Sunday, September 28, 2008

Still Here

My activity here probably won't win me any 'Blogger of the Year' awards. Yep - no dreams of internet riches for this guy.

Anyway, some updates:

The mystery oil pressure gauge is working pretty consistently. I had a nice road trip yesterday, going to the eastside to play some golf with some friends. By the end of the round, it was in the mid 70's and perfectly sunny. A beautiful day, and still doing what we can to enjoy the car before permanent winter arrives.

At home, we've started another project. Our upstairs bathroom has been in a state of mild disrepair for the last couple of years, and we've finally worked up the courage to tear it up. Since that will be the focus of my DIY activity for a while, I'm going to unofficially retitle the blog to be 'Old School Bathroom' because that's what it is. We'll do some updating, and I'll be sure to post pictures.

Here's one now. We ripped out the vanity and fiberglass shower insert today. That was the worst. It's in a pile behind our house until we can get to the dump, and I thought you could enjoy it too!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Mystery...

We're back up and running again. I had fully intended, tools at the ready, to start taking some stuff apart on Sunday and have a real good look-see troubleshooting session.

I undid some bolts. I looked at the engine. I undid a few more bolts. I looked some more. I grabbed a flashlight. I climbed underneath the car.

This was not going to be easy.

I reached under the hood, and unplugged the oil pressure sender plug again. It looks clean.

I also realize that there is no way in hell that I'll be able to get the tools or test equipment anywhere near where I need it to be. There is too much stuff in the way.

I sigh.

For giggles, I pop off the oil filler cap.

I start the car.

I look inside the valve cover. Oil is running very freely. There are tubes that drop a thin stream of oil right over the cam lobes. They are working perfectly, and it's really easy to see. My 6-year old is fascinated, despite the fact that she has no idea what she is looking at.

I check the gauge. Pegged to the top. Working perfectly.

The next day (Monday) I head to the gym. I start the car cold, and the gauge sits at zero for a three count, then pegs to the top.

At this point, I'm completely baffled.

I know that reseating the pressure sender plug will fix the problem temporarily, and I can always pop the filler cap to verify that things are working well. If I get the suspension rebuilt next spring, the sender will be much easier to get to with the subframe off.

FYI - this is the first September on record in Seattle where it has rained ZERO. I need to get as much usage out of the car as I can anyway!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

...And Off Again...

It was too good to be true. My often useful wire-wiggle electrical fix was only temporary.

Yesterday, Kim and I had a night out to ourselves. We were going to see a concert on the Eastside, and I had actually planned a back way to get to the venue that would take advantage of carpool lanes on I-90 and a nice windy road along the lake. The weather was also a drop-top perfect sunny and 75. Kim packed up a picnic basket, and I hopped in the Benz and started it up. The oil pressure gauge stuck at zero.

At this point, I'm pretty sure it's the sender. It's s small electronic sensor that attaches to the bottom of the housing where the oil filter sits, and is connected to a wire that goes back to the instrument panel. It's moderately easy to get to. It also happens to be covered in sludge, and there is a gasket that is between the housing and the block that I suspect is leaking. I may end up following the philosophy of '...Well, since you're in there and have it taken apart already...' and look at doing the whole assembly.

I think it's an easy fix, but will take some time and probably involve lifting the car. The part is about 80 bucks online too. I posted a note to benzworld (the best message board I have found for these types of issues) to see what someone more experienced has to say.

The concert was awesome.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Back on the Road

I scratched my head on this one. I did web searches, scanned message boards, talked to the experts. I was faced with a couple of possibilities:

The oil pressure gauge was reading zero correctly. This was unlikely, but Very Bad News if I was wrong about that assumption.

The oil pressure gauge was reading zero incorrectly. This was the likely problem, but meant more difficult troubleshooting

I went back out to the car. I pulled the fuse that was broken before, and turned the key to 'on'. I verified that everything that was broken before (gauges, power windows, blinkers, etc...) failed to work again.

I replaced the fuse, and turned the ignition to 'on' again. That which failed is now working again. I'm even seeing a small movement in the temp gauge. Oil Pressure gauge still pegged at zero.

Pop the hood. Locate oil pressure sender (this is a small electric sensor that sends the signal back to the oil pressure gauge). Of course, it's only mostly accessible from the top of the car. I reached down and unplug, then reseat the sensor. (It's truly amazing how unplugging and plugging something in can do wonders for electronic equipment).

Flip key to 'on' again. Everything seems to be ok, but this time, I see a slight movement in the oil pressure gauge.

Cross fingers. Move key to start.

Engine springs to life. After 1/2 second, oil pressure gauge indicates full pressure.


We seem to be back to normal. I have no idea if my quick wire wiggle did anything, but it's working for now, and most importantly, more good weather is in the forecast.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Well, I guess not

I received my batch of replacement fuses. I replaced the one in question and fired up the car. The tachometer and fuel gauge now read correctly, but the oil pressure gauge is still at zero.

Not wanting to take a chance that the oil pressure is REALLY zero, I shut the car down (and was not able to test speedometer and temp). This will require some more research. I'm stuck. I'll poke around and see what I can come up with. Searches on the message board I frequent says it may be a grounding issue. That may mean pulling the instrument cluster. Supposedly an easy job, just one I've never done before.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Culprit

the bad fuse is on the left. A good one is on the right, for comparison. The fuse didn't blow, but the bottom piece of metal that comes in contact with the fuse holder broke off. I think that may explain the intermittent trouble on the highway.

It took me three whole minutes to find a complete set of copper replacements on eBay for $10. In the mean time, there's not a cloud in the sky and it's in the mid 70's. The Benz is in the garage under cover. The good news is that this should be a quick and easy repair.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Milestone

It happened today.

For the first time.

Something that was working properly... broke.

On my watch.


I was cruising down 520 towards the Eastside of town. Sunny, 70 degrees. Perfect weather for a drop-top excursion. I took a cursory glance at the gauges, as I was told to do during drivers ed so long ago (Smith System rule - 'Keep your eyes moving...').

No oil pressure.

Mind races and tells me to stop the car (remember the '74 Corolla).

Wait a minute.

Tachometer reads zero.

Impossible... I'm humming along quite nicely in highway traffic, doing at least...





I'm sensing a trend.





Organize the following thoughts:

- The car is running nicely.
- Many indicators have failed at once, giving false readings.
- I likely have an electrical problem.


I continue on to my destination, all while thinking of a good troubleshooting plan. At one point in the drive, all gauges start to work again. Great.

I tap on the brake approaching traffic. In an instant, gauges go back to zero.


I arrive at my destination, I park, then shut off the car.

Cars need a good electrical system to start.

Cross fingers....

The car starts again. Gauges are still dead. Good. Only PART of the electrical system is dead.

I check the lights (it will be dark by the time I head home). They work. I determine that after my engagement, I'll have enough functionality to get home safely, and I do.

I've spent the better part of the summer working on improving the car. Making it better. Little repairs, detailing work, light maintenance... Today is the first time that something has gone awry since our ownership commenced in April. A true milestone. A step backward. I was due. It's a 26-year old car. What do I expect?

On the way home, I did some more troubleshooting and made a short mental list..

Interior illumination

Doesn't work:
Power windows
Turn Signals on dashboard
Any other dashboard warning light for that matter...

I checked my shop manual. There is a common fuse for the things that don't work, so I'll be checking that out. If it is the fuse, what causes it to blow? If not, tracking down a wiring problem will be a bear, I know.

I was just thinking that I hadn't updated the blog in a while and that it would be nice to have something to write about.

Be careful what you ask for...