Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Alternator Altercations

I replaced the voltage regulator(pics of old one to come) on the alternator with a used one today. I also cleaned the electrical contacts on the alternator, including the slip rings and contact points for the voltage regulator. I noticed that a wire on a terminal on the alternator had broken. Could this be my issue? Alas, no. It was signal wire for the tachometer. Yes, the tachometer signal comes from the alternator, a good reason why you need the diesel 55A alternator and can't put one from a gasser Volvo in it. Anyway, after reconnecting the tach wire, the tach signal is still in and out. This, coupled with the fact that the alternator is still not charging with a known good used regulator, would point to a bad alternator :( In addition, the alternator has the original Volvo sticker on it, a sign that it it is probably original and has never been rebuilt. Looks like I'm in the market for a rebuilt alternator...

Jerry, I have not had any issues with this. The pulley you mention, is it the crank pulley or the sheeve (attached to the alternator) send a picture? I am a little bit confused by what you mean.

Monday, November 28, 2005

SoDak is Possessed

I drove to work today and noticed the lights getting a bit dim... turns out that the battery was basically dead. About 1 mile from work, the radio started going off and on with the turn signals, windshield washer and whatever else required current. For some reason I was led to put the battery charger in the back seat a couple of days ago. Providence? I've been living on borrowed time as the alternator light has been on for a few weeks, well now that I think of it, over a month. I guess now I actually have to deal with the problem.

The alternator light has been doing everything from pulsing with the engine rpm to being on all the time to being off all of the time. Hmmmm

I decided to first address the grounds. I cleaned them off, put a star washer under them and retightened. The star washer makes a nice positive electrical contact. No improvement. 12.7V with engine off, 12.6V with engine on. If the alternator is charging, the voltage will be arounf 14V with the engine running. Bummer. I am predicting a bad voltage regulator/brush pack on the back of the alternator. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Climate Control

Used Volvo Parts

Strandberg's is excellent. They will mail you the parts you need AND they have a searchable online database. Whatever your Volvo needs, they most likely have it. 1-800-448-5121 I did find their prices on instrument clusters a bit steep though...

I recently purchased a used lower control arm (I actually only needed the strut rod-part number 7 in photo below) for $45. Not too bad when you consider someone had to remove it from the car, inventory it, take it out of inventory, pack it up and ship it to me.

I decided to replace the strut rod because of the fancy new tires I just purchased. The strut rod was bent, affecting the front alignment, causing wacky tire wear (wtw). That was an acronym I just invented.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Biodiesel Jelly

Yesterday I was in diesel hell. I am a teacher and needed to be at school at 7:00 AM for an AM basketball open gym that I am paid to run 2 times a week. I got in my 2000 Jetta to start it up and let it idle for a while. It started fine and then I went inside to tend to some things. I came out 5 minutes later and it had died!? I tried to restart it, but nothing. The low that night had only been 8F!?! OK, no problem, I'll just jump in SoDak and take her. She started right up and then after idling 30 seconds killed. AAAAAAARRRRGGGHHH!! The B50 biodiesel(1/2 biodiesel, 1/2 petro diesel) that I bought from the Twin Cities Biodiesel Coop, supposedly with a cold filter plug point of -20F, was plugging the filter at 18F (daytime temperature yesterday). The filters became plugged with wax crystals from the fuel. Both filters had been changed with in the past 4,000 miles. I yelled a few things that I won't publish here and had to call my parents at 6:10 AM to borrow their car. God bless mom and dad. I then plugged in the TDIheater (thermostatically controlled coolant circulating block heater - an amazing product!) to let it heat the engine for the day. My wife had no luck when she tried to start the cars again at 8am to go to class.

That day I called up the TC biodiesel folks and gave them an earful. To their credit, they did offer to help me get my cars started using various heaters, etc. The gentleman who told me that the fuel was good to -20 "did not recall" telling me that information. Hmmm.

Upon getting home that evening, I tried to start the Jetta - No dice. I then pulled the fuel filter, brought it inside, warmed it, drained it and refilled it with properly winterized petro diesel. I reinstalled it and the car started, but killed after a 1/4 mile. The fuel left in the lines plugged the filter again! AAAAAAARRRRGGGHHH!!

I walked home, drove back to the Jetta and pulled the fuel filter for the second time, drained it, refilled with petro diesel and this time put the fuel filter intake into a 5 gal. jug of petro diesel. I then ran the car for 15 minutes, turned it off, dumped the 5 gallons of petro in the tank, reconnected the fuel line and hoped for the best. Fortunately, the tank was only 1/4 full of B50. She started and ran. I then drove the the nearest filling station and filled the Jetta the rest of the way with petro diesel. SUCCESS! Through this whole process, my one-year old daughter was a great sport. She sat in her car seat, looking longingly out the back window as I tried to avoid yelling words I wouldn't want to hear coming out of her mouth next week.

Today is supposed to have a high of 40, so my wife will try to start SoDak again today. Success! She then filled her up with petro diesel. No more problems.

More info that you'd ever want to know about biofuels here.

The morals of the story...
If you want something done right, do it yourself. Biodiesel is a very bad idea for wintertime. If you insist on biodiesel blends for the winter, test your fuel in the freezer with a thermometer or use a salt/ice bath similar to making ice cream to get it really cold.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Snow Tires

I recently purchased and installed 4 snow tires for the cold, snowy winters here in MN. At first I was looking at the Nokian WR's, but then I realized that we really coudn't afford them so I went with Continental's Viking Snow Tech. At $44 each from Discount Tire, the 185 70/14's were a very good deal. I am very happy with their dry road performance. They feel nothing like the "squishy" Blizzaks I have run in the past on my SAABs. Presently we have Michelin Arctic Alpin tires on our VW Bora(Jetta). The Viking has the government's severe service logo and Consumer Reports rated them highly. I was expecting cheap "made in China" tires, but these are made in Germany. The max inflation pressure is 40 psi.