Friday, June 26, 2009

Has Anybody Seen My Torque Wrench?

I'm putting new spark plugs in a 2002 Infiniti G20 for the first time. It's got just about 70,000 miles on it. Like the old joke goes - usually I just tighten stuff until the threads strip and then back off a quarter turn - but I want to do this in a more professional manner.

I figured out from the Autolite website that these plugs should be tightened to 15-22 ft-lbs in an aluminum head engine. I have a torque wrench somewhere but it's been so long since I used it I can't locate it. I think I saw it hanging somewhere but my memory might be playing tricks on me and I might have seen it hanging in an old house 30 years ago. I know I had a torque wrench.

The link above from Autolite says for a 14 mm gasket type plug you can tighten it 1/2 turn past finger tight and that works. Actually I've changed spark plugs and done various other shade-tree type mechanic stuff for a long time and I like to think I have a "feel" for how tight stuff has to be. It's worked fine so far - except this car has an aluminum head and I've never done anything to it. That's a pretty good car if you think about it....70,000 miles and all it's ever had is the oil, oil filter and air filter changed. The OEM plugs are good for 60,000 miles so I'm a little late on that. My almost 25 year old Chevy S10 is easy to work on but this Japanese car kind of scares me.

I got the Double Platinum plugs which as the box says provide "NASCAR Performance" - that'll be interesting because the engine in that car has always had more like sewing machine performance. I've gone back and forth from expensive plugs to middle of the road plugs (generally I don't buy the cheapest). These plugs are 3 bucks a piece and you can get a $1.50 rebate per plug so they end up being the same price as the cheapies. High end plugs use a coating of iridium nowadays. For this car the NGK IX iridium plugs are $13 a piece and the NGK Laser iridium are $20 a piece.

Usually I don't care what brand I get. I sort of like NGK and Bosch - but I'll buy Champion, ACDelco or Autolite - because I never really thought it mattered. Just yesterday B told me she happened to encounter a mechanic from the far Northwoods of Minnesota who was cursing about Champion plugs. I just thought it was a joke, but I don't know - this is a guy who works on a lot of different cars and boats out of his house so maybe he knows something. When I bought these plugs today I asked the manager of the auto-parts store, who's been there for as long as I can remember, what his favorite plugs are? He said it's a matter of personal preference for the most part - but he thinks Champion spark plugs are no good. The insulator is made out of talcum powder or something...I didn't quite follow it but apparently he sees more returns than any other brand. That's weird because I've used Champion plugs in small gas engines, cars, pickups and never had a problem. What's even weirder is that I'm sitting here on Friday night typing about spark plugs...


I got the new plugs in and put in a new distributor rotor, the distributor cap looked fine but the rotor contact was significantly burned and pitted (surprisingly the car ran fine..but I imagine the new rotor will make it run a little smoother and give it a little better gas mileage). The old plugs actually looked okay - they weren't pitted or burnt and the gap was still .043, but I figured 70,000 miles was enough for one set of plugs.

The finger tight and then 1/2 turn didn't work for me. The plugs are recessed about 6 inches into the head so I used a socket extension and tightened them to what felt like finger tight - but it was then anywhere from a 1/4 turn to a turn and a half before I felt the gasket compress and they felt as tight as the ones I removed. I used anti-seize compound on the plug threads so they don't freeze into the head over the next 70,000 miles and was very careful to not cross-thread the new plugs in that soft aluminum head.

A couple of things to know about this distributor (a) it's mounted horizontally and the cap is held by non-captive screws that can only be removed with an angled screwdriver or a small socket and (b) the rotor is not keyed to only fit in one direction, this one has a triangular shaped recess so you can install it three possible directions (only one is right) so be sure and note which way it was pointing when you take it off so you can install the new one in the same direction.

I dropped one of the screws off the distributor into the engine compartment and couldn't find it or an exact replacement. I found a screw that was slightly longer which I cut to fit and then ground down the end at an angle like the old one. Looking for the old screw and finding/fabricating a new one added a couple of hours to the job.

Here's a picture of the distributor, the old rotor and that anti-seize compound.

To summarize - Changing plugs, the distributor cap and rotor is a fairly simple task. When you are working on an ignition system it helps to to have a basic knowledge of what these parts do. High voltage electricity from the ignition coil passes to the contact on the top of the rotor, through the rotor to the contact on it's side and then as the rotor rotates, to the contacts inside the distributor cap which provide a circuit to each spark plug to provide a spark when the piston compresses the fuel/air mixture.

Plugs come gapped correctly for almost all cars - although you can check them to be sure the gap is correct with a gauge/gapper that costs a couple of bucks. You have to be careful not to cross thread the plugs and know that counter-clockwise loosens things and clockwise tightens things. Hold your hand out in front of you and turn it right saying "righty tighty' and then turn it left and say "lefty loosey" if you forget. Usually you remove spark plug wires by pulling on the boot on the plug (rather than tugging on the wire since that can break it). Before you remove spark plug wires from the spark plugs or distributor make sure you note which wire goes where so you can reinstall them correctly.

The distributor cap is held on by a couple of screws and has contacts inside it for each cylinder - if the contacts are worn/pitted or the cap is cracked you should replace it. Try not to drop the screws that hold the cap in place into the engine compartment. Once you get the distributor cap off you'll see the rotor. The rotor is press fit on the distributor shaft - you pull the rotor off using even pressure on all sides. Take note which way the rotor was pointing when you remove the old one so you can install the new rotor pointing in the same direction.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

We Have Enough

Inward/outward is a good place for inspirational ideas and interesting comments. You can sign up to get their thought of the day in an email if you like this sort of thing. I liked the post from yesterday titled "We Have Enough" by Cecile Andrews -
"Being mindful is hard for us because we are always anxious about time…. Learning that we have enough—money, time, love—may be our most important lesson. Even when we eliminate the apparent obstacles of working and consuming too much, we still have trouble relaxing and enjoying the present moment. So the problem is not just the scarcity of time, it’s our attitude toward time. That little voice always creeps in: You’d better hurry, you’ve got a lot to do, you’re not getting enough done, time is running out. What does this mean in terms of feeling alive? Surely, if things keep on this way, when we come to die, we will discover that we have not lived."

Source - inward/outward

They carry on the theme of taking time in today's post with the poem Invitation by Mary Oliver which starts out -
"Oh do you have time, to linger, for just a little while..."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Can Someone Play Rope With Me?

Edgar the TFT loves to catch his rope. I have to put it up on top of the refrigerator sometimes so I can do something else. Usually he's okay with putting the rope up for a rest but sometimes if he isn't ready to stop playing catch he stages a sort of food riot where he kicks his water or food bowl around spilling water or dry dog food around in the kitchen.

He loves catching/chasing balls too but we had to stop that in the house because he also loves to "bury" balls under furniture and pillows and then try to dig them out which tends to cause a lot of scratches on furniture and feathers flying from pillows. With the rope he can't push it under stuff as easily.

Toy Fox Terriers are small but sturdy and love to play. Edgar can jump a couple of feet in the air and run and dart around really quick (really really quick). He thinks he owns this neighborhood and can be a bit of a diablo, particularly around other people or dogs he doesn't know. He's still a pup and will learn to be sociable and play nice. I've been watching The Dog Whisperer trying to get tips on how to take care of a very active little dog and we are working on walking with a leash.

I'd highly recommend a Toy Fox Terrier to anyone who wants a small dog that can live in a city environment. They like to go for walks of course but they get a lot of exercise just running around the house, up and down stairs and jumping from one piece of furniture to another.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Should Have Invested in a Dragon Tooth

A comment from thundergoraq166 on the Pets & pet parts price list at Last Chaos - Guides & Information at -

"dude the last time i got a dragon tooth i sold it for 5.000 and that was 2 years ago.... what happened?"

That's a good question - a dragon tooth is going for 12,500,000 now.

I know nothing about the MMORPG game Last Chaos but it looks interesting.

The Last Chaos wiki is nominated for the 2009 - Wetpaint Golden Paint Can Awards along with a lot of other cool wikis like Oh Snap Science is Cool! - Ms. Genta's Science Website. Be sure and check out the Science Song - Science Science Baby.


Random Note - The acronym MMORPG reminded me of the hilarious Emmy Award Winning South Park episode "Make Love not Warcraft." Here's a link to a clip, but you have to watch the whole episode to get the full effect - it's available here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Who's Your Guru?

This meditation from sounds like something worth thinking about as we start the week.

From the meditation -
"The guru, meaning spiritual teacher, and more literally translated as one who brings light into darkness (Sanskrit: GU (darkness) RU (light))—the one who reveals and embodies the light, can show us the way, correct our errors, and very importantly, acts as a role model...

A proper guru does not come out of nowhere. It is recommended that the guru be part of an established lineage. They should be learned in the scriptures of their tradition. Their life should be exemplary in its virtue. The true guru does not exploit followers financially, sexually or any other way.

Different traditions have different perspectives on the nature of the guru. He or she could be seen simply as a spiritual teacher. To some the guru is an enlightened being. Guru may mean the function of Self Revelation; so that the person who is a guru represents the nature of enlightenment—God-Realization, or a related idea."

As Bob Dylan sang you Gotta Serve Somebody, you might as well make it somebody who helps you on your path to joy, peace and enlightenment.

One of the nice things about the Interlude site is that it isn't centered on any single spiritual tradition - if you read through the prayers and meditations you'll see Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions incorporated in the writings.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I'm Back to a Single Boot

I've tried Kubuntu, Debian, Knoppix, DSL, Fedora, Ubuntu and Xubuntu (still on one laptop with XP as the other option).

They all have their good points - but for overall ease of use, availability of support, customization capability and functionality, I'm sticking with Ubuntu. It works great for a home computer. I'm not sure how practical it would be for a work computer if you need a VPN, and compatibility with Microsoft - Exchange, Office and servers. I might try that sometime to see.

I'm back to a single-boot machine for my primary computer, and have access to Windows for my iPhone and Pod on a backup hard drive or my old laptop.

Now that I've spent hours and hours getting my OS just the way I like it I'm going to see if I can do something with my computer (other than trying one of dozens of different desktop themes, icons or window borders - playing with wobbly windows, painting fire, rotating desktop cubes, dockys and all the other fun stuff you can do with Linux).

I'm not a purist when it comes to this kind of thing; I'll use whatever works best for me and whatever I like - right now that's Ubuntu. It would be fun to have a Mac to play with and when Windows 7 comes out I imagine I'll get a computer with that operating system on it.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Computers - Playing to Make Working Easier

Linux allows you to customize your desktop using GNOME, KDE ,Xfce or a variety of other desktop environments.

One of the challenges with so much choice is that customizing your computer can become an end in itself.

For example Knoppix Linux has really cool startup and shutdown sounds that you (if you're a nerd like me) might want to use for your computer.

Does that make your computer any more useful?

No, but it might make it more fun to use - and you can learn more about how computers work by doing something simple like that.

To get those startup and shutdown .wav files I downloaded the Knoppix .iso (image) file, burned the .iso file to a CD, found the .ogg audio files, installed Audacity to convert them to .wav, used FileZilla to FTP them to my web server and then added the links to this blog post using a simple right-click extension for Firefox built by Phil Ringnalda.

Playing around with computers is the best way to learn their, and your own, capability - as you learn more you may find that when you have something you want to do (besides playing) it's a lot easier.