Monday, March 30, 2015

Grungy Grills Galore

Several years ago, I inherited a Weber Q barbecue from my friend Ryan, which has served me well ever since.  He recently moved, and needed to get rid of another grill, which is nicer than the Q, so that meant an upgrade for me.  The Q works fine, but I've never been thrilled with the way it cooks, so I was happy to get something else.  However, it was in need of a little work, as was the incoming grill, so I spent pretty much a full day refurbishing both of them.  I ended up selling the Q and using pretty much all the proceeds to buy parts for the new grill.
I'm not sure I ever cleaned out the drippings from the Q.
When I was done, the Q looked shockingly good.  I even cleared out every hole in the burners to ensure an even flame for the future owner.
 This was a shockingly big project.

The new grill is a Weber Spirit 700 in serious need of some TLC.
The frame had some rust that needed to be addressed, but the main grill box was still sound.
The grill grates and the flavorizer bars were toast.
Even the stainless cabinet wasn't looking so hot.
I scraped all the rust off the frame, sanded it, then painted it with a couple coats of high temperature BBQ paint. 

I ordered a bunch of new parts, including an igniter, burners, flavorizer bars, main grill grates, warming grate, and a cover.  I bought high quality stainless steel items when possible. had everything I needed, at prices well below what Weber was charging.  I made a spiffy spreadsheet to help me decide which parts to buy.
New igniter and flavorizers.  I'm holding off on installing the new burners.
New grates.
After scrubbing pretty much every part with my bare hands, I reassembled everything.  I'm very pleased with the result.
Although it's a bit wrinkly, the aftermarket cover fits well.  I went with beige instead of black because I thought it would match the house better and also reflect the sun.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Meticulous Miata Maintenance

I didn't get too much information about the Miata's maintenance when I bought it, so I figured it was time to get everything squared away.  On the to-do list: engine, transmission and differential oil change and a coolant flush.  It was a pretty impressive pile of materials.  I even had to buy a few new tools to get the job done.  They included a gear oil pump, 23 and 24 mm sockets and a 19 mm wrench (my biggest metric was 18 mm).
When I was ready to start draining oil, I remembered I threw away my old oil pan because it got really nasty, so I had to bike over to Pep Boys to get a new one.

When I removed the differential plugs, I mangled the crush washers, so I decided to get new ones for everything.  The transmission, engine and two differential washers are all the same.
Not Audi parts.
 In the transmission I ended up using Red Line MTL (not pictured in lead photo) because it comes highly recommended.  After a couple brief drives, I have to admit it has improved shift quality.  There used to be some occasional grinding, particularly going into third, but it is almost totally gone now.  I'm convinced.

This demonstrates why a coolant flush was probably due.  I replaced the thermostat and gasket while I was at it.

Everything went pretty smoothly, but it was quite a bit of work.  These weren't the most glamorous projects, but I won't have to do them again for quite a while.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Avocado Adjustment

Our avocado tree came with a little stake to support it, but it wasn't quite up to the task.  Some time ago, so we got a larger stake to replace it.  The tree was floppier than I thought, so the single new stake wasn't cutting it.  We stuck the old little stake in to help, but it was time to do something better.
We acquired (completely legally) a slightly used, very long stake, and after some time with the dead blow hammer, we were able to support the tree higher up and really stabilize it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Slimming Sill Slabs

The Miata came with spiffy polished sill plates.  I have considered removing them in the past to save weight, but they appeared to be holding the carpet down, which I appreciated.  I recently realized I could slim them down to at least save a little weight.  After pulling them off, my decision to keep them was confirmed when I saw how unattractive the bare sills look.
I decided where I wanted to cut and then trimmed them.  I had to keep the Miata script.

I cleaned up the cuts with a file and hit the back with some of the rubberized undercoating to try to prevent them from rattling.  They previously had some double stick tape in addition to the screws.

After a lengthy drying period, I reinstalled everything.
Weight Savings:  8 oz.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rowdy Rattle Reduction

Don't confuse this post with my previous prattle about a rattle; they are separate but equal.
The interior of the Miata is not a very quiet place.  The unmuffled exhaust is one thing, but sometimes with the roof on, it resonates just right, creating an obnoxious rattling.  I was pretty sure the source was the metal panels that separate the passenger compartment from the fuel tank.  Normally, they have carpet covering them, which would damp out most noise, but our car doesn't have any of that.  It was sacrificed to the Roll Bar and Light-Weighting Gods.
I had to figure out a way to add some damping in another way.  I started by removing the panels.
My giant shoe is included for scale.
When I removed the big panel, I realized it wasn't really needed, which I had heard before.  There is another layer of metal between the gas tank and the passenger compartment, so I decided to leave it off.

Weight Savings:  4 lbs, 7 oz.

To perform the damping, I used rubberized undercoating.  It sprayed on pretty nicely.  We'll see how it works.  I will reserve judgement for when I've driven the car a few times.

I also put a coat on the mating surfaces in the car.

After coating, there was still some play in the panel that seemed like it could make noise, so I put a few layers of duct tape down to keep everything more secure.

The gold screws did not go with the new black motif, so I stuck them in some cardboard and spray painted them.
 I tightened down all the newly painted screws on the two panels I was keeping and was done.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Incredible Irrigation

We have some irrigation installed in the back yard, but it needed an upgrade.  There were five automatic valves installed, with four of them hooked up.  Of those four, only two were functioning.  Those two controlled the crucial lawn sprinklers.
We have wanted to install a drip irrigation system for all of the plants around the perimeter of the lawn, but we kept procrastinating.  My parents came into town this past weekend, and it proved to be a great opportunity to get some free labor and advice.
Part of the procrastination was knowing what supplies to get.  I took a trip to Home Depot with my dad and got everything we needed.  It was actually less complicated than I thought it would be.  Instead of getting emitters with fixed flow rates, I made sure everything was adjustable.  Here's everything we got, including four new valves.
We got more than we needed.  Some stuff was returned.
The old valves were glued to the pipes, which is the standard approach, but that makes it very difficult to repair them if there are any problems, so we installed some easily disconnected couplers.

We then installed the new "professional" valves.
We were able to utilize existing pipes for the main portion of the system, but we needed a way to get water from those pipes to the plants.  Luckily, Home Depot had exactly what we needed--six and four outlet manifolds.  The six outlet units allow each line to be adjusted, while the four outlet manifolds required an emitter at the end of each line.  We ended up using three of the six outlet manifolds and six of the four outlet units.  We adjusted each line and were ready to go.
Six Outlets
If we didn't need every line, we just plugged it.
Four Outlets
 Finally, we had to do something to protect the precious valves, so we built what Chrissy calls a "fairy house" out of matching fence boards and shingles from our old roof.  It came out really nice, and just might look even more like a tiny house in the future.

This picture gives a better sense of scale.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ragged Rack

On the way to work, I crossed some railroad tracks then heard a thud and dragging noises behind me.  I thought I popped a tire or something, but when I stopped and looked behind me, I saw my rack had broken the upper zip-tie mount that had held for years and rotated around the lower mounts.
I was far enough from home I didn't want to go back, so it was time to get creative.  I looked around and saw a piece of electrical cord in the gutter, which I then used to tie the rack in place.  It's probably stronger now than ever, and I just might keep it this way.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Glorious Glove Box

As you may recall, after the passenger airbag removal, the Miata was left with a big hole in the dash, which was begging to be turned into a glove box.  This would be very handy, since I removed the original one.
I started by trying to figure out how I wanted this to work.  It isn't as simple as one might think.  When I had a basic idea, I went and got a couple hinges.  I played around with and bent one hinge to shape, but discovered a better solution, so scrapped that one and started with a new one.  When it was properly bent into shape, I went about mounting it.  There wasn't enough room to use a drill, so I spun a drill bit with my fingers and managed to make holes in the plastic of the dash.

My stubby screwdriver wasn't quite stubby enough.

With the hinge screwed to the dash, I slipped the other end into my custom bracket.  The metal piece is actually part of the original airbag assembly, as are the sweet acorn nuts.  I went with this mounting strategy because it was simple and adjustable, giving me some leeway if I didn't get things lined up perfectly at first.

This actually is a glove box.

Here's what it looks like when it's closed.  Pretty good, if I do say so myself.
 The back does stick up a little in order to let the hinge function, but it is not obtrusive.

Should have painted the hinge black before installing.  Now it's going to bother me forever, because there's no way I'm pulling that thing out again.