Archive for March, 2010

The Clunky ION Is Repaired

March 31st, 2010 Comments off

So yeah.  Took the clunky ION back to the shop since I was now sure after my tests and research that it was the lower control arm bushings.  They are morons, and even after I told them what was wrong they still thought it was something else.  They allowed me to go back to the lift where I showed them with a screwdriver the same thing I did in my earlier video.  They said “Oh we hadn’t made it back that far.”

It’s 12 inches away.  In fact, they would have HAD to have removed the ball joint to replace the strut and it is attached to the stinking control arm.

But don’t worry!  They offered to fix it for free.  Oh no wait! – that would have made SENSE!  No, in reality they wanted me to pay an ADDITIONAL  $300 to fix the bushings.  And they would be replacing them with OEM.  So I said I’d think about it, which really means “I’ll be egging your house later, thanks.”

I ordered the Prothane bushings carried by Never Enough auto – and they are the BOMB and you should totally get some if you have an ION and have this problem.  The instructions are pretty good, though they gloss over some bits I wish they had elaborated on.  essentially the process is to remove the control arm, remove the old bushing (or in my case “Let the old bushing which is no longer attached in any way shape or form to the control arm fall merrily to the floor”), cut out the old sleeve, clean everything, grease up the new bushing, and press it in.

So the parts I thought would be really  hard weren’t.  But some parts I had not even given any thought to were about like trying to do rectal surgery on one’s self.  I just removed the bolts from the control arm to the subframe, the big bolt through the lower bushing, and the ball joint pinch bolt and the whole arm came out pretty easily.  Basically the old lower control arm bushing just fell out.  So I didn’t have to press that out.  And I also didn’t end up doing the front bushings because they didn’t really need it, and also I couldn’t understand how to get the mounting bracket out of the old bushing.  Pressing the new ones in was somewhat fiddly – especially with no actual press (if you are going to do this – pay the money for an actual tool or at least the $50 for a harbor freight arbor press.  )  Also, you really HAVE to install them from the top side of the arm or they will just never go in, because the top side is nice and beveled an the bottom side is sharp.  But it wasn’t really difficult.  No, the hard part was yet to come…

The fun began when I tried to get the arm back in. The clearance for the metal sleeve within the lower control arm bushing is exactly the same width as the opening into which you slide the lower control arm section.  So there is no room for error.  and that would be no problem at all – if you could slide it in directly from the side or end.  but you can’t.  Because the balljoint end of the control arm is hitting the wheel mount.  And short of REMOVING the wheel mount, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it.  But I wasn’t about to do that, so I went with the “Yam It In” method.  It is a GM certified technique.  It didn’t work.  All it did was cut into the lower side of the bushing.  I finally ended up having to wedge the top portion of the bushing in, and the use the floor jack to apply pressure to the bottom bit of the bushing that was sticking out to kind of compress things a little.  Then it slide on it, but it wasn’t easy.  (on the other side, I figured out you can bend a thin piece of sheetmetal on the top and bottom edges of the opening and grease them up to help it slide in without cutting into the bushing)

I thought my pain was over, but I was wrong.  The lower control arm bushing bolt had to be reinserted.  But the sleeve in the bushing was at an angle to the holes the bolt goes through, so it wouldn’t line up.  If I got in the bolt at the bottom, it just jutted out at an angle – it was nowhere near the top hole.  If I tried to torque things to line the TOP hole up, the bottom hole bit into the bolt threads and got stuck.  So I had to sit there with a screwdriver shifting things around for like an hour (really) before it would finally line up.  The other side was worse for some reason.

But, five hours after I started, it was done.  And now there is NO CLUNK!  So I’m happy.  Tomorrow I’m taking it into to a DIFFERENT shop to get the squeaky coils fixed.  I’ll have them do an alignment while I’m there.

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The Floorpan and Rocker Situation

March 26th, 2010 Comments off

So, you may remember that I had the floorpans and rockers done.  Well, I’m going to have to have them redone.  Are they in?  Absolutely.  Are they “daily driver quality or at the very least installed correctly so the rust will not come back”?.  Unfortunately no.  I didn’t think – nor did I WANT – a show quality level job done.  I just wanted it to be presentable, functional and NOT have bits welded over rusty bits.  But no such luck.

I’ve been stewing about this for a while because I really liked the guy – he was a really nice guy.  And he said up front “this will be daily driver level quality”.  And that would have been fine.  But come on – I mean take these things into consideration:

  1. The doors scrape the rockers.  Granted the doors are not in fantastic shape – but they didn’t hit the OLD rockers.  The replacements should be no different.
  2. There is body filler just slapped over rust.  I know this because I have eyeballs and when you scrape off body filler you find old paint and rust underneath.
  3. Welding new panels over old rusted ones.  I mean, I didn’t expect him to sand blast it.  But I did expect him to hit it with a DA sander or something.  Where the panels overlap you can look up inside and see the old rusty panel.
  4. The floor pans are high enough to prohibit the gas pedal from going down more than about a 1/4″.  I fixed this by bending the pedal arm, but what a kludge.
  5. None of the trim fits now.  I would have to cut about an inch off the bottom of the trim to make it fit.  No thanks.

Anyway.  I wasn’t expecting him to stitch butt-weld it or anything.  Just to flange it and spot weld it so stuff lines up right.

I’m now on the prowl for someone to fix it.

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Gas Pedal

March 24th, 2010 Comments off

I’m noticing that fixing little annoyances seems WAY more rewarding than fixing huge issues.  On thing that has been bugging the crap out of me is the gas pedal.  It was really… odd.  Not stiff, per-say, but just “unrefined”.  It sort of felt like stepping on a piece of scrap wood that happened to be lying on top of other scrap wood.  Kind of floppy and loose.  And it pretty much had two indexes: “no gas” and “floored”.  Also, it was looking pretty tired.

I the pedal bracket and disconnected the accelerator cable.  After pulling it out, I noticed that a big part of the problem is that the spring on the backside of the pedal was snapped.   Also, when I had the floor pans done (which I will be having RE done – more on that later) the new pan is waaay higher than the old one.  So the pedal was bottoming out.

So I went to O’Reily’s (I love O’Reily’s) and tried to pick up an accelerator cable and some springs, but they didn’t have either in stock.  I was going to just put it off, but then I decided that I just couldn’t wait and went to a different parts store.  They didn’t have the pedal spring, so I just grabbed an assortment of throttle control springs.

I wire wheeled and cleaned all the medal bits and washed the rubber pad, then gave the metal a fresh coat of paint.  I modified one of the large throttle return springs to act as a replacement for the pedal spring.  I had to bend the pedal shaft a bit to give myself more floorpan clearance.  I then installed some new throttle return springs and the new accelerator cable and put everything back together.  And WOW there is a huge difference.  Feels like a normal gas pedal now!


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Long Story Short…

March 24th, 2010 Comments off

So I took the ION into a local shop to get the “clunk” that it makes when it goes over bumps at slow speed checked out.  All my research pointed to it being caused by a worn lower control arm bushing.

But, not knowing how best to check to see if mine was bad, I took it in.  I told them I thought it was the lower control arm bushing.  they said “No, it is your strut plates.”  Crap.  So I had them change those out and while they were at it I told them to put in new struts.

$800 later, it still clunks.  So I threw it on the jack stands and did some poking around.

I’m no suspension expert – but I’m pretty sure this isn’t supposed to happen…

embedded by Embedded Video

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The Big ToDo

March 17th, 2010 Comments off

I’ve decided I need a huge todo list.  This is mainly so I can actually see the list of things getting smaller.  I’ve decided to use a little WP plugin for this, as keeping lists by hand is so 20th century.


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More Thought on Gauges – and SHOCKS!

March 14th, 2010 Comments off

So I really want to go more in depth on the gauge work that I did – because it was a LOT of work, and I really like how it turned out.  So I want to be sure and document it.

The basic issue was that in my original cluster I had a speedo, a fuel gauge, a clock (that didn’t work), a temp (that didn’t work) a voltmeter and an oil pressure (that – you guessed it -didn’t work).  But that isn’t what I WANTED!  And also, they looked old and nasty.  So I thought to myself, “Well, how hard could it be to just modify the gauges from the cluster to replace the non working ones, and to move the fuel gauge to the smaller location?  And while I’m at it migrate a tach into the slot where the fuel gauge USED to be?  And design new faces for all the gauges too!”.  The answer is very very very hard.

I created new gauge faces by taking LOTS of measurements, and plugging everything into Illustrator and designing a whole new matching set of gauge faces.  I printed them out on photo paper and used a craft knife to carefully cut them out.   When each gauge face was prepped properly, I used double sided adhesive to stick them in place.  As I’ve mentioned before I will probably have to go back and replace them with vinyl printouts because the paper curls in high humidity.

I first had to chop the cluster housing all to bits.  Then cut up the original gauges.  First I cut out the old parts to the clock and threw them out.  Then I took the fuel gauge internals and cut them off the large face they were on, and moved them behind the old clock face and epoxied them in place.  That took about 5 hours because it involved a lot of tiny-part-fabrication and lining things up over and over and over.  On top of that, I had to create and entirely new needle for the fuel gague – the old one was way too big, and the needle from the old clock wasn’t the right size or shape at all.  So I made a new needle out of lexan and painted it to match (it came out really well too – you can’t even tell)  I was able to test the fuel gauge out and position the new needle correctly by using a 9volt battery and a 90 ohm resistor.  The three poles on the back of the fuel gauge are a positive, a negative and a signal line.  If you place a 90 ohm resistor in the right place, and then test it with the circuit completely open, you are basically simulating the sender unit. So you can go “Ok – it should read FULL now” and then position the needle accordingly.

I then moved on to the oil and temp gauges.  I ripped them out of a sunpro gauge cluster.  I cut out the old internals for the original gauges and mounted the sunpro internals behind the faces taking care to line everything up right.  This was a royal pain in the arse, but when it was all said and done everything lined up well.  I placed in their new faces and tested them out and positioned the needles.  To calibrate the oil pressure gauge I created a small pressure chamber out of a section of PVC pipe with a schrader valve and a port to screw in the oil pressure lead.  I also added an additional PSI gauge into the chamber.  I then used a hand pump to pump the chamber to given pressures (20, 40 , 60, 80) and made sure the needle on the new frankengauge matched the ones on the hand pump and the additional pressure meter.  Amazingly, I got it on the first try.  They all pretty much matched up.  To calibrate the temp gauge, I brought some water on the stove up to various temperatures and put in the temp probe.  Needle placement was pretty easy!

Then I cut up the sunpro tach and mounted it in behind the old fuel faceplate.  That required a looot of plastic surgery, but it turned out well.

I wanted new lighting too, so I created a network of red LEDs on the interior of the gauge shroud.  It took a lot of trial and error to get everything to fit back together with the added bulk.  I then did some major wiring to the back circuit to get everyone routed to their new homes.  I then installed the new cluster and routed the new temp line and oil line to the engine.

ALMOST everything worked.  The tach didn’t work at first because the ground had been cut by the guy who did the floor pans.  After hooking it back up though, it was fine.  The LEDs didn’t work because the sot I wired them into had some sort of issue – so I had to rewire them to a different bulb feed.  The fuel gauge jumped around because it had a short.  But ofter sorting those things out, everything seems rockin now!  Plus the lights look really nice.

So yeah.  Lot of work but really really worth it.

The other thing I’ve gotten done recently is new shock absorbers.  The truck was really bouncy.  So much so that it felt unsafe.  So my buddy James came over and we tackled putting in a new set of shock absorbers.  Took about 6 hours for all four – but most of that was trips back to O’Reilly’s for sockets and wrenches.  I ended up having to buy a new socket and 2 new wrenches AND a new set of extensions.  I swear every single bolt had a different sized head.  I put Monroes in the front, and would have put them in the back too – but O’Reilly’s only had the one set in stock.  So I had to go with the cheapos in the rear.  I may change those out again before too much longer while all the hardware is still fresh.

Lemme tell you – new shock absorbers make all the difference in the world.  The ride is totally different.  I was shocked (hah!).  Much easier handling – and it feels more real somehow.  Much more like a vehicle and less like a deathwagon.  I can seriously see after I get the interior done and finishing out the suspension and steering gear box wanting to drive it every day.  Ok, and replacing the windshield.  And mirrors.  And weatherstripping….

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Gauges in!

March 9th, 2010 Comments off

I’ve actually gotten a lot more done than my posting frequency would indicate.  Winter really took the wind out of my sails: every time I would get the motivation to get back to work I’d realize that it was too cold for paint to set, or that I hit another “I need an air compressor for that” moment.

But some progress was made.  Mainly, I got the gauge cluster done.  That turned out to be a huge project, but rewarding one.  The gauge migrations worked fine – the fuel gauge is in it’s new smaller home, and the new tach looks SICK.  I really like it.  I’m not sure its accurate – but it moves!  The illumination looks almost how I wanted it, but it is close enough.  It’s certainly red.  Looks orange in the pictures – but that’s just the camera.  With the bezel on it looks even better.  I ended up just using my paper mockups instead of going vinyl – but I think that will prove to be a bad move, as they are already curling a bit.  Meh.  I can always fix that later – the hard part was the stupid LED lighting.

I had to do major surgery on the two cluster bezels I had.  One had the correct ac vents, but was in bad shape otherwise.  So I frankenstiened them together.  Still have a bit more fiberglass and filler work to do on that, then paint.  But I will now have the correct AC vents and a proper cutout for the stereo.

Next on the agenda is finishing up the bezel details, wiring in a shutoff for the STUPID POSIVENT system (which I despise) and then glassing the dash.  That one is going to be a full weekend project, but TOTALLY worth it.  I have some stuff I need to pay off before I spend anymore on the truck, so we’ll see how it goes.

I also finally got a new ride!  I picked up a 2007 Saturn ION for a very good price.  I loooooooooooove this car.  It is weird, because other than the truck I’ve never had an American vehicle.  And now I own two GMs!  Honestly, the build quality of the ION is right up there with my 1999 Corolla (my previous daily driver).  For the record – I LOVED my Corolla.  215,000 miles – and I had to take it to the shop ONE time.  But it was time to move on.  So I moved on to a silver ION!

Oh! I also did some sweet work on the grill that I will have to take a pic of.


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