Road trip diary

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Petros
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Posts: 11351
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My tercel:: '84 Tercel4wd w/extensive mods
Location: Arlington WA USA

Road trip diary

Post by Petros » Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:06 pm

Here is the first installment of the long awaited road trip. I returned home early Tuesday morning, January 12th at 12:50 am, from delivering my daughter to Austin TX, where she goes to school. We drove over 5000 miles, crossed three mountain ranges, braved snow, rain, ice storms, subfreezing weather and even had some sunshine. I also rescued an abandon '85 Tercel 4wd from Grand Junction CO along the way, repaired it and drove it home. That $100 Tercel4wd drove me almost 4,000 miles, through snow and ice and desert sun, it did not use a single quart of oil, got great fuel economy and took me home.

Over the next few days I hope to put the trip log up on this thread, with all the details and pictures for all to see. It was quite an adventure, fun at times, and trying too. Below is the "before" picture, starting at our home in Arlington WA. All of our travel gear, tools and spare parts, food and drinks, etc stuffed into a 1986 CRX.

Since my daughter wanted her car in TX, and I did not want her to drive all that way alone, I thought a road trip together would be fun. And I can always fix what ever might go wrong with a 25 year old car that might otherwise leave my daughter stranded. The poor little CRX was likely overloaded, it got relatively poor fuel economy over the first few days, about 31 to 32 mpg. Despite the stiff ride, the little car took it well and gave us no problems at all.

We bought this CRX about four years ago for only $75 and I proceeded to rebuild it. It was used by the previous owner as a parts car, and had a lot of missing parts, plus the engine had be dismantled and left outdoors for a least a year. It had not been driven in over 5 years when we got, and it sat in the back log of projects for another few years in our garage. Despite this, it was a good car to rebuild, the body was fair and it had no rust, and it was cheap. A rebuilt engine, parts from a $65 rust bucket parts car, new tires, brakes and a lot of parts from the local Pull-A-Part made it a pretty decent little two seater. Even though I was confident in it, it is still 25 years old, and despite my best efforts at replacing everything that might fail, there still could be an overlooked hose, seal or other minor part that could cause tremendous engine damage and leaver her stranded alone in a bad place.

My daughter named her car "Gir" after the loyal but somewhat dysfunction robot assistant of Invader Zimm (go look it up on YouTube). It is a good name for it.

Image
The little CRX “Gir” all loaded up and ready to go, notice the ’94 Tercel seats in it! Our house in the background, and my '84 Tercel4wd in the foreground just showing in the corner of the picture is to stay home this trip.

In the days preceding the road trip, I had been working down a long list of little fixes I had been meaning to do to the car all year. On a 25 year old car there is an endless list of minor and not-so-minor items to check, repair, replace or adjust. One of the items was to replace the seats. The stock Honda seats are really uncomfortable, especially for a long drive. As good a car as Honda makes, I do not know why their seats are so badly designed, they make your butt numb and your back ache after only an hour, no way would a road trip be tolerable with the stock seats, let alone as a daily driver. Last summer, my daughter had spent and afternoon with me in the local Pull-A-Part sitting in different car seats seeing how they feel. A popular “upgrade” to the CRX is to put Prelude seats in it, they still need to be altered to fit, but at least they are Honda. Well, she did not like the Prelude seats either. She liked the best, of all things, the up-grade cloth seats from a 1994 Tercel, the most comfortable of the smaller seats we could find. They were a bit larger and not easy to adapt, it took me a month to get the driver’s seat installed, I had to fabricate 3 out of the 4 mounts, and cold formed and redrilling the 4th mount. At least it was bolted in good and solid, the seat is also about an inch taller at the butt level, there is no way to make them any lower in the car. This is no problem for either of my daughters since they are only about 5’ to 5’-3” tall. So visibility was improved for them, but it was a bit of a chore for me to slide in under the steering wheel, and I had less than a inch of head room, and I am only 5’ 8” tall! So this car is no longer for tall people. Once I am in I can drive it no problem, and the ’94 Tercel seats are firm and comfortable. But 3 days before we were going to leave the passenger seat was still waiting to be installed, I also decided to rebuild the rear brakes, replace a torn CV boot, and get the radio installed (one of the PO not only took out the radio, but also cut the wire bundle off, and I was not looking forward to sort out the mass of raw wires). I even had a nice Alpine AM/FM CD player I picked up at a garage sale a few years ago that my daughter would enjoy. Needless to say, the radio was low on the priorities list. Though a working radio is important for most collage age people, my daughter included, I just did not have time to get to it before we left.

I told my daughter if she needed anything fixed while in school, including getting the radio installed, find a boyfriend who is a car nut and have him fix it, and if he has no other redeeming characteristics, dump him after the CRX is repaired.

Sunday, January 3rd 2010. So all loaded up, after good by to friends and family, we took off Sunday afternoon about 2 pm, filled up with gasoline at the local ARCO station and got on the freeway heading for Yakima WA. It had been cloudy with an on and off light rain all day.

My daughter drove on the first leg of the trip so I can fiddle with finally installing the radio on the way. A family friend had marked the wires for me coming out of the back of the Alpine unit so I knew what went to where, it was a big help since I am not an audiophile and never paid much attention to fancy car stereos (they just attract thieves that do a lot of damage to your car getting at it). With the CRX wiring diagram in hand, my wire cutters and electrical tape, I managed to get the Alpine stereo installed and working by the time we got over Snoqualme pass, about 2 and half hours of driving.

We drove south on Interstate 5, through Belleview pm I-405, and than east on I-90 over Snoqualme pass of the Cascade range. I love mountain driving, I used to do a lot of climbing and skiing, activities I do not have much time for now, and I just can not stay in that good a shape either, but I can still enjoy the view. The last stretch over the pass was rather steep, and little Gir loaded up like that just could not keep up with the more modern higher powered cars, at least we were passing most of the big rigs crawling up the pass way over in the right lane.

It was snowing lightly over the pass, and the ski area was open for business. I once skied there a number of years ago, it is actually four smaller ski areas that were combined. It is still a rather poor ski area, badly laid out, not a lot of selection, short runs. Often with slushy wet snow, this pass is only 3,022 feet above sea level. And the best part of the combined area is over on the other side of the pass, called Alpental, you have to take a shuttle bus to it, wasting good ski time. Alpental is exciting with lots of steep alpine chutes, spectacular terrain, and not for beginners at all. It often rains at the pass too, making for miserable skiing, it was just above freezing when we made the pass about 4 pm. So the road was clear and passable for us, but unless you stay high on the mountain, the skiing conditions were likely poor.

As we approached Yakima about 5 pm, and it got dark, my daughter noticed the dash lights were completely dark, and complained about it. The dash lights worked before, and most cars have the tail lights wired with the dash lights, so if the tail lights are out you will notice the dash lights are not working too. Oops, there must have been a dash wire in the Honda wire bundle that I shorted. The factory radio must have had a light wired to the radio so it would dim along with dash lights, so I pulled the radio out and put electrical tape caps on all the unused wires. At the next gas stop, in Yakima, I popped in some new fuses (I brought lots of extra spare fuses in my “kit”). All is good again, now all we have to do is get a mounting kit to permanently mount the stereo rather than have it wedged into the hole in the dash. But at least the radio works.

The week before Yakima was hit with a big snow storm, so the landscape was all snowy. Fortunately for us, it was above freezing and all of the roads were clear but very wet.

We arrived at our friends’ house with plenty of time for dinner, we had a good visit with Anna and John and children over dinner, than playing a game after until late. They let us stay in their guest room. It was once a larger farm house attached to a much bigger piece of land, now all subdivided into a high density nationhood. All of the adjoining houses are much smaller and of newer vintage than Anna and John’s house. It is much nicer to stay with friends on trips like this, it saves a lot of cost too.

Image
First stop: Anna and John’s farm house in Yakima, with Gir out front. Sorry for the poor image, the light was fading and it was foggy out, this was the best shot I could get.

Monday, January 4th 2010: Up at 7 am, a quick shower and a relaxed and simple breakfast of cereal and fresh berries got us on the road by 8am. We filled up at the local ARCO station, and were on our way on a foggy and rainy morning. Unfortunately I did not get a lot of pictures in Yakima or on the road most of the next day since it was so damp and foggy. It was poor day for photography, the long distance visibility was poor. Pictures tend to look muddy and cloudy.

More to come....
'87 Tercel 4wd SR5 (current engine swap project)
'84 Tercel 4wd (daily driver, with on going mods)
'92 Mazda MPV 4wd (wife's daily driver)
'85 Tercel 4wd DLX auto(daughter's daily driver)
'01 Honda Civic (other daughter's daily driver)

blade
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Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2009 5:54 pm
My tercel:: No tercel. (stolen)
Location: Okanagan Falls

Re: Road trip diary

Post by blade » Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:08 pm

wow looking good i cant wait to take my tercel on a trip like yours

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Petros
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Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2007 6:31 pm
My tercel:: '84 Tercel4wd w/extensive mods
Location: Arlington WA USA

Re: Road trip diary

Post by Petros » Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:02 pm

Monday Jan 4th (continued): We drove southeast on I-82 in the damp weather. Both Google Maps and MS Streets & Trips had us get off the interstate at the town of Prosser and take a state highway directly south to the Columbia river, and follow it east to where we again pick up I-82 where it crosses the Columbia River into Oregon. My temptation was to just stay on I-82 through Kennewick since it would be easy to get on the wrong hwy in the fog, it could not be more than a few minutes difference anyway. I decided to follow directions and take the surface streets to the Oregon state line, and we promptly took the wrong highway. Without having the sun, and never being in this part of the state before, throw in the screwy interchanges where you loop around 180 degrees (so do we turn left or right at this intersection?). We were soon heading in the opposite direction, and it just did not feel right, so I was questioning where we were going.

My wife had given my daughter a handy little GPS device for Christmas, for use in her car. My wife was not real confident in my daughter’s navigation skills and she thought it would be good for her to have with her car. We took it out of the box and fired it up, it only took a few minutes for us to learn we were indeed heading the wrong direction (as I suspected). It also told us we were 4 miles out of our way, not a big deal, but exactly the reason I considered staying on the Interstate. I generally do not like to depend on devices for navigation, a map, compass, and paying attention is all I usually need. But in the fog without a compass, especially with the poorly marked surface highways, it was handy to have. It turns out the “find” feature of the GPS to locate the nearest gas station or fast food place was a tremendous time saver on the trip. You can make good time all day, pull off in a large town to find gas and get something to eat and loose an hour or more driving around in heavy traffic just to get gas and a burger, and find your way back to the Interstate.

I was rather disappointed as we finally approached the Columbia, we drove east along the north side for about 14 miles, and we did not even get a glimpse of it because of the fog. We crossed the Columbia when we picked up I-82 south again and finally got a good look at it. It is a very large, slow moving river at this point, this is the river that Lewis and Clark followed out to the Oregon coast in 1805. Considering the often rugged county side, following the river makes much better time in wilderness travel. The Columbia river drains down from Canada through eastern Washington, its headwaters start in the Columbian Ice Fields way up in the Canadian Rockies.

I-82 southbound took us into eastern Oregon, than we changed to I-84 east, which drove us through Pendleton (home I believe of the famous wool mill and cold weather clothing company) and into the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The highway followed the path of the Old Oregon Trail, with lots of historic markers to constantly remind us of that fact just in case we forget. The road signs were rather interesting; Poverty Flats Road, and Deadman’s Pass. I asked my daughter how she would like to live with an address on “Poverty Flats Road”. A stark reminder of how many poorly planned overland trips used to end. I guess when it was named they were not thinking about a more desirable name for the many future sprawling suburban subdivisions.

We fueled up about noon in La Grande OR, finding the best local price for gasoline thanks to the GPS. We switch drivers here, and when back on the road, we dug out our food stuff to see what we had for lunch, bagels with cream cheese, juice and an energy drink for me. The fog had been lifting as we drove east, and we were starting to see patchy blue sky, so the scenery was improving.

I-84 followed the west side of the Snake River that separates Oregon from Idaho for a stretch. The Snake River is also the division between Pacific and Mountain time. The time line was shown on our maps, it made this crazy winding route through Idaho and eastern Oregon, in some places heading west, than north, than west again, than south, and than back east to the Oregon-Idaho state line. I can not imagine what kind of political back room deal was made to settle on this time line location, why did it not just follow the state line? I was finding roads on the map, that if you heading west you would go from Pacific time, to mountain time, and than back to pacific time again as you travel through the little Oregon towns of Huntington Junction and Ironside. If we had more time I would have like to done that just for the fun of saying we did it. Perhaps we can do it on the next trip.

We crossed into Idaho, drove through Boise, and had to stop for gas again at dusk in a little town called Hazilton, about a half mile off the Interstate. Again we would not known of this place without the GPS taking us to the gas station, you could not see it from the Freeway. This town is on the edge of some giant lava flows in southern Idaho, it is also near one of the infamous Japanese interment camps ordered by President Roosevelt during World War 2. One interesting feature of this town is in front of the very old looking fire station they had two old military tanks as part of the landscaping. I wanted to stop and play on them, too bad I did not get a picture.

According to my map software we should arrive at Grand Junction CO from here about midnight, so I called the owner of the Tercel to tell him when I thought we would arrive. He was okay with that, later he told me he thought it would be much later than midnight from southern Idaho, which turned out to be correct.

We headed south on I-84 into Utah, in the fog and dark. Near the state line we went over Rattlesnake pass and left the fog and overcast behind. Utah is a beautiful state, even at night and by star light it was fantastic. As we drove down into the Great Salt Lake basin we could see all the cities laid out like jewels on a string. I had been in the area about 30 years ago, and I do not remember this much development. There were subdivisions, shopping centers, malls and all kinds of development along the shores of the Great Salt Lake. We stopped for gas in SLC about 9 PM. I last visited SLC when I went skiing here back in Collage, the most memorable thing about that trip was my heater was not working, and it was very cold! The worst thing about driving without a heater is you have to keep the windows rolled down to keep the windshield from icing up on the inside from your breath. Not something that is obvious when you live in Southern California.


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getting gas in Salt Lake City about 9pm. Still going strong, I bought a few more energy drinks here to keep me awake if I needed it.

Soon after we left I-84 to take state route 6 up through Price UT. This was supposed to save time from staying on the Interstate which goes further south before we can pick up I-70 eastbound toward Colorado. But this road had a lot of construction and wound through a lot of mountains and canyons. It would have been nice to see it in the day light, but even by moon light the landscape was beautiful. Price is a mining town up in the Wasatch mountains. It was bigger than I thought it would be, since most of the way was without any roads or towns at all. About midnight we finally reached I-70 east toward Grand Junction. I considered calling again just to let him know we were going to be much later. I thought perhaps it was not too much further so I drove on as my daughter slept.

Tuesday Jan 5th, 12:01Am. Eastboud I-70 I passed a sign that said no services for 48 miles, it appeared I had plenty of gas left to make that so I kept driving so as not to make us any later than necessary. A half an hour later I was not so sure. It was almost all down hill into Grand Junction so on the steeper runs I put it in neutral and let it coast for miles at a time. Even though it was clear, it was very cold outside and I would hate to be stuck 10 miles from gas at 1 am. We passed the state line and I knew we were close to finding gasoline, the gauge was almost below the Empty line!. I was starting to get worried so I resorted to the GPS to find the nearest gas, and I found it just 5 miles ahead, now if we can only get there in time. I let it coast up the off ramp, and than very gingerly drove north per the GPS directions to the station about a half a mile from the Interstate. Found it at last! It was the most amount of gas we put in the CRX, so we were pretty close to empty. My bladder was more than full after all those energy drinks, and the store was closed (the pumps were open 24 hours with a credit card, thank God, we would not have been able to dive much further). So I went behind the trash bin and left my name in yellow in the snow (then it occurred to me they might have security cameras, oh well I could not wait any longer). Soon after we found our stop in Clifton, a suburb of Grand Junction. It was Murry and Lisa's home, the ones with the Tercel for sale, we arrived at about 2:30 am.

I did not want to knock on the door since they had dogs and they might bark, so I called him on my cell from his driveway. I apologized for arriving so late, he said no problem, we did what we had to do. He kindly allowed us to sleep in their warm and comfortable guest room and we slept like a log until 8 am.

Morning Jan 5th: I put on my cold weather working-on-car clothes and went out to get a good look at the Tercel for the first time. It was ugly: all dirty and covered with leaves, paint peeling, tires low, one flat, the engine compartment was all covered in caked on red dust, the inside smelled like mildew. But it was a great deal for $100, and through all the grim I figured was worth saving. I kept having doubts and second thoughts, what if something is way more wrong than the timing belt, or it has a bad clutch or trashed tranny? I could always abandon it and get a flight home, but that would be a shame. I want to rescue as many of these great little cars as possible, and they ain't making any more of them. The owner Murry said it was his daily diver before the belt broke, so it should run fine with a new belt. So I got work on it.

The morning was clear but very cold, about 18 degrees. Later in the day it warmed up to about 28, not so bad as long as I kept my gloves on to keep my skin from freezing to my tools. I got started right away pulling the engine apart to get at the timing belt, change the oil, the battery and number of other tasks. My daughter later joined me and helped by cleaning out the inside, I brought along spray cleaner, ArmorAll, penetrating oil and a number of other things I though would be needed to get an abandon car fit to drive.

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First look at the Tercel on the other side of Gir. A very cold but clear day.

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Repairs underway in front of Murray and Lisa's home.

I drained the very black and thick oil, drained and removed the radiator and hoses, removed the belts and timing cover. And got my first look at the old timing belt. Yup, broken. And half the teeth were missing too. This should have been changed a long time before it gave way, amazing it was still running. In a way it was a releif that it was indeed the timing belt, if it was not running because of something more serious I might have to abandon it. As it turned out I did find a few other problems.

Once I had the front pulley bolt off I used a home made "special service tool" to remove the front pulley (a simple block of aluminum with two holes for the extraction bolts into the pulley, I made it the night before we left just in case the front pulley gave me trouble). I replaced the front seal while I was at it, and decided to use my used but good belt tensioner since the one on it felt bad. The water pump rotated smoothly so I left that in place even through I had a spare. I replaced the battery, cleaning the terminals, and got it all back together, new oil, antifreeze, spark plugs back in. Than a squirt of starter fluid into the air intake and it fired up! And than died. More spray, started and than died again. This time I started it by standing outside the drivers window and than hurried to put more spray down the carb, as long as I kept adding starter spray it kept running.

That means no fuel. I cleaned off the carb float chamber window and sure enough it looked dry. My mind raced at all the possibilities, I hoped it was not serious, after all that work I did not want to abandon it now. I decided to take a lunch break and get warmed up inside. My daughter was inside visiting with Lisa and she asked how it was going. I said it was not getting fuel and I needed to diagnose why but need a break from the cold. After lunch I started fresh.

I thought about swapping out the fuel pump with the spare I brought along, but it could be something else and that would be a waste of time. So I had to diagnose the reason before I can fix it. The fuel gauge showed a quarter tank so it had fuel. I got an idea to test the fuel pump and borrowed a fuel can from the shop. I ran the suction line from the fuel pump directly into the fuel can, including a length of clear hose. I started it again, it was pulling fuel from the can, finally running on its own. Good! It was not the fuel pump, so it must be a leaky line between the tank and the pump sucking air instead of fuel. Most of that was metal line, it must be a dried out and cracked length of rubber fuel line, fortunately there are only 4 of those between the tank and the pump, and three are easy to get to. So I worked my way back from the pump, pulling each length off one at a time and seeing if they held pressure from blowing into it with my mouth (yetch! but it worked). It was the length of line feeding into the fuel filter, third one I tried. So I replaced that and it started and ran from the tank. Success! Looks like I might drive it home after all.

Now all I had to do was set the timing. To improve the fuel economy I set it at 10 deg BTDC as I normally do. I closed the hood and took it for its first drive up and down the street. It ran kind of balky because it was still cold and it had 2 year old gas in the tank. It also felt really loose, the air was low in the tires and the rear shocks were completely gone. But it ran fair and I thought with more air in the tires and fresh gas it would be drivable.

Murray had come back from his work for lunch and we got to talk a bit. I showed him the belt with all the missing teeth. He told me he bought it from an older woman, a neigbor, who bought it new. She drove in in the summers and left it with them during the winter when she headed south to a warmer climate. Eventually Murray bought it from her and drove it for a number of years, had the brakes done and soon after the timing belt broke. The local repair shop wanted $375 to fix it, so he thought that was too much and he was going to fix it himself and just parked it. He says it last ran a year and a half ago, but it had not been licensed since 2007. Perhaps he neglected to renew his tabs too. I got the plates from him because driving across eight states without plates would be ill-advised. With plates, no one bothered me about the expired tabs for the whole rest of the trip.

We finished business, I got a bill of sale, we packed up both cars and headed for the gas station and the Auto parts store. At the local AutoZone (the only store in town with the correct fan belt) I got some more fuel line, some vacuum line (I had to block one off that was broken and as brittle as a candy cane), fuel system cleaner additive, a quart of gear lube for the tranny when I get a chance to check it, and a new fan belt. The alternator belt was all cracked and brittle, it could leave me stranded so I bought a spare. That old fan belt did take me all the way home, but it was nice having the new one with me all the same. A full tank of gas, the fuel system cleaner added in, and with air in the tires, we were finally ready to head for Denver about 4 hours away, and on to list member Hberdan place in Boulder.

More to come.
Last edited by Petros on Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
'87 Tercel 4wd SR5 (current engine swap project)
'84 Tercel 4wd (daily driver, with on going mods)
'92 Mazda MPV 4wd (wife's daily driver)
'85 Tercel 4wd DLX auto(daughter's daily driver)
'01 Honda Civic (other daughter's daily driver)

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Mattel
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My tercel:: 1988 Corolla 4wd Wagon (AKA Corolla All-trac) 5speed, AC, Power Sunroof, Windows, Mirrors, Steering, Locking, Diff Lock, 14" Corolla SX Alloys with Silica Hankook Tyres, 4afe, King Springs, Upgraded Headlights, Full Synth oils, 210,000kms
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Road trip diary

Post by Mattel » Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:31 pm

Thanks Petros, It's great to have a slice of life from The American North West. Our college system is a lot different here with 90% of students studying in their nearest capital citys.
Previous: 83 Tercel SR5 4wd, 84 Tercel SR5 4wd
88 Corolla 4wd Wagon 5speed, All power options, Fact Sunroof, Diff Lock, 14" SX Alloys, Hankook Tyres, 4afe, King Springs, Upgraded Headlights, Full Synth oils, Tow Bar, 210,000kms

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Petros
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Posts: 11351
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2007 6:31 pm
My tercel:: '84 Tercel4wd w/extensive mods
Location: Arlington WA USA

Re: Road trip diary

Post by Petros » Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:19 am

Most students here tend to go to the local collages and universities too. My two daughters were lucky, my wife's grandfather left each of my daughters an education trust fund that gave them more options on where they went to school.
'87 Tercel 4wd SR5 (current engine swap project)
'84 Tercel 4wd (daily driver, with on going mods)
'92 Mazda MPV 4wd (wife's daily driver)
'85 Tercel 4wd DLX auto(daughter's daily driver)
'01 Honda Civic (other daughter's daily driver)

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sdoan
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Posts: 392
Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2007 2:02 pm
My tercel:: 1983 Tercel 4wd DLX 2nd owner (sold), 1984 SR5 3rd owner (sold), 1984 with 4A engine and factory sunroof SR5 3rd owner.
Location: Bellingham, WA

Re: Road trip diary

Post by sdoan » Wed Jan 20, 2010 9:17 pm

Petros,

Great story so far. you are very brave to attempt to revive a dead car 1000 miles from home and then drive it another 4000 miles in the WINTER! WOW!
I love it. :D

Great pictures too.

takza
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Location: Tibetan plateau

Re: Road trip diary

Post by takza » Thu Jan 21, 2010 2:11 am

I wasn't sure the story would end so well....a bit more than I would try to take on...glad it worked out OK though. Fixing a car like that in someone elses driveway can't be a whole lot of fun...unless it works out OK.
Give a boy a gun-give a biatch a cell phone-and pretty soon you almost got yourself a police state.

Orwell said: War is peace! Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength...

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Highlander
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Location: Nederland, CO

Re: Road trip diary

Post by Highlander » Thu Jan 21, 2010 4:31 pm

Cripes Peter, if you or Dan had let me know you were here, I could've offered some parts if needed- sounds like a set of rear shocks (which I have) wouldn't have hurt. Glad you made it back safe and sound though. :D
'83 SR5-299K, -tRusty!
'85 SR5-265K--GOLD
'85 SR5-285K-- GOLD-New engine!
'85 SR5-238K -- Teal-Killed by a DD
'58 and '62 Austin-Healey Sprites

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Petros
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Posts: 11351
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2007 6:31 pm
My tercel:: '84 Tercel4wd w/extensive mods
Location: Arlington WA USA

Re: Road trip diary

Post by Petros » Wed Jan 27, 2010 11:25 am

Highlander,

Thanks! I did not know if you were back from your CA trip when we were in Boulder, it would have been nice to see you again. No matter, I did not want to take the time to change out the shocks anyway when on the road. On a smooth highway it made little difference, and when I got back home I found a pair of used gas filled rear shocks at Pull-A-part for only $7 for the pair.
'87 Tercel 4wd SR5 (current engine swap project)
'84 Tercel 4wd (daily driver, with on going mods)
'92 Mazda MPV 4wd (wife's daily driver)
'85 Tercel 4wd DLX auto(daughter's daily driver)
'01 Honda Civic (other daughter's daily driver)

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Petros
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Posts: 11351
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2007 6:31 pm
My tercel:: '84 Tercel4wd w/extensive mods
Location: Arlington WA USA

Re: Road trip diary

Post by Petros » Wed Jan 27, 2010 11:50 am

Before I continue the trip diary I thought I would give a rundown of the $100 car I bought: it is a 1985 Tercel 4wd SR5 with 301,000 miles on it. As noted above it was very dirty, and the inside smelled of mildew. The gold paint was faded and thin where the clear coat had peeled on the roof and hood, and some on the sides too. There were a number of large paint blisters on the rear hatch and side doors where surface rust had gotten under the paint. There was a large dent in the driver's side rear quarter panel where the owner said a truck had backed into it. This had wiped out the side marker light and the tail light, had I know this I would have brought my spare tail light from home. I held the tail like together with large amounts of duct tape until I got home, at least the tail light still worked. All the trim and bumpers were good, and all the glass too (only one tiny half moon shaped chip on the upper edge of the windshield), it has a tinted windshield, which was easy on the eyes during the trip. The wiper blades were all shot, which I replaced on the road. Also there was one mud flap missing, which I have since replaced.

The tires were well worn but had fair tread, the side walls were very cracked from the CO sun, but they held air. This was worrysome, and I brought an extra spare tire with me (I would have brought two but there was not that much room in the CRX!). As it was the tires took me all the way home with little trouble, even surviving some high speed runs through Texas.

The inside was fair, mostly complete. the driver's seat had some wear and the side wing was broken down a bit, but it was intact and comfortable for the 4000+ miles I drove it over the next 5 days to get home. After I soaked interior with Fabreeze Auto it smelled a bit better. Someone replaced the durable factory carpet with an inferior aftermarket "shag" type of carpet that is now faded and worn through next to the throttle peddle. Someone also mixed up the left and right door threashold trim, and easy fix. The rear window defroster worked perfectly (the only one I have seen in fact without some damaged filaments). The radio did not work when I tried it, oh well, it will be long silent drive home. It was an after market Blaupunk am/fm. It eventually came on while on the road after the inside warmed up (it does not like the cold). Someone told me that is a sign the diodes will soon give up, but at least it worked for most the drive home to help keep me alert.

The engine was all caked with red dust and leaves, but it ran perfectly once I got it running, strong and quiet. I learned on the road it needed thermostat, which I replaced in Tuscon at my sister's place. But it was too late, I had damaged the head gasket so I changed that in Los Angeles at my parents home (only paid $17.99 for the new gasket at Checkers), I grooved the combustion chambers and modified the coolant flow in the gasket to improve circulation. Now it runs great.

Overall not a bad buy for $100, even with all the work I put into it. and it took me home with little trouble.

More about the trip later
'87 Tercel 4wd SR5 (current engine swap project)
'84 Tercel 4wd (daily driver, with on going mods)
'92 Mazda MPV 4wd (wife's daily driver)
'85 Tercel 4wd DLX auto(daughter's daily driver)
'01 Honda Civic (other daughter's daily driver)

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Petros
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My tercel:: '84 Tercel4wd w/extensive mods
Location: Arlington WA USA

Re: Road trip diary

Post by Petros » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:13 pm

Tuesday Jan 5th 2010: We finally finished up getting gas, auto parts, and air in the tires in town and got on the interstate about dusk. I was somewhat disappointed because I love mountain driving and it was getting dark. I was hoping to leave by 2 or 3 pm to get to see the Rockies, I-70 drives right through the heart of the Colorado Rockies over Vail pass. But I just did not have the car ready by than. Even so the route was a fantastic drive even in the evening. The way is well lighted with all the resorts and towns along the way, in the moon light the mountains are still fantastic.

East Up Into the Rockies!

We drove east from Grand Junction up into the Rockies, along the way are some little towns with interesting names, one called Parachute (I wonder how that got named), one called Silt (no mystery there). Along the way we passed many signs indicating the turn offs to the major ski resorts, Vail, Arapaho basin, Steamboat spring, Breckenridge, Glenwood springs. Places I used to read about in the ski magazines and dream about skiing at when I was in collage. I love skiing, and it occurred to me to bring my gear despite the limited cargo capacity, but I could not afford it anyway, and did not have time on the schedule we were on. I am not in any kind of shape to enjoy it much any way, perhaps before my joints give out and I have more time and money I can come back and go skiiing.

For the rest of the drive to TX my daughter and I were in separate cars, I kept an eye on her especially around the heavy truck traffic, and on the occasional snowy stretch. She has a lot less driving experience than I had at her age, and she has never driven on a long road trip before. The road was mostly clear, and kept clear because of the many resorts that depend on customers to stay open, but the higher passes had light snow and the occasional icy patch. Little Gir and her driver did very well, it was easy to pick out the little CRX by the head lights compared to the to other traffic of SUVs, trucks and big rigs.

Now that I had the Tercel with inflated tires on the highway I could better assess how it drove. It was actually reasonably quiet (after I got the windows all the way up, they were really stiff, some lube later took care of that). On bumpy road it was a little unsettled, because of the bad shocks, but smooth hwy was not bad at all. The seats were remarkably comfortable despite their age, as they were for the rest of the 4000 miles drive home. The windows were still dirty, and it made me feel like I was driving a junker among all the fancy newer cars through the ski resorts. I felt the car needed a name to go along with Gir, so I named it "Grunt" since that was how it felt on over a big bump. My daughter thought "granola" would be a better name, but I thought Grunt & Gir sounded better. It just drove on and on like a good "grunt".


Bad Thermostat


One thing became obvious once under way, the thermostat was stuck open. I realized then that every time I got a car running after it has been sitting for several years (which is most of the cars we own), the t-stat goes to full open and stays there. There must be something that causes t-stats to fail after not being used for several years. The temp gauge stayed down on or near the lower peg in that cold winter mountain air, not giving me any heat inside the car. During steep climbs the temp would come up and I would turn the fan on full to warm up the car even if temporarily. I also notice that very cold air was leaking in through the driver's side door, I draped my fleece sweater and jacket over my legs and left arm. With the weather clear this was just an annoyance, the next day in Denver the real problem without heat manifested itself during an ice storm. For now my jacket and fleece, and wool socks worked fine.

Some of the ski towns we drove through were fantastic in the night. They were all lighted with colorful lights, every tree around the hotels and resorts were also alight in amazing colors: turquoise, fuchsia, purple and others. It was like the landscape from the movie Avatar, something we would not have seen during the day. Even the hotels were quite a sight, like massive fantasy chalets all in lights. It was quite an entertaining drive. Pictures at night from a moving car just did not work, too bad.

The high pass was Vail pass at 10,600 feet, light winds and light snow, but no problems. The actual high point over I-70 is not a pass at all, but the top of a tunnel carved through the mountain, it topped out at 11,500+ Both Grunt and Gir braved the thin very cold air, high winds and snow and made it just fine. I was actually surprised at how well the Tercel took it all. When we arrived in the outskirts of Denver about 9:30pm and filled up I found I got about 28 mpg going over those mountains, not bad at all.

We called list member Hberdan, who gets off work at 11pm in Denver, and we met and drove to his place just outside of Boulder. We had a good late night visit, we werestill on Pacific time, and went to bed. The weather was not as cold on this side of the mountains, but the forecast was for a very cold front coming down from Canada by mid day on Wednesday, which we hoped to beat out of town.

Wednesday, Jan 6th 2010: We got up, showered and had breakfast. Hberdan lives in the lower part of a great old house just above Boulder in Boulder canyon, east of the town proper. It was built in the early part of last century and it got all that wonderful stone work in the late 1920's or so. He has a very nice, and rare 1988 Tercel 4wd, and a Saab. All pictured together below, along with Grunt and Gir, my daughter and Hberdan in the red coat.

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Everyone outside of Hberdan's home (he rents the lower level)

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The '88 Tercel, Gir and daughter, the Saab, Hberdan and Grunt.

We headed back into Boulder about 8:30 am, believing this will be well ahead of the cold front. It was only around freezing, which felt warm compared to the night before in the mountains. There were dire warnings all over the radio that temps were going to drop to around zero by noon. Even lower with wind chill.

Boulder

I had been to Boulder with my wife in 1986 (b.c.-before children). It was the center of Colorado climbing at the time, a University town and home of nature lovers, misfits, skiers and climbers, nestled right in the foot hills of the Rockies. Than it had a very "granola" feel to it, I remember stopping at a swap meet on the campus and buying some great cold weather cloths cheap, a coat my wife still has in fact. It has become a swanky and hip place to live, and now built up with sprawling suburbs, condos, malls and shopping centers all along the way to Denver. Except for the old downtown and University area, it was hardly different from any other prosperous big city suburb in America. The area has had amazing growth over the last 25 years.

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The university of Colorado buildings from my car

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Old down town Boulder at Broadway

The sky was light overcast and cool, so it looked like a good day for driving south as long as we stayed ahead of the cold front.

Cold Front!

We drove back to the Denver area on the main hwy, and per Hrberdan's warning, kept clear of the downtown hwys and skirted around the high density parts of Denver. As we drove the cloud ceiling was descending, and the temperature kept dropping, and in the morning traffic we were soon separated. I had intended to get the maps I need from the CRX, since my daughter had the GPS she really did not need the maps, and I am used to reading paper maps as I drive anyway. But I did not and with a freezing fog descending I kind of lost my scene of direction. I knew we were trying to get to I-25 south so I thought I would just stay on hwy 470 until I found it though I was not sure if there was another hwy linking the two without a map to check. I was soon confused by a road sign that indicated a southbound hwy and I took it, very soon it was obvious this took me back into the mountains. I tried to call my daughter, but there was no signal where I was. Nothing to do but get back on the 470. By now the freezing fog was tiny droplets of water that would freeze when they hit my windshield. The poor wipers and the window washer helped for a bit, but soon it was so cold even the washer fluid was freezing to the windshield. I had to twice pull over on the Denver Freeways in morning traffic and scrape the ice off my windshield in subfreezing conditions. I even tried rolling the window down and sticking my head out to see where I was driving. Of course with freezing fog that did not work very well either. I was never going to get caught up to my daughter at this rate. I considered my radiator, I see those radiator covers over the big rig radiators in cold weather. So I put some paper over the front of my radiator, and I got another idea, how about I use my vise-grip on the upper radiator hose. Kind of a "manual" thermostat, forcing the bulk of the coolant through the heater instead of freely circulating through the radiator in 12 degree weather. I put it on the upper hose, and let it idle for a bit. I worked, the temp came up and my windshield began to thaw out. Within a few minutes the lower 9 inches of the windshield was ice free and I could drive by slouching down in my seat. And the inside of the Tercel was warm for the first time.

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My improvised "manual" thermostat I installed on the side of the freeway in Denver. The duct tape was to keep from losing the Vise-Grip in case it work off the upper hose.

Now this was workable, I could see out the lower part of my windshield at last, and the car was warming up inside. Otherwise it would have been impossible. We had to make it to Texas that day and having these kind of problems this early was not looking good. But now I was back up to speed, I had to catch up with my daughter in the CRX, I thought she was miles ahead, I could not see her anywhere. It turns out she also took a wrong turn and used the GPS to get back on track, so we were not that far apart. I finally came across I-25 south, AS we drove south the freezing fog lifted and my windshield was clearing off. Within an hour of driving south bound, we drove out from under the cold front into clear blue skies. All of the ice I accumulated on my car melted off and driving was pleasant again. I watched the temperature gauge like a hawk, I found I can control the temp with the heater fan, the higher the fan setting the lower the temp would go. Not bad for a quick road side jerry rig job. I just had to open the window to keep from getting too warm in the car, this heater now worked better than my daily driver back home.

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"Tipsy's" a giant discount adult beverage store just south of Denver on I-25. If I had any extra money I would have stopped and stocked up. In my home state of WA, the state controls all sales of Adult beverages through idiot state run rip-off stores. I do not consume much alcohol, but I hate incompetent government monopolies, so I would shop there just to spite my own stupid state laws.

State Troopers on my tail!


Along the way south, driving along the western edge of the North American Great Plains, a couple of Colorado state troopers came up behind me. I was trying to make good time, but the safest way to do that is just make sure you are not the fastest car on the road. Than I remembered that the registration was 3 years out of date, I was sure I was going to be pulled over, i was getting my story ready (it was even true, I just bought it and I was driving home to register it). But the troopers just pulled out around me and contained on ahead in a hurry, neither noticed my out of date license plates. I guess there are other advantaged to driving a 25 year old car in the slow lane, you do not get noticed. Once I was outside the state no one would care since I had out of state plates, for now I had to get my daughter in the CRX to stay close behind me so that won't happen again. That was too close for comfort.

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looking east into the beginning of the North American Great Plane. Southbound on I-25 under sunny skies at last

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Looking south into the "Table lands" of New Mexico, as we approached the state line.

We stopped for gas, food and more energy drinks at a Wal-Mart in a little town called Trinidad (I did not even know there was a Trinidad CO). I called my wife to tell here we were in Trinidad. We caught up with each other here, and stayed together for the rest of the drive into Dallas. There was a Checkers nearby so I bought a new thermostat for $8.99, but since that cold front was following us south, I did not want to take the time to put it in now. Besides, the Vise-Grip was working fine. We got back on the interstate just as the first cold gray clouds were sweeping over Trinidad. I was glad to stay ahead of that mess.

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Grunt in front of the Wal-Mart in Trinidad CO. I was soon joined by Gir, and the cold front we left behind in Denver.

More to come...
Last edited by Petros on Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
'87 Tercel 4wd SR5 (current engine swap project)
'84 Tercel 4wd (daily driver, with on going mods)
'92 Mazda MPV 4wd (wife's daily driver)
'85 Tercel 4wd DLX auto(daughter's daily driver)
'01 Honda Civic (other daughter's daily driver)

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ARCHINSTL
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Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2005 1:52 pm
My tercel:: Goldie is a 1986 SR5 attualmente con Weber/also owned the first T4WD in STL in late '82
Location: Kirkwood, a 'burb of St. Louis

Re: Road trip diary

Post by ARCHINSTL » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:28 pm

Thanks for this story of your Odyssey - on several levels.
Being a Father with three dotters, I appreciate your trip with her - I had some similar runs with dotters to collitchs years ago, but not anywhere to the length of yours.
Do a Google Search for Trinidad - lots of really interesting history there.
Boy - you are braver than me with the ViseGrip field expediency fix on an ancient hose by the side of a freeway - in weather, yet.
And hberdan - what a fascinating house!
How about I make this a sticky in Gallery?
Tom M.
T4WD augury?
"Oh, do not ask, 'What is it?' Let us go and make our visit."
T.S. Eliot - "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
"Now and then we had a hope that, if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates."
Mark Twain

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Petros
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Posts: 11351
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2007 6:31 pm
My tercel:: '84 Tercel4wd w/extensive mods
Location: Arlington WA USA

Re: Road trip diary

Post by Petros » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:55 pm

Thanks Tom,

It is fun reliving it. I love road trips and this was one of the best and longest ones I have had in the last 25 years. The Vise-grip trick was a creative act of desperation, and I had a spare upper hose in my box of spare parts anyway. It did split the outer layer of the hose, but it is still holding even now with that T-stat I finally installed in Tucson AZ on the drive back. You may move this thread to anywhere you think is best.
'87 Tercel 4wd SR5 (current engine swap project)
'84 Tercel 4wd (daily driver, with on going mods)
'92 Mazda MPV 4wd (wife's daily driver)
'85 Tercel 4wd DLX auto(daughter's daily driver)
'01 Honda Civic (other daughter's daily driver)

hberdan
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Posts: 519
Joined: Thu Jan 20, 2005 8:46 pm
My tercel:: Sold my 1987 Tercel Dlx 4x4 Wagon but miss driving it everyday. I don't miss working on it, though.
Location: Colorado!

Re: Road trip diary

Post by hberdan » Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:21 pm

Well, more than anyone, since I saw that car up close, I'm truly amazed and very impressed that Petros got that wreck running, got it over Vail Pass and thru the Eisenhower Tunnel and down to Denver in a snowstorm. For those of you who've never driven these roads, well, it's a fairly serious mountain drive. The grades going up to both Vail Pass and the Ike tunnel from both directions are approaching 8%, for several miles, way steep for old cars with puny engines...and in a snowstorm the visibility can be awful, and the road very treacherous.
To find out later that he got to Texas in that old Tercel wagon, across all the way to LA, and up the coast nearly to Canada, well, I think that is not only a testament to the reliability of these little machines, but also to Peter's excellent mechanical skills.

Oh, my house was built just before the depression, in 1927, on 8 acres of mountain land. It operated as a lodge for many years afterwards, with several small cabins on the property. The walls are "flood proof" reinforced concrete with rock facings; the support pillars are three feet thick at the bases. A buddy of mine owns the house, and I rent a portion of it. One day when I grow up I'll buy a place, but for now, it's close to the ski area, and close to Boulder, but far enough away to really enjoy mountain living without the townies, and with plenty of wildlife poking around.
Last edited by hberdan on Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:43 pm, edited 4 times in total.
"I'm high on the real thing: Powerful gasoline, a clean windshield, and a shoeshine."

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sdoan
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My tercel:: 1983 Tercel 4wd DLX 2nd owner (sold), 1984 SR5 3rd owner (sold), 1984 with 4A engine and factory sunroof SR5 3rd owner.
Location: Bellingham, WA

Re: Road trip diary

Post by sdoan » Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:54 pm

Great reading Petros. The installment about the car was interesting too. Thanks!

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