Funny: Elon Musk’s Starman Seems Familiar

Audi Update

Before I get to Elon Musk and SpaceX, let me give a quick update. It’s been a long journey, but my son’s Audi is almost back on the road. It’s together and it doesn’t leak, but it still has a performance issue. After whipping out my VAG-COM and doing some data logging, the things I can measure look OK. It seems to provide really good performance at random, but especially when little demand has been made of it for a few seconds. I think the fuel filter is plugged. “Cheap” Audis? Don’t let anybody tell you that an old Audi is cheap! That said, the car is shaping up to be a lot of fun to drive, once everything is sorted out, and we might actually buy another for my daughter. AWD is a really nice thing to have and these cars are actually quite cheap to insure.

My Space Background

I have an MS is in Astronautical Engineering and I’m a genuine space guy at heart. I’m also big on entrepreneurial ventures, so I have to say that the SpaceX Heavy launch recently was really cool, including that they brought two of the boosters back for a soft touch down side-by-side.

Not a Huge Fan, But…

I’m not a huge Elon Musk fanboy. All the heavy subsidies on Teslas make him look more like a crony than a real entrepreneur. However, I must admit that he’s still doing some cool things.

The Heavy Metal Connection

The Falcon Heavy Launch featured an unusual payload. SpaceX put a Tesla Roadster in orbit. Here’s a live feed of it.

An obvious reference to science fiction (or at least sci fi parody) is found in the “Don’t Panic!” displayed on the dash. However, a more obscure reference is found in the whole concept of an astronaut driving a convertible in Earth’s orbit. The opening sequence of Heavy Metal, a rather …um… adult, R-rated rock-n-roll sci fi cartoon from 1981 featured a similar theme in their opening sequence. Have you ever imagined reentry in an early model Corvette convertible?! Set to some fun rock ‘n roll music, this opening sequence had my friends and I rolling around laughing back in he 80s.

I thought I’d just share this because it’s fun!

May God bless you and keep you running on all cylinders!

 

Ben Swann is Back!

My Status

I’ve been quiet on this blog for a bit, after a week-long trip to a conference for my day-job, and every single car I own needing immediate attention within the last ten days! I have material to share, but I need some time to prepare it.

Great News

Meanwhile, though, I saw this great news tonight: Ben Swann is Back!

Ben went quiet after his Pizzagate revelations a year ago, but now he’s back, partnered with DAO / Dash, and I expect to see great things from him in the future. He’s the only real investigative reporter you’ll find today. He is genuinely interested in the truth and he delivers the goods!

May God bless you and keep you running on all cylinders!

Winter Car Problems and Audi Work

Car Problems

Hey! I’ve been slow about providing blog updates, but I’ve run into a number of problems with my fleet. It seems that everything always seems to go wrong at the same time! I know that this happens to many people and it’s part of life in a fallen world. When this happens, do what I’m learning to: Keep your chin up, thank God for the blessings you have, and press onwards! Here’s what came up in the last two weeks:

  • My son’s 2002 Audi A4 Quattro started dumping about a quart of oil daily, so we dug in and found out that the head gasket was leaking. Compression is still good, but the head needed to come off! This “cheap” Audi isn’t so cheap, anymore!
  • The old 2001 MkIV Jetta TDI is having glow plug circuit issues and we can pretty much forget about driving it in subzero weather until I can troubleshoot that system.
  • My son was driving my 2005 B5.5 Passat TDI and wound up getting it jump-started one subzero morning. I had to replace that battery. I found out the old one had been in there since 2012 (before I owned it)!
  • Now I have a new oil slick on the floor where I’ve been parking the 2007 Mercedes R320 CDI. It’s just left of the centerline and toward the rear of the engine…so I need to dig into it and replace the dreaded OM642 oil cooler seal!

Audi Quattro Head Gasket

I’ve pulled the head from the engine. The photos that follow simply document the process I’ve made this weekend. Today I’ll clean up the valve cover and intake manifold to paint them up and make them pretty. When my Amazon Prime valve spring compressor tool shows up in two days I’ll replace the valve stem seals.

Audi 1.8T Without Head

I’ve removed the head from the 1.8T, and you can see the top of the engine block. I’ve checked the deck surface with a good straightedge and a flashlight. No light was leaking under the straightedge anywhere. The deck looks perfect! I’ll just clean it up good before I get it all back together.

Audi Quattro Head

Check out the 1.8T’s head. These engines are very common. They are found in a lot of VW and Audi vehicles. They are surprisingly exotic, with five valves per cylinder! That explains how it spools so smoothly. That’s also why there’s so much horsepower potential in these little engines.

Audi 1.8T Cams

I pulled the camshafts to check on things and replace the valve stem seals. Might as well, while I have the head off. The tensioner is in the background in this photo. Be sure you buy a tensioner compressor before attempting this job! It would be very difficult without this tool.

Marked Cam Bearing Journals

The Audi 1.8T’s bearing journals are lined up here. Note that they’ve all been marked so that they go back into their proper locations.

Audi 1.8T Head Without Camse

Here is the head with the cams removed. The valves are buried deep down in this head, so I’ve ordered a better valve spring compressor tool.

 

I cleaned up the mating surface on the head, checking it with a straightedge and a flashlight. When I do this I put the flashlight behind the straightedge and look to see if light leaks through anywhere, indicating warpage. I didn’t find any on the head or the engine block’s deck. So, I’m not sure why the head gasket started leaking oil. I suppose being 15 years old and having 180,000+ miles might have something to do with it. Perhaps the head bolts should have been retorqued at some point. I’m counting our blessings that we don’t have to go to the machine shop on this effort!

At this point, you’ve probably noticed that everything in this engine has a brownish color from varnish that has built up. I’m not going to go to crazy cleaning a high mileage engine on a “cheap” car, but it’s apparent that previous owners weren’t using synthetics and/or didn’t change the oil often enough. Well, thankfully the compression is still very good, so we’ll just keep some good synthetic oil in there (we use LiquiMoly in our VW and Audi vehicles) and it will probably clean itself up over time.

I’ll provide more updates as I work through this effort and the others that are on my TO DO list.

May God bless you and keep you running on all cylinders!

Happy New Year! Free E-book!

The Art of Diesel Cover

Click on this image to get The Art of Diesel on Amazon! Available in e-book or paperback.

Happy New Year 2018!

To celebrate the new year, we are doing a promotion for our diesel swap book The Art of Diesel: Building an Efficient Family HaulerGo to Amazon now and get the e-book for free this Monday and Tuesday, the 1st and 2nd of January 2018. The paperback version is also available at its normal price.

Why a Diesel Conversion?

This effort stemmed from my dissatisfaction with what the market was offering for large vehicles with reasonable efficiency. I chose to build an efficient vehicle of my own. I created a diesel-powered Suburban with an EMP-proof drivetrain that delivered 26 mpg on the highway. The vehicle retained four wheel drive and air conditioning, making it a practical family hauler.

Why Write a Book?

I gleaned a lot of information from web forums. Finding useful information this way is slow and painful, though. I wished for a comprehensive book on a diesel conversion, but couldn’t find any. So, I wrote one to help others with their conversion projects. People universally underestimate the complexity of diesel conversion. So, my book examines each subsystem that needs to be modified and discusses the decisions I made. This book helps anybody considering a diesel conversion by covering the full scope of the undertaking.

What Has Happened Since Then?

I no longer own the Suburban. A rod bearing failed at a time when I was buried in my day job. I sold it to somebody who is fixing it, and I hope to report back on it later. In my blog at The Art of Diesel, I continue to work on my fleet of diesels and I will eventually get back to other conversions.

Order your free e-book today!

May God bless you and keep you running on all cylinders!

Don’t Fear the Mercedes: Air Filter Replacement

Is Mercedes-Benz maintenance a scary topic? It shouldn’t be!

Apparently, the air filters on the OM642 in my Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI had never been replaced. This is especially bad when you consider that this vehicle has over 150,000 miles on it! It doesn’t matter how well a machine is engineered, maintenance is required! The air filter positions on the sides of the engine probably scared the previous owners from even trying.

Right Side Air Filter

Ugh! Try not to vomit when you see this!

Left Side Air Filter

The left side wan’t any better!

These air filters were in worse shape than any I’ve ever seen. They were so filled with junk that the areas between the pleats were actually filled in!

In the video below, I start the Don’t Fear the Mercedes series, showing how to access and remove the housings for filter replacement.

Please LIKE this video on YouTube and subscribe to our channel! Please also join my email list to receive updates.

May the Lord bless you and keep you running on all cylinders!

Merry Christmas 2017!

The last few days have been a bit crazy with visiting extended family, but we managed to have a great Christmas in Ohio and Indiana. We got to a lightly-attended Mass on Christmas morning and made our way back to Indiana in the afternoon.

The Mug My Daughter Made for MeWe exchanged gifts with my in-laws and lots of nice things were shared. However, I wanted to share the extra special gift my daughter gave me. I thought that perhaps she bought this mug with the printing on it, but she took the time to carefully paint the mug by hand.

This is an indication of the things that we value most in life. We accept that many very complex things in our lives are the product of mass production, but we truly place the most value on things that involve human labor and thought. This is exactly why we do the things we do for our families and why Catholicism values subsidiarity and distributism so much. These things aren’t about redistribution of wealth by government entities, but about handling life’s challenges at the lowest possible levels in society and about doing what we can at the local level.

This is also why I try to keep my family’s high-mileage vehicles on the road as long as I can. It’s not just about being cheap and achieving the best capabilities on a budget, but because I take pride in what I do with my hands and applying personal attention and care to things that are important to the people I love.

At The Art of Diesel, we hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that you have a Blessed New Year!

Son’s Audi Quattro: Immobilizer Workaround

A number of months back I found a 2002 Audi Quattro Avant (wagon) for my son with the 1.8T engine. Yeah, it’s the only non-diesel vehicle that has my name on the title, but at least it has a turbo. It’s a 20-valve engine, too, and it spools up sweetly!

Audi Quattro Avant (Wagon)

This is the Audi Quattro Avant 1.8T I bought for my son to drive.

Audi Quattro Avant - FrontThis was to be an inexpensive vehicle to keep him moving between locations while he lives in Indianapolis, takes classes, and works with employers while going through Apprentice University. He’s interested in Information Security, a field where one could get a degree, but frankly the employers care a lot more about experience and certifications, so he’s taking the direct route.

Regardless, this was to be an inexpensive car, and we immediately put about $900 into some things it needed, like a timing belt, some repairs, and an updated head unit with Bluetooth. (Yes, I’ve also recently replaced the clutch, which was another additional expense.) In the spirit of having a cheap car, I realized that we only had one key, so I bought some cheap-o keys with remotes online through Amazon. The remotes weren’t compatible, as it turned out, even though I tried programming the car to listen to them with my Ross-Tech VCDS. I also found out that the immobilizer system is a real PITA and I can’t teach the car to listen to new RFIDs with the VCDS. Drat! I found a local guy who would cut the key blanks to fit, so at least I could get physically-compatible keys without spending a lot of money.

Key Fob, Holder, and RFID Capsule

From left to right: The key fob, the RFID capsule, and the 3D printed holder I made.

Holder with RFID Inserted

After test-fitting everything, I put the RFID capsule into the holder.

I came up with the idea that I could pull the RFID capsule out of the one key we have and hang it on the ignition switch. So, I created a model in FreeCAD, 3D printed it, slipped the RFID capsule into it, and put it in place with a small dab of epoxy. With this in place, I can now start the car with the additional key blades that I had cut. With VWs and Audis, you can always lock/unlock the doors from the driver’s door key lock, so these cut blades give us everything we need for a backup, in case the one key gets lost. Believe it or not, I actually found a key model on Thingiverse that I modified for our key code and I’ve actually unlocked and started the car with a 3D printed key!

The 3D model for the RFID holder is available on Thingiverse, if you’d like to print your own!

RFID Holder Installed

Here the RFID holder has been installed on the ignition switch.

RFID Holder With Key Inserted

3D Printed Key

I 3D printed this key and used it to start the engine!

May the Lord bless you and keep you running on all cylinders!

 

Headlamp Demonstration

Over the weekend, while working on my son’s Audi, we took a short break to compare the headlight we are selling in the store with the other headlights we’ve used when working on cars. In a workshop situation or underneath a car, it is best if the lighting covers a broad area. Some of the lights we’ve used create a tiny, bright “hot” spot, which would be fine when hiking, running, or bicycling in the dark. In a workshop or breakdown situation, when you are working on a car you are looking at something that is quite close to your head, rather than a number of yards away. So, it is better to have a broader, more “volumetric” beam of light. The light we are selling in our store is ideal for these tasks. Check out the demonstration here:

If you’d like to get one of these for yourself or one of your loved ones (Christmas is coming!), check them out in our store. The price is good and shipping is free!

https://artofdiesel.myshopify.com/products/headlight

Whether you are interested in these products or not:

May the Lord bless you and keep you running on all cylinders!

Art of Diesel Store Open & Working on Audi

Sorry, all, as things have been awfully quiet around here. I’m slowly working things behind the scenes at Ethical Developer Group, but that site will probably be quiet for a little while, too. My biggest project at the moment is setting up an eCommerce store: The Art of Diesel Shop!

Fun

Here’s the transmission, that I finally removed from my son’s Audi Quattro tonight.

There are only a few products in there, right now, but we are working to find the very best products at the very best values in the realm of automotive tools, accessories, and emergency equipment. We aren’t selling air fresheners or stick figure family stickers. Everything in this store will be functional and helpful in real-life use. Because we are being selective, the selection is currently small, but it will be growing. Be sure to go there and check it out!

Meanwhile, I know this car isn’t a diesel, but I’m working with my son on his 2002 Audi A4 Avant Quattro. It has 190,000 miles on it and the clutch started slipping. He’s spending his time in Indianapolis with Apprentice University, these days, but he’ll come down to work with me in the shop tomorrow. We’ll get his new clutch

Audi Quattro Clutch

Here’s the clutch we’ll be replacing tomorrow.

and a new rear main seal installed and start bolting everything back together again. It might not be a diesel, but at least it has a turbo. Fun!

Making Ethical Software Profitable

Once again, I haven’t posted anything on this blog in quite a while. Since my last post I ran into an idea and I’m pursuing it with the free time that I have. I think it’s an excellent business idea and if it breaks me away from corporate America, then it could be a wonderful thing for me.  Please check this out!

I’ve complained a lot about how all these huge, nasty corporations are stealing our data left and right.

The problem is that ethical software simply isn’t profitable! For Android, you can either go to the Google Play store and get trashy software that spies on you, or you can go to F-Droid and get free & open source software that is more likely not to spy on you … but non-profit software never reaches its true potential! Updates are sporadic, fixes are rare, and there’s simply no incentive to make it the best that it can be.

What if it was profitable to make ethical software that doesn’t spy on you? The free market approach is to certify software that doesn’t spy on you, the same way that:

  • Underwriter Laboratory (UL) tells you that electrical devices are safe,
  • The Snell Foundation tells you that a motorcycle helmet has passed rigorous testing, and
  • The Kosher certification tells you that food has passed specific safety standards.

These are all private organizations that ensure that products meet certain standards without coercive government regulation. Ethical Developer Group http://www.edgcert.com is live right now. Please head over there and check it out. Please join the email list, so that we’ll keep you up-to-date.