Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Elli The SAAB Mechanic Cat

While I was working on the steering column bushing on the SAABmarine, I was visited by a grey cat who wanders our neck of the neighborhood.  She actually belongs to our neighbors, but I dubbed her Elli after the character in Norse mythology.

I looked up and saw her sitting there watching.

Then she started to come into the car and help.

Not only can she bring Thor to his knees, but she's a mechanic.  
I was doing something else on the car a few weeks ago and had the passenger door open.  She just jumped in.

She seems to find the SAABmarine's rubber trim fascinating.  Here she is rubbing on the lower side trim.

About a week after this picture, I was out putting new wiper blades on, and up from nowhere came Elli, leapt up on the hood and started rubbing the wiper blades!

Back to the day I was working on the steering column.

I call this "Cat on a Cold SAAB Hood." 


Steering Bushing Replacement on SAAB c900, Pt. 2

You may recall we left our c900 with the steering wheel removed, the horn contact (aka 'clock spring') and its mounting plate removed.

So we're left with the lock ring and the upper column bearing.

There is probably a factory tool to remove the lock washer/ring, or even a generic lock-washer-removal tool.  But in the absence of either, I carefully use my trusty Destructo screwdriver and needle-nose pliers to pry the washer off the column.

And here it is.


Now we can carefully pry the bearing out.  It rides in a rubber mount.

That was easy, yes?

Now, you may recall from Part 1 that the purpose of all of this work is to replace the bushing that fits between this bearing and the steering column.

I expected to find a broken or worn bushing at this point.  Instead I found...nothing.  No bushing at all!

It's not like there's anywhere for it to go.  Could it have just disintegrated?  This is strange.

At any rate, I do have a new bushing to install.

You can see it lying just above the bearing assembly here.

This missing bushing is the cause of my steering play.

I press the new bushing into place and reassemble the whole thing.  Just slide the bearing back down the steering column shaft.
I need to install a new lock ring over the bearing.  Of course it's a force fit.

I improvised a drift from a piece of PVC pipe.  It works perfectly.  A few whacks on the drift, and the lock ring is seated.

I think it's unlikely that the bearing would come out of its seat, given the way it fits down into that plate.  The ring is really insurance to ensure it won't move at all.

Here's the bearing and new bushing installed.  This picture looks remarkably like the one above!

Recall from Part 1 that the horn contact attempted to undo itself.  I took it down to The Dungeon and carefully reassembled the ribbon connector.

This is a simple device- the top half of the connector turns with the steering wheel.  The ribbon connects the horn and airbag wiring from the dash to the steering wheel.  So as the wheel is turned, the ribbon 'spring' tightens or loosens on the reel and maintains contact throughout.  Clever.

I taped the top and bottom sections (probably more accurate to say 'front' and 'back'...) together until it gets installed.

Recall that the black and yellow connectors are for the instrument panel side.  The wires at the top will go through the steering wheel and connect to the horn buttons and the airbag.

I discovered this strip of electrical tape on the contact.  This is where the contact was originally taped together when it was first assembled.  Then it was installed in the car and the tape cut.  If I had known to tape it together on disassembly, I could have saved myself some work.  Live and learn.

I put the contact bracket back on, then slip the contact unit onto the steering column.

Screw the contact back onto the bracket.  Leave the tape on until the wheel is back on, or it will open up again!

Reconnect the rear side black and yellow connectors under the dash, then reinstall the turn signal bracket.

The factory had put a wire tie around this wiring to hold it in place, so I did the same.

More proof that actual humans, rather than robots, built this car.  Whoopee!

Now grab your steering wheel and thread the horn and airbag connectors through the slot in the center.

At this point you'll need to cut or remove the tape.

Slide the wheel back on to the shaft.  It's splined, so it may take a bit of wiggling to get it on, but it will slide right on.  The pin in the bottom of the contact will align with the mating hole in the steering wheel. 

Reconnect and route the horn button wiring.

Side note: you can see the locating pin just below the shaft in this view.

Put the steering wheel nut back on and tighten it.

Reconnect the airbag connector and put the airbag back into position in the center of the steering wheel.

Tighten the two screws that hold the airbag in place from behind the steering wheel.

Now my steering has no play in it!  In addition to peace of mind, I've found that I seem to have better feel, and the steering wheel doesn't 'jolt' like it used to over bad pavement. 


Airbag Removal, Steering Upper Bearing Bushing Replacement on SAAB c900, Pt. 1

The last few times that I drove my SAAB convertible (aka SAAB #2, really my fourth...), I noticed a lot of up-and-down play in the steering wheel.  By a lot of play, I mean like 1/2 an inch (about 12mm) or more.  It was a bit disconcerting.

So I did some research on the interwebs and figured out it might likely be a bushing that sits in the back of the steering shaft bearing and rides between the bearing and the shaft.  Made sense to me, so I procured the parts.

In the meantime, I drove SAAB #1, my 3-door 900S.  This is where it's a good idea to have more than one.

Anyway, let's get on with the bushing replacement.

We need to remove the airbag, so the first order of business is to disconnect the battery.  I disconnected the negative lead.

There is a capacitor that stores energy to fire the airbag. so by disconnecting the battery, and then waiting about 20 minutes, the cap will discharge and the airbag will not go "poof" in our face when we undo it.

Center the steering wheel before you take the bag off - the alignment is important for the infamous 'clock spring' horn contact ring which we'll see soon enough.

There are 2 T-30 fasteners behind the steering wheel which hold the airbag to the wheel.  Undo them.

Then gently remove the airbag from the steering wheel.

That's it.


Now you know why stealing airbags out of late-model cars is popular.  It's simple to take them out.  But please DON'T steal airbags!  Thieves are the scum of the earth.  Don't be one.

And fortunately for us, there is not much of a market for c900 airbags.  Unlikely that yours (or mine) will get stolen.

Before you can get the airbag the whole way off the car, you'll need to undo the connector on the back of the airbag.  It just slips off.

This is the backside (hee hee) of the airbag.

And here's the label.  Notice it was NOT made by Takata.  Duh.

With the airbag out, you can now access the wiring and connectors for the airbag and the horn buttons.

I like the tidy way the wiring is routed within the wheel through those molded-in clips.

The big nut in the center holds the steering wheel on.  Note also the alignment pin just below the nut.  The pin is molded onto the top half of the contact ring.

You'll need a large wrench or breaker bar to get the nut off.

I'm pretty sure the nut is a 22mm.  I couldn't find my larger sockets, so I used a 7/8 inch socket, which worked fine.

 The airbag connector is already undone, and we just need to undo the horn connector.  That's the black connector the arrow is pointing to.

Then, carefully push the connectors back through the access slot in the steering wheel - that's where the blue arrow is.

Pulling the steering wheel out will help get those connectors through the hole.  Just wiggle on the wheel and it will slide off.

Here I have the wheel most of the way off, and you can see the airbag and horn wiring from the back.  At this stage, it can be fished through the hole in the wheel.

Notice the black round piece behind the wires.  This is the horn contact ring.  Proceed with caution at this point.  The ring is in two halves and you don't want them to be separated if you can avoid it!

You can guess what happened to mine.

So now we have the steering wheel off, and we need to remove the horn contact ring.  This piece is also known as a 'clock spring.'  It's two halves.  The top half is free to turn with the steering wheel.

The bottom half is attached to a steel plate.

I had read on the interwebs about "don't let the clock spring come apart" but without pictures or a good description, I wasn't clear about it.

You, dear reader, are now educated about this, you can proceed with caution.

The best approach is to tape the halves together.  This picture was actually taken when I put the contact back in, so I had taped it together.  I advise doing it when taking it out.

There are 2 screws that hold the contact to the plate.  Remove them.

The two wires for the horn are attached to the front, or top, part of the horn contact.  There are also 2 wires on the back side of the switch.  First we need to get the contact off, then undo the 2 contacts on the back.
Once the 2 screws holding the contact ring are removed, you can slide the ring up the steering shaft.

If you look at the picture on the left, you'll see that the 2 halves of mine began to come apart!  WHAAAAAA!  Note the contact ribbon itself - the white object that looks like a reel of tape - inside the connector.

At this point, I realized what was happening, and I taped the thing together, but not before a wind or two of the ribbon came out.  Fortunately, the world DID NOT end!

The catch here is that you cannot fully remove the contact ring until you've undone the two connectors on the back.

Undo the two screws holding the turn signal switch bottom bracket to the top of the bracket.  If your car has never been apart (mine had not), you'll still have the factory cable tie on the wiring - you can cut it off.  (I put a new tie on when it went back together).

Sorry that some of these pictures are a bit blurry - it was overcast and I had some camera shake, what with a tool in one hand and the camera in the other.  But you'll be able to see what's happening.

Now you can easily get access to the connectors and separate them.

Then the contact ring can be slid off the steering shaft.

I didn't mention the function of the contact ring.  It ensures that there will be electrical contact to the horn buttons and the airbag while the steering wheel is being turned.  It's basically a big reel of ribbon connector that loosens or tightens as the wheel is turned. 

Now you'll have access to the third screw on the mounting plate and that can be removed (it was already removed in the picture above).

That's enough excitement for one post, I think.  We're actually pretty far along.


Making a New Bridge and Putting the Final Touches on the Regal Tenor Guitar

Home stretch for the Regal tenor guitar.

I really didn't care for the original bridge.  It was pretty homely, made out of mystery wood dyed to look like ebony, and it had ugly file marks all over it.

What to do?  Why, make a new bridge!

I had recently bought a couple of African Blackwood bridge blanks on special from that well-known lutherie supply in Ohio.  (Until I get an endorsement deal I shall not mention their name).  This was a good opportunity to hack up a blank and see how it looked.

The Regal tenor has an archtop-style bridge on it, so it's a bit taller than a usual acoustic guitar bridge.  I have a homebrew saddle slotting jig, but I couldn't use it due to the height of the bridge for this guitar.

To cut the slot, I cut a suitable smaller blank out of the blackwood, and then I clamped the blank into my trusty Workmate 200.  I set the top of the blank level with the top of the Workmate.

You can see in the picture above how I used my trusty Corian fret leveling block as a fence for the router.  I measured a bunch of times to make sure the fence was in the right place for the router to cut right down the middle of the blank.

Here we go.  I have my Dremel mounted into the Stew-Mac Precision Routing Jig (did I say their name?) to rout the saddle slot.

I made 6 or 7 shallow passes until I got the depth where I wanted it.

This worked out ok - I just had to check that fence-to-center-of-the-blank measurement numerous times before I made my cut.

Blackwood, as it turns out, is fairly resinous.  Reasonably easy to cut, but the resin and sawdust need to be cleaned out a lot.  After I made a pass with the router, I had to use a screwdriver to clean out the slot - I couldn't just blow the sawdust away.  The cuttings are pretty dense.

Here's the blank after slotting it.  I cut it close to the actual final height and length (across the strings).

After this, I put it on the ROSS and sanded about a 10 degree angle on either side to give it a bit of a triangle shape (upward), which the original bridge had.

Next I laid out the approximate shape to cut out.  The narrow part at the top will be where the saddle is.  The sides with the "X" marks will be sanded to a nice curve.

I have some cylindrical spindles that fit the drill press.  Handy for making nice curves.

The wood goes away fast, so you can't overdo it.

Now we fit a bone blank into the saddle slot.  You can see the slot is pretty deep, so the string vibrations should really drive the bridge and in turn drive the top.

Shaping and polishing the saddle.

I rounded the top first, then fit the bridge on the guitar, tuned it up, and marked the bottom of the saddle for the action height I wanted.

Then I used the drill press sander to curve the ends of the saddle to match the curve of the bridge.

The I did the final polish with Shell A Wax after sanding the bridge up to 12000 grit paper.  The bridge has a nice gloss - hard to capture in a picture.

That wood looks nice.  I'd say it's a keeper.

The finished bridge installed on the guitar.  You can see more of the gloss in this shot.

Only the string tension holds the bridge down, which means it's easy to move back and forth to set the intonation.  And it stays that way unless you whack it out of position.

Here's the finished guitar on the workbench.  It came out well.  I love that aged amber color!

And a shot of the body with the new bridge.  You can see what I meant by 'arch-top' style bridge.  This construction was common on lower-priced instruments in the 1920s and 1930s.  Less skill and precision was required for this type of construction compared to a fixed bridge with pins.

Having said that, the guitar is fairly loud and has good tone despite its small size and short scale length (21 inches).  The short scale makes it effortless to play.  And solid woods and a nice spruce top help it tonally.

It's tuned to the 'standard' tenor guitar tuning of C-G-D-A.  I think as it gets played it will open up more. 


Waverly Tuner Installation and Polishing the Regal Tenor Guitar

The Regal tenor is more or less done.  Whoo hoo.  I'm a couple posts behind the actual finished work at this point.  As I write this, I just need to do a fret level and crown.  I wasn't planning to, because the frets show so little wear, but with the reset, there are some random buzzes on higher frets.

But meanwhile back to where I left it.

My friend who owns the guitar sprung for some Waverly banjo tuners to replace the old friction tuners.  You may recall it had a wine cork stuck on one of the tuners as a knob!

When you get fine quality tuners, you also get nice packaging.  Check out the nice box.

The tuners are packed in there as if they were jewels.

Which, in a way, they are.  They are very well made and are just beautiful.  Compared to some of the other sets Waverly makes, these are not too expensive.

I spent about 5 minutes just looking at them before I took them out.  I really didn't want to get my fingerprints on them.  They're that nice.

I polished up the headstock in preparation for installing the new tuners.  It's hard to tell in this picture, but it has a nice gloss to it now.

Here's a closeup of one of the tuners.  You can see they have that classic 'offset' gearbox.  They have planetary gears with a 4:1 ratio.

As I found out later when I used them, they are super smooth.  Just a delight to use.

Note the locator pin on the bottom of the case.  

It's a piece of cake (mmmm....cake) to install them.  The holes have to be reamed out to 3/8 of an inch...I think. 

Then you just take the top nut/ferrule off as well as its washer.

Slip the tuner up through the hole, put the ferrule nut on and tighten it up.

I used an awl to make a tiny divot on the back of the headstock for the locating pin(s), but it's probably not critical.  I think the pins would go into the headstock when the tuners are tightened down.

Here they are installed on the guitar.  They look absolutely perfect.

Stew-Mac sells different tuner buttons to fit these if you don't like the stock ivoroid.  My friend opted for the stock buttons and they look terrific I think.

I have a set of these to put on my May-Bell tenor as well.

I polished the body of the guitar before I put it back together, since it's a lot easier to work with with no strings on it.

This is the 'before' shot of the top - it was fairly dirty and didn't have a lot of gloss.

I do a first pass with a weak solution of Simple Green in water - maybe a 15 to 1 ratio.  Put that on a clean soft rag and have at it.  Just dampen the rag - don't soak it.

You need to get the dirt off first - if you just polish you'll be grinding the dirt into the finish. 

After a pass or two to get the worst of the grime off, I use Virtuoso cleaner followed by Virtuoso polish - both applied with a machine.

These old guitars were almost always finished with nitrocellulose lacquer.  Unless the finish is totally gone, they polish up nicely.

You can see the top has a nice gloss after cleaning and polishing.

The back and sides look really good and have a nice gloss now.  This picture doesn't do it justice.  It looks great in person.

The guitar may have been stained with a natural color stain before it was sprayed, but the wonderful amber color is due to the clear lacquer yellowing over time.  Really a classic look.

I think I mentioned before that the top is spruce, and the back and sides are birch.  Makes for a very light build.

Next, I'm cooking up a new bridge.