Projects completed


It has been a busy time here over the past several weeks.

My brother and sister-in-law,  Tom and Cathy, arrived via their motor home a few days prior to Christmas and plan to stay here until the last week of January.

Before they began their trip here, I informed Tom that I planned to do a small remodel project in my guest bathroom. That was to remove the old (low in height) vanity, countertop, faucet and light fixture. Tom suggested I wait until they arrived and we could tackte that remodel together. 

No need to ask again, as I am always so thankful for Tom’s help on my projects. In the meantime, I scouted out vanities, countertops, etc. Several days after Christmas we bought the items from Home Depot and stored them in my garage until after the New Year when I planned to start the project. While I anticipated and planned for about 3 days to complete the work, we both were happy to have it 90% done in one day. The second day was for trim work, cutting and re-installing the mirror and some grout work. The updated look is nice, in my humble opinion.

Here are before and after photos:

But, before we even began the bathroom project, I had several other projects that Tom and Cathy helped me complete, some of which I did not even know needed to be done. 

As some of you might guess, Phiona, my 1934 Pontiac was the recipient of most of the attention with some improvements and, as stated earlier, some needed fixes that were unknown to me until we discovered them. 

First off I planned to remove the generator from Phiona and replace it with a 6 volt alternator. This was to ensure that I was keeping the battery fully charged especially when driving with the halogen headlights on. The generator just would not generate enough juice and at nighttime I would always be on the discharge side on the amp gauge. So, I had had Dave Horton at Phoenix Generator Exchange make the alternator for me and then waited until Tom and Cathy came to help me install it.

What I thought would be a straightforward installation proved otherwise. We found that we needed a mounting bracket adapted to the generator mounting points. This turned out to be a not so simple endeavor. But after visiting a few local shops I found what I needed online and had it shipped to me. That took several more days and even then it took two brains to finally configure the bracket to have the new alternator mount correctly. 

And then, the moment of truth - the test start. 

While the motor turned over quickly, it just wasn’t catching as Tom stood by the open hood and I cranked on the starter. 

STOP!, yells Tom. There’s smoke coming from the starter!

Oh for heavens sake, NOW what?

It was determined that we best remove the starter and take a look see what might have caused the smoking. That revealed a loose nut holding a solenoid to the starter motor, which was shorting out and arcing inside. Yikes, that could have been a real disaster (as though Phiona hasn’t already had her share of mishaps). 

My ever so knowledgable brother showed me how to clean the commutator and brushes in the starter, re-attached the solenoid (tightly this time) and put it all back together and onto the engine. 

Next start up test - holy smokes - the engine rolled over faster than I had ever know it to do. And within seconds the old girl roared to life. So much different that over the past when it took much more effort before the engine fired. 

Next we found the headlights not working fully and found a loose connection, which solved that problem.

A test DRIVE. Driving my test route, the amp gauge needle jumped up to fully charge position and stayed there for several miles whereupon it started to fall back to the “normal” range. All good signs that the battery was getting fully charged and still producing current to run the engine. 

Another project ticked off the list.

Having concerns about Phiona making a “possible” long distance road trip again, I wanted to see how well she would take to a steep climb. (In 2011 on the cross country trip to Ohio, the Mogollon Rim outside Payson, AZ, proved to be a nearly impossible feat for the car). So, the three of drove up to Yarnell, AZ, which necessitated climbing Yarnell hill, a rather steep several mile ascent. The drive is about 80 miles to the little town up there “Where the desert breeze meets the mountain air”. All the way to the base of the hill Phiona purred along between 50-55 mph, charging nicely, shifting nicely and we all enjoying the Sunday drive. As we ascended, Phiona steadily proceeded dropping no lower than 30 mph while in high gear. No indication of stress or strain on the engine, but a bit tense for ME.

Approaching Yarnell Hill ascent:



After lunch at the Ranch House Restaurant in Yarnell, I drove us through some of the areas that were burned in the Yarnell Hill fire where 19 young firefighters lost their lives several years ago. The Shrine to St. Joseph in the Mountains was heavily hit by the fire, which I and Kent S saw a week after the disaster. Now mostly rebuilt, I could see now Nature has reclaimed much of what was destroyed and the Stations of the Cross having been restored or rebuilt. 

Back on the road and down the hill, we had no issues to concern us as we drove back to Phoenix.

The next day I checked the transmission oil, refilling it as needed and commented to Tom about some oil leakage at the rear differential and on the backside of the rear tires.

You never know what you will run into, so always be prepared to expect the unexpected. 

We took off the right rear tire and brake drum and found the brake shoes soaked in oil. Not good as those brakes were probably not even catching when I braked. My heart sinks, once again. But Tom is there and he is gung ho to fix this newest setback. Luckily I have accumulated many parts over the years, and that included 2 new rear wheel seals. Removing the old seals, however, was challenging and required a significant amount of effort - and force. Not willingly relenting, the old seal finally succumbed to our assault on  it. Installing the new seal was relatively easy

Inspecting the differential and its gears revealed some wear but no other surprises. While we were at it, we inspected the left rear wheel and also found that seal to be leaking though not so extensively as the other. Tom allowed me to put my muscle into removing that seal - a task that required some force and determination. The next day we completed that surprise project as it rained relentlessly throughout the day. While up on jack stands, Tom had me run it while in gear and listened for any rumbling or other odd noises and also tested the cleaned up brakes while off the ground. All was well. Another, unexpected, but sorely needed repair completed! YEA.

Reflecting on my life, and as I related to Tom, I would never have been able to do these projects without his help. His mechanical skills and knowledge are vastly superior to my meager understandings. He told me I can simply read how to do these things and I COULD do them. But, for whatever reasons, repairing mechanical things, in particular engines, are intimidating to me. Reading about how to do repairs is often like trying to read and understand Latin - I can’t comprehend it. Yet, on the other hand, I do understand or am willing to tackle other mechanical matters, in particular the mechanical brakes on this car. It is a complicated, many step process that only I will do. It takes considerable time to complete, but for that I have the patience and understanding to do it thoroughly. I single handedly manage to jump into other complicated projects, including household electrical, water pipes, small construction, reparing small motors and even some involving automobile engines among others. 

This may be true for others also,some things we feel confident in doing and others that scare us so much we avoid them. But, for sure, when I have forged ahead, gotten my hands into it and successfully completed something that challenged me at first, the feeling of accomplishment is a very satisfying and rewarding result. 

I am ever so grateful to have my brother Tom so willing to help me and patiently help guide me though what I consider really challenging projects. 

Thanks to Cathy also for jumping in to help as needed on the projects and for preparing for and fixing dinners. I’ve been dead tired most evenings, so her stepping in and feeding us is also a godsend. 

Did I mention something about a “Possible” long distance road trip…???