Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Reasonable Silence

Installed a new exhaust system today. The old one, while it sounded nice, really had a ton of leaks due to a clapped out muffler and poor gaskets where the catalytic converter had been removed. At Golden West 2005, I'd lost a few parts, like the interemediate pipe, and had the system welded at a shop on the cheap to get me home. That short term repair lasted a year. I've had the replacement parts from the cat back for a while now and today finally got around to installing them.

The old sound can be downloaded as an .mp3 file here (300k file size) Part of me will miss that growl, but another part will appreciate the quiet and lack of exhaust smell with the windows down. Should be nicer for the long road trip coming up in a couple of weeks.

Planned on replacing the rear brake pads, but they still have half their life left. Those things never wear. The fronts should be good enough for the trip.

Other work: planned installation of a remote speaker for the ham radio, finally got a hook for the ham microphone and fixed some of the velcro bits on the dash that will make temporary mounting of things like speakers and rally computer easier.

Eric is coming over this evening so we can figure out what we'll do for a roof rack. We'll need to carry some spare fuel for ourselves and motorcycles, and most likely I'll throw one of the two full size spares up there as well.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Head Games

On the way back from Golden West, my traveling companions noted that the Saab was producing oily smoke on hard engine braking, such as when exiting the freeway. The initial diagnosis was possible leaky valve seals. During the trip home, the car turned over 240K miles on the odometer; I have no idea whether the head is original or not.

On the advice from folks at the SaabCentral forum, I decided to try a treatment of SeaFoam to clean deposits from the valves. I went with the technique described in detail at the Turbobricks forum with the help of a neighbor and the amount of smoke produced was astonishing. At one point I was waiting for an '80s metal band to come out of the expanding cloud and tear into an opening number -- it was that good. The neighbor across the street came out to ask if he needed to call 911. Smoke came from every crevice in the exhaust system, including the connections between the turbo and header. Truly spectacular. Anyway, for all that smoky drama, I didn't really see a difference, and can still get the car to smoke under high vacuum.

Another opinion is that the oil ring seals are worn. There's apparently no way to tell for sure without going into the block -- a project I don't want to begin this close to the Alcan start.

Two days ago I decided to check engine compression, and pulled all the plugs and used my new compression tester. The numbers were decent: 150, 140, 140 and 165. I put things back together, including the plate that covers the plugs where they're installed between the two camshafts. Planning on checking the engine timing next, I attempted to start the car and with a loud KABOOM and crash, had to quickly shut 'er down.

The cover plate was bent, and upon removal, I found the #2 plug the cause, being blown out of it's position in the head. Tried to reinstall but the threads in the cylinder head were stripped and the plug refused to be tightened. Oh crap!

Reported back to the SaabCentral forum; and one of the members suggested a Time-sert repair kit. Unfortunately I couldn't quickly locate a nearby supplier and went to the parts store chain whose name rhymes with Sucks instead. Got their no-name Heli-Coil knock off which was all they had available. Hans came over to cheerlead the attempt, and after demonstrating again how to launch a spark plug across the garage, I decided to go ahead with the repair kit. We modified the kit's tap in order to be able to fully thread it into the head, and then spent a lot more than ten minutes of effort tapping the hole and installing the insert, resulting in a broken insert that left the majority of threads in place.

So now the car is back to running normally, at least at idle. Now I need to drive the heck out of it over the next few days to see if the repair will hold. And start shopping for a replacement head to rebuild in the fall.

Oh -- checked the timing -- it's where it needs to be. Probably need to tweak the wastegate a little to get the boost increased a tad. Will do that when I spend a day to go over everything for a last minute pre-Alcan check.

It's very hot in Seattle. A real sweat-fest working in an uninsulated garage. At least it's in the shade. The only thing worse than the heat is all the people whining about it!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

More Golden West photos

Fellow rallyists Eric and Jeff from TeamD have also published a variety of photos from Golden West 2006. Congratulations to Jeff and Marvin for their overall win.
Mt. Shasta from Hwy 97
Eric's photos are here.

Jeff's are over thisaway.

Jeff's WRX

Back from Golden West

Saab 900 on the Golden West 2006 rally
My photos are here.

The Golden West SCCA National Rally was last weekend, July 8 and 9. Headquartered in Yreka, California, it's a straightforward touring rally with one control or checkpoint per section. This was the Saab's second visit to this event, this year with my friend Ryan. It was his first experience with an SCCA rally, and probably the last for both of us. I'm just not a fan of having to stop after every checkpoint. Both Ryan and I made simple mistakes that gave us many more points than we should have had, but we still managed to win in Limited class, where we used an Alfa checkpoint odo/clock to provide detailed mileage and time information.

The rallymaster did a great job incorporating fantastic roads throughout the Siskiyou, Klamath and Yreka areas. The finish location was superb as well, located at a high enough elevation to bring down the temperature from the blazing 100 degrees or so down in the valley. A local BBQ restaraunt catered lunch at the finish and once again provided much better than average rally food.

The Saab ran well overall, though we experienced cooling problems on the first day. See, the 1985 Saab 900 Turbo has a reputation for very poor wire quality, where the insulation rots where it's exposed to air and/or heat. In this case, bare wires near the right side cooling fan shorted a number of times, causing the fuse to fail, and providing for some tense moments while making extended climbs in second gear. With help from some fellow competitors, the probable location of the problem was located and repaired with electrical tape. A longer term fix will go on the list for Alcan prep. Up next, replacement of the exhaust system from the catalytic converter to the tailpipe, and rewire the engine harness.