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Blog Archives for January 2011

Subaru Idler Pulley

Saturday, January 29th, 2011 - Comments (0) in Cars, Life

About 200 miles ago (at 127k) I had some engine trouble with my '99 Legacy Outback. It was a normal Sunday with a trip to Wegmans. We took my car because it's easier to get the groceries in and out with the hatch-back. The trip there was uneventful and we made it all the whole way home and into the garage. I backed in a little too far to open the hatch, so I got back in the car and started it up to move forward a bit. The engine made a terribly loud rubbing/friction noise.

After lunch I took another look and it made the same noise. I was hoping it was an external part like the alternator, power steering pump or air conditioning compressor. These components are all run off a couple belts on the front of the engine, and are not necessary for the engine to run, so I took the belts off and started the engine praying that the noise was gone. It wasn't. After a couple tests the engine actually gave up on life and refused to start. I could still hear the noise while the engine was cranking, so I could tell it was an internal problem and totally out of my league. It also didn't help that it was 12° outside.

After much discussion with my dad and consultation with the factory service manual I have we thought it was something related to the timing belt, like an idler pulley that routes the belt. If you're not familiar, the timing belt keeps the valves synchronized with the pistons. This made me very nervous because this is an interference engine and if that belt jumps even as few as 3 teeth, pistons will collide with valves causing major internal damage. While I was wasting time trying to fix it myself I did see a single ball-bearing on my garage floor right below the engine. I was hoping that was just a coincidence and not part of a bearing that let go.

timing belt schematic

timing belt schematic 2

I had the car towed to the closest Subaru dealer, Van Bortel Subaru in Victor. It kills me to have a car towed and even worse to a dealer, but Subaru's are little strange and I'd rather have people who know exactly what they're doing fixing my car. That and their labor rates were only a little more than other shops in the area.

As it turns out, it was an idler pulley. When the engine was running and making the noise, the bearing was failing but still intact, but at some point it let go and caused the belt to jump a bit, hence the engine not starting after a few tries. The bearing basically exploded sending shrapnel around that part of the engine causing a little damage to a few parts. At the end of the day it needed a new timing belt, a couple cam shaft sprockets, the failed idler cog, the hydraulic tensioner mount and a few oil seals. Over $1000, sigh.

idler cog and bearing separated

This is the idler cog that failed; the bearing complete separated.

hydrolic tensioner

I'm not exactly sure why they changed this hydraulic tensioner. Perhaps the bearing on the pulley was on its way out. I also recently found out that there was a problem with these things in a certain year range not keeping proper tension and causing belts to jump.

camshaft sprocket

camshaft sprocket 2

These two sprockets are made of plastic and got damaged more than some of the metal parts. I'm sure this would have shredded the belt over time. From what pictures I've seen they look like the right (passenger) side intake and exhaust cam shaft sprockets.

I found a video on youtube that showed this exact part the engine and talked about these pulleys. I thought it was very interesting:

The guy at the dealership said he had only seen this scenario a couple times in many years and said the other idlers looked ok, so they only changed the one. I had asked about possibly changing all of them since they were already in there, but they said they didn't think it was necessary and since they were charging over $100 each, I decided to stick with just the new one. I'm hoping this gamble pays off and doesn't bite me in the ass.


Saturday, January 29th, 2011 - Comments (0) in Gadgets, Life

The problem I have with birthday and Christmas presents is that everything I want is really expensive; stuff I would never expect anyone to actually get me.

This year I was looking to get a new lens for my camera. The kit lens that came with it takes very good pics, but I want something that'll take pics in a dark room. After Christmas this year I finally saved up enough money and ordered a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. I was unimpressed; the 18-55mm kit lens I already had took better pictures. Not only that, but the autofocus missed on far too many pictures.

So I returned the lens and looked around for some other gadget to waste my money on. I decided on a NookColor, the e-reader/tablet from Barnes and Noble.

In typical warranty-voiding fashion, I had to "root" it (install a custom firmware) to turn it into a full-blown Android tablet. Out fo the box, B&N's software is a little restrictive. They only let you run and install certain apps and generally cripple it into just an e-reader. Rooting it allowed me to not only read ebooks, but install any app from the Android Market. I was jealous of Rachelle playing Angry Birds on her Droid, now I can play it on a 7" screen.

Rooted nook color running angry birds

I'm still learning how to do things on it and how to get around certain limitations, like the ability to save sideloaded books to the home screen. Why would anyone A) already have ebooks that they don't need to purchase from B&N and B) want to add them to the home screen for easy access? The nerve of some people. I think it's fantastic that I'm able to run the Kindle for Android app on it and read Kindle books too, oh the irony...

Duke's Back!!!

Friday, January 21st, 2011 - Comments (0) in Computers, Life

Almost two years ago I found out that the most highly anticipated and most disappointedly tardy video game ever was never going to be released: Duke Nukem Forever. The company developing it went under dragging this piece of vaporware with it.

I must have missed the news, but another software company, Gearbox Software, acquired the rights and is finishing the game. Not only that, but they've recently said the release date will be May 3rd, 2011.

I totally can't wait for this, although I'm sure none of my current computers will be beefy enough to play it. I'll have to do something about that.

It's time to kick ass and chew bubble gum...

Christmas and New Years

Monday, January 10th, 2011 - Comments (0) in Holidays, Life

This was the first year that we spent Christmas on our own. Now that Claire is here I think it's important for her to wake up at home on Christmas morning. That's what both Rachelle and I always did and Claire will too. It's always tough juggling holidays between two families, especially ones that are so far away, but I feel you can be a bit selfish once your kids are involved.

Claire tasting her presents

On Christmas morning we drove out to Buffalo to spend the day with Rachelle's family. Claire is primarily walking around now and she was having fun terrorizing the dog the whole day. You can tell when Claire spots the dog (or any dog) because she lets out this breathy high-pitched squeal. We stayed in Buffalo until Claire's bedtime so she would sleep for the whole trip home. It took her some time to finally fall asleep in the car but she finally did. I was very surprised how easily we were able to get her out of the car and back asleep in her crib.

Checking out her presents

We were supposed to drive down to Jersey to visit my parents on Monday, but the whole tri-state area was slammed with a huge snow storm Sunday and Monday. The roads looked clear enough on Tuesday so we postponed the trip for a day. Unfortunately that meant we couldn't meet up with my aunt and uncle because they had to work. Nobody can control the weather and I wasn't willing to risk driving in a blizzard with a one year old, so it just didn't work out.

It was great to see my family, but Claire had some difficulties sleeping for some reason. We were there for 3 nights and 2 of them were pretty bad. She got up super early the first night; I'm talking like 4am. Then the next night she was up from like 11:30-2am. Who knows what her deal was, but it was rough. Luckily she slept pretty well the last night. Driving for 6 hours on a crappy night's sleep would have been bad.

While toddling around the kitchen and playing with a big ladle, Claire fell on her butt like she does 10000 times a day and smacked herself in the face with the ladle. She got hit right next to her eye leaving a mark above and below it. These were the first marks in what I'm sure are many to come.

The drive back on New Year's Eve was pretty good; beautiful weather and uneventful. I woke up around 12:30am to the sounds of fireworks. I'm not sure who it is, but some jackass in my neighborhood feels the need to set off fireworks on some holidays. On July 4th they were setting them off keeping Claire awake and they were setting them off for the New Year's too. At least this time it didn't wake Claire up, if they did, I would have gone out there, found them and set off a firecracker in their face.

We went food shopping at around 11am on New Year's day and were pleasantly surprised. Usually Wegmans is a shitfest on holiday weekends, but I guess everyone was still at home with hangovers; it was deserted! We consider a good shopping trip at Wegmans when it's not mobbed, rather than if we get good deals.