Neil Gaiman Signing (and a short Jeep update)

I rode up to the parts store and picked up a new radiator cap at lunch today, installed it, and then got back to work. After quitting time, I beat feet down to Heather’s office to meet up with her and head over to the Majestic Theater for a reading and book signing with Neil Gaiman.

When we got there, there was a huge line wrapped around the building, and like good humans, we queued up, only to find that it was the will-call line. Since we already had tickets, we got in a much shorter line to get in, pick up our copy of the new book, and find some seats. Seating was first come first served, and thankfully we got seats on the lower level. From what the staff was saying, there were over 1,200 people there.

Once everyone was situated, Neil came out and did a short reading from his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. He gave a little introduction to the book, talking about how it was inspired by some of his childhood, and how it ties in to other books he’s written. The reading was fun, he’s got a real talent for reading his books, as well as writing them in the first place. After the reading, he did a short question and answer session, and then left the stage to get set up to do the book signing.

It was a good thing we got seats on the lower level, because that’s where they started taking people, row by row, to go get their books signed. We had about an hour and a half wait before we got up to him and got our books signed. Then we headed out and drove back to the house, tired but really happy with the entire experience. This is the last signing tour he’s doing, and we were glad we didn’t miss it. He’s a really nice guy, who seems to genuinely enjoy meeting and interacting with his fans. He said he’ll still be doing appearances at cons and other events, just not the marathon book signings, as he was planning on staying until the last person got their stuff signed at each location. That’s dedication!

Replacing The Jeep’s Radiator

While I was out running errands on Friday, I noticed a really strong odor of coolant coming from the Jeep. When I got home, I popped the hood and quickly slammed it down, along with letting some strong language slip. There was a crack across the top of the plastic part of the radiator that was hissing boiling coolant. That’s a catastrophic failure waiting to happen, as well as a trip to the burn ward if I happened to be eyeballing it when it let go. So, once my darling wife got home from work, we headed out to the local Car Quest store (actually a storefront attached to their regional distribution center) and picked up a new radiator and various other parts.

Mike came over this morning to give me a hand swapping it out. The entire job was pretty easy, though a little messy. The new radiator is now in, refilled, and burped. It’s still leaking, but I think that’s my fault for not replacing the radiator cap. I’m going to pick one up on Monday and see how things go from there.

Cracked Radiator

Here’s the top of the old radiator, you can see the crack running left to right on it.

Lighting For The Cargo Area

I upgraded the interior lighting to LED bulbs and built a switched control box for a 24″ light bar that is now mounted above the back glass. Since Daimler-Chrysler removed the rear dome light from the hard top prior to my model year, I’ve been dealing with a very dark rear cargo area and finally got sick enough of it to do something about it. The bar is really bright, as you can see, but only pulls 4.8 watts. I’ve got it wired in to my ham radio power distribution block, so it’s live all the time. Between that and the other two pairs of bulbs, the interior is significantly brighter.

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The Jeep’s New Radio

The rest of the parts came in from Crutchfield while I was at kendo practice last night, so after work I got busy with the install. It all went in easily, once I got the adapter to connect the radio to the factory wiring harness. The speakers just dropped in to the existing mounts, no steuggling at all. It sounds great, and having integrated Bluetooth, including hands free, is a significant improvement over the crappy stock radio.

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Working On The Jeep

I started working on the Jeep this morning, first disassembling the dash to get the radio out. It wasn’t too hard, but involved removing the center console as well as the glove box in order to remove the anti-theft bolt holding the radio in. Once I got it out, I started pulling it apart in order to get the CD out. It was as bad as I feared it would be, because there were multiple deep gouges through the CD, so now I’ve got to buy another copy. I took a short break to head over to Crutchfield to order a new radio and speakers. I’ve got a pair of 4x6s and 5.25s coming to replace both the in-dash and sound bar speakers, as well as a new Sony head that has Bluetooth and HD radio functionality. It’s a heck of an upgrade from the 2003-era stock radio that the Jeep came with. Since the radio was toast, and I needed to remove the old speakers anyways, I did just that. They came out pretty easily, and now I’ve got lots of open compartments in the dash.

While I was at it, I pulled the cover below the steering wheel and started in on the repairs to the fog light switch. Due to including air lockers on the Rubicon model, Daimler-Chrysler moved the fog light switch from the center console to the end of the turn signal stalk. Unfortunately, it’s a weak point and mine stays on all the time, running the battery dry. I’d pulled the relay a while back to keep the battery intact, but I miss the extra forward lighting, so it was time to fix. I went a slightly different route than some of the other guides on the Internet, just because I felt like it. What I did was open up the wiring bundle on the right of the steering column, located the white wire with orange tracer, and cut it. From there, I spliced in a lit rocker switch so that the original fog light switch would still work, but until that rocker is switched on, they won’t come on. They work just fine, and the indicator light in the instrument cluster still works, so I’m calling it good. I buttoned up some of the loose bits, but left the center console and speaker compartments open so that when the stuff comes in, I’ll be able to start installing a little quicker. Hopefully that’ll be in before this coming weekend.

Here’s a before pic. The new fog lamp switch is already installed in this one.

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Flogging Molly

I met a friend at Dick’s Last Resort for a little dinner before the Flogging Molly concert. The food was great, the service was as surly as ever, and the people watching was great. After that we headed over to the House of Blues for the show. It was a sold out show, so we were expecting it to be crowded and weren’t disappointed. There were two opening acts, both of which were excellent. The first was Dave Hause, a one man singer/guitar act. His lyrics were good, and his interaction with the audience was fun. The second was Skinny Lister, a new group out of England that does a punkified version of English folk music. They were great, and I picked up their CD for the drive back.

Flogging Molly was filming this show, so hopefully there will be a DVD with shots of us at some point soon. Their show was fantastic, better from the floor, just outside the pit, than it was from the balcony. They did some of their favorites, staples of their live shows, as well as some newer and older songs they haven’t done in a while. The crowd was energetic, but not obnoxious, and everything was self-policed so that everyone could enjoy themselves as they pleased. They closed the show with one of my favorites, If I Ever Leave This World Alive. It’s a bittersweet song, but one that I can identify with on many levels.

On the way home, I popped the CD in to the Jeep’s radio and started listening. I got about 5 seconds in to the first track and it skipped, then locked up. And when I say locked up I mean the radio’s display said “Err” and it wouldn’t eject. I’ve been having problems with the radio for a while, with it randomly powering itself off and the display being all messed up. I guess I shouldn’t have put the CD in, but hope springs eternal. I’m going to pull the radio out of the dash tomorrow and see how mangled the CD is. Not the best end to a great evening…

Replacing The Jeep’s Thermostat Again

Thanks to our record breaking summer heatwave, the thermostat on the Jeep had failed in the permanently open position. While we were experiencing 100+ degree days, week after week, it wasn’t noticed because the engine would still come up to temperature. But now that the heat has backed off, my check engine light has been on, throwing a P1281 code (engine too cold for too long). I picked up a new thermostat and gasket a couple weeks ago and finally got time to do the replacement today. As I suspected, once I pulled the housing, the thermostat was locked open. After cleaning up the gasket residue and lining up the new gasket, I bolted everything back together and fired it up. There was one small leak, but a re-torque of the bolts solved it. The engine’s coming up to normal operating temperatures and hopefully the light will go out soon. I don’t have an OBD-II scanner yet, so I’ve got to wait until it goes through enough cycles.

TJ Thermostat Replacement

Mike and I tore into the Jeep a little bit ago and got the thermostat replaced.  It’s been overheating and going through coolant for a while, but since I rarely drive it, I didn’t really worry too much.  But since the weather was nice and I had a willing and able assistant, it was time to get it fixed.  The old one was definitely stuck, considering it didn’t open in boiling water.  We had a little trouble getting the housing reattached, or more precisely keeping the gasket aligned while attaching it, but got through that.  It’s all buttoned up now, no leaks, and is holding temperature where it should.  After a short test drive things seemed good, no overheating or smelling coolant when we got back.  Time will tell if this fixes the problem, but I’m pretty confident it will.

Wrenching On The Jeep

While Jeff was working on the kitchen I was fixing some problems on the Jeep. My list of things to do was pretty simple. I had to replace the broken A/C selector knob, replace the turn signal/headlight/foglight switch that has been shorting out and leaving my foglights on and my battery dead, and seeing what’s wrong with my subwoofer. Here’s the post-mortem:

1. A/C selector knob – It took more work than I’d expected because the little metal bushing inside the knob was stuck on the selector shaft, but other than that it was no big deal.

2. The switch from hell – Take off the steering column shroud, undo both switches, disconnect the windshield wiper switch from the turn signal switch, unplug the electrical connection, and then reverse everything with the new one. It all went together nicely, but the new switch is even worse than the one I was replacing. The foglights stay on unless you push the switch in by hand (when it’s already in the off position). It will be going back. The original one is back in place.

3. Subwoofer – Blown and Chrysler wants way too much for a new one. It’s now disconnected until I decide what I want to do on the soundsystem front.

Jeep Repairs, Part 2

I got started again on that sheared off bolt after church.  My first attempt was to cut a notch in the end sticking out to try to use a screwdriver bit to get it out.  That was not to be the case as the tabs just kept shearing off whenever I twisted.  So I took the throttle body off and drilled in a little to get an easy-out in there.  It worked, to an extent, but all that would happen is I’d get a couple tenths of a millimeter at a time and eventually I couldn’t go any deeper, so I just drilled the rest of the bolt out and ran a self tapping metal screw in.  The new sensor’s in and working fine.  Now I’ve got to drive it enough for the ECU to reset the check engine light.