Saturday, July 19, 2014

Passenger side driving light replacement - half a decade late

Well, the TA was purchased in 2006, driven for about a year then pretty much put into storage from 2007 to 2011 when it was restored.  Sometime during that time the passenger side driving light went out ... and instead of investigating the cause, what little I drove of the TA, I just turned the driving lights off and used the main headlights only.  Procrastination and all that.  After the TA was restored, old habits died hard and one night I flicked on the lights, remembered that the driving light had been burned out for the better part of about half a decade and decided to finally fix it.

I guess I'd tried (or thought about) fixing it years ago because I found a set of Blazer driving lights in the garage ... purchased at Walmart with the intention of just yanking out the factory driving lights and replacing them with aftermarket, higher capacity units (since I had priced replacement driving lights and OEM parts had a price tag like they were made out of solid gold).  I had inspected the lens of the failed driving light and found it to be intact so no moisture or rust, it had just burned out.

Being the first 3rd Gen F-body Pontiac that I've owned with driving lights, I thought the whole light was one unit ... I didn't realize it was a semi-permanent mount with a replaceable bulb (you can't replace the bulb in the headlights, you just replace them as they burn out) so you can understand why I was approaching this ass backwards.  I was in Walmart one night and looking at new headlights for my '89 Daytona Shelby when an itch got me to look up and see if there were actually driving light bulbs for the '86 TA.  Sure enough, I found bulbs listed and that's when I knew that the driving lights weren't disposable but rather reloadable.  I went home and looked up in my shop manual the exploded diagram of the front fascia and sure enough, bulbs were shown going into the housing.


I've procrastinated almost half a decade on this fix and it's a whole lot easier than I thought it was going to be.

I got up one Saturday morning early, drove the TA up to Advance Auto Parts, buy two bulbs, came back, ramped and chocked her, and proceeded to replace the driving light bulbs in both sides.  It's a lot easier than I was led to believe and the end result is that the TA now has a functioning passenger side driving light in the spoiler and she's got her smile back (instead of a snaggletooth grin) when the lights are turned on.

Hooray for shade tree mechanics and bad form, procrastination.  Bad form.

It's a sad, snaggletooth lit 1986 TA.

Sylvania H3 bulbs to the rescue.  Take two and ... you know the rest.

Getting to the driving lights is a chore.  It's not hard, it's just tedious.  Have some bungee cords available and some zip ties as well.  The two black bands are zip ties used to make loops through the fastener holes so that the hooks of the bungee cords can be used as a third and fourth arm to hold the flexible plastic back so you can have both of your hands free to unhook the driving light from its wiring harness, remove it from its mounting bracket, etc.  When you're done, just clip the zip ties and put everything back together.

The factory driving light assembly, with its mounts removed.

The bulb is held in with a simple three point wire latch that looks suspiciously like a paper clip that's been unfolded.  You have to remove the light from the front spoiler and then the mount from the light.  Tedious.

The new bulb fits in and is somewhat loose.  Once the wire clip goes back in place, it's secured.

I tested the bulb once I installed it just to make sure it was the bulb and no some other weird electrical gremlin.  In this case it was the bulb.  Yay!

Once everything was back together and refastened I checked the driving lights.  They worked!  Perfect!  Total labor time, about an hour if this is the first time that you've ever done this ... I guess if I had to do it again, I could do it in about 30 minutes.  The first time is a learning experience, mapping out how everything is put together and how to take it apart.  The second time you'll know and it will go a lot faster / smoother.

It's a happy 1986 TA!  No more snaggletooth grin!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Radiator replacement

The TA developed a small leak in the radiator and it was in one of the plastic tanks on the side so I just decided to replace the whole thing.  Advanced Auto Parts had a 25% discount online so I ordered a new radiator, bought a new thermostat and two new hoses.  I figured it would be a two, maybe three hour job.

Hilarity ensued.

I started Saturday morning, early.

I didn't get finished until Sunday night around sundown.

Basically, the radiator swap went well.  Some trouble getting the lower radiator hose on just because I'm under the car, on an incline, and it's a real step-bitch to get that hose on the water pump but I finally got that done.  Install everything, change out the thermostat, gasket, upper hose, start the car and ... she's leaking, no, gushing out the thermostat housing.

I take the thermostat housing off, check the seal, put it back on.

Still gushing.

I changed the seal.

It got better.

Then the rear bolt wouldn't seat all the way.  In fact, the rear bolt would thread down to about three quarters of its length then stop.  I cleaned out the bolt hole, tried the bolt and it would never seat all the way.  Something was wrong with the threads down in the hole.


I eventually fixed the problem by going with a quarter inch shorter bolt and using a chemical gasket.  I let it set overnight, drove it the next morning and zero leaks.  I drove it the next week, all week and zero leaks.

I top off the coolant that I've lost since the leaking thermostat housing and run the car all around Columbia, take the long way home, run the air conditioning and the car never gets above the thermostat rating, even with spirited driving.  The TA is actually running cooler now than it ever did before.


Ready for a complete coolant transplant.  The '89 Daytona is, of course, in the shop getting stuff fixed.

The bone stock, all original 5.0 liter LB9 TPI V8.  It needs some cleaning and detailing but ...

Here's where the radiator started leaking, about the third rib down from the top.  High pressure coolant was just blowing out of it.  The "gator skin" upper coolant hose is also going to get replaced.  Once the radiator is out I'll clean out the area under and around the radiator of any and all accumulated road debris.

The patient ... almost ready for invasive surgery.

That's a lot of ... stuff ... in that engine bay.  I remember a time when you could actually see an engine in a car.  Modern cars have so much crap under the hood that the factory usually just puts panels over it to hide it all and gives you a stern warning that you aren't smart enough to touch anything under those panels so take it to the dealer and let them bend you over the fender to check your oil or change your air filter.  No thank you.

Air cleaner removed, upper radiator hose removed.

Prepped for surgery.  I thought this was going to be easy.  Murphy had other ideas.

Donor parts ... new radiator, new thermostat, new thermostat gasket and a replacement kit of gaskets for the throttle body.  Might as well rebuild it while it's off the car ...

Spotted this well worn and partially torn coolant bypass hose on the throttle body.  I grabbed some spare coolant hose from my overstock and replaced it as well.

This lower coolant hose I replaced as well.  The clamps were rusted pieces of junk.  I replaced those as well.  Every hose I could find, every clamp I could throw away.  Heavy scoring on the throttle body from years of faithful service.  I tried to clean that up as much as I could as well.

A slight break while I let some PBBlaster loosen some stuck bolts.  Spray.  Wait.  Try.  Repeat.

I hate these kind of clamps.  I replaced every single one that I could find with the tractor type clamps.

The original throttle body.  The more I got to looking at it the more I decided not to fool with it.  I've got a spare throttle body on the shelf.  I'll just rebuild that (it's a lot cleaner) and put that on the car.  I'll use this one for my TPI display unit that I'm going to mount on a nice stained wood base and put on show in my office.

Each part labeled and sorted.  Those clips at the top are GOLD.  Don't lose them, they lock your throttle body and cruise control cables to the throttle body.

Parts starting to come off.  I thought I might just drop in my dual electric fan setup from a 1987 Formula 350 but ... not this time.  Maybe next.

The old radiator, removed.  It's a veteran but it's not the original meaning that the radiator has already been replaced once in this car, before I ever took ownership of her.

The radiator cradle, looking down.  It was surprisingly clean of debris.

The new thermostat and permanent thermostat gasket.  That didn't work worth a damn.  $20 and it blew coolant out like a geyser.  I put on the $1.50 paper gasket and it sealed.

Taking a lot longer than I thought mainly because that lower radiator hose is a real step-bitch to get on.  Maybe not on a full rack but on this setup with limited leverage and limited range of movement, yeah.  That tarp is to let me slide up under the ramped TA.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, feels quite as ... icky ... as still warm coolant running down your arm, going down your back, going down your ass crack all the while you're lying there just having to deal with it and using words that would make a pastor faint while trying to get the (expletive ad infinity) lower radiator hose on.

Lower radiator hose and new clamp installed.  Finally.