With the Autozam running strong and the fleet thinned out to just five, my life was starting to calm down. I took a few days off of work and got busy in the garage with the goal of taking the Eclipse to Cincinnati for my sister’s birthday at the end of the week..
Forged pistons and rods. Fuel injectors and pump. Gaskets, seals, and bearings. Seven months prior I had thrown my wallet at the parts catalog and over the course of a few days I got the engine together. Shoutout to JustJeepin’ for stopping by for a bit to get his hands dirty!
It took a bit to get the fuel injectors dialed in but before long I had the Eclipse idling and burning off my oily handprints from the exhaust manifold. The tune needed lots of attention but the car was out of gas, so the first order of business was filling it up. But as expected, there was a problem. The car had been sitting so long that the parking brake had seized to the rotor. I decided to take the lazy route and hope that driving the car would break it loose. It did, but…
So I took the car to the gas station and filled it up for the first time since I had bought it eight months prior. I was struggling to get AFRs to stabilize but I had run out of time so it was time to hit the road. The 90 minute drive would give me plenty of logging data to analyze for the next round of tuning.
But I did not make it to Cincinnati. I had gotten exactly halfway when I got a check engine light. Since I had my laptop plugged in to log data I was alerted to a fault in the charging system. The alternator had been one of the only items that I had not replaced during the rebuild, and it was apparently bitter about that. I drove for another mile or two but when my laptop eventually showed my battery voltage start to drop I turned around. But then it was dropping quickly, and I only made it back two exits before the car started misfiring. On only two cylinders I pulled to the side of the exit and awaited a tow. I got back home at midnight.
The next morning I was waiting outside the door to my neighborhood parts store 10 minutes before they opened, eager to get back on the road. The employees decided to not open the doors, however, instead spending their time tossing oil filters back and forth across the aisles. Had I not placed an online order for in-store pickup I would have long given up, but 45 minutes after opening time they finally unlocked the doors and 30 minutes later I was back on my way to Cincinnati. However, fueling had become a little less stable overnight.
It was fine pretty much the entire drive but once I got to Cincinnati the numbers stopped making sense. It was regularly pretty rich at 13:1 AFR most of the time before swinging wildly between 20:1 and 60:1, then return to 13:1 for a bit. As I had already experienced a wideband failure that had exhibited these exact symptoms I had assumed the sensor was faulty and tried to not worry about it too much. I made it back to Indianapolis without incident, but I had become less and less confident in my diagnosis.
Upon my return, I started investigating. I unplugged the fuel injector and spark plug wire for each cylinder in succession and observed that with one particular cylinder disconnected the AFRs would remain constant. I confirmed that one cylinder had spark and fuel and proceeded to pull out my hair trying to figure out how it could still be problematic. In my testing I found that bumping the wiring harness could instigate or terminate a period of instability, so it must be a failure in the harness somewhere. Or, since I was running EV-14 injectors with a harness originally designed for EV-1s, there might have been a problem in the supplied adapters. I ordered EV-14 USCAR pigtails and crimped one into the cylinder with the broken lead. The car fired right up and I was able to drive it for a few days until the problem returned at a different cylinder. I decided to stop being lazy and replace all of the fuel injector wiring, and then took a celebratory trip through the car wash.
The success was short-lived, however, because a wheel bearing went out that week. Back when I had suspension bushings installed on my Talon, a garbage shop in Cincinnati had told me that rear bearing/hub assemblies were long discontinued from Mitsubishi and I had acquired a used set in decent condition. I still had the spare so I began the repair.
Pulling things apart was awful but at least things went back together smoothly, and I took the car on a test drive where I discovered, to my horror, that I had replaced the bearings on the wrong side. I had backed the car in when I did the diagnosis, then when I went to do the work the car had been pulled in forward, so in my rush to finish the job I hadn’t noticed that my tools were now on the wrong side of the car and instead took the other wheel off. Oops.
But this did give me some time to stop and think about the task at hand and I discovered immediately that the rear hubs are far from discontinued, and are actually quite cheap. Apparently that shop in Cincinnati was even more of a piece of shit than I had thought. I installed new bearing assemblies on both sides.
While the car was out of commission for bearings I also figured it was a good opportunity to address the MASSIVE exhaust leak between the turbine housing and outlet elbow. The car had come with a no-name tubular unit whose flange had warped so badly that I could fit a dime between it and the turbo at one corner and I was hoping to have the car in roadworthy condition for the DSM Shootout in a week’s time. I ordered a fancy JM Fab SS elbow but upon removing the old unit a bolt broke off in the turbo flange. I fooled with the tools I had to get the bolt out but eventually gave up and took it to an exhaust shop down the street. This was Thursday of the week before the Shootout, and they said they’d have it back to me the next day. And sure enough I did get a call from them that it was done on Friday. But even though I was there in less than 5 minutes, when I arrived to pick up the turbo they had already closed up for the weekend, locking my turbo inside. So I took the Autozam to the Shootout instead.
That Monday I picked up the turbo. The shop told me that they had tried to drill out the old bolt but ended up damaging the threads so they drilled it to the next size up. M11. Which actually exists in their eyes. Every hardware store carries M11. It won’t be a problem at all to find a bolt. I told them they were full of shit and went home. And oh look! M11 doesn’t exist! It took me a few days to track down M11 hardware, and I ended up with a set of ARP 244-2902 12 point M11 bolts for some crappy GM torque converter. I had to modify one of the welds on my turbo outlet and use a washer in order to get the much larger head of this bolt to fit, but eventually it all went together.
Turbo installed, I took the car to work that week. Almost immediately I noticed a speed-proportional whining noise that got louder throughout the week. I parked the car again, assuming transmission, and didn’t return to it for two months, opting to drive the Miata and Autozam in the lovely fall weather. But as winter approached, I needed my winter car back.
I changed the transmission fluid (nothing unusual to report in the old fluid) and the car was roadworthy again for about three weeks, the longest roadworthy period to date! But the sound returned, and the DSM was again parked long-term.
Around this same time, JustJeepin’ invited me and the husband to an offroading…..rally? that he was hosting down near Kentucky. We saw some gorgeous scenery and enjoyed some lovely gravel and dirt roads, and I got to take this awesome picture:
It was quite amusing how comically competent our completely stock 0.6L Jimny on winter tires was, but on the other hand it made everything too easy and a little on the boring side. But it’s hard to be too pessimistic because the Jimny makes everything fun.
Unfortunately, the Jimny had a problem. It had been intended as an inspection vehicle for the husband, but the month it arrived he switched jobs. His new inspections required tens of thousands of dollars worth of test equipment, and that’s not something that you can carry around with you in a vehicle with a cloth roof that just snaps on. It was fun enough, but we just didn’t have a reason to keep it. Even so, we had kept it for an additional year, only half-heartedly hanging For Sale signs in the windows when we took it places. But the off-roading trip was meant to be a send off for us, and once we got back I put a lot of effort into getting it sold
Nearly immediately I heard from a guy in Indianapolis that wanted to check it out. I drove it out to a subdivision with the intention that he would drive it back, but his very first attempt to take off from a stop was to floor the throttle and let the engine bounce off of the limiter while slowly releasing the clutch. The Jimny filled with smoke before I could pull the keys out of the ignition. “Was I not doing it right?” he asked with a weirdly smug look on his middle-aged face. I thanked him for wasting my time and ruining my clutch and left him on the side of the road while I drove home. The clutch was very seriously slipping.
Soon after I got a message from a guy in Oklahoma that couldn’t be more enthused. He had desperately wanted a JA11C and was immediately in love with mine. I was upfront about the condition of the clutch (and its cause) and he was unfazed as he planned to trailer it to Oklahoma anyway. He left the next morning (Thursday) planning to pick it up Friday night, but Friday was the first frost of the winter and it came courtesy of a moderate snowstorm. The buyer found a hotel in Indy for the night and planned to get the car in the morning. I didn’t think anything of Friday’s weather as I went out to check and top off the fluids Saturday morning. At least not until I found fluorescent green ice under the radiator cap. And that was right when the buyer arrived.
I let him check out the car as I told him why he wouldn’t be able to take it for a drive. I was pissed. He was disappointed. He went back to the hotel to check out and I pushed the Jimny into the garage and started the heater. The ice melted in less than 20 minutes and I called the buyer to let him know that he was welcome to return and drive it if he wished, but he couldn’t take the risk of any unseen damage that may have resulted from the freezing and returned to Oklahoma empty-handed.
As the winter weather picked up, I drove the Jimny more and more and was getting pretty disheartened by the lack of serious interest. One day in December I gave up and went around removing all of my for sale ads, and received one last message about the Jimny. It was from a guy in Columbus who wanted to drive it back to Ohio. I told him that, while I was still driving it regularly, the clutch was toast and likely wouldn’t hold the torque required for the return trip on a highway. He could drive it back, but it would be a very long and slow trip.
He arrived. He had no questions. He was not interested in a test drive, but I insisted that I at least drive him around the block in it. He paid in cash and was on his way. It was by far the easiest sales experience I had had to date. And he contacted me out of the blue 9 months later to give me an update.
He had reupholstered the interior, fixed the AC, had it resprayed, and added some fantastic OEM side graphics and it was now an award-winning show car. He loves the thing and it makes me super happy to know that it’s being properly cared for.
The sale of the Jimny was very nice, but it presented a problem. The DSM had a dying transmission, and I didn’t have any other cars that could handle winter. I continued driving the Miata until Indiana started salting the roads, but as it was already the end of December the warm weather didn’t last forever. I would change the transmission fluid (each time, the fluid looked just fine) and then I’d get about three weeks out of the fresh oil until the noises were back. This arrangement lasted me until the end of January 2019 when the situation finally improved. And no, it wasn’t me fixing the transmission. It was this:
In Part 13 I welcome the truck and say goodbye to another car that I was very not ready to part with.