Monthly ArchiveFebruary 2016

Cadillac CTS-V and the steering thing

My Cadillac CTS-V sprang a really bad power steering leak the other day. Big leak. Giant puddle on the floor. Turns out it was the pinion seal on the rack and pinion assembly. Changing in the car would be a bit insane, so I had to pull the rack.

Now, there’s no procedure for removing the rack and pinion in the factory service manual, and I haven’t been able to find one on the internetz. So I’m writing one. Now. Step by step. No pictures, because you really don’t need them.

  1. Raise the front of the car as far as you can, set it down on jackstands positioned under the lift points on the subframe  (there are little arrows on the skirt showing you where).
  2. Remove the front wheels
  3. Remove the brake calipers and hang them off the upper control arms using wire or zip ties.
  4. Remove the brake rotors. Don’t beat them off with a hammer, they’re held on with a little torx head screw.
  5. Separate the tie rod ends from the spindle. I did it by running the nut almost all the way off, then whacking them with a ball peen hammer.
  6. Now is where it gets fun. Set a jack under the engine cradle, then remove the two driver side engine cradle bolts (21mm heads). Gently lower the driver side of the engine cradle onto a jack stand.
  7. Loosen the motor mounts from the engine cradle. The rear motor mount nuts are 21mm. The fronts are an 18mm nut welded to the frame and you’ll need to get a wrench on top of the bolt, that’s 13mm. ¬†Loosen them as far as you can without taking the nuts off.
  8. Raise the engine with a jack, being careful not to crush anything up top.
  9. Remove the bolt holding the steering shaft to the pinion.
  10. Trace the wires coming out of the black cylinder that’s screwed into the rack gearbox portion to a connector right in the front of the car next to the ABS module. Disconnect and pull the wires out.
  11. Unscrew the black cylinder, being careful not to twist the wires. They’ll break if you twist them, and if they break, you’ll have to buy a whole new whatever that thing is.
  12. Disconnect the two power steering lines from the rack gearbox.
  13. Remove the anti sway bar.
  14. Unbolt the two bolts on either side that hold the rack down.
  15. Wiggle the rack out by moving it forward into the space vacated by the swaybar and pulling it out through the driver side wheelwell.

It’s not difficult, but it is time consuming. Take your time. Reinstall is reverse of removal.

It’s Straight!

Owing to an uneven fender overhang that’s existed since I bought my Grand National, I’ve always been suspicious as to whether or not my car was straight or had been in an accident before I got my hands on it.

Even after I replaced all the body bushings and yanked the car straight (as far as my measurements could tell), the uneven overhang persisted. It finally bugged me enough I called up a body shop here in town known for frame work and building race cars, and had them put it on their frame rack to measure it all.

Turns out the car is straight as an arrow and square as Dr. Sheldon Cooper. The fenders themselves are misshappen. Good ‘ol 1980s GM quality.

So the overhangs will remain, but the chassis is 100% healthy, even after all the racing I’ve been doing with the car. I have just a few things left to get installed before the season starts: a brace to keep the engine from rocking over too far under load, and new oil cooler lines. Both are in my possession and likely will go on this weekend.

2016 Racing preparations!

Well, the 2016 racing season is fast approaching. Interlaced with the work on the basement I detailed in my last entry were preparations for this year’s autocross season.

The Buick was re-classed into CAM-T for 2016, which moves me away from modern supercars like the Camaro SS/Z28 and the 2015+ Mustangs and toward old buckets turned into supercars, like Mary Pozzi’s amazing Camaro.

Mary Pozzi’s split bumper Camaro at the 2015 CAM Challenge East in Peru, Indiana

That staring me in the face, the car was definitely in need of some improvements. It had issues with tire scrubbing at high steering angles, which caused some horrible understeer, and the transmission needed some reinforcement. I also found a cracked brake rotor.

My first Christmas present to myself was a set of SpeedTech front control arms. These replaced my ghetto-fab combination of SPC adjustable upper arms an truck ball joints. I’d always had concerns about the ball joints breaking on me. The tuck balljoints didn’t quite fit the taper of the spindle. The arms also ended up being

New SpeedTech control arms and a home built bumpsteer compensation kit

asymmetric, which caused the car to dive to the left under hard braking and turn-in was inconsistent. I also combined the arms with lower ball joints that are 1″ taller than stock. This keeps the higher effective spindle height and the improved camber curve I got with my old truck ball joint, lowered the front of the car an inch, and the arms allowed nearly an additional degree of caster along with nearly one degree of negative static camber. Using a taller lower ball joint required some bumpsteer correction. Kits to do it cost $150 from places like RideTech, but I managed to piece it together using parts from Speedway Motors for about 2/3 of the RideTech price.

The ride of the car with the new arms is much better than it was on the old setup, I’m anxious to see if they actually improve things.

A power steering cooler has been added, sandwiched in between the A/C condenser and the radiator. That operation resulted in a broken reservoir nipple, so I had to replace the reservoir. I also adjusted the lash on the steering box hoping to tighten up the steering.

A cracked brake rotor has been replaced and front bearings have been re-packed with fresh grease.

Cracked brake rotor. Eeek!

Lastly, a CK Performance shift kit went into the transmission. This kit reprograms the valvebody and eliminates the 1-2 and 3-4 accumulators to firm up the shifts and improve kickdown. This kit came highly recommended by the Boost Crew Motorsports.

All the fluids have been replaced. New Royal Purple 10w30 in the crankcase, Valvoline synthetic in the transmission, Amsoil in the rear end, and Wilwood Racing fluid in the brake system.

The one major modification that’s missing? Tires. I’m holding off on those until the “go-to” tire for 2016 is identified. That may not happen until May. The new arms also give me enough clearance in the front of the car to run 275mm tires, but those sizes would require new wheels. We shall see how that pans out over the course of the season.

A busy winter!

Been awhile since I’ve posted, not that anybody noticed. Nevertheless, it has been a very busy winter. Car stuff, house stuff, people stuff. Lot’s going on. So I’ll start with the house stuff.

When I bought my house, there was a “finished” room in the basement. It consisted of four walls, three doorways (without doors) and some nasty carpet. The walls and ceiling were “finished” with some really cheap and poorly done 1/4″ drywall panels. It worked for awhile as a playroom, then an excercise room, them I moved my computer down there and used it for an office, then it turned into a mess. Just a place I walked through on the way to the laundry area. The carpet was ripped out after it was waterlogged. Mold started growing underneath the wallpaper. It was poop.

The first step was, of course, demolishing the room as it stood:

Old drywall torn down

Tearing this drywall down uncovered several issues of an electrical nature. The wall outlets in the basement has simply been spliced in at an old box. I found numerous other issues buried in the walls: a junction box with no cover stuff full of insulation; two circuits run down the same three wire run (two hots, one neutral, no ground!). I ended up rewiring no just this room, but the room above it all the way back to the panel.

Once demo was done, I installed some doors:

New doors to furnace and laundry areas

Then I called a guy to come do the drywall for me. The results were fantastic:

Dyrwall up and mudded

The drywall was quickly followed by paint and wall fixtures for a home theater:

The TV wall. Electric and terminals for HDMI, Ethernet, and Power, plus right, center, and left speakers

Then the ceiling. A finished ceiling was a challenge. Not only was the floor of the basement not level (it slopes towards a floor drain), but the floor joists above were also far from level. It’s an old house. I also needed access to wiring, so a drywall ceiling was out of the question. A conventional drop ceiling would have provided a ceiling that was simply too low.

The answer turned out to be a snap-together system that used drop ceiling tiles. I had to shim it quite a bit to get the ceiling level, but I got it:

Snap-in ceiling system and new track lighting

I managed to use a laser level to set a datum on the wall, then worked across the joists. The results were fantastically acceptable.

Some cabinets were next. I had originally envisioned a bar, but there just wasn’t enough space. A cool drink fridge finished it off nicely:

New cabinets and refrigerator

And finally, the electronics:

New TV, existing speakers moved from upstairs.

For the nerds, the TV is a 55″ Vizio UHD. I got a new Pioneer recievier and a Sony 4K Blu-Ray player to go along. The Pioneer sounds much better than the old Sony I had upstairs. All the components are behind the TV wall, with an I/R repeater passing remote signals through the wall to the components. The front speakers are Paradigm, and the rears are vintage 1974 Bose Interaudio Model 1’s. The rears belonged to my grandfather. They were passed to me with rotted out surrounds on the woofers, which I repaired myself to bring the speakers back to life. It all works beautifully, though I can’t turn the volume up too much without clipping the rear speakers. They’re only rated for 40 watts and the new receiver is 110w per channel.

The room is now a cozy home theater. I’ve also added a couch and recliner, and the fridge is stocked. It was well worth the time spent.