I wanted an AWD coupe with a stick shift. I had five grand to spend. My options were limited. After searching for a few days, I ended up with the following:
A í91 Pearl White VR4. 93,961 miles, good body, decent engine, all around a solid 8/10. When I bought the car, the first thing I thought was "That interior. Oh dear lord, it is so incredibly 90s. It's awful. No, actually, you know what? It's not awful. It's awesome. It's one of those so-bad-it's-good things." I love it now, despite swearing up and down that I'd swap it out when I first saw the eBay ad. It came with an aftermarket sub and amp I wasnít too fond of. So, the first night I had it, I ripped it out. Removing the sub was easy. The wiring? Not so much. The installer used a lot of duct tape, and apparently did the install while the carpet was completely out of the car. This meant that in order to remove the extra cables, I had to basically rip apart the interior. Awesome! A chance to "bond" with the new car, and learn how it's built. Well, it only took taking out one seat before I realized that this shit wasn't going to fly. The previous owner was not as clean a person as I would have liked...
Yeah. Fairly nasty, eh? Still, nothing a shop vac, a scrub brush, and a little interior detailing spray can't help out! Two hours and some fairly rugburned knuckles later, I ended up with this:
Not too shabby! In fact, I was so impressed with my own work that I decided to continue on the driver's side. Before & after:
Note the Shout bottle. At some point, I ran out of detailer, and needed something, anything, to try and get the carpet cleaned. We happened to have some Shout in the laundry room, and it worked surprisingly well. Still, a little bit of elbow grease can only go so far. One of the previous owners was a smoker, methinks:
The seats themselves were in fairly decent condition, all things considered. The second photo below shows the worst spot.
There were two other things I wanted to take care of. First off was the driver's side mirror. When the previous owner had the car repainted, the paint guy cracked the mirror. He's supposed to be sending me a new, color matched mirror, but I am not the kind of guy to count on random strangers to do what they say they're going to. Plus, I actually want to DRIVE my new car, and damnit, I use that mirror a lot. Well, a local junkyard happened to have a red '92 Dodge Stealth ES with a perfectly good driver's mirror. Okay, it's not heated, and the power harness bit has a different connector, but it's cheap and it's fully functional as a manual mirror! One short trip and a lot of dirt later, we end up with the following swap:
I initially thought that the car had a bit of a stormtrooper vibe. Now, itís looking more like C-3PO! Oh yes, and an essential item was missing from my new vehicle. No American should be without cupholders in their car. So, while I was digging around in the filthy junkyard Stealth, I picked up one of these:
I said earlier that the car was an 8/10. Hereís a few of the things that needed doing.
The passenger door lock doesn't lock/unlock from the outside, only from the inside.
The cargo cover clips needed tightening
The driverís headlight didnít sit flush with the hood when closed.
The fuel filler door was misaligned.
The interior was filthy.
I got to work. The driverís headlight was due to BOTH headlights missing half the screws. I took all of the screws out of the driverís and put them in the passengerís, then hit up the junkyard to turn this:
Also, the factory air box had been replaced with a K&N filter. It makes the nice turbo noises louder, but it's filthy, and I have this thing about going back to stock with this car... For now. So, I bought thisÖ
While I was there, I picked up basically the entire inside of a passenger door to try and fix the issue on my car. For some reason, the passenger door can only be unlocked from the inside. The seller said it was a rod that the thief broke. Well, I've got rods. And the rest of the actuator, too. It's effin' filthy, though, so it's wrapped up in plastic. What the hell, here's a pic anyway.
When I got home from the junkyard, I decided to get to vacuuming while it was still daylight. Nothing much to see here, just the stock trunk. It's not nearly as much of an improvement as the carpet was, and I had to stop halfway through to go watch my Broncos suck during the first half.
While I was screwing around in the trunk, I decided to check out the drain lines. Glad I did. They needed cleaning, bad. They were completely full of dirt. A quick poking with a screwdriver and a little water? Check out the result!
One of the previous owners thought that this VR4 was a truck, apparently. At least, that's my assumption. There's no way this many splinters got into the carpet unless he was hauling around plywood. The rear carpet's in pretty bad shape anyway, but I spent half an hour with a scrub brush on it, figuring it'd be nice to have SOMETHING until I find a replacement.
Yup, pretty happy with that. The door ended up actually being a missing rod, just like the guy said. I wasn't expecting that. It was one of the pieces on the actuator I picked up at the junkyard, but it turns out that there's a reason Mitsubishi sells the whole thing as one piece. Instead? I used a Dremel. I only needed one piece of the assembly, so I just hacked away everything I didn't need, and it clicked into place on the door. Note the lack of vapor barrier on half the door. Last person in there (probably the guy who installed the Rockford Fosgates) hacked it all up and didn't replace it. Sadly, I'm sans butyl rope and plastic, so I just left it hacked up. The leftover butyl on the door DID manage to pull out an awful lot of my hair while digging around in the door, though. And it, of course, got everywhere on my hands. I hate this stuff.
Next up I hit up AutoZone. I picked up some oil, some antifreeze, two dump containers, an air filter, an oil filter, some wax, a claybar kit, one of those "convert your drill into a Dual Action polisher and wax your car in 30 minutes or less!" doohickeys, and a funnel. Under the hood is effin' filthy, and I wanted to wait for my steamer to come in before starting fluids, but I decided to drive it today to get a new key, and you know what? Eff that. This thing is fun. It's also leaking on to my nice clean garage floor, so while I was at Home Depot, I picked up an industrial-sized welcome mat to absorb the drips. The gnarly dark brown drips. The "Hey, asshole, change your oil some time soon, yeah?" drips. Yup, not putting it off. She goes up on jack stands tonight!
As you can see, it's not a big leak:
Then I decided to go back and get more crap. Brake fluid, some engine degreaser, and another funnel. Took the SS instead because I wanted a back-to-back comparison. Cars have come a LONG way in 25 years. The SS is faster, more comfortable, more powerful, quieter, and hell, it probably even gets better gas mileage.
I started the oil change, and had to stop basically immediately. I jacked the car up, crawled under, and it looks like I've got a leak from my oil drain plug. I ordered a new plug online. Stuff ships fast these days, but it’s still not instant. Damn. Sprayed a bunch of Gunk brand degreaser all over everything, washed it off. Stuff actually works decently, but it's not remotely clean.
Next up I fixed the fuel filler door. Looking at it made me remember that the driver's door handle was separating from the door skin when entering the car. So, I took off the driver's door panel to investigate. Super easy fix - A bolt needed to be tightened.
Last edited by TeeJayHoward; 12-06-2016 at 03:36 AM.
When I went to grab the light I had hanging off the hood, I spotted a speaker/horn screwed into the firewall that I didn't think belonged there. So, I took it off, and traced the wire back. Discovered an aftermarket alarm system that was poorly installed. Spent most of the night removing that.
This right here is the most frustrating bit of the install. I've got to leave this splice in place because there's not enough slack in the original to undo it. At least it's secure.
I was a victim of old plastic. Cracked a mounting tab and cracked the switch surround itself. This panel doesn't stay put anymore.
Frustrated, I turned to something a bit more calming - More cleaning! I left the seats alone during my carpet cleaning, intending to take good care of them when my Lexol came in. Well, it did. So I cleaned the seat, and then did it again. Then again. Then a fourth time. After the fifth round, and not seeing a difference in color, sheen, or texture? I got sick of it, and moved on to the conditioner. Once again, I spent a good deal of time doing the same spots over and over. The end result looks EXACTLY like it did before I did anything. This stuff was a waste of $20.
For gits and shiggles, I called up the local Mitsubishi dealership, and asked about getting the 120K service done by the pros. Timing belt, water pump, oil pump. $2,750. Hahahaha... No. It's like $600-800 in parts, depending on what you want for upgrades. No way I'm paying someone $2K to have fun with MY project car! Also, I crawled under the car to look at something, and noticed that the oil filter had a date written on it.
The oil was last changed in 2014. Egads!
Brown Santa brought me a present!
I couldn't wait until tonight to fire it up, so I got right to it. Filled the water reservoir, flicked the switch, opened the hatch, and a few minutes later I was steaming away the old tint. It came off easy enough. Probably because it was on top of older tint, which is coming off in tiny flakes. After almost two hours of work, the end result is this tiny corner of the hatch is tint free. Nowhere near as easy as it looked on the Youtubes.
That last photo's great because you can see the three layers (glass, old tint, new tint) very easily. I was initially worried about uneven heat distribution cracking the glass in the cold garage, but it warmed up pretty evenly. Plus, it's almost relaxing to use a steamer. I'm laying in the trunk, and it's like I'm in a nice sauna. I like it.
At this point, I decided to tally up my costs so far. I realize that a lot of it wasn't REALLY necessary, but an honest tally is just that. Honest.
$10 Parking while I drove the car down from Denver
$5.32 Pizza at Tony Pís while I waited for the previous owner to show up
$43.03 Full tank of premium
$592.02 Vehicle registration
$59.28 Carpet cleaner, Lexol, Gloves, Carpet brush
$32.05 Junkyard mirror and cupholder
$48.25 Window actuator, headlight screws/bolts, and factory air box
$29.41 Rug to go under the leaking motor and second key
$155.69 Air filter, oil filter, oil, antifreeze, clay bar kit, wax, dump containers
$37.87 Gojo, brake fluid, funnels, engine degreaser
$26.15 No idea, some sort of AutoZone purchase
$21.73 Magnetic oil plug
Total - $1,181.25
Ouch. I spent all my free time the next night trying to finish getting the tint off the hatch. I'm about 90% done in these pics, and I broke a piece of trim in the process. I could not IMAGINE trying to do this without the steamer. The tint was installed in strips, and layers. Each strip was three "bars" long. The leftover glue pretty much marks the edge of the strips. A little bit of elbow grease will be needed to take care of it. Maybe tomorrow while I'm waiting for my oil plug to come in. I also tried the steamer out on some interior surfaces. This thing works wonders for the weirdest stuff. Take a look at this steering wheel. Left side steamed, right side not. 60 seconds to take care of over two decades worth of human grease. It's something I need to be careful with, though. I noticed that I had a puddle in the back seat from all the condensation, and now my passenger window doesn't work! I was sadly disappointed when I tried to use it to remove the under-hood road grime too. It helps, but it doesn't work magic. It does, however, get the grime all over what WAS a nice clean car. And the car next to it. Bah!
A couple photos of the rear hatch now that the tint is gone. Well, 99% gone. Gone enough for me. I'm done with it for now, and good riddance. I'll pick off the little bits that remain slowly over the next few years. Lord knows it'll take me that long to get this shit out of my clothes, the house, the garage, the carpet... It's worse than glitter!
The part I was waiting on came in.
I don't know what monkey worked on this car before me, but that is NOT the proper jack point. Both sides of the car have this damage!
Spent another $54.05 today on assorted supplies. One of the things I picked up was some Super Clean. The Gunk worked a little, but this stuff is amazing. A little mechanical agitation with a soft tire brush, and a little bit of steam? Yeah. Looks good. Shame I had to stop for the night to make dinner. I really wanted the whole engine bay clean before I started swapping fluids, but when you work on the hood, you splatter grime EVERYWHERE... So it's actually dirtier than it was before I started cleaning.
Oh yeah, broken wheel stud. Finally took a photo of it. There's also a missing piece of trim by the passenger headlight that covers the turn signal screw hole. Slowly finding more things wrong. But that's okay! I wanted a project car, and I got one!
Still need to do brake fluid. I got distracted because my internet died. Since I work from home, that's pretty damned important. I decided to take the VR4 in to work. Got a short distance away and realized I forgot my laptop and badge. So, I turn around. On my way back, I realize that the car feels significantly more powerful than it did before. Like, maybe even faster than my SS powerful. Surely an oil change couldn't do that, right? Glance over at the stock boost gauge, and realize I'm pegging the needle! Yeah, that's probably not good. Well, I get home, and the internet's back up. Phew! So I put my laptop in the garage, and grab a spare boost gauge I have laying around. I wire it up using the splices from the alarm system that I took out. Constant power goes out whenever I turn on my running or head lights, but it's good enough for a test. One hour left before I get off work. Instead, I satiate myself by adding more coolant. A nice big sweet-smelling cloud of white smoke was coming out from under the hood. Not sure if it's leftover degreaser or something about the new antifreeze, but I couldn't find any leaks. It probably needs more antifreeze. It's supposed to take two containers, and it barely took one. I'd idle the car and turn on the heater, but... Well, it's 4AM at this point and that's a dick move to the neighbors. Not to mention my wife, who's sleeping a couple yards away. In the mean time, my nice purty interior's all taken apart
Results of the test drive:
Work kept me busy the next night, so I didn't have a lot of time. My plan was to wash the driver's seatbelt to stop it from sticking, and 3D scan the broken rheostat surround using photogrammetry so I could use the local library's 3D printer to make a new one. What I ended up doing is disabling the super-annoying door buzzer and taking a bajillion photos of the busted part. Sadly, the app I was intending to use (123D Catch) didn't like the part. So instead have some photos of me taking apart the stereo... Again.
Last edited by TeeJayHoward; 12-06-2016 at 03:49 AM.
I spent two hours trying to find a place in town that sells analog multimeters so that I can diagnose my ECS and Active Aero issues. Turns out that of all places, Big R sells them. Yeah, the western/rancher store. Who knew? I also took a hose to the VR4 to try and clean up some of the degreaser I had splattered everywhere. I intended to wax the car too, but the sun went down too quick.
Oh, and it turns out the same library that has a 3D printer also has a NextEngine 3D scanner! Eff photogrammetry. Lasers is where it's at.
I finally put my new multimeter to work. I hooked it up to the ECS diagnostics, and read the result. Six long, 1 short. Six long, two short. Lovely. That's the code for the front left and front right struts. I was hopeful that it was just a busted wire, but no such luck. Looks like I'm due for strut replacements. That could explain a large part of the harsh ride.
After that sad news, I needed a quick win. Cleaning things always creates an immediate noticeable result, so I decided to tackle the driver's seatbelt. Generally, when a seatbelt fails to retract, it's because the belt itself is dirty. Over time, it gets full of human skin oils and other such grossness, and loses its flexibility. A quick scrub and/or soak will normally fix the issue. I took some instant detailer and a scrub brush to mine. Alas, it did not resolve my issue. Looks like I get to tear apart the rear trim and try to check out the retraction mechanism. A project for another time.
I started looking around for other explanations for the strut ďfailureĒ. Common issues with the ECS system include broken wires in the caps (mine are fine), broken wires in the harness (checked just now and mine are fine), and faulty capacitors in the ECS computer. Well, guess what? I don't think I'm supposed to have black goo on my circuit board under these capacitors. So glad I didn't go out and buy new struts!
It turns out I can't use the 3D scanner until I go through the libraryís one-on-one training. Iím waiting on the trainer to contact me. So a new Rheostat surround is at least a month out. While I was out I picked up some supplies to replace the failed components on the ECS computer. $25 at Radio Shack for two capacitors, some desoldering braid, and a desoldering iron. I shouldn't have thrown my old stuff away when I moved.
Replaced the capacitors. I can now hear my front strut(s?) moving when I hit the ECS button. When going into Sport mode, everything seems to work. When coming out, I hear the strut noise, followed by a blinking Sport light. Damnit. I mean, the ECS computer needed the work anyway, obviously, but I was hoping that was all that was needed!
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