Saturday, November 15, 2008

Trouble Lights

As previously stated, I tackled my headlight issues last week, though the problem is far from fixed. In the end, I have two headlights that now I can at least put up and down manually, something I couldn't do before as the gear mesh wasn't tight enough. One new/used headlight motor, two motor rebuild kits, and a new/used headlight control module and the problem still exists. Next step is to return the control module, as it seems there may have been a mid-year change, as the sticker on the new module was blue, instead of white like the module my car came equipped with. Also, I'm having them send me a new headlight switch, as I believe it too is part of the problem, as it has "acted up" ever since I've owned the car. I fuckin' hate electrical nightmares, and I'm beginning to severely dislike pop-up headlights!

I also replaced my battery a few weeks ago. Can't believe I stretched this one out as long as I did, as it seemed on it's last leg about two winters ago. This year, I wasn't gonna press my luck. I went with a Sears Diehard with around 720 CCA. I've always had great luck with Diehards.

The handicapped lights.

While the instructions stated to removing the headlight housing, I concluded that removing the hoodlatch tray made the process much easier.

Headlight motor.

Guts of the motor.

The motors not having fixed the problem, I moved on to the headlight control module located on the firewall between the brake booster and wiper motor.

Along with the part number, the sticker label also read "REPLACE, DO NOT REPAIR," yeah, for $282 for a new one I think I'll take my chances on attempting to repair it.
I can't help but wonder why GM went from what was previously a system controlled by three simple relays to a circuit board control module. Even then, my module was apparently only used from 1987-1989, when upon they switched to what must have been an updated module from 1990-1992.

Close inspection showed obvious signs of problems. The relay in the center seems to have tried to cook itself at some point. You can see by the smoked plastic cover, problem lie beneath. I popped the cover and discovered a burned wire and a few melted solder points. While the module may not be all of my problems, it was certainly part of the problem.

Current and new/used module, though the problem still isn't solved.

Back together, with two manually "functioning" headlights.

I have always like the 1969 Camaro RS with it's hideaway headlights. Yet after the problems I've had, I'm not so anxious to fit my 69 Camaro with them. In fact, along the way I've even pondered seeing what my options are as far as a fixed headlight system on my 89 Formula. I've heard some have used both BMW and new Corvette lights and adapted them to 3rd gens. It may be something I pursue later on down the road. Would definately give the car a more updated look, if not just functioning headlights! For the time being, I can at least manually raise the lights. I called Hawk's today, told them the issue, and they have said they'll ship me another module upon the return of this one, eat the cost of shipping, and toss in a light switch for $35. They've gone above and beyond to help me out, and I've told them I appreciate their help and in now way blame them for a faulty part that may not even be the only issue at hand. When using used parts, there is obviously always the chance the part won't work. But it's a chance I'll often take when the alternatives are a $240 headlight motor and $282 headlight control module. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Headlight Nightmare!

Today I ventured out to the garge to fix my long standing headlight problem on my car. I've always like the clean look of a flip-up headlight car...when the lights are done. Yet when the functionality of the lights heads south, they are a real eye sore. I had one lamp quit on me a few year ago, and since then I've manually put the lamp up and down. Sometimes, more frequent recently, I'd just leave the damn thing up so I wouldn't have to get out, pop the hood, and manually put the thing up as it got dark. Working afternoons, it was a royal pain in my ass. A few months ago, the lone functioning headlight began acting up. This one however didn't appear to be the motor that went out, as this would acted like the gears were going bad, as it would try to go up, then casually fall back into place.

Anticipating my current vacation, I ordered up a used headlight motor (a new one would have set me back $240!), a rebuild kit for the other lamp, and was ready to tackle the project today. After figuring out I needed to remove the front nose tray, for lack of a better term, the project seemed pretty straight forward. With the new motor in place, I hit the light switch. Still nothing...what the fuck? Now it was time to track down this headlight control module I had heard about. Locating in on the firewall, I pulled it off, took it apart, and found at some point along the way it partially cooked itself! A toasted wire, darkened relay cover, and melted solder pointed to new found issues.

I contacted a local dealer, and was told the new controller was still available, for a hefty price of $282! Hell naw, I called my boy down at Hawk's and he asked I send him pictures and info on my car, he headed out to their F-body salvage yard and picked one off an exact year car. For $75, and an additional $20 for 2nd day air, my new controller was on it's way. In the mean time, I figured I'd install the rebuild kit for both motors, as it essentially tightens up the gear mesh. Seemed easy enough, until I saw that the instructions noted that it is not unusual for the bolt heads to snap off during disassembly. Sure as shit, I think I snapped the heads off 5 outta the 10 bolts between the two.

I made my trip to Sears, to purchase more extractor tools. I know I had previously purchased such tools, but also recall breaking a few, misplacing a few, and not being able to find them last time I tried to hunt them down. So I now have all the tools I need (except maybe a tap/die set, couldn't bring myself to fork out the money), and will try and finish the rebuild tomorrow. With the controller on the way, I will try and finish it up in a few days. With a lot of luck, I'll have two functional flip up headlights. I was hoping to Por-15 the underbody while on vacation as well, but I'm not seeing myself having the time. Some how, I gotta get it done before winter, as the salt will eat it alive if it isn't protected.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Big 3 on life support

Until recently, the condition of the Big 3 really hadn't caught my eye. Ever since graduating college and starting a career as an automotive designer the news had been the same. Once a year or so, one of the Big 3 would announce some doomsday forecast, have a wave of layoffs, and then claim everything was better and they would return to making money in the next year or two. This game of musical chairs had Ford, GM, and Chrysler all as participants. As I worked in the industry, I saw how low moral was, how one never knew if they'd be taken out in the next round of cost cutting to please stock investors. In recent years, all but a handful of contract employees were cut, and now the sweeps have headed for the direct employees, and layoffs have occurred by the thousands in terms of the white collar workforce. It hit me in the fall of 2006, and it was perhaps the best thing to happen to me in my life. 6 1/2 years in the industry, I had learned it wasn't for me, I no longer had a passion for the job, perhaps I never did. So here I am with over a year working in law enforcement, feeling like I've got more stability now than ever. Now back to the Big 3...

The Chrysler/Daimler merger came as a shock to me, though at the time, no one really realized that this merger was actually a takeover. In my opinion, Daimler truly was a savior for Chrysler in terms of styling and design. During the Daimler years Chrysler brought some of the best looking products to market in decades. The sign of concern that told me that things were truly getting bad was when the talks of Ford merging with Nissan/Renault started sounding pretty serious. Though that merger never happened, it wasn't long that Chrysler was on the trading block again, and sold to a private investment company. Initially, this sounded promising, as Chrysler was once again American owned, and free from stock holder concerns. The marriage seems to be short lived, as once again Chrysler seems headed elsewhere.

Into the mix this round is GM, the company that seems to be struggling on life support more than the other two, for this round. Talks of GM buying out/merging with Chrysler seem to have died down the past couple weeks, though government aid seems necessary to keep GM, as well as Ford and Chrysler, afloat. I guess I ask "why not?" If the government is going to bail out the financial industry/banks/mortgage companies for their unquestionable stupidity by offering unrealistic loans to people, then why not toss the manufacturing industry a life line?

Undoubtedly, things need to change. Not just for the auto industry, but manufacturing in this country. Consumers need to step up to the plate as well. The number of "Buy American" people in this country has shrunk with each coming decade. Demand for cheaper product by the buying public is partially responsible for our country's current situation. Though corporate greed plays it's part as well.

A federal loan needs to have stipulations, perhaps one being that a GM/Chrysler merger not happen. GM would salvation few things from Chrysler, likely portions of the Jeep brand, the minivan, and maybe even the Challenger for a short time, as it would offer an option to the upcoming Camaro, much like the Firebird did for many decades. After that though, all you have is several tens of thousands of white collar/blue collar workers getting laid off. In my eyes, such a move by GM only buys them time, and in my opinion, not enough time to warrant costing all those people their jobs. It's time the government steps in, offers their help, though takes steps to secure future manufacturing in this country. Too many jobs have been outsourced to other countries in the auto industry, somebody needs to take charge and rein these jobs back in for Americans.

The outlook looks dismal, and though I haven't made much mention, Ford seems headed down the same road these days. While future product from all 3 companies look promising, it's coming down the pipeline about 5 years too late. They needed their future products to fall back on today and it's another example of poor timing and our big 3's inability to see the writing on the wall like their foreign competition did.

While the future looks uncertain, the Camaro is still on track to make it's 2009 debut, thus completing the trifecta of horsepower...consisting of Mustang, Challenger, and Camaro. Whatever happens after that, at least one can say that the Big 3 when out with a bang.