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Category: automotive

Failed Car!

Danielle and I took Roxie over to the Orion Oaks Dog Park today, where she got a bunch of exercise and lots of time to play in the lake, which was making for a very nice day. However, right as we pulled out of the lot, something went weird with my car and the engine came under lots of load, nearly stalling. I quickly made a U-turn, pulled back into the parking lot, and rolled into a space just as my car stalled.

A quick investigation under the hood while trying to start the car showed that something along the serpentine belt‘s path, as there are both visible metal shavings (small and glitter like) around the belt area, the belt was smoking slightly after the car ceased running, and an attempt to start the car made the engine jerk and rock as if there was an unreasonable load on it.

It didn’t take very long for the tow truck driver to arrive, and even more fortunately Bob and his wife Debbie came out to wait for the tow truck with us and then drive the three of us back to my area. Getting the car loaded on the truck was fun because there wasn’t enough space in the lot to directly align the truck with my car, so as the driver winched the vehicle on to the flat bed I hung out of the vehicle steering it (with no power steering) in reverse so it’d move straight on to the bed. Then, do to a slightly similar situation at Shelby Tire (my preferred local shop) I had to slowly roll it down the ramp and into a parking spot.

After getting the car situated at the shop and dropping the key in the slot and Roxie at my house the four of us set out for dinner at Azteca’s, a wonderful Mexican place located in a strip mall just north of M-59 on the west side of Mound. Note that this place is not to be confused with the much less good local chain Grand Azteca, but it is located very close to Erma’s Frozen Custard, the perfect place to head for dessert after eating.

Now everything is set and it’s just time to wait and figure out what it’ll take to put the car right again. Thankfully Danielle is here and I’ve got leftover biryani from Friday’s dinner, so I should be able to get a ride to and from work and have no need to go out for food. I considered biking in, but even with the new panniers I’ve yet to figure out an effective way to carry a laptop, without which I can’t do my job. Instead I think I’ll leave the laptop there tomorrow and try riding in on Tuesday.

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Off The Rails

Danielle’s driver side window ended up coming out of the track at the front, so she wasn’t able to roll it up without holding it. By unbolting the front rail I was able to get it all aligned, but it seems her window has some wear in front of the lift mechanism. This causes the window to settle into place slightly ajar, requiring a gentle nudge to get it into place. If it was easier to get inside the door I’d look at disassembling the mechanism and fixing the bushing (or whatever), but for now I’ve left the window semi-operational.

On request the handle has been left off of the door panel (and set inside one of the map compartments) so she won’t roll the window down without remembering the slight effort required to fully re-seat it. Properly reinstalling the handle will just require clipping it back in place, but I won’t do so yet.

I suspect that this issue happened when the car was iced over and an attempt to roll down the window was made. The window was probably stuck in place and the force of pulling down on it deformed a bushing or some other part in the front of the mechanism, allowing it to wobble the current 1cm or so.


Removing LEDs from a Sony CDX-GT43IPW

Having some time this evening I opened up the ultra-bright LED-bearing faceplate from Danielle’s new car stereo. I was originally hoping to replace the LEDs with red or green ones, but after seeing that some are part of the tactile switches I decided against that. Looking into things by plugging the bare PCB into the head unit (photo) I found that the most offensive LEDs were those under the horizontal translucent buttons, with two of them lighting each button, and the ring around the chromed selector dial.

The decision was made to remove one LED from under each of the translucent buttons and one from around the ring. The LED removal went well, save for discovering that the ring LEDs are wired in series, so removing one turned off the entire ring. Still, the final result is much nicer. The stereo now lights up blue, but it’s no longer a glaring blue which makes seeing the road at night difficult. If you compare this photo from last night to this one from tonight you can see how much more reserved (and appropriate) the illumination now is. The loss of the knob ring illumination isn’t really a concern, as it’s the only knob on the device so it’s easy to find and other light glinting off the chrome finish makes it easy to see anyway. The tradeoff for less irritating light is worth it.

Interestingly there were two discreet sets of solder pads for each LED, and some silkscreen on the back that indicated selections for amber and green LEDs. I suspect that other similar models of this stereo offered the other illumination colors and this particular model was just for Target, or perhaps low end markets, or something like that. Or maybe this board is just fitted differently when used in other higher-end models…


Ultra-Bright Blue LEDs!

Ever since getting an iPod Danielle’s been wanting a way to connect it to her car. While at Target today I happened across a Sony CDX-GT43IPW on clearance for $69.98, and a few hours later it was installed in her car. Installing an aftermarket stereo in a 2000-ish GM J Platform normally requires some wiring trickery so that the factory chime sounds aren’t lost, but thanks to Danielle’s car already having an aftermarket stereo I was able to simply adapt the old wiring harness to this stereo’s needs, resulting in the harness seen here.

Disassembling the dash to access the stereo was also a bit of a hassle, but easier than expected. The stereo worked on first go, and the iPod interface is surprisingly decent. The built-in menu system which manages the iPod is about as good as one can get from a one line display, and there’s another mode which simply allows the iPod to controlled directly. There’s also a standard 3.5mm Aux In on the faceplate, should she wish to hook up another device that way.

The biggest down side is the ultrabright blue LEDs which illuminate the controls on the front panel. For now Danielle just ignores them while driving, but I imagine they will get pretty irritating soon. Sometime tomorrow I’ll probably open up the face plate and check out the LEDs. Hopefully it’s easy enough to open and they are pretty easy to replace. Green or red, and much less bright, should work out well.

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Accident Waiting To Happen

This person, turning left in front of me, hadn't bothered to clear off most of her car's windshield.

Dear people of the world. Please…

scrape the rest of your windshield before attempting to drive
…do not apply perfume / cologne or scented hand lotion before touching public facilities (gas pumps, door knobs, door handles, etc)…
…do not smoke out your car window in slow traffic, as it stinks…
…do not get your filth on the toilet seat…

…as then life will be both nicer and easier for everyone else. Thank you.

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Honda DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications)

Honda DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications) R&D vehicle seen in Southfield, MI with small antennas on it for short area network research.

While parking yesterday I saw a couple of these Honda R&D vehicles for DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications) parked next to each other. They initially caught my eye because each has one or more small, round antennas stuck on the top. A quick look around online shows that each manufacturer seems to be doing some manner of DSRC work for things ranging from freight management to toll booths, collision avoidance / proximity notification, traffic detection, etc. This sounds like it could be interesting to play with.

(Yes, this photo was taken in a very public parking garage.)

Here, have a few more moblog photos:

· My coworker Nick happy about his machine crashing again. At least we now know the cause.
· Crappy traffic on the way to work today.
· I accidently opened the door marked 18 on my chocolate-filled advent calender today.
· Vernors branded department store quality mountain bike.

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Oil Slick and Other Images

I do not like seeing oil slicks like this in a parking lot. This is from the snow plow / salt spreading people.

Here, have some moblog images:

· I do not like seeing oil slicks like this in a parking lot. This is from the snow plow / salt spreading people.
· Car with YOU SUCK @ PARKING written in paint marker on the side window.
· Engrish on a model helicopter box at Microcenter. (Click to read more.)
· Deatheater standing near the console at IPM.
· It’s December 1st, time to start on the advent calendar my mom gave me.
· DBAN having just finished running on my old D610.
· Bye bye, D610. Time for me to begin using another laptop at work.
· The bathroom at work has a shiny new air freshener installed.

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Good Customer Service

Those of you who know me know that I’m not particularly shy about complaining about poor products, poor customer service, or other things which I’m not too happy about. While I also will mention products and companies I’m happy with, I don’t make particularly permanent record of it.

Recently I’ve had a couple good customer experiences and I wanted to make note of them, so I started a page on called Good Customer Service. The three which I currently have listed are Cateye (replaced a broken part, although it’s arguable if this is good or just acceptable), VG’s (who put in a bike rack on request), and Cequent (who sent me a new bolt after I stupidly broke the last one).

On a slightly related note, I received a fastener kit from Cequent today which included the U bolt I broke, and I had no problems fitting it on to the car. I even torqued it down with the questionable wrench, but only after first exercising the wrench to be certain that it’s appropriately clicking when reaching the desired torque. Now that I understand it and it’s shortcomings, it’s a reasonable, but cheap torque wrench. I don’t think I’ll be returning it.

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Broken U Bolt On Hitch

This is what happens when one uses a torque wrench expecting it to work right, without a understanding of what 20 foot pounds feels like. Before heading off to the park with Danielle, I decided to take my new (and admittedly cheap) Michigan Industrial Tools torque wrench and check the torque on the bolts on my hitch.

I set the wrench for 20 foot pounds, put it on the bolt, and pushed. Since the torque wrench is supposed to click when it reaches the amount of torque specified, and I didn’t hear any click, I figured it had to be tighter, so I pushed a bit more. The bolt turned, then I pushed a bit more. Suddenly there was a BANG and the bolt clattered to the ground having broken off.

Later in the evening I hooked the torque wrench to another wrench and tried it out, applying force every way I could think of, and it wouldn’t click. I played with it a bunch, turned the adjustment all the way in and out a few times, applied more force to it, and after about 20 minutes of playing it finally freed up and started working. I then found out how little force 20 foot pounds actually is.

It took my working the adjustment part of the tool back and forth a few times, and then applying a solid amount of force opposite the direction the torque wrench should be used in (that is, against the arrow) before I felt something loosen up inside the tool and it started working.

So, it turns out that the problem seems to have been caused by my lack of knowledge and the torque wrench’s generally being crap. I’m still torn as to whether or not I should return it. Sure, it only cost ~$30, but if it’s not reliable it’s not particularly useful.

The bigger problem is finding another bolt. What I need is a 3/8-16 u-bolt, for 9/16″ outside diameter pipe, but I can’t seem to find it. Checking both McMaster-Carr and Grainger, all I can find is 1/4-20 parts at that spacing. McMaster-Carr lists the 1/4-20 stainless steel part as having a working load limit of 435 pounds, which is probably 4x or 5x what the bikes and hitch weigh. I’m not sure if it’s enough, but it might be my only choice.

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