Category Archives: Cars

Just Another Snowy Day

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!

8 Below

Well, it was downright cold this morning.  -8 degrees.  The Cutlass had been sitting outside all frigid weekend long, so I really had my doubts as to whether it would start up.  We’ve had issues with the choke sticking in cold weather before.  But with some reluctance, it cranked right up!

I was a little worried at first when the gauges didn’t read right, but after a gentle tap, they all sprung to life!

Sure it’d be easier driving something new, but you wouldn’t get that thrill of living on the edge, right?

Vegetating and getting caught up.

What a great day.  I slept until 9AM and got out of bed and Luke was already up, goofing around in his crib.  The Saturday morning ritual commenced with pancakes and Care Bears.  I actually had zero obligations today.  Well… I did have to work on a website for somebody, but that only took about 15 minutes.


Biebs has been bugging me to play Hexxit, a Minecraft mod pack with heavy emphasis on adventuring.  Today I finally got the opportunity.  At first I pretty much dove right in.  I made a wooden sword and started rolling through some of the light dungeons near the spawn.  I promptly got my butt kicked.  So at that point I decided I needed to establish a stronghold and build up some resources.  There’s a TON to do and a ton you can do in this version of Minecraft.  And I’m excited to dive into it.

I’ve been enjoying Animal Crossing: New Leaf to a great extent.  With only one big gripe… there’s only been the fishing pole, net or shovel for sale at Nookling’s since I started the game.  I really need my slingshot, watering can, and axe.  It bugs me to no end as I’ve seen about six presents floating overhead so far and no way to get them.

This is the first Animal Crossing game since the first that really feels different.  The biggest difference is you get to be the mayor as Tortimer has retired to a tropical island.  It’s cool because you get to decide in what order you want to enhance your town.  It definitely would benefit from multiple players as many of the projects are pretty expensive.  Right now I’m working on getting my house filled out with more room, so that soaks up all my bells.  But there will be plenty of time to get to it all.  Animal Crossing is a long term dedication.

I’d really been craving a game of this type too.  Something you can build on incrementally.  You end up feeling pretty invested in games like this after you’ve been playing off and on for a couple years.  You have your favorite residents, the collections you’re trying to complete and all the different holidays you want to check in on.  We even used Animal Crossing as our official New Year’s Eve countdown!

All of the holiday travels are done.  And they weren’t without some eventfulness.  We got all loaded up to head to Kansas City for Christmas with Andrea’s family, that’s when I noticed a steady stream of antifreeze dripping from underneath the Jeep.  It was coming out quick enough that I knew we weren’t going to try taking it.  I looked it over quickly and couldn’t exactly deduce where the leak was coming from, so Andrea, frustrated, loaded all our gear into the Cutlass instead which made the trip without issue.

Old Water Pump Removed

New pump installed!

When we got back home Thursday, I looked the Jeep over a bit more and it looked like it was leaking from the gasket.  Which meant the pump had to come off, which in turn meant, might as well replace the pump.  Long story short: I have learned never to be shocked by what you find when you buy a used vehicle.  The water pump had a HOLE in it!  Like an actual hole through the pump.  Sometime before we bought the Jeep someone had dabbed some RTV sealer over the hole.  It’s amazing that it lasted over a year.  But now we have a new pump and thermostat and it seems like it’s working great and doesn’t leak a drop.  Even got it put back together in time to head to Cimarron on that Saturday!  Not too bad for the old KartMaster’s Garage.

Bright red amp power cable and fuse.

Also did some work on the Jeep that was more, “scheduled”.  For Christmas I got Andrea a new amp and speaker box.  We already had the speaker which is what made the project affordable.  It was quite a bit of work, but I’m glad I did it right.  Had the front seat out and all the interior trim apart on the passenger side to run the power cable.  Ended up breaking off one of the bolts that holds the seat down because it was siezed up, so that won’t be fun to drill out and fix… but I’ll get it done eventually.  The finished product is the only thing you can really see is the power cable under the hood, and the speaker in the back.  No ugly wires showing anywhere.  Real clean.

So that kinda gets caught back up to today.  Got a little more snow, but just about an inch or so, nothing that will slow anything down.  Maybe enough for Luke and I to go play in tomorrow morning!

Getting the Car

For those out of the loop, this ’79 Caprice is my first car.  Not a lot like my first car… this IS my first car that my Dad is letting me keep for a while… I say that because I still say it’s his that he can have back whenever he says the word.  Until then… Hells Yeah.

I have a lot of respect for those who can proudly proclaim they bought and paid for their first car.  I’m not one of those people.  My parents 100% bought and paid for my first car.  I remember seeing the car sitting with a For Sale sign on the west edge of Cimarron, KS.  At the time I thought it was a Monte Carlo.  It had the same curved back glass I’d seen on many Monte Carlos before, and it just looked too darn sporty to be a regular old Caprice.  Cruising through town in the back seat as Mom karted us around, I remember thinking that would be a cool first car.  But I never really thought it would happen.

A week or two later, Dad said we were going to go look at a car for me.  We pulled up next to that exact car.  I remember thinking “THIS might be MY car!  Hells Yeah!” Dad was busy talking to the owner, a guy we had actually met before as he ran a limo service that we had used a couple time for birthday parties or whatnot.  They were negotiating, but I was circling the car and daydreaming.  Eventually the deal was done.  For $1,000 I had my first car.

So I didn’t buy it.  I STILL have never paid for that car!  My responsibilities were everything that came after that.  Gas, insurance, parts, you name it.  It was my job to keep it running.  The first couple weeks, the car was literally on blocks in our driveway.  Dad took me too the parts store, he told the guy everything we needed and I paid for it.  Not knowing what the heck to do with brake cylinders, spring kits or calipers, I spent a lot of time holding flash lights and just trying to figure out what the heck Dad was doing, why he was doing it, and wondering, how the hell he knew how to do all this stuff!

Once the brakes were fixed, we could finally actually drive it.  I remember taking the car out south of Ingalls and going around some of the curves on the county roads.  The shocks were so bad it felt like you were on water more than you were on solid ground.  So that was obviously the next task.  That was one of those nights I remember Dad staying up probably much later than he wanted to.  I remember he ran into some problem replacing, I think the rear shocks and it took a lot longer than he expected it to.  But he got it done.

The exhaust was shot on it, but instead of taking it to a shop to get it all re-done, Dad and I took it to the shop at the feedyard and took some old fence pipe and welded up some pipes with some “cherry bomb” mufflers.  It definitely had a unique sound, and you could see the bright red mufflers sitting under the floorboards from a distance.

The radio either didn’t work at all, or barely worked.  It was the original cassette deck and I know the tape deck didn’t work at all.  For either Christmas or my Birthday I got a Pioneer CD player and some Pioneer 6×9 speakers to go with it.  One thing I did understand fairly well was how to hook up a stereo, I’d been playing with that stuff for years already in my room in the basement.  So we got that hooked up and from that point forward, it was the car I really remember.

I seem to remember some confusion early on about whether it was an Impala, or a Caprice.  Despite saying Caprice Classic on the dashboard, the insurance and a lot of the other documentation said Impala.  But it certainly was a Caprice.  I’m sure the confusion was mine alone.

As I look at it now, there’s a lot of stuff that’s broken, missing, or not working… I don’t really ever even remember giving it a second thought back then.  It was a cool ride, that was loud, and got me where I wanted to go.  That’s all I ever really wanted.  And I suppose it shouldn’t bug me now.  There’s a lot of things I want to do, like replace the carpet and put bucket seats in there.  Stuff that I’m sure I talked about at some point when I was younger too.  And now that I have the means, I’m sure I’ll get around to it.  But for now… I’m going to keep enjoying it, and driving the heck out of it just like I did back then… only this time with some bite to back up the bark!

Bucket List Checkmark

This weekend was a whirlwind to be sure.  It was Andrea’s birthday, she’s 29!  And we went up to the NASCAR race to celebrate her and Duane’s birthdays together.  It was a lot of fun.

The Birthday Crewe

I’ve seen a lot of NASCAR in my days.  I’m not as huge a fan as I once was.  I was probably most into it back in the early 2000’s.  Bobby Labonte was driving the #18 car back then and was pretty darn good.  I remember one season (after his championship) where he finished in the Top 10 like 26 times.  He was a lot of fun to cheer for.  After that he switched teams a couple times and just never was as competitive.  And since then it seems like all they focus on is the drama.  As far as I’m concerned, you can save the drama for your llama.

Bobby doesn't race, and Pontiac doesn't even exist anymore.  Sheesh I'm old.

Bobby doesn’t race, and Pontiac doesn’t even exist anymore. Sheesh I’m old.

Having never been to an actual race I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  Honestly I anticipated it to be not as good as watching it on TV.  What I found was it was completely different than a TV experience.  You don’t get the benefit of replays.  I mean they have a big screen down by the pits that show stuff, but it’s not like TV.  But you really get a broader picture of the whole race.  I’ve been to lots of little dirt track races over the years.  And maybe it was all the caution flags, but this really felt more similar to that than I expected it to.  Each restart seemed like a new “heat”, but there was an added strategy of pitting and tires, etc.  It was just really cool to watch it all unfold on a broad scale.

We paid attention to Mark Martin for a good part of the race, a person I’m sure they weren’t talking about much on TV.  But we had the little headsets where we could listen in to his radio.  We could listen to the race officials, the cleanup crews.  It was really cool.  Kinda felt like behind the scenes.

But there were times where I just took the headphones off and just soaked up the experience.  I loved the noise.  It has been on my bucket list to hear the “Drivers start your engines!”.  Check.  And just listening to the cars go flying by.  It was totally awesome to be there.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in one place with that many people before.  I’m not sure what the capacity is, but I bet it was over 150,000 people.  Looking at them from our seats high in the air, they all just looked like gnats.  It probably took us 45 minutes just to get in and parked.  But only took us 10 minutes or so to get out.

I’d definitely be up to do it again, which going into it, I figured I’d go to one just to say I’ve been.  But I can definitely see how people get hooked on it.  I’d love to take a camper out to the infield and just hang out, drink beer and party for 5 days on a race weekend.  That may be a little hard to accomplish anytime soon though!

A Day For the Toronado

It’s been over a year since the one and only time the Toronado broke down on the side of the road.  I’ve had it back together for a while, but I haven’t really given it any love until today.

Here it sits, like it has for months.

I tried to start it up and move it before Luke’s birthday party back in August, but the battery was dead.  I charged up the battery and the old thing fired right up once the fuel got pumped back up into the carburetor.

I pulled it into the garage for an oil change.  Our 3rd oil change in 24 hours in this garage.  Haha.

This is what dirty and neglected looks like.  Leaves, dirt, bird poo.  Time was starting to pass it by.  Sad to see it like this after all the work I put into painting it.

I washed out the engine bay.  Halfway because it was just nasty.  And the other half was because there were spiderwebs everywhere and I didn’t want any spiders hanging around!

I went for a short cruise and came back home.  I don’t have current tags on it right now, so I didn’t want to drive it too far.  And I need new ball joints before I really feel safe on the highway.  So it was just an Albert tour for today.  But I did make the point to BACK it into the driveway so the neighbors can tell it DOES run!  Haha.

So there we go.  The ball joints should be around $100 all together.  Then I plan on driving this thing!  Part of me wants to fix the hail dents, re-do the vinyl, get new bumper fillers and paint it.  The other part of me want to just drive it as a “beater” during the winter and nasty days so we can keep the Cutlass clean.  I’m really torn which way to go.  I just like this car so darn much!

Vacation Almost Over

I took a week off of work.  It’s been really nice.  Breaking the doldrums of the same old same old.  I can say fore sure though, I didn’t get as much relaxing and gaming time as I had hoped.

The family and I all went out to Cimarron to help my Mom move to a new house.  It went about as smooth as a move can possibly go I think.  We started the heavy lifting at 8AM on Saturday, and we were done by noon that day!  We had a bunch of help, so that sure made thing go smoother.

I really like their new place.  It has lots of room both inside and out.  Luke loved running around and there are all sorts of different areas of the house that you can use for different things.  Upstairs is going to be a cool football room.  I had the pleasure of hanging my first flat screen TV on the wall.  It was actually a lot simpler than I thought it would be.  We got their sound system working and they have a pretty awesome setup now.  It will take some tweaking and organizing, but I helped get everything hooked up.  It’s up to Mom and Duane now to make it the way they want it.

We came back on Monday and on the way home, we realized that the leak I thought I fixed in the Jeep… wasn’t fixed at all.  The carpet on the passenger side was soaked from the condensation dripping from the AC into the cabin.  Thank goodness for the internet I found a fix.  Unfortunately it called for cutting a hole in the side of the frame on the Jeep!  Something I don’t really have any tools for.  But $25 worth of Dremel accessories and $5 of plastic tube and clamps later, I think I have it fixed.  I ran out of time to thoroughly test it because Andrea had to go bowling and I needed to watch Luke.  He’s just not to the age yet where you can go, “Stay where I can see you, don’t drink any poison.”  So letting him roam around the garage while I work on cars still isn’t a good idea.

On top of that, Luke and I took a shower and I noticed that the tub wasn’t draining.  This has happened before and usually I just have to plunge it out.  However this attempt of that has proven fruitless.  I even poured some drain clog remover down there, and nothing.  So I called the Landlord.  Something I haven’t had to do very often since we moved here.  Most of the time because it’s easier to just fix stuff myself rather than wait and rely on someone else.  But for this project, I got to the point where I said… “Why am I still screwing with this?  I rent!” so I took advantage of one of the benefits of NOT being a homeowner and called this one in.  A plumber is supposed to be coming over sometime today and I won’t have to worry about the bill!

So I planned on helping Mom move, that was the reason for the timing of the vacation.  But I didn’t plan on having to tear apart the Jeep and mess around with plumbing.  Feels like a lot of the time I’ve spent on “vacation” I’ve been working and fixing things.  Andrea says that’s sure not her idea of a vacation.  But you know, times like this when I can kick back on the couch with the laptop, a cup of coffee and write a blog in the middle of the morning… this is what it’s all about.

If anything this time off has helped me get back to my natural state, which is “laid-back”.  Work gets me so uptight and hi-strung sometimes.  I didn’t used to get all stressed out about stuff.  Just not enough time any more I guess, blah, blah, cue what everyone always says.

I feel like I can go into work now with a bit of a re-freshed perspective.  That is going to help a lot.  I really am going to dedicate myself to dumping the stress from my life.  Get done what I can get done and don’t sweat the rest.  That’s my plan.  We’ll see how long it lasts.

Automotive Night

Well, I may have come across a bit of a kink in my plan.  I’m taking one night a week to focus on something different you know, Thursdays I try to work on the cars.  Well the flaw here is what happens with pretty much all my car projects.  They always take thee times longer than I plan on them taking.  And with my weeknights, I only have about 90 minutes to dedicate.  So as it ends up, there’s not much I can get torn apart AND back together in that amount of time.  Not while digging for the right wrench and lifting a few beers anyway.

I set out to fix two issues on the Caprice, which turned into three in the short drive to the garage.  First I wanted to sort out an electrical issue with the voltmeter.  I was driving home last time and the volts would drop to zero, then come back up, or stay at zero indefinitely.  I found a wire on the intake that is a bit frayed, but I don’t know that it’s the culprit.  I patched it up just the same.  Second issue was a water leak somewhere on the top of the engine.  I thought at first it was the thermostat housing, but it really looked sealed up pretty good.  Then I noticed that it seemed most of the water was leaking from the heater hose coming off the intake.  So I pulled it off and found the fitting all pitted and corroded.  Pretty sure this is the cause.  Just for good measure I pulled the heater hose fitting off the water pump too.  They’re only a few bucks to replace, so might as well.  I’m debating whether I should replace the hose itself too.  I guess if it leaks when I put it back together, I’ll go that route next.

Oh and remember that as a cooling system heats up, it pressurizes.  The engine had cooled down, but it was still warm to the touch.  So when I pulled off the heater hose, coolant sprayed everywhere…

So I just took the opportunity to clean up the engine bay a bit. (This is why things always take three times longer).

But as I was pulling it around, I noticed the exhaust seemed louder and rattled more.  The damn header bolts at the collector are working loose now.  I saw one of them just sitting there vibrating and spinning.  Sheesh.  These things are a PITA.  So I’m sure I’m going to need new collector gaskets now too.  Just need to get it apart and see what it looks like.

The point however is, I think Automotive work is going to have to be relegated to the weekends.  Significant mechanical stuff anyway.  I guess Thursday nights will be relegated to cleaning, waxing, and minor adjustments.

Old Skewl Re-Blog: Goodbye Old Friend

I don’t have much to write about today, been too busy with work, and generally, when I’m not at work I don’t like to re-live it all over, haha.

So I’m gonna try something new… er… old.  Here’s a blast from 6 years ago.  Life sure is a lot different now.


Goodbye Old Friend: January 4th, 2007

This is all that remains of my old 1990 Pontiac 6000, which  later came to be affectionately referred to as “Lil’ Brudder” (inspired by this Strongbad e-mail.)  Lil’ Brudder finally was laid to rest at the local salvage yard, sold for the grand sum of $50.

The poor car, really did have the heart of a champion.  After all it had been through, it still ran like a champ clear up until I took my last drive the other day down to the junk yard.  It didn’t all happen at once, the car has had a long history, or wrap sheet, which ever you prefer.

I have to admit, before I got the 6000 I considered them among the ugliest cars ever made, while that opinion has waned a bit over the years, I still think the A-Body offerings from Oldsmobile and Buick are far more appealing.  Below are (from left to right) the 1990 Buick Century, Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, and Pontiac 6000.

Since I already didn’t care much for the styling of the car, I decided that I’d go ahead and have some fun with it.  And three rolls of 1″ white electrical tape later, the car had racing stripes, effectively adding 300 horsepower.  I always hated the front grille and headlight design more than anything.  And sticking with the electrical tape trend, I blacked out the fog lights on the inside to make the grill seem less puny and to take some of the focus off the gawdy headlights.  This is probably the best Lil’ Brudder ever looked.

It didn’t last long though.  As most everyone knows, the car has a long history of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Most of the accidents weren’t my fault though.  Let’s see if I can remember all of them…

The Accidents:

#1 – Within the first month of moving to Manhattan a hail storm blew through and pelted the car.  Good thing I had insisted on that full coverage insurance at the time.  (Not my fault)

#2 – Rearended by some guy with a suspended lisence while at a stop sign in Manhattan.  Busted out the rear tail light covers and pushed the trunk in.  (Not my fault)

#3 – Pushed into a gaurdrail by a big moving truck that didn’t stay in the inside lane when turning left through an intersection.  I was in the right lane, he started moving in, and there was no where to go.  (Not my fault)

#4 – Hit in the left front fender while at my sister Jamie’s apartment.  Never found the cluprit.  (Not my fault)

#5 – Car spun while hitting a patch of ice going to work.  Spun the car 180 degrees and slid into the curb blowing out the left rear tire and bending the rim. (Okay, that was my fault.)

#6 – The deer.  (Not much you can do when they jump right infront of you.)

So after all this is added up…you get…

Ouch!  I almost forgot how that car looked the morning after the wreck.  Still running like a champ though and I couldn’t exactly afford a new car, so I had to drive this thing.  But first I had to make it legal and get two working headlights.

Thanks to a $5 Wal-Mart bolt on flood light, I did.

And this is how she looked until just the other day when she drove off into the sunset.  It was certianly an ugly car to begin with, and even uglier in the end.  I really think the car would have drove forever.  But in the end, it needed a lot of work, a lot of attention, and a lot of money to make presentable on a car that I wasn’t too crazy about in the first place.  After all we’ve been through together though, I must admit it earned a special place in my heart.  For a little car that got no love, and went though it all, it never would give up.  Heart of a champion…*sniffle*.

It’s Not Dead Yet

Toronado Resurrection

Hells yeah.  The Toronado is BACK!  If you missed it, the Toro has been out of service since September 2012.  A bracket that secures the output shaft busted so there was no way to hold the passenger side axle in place.  Thus, the car wouldn’t go.  After spending a few months hunting around for parts, I finally took the broken part to Dad to have him weld back together.  A couple weeks ago I got the part back (a long with a bunch of old work shirts to securely pack it) but I haven’t had time to put it all back together until today.

Toronado Cut My Thumb

In the process of getting  everything lined up, I sliced open my thumb pretty good.  Not enough to need stitches or anything, but I could have helped out the Red Cross with all the blood that came out.  The above is the best I could do bandaging it up with one good hand.  Andrea was able to help me later get a better wrap.  After this I almost considered calling it a day.  But I wasn’t going to let it beat me.  I figured if I gave in, it would see my fear and know it could get away with muscling me around.  I wasn’t going to let that happen.

There’s not much to report as far as the work that went into it.  It’s all been documented here before in more detail than anyone besides me cares about.  The only part that matters is when I got it all put back together, it works!  HUGE thanks to Dad who was able to do what I wasn’t in welding up the old part.

It took quite a while to start up.  The carb was dry from sitting so long so it took a while for the fuel to get all the way up from the tank.  But once it started, it was as smooth as always.  I put the car in gear, just waiting for a gruesome noise and for all my work to be for naught.  But it firmly grabbed.  I lightly gave it some gas, and it moved!  Like a grand ocean liner sliding from its ways.  It was a good feeling!  So quiet, so comfortable, so smooth.  Ever since I got that car, it always had this feeling about it that it could almost drive itself.  Everything about driving it feels so effortless.  I drove it around town for a bit and really wanted to take it out on the hiway, but the thing hasn’t been tagged or insured since its been out of service.  So I reluctantly drove it back and parked it, right where it’s been for the past 8 months.

So now that it’s running, here’s where I’m at with the car….

We don’t need it.  We’ve got two cars and a pleasure car already.  What we really need is an old work truck.  But I can’t really justify getting one of those when we’ve got so many things with an engine already.  If it weren’t around, that might make room for something like that.

It’s not worth anything.  Realistically I figure I might get $500 for it.  It has 260,000 miles, hail damage, rips in the seat, and the vinyl is really starting to show its age.  It’s just an old car.  So considering it’s worth so little, I just as well keep it around.  I DO really like the car.  It’s comfortable, until the axle busted it was remarkably reliable.  So right now the sentimental value outweighs its intrinsic value.  I wasn’t motivated to get rid of it when it WASN’T running.  So I’m even less now.

So… what the Toronado might do, is help preserve the Cutlass.  I figure, especially during the winter, when the weather is nasty, the roads are all salty and idiots are sliding around, I’ll take the Toronado.  It will keep the salt from eating up the Cutlass and if some doofus slides into the Toronado, so be it.

In the mean time.  There’s a few things it really NEEDS done before I can confidently drive it out of town.  1.) Ball joints.  The lowers are SUPER worn out.  Might as well do the uppers at the same time.  They’ve probably been like that for a while, but now that I’m aware of it, it really bothers me.  2) I need some thread lock on some of the fasteners I used.  I have deduced that the reason the bracket broke in the first place is that one or both of the bolts came loose.  Then as the torsion caused the axle to wobble, eventually the bracket broke from the vibration.

Then there’s the long list of little stuff that needed done before all this.

At any rate, it feels supremely good to have it mobile again.  If we want to play basketball in the driveway, all we have to do is move it.  It’s not just a broke down old car any more, it’s an OLD CAR again!  I love old cars!  And I really love that old car.  It’s been the best car I’ve ever had.  And having it going again is like being back home after a long vacation.  It’s… comforting.

It got there under its own power!

It got there under its own power!