Month: March 2017

On commutes

Big update! 56k beware!

Now that summer is coming, it’s time to finish the heater install! :v:

Before, the heater intake was just underneath the bed. It took a long, LONG time, but I finally got the right size intake duct tubing in the mail (seriously, it came from Turkey, and took 3 months). This means I could plumb the heater intake into the passenger cabin so it can re-heat the air, and circulate it around. Without that, it was possible it was pulling cold outside air in, greatly reducing efficiency.



Hole cut and filed for the intake grate.


I also “installed” the spare spark plug holder. Couldn’t really find a better spot, and it works.


And now, a change of pace. I’m going to skip over a lot of the interpersonal life stuff, but in a nutshell, my daily commute moved from 18 miles over mostly surface streets, to 30 miles over mostly freeway. The past three weeks or so, I’d been driving the bus to work on the freeway. It was miserable. The way home at night was better, because I get off of work after midnight. However, the way to work in heavy, fast-moving traffic was nerve-wracking with only 60 horsepower and the aerodynamics of a brick.

My state tax refund came in, so I started looking at Craigslist pretty heavily. I had four requirements for whatever vehicle I would eventually purchase:

1: It had to have enough power to be “comfortable” on the freeway.
2: It had to have noticeably better fuel economy than the bus (17/17, city/highway)
3: Parts needed to be cheap in the event of repairs
4: It needed to be known for reliability, at least in general

For a few days I was hung up on a Lexus LS400. They are known to be big, V8, reliable monsters, that can occasionally hit more than a million (!) miles on their original engines/transmissions. In addition, they could be found relatively cheaply.

Unfortunately, even the youngest of the LS400 fleet are over 20 years old. Even the best-engineered vehicles start nickle-and-diming you to death with rubber and plastic components after 20.

But, the LS400 did give me ideas about another mass-produced, highway-eater car. One that would have cheap parts available indefinitely due to its widespread use. And, after only a day of searching, I found what looked to be the perfect one:



That’s right, I bought a Crown Vic. 2008 to be precise. 154k miles, and no back seat, but otherwise in what looked like good nick. Sure, the paint is chipping pretty much everywhere, it had a cataract, and the hour meter says it’s been in park or neutral for over 4100 (!) hours, but it is a fleet vehicle and hopefully had been maintained pretty well. And it has A/C! Oh, A/C, how I’ve missed your sweet, cooling breeze.

I bought it for a hair under $2k, and then promptly spent $200 on registration, $220 on parts, and $50 on gas. But, it was mine. Thankfully, it also came with a Class III (even though the platform is only Class II rated) tow hitch installed. I immediately put it to work rescuing the last thing I had left at my old house, the Enfield.


The Enfield hasn’t run for over two years. Dead battery (even with the CTEK tender), and gnarly blow-by issues (probably needs new rings and a hone, or even a new piston). But I just couldn’t leave it behind.

So, today, I went to a Walmart and bought a trailer wiring kit, installed it, and headed to Uhaul to get their cheapest, smallest trailer.


Loaded up with only the finest $10 for 4 Harbor Freight ratchet straps (it was all I had)


After I got back from returning the trailer, the package with my new headlamps had arrived. I only bought them, from Ebay, 40 hours prior! Things really move fast nowadays, and living in a central shipping warehouse city helps a lot. They may only last a year or two before they oxidize, but at least they’ll hopefully do it at the same rate as each other.



I even bought the stupid (but, turns out, pretty much required) $13 headlight adjustment tool so I could go out that night (tonight) and aim them properly.



And then, of course, I took a few beauty shots. Wouldn’t be a true Panther platform owner without gratuitous, badly-lit photos!


I even “fixed” the wiring for the spotlight. Well, less “fix” and more “jiggle things about a lot and spray Deoxit! in all the crevices until it worked.” But still.

After doing the headlights, and letting the engine cool a bit, it was time to tackle some basic maintenance. There’s a reason the SomethingAwful thread for the Panther platform is called, “Live Axles and Dead Coils.” The Coil-On-Plug (COP, no pun intended) coils tend to go bad after what seems to be 100k or so. The car drove fine for me 90% of the time, but if I had it in Drive, idling with my foot on the brake, the engine would miss and stumble if I turned the A/C on. Turning the A/C on causes additional engine load, and it may have been just enough stress for some intermittently-faulty coils to start misfiring.

I would live with misfiring if it didn’t eventually mean I’d damage the (expensive) catalytic converters, so I spent $50 (marked down from, allegedly, $325) for a box of eight new coils. I also grabbed some new platinum-tip spark plugs.

Four hours and eight bloody knuckles later, and I had the plugs and coils switched out.


The old coils:

And the old plugs:

Three of the plugs, the three closest to the firewall on the passenger side, had oil in the threads :ohdear:. The tips weren’t oil-fouled, as shown in the picture, but maybe that’s something I should keep an eye on. The oil level was half a quart low when I got the car, too.

I also bought an FM Modulator (not a transmitter, strictly speaking) that jacks in-between the radio antenna and the headunit. This lets you add an aux port to pretty much any stereo. I don’t see anything particularly wrong with the stock Ford headunit, so I thought this would be a good, cost-conscious compromise until I get a bug up my ass (and money back in my bank account) and finally decide to replace it with something else. I really just listen to podcasts (shout out to Reply All and The Dollop!), along with occasional NPR. Except for maybe a subwoofer in the future, this is all I really need. Though, it is weird that the 45-year-old Volkswagen bus has a better, bluetooth-enabled stereo and sound system than a 2008 Crown Victoria. :shrug:




Today was a busy, good day.