Sunday, November 28, 2010

this sunday I decided it's time to practice a bit for my alaska trip next year. If I find a way to afford this somehow. Right now this part is a bit unclear. Depending when and where I'm going to move.

Anyway, It was a beautiful day today, just a touch over 40F (5 Degree Celsius) and sunny. So it was perfect to practice on rainy, muddy roads. Since the are standard conditions for Alaska, as far as I know.

So about half a mile into the trail with my 80% Street/20% Gravel tires (not the best choice, but I want to see what I need) I found a large puddle on the muddy road.

This gave me 2 choices:

  • be a man and go through it, but I tried this with the pathfinder and got nearly stuck this way...
  • be smart and go around it

I tried the smart choice for once and ended up landing in the puddle. Guess choice number 3 was to swim throw the paddle...

The next 2 hours I spend trying to lift the bike in the mud and once I accomplished this to get back onto a paved road.

Turns out that my tires got clogged up and had literally 0 Traction and kept digging myself into the road over and over again. My best chance was to put the front tire at a 45 degree angle and try to move slowly out of this area.

And lifting a 500lbs bike in the mud was no fun, but no damage what soever. The frame guards worked again and I completely expected that I gonna drop the bike at least once during this practice run.

Lesson learned:
  • street tires work on loose gravel, but not in muddy conditions
  • expect to pay 500$ for tires before going to alaska
  • I need a certain momentum to keep going or I get stuck...
  • forcing the bike out of the mud is not good for my back

Friday, November 26, 2010

this is so amazing, the future of Legos...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Yesterday I finally got the right oil delivered and so it was time to replace the transmission fluid. Which was remarkable easy.

  • get the car somewhat level
  • unscrew the filling bolt
  • put a oil pan below the drain bol
  • unscrew the drain bolt
  • drain it
  • make coffee
  • screw in the drain bolt
  • find handpump and pump the oil in till it overflows
  • replace the handpump after 2 quarts, with a new pump because it broke
  • screw in the fill plug
  • tighten it all to specs (25-28 foot pound)
  • cleanup any oil spills and the bell housing with ester based cleaners
  • drive around and be happy how simple it shifts now
the only issue I encountered is that I only managed to put about 4.5 quarts of oil in and not 5.1 or so as it was called for. I think I need to drive it a bit and than fill it up at a spot where the car is perfectly level.

Now I just have to learn which O2 sensor is broken and replace this on. And to replace/relocate the knock sensor. It's going to be fun...

Monday, November 22, 2010

this last weekend we finally managed to get us out of the boredom of daily life and drive out to Twain Harte to prepare some stuff for the repairs and pick some other stuff up.

I decided to take the Pathfinder this time and not the bike, since I really wanted to learn how it behaves on longer trips and how to use a stick shift in the mountains.

Well while enjoying a nice dinner

  • rib eye steak
  • sauteed zuchini
  • whiskey onions (sadly had to use some nice 16 year old scotch, since I was out of bourbon)
  • fresh bread
  • a Cabernet Sauvignon

It started to snow outside...

Actually to storm is a better description, since this was, what I woke up too in the morning, 12" (33cm) of new snow.
and the surrounding area looked quite nice too

This also meant that the power went out, which translated in wood stove SLOW cooked eggs...

And on the way out I was really happy that I took the pathfinder, otherwise I would had been stuck (actually there are worse things than being stuck out there). But atleast I started to learn how to drive a manual transmission with engaged 4WD in the snow and only skidded once of the road into a 'ditch', when I left the driveway.

 While calculating my gas mileage on the trip, well let's just say that 14mpg (16l/100km) are slightly pathetic and the car has so little power at higher altitude. I mean where the Passat drove 90mph without a struggle I had a hard time accelerating to 60mph. It get's there, but it takes ages....

But I did not get stuck or stranded. Let's see how Tahoe works.

Monday, November 15, 2010

the second project for saturday was to get some work done on the car and to get familiar with it.

So I my standard tasks for new to me cars

  • differential oil change
  • engine oil change
  • transmission oil change
  • transfer case oil change (new one, never had a 4x4 before)
  • air filter
Well I tried todo this all, but took to long and only managed to oil the engine (twice, I overfilled...) and the differentials. At least it makes it easier to diagnose possible leaks after the changes...

Now for some reasons people always remember to replace the engine oil, but barley bother with the differential oil for some reason.

I don't know why!

I mean this is a differential

quite a lot of tiny parts and gears, which all want to be lubricated and over time generate tiny tiny metal shavings. These accumulate on the magnetic drain plug.

And look like this
For a comparison, the same plug looks like this after cleaning
Now how complicated is it to change the differential fluid? Well all you need is a 10mm square drives, oil catch pan and a pair of ramps.
and maybe a light, but this is optional. HIghly recommended is the wooden mallet, most useful tool I bought so far...

One tip I can give, do not use a fill nozzel! They tend to get loose and drop into the differential. And trust me, it's a major pain to get out. Since you only have 2 little holes to work with...
this is the fill nozzle after I recovered it 2 hours later and making impromptu fishing poles out of metal springs and wires...

Now what does this actually save me?

Air filter change:

20$ Garage vs 8$ Me
Engine Oil change:

60$ Garage vs 35$ Me (would had been 15$, if I had done it right to begin with)


200$ Garage vs 50$ in oil and lubricants (would had been 30$, If I hadn't dropped the damn nozzle into the differential)

The sad part is, I still need TODO the transfer case (90$ Garage vs 15$ for oil) and the transmission oil (120$ Garage vs 70$ Oil). I guess I do this next weekend or as soon as I manage to get the correct transmission oil...

Now the big question is, what is actually wrong with the car?

  • one failed O2 sensor - 20$ part (garage charges 200$ to change it)
  • one failed Knock sensor - 30$ part (garage charges 600$ to change it)
  • valve covers gaskets are seeping a bit oil - 100$ part (garage charges 1000$ to change it)

I will monitor how much the valve cover gaskets seep and replace them by myself if required. Don't really worry about the Knock/O2 Sensors at this point in time.

The O2 sensor is only needed for emission tests and the knock sensor helps protecting the engine and alters the timing in case of bad gasoline. Means I have to buy good gasoline and so far I did not hear any knocking or pinging and the car runs incredible smooth (except for my poor shifting skills)

If I have the feeling I need to replace the sensors I'm going todo this myself in an afternoon or two. After the passat disaster I have now all the tools I need, or friends from which I can borrow the missing ones.

review of my saturday projects.

Well the first prohject was rather simple. I wanted to use the smoker and completely fill it up. That we had a bbq on sunay was a perfect reason for me to make pulled pork.

Since this is a rather long procedure, well it needed some timing and the right amount of meat and I wanted to snack in between so my schedule was:

  • get 18-20 lbs of pulled pork ~20h smoke time, so get up at 5.30
  • get 2-3 lbs of trip tip ~3h smoke time, so will be done for an early lunch
  • get 2-3 lbs of ribs ~6-12h smoke time, so will be done as an early dinner
now we need to season all the stuff. So the night prior I put salt and pepper on it, rubbed it in and wrapped it in foil. The tri tip was bought seasoned, since it was on sale.

now in the morning we put all this into the smoker...
and started to smoke it over apple wood at 200F/93 Celsius for several hours...
the tri tip was done and rather delicious and makes for wonderful sandwhiches...
than there were the ribs, close to be done
and after 19 hours the shoulder was done and ready to be shredded into tiny pieces to make sandwiches from.

Which were rather amazing!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

project for saturday:

  • smoking 18 lbs of pork shoulder ~ 22h
  • smoking 4 lbs of tri tip ~ 3h
  • smoking 4 lbs of baby back ribs ~8h
while waiting for the smoker:
  • installing new air filter
  • changing engine oil
  • changing transmission oil
  • change differential oil
  • change transfer casing oil
  • check pcv valve, if it's clogged
  • clean the interior and engine compartment
should keep me busy and in the worst case I got a couple of books I can read...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

and here are some pictures after I successfully tested the 4WD and how it handles inclines. I really need to learn how to shift a manual transmission again. Specially in combination with a 4WD engaged.

yip it can survive water...

yes I can get onto tiny hills.

and it can get out of gigantic puddles again...

I think I'm going to name it the 'gogo-mobil'

(and for some reason my date really liked it to be picked up in a car. This alone justified the purchase)

Monday, November 08, 2010

it's cold,
it's rainy,
there are down poors,
snow is falling in Tahoe

I'm nice and warm in my 'new' pathfinder.

Yes it has a couple of miles on it's engine (170k)
yes it's a bit older (1997)
yes it has a dent here or a scratch there and it's not perfect

but it's mine
and I drove one before and it was reliable
everybody I know, who has a pathfinder is happy with it
it has 4WD and so brings me to the snow
it is big enough, so I can move my stuff to Canada, If I move there
it was so cheap, It was a bit more expensive than winter gear for the bike
I only expect to put 5-10k miles on it in the next year
It should be easy to sell for a bit less what I bought it for

it has a new timing belt
it has a new clutch
it has a new alternator
it has new tires
it has new brakes
it has a new windshield
it has a new battery
it has a manual transmission, so no automatic high mileage problems
it has complete maintenance records for all the years

sure there are some minor annoyances
the valve cover gasket is seeping a tiny bit oil
it's going to take a weekend to fix this, if I bother with this
i need to flush the transmission oil,
it's gonna take an hour or two

it needed new wind shield wipers,
20$ and 5 minutes took care of this

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

recently I keep looking at car's since it's get's mighty windy out here and this equals not a much of fun on the bike...

Basic requirements for me are basically:

  • Wagon/SUV/Truck
  • timing belt/cain done, if over 150k miles, rebuild transmission/engine
  • preferred to be a manual transmission
  • around 4k$ max
  • no oil/coolant leaks
  • if possible diesel and older than 96
  • not lesss than 8k miles a year on the engine on average
  • not more than 200k miles
  • clean body
  • working heater
  • 4x4
  • Subaru/mercedes/nissan/toyota
  • in case of Subaru the head gasket has to be replaced ( I really should had bought my roommates legacy...)