Monday, July 31, 2006

July 31, 2006

I can't put the TA off any longer; I've got to tackle the upstart thermostat problem.  So, marching out to the car with an armload of tools and a head full of knowledge, and after an hour of basic work, in high humidity, at the end of the day with overcast clouds, I carefully remove all the attendant hardware, sensors and electrical leads that form the nostrils of this Firebird.  She's bare all the way to the intake plenum.  I then manage to (carefully) knock the throttle body off the plenum (with a resounding tap from the bottom of my mighty fist) and I have (limited) access to the thermostat housing.  A mixture of WD-40, psychology and extreme profanity along with the torque provided by a 9/16 ratchet manages to get one of the bolts (the front one) off with some protesting and not a little effort.  The threads on the bolt don't look good and after I clean them they still don't look very good.  That bolt isn't going back into the housing, it's a future problem waiting to happen.  The rear bolt is kind of funky, it looks like someone drove a screw bolt into the block then spun a nut down on top of it.  It's one of those inverted bolts that makes no sense being used where it is being used.  I'll be replacing the rear bolt with one identical to the front bolt when I replace the thermostat.  I also need to get a new throttle body gasket.

Taking a cue from the days when I owned a L98 powered Corvette, I look at the back side of the throttle body and notice it is caked solid in black dirty grit and the interior of the plenum looks like the inside of a chimney.  Sigh.  Time for some TB cleaner / solvent, a soft toothbrush and not a little bit of elbow grease to clean it up.  I'm hoping idle quality improves somewhat, it is quite dirty.  You also don't want to use anything stiffer than a tooth brush on these TBs and if you take your TB off with any kind of pry bar or screw driver, you're in for a special treat.  The TB is made out of aluminum and aluminum is a soft metal (choir sings "duh").  Any cracks or creases you put into your TB are going to lead to air leaks later.  The intake of the plenum is also covered in a fine layer of soot.  I'd take it off and soak it but I don't have the gaskets or the time right now.  Or maybe I do.  I might just get the plenum gaskets tomorrow, yank off the plenum and soak both the TB and plenum overnight to remove the buildup. 

On a side note, I was almost surprised to see that there was no aftermarket throttle body performance air foil in place.  So far I've found the wrong size factory wheels and tires, repainted rocker panels, missing body stripes, missing factory decals, missing hard emblems,  an aftermarket radio that was gratefully replaced with the original unit right before I bought the car, an AC conversion from R12 to R134A (a less efficient refrigerant used in a car that has soooo much glass ... why?!), a really deep sounding Flowmaster muffler complete with ugly-ass Pimp My Ride type ghetto chrome extension tips (welded on or I would have unbolted them the day after I got the car), a K&N air filter, and apparently a performance shift kit in the transmission.  The fact that I didn't find a TPIS fast pack set of goodies was just a little bit of a disappointment and only reminds me that some real idiots owned this car before I did.

Taking apart the air intake system down to the filter and canister (to wipe it all out) makes me realize just how poor a design the intake air tract is on the 1985 to 1992 "bottom breathing" Firebirds.  No wonder the V8 Camaros had more power, they had better air induction.  How the engine in the V8 Firebirds gets any air at all is a miracle, let alone that it can get air that is any colder than that available under the hood.  I cleaned everything I could, made a list of what parts I needed to replace (TB gasket, 2x thermostat housing bolts, some tractor clips for the small coolant hoses, and perhaps some coolant hose itself to replace the small pieces around the TB).

Monday, July 10, 2006

July 10, 2006

The TA is starting to run hot and I'm smelling burnt coolant.  Again.  This time it appears that the radiator is boiling over into the coolant tank.  Since everything else appears to be working properly, I'm guessing its a 20 year old thermostat gone bad.  I get a new OEM 195 degree thermostat, gasket, and both radiator hoses as well as fresh coolant.  Just to check on a nasty hunch, I pop the top of the radiator and prepare myself to see some kind of brown / rust colored sludge.  I'm, instead, pleasantly greeted by a radiator that looks so clean, it could have been installed yesterday.  I've never seen a radiator this clean before in a car with this many miles on it.  Unreal.  So, thermostat it is.  I look at the "igloo" that houses the thermostat and realize that if I don't want to say a lot of words that will make Jesus cry, I'm going to have to take off the throttle body to get to the two bolts holding the thermostat housing in place.  I park the TA, cover it in its tarp and cover, and plan the project for another day when I have some time.

Friday, July 7, 2006

July 7, 2006

I received the correct window stickers for my car.  The car was originally sold through Premier Pontiac Nissan, Inc. in Little Rock, Arkansas.  She retailed brand new for $18,868.  Adding up the options and doing the math by hand, based on John Gunnell's "Standard Catalog of Firebird," I had already estimated that this car would have retailed, with the options she had, for somewhere in the high 18's / low 19's.  I was right.  The PHS stuff is posted under the appropriate area.