Monday, March 21, 2011

Engine swap

Well, I wish I was actually doing the engine swap on MY car (I'm sure Heather feels the same...), but I agreed to do another "mobile workshop" job. This time, it was taking an M50 swap out of an e30 sedan, and putting it into an e30 convertible.
The hard part was already done, I saw the donor car move under it's own power, etc. So I know the swap worked. I took off as soon as I could on Friday afternoon and made it up there and into Joe's space by 6. We worked until about 2:30 in the morning with a couple stops and breaks. This time was spent pulling front subframes from both cars, and switching over a lot of the extra stuff that the swap entails. Brake boosters and throttle cables come to mind as some necessary, but pain in the neck stuff.
We slept a little, had a huge breakfast at Shea's, and went to Salvo's for some parts (including a new tool for me, ball joint separator, YES!), then started again at about 11 am. We ended up switching subframes under the swapped engine to keep the good suspension stuff that was installed on the vert. This included replacing a bent tie rod end. Fun stuff. This was my first time using a ball joint separator. I have to admit, I have always used a pickle fork which, while effective, usually requires a LOT of force in the form of hammering with the BFH, and also tears up the rubber boots needed to protect the bearing inside. Not exactly the best solution if you want to use the joint again. So I've heard and seen pictures of this tool several times before, but it plain looked too cheap and easy to work. (Although not exactly cheap to buy, $40.) Well, let me tell you, the dang thing WORKS. It is remarkably simple, easy to use, and makes it possible to use your joint over again. What a great combination!

So, after a couple hours, the magic time comes when we jack the front end of the vert as high as we can get it, then slide the swapped subframe with engine underneath the radiator support, and into that huge hole waiting for it. The engine fit FINE, but we just couldn't get it lined up right so that the subframe would bolt to the frame rails. We must have pushed, shoved, cajoled, hammered, and slung every profanity we knew at it, but it just wouldn't go. ONE INCH. That's how close we were. Looking back, we should have done it differently, but we just didn't know.
So, after about 3 hours of that, we came up with a different plan. We left the engine in the bay (tight squeeze, by the way) and decided to lift the entire car up off the ground, rather than just the front end. We must have only lifted the rear end up about 6 inches, but it made ALL the difference.
Hold on, let me back up a little bit. We ended up keeping the swap together for simplicity's sake, but it introduced a couple headaches. Now, there are about three other things that we should have been paying attention to when we were lining the subframe up. The steering linkage, the shifter linkage, and the driveshaft. The shifter linkage was easy, we just had to make sure that the shifter made it through the hole in the tunnel. The steering linkage was a little more complicated, but since I READ THE MANUAL this time, I was able to get it apart and together without destroying it. The driveshaft... Whoever the gorilla was that put the driveshaft on the tranny was REALLY strong. Like stronger than an impact gun. We worked on it for a little while, then just gave up and left it on. Unfortunately, it just wouldn't bend enough at it's union to get past the fuel bridge for the two halves of the gas tank. We should have been lining that up when we were getting the subframe close to seating, but we were so wrapped up into getting it seated that it just didn't register. Live and Learn.

Anyways, with the whole car about 10 inches in the air, we got the subframe seated and bolted up. Easy. It was just putting everything back together from there.
When I left at sunset on Saturday night, Joe was draining the gas tank to get the driveshaft mated up, and he had to hook up the electronics, the throttle cable, fuel lines, and some coolant hoses. Haven't gotten an update yet. But I'm confident that it will fire right up and he'll be driving this swapped vert VERY soon.

Lessons Learned:
1) I brought the right tools, but I should have brought more. I really like how I have my stuff organized, and it makes it easier for me... I did my tool check before I left, and I'm pretty dang sure I got everything.
2) Take your time. If you round a crucial nut or mangle a line, it's a show stopper.
(I only had to cut ONE bolt with the dremel, it was an exhaust bolt that was just too rusted to move. Easily sourced at the local hardware store.)
3) It's always going to take about three times longer than you think. ESPECIALLY when you're taking your time, trying not to break anything.
4) If you're not sure how to take something apart, READ THE MANUAL. All it takes is ONE SENTENCE to prevent you from destroying something that you could have just as easily used again. (steering linkage that I destroyed on my car, but saved on Joe's)
5) Don't leave a curious 17 year old alone at an electronic security gate about the same time that it's going to close for the night. Especially when the other owners in the compound are kinda twitchy about security after hours.

I think that's it. I'm fully confident that I will be able to finish my swap VERY soon, and with a minimum of effort.

No comments: