Saturday, September 15, 2012

Locked Out of the Car With No Lock

As I was hurrying to get my side screens (the removeable door windows) out of the boot (trunk) while preparing to drive home in the heavy rain, I had a little trouble opening the boot. The release latch felt weird, wasn't doing its job, and after working it a few times actually seemed to pull a little further than normal. The boot did open at that point, and as I took the side screens out, I noticed a metal bar along the boot lid opening had come unattached. I was in a hurry, so I closed the boot up and got on my way. Just as it clicked, even amidst all the rush to beat the worst of the storm, a horrifying realization came over me. It was not an evolving series of thoughts, but the entire reality of my next major car problem suddenly appeared in my brain with all the clarity that had been lacking over the last 30 seconds of scrambling.
Transporting a body? Shelly recruited into car repair?
You be the judge.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wetting My Pants

I have known that the fit of the top and sidescreens probably makes my car less than weather proof. I have been opting to drive the backup car on rainy days but there have actually not been very many true rainy days.  Of course, it frequently storms in the spring and summer, but since my normal commute is short and I have a garage on both ends, I have learned to check the hour-by-hour weather report in the morning and make a decision based on that. As long as it is not supposed to rain during the drive in or drive home, I take the MGA. Still, I have been wondering just how bad would the car be in the rain just as it is? The few times I've been in light rain with the top down I haven't gotten very wet. I decided to start looking for an opportunity on a rainy weekend to experiment before risking arriving to work sopping wet. An opportunity presented itself before I was ready for it.

The weather app predicts a wet drive home.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Commuter, or There And Back Again

Veni, Vidi, Vici. I came, I saw, I conquered. Alert readers will remember that I've claimed to be commuting in the MGA for 9 months now. However, in the poor, misguided mentality of the Washington, DC commuting culture I have what would be considered a cream puff commute.  Normally it's 10 minutes on suburban back roads then 5 minutes on the highway at full speed, and I'm there with no traffic unless something really bad has happened. I have found myself defensively explaining my commute when talking to people about the car. Today, however I had an opportunity to do a "real" commute.
Action shot of a light traffic moment.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Stuck For Over an Hour, Technically Not A Stranding

It's time to finally tell the story of the day I got the flat tire, mentioned in the previous post about my new wheels and tires. It was January 4th, and I was in a good driving streak, driving every day after finishing a big project up right before Christmas. Cue ominous harbinger of doom.

The Fuel Pump, directly behind the passenger's seat,
next to the battery. What woe will this fickle harpie work?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Do You Eat A Tire With, or New Wheels and Tires

Back in November, I mentioned the teeth rattling shake I was having at speed (read "Shake Rattle and Roll"). Then I reported that after taking it in to a local shop, they found a convenient workaround - swap the spare tire in (read "Safety Fast") until I could learn to replace and adjust the spokes to
"true" the bad wheels. That worked great for a few months as I researched the planned procedure. Then, while crawling under the car to change the oil, I noticed a broken spoke on the front wheel. Looking a little closer, I found three more on the same wheel. There are only 48 spokes on the whole wheel, so having that many missing can't be safe. I was forced to swap the lumpy tire back in and stick to a slower speed. This carried me for a few weeks until the lumpy tire developed a flat. I really shouldn't have driven it at all and am lucky it didn't fail suddenly on a highway.
30 inch tire spoon from Northern Tool

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ejected From The Passenger Seat, Sliding Across The Pavement

The weather has warmed up and I've finished some projects, allowing me to enjoy some great driving. One morning recently I hopped into the car, put my bag on the seat next to me and headed off to work.  It was a little overcast and cold, so I put on one of the hats I've learned to keep in the door pocket - bright orange.  A few minutes into my drive I approached a double left turn, that I like to take "with gusto", allowing the car to relive a small amount of the glory it had when it made a splash at "LeMans" in 1955, where it was famous for its ability to handle in the corners. In reality, and especially for any blog readers out there of the law enforcement or insurance agent persuasion, this means the corner is taken a little faster than the other cars can comfortably do but still within all safe and legal limits. Not so much as a squealed tire. But hey, it livens up the commute.

MGA at LeMans in 1955. This is basically what I look like
on the way to work most mornings.
In the throws of the corner, I heard a sickening sound from just behind me to the right - not quite a bang but clearly related to the metal of the car body. I could also make out some movement - a part of the car was flying away - a softer thud, and a horrible grinding sound. I glanced to the right and found the passenger door wide open. A scene from the night before replayed in my head - I could remember my oldest getting out of the car and not fully closing the door. What a relief, the sounds were just the door overcoming the friction holding it partly closed and flying open in a centrifugal reaction to the turn.

A relief that is, until I realized fully what had happened. As I turned the corner, my computer bag with my MacBook Air and iPad hit the unlatched door and flung it open. The bag was then ejected from the passenger seat, hit the road and went sliding across the pavement. The traffic behind me sped past it, around it, and over it, hopefully not truly over it. I pulled off the side of the road and spotted the bag. I got out and ran over. A passerby waiting at the light had gotten out of the car and was picking my bag up for me. I met him in the middle of the intersection - still wearing my bright "hunter orange" hat - and thanked him for his help. Back in the car, off to work, certain I was carrying a bag of expensive broken glass.

Luckily when I got to work I found the bag had some minor "road rash" on the bottom, but the laptop and the iPad worked fine. Nothing short of miraculous. I double check the passenger door now before I leave the garage.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Beach Bummed

For Spring Break we had planned another family trip to the beach in the North Carolina Outer Banks. As the date approached I began to secretly scheme to take the newest member of our family on vacation with us. With my in-laws joining us for the trip, last year we found it necessary to bring a second car, so of course I thought this year would make sense to bring the MGA instead of the old Honda. I had good reason, too.  The Honda has been misbehaving lately, showing signs of needing transmission work and brake work. I'm sure when the bill comes in for those it will make the steady stream of small parts purchases I've made for the MGA look like child's play.
What goes wrong in your brain
to make you dream of this at night?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dripping a Flammable Mixture of Oil and Gas

I don't know exactly when it happened, but at some point the "few drips" on the floor of the garage started to grow. Under the hood and under the car I noticed some very wet areas on the frame. Also, Shelly commented when I came in from a drive that I smelled like gasoline. Time to investigate.  When the car was off there was no obvious oil leak, so I started the car up and looked around while it ran.  A braided metal hose coming out of the engine was dripping steadily at the point it connected to a very small rigid metal pipe that headed up through the bulkhead toward the dashboard. A quick check in the manual confirmed what I suspected - this is a feed from the engine to the oil pressure gauge. The leak was from the joint where the flexible hose coupled to the rigid. This looks like the same kind of hose I've used for plumbing water supplies to faucets in the house, but I decided to order from Moss just to make sure. $17 for the part, $10 for shipping, and $3 for an extra part I suspect I'll need later just to get the most out of the shipping since I pay the same up to $20.  Order by 3PM, part comes the next day before I get home from work because I'm lucky enough to live close to one of their two warehouses.

The new shiny metal oil line coming in from the right of the
picture, with the oily mess on the frame just below in the background.

Monday, February 27, 2012

International Man of Mystery

Global views of this humble blog, or
proof that people outside the US are crazy too.
Last time I ended with a fancy pants French phrase, and that brings me to an interesting point. You may be feeling quite alone reading this blog as you do, anxiously awaiting each installment with a burning obsession. But I bring good news - you are not alone.  In fact,this blog has acquired quite an international following. As you can see, the blog has visitors from every populated continent except Africa. (Breaking news: literally during the drafting of this post I got a hit from South Africa). I beg you, if you know someone in Djibouti please ask them to visit this blog.  Also, maybe one of you new Lockheed Martin contractors in Antarctica could use a little entertainment - you could also send me a million bucks and keep the other $1.999 billion you'd have left from that contract. So far, the countries I see represented in the logs are (in rough order of number of visits):

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Elusive O-Ring - First Oil Change pt. 2

Besides the oil spill from our last installment things went pretty well getting the oil out of the car. Now to change that filter. The filter is held on with one bolt that has to be removed from underneath the car, and an oil pipe connection has to be undone. The big bolt at the pipe connection is bigger than my adjustable wrench, so I had to buy a bigger one of those. Also, I had convinced my 11 year old son to help get the filter off with me and unfortunately got his head in the way of the final thin stream of dirty oil coming down from the oil pan and decided he'd had enough of car maintenance for a few months. Other than that, not too hard to get the filter cannister off. Surprisingly, the pint or so of oil in it didn't leak out as long as I kept the thing fairly upright after getting it loose.  It's probably a little messier than a normal oil change, but not bad at all.

Fitting the new felt filter insert. It's fleece is white as snow.
Notice the nice oil stained fingers.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Strangely Unfamiliar - First Oil Change

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. When I first bought the car I checked the oil level and color. It had plenty of oil, but it looked new, though that told me nothing about the condition of the engine. After a month or so of owning the car and seeing regular but not extreme evidence of oil drips I figured it would be smart to check the oil level again. To my horror I discovered I was already low on oil, and the oil was already looking "used".  At this point I might have put a few hundred miles at most on the car. I suppose the previous owner could have just topped up on oil without changing the filter, so it was time to tackle the first oil change.

Like no oil filter I've ever seen...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

When Good Wires Go Bad (or How I Got Stranded)

You can exhale now. The car is running fine again. Earlier this week, I reported that I'd gotten stranded 3 blocks from the house, resulting in the first time I've resorted to a tow home (even a homemade "tow" behind the SUV). I was just too tired that night to dig into the problem, but the next day it only took a few minutes to track the problem down.

You know, I am color blind. Did I mess up this spaghetti of wires while
putting things back together after recent maintenance?

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Proper Stranding

Whoa, did you feel that? That sudden shift in the fabric of time and space? We just lept forward from the past to the present. I have so many more things to tell from the past few months and my writing is behind at least 5 good posts (10 total, but only 5 of them any good). But tonight's episode is better served fresh, so the other stories will have to wait.

A live action shot of tonight's adventure. The chain was a little short, so
I was about one foot behind Shelly's bumper on the way back.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Baby It's Cold Outside

I mentioned in a previous episode that the heater stopped working.  In warmer weather there was so much heat coming from the engine bay that I wasn't sure I was going to ever need the heater. Now even before the truly cold weather (10-30 Fahrenheit in my area) has hit the heater feels like a mandatory piece of equipment.

Broken Heater Panel. I forgot to take a picture of the broken wire actually being
discussed, but it would have been boring anyway.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Assembly is the Reverse of Disassembly, or Windshield Wipers Part 2

In Physics, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics might be paraphrased simply to say that things get more disorganized over time.  It also leads to the conclusion that some processes in nature are irreversible.  This reveals the folly of a constant refrain of the MGA workshop manual, the deceptively simple sentence "assembly is the reverse of disassembly". As in many things in life, tearing things apart is much easier (and to twisted minds more fun) than putting things together. These were the thoughts that kept me company during the next several days of reassembly of the wiper system. 

Rust and old paint sanded off (mostly).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head

So the top has been on and I've claimed somewhat vaguely that I'm commuting "most days".  What that means is "when it's not raining or snowing".  The top is up, and I'm willing to carry a towel to work around the likely leaks or direct water penetration through the poorly fitting top, but there was another more important problem to resolve before I felt it wise to drive in the rain.  I discovered this one early on driving with my 11 year old son.

Investigating the source of the problem.
This is not an uncommon sight lately.