Category Archives: Restoration

Pacific Northwest 2019 Planning

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If any of you follow this blog somewhat closely, you’ll find that I’m a big fan of the Pacific Northwest. The plethora of thick, green rain forests and majestic coastline are pure bliss to me. I haven’t been here since 2016 when I was on my way back from Alaska. I’m overdue a trip. This year, I had a little push to go as a result of joining a great group of Contour enthusiasts, the Pacific Northwest (PNW) Contour Group.

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The admin, Satya, reached out to me shortly after my YouTube video posted and since then, I’ve connected with some really great guys. Thanks to these connections, I’ve been able to source some rare and discontinued parts for the Contour as well as gain some very useful technical knowledge. This group hosts annual meets/drives and this year will be their 5th anniversary meet in Portland. When I was invited, there was no hesitancy in planning for the 4,000 mile drive to attend. Here are a few photos from their past events.

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I am amazed of the cult following these Contours (and twin Mercury Mystique’s) have. A lot of the internet forums have become a bit stale, however social media groups are still very much alive and have members ranging from ages 16 to 60. The PNW Contour group is one of the newest groups and they include owners from all over the west side of the country. I definitely like the culture.

You may find it surprising that despite my interest in cars and connecting with  enthusiasts, I’ve never participated in a car meet or show. Ever. This should be fun. So in July, I will be taking the old Contour to Portland for its first ever long journey to meet the guys and get my “fix” for some PNW scenery.

Restoration Updates:

I’m getting the Contour cleaned up little by little and this July drive is going to push things along a bit. I recently booked an appointment to get the roof resprayed and the PDR (paintless dent removal) to remove the hail damage has been completed. For that job, I took it to Eric Truster of Dent Specialties of El Paso, TX. As old and brittle as the interior trim pieces are, he managed to disassemble everything and pull down the headliner to gain access to the roof without one scratch or broken tab. That’s why I call him the “wizard.”

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The 21 year old paint is quite fragile, so Eric used his special techniques to heat the surface up to get the paint pliable enough for all the pushing and pulling of the sheet metal.

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The entire job took a little over a week and now all the body panels are free of dents as they should be!

Next update is my rear bumper DIY work. No signs of cracking or bubbling, so we might be good to go for a while. I wet-sanded the new clear coat a tad, then compounded to level it all out to match the factory finish. So much better than before.

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Next, I repaired and tightened up the bolts on the the rocker panels as best I could. I also sourced some used jack point covers that I had to paint. Unfortunately, the color isn’t an exact match, but it should hold me over until I can find some factory painted Toreador Red ones.

Before (pardon the filth):

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After:

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Now on to a little detail which I’m very pleased with. When I first drove this car home, I noticed some sticker remnants on the windshield’s passenger side. It was clearly old and looked bad and it bugged me. However, as this windshield is original to the car, it must have been something somewhat significant, so I held back on cleaning it off until I found out what it was. A bit of research online revealed it used to be the assembly plant sticker Ford would include on all their new vehicles. After finding this particular model came from the Kansas City assembly plant, I sent off a letter to Ford requesting a replacement if that could be done. A few weeks later, one came in the mail!

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I’m glad I didn’t clean off the old one as it served as a template.

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As of now, I’m doing repairs on the sunroof motor to try and get that working as well as source a replacement driver’s visor. I’m going to have to look into the A/C soon too as it doesn’t seem to be working.

Interview with the 1st Owner:

Around the same time I sent the letter to Ford, I also sent a note to the original owner of the Contour in hopes I could hear his story. I had the address and phone number on old service records. The phone number ended up being a dead end, so sending a letter was going to be my last try. I introduced myself, included some recent photos of the car and asked if he’d be willing to contact me. To my surprise, I got a call! I was thrilled and even though the conversation lasted less than ten minutes, I got all the info I was looking for and quickly realized that this car had been well cared for. Here are some notes from the conversation:

  • Bought new in 1997 for $24k
  • Had engine rebuilt around 100,000 miles from a rod bearing going bad (common issue)
  • Original alternator
  • Original transmission
  • Original power steering
  • Original radiator
  • Clutch replaced with performance unit while engine was out…not needed but replaced anyway
  • Replaced fuel pump
  • Had no idea when the hail damage happened
  • Garage kept, but in the sun during week days at work
  • Majority of miles were local to Ft. Collins and Denver
  • Wife daily drove it from new (very conservatively)
  • Exhaust, headers and intake were upgraded around the time of the engine rebuild
  • Sold because he had 6 vehicles
  • Spent roughly $7,000 in maintenance, repairs and upgrades

I can’t imagine keeping one car for over 20 years, but I salute him for his dedication. That’s a wrap for now. Stay tuned as I’ll report back with some new announcements and festivities coming up. Drive on!

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Bringing the Contour’s Paint Back to Life

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Time to strap on the latex gloves and bring out the detailing gear on the Contour! As I pointed out in the last post, much of the car is in decent condition, and only needs a little superficial TLC to make it pop. That’s where I spent my energy these past few weeks. It’s been a long process, and I’m no where near finished. A few hours here and there after work is all I’ve been able to devote to this project. However, I’m seeing some good results.

First off, let’s talk about that flag you’ll be seeing in the background. Since there’s a Ford in the garage now, I found it fitting to get something for it.

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Personalized plate arrived too!

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Okay, now on to the paint. I first tackled the rear bumper. Aside from the roof, which I’ll get to in March or April, this is the biggest eye sore. I used my Porter Cable buffer with a yellow cutting pad and Meguiar’s Ultimate Cutting Compound followed by a black pad and polish. The paint here looked to be original with very heavy oxidation and bad clear coat failure at the very top. My plan of attack:

  • Compound the entire bumper to take as much oxidation off as possible
  • Level/sand down the blistered clear coat areas
  • Spray paint the bad areas using a two-step process of base and top coats
  • Compound again to blend and level it all out
  • Finalize with Wolfgang polish and carnauba wax

The original plan was for a body shop take care of this while also doing the roof. However, the bumper is a little warped in some areas and there’s a small corner broken off that bugs me. I’m unsure if I’ll keep it or seek a replacement. So for now, I’m just doing a cheap fix. The above steps should hold me over for a year or so.

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Even at the highest RPM on my buffer, this took some time to see decent results. Here’s a 50/50 shot.

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I also attacked some of the quarter panels. These weren’t quite as intense. Still plenty of scratches to be removed.

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Check out that shine and metallic flake! This is why I love Ford’s Toreador Red Metallic.

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I also went down the driver’s side.

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Though I plan to replace the current exhaust setup, I couldn’t let it go without a good cleaning too.

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Examining the bumper in sunlight. You can see a tremendous improvement, though the failed clear coat is still apparent. Time to address that…

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This is my first time doing a cheap rattle-can paint job, so the whole thing has been a learning experience. I first dry sanded the rough areas to ensure a smooth finish and good adhesion.

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I then removed the bumper to see if I could improve the alignment and tighten the panel gaps. Doing this prior to painting would prevent the new paint from blistering from all the flexing and bending.

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Back on the car with minimal improvements to the fitment. I emptied an entire 8oz can of Dupli-Color BFM0344 base coat and topped with another 8oz of Dupli-Color EBCL01257 clear. This is cheap stuff, but went on effortlessly.

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The results as of this posting. There’s plenty of orange peel, but the color match is pretty spot on. I’m waiting for the appropriate cure time before hitting the whole thing with compound again. I’ll report back with the results.

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You may notice that I extended the paint down pretty low to cover up the compounding job I just finished. That was to help with blending.

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On another topic, I’ve been revamping my car record binders. Adding the Contour made me realize that a fresh, consistent look was needed. The gray 6’s binder was getting so full that I had to create a Volume II. With over 264,000 miles, those records really add up.

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Here’s the Contour’s documentation and promotional material, some of which I’ve added. Not pictured here (from being hidden somewhere in storage) I have a VHS tape of the SVT Contour debut. That will be fun to find again though I won’t be able to play it. Anyone still have an old VHS player to loan?

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I was able to find that video on Youtube (Warning: hardcore 90s content here). At 0:58, you can hear how aggressive it sounded even in stock form.

The first owner must have been an enthusiast as there were plenty of SVT news printouts. I’m also lucky enough to have the original sales contract.

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Given my new branding of, “Pawela’s Garage”, it was time to give the old garage a little love too.

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New artwork and displays on the east wall. Next on the list will be performing lighting upgrades.

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And included with those displays, I added window stickers for each car. Both the Mazda’s needed to be recreated which I painstakingly did in Adobe Illustrator.

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Though the attention as been mostly on the Contour, the Mazda’s aren’t forgotten.

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Sunset shot of the daily…

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And the “i” got a bath to clear away the dust. I’ve only driven this 200 miles within the past 3 months.

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That does it for now. Until next time!

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Major PDR and Other Updates

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Hi All. I’m checking in here and kicking away the tumbleweeds that have accumulated in my absence. I’m still chugging along at work and home projects. Lots of improvements on both cars have been ongoing as well. I’ve focused a lot of attention on the 6i to get it as close to showroom fresh as I can within financial reason. Well, financial reason may be a bit too conservative. I think obsessive may come to your mind.

First off, I scored a brand new OEM factory painted spoiler which dressed up the rear of the “i” a bit. Most 6’s with the sport package of this era came with a spoiler, however there was a spoiler-delete option which we had here. That’s never been to my liking, so this fixed that.

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Next, you may have noticed that I don’t show many photos of the driver’s side on here and on my Instagram. That’s been on purpose as there was some rather significant damage to the driver’s door which didn’t show well in photos. The damage was there when I acquired the car and it looks like someone had baked directly into the door. I believe this happened on one of my grandpa’s voyages. Though most of the scuffs and paint damage buffed away, we were left with many dimples and stretched sheet metal. Here’s what I’m referring to:

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Even though this light color hides the damage in direct sunlight, my OCD kept nagging me to fix it. I explored many options such as your traditional body shop process of re-skinning, painting and blending or purchasing a replacement door and having it painted. Either of those options most likely wouldn’t yield the results I’d be looking for though. I intend to keep this car as original as possible. I even considered buying this local 6, swapping doors, and reselling.

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Even if the paint matched perfectly, I’d have the issue of the black window and belt line trim mismatched from both cars being in different environments for the last 14 years. So, my last hope was contacting my tried and true PDR (paintless dent removal) go-to, Dent Specialties of El Paso, TX. For well over 10 years, I’ve been taking my cars to their lead tech (or “wizard” as he should be called), Eric. If you’re ever in the area, pay them a visit!

After some coordination over text, I decided the best action plan would be to take the door off and leave it with Eric for a week.

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Ready for transport. It BARELY fit in the trunk of the gray 6!

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This challenging project was showcased on their social media.

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After a week, it was done, and here’s the magic he was able to perform. His 20 hours of work gave some really impressive results!

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I was so stoked. Pictures don’t do this justice, but here are a few before and afters:

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So, that made for another successful fix for the “i”. A few months later, I returned to Eric to have the remaining door dings removed from the entire body.

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Next, I tightened up some panel gaps on the passenger side (pardon the filth).

Before:

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After:

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Oh, we aren’t done yet! Next, I stripped off the old faded window tint and had my tint guys install some fresh 20% film.

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The factory painted door handles’ clear coat was starting to fail, so I will replace these as well.

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Now, the final touches. I’ve been wrapping up the mini restoration process by giving every single nook and cranny a good cleaning and detailing.

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I’m currently finishing up a complete paint correction/restoration. The process consists of a clay bar cleaning, compounding on the bad areas, two-stage polish, then sealer.

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Some of the results:

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The product of choice has been Wolfgang. I find their products very easy to apply and tend to yield a nice deep gloss.

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When I’m finished with the entire car, I’ll top coat with this $70 Wolfgang Fuzion carnauba wax to give the greatest depth and make the metallic flake pop. This won’t be a concours-level paint restoration, but a huge improvement.

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It’s been a rather expensive project. When the “i” is complete, I’ll be sure to post some high resolution photos. I also didn’t forget about the gray “s”. I swapped out the troublesome aftermarket Depo headlights for some black bezel OEM 2006 Mazda 6 headlights. What’s this, the fourth time I’ve replaced these?

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I feel like these work better with my dark/smoked theme.

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The last mod is a gloss black window trim to replace the faded and cracked factory vinyl.

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While we’re on the subject of the gray 6, this month is actually the fourth-year anniversary of ownership. How does time fly by so quickly?! I’ll compile some data to share in a future post on that. I think I’ve bored you all with enough photos for now. Catch you all later!

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Refreshed Wheels and Other Updates

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Happy Saturday! Time for another update on the 6’s.

A mini-milestone was achieved a few weeks ago (245,000 miles) for the “S.” Luckily, no major maintenance or repair items are on the list. The “i” hasn’t seen the road much in the past few months as it sits just under 190,000 miles. The identity crisis for the “S” still continues as I put the “chrome mustache” grille back on for the sake of keeping it recognizable for what little press/social media exposure it’s had.

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The appearance changes haven’t stopped there, though. I’ve been hoarding some Mazdaspeed 6 parts for a while, and among them were some nice stainless steel kick plates. I swapped those for the stock black plates.

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I also finally did a refresh on the factory wheels which is something I’ve been wanting to do since day one. I took a little time off work to run a spare set of OEM wheels I had to Alloy Wheel Repair Specialists in El Paso, TX. That was only a 55 mile drive one way…not bad for a “quick” errand.

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I could have had the wheels reconditioned to the original silver, but I wanted to add a little pizzazz. The “S” is far from being original (or stock), so what harm could come from a few more mild mods? I was brave and chose a dark hyper silver powder coat. I left the wheels overnight and returned pleasantly surprised the next day to get them mounted. Whoa!! Why haven’t I done this sooner? I was in love with the new look.

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Before: The original wheels were certainly overdue a new look. Most of the clear coat was worn away and dogs have peed on these more times than the fire-hydrant down the street. I’d like to mention that all the curb rash was from the previous owners. 🙂

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After:

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Leaving in style.

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The new finish goes lovely with the Steel Grey Metallic.

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To complete the package, I gave the “S” a good wash, clay bar and paint sealer.

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I pulled both 6’s out for a quick photo op. Since my local friends and family don’t drive a manual, it’s tricky getting both cars out for photos. Plenty of stares from the neighbors and traffic as usual.

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May not be everyone’s taste, but I like the chrome and hyper silver combo.

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In other news, my Dad and Grandpa’s birthdays fell on two consecutive weekends. Why not make the 600+ mile (each) drive for both? So I did. I took the “S” for both occasions. The first weekend was Dad’s. Sadly, my phone died while visiting Dad, so no photos were available.

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Grandpa’s weekend was next, and we had quite a gathering for him at a nearby casino. Some 35+ people attended.

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Pictured here: Friends Nancy and Matt with Grandpa in the middle. Grandpa is 94 years old now and still going strong. He’s unstoppable and even recently purchased himself a clean 1-owner 2013 Mazda 3 Sport.

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How many 94 year olds do you know who still daily drive a manual?

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I also visited the magicians at Dent Specialties of El Paso to get a few dings taken care of.

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They were amused by my trunk liner and actually posted a photo of it on their Instagram account!

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That about covers it for now. I’m starting to run out of space here on the free WordPress account and I may have only enough for one more post before purchasing a domain. I’ll give updates on that when the time comes. Cheers!

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Updates to the 6…

Well, I guess it’s that time to share what’s new with my little travel vassel..the 6. With some fresh blog content coming up, I thought it would only be fair to explain myself on some of the changes you might have noticed.

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Overall, the 6 has been performing great and I couldn’t be happier with it. I achieved this cool mini-milestone the other day. With some planned trips coming up, I should be hitting 160,000 miles before summer!

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Okay, let’s get to it. Eagle-eyed viewers may have notice that in the last couple of posts the side moldings had been removed. This wasn’t a premeditated decision. Backing up in time a few months, I was on I-25 headed home from work and I started hearing this odd slapping noise on the passenger side. I couldn’t figure out what the heck it could be. I pulled off to investigate and discovered the passenger front molding was partially detached from the door. At this point, I decided the best fix was to just rip the whole thing off before it fell off somewhere unknown.

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I got home and was thinking… do I reattach this piece with 3M automotive mounting tape or take ALL the moldings off for consistency?

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As it was a rather chilly time of year and the 3M tape probably wouldn’t bond that well to cold metal anyway, I decided to try going naked.

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Results weren’t too bad. I figured if I end up not liking it, I can always reattach when the weather gets warmer. As of now, I think I’ll leave them off.

 Under the hood: 

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I’ve been performing small modifications here and there as well as general repairs and preventative maintenance. Under the hood, I did a full EGR valve re-route from the exhaust manifold to the intake. There is a very good reason for this (or at least I hope so): One of few weak points in the 2003-2005 Mazda 6 V6 motor is the pre-catalytic converters or “pre-cats.” Many owners have reported the material in the pre-cats disintegrating and the metallic particles being sucked up by the EGR valve (which has the suction pipe mounted really close to those pre-cats) into the engine. Thus, a new tagline for the Mazda 6 is born, “Zoom-Zoom-Boom.” The motor will basically eat away at itself and catastrophe will follow. Scary as hell to think about. Route causes for the bad pre-cats could be driving habits, poor maintenance, and sometimes just bad luck. Some fail at 50,000 miles or 300,000 miles. Either way, I’ve been lucky thus far and decided this is a mod to perform ASAP. It won’t prevent those ‘cats from failing, but it could potentially save my motor.

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Fairly simple. Pull out the EGR valve, chop off the copper tube leading to the exhaust manifold, cap the manifold opening, and then attach a heater hose from the intake to the valve. End result is clean, fresh air entering the engine.

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With over 155,000 original miles, some things are getting a tad fatigued and will require future repairs. I will soon need a new water pump, coolant lines (preventative) and a starter. Other issues that aren’t that urgent to me are a timing chain cover oil leak and a mildly worn passenger lower control arm. That could be just plain wear and tear or a result from the accident last year.

Cosmetic/functional Mods:

New shark fin to replace old broken “horsewhip” antenna:

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Paint correction:

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Not bad for 11 year old original paint!

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LED interior and license plate lights courtesy of superbrightleds.com

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New Personalized Plate!

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New upper dash cubby to replace broken one (used from eBay):

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Replacement OEM BOSE 6-CD player (used from eBay):

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Black trim restore: (rear trim restored compared to front)

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Headlight restore. I still have plans on replacing these, but this will suffice for now.

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New switchblade keys to replace OEM remotes that broke on me:

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And now the pièce de résistance: I have a major project coming up in the next few weeks given I have the time and energy. I managed to score a complete black leather interior from a 2003 Mazda 6 and it will be going in soon to replace my cloth. This will give me heated leather seats, full power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustments, and leather-clad door panels. Here is when I picked up the parts, stuffed, shoved and folded to make ’em fit into my car. It all BARELY fit!

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All the pieces are sitting in my garage awaiting a full cleaning and conditioning before going in. The cloth will soon be out!

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What’s in the future? Well, I don’t necessarily have an organized plan, but over the coming months I will be adding the following depending on what mood I’m in:

  • Smoked side markers to replace amber colored ones.
  • New headlights with HID retrofit.
  • Move fog lights to lower bumper.
  • Refinish OEM wheels to either a gunmetal or more polished aluminum look.
  • Replace wheel well liners.
  • Add Homelink.
  • Upgrade tail lights to European/JDM version.

I know I said this was going to be a temporary car for a year or so, but who are we kidding? Thanks for checking in and happy trails!

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Fresh Detail for the TL

Happy Thursday! I don’t have any special “throw-back-Thursday” content to share, but I do have some reflections. Literally. It’s amazing how time flies. This January 16th marks the second month of ownership with the TL. With the weather warming up recently and my having some free time, I figured I’d give the exterior a good detail/paint correction. I started with a thorough wash to get the loose dirt and grime off.

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After all was dry, I pulled into the garage to survey the condition of the paint. Looks pretty healthy and clean, right?

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Wrong! I set up my halogen lights and they revealed just how scratched and bruised the paint had become. Causes? Most of the scratches came with the car when I bought it in November of 2013. A few careless wash jobs from Hoy Fox Acura and my recent trip to Fresno Acura added their fair share. This being the Crystal Black Pearl, every single little nick, scratch and clear coat imperfection will easily show up in direct sunlight or in this case, halogen lights.

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The door handles were in a class of their own for extreme need of detail.

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So scuffed and marred that there was virtually no shine to the paint inside the door handle.

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So I settled down for the night and a good majority of the next day performing a full detail. My process to correct this was as follows:

  • Wash with Meguiars Wash & Wax
  • Meguiars Clay Bar
  • Meguiars 85 Compound applied with PC (Porter Cable) Green pad
  • Meguiars 205 Polish applied with PC Black pad
  • Meguiars 7 Glaze applied with another PC Black pad
  • Meguiars Carnauba Wax applied with PC Red pad

Most of the chemicals were applied with my Porter Cable rotary buffer used at various RPMs. Let’s see how it all turned out!

With the first step, I opened up a fresh box of Meguiar’s clay bar kit.

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I also made sure my pads were clean and dry with numerous clean microfiber clothes for buffing. Doesn’t make sense to spend hours correcting the paint and then adding new scratches by polishing with dirty rags, right?

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Here’s the Meguiar’s 85 and 205 products. I’ve been using these for years and the results have been great.

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For the final polishing stage, here’s the Glaze which was applied with a new PC black pad.

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Sadly, the only wax I had on hand to finish it all off was Meguiar’s Carnauba Wax (red bottle). It’ s decent, but I know there are better waxes out there to give the absolute deepest gloss to the paint.

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I started with spraying with paint with lubricator and rubbing the clay bar.

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Amazing that even though the TL was just washed, grime was still lingering on the surface.

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After the clay, I like to tape off a section to see the results of buffing at various RPMs. It gives a great before and after test.

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Here’s with just the 85 Compound.

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…and now with the polish stage complete.

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It made such a huge difference!

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The hood shows the state of my messy and cluttered garage.

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Almost like a mirror!

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In addition to other little details on the car, I applied some Mother’s Metal Polish to clean up the exhaust tips.

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Here’s a section of the rear bumper…

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No car detail would be complete without a self pic in the paint.

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Day three I took the TL out in the sun to see if I missed any areas.

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I also gave some more business to superbrightleds.com for some LED license plate lights. I think they modernize the area so much. Why Acura insists on using traditional incandescent accessory bulbs on a $40,000+ car is beyond me. Here’s before the install…

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And after. So much brighter with a nice white tint.

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Even shows up on the backup camera.

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To wrap up here, I’ll share a moment when my inner “red-neck” came out. I sold a leftover rear underbody spoiler from the Accord, and I had the challenge to drive it to UPS for shipment. Since Acura doesn’t allow the rear seats to fold down, I just stuffed the box as far in the trunk as it would go, and then taped the trunk down to the box. I then had a rather amusing/white-nuckle drive through town with 4ft of box sticking out with some microfiber rags taped on the edges to warn motorists there’s an idiot transporting something half the length of his car. Hey, it worked!

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The backup camera was temporarily useless…

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Shift knob rejuvenation

Completed a mini project this week. I decided to take the stock shift knob and spruce it up a bit.

I often wonder how the previous owner shifted gears…bang on the shift-knob while wearing a spiked ring? There were several nicks on the top with the shift pattern. It looked dingy and really didn’t help the overall look of the interior. Even the factory finish from new was dull and unexciting.

Here’s how it looked before:

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I started off by (of course) taking the shift knob off and then masking off the leather portion to prevent abrasion from sanding.

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Then I started by sanding with 400 grit paper. This took off the factory clearcoat and got those nicks smoothed out. This was basically me taking a thin layer of aluminum off. Here’s how it looked half sanded.

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After about 30mins of sanding away:

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I followed by sanding with 1000 grit paper to further smooth out the surface for polish prep. I then polished with Meguiar’s Rubbing Compound, and then did a final polish with Meg’s 205 Finishing Compound. All of this was done by hand since the knob is too small for my rotary buffer, and I can have more precision.

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The bottom portion was polishing up nicely:

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The final step in my little project was applying some Meg’s leather conditioner cream to the leather section. Here’s the final product:

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Overall I’m very happy with the results. I plan to look into a topcoat of some sort to help protect the new finish. Either a clearcoat or Opti-Coat. Next mini project? Taillights. More on that this next week.

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Quit bouncing, tires!

I’ve owned quite a few cars in my lifetime. Now being Dec. 2012 and I’m 26, the Accord is my sixth vehicle I’ve owned. It’s a sad fact that every car I’ve owned (this Accord included) I’ve had trouble with tire shops not getting a perfect balancing job on the tires. Maybe I’m a super sensitive pain in the butt, or maybe tire shops just don’t have the talent or care when it comes to installing those wheel weights. I’ve had this issue with several different brands of shops and even some dealerships. I first became aware of this problem when I got my first new set of tires on my 2002 Acura RSX. The worn stock Michelin tires were beginning to show their underlying canvas and I decided to get a good set of Goodyear ZR rated tires. The total cost was an eye-brow raising surprise, but the grip and quietness of the new tires were well worth the money. Only problem was at speeds above 55mph, the whole car would shimmy like crazy. I took my car back to the Discount Tire shop in Flagstaff, AZ (lived here about a year) I bought the tires from and complained of the shimmy. They apologized (nice guys) and did another balancing for me. I went to the freeway expecting a smooth ride like I had when I first bought the car, but nope. The vibration/shimmy was worse! I was determined to get it right. The wheels weren’t bent, the suspension was tight and my RSX hadn’t had any issues with vibrations before. Long story short, it took FOUR trips back to this same shop before they got it right. My thoughts: “Okay maybe their technicians were crummy and/or the equipment they had wasn’t calibrated quite right.” I moved to New Mexico a few months later and I was due for a tire rotation and balancing. It was a free service at any Discount Tire in the county so why not take advantage of that with the nearby store? I did and yup, they screwed up the balancing and I had to go back…twice.

I once owned a 2000 BMW 323i. Great car. I bought a set of Khumo AST High Performance tires for it and I decided to avoid Discount Tire Co. The independent shop I used said they couldn’t get the balancing right due to “bent wheels.” I didn’t bother to go back or try another tire shop. I took my car to BMW of El Paso, TX and had them give it a try and they got it perfect. I had two Pathfinders and I had problems getting the all-terrain tires balanced. Nissan Sentra…same thing.

Overall, my point is whenever I get a set of tires, I pretty much plan to have the inconvenience of returning to the shop a few times. Similar situation with my Accord. When I bought it, the high performance Hancook V2 tires were pretty new, but they would shimmy at speeds above 60mph. Big-O Tires tired and I didn’t feel any difference. So did my private mechanic when I had the timing belt service done and it still didn’t feel right. I had to get them RoadForced balanced by Borman Honda here in Las Cruces, NM. After experiencing the results of the the RoadForce system (unfortunately, very few shops have this equipment) I only use this. http://www.gsp9700.com My Accord now rides as smooth as, well any car should! Here’s a shot of Borman Honda. I’m usually not a fan of  dealerships, but these guys actually do really good work and are very pleasant.

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While I was getting the tires RoadForced balanced, I got the compliance bushings replaced as well. They were pretty well worn out as you can see in this pic:

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I was aware of these bushings being worn but I didn’t feel any bad handing/ride characteristics so I figured I’d wait for a while before spending the money to replace them. Borman Honda told me these fatigued bushings can allow excessive movement in the lower control arms and cause accelerated wear on other components. After they replaced these bushings, I was really impressed by how much more secure the steering felt and highway tracking was significantly better. Again, I didn’t think it was bad before but this is a lesson on how little things make a big difference.

New Paint!

Took about a week, but I got my Accord back painted from H&B Auto Body here in Las Cruces, NM and I must say they know what they are doing. The clear-coat is smooth and glossy with an obvious careful attention to masking from overspray. This is an independently owned shop that’s been open since the 60s. No computer. No credit card machine. Just a couple of guys who take cash and do a good job on painting/repairing cars. Big thanks to them for making my Accord presentable again!

I had to have the hood, driver’s side fender and driver’s door repainted. The other panels still had the original paint and they were in good condition still. If they start to do anything weird (i.e., fading, clear-coat peeling) I’ll know where to take it. Right after getting it back, I removed the window tint which came with it when I bought it. It didn’t look bad in the pictures but in real life, one could see it was discolored and blurry. Made the whole car look dated. The driver’s and passenger side windows also had lots of vertical scratches on the inside from the windows being lowered. I plan to get them tinted again soon with a higher quality tint that won’t fade or peel. I prefer the look of it and it’s also kind of a necessity here in the Las Cruces summer.

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Here’s the before shot which includes the oxidized headlights:

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And the after shots:

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Headlights and tail pipes go for a new look

The headlights were in a bad state. The clear-coat was peeling, and the overall surface was badly oxidized from the 8yrs of sun exposure. When headlights get this bad, I have to wet sand and then bring back the shine via a rotary buffer. I used my PorterCable with an orange pad on 5-5000 rpm. I first wet sanded with 1000, 1500, 2000, and finally 2500 grit sand paper in that order. Then I buffed with Megs Diamond Compound and then Polish.

Before:

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First stage of compounding:

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After a final polish:

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Tail pipe was cleaned by hand with Meguiar’s rubbing compound and followed by polish.

Before:

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After:

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