Fleet Update – Let There Be Light! And Leaks!

This weekend several little things got done on half the fleet.

Trinity, the 2004 Toyota Matrix XRS, received five quarts of fresh Mobil 1 and a filter. Nothing particularly interesting there except to note it now appears all four of my cars leak oil. Yay, me.

Of course, the leak originates from deep in the bowels of the engine compartment, wedged between the 2ZZ powerplant and firewall, obscured by some air conditioning pipes and the serpentine belt pulley/tensioner assembly. You can sort of see it when laying under the car with your head just aft of the front subframe, looking up next to the #1 exhaust port with a small Maglite with marginal batteries. Though hard to be sure, I think it’s coming from the O-ring on the timing chain tensioner, which is apparently a common-enough failure occurring post 100,000 miles. The valve cover gasket, just above it, seems dry.

Which makes me wonder if I should just replace the tensioner since I have to remove it anyway. The aftermarket part is all of $23, so I figure the factory part can’t be more than $40 or $50. Can it?

Trinity also had her summer shoes installed. Her winter shoes are nice, grippy Michelin Pilot Alpins. Her summers are almost-completely worn out Bridgestone Potenza RE92s. I guess we’ll have to budget for some new meats, since I seriously doubt I’m going to get another summer out of them.

One other thing that’s been driving me batshit for a while is this weird clunk when the passenger front door window is lowered. It sounded for all the world like the window regulator was coming apart, except it only made the noise going down.

There are usually two kinds of regulators. One is the old-fashioned, all-metal pivoting bracket type which are largely indestructible, unless the rivets let go. The other type is a cable-drive system using plastic pulleys and dumb luck. These have a lifespan rivaling that of a common housefly.

I was quite happy, after having removed the door panel, to find I have the former style. And, get this: With the door open and the inside door panel off, the window works beautifully and, more importantly, quietly. There was nothing protruding from the backside of the door panel, so what’s in the way of the window when the door is closed?

The door brake.

There’s enough play in the door brake that, when you close the door, the tail-end is ever-so-slightly in the path of the window. As the window moves down, the clunk is the door brake being pushed out of the way. Once the door brake is out of the way, the window doesn’t again touch it until the next time the door is opened and closed.

How this happened I can’t tell you. But I did notice the door brake was a little loose where it bolts to the door (the jamb connection point was tight). Maybe the brake was weakened from age or being loose.

Regardless, there wasn’t any place obvious to buy a Matrix door brake on a Sunday in Minnesota. I hate having to put something back together when it’s not fixed. I figured since the door brake wasn’t hitting by very much, maybe I could modify it.

In the third toolbox I looked in, I found my rat-tail file and went to work slowly. I took probably about 1.5 millimeters off the brake, just enough to clear the window. Cheesy? Sure, but it’s quiet now. The next time it starts making noise I’ll order a new brake since now I know what it sounds like. Oh, and I also tightened the other three door brakes.

Feeling on a roll, and having the floor jack out anyway, I decided to install the driver side front wheel center cap on Chuck, the 1981 BMW 528i. The cap installs from the back of the rim, necessitating wheel removal.

I also installed the foglights which had been residing in two separate boxes in several garages over the last 10+ years. My father-in-law, the previous owner of the car, didn’t like them. I’ll never know why, but since I’ve been the caretaker of Chuck since we got him, I obliged and removed the fogs.

One lens is cracked – the overall patina matches the car nicely – and both required new bulbs and some wiring repair. There was some nasty corrosion in the ground wire circuit connection in the engine compartment for the passenger side lamp. Happily, the rest of the circuit worked.

BMWs from the 1980s really need bumper-mounted foglights. It just looks right, especially with the period-correct, enameled BMW Car Club of America badge.

However, the most important thing I did in the garage this weekend was assemble my two-year-old’s Radio Flyer tricycle. Made in China (when did that start?!) and resplendent in virgin red paint, it sits waiting for his short legs.

Now he has a choice; the BMW Z3 pedal car or the Radio Flyer?

~ Jonathan

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