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Floppie's Blag

Entertainment, technology, and the occasional shenanigans

Protip: Don’t Use Pep Boys

Posted by Floppie on 2012-12-18
Posted in AcuraCarReviews  | Tagged With: , , , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Unfortunately, it looks like my first real post after returning from the grave is a bad review for an automotive parts/service shop.  I was hoping for it to be a DIY guide on doing a starter in a 2002-2004 Acura RSX Type-S, but this one comes first.  The DIY guide will be coming later.

On Saturday, I purchased a new starter for my car from Pep Boys (the one in College Square in Newark, DE).  Now, the starter in this car is a huge ordeal to replace – it requires pulling the intake manifold, but there’s a separate post coming with that DIY guide.  The starter was $200.  They wanted $240 for labor to replace it, but after horrifying experiences there in the past (I’ll get to that in a minute), I opted to do it myself.

It took me three days, including a work day, to replace it.  After getting the car put back together, the starter didn’t work – it just clicked, like the old one did.

So I tried replacing the relay, hoping that would be it – no go, it must be the starter.  Pep Boys will not work with me on the labor to pull it, “test” it, and replace it – they want me to pay the full labor rate; the bad part claim only extends to the cost of the part.  I can’t sit here and lose another three work days to this thing.

The company that was going to tow the car to Pep Boys, which American Express hooked me up with (AmEx Gold gets me four free tows, up to $50 each, per year), is coming to the rescue.  They are a full-service shop and are willing to give me a significantly reduced labor rate ($100) for pulling it, replacing it, and putting it back together.

Now, on to my horrifying past experience with Pep Boys technicians.  Ashley had two tires go bad due to road hazards and took it to Pep Boys for a couple new ones.  While it was in there, she had them do an oil change.  They failed to replace the drain plug gasket (it’s copper, if it were plastic like mine it wouldn’t matter) and, as a result, the thing leaked like a sieve.  She was down to about a quart of oil before we caught it, and the Subaru stealership charged $315 for Pep Boys’ mistake.  Again, same Pep Boys in College Square in Newark, DE.  If they can’t pull off an oil change, I don’t want their hands anywhere near my car, let alone pulling the intake manifold off.

tl;dr:  Don’t use Pep Boys.  For anything.  Ever.

Breather Tank for the RSX Type-S

Posted by Floppie on 2009-08-19
Posted in AcuraDo-It-YourselfLinkReviews  | Tagged With: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Basic design

Basic design

A few months back I started building a breather tank (known in the Club RSX community as an “oil catch can”), based on the design in this thread. The prototype image is over on the right side.

An overview of the finished product

An overview of the finished product

I ran out to Home Depot, picked up some 3″ diameter PVC pipe, a couple end caps, a PVC weld two-pack (one can of the thick, clear chemical and one can of the thin, purple, toxic one), a handful of various brass fittings, and a length of thin clear hose – like what you’d use on a home freshwater fish tank. I made all the markings with some black Sharpie, then cut the pipe to the proper length (I did about 7 inches), and drilled all the holes. It’s important to make sure that the holes, which are drilled into the end caps, aren’t drilled in a position where they’ll be blocked once you insert the pipe.

I also picked up some liquid Teflon (for a thread sealer) and QuikSteel from AutoZone. I figured out which side port I’d be using to connect the can to the atmosphere, used some coarse sandpaper to roughen up the area around that hole (on the inside of the end cap), then used the QuikSteel to adhere a little piece of window screen to it – just as sort of a coarse secondary filter.

Once this was done, I grabbed the PVC weld and attached the end caps. Double check everything before you do this – PVC weld is permanent, and the PVC pipe itself isn’t real cheap. After letting the weld sit for a little bit, I spray painted it flat black and let it sit for a day so everything could dry and set up. Then I started on the brass fittings – put a little bit of the liquid Teflon on the second thread in, for about a 3/4 turn, and then get it in the PVC. This is a bit of a pain in the ass, because PVC isn’t really meant to be drilled and threaded – close to the outside it’ll fall apart, then it’ll go in crooked, and not get in all the way. Get it in there as straight and far as you can – it won’t be perfect.

Attach the clear hose to the two brass fittings that are facing each other – this is going to be your gauge to see when you need to empty it. This tank is pretty big, so you won’t need to do it real frequently. The clear hose might not want to stay on its own, if it doesn’t, grab some silicone sealant and get it in there with that.

At this point I was broke and sort of let the project fall by the wayside for a few months – I finally picked it back up last week. I grabbed a little breather filter from Pep Boys, and got six feet of 1/4″ vacuum hose from a friend. Attached the breather filter to the top, hooked up one of the brass fittings (the lower-elevation one) to the PCV valve using the vacuum hose, and hooked the other one up to the PCV port on the intake manifold, like this (sorry it’s hard to read, click to enlarge):
Oil catch can - wrong setup diagram

Wrong setup - overview

Wrong setup - overview

The mounting location from the wrong setupThe PCV connections from the wrong setup

The mounting location and PCV connections from the wrong setup

I kept the tank next to the battery – actually it wasn’t being held in by anything, I just used the tension of the positive battery cable to keep it in place. I don’t recommend this, as it’s a great way to destroy your positive battery cable pretty quickly, but I was only planning on doing it for a day or so to test and make sure everything worked, before mounting it properly.

As it turns out, it didn’t work – the problem is that it caused a massive vacuum leak. I knew that this would be the case when I gave the intake manifold a direct, unthrottled connection to the atmosphere – but I was under the impression that, as long as I let the car idle for ten minutes or so (for the ECU to “get used” to it), it wouldn’t be a problem. That wasn’t the case. It kept throwing a check engine light, code P0505 (“idle system malfunction”) – which makes sense, as the idle controller no longer had any real control over the idle. A fully closed throttle would still leave a source of air.

Logically this would probably have improved my gas mileage due to the reduction of pumping losses from the throttle plate, especially with my foot off the gas, but I wasn’t happy with the way the car ran when it had the code up – it would go between running fine to running like ass. So I reconnected the PCV system as normal and went back to the drawing board to change my setup a little bit, like so (again, sorry it’s hard to read, just click to enlarge it):
Oil catch can - correct setup diagram

The PCV system, post-modificationsOil catch can - intake manifold and hose

The PCV system, post-modifications

There was a problem with this though. First of all, I didn’t know what to plug the intake manifold and pipe with. After a little assistance from the guys at CRSX, I discovered vacuum caps ;) so I hit up Advance Auto Parts to get an assortment of them. Another problem though – the largest one they had wasn’t big enough for the valve cover breather. The guys at AutoZone, however, made a suggestion – get a piece of hose to go over the breather port, and plug the hose with a bolt or something.

So I did exactly that – got a foot of 3/4″ gauge heater hose and the only 3/4″ bolt I could find at Ace Hardware, put the bolt in the hose, tightened a hose clamp around it, and zip tied it up near the battery so it doesn’t flop around. I also needed to change the port arrangement on the tank around a bit – I had the filter on the top port; the valve cover needed to be connected to that now, and the filter to one of the small ports. So I took the casing from a pen (1/4″ or 3/8″, I forget which), clamped that into the end of one of the lengths of 1/4″ PCV-compatible vacuum hose, and clamped the filter onto the other end of the pen casing. Problem solved.

A close-up of the tank's mounting location

A close-up of the tank's mounting location

I hooked everything all up, positioning the tank on top of the transmission – the bottom’s ziptied to one of the stock airbox mounts, and the top’s ziptied to the brake booster. It’s not going anywhere. I put the filter right where the back part of the hood meets the body – basically right in front of the driver side mirror – and made sure the hood closed; it did. However, there was one other problem with this – I went to wash the car and realized that all kinds of water would get into that spot when it rained or when I washed it. So I moved the filter so that it just hangs down in front of the battery now.

Old location of the breather filter outlined in blue

Old location of the breather filter outlined in blue

Again, it’s not going anywhere.

A couple close-ups of the breather filter's final locationOil catch can - filter location (2)

A couple close-ups of the breather filter's final location

I expected it to have a negative impact on my gas mileage, since the blowby that this thing’s catching consists mostly of unburned fuel and oxygen. However, it hasn’t – I’m guessing that without the intake manifold sucking on the crankcase, blowby has simply been considerably reduced. I haven’t noticed a power difference, but I don’t expect to – I’ve heard of people getting 5hp out of these things but that seems like a fish story to me. If I got 2-3whp I’d be ecstatic. I’m going to get it dyno’d with this and a handful of other small mods that I’m doing just to keep the intake charge a bit cooler, so we’ll see what happens.

Fedora 11

Posted by Floppie on 2009-07-02
Posted in ReviewsTech  | Tagged With: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

The Fedora logo

The Fedora logo

About a week ago, I ordered a new hard drive. A 750 gig Western Digital Caviar (model number WD7500AACS), specifically. With this new hard drive, I wanted to upgrade to the newest version of my OS. I had been running openSuSE since building this box a few years back – starting with 10.1, and upgrading to 10.2 when it was released. I didn’t switch to 10.3 after that, because I didn’t do a decent drive setup (I had a /boot/ partition, but everything else was just jammed into the root partition) and using a bootable gPartEd CD to move everything around was a painfully long process…like, three days long. Needless to say, I’m not making that mistake again.

Anyway, this drive is a SATA drive – SATA2, but it has a jumper setting for backwards compatibility with SATA1; my motherboard (an old-ish Asus A8N5X) is a SATA1 board. I brought it home, burned my openSuSE 11.1 installation DVD, shut the system down, plugged the hard drive in, and booted back up. I noticed that the drive wasn’t listed at the BIOS POST screen. I booted from the DVD, went to install it, and found that the drive wasn’t listed in the partition manager. Not really a surprise, since it wasn’t listed in the BIOS.

I shut the system down and tried my other SATA ports – none of them worked. So it’s looking like either the hard drive is bad, or my motherboard is screwed up and the onboard SATA controller isn’t working. I got a PCI SATA controller (some no-name card based on the VIA VT6421A chipset) from a friend, hooked it up to that, and the installer was able to see it. Additionally, my motherboard supports boot from PCI – sweet. So I run the installer, set up my /boot/, /, /home/, and swap partitions, and tell it to install GRUB to the MBR on the SATA drive.

Once it’s done getting all the packages installed, it falls to a black screen. No terminal, no GUI, no power save mode on the monitor, just an empty screen. I wait a little while, and there’s no indication of activity, so I do a hard reset. It tries to boot…no luck. So I tried it again, this time installing to the MBR on the old PATA drive and setting GRUB up with an option to boot from the new hard drive’s root partition. Again, no luck.

At this point I’m sick of screwing with it, I figured that the installer hanging with that black screen was screwing up the GRUB install – so I tinkered for a little bit until I got it to boot from the old openSuSE 10.2 installation, downloaded the Fedora 11 installer, and went to town. I still couldn’t get it to boot from the new drive. So I looked online and found that a lot of people have had trouble booting from these VT6421A-based cards, and decided to look through my BIOS for some PCI boot options.

Lo and behold, my onboard SATA ports were all disabled. I shut the system down, removed the card, plugged the new drive into the port marked “SATA 1″ (out of 4) on the motherboard, and booted from the Fedora 11 DVD…again. BIOS showed the new drive this time. When I got to the installer’s partition manager, I saw that the new drive was still being considered the second drive – sdb. Well, I planned on removing the old PATA drive, and when I did, the identifier would switch – that would be a problem.

So I shut down, pulled the old drive out, and reran the installer. It went through everything without a hitch – while it did this, I dug out my USB enclosure for PATA drives and stuck the old 160 in that. When Fedora was all up and running, I just copied everything off of the old drive, and I’m in the process of going through and dealing with it all. Some things are being deleted, the music that was freshly downloaded is being compressed further (LAME ABR112 for the win), etc.

It’s taking me a while to get Fedora 11 configured the way I like it. KDE4.2 takes some getting used to when I’ve been on 3.5 for years. Compiz is pretty much totally out of development, so after using it for a while and seeing some of the stability issues, I gave that up pretty quickly. I finally got MediaTomb and my P2P file utilities fully functional when I realized there was a firewall and disabled it. I still can’t get the Samba server running though – when I try to run /etc/init.d/smb start or /etc/init.d/nmb start it fails, outputting the following to the log:

[2009/06/30 21:45:17,  0] smbd/server.c:main(1256)
  smbd version 3.3.2-0.33.fc11 started.
  Copyright Andrew Tridgell and the Samba Team 1992-2009
[2009/06/30 21:45:17,  0] lib/messages_local.c:messaging_tdb_init(96)
  ERROR: Failed to initialise messages database: No such file or directory
[2009/06/30 21:45:17,  0] lib/messages.c:messaging_init(204)
  messaging_tdb_init failed: NT_STATUS_OBJECT_NAME_NOT_FOUND
[2009/06/30 21:45:17,  0] smbd/server.c:smbd_messaging_context(101)
  Could not init smbd messaging context.

I can’t, for the life of me, figure that one out. It can connect to Samba shares fine though, and that’s good enough for now. The last thing that I was having problems with was finding a good media player – I always loved Amarok, but Amarok 2 sucks. It’s got a laundry list of missing features – no software equalizer, no collection management, severe lack of configuration options, etc. So I figured I’d install good old Amarok 1.4 – I enabled a Fedora 9 yum repository that contained an Amarok 1.4 RPM, and tried to install it – no go. First of all, removing Amarok 2 was a chore (PackageKit and its KDE front end, KPackageKit, aren’t all that great). Then, the Amarok 1.4 RPM required a bunch of older packages that would have just been completely infeasible to get going.

However, googling "amarok 1.5 fedora 11" and clicking the first result got me to another blog post – "Amarok 1.4 for Fedora 11" on "On the third side" – apparently this person had some issues of his own with Amarok 2, and decided to forwardport 1.4 to Fedora 11. Thank you very much, my friend~

And that’s the…experience…that this has been. I’m planning on trying openSuSE 11.2 when it’s released, so we’ll see how that goes. At least this time, switching from one operating system to another won’t take several days.