Quick update

Been too long since I posted, so here’s a quick update:

We may have finally solved the mystery of the work/no work odometer. For those who understand traditional speedometer/odometer function, the Porsche way is a bit different and I suspect, pretty revolutionary in the early eighties. Rather than driving the instrument with a cable like has been done since Boss Kettering was a kid, Porsche uses a pulse generator and (for the odometer) a rotary encoder. Pretty common now. Not so much in 1985.

Rotary Encoder

Now the typical failure point of a VDO odometer are the plastic gears that actually make the numbers roll and initially, that’s where I found problems. I replaced the failed gear and all was well for 142.3 miles. Then the odometer stopped counting.

Disassembly revealed nothing broken, it just wasn’t working. 

The gears

Shrug. I put it all back together and lo and behold, counting again. For 37 miles. <sigh>

I again removed instrument cluster, disassembled and once again, no obvious problem. Gears are all meshed and turning the encoder makes the numbers move as they’re supposed to. Hmmm.

BUT I noticed that the encoder seemed just a bit stiff. Thought to self, “Self, maybe a little lubrication?” I searched the Internet Tubes and found nothing on the subject, so, let’s oil it and see what happens!

A little light machine oil and 102.7 miles later, it’s still counting. (The search for ‘light machine oil’ is probably worth it’s own post. Cliff’s Notes: The local hardware store had neither Three in One oil nor Triflow nor did the kids working there have any idea what I was looking for. Curiously enough, the grocery store had it on the shelf.)

On another note, we had this done today:

The steering is lighter and it no longer wants to drift to the left. Sadly, it needs front strut bearings. At least suspension pieces for Porsche 944s are not astronomically priced. Four Konis or Bilsteins are about half the cost of the two Ohlin’s shocks I put on my BMW motorcycle. Strut bearings? About $35 per side. And 4 hours labor.  I have the needed tools.

That’s the report for today…

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Parts Bin Engineering

A nice find by jrasite:

Posted in Sightings | Leave a comment

Little and Big Things

When I acquired the PFKATBR, Lawrence told me that one of the projects that he hadn’t gotten to was repairing the windshield washer system.  Since I was looking for cheap, easy things to address, I undertook that project.

We first verified that we had power to the pump and that the pump actually ran. It had power and when 12v is applied, the pump makes running noises. We then pulled the hoses and tried for liquid transfer.  That was a partial success. Liquid came out of the output fitfully. Closer examination showed that the output spigot was fractured at the body of the pump.

A little superglue solved that problen and rendered the pump functional, but cynoacrylate adhesives have terrible mechanical properties, so we backed up the glue with a different glue that has better supporting properties.  Gorilla Glue to the rescue. After a couple days of drying time and we had a pump that will move washer fluids.

While waiting those couple days, we idly searched for the replacement pump.  It’s pretty common and does not command Porsche Parts Prices. The end result is that for twelve bucks, the repaired pump is on the shelf and the new pump is in the car.

Then we spent a couple hours cleaning the crap out of the hoses and squirters. Pulling the lever now results in a wet windshield.

That was the little thing. The bigger thing was the speedometer.

A few weeks ago I rebuilt the speedometer after resetting the trip odometer caused the odometer to cease to function. This is a common problem typically caused by 30 year old plastic gears. The rebuild worked fine right up to the moment I reset the trip odometer when again, the odometers both stopped recording. Curious.

The PFKATBR came with most of another instrument cluster, so rather than deal with the one in the car, I went to work on the spare.

The first problem was to find the missing speedo needle and the handful of missing screws. A new FB friend sent me that needed parts and since I had time waiting for parts to arrive, I decided to white-face the instruments. The end result is below:

Out with the old:

And in with the new:

944 Porsches have notoriously poor instrument lighting. Maybe the gauge color change will help.

Until next time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Silverlake, 1969

Stumbled across this old one today.  When I lived on the edge of Silverlake in Los Angeles with TPW146 (aka The Pumpkin), my 1966 911 …

March 1969, Silverlake

Posted in Sightings | Leave a comment

Small Progress

Lawrence gets frustrated with my lack of photos documenting the work I’m doing to bring PFKATBR back to mechanical acceptability. Sorry. Not sorry. First of all, I’m a mechanic, not a photographer. If I stopped to photograph everything, it would take three times as long, and in many cases, I’d simply be repeating pictures that are all over the Internet already.

For example, I re-did the odometer to repair a failed gear. There is website after website with pictures, text, video and links to the parts vendors documenting a common problem and its repair. Why should I add one more? Remove instrument cluster following site A’s procedure. Disassemble speedometer following mechanic B’s video. Order replacement part from vendor C. Assembly is the reverse of disassembly. Odometer fixed. And the replacement gear is much more substantial than what failed.

Since the last installment, I’ve replaced the rear window lift struts. Now the push button hatch release works. Push the button, the hatch opens. Repaired the rear demister wiring. Replaced both dome lights with new fixtures and LED ‘bulbs.’ Replaced the sealed beam headlights with proper Hella E-Code QI lights. Repaired the windshield washer pump. And ordered a replacement because the repair, while it restored the function, looks funky. Installed a solid state DME relay. (What’s a DME relay? you ask. Pelican Parts has the answer.) The solid state replacement is claimed to be the forever solution.  We shall see.

Another small repair: I repaired the passenger side door pocket. JB Weld repaired the broken out screw holes and as long as passengers don’t use it the slam the door, I think it will work.

The next project is repairing the climate control system control. A Copenhagen Blue Porsche in the PNW this summer MUST have working A/C. A replacement control panel should be here next week. (The broken switch is a solder in part that goes for close to $200. I found a complete panel (used) for a little less than that.)

While I’m waiting on A/C parts, I’ll probably tackle the notoriously poor 944 instrument lighting. Maybe take the passenger side door apart to find out what’s rattling inside it.


Posted in Body and Soul, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Note to future novice automobile electricians

Note to future novice automobile electricians: When installing (I assume) a radar detector, do not pick up power from the 22 ga wires feeding the dome light above the windshield. If you simply cannot help yourself, do not route the newly installed power wires under the hard plastic trim and over the sharp edge of the windshield frame. Doing so has the potential to wear through the insulation and then to melt the dome light wiring across the top of the windshield and down the A pillar…

Stock wiring following removal of non-stock shorted wiring. (visible at edge of hole) Initially all insulation was melted together. 15 amp fuse blows when the insulation’s all gone.

I *think* I have it repaired. I at least replaced some insulation and it no longer immediately blows the #11 fuse. Lights work manually, but door switches will still require some work. (Update: see below.)

97º and it’s now too warm to work in a dark blue vehicle.

Small steps.

Addendum: The proper repair is to replace this harness in its entirety. The insulation is damaged from this light through to the door switch and maybe further. The circuit is from fuse #11 to the cigar lighter to the front dome light to the ‘trunk’ dome light. The two dome lights ground through the doors and hatch switches. The driver’s side switch wiring shows severe heat damage. I haven’t yet examined the passenger side nor the rear hatch switches. I’m expecting similar damage there. For now, after de-rusting the driver’s door switch, the dome lights work as they should.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Now That Wasn’t So Hard, Was It?

The engine in PFKATBR was producing much non-Porsche type vibration. Like rattle the floorboards vibration. Knowing that it had been off the road for a considerable length of time and that it uses hydraulic motor mounts, my first thought was that while sitting a motor mount had ‘settled.’ That thought led to purchasing replacements. Not actually replacing them, but preparing to replace.

Then one morning in the shower, (We all do our best thinking in the shower, right?) it occurred to me that the last work that had been done involved the removal of the the timing and balance shaft* belts. Could the shop have erred in timing the shafts? Occam’s Razor says yes. Simplest solution is most likely the correct one. So that was the direction we proceeded. Since timing belt work involves labors both above and below the motor, I elected to contract it out.

There is a small shop here that has worked on imports for as long as I’ve been in this part of the world. A few years ago, the chief mechanic/technician purchased the business and has seemingly done well. I have spoken with him from time to time and always had a good feeling about his honesty and technical ability. He did some work on our Volvo last year and came in ahead of schedule and under budget, so I elected to offer him the work.

When I called, he told me that he had no experience with 944 Porsches. I sent him a YouTube vid of the process and waited a day. When I called again, he accepted the job.

I opted to provide the parts since I already had the motor mounts and so ordered a belt kit for an 85.5 944. A belt kit consists of the timing and balance shaft belts and replacements for all the idler and tensioning pulleys. Parts were delivered, the appointed day arrives and off we go.

In the early afternoon, the call comes that one of the idlers in the kit is not the same as what’s bolted on to the engine. Turns out that there are two different sized parts. One 32 mm in diameter and the other 46 mm in diameter. The kit came with the former and car came with the latter. So where to find the needed part?

A quick dive onto the Internet shows that 46 mm diameter Porsche timing belt idlers are not difficult to find, but that the nearest one is in LA. $20 for the part and $50 for overnight shipping and the problem is solved.

Part delivered and a couple days later, (and Porsche Parts Prices not paid for local labor) the car is picked up. New belts, bearings and motor mounts all installed. NOW it drives like a Porsche.

An interesting aside… The belt kit with the wrong idler was a bit under $200 delivered. The belt kit with the correct idler is a fair amount more than $300. Even with the ‘OMG, I gotta have this NOW!’ shipping, I’m still money ahead buying the wrong kit and the right part over buying the right kit.

Oh, and Lawrence, the leaky left front tire? Not a porous wheel.  Loose valve stem core. Pressure holding at 29 psi.

* For a balance shaft discussion, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balance_shaft

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Three Ps.

Today’s project was determining why the low fuel light illuminates with a full tank of fuel.

According to the Internet Tubes, this is a common problem easily and more importantly, cheaply rectified. One simply lifts the carpet in the rear, removes the small square of insulation, lifts the cover, unplugs a connector, removes 2 fuel hoses and removes the sending unit. Clean the contacts and put it all back together. Ought to be a piece of cake.

Not so much. The carpet and the insulation came out as advertised. That’s where things went a little south. There’s this plastic cover that sits over the hole in the floor through which one accesses the fuel sending unit. It’s supposed to just sit there. Held in place by the previously mentioned bit of insulation and gravity. Some time in the past someone felt that gravity might not be sufficient. So they glued it down. Lacquer thinner and patience got it off. Now we can get to the sender.

Pulled the plug on the wiring, removed the fuel lines and the retaining collar holding the sender to the tank. Sender no move. Pried on it a bit before deciding that brute force and ignorance shouldn’t be the order of the day. Break it and the car’s not drive-able. So we put it all back together. We’ll dig into it further when the gas tank isn’t full and we don’t have a service appointment in a couple days.

While putting it back together, the connector to hook the wiring to the sender kind of fell apart. That brings us to the title of this missive. The Three Ps. “Porsche Parts Prices.” This connector is literally a 1″ cube of polystyrene with 5 molded holes in it. It has a second part that snaps on to hold the wire connectors in place. It is used on most 911/912/914/944 cars. Manufacturing cost? Maybe a dime. Seeing that Porsche is a luxury marque, one might expect to pay say, ten dollars for it.

After spending the better part of two hours searching, I found it. Part number 901.612.891.01. Price? Wait for it…


Porsche Parts Prices.

We’ll find an alternative.

Addendum – Additive manufacturing for the win: https://www.wiesner3d.com/…/4-pin-sending-unit…

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Little Bit Like …

… hearing someone talk about how good your old girlfriend is in bed …

Tonight a former colleague, who has probably never experienced anything much more exotic than a Toyota pickup, emailed me to say that he had just been out of town on a little business and “… While I was there I saw a Porsche 944 parked in a friend’s driveway that friend tossed me the keys and said you should take it for a ride up Catherine Creek and I did wow was that a blast that was so much fun I feel like I’ve been able to ride where the great people have ridden and been in the same seat that’s been shared by awesome people woohoo what a party what a ride …”

Stay tuned for the next installment of the adventures of the PFKATBR*.

*Porsche Formerly Known As The Blue Rascal

UPDATE 6/3/21: The sender of the email quoted above sent me this explanation this morning:
“Sorry for that weird email…I was so excited I used the speech recognition function to just ramble verbally to compose the email!”

Posted in At Play | Leave a comment

Lawrence’s Guide to Buying a 944

From the Blue Rascal Archives: Reflected Landscape #2442

As a general proposition, work out how much you would be willing to buy a late model car for on credit.  Figure the max that you could put out as a down payment, then use that amount as the maximum purchase price, and reserve the amount of what would be your monthly payment for ongoing maintenance, care  and feeding.   Might be a good idea, as I did, to create a special account, money market or whatever, to accommodate and track your monthly reserve which may be needed for the life of your ownership and will help protect you from the crush of unanticipated major future outlays, with any surpluses (or profits?!!) going toward your next P-Car “investment.”  

You will probably never own a 944; it will always own you.  That said, it can be a wonderful driving experience, and with proper attention and investment, quite reliable.  Get one that is well documented, passes the scrutiny of an experienced 944 mechanic/owner and isn’t a victim of years of neglect.

P.S.  Don’t tell one anyone, but even having disposed of the Blue Rascal, I am still subscribed to Bring A Trailer


Posted in How To - Tips - Hints | Leave a comment