Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Warming Up Your Cummins Dodge–Radiator Block-Off

(3rd Gen, but others would be similar)


This isn’t going to be one of my usual over engineered solutions for things mostly because it’s something that I’ll probably really need to use a few weeks a year (yea, I know, that might be more than lots of stuff that I’ve way over thought and over built) and more importantly it’s brutally cold out and I didn’t feel like dealing with it.  That said, lets get on with it…

Around here we have usually have 2 or 3 COLD but short cold snaps each winter that last a day or 2 at a time and that’s it.  The rest of our winters are pretty mild, spending most of that time around freezing or higher.

The last couple of weeks have been different.  It seems like we’ve spent most of that time below 20*F with most nights between 10 and 15*F and sometimes getting significantly colder (yea, some of you in the Midwest and Canada are thinking what, that’s cold???).  Well I’ve found that driving the Cummins around below about 30* it takes it A LONG time to warm up enough to get good heat, and below 15* without a load it seems to drop below the thermostat temp when you start moving and doesn’t get fully warmed up without a heavy load.  Considering the forecast for the next few days is colder than (expletives deleted for those with virgin… well… I’m just being civilized, for once), and getting down into the –5 to –10 range the next couple of nights, I decided to do something about it.

Even though I don’t entirely get it* I decided to take a page from what I remembered the school busses and trucks doing when I was a kid growing up in Buffalo- they used to drive around with zip-up covers for the radiators to cut down on airflow and warm them up faster.

I spent 10 minutes using some google foo and found that it’s a common thing to do or try to do with a Cummins Dodge, but there were a lot of people asking for ideas and pictures and none available, with the exception of commercial products (I wasn’t going to spend money on this, and I needed it now).

I grabbed a flashlight and tape measure and froze for about 5 minutes in the brutal wind trying to figure out what I would do.  I decided there are 2 issues:

  1. Where to put it
  2. What to use
  3. How to attach it

Um, 3 issues…

1- The “where” was mostly a question of all the stuff in the front of one of these things, in order from the front: AC condenser, a BIG intercooler, oil cooler and a big radiator, all with an assortment of brackets, supports and plumbing to get in the way.  My thought process was:

“I just want the engine to warm up faster, in a perfect world I didn’t want to block the intercooler (and possibly hurt power), the AC condenser I didn’t care about and I figured the oil cooler (it may be a transmission cooler, I didn’t crawl under to check where the lines went) sort of fell in the 6/half dozen category- I may want it blocked, I may not.”

I decided that the most convenient and safest place was between the core support and the oil cooler, behind the intercooler.

I measured the radiator core and found that the finned area was 26” across, and I had 17” from the top of the core support to a cross piece (but something thin enough could sneak past that).  I also found that a bracket and plumbing for the oil cooler was partially in the way on the driver’s side, so I couldn’t go all the way over to that side and because of some of the weird shapes in there it had to be about a 1/4” thick or less…

2- The “what.”  I initially considered cardboard, until I realized that any precipitation would turn that into a soggy mess, I had some thin plywood ,which wouldn’t be that much better without some sort of finish on it (I wanted to get this done fast, I’ve spent 2x as much time typing this as it took me to do it).  I also had the thought that any of the outdoor rated plywood that I had around would be heavy enough to beat up the fins on the coolers if I could jamb it in there at all…. I wish I had some waterproof cardboar…. AH HAAA!!!  I remembered that I had a good size chunk of coroplast in the garage (it was the sign they used to label the lot before they built my house on it) in the garage. 

For those of you that don’t know what coroplast is, it basically plastic molded shaped like corrugated cardboard that they use for making various signs.  Lighter than cardboard, waterproof and durable… SOLD! (literally, it had a sold sign across it from when the lot was sold to build the house on it Winking smile )

I pulled the tape measure out and it measured 24x18”… THAT IS ALMOST PERFECT… it will cover the top 1/2-2/3 of the radiator and leave a 1” gap on either side of the fins to make room for the mounting brackets and plumbing.

I ran outside and shoved it in the space.  It fit perfectly, and even felt like the friction fit with the support 17” down was going to hold it, till I pushed it all the way down to the height of the core support and it just slipped down :-/

By the time I fished it back out my hands were cold and numb.  I looked around and noticed some wiring, tubing and a couple of clips across the top of the radiator.  I measured them out with a tape measure.

I ran back inside and marked to spots 3/4” down and 6-1/2” from either side, grabbed a hole punch and punched two holes and grabbed to zip ties (had to find black ones, I couldn’t have 2 obnoxious yellow zip ties front and center in my engine bay):


You can see the holes punched at the bottom of the picture.  Yea, it’s a little beat up… the house was built in ‘99 and I’m pretty sure that this thing was run over by some heavy equipment.

At this point I ran back outside with my flashlight, my carefully calibrated (eyeballed) radiator airflow limiter (coroplast sign) and mounting kit (2 zip ties) and tucked it in it’s space:


Ran the zip ties through the holes and wrapped them around the assembly (wiring/tubing/brackets) on the top of the radiator and trimmed them off with my Kershaw Thermite:


Yea, it’s a little bit hokey, but it really fits perfectly and it will take 10 seconds to remove once it warms up again.

How does it work?  Last night I took the truck to the gym, it was 18* according to the truck’s thermometer, and I road around with an infrared thermometer pointing at one of the heater vents.  At right around 4 miles I was reading 88.1* at the vent (remember, this was after driving to the gym, letting it sit a little bit while I worked out and driving back, so this wasn’t a cold start, but the truck cooled off enough that the gauge wasn’t reading anything when I re-started.

Tonight I went to the gym again, it was 14*, and was at the gym 25 minutes longer (so the truck should have been significantly cooler).  I hadn’t moved the heater controls from the night before.  I checked the vent temps when I started the truck up and got very close to the same temp (33.8* last night, 34.5* tonight), and then drove the truck the same distance (it’s actually to the ramp getting off the “highway”). 

117.9*!  I’d say it works.  Blue (the truck) wasn’t fully warmed up by the time I got back but I did have decent heat.  I’m guessing on a longer trip it would warm up better than twice as fast.   

If I was going to do it again, would I change anything?  Well if I started with a bigger piece of coroplast or was buying one I would make it larger, probably the same width, 24” but I’d increase the depth to 20 or 24” hoping to get it to heat up a little faster.  If I had any signs of overheating (I really doubt it) I’d trim it back down.  Also, the bright white catches lights through the grill at night so I’d probably paint it back so it wasn’t visible from outside at all (I don’t think you’ll see it in the daylight without a flashlight, the inside of the grill has a pretty heavy shadow in it).

So why didn’t I take the time to make something to my normal over thought about, over engineered and over built standards that just slips in and has some lip that locks onto the top of the radiator or core support?  Well, between the cold and the high winds I was freezing, in the time it took for me to slip the panel in and zip tie it down was enough for my hands to turn purple and my finger tips to start going numb, this was about 5 minutes after I got back inside:


* Even though blocking off some of the radiator has been used for years, in theory the thermostat is supposed to prevent any significant coolant circulation through the radiator below its opening temperature, so blocking off the radiator should have very minimal effect on warm up.  My guesses why this works, without spending time testing it is that there is either significant coolant bypassing the thermostat and still flowing through the radiator and/or there is significant engine cooling just from the airflow through the engine bay and blocking the radiator cuts that down.  Maybe some day I’ll have the time with nothing better to do to test it.  Doubtful. Smile with tongue out

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Converting a Miller Spool Mate 100 (3035) To Use Standard Miller/Hobart M-15 Style Tips

Am I the only one who’s projects are mostly driven by “this was supposed to work and doesn’t, so now I have to build something/fix something/find something that does?
I decided it was time to use the Miller Spool Mate 100 spool gun that came with my Millermatic 211 Auto-Set MIG.  The first project I tried it on it did well, I melted a few tips but it wasn’t so bad.  The second one, when I finally got the settings hot enough POOFZAP!  No more tip…  After 30 minutes of taking the gun apart, clearing the bird's nests and some choice foul language… I was ready to go again.
(half an hour of muttering and swearing at the thing, I mean clearing the bird's nest and rollers)
POOFZAP!  WHAT THE… is wrong with this ARGH!!!
I need more tips.
The LWS (Local Welding Supply, conveniently at the end of the next street over) hands me some standard Miller MIG tips… nope, the spool gun uses little tiny ones.  That no one carries.
{insert your favorite foul language, I’m sure I used it at this point}
I finally found them at Robert’s Oxygen after searching for 2 days.  Man those little buggers are expensive… why the heck didn’t they use the same tip as every other Miller and Hobart MIG gun use (M-15 style)?  Oh well…
POOFZAP! FLLAASSHHHHH!  Even the gun liner melted into the tip!
WHAT IS THIS SOME CRUEL JOKE?!?  Let’s consult the all knowing Googles and see what’s up…
I found that I wasn’t the only one (does that make it better or worse?  I don’t know…), and that any heavier job tended to melt tips.  Right, and you can’t really weld light aluminum with a MIG, so HOW DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO USE THE TINY LITTLE TIPS???
I posted to a couple of welding forums and learned that there was a guy named Bob that will convert your spool gun barrel to use the standard M-15 gun tips but no luck finding any more information about “Bob,” just that “you can’t do this with normal tools.”
Yea… fortunately, I’m not normal…
turned into this:
So how do I put the bottom one where Miller thought (wrongly) the top one should go?   Now I understood the “normal tools” comment, that barrel that the tip threads into is thin:
No problem (famous last words).  Unthread the barrel (and figure out that every wrench you have is too big to get in there without totally disassembling it), push it out of the insulator and pop out the alignment pin (and drop it and spend the next 15 minutes looking for it).
The M-15 tips look to have a 1/4-28* thread on them… Ok… Throw it in the lathe chuck, grab a #3 (7/32”) drill bit and drill out the end of the barrel (fair warning, this ends up pretty thin), I decided that about 3/4” was deep enough to run the tap in far enough:20141121_201202
ACTUALLY, at first I decided that 1/2” was, then after bottoming the tap out before having enough threads to thread the tip in I had to carefully drill them deeper without messing up the threads… :-/
1/4-28 tap* using a tap guide in the tailstock chuck:20141121_202149
Ah, a thing of beauty:
Reverse steps for reassembly:
(I just noticed the melted original tip sitting next to the trigger in this picture)
Yea, that gun nozzle still has some melted copper (probably a copper aluminum alloy Smile with tongue out ) from melting tips earlier.
How does it work?  I haven’t melted a tip running 4043 since and can lay down some pretty stacks of dimes with it and now, again, I only have to keep one style of tip around. 
What the heck am I going to do with the pack of 10 of small tips that I have left???
I originally did this so I could run 5356 (it wouldn’t work at all with the original tips, I haven’t been able to find documentation to this effect but I looks like it takes quite a bit more heat to get a good bead with), but I haven’t had time to get back to that project yet.  I’ll try to remember to update this when I do.
* interesting note, Lincoln/Tweco tips will thread into Miller guns, but not vice versa.  They appear to be a slightly smaller, coarser thread (I’m pretty sure they’re metric but I haven’t taken the time to figure out exactly what), that threads and holds in the 1/4-28 female thread fine.

6/12/2017- At this point I've done half a dozen of them, they've all gone fine and worked much better.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

MegaSquirt Cold Start Up

Those of you that think you have great drivability, check out this video from early Friday morning. 

My other car was showing 9*F (with 20-30mph gusts), the coolant temp was in the teens (you can see it fairly clearly in the video, it was almost 40*F during the day so I didn't expect the engine temp sensors to be as cold).  If I’m really careful I can get going and run it through the gears without using the gas pedal and stalling, even when this cold, but I wasn't going to try while shooting video.
Cold Start- 87 Trans Am + Megasquirt

  • 87 Trans Am
  • LB9 engine – 305 TPI with _a lot_ of miles on it (it gets <800 miles to a quart of oil) the odometer reads >120K miles and I’m not sure if it’s correct
  • T5 transmission (5 speed manual) which a previous owner put a lightweight Kevlar flywheel/clutch assembly in that did nothing for smooth driving.  With the stock ECM/tune it would try to stall all the time unless you gave it a lot of throttle, even in warm weather, even when warmed up
  • Megasquirt 2/PCB 3 running MSExtra firmware
  • It’s running my 93 octane “race” tune on 87 octane.  I quit loading the 87 octane tune after I got the knock sensing/retard working really well. 
    • It has run 13.6@99.9mph in the quarter at the track recently with this tune.
    • It seems to be averaging 22-24mpg in mixed driving (DC metro doesn’t have true “highway” driving until you get quite a bit out of the area, traffic just sucks).

I keep hearing people that swear by carbs say that they have drivability as good as any EFI car.  I’m pretty comfortable with carbs but I can’t make one run like this and I’ve never seen one run this well.  Maybe just when it’s cold, warm, economy, driveablity or performance, but not all of them.  Typically this lean a mixture will want to surge and buck and won’t make best power (though they’re not incompatible with a carb because they’re in different ranges), and if you richen it to get the driveability you loose MPG.

The funny thing is that this car does less weird stuff driving around than my 2012 SHO, well at least the engine... the rear axle is another story.