Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Commuter

I have a Honda Nighthawk (CB250) as my daily driver. It is the only vehicle I own that does not have "Historic" tags. I read it would get 70MPG on average., though on the Yahoo Nighthawk group, some guy in GB said he got 90MPG highway, I didn't believe him.

When I drive it, I have fun. Because the engine is so small (Two cylinder 250cc, you know, 0.25 Liters) , I really feel no guilt in just pouring on the throttle. I'd been driving it hard, always topping out gears before shifting, especially to stay away from people driving cars. When I checked at the pump I was getting 50MPG.

After seeing that, I decided to drive conservatively just to see the MPG I could get. I was not driving super conservative, I was just driving like a car, accelerating calmly, turning the engine off at long lights, and still speeding up quickly to avoid people crazy enough to be driving cars.

I checked again at the pump . . . 200 miles . . . 2 gallons of gas . . .

Yay four stroke engines~!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

RX-7 Convertible Headrest Modification

All RX-7 convertibles, came with headrests speakers, two to each headrest, with volume controls for the passenger and the driver. I've heard other cars, such as the Miata, also came with these. After upgrading the audio equipment everywhere else, I noticed that the sound from these headrest speakers is pretty bad. The crapiness of the speakers was especially potent because they were right next to my head, and that's not really acceptable.

After disassembling the headrest, you'll get to see this weird oval/rectangle speaker

Yeah, pretty sad. Compare it with these Infinity Reference 3002CF speakers in the picture below. I picked these 3.5" speakers because I liked the high and mid-high range sound. Headrest speakers only need to carry that range, as the lows are for your larger speakers behind you or in the doors.

Here the speakers are side by side so that you can see and compare the backs.

Since I'm not a hardcore audiophile like Dan is, I decided to re-use the stock speaker mounts instead of fabricating a custom box. They are made out of a rather thick hard plastic, and that's a good thing. However, they are prone to cracking because of the way they are fastened to the headrest, and of course their age. Make sure you have some superglue handy.

Here it is! Modded next to un-modded. Make sure the box does not touch the cone of the speaker at any range of its movement.

Here is a picture of the modified unit dissasembled in front of the headrest mounting bracket.

Here you go! All done! You don't need to put Dynamat on the headrest, I just put it there as a joke for Trevor. It's a really thick piece of metal already.

Final results: the sound is awesome! It does not take over the super highs (as those are handled by separate tweeters in front of me) but it handles the high and high middle very well. It's really fantastic for when the top is down and it's really noisy outside, I can still have my music coming in nice and clear.

The Magic is Gone

Picture I took outside of Mustang Magic, after the wall fell.
For the story, click here.

(Click for a larger image)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tofuball's Reading

I removed all the unrelated stories from the site, because, well, they were unrelated. I moved them over to Tofuball's Reading.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How not to remove a tree.

My friend Theo from RX-7Club had a tree problem; in the back of his yard, looming over his tool shed, a dead tree was about to fall on his house. The tree was about about a foot and a half in diameter.

To keep it from falling and breaking things, he wrapped a logging chain around the trunk and used a come-a-long to secure it to a larger tree nearby.

He asked the forum what he should do next:

I have already cut a small wedge out of the tree in the direction of the come-a-long... But not enough to get the tree leaning that way. Once it does start leaning or falling, it'll release the tension on the chain/cable... Then it won't pull anymore. How do I pull it down when the tension is off the cable?

Any other bright ideas before I go killing or breaking something?

He then went out and notched the tree in the direction of the shed:

And the next time he posted, we were graced with the following pictures:

Luckily the shed was crappy and he didn't care much, and the gutters aren't THAT bad ;)

You can read the thread for all the details, and the nom nom shedz tree, here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Installing a Reinforced Ceiling Electrical Box Gone Wrong.

Hey everyone, Dan here from the MoCo Eats blog. I don’t know if Tofuball has ever had this problem before, but I have personally found that sometimes your home improvement projects just don’t want to go exactly as planned. From the experience I had last night you might never want to take my advice on any how-to projects again, but trust me when I say this is NOT normal for me.

The mission was simple: install a reinforced ceiling fan electrical box in my bedroom ceiling, run a wire to it, and then connect that wire to a wall switch. Sounds simple right? Well as I’m about to explain, the "simple" tasks aren’t always as easy as they should be.

The Planning Process…

My entire attic is filled with blown-in fiberglass insulation so I knew I would have to suit-up as much as possible to avoid itching for the rest of my life. My brilliant idea was to purchase a full body tyvek suit which would keep the fiberglass off my skin, and it worked great . . . Except it also kept out air and kept IN sweat! If you've ever been in an attic in the middle of summer, you know how terrible that is! So, picture this, I am suited up like a HAZMAT cleanup worker, crawling army style through a tiny little opening in the mounds of fiberglass. At this point I realized that the beams there were only 8 inches apart and the reinforced ceiling box is 16 inches wide. Unfortunately the brace has to span across the beams so it can hold the maximum amount of weight, but since the beams are so close together this setup is now impossible. I retreat for now, I must come up with a new attack plan.

Once I reach the temperatures downstairs I tend to take my time planning my next strategy because the attic is so hot. Yesterday it was hovering around 90 degrees, but last week I put a thermometer up there and it read 113.4 degrees. So bottom line, if you want to lose weight this is a PERFECT opportunity! Put on that Tyvek suit and get to work. After a few short minutes you’ve magically lost 10 lbs!

At this point I have confirmed that the electrical box I have won’t work, so I have to find an alternative. I could put a wooden brace above that one and nail it into the beams, but that would involve two trips into the attic, climb up to measure, come down to cut, and return to nail it in place. That alone was reason enough to rule it out. So my idea was to find a box that has a metal brace on the side that can be screwed into the stud on one side only. I don’t recommend this method to anyone else as it’s not quite as strong as the full length braced box. But for my particular situation it should suffice.

The Installation…

So I climbed into the attic and held the box in place long enough to trace it with a pencil. Then I moved the box out of the way and cut the hole with a drywall saw. All I had to do after that was put the box in place, call for my lovely wife to help me get the height right so it’s flush with the drywall, and drive in the screws. After yelling for several minutes I realized she was in the basement and so I just waited patiently as 5lbs magically burned from my body. Eventually she came and I was able to get everything fastened properly and get the heck out of that part of the attic permanently!

Installing the Wire in the Wall…

All I have to do now to finish the job is run the wire down the wall and hook it into the switchbox. This part is super easy, just drill the hole, drop the wire and pull it into the box. Well not so fast, this too can be complicated! I measured the distance from the walls so I could drill in the right place and I marked the location. Have you ever started drilling into an enclosed wall when suddenly light appears through the very hole you’re drilling? Well I have! The distance from the trim to the wall is different in the attic and my measurements were about one inch off. So lucky me, I drilled right into the bathroom ceiling. True this is easily fixed with a bit of drywall mud, but the hole just so happened to be directly above my wife’s and my own brand new toothbrushes. Literally we had used them twice.

The Final Hookup…

Finally with my wife’s help we were able to get the wire into the electrical box and are ready to do the final hookup and install the fan. I wasn’t able to get that done last night, but I’m sure hoping the next parts of the install will be easier than the last. As a final kick in the gut, when I went to put the screw back in the switchbox I made the unfortunate realization that I had left my best screwdriver somewhere in the depths of the second attic… maybe someone else will find it in 50 years or so.

Monday, July 28, 2008

How does a PCV valve work? What is it?

More then once I've had people ask me "Why do I even need a PCV valve? Can't I just cap it off?" Unlike most other things that are classified as "Emissions Controls Devices," the PCV valve is not useless. PCV stands for "Positive Crankcase Ventilation." What in the world does that mean? To get to the bottom of this, first we'll have to go over some basics:

You should vent the crankcase: We all know about the top of the pistons going through the 4 stroke cycle, but some of us forget about what is going on under the piston, in the crankcase. The crankcase is basically the entire "bottom half" of your engine, containing, you guessed it, the crank. Under the crank is usually a sea of oil, and above that, oil is being squirted or secreted out of many different holes and openings. As each piston drops, the pressure increases, and as each piston rises, the pressure decreases. If you pressurized the crankcase, the pistons would have to fight the pressure to move, so you have to vent the crankcase.

Ok, just cut a hole in the valve cover and put in a filter, that’s your vent, right? Well, it would work for that purpose, however, there are still two more concerns:

Blowby, and her ugly friend, Emissions: Because the seal of the piston rings is not perfect, during combustion, some of the unexploded or even burnt intake charge gets into the crankcase. This is called "blowby" and it gets worse as the car ages and the piston rings wear down. Blowby is a problem because it is acidic, possibly corrosive and explosive. You wouldn't want those gasses igniting outside the combustion chamber, would you? The water vapor in blowby gasses can condense when you turn off the car and cause rust. If left alone, blowby can cause viscosity breakdown (thinning) of your oil, and to top it off, these unburned hydrocarbons are bad for the environment. So you shouldn't just stick a vacuum on your crankcase and suck everything out into the atmosphere. Besides, there is a cheaper solution then going out and buying a vacuum; because your engine's intake is already a vacuum!

So what the manufacturers did is they put a hole in one side of the crankcase and connected it to your air filter, so that it can take in fresh air. This is usually called a "Crankcase breather." On a "V" engine this is usually done on one valve cover, and then the other valve cover is connected to your intake manifold. That way, when you're driving, the engine will suck up all the hydrocarbons and burn them, and keep your crankcase under a vacuum.

Sounds great, right? "But Jason," I hear you saying "It's called a PCV valve, why is there a valve there?" "Silence!" I'll yell, because you're interrupting me, you jerk.

So why use a valve?
Your engine vacuum is not a constant. At idle, and at low engine loads and cruising, your engine produces lots of vacuum. However, at more aggressive driving (You know, like in DC?) the engine vacuum is much lower. To keep the vacuum in the crankcase high, they put a valve in that closes at low engine vacuum.

Another reason for the valve: inside the crankcase, oil is flying all over the place creating a mist, or just a splashing such a way that can get sucked into the engine through the PCV. That's mostly OK, as the engine can happily burn such a small amount of oil. However, it needs to be quite hot to burn the oil, and lean fuel mixtures from cruising are a lot more "oil burning friendly" then colder, rich fuel mixtures from hard driving.

Back in the 60s and earlier, cars used to just be equipped with a draft tube, which would just come straight out of the crankcase and out into the atmosphere. The "road draft tube" would use the air passing by to induce a vacuum. It would also randomly dump oil on the road, and just vent unburned hydrocarbons.

Some companies claim to have special PCV valves that make your car get 30% more fuel economy and the like, and like fuel line magnets, you should just ignore those.

A lot of people put "Oil Catchcans" on their PCV line, to catch the oil coming out before it gets into the engine. This keeps the inside of your intake manifold cleaner, and is a matter of personal preference for most vehicles. You can either make one yourself or just buy one pre-made online.

If your PCV valve goes bad, it will either fail "open" and always lets everything through, and that can lead to problems like oil-fouled spark plugs. The PCV can also fail closed, causing problems such as oil coming out your breather tube and soiling your air filter. If your system doesn't incorporate a breather tube, or it's clogged, your dipstick may pop off from the pressure, and your engine will run a little worse, possibly burning more oil.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Electric fan conversion for $20

Why electric fans?

A lot of people want to convert to an electric fan for their cars, either because their stock "clutch-type fan" is dead, to save energy, or to free up space in the engine bay.

Some people say that electric fans do not save energy, the reason being that you lose energy by converting it from kinetic energy into electricity, then back into kinetic energy, unlike the stock fan that is just belt driven without the conversions. This would be true, but only if the electric fan ran at all times. It saves energy by only turning on when it is needed. This is why most modern cars have electric fans. The engine does less work, so you get a little more power and slightly better fuel economy.

I removed my stock clutch fan in my Mazda RX-7 and replaced it with the stock twin fans out of a first gen (Mark I, from the eighties) Toyota MR2, and I did it for about $20. The reasons were simple. The most important reason I did this was that the stock clutch was dead, and a new one costs more then the MR2 fans at a junkyard. I also like having all that room in the engine bay, making it easier to change belts and observe engine operating conditions.

What electric fan should I use?

You can use almost any electric fan you'd like, I would recommend grabbing the twin fans out of a Mark II MR2 if you can, because they are less likely to be rusted out then the Mark I fans, and they look much nicer. The parts are interchangeable, and the motors have been upgraded. In fact, if you have dead Mark I fans, you can get rebuilt motors for the Mark II and turn the old motors in for the core charge.


This install is on a 1990 Mazda RX-7 Convertible with A/C. Your setup will vary, and you can find a different set of fans (or fan) from another junkyard car, just make sure it covers the radiator well and works with your shrouding.

The dual MR2 fan shrouds are made of metal and fit almost perfectly with a little bending. As anyone who has ever owned an Mark I MR2 knows, everything metal on the car rusts out, so I had to wire wheel and then paint these fans (I did too quick a job on the shrouds, in my opinion). Then I painted the (previously off white) fans black with some KRYLON PlastiCote. I really like the way they came out (scroll down for pictures).

I put regular house weather stripping along the edge of the fan and then set it on my radiator. I cut a few lengths of coat hanger up and then bent them in to create the brackets to hold the fans in place. If you want it to look nicer, you can use zip ties through the top of the radiator. Next, I bent the metal of the fan shroud flat around where the coolant hoses are run (I don't like the idea of my soft rubber hoses touching a vibrating metal fan shroud)

I tested each fan for polarity by applying battery voltage, and then set them to pull air through the radiator. This is important, you don't want the fans fighting incoming air. I then ran the ground wire to the chassis right next to the fans. I used all 8 gauge wire, this is important, you don't want to use too small a wire or it will heat up, and might even cause major issues. The positive wire went to a relay.

Controlling the Fan

Now, you can have the relay powered by a switch that you manually flip (that's no fun, and kinda dangerous if you forget to flip the switch), a thermoswitch (sounds good to me) or an aftermarket ECU (thats what I did). If you don't use an ECU, you can use an aftermarket temperature switch, or just build your own.

I have the The MegaSquirt ECU set to switch on the relay on whenever it sees the engine temperature go OVER 200F (210F is the maximum acceptable operating temperature) and switch it off around 184F.

The temperatures you set will be dependant on what car you install your fans on, and what thermostat you are running. If you're in doubt, just set it to 200F.


When the fans come on, it's insane how fast they cool down the radiator. You can put your hand behind the airstream and FEEL the temperature drop in the air coming off. The coolant sensor input to my ECU hesitates a little, (The waterpump has to circulate the cool water, then the sensor has to catch up) then the display shows the temperature drops 20 degrees almost instantly!

These fans are much quieter then the Black Magic or Flex-a-Lite fans that I have heard. The fans do not over tax my stock alternator either.

Test fitting the fans:

Bending to clear the lower radiator hose:

You will have to bend it on top for the upper radiator hose too.

I would post better pictures, but a bit after I installed these fans, the car was stolen! I hope this writeup has been helpful for you, feel free to ask questions in the comments section!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Plastic on demand

I was reading this fascinating page on a fellow making an android, and I saw he was using this stuff for mounting the engines that he only called "Polymorph." When I looked it up I found out what amazing stuff it really is.

Friendly plastic. Shapelock, Polymorph. It has many names, but it's all the same wonderful stuff. You can buy it either plain (white) or in a vast assortment of colors. It's non toxic and biodegradable, safe and fun to play with, and has an untold number of uses.

When you buy it, it comes in the form of small white pellets that you drop into hot water (90F to 150F based on how malleable you want it, it only takes a few seconds) pull it out, squeeze out the excess water and shape to your hearts content. You can use tools or your bare hands, it shapes a lot like clay. When it cools down it will be as hard as nylon. If you ever get tired of its current shape, just drop it back into hot water and it will return to a malleable mush, it's totally reusable.

It is great for use in making molds, orthopedics, models, impromptu tools, and much more.

It can be painted, and when hot it sticks to whatever you want, but if that is not the desired effect, just splash the surface with a little cool water and it will no longer be sticky.

Want some? It's not really that expensive, as a little goes a long way. Here are some places you can go to buy some of this wonderful stuff: - Before shipping (About $8), sells for around $23 a lb ($25 for 500 grams) - 28oz for US$42 is about $23.3 a lb for "Friendly Plastic" - If you buy the 25lb bucket for US$540, you're looking at $21.60 a lb of "Friendly Plastic" - For 1KG of "Polymorph," you'll be set back US$30 + VAT for $16 a lb.

Rotary Teardown #1 - Vax's Engine

This weekend I finished tearing down a customer's rotary engine (13B) from an RX-7, and I figure I'll post the results here, and clarify what the pictures mean. This engine is out of a Series 4 Mazda RX-7, it is the Naturally Aspirated version of the engine, meaning it did not come with a turbo. This engine (I believe) has over 150,000 miles on it.

This is the engine with the front cover first removed. You can see the oil pump with the chain around it, and the CAS (Crank Angle Sensor) worm gear on the nose of the eccentric shaft. Everything here looks normal for an engine with high miles except for that counterweight . . . .

The front counterweight is usually coated in oil. This coating drips off if the car sits for a long time. With the protective coating of oil gone, combined with moisture from some short distance driving (where the engine did not have time to warm up and steam off the water) probably caused this rust. The oil pump also had some small scratches on the aluminum internal arm, indicating that old or crappy oil had been used, as even high mileage 13B engines tend to have very little wear on the oil pump.

With the rear iron removed, you can see the rear rotor. I could immediately tell that it was blown because two of the apex seals were retracted into the rotor. Normally they are pressed firmly against the housing, it's not easy to tell in this small version of the picture, check out the larger version here and look at the topmost seal. Note the distance between the seal and the housing.

Here, we can see that when the apex seal blew, it took a chunk of the rotor with it. Those parts flying around in the combustion chamber took out the housing. All would have to be replaced if the customer desired to have this engine rebuilt.

This is one of the many scratches on the rotor face left by the apex seal.

Here, I'm cleaning out the coolant passage of the front rotor housing. This is the better of the two, in that it's not completely blown by having a metal seal smashed into it repeatedly.

My guess is that this is the result of mixing Dexcool with the regular green coolant. Some people think that it's the result of too much tap water and stop leak. Personally I've seen the results of using "Bar's leak," and it's not this bad.

Again, the better of the two rotor housings. You can see the gouge left by the corner seal in the surface of the housing. Also you should note that the housing is shiny, it's not supposed to be, it should have a whitish matte finish over the metal, it's a special oil retaining coating to prevent stuff like this from happening. High miles and crap oil is my guess for what happened here.

The one perfectly decent internal part recovered (not counting the obvious stuff like the eccentric shaft). The front rotor. It is a "C" weighted rotor, so it will need a similarly weighted rotor to replace it's brother that was lost in the line of duty. This rotor can be cleaned up and returned to service.

For larger versions of all these pictures, check out my photobucket album. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why are Some People so Terrible with Money?

"If you can't afford it, you don't buy it."

Sounds logical, right? Yet it seems quite a few people have gotten into big trouble with that concept.

Maybe because they don't have a concept of how much money is really coming and going. That is why it is important to at least have an idea of a budget. It doesn't take that much time, and there are tons of tools to make it easier. A major cause of marital strife is money, so even if you're not married, at least get some practice putting your finances in order. If you are married, I'm sure your wife will be impressed when you have a pretty looking spreadsheet for her the next time she asks where all the money is going.

Think that is too much work? Check out Mint; "Mint connects to over 5,000 US banks and credit unions, credit card, brokerage, and mutual fund companies to keep your transactions and account balances automatically up-to-date. Mint even auto-balances your checkbook and auto-categorizes your transactions. Set it up once and you’re done." Best of all, it's free!

Once you have a budget set up, you can sit down and make logical decisions about where to cut back without making much sacrifice. My favorite thing about helping people set up budgets is watching their faces when they find out how much their diet coke costs per month. One fellow I helped was spending over $2000 on diet coke per year (He drank a lot per day)

That's . . . almost the price of a car . . . every few years.

Why save money? I don't make a lot of money compared to everyone else in the area I live in, and my wife is a stay at home mom, but I still live a whole lot more comfortably then people who make more then me, because as soon as they get money they just spend it. Some people I know, after a week or so, have no idea why they don't have money and are living paycheck to paycheck, and after a while they end up maxing out a few credit cards.

Then some people even turn around and blame the credit card/lending companies. I can understand complaining about predatory lending, but it wouldn't work in the first place if people just paid back what they owed in the first place.

Don't spend more then you make. If you can't handle that, get rid of your credit cards.

Personally, I like credit cards for the convenience, and for the rewards. I put everything on my credit card that I possibly can. I get reward points that I redeem for gas cards. I pay off the balance in full every 2 weeks. It's free gas, about $1 worth for every $60 to $100 spent.

Though the MoneyAnswerGuy disagrees with me there, and says that no one can use a credit card responsibly.

Check out what different credit cards have to offer at the CreditCartGuide or CardOffers

Or you can read some other guy on the topic of "Why Are Some People so Ignorant About Money?"

Why Deaden? Who says you need serious beats to benefit from it?

Hello everyone! Dan here from the MoCo Eats blog! I'm here to ask you if you're tired of being forced to crank your radio up every time you go past 45 mph just to hear what song is playing? Does your car sound like a thin metal can when you slam the door? There is a simple solution to that, it doesn't cost that much at all, and when you're done, your car will have that luxurious feel that much more expensive cars do.

There are many places in your car or truck that have nothing but a very thin layer of sheet metal separating you from the road. The trick to making your ride quieter is to drop the "resonance frequency" of these thin pieces of metal by making them thicker; and the more road noise and metal vibration you can stop, the better everything in your car will sound.

There are many many places to buy sound deadener for your car, and there are literally dozens of different types, grades, thicknesses and even colors. There is roll on, stick on, and glue on, and even spray on. So where do you start?

My journey started with a place that sells some of the best sound deadener that I know of. It's the thickest, and not the most expensive. . Not only do they have the kind you paint on with a brush, but they also have three different kinds of self-adhesive materials. Their prices are significantly lower than Dynamat and most deadener you can buy in retail stores, but I kept digging and found some stuff that was even cheaper. Do a google search for R-blox, or Fat Mat, and Brown Bread.. I bought 100 square feet of R-blox for $89.00 plus shipping. Here is the key: you want the most mil for the buck! While the stuff I bought (r-blox) is a lot cheaper than e-dead, it is also quite a bit thinner. For example the eDead UE is 120 mils, and the R-blox is 50 mils. That means I would have to put three layers down to exceed the thickness of the eDead UE. Fortunately what I bought came out to less than $1 per sq-ft and the eDead is $3.50/sq-ft. So to me it seemed worth having to do a couple layers.

The kind that comes in a can is also quite important to mention because it is the only kind that can go ANYWHERE! You typically won't want to use the sticky roll material on anything that takes extreme heat and is upside down. For example you wouldn't want to use it on the inside of your roof. However, if you were to buy the liquid, you could paint it on the roof and never have to worry about it falling down in the heat. For the sake of simplification, today I'm just going to be talking about the self-adhesive type of sound deadener since that's what I bought. Obviously the technique is going to be different for the kind that is painted on.

The first step is to remove as much covering as you can. The car’s covering… not yours… This involves door panels, carpet, and any plastic that you can remove. Be careful not to break anything, and if you do break anything, I’m sorry for your loss. Please don’t call me. ANYWAY, at this point your door should look something like the picture on the right. Perhaps yours doesn’t have a plastic covering, regardless, this plastic covering needs to come off because you need to release the invisable noise gremlins that live inside the door. Also because you will be reaching your hands inside the door to apply the sound deadening agent.

The reason we are starting with the door is because the entire panel on the outside of the car is most likely just a single thin sheet of metal. This is a good time to clean the door panel with Windex or some other grease-fighting spray to help the sound deadening adhere properly to the panels. Just for fun when you’re done cleaning the dust and dirt off, knock on the outside of your door panel just to hear what it sounds like "Before" you apply the sound deadening… You’ll thank me later when you hear the "After."

Now, cut pieces that are small enough to fit through the holes in the door panel, so you can apply them from the inside. Once you cut them, peel one corner and press that to the
place you want it then peel the protective layer until the whole piece is stuck.
Repeat as necessary until the whole skin is covered inside. Just to warn you, I ended up with a lot of cuts and scrapes on my hands from this step, so be careful! Then be sure to use a roller (or, failing that a metal spoon works fine) to really press it down onto the panel.

Next step is to apply it to the outer part of the door (the part that will be covered by the door panel.) Cut a large, but manageable sized piece off of the roll. A good rule of thumb is the bigger the better for the pieces. The more seams you have, the less effective it becomes. My door has a metal arm rest in the middle that is riveted in place, so I opted to do two pieces instead of one and just work around that piece.

You have to be very careful to not stick the deadener over top of any moving parts! One solution is to cover them all with aluminum foil, but I have found this to cause rattles later. What I do is line the piece up over top of the moving parts, then cut the backing paper around them. This keeps the adhesive from touching any moving parts and you don’t have to worry. Here’s a picture to show how I did it.

Now back to the outside of the door . . . Here’s a shot of the first piece on.

Just like the inside of the door panels, start at one side and peel back a couple inches of the backing paper. Stick that to the door and then slowly with one hand pushing and the other hand pulling off the backing paper, work in one direction until the whole piece is applied. Now take a roller and work it into the contours of the door.

Here's a quick before picture showing how it looks after you work it into the contours using your roller (and/or spoon).

And this is after!

A good way to tell if you’re using enough is to knock on parts of the door. If it still rattles you can add another layer and press it down harder. This really makes a huge difference. I had to cut a couple holes in the deadener to let wires through, but when I got the wire through, I put a small square of deadener over the opening so the door panel remained air tight.

Now the only step left is to re-attach your door panel and go for a ride!

This mod makes such a huge difference on how my car sounds on the road. It dramatically reduced the road noise and tire noise. My stereo sounds better, and I don’t even have to turn it up when I hit 70mph! In fact, I even have a fun story from my experience. On my way to work the morning after I finished this project, I called my wife and asked her how it sounded and it went something like this…

Me: “Hi honey! How do I sound?”
Her: “You sound great, are you in your car?”
Me: “I am… so you don’t hear any road noise or anything?”

Her: “Nope, it’s silent.”
“Cool! I’m doing 80!”

The doors make the most difference, but you can do this modification anywhere there is thin metal or insufficient deadening material on the car. Some places to look are transmission tunnels and the firewall in the engine bay.

Please be sure to share your experiences! We'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Seven useful websites for help with the high price of gas

Sure, there's tons of news about how high energy costs are, and how that's driving up the price of food and other goods, but these sites stood out to me, and I'd like to share them with you.

1) Ten things you can like about $4 a gallon gas - "But it's also true that Americans are finding options where there seemed to be none. They're ready to change — and waiting for their infrastructure to catch up. They are driving to commuter-rail lines only to find there are no parking spots left. They are running fewer errands and dumping their SUVs. Public-transit use is at a 50-year high. Gas purchases are down 2% to 3%. And all those changes bring secondary, hard-earned benefits. "

2) Website lets drivers lock in gas prices - "A recently introduced service called allows drivers to fill up their tanks sometime in the future but at current prices, using a debit-like card which banks gallons rather than dollars."

3) Gas Savers - "A community of fuel economy enthusiasts. Our typical member does not own a hybrid. Our typical member is like you: With a normal vehicle and a desire to increase the fuel economy of that vehicle. Whether you want to save money, save the environment, or just reduce our dependency on foreign oil, there is a place for you here! Perhaps you just wish to have a way to track your fuel consumption. Using our garage you can create a profile for your vehicle and start tracking your fuel consumption. You can even compare gas mileage with other members in the Garage. Join GasSavers, do your part, and start associating with people like you. You don't have to be a mechanic or a gear head in order to change your fuel economy, you just have to know what to do."

4) EcoModder - "An automotive community where performance is judged by fuel economy rather than power and speed. EcoModders employ a combination of vehicle mods, driving techniques, and common sense to squeeze every penny out of the pumps. Reasons for becoming a member range from the economical to the ecological. More info about where EcoModding came from."

5) Gas Buddy - "Now you can see what gas prices are around the country at a glance. Areas are color coded according to their price for the average price for regular unleaded gasoline. Click here for the Canada National Gas Temperature Map."

6) Motorcycle Fuel Economy Guide - As oil prices rise across the world, gas prices just keep rocketing up too. Cheap gas seems to be a memory of the past as we all look to save money on fuel, and saving is never all that fun. Why not do both? Save your money and have fun at the same time; on a motorcycle! . . . Motorcycles are some of the best vehicles to give you the best economy, efficiency, and gas mileage. See and compare all different models from the major manufacturers all in one spot."

7) Gas Edge - "Find out if it's worth the trip for cheaper gas! Sure, the gas station across town has a lower price on gasoline, but is it really worth the trip? Will you save more money on the gas then it costs to drive to the cheaper gas station? Use this free calculator to find out"

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ten Extreme Frugality Tips

If you can get it used and it works just the same, why bother getting it new for twice the price?

WHY save money? Whats the goal? Saving for the sake of saving? Personally, I save because I love my job (Even though it does not pay that well), and my wife wants to be a stay at home mom. By cutting a few needless expenses, and getting a good deal here and there, it is possable to reach this goal without having to make major sacrifices. What is your goal?

Here are some of the things I do to save money:

1) Sort through the valuable stuff people throw away. I highly recommend doing this, even if you're not going to keep what you find, like a microwave or oven, donate it to Habitat for Humanity Re-store and write it off on your taxes. In fact, if you have one near you, or a store like it, shop there frequently for whatever you need in household goods. Since I live in a very affluent county, we always have phenomenally rich people just throwing away perfectly awesome stuff just on a whim. Tons of stuff is also available on Freecycle and Craigslist.

2) Get economical transportation. I'm not saying to go out and buy a new Prius. In fact, quite the opposite! What is the point of saving a few bucks on gas when all those savings go into loan payments and increased insurance costs? If you buy a good used car, you wont have interest-bearing loans to pay off, and you can get by with liability only insurance. Those two things alone make a major difference in your monthly expenses. For example, I picked up an 89 Corolla for $700, it got 44mpg and ran reliably. I'd still have it but I gave it to someone who needed it more, and it is still running strong.

Perhaps a car that old is not for you, but low mileage cars that are only 3 years old and still under warranty cost much less then their newer counterparts, and the older you go the more you save. Personally, I bought a motorcycle (Honda Nighthawk 250) and drive it daily as my commuter. It gets 70MPG and it's quicker then most cars, and a blast to drive. The rest of my vehicles have historic tags.

Why buy a new car? Who are you trying to impress? What are you compensating for?

3) Purchase a foreclosed house. This is not a move for everyone, especially since there is no associated warranty, only go into this if you have no problem doing your own work on the house, or you have a few friends who live nearby and you trust working on your house.

4) Replace all light bulbs with CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs). Some states have state subsidies for CFLs, driving the price down to as low as 99 cents a bulb! The biggest foreseeable problem with the CFLs is disposal, since they contain mercury. A 13 Watt CFL will put out as much light as a 60 Watt incandescent light, and lasts a whole lot longer.

5) Cut your family's hair yourselves. For the cost of a single hair cut around here (plus tip), I bought a decent Wahl trimmer from No more time and gas wasted to get to (and wait at) the barber. This wont work for people who have more complicated hair styles then mine.

6) Don't buy processed or prepared foods. Not only do pre-prepared foods from the supermarket tend to be bad for you, but they cost a whole lot more.

7) Close off the vents and doors in rooms that aren't currently being used. There are also tons of things you can do involving the thermostat to save money. Read this site about How to set your thermostat for maximum energy savings.

8) Line-dry clothes. This saves a lot more money then you'd think at first, as line dried clothes last longer and the energy bill is MUCH lower. It saves time because you usually don't have to iron line dried clothes. It saves money because your dryer probably eats about $1.50 to $3 per load, and that adds up. It takes a minute or two more time then cramming a ball of clothes into the dryer, but it's worth the effort, because you're making at least $1.50 for that one minute of work, that's $90 an hour, after taxes!

Normally, people associate line dried clothes with hard, stiff clothes that are really uncomfortable. The only time that happens is if there is no wind. If that is the case, you can just shake the clothes, or throw them in the dryer for the last 10 minutes on tumble dry, but that might be more effort then it's worth.

9) Buy tools used or from Harbor Freight. If you haven't heard of Harbor Freight Tools, you should probably visit the store. Some stuff of theirs is absolute crap, but other things work just fine, so pick carefully. Also, check out their Clearance section. Used tools can be gotten for a deal at shows, fairs, garage sales, and pawn shops. Some brands of tools, such as Snap-On, Mac, MATCO, Blue Point, and Craftsman let you exchange their broken tools for new ones, so even if you see a broken one on sale, it is worth it to pick it up for a reduced price!

10) Look at switching to a tankless water heater. There are many benefits to switching, most notably, a possible 2/3 drop in water heating costs! Most of these savings come from the fact that there isn't a tank working hard to keep 30 or 50 gallons of water hot all day long, even if it is not being used. Also, a tankless water heater takes up much less space, and can add to the value of your home.

So, what cost-saving measures do you employ in your daily life? Lets hear your ideas for stretching a shrinking dollar.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Working on the basement walls . . .

So, I don't have a lot of coin on hand, so I bought a house that was foreclosed. One of the reasons the house could not sell was because the basement constantly flooded for the last 60 some years, finally causing one of the retaining walls to collapse, as you can see in these pictures. (Click to make it larger)

Here, you can see that the strength of the wall was entirely compromised, the cinder blocks were crumbling and useless. They never had re bar or concrete in them, so when the blocks had pressure put on them, they just went, and the dirt that was holding the foundation up just kept up the pressure . . .

The old wall definitely had to come down. First we dug the loose dirt out from behind it, and covered the packed dirt with cement to hold it in place while we were working.

The cinder block wall you see on the upper half of the above picture is the actual foundation for the house.

The next step is to remove the old cinder blocks . . .

You can see what the wall of dirt looks like, now that the cinder blocks (more like cinder mush) have been removed. We had to cut a hole to accommodate the water main for the house. You can see that the dirt is really packed in there to stay standing like that! I guess having a house's weight resting on it for 67 years got it nice and compressed . . .

And now, putting up the wall . . .

Wow! That was quick! The new wall is up! Looks a bit better, I'd say. You can see the rebar sticking up from the blocks, it goes all the way through to the floor and is surrounded in cement.

Here you can kinda see the back of David's head, but you should be looking above the wall, where we filled in above the dirt with gravel so it would not pack in like dirt. There, we also have a lattice of re bar tied in to the bars sticking out of the cinder blocks. This will help make everything stronger when we cap it with cement.

And here's the cap! It took a lot of people helping, so a few carved their initials into the wet cement (most of that is off camera though). Remember, for larger versions, click the pictures!

Had some fun with the exhaust . . .

We were playing around with some extra pipe and got a bit carried away . . .

Awesome exhaust, man!

You wish your car looked half this cool.

Nickel Titanium: "Shape Memory" wire. AKA, Nitinol.

Nickel Titanium Alloy (55% Ni 45% Ti) is a member of a group of metal alloys known as "Shape Memory" alloys. These are alloys that "remember" the shape that they once were.

Manufacturers also make glasses out of such metals, to allow them to bend like normal when you sit on them by accident because your kid put them on the chair instead of the table! Wait, that's not the special part, it's when you get up out of the chair, the glasses pop right back into the shape they're supposed to be instead of remaining a mangled mess.

Could you imagine valve springs made out of this stuff? (I know, pricey)

Anyway, on to the videos!

Video 1:

Video 2:


Want to buy some? It doesn't cost that much: Small Parts, Inc.

How to Drive for the Best Fuel Economy: Debunking the Myths, Part 1

In today's article about saving that precious clear liquid that almost all of us world-wide are addicted to, you're going to learn a fun trick: Don't drive slow, accelerate slow (but not too slow, I'll explain)

Driving super slow doesn't save gas, in fact, it wastes it. If your car is not in the highest gear possible, you're most likely not getting the best fuel economy possible. I'm sure you've seen those people in economy cars, driving around at some insanely slow speed, thinking about all the fuel they're saving, but in reality their engines are working harder then they need to, spinning faster and sucking down more gas then the fellow who speeds past them.

It all has to do with the gearing of your car's transmission. When you're in first gear, your engine is spinning rather fast, and the faster it spins, the more air it sucks in. The more air your engine sucks in, the more fuel it needs to balance out the mixture (at least on gasoline engines). So, you shift into second (or your car does it for you, if you're one of those unfortunates with an automatic transmission), and now the engine is doing less work to keep the car going the same speed, or the same work to go a higher speed. Each time you go fast enough to shift up a gear (and do so), the engine spins slower, using less gas and wearing out slower.

So, the first reason going too slow wastes gas: If our car is not in its top gear, your engine is doing more work for less distance.

Now, once your car is in its top gear, going faster and faster will lose you fuel economy once you exit the point that your engine is efficient. This point is different for different cars. For example, my 91 RX-7 got it's best fuel economy at an average of 72MPH on a long highway trip. After that point, if I go any faster, the MPG drops. On regular cars, that spot is a bit lower, around the low 60mph range, depending. On vans and SUVs, the fuel economy "happy zone" is a bit lower, (probably around 50 to 60, depending on your car) because wind resistance is such a factor at higher speeds.

So how can you apply this?

First off, the faster you're in the next gear, the better. The longer you're in a low gear, the more gas is being wasted on going less distance. Though, if you shift too soon, the engine will lug (in older cars your engine might even knock and ping!) and you'll end up having to put your foot down more and more just to get up the tiniest of hills with your fuel economy dropping the whole way.

So, since shifting too soon doesn't work, how about flooring it to get up to speed so you can shift faster? That won't work either, as jackrabbit starts are a huge waste of gas. Ideally, you want the engine to be doing as little total work over the entire course of getting up to speed as possible. A good rule of thumb if you don't know how fast to accelerate, is try to keep the engine relatively quiet. If that doesn't sound scientific enough for you, you can buy a decent vacuum gauge for $36 from Summit Racing (dot com!), so that you can tell how hard your engine is working. If you go that route, try and keep that needle above ~9.

Mentioning "Top Gear" so much makes me think of the TV show, so by all means, have a read about what they have to say about fuel economy at Clarkson's top fuel saving tips, the fellows who brought you this video:

If that isn't interesting to you, you can always read about the fellow pulling 59mpg in a plain old Honda Accord.

I hope this article has been helpful to you, feel free to share what tricks have worked for you in the comments.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Welcome to Tofuball's Working

Greetings, hapless Internet wanderer! I'm Jason, This is a work blog where I will chronicle the many projects that I take on, from rebuilding rotary engines to building a house in my back yard. Some projects on the roster right now to look forward to:

1) Putting a Porsche transmission into a VW Vanagon with a Chevy engine

Nothing like a five speed with overdrive to help MPG. Also engine tuning tips to get the most miles out of your gallon of gas, without losing power, even in a semi-massive van.

2) Rebuilding/porting rotary engines

Unlike most, we're going to build this engine for reliability and for economy, while still having enough power to make the trip to work fun. Maybe it will even look pretty.

3) How to drive for the best fuel economy

You've read those articles before, the ones that tell you not to slam on the gas at every opportunity, or to shut your engine off at stop lights, or to stop speeding. But you already knew all that stuff, and the last one most likely isn't true for your car! This article will provide helpful, useful tips for actually improving your MPG substantially without wearing out your starter.

5) Home insulation tips, save a fortune without having to spend one

Is your electric bill starting to look like your mortgage payment? Well, relax, with only a few bucks and an afternoon with a friend, I'll show you how to drastically lower your energy bills.