Saturday, August 23, 2014

Rear Transmission Mount on my 1995 Formula

Yesterday I received my new Transmission mount from RockAuto.  I got it because it's the first thing I thought of when I heard a very noticeable "Thud" from the floorboard when I gave it a little more gas than normal.

Now I wasn't completely sure that was the problem but for $8 it was cheap enough to give it a shot.  Well, it turned out it was indeed the problem.  The telltale sign that your LT1 F-body (93-97 model year) has this issue is a noticeable THUMP in the floorboards that comes from the rear console area when you nail the throttle and a general looseness in the rear end.  When the mount is bad it causes the torque arm that runs to the rear differential to rise with the tranny making the rear end even more squirrelly.

Mine was completely shot as you can see from the video.  

It's a simple enough procedure.

1. Raise the car to a convenient work height
2. Grab a jack and support the transmission. 
3. Remove the mount to crossmember nut (5.8)
4. Remove the trans crossmember (4 bolts, 2 per side)
5. Unbolt the old mount from the transmission (13MM socket)
6. Install the new mount to the transmission, flat side facing the rear of the car
7. Re-install crossmember, If the stud doesn't go through the hole you likely have the mount on backwards
8. Lower the jack holding the transmission up.
9. Re-install the bolt and washer on the tranny mount stud that's poking through the crossmember.
10. Get your crap out from under the car and lower it down.
11. You're done, go take a test drive.

Note, I've included a section in the video showing the part numbers for the transmission crossmember for these cars.  If you have to go on a junkyard hunt they'll be helpful.

The stamping on mine are:

Hope this helps!

Enjoy the Vid!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Real Dudz Fryd: Why the gamer hasn't been gaming

I originally posted this article back in October 2013 on another blog of mine.  It's perfect content for this one, however, as it's an excellent example of a what it's like to be a gearhead...Enjoy!

Gaming hasn't been a priority these past few weeks and here's why....

The last month has been hell....

Let me give you the cliff notes version of my tale of woe.  It contains a cast of completely unrelated characters that somehow managed to simultaneously screw up my life. 

I recently had to sell my 2008 Mustang GT.  Not by choice but by need.  This hasn't been a good year for me financially and like so many others in this skewed reality we call an economy something had to give.  In my case it was my Mustang.

I've already chronicled my disastrous results of trying to get a "regular" IT  job( I've been a private IT consultant for 15 years) so I won't rehash it here.  However, my latest efforts to rejoin cubicleland bear mention since they were the catalyst for my latest tribulations.

After 3 weeks, 6 interviews for not 1 but 2 different positions at a security software firm, what should have been a sure thing ended in a two line e-mail reading.

"Van did go with an internal candidate, but he wanted me to make sure you knew it was a tough decision.

Thanks indeed.  I can guarantee Van's decision wasn't going to be as tough as the one I would have to make.
They say never to put all your eggs in one basket but I had only one egg and my basket had holes in it. 

It was like trying to reach level 50 in Borderlands 2 without any DLC or savegame hacks.

With no other opportunities it finally came down to either clinging to hopes of regaining my lost success before I starved or cutting my losses and liquidate some assets.   After a week of serious deliberation and living on 2 year old Ramen noodles my Mustang was up for Sale. 

When the buyer came and presented me with the check it was bittersweet. I'd survive but I'd also taken a giant step backward just  to live another day.  I told myself that at least I had enough foresight to have an asset I could liquidate but it didn't make me feel any  better. 

I couldn't even watch when they came for it a few days later.  I sold it through CarBuyco and it took them a few days to pick it up.  Those two days were like looking at a ghost in my driveway. 

Of course I still needed a car for work (assuming I'd eventually have some) but I knew with the money I had to spend it was not going to be anything near what I had lost.  So started the search for a suitable (barely) replacement with a budget of no more than $6000.  That would leave me enough money to live on for awhile and take care of the inevitable repairs that come with a vehicle not so well loved as what I'd given up.

Or so I thought.  My search yielded disappointing results with most candidates either too abused or too expensive for what was offered.  I came close to buying one car (A 2001 Camaro) until I pulled the dipstick on the transmission and found black, burnt fluid.  That vehicle had over 100K miles, was 12 years old and started at 7K with tax and license fees.  By the time I was ready to leave the dealership the price had dropped $1000.  I no longer had interest but still get called every week about that car.  Last weekend the price had dropped to $4991. 

My search continued and I found a few other less flawed examples but they too came up short either already being sold or having a questionable background history.  By the way, CarFax is your friend.  I found at least 5 cars that had serious damage or questionable mileage that was otherwise undisclosed. 

It was like living a real life version of Flatout 3.  All the promise but nothing ever delivered.

A week went by and my folks called to see how I was doing.  I told them about the lackluster examples of pre-owned automobiles and they made a suggestion.  They had 4 vehicles 2 of which are rarely if ever driven.  They offered up one that I was very familiar with.  My mother's 1995 Firebird Formula.  I was hesitant to accept the offer not wanting to deprive them of an asset of their own.

 I knew that the car was well maintained, had most of the problem areas already addressed and would stand up to my relatively light usage but it was still a well used high mileage car that was already 18 years old.  Still, it was becoming obvious that I wasn't going to do any better with the examples I was finding.  It also didn't hurt that they were already looking to get rid of it anyway.

They offered up the car with no strings attached aside from having to pay for it to be transported from Colorado to Arizona ( A cost of $1100.)  Now survival is one thing but I wasn't about to let my folks on a fixed income get nothing for an asset.  I checked Edmunds and gave them what was reported as the highest retail price for the car.  It was less than I'd pay for the far less pedigreed examples I'd been entertaining but a better price than they'd get for it otherwise. 

Happily my search ended.  I set up the transportation for the car via Reliable Auto Transporters and awaited its arrival.  I knew there was the possibility of a 2 to 4 week delay from the carrier but a week later I got the call that the car was going to be picked up and delivered a few days later.

While I waited I was forced to use another car for transportation.  Not that I had anywhere much to go but the nearest supermarket is 2 miles away and that's a long way to go with armloads of groceries.   In case you're wondering, yes I own 2 cars or at least I did before I sold the Mustang.  My other car is a 1974 El Camino.  I've owned it for over 20 years and while it's more family member than car I can't rely on it.  I knew I couldn't use it for daily commuting for example; if for no other reason than the fuel costs would bankrupt me.  It's also insured as a classic, recreational vehicle so daily commuters are a no-no. 

Let me add one wrinkle and a bit of foreshadowing.  I could never register this car as anything but a classic in my state because it would never be able to comply with the stringent emission standards demanded.  Thus it's only meant for glorified parade duty and occasional boulevard cruises.  You may be asking why I didn't sell it instead of the Mustang at this point.  The reason is, I didn't have time to wait and wouldn't have gotten anywhere near the money out of it. The Mustang was a guaranteed quick sale for a fair price, the El Camino wasn't.  I may have been in survival mode but I'm not stupid.

So at least I had a decent car coming and something to drive in an emergency if need be.  Or so I thought. 

Here's where the real fun starts...

Before I go on let's recap my adventure thus far.

1. Sure thing falls through
2. Have to sell car or starve
3. Went car shopping found junk
4. Ended up buying car from parents

At 10AM on a Tuesday morning I got a phone call from the folks.  The car was picked up and on its way.  An hour later I got a call from the truck driver informing me that he'd be at my door by 6:30PM the next day. 

"Wonderful!," I thought, that means I'd have 2 days to take care of all the necessary evils of getting an out of state car registered and insured and I'd be able to show it off to my friends for the weekend!

It was not to be....

Wednesday morning I received another phone call from the truck driver.  He blew a heater hose outside of Flagstaff and didn't know when he'd be underway.  He was going to have to be towed into Phoenix, 150 miles away and the schedule was blown to hell.

At this point I was ok with the delay.  After all, bad things happen and it wasn't the driver's fault that his rig broke down.  Having paid $1100 for transportation I assumed the Reliable Auto Transport's dispatch would make arrangements.  All was well.

Except it wasn't...

Two days went by and I'd heard nothing from Dispatch.  Friday afternoon I received another call from the unfortunate driver.  He was in Phoenix holed up in a motel and didn't know when his truck would be ready.  Apparently Reliable Auto Transportation had yet to send another truck out to complete the deliveries.  Mine wasn't the only car on his trailer and there were at least 5 other unhappy people not counting the driver who was losing money every day his truck was out of commission.

In our conversation I let him know I didn't blame him but was unhappy with the dispatch operation.  My car was sitting in a trailer in a repair yard 30 miles away for no other reason than somebody wasn't doing their job.  The driver gave me the number to the local dispatch office and I called them immediately after I hung up with him.  Of course there was nobody at the office but I left a long voicemail detailing exactly why I was happy with the driver but unhappy with dispatch.

Well, at least I had the El Camino for the weekend....

Except I didn't.  I started having trouble with the car backfiring through the carburetor.  For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a cantankerous lump of metal whose only reason for being is to defy its primary purpose.  That being, to get gasoline into the engine.

I spent most of Friday and Saturday trying to connect the problem and only managing to asphyxiate myself from the noxious fumes that resulted from my efforts. 

This was bad...

Saturday, 5PM, I had one car and it wasn't running.  It's disassembled carburetor lying bare on my workbench.  I needed to take action or I could potentially be without wheels for a week.

Reluctantly, I called for a rental car.  I'd had good experience with Enterprise Rent A Car in the past so I made a reservation.  Unfortunately, renting a car at 5PM on a Saturday means you have to go to the airport to pick it up.  I have at least 6 car rental offices within 2 miles of my home but all of them were closed. 

No matter, I'd get a ride to the airport somehow.  I was supposed to meet a friend later than evening and after making the reservation I called him up for a ride to the airport.  It was him or a $60 cab ride.  Luckily for me I have good taste in friends and the only compensation for his trouble he'd accept is me buying dinner.  Done deal and we even got to try a new restaurant on my side of town before we went for the car.

My friend dropped me off and confident my troubles were over I went to the rental car counter, reservation in hand.  All went well, I enjoyed pleasant conversation with the agents as they finalized the paperwork. 

Except they didn't finalize anything.  They ran my credit card for the full rental plus $100.  Unfortunately a recent payment hadn't posted from my bank so it was rejected.  Undaunted, I suggested my debit card which had more than enough to cover the cost.  I was told, " We can't run a debit card without a trip itinerary." 

Really?  Remember, I had a confirmed reservation and a fully loaded Visa Debit card ready to go and they were hanging me up on policy. 

"Ok, can you just change the reservation to one day?"

"No, we can't change a reservation"

"So basically you're saying I'm 28 miles from home with no ride and nothing but my shoe leather..."


"Well, you can go upstairs and see if they can do anything for you..."

So I did and after standing in line 10 minutes at the Enterprise counter I realized that all I was doing was wasting time to hear the same BS I heard downstairs.  I walked out onto the concourse and did a quick game of eeny, meeny, miny,  moe.  My finger stopped on Avis.

I walked up to the football jersey bedecked agent and asked him, " Do you take debit cards?"  Without so much as a breath, quoted policy or anything about Itineraries he said, "No problem."

Needless to say, Avis in now my favorite car rental company.  After a few minutes I was tossed the keys to a better car than Enterprise was offering for only 5 bucks a day more. 

Time for another recap...

1. Sure thing falls through
2. Have to sell car or starve
3. Went car shopping found junk
4. Ended up buying car from parents
5. Delivery truck with new car breaks down
6. 2nd car breaks down, no ride till new car shows up
7. Reserved rental car
8. Get ride to airport to get car
9. Denied rental car I reserved from Enterprise, granted one from Avis
10.  Spend the rest of Saturday night trying to forget the last 3 days

After Saturday had passed I spent the next 2 days trying in vain to get the El Camino to run.  No joy and I spent a lot of time at auto parts stores. 

Tuesday brought a phone call from Reliable Auto Transport's dispatch department.  My car was going to show up within the hour. 

Joy among joys!

Right on time the huge truck showed up and I greeted a very pleasant husband and wife driving team.  In short order the Firebird was in my driveway.

As soon as they left I took the car out for a shakedown run.  Everything seemed to be working and having driven it 10 miles I decided it was time to get it registered.  I went to my local AAA office because I knew that was going to be easier than dealing with the DMV. 

Upon arriving at the AAA office, I dutifully went to the counter to start the process.  Where I was told I couldn't title the car till it had passed emissions.  They wouldn't do a title without registration.  That meant I still didn't own the car but had to drive it to the emissions testing station.  That put me in a grey area that I was uncomfortable with but considering what I'd already been through to this point it wasn't that big of a deal.  The title clerk gave me a temporary registration sticker and off I went.

I went back home, collected the car and took it to the emissions testing station.  I expected it to go well, it didn't.

In Arizona  the emissions test for cars older than 1996 consists of running through a gauntlet on a dynamometer supposedly simulating a series of real world driving scenarios that take about 15 minutes to complete.  The simulation is designed to stress emissions control systems  by operating the car in situations that would rarely occur in real life. 

I'm all for clean air but this whole process is a racket.  I mean how often would you take your car to 70Mph, slam on the brakes to a complete stop then speed up to 70 MPH again in daily driving.  I know the freeways are bad but they're not THAT bad!

After about 12 minutes of this torture testing my new ride decided to puke coolant all over the emissions testing station.  To my mind I felt it was suitable commentary all things considered but the end result is that the car failed on one reading. 

I took the car home and checked the radiator.  It appeared that the coolant had overflowed from the recovery tank and just needed more added.  If only it were that simple...

I replaced the missing coolant, started the car and upon checking the results of my handiwork discovered the radiator had a leak that was spraying coolant all over the engine like a kid with s super soaker.

Great, now I have 2 cars that don't run and I'm already into my rental car for $250. 

I called up the folks and couldn't resist the jibe.  I said, "Hey, thanks for the lemon." 
I  expected to pay up to a grand to fix things on a used car within the first 6 months of ownership.  What I didn't expect was to have to fix it in the first 6 minutes!

Truth be told, I hold my folks blameless.  The car had sat for 3 years only gaining 100 miles since they moved to Colorado.  They live in an area that rarely gets above 80 degrees and in the winter can go below zero.  For them, they would never have seen the problem, in fact where I refer to that red oily water as coolant they call it anti-freeze. 

In my mind, this was still a win-win situation.  It was just going to take a bit longer to get my trophy.

It was like a boss battle in Borderlands 2 except you run out of ammo, he spawns 20 underlings and your special ability hasn't recharged yet.  You got everything but the bullets....

Now add this to my little recap and consider my state of mind at this point....

I called up Avis and extended my rental car another day and lined up a ride back home from the drop-off point from a friendly neighbor for the following Thursday.

I spent the next 12 hours fighting the dubious engineering GM employed in the removal and installation of a radiator on a 1995 Pontiac Firebird.  There was much cursing, numerous lacerations and even a bout of nausea involved but by daybreak my task was done. 

I had read a few car forums discussing the process and most of them said it would only take a couple of hours for my car.  Gentlemen, if it only took a couple of hours you did it wrong.  It took me 3 hours just to bleed the air out of the cooling system!

I don't want to do this job again anytime soon so I'd rather suffer the pain up front.

I finally went to bed and 4 hours later woke up and proceeded to take the car on a test drive to make sure all was well.  Satisfied I went back to the emissions testing station and it passed with flying colors.  Amazing what a difference it makes to actually keep the coolant in the radiator.

Happily I left the testing station and went back to the AAA office where I was able to finalize my paperwork.  I left with a new license plate, title and registration.  Finally the car was all mine and all legal.

I'm still aware that I'm driving a car almost 2 decades old and I've spent the last few days cleaning it up and fixing minor issues.   I know, however, that it's been better cared for throughout its life than the examples I was looking at before.

The El Camino is still down but I've ordered the correct parts online after having no luck finding them locally.  Hopefully I'll be back to 2 functional cars in a week or so.

Somebody once said God didn't give you more than you could handle.  I was starting to doubt that during the past month.  What came to light, however, was the kindness of people who had no stake aside from the knowledge of their own kindness. 

My faith in humanity was validated in the selfless act of my folks to give me a cherished asset for no other reason than I had the need.  It was further validated by the actions of my friends and neighbors to help me out however they could and finally to the Avis car rental agent that saw my plight and got me a ride.

Balanced against that were: The actions of the security software company dangling a carrot while knowing full well there was no opportunity to be had  The arrogance and callous attitudes of Enterprise car rental, The questionable motives of the emissions testing station and the careless disregard of Reliable Auto Transport dispatchers. 

So if you've wondered why I haven't been posting many gaming articles or videos the past few weeks, now you know.