The Simple Oil Change (that gets complicated)

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This was the first time I decided to try an oil change… it didn’t seem to be a difficult job to take care of. You jack the car up, place an oil pan under the sump plug, release the oil, change the oil filter, replace the sump plug, lower the car and then refill the engine with the appropriate oil. Easy.

After the car was raised, and the pan placed, I found that the sump plug was quite stiff and would require some more torque to release. A quick spray of WD40 helped, but it still wasn’t coming off. Eventually, I managed to attach a pipe to the end of the spanner and that extra force was enough to release the oil

 

 

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Let all that oil drip out

Once I allowed the oil to completely drain, I made an attempt to remove the used oil filter. It was then that I had a rather annoying problem. The oil filter remover that I had purchased a year previously was too large for this car. I tried in vain for a good amount of time, even shoving a rag in there to fill up the extra space in the gap to no avail… this filter wasn’t coming off.

 

 

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The useless oil filter remover

Not knowing what to do next, I cleaned myself off and headed to the internet for help. Being directed to a random forum, a logical solution appeared. I would need to hammer a screwdriver into the old oil filter… essentially creating a handle that would then give me the ability to unscrew the old filter.

(Due to the amount of mess that was created through this process… I thought it would be best to quit taking photos of the operation at this point)

Puncturing the old oil filter released a healthy amount of used oil onto my clothes and, after getting the screwdriver in up to it’s handle, I was able to slowly unscrew the oil filter. After dousing the new filter with oil, it was screwed in place while using the oversized remover (with a rag) to get it as tight as possible. Once this was done, the car was lowered… and new oil was poured into the engine. I ran the car engine for a few minutes allowing the new oil to make its way to the sump. After the car was off and settled for a few minutes, I had a final check of the oil with the dipstick… all good. Job done… I promptly headed to the bathroom for a much-needed shower!

 

 

The Squeaky Engine Fix

About a month ago, we decided to go on the road and show our visiting Swiss cousin some of the nearby sites in Western Australia. On this one particular day, my “Little Red Engine That Could” was expected to travel 400km at speeds in excess of 100km/h. Usually, when travelling at similar speeds down the freeway, it’s not an issue. But once you get far enough north of the city, the roads become rough and cause some serious vibrations at said speeds.

After enjoying the scenery at our destination 200km away, we made our way back and that’s when Little Red started speaking to us. Squeaky, squeaky, squeaky as the motor turned. My passengers were a little concerned with the sound, but I knew exactly what the problem was… something I had known about for 2 years yet procrastinated on since I considered the job to be too fiddly. We managed to return to the city without a breakdown, but I knew the issue had to be taken care of immediately.

IMG_8333.JPGThat week, I pulled out my service manual and got to figuring out how to change the drive belt… the cause of the squeak. 2 years previous, the very last time I took my car to a qualified mechanic, replacing the drive belt was on a long list of items that needed attention. But not wanting to pay over $2000 in labour fees, I ordered many of the replacement parts online with the idea of doing it myself. Despite receiving the replacement drive belt, I never got around to changing it. The reason? Since everything in my car is quite compact, to access the engine I would need to remove the front bumper and one of the front headlights. It seemed all too hard at that moment, so I did nothing.

Now having to actually DO something, I got to it. After removing the front bumper, and the front headlight (which in the end wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as my brain had it out to be) I now had access to the drive belt. After loosening the tensioner, I was able to remove the drive belt.

 

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The worn drive belt

 

Despite reading in my manual to “Note how the drive belt is routed” and believing I knew it’s route, I ended up getting lost when attempting to attach the new belt. My lazy manual did not describe in any detail how this was to be done, so I was forced to find a solution on my iPad.

IMG_8334.JPGAfter a bit of fiddling, the new drive belt was now installed. I ran the engine to listen. The squeak was now gone. Now it’s time to take care of the other items I have procrastinated on! 😉

Suspension Saga continued (finally)

After patiently waiting for my brother’s arrival with the much-needed Torx bits… I continued where I left off. With the Torx bits, I managed to get the bottom of the hub carrier off… and it was at that point I hit another wall. I was supposed to remove the top mount but needed an angled spanner to get in and loosen the nut… something which I didn’t have at hand. I hit up another friend who I recently learned was also working on a car at home and needed to wait another day for the tool. My patience has become well practised at this point… another day was considered a cake walk.

Something that I hadn’t considered was the age of the parts in question and how difficult they would be to remove…. and I’m almost positive that in the 16 years of this car’s existence, it had never had the suspension struts changed. The metal connections were now like a happily married couple… it was going to take unmerciful and relentless force to separate them. And that force was to come from a rubber mallet with assistance from some WD40 to help loosen it. I made countless hits in an effort to remove the strut… it seemed to take hours! And right when I was about to submit, the first strut finally came loose. Angels were singing in a delightful harmony (in my mind) as I held the assembly high over my head like the trophy it now was. By the time this happened, the sun was going down and I would need to continue on the next day. At least I was able to rest with a minor victory in mind.

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The Trophy Strut

Once the day started up, I got back into preparing the strut. The first thing that needed to get done was transferring the support bracket from the old strut to the new. The support bracket is a piece of plastic that’s task is to hold the brake line in place… kind of important. I found a Torx bit that had a hollowed out centre to place over the pin holding the bracket in place, and with a couple of hits with a hammer it popped out and was then placed onto the new strut.

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In preparation for changing the struts, I ordered a spring compression tool off eBay well in advance. The tool is necessary to relieve the tension of the springs so you are able to remove the strut. Once that was done, the old strut was swapped with the new one and then I worked in reverse to put it all back together.

 

 

If I thought it was rough getting the strut out in the first place, getting it back into the hub carrier was just as harrowing of an experience…. requiring countless mallet hits and curse words.

 

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The strut finally as it should be

With the strut now in place…. I realised I was only halfway done. Being able to learn from the difficulties of the first strut, the second strut was replaced with a little more ease… but not much more. The service manual advised having an axle stand holding the driveshaft so it wouldn’t accidentally get overextended causing more damage… and this is something that I was sure to have in place. But while working on strut number 2, something I didn’t expect happened. The driveshaft came right off exposing what looked like the transmission.

 

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My immediate reaction

 

In a quick response to this, I managed to pop the driveshaft back into place and everything seems to be fine. The main problem with this was that the CV boot was now loose and would need to be retightened…. with a tool I don’t have in my possession. It’s something that I will have to deal with down the track, but it is fine for now since it’s not leaking any grease.

 

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Loose CV Boot

The whole process of DIY for me can be frustrating, but always enlightening as I’m not only learning how to get these things done, but also the processes that will help me improve in the future. And I definitely need to get a Torque wrench if I’m to do any future work on the car… it’s already been ordered.

 

 

Suspension Struts Change… TBC

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Today I had my second attempt at changing the front suspension shock absorbers and it’s something that has been well overdue. The first attempt was aborted since I needed to drive my son to an unexpected play date. But I made sure that today there would be no need to drive anywhere and get an early start so there would be more time available if needed.

Got the front of the car jacked up and placed on jack stands. Removed both the front tyres. Disconnected the anti-roll bar link from the strut and carefully released the brake hose. Removed the brake caliper mounting bracket and placed it on a stool.

And then I got stuck. I wasn’t able to take the next step since I didn’t have the tools available. It’s a problem I couldn’t see coming since my service manual only describes what I need to do and doesn’t tell me what tools are needed to do it.

After a phone conversation with my brother, I put the car back together. He’ll have some torx attachments for me later in the week… hopefully then I will be able to finish this job off.

TO BE CONTINUED….

DIY Car Boot Fix

At some point last year, I started having a problem with my car boot…. It would occasionally fall on my head. My car is a 2001 Ford Ka… so it’s inevitable that there’d be bits and pieces that need to be replaced every once in a while. And now it was time for the gas struts holding the boot up to get replaced.

Buying a pair of gas struts retail for around $99AUD… but I don’t do retail. I managed to find the struts I wanted from eBay for $25.86AUD and would take about 3 weeks to deliver from the UK. I’m not usually in a hurry when making these kinds of purchases, so the order was put through and patience employed…. it took about 6 weeks to arrive in the end.

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Installation was quite simple. Brace the boot… I ended up using the interior shelving and a chopping board to keep it up. Using a flathead screwdriver, you prise out the clips holding the strut in place. I found that once the clips were removed, the strut could be pulled off quite easily. Refitting the new strut was just as simple… press it on and done.

Now… a helmet is no longer require to get the shopping bags out.