Sunday, January 28, 2018

Victor Victrola - IV - with a bent gear tooth

The Victrola that I picked up last year at Kutztown has some damage.  You can see in the video wher the casting was once broken and welded back together.  This was presumably from someone bashing the spindle to try to get the platter off.  The spindle is bent slightly and there's a clicking in the governor.  The bent spindle only makes the platter wobble, and doesn't affect music playback.  The clicking is apparently from a smashed tooth on the gear that runs the governor.  I de-greased and re-greased the entire mechanism, but the tooth is still causing a problem.  Carefully removing the spindle again and filing down the offending tooth seems to have fixed the problem.

The old grease from the 1910's was petrified and had to be chiseled off.  Soaking everything in PCS-1000 parts cleaner helped tremendously.  When I re-assembled it for the final time I used Tribol Molybdenum grease.  This stuff is amazing!  Even if it wipes off or goes dry the Molybdenum gets into the crystalline structure of the metals and continues to provide lubrication.

For your enjoyment a little Harry James and his Orchestra!

What it really needs is a genuine Victor Exhibition reproducer.  The Tip Top that came with it is deteriorating so badly that I dare not remove the screws to replace the seals.  The potmetal is cracked and falling apart.  The search is on.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sunbeam S7 Deluxe - Crankcase Breather

I recently met up with a nearby Sunbeam owner from Lancaster County (across the river).  We compared our machines and discussed improvements and modifications.

One thing that my friend noticed was the crankcase breather on my Deluxe.  I wanted to avoid fouling plugs, and a disturbed mixture, so instead of routing the breather back into the air cleaner, I used a road tube.  Since there isn't much opportunity for a "draft tube" like on a car, another method was in order.  The standard breather "check" valves stopped working of course.

I obtained a brake booster check valve from Dorman products and mounted it alongside the frame rail, just above the side engine damper.  Since the valve's inlet port diameter was quite large, it needed to be reduced.  So I put another hose inside that one.  The outlet tube then goes along the frame rail behind the silencer.

The larger port is the inlet, the smaller one on the side is the outlet.
Part #: 80189

The brake booster check valve insures that crankcase is well vented.  The front of the engine stays clean, and the vapors are deposited well behind the rear wheel.

Monday, January 16, 2017

FIAT - 500 Pop - Gentex Auto Dim and Homelink Mirror

I very much like the Gentex automatic dimming rear view mirror that comes standard on my Subaru.  Why not upgrade my FIAT 500 Pop with the same technology.  The Gentex website supplies very little support for do-it-yourself modification.  No pinout or specifics on how to use their products is on their website.  I obtained a Gentex 313 out of a Nissan on eBay for a very reasonable price.  Considering these go for >$200 in some cases, I did rather well.  The challenge was finding the correct pinout.  After skimming some forums and matching up (within reason) what I had purchased, I was able to determine the correct pinout.  The device I had used 5 wires.  Since the FIAT 500 already has outdoor air temperature, I left those wires disconnected.  The result was the temperature reading OC (for open circuit).  If I find a sensor someday, I'll set it up for indoor temperature and just chuck the sensor in the car somewhere.

I take no responsibility for what you do here.  Don't burn your car to the ground, do something stupid, or otherwise try to blame me for what you try to modify.  I'm an electrical engineer, and I know what I'm doing.

This is the resulting wiring diagram.
(Gentex 313)

I chose the dome light power source in the FIAT for the power supply for the Homelink wire and ground for the system.  This perhaps wasn't the best choice, but it was convenient.  I found that the dome light times out if you leave the door open for too long a time.  Its no big deal, since closing the door re-activates the power for the dome light.  I tapped into this power supply by soldering wires onto the dome light traces.  The galvanized substrate solders easily and did not deform the plastic structure of the dome light assembly.

I chose the cigar lighter as the power supply for the compass and auto-dim functions.  It draws 500mA and doesn't need to operate until the key is turned on.  This meant fishing a wire from the dome light area down to the cigar lighter power supply.  I had already tapped into the cigar lighter for my ham radio transceiver, so tapping into it again wasn't bad.  I had to gently follow the existing harnesses down the A-pillar carefully avoiding entanglement with the air bag deployment system.  The wire was then run alongside the main harness on the firewall and down the center console into the cigar lighter wiring.

The resulting modification is great.  I now have Homelink control over my garage door openers, the very cool auto-dimming mirror, and a compass (if I want to turn it on).  The other aspect is that the standard glass mirror mount works without modification.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

FIAT - Eco Drive

As you know I like to drive small, that's what I like about the Imp.  "Economy" and "fun" are the name of the game.  Since I can't drive an Imp everyday, I had to have something similarly fun to drive.  Probably the most stylish and economical small modern car is the retro FIAT 500.  I'm on my second one after the first one died in a horrible crash over a year ago.

I'm one of those guys who always said "automatics are for wimps".  I haven't owned an automatic gearbox car or truck newer than model year 1983.  However, city traffic is frankly no fun with a clutch.  This was a big factor in why I chose the automatic AISIN 6-speed overdrive gearbox with auto-stick.

This presented me with an interesting opportunity, since my second FIAT is a 6-speed auto-stick, while the first one was a 5-speed manual.  The commonality is me.  Would one car be more economical to drive than the other?  The question here is that would I treat the cars the same despite the gearbox change?  Would the 5-speed manual make a more aggressive driver out of me, and would the 6-speed automatic make me lazy and drive like grandma?

I wouldn't have believed it, but the automatic is actually more fun to drive aggressively.  The sequential shift pattern shifts instantaneously when placed in manual override and even provides a little lunge to make you feel like you've accelerated  (Remember its only 101hp).  While pulling out aggressively, the torque converted won't lay-a-patch like the manual clutch would, it still gives a good visceral ride.  I'll just preface this study with the statement that I do drive economically around town and on the highway.  My commute is a fair amount of stop-and-go traffic where the manual transmission was less than pleasant in the city.  I stick to the speed limits and watch for wildlife on my daily back road trek to the office and home.  The Pop version of the FIAT 500 is base model and the least sporty of the FIAT lineup in the USA.  That all being said, I'm usually the first off the line at a multi-lane traffic light even though everyone passes me after the first few car lengths.  I don't think my driving style has changed significantly with manual vs automatic.  I get home at the same time everyday and I get to work at the same time.  I even use the manual override on the automatic about 50% of the time.

FIAT provides a data collection tool called Eco Drive. This tool collects data from your car though a USB flash drive.  The driver can then occasionally upload the data to the server where it is trended, and also compared with the rest of the FIAT driving community.  As a driver striving for economical operation, you can see where you need to improve your skills in the way of shifting, acceleration, deceleration, and general speed.  A trend of your driving habits is created and compared against the whole community average with a dimensionless value called the "Eco Index".

Here is a graph of the Eco Index of the 5-speed manual gearbox 2012 FIAT 500 Pop before its death.
Description: 1st, 2nd gear: Double Cone 3rd, 4th, 5th, gear: Single Cone
Gear Ratios
1st 3.909
2nd 2.174
3rd 1.345
4th 0.974
5th 0.766
Reverse 3.818
Final-drive Ratio: 3.44
Overall Top Gear: 2.63

Here is a graph of the Eco Index  for the Automatic gearbox 2015 FIAT 500 Pop from purchase to present day.
Description: Auto Stick driver-interactive manual control and electronically modulated torque converter clutch
Gear Ratios:
1st 4.044
2nd 2.371
3rd 1.556
4th 1.159
5th 0.852
6th 0.672
Reverse 3.193
Final Drive Ratio: 4.103
Overall Top Gear: 2.76

Remember, this is the same model car, same fuel, same engine, same driver.  Only the gearbox is different, and the driving experience is different.  Why is the automatic consistently and significantly above average in the community?  I can't say that I drive any less aggressively, and I can't say that I have any less fun with the automatic.  The higher gear in the automatic, plus the fact that it shifts at the RIGHT time if left in the automatic mode seems to make all the difference.

Oh, and notice that when that fuel has gotten less expensive as of late, that the community has gotten less efficient, but I have increased ever so slightly!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tech Tip - Wire Rims going Tubeless

Flats aren't all that common in today's driving experience. Neither are inner tubes. I believe there to be a direct correlation.

The Daytona wire wheels on my Sunbeam Alpine left me with two flats during our journey to and from the United this past year. Combine the general inconvenience of a flat with the grim prospect of finding a replacement tube (plus a shop that is willing to even consider working on a wire wheels), and you have a formula for disaster.  Because tubeless tires have a patterned rough surface rather than a smooth surface, I was finding that the inner tubes were subject to abrasions from the insides of the tires themselves.  The failure points were always on the outside diameter of the tube.

If only there was a way to go tubeless! In consulting some other British car club forums, I discovered that there was success in sealing the rims. Armed with the confidence that this technique worked for Barney Gaylord, I set out to apply the concept to my Sunbeam Alpine's wire wheels.

I decided to make the attempt using what others had found success with.  This involved careful cleaning and a coating with some sealant.  3M makes a product for Marine applications called 5200.  It takes a week to cure and is naturally water and air tight with good flexibility.

Since these rims are chromed it was easy to remove the rim strap tape and remove any residue with parts cleaner.  The final wipe-down was done with brake cleaner.  The Marine sealant applies with a normal caulking gun.  The trick is to get it on evenly without waste or bumps.  I made a special spatula tool from a piece of plastic, notched to produce a uniform application depth.

Left for a day or so to cure, I then applied a layer of 1 inch wide 3M "helicopter" polyurethane protective tape.  This flattened the layer of sealant and also protected its surface against the pressure of the tire bead.  The layer doesn't have to be thick, just enough to keep it all in place and fill the spoke nut holes.  Then it was left to sit for the rest of the week in a warm environment.  The squeezed-out excess was easily trimmed away with a razor knife once everything had cured.

To keep the outer edge of the rim with its newly sealed surface and tape protected, I decided to install the tires from the rear side.  This was accomplished easily with my No-Mar Tire Changer.  Getting the beads to hold air initially was another matter.  I had to put the tire on an elevated platform supported by the outermost diameter of the tire and stand on the center of the wheel.  Since I'm a bit of a lightweight, I also took advantage of pushing myself down on the tire by trying to lift the house by the garage ceiling rafters.  ;-)  The tire lube I use is so slippery the beads wanted to pop out on one side and go in on the other.  After a few expletives and further physical exertion the tire beads were up against their sealing surfaces of the rim and could hold air.

Two days later they're still holding air.  So I'd call this experiment a success.  Considering that Barney said he autocrosses with his sealed in this manner I probably don't have anything to worry about.  Look out Georgia, here we come!

I'll carry a few inner tubes just in case... someone else needs one.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sunbeam S7 - Wheel Bearing Grease Seals

The Sunbeam S7 Deluxe originally used Angus 182 leather grease seals on the wheel bearings.  While surprisingly long-lived (12,000 some odd miles and 66 years of service) everything is prone to  eventual failure.  This weekend while taking a leisurely trip to visit J&B Moto Company, the rear grease seal lost structural integrity.  Grease was all over the rear wheel and caked into the mud guard.

A quick look for a replacement yielded a modern equivalent.  A Precision 476838 Seal was a perfect fit.  It is a double lip seal and should yield adequate protection.  I doubt they will last over 60 years though.

The old seal is easily pushed out with two sockets of appropriate size.  The new seal is pushed just as easily with one socket.  If the seal becomes cocked in the hole it is very difficult to push.  I chose to use my drill press as a light-duty press for this job since it is easy to line up for a perfectly even press job.  (drill motor off of course)

Remember the castle nut of the seal assembly is LEFT-handed, just like the axle.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Honda CX500 - "fantastinen" Finnbox FBG47 CDI ignition

Problem Statement:

Honda doesn't produce the CDI ignition module for the early CX500 motorcycles.  The capacitors and semiconductors are now over 30 years old and probably not performing as they did when they were new.

These are the symptoms my CX500 was beginning to experience:
  • Hard Starting
  • Misfire while on choke
  • "Flat" spots in the rev range
  • Hesitation from idle
  • Misfire while accelerating hard
  • Total loss of power in the rain
As a benchmark, the bike was getting around 48mpg with backroad and commuting to work type of driving.

Naturally the carburetors were eliminated as a culprit.  They have been cleaned, rebuilt, balanced, and tweaked repeatedly.  The spark coils were replaced with new modern ones from an ATV.  The spark plugs were changed to a resistor type plug and the resistors were eliminated from the caps.  These upgrades only provided marginal improvement.  The bike no longer ran on one cylinder at start, but still had all the other problems.

I also checked the stator and source coil winding to make sure they were healthy.  
I had the whole engine out over the winter, so checking the resistance readings was easy.  The insulation was good, so I had no doubts that the G47 stator was in good health.

I started reading about the ignition module and found this post on the CX/GL500 forum.  This seemed like the appropriate solution.

(There was also a Ignitech option, which was computer programmable, and cost several hundred dollars.  This wasn't something that I was interested in.)

The Solution:

I contacted "Andy62" from the forum and he replied swiftly confirming that he could happily make a Finnbox FBG47 for me.  Like any good engineer he had decided to make what he could not purchase.  The result is a re-engineered version of the CDI ignition module similar to the original, but unique with modern components.  A few short weeks later it showed up in the mail from Finland.  The exchange of emails between Aki and myself was pleasant and I'm very grateful for his dedication and stewardship to support the Honda CX500.

... and was promptly installed
It is a well engineered product, for something that wasn't supposed to be a commercial venture.  As enthusiasts we are indebted to people like this that use their talents to support old equipment.  The board is professionally created, and the components are thoughtfully arranged and packaged.  The whole module is enclosed in a tough water-tight enclosure, with the leads coming out sealed nicely.

Hook up was easy, and he even supplied a set of mating barrel connectors for the flying leads.
From top to bottom:
White = Right Coil
Yellow = Left Coil
Blue = Kill Switch

The source wire pairs were White and White / Blue.
If you put a thin screwdriver down alongside the original twin connector you can push the original spades out and re-use the housing with the new connectors.

The ground was obvious, and went under the original hold-down screw on the left side of the bike. 
(The mounting screw on the right side of the bike was eliminated so that the new Finnbox would sit properly.)

The stator connector was also obvious, and fit directly into the original place, and secured with hook-loop "Velcro" to the inner fender.

The whole Finnbox enclosure was secured to the bike frame with "Velcro" and also zip-tied securely in place.  (Belt and Suspenders) Wires were just the right length to be routed to the original locations, and tied securely in place.

(Ignore that little cube relay, that's for my tail-lamp flasher module.)


The bike fired up easily after the final termination.  I couldn't wait to test it so I went out right away.

The initial results were very noticeable.  The bike ran evenly on both cylinders while warming up.  There was no misfire present at all.  The requirement for choke was perhaps even shortened as I rode off up the road.  The acceleration at around 4500 rpm went straight through past 5000 rpm with no flat spot or hesitation.  These are all very good results and brought a wide grin to my face.
  • Improved - Less misfires when cold
  • Solved - No flat spot on acceleration from idle
  • Solved - No flat spot or misfire at mid-range engine speed.
  • Solved - Pulls like a mule when accelerating hard.... (now I notice the clutch slips a little)
  • I haven't been in the rain yet, but I'm fairly sure that was due to weak spark, and should be fine now.
The 300 mile trip I took over this past weekend yielded a respectable 60 miles to the gallon with mostly highway riding.  I don't think I ever could do better than 55 mpg before, and I was keeping up with traffic and the rest of the motorcycle group who all had >900cc bikes.

Long term results of fuel economy are improved, but negligible.  The around-town fuel economy remains about the same in the mid 50's mpg.

Overall a successful and simple upgrade for the average rider, with all the really hard work done by friend and benefactor in Finland Mr. Aki "Andy62" Lötjönen.