Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rhubarb Leaf Ornaments

Making a rhubarb leaf ornament for our neighbor to replace the one Nathaniel decided to "borrow" and slightly BREAK!!! :)

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):

This was actually a very fun project. Partly because it wasn't something that HAD to be done (like fixing my bloody van) and also because I got to do something with Nathaniel that he actually enjoyed.

The process was pretty simple: Hit up some friends for some rhubarb leaves (thanks a million, Rob & Shelley), mix up some left-over colored concrete from my concrete driveway, slap it on the leaves, wait for 9 hours, flip them around and pull off the leaves. Voila! All done!

Nate doing a funky pose for the picture
Slap some concrete on the back side of the leaf
Smoothen it all out
The big one was a two-tone experimental leaf
After about 8-9 hours I was able to flip it around and pull the old leaf off
After the leaf was pulled off but with lots of dirt on it from the removal process
After it was blown off with some high pressure air
Another leaf in the reddish tone
One in the brownish tone
And another one
Here are all the ones we did together
Here are some more examples:

Measuring cup
Dental tool

Colored dry-shake (silica sand, portland cement, concrete colorant)
Rhubarb leaves




They actually look really nice

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fixing My Bloody Van (Again!)

After having the van inspected I was informed that the following items would have to be fixed before it would pass:

1. ABS light was on
2. Passenger side rocker panel was rusted
3. EGR tube was leaking
4. Exhaust manifold gasket was leaking

It's not like I haven't worked for hours on this van before:
1. Driver side rocker panel
2. Instrument cluster
3. Front left wheel bearing
4. Rear right wheel bearing
5. Transmission oil cooler
6. Transmission issues (EPC solenoid)
7. Transmission issues (Shift solenoid)

So I wasn't surprised that it was going to take a lot more time in the shop. After I got over feeling sorry for myself (well, I'm almost over it) I figured I'd work every evening for about a week out in the shop almost til midnight, but I did get it all fixed and the inspection passed and now I'm driving it again with a renewed "I can do this" and "You ain't getting me down, ya bloody van" attitude.

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):


ABS Light
The ABS light issue was definitely tricky because I had 8 possible points of failure or any combination of multiple points. I could have just paid $75 bucks at the shop to have it scanned but I refuse to pay that much for something that takes less than a minute so I decided to figure it out the hard way. Somehow I "knew" the front left wire harness was faulty. Maybe I just assumed it because that was the issue with my Venture van a few years ago, or maybe it was intuition, a gut-feeling or being let by the Holy Spirit, I dunno. In any case, I ripped out the old wire and patched in a new wire I had saved from when I fixed (and eventually replaced) my H20 steam mop. This fix made it a LOT better. The ABS would only go on every couple of days but would stay off for a considerable amount of time after I turned the van off and then back on.

Unfortunately, this changed after driving to Sussex in a rain storm. The ABS light came back on and so I realized that my previous "fix" wasn't completed yet. I ripped out my trusty old multi meter and soon discovered that the rear left wheel showed 3 mega ohm resistance and was climbing; an indication that the sensor was shot. For reference, all other wheel bearings showed 1.25 kilo ohm resistance which was well within specs.

Down to Marshland auto parts I went to pick up a new wheel bearing ($130 bucks), jacked up the van, removed the tire, unbolted the wheel bearing and pulled it out after fighting with some rust and corrosion.

When I took out the wheel bearing the cable seemed to be not long enough which I found was odd, considering the last time I did it on the other side. So I investigated a bit further and found out that some bozo had accidentally cut the wire to the wheel speed sensor and then just patched it up with some household electrical wire, twisted it together by hand and put some shrink tubing around it. No wonder the ABS light went on in the rain storm...duhhhh!

Anyways, I removed the wire, replaced it with some new wire, put it back on the van with the OLD wheel bearing and haven't heard a peep from the ABS light since. whoohoo! All-in-all that job took me about 5hrs

Rocker Panel
The rocker panel was pretty easy, I've done it 5 times before (twice with my oldsmobile intrigue, twice with my chevy venture van and once with this van): cut off rusty stuff, weld on new stuff, body-fill, sand, primer & paint and slap some asphalt on it to prevent future rusting. Good thing I bought that MIG welder a few years ago; that definitely made the job a lot easier. All-in-all that job took me about 6hrs.

EGR Tube
At first I was hoping I'd be able to remove the EGR tube from the van and weld it back together since that little 12" tube costs almost $200 just for the part. After heating up the rusted nut though (and literally setting the van on fire - good thing I had an extinguisher handy) I realized that I couldn't get it out without actually breaking it all the way off. The EGR tube sits up between the rear exhaust manifold of the engine and the firewall behind the muffler so I only had a small spot to put my hand/arm up there and trying to losen the nut. When I tried that I just bent the snot out of the nut so I ended up breaking off the EGR tube and used an O2 sensor socket to get it out. My hands are still bruised and cut up from that job. Once I had the old tube out I was able to grease up the treads of the replacement tube and put it back in. All-in-all that job took me about 3hrs.

Leaking Exhaust Manifold Gasket
Last year after I had gotten the van inspected the mechanic informed me that he had missed the leaking exhaust manifold gasket and that I would have to make sure to get it done next year. Well, this time around was "next year" so I had no choice but to do it. The mechanic said that at least one of the bolts that holds the exhaust manifold to the engine block was broken and had them quote me almost $1500 bucks for that job. Since that was defnitely not in the budget I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to figure out a way to do it myself. This was by far the most involved job of all issues and I was quite a bit nervous and maybe even a bit insecure because I had never done it. However, remembering that I felt similarly for any other job I had ever done for the first time I psyched myself up to getting at it and giving it a go.

In retrospect it really wasn't all that "magical". Yes, it was technically difficult and frustrating at times but in essence it was a simple matter of taking parts OFF, REPLACING parts, and putting parts back ON. Here's the order of steps I had to take:

Remove air intake tube
Remove air filter & housing
Remove engine torque strut mounts (2)
Remove engine torque strut mount bracket (1)
Remove EGR tube
Remove transmission oil dip stick tube
Remove coolant by-pass tube
Remove exhaust crossover pipe heat shield
Remove exhaust manifold heat shield
Remove exhaust manifold
Extract broken studs (2)
Installation was reverse of removal

All-in-all this part of the job took me about 10hrs from start to finish



ABS Fix:
The wonderful patch job some bozo undertook. Probably the guys at the shop. Very safe indeed!!! Ugghh!!!
The full view of the cable. Of course they had put shrink tubing around their "fix" so it actually wasn't quite that apparent on the van
I bought some cable ends (silver) for about $5 bucks (for ten cable ends) to go inside of the original plug
A close-up of the first crimped-on cable end, complete with Noalox to prevent any future corrosion
After one end of the cable was installed back into the original plug
The two plug ends about ready to go into the second plug
The PROPERLY fixed wire
One end done and taped up
The other end done and taped up

Rocker Panel:

After most of the rusty material was cut out
Using body filler after the new material was tack welded about every inch or so
After priming
Another view of the primed new rocker panel
A rusty hole that I just did a quick patch on. Nothing to be proud of but it will last me for the life span of the van
Slathering asphalt patch over the metal
Taping up the underside to get ready to spray asphalt under coating material on
After the repair was done
Another view of the finished repair. This should last me at least 5 more years
EGR Tube:
Using a ratchet strap to pull the engine forward to give better access to the back
My temporary tool bench
Finally got the old one out. At the top is the new EGR tube
The part of the EGR tube that screwed into the rear exhaust manifold all bent to snot
The part of the EGR tube that was leaking (from about 6 o'clock to about 12 o'clock). The right half was torn off on purpose to get the wrench on the nut
My hacked up hands after the job
Exhaust Manifold Gasket:
The cross-over pipe that brings the exhaust gases from the front manifold to the rear. This shot was taken after the heat shield was removed
A shot of the front manifold after its heat shield was removed. You can see the missing stud/bolt/nut on the left
The remainder of the broken off stud inside of the cylinder head
Where the exhaust manifold attaches to the cross-over pipe. I put some metal pieces (at the top left and underneath the pipe) as temporary heat shields while I heated up the nuts with my oxy/acetylene torch
All the parts I took off on my work bench
A view straight down the front of the van after the exhaust manifold was removed
Another view straight down

The end of the cross-over pipe
The exhaust manifold and the old gasket behind it
The exhaust manifold on my surface plate clearly showing how warped it was. No wonder it popped the studs off
This is the middle exhaust flange, smooth on the surface plate
This is the warped end clearly showing the gap
Another view of the gap
an 80 thou feeler gauge made it perfectly level
My concoction to keep the HSS drill centered on the broken off stud
After the center was drilled into the stud. I placed a mirror in front of the cylinder head to better show the broken off stud
Another view with the mirror
The EZ-out in the stud
After the stud was extracted. SO happy it came out with no hassle!!!
The exhaust manifold on the way to the machine shop
After it was re-surfaced...oooohhh...shiny!!!
The new exhaust manifold gasket and the studs installed
After the exhaust manifold was re-installed

Socket set
Impact wrench
Gear puller
Side cutters
Rivet gun
Spatula for asphalt
MIG welder
Angle grinder
Ear, eye & lung protection
Oxy/Acetylene torch
O2 socket wrench
Fire extinguisher (!)
EZ-out tool
Angle drill
HSS drill bits

Brake cleaner
Cable plugs
Electrical tape
Di-electric grease
Noalox paste
Anti-seize compound
Working light
18 gauge sheet metal
Auto body filler
Asphalt undercoating spray
Asphalt undercoating paste
Painter's tape
Painter's plastic
Dex-cool fluid
Transmission oil
Exhaust manifold gasket
EGR tube
Nuts, bolts & new studs
Muffler gasket




SO glad it's done! I hope I won't ever have to deal with this van again. Well, that's probably not likely but whatever, I'm glad it's over!!!