Archive for the ‘automotive’ Category.

Cut Hockey Pucks as Pinch Weld Protectors

After lifting a car via pinch weld, hearing a pop, and seeing it bend slightly I became nervous about setting a jack stands using them without any additional support. Thanks to the magic of the internet I got this idea from a car forum: cheap hockey pucks ($1.99/ea at DICK’s) with slots cut in them. The pinch weld is placed in the slot and the jack stand supports the heavy rubber puck which braces the frame rail.

These were cut by laying a 1cm strip of masking tape on the top of each puck, making a vertical cut with a hacksaw, then an angled cut to meet the vertical. The wedge of rubber was then encouraged out of the slot with a flat blade screwdriver and cleaned up as needed. Fairly simple and only about 20 minutes of work after acquiring the pucks.

Subaru Outback Oil and Tire Rotation Change Cost Analysis

With my new vehicle, a 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium, after a basic mental cost analysis I decided to do oil changes and tire rotations myself. I’ve acquired the needed tools for both and here’s the actual cost analysis:

One-Time Tool Purchases: $175.48

  • Oil Drain Pan: $8.99
  • Funnel: $3.99
  • Oil Storage Container: $6.99
  • Oil Filter Wrench: $5.89
  • Floor Jack: $99.99 (replaced sub-standard $35-ish one from years ago)
  • Rubber Wheel Chocks: $15.98
  • Qwik Valve & Supplies: $33.65 (shipped, includes vinyl hose and snap-on fitting)

Per-Change / Rotation Consumables: $33.84

  • Mobil 1 0W-20: $26.99 (6 quarts, only 5.1 needed for vehicle)
  • Subaru OE Oil Filter: $6.85 (4-pack via eBay, w/ crush washer)

Typical prices for a synthetic oil change is around $75, and another $20 for tire rotation at a semi-local shop that I trust (LTM Quick Lube). Since coupons and deals are typically available, I’ll figure $90 average total for both. The monetary cost of doing the work myself is $33.84 per service, taking into account the one-time purchases I will break even after two more iterations; which should be before the end of the year.

Time cost is a concern, but I think this is a wash between doing the work myself and taking my car in. The first oil change and tire rotation took approximately one hour for the work itself, and I think that with the installation of the Qwik Valve this should be cut down even further, as I shouldn’t have to deal with removing/cleaning/reinstalling the drain plug and crush washer.

LTM Quick Lube is located at Opdyke and South Boulevard in Auburn Hills, and while I can usually find time, it’s roughly 30 minutes of extra driving when incorporated into another trip, and I have to find a convenient time. The oil change and tire rotation at the shop takes 15-20 minutes, so I’m estimating just about an hour to take my car in. (The dealership would also be an option, but it’s equal time away, and I suspect will take slightly longer than a dedicated oil change location.) I will also have to take the old oil for recycling, but there are convenient locations for this on my way to work, which should only add a couple more minutes and only needs to occur every other oil change.

Doing the oil changes and tire rotations myself will also give me a bit more flexibility, as if I find some time later at night or early in the morning before work I can get things done instead of having to find time when the shop is open. Thus, it seems like doing the oil changes and tire rotations myself are the best solution, giving me a bit more flexibility as to scheduling, a bit of cost savings, and no additional time cost outside of the initial setup, which has already been completed.

2015 Subaru Outback GPS Mount Prototype

I recently acquired a new car, a 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5 Premium, but it didn’t have a GPS/moving map in it. Since this is something that I’m very fond of, I picked up a Garmin nüvi 68LM and have been working on a nice way to mount it in the vehicle.

This evening I set to work with some Delrin scraps and a band saw and made these small adapters for the center console. They allow the GPS to set in a small closable glove compartment, but pivot forward so the space behind it can be accessed. With the addition of two more rubber bumpers on the back side of the GPS unit it sits fairly well inside of the compartment, and a power outlet directly behind the unit makes for a very clean look.

I’m not completely happy with the fit of these, but they are better than the balancing act I was using before and are a good prototype. After using this for a couple of weeks I’ll probably refine the idea, but I’m pretty happy with the result after a few hours of work this evening.

Rinse N Roll is White Castle?

This morning I found a suspicious $4 charge on my credit card, reportedly from the White Castle location near Universal Mall in Warren, Michigan. I haven’t eaten at White Castle in a few months, the charge was listed as Gas/Automotive, and I couldn’t remember a purchase like this so I called the card company preparing to dispute the charge and receive a new credit card.

It turns out that this was a charge from Rinse N Roll touchless car wash at 12 Mile and Van Dyke. While this shares a driveway with a different White Castle location I had no reason to associate the two. I can only figure that one person/company owns all three of these businesses, has their credit card processing going through one system, all of which are listed as White Castle. This was pretty confusing, but I’m glad to find out that it wasn’t actually credit card fraud.

2006 Honda Civic Navigation System GPS Data Viewing

Back in late 2005 when I purchased my current car, a 2006 Honda Civic EX, I found that the built-in navigation unit could record log files to a PC Card. Knowing nearly nothing about reverse engineering data files I gave up on the idea of using them for anything. Fast forward to a few months ago, and while poking around with GPSBabel for converting some mountain bike trail mapping data I noticed that it supports Honda/Acura Navigation System VP Log File Format (vpl), the format that I’d hoped to interpret all those years ago. The most basic, latitude/longitude parts of the format are documented here in vpl.cc.

This morning I dug out a 512MB compact flash card and PC Card adapter, fitted it in the navigation unit, and used the hidden menu to enable logging. After grabbing the log file and running it through GPSBabel the end result is just what I’d hoped for: easy logging of wherever my car happens to go.

While it’s not terribly interesting to see the routine, boring local trips that I make, I am interested in recording a month’s worth of data and making a heat map, or perhaps visualizing a long trip I may take. This’ll be fun to play with, I only wish I’d noticed the converter sooner.

2006 Honda Civic EX Valve Cover Gasket Replacement

Some time in mid-2013 I noticed that my car’s engine was getting a bit oily, with all of it appearing from just below the valve cover. This meant was time for a new valve cover gasket. While I’m not much of a car guy, I figured this should be a relatively easy DIY repair, and it was. By following both Chilton directions (thanks, MeL!) and some of this YouTube Video I had no issue with this repair. Following a test drive last night and today’s trip to work no new oil is visible on the engine, and it seems to be running properly. Out of pocket cost was $31.25 (for the gasket set and some RTV silicone), and I suspect I saved $100 – $200 in labor costs while learning something.

With new tires fitted yesterday, there’s only one active issue left with my car: a rattling/resonating when load is applied to a cold engine when the RPMs are low. I suspect it’s a tensioner or pump that’s sticking a bit. Hopefully within the next couple of days I’ll get some time to diagnose this one as well.

2014 Huron-Clinton Metroparks / Oakland County Parks Passes are Poor Quality

 

The 2014 Huron-Clinton Metroparks / Oakland County Parks pass is much lower quality than the ones from past years. Starting this year the sticker has a few changes which make it much harder to apply: the backing is split instead of starting at a tab at the top, and the white background fill is alcohol soluble. Because of the split backing I had a much harder time applying it and ended up with a slightly wrinkled sticker, and cleaning the window post-application wiped off some of the white paint and left it smeared all over the window. With the tear-off top of the decal being perforated along the top of the decal itself this also means that the top edge is rough and can’t be evenly smoothed.

I much prefer the older style decal, as I could easily get it applied smoothly in the lower corner of my car window (photo) and passing over the sticker while cleaning the windshield didn’t wipe white paint all over the lower reaches of the glass.

UPDATE: When I attempted to use the Contact Us page on metroparks.com to relay this concern to park management it returned an ASP error that I believe was trying to give me an HTTP 500 (Internal Server Error) so I tried using the listed info@metroparks.com email address, which then bounced saying recipient not found. That’s worse quality than the passes. Time to dig up some real people’s addresses.

Not paying enough attention to car maintenance…

 

I was originally going to post a photo of a wear indicator mentioning that, with fitting the new snow tires, I’ll need to get new tires next spring. Then I saw this one tire from the rear of the driver’s side.

With every set of tires that I’ve had on the car (this is the second or third, I think, in ~180,000 miles) I’ve had uneven wear from one wheel. It’s spotty, paneled, and results in a series of flat spots around the inside of the tire. I’d think that rotating the tires more often would help it, but I think I let these tires go a little too long without rotating them. They might not have even been done this year, having gone since the snow tires were removed in the spring.

This wasn’t losing air, but I’m really lucky that I didn’t have a sudden tire failure. I’ll definitely be buying new tires before spring now. (And no, the snow tires don’t have this kind of wear… But I did get an alignment some last year, after buying these tires but before the snow tires got much use.)

New Spark Plugs after 166358 Miles

My 2006 Honda Civic EX was probably a bit overdue for new spark plugs. I’d neglected this maintenance item for a while, but at 166358 miles it was long overdue. This evening I picked up four Autolite plugs on the way home and swapped them out. This was considerably easier than I expected.

I only ran into one small problem, when the rubber-lined spark plug socket would remain stuck to the plug deep inside the engine, popping off the extension as I tried to remove all of it. After unsuccessfully attempting to shim the extension in the socket I wrapped one turn of Gaffer’s tape around the assembly (photo) and this problem resolved. All plugs are installed, torqued to spec, with threads coated with copper-based anti-seize. It may have just been coincidental, but the car seemed to start quicker after replacing the plugs. Maybe it’ll run a bit better now, and if I’m lucky maybe I’ll get better mileage…

Advance Auto Parts Marine Grease is PEAK Performance Synthetic Marine Grease

En route to work today I stopped off at Advance Auto Parts and picked up some house brand Marine Grease to use when reassembling my bike rack after fixing the hitch retention piece. I wanted to find the MSDS for this product so I could try to figure out what materials this product is compatible with, but after the Advance Auto Parts MSDS Page didn’t return anything when searching for the product (SKU #A2953013) I called the listed phone number and asked for help.

The person who answered the phone was very helpful and — despite not being able to find the product by SKU — found the MSDS and emailed it to me. You can get a copy of it here. Embedded in the email was the path I:\M9\OLD WORLD INDUSTRIES\ELRMA14OZ.PDF, which I find interesting as it shows both that the company has a simple directory structure full of MSDS, and that this product is actually made by Old World Industries, the parent company for PEAK and a number of other automotive companies. Per a recent press release:

Old World Industries, LLC is among the largest privately-held companies competing in the automotive aftermarket. The Northbrook, Illinois-based company enjoys a presence in various consumer product markets in more than 30 countries worldwide. Old World’s brands include a full line of PEAK® Performance Products including Antifreeze, Motor Oil, Washer Fluid, Electronics and Wiper Blades; SIERRA® Antifreeze; Fleet Charge® Fully Formulated Coolant; Final Charge® Heavy Duty Global Extended Life Antifreeze/Coolant; SmartBLADE™ Premium Wiper Blades; HERCULINER® Truck Bed Liner Kits; and BlueDEF® Diesel Exhaust Fluid. For more information, please visit http://www.peakauto.com.

Comparing this product’s MSDS to the one from Advance Auto Parts SKU #A2953013 shows them to be identical (including the contact person and his phone number), save for some slight formatting and naming changes. Based on this I think this $3.99 tube of Advance Auto Parts-brand Marine Grease is the same as PEAK® Performance Synthetic Marine Grease. Thus these should also be the specs for the Advance Auto Parts grease.

Isn’t research via MSDS great? Digging into these lets one peer behind the labels on lots of products…