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Thread: Assorted ramblings and bolt-ons with Daniel and George

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    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Cool Assorted ramblings and bolt-ons with Daniel and George

    Hey all. I figure it's probably time I start a proper project thread for my 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. I've done lots of things to it over the nearly three years I've owned the car, not all of which I have documented here. So I'll start at the beginning. As always, you may click on any image to enlarge it.

    February 28, 2013, I brought the car home, and immediately put it to work, assisting in moving from a small apartment to, for the first time in my children's lives, a house, with four bedrooms, a back yard, and a two car garage. Here is George with some new dressers.


    Five days later, the thermostat stuck closed and blew the upper radiator hose, which, in turn, popped the head gaskets.


    I spent the next ~5 months rebuilding the top end. You can find the thread here.


    Not long after, the rear brakes fell apart. I guess they didn't like having the parking brake engaged the entire time I was fixing the engine!

    Then, the transmission decided it would no longer shift out of park properly. If I put it in park, it would engage the pawl, but shifting out of park would engage the gear but leave the pawl stuck in place, so the car would not move! The only way to get it unstuck was to shift to neutral and rock the car back and forth until it popped free. It would also do that if I tried to shift from forward to reverse, so I essentially couldn't use reverse. Rather than do that every time, I just left it in neutral, set the parking brake, shut the engine off, yanked the key out of the worn-out ignition, and locked it up. If I wanted to go backward, I would have to push it myself.

    In March 2014 I picked up a junkyard transmission from a place in southern California, which was the closest I could find one. One thing people don't tell you about the '96 cars is that lots and lots of parts are one-year-only on them, including the transmission. It took me a couple months to save up the money for the fluid, filter, torque converter, and mounts needed to do the swap, but I did it over the course of a few days during Memorial Day weekend that year, with a little help from a couple friends and my dad.


    Here is a link to an album of all the pictures taken during the job. (I'm lazy and don't want to do all the markup for 130+ images at once.) (imgur is being shitty at the moment. will add a link later.) Now I could reverse again!

    Once that was done, I took it out to the drag strip to see what was what. It wasn't that great. I ran something like 18.34 @ 75 mph in the 1/4 mile, which is rather embarrassing, frankly. Me on the return road after racing a friend in his HHR, which ran 17.99.


    Video of our race (boring):
    https://youtu.be/ycPXb2L8lmI

    After that, things ran fairly smoothly. My legal courier job kept me quite busy, especially around Christmas when I had to pick up well over two hundred "gifts" from one of my clients to distribute to their clients.


    I also don't know how to properly install shocks.


    January 31, 2015 saw the procurement of 15 inch steel wheels and extra load tires, along with Cadillac Deville pie plate wheel covers, in preparation for a cross-country trip.


    I also had a trailer hitch and external transmission cooler, so I could tow a trailer full of my mother-in-law's stuff from Kansas back to Vegas.


    The car did amazingly well. It got 28 mpg on the way there, and 20 on the way back towing that trailer. I challenge any truck to get 20 mpg towing anything on the highway.

    George continued being awesome. Wagons gonna wag.


    Then in June someone stole the car from my own driveway. I recovered it a week and a half later, with a ruined steering column and ignition.



    Which brings us to today. I went to the junkyard today and got some small things for the white wagon! Click all images to enlargen.

    In their infinite wisdom, GM decided that the Century would use a strut to hold the hood up. These invariably fail after a decade, and you end up having to use a pole or ax handle or whatever to hold the hood up. The Cutlass Ciera, however, still used a proper hood prop.


    And it bolts right on to the Century header panel with no fuss, no muss. The Century hood doesn't have a dedicated hole specifically for a hood prop, but there's one that works well enough in the same general area.


    I also snagged this vacuum line.


    It goes from the back of the intake manifold to some tiny little line that ends up controlling the HVAC blend doors. The stock one was in terrible shape, and leaked like crazy. If I accelerated briskly, or had to climb a hill, the air would stop coming out of the front of the dash and instead blow out of the defrost vents.

    Original:


    New one installed. It's just to the right of the alternator and the power steering hard lines.


    Also, at some point, the ABS wiring on the front passenger side ripped itself apart.


    So I got a new wire.


    And put it on.


    Definitely worth the trip.
    Last edited by Duke George V; 11-02-2015 at 08:20 PM.
    Daniel
    Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 214-SFI. 194k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
    Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 116k miles. Will be mom's car soon.
    Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for... some fun!



  2. #2
    Senior Member turbokinetic's Avatar
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    Yep I remember some of the posts you made about these things. It's good to see it all in one place here!

    Have you got the steering column fixed yet?

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    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    I've been somewhat putting off the column replacement, since it still mostly works. The ignition was worn out anyway, so being gouged out with a screwdriver didn't really alter its function. The broken plastic is just that, and none of the wires were disturbed during the theft. The only thing that doesn't work now that did before is the high beams. I can get a hold of a replacement column fairly easily, as there is a '96 Century at the yard near me (which I got the ABS wire and HVAC vacuum line from) and several compatible 95 and 96 cars in nearby facilities in southern Utah and California. The local yard wants $83 plus tax, which is why I've been procrastinating.
    Last edited by Duke George V; 11-02-2015 at 05:52 AM.

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    Senior Member Century7667's Avatar
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    Nice post. That vacuum line was the one line I replaced on the LIM project. I too grabbed a Ciera prop rod, though I prop mine against the the big hood latch. It rests very securely there.

    I'd love to do one of those short prop rods from an earlier Ciera, but I don't think they fit the refreshed a-body cars.

    Ken T.

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    Senior Member turbokinetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post
    I've been somewhat putting off the column replacement, since it still mostly works. The ignition was worn out anyway, so being gouged out with a screwdriver didn't really alter its function. The broken plastic is just that, and none of the wires were disturbed during the theft. The only thing that doesn't work now that did before is the high beams. I can get a hold of a replacement column fairly easily, as there is a '96 Century at the yard near me (which I got the ABS wire and HVAC vacuum line from) and several compatible 95 and 96 cars in nearby facilities in southern Utah and California. The local yard wants $83 plus tax, which is why I've been procrastinating.
    Steering columns are available here for $40 or $50 depending on if it has an airbag or not. The broken plastic part of yours would be significantly cheaper than a whole column and would be cheaper shipping. I could probably find that plastic part you need for around $15. If you are interested I can try to find that part of the column on my next yarding trip.

    Look me up on Facebook and CarDomain and My Webpage

  6. #6
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Since my other thread about the gold wagon is sort of winding down, I'm going to start posting about my upcoming engine swap in this thread. I will be reposting most of what I did from that thread to this one.

    Here is what prompted the swap:
    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post
    Be careful friends. If you rub the lamp on the dashboard and let the genie out, this is what happens.

    I went around a cloverleaf on-ramp a little too hot and starved the oil pump. Probably spun a rod bearing. It's even louder in person than it is in that video. So much so that I believe the knock sensor is making the computer pull timing to such a degree that it doesn't have any power anymore.

    After doing my homework and crunching some numbers, I determined that it would be more cost-effective to upgrade, rather than source a stock replacement engine. To that end, I bought this:
    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post
    It is an LX9 "3500", which is a 3.5L variant of the 60 degree Chevy V6. This particular one came from a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu, with 116k miles according to LKQ. This 3.5, unlike the later ones, is based on the 3.4L "3400" LA1, with updated head and intake designs, and gaskets that won't fail like the earlier Chevy engines. The later 3.5s are a smaller displacement version of the 3.9L, so they have variable valve timing and E85 capability, which are very difficult to make work in older cars.

    This engine is not really plug-and-play. I have had to order the 3500 swap kit and 1997 PCM from Milzy Motorsports. Mike spent almost two hours on the phone with me, ironing out all the details of this swap, making sure the computer would be programmed how I wanted it, doing up a custom throttle body, and all that. He also said that, if there were interest in the A-body community, he might put together a swap kit specifically for A-bodies, using my car as the prototype!

    Particulars of swapping this engine into my car, in no particular order:

    • I will not be using the LX9 upper intake. It is wholly incompatible with my car. It lacks three vacuum nipples I need, for the HVAC, MAP sensor, and vacuum modulator for the transmission. I will be using an LG8 "3100" upper, which is what Oklahoma used in his top end swap.
    • Since I'm not using the 3500 upper, I will not be using three parts from the swap kit: throttle body adapter, coil pack adapters, and MAP adapter pigtail.
    • I'm also using an LG8 front valve cover I got from a yard off of a Malibu, which has a GM Goodwrench crate motor sticker on it proclaiming it to be a 3.1L.
    • I will have to use my stock exhaust, since the downpipe is routed differently than any other car/engine.
    • The throttle body will be from an LA1, modified by Mike to (hopefully) be plug-and-play with my stock cables.
    • I will be using my stock fuel rail with 24 pound ACCEL injectors that are the same "fat" design as my stock injectors. The newer "thin" injectors have different connectors, and they are too tall to fit under my stock rail.


    I'm sure more will come up once I yank the stock engine and start transferring over parts. Look for that in the coming days.
    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post
    I have removed parts from my new engine that I won't be using or aren't compatible with my car, like the upper intake, exhaust manifolds, EGR valve, fuel rail, idler pulley that's in the way of my power steering pump, the heater pipe that runs across the valve cover, and the like. Most of these parts will be offered for sale at a later date, if anyone is interested. I also test-fitted a 3400 upper I had laying around, and was satisfied with the result.

    Parts unrelated to the engine swap are starting to trickle in. As we know through the efforts of some pioneering folk on this board, the '96 and older U-body vans share most suspension components with my car, so I ordered bare van struts, variable-rate car springs, car mounts, and car spring seats. Also on the way are new bushings for the van sway bar I already have installed. New KYB Gas-A-Just shocks will round out the rear. When I need to haul or tow, I have some Monroe Load Assist shocks, which have a 25 lb helper spring. At some later time, I will also replace the rear springs with variable-rate springs, and see about control arm bushings for the front, as the budget will allow.
    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post
    I picked up an LG8 upper intake from the yard. I will probably take it to a machine shop to be checked for cracks and have the EGR passage cleaned. I have no idea why I didn't get the EGR valve and stove pipe at the same time. I also put on the Goodwrench front valve cover. Can't even tell it's not a 3.1!

    Which brings us to today. I sent my junkyard LG8 upper to a machine shop to have it inspected for cracks, and if it checked out, cleaned. The EGR passage is a big concern, since it was pretty severely clogged on this manifold. That can cause an EGR-related check engine code to pop, which most people would probably throw a new EGR at, then be out that money when it doesn't cure the problem. I picked it up today, and was told it was fine, and it's quite clean now, including the EGR passage.

    Also, I will be picking up my assistant for this swap from the airport tonight. I've hired my dad to help. Some of you may recall that I had him help me swap the transmission in this car about two years ago. This will be more or less the same procedure. While the drivetrain is out, I will be again replacing all the mounts, since at minimum, the rear trans mount is trashed again.

    I ordered some 24 pound injectors from ACCEL, but will not be receiving them, due to back order. I will have to use my stock fuel rail, since the LX9 rail is returnless and not compatible with my car's stock fuel system. So I have to use stock-style injectors, which the ACCEL ones are. But after getting my order canceled twice, at ebay and Amazon, I will not be buying those. Instead, Mike at Milzy Motorsports will be sending me some 36 pound L67 injectors and some spacing brackets, since the L67s are a bit longer than the stock ones. This will also provide a bit of future-proofing, since I still want to beef this engine up a bit.

  7. #7
    Senior Member turbokinetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post
    Which brings us to today. I sent my junkyard LG8 upper to a machine shop to have it inspected for cracks, and if it checked out, cleaned. The EGR passage is a big concern, since it was pretty severely clogged on this manifold. That can cause an EGR-related check engine code to pop, which most people would probably throw a new EGR at, then be out that money when it doesn't cure the problem. I picked it up today, and was told it was fine, and it's quite clean now, including the EGR passage.

    Also, I will be picking up my assistant for this swap from the airport tonight. I've hired my dad to help. Some of you may recall that I had him help me swap the transmission in this car about two years ago. This will be more or less the same procedure. While the drivetrain is out, I will be again replacing all the mounts, since at minimum, the rear trans mount is trashed again.

    I ordered some 24 pound injectors from ACCEL, but will not be receiving them, due to back order. I will have to use my stock fuel rail, since the LX9 rail is returnless and not compatible with my car's stock fuel system. So I have to use stock-style injectors, which the ACCEL ones are. But after getting my order canceled twice, at ebay and Amazon, I will not be buying those. Instead, Mike at Milzy Motorsports will be sending me some 36 pound L67 injectors and some spacing brackets, since the L67s are a bit longer than the stock ones. This will also provide a bit of future-proofing, since I still want to beef this engine up a bit. .
    Sounding good, Daniel!

    I know how that goes about the mounts. It seems they are very hit-or-miss as to quality. Probably depends on the temperament of the horse which laid the dung which was burned to heat the rubber vulcanizing oven in India that day.

    Interesting about the backordered injectors. I have always used the L67 injectors (salvage yard) for my builds. They seem to be a good medium range for good power without having too many tuning headaches.

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    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Work has officially commenced on the swap!

    I got the replacement engine on the stand so it would be mobile, instead of just sitting on that pallet.





    Here it is sneaking up on its unsuspecting victim.


    Here is my dad pointing at the tensioner for some reason.




    Progress for the day: alternator and power steering pump removed, upper intake yanked, replacement engine dressed. Most of the stuff I've bolted on will have to come back off, naturally.



    I may have to go to the hardware store to try to find a 7/8" NPT tap. The LX9 has a heater pipe that is pressed in to the lower intake, but it's bolted in to my stock one.

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    Senior Member turbokinetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post
    Work has officially commenced on the swap!..... I may have to go to the hardware store to try to find a 7/8" NPT tap. The LX9 has a heater pipe that is pressed in to the lower intake, but it's bolted in to my stock one.
    I really agree with you - it's definitely best to dress the new engine off-car, and then remove parts to install it. That will let you find any inconsistencies like the threaded versus press-in heater pipe. It's so much easier to fix things like this with the engine on a stand!!!

    Pipe tap sizes are strange. The NPT system size numbers like 1/4, 3/8, 3/4, 1" are based on the INSIDE DIAMETER of a standardized type of steel pipe. There's no 7/8 NPT size. This is confusing, because the taps cut threads based on the EXTERNAL diameter of the pipe. So, in other words, an approximately 7/8" (0.875) diameter non-threaded hole will need will be drilled out to a 59/64" (0.922) size, then threaded using a 3/4" NPT tap.

    Measure the hole exactly and then you may be able to use a smaller size. I think most of the GM engine ports are 3/8" NPT or 1/2" NPT. These start as a 37/64" (0.578) and 23/32" (0.622) drilled hole respectively.

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    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by turbokinetic View Post
    Pipe tap sizes are strange. The NPT system size numbers like 1/4, 3/8, 3/4, 1" are based on the INSIDE DIAMETER of a standardized type of steel pipe. There's no 7/8 NPT size. This is confusing, because the taps cut threads based on the EXTERNAL diameter of the pipe. So, in other words, an approximately 7/8" (0.875) diameter non-threaded hole will need will be drilled out to a 59/64" (0.922) size, then threaded using a 3/4" NPT tap.

    Measure the hole exactly and then you may be able to use a smaller size. I think most of the GM engine ports are 3/8" NPT or 1/2" NPT. These start as a 37/64" (0.578) and 23/32" (0.622) drilled hole respectively.
    Someone over at Something Awful agrees with you, that it's probably 1/2. I was just going by what Oklahoma said in his top swap thread. I will probably just do what he did, which was to cut the pipe off at about 1.5 inches on the LX9 and join the two with some hose.

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    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Today I made some progress, but only took two pictures.

    I bought a new transmission pan, one with a drain plug, since unscrewing twenty damn bolts to drain the trans sucks majorly. This is what the fluid and pan looked like. Click for bigger.




    As some of you may recall, a blown oil cooler line led to some burnt clutches in the 1-2 shift. That looks like a lot of clutch material to me. I'm a little worried that it won't work when I put it back in. I will be putting a couple bottles of Lucas additive in.

    I also removed the oil filter adapter from the new engine and installed the threaded thing the filter spins onto from the old engine. The LX9 filter adapter puts the filter in interference with the subframe of my car. Just for notation purposes, the three bolts holding the adapter onto the LX9 have a 10 mm head, there is a gasket that has to be removed, and the threaded dealy needs a 10 mm hex socket.

    I had to stop for the day after that, because I broke a 15 mm socket trying to break loose the crank pulley bolt on the old engine. I don't think it's ever been done.

  13. #13
    Senior Member turbokinetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post
    Today I made some progress, but only took two pictures.
    ...
    As some of you may recall, a blown oil cooler line led to some burnt clutches in the 1-2 shift. That looks like a lot of clutch material to me. I'm a little worried that it won't work when I put it back in. I will be putting a couple bottles of Lucas additive in.
    Daniel, I would be a little concerned about the amount of blackened sediment in the pan. If the transmission was working when you took it out, it will work again when you re-install it. The problem will be the longterm durability.

    Already, you're installing a much more powerful engine. If any clutches are compromised, they may deteriorate at a faster rate than they were with the old engine.

    I remember you had a claim in with the people who caused the line to fail. I am guessing this hasn't been resolved?

  14. #14
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by turbokinetic View Post
    Daniel, I would be a little concerned about the amount of blackened sediment in the pan. If the transmission was working when you took it out, it will work again when you re-install it. The problem will be the longterm durability.

    Already, you're installing a much more powerful engine. If any clutches are compromised, they may deteriorate at a faster rate than they were with the old engine.

    I remember you had a claim in with the people who caused the line to fail. I am guessing this hasn't been resolved?
    I've had negotiations with my wife, and after expressing the same concerns as you, she is amenable to having the original transmission rebuilt at a later date, since the budget doesn't currently allow for it. If you wouldn't mind, Dave, when you get a chance, I would like to discuss with you how to go about doing that. One option I'm thinking about is having Triple Edge Performance build one for me.

    The talks with U-Haul's insurance company have stalled. They have accepted liability, but in order for me to be paid, one of two things have to happen:
    1) Sign the car over to them
    2) Because the car is a "total loss", obtain a salvage title, repair the car, have it inspected by the DMV, have a rebuilt title issued
    ...neither of which will amount to the estimate I obtained from Firestone for a new transmission. My understanding of Nevada's salvage title law is that during the time it is considered "salvage", the car cannot be registered or even driven on the road. Repairing the car to the satisfaction of a DMV inspector will likely cost more than the potential payout. They will not pay more than the car's actual value (~$1600 and falling), since it is a total loss. I am at an impasse.

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    Senior Member turbokinetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke George V View Post
    I've had negotiations with my wife, and after expressing the same concerns as you, she is amenable to having the original transmission rebuilt at a later date, since the budget doesn't currently allow for it. If you wouldn't mind, Dave, when you get a chance, I would like to discuss with you how to go about doing that. One option I'm thinking about is having Triple Edge Performance build one for me.

    The talks with U-Haul's insurance company have stalled. They have accepted liability, but in order for me to be paid, one of two things have to happen:
    1) Sign the car over to them
    2) Because the car is a "total loss", obtain a salvage title, repair the car, have it inspected by the DMV, have a rebuilt title issued
    ...neither of which will amount to the estimate I obtained from Firestone for a new transmission. My understanding of Nevada's salvage title law is that during the time it is considered "salvage", the car cannot be registered or even driven on the road. Repairing the car to the satisfaction of a DMV inspector will likely cost more than the potential payout. They will not pay more than the car's actual value (~$1600 and falling), since it is a total loss. I am at an impasse.
    I would threaten them with a lawsuit because they have damaged your car and are trying to weasel their way out of paying for the damages. This same scenario has played out before, and the customer has won before.

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