The penguin's motorcycling and Jeep blog

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My negligent self

Oh dear, I've been neglecting this blog, haven't I?

So let's review what I've done to my Jeep over the past month, shall we?

  1. M.O.R.E. 1" body lift. This picks the body up off the frame a bit more to a) allow fitting larger tires (I'm trying to make room for 33 inch tires), and b) allow tucking various stuff that hangs below the frame (like the transfer case skid plate and the gas tank) upwards a bit with aftermarket skid plates. I'm going to start with the gas tank because that skid is always clanging on the rocks when I drop off a ledge, and it's a lot easier than tucking the transfer case up (because you need to add a slip-yoke eliminator and CV driveshaft to tuck the transfer case up, which in turn requires adjustable control arms to tilt the rear axle pinion upwards to point at the transfer case rather than being parallel to the transfer case output shaft, which in turn requires relocating the shock and spring mounts slightly because their mounts are now pointing in the wrong direction). It also allows installing:
  2. M.O.R.E. motor mount lifts. This raises the engine up by an inch. This has two effects: a) the fan is now lined up with the shroud again (the radiator and its shroud are body-mounted and are thus now higher, remember?), and b) the revised angle of the engine-transmission-transfer case assembly allows adding longer springs front and back without throwing the driveshafts out of alignment. Remember, the operation of the control arms means that with longer springs (i.e. a lift), the pinion points further upwards on both axles compared to the stock location. This means that a) the front output shaft of the transfer case needs to be higher so that the front pinion is still pointing at it (this happens because the front output shaft extends forward somewhat and got raised a bit when the front of the assembly got raised), and b) the angle of the rear output shaft needs to be greater in order to remain parallel to the rear pinion (since the rear has a non-CV driveshaft). Which raising the front, but not the rear, of the combined assembly accomplishes.
  3. EBC YellowStuff front brake pads. These are race pads that are also good for normal street braking. They both stop faster than regular pads, and are more resistant to fading due to their ceramic construction. They won't last as long as the OEM pads probably, I'll be checking them every 6,000 miles when I rotate my tires, but they'll stop me, and one of the side effects of having bigger tires is that the additional leverage offered by the larger tires makes your brakes suck. I needed more brakes. These give it.
  4. Centric premium rotors. The rotors currently on my Jeep need to be turned before they can be used with new pads -- they have a decided ridge on them from the wear and tear of the OEM pads. But I have to drive the Jeep to the automotive machine shop to get them turned. What to do? Oh yeah, buy new rotors, and then swap between the new ones and the OEM ones on each brake change, that'll do it, I'll drive on the new rotors to get the old ones turned! Plus the Centric rotors are nicely painted. Purty!
So that's what I've done to my Jeep this month. The PITA with the body lift was the transfer case shifter plate (necessary -- even with the motor mount lift, things are otherwise out of whack) and the steering shaft relocation block (needed to relocate the steering shaft bracket to re-align it with the new location of the steering wheel, since the steering wheel is now higher due to the raised body). The PITA with the motor mounts was that picking up the engine moved the engine not only up, but moved the forward bracketry back a bit (simple geometry, dudes!). I struggled with it for a while trying to get the engine to drop into the new mounts, finally realized the problem, loosened the transfer case mounts so they could slide forward some, pried with a *big* prybar to shift the whole assembly forward a bit, and *finally* got it to drop onto the mounting holes in the frame. Remember, the combined engine-transmission-transfer case assembly weighs about 700 pounds (405 for that big cast iron straight-6 engine, about 150 apiece for the transmission and transfer case), so shifting that big honkin' mother takes a *big* prybar :).

As for the brakes, they just slid on. Take tires off. Unbolt calipers (two bolts). Whack disks with rubber mallet to knock them loose from hub, set aside. Remove outer pad. Use giant C-clamp on inner pad to push the piston back (remember to loosen your brake reservoir cap first or you end up with an exploded brake reservoir cap!) . Remove inner pad. Clean with brake cleaner to get all the old dust and grease off. Put new pads on. Put new disc on. Install caliper. 45 minutes per wheel, tops, and that's if you're slow.

So anyhow, all that's working. But now I have a check engine light. I used the on-off-on-off-on quick flick of the key to get the codes onto the odometer, and checked the resulting code against the list of codes. Hmm. P0456 Small Evaporative System Leak Detected. *PROBABLY* means my gas cap was loose. I removed it, wiped the gasket, replaced it. That *should* fix it, but now I need to clear the code to make sure I didn't mess up the evap system somehow when I lifted the Jeep, which means I need to go buy a cheap scan tool from so I can keep clearing it between attempts to solve the problem until I find/resolve the problem. After all, the evap system is mounted on the body, while the gas tank is mounted on the frame -- and remember, I just picked the body up by an inch. Has a hose wiggled loose because it's stretched too tight? Or was the problem just a loose gas cap? I'll replace the gas cap next with a MOPAR locking gas cap if the code recurs, then if it still happens again, I'll pull out the inner fender liners (a PITA but I've been there, done that) and check the evap system (which is hidden between the inner fender liners and the stamped wheel wells). But all this requires having the OBDII scan tool to reset the code between attempts to fix the problem... so off I go to to order it! (Why order it? I can get a decent tool from for $30 cheaper than the local price, that's why... and it does everything I need to do, so why pay more for a tool that works no better for what I need?).

And that's the month of September for my Jeep. Huh, now that I have no more motorcycles to take up time and money, and no more Jeep payments sucking my paycheck, my Jeep is suddenly getting a flurry of attention :). But that is pretty much over until November, when I will be putting new (well, actually lightly used) springs on it to pick it up higher, and maybe some nice rocker guards and corner guards, or a roll cage reinforcement in case I roll it (eep!) because the stock roll cage works, but the windshield crushes in and can chop your head off if you roll wrong (eep!) so some additional bars to keep that from happening is well worth it...

-- Badtux the Wrenchin' Penguin

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My new iTunes radio

Yes, I actually did install that Sony CDX-GT630UI iRadio that I unboxed in the last post.

The instructions from Crutchfield were complete enough. I popped the top trim panel off, then the two screws for the center console cover, and voila, the old radio was just there. Take out the glove compartment, unbolt the security screw at the back as described in the Crutchfield instructions, unplug the two connectors -- the main harness connector and the Sirius radio connector -- and voila. Finally, I unbolted the soft steel "security bar" (a piece of thick wire little thicker than a clothes hanger) and removed it to make more room, since the new Sony radio has no way of attaching to it and it was just in the way. At this point the center of the dash was as empty as it would be:

I then unplugged the Sirius module from its antenna and pulled the Sirius module out from where I'd stashed it under the dash when I put my Kenwood TM-D710A radio where the Sirius module had originally been stashed.

The next thing I had to do was figure out how to put the new Sirius module in. The old one would not work with the new radio. The new Sirius setup was actually two boxes each a little bigger than a deck of cards, one of which hooked to the antenna and one which hooked to the radio and allowed the radio to control the half that hooks to the antenna. But a Jeep Wrangler dashboard is about 8 inches from the front of the dashboard to the firewall, meaning it's already got 10 pounds of shit stuffed into a 5 pound bucket especially since I already have a ham radio and CB radio stuffed under there. First thing I tried to do was re-use the existing Sirius antenna. No go -- it had a different plug than the new Sirius radio. So I unplugged the old antenna up on the rollbar where it lives (remember, the roof of a Jeep is simple cloth or resin-impregnated fiberglass cloth depending on which on you put up there and thus radio-transparent), and put the antenna that came with the Sirius module up there in its place (it just stuck on the existing bracket with a strong magnet). I then ran the wire up front. Next I had to figure out where to put the two halves of the Sirius radio. I found a place for the antenna module at the top of the driver's side kickpanel, and a place for the radio interface module above the heater box vacuum control motor. So I wired everything together -- no way in hell I was going to be able to wire them *after* I got them in place -- and ran the wires that were to the radio out the radio hole, then stuck the boxes in place with double-sided 3M mounting tape, the heavy duty outdoor-use stuff. No way in hell I was gonna be able to get a drill up there to drill holes to mount them, 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bucket, remember? So they were now wired and everything that had to go to the radio, plus the two power wires, was hanging out the radio hole in the dashboard.

Then came the easy part: mounting the radio. The hardest thing there was taking the adaptor Crutchfield sent and soldering it to the pigtail that Sony sent, but it was a matter of soldering blue-white-stripe to blue-white-stripe, brown to brown, etc. until all the wires were connected. As a matter of principle I checked things out against the Jeep service manual's pinout for the connector and Sony's pinout for the connector to make sure I was soldering the right things together, but it turned out that everything soldered correctly. I also soldered in wires to connectors to provide power to the Sirius radio at the same time I soldered in the power wires for the new harness adaptor I was building here -- I used the same "bullet" connectors that are used on all the Japanese motorcycles, simply because I have bags and bags of them. And finally, I plugged in the antenna adaptor that Crutchfield supplied. So now all the wires I needed to plug into the Sony radio were hanging out the dashboard.

So now all I had to do was mount the Jeep-to-DIN adapter and the Sony radio's DIN mounting bracket. The Crutchfield instructions were complete on how to do that. Once I'd done that, I had a nice Sony-sized hole in the dashboard with wires hanging out. Plug wires into Sony, slide radio back into its little cubby while guiding the wires in the directions I wanted them to go (via sticking my hand behind the radio through the glove compartment hole and guiding/tugging wires in the desired directions), and voila. Fire it up by turning the ignition to the accessory position, and... it worked! Except the Sirius, of course, since the Jeep and I are still inside our garage, but the Sirius at least reports "No Signal" rather than nothing at all.

So now I got to put the dash all back together and test out the iPhone/iPod functionality. And here is what it looks like at the end:

My iPhone now plugs directly into my radio and charges from the radio. I can play my iTunes via the radio, and use either the radio's next/forward buttons to move between songs, or the iPhone's screen. I now have a Griffin Windowseat to hold the iPhone over at the left corner of my windshield, so it can serve as a GPS too if I need one in a jiffy or just have a convenient place to let the phone charge and play tunes during long trips. All in all, it just works -- this is a great radio for those with iPhones. I am quite pleased to no longer have to deal with that clunky Chrysler-provided radio.

Oh yeah, the Sirius? I called them and had my account moved from the old ESN to the new ESN and it just works too. I am pleased. And while the Crutchfield directions weren't as complete as they could be, clearly they were good enough for this project. The only real problem was finding a place for the Sirius radio, the Crutchfield directions were absolutely silent on the Sirius install. But it wasn't all that hard at the end to figure it out myself based on Sirius's own directions.

-- Badtux the Radio Penguin