Work on the 1986 944 in Copenhagen Blue has commenced. I’ve grown rather fond of the little thing these days as happens to many of my cars. This one appeared fairly complete on delivery but soon started to show that all was far from perfect. But I wasn’t looking for perfection. I was looking for a project. A car that needed some love so that I could do some learning. And I got what I bargained for.
The initial niggle was a passenger side window that went down about a half inch initially and then became inoperative. That little gap then let in some snow when she had to be left outside during a storm or two. I knew it needed mending. I soon learned that tracking down each problem would require specific strategies to keep the parts costs down. The first thing to check was the door switch. Even before that is the fuse. With both switches non-functional, I knew quickly that it wasn’t going to be as simple as a fuse. So I pulled the switch and gave it a good cleaning. Reassembly was a bit painful as there are tiny rocker bits in the switch that need to be place just so. And they love to fall out just when you think you’re all done. I finagled some sort of wire to hold them in place temporarily as I got the switch cover back on…only to realized that something was upside down. So I got to do it one more time. But the joy of old switches is that they are lovely mechanical items. If they are clean and the springs are sound, they will work again. There is no computer tomfoolery to worry about. No burnt out microchips or anything. I reinstalled the switch…and nothing. It clearly was not the switch.
The next step was taking apart the door. The door cards come off without too much ado. Some screws mostly and only a couple plastic stays (that are of course rather delicate in their advanced age now and prone to breakage). The screw under the door release was a fun one to find. With the guts of the door in view, it was time to test the motor. I jury-rigged some wiring to my handy-dandy jumpstarter and gave it some juice. Nothing. The motor indeed was the culprit. Now to source a new one that doesn’t cost a limb.
I finally found one on eBay. They are specific to the side of the car so I was glad when it showed up with the correct configuration. Stupidly, I began disassembly of the window motor and install of the replacement prior to testing the replacement. But it wasn’t too taxing to get it in place. A fine video helped educate me on the process a bit. Car repair in the age of the internet is a beautiful thing.
I reconnected the wiring and voila! She worked like a charm. I did take the opportunity to grease the window lift mechanism and clean out the inner guts of the door while I was in there. The paper-cone speaker has seen better days, but the audio side of this car, for me, comes from the exhaust pipe so that can wait.
Buoyed by my initial success, I lifted the car to jack stands and removed the wheels. Now the real fun could begin. With a buddy of mine recently missing a karting race due to failing cooling hoses in his 12-year-old-Subaru, I figured hoses and belts would be a fine thing to replace on my 30+ year old car. This is uncharted territory for me. I’ve not messed with the guts of a motor since pulling apart a Ford 351 Windsor motor with a good friend in high school. He knew far more than me, which isn’t saying much. And needless to say the motor never ran another day in its life. It became a monument of rust that seemed to mock my mechanical inabilities each time we walked past it sitting on the ground on the way to school. I promised that motor that I wouldn’t be such an idiot again. And I’m working to live up to that promise now.
I pulled a few body bits off the front of the car so I could get a better look at the radiator and hoses. While I had them off, I banged out a couple of dents with a rubber mallet in my foyer on the rug. Worked pretty well actually. This isn’t going to be a show car, so the chipped paint is going to stay on as the hard-earned patina of an old car. I’m certainly not going to be over-restoring this car. Just not worth it. While I had it all open, I popped in the K&N air filter that I bought a while back. Should be fun to see if it breathes any better. Supposedly it’s the last one I’ll have to buy.
I ordered up a set of cooling hoses from trusty Ian at 944online.com. I figured hoses are pretty easy stuff so how wrong can I go. I’ll need to drain the coolant. Messy but not hard. And then undo clamps. The biggest issues would come if there is something blocking access to the hose or the clamps. So far I only see one area where that will be a challenge. But it has taken me a while to get to this point so it clearly is not a chip shot.
Before getting into the meaty engine bits where I temporarily render the car inoperative and then fight to get back to a running state, I thought some of the other basic bits could use some mending. The hatch glass has come unglued like my wife when she discovered the car in the barn. Long story. So that needs mending. There is some sort of 3M Window Weld or Aktivator thingy that I’ll need. And I have to clean and scrape and clamp and align and all manner of stuff to get that done. A more basic hatch issue was that it would not stay closed. I figured maybe the latch mechanism wasn’t working. So I found the inner switch and pressed it. There was some whirring of a motor. Something was working. At least I didn’t seem to need a motor. So next up were the latches. I did some more Googlearning(tm) and the latches seemed to perish after a while so I ordered up a set on a bit of a whim. They arrived and they were easy to install. I closed the hatch and went to the driver footwell to hit the switch and rejoice in my second triumph. Very short lived. The hatch was stuck tighter than a drum. The whirring sound was still there. It just didn’t do anything. And I was a bit screwed. Without being able to get the hatch open, it would be really hard to diagnose what the new problem was. So I called in a lifeline.
My friend Christian dutifully came over to give me a hand. He and I are in cahoots on the 914 so this would be fun to wrench together on something that was neutral territory. Helluva guy, he crawled right into the car and had a look while I pontificated on what the problem might be. I handed in some wrenches. He loosened some bits. And we finally sprung the hatch. The frame holding the glass is a rather under-built aluminium setup. And there are surprisingly powerful hatch struts that hold it open. They are so powerful, in fact, that over time they distort the shape of the frame, separating the glass and making hatch closure either impossible or constant as we were finding out. We eyeballed the issues and loosened up some of the parts to see what was going on. It appears the frame is elongated currently and when closed, the upside-down-mushroom shaped pins that go into the latches get caught by the frame of the car instead of just the latch, causing the impossible-to-open scenario. Looks like fixing the overall shape by reattaching the glass has moved up the priority list. In trying to get to the glass-to-frame mount area by removing trim, we managed to strip some of the screws. So even that tedium has become a minor challenge to conquer. Time to drill out those screws. Luckily I have another car to pull replacement screws from. Yet another long story.
So the hatch isn’t sorted yet. In looking under the car, the rear shocks looked really quite perished. So I swapped those out for some OEM replacements (Sachs). That wasn’t too hard. On a 30+ year old car, each bolt fights many years of not having moved a millimeter with every rusted bit of it’s soul, but penetrating oil people! Penetrating oil is your friend. Spray it on and be patient. Come back tomorrow and spray again. Maybe one more day for good measure. And then the wrench. Thank me later for that bit of wisdom from the internet.
The radiator decided to leak a little one day. So I knew I had to take a look there too. Part of that motivated the hose change. But I was hoping it wasn’t the radiator itself. Those things are pricey. I got the good thought to just try to tighten the radiator drain plug. It spins. And spins. Probably an incorrect size replacement in there now. I’ve got a new one. So when I drain it all out, hopefully the new plug will prevent the leak.
While down there and pulling off bits of the front of the car, I saw plenty of oil hitting the steering bits and the front sway bar. Unfortunately, it seems when a billion years of leaky oil hits a bushing, the bushing swells up like a mini balloon and dies a cruel, bloated death. I checked the other side and the bushings died from desiccation over there. Dry, cracked and tired. Bushings seem easy so I ordered up a few of those. Only to find out that good old Porsche put about 6 differently-sized front sway bars on these cars. The M030, 21mm, 23mm, 25mm and on and on. Getting the right sized bushings would not be trivial. Two tries later, I finally have what I need.
To clean up some of the metal fitting bits, I did get my basement grinding wheels back up and running with the wire wheel attachment. It makes rust disappear magically so the bits I put back together at least look the business. There is a side-by-side in the images above. Putting the bar back in place may have to wait a bit though. The hoses will definitely come first. The belts may have to come next. They do look a bit spent. And if they go, so goes my motor so best not to really mess around with old belts if I can get my act together. The water pump is notorious for failure as well. But my hope is that I’d see that coming with an overheat before the motor completely cooks and seizes. Maybe that’s wishful thinking but this is getting pricey just to drive an old car. And the front struts are likely cooked and in need of refreshing too. They might be able to just have the strut inserts replaced, which would save much money. Probably take more time too. That’s always the way.
For some reasons, the phone dials wheels on these cars are super nasty on the back sides. No one ever seems to clean them. I spent about 4 hours on a Saturday scrubbing away at the accumulated crud and brake dust on the backs of them all. What a pain. I’ve tried walnut-shell blasting in the past. Marginally faster but a big mess. Mineral spirits and a brush did just about the same final effect, maybe better.
I did have one other easy win, though. Sort of. Under the battery appeared a nasty rusty area. Rust wouldn’t normally bother me much on this car. But this area also happened to be directly above the passenger footwell. Rain from the windshield could clearly go right into the battery area, down this rust hole and flood the footwell. And wet the ECU. So that wasn’t great. I thought about using my nascent welding skills to put in a patch. And then I could get out the rattle can and prime it up. I’ve seen Ed pull this off on Wheeler Dealers countless times. But in the end, true to my vision for this car and my desire to drive it more than fix it, I went with a more simple solution. I grabbed some of the blue vinyl wrap that I had left over from the Martini stripes on my 911 and cut a nice square to cover the hole. A hit from the hair dryer to get it to stick nicely and the hole was quite covered and will likely stay quite dry. Probably chemically resistant too so no more acid can eat away at the car. I’ll probably want to fix it correctly some day. But not right now. I’m dry and that’s what matters.
So to go:
- coolant hoses (done 3/15)
- belts – power steering, alternator/ac, timing
- oil change and filter (done 3/15)
- coolant change (done 3/15)
- new oil drain plug (done 3/15)
- new radiator drain plug (done 3/15)
- start to see if the steering is just dirty or worse (was dirty)
- replace front strut inserts (done 3/15)
- fix wiper motor and heater fan electrics…maybe (still a mystery)
- get the speedometer working again – looks like someone disconnected the speed sensor at the transmission in back. Should be interesting to see what parts I might need for that. (need gear to put in tranny to drive speedo sender – can’t find it yet)
- drive the daylights out of this car for fun and profit (ok, no chance of profit, but lots of fun!)