Thursday, May 28, 2009

Helicoil - Stripped thread Repair

There is nothing more frustrating that finding out that you have stripped out a set of threads. After installing my "new to me" transmission in my 300zx, I found that lower starter mounting hole had been stripped out. This is rather easy to do; stripping not finding. First the housing is aluminum which strips easily. Second the threads on the starter holes are M10 1.5 pitch. 1.5 is rather course, and most other M10 bolts on the Z are 1.25 pitch. The previous owner must have at one point stripped out the threads and not repaired them.

I was in a bit of a rush when I put thing back together, so instead of fixing it, I locktighted the bolt and snugged it down. The other day when I went to start my car, all I heard was a buzzing sound as the starter pinon gear ground against the flywheel teeth. The lower starter bolt had fell out and the starter was now dangling by the top bolt, barely. Long story short, I make it home and begin to repair the threads.

Helicoils resemble spring coils, wound with stainless steel wire of special cross sectional dimensions, to match the threads they are repairing. The inside of the spring coil matches the repaired thread, the outside matches the next thread size up. Helicoils are often times inserted into a bolt hole from the factory to increase the strength of a threaded hole. An example of this is an aluminum flywheel. To increase the holding strength of the bolts, each hole is helicoiled. The stainless steel wire threads are much stronger than those provided by aluminum ones.

A helicoil repair kit includes several helicoil springs, a tap, and a HC insertion tool, basically a long bolt with a square tip. The first step is to clean out the mangled threads of the existing hole. This is most easily accomplished with a drill and the proper size bit. A drill and tap chart will tell you how big of a hole to drill for the size of the tap. Be careful drilling. Do not ovalize the hole.
You drill the hole not for the size of your thread, but for the tap, or the outside of the HC. The tap size should be marked on the tap provided in the kit. I had very limited space, so I was not able to clean out the hole with the traditional method. Instead I took the old bolt and a hammer and pounded out the remaining threads. The hole was not exactly the right size, but aluminum cuts easily with a tap.

The next part is to tap the hole. The kit does not include a tap handle, which is very important, so try to get one before you start the job. Otherwise a pair of vice grips sorta work. Starting the tap is the hardest part. Try to make the tap as centered as possible, apply pressure and keep turning until it bites. When cutting threads, turn the tap 2 turns in, one turn out. Use cutting oil, and make sure the hole does not fill with metal chips.

The last part is to insert the helicoil. Thread the HC all the way onto the insertion tool. Apply lock tight to the OUTSIDE of the HC threads. Attach tap handle to the insertion tool. Screw till the HC sits flush with the hole. Let the locktight dry, apply anti seize compound to the bolt and install. There is a little tang at the bottom of the HC that some say should be busted off, but I did not, and do not think it is important. It is important that the bolt does not go deeper than the HC.

Here is another write up with some pictures.

For the top hole there was no way I was going to be able to thread a tap in due to space limitations of the tranny still being in the car. I also found that the threads were mostly good, just the first few were stripped out. So instead of repairing the thread, I inserted a stud, a bolt with thread on both ends. Since the stud was longer than the bolt, the stud make a solid thread engagement with the remaining good threads. Studs also do not come lose as easily. I am not sure why, and have not reasoned out a logical explanation.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spot - Personal Locator Becon

Let me start off saying that I have never been rescued. Though there have been several times that I wish a rescue was available. That said I would like to showcase a product that I think would be very helpful in many situations: The SPOT Satellite Personal Messenger. This device unlike the first generation of PLBs allows a few messaging options, not just a SOS call for help. You can send a "I'm OK" message, a "Help", or a real send for help to local search and rescue agencies. This adds a lot of versatility, when compared to a standard PLB which can only send a rescue/911 call.

So how does it work? Prior to departure you set up an account with two sets of e-mails and messages. One for an OK, and one for a help. The OK can be used to track your location or the send an "I'm doing OK" message. The Help can be used to ask friends for help or to simply notify that you are in trouble. And if you are really in trouble you can hit the "911" button to call in a rescue. The google maps pinpointed locations from the previous post are from "Ok" messages sent with the SPOT device.

Though relatively inexpensive, there is a $99 annual subscription, and a $7.95 optional "rescue insurance". The first year of membership is paid for.

Though you all know, I still need to write this next part. Devices such as this one often time gives the user a false sense of security. One might place themselves in dangerous situation they otherwise might not because of the security gained by a PLB type device. A PLB is not a substitute for sound judgement, experience and preparation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

X-men Origins - Wolverine

Hollywood owes alot to Stan Lee. With all the comic book stories he has created over the years, movie makers have a seemingly unlimited supply of material. With the success of the X-men series of movies, it was just a matter of time before the most famous of the X-men would have his own flick. This is just like the comic book where Wolverine got his own series.

If you have been a true X-men comic book fan the content of the story is nothing new. It follows the story laid out in X-men Origins comic book Stan Lee wrote many years ago. But seeing the story unfold on the big screen was a real treat. Sure, some die hard fans do not like the silver screen interpretation of a classic, they usually don't; but I am a 21st century digital kid: I love movies.

Though filled with Hollywood booms and bangs, there was something different about this film. The movie was made to tell a story, and that's it! It wasn't trying to sell anything, wasn't setting itself up for a sequel (though all comic books stories are set up for sequels), wasn't trying too hard to impress. The story itself was so enthralling that THAT was enough. In fact it is one of the rare cases that the movie came after the merchandising. Sure they will be selling a few Wolverine toys and lunchboxes because of the movie, but all selling of "stuff" had been done already with the release of all the previous X-men movies. This movie in fact was truly just for the fans.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Desert 2009

It was Friday and raining as I loaded camping gear into the truck. So much for postponing our desert trip till May 1, when the weather was nice. Since the storm was coming from the coast, I did not think that it would have too much energy after it crossed the Sierra Nevada's. Because of the weather we took Kevin's truck with the camper shell, in order to keep our gear dry. I kissed my wife goodbye as I climbed into the driver seat. Next stop Reno.

A stop in town gained us some very important supplies. Gas, food, beer, ice and ammo. A quick bite to eat and we were off, eastbound interstate 80. Not having seen my friend in a while, we were soon engrossed in conversation and missed our exit onto highway 447. No problem we will just turn around at the next exit. 15 miles later, I decided to make an illegal U-turn. This u-turn involved a 1/4 mile plus jaunt on a dirt road in order to hit the highway in the opposite direction. I guess you don't put off ramps when there is nothing to go to. This gives you an idea of how desolate Nevada is.

At the Town of Gerlach we turned off the main road and headed up Solider Meadow Road. It had been raining lightly off and on the entire drive thus far, but we were hoping that the dried lake bed would be able absorb the moisture. It didn't. I have seen the sign "Impassible when wet" before, but could not imagine the gouppiness of the mud created by the slit of the lake bed. We backed out of the access area on four mud doughnuts. I guess no playa for us on this trip.

It rained on and off and on the entire weekend, making this the muddiest desert trip thus far. But the rain didn't seem to dampen our sprits too much. The weather was relatively warm, and the volume of rain was not that great; that is why it is a desert!

Heading north on Solider Meadow Road, a nice graded gravel road, we made good time and were soon north of the Black Rock Desert Playa. It was close to three in the morning, so we pulled off a spur road and made camp.,-119.1475&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

The next day we drove further north towards High Rock Canyon. The Canyon now has seasonal closures for raptor breading. A little bummed about not being able to travel that direction, but the sight of several raptors circling over head made me feel that the closure was at least warranted. What always amazes me about this corner of the country is how wild it is. Our animal sighting for this trip included: raptors, deer, pronghorn antelope, herds of wild horses, and coyotes. We have not seen the herds of wild Donkeys in several years, and hope that they still exist.

That night we made our camp along Hays Canyon Road before it dropped into the Surprise Valley.,-119.9261&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1 Cedarville in Modoc County would have been the closest land mark. Our trek north had taken us within 35 miles of the Oregon border.

Much of the land out there is partly ranch and open grazing. As we were searching for a spot to camp we spotted a dead calf near the road. It had recently died and was still intacked. That night we heard several coyote howling. The next morning as we were driving out, we were about to pass the spot where the calf was spotted the night before. In the middle of the road was a large mass, however it did not look like the calf we spotted yesterday. As we got closer, I saw a coyote back itself out from inside the calf. It was eating it from the inside out. Gnarrr. What we found unusual was that further down the road we saw another dead calf, both were white.

We had run several hundred miles since last fuel up, and despite the extra 10 gallons we carried, our tank was close to running dry. We reached the town of Gerlach and filled up. Since this was short trip, we had not had our fill of "yeee ha ing", and decided to take an extra dirt route out from Gerlach. I believe the road we took was Empire Mountain Road, just north of the town. However this road was difficult to follow. A large set of power lines run in this area. Power lines all have a service road running under it. Our desired road cris crosses the power line, and thus the roads become mixed. The road which sees more traffic become the main road, and over time the lesser road disappears. I tried to stay the course but soon became lost in the desert. At one point Kevin said, " you can't just drive through the desert,we need to turn back." I thought that was a very amusing quote coming from him.
From Reno to Reno we did 500 miles, of which at least half was on dirt. This years desert trip did not have anything too spectacular occur. We snapped off a few pictures here and there. They never seem to properly portray the vastness and beauty I have come to love of the desert. But regardless, enjoy.

Bike to Work Week Champs

Our company did it!! We won the 3rd Lake Tahoe Bike to Work Challenge. The the most miles per employee and the most trips. Our company did a total of 643.5 miles and 133 trips. Beating out the two time champs: the Nevada Tahoe Conservation District.
Go Team LSC!

The Power of the Wolf

Does your inner spirit rage? Maybe you need to unleash it. This is one of the best product reviews ever!

My blog is back logged with a bunch of articles that I have been meaning to write. But it is so easy to pass up the difficult trip reports and post stupid shit like this. Funny but definitely stupid.

Update: This reveiw has been so popular that it has made it to the BBC new.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Emery Altitudes - AT Bindings

Talk about a blast from the past. I just found a pair of brand new pair of Emery Altitude back country ski bindings. I originally thought that these were the Emery Energy's, but was mistaken. I believe these things were made in the 80's, never been mounted never been used. I can't even figure out how to go in and out of tour mode. I have read accounts of people loving this binding and trying to find spare parts. To me they are just weird and belong in a museum somewhere. Look at those colors. I do think that I am missing one of the lock down mechanisms. Up for grabs to anyone who might need them.
For more interesting old bindings, check out Lou Dawson's Binding Museum on Wildsnow.

Friday, May 15, 2009

For Sale - 89 Ford E350 Econoline- SOLD

Update-Well a nice man came over this afternoon and gave me cash for the keys. It's going to be a burning man rig!! Maybe I really will switch careers.

Up next on the auction block we have a... Maybe I have found my true calling in life: a used car sales man.

For $1000 you can have a:
-1989 Ford E350 Econoline Van
-Converted to an Ambulance- street legal for personal use
-7.3 liter diesel rebuilt recently
-The odometer says 38xxx miles, I assume that it has 238xxx miles
-Runs, but is hard to start, needs some work
-Includes a vacuum pump and a giant power inverter
-registered, title in hand
-Set up as a camper, has a twin bed
-converting it to run on use cooking oil requires no engine modifications, perfect vegi wagon

The Story of Stuff

A few weeks ago I wrote an editorial titled "How Can They Sell It for So Cheap!" There was a point I wanted to make, but I was not sure exactly what that point was. Last night I watched this 20 minute video titled: "The Story of Stuff". It goes into detail what I was trying to explain.

Though I think that some of the comments are extreme and weaken the total argument, the over all video is very much spot on!!

Watch it, learn from it!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bike to Work Week - May 11-15

This morning I rode my bike down to the bus station, rode the bus to town, then biked to work. Then this afternoon I will bike the 18.5 miles home. This is to prepare for bike to work week. I couldn't muster the 18 mile ride this morning in the 32 degree weather.

May is National Bike Month, and the 11-15th is bike to work week. In the Tahoe area it is quite a big deal. Work teams sign up and compete for total miles, total trips, and percent participation. There are prizes, and local vendor give free coffee and bike tune ups. Most local communities have some type of program. I know when I lived in Fremont, the local REI gave out water bottles and power bars.

My goal this year is to remove 200 vehicle miles and 20 vehicle trips from the roadways, by commuting on my bike. 37 miles to and from work. 3 miles to and from Town for lunch. 5 days a week. What is your bike to work week goal??

Update: today is Friday and I have ridden a total of 180 miles so far this week. I think I will reach my goal of 200 miles. Go bikers ride!

My company has won the team event. We are going to South Lake Tahoe this evening to claim our trophy!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Transmission Fluid Change - Gear Oil Pump

Oil: it is the life blood of your car. Some would even go as far as saying that it is the lifeblood of modern industry. Most are familiar with the idea that the oil in your car's engine needs to be changed every 3000 miles (is not totally true), but many are not aware that there are other critical lubricating oils in your car that need maintenance as well. Though the service interval for these other oils are much longer than the engine, transmission and differentials both contain oils that need to be serviced. And if you have a four wheel drive vehicle there are the tranfer case and the other differential. Manual transmission and differentials use an oil with a much higher viscosity rating. These oils are described as "gear oil". Both synthetic and regular gear oils are available.

Here are some tips on changing out your gear.

-Remove the FILL PLUG FIRST- Most gear boxes have a fill and a drain plug. Before you drain the old oil, remove the fill plug first. This is sooooo important. Often times the fill plug is difficult to remove or is simply stuck or stripped. If you drained the fluid in your transmission and then find out there is no way to remove your fill plug, you have an inoperative vehicle on your hands, and much bigger problem.

-Filling a gear box can be a really pain in the ass. The fill port is usually located somewhere where you can not simply pour the oil in. In the past I have rigged up a funnel with a 4 foot extension. Then fished the contraption through the engine bay to the tranny. They also have hand pumps which you can use. But pumping 5 quarts of 90 weight oil by hand is no easy task.

If you have an air compressor here is a much better way. You need a hose about two feet long, and a spray nozzle. Drill a hole on top of the bottle, either on the cap or somewhere above the fill line. Drill the hole slightly smaller than the outside diameter of the hose. Force the hose in the hole and push it down to the bottom of the bottle. Drill a second hole on the cap, slightly smaller than the air nozzle. Fire up the compressor. Before attaching the air nozzle to the bottle TURN DOWN THE AIR PRESSURE to about 5-10 psi. Finally get under your car and put the other end of the hose into the fill port, and hit the air.

The pressurized air pushes the fluid down and the hose allows it escape. I usually use one modified bottle and just keep filling it. Bottles with a large cap that allow both holes to be drill in it work very good. All you have to do is swap out the bottle.

Here are two write ups on oil change I have referenced before: