel rail. The connector gives a very reassuring and positive click when engaged.
This shows how I ended up routing the hoses. It had to change a bit with the 90 degree bend at the end of the supply hose. From the hard lines on the left, they both run back behind the intake manifold and then run forward right on top of the fuel rail. Finally, the supply line goes forward and makes a gentle 180 to go under the end of the fuel rail and make the supply connection. It's not ideal as I'd rather the fuel hoses were more concealed, but I had to take the route with the least sharp bends and the right approach direction to the fittings. You might find a suitable route under the intake manifold, but there's very little room to make the connection down there and I was being conservative because I needed this to be fixed!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Not What I Needed

From the department of crap that I really don't need right now: a Lexus pulled right out in front of me on my way to work two weeks ago. I had nowhere to go and not enough room to stop, so this was the result. The insurance estimate is $4600.
It actually could have been a lot worse. The airbags did not deploy. At least I'll get my front bumper freshly painted. It needed it.
So I got to ride home in a tow truck twice within 5 days time. As of this writing the M3 is still in the body shop, but should be done this week. I've been driving a Chevy Impala rental, which I have not enjoyed at all.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Flat-bed Blues

A truly rare sight! This car has not been on the back of a flatbad since 1997 when I crashed on track at Laguna Seca. I detected a strong smell of gasoline this morning when I got to work and then at lunchtime it wouldn't start at all. Investigation revealed both fuel lines to be very loose on the fittings at the fuel pressure regulator. In fact, the supply side had popped off completely! Fuel was gushing quite vigorously and creating a pretty nice puddle of gas under the car. After some attempts to replace the hoses, it became apparent that they would not stay tight no matter how hard I screwed down the clamps. These have been fine for over 2000 miles of city driving since I put the car back on the road in January, so I'm really not sure why this happened. The hoses are fine on the supply end, but at the fuel rail they won't grip the fitting at all. Very strange. I think it's just the hose I used is somehow not right so I've ordered some more 5/16" fuel injection hose and some better clamps and will redo the fuel connections.