Saturday, October 29, 2016

Thousand Dollar Car! Thousand Dollar Car! Thousand Dollar Car!

I am a fool.  I know this; I understand this; I admit this; I share this.

For I own not one but four German cars.  Three of the four-ringed variety and one of the one-ringed, tri-starred variant.  It is a given that, at best, three will be road-worthy at any given time.  There are days like yesterday when that number is reduced to one, and that one not the newest and shiniest of the collection.

Two weeks ago, I embarked on an airport run to Boston in old blue, my thousand dollar car, my precious A8.  I'd been of the "why am I keeping this?" persuasion and felt it was time to give her one last run.   Before I left I swapped on the spare set of snow-tires/wheels I have to test how much of her rumbling is alignment and how much is balance.  Driving down the road at 50 mph showed that alignment is bad; the wheels droned against each other even on fresh pavement.  But as I gathered up momentum to 80mph on the interstate headed south, I was amazed at the smoothness of the ride. Tires in balance, what a concept.  To be perfectly honest, I enjoyed the shit out of that drive to the airport and fell in love with old blue all over again.  Yes, I promised her, I'll spend $100 and get you properly aligned.  I'll get the hole in your exhaust pipe patched.  Together we'll make this journey many times through the winter and let the newer Merc just sit warm and cozy in the garage!  257,000 miles is merely your youth!

I returned from my travels and fetched her from the 6th floor of Boston Logan's parking garage.  Navigating the lefts and rights that hinder your attempts to flee the airport and head north, she started to stumble.  One moment perfect, the next as running on 7 cylinders.  Or as running out of gas.  Shit.  I'd been here before.  She's temperamental about gas - do not let her go low- and when she does, it takes at least 5 gallons down her throat to get her running properly again.  See previous tribulations on this site for more information.  I pulled into the first gas station and loaded her up to the top, simultaneously ruling out one possible cause and raising her retail value a solid 10% 

No dice.  Stumble, rumble. I searched my memory banks and recalled the times it had previously behaved this way.  An Ignition Control Module the first time; ignition coils on the plugs the second.  Screw it.  I kept her in low gears through Revere and Saugus, and held her in 4th for the 150 highway miles to home.  Seven cylinders of insanity.  Not wise, but the car is disposable.  Made it home, parked her at the bottom of the driveway and went to bed.  The problem would be reviewed in the morning.

I recently hopped into Mrs. Toadroller's recently rejuvenated S4 to take one of the elder Toadrollers to work.  As we headed out of the driveway, I thought I heard a scrape.  Three doors down, Mrs. Toadroller phoned to let us know the exhaust system was drooping low, low, low.  Ah, sweet chariot, back to the garage with you.  Sit next to the A8 where she rests with her hood open, engine shrouding and wires spread about the shop.

Yesterday I hopped into the Merc to head to the chiropractor.  I started her up and got a christmas tree of warnings on the dashboard, along with the fairly useless message "Electronic Stability Control system is inoperable.  Consult Owner's Manual."  What?  Shut her off, started her again, same.  Put her into gear and could barely get out of the driveway.  Turned her back into the other side of the driveway and let her sit.

I took the car the boy drives. 

I'm flabbergasted.  The Internet says this Merc issue happens and then goes away.  It doesn't for me.  Battery disconnect/reconnect, fuses; no matter- the ESC is damned well inoperable and no, you won't be able to drive this thing to the shop.  Fine.  You're confined to the corner.  It might be the accelerator, as it is German and wouldn't deign to have a gas pedal.  I'm sure it's fly-by-wire rather than a throttle cable.  Which means a few hundred bucks plus tow.  She is not the car of the decade.  She will not last a year.  There's a feller down in Harpswell with a new enough S5 with appreciable miles, but priced accordingly.  It's got that 4.2 liter V8 I love so much in the A8 and S4.  Are you listening, Mercedes? 

Meanwhile I have an A8 to fix and a droopy tail-piped S4. 

I jacked up the S4 and saw that the metal bracket hanger had rusted off where it was welded to the exhaust.  I jacked the exhaust back up into position and wound her around five times with steel cable.  That will last the ten miles to get her to a shop for a repair.

On to old blue.

It wasn't Ignition Control Modules.  They are cheap through Amazon, however, so I replaced the pair of them and kept the others in my spare parts box.  It wasn't the ignition coils.  That was an adventure in its own way, where the replacement coils were shorter than the originals.  I mean originals.  19 years, 257,000 miles.  They are forgiven and retired now, in the parts box, ready for the dump or for further experimental testing at some future date. 

Computers, codes, internet, thinking.  A martini.  I figured it had to be a fuel injector (also original) or the wiring to it.  Please let it be the injector, as tracing and re-setting that wiring is a fool's errand.  Yes, I am a fool, but I'm not insane.

It took an hour of careful disassembly of fuel lines, fuel rails, fuel injector connectors, vacuum hoses and clips to get a pair of the fuel injectors out.  It is amazing to think those were simply squeezed into place on an assembly line in Germany and haven't been touched since.  Wiggle, wiggle, tug tug and out they came.  Friction and o-rings and retaining clips.  It had been my intent to swap the offending cylinder's fuel injector with another cylinder's and see if the engine warning codes switched to that new cylinder.  I checked the resistance on all the wiring leads to the fuel injectors.  They were all the same.  Good.  Promising.  It then it occurred to me that a fuel injector is basically a solenoid that gets triggered to open a valve.  Why swap them when I can test hem manually?  I took the known good injector and a pair of alligator clips and tapped it to the battery.  Click, click, click.  I took the bad one.  Nada, nada, nada.

It is at times like these that fools break out into a shit eating grin.  Grinning thus, I placed my order for a replacement ($40, Amazon Prime, will be here on Tuesday even if I won't) and took a shower.

The score is two on, two out, and Mercedes is at the bat.  Will she strike out?

Sunday, October 23, 2016


I haven't read newspapers for about a decade.

I turned off the television news many years before that.

Earlier this year, I unplugged from Twitter, my main news feed, because it had become ridiculous.  I knew more about what was going on than most, but the alarming descent from argument with a hint of debate to simply positional propaganda, regardless of topic, was too steep and too much.

A few months ago, I added the FoxNews feed to a web home page, just to at least know what some of the current headlines were with, perhaps, the least liberal of propaganda perspectives. 

Alas, no.  Here's today's list of important news items:

So, let's review.
  • "We're not giving up!"  How's that for positioning?  I dislike Trump immensely, and hate Mrs. Clinton even more.  But that's quite the spin on a headline about a "path to victory."
  • Indecent Proposal.  See previous.
  • Historic Rape Ruling.  Is this in the top three of important happenings in the wolrd?  Why do we have to promote rape?
  • Bob Dylan Slammed.  I personally find this humorous.  If I were shunned like the Nobelers, I'd like to think that I would act Nobler.  Why should he be slammed?  He didn't ask for this and probably doesn't want it.  If I refuse to go to your party, don't talk bad about me on Facebook.
  • This Bribe's for you.  More titillation in the top ten.
  • Police fear missing teen.  Sad.  But again, why is this top ten news?
  • Photos: Loose emu.  This I gotta see.
  • Rolling Stone writer recalls the moment.  Wait.  Isn't this rewriting history?  Did not the author blatantly fabricate this story to an end?  Was not the author caught in this fabrication?  Didn't the world shrug a big "who cares?" because even the idea of rape was, to her, more important than the students whose lives were ruined by false allegations?  See Matthew Shepard, of whom Mrs. Toadroller's catholic alma mater put on a play in tribute.  Diversity trumps truth.
We live in a time of watching events be rewritten in real time.  Of Winston not even bothering to go back through the headlines and re-write them, as few care to check if the emotions provided are the emotions they need.  Those that recall correctly are wronged, ridiculed, and recommended for sensitivity training.

We've always been at war with East Asia.