Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of year post 2013

Well, another year has passed and it is time to do a review. I think it sucked.

lets take a look at last year's post:

My plans for the new year, (2013):
  • Start it off right by going on a tropical vacation in the British Virgin Islands for two weeks in January. done and so much fun
  • Drink more Tea (existing stock pile should last a few months), Failed
  • Rearrange financial portfolio to increase monthly income, Failed
  • Get rid of/sell more stuff, moderately successful
  • Figure out what is bothering the van and improve running condition
    • currently building a gauge to monitor Oxygen Sensor voltages (will post when done) Done
  • Finish Mini projects and add to Mini site, Failed, no progress
  • Read more books so I can get rid of the ones on my bookshelf Failed, no progress
  • I suppose more money would be nice, Failed, no progress
  • More fun with my camera - I received some macro filters and need to figure them out, Failed, no progress
I'll address each point and then add notable things that happened as well as upcoming stuff/plans

  • Yes I did the BVI trip and it was fun, I wanted to do more but I guess that will happen at a some other time. Nothing like being in the tropics while CO is in the dead of winter. 
  • Did not even make a dent in my Tea supplies, I even added more too it.
  • I didn't do anything useful with my stocks other then add a bit to it and not as much as I wanted to.
  •  some stuff is gone but still have too much stuff. 
  • Van is running better thanks to the new motor and all the other crap I've done
  • Nothing happened with my mini, I hardly used it.
  • Hardly read any of my books, I did get through a couple but didn't get rid of them
  • I have less money then I did at the beginning of 2012 mainly due to co-buying a rental house
  • Not much camera fun last year, no new skills or techniques or technology
Notable stuff, co-purchased a rental house, BVI trip, Lake Tahoe trip, some camping and boating in the mtns, Van upgrades.

I have no enthusiasm for 2014.

    Sunday, December 22, 2013

    Bilsteins all around!

    Finally, after weeks of waiting and working, I have all four of the new Bilstein shocks as well as the four good used springs installed. I also installed two new upper ball joints in the front end. No more clunking noises! The rear shock and spring install was a piece of cake, the suspension arm drops low enough to allow the springs to go in without the use a compression tool but the fronts are an absolute pain to do. I had to rent a spring compressor tool to do the fronts and it was still an awful job. I ended up breaking one of the sway bar links trying to unbolt it from the control arm and had to get a used one from a local VW shop. The cold weather didn't help either, having to do car work with multiple layers of winter clothing is awful, no flexibility or dexterity. Most of the suspension noises and sagging are gone and I am enjoying the firm ride.

    Also managed to do the photo comparison of the old vs new headlight bulbs. see below, I think the photos speak for themselves. I need to do a bit of adjusting to really receive the full benefit of the new lights.

    Old stock bulbs (aka why you cant see anything at night)
    New High Power bulbs

    Installed a new rear washer pump and have on order a pair of dual washer nozzles to improve the front windshield cleaning ability. Will post photos of that when they arrive

    Sunday, December 1, 2013

    Light and Dark projects

    The water heater in the rental house failed on Thanksgiving. After 22 years of service it rusted through at the seams at the burners. Probably would have lasted longer if regular maintenance had been done to it. I spent saturday removing the old unit, adding some new plumbing valves, and installing the new one. Hope the new one lasts as long as the old one.

    More Van projects this past weekend.

    While at work I was able to bleed the front brakes, replace the front wiper blades, figure out why the rear window washer wasn't working, adjust the parking brake cable, and inspected the underside of the van.

    The brake fluid that has been coming out of the brakes has been quite dark. Brake fluid should be clear to honey colored but mine has been coming out coffee colored which means that it is absorbing bits of rubber from the brake lines, moisture, and other bits of debris. I ended up re-bleeding the system again on sunday just to get all the old fluid out. Since doing all this bleeding, the brake peddle pressure has been nice and firm but I know that it could be better. No more double pumping the brakes for quick stops. Probably needs a new master cylinder to make it perfect but I wont be doing that any time soon.

    After thoroughly cleaning the windshield and applying some RainX to help repel water a few weeks ago I noticed that the wiper blades were in poor shape. I purchased a set of Bosch blades through work to get a discount. After installing them, I ran the van through the car wash and was amazed at how well the new blades were working. I still need a new windshield but that can wait till spring.

    The rear window washer has internally failed. I've ordered a new one.

    While the van was in the air to do the brake bleeding I had a chance to adjust the parking brake cable since it was rather stiff after installing the new rear brakes. I also got a good look at all the suspension bits and noticed that I need to replace the driver side ball joint and both outer rear CV boots. I didn't see anything else of critical importance, most of the rubber bits are old but not trashed out. I've ordered a pair of ball joints and CV boots which I will do when I get time to switch the shocks and springs in the front.

    The last project was installing a relay into both headlight circuits. The van's headlights are terrible and no amount of adjusting can compensate for the lack of light that they put onto the road. One problem is that headlight switch is a major resistive point for the headlight circuit and I was measuring a 1 volt drop from the battery to the headlights. The other is that the stock headlight bulbs are only 55w each. The relays now handle the power draw eliminating the resistance of the switch and the switch just activates the relays. Full battery voltage is now at the headlights and, from what I have seen, they are a bit brighter too. I have some higher power bulbs to install in the headlights but want to wait a few days to see just how much brighter the stock bulbs seem. Maybe I will do a photo comparison with the higher output bulbs. There are some risks when installing the high power bulbs, mainly that they put out more heat and could damage the reflective coating.

    Oh and one more minor thing, I've also ordered some high power backup LED bulbs from the UK to help me see stuff when backing up. The window tint makes backing up a terrifying experience. They should arrive late December.