I bought you some flowers…

So those who have been following my blog (thanks to all three of you – myself included, thank you), will know that my relationship with my car has reached a point…well I guess you could call it a rough spot.

When I first got my car, it was fantastic. Getting in the car and driving the car elevated my pulse like a 12 year old boy dancing about a foot away from a girl – palms awkwardly on her hips (I would know). I loved the way the car shined, I loved the way it sounded, I loved the way the car always had a smile on its face, and I loved the way the car made me feel. Most of all, I loved how I felt like I flowed with the car. There was a certain chemistry when I drove it right, and it wasn’t afraid to let me know when I wasn’t (rare). It was honest.

yes this is a recycled picture but its still got a grin on its face...

yes this is a recycled picture but its still got a grin on its face…

And feeling the need for reciprocity, I returned the favour – frequent oil changes, frequent washing, and whatever parts it needed (not many), I threw at it. It was my first stick-shift car, and I loved how I was the master of my domain – no computers deciding for me when/when not to shift. The first day I got this car, I put 200 kilometers on it, and by the end of the week it had claimed 700.

Mar. 17 – 2007 was the day the ownership transferred over into my name.

And as I have documented, as the car has gotten older this feeling of ecstasy has faded. Its butting up against the 230,000 kilometer mark, and I have had to throw an ever-increasing number of parts at it. Current problems that exist (in rough order of annoyance/priority):
1. The car smells when I drive it.
2. Occasionally, the car will misfire, then get better again.
3. I can’t fit in the car with a helmet on (a problem with the upcoming events I have planned for it)
4. The driver-side window only opens the first 30%
5. The front face looks like that of a 13 year old boy going through puberty, and the rear trunk is scratched from trying to beat my garage door closed (yes I know its my own damn fault).

And after much thinking, I have decided to get a new car. But, before I get rid of this car I want to give it a proper send off. Sort of my attempt to patch things up before I send it off (hence the title).

But before I can do this, I want to address some of the issues above, so here is my attempt at doing so.

Problem 1: The car smells when I drive it.

I used to bike around. A lot. And one of the ways I kept warm in the winter was biking in the exhaust of buses. Which was great for keeping warm, but not so great for my sense of smell.

So when I thought I smelled something, and I recall seeing the coolant drop over 6 months, I assumed it was a coolant leak. When I asked my friend Cam (Bonner) to help me look at it, he thought the smell wasn’t coolant at all. It smelled like burning …something, but it didn’t smell like coolant. I was relieved to hear that as I had started looking at the work behind replacing the heater core. For those of you who don’t know what this is, this assembly typically sits behind the instrument panel on the dash and is responsible for distributing hot air within the car. The part typically isn’t that expensive but the problem is that it is about as easy to replace on a car as an infected piercing through the genitals. Luckily, the usual signs of a leaking heater core weren’t there – pointing to the fact that something else was causing the smell.

Passenger side view of the heater core (sits in behind the radio etc. on the dash. Typically when there is a leak there is coolant pooling somewhere...but I didn't find any.

Passenger side view of the heater core (sits in behind the radio etc. on the dash. Typically when there is a leak there is coolant pooling somewhere…but I didn’t find any.

Driver side of the heater core (see the white plastic bit there?). No sign of coolant leaks here either.

Driver side of the heater core (see the white plastic bit there?). No sign of coolant leaks here either.

Also – although the coolant had dropped in the previous 6 months, it hadn’t done so recently (as evidenced by me overfilling the coolant, which of course then, it didn’t go down after).

Umm yeah so there's too much coolant in there. And it hasn't dropped. So I guess its ok?

Umm yeah so there’s too much coolant in there. And it hasn’t dropped. So I guess its ok?

Now that it didn’t look like the heater core was the issue, the next thing to check was underneath the exhaust, as there could possibly be a leak along the exhaust somewhere – usually indicated by a black sooty pattern from somewhere along the exhaust. Inspecting this from exhaust down, I didn’t see anything until….

OK – I don’t have a picture to show this but essentially a large black plastic garbage bag had fused itself to the muffler on my car. And everytime I drove it, it would heat up, melting the plastic again, and when I stopped the fumes would seep into the car. So I spent about an hour underneath the car with a knife scraping that off. Still – I was glad it wasn’t the heater core.

Ok check that one off the list!

Cost = $0 (but many valuable brain cells)

2. Occasional Engine Misfiring

Ok so when this problem originally occurred, it had happened right after I had my timing belt changed, and this problem has been kind of creeping up every once in a while since. First I replaced the fuel pump (which was alright), then I replaced the spark plugs, then I replaced the ignition coils, which seemed to sort it out for awhile. Until it flashed up again (see the previous posts about the check engine light coming on). Then I replaced the downstream O2 connection, then I added an extension to the downstream O2 connection, and that seemed to solve it for awhile.

Then – it would occasionally misfire, the check engine light would come back on, and then a few hours later it would go away. WHAT THE DEUCE???

First thing I did was check the fuses, which looked ok.

This..is them fuseboxes...

This..is them fuseboxes…

...check zee fuses...

…check zee fuses…

...zee fuses look OK

…zee fuses look OK

Next thing was to check to make sure that the cylinders weren’t losing pressure somewhere a.k.a. perform a compression test (typically either a head gasket or worn piston rings = $$$).

Step 1: Remove the spark plugs.

So there are a bunch of bits around the spark plugs. These need to be removed. Careful with the ignition coils.

Yep..its my engine!

Yep..its my engine!

Need to remove the bits and bobs around the spark plugs. In the case of the Miata, need to unplug the ignition coils from the assembly.

Need to remove the bits and bobs around the spark plugs. In the case of the Miata, need to unplug the ignition coils from the assembly.

..which involves removing some bolts.

..which involves removing some bolts.

Ok now that that junk is gone. Need to remove the spark plugs...

Ok now that that junk is gone. Need to remove the spark plugs…

The spark plug socket has a rubbery bit at the end that help holds it in place so you can pull the spark plug out. Problem is that sometimes it grips on too tightly, and you lose your socket down there. Trick here is to only press down part way so it won't do that.

The spark plug socket has a rubbery bit at the end that help holds it in place so you can pull the spark plug out. Problem is that sometimes it grips on too tightly, and you lose your socket down there. Trick here is to only press down part way so it won’t do that.

Cam using showing me his high tech method for keeping track of which spark plug goes where. Important to put them back as they came.

Cam using showing me his high tech method for keeping track of which spark plug goes where. Important to put them back as they came.

...high degree of sophistication here.

…high degree of sophistication here.

Me using a power tool to help remove the spark plugs. Some may say that this is not the right way of doing it, but Cam brought up a good point in that the instant torque helps break the spark plug's grip on the threads vs. doing it by hand which could induce different forces on the spark plug, potentially damaging it.

Me using a power tool to help remove the spark plugs. Some may say that this is not the right way of doing it, but Cam brought up a good point in that the instant torque helps break the spark plug’s grip on the threads vs. doing it by hand which could induce different forces on the spark plug, potentially damaging it.

What the hell is this thing?

What the hell is this thing?

Step 2: Build up pressure in the engine.

For this, you will need a compression tester (essentially a pressure gauge with the same fitting as the spark plugs on the other end). Put this onto the first cylinder.

Affixing a pressure gauge.

Affixing a pressure gauge.

In order to build up pressure, you will need to turn the engine such that the pistons move up and down to build up pressure. In order to do this, you will have to crank the engine to turn it over a few times.

The idea here is not necessarily the absolute number, but to check the pressures between all cylinders and make sure they are close. If they are not, then you may have a cylinder not doing its job. Which could be pricey.

Cylinder #1 shows ~150 psig.

Cylinder #1 shows ~150 psig.

Cylinder #2 is close to 150 psig, but a bit short. Not too bad though considering this engine has 230,000 kms on it!

Cylinder #2 is close to 150 psig, but a bit short. Not too bad though considering this engine has 230,000 kms on it!

Cylinder #3 is also about 150 psig. So far so good!

Cylinder #3 is also about 150 psig. So far so good!

Cylinder 4 - looks good too! Hooray!

Cylinder 4 – looks good too! Hooray!

Ok with that out of the way, we then checked the spark plugs before putting them back in.

See how the element on the spark plug isn't quite flat? Yeah thats no good.

See how the element on the spark plug isn’t quite flat? Yeah thats no good.

Hmm..so that might be the problem.

Week after, I replaced the plugs and the engine hasn’t misfired since. Hooray!

Cost = $20.


#3. I can’t fit inside the car.

See previous post on removing foam out of the car. I fit now!

#4. Driver Side Window doesn’t go down all the way.

This one was pretty easy too; just required removing the door panel and removing some of the crud around the windows and re-greasing them.

#5. Paint needs some help.

This one was slightly lower priority, so stay tuned. Will need to iron this one out before the car goes forever.

I have a big trip planned with this car in April, so its important to get these things ironed out. Want to make sure I don’t get stranded somewhere! Stay tuned for more updates.

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