A Journey of a Thousand Steps…

Begins by staring at the road in front of you and debating whether you’re dumb or not.

Narrator: “He was definitely dumb.”

So first things first, come to terms with the fact that this very well might be the most involved thing you’re ever going to do to your car.  But come the end of this journey, you’ll be able to laugh at your boys who think doing their own oil changes is worthy of recognition.  Nah brah, I pulled the fucking engine, how you like me now?

You also need to really be dedicated to this shit.  Too many times you’ll see project cars for sale with the engine out – because Joe Blow Shadetree Mechanic thought it would be a walk in the park and got halfway done, gave up, couldn’t afford it, etc, and just decided to dump the car to some other unlucky schmuck.

Okay.  Got yourself psyched up?  Good.  Let’s do dis.

Jack up the car, blah blah blah.  Always worth mentioning, use jack stands son.  The car might be up there for a few hours days weeks, so make sure its stable.  Next step is pulling the bumper, which is pretty easy:

The hardest ones to get to are the ones in blue because the TT’s intercoolers are in the way just enough to make things hard.

Once the bumper is free from the car, make duly sure you’ve already started labeling and taking pictures.  This process is long, and it will help immensely to have documentation of what you’ve done so far.  You’re also going to want to disconnect the “aliens” or headlight washers from the reservoir.  You’ll probably lose a bit of windshield washer fluid.  I should give credit to the thread I got the above diagram from as well:


You’ll come to find that just about anything you’re doing to this car, there’s forum threads out there for it.  Unfortunately, not many include photos, and some aren’t as detailed as we’d hope.  So now your car is looking like the above pic.  Nice!  The next step is to remove the crash bar – that silver thing across the front.  Couple bolts later, good to go.

While you’re at it, pull the headlights as well.  Three bolts apiece, unclip the wiring harness, and out they come.  Now for our next trick, the front lock carrier:

Picture care of ECS Tuning, this is the frontal support that holds your radiator, AC condenser coil, headlights, basically everything.  Why it’s called the “front lock carrier” I’m not sure, but this has gotta come out since we’re pulling the engine out the front of the car.

This was fairly straightforward.  Two “triple square” bolts up top, three bolts around the crash bar supports, and two more bolts around the sides.  There’s a video that helped me do this part, so I’ll link it below:

If you follow the vid, you’ll notice he unbolts the radiator and leaves all that jazz in place.  You can do it that way, or you can unhook and drain the radiator and disconnect the AC condenser then pull everything as one single piece.  Doing it this way requires you to discharge the AC system, which is probably illegal to atmosphere, but take that with a grain of salt.  Once the radiator, AC condenser and front lock carrier are off, we can get to the funnest part!


Yep, That’s The Engine

So a couple months ago, two words that every petrol head fears was in the back of my head.

Head.  Gasket.

Consider me triggered, fam.  For those of you reading this without a single mechanical inclining in your body – the head gasket is a thin piece of metal sandwiched between the block and the head of the engine.  It seals those two important parts of said engine, to prevent stuff from leaking out or between each other.  Simple enough, yeah?  Well, when that thin piece of metal breaks or begins leaking, it’s bad for everyone involved.

Especially one’s mental stability.

Long story short, I did some testing and determined yes, the head gasket in the TT is probably shot.  Smell of coolant outside on cold starts, slow loss of coolant from the reservoir, brownish deposits in the coolant, inability to hold pressure when a vacuum is applied, etc.  I was in denial for a while till I ran a sniff test, which sealed the deal for my psyche.

Air from the coolant reservoir is pulled through a special liquid that reacts to exhaust gases (hydrocarbons, to be exact).  In the presence of exhaust, the liquid changes color from blue to green or yellow.  I ran the test twice and both times the liquid turned bright yellow.  No bueno.

So from there, the decision came down to this:

Do I fucking send it for the next 1.5 years, and hope the leak doesn’t get worse?  Or do I pull the engine, fix the head gasket, and have a fun project for Winter 2018?

Obviously the choice was to pull the engine.  I’ll try to blog the steps taken, with pictures, of the entire process.  There’s no real how-to on the internet for pulling an engine.  It seems daunting when looking at the mess of pipework, vacuum lines, and components, but I’m finding that by focusing on one thing at a time it’s not too bad.

A lot of internet gatekeepers will try to say, “If you need instructions on how to pull the engine, you shouldn’t be pulling the engine.”  I say fuck that, everyone needs to start somewhere.  Prior to doing the timing belt on the TT, I had never done a timing belt before.  Prior to doing the exhaust, I had never replace an exhaust system before.  So fuck the haters, and their inability to help the noobs.  By all means, use these coming posts as a starting point for your engine pull.  It’ll be more than I’ve got currently.

A Storied Past

Over the last few days, I’ve been finally taking care of some work I’ve been meaning to do on the TT.  In particular, doing the front brakes and testing the car’s coolant for exhaust gases (to see if the head gasket has failed).  I figured while I was doing the brakes I’d paint the calipers red to match the powder coated rear calipers that I put on a couple years ago.

It’s been a multi-day project, only because I’m lazy and did one side at a time – waiting a day for the paint to dry for each side.  But while I’ve been waiting, I had the urge to go back through and try to categorize and put all of the work I’ve done over the last three years into a single database of sorts.  A place for me to see the work, see the age of the work, and keep track of the cost and timing of everything.

It’s been a long road thus far, and I’ve done a lot of work.  From more serious work like servicing the timing belt and replacing the soft top, to smaller things like oil changes and car washes.  I dug out the spreadsheet I put together when I first bought the car, where I cross-referenced the CarFax with the actual garages that did the work, and contacted each garage in hopes they could forward me the service records they had for the car.

Some of it was boring same ole same ole:  5K scheduled maintenance.  25K scheduled maintenance.  35K scheduled maintenance.  Etc.  Some of it was intriguing though: Interior trim repaired after 1400 miles.  Clutch/flywheel replaced after 22,000 miles.  A storied past.

It got me really thinking.  The car has nearly 100,000 miles on it now.  That’s nearly four trips around the planet.  I’m the fifth owner of this little black roadster, and I sincerely hope to be its last.  It was first purchased in April of 2004, which makes it over 14 years old at this point.  In April of 2004 I was just finishing up my sophomore year in high school.  I wouldn’t have my driver’s license or my first car for another year and half.

It’s interesting to think about the car’s history before it came into my possession.  I have no idea who the previous owners were, what they did for a living, or how old they were.  Maintenance was clearly lacking from some of them.  It wasn’t modified, but it was driven hard.  Can’t help but think about who left the baton underneath the driver’s seat – why they had it, what they thought when they realized they left it there for me to find.

I wonder about the front-end collision the car was involved in years ago.  Insurance was never involved so I have no idea where the car was worked on, or what was replaced.  But the skid plate is completely gone and the battery box is broken in multiple places.  In fact, a lot of trim is missing from under the hood.  The covers for the battery and the power steering pump in particular.  Where did they go?

It’s fun to think about where the car’s been and what it’s seen.  The work that’s been done over the years, and who has had their hands on it.  The conversations that’ve been had in the cabin.  The abuse it’s endured, the care it’s received.

To some people a car is just a piece of property that gets us from Point A to Point B.  Something remarkably uninteresting and resigned to its job as a utility and nothing more.

But to others, it’s an unfinished book.  A book with pages missing from its earlier chapters, but a book that we’ve taken authorship of nonetheless.  And I just hope that I can make this little TT’s future chapters as interesting as it’s past.