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Garage Blog Archive

The below is an archived version of the Garage Journal prior to moving to WordPress:

2009 – 2015 Archive

xmradioI installed a Sirius XM radio transmitter in the Cobra. The magnetic antenna went on the trunk lid and looks nice there. I installed an auxillary power port underneath the dash so that I could hide the wiring and not take up the power port next to the shifter. To do that, I used a Bussman Fuse Tap to tap into a 15a switched power source at the fuse box. This allowed the XM transmitter to power off with the car, which it would not do if I used the stock power ports because they are always hot. I used double sided tape to attach the LCD display right below the radio and it looks nice. The wiring goes right behind the plastic trim piece surrounding the shifter and it looks tidy, just how I like it. After a few days, I decided to install an FM Direct Modulator to eliminate FM interference. To do that, I had to pull the radio. Be aware you do NOT need to spend $15 for the removal tool. I just cut a wire coat hanger into four pieces about 3″ long each and did it that way. Just insert them, push them outward and slide the radio out.


I finally figured out why the Cobra was rattling so bad. When I replaced the brakes last summer I forgot to put the anti rattle clips on the new pads. Talk about a lot of work just for two clips on each side since you have to take the calipers off and slide the pads back out a bit. I won’t forget that again! The car is now rattle free.


The Toyota Tundra had to have the front steering rack replaced at 92k miles. The wonderful engineers at Toyota designed the rack so that it gathers salt and grime at key bushing locations so that it rusts through and allows power steering fluid to leak everywhere. It’s no wonder they redesigned the rack and made it out of aluminum on second generation trucks. On the plus side, the dealership replaced my ball joints under a recall. They said the steering rack is something they haven’t seen despite several stories I have read on the Internet. Oh well. It is still a great truck and owes me nothing. It still looks new and has had just this as a problem in its life.

At 53,000 miles, my original front brakes on the Cobra started to squeal due to the wear “feeler” scraping the rotor from time to time. I decided to replace them with a set of Hawk pads. I had never done brakes on a Ford before and I have to say that they have a really good design in the way the pads fit into the caliper. There isn’t much fussing changing a set of pads even on the dual piston Cobra calipers. The only hard part for me was getting the D snap ring off of the caliper slide bolt. All in all it wasn’t a bad installation and it took about an hour since I spent some time cleaning the wheel wells while things were accessible.


I just finished putting an American Thunder cat back system with Flowmaster Super 44 mufflers on the Cobra. I have to say that it certainly was an improvement over the quiet stock sound. It does drone a little bit at around 2100 rpm, but I knew that going in and it isn’t too bad. I also took off the drivers side header on the Buick and sealed it back up with a Remflex gasket. It was a chore getting that out and getting the crossover pipe to seal. One trick I learned was to fill the crossover pipe flange with Ultra Copper and let it dry for a few hours before mating it to the header once again. I will have to remember that since I made about 15 trips under the car trying to get that sorted. As Edd China says, “Job done!”


I am finally getting around to fixing the header leak in the driver’s side exhaust header. I couldn’t find anyone to weld it properly, so I ended up buying one off of turbobuick.com for a really good price. It is a header that has already been fixed properly and the flange has been trued up. I am planning on removing the header today and putting this one in its place with a good film of Copper RTV sealant and no gasket.


I got the Buick out of storage today to get it ready for a car show on May 1. The first order of business was to replace the stock wastegate actuator with an HD unit that is designed to correctly fit the TE turbo housing. What should have been a 10 minute job turned into 45 minutes as I struggled with the back mounting bolt. I still have to take it out on the street to get the boost dialed in since I just measured the length of the old actuator arm to approximate it on the new one. I also got around to changing the transmission fluid after thirteen years! I was surprised at how clean the old fluid was and there was very little clutch material in the pan. That’s always nice news! In with a new Wix filter and Dexron III fluid!

I detailed the engine bay and that part of the car is pretty much ready to go. The interior needs a good once over and the exterior will get a wash and coat of Meguiars new Ultimate Wax.


The first problem of the year has surfaced with the Cobra. It is leaking oil and I am suspecting it is from the oil cooler adapter or the stem that the oil filter screws onto. It appears to be leaking from the weep hole in this area. I am going to try and tighten the stem first with a 1/2″ allen wrench. If that doesn’t work, I think it is the o-ring between the adapter and cooler, which is a $20 part from Ford. Keeping my fingers crossed that it is a 10 minute fix and not a two hour fix.

Update: It did end up being the stem. a 1/2″ Allen socket tightened it up fine.


Both cars have been prepped for winter storage. I put Joe Gibbs Driven Hotrod oil in the Buick since it has higher levels of ZDDP for flat tappet cams. The oil is also supposed to protect “stored” cars better. At ten bucks a quart, it had better do something it says. Anyway, the Buick is put away and the Cobra is awaiting transport to the storage facility.


I added a Chicago Electric 90 amp flux welder to my garage. I know they aren’t the best welders in the world, but I just wanted something cheap and simple to learn the trade on. It actually does a pretty good job, although you have to clean up the weld a lot because of the slag produced by flux core wire. Lincoln Electric wire is a LOT better than the stock wire it comes with. It was only $89 after coupons, so what the heck.


I finally completed my Powermaster to Hydroboost conversion after ten hours of hot shop work. Overall, it was a success, but I did run into a few roadblocks. I rounded off a bleeder in the rear, so I had to replace the rear wheel cylinders. While trying to get the wheel cylinders out, I rounded off the brake line fittings, so I had to replace those as well. Special thanks go out to: Keith, Tom, Jason and Todd for helping me at various stages!


My brother in law has a 2001 Chevy Silverado that had been running rough, was slow starting and generating a P0300 code, random multiple misfire according to my Actron scan tool. We replaced the plugs and wires since they were about due and there was no change. Since one cylinder had a black sooty plug (rich cylinder), I felt there was more going on. We tested compression and vacuum first and both were fine and well within spec. Next, we tested the coil packs by measuring resistance and got similar readings on all of them. My final choice for the culprit was a stuck fuel injector, so we ordered a rebuilt unit from Rock Auto for $35. We replaced the cylinder 4 injector and the truck started right up and idled perfectly.

All in all, it was a success. The code has not come back and the truck continues to run and idle like a new truck. I didn’t feel bad about getting a rebuilt injector for a 70k mile truck. A new one was over $100 and the rebuilt had the same warranty anyway. I was surprised at how much cheap plastic Chevy used on these trucks. The fuel rails are plastic and the injector bodies feel like McDonalds Happy Meal™ toys.


Today, I replaced the headliner in the Regal. It’s quite a job if you have never done it before and are not sure what to expect, but it is definitely a rewarding one. I documented the process for you. One thing I will note is that I do not recommend re-covering your old headliner board. They are so brittle that it is just not worth it. I called around for a quote re-covering my board and they all wanted at least $140. I got a new ABS board pre-covered for $179 shipped, so it was a no brainer.


I changed the heater core in the Turbo Regal today. As heater cores go, the G-body cars are perhaps the easiest out there since it is right in the engine bay. I did break the heater box cover trying to get it out so I am currently on the hunt for a replacement.


I had to change a water pump in the 2002 Regal GS and I must say that it is a real pain in the butt. The coolant overflow tank has to come out as well as the power steering pump just to get to the thing. Removal and reinstallation wasn’t that bad once I could actually get to it, but getting the power steering pump back on was quite a chore with one person. I was amazed that I had enough clearance to be able to use a torque wrench on the bolts to ensure proper sealing! All in all, not a job I want to do again…


The brakes went out on the Tundra today. I had a major scraping sound coming from the driver’s side of the car. After disassembly, I found that the wear indicator arm on the inside pad had fallen off, so the pad was down to metal. After three hours of work, I got both front brakes done. I will say that Toyota brake pads are no fun. The pads are held in by pins and you have to whack the heck out of them with a punch to get them out. Next time, I plan on replacing the brake hardware (pins, springs, etc)with a kit from Advance Auto. To close out the project, the oil and air filter were changed and a winter’s worth of wear and tear was cleaned out of the interior.


The Regal is in storage now, but I did find out while taking it home for storage prep that my heater core had gone bad. It has probably been bad for a while but I never noticed since I never have the heat on. It just happened to be cold this morning and POOF, instant fog on the windshield. I ordered a new one from Rock Auto, so that will be my first spring project aside from replacing the sagging headliner with a fresh prefab piece.


I had to work on a 2002 Buick Regal GS today. The idler pulley for the supercharger seized and shredded the belt. $60 later, I had it back up and running. I also decided to change the oil in the Eaton supercharger. I was pretty surprised that it was $20 for the oil, but what can you do? It is recommended to change every 50k miles or so, and this car was well past that. If you ever want to smell something truly horrible, take a whiff of supercharger oil…


I had to take the Cobra to an alignment shop today. I noticed that the outside edge of the Nittos on the front were wearing faster than the rest of the tire, so I suspected it was off. It ended up being toed out with too much positive camber. I had it brought back to spec.


The heavy load cutout ended up being an up-pipe intercooler hose coming loose. I thought I had checked everything, but this hose was just barely seeping air and it finally popped off the up-pipe. Once I firmly reattached it, the cutout was gone. The car is now ready for the methanol kit, so I just have to decide whether to go with Razor’s kit or the SMC Enterprises offering.

I am still troubleshooting a heavy load cutout, which I believe to be ignition related at this point. The Magnecor 10mm race wires ohmed out at 4.1 each, so those seem ok. The coil pack ohmed out at 11.3 between the tower pairs, so that seems ok as well. Next in line will be to replace the plugs with AC Delco CR43TS gapped at .032. I am thinking the spark might be blowing out. If that doesn’t fix it, I will replace the ignition control module. I am needing to sort this out before I proceed with the methanol injection system.


The car received an oil change using Royal Purple 10W30 and a Purolator oil filter. Luckily, I am not losing oil anymore since this stuff is $7 a quart! I discovered that my wastegate actuator was hanging in the engine bay doing nothing at all. The original bolt that mounts the actuator to the turbo housing was too short to hold it in, so it stripped the first few threads out of the hole and fell out. I fixed it for now by cleaning the threads and using a longer bolt. For a long term fix, I am going to weld the actuator to a compression ring and remount it properly to the housing with three bolts. I am going to have to helicoil the stripped thread so I can be confident it will hold up. I have to say it is nice getting 18psi of boost rather than 4.


I got the passenger side valve cover gasket changed. It sure was easier getting the cover off and out than getting it back in. I ended up taking the turbo shield mounting bracket (part 115 in this diagram) off of the block so I could get more room to wiggle it in place. Before reinstallation, I shot the cover with a few coats of gray high heat engine enamel. It ended up looking *very* close to stock, just a lot cleaner. Guess what? Now I have to remove and paint the other side to match. Something tells me I should have left well enough alone, but that’s what you have to do if you want things to look right. Clean and sort of clean doesn’t match.


Today, I went to get the TR out of storage. I grabbed a charged battery and headed to the storage facility. I prepared the car and let the car run through the starting sequence with the ECM disconnected so I could get fresh oil circulated before the car was allowed to run. She started right up, but would only run for about 15 seconds before it shut off. After a few times of this, I started the car and ran to the back bumper to listen to the fuel pump. It would shut down after 15 seconds and the car would die. The pump is fairly new, so I decided to jump the relay and power it directly from the battery. It ran continuously with that, so the next culprit had to be the fuel pump relay in the trunk. I pulled the 30 amp relay and ran to the Auto Parts store for another one. I installed the new one and the car stayed running. I bravely drove the car home on some busy streets praying it would make it and it did. I think I am going to order a Bosch relay off of the Internet somewhere because they are known for being sturdy.

The car is dripping oil on the exhaust and burning and I have since determined it is the passenger side valve cover gasket. I will replace that with a cork gasket from Felpro. This shouldn’t be too bad. Then, the car will get a thorough cleanup for the Blackhawk County Street Machines car show on May 3rd.


1998-2002 Archives

The stock MAF sensor finally went south on me.  GM has discontinued this part, so I ran around town trying to find one.  NAPA could order them, but they were rebuilt units or aftermarket new ones.  Since I had heard and read so much about non AC Delco sensors performing poorly, I decided to go another route.  I ended up buying the MAF Translator from Ramchargers along with an LT1 MAF sensor.  It came to $300 for both, but in the long run I figured it was the best way to go for the increased flow and tuning ability.  I will have to wait a few months to see how it pans out, but I have heard only good things from others.

It finally snowed, so the car is sleeping until spring.

I completed the turbo installation over the weekend.  Getting it out is a lot easier then putting it back in, but everything worked out.  You just have to do it in the right order.  I made some changes to my tech article page to reflect the best order to do this in to allow for easy access to all bolts since some are tricky.  I always hate it when you drop a bolt, hear it clang around, and then not make it to the garage floor.  What a great use for a fiber optic camera, if I had one, that is.

Since the weather was so nice, I decided to take the car out for its first January appearance ever.  After warming the car up and cruising around for several miles to let things loosen up, I gave the turbo a try.  Precision did a good job as usual.  No smoke at all and the car felt strong as ever at only 12psi of boost.  Much to the chagrin of the rear tires, I tuned in the boost and the car showed no knock on the gauge.  It’s going to be a fun spring … when it comes.

For some reason, I have a bug to work on the car this winter, so I went out and bought a Remington garage heater from Menards.  It puts out 60,000 BTU and can easily heat 1000 sq feet.  I tried it out while doing some engine bay cleaning and it really did get the garage nice and toasty when it was only 15 degrees outside.  The turbo should be delivered via UPS today, so I am going to further document that process that I started back on 12/27/01.  I will also take a look at that oil pan gasket and decide if it is really something I want to tackle this winter.

As I suspected, the turbo was really trashed.  Joe, at Precision, was really cool and he explained everything he found out.  He was surprised the car ran as good as it did.  This is scary because the car was seriously fast and powerful with a turbo that bad.  I’d sure like to have it dynoed again.  Anyway, they had to replace the impeller, the seals, and the bearing.  They also said the puck wasn’t sealing in the exhaust housing, so they replaced the housing free of charge.  Evidently, the hole was enlarged by someone in the past and the puck was no longer covering it.

I ordered a new feed line and a gasket, so this should be a pretty straight forward reinstall.  It took less than an hour to get it out and I documented it for your benefit.  I am hoping I won’t have to re-clock the housing to get things to line up, but if that is the most terrible thing that happens, I won’t be too upset.

Next job?  Replace the leaking oil pan gasket.  That will wait for warmer spring weather, though.

I had to remove the TE-44 today before covering the car for winter storage.  It had been smoking the last half of the summer since it was dumping oil into the down-pipe.  I sent it to Precision Turbo and Engine to be looked over and most likely freshened up.  I had contemplated just going big and getting a PT-51, but I am not anxious to change the injectors or torque converter at this time.  I like the street manners it has and the car is about the way I like it right now.

The Hooker 2.5″ aluminized dual exhaust went on today, replacing the factory system, which was a “two into one” setup.  The new system is a cat back system with a Y pipe feeding two Super Comp mufflers.  It is much like the Monte Carlo SS setup, but this is 2.5″ mandrel bent exhaust.  It exits in the stock Buick location, which I like much better than the Monte Carlo orientation, which is straight out the back under the bumper.  The car has gained some power and I can tell it is breathing more efficiently.  That TE-44 is really working well.  I really do think that this is the last piece of the puzzle for making this car what I call “street lethal.”  The only other thing I might do is get a CAS V4 stock location intercooler.  That would definitely complete the package.

I had a local shop, Exhaust Pros, do the work.  They do a great job at a reasonable price.  I could have done it myself, but I just didn’t feel like laying on my back in a hot garage.  This is one of the very few times that the car has ever been worked on outside of my garage.

Today, I installed a couple of things that I have been wanting to get to for a while.  One was a Casper’s Electronics knock gauge, which helps me keep tabs on what the engine is experiencing under load.  I am really glad I got it because I was afraid to really get into it unless I really could see what was happening.  I do have TurboLink to see knock and retard, but I don’t drive around with a laptop in the passenger seat too much. 🙂

I also installed a new stereo in the car since the old tape deck had a burned out faceplate.  That made it awfully hard to know what station you were on or what time it was!  I ended up just getting an entry level CD player made by Kenwood.  I didn’t get very extravagant since the car is not a daily driver.

I haven’t done much to the car for quite some time, as you can see.  I basically just drove it from July to November and then I put it away for the winter.  I just actually took the cover off this weekend and I went through the car and freshened the fluids and cleaned it up.  I changed the spark plugs with AC Delco R43TS gapped at .035″ and I changed the oil with the usual dose of Mobil 1 synthetic and a Mobil 1 filter.  I also yanked the intercooler and cleaned it out really good with O2 sensor safe carb cleaner.  The transmission also received new fluid and a filter.  After a long afternoon, it was roadworthy.

I power flushed the cooling system today since it had not been done in two years.  I had planned on using the flush and fill kit from the store, but I wasn’t all that keen on cutting the heater inlet hose to install the kit.  I just unhooked the lower radiator hose and shoved the garden hose into this inlet and sealed it with a wet rag.  It was kind of a pain to do it this way since I had to flush and then wait until the thermostat opened again.  After a few cycles, I was convinced that it was nice and clean, so I refilled the system with a 50/50 mix of good old Prestone and distilled water.  If you do this at home, make sure you have means to catch the old antifreeze.  It is a pain to flush and catch it by yourself, but I managed.

Over the weekend, I changed the oil with my brand of choice, that being Mobil 1 synthetic.  For this car, the oil is changed by time and not miles since it is a garage queen for the most part.  I also tried a new wax on the car called Zymol.  It worked really well and gave the car a really deep shine.  The car looked great until the neighbor mowed her lawn and got the car dusty.  Oh well.  I am really pushing to get the car all finished for an annual car show here in town.  Mine will be entered in Street Machine, 1983 – present since there isn’t a category for Buick.  Go figure.

Spring is here and  I am now taking care of some maintenance items that I have discovered as I did my once over.   I replaced the front brakes, installed new rear axle seals, and replaced a broken front sway bar link.  I ended up having to get a right front caliper since the old one was having problems.  My next plans are for a 2.5″ dual muffler exhaust system to replace the old stock exhaust.  That should really wake the car up as that is my bottleneck right now.  I haven’t replaced it because the stock exhaust is in great shape and it is very quiet.

Today, I replaced the fuel pump with a Walbro 307.  I have written up complete instructions in my personal Tech Section if you are curious as to what is involved and how to do it.  It wasn’t really a bad project, but it was pretty hard disconnecting the rubber join lines above the real axles.  After the fuel pump installation, my pinging problem went away and I got much better pressure while under boost.  The pressure kept right up with the boost levels, which was definitely the desired result.  This was not the easiest project in the world, but it is pretty straight forward.  The hard part was getting the tank nestled back into place and balancing it while the straps were reattached.  I was also happy that my tank was nice and rust free.

Today, I installed my new Weld Pro Star wheels.  For the rear I purchased 15X8 with 3.5″ backspacing so I could fit BF Goodrich 275/50 under the wheel wells.  The fronts are 15X7 with 235/60 BF Goodrich Comp TA tires.  I wanted to go a little skinnier on the front, perhaps a 215/65 like stock, but the wheels and tires were sold as a package.  I am going to store my stock T wheels and newer BFG tires in the basement to preserve them.  I have to say that these Weld wheels really make the car and give it a meaner look.

I turned down the boost a few psi to see if I could alleviate a little of the pinging.  On the interstate near my home, I made a test run from a 35mph roll while TurboLink™ was keeping tabs on the engine readouts from the ecm.  I noticed that I was getting a few knock counts and that I was getting 8 degrees of retard in a frame, which isn’t good.  I was trying to watch the boost gauge and the laptop computer at the same time, which was difficult, but I think I was running about 15psi of boost.  Frustrated, I took the car home again and started poking around to see if I noticed anything else funny before trying to look at the injectors and fuel pump.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that the fuel line on the inlet side of the fuel filter was not round and looked kinked.  This could be part of the problem, but even if it isn’t, it needs to be replaced anyway.  The same thing was true about the previous weekend’s hot-wiring of the fuel pump … it didn’t solve the problem but it needed to be done anyway.

The fuel line had been discontinued by GM parts back in April of 1994, so I turned to Classic Tube for a new piece.  I ended up buying a stainless tubing set for my TR from the filter back for now.  These people have a great service department so I recommend them to anyone seeking fuel line for any car out there.  The guy I talked to had two Turbo Regals himself, so he knew exactly what I needed.  I think I will just replace from the filter inlet to the rubber hose above the axle until I change out the fuel pump itself next year.

Over the weekend I decided it was finally time to troubleshoot the detonation problem a little more.  I hot-wired the fuel pump to make sure that it was going to have maximum voltage under load, which I wasn’t fully sure of.  It took me quite a while to get everything bought and installed, but I took my time and made sure everything was done right and, more importantly, safely.  I ran the wiring inside the car because I didn’t want to worry about a bare wire underneath the car.  I mounted the 30 amp relay on the drivers side trunk hinge brace, which already had two nice holes for mounting and grounding.  I tapped into the trigger wire by soldering a new wire into the stock wire so I didn’t have to cut it.  I did have to drill a new hole in the trunk to get the 10 gauge wire through to the fuel pump.  I left a quick connect under the car so I could return it to stock if the relay ever failed on me out of the road.  I also carry a spare relay with me should anything happen.  It’s not that I don’t trust myself, I just hate being stranded anywhere and I don’t want to leave my car unattended.

If you want to see some excellent instructions from the Turbo Regal Website technical pages on hot-wiring the fuel pump, click here.

An Accufab billet adjustable fuel pressure regulator went in to the car today to replace an aging unit, which I believe had a small leak in the diaphragm that caused fuel pressure to climb slower than boost.   I did have to run to NAPA to get a new rubber elbow to connect the vacuum line to the nipple on the regulator because the new unit’s nipple was a tad smaller than the old unit.  If this doesn’t cure my problem, I think I am going to install the new Walbro 307 pump and see what that does.  The car still seems to be running as good as it ever has and I continue to use the Thrasher 92 street chip for every day use.

Today, I changed the oil using Mobil 1 synthetic and a Mobil 1 oil filter.  The car had not leaked any oil since the last oil change, which is always a good thing with these cars.  Also, I installed a Thrasher 92 street chip and bumped the fuel pressure up to 45psi as per the instructions.   I haven’t driven the car yet and I am anxious to compare it to the chip I replaced (I won’t mention the manufacturer in fairness).

I installed a mechanical fuel pressure gauge today so that I can see where my fuel pressure is at.  The unit was ordered from Postons and is a nice piece for what I paid.  I mounted the actual gauge to the side of the brake master cylinder so it would be easy to see.  I also have quick remove mounting brackets so I can disconnect it from the master cylinder and tape it to the windshield.  That way I can see what is going on under boost.  Today, I also retorqued the head bolts on the passenger side to see if that remedied my minor coolant leak.  It appears to have done the trick.

Installed a TPS tech to the car to make sure that I am getting proper readings and settings out of the existing sensor.  I also went through the engine bay and polished up all of the chrome trim pieces and everything else I could get a rag on.  I think you could probably eat off of that engine now, but don’t try it.  I would like to keep it clean!

Today was take inventory and clean things up day.  Problem was, this car was so clean already I had to hunt for things to do, which were few and far between.  I ended up polishing up an already sanitary engine bay and giving the body a good washing.  I think the next step is to protect the exceptional paint job with a coat of wax to help make sure it stays that way.  I went out for the obligatory “after wash” cruise this afternoon and this car really got some looks.  Yes, it’s an old Regal, but it looks great and performs even better.