Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What do you do?

You live in Mexico. They don't sell or service the car you own. You need a special tool.
What do you do?
1) Jump in the car and drive to Arizona. With tolls, fuel, food and the $10 tool you need, you spend about $150 for the tool.

2) Make your own.

I needed to remove the pistons from the motor of the VW Westy so I could replace them. However, there's a steel pin that connects the piston to the rest of the motor, called a wristpin. (If the piston were a hand, then the connecting rod is the arm and this pin is the wrist.) These are supposed to just slide in and out with a little resistance, but is everything were as it was supposed to be with this motor, I wouldn't be taking it apart. A wristpin removal tool is required.

This is the piston (already pulled out so you can see it). The wristpin is the inner circular object you see. The circlip has the two little holes at the ends. It acts like a spring to hold the pin in place.

I managed to find a threaded bolt long enough to go through the pin. Then I found a nut that screws on the end.. large enough it won't go through the wristpin, small enough to get around the circlip. Then I had to have a way to pull on that bolt with enough enough force to remove it.

This is the setup in the engine, the circlip removed.

I took a woodworking clamp and notched it for the bolt.

Then, the clamp fits on the motor like this and the clamp is tightened.

The force on the bolt pulls the wristpin out, and the piston is free to be removed.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

High Tech, Low Tech

I spend my days doing different projects... cars, boats, honey do this. Yesterday I bought (at a huge discount) a program for boat design and started learning it and drawing in my latest version of the FLASH. I still have the deck salon, hatches, ports and a number of other things to add. I'll be able to layout the interior using objects in scale to the model... sinks, stoves, bathrooms, etc. That's hard to do with paper and pencil (although I have) because I tend to fudge the size of something if it looks better to me, though it wouldn't work out in reality.

So I'm working on an exterior and an interior model, which, some day I will post up here.

At the other end of the spectrum, the 1st Mate asked me to install an overhead fan in the "family area" of the house. This, dear reader, entails getting involved with Mexican wiring standards, so if you are easily upset or queasy, continue no further.

Mostly, Mexican electricians (ha ha) use metal junction boxes in the walls and ceilings. This box combines all the wiring for half the house, including the kitchen (think refrigerator, electric oven, toaster, juicer, blender, air conditioner, lighting, etc). The two orange wires dangling down aren't connected to anything electrical. They're used to tie the ceiling light fixture to the ceiling... (you just kinda' twist them around any protrusion of the fixture, and you're done).

Since Mexican electrical codes don't inform how far into the plaster one should install the junction box, the boxes tend to tilt in on one side, out on another, and never are lined up with anything... and we're talking about just one box. So, getting into the spirit of things, I rummaged around and pulled this metal cover off an old light fixture and set to mounting it in the hole in the ceiling.

Because it's soft metal, the cover molded itself to the opening with a nice tight fit, and within minutes the fan was up and running. The holes around the fixture will be puttied in later.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Engine One, Engine Two, Engine Three, Punt!

I'm halfway through this project and the lines between these engines are starting to blur. What I mean to say is that at the halfway point, the new engine becomes the old engine and vice- versa.*

So I have to name them: Engine One is the old engine I just finished painting and will be the new engine. Engine Two is the engine I'm removing the parts from to complete Engine One. Engine Three is the engine I won't buy if Engine One breaks, hence the "PUNT!"

While I'm at it, I should mention that when I bought the 28 oz size of hand cleaner at the Autozone in Guaymas, they showed me a gallon size container. I laughed. Ha Ha. I'll probably go into Guaymas later today or tomorrow and buy it. This job is so dirty I've got grease under my toenails. Thankfully, no photos of that.

*VICE-VERSA: The phrase has a Latin origin. "Vice" means "in the place of" or "in succession to" as in "The Vice-President would act in place of the President". The root of "vice" is "vix" meaning "change". "Versa" is a form of the Latin verb "vertere" and is a participle. "Vertere" means "to turn". So "vice versa" means "the position being reversed".
from YAHOO ANSWERS in case you've ever wondered...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

from Motor Gross to Motor Gleem

Before I start a rebuild, I like to to get everything cleaned up. There's a few good reasons for this:
1) I'm not transferring grit and crud and dead spiders into places in the motor not designed for such things.
2) I can only wash my hands so many times before they fall off, and I don't want to push my luck.
3) It's a psychological thing. It helps my morale and my delusion that if the motor is pretty, it will run pretty darn good.
4) It's a psychological thing II. I'm a little bit obsessive/compulsive/obsessive.

So I started with this engine that had been pulled out of my car and sat in a cardboard box in the desert for about a year.

After hours of scrubbing with harsh chemicals, most mechanics would say, "OK, enough." But not me (see #4 above).

I really like the new ceramic based high temperature paints. A few seconds with a spray can and Gross turns to Gleem, Crud turns to Cleen!

By the way, the heads (the "still dirty parts") are from the old motor and won't be cleaned up 'cause I'm not using them. The ones I'm using are still clean (and painted) from when I installed them last year.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Today I started putting up some shade

and I know they don't look like the picture below, but then, the GREEN FLASH doesn't look like any boat you've seen either.

This is the front 1/4 of the boat... and since they are pointy at that end (usually), I used a triangular sail by itself to cover the triangular shape of the boat... at that end, like I said. Because the sail itself it connected to the boat, I put the sailshade at the top of of the hull and propped up the center to get some air circulation underneath.

Sails are designed to get power from the wind and I don't want that. I want the boat to stay in the position and place that it's in now and not some other place (or position) after a big gust of wind. As I progress with the building of the FLASH, I'll raise the shade to accommodate. But so far, this seems to work OK. The "feels like" temperature was hovering at 112 when I did this today. The afternoon sea breeze helps, and I wanted to install this shade while the wind was blowing so I could see the effects it had on the stability of the boat on its stands.

Also today I stopped by the Yarda Los Calambres (Yard of the Cramps) to pick up some more steel beams for building infrastructure - possibly stuff to hold sails up, or make work tables and such. Picking around in this place is fascinating stuff, but wear old clothes.

Too Much Dinero, Joel. Let's try for Free...

I got the bid last night from Joel to build the metal roof shade over the FLASH and it came in at around $4,000 US. The 1st Mate is balking at that price and so am I. Realistically, putting that money into a temporary structure is not a good idea for us now.

So after applying some thought to the problem, I'm going to try rigging up some of the excess sails we have from our other sailboat (BLISS is still in Barra de Navidad) and see if that can be done. If so, it helps to clears out the 6x9x8 storage room we're renting and puts up shade for free. The sails are dacron and will probably start falling apart in a couple of years (the seams go first, but we have a sailmakers sewing machine and I know how to use it). I remember being on deck in the summer, and how cool and nice it was to get under the hoisted sails while underway.

A few quick looks around the internet confirm my opinion, and I can build the posts using material from the scrapyard one block away... (photos of shameless scrounging to follow soon).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I've been rebuilding the wrong motor...

The piston from the motor we bought after some cleaning. There's no manufacturers part numbers. The edges and surfaces are indistinct, like somebody used a genuine piston to make a casting and came up with this knock-off.

I've been taking apart the engine from the 1986 VW Westfalia because it failed on the way up from Barra de Navidad to San Carlos (about 1,000 miles- see previous posts). As I get further into this motor, I'm finding some specific things: the pistons and cylinders don't have a manufacturer mark, and that tells me that the last rebuild of this thing was done with cheap, generic parts... the oil pump cover/seal showed signs of being reused after getting scratched up and scored... a big no-no. The cylinders are deeply scored, suggesting to me that the work in the crankcase was done with less-than-perfect attention to alignment, bearing dimensions, etc. The rebuilder smeared sealant at the bottom of the cylinders (which didn't work, and peels off to clog the small oil ports in the engine, as well as clogging piston rings and oil pumps). Disgusting.

The spare engine, however, indicates tight tolerances in the crankcase, smooth bores, clean pistons (all with the all VW parts numbers) and proper sealing procedures. So, I'm shifting my attention to the motor the rebuilder was supposed to have picked up (and refunded us $600) for the core return. It appears to be a much better engine.

The piston from the original motor. No cleaning done. Notice manufacturers part numbers. The edges and surfaces are clean, clear and distinct.

Why was it replaced to begin with? The ground strap failed to conduct enough voltage between the engine block and frame, so when the high voltage spark plugs fired (at about 1000 times a minute, each) the spark arced to the aluminum heads. Most of you know that aluminum is smelted with electricity... and that's what happened to the heads.

Below: The aluminum heads from the original engine showing melting of areas around the plugs and valves. These will go to recycling.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Shade UpGrade

Today I met with Joel Covarrubias, an iron and woodworker, at the GREEN FLASH construction site to measure the project for a free-standing "sombra."

Here in San Carlos, the desert sun at this latitude can melt human flesh in minutes (slight exaggeration). After some discussion with the 1st Mate, the owner of the property and my friend Earl, who gave me the idea from his airy, cool carport, I'm going to have Joel build a sunshade over the boat. Joel did the work for Earl, and Earl doesn't abide shoddy craftsmanship or overpriced projects.

The 1st Mate, on her own, ran across this photo right after I had mentioned the idea to her... and saw the shade as a first installment on a "modern desert home" or a "modern jungle home."

And it would be that, wouldn't you say? The trick is to make it portable, or able to be disassembled and moved to a building site... Joel and I came up with the dimensions of 20x40 feet by 18 feet high to accommodate the FLASH up on boat stands. At 18 feet high we almost have enough for a 2 story house... but the support posts can be lengthened to get us up there for 2 stories and provide a ton of space for solar panels. I like this idea, because the sunshade takes the beating from the weather and not the house, or the boat or the Capt.

In the next few days we'll get our bid and a materials list from Joel, and if we're ready to jump in, we'll go buy the stuff and get it delivered to the site, after moving away the workbenches and scaffolding.

Earl says he thinks Joel can do it in a weekend. Cool!

Monday, July 6, 2009

For some cars, it should be standard equipment...

I'm talking about the motor stand, the tools, the books, the spare parts. You can't expect the dealer to throw in a spare motor, but some dealers should anyway.

This is the "waterboxer" engine from our 1986 VW Westfalia camper. Many people who know these motors say I should replace it with something else, but nobody's stepping up to give me the 4 to 5 thousand dollars "something else" would cost. Actually, that's the cost if I do the work myself. If I hired one of the guys who advertise engine swaps on the internet, I could be looking at 9 to 10 thousand or more... that's a lot of money for a guy who has two sailboats, believe me.

So this is how far I've gotten in about six actual hours of work. And I have to thank La Manga John, the local VW maniac for the use of the motor stand. He had three of them, but since he has more VWs than Washington has apples, it was kind of him to loan it to me.

Speaking of Sailboats
I'm continuing to research the construction methods I need to use on the GREEN FLASH. A phrase I've recently run across is Syntactic Foam.

This is actually looking pretty good. I'm trying to get some Fly Ash (the pollutant that results when coal is burned to create electricity) because it contains tiny little "cenospheres" that researchers are using to mix with polymers to create strong, lightweight structural foam. In other words, I can use a pollutant to build with instead of cutting down trees by buying plywood. It's cheaper, and stronger, and won't rot like wood. A twofer.