Thursday, July 31, 2008

Post-It-Notes (TM)

A side benefit to this blog is that I can use it as a place to virtually store good information about repairs I do, or plan to do for the car. On other posts, I've been compiling some ideas for longer term projects, but after driving it for approximately 1000 miles, I've developed a pretty good feel for driving it, and I've found some real specific things I could do to improve it even more. After some more research, and a discussion I had with another 107* driver who works out at my gym, I'm convinced that the car would drive really great with a suspension rebuild. At first, before I replaced the tires, I thought the car would always be a little soft on the handling. After new tires, with the right parts, I think I could get it to stick to the road like a go-kart and handle more like the Bimmer than a Buick. The roadster driver at the gym has an '86 560SL (it's beautiful), and shortly into our conversation, he suggested having some of that work done. One symptom of wear in those components is a little clunking sound when coming to a stop, or braking, which I do hear a lot. I did some searching, and found a great list of items to repair, replace or check, and I wrote them down on a sticky note, which I keep in my calendar. Now, given the amount of work already done to the car, taking into account the amount of actual sunshine remaining for the year, and funds alloted to car repair, this will likely be a winter or spring project. So, I need a place to keep some of these notes that won't get lost when I look for them in March of next year when I'm ready to go forward. If you are wondering, this is not a do-it-yourself project. It will require very special tools and a lot of under-the-car time, which I get freaked out about because I don't have access to a lift.

If you know me well, you'll know that I thrive on to-do lists on sticky notes. In fact, if I finish a project that isn't on a to-do list, I'll add it to an active list, then immediately cross it out, because I like the sense of accomplishment. At any given time, I have a row of sticky notes across my computer monitor at work with things like bus schedules, important phone #'s, or other work-related things that I refer to often. I also have 3 or 4 active notepad sheets that I use to keep track of current projects (one for quick notes about the current day, one for client birthdays, one for outstanding tasks and another for random scratches). It's a major milestone when I knock one of them out, but I usually create another one right behind it.

Needless to say, I'm developing a sticky-note collection for the car, but I'm running out of places to keep them. So, in the interest of saving trees and having the information readily available, I'm declaring this blog my Post-It (TM) repository for the Benz.

*107: The official M-B designation for this chassis.

If you don't care about suspension rebuilds, you may stop reading at this point. Enjoy your evening.

Note to self:
Suspension overhaul to-do-list:

F/R Subframe Mounts
Steering damper shock
Sway Bar bushings
Lower Control Arm Bushings
Upper control Arm/Bushings
Drag Link
Wheel alignment
Check and replace if needed:
Ball Joints
Tie Rods

One less sticky note.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Gassed up the car today. Got 16.8 MPG. This was the first full tank with new tires, and I'm also using midgrade (89) because of a little knocking I hear with the regular. Got about an 8% improvement over the last tank.

Not much else is new. Kim and I are going on a date night tonight, going to see a concert (Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings) at the zoo. I hope it doesn't rain.

Happy Sunday!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What I've been up to...

It's been a crazy summer week. With most of the Benz maintenance complete, I've spent much more time driving it than working on it. That's a good thing, but I don't have any cool pictures of the car in disrepair, or stories of multiple trips to auto parts stores. However, since this is a blog that highlights some of my do-it-yourself escapades, here are some pictures of other things I've been doing lately:

Here is my new walkway, that I did while Kim and the kids were away...

My latest handyman snafu happened yesterday. Our faucet in the bathroom was starting to drip. Usually, this is a pretty straightforward repair. You pop off the handles, take out the faucet stems, and there is usually some sort of washer that has worn out. I had trouble getting the stems off for some reason, and probably even broke them while trying to remove them. So, I ran over the to the store and picked up the cheapest replacement faucet I could find. I got it mostly installed, except that one of the supply lines snapped when I reinstalled it (It was old, I swear). I ran to the store (again), and got a replacement shutoff valve and supply line and returned home.

Keep in mind at this point, with the shutoff valve disassembled, the water supply to the whole house needs to be off. Of course, there are 4 loads of laundry, a full dishwasher and a large pile of dirty dishes on the counter. I had faith that I would be able to fix this and get to these chores before too long, but it was not to be. When I reassembled the shutoff valve and supply line and turned the water back on, water started to spray from behind the fitting.

We now have no water.

One important skill of a good do-it-yourselfer is recognizing your limitations. I have reached mine. I called a plumber this morning, and asked for a service call around noon. No problem, they said. It's now 3:51, and according to the receptionist, they are still an hour out. I am a bit of a control freak, so you can imagine that this is really ticking me off. I feel like I'm in that Seinfeld episode where Kramer keeps scheduling then blowing off the cable guy. I'm tempted to go for a run, then leave a note for the plumber that says 'back in 5 minutes' then return an hour later. Ha.

With regards to the Benz, while I was waiting for the plumber to call, I did go through and do an interior detail. Every now and then, I like to pick an area that doesn't normally get cleaned and go for it. Today, it was the convertible top boot. It was really disgusting in there.

That's all for now.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Catching Up

Life was a little disrupted over the last week or so. As mentioned before, Kim and the kids were out of town for a little more than a week. When I get the chance to stay behind, I tend to fill in my schedule with a bunch of things I wouldn't get to normally do. My goal is usually to find a good balance of three things: Work (Professional), Work (around the house/cars) and Fun. Happy to say, I succeeded. Since the real maintenance work on the Benz is complete, I did spend a lot of time behind the wheel. It was sunny and in the high 70's for most of the week, so we're finally being rewarded for the crummy winters over the last two years.

Related to cars, but unrelated to the Benz, I did make a road trip for work last week. I had to see people down near Hood River, about 60 miles East of Portland. Since it was a longer trip, I took the BMW, as it is more comfortable, has a better stereo, and gets better mileage. Gas prices being what they are, I decided to try and maximize my mileage for the trip down and see what I could do with regards to efficiency. I pretty much kept to the speed limit and was able to forget about the A/C for drive down. I was impressed with the mileage for the trip, and the odometer milestone that I achieved just as a arrived at our meeting place made for a neat picture.

Yep - 34 mpg at an average speed of about 67 mph for the trip down. Unfortunately, on the way home, the outside temp had approached 90 degrees. As much as I tried, going without A/C for more than a few minutes was not an option, so my mileage for the return trip dropped to 30.5. Still pretty good in my book. As fun as the roadster is, there is something to be said for the newer engines in cars.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Give me a Brake...

I was able to get the brake fluid changed today. It was easier than I thought, and the hardest part was really making sure that I was careful with the fluid receptacles, and didn't make a mess. Brake fluid is a very good solvent, and will eat away at paint, so there's a little bit of pressure to take your time and work through it carefully.

I purchased a brake bleeder a couple of weeks ago, which is a small pressure vessel that you can use to pump fluid into the reservoir. I also got two bottles with a hoses that attach to the bleeder nozzle, which helps with collecting the old fluid without making a mess. Of course, it wouldn't be a proper DIY experience without having to run to the store (again) to get another tool. The bleeder screws are 9mm. It figures that my wrench set goes from 8mm to 10mm, so I got to know the guys at the local parts counter pretty well today. Unfortunately, Kim is away with the kids and the camera, so I don't have any good photos, which would help clarify a lot.

The procedure works like this:

- Cover fender with garbage bag or other plastic to protect it from stray fluid.
- Remove as much old fluid as you can from the reservoir with a turkey baster (note to self: get new turkey baster for the kitchen...)
- Fill reservoir with clean fluid.
- Fill bleeder with clean fluid and attach to reservoir. Pump to 20 psi.
- Working at each tire, starting the furthest away from the master cylinder (Right Rear), remove the tire and bleeder cap. Loosen bleeder screw until clean fluid comes out of the tube (this is easy to see - the old stuff is brown. The new stuff is yellow). Close bleeder screw.
- When all 4 tires are done, leave last tire off. Tilt bleeder vessel so that the fluid tube is not taking in fluid, and you are pumping air into the reservoir. Open bleed screw one last time until fluid level in reservoir is at 'MAX'
- Close bleeder screw.
- Loosen cap on bleeder tank to release pressure (NOT the cap at the reservoir itself, unless you like to spray brake fluid everywhere..)
- Replace cap on reservoir.
- DON'T FORGET! - Torque lug nuts to 81 ft-lb.
- Drive slowly in driveway to make sure brakes work.

Everything seems to be fine. I also got some gas dryer (alcohol that will absorb water in the gas tank) and filled up, with midgrade this time. My last tank gave me 15.5 MPG. Much less than before, but there was almost no highway driving before this fill-up. I think the new tires will make a difference too. We shall see.