Category Archives: Cars
At the beginning of this year, I wrote an entry about how I wanted more projects in my life. How I wanted to create things. So far, mission accomplished.
We finished our shelves down stairs. They turned out pretty great I think. We’ve already run out of room, but I have no regrets, as this was about as big as those shelves could fit in there.
After that I started tearing into the Wrangler, which is still up on jack stands in the garage. I have the feeling this is either going to end up being an easier… or much harder project than I have anticipated, but since the Wrangler is a bit of a toy, it’s been put on the back burner as we fired up all sorts of other things after it got started.
The biggest one has been the new floor, which has been pretty well documented on my Twitter feed @kartmaster. I’ve helped putting down flooring like this before. That snap together stuff. But I’ve never been the dude in charge before so it was a bit intimidating. Mostly because if I screw it up we have to live in it and look at it every day.
Sometimes people will say to me things like, “You should do that for other people and make some money.” Here’s the thing. This took me like a month… working after work. Taking a day off when I just didn’t feel like it. Getting mad. Nah. There’s a reason people pay other people to get this done. And if I were to fall one way or the other from the DIY fulcrum, it would definitely be the customer side.
We also sold the Cutlass and the red Jeep here this year too! I’ll got into some more detail about the emotions behind all that in another post, but selling things like that is work. I hate selling stuff, putting up with the people. Wasting your time on the flakes. But it’s done and I feel pretty good about how it all ended up.
Selling those led to getting a truck. I’ve never really needed a truck especially since we got the trailer. Almost everything we’d need to do could be hauled around there. But when we started riding ATVs, and as Luke gets older and we’re looking at getting a gas powered one for him, logistically it is going to be a lot easier to put his ATV in the truck, and the other two on the trailer. Even with his little power wheels one now, loading up is a two person job to get Andrea’s beast turned sideways on the trailer. So I’m looking forward to spending more time riding, and less time loading!
Of course days after buying the truck I was already diving into a project there. On the test drive, I knew right away the first thing I would have to fix was going to be the seat. It would slide around as you were driving like you were sitting on marbles. It lead to feeling really not in control, haha. “How hard could it be!?” Turns out, actually, for once, not that hard. I cobbled together some scrap pieces from around the shop, built some new bushings, put it all back together and it works great.
I’m thankful to be able to do these sorts of things. Thankful for Youtube mostly. No matter what my problem, I’m NEVER the first person to have it and there’s almost always an ingenious way to fix it that I never would have thought of myself. I’m thankful to have a wife like Andrea that trusts me to take these things on. She used to ask me, “Are you sure we can handle something like that?” back in the day when I’d bring up a project. Now she knows that… it may not go like we planned, but we’ll figure it out.
To be honest though, I’m ready for a break from some projects for a while. I’m ready to get out and play. We haven’t been riding at all this year except on the dirt roads around the house. I have tools and piles of wood, or tires, or supplies everywhere. I need to return to a normal resting state of existence for a while. Careful what you wish for I guess.
Not a long blog this time around. Just a couple pictures of running around last night. Andrea was stuck working, and Luke had put on his calendar over the weekend that today was the day to go to the park. So we loaded up for a little cruise into town and decided to take the back roads.
Andrea had just washed a ton of mud off the Jeep from a muddy ride we took together on Saturday. And we happened to hit a couple small puddles on our way into town. Don’t worry, I cleaned up my mess, haha.
The park was PACKED. Was a bit refreshing to see. People say kids don’t play outside anymore, but there was no shortage of all ages this evening. Little itty bity babies, litter than Emma. All the way up to the jerk teenagers. Saw one kid tackle a girl to steal her Takis. A kid three or four years older than Luke took great pleasure in out running Lucas all over the playground playing “tag”. I didn’t mind though. Luke went out pretty early.
Kids can sure be jerks though. And it’s a little tough to explain why to Lucas sometimes, because I really don’t know. Heck usually the kids don’t know why they are mean. One boy called Lucas a baby. Luke was fairly concerned because he knew he wasn’t a baby, and it was important to him that this other kid knew that. But the other boy was just trying to rile Luke up. Instead of getting upset, Luke just followed this kid around the playground for about 10 minutes explaining how, objectively, he was not infact, a baby. Haha.
I’m into a few things right now that I keep bouncing back and forth between. Not enough time to enjoy all of them at once. And I feel like chaining myself to one thing until completion makes the fun stuff feel like work. So I do my best to remember where I left off, and dive back in when it feels right.
Octopath Traveler is my main game of the moment. It’s a new “old school” style RPG. It’s very much my flavor. It’s turn based, so there’s no timer making you sweat it out. You can take as much time as you want in between turns to really plan out your strategy… or make another run to the beer fridge.
The story isn’t amazing per se. There’s some really good moments and some really hard hitting lines though. Above all else, the game is beautiful, and the MUSIC. Oh my god. It’s possibly one of the best sound tracks I’ve ever heard. I love getting to a new area just to hear a brand new song.
Cheers has been on my list for a long time. I’ve probably been watching it on and off for a couple of years now. There’s so many episodes. Heck, that show was on for 10 years or more! And I can see why. It’s one of those legendary prime-time style TV shows that has a cast with real chemistry, and just some of the best writing in television, ever. I’m working my way through it, and even though it’s taking forever, I’m ok with that because I’ll be sad for the day that it’s over.
The Green Jeep. I haven’t posted about it here yet I think. So Andrea’s been wanting this bad boy for a long time. Like years of talking about the somedays. Well we’d always casually send classified posts back and forth, and one day this thing popped up and it was in our price range of about $5,000.
We went to look at it. On the way there, I told her… if it has rust in the frame, or rust in the body mounts, I don’t want anything to do with it. “Ok. She said.” We looked at it. It had rust in the frame and the body mounts. “It has rust in the frame and the body mounts I said.”
“Yeah…” she said. Well, I knew what this meant. She still wanted it. I mean, it looked like a Jeep! Good enough, right!? So I decided… okay, Matt. If you’re going to deal with this rusty heap… what would you be willing to pay? I offered $600 less than he was asking and he took it. Probably thought I was a chump. I probably am. Haha.
Well either way, as most of these abused and neglected vehicles do in my life. It’s grown on me. We’ve got the stuff to fix the rust.. It’s going to be a pain in the ass, but Oh Well. I’ll appreciate it more when it’s done. Or something like that.
For now we’re just driving it and enjoying it for the purposes we bought it for anyway. It can’t really get much worse in the short term. And fixing the frame is the winter project. I’ll learn something if nothing else.
In between it all, I’m of course working, dad-ing, and husband-ing. I find some times for retro games still every now and then. OH and I’ve been dedicating more attention to my Animal Crossing town. The new game for Switch was announced a while back and it’s renewed my excitement for the game.
So right now I’ve got about 90 minutes before bedtime. Not sure what’s on the plate. Octopath? GoldenEye? Tough choice.
Well it was two and a half years ago I made a post about our 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee and how we didn’t know what we were going to do. It was dropping oil pressure and the transmission was slipping. The decision ended up being, keep driving it. It’s either going to explode, or… it will keep going. 28 months later, it’s still going!
All the while though we’ve been saving up in the event it does explode. I mean that in the parts of engine blowing through cylinder walls sort of way. Not the fireball in the sky sort of way. Every couple of months Andrea and I would casually look around local classifieds for vehicles that were up our alley. But we never were in dire NEED of a vehicle, so it was easy to look at stuff and say, “nah”.
I was leaning more towards a Tahoe or Yukon, but Andrea has caught this Jeep bug somehow. So I figured, maybe a Commander. But the third row seat was really unnecessary. And Andrea kept coming back to Grand Cherokees. She found this one for sale in Hutchinson, so one day took off early to go look at it.
It wasn’t perfect, what 10+ year old vehicle is? Needed some steering work, tires and some other misc things. Nothing that seemed too daunting though. So we made an offer, they took it. We drove the Jeep home.
Been going through that stage of “getting to know” a vehicle now. Every car seems to have a thought process behind it’s construction. Reverse engineering that and getting to know your way around is kind of like moving to a new town and finding where everything is.
But the good news is that (for now) this thing is just about as darn close to a new vehicle as I’ll ever get. And it’s classy! Andrea and Luke like it, and I have to admit, the body style has been growing on me. I love the chrome wheels and all shined up, a black car just looks slick! And the 330HP Hemi is pretty addicting too. Hehe.
I like stuff. You know things. All the great advice for being happy though tells you not to put value into things, but rather put your value into experiences. For me though, “things” tie me to those experiences.
Sure, it’s fun to get new stuff. I enjoy it as much as the next person. But I really like old stuff. Things that have a story. Things that bring back memories. It’s not about the monetary value of the stuff. When I’m gone, and no one cares about the stories anymore, all of my old stuff will just be junk. And by the same line of thought, I don’t expect anyone else beside me to consider my stuff anything other than junk. But let me tell you, I really enjoyed some old junk this past weekend.
Early summer in 1999 I quit my job at the IGA. I worked all through the school year every year, and when summer came, I’d quit and soak up the long days with my friends Bob, Bef, Biebs, Chris and my girlfriend at the time, Andrea. Ingalls, KS was far from the cure for teenage boredom. So our cars and trucks gave us the freedom to break free of the predictable monotony of Ingalls and escape to things that at least by comparison were more interesting. We would spend nights and evenings fishing out at Dwyre’s sandpit, or Norb’s pond. We’d drive to Garden to see a movie, or head to battle hill for an all night paintball battle.
Our good times were very much manufactured on the fly. I remember one afternoon Bef in his 68 GMC and me in the 79 Caprice headed out to the Ingalls Airport and decided we were going to drag race each other there on the runway. We rolled down the windows, lined up even with each other, and hit the gas! The reluctant roar of both engines were followed by slow lurches forward, but all that mattered was who was going least slowest. I don’t remember who won that race. But I do remember one of the guys who worked at the airport running towards us out of the hangar shaking his fist and screaming something that I couldn’t quite make out over the roar of $30 worth of cherry bomb mufflers.
17 years later, the City of Ingalls and the Lions Club are organizing drag races on the runway at the Ingalls Airport. And I still have that same Caprice. They always say “you can never go back”, but damn… this is about as close as it’s ever going to get. My stepmom, Carrie, asked if I was interested in going. I played a cool “sounds like fun” attitude, but inside I was as excited as a 7 year old is for Christmas in November. The day couldn’t get here soon enough.
Between then and now, plenty of life happened. All of the work stuff and Luke’s school stuff, that I had expected, but Andrea’s mom’s health was starting to take a turn for the worse. We decided that if she was willing, she could come stay at the house with us here. We both knew it would bring a huge change to our daily life and what we’d grown to call “normal”. As each week passed, she simply wasn’t getting better. After a few scares and close calls, Jesus called her home. Our life that had been less than normal, and for Andrea more challenging than ever, all of a sudden to a big punch straight to the face.
Working on the car had been an afterthought for weeks. Instead I’d been building wheelchair ramps, juggling schedules to help with Luke so Andrea could go with her mom to appointments. And taking evenings after work to get everybody out of the house so everybody wasn’t confined to the house until we all went crazy. Suddenly, none of that mattered any more, but if life was now anything, it was less “normal” than ever.
A few days after her mom’s passing, Andrea said to me she felt like she just needed to get away and go spend some time with her aunt. I told her to sleep on it, and if she still felt the same way in the morning, that she should go. That next day she booked a flight to North Carolina to spend the week.
Luke went to stay with Andrea’s sister. And I was a bachelor with one week to go before the race. I had a pile of parts to put on the car, but nothing had gotten started. At the time it just didn’t feel important.
The first night coming home to an empty house I mostly just sat and thought about everything that had transpired over the last 8 weeks or so. 8 weeks doesn’t seem like a long time when you think about life. But it’s shocking how quickly 8 weeks can change your life.
Eventually my thoughts turned to the weekend coming up. For a while with everything going on I did think about cancelling. But I knew people were looking forward to it and even for Andrea it was going to be a pleasant distraction. So I started tearing parts off getting ready for the new.
Ever since we got the car when I was 14 years old, it’s always driven like a yacht on choppy seas. It started out I was just going to do an alignment, because the steering wheel was crooked and the wheels weren’t quite parallel just by looking at them. But after I got the wheels up in the air I started checking out other parts. The steering coupler in the shaft was worn out causing a big deadzone in the steering wheel. The idler arm was toast, and so was the center link. The tie rods weren’t terrible (must have replaced those at some point) but since they were less than $10 each… might as well replace them while everything’s apart. Then I checked out the ball joints… after 37 years the original ball joints were still riveted in place! So with the determination that the whole front steering needed replaced, I ordered up a pile of parts from RockAuto.com.
First thing I tackled was the wheel bearings. Never done this job before. Removing the bearing races was more of a challenge than I expected. I remember the guy at Autozone asking if I wanted to rent a slide hammer to get the old ones out. “Nah, I have a shop press.” I answered puffing up my chest. “Oh. Ok.” He said. What I found out is that the press is SUPER for installing the new bearing races. But doesn’t really help you get the old ones out. I remember thinking. Boy. A slide hammer would sure come in handy… Nevertheless, I got it done by using the handle of one of my other tools and a rather large hammer.
With safety in mind I knew it needed a new gas tank. One time when the drive shaft busted Dad pulled the car over on to the shoulder which angled down pretty good. I noticed at that time that gas was dripping down onto the hot exhaust. We played it pretty cool, but deep down I was ready to run. Before we went out to the race, I knew I had to get that replaced. Actually found a replacement gas tank at Autozone to my surprise. And from experience I’ll tell you changing the tank on a 79 Caprice is quite a bit easier than it is on a 94 Blazer.
Next was the part that I dreaded the most. Ball joints. They just aren’t fun. Grinding the rivets off takes forever. And punching the rivets out is even more of a pain in the ass. I end up using a combination of a screwdriver to pry up on the old ones and punching down on the rivets to get them out. It just sucks. Getting the lower ones out wasn’t difficult at all. But pressing the new ones in was a nightmare. They make the new ball joints bigger than the originals on purpose. Thinking that after all this time a car has probably had it’s ball joints changed a few times and the hole it fits in has gotten a bit stretched out. Well… since this old beast had NEVER had its ball joints changed, these new ball joints were a SUPER tight fit. I kid you not, it took two whole nights just to get 4 ball joints changed. You couldn’t pay me enough to be a mechanic every day.
After that I figured I was pretty home free. Except that then I couldn’t get the tie rods to separate from the center link. No problem. I’ll just take the center link out with the tie rods still attached. Except I couldn’t get the center link separated from the pitman arm that connects to the steering box. I hammered away for probably 45 minutes. Until finally I switched to a different sized fork, the one that I thought would be too big. A couple solid smacks it came right apart. All about having the right too I guess.
So after some cleaning, it was finally time to start putting things back together. First the idler arm, the center link. The spindles back onto the new ball joints. The tie rods to the center link then to the spindles. Before cinching everything down, one last look over everything. Cranked down all the nuts and greased up the new joints and packed the new bearings. The last part of putting it all back together was finally fun.
The Friday morning that I was supposed to leave, I still had to put in the new heater core. I had gotten all the prep for that done at 4am, got a couple hours of sleep, and the new one went in with only a few problems. I couldn’t use the original retaining bracket since the new heater core was slightly different than the original. Nothing a few zip ties couldn’t fix. No one will ever see them since it’s covered up by the heater box top. Hehe.
With everything finally put back together it was time to do the alignment. I bought some neon orange twine and lined it up to be exactly parallel to the rear wheels. I then set the alignment for the front wheels and some how, some way got each wheel set with just 1/8th of an in inch toe in. I felt pretty good about it, and the car drives insanely better! Now I just need new shocks….
With the work done and a quick road test from Andrea, it was time to hit the trail. The car made it clear out to Cimarron with little fuss. Dad got to take it for a spin around town. I was happy for him to do so since he built the thing into it’s present form. Except that every time I’m in the car with Dad… something breaks. As we’re heading back to the house and Dad is gunning it around corners raising all hell across the town, I notice a CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK coming from the rear end. We get home and I look under the car and can’t seem to see anything out of place. Oh well. If the car breaks on the track, we’ll figure something out. Too late to do anything at this point.
I was up at 6am on Saturday morning. Got my self cleaned up for the day and went to grab a cup of coffee. The night before we’d fuel up the Black Car and the RV. So pretty much all we needed to do was hop in and go. We set out for the track around 8am. When we got there there weren’t but maybe a dozen cars there. Already though, they were cars all over the map. From fairly stock cars to full blown track-only drag racers. None of the workers really knew what was going on. I thought this would be a pretty interesting day.
Around 10am things started to get a little more organized. We had a meeting with all the drivers who were there so far. They made sure everybody knew this was just for fun, and to be safe so they’d have the opportunity to do it again. Perfect. This was going to be just my speed. And by my speed, I apparently mean slow.
I will say, I have never driven anything faster or with more power than the Black Car. But man compared to a lot of other cars there, sometimes it felt like I was just putting along! Don’t get me wrong, it was still a blast! I won I would guess 3 out of 20 races. But I had fun every single time I went down the track.
It was such a cool feeling to pull into the box, light up the tires and smoke them. Then back up to the line just like you see the big cars do. Then everything after that happened real fast for me. I’m sure after you’ve been at the line a hundred times, it all slows down in your mind. But man from the moment they stage you to the moment the light comes on feels like a blur to me. But then you hit the gas and go.
There’s definitely a skill to drag racing, and one I never mastered that day. I spent most of the day trying to figure out how to get a good launch off the line. I would spin my tires every time and the other cars would just drive away from me. Maybe it was my tires, maybe it was my car, but I have a feeling it was the driver. I saw cars with smaller tires than me get a lot better start! So I do have a new respect for these drivers, as it’s more than just mash the gas and go.
I just enjoyed being there and being in the middle of it. We love going to the drag races here in Great Bend. But here I was really a part of it, even if not the star of the show. I like to think there were people out there in the crowd rooting for me as the underdog. It was fun to put the Black Car out on the track and see what it could really do. It helps me decide the direction I want to take it in the future. And it was just a great day to spend with the family.
Plus… I got to drag race on the Ingalls Airport runway again.
It’s been a few weeks since the Toronado has been fixed. But other than some late night test drives and a spin around the block or two, I haven’t taken it far because it hasn’t been tagged or insured.
Well Tuesday I noticed that the Cutlass was a little hard to start on the first try. Then it would fire right up. Wednesday, it wouldn’t start at all. I tested the battery. Good. I tested the starter. Good. I replaced the negative battery terminal because it was stripped out. I guess I’ll replace the positive one too. If that doesn’t do it, it must be the wiring, which won’t be the most fun in the world to pull out, but oh well. At least I have the Toro to drive!
This is from a couple days ago, so consider it tape delayed! If you follow on Twitter you know there’s a happy ending!
It feels kinda weird, yesterday and today not doing much productive around the house. I suppose there’s a few things I could busy myself with, like organizing the garage, or getting the old server stuff migrated over to some new hardware. Nothing critical though, and instead I’ve spent my time watering the grass and playing Minecraft.
There’s a lot of work that needs done, but it’s all in a holding pattern right now. The Cutlass is at the transmission shop right now getting rebuilt. The Jeep needs to be looked at next. The Toronado is ready for ball joints, but I only have half of them, the other half should come in tomorrow. Don’t get me started on the long list of stuff the Black Car needs. The Toro obviously has kinda just been sitting there a while, but the Jeep and Cutlass both kinda all happened at the same time. It’s a giant sucking sound to the bank account… but oh well. Just a setback, nothing more. Small potatoes in the grand scheme of what’s important in life.
So I sorta feel like I’m procrastinating if I kick back and game a bit. But in reality, I couldn’t get much done right now in the automotive realm if I wanted to. So the only real procrastinating I’m doing is by NOT gaming. I keep talking all the time about how I don’t have as much time to play games as I would like to, so if I don’t take advantage of that now, I’m being a bit hypocritical.
So I’m off to play some more FFX-HD. What a fantastic game. This is probably my 4th playthrough of the game and it’s totally time well spent. Even with the backlog I have piling up. Oh yeah. I need to update my Backloggery. Welp, add that to the list!
I leave you with this video of Luke playing Duck Hunt for the first time. =)
Ever since we bought the Jeep almost two years ago, it’s had one basic problem. We like it. A lot.
This has definitely been the most high maintenance vehicle I’ve ever owned. Seems like there’s always something up. Sometimes little things, sometimes big things. Even so, it’s not a difficult, nor expensive vehicle to work on. Everything that has come up we’ve handled fairly easily.
But now it’s looking like the engine… and maybe even the transmission are about done for. All said and done it would be around $6,000 to $7,000 to rebuild both of them.
So the crossroads we find ourselves at is this… we have enough money to replace the Jeep. That being, the Jeep when running is worth about $3,500. We could go buy another $3,500 vehicle. But who knows what kind of work that will need, could be flawless (not likely) or it could be about to blow just like the one we have. That’s a big gamble.
We’ve been looking around at vehicles in the $5,000 to $6,000 range and there’s a lot of crap out there! 150,000 to 250,000 miles with paint that’s all scratched up, interiors that are worn out. There’s some decent “Grandma cars”, but Andrea flatly refuses to drive anything like that. I guess I kinda understand. You have to at least like what you’re driving or else you aren’t motivated to take care of it.
Or for $6,000 we get a brand new engine and transmission that has no miles on it at all, comes with a 3 year warranty and should be good for 100,000 miles if we take care of it, like we certainly would.
If we didn’t like driving it, it wouldn’t even be an issue. But it’s comfortable, roomy, and it looks good! Plus we just spent $1,000 on tires 6 months ago.
If we do this though, it pretty much guarantees we can’t sell it… ever. It just wouldn’t be worth it. Even after dumping $6k into it, it’s still a $3k vehicle to the rest of the world.
Sucks to be in this situation, but I always try to think about how we can come out better than before it happened. Going to keep thinking and praying on it for now.
Well despite the weather, today was pretty routine. Up early to record School Closings from my basement with a hot cup of coffee. Then off to work. I had to leave a bit early because of the weather, but the roads weren’t too terrible. There weren’t a lot of people out, so I didn’t feel bad driving 45 mph the whole way.
On the way home, the the weather was certainly worse. The wind picked up to about 20 mph and started blowing all the snow around. I got to put the 4×4 to the Jeep to good use. I was glad it worked well because we’d been having issues with it recently. But I changed out the fluid and adjusted the shifter linkage and it seems to work great now! It was about the smoothest repair I’ve had; on that Jeep for sure at least.
Back at it tomorrow. I’ll probably take the Jeep again, though the weather is supposed to be much more mild. The hi-ways are probably sure to be clear, but I bet it’s still a mess in town.
For now, it’s off to bed!