Archive for May, 2013


The Weekly Adventures of Mikuvan: Operation LOST BEARINGS

May 31, 2013 in mikuvan

I solemnly promise to give every major mechanical repair on this thing a cheesy faux-military operation name.

With that aside, I present to the internet my front right wheel bearing:


Ever since Mikuvan has been putzing around under power, I’ve noticed a subtle grinding or rumbling noise at low speeds. It’s a consistent noise, didn’t vary too much with power or turning, and all symptoms pointed to a bad bearing on one wheel. While on the lift last week, I confirmed that the wheel was a bit loose, which was a positive diagnosis. Since tapered roller bearings which have obviously lost preload are most likely torn up and damaged, I went ahead and ordered a new set of front wheel bearings, two (a pair) for each wheel.

That was last week. My general assessment was that local driving on the bad bearing wouldn’t be the end of the world, so in this prescribed shipping gap…

Quite a few Van Adventures ensued with whoever was in the building, on the slightest of whims.

And I finally registered the damned thing.


I also became a delivery driver for Beantown Taqueria.

…Right, just kidding on that. I don’t know why, but that sign fits the vehicle so well. Anyways, the Beantown folks and us residents of the N5x complex are pretty close, so we pitched a delivery sign on the roof one afternoon for giggles.

I also spent some time shopping it around to area auto body repair places to get estimates for repainting and rust patching. Conclusion: …yeah, um, I better learn to love Bondo.  Typical estimates ran in the 3 to 6 thousand range for the full repair, of varying degrees of shady – from fiberglass and filler to custom shaped steel with body solder filling.

Now, I could be trusted to weld a few steel plates in place, but not to make anything look pretty. Left to my own devices, I’d just rattle-can white over the repairs, which would just look like ass. I’m currently debating heavily the make-versus-buy scenario thusly. At the very least, a good white repaint is not out of the question.

Fast forward to Thursday morning, when I was rained on by packages.

There’s a few things from Rock Auto here. First, my new bearings. Second, on the same order, I got a replacement front heater/AC blower motor, and after testing the 3-speed fan circuit with another motor determined the 3-speed resistor block was also damaged (missing speed 1), so there’s also a replacement for that too.

And in a separate order, a replacement annoying thing:

While on a shopping spree, I decided to take care of the power mirror switch too. This cost $5 and actually came from a early 90s Mitsubishi 3000GT. Back in the days when cars shared parts (and all the parts were square…)

(For the Internet record: ’91-’94 Mitsubishi 3000GT power mirror switch fits a ’89 Mitsubishi Vanwagon and presumably ’87 and ’88 too.)

I got cracking as soon as all the white collar folk in the building left for the day so there was parking lot and loading zone space cleared up. The goal was to do both bearings by sundown.

Right. I barely got through disassembling one side by that point, but onwards…

Step 1 is to clean that which has seemingly never been cleaned. I was armed with not less than three cans of brake cleaner – the good kind, with the tetrawhateverthatcanceris, and ended up needing all of them. There was brake dust cakes everywhere. Even the brake dust had brake dust on it. I’m sorry, Earth.

After removing the external dust cap, I realized I forgot one thing: The shop manual.

Now, I basically knew the procedure as “remove the fingery nut thing and take off the hub, check if bearings are present; if they are, add grease to everything in sight and retighten the fingery nut”. This and a few on-site Youtube videos later, I decided to just keep freelancing it.

The shown image is an expression of my gratitute for whoever designed the T-handle right angle drive ratchet that I will not stop spamming until all my friends have one. This thing really is a godsend. I had maybe 15 degrees of motion to loosen the mounting bolts for the brake caliper, and undoing the entire screw like that would have been tortuous. Instead, you break the bolt’s connection and then crank on the little T-handle.

Caliper is loosened and secured out of the way…

And now I’ve removed the castellated nut, the pin holding it in place, and the grease retainer washer. The outer bearing cone proceeds to fall out naturally with a quick tap.

As soon as I pick it up, it rains everywhere:

Here’s both cones removed. The big one is the inner bearing, and it’s not in bad shape, but I’ll replace anyway. The outer cone, though, is a textbook case in metal fatigue!

The previous service round used some red grease which made this entire scene look like some kind of horrific back-alley surgery, which…

…well, it was.

I decided to clean out all the old grease in the hub since it was most likely full of metal powders and chips from the ruined bearing, which would be counterproductive to use a new bearing in. About half a roll of shop towels and another can of cleaner was dedicated to this task alone.

After the degreasing, I found this brilliant example of fatigue-induced spalling. One of the features of the bearing rumble I heard was a regular clicking or detent kind of noise. Well now I know what it is.

There’s an entire field of engineering study dedicated to how bearings fail and how to make them less fail, and it is really quite enjoyable to read around the literature (for me, anyway). Here’s a great page by Timken (and a newer one) illustrating common tapered roller bearing failures. Distressingly enough, the failure most resembles the localized “pinched housing” failure, though it really could have been caused by improper installation when the vehicle was last serviced this way – a well placed punch from driving the ring in and out could have cracked it sight unseen.

How could you mess up installation? Apparently, many ways.

The Official Strategy Guide recommended taking a brass rod and punching (with a hammer) the races in and out for installation. The trouble is, I tried that. For half an hour, to basically no avail. The brass would just dent and deform instead of driving the outer race. I did have to resort to a steel punch in the end to take the rings out. If someone tried the reverse, I easily see how you could trash a bearing by microscopically shattering it.

To get my new races in, I had to make a pressing jig on the lathe from chunks of aluminum – of the proper diameter to press on the ring entirely, and long enough to reach down into the hub, then pitch it on a 3 ton arbor press with me basically hanging off the bar.

How is Tony Stark supposed to be able to do this? In a cave? With a box of scraps?!

With the new rings pressed, it was time to start on the long road to reassembly. I was basically, according to the Internet, grease-slam everything in sight, mashing it into the bearing rollers and pumping the hub full of the stuff. Sounds good.

Full disclosure: I didn’t have a tube of real honest-to-locknuts “nice grease”. That was a minor oversight of sorts. I grabbed from MITERS a bucket of white (presumably lithium) grease that at least had a picture of a car on it. For what specifically, it didn’t say, but the other tubes of lithium grease all said “Not recommended for use in wheel bearings”. Okay.

I don’t exactly mind having to do this in 10,000 miles. We’re assuming I won’t blow it up by then.

The Official Guide also warned against reusing the back side grease seal (which rides on a fluid barrier of grease at all times and keeps the stuff inside contained), but The Internet spoke contrarily this time. Not having a new grease seal, I cleaned and kept it since it appeared to be in good condition – wasn’t torn or feathered or otherwise seeming to not contain grease any time soon.

Torquing the adjust-a-nut to spec. 22 ft-lbs in, untighten, 8 ft-lbs in, then back out to the nearest castle slot for the locking pin. This part I remembered from reading the Official Guide earlier. This is when I’m glad I decided to buy the “I’m sure I’ll need this soon” +1 Torque Wrench of Not Overcranking.

Retaining hardware remounted…

Wait, so you’re saying the only thing preventing the wheel from popping off is a little 5/8″ nut?

If I designed cars, this axle spindle would be a single 3″ diameter shoulder screw.

Finally, a last wad of grease in the dust cap and the reassembly is done. Spins freely and doesn’t wobble – better than when I started I suppose.

About this time when I was sticking my head in the wheelwell to place the brake caliper bolts, I noticed that the secondary A/C condenser fan had basically fallen off the fan motor. Well that’s why it’s making so much noise…

The arrow points to the torn-ass remains of the fan hub. This condenser assembly might be the first to go in terms of parts permanently being dismounted.

Caliper remounted and checked for clean rotation.

Say, how much do I need to torque those lug nuts? 100 ft-lb. My torque wrench doesn’t even go up that high. That amount of torque is basically me standing on the end of the thing.

The front right wheel is now all buttoned up again. I had started around 6:30 – it was now 10:30 and I decided to leave the front left for the weekend. Yeah, you’re supposed to do them both at once, but it’s going to be 95 degrees tomorrow and I’m not doing this outside again. However, now that I know the exact order of operations and have pressing jigs ready, I’m confident I can do the other side in under an hour.

After cleaning everything up, I went on a few rounds of the surrounding area and some loops in a parking lot to check for more noises. The cabin is much quieter now that I’m not grinding metal on metal directly into it. No other bearings are making sounds, and as far as I can tell the suspension isn’t creaking either.

Next on my list is that damned fan motor. Did I mention it’s going to be 95 tomorrow?



Long Live Mikuvan

May 26, 2013 in mikuvan

In the past few days, basically from Sunday to Thursday, I’ve managed to put something like 150 miles on Mikuvan, which is no small feat for purely local – Boston, Cambridge, and associated suburbs driving outside of regular daily commuting. For me, the “daily commute” is something like 1.1 miles by scooter, so for the most part said driving consisted of helping friends move large objects – it being end-of-semester moveout season, picking up more cruft on Craigslist, and purposefully going way too far westwards just to grab lunch (I sincerely recommend Blue Ribbon BBQ in West Newton). And even participating in helping search for a stolen car, but that’s a story for another day.

All in the name of Science, of course – I’ve pretty much been doing all this just to observe the vehicle’s behavior under different driving conditions, ranging from highway to extremely low speed start-stop city driving, to the occasional stoplight pull which will remain undiscussed.

I haven’t been able to break it. For all intents and purposes, Mikuvan is a fully functional car. There hasn’t been any stalling or overheating, no more fluid leaks, no rough shifting or other transmission business. There’s quirks and worn parts typical of a car about as old as I am – the front blower is not functional and the power mirror (oh boy, power mirrors!) switch is also broken, and the air conditioning belt isn’t hooked up (and I’m sure the system is totally drained too). Plus, those rust patches.

The de facto beginning of summer was marked by the start of incessant rain, after which I assume it will actually get warmer. I took the opportunity to give the whole outside a proper washdown, aided by the rain. It had been living under a tree for a month or more, so there was tree drippings and bird shit everywhere, and other environmental deposits.


Lookin’ pretty good. I got rid of most of the grunge from the presumed side-swipe damage on the left lower bodywork also.

One of the nice features of the great N5x building complex, where MITERS and other shop-nests are, is that there is a two-post auto lift installed in the area where the automotive racing teams (FSAE, Solar Car, et. al) work out of. Many students have used it in the past for wrenching on personal cars, and I now join those ranks:

I ran into an interesting problem in that my wheelbase was too short to swing the lift arms under the frame. To fit, I had to remove one pair of lift pads (one is at the end of each arm), swing the front set under, manually push the van a few inches back to clear the rear set, and then reinstall the pads in-place.

The goal of hovering Mikuvan was to perform a full mechanical inspection of the underside as well as to clean the engine and transmission to locate the source of a very small but persistent oil leak.

The belly of the beast, front to the lower right. The engine seems to have been burning or leaking (…or both?) oil for a long time, so there were “sludge bunnies” as we called them everywhere. Most of the underside frame near the engine is coated in a thick sludge film. I suspect it has helpful anti-rust properties, but still. Eww.

For the uninitiated, Mikuvan is actually mid-engined and rear wheel drive. The engine and transmission center of gravity is a few inches rearward from the front axle.

Here’s the underside rear. The clean spot to the left was where the spare tire lived; I had removed this because the rim itself was basically rusted out, and also removed the tire hanger in the process. It’s also where I think the eventual Siemens 1PV5135 will live. There’s many big square frame rails to attach things to in this region. Attachment strategies have been floating in my head and are varied – one part of me thinks I should just buy or Procure Through Alternative Channel a Borg-Warner eGearDrive, a transaxle designed to mate with  the Siemens motor. The other part thinks flipping the diff around and mounting the motor longitudinally (shaft pointing front-back), with an external 2:1 custom reduction, would be better. The differential is a native 4.22:1, so an external 2:1 is almost perfect.

A minor third opinion is to use the guts of the former Mercury Milan hybrid transmission from the old Electric Vehicle Team project, the ELEVEN. It’s basically an embedded eGearDrive, but just a pile of eGears that would require a custom housing. But it comes with a roughly 8:1 total ratio and a parallel-drive (not right angle) differential.

Using several cans of carb, brake, engine, and colonic cleaner, I gave the underside powertrain components a scrubdown. Every once in a while, I’d notice a new dot of oil on the ground while performing pre-drive fluid checks. With the engine and transmission so coated in junk, it was hard to see where it could have been coming from. Hopefully, now, I’ll see a little dark brown slick or something from the point of leakage.

While scrubbing the transmission, I actually found the nameplate! It had been so thoroughly coated I haven’t even noticed it was there.

Interesting enough, the first Google ping for “4G64 AW03-72L” (my model of engine and transmission) is this very theraputic and fascinating teardown video, set to… Christmas music? I’d get to about the 7:00 point and then have exactly shit clue about how to get it all back together.

While lifted, I also went around to the wheels and checked suspension and bearings. Nothing seemed obviously bad about the suspension, but I’m also not a professional suspension inspector. The rubber bushings were not cracked or looking otherwise fatigued.

The bad bearing up front has been confirmed – the front right wheel is a tiny bit loose in all directions. If there’s one thing I know about most car axles, it’s that they use tapered roller bearings which must be preloaded (forced together at all times), so any wobble at all is a bad sign. The alleged (now confirmed) bad bearing had been manifesting itself as a rumbling noise at moderate speeds. I haven’t noticed that wheel center becoming substantially hotter, but I’m also not keen on waiting until that point.

No other wheels were found to be loose, but so long as I’m taking one side apart, the other side will also be replaced at the same time. Guess I know what’s coming up next!

the long term plan

While I was initially excited about taking the summer to get most of the way through an electric conversion, I’m now further in support of the second thought – keep the engine for now, and address all the little mechanical and electrical problems first. Get it in good mechanical shape first, patch the rust holes, and fix the accessories. That way, when I do finally manage to grenade the engine or commit fully and drop it, the rest of the vehicle is ready and able to drive right away with a new power system. Whereas currently, even if I were to somehow install the electric powertrain tomorrow, I’d still be faced with a bad wheel bearing, no front fans (forget even air conditioning!), body rust holes, and such things. Since I don’t depend on a car for daily commuting, I can afford it to be a science project and learn how to address these issues.

Plus, as long as I’m paying insurance on it, it might as well be functional and automotive and stuff. My policy is set to expire, with option to renew, at the end of October, which coincides nicely with the season that Mikuvan should not be on the road to avoid further rust spot damage from road salt (if those have not already been sealed by then).

I think the battle plan will be something like this, in no particular order

High priority

  1. Front wheel bearings – replace Real Soon
  2. All brake system inspection, front and rear, probably to coincide with bearing work since the wheels need to come off anyway.
  3. Front heater/AC blower. It’s one thing to not have air conditioning, it’s another to not have moving air or defrost/defogging. There’s already been a sweltering 80-something degree day in Boston, and it will only get worse from here. Unfortunately this seems to be a deep dashboard dissection job (by the Official Strategy Guide, anyway).

Low priority

  1. Underside body rust holes. Not sure how confident I am on this one, since it would require cutting into the bodywork – luckily in a place where nobody can see me mess it up! The side holes seem to be easily patchable with some steel sheet. The two wheelwell area rust holes are a different story since they will require signficant patching, filling, and contouring. And painting. What? Making something look nice?! This is one job which I may actually throw at a body shop and then hide.
  2. Fix the swivelly-slidy seats, which currently can’t latch into position on the slidy-axis. Currently held in place by a toolbox and a milk crate.
  3. Actual professional repaint of the exterior; the paint in some spots is clearly falling apart, and there’s minor rust patches on the rear hatch where it’s bubbling away around them.
  4. The power mirror switch
  5. Some upholstery which could use replacing, especially up near the driver and passenger footwells where there may also be more rust hiding

Operation: Bad Timing and Mikuvan Adventures

May 20, 2013 in mikuvan

I think my new life mission is to collect the 3 legendary birds derpy Japanese 80s vans. Here’s an interesting review of the 3 competing Japanese marques in the November 1987 issue of Popular Science! As an enthusiast of things which go quicker than they need to, I’m glad to see the Mitsubishi Van win the most sporty award. All of these models were discontinued by 1990, and I think the Nissan in particular is the rarest since there was an active mass recall for them. Definitely next on my list…

Anyways, as previously announced, Operation: BAD TIMING went down Saturday, and I am proud to say that it was a resounding success; the sound you hear is a hilariously lawn-mower-sounding 4 cylinder Mitsubishi 4G64 powering a vehicle which resembles a normal American minivan, just with the nose belt-sanded off and a few corners hit with a deburring tool.

Here’s the story of what all came together on a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon in (a basement in) Cambridge.

The scene of the crime. A few days before, I went to the neighborhood Harbor Freight and invested a very low 3-digit sum in a 3-ton hydraulic jack and 3-ton jackstands (among other handy accessories). As someone who has used HF equipment for years, I’m fully aware of the need to de-rate everything Harbor Freight tries to sell you by 50+% in order to use it safely. Especially on a matter which would probably reduce me non-consensually a few inches in thickness if the equipment fails. The van weighs 2910lb (1.5 tons, basically) empty, so 3-ton everything it is. Jackstands were placed according to The Official Derpy Van Strategy Guide – there’s a convenient round frame rail on the underside that fit the stand cradles exactly, almost like they anticipated people doing this or something.

The jackstands enabled free access to the underside of the vehicle in order to release several engine cover/timing belt cover bolts, and to release the lower transmission cooler and radiator coolant feed lines.

To get to the timing belt, the radiator and all accessory belts and pulleys needed to come off. This stage was basically done by Official Strategy Guide and some finger-feeling. The service manual doesn’t show some steps, figuring you know this stuff already.

For instance, the only step in radiator removal was “RADIATOR”, not “Remove these 2 bolts, this hose, and this other hose but from the underside of the car, and drain the transmission first so you can also get these two other hoses. Oh, by the way, the radiator shroud doesn’t clear the main cooling fan, but it will if you yank hard enough so you don’t have to take these 4 other bolts out.”

Yeah. That’s how you do it. “RADIATOR”. We decided that yanking was the best way.

After the radiator was wrestled out, I started attacking the fan and fan clutch. This right angle T-handle drive ratchet came in handy immensely for many of these tasks – among others being a makeshift impact wrench and hammer.

Leverage was used to break the fan bolts hold, then the T-handle used to quickly extract the bolt. There was no space to actually put the electric impact wrench I bought in there.

One of the fan nuts needed some Vise Grip Assist to untighten. It didn’t make it back onto the fan hub afterwards. Surely 3 bolts out of 4 is enough…

About midway into the disassembly process, and all the accessory belts have been removed.  The next stage was to remove the crankshaft accessory pulley, which was another 4-bolts torqued way too tight. I actually had to have Adam counter-torque me through the camshaft pulley (holding a socket wrench locked the other direction from my torquing) and rock my own wrench back and forth to break it loose!

After the accessory pulley came off, a few bolts later and the timing belt cover could be removed.

…and this what fell out as soon as we did that. A ball bearing.

Not a good sign.

As the cover was removed further, several more ball bearings fell out. This was not looking good.

A shot of the front of the engine with timing belt components exposed.  The lower left, short timing belt is the balance shaft belt, to be replaced along with the main timing belt. Its tensioner was actually pretty intact. The main timing belt, however, was a different story.

The tensioner is a “offset cam roller” kind of thing mounted on a swinging, lockable mechanism. The mechanism, a single steel stamping, was just fine. But where the hell is my tensioner?

Oh, there is is! At least, that’s the inner race. The actual tensioner roller itself was freely jiggling around inside the timing belt case. It seems that the bearing disintegrated long ago, scattering balls everywhere inside and causing instantaneous and likely fatal timing loss for the engine.

I purchased a full timing belt components kit, so it came with the 2 tension roller assemblies and belts. This is the new balancer belt assembly.

Bear in mind I was not the person taking the pictures, or you’d likely have gotten a picture of the main tensioner roller with every ball bearing recovered and piled on top of it. Others are not so OCD about photos as me, so for now, enjoy this picture of the lettering on the timing belt.

And this photo of nothing in particular. You can kind of see the new (green shielded) tension roller for the main timing belt installed. Much carb cleaner was used to make sure the mating surfaces and pulley faces were clean, then the new timing belt was installed. We didn’t go to extraordinary steps to clean everything, nor was the water pump replaced.

We had thought that “line up the timing marks” was going to be an arduous process of HERE, HOLD MY EVERYTHING WHILE I PLUG IT IN, but rather found that all the engine parts just sort of rolled into place. The cam shaft has 4 big springy detents from valve actuation, one of which was just the correct timing. The balancer shaft naturally rotated from gravity to the right timing.

It’s almost like it was designed this way or something.

After the timing belts were installed, we plugged the (newly replaced) distributor and rotor in, connected the spark plug cables, and tried a test run. This was the make-or-break here – if something was terribly amiss, it would show itself upon cranking. If the engine still didn’t start, I was prepared to keep removing things on the spot.

The video is of the second test run. On the first, we were all taken by surprise as to how quickly and smoothly it started up. I was honestly expecting explosions or jets of flame or something.

The engine idled smoothly and revved up smoothly. I blipped the throttle to about 2500 RPM briefly before we remembered that it had no cooling whatesoever and decided to end the test. Success for now.

After the test run, everything is getting reinstalled and refilled.

Your pretend-mechanic hoodrats of the day are Adam, Dane, and yours truly.

Buttoning up everything and rerouting all the cables. The passenger engine everything compartment hasn’t been this together since I got the thing.

Finally, after about 5 hours of work, Mikuvan is back together again. We finished at around 7PM Saturday, still early enough for the sun to be out!

Naturally, a high-stakes all-hands test drive was in order.

The total mileage of the first ever test run was about three or so. Not very much, but enough for me to observe that everything was in good working order (up to 3rd gear), that nothing was overheating or making weird noises, or that for some reason it really wanted to turn left. Hell, I’ve ridden in friends’ cars which were consistently less reliable.

The evening resulted in one discovery: the source of the coolant leak. First, a major leak from a misplaced hose clamp on the radiator from our servicing. But second, a persistent but lower flow leak which left me puzzled as to why I was leaving a bread crumb trail of coolant droplets everywhere. It turns out that someone in the van’s 23 year history had sheared a bolt on the thermometer to radiator hose connection, so the gasket was completely uncompressed and leaking.

Well, I sure fixed that.

mission 1

The conclusion of the test drive was the N52 parking lot:

That evening, I topped off the brake fluid and also refilled the gas (with 93 octane premium for sheer kicks) and cleaned off some of the bird shit stains and tree droppings.

Sunday has been filled with gratuitous driving (to places I would normally scooter to or even walk and stuff… amazing, right? It’s the weekend, I can park anywhere!) to double check and recheck reliability in starting and fluid leakage. At this point, I haven’t stalled out once, nor had any more issues with dripping fluids with the exception of some small oil dots that appear after a long period of parking. This tells me that there’s probably a very small but consistent oil leak somewhere. I’d like to get this thing on a lift, still, to fully clean the engine and transmission so I can watch oil leaks form.

Other things I have noticed include a pretty rumbly ride, which could indicate bad bearings. At 151,000+ miles, it’s about time for them to let go. However, during the time on jackstands, I did not notice any wobble or looseness in the front at all. It could just be a natural noise from sitting right over the front suspension.

I have yet to take Mikuvan on any highway cruising to obtain true steady state operation; this is on deck for this coming week. At this point, it only has a pile of minor issues to redress:

  • The body panel rust holes on the underside, and the bumper
  • The swivelly chairs can’t lock in place – the mechanism is obviously broken on both of them.
  • The broken coolant gasket bolt can be resolved by buying a new thermometer unit
  • The idle is still erratic, though I have yet to stall out. It varies between over 1000 RPM and what appears to be 450 or less (expected: 750rpm). The idle air control servo is known to get sticky over time.
  • The front blower is broken! I don’t mind not having air conditioning, but some moving air would be nice. The blower assembly does not seem to be accessible short of an entire-dash teardown, however. I may get desperate enough to do so.
  • Rims
  • Subs

This week, my intention is to maybe take it to a detailing shop to clean the rest of the superficial imperfections out (stuff I can’t attack with a towel and kitchen counter cleaner) and to actually register it. I’m already having immense amounts of fun trolling drivers of more conventional modern cars with its Zeerust-future look and 27 foot turn circle. My ultimate fear is not that I have to learn to handle its peculiarities, but that I’ll forget that everyone else has wheels in front of them. I don’t have front wheels, just middle ones.

The Brief Rise and Fall of Mikuvan

May 17, 2013 in mikuvan

In the intervening week and a half between the last update and now, a few things have happened. First, I untorqued the oil filter, and bought a set of torque wrenches. I hope you guys are satisfied.

Next, I tweaked and diddled enough things to get Mikuvan driving – tenuously, and only for a little while.

We… err, muscled that one back home.

This video was taken before the arrival of my new mass air flow sensor. The engine was easy to keep running when cold, but difficult otherwise after it warmed up, to the point where it would stall quickly if I let the throttle pedal go. The reason for this was yet unknown to me, but a few friends thought it might have something to do with the engine temperature sensor or intake air temp sensor, neither of which I’ve inspected with a voltmeter.  The missing MAF couldn’t have helped either.

But it showed that it could move under its own power! There was hope. I didn’t get up to a speed to shift into second, however, so the transmission remains untested.

After that, still waiting on the MAF replacement, I decided to give the underbody a much more thorough car syphilis rust inspection.

The matching rust holes in the front step got much bigger with some scab picking. Oh boy.

I chiseled each rust patch to the point where the metal became ductile, so some of these holes were growing distressingly large. But these are the full extents picture.

The left side which has seemingly met another vehicle in a somewhat amicable fashion has a large through-hole on the bottom. There is a matching set of holes on the right, which are smaller.

The bumper, though, was in horrible shape. Not the frame where the bumper attaches, fortunately, but just the bumper metal. Above is a picture of the right side bumper attachment point, and this thing was so bad that it was crunchy when I stepped on the rear tailgate. Clearly no longer structural. Replacements for the bumper stamping seem to average $600+, so I might start asking on derpy van owner forums for cars being parted out soon. Worst case, I’m gonna weld a mockup from something ridiculous like 1/8″ waterjet-cut steel plate later.

The deterioriation of the other side was also significant, but much lesser – the metal was still ductile.

I didn’t check extensively for this when I bought it in PA, so I suppose it’s also my fault. I can’t help but think Mikuvan is a little “lemon flavored”. However, given the talks I had with the seller, I ‘m not sure if he knew of the extent of the rust either.

What I can take solace in is that the trouble spots are on the body sheet metal (patchable) and on a “consumable” item, the bumper. They must make the bumper from a lower quality steel on purpose – the frame around it is in fine shape. There is basically no frame rust, which is the important part.

I don’t intend on addressing these body problems yet. It would be nice to get it running before making it pretty – the summer months also have no threat of wet road salt, so if anything, this is a great season to find this out.

The day after, my new MAF arrives. It’s a pull from a ’91 Eclipse.

The MAF unit was the same, but the “can” it came in was much smaller. So, some screwdriver work later and I had the MAF unit swapped into my intake canister. I also got a new air filter during this time, on the left.

After replacing the MAF and resetting the ECU, I managed to get the engine going again enough for a new error code to appear (if the MAF was fixed or I bought a lemon-flavored unit). The ECU read “all clear” this time, but the problems were still present. Inconsistent starting, and this weird cycling behavior:

As I understood it, this might have been the ECU trying different fuel-air mixtures for starting, none of which were quite right. I’m not sure of the actual cause, since I’ve literally never heard an engine make this kind of sound.

One issue I had not yet resolved was checking fuel pressure or changing the fuel filter. I got a Harbor Freight fuel pressure meter, but it clearly required me to cut the fuel line and splice it in to use, something I was not keen on doing yet.

I could definitely try the filter in case it was clogged through:

Cue 2 hours of gentle hammering later, and the “original” filter is out. My goodness, it must have been actually original. The thing was almost rusted through, and when I took it out and shook it over the oil drain pan, rust colored pasty chunks fell out of it.

The replacement filter was a few ounces lighter, and I can’t imagine it being a newer or better design, so I’m gonna say there was a ton of shit inside the old filter.

Remounting the new filter was a relatively painless process. It was in an incredibly awkward location, but at least it was accessible directly from under the vehicle, without dropping anything else, and with only one universal joint ratchet involved!

With the filter hopefully no longer depressing fuel pressure, I tried cranking the engine again. It still cycled as before. This time, I basically couldn’t get it to fire any more, or for it to “catch on” and start idling.

At this point, I decided to move onto the last “0.5″ point of the 3.5 things that constitute spark, fuel, compression, and spark timing: the timing. The thing to do was to remove the timing belt cover, crank over the engine manually to the point where the camshaft pulley lines up with its timing mark, then check the position of the distributor rotor. The rotor should be pointing basically at the #1 spark plug.

So with some trepidation, I removed the distributor cap and and upper timing belt cover.

First, that timing belt is in bad shape. Like worn down to the cords bad. This indicated to me the tensioner roller was probably seized, or the belt was just dragging on something else.

I put a socket on the big camshaft pulley nut and began pulling.

The timing belt jumps several teeth in response and I almost fly out of the driver’s side perch. There was basically zero tension on the belt – see the ‘convexity’ on the right side. I could push this thing in a good inch and a half. I’m amazed the engine ran at all. Perhaps the first few good starts were with the timing belt in a serendipitous position, and something I did caused it to skip teeth thereafter – now, there is no timing the engine can possibly be on which would let it run.

Well, shit just got complicated.

Speaking of the distributor, the points were also in seriously bad, corroded shape. I’m further amazed that it somehow ran now. Luckily, I have a new OEM rotor and cap.

cue Operation: BAD TIMING

I was clearly not going to skip the timing belt back to the right place, and at any rate, it needed to be replaced.

I was at a decision point here. Now, the Official Derpy Van Service Strategy Guide said nothing about what needed to happen before the timing belt was replaced – it just showed every part of the front of the engine in the clear, as if I could access it or something. I basically accepted this was an implicit “Drop engine”. At the very beginning, I said that if I had to drop anything to solve a problem, everything was coming out and I was going electric right away.

Before I did anything else, I decided to seek professional advice – by which I mean ask the Canadian Mitsubishi Delica forum. After getting some reassurance that I would only have to remove the radiator to do this, it became a more palatable task.

I basically declared #YOLO #SWAG: If the operation was completed successfully, then hurray. If not, or I badly fucked over the engine doing so, then more things will just be removed until I am left with a glider frame.

With this in mind, I ordered a new timing belt and tensioner kit:

I got the part from Rock Auto, which seems to be the McMaster-Carr of random car parts. It was even the kit recommended by the forum!

Time to remove more things to get the radiator out. I busted out the masking tape to label wires and tape fasteners to their respective holes so I didn’t end up with like 30 extra bolts after all was said and done.

Hang on a sec – you mean the transmission is also connected to this radiator?

Fuck integrated systems, man. I had to drain the transmission first. Luckily, I disposed of the 20 tankerloads of black used oil last weekend at an Advance Auto Parts locally, so my filth container was available for the task.

The manual indicated that if the transmission fluid smelled burnt, it was a bad sign. Well, what if it smelled both burnt and rancid? I couldn’t describe the smell as anything other than a very sketchy Chinese restaurant. DEXRON-II tranny fluid apparently contains jojoba oil, a natural oil. (Here was when I learned that transmission fluid at some point was made of whale oil.)  Actually, given the history of neglect of this vehicle, it might as well have had used McDonalds frying oil added to the transmission.

(I also totally did not intend to capture the single droplet of transmission fluid in midair, but that’s pretty awesome.)

Also, speaking of automatic transmissions, what is this shit? How can anyone have thought this was a good idea?!

Fuck this noise so incredibly hard. my only previous car and every car i have driven was automatic.

The bleedout of weirdly neon fluids continues with the radiator. This thing has clearly been corroding internally for a while, as the first few seconds of coolant was a bit brown. It cleared up, however.

At the same Advance Auto Parts I made the oil drop at, I learned that coolant could not be collected. Apparently it has to go (in MA) straight to the local public works department or hazardous waste collection site for disposal. That, or through some unscrupulous egging by friends, poured into the toilet so it goes through the wastewater system (as opposed to a storm drain, which around here goes straight to the Charles River, which is itself bad symbolism).

As I learned, the reason is because used oil can be recycled readily, whereas coolant (ethylene glycol) must be disposed of.

Maybe I’ll just polymerize it into polyethylene-glycol and then have a year’s worth of very smooth bowel movements.

After the radiator drain and transmission bleed, I decided to hold off on removing anything else until I have some  backup. Steps from hereon require working under the vehicle while on jackstands, something I am not comfortable with on my own – crawling around under this thing while supported by 4 little spindly steel triangles sound incredi-sketch.

Operation: BAD TIMING is scheduled to occur on Saturday. Here goes nothing in particular! Any peanut gallery advice before I dive in?

2.00Gokart Student Blogs

May 16, 2013 in Electric Vehicle Design, MIT & Boston, Shop Ninja

The 2.007 class is structured with 12 weekly “milestones” which students must use their class lab notebooks for and write down their progress, thoughts, calculations, sketches, etc. Some students are detailed or previously experienced in using notebooks / journals (such as from an internship at a company which requires it for engineers), others write down pretty much exactly what the milestone requires and that’s it.

I was definitely part of the latter crowd. It was difficult for a professor to actually squeeze out of me a competent lab notebook of any sort.

To encourage more diversity and accessibility in design documentation, this semester I encouraged people to write about their builds on their personal websites or blogs. Now, the Department™ still requires the paper notebook as part of the grade. But, for the last milestone, a reflection and summary type writeup, I decided to break from that and give the students some flexibility. You now had the option of submitting the final MS as a site entry or blog post.

Here’s who took me up on the offer, and those who’ve had a running log of everything they’ve been doing too!