Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Joining Oppo, Putting Back Some Parts

Housekeeping note: Beginning with this entry, all entries will now be cross-posted at, a great car enthusiast blog. My personal page there is 

For the Oppo-nauts who are just joining us, I've been "restoring", for lack of a better word, a 1985 AMC Eagle station wagon.

You can refer to the earlier entries for the story of how this car ended up in my garage, and for a description and pictures of the progress up to now. For that second part, a brief synopsis. In the time I could find during evenings and weekends:
  • I removed the entire drivetrain between the engine and the differentials
  • Disassembled and rebuilt the blown and leaking transmission
  • Fixed a leak in the transfer case
  • Reinstalled the transmission 
As the oft-repeated phrase goes, installation is the reverse of removal. All of those posts back at the beginning where I was removing stuff in order to be able to get at the transmission – that all has to go back in now. Recently I cleaned off the starter motor and redid the sealant around the cover. This cover protects what I found out were the very large electrical contacts that carry the 800+ amps of current to the interior of the motor. I’ve had to manually turn over the engine a few times over the course of this project, which has given me great respect for the starter motor’s job.
The transmission’s stiffening brace is also back in, and I’ll most likely have a post about putting the transfer case in sometime next week. 
So, is the end in sight, you ask? Well, sort of. As near as I can figure, here’s the list of what still needs to be done. I’ll probably put this in at the end of each entry, for anyone who wishes to follow along at home. Also, this way I don’t have to keep wondering where I put the paper version of the list. You’ll note the dollar signs by the particularly pricey items.
  • Reinstall starter and brace
  • Put in the transfer case
  • New transmission fluid cooler line to replace the one I had to break
  • New u-joints for the driveshafts
  • A new driver’s side CV axle in the front
  • Install new exhaust components, possible re-using the old muffler
  • All new neat belts ($$)
  • New (stock) rims and tires ($$)
  • New shift indicator cable (which keeps the gearshift from moving accidentally)
  • Service the front and rear differentials
  • New gas springs for rear hatch
  • Repair heater core with some stop-leak and a prayer
  • Fix whatever makes the A/C compressor scream when it’s on
  • New under-hood insulation
  • Interior detailing 
  • And let’s face it, a new paint job. Desperately needed. ($$$$)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Meet the New Hires

Introducing (parts of) the new exhaust system:

From left to right, it’s the tailpipe, the intermediate pipe, and the catalytic converter. They each bring unique and valuable talents to the table and we’re excited to have them on the team. Please show them around and make them feel welcome here. We’re also looking to hire a new muffler, so if you know of any potential candidates, please see myself or our HR rep.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Славься, Отечество наше свободное!

Last time, we saw what the transmission looked like before it went back under the car. Once I got it under the car, it would sit there for a week until I got a large enough chunk of time to pursue the task of raising it up and bolting it in.

I got it raised up easily enough and almost had the first bolt-hole aligned when I realized that I had done a Dumb Thing. What was it, you ask? When I temporarily took out the torque converter to lighten the load, I put it in the car on the back seat. And there it still sat. On the back seat. Not in the transmission. Many self-disgust. Much facepalm.

Belongs in here:

It's the big blue thing
Not in here:

Tha back seat
I lowered the transmission which then proceeded to get hung up on the flywheel or the front exhaust pipe or something and thereby overtax the new bolt in the jack adapter. Long story short, the transmission had to come off the jack again, and the jack adapter had to be fixed again. I will make an encompassing gesture with my arms and say that MANY THINGS HAPPENED, and that about an hour later I had the torque converter installed, and the transmission back on the jack, under the car, and ready for installation.

Aligning the bolt holes and getting the bolts in was actually easier than it was to undo them a few months ago. This was partially helped by everything under the car being quite a bit cleaner than before, and the rest was probably just the universe giving me a break after a rough start to the morning.

Either way… the transmission is back in! In the spirit of the Olympics, it sort of feels like a national anthem should be playing for that announcement. For some reason, the tune of the Russian anthem conveys, for me, the proper amount of pageantry for the occasion. Anyway. Picture:

transmission, where an empty space used to be
Now I’m in the middle of reconnecting the many things that were connected to the transmission before. The gearshift and throttle linkages, wires for the neutral start switch, the engine’s flywheel, the starter, the adapter housing, the dipstick tube, the exhaust air tube, the cooling lines, and on and on. I connected a few of those things already, including the adapter housing, but I’ll have to take that one off again because I’m pretty sure it’s on wrong. But the biggest hurdle of the whole project just might be over. That assumes that I fixed the transmission correctly, of course, but it could hardly be in worse shape than it was.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Fond Farewell to the Old Exhaust

The Eagle is getting slowly closer to being able to spread its wings again. Of course, what will happen when it does remains to be seen, but there is cause for optimism now, at least. I’ve trimmed the pinched-off end of the exhaust air hose so that I can bridge the gap with some rubber hose as soon as I can procure some. The back half of the exhaust system came out on Saturday and in the coming weeks will all be replaced.

But once that rubber hose is in, then the transmission can go back in. This was delayed somewhat in the last couple weeks, and I’ll explain why. You can see in the last post how tall the transmission is when just sitting on the floor. When it’s on the jack (necessary to raise it into position), it’s too tall to be rolled under the car. It’s far too heavy to lift into position underneath the car without the jack.

The solution, which somehow took me about a week to come up with, was to ratchet-strap the transmission to the jack as tightly as possible, roll the whole thing over onto one side, then push it under the car, then turn it right side up again. The transmission and jack together weigh in the neighborhood of 150 lbs, so to reduce the weight, I unbolted the adapter housing and the supporting crossmember from the back, and removed the torque converter from the front.

Even then, it was still pretty heavy, but it was light enough for me to dead-lift it onto the jack and strap it in place:

Just barely, I was able to turn it over and drag/shove it across the floor on its side. The concrete floor has a few more shallow gouges now than it did before. Luckily, everything held together while I slowly righted it onto the jack’s wheels again. The new bolt I got for holding the jack adapter together performed admirably, unlike the old one which appeared to be made of Chinese tin, and that’s being generous.

Next time we'll see the transmission re-installed.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A No-Longer-Stray Cat

Work continues on the exhaust system. Said system is comprised of several parts, which we might as well all be clear on so that I’m not just talking jibberish. The first place that exhaust gases go is into the exhaust manifold. This is a bunch of small pipes, attached to the engine, which converge into one larger pipe.

Attached to that is the front exhaust pipe, which in the Eagle’s case comes down from the manifold and makes a left turn to head underneath the transmission. It then makes a right turn and starts to go toward the back of the car.

Attached to that, originally, was the catalytic converter, which changes the chemical composition of the exhaust to make it less toxic. From there we go to the intermediate pipe, which continues the path of the gas toward the back of the car, and curves toward the driver’s side.

On the end of that is the muffler, without which the exhaust would be deafeningly loud, so… yay for the muffler. We’re most of the way to the back of the car now. On the end of the muffler is the tailpipe, which completes the journey and dumps the exhaust behind the car.

Specific information not available for this part.
A diagram for your education and edification.

The Eagle also has another part to its exhaust system that you never see any more, and which is not shown in the diagram. At two points – one in the front pipe and one in the catalytic converter – a metal tube delivers fresh air into the system. Why, you may ask? This apparently was an old-timey, no-workey attempt at smog reduction which has since been phased out in favor of far more effective methods.

It worked a little bit, I guess, and it’s all we’ve got to work with, so I need to keep it in place. That’s all well and good except that the air hose going to the front pipe was cut and pinched off by the same previous owner who ditched the catalytic converter for an extra-long intermediate pipe, to keep the overall length the same.

So, the good news:
  • the front pipe, which I thought at first I’d have to replace, is in good enough shape to stay after all. The part of the air tube that’s no longer there can be replaced with rubber hose once I cut off the pinched part of it, so no big deal. 
  • Once said hose is in place, I can do something I’ve been waiting a long time to do. Remember the transmission? Oh yeah, THAT thing. I’ll be able to bolt it back in place and work on getting it functional again.
The transmission hides behind the car, stalking its prey, waiting for the right moment to strike.
  • A new catalytic converter (often called a “cat” for short) came the other day, and it’s ready to be fitted, and even came with a short length of high-temp hose to attach to the air tube.