Don't Weld in Shorts

So this week I passed the half-way point in allowable funds of my bet concerning Fred the Sentra. As a reminder, I have an ongoing bet with Eric concerning whether or not I can get my 1991 Sentra in good enough shape that Pam will not be embarrassed to ride in it for less than $1,000.  I’ve been VERY slowly working on it.  Since Pam has been gone this week and it is Terrell family No TV Month I have been going out into the garage each night and doing Bondo work on the Sentra, sanding, treating, and patching some of the rust holes that have been a part of Fred since I bought her.  I sent Pam photos of the work that I had done on Fred and to quote her, the Sentra has improved in looks from “utterly humiliating” to “merely embarrassing.” This is a huge step forward. I’m feeling pretty good about my chances of winning the bet.

Of course, I am also on the downhill slid of my $1,000 spending limit. I have to replace the rear struts and their cost has brought my remaining funds down to $489 left to spend within the bet. I think this is still very doable. The struts and a new muffler have been purchased, so those funds have been accounted for and I will install them when we get back from Alabama. This will just leave repairing the rocker panels, a little more Bondo work, and painting this car. This means I will have to learn how to paint a car. If anyone wants to teach me I am available to be your student.

Part of working on Fred has been teaching myself how to do various things, such as, minor welding. My welds aren’t the prettiest but they hold two pieces together, and with a grinder I can get rid all the spare slag that is all over my welds. I thought I had taught myself to be safe when welding but apparently I forgot part of that today. I was welding on part of a door latch and completely forgot that you shouldn’t use a MIG welder (which splatters a lot) when you are wearing shorts. It only took me being hit by TWO molten pieces of slag to remember that I should have changed into pants. So I did and then I went back to welding. It only took TWO more molten pieces of slag for me to remember that you should also wear boots instead of old running shoes when you weld. Thankfully there was not real damage to me or the shoes.

As for now I have talked with a friend about some spare sheet metal for fixing the rocker panels (that means FREE). Of course, I need to find a sand/media blaster to use to remove the rust from the corroded remains of the previous rocker panels. If you have a sand/media blaster that you would loan me I would greatly appreciate it.

tell me i can’t do it … we’ll see


part of what i need from a vehicle is the ability to transport my canoe. i like to fish and for most of the year that involves moving a canoe from spot to spot. this means that i need a roof rack and any car i use significantly. i bought one for my 626 and it has been sitting around since the 626 was sold for scrap. i recently started contacting thule to determine how to make this rack (which i loved using on my 626) fit fred the sentra. you see the roof rack is meant for a 4 door car and fred is a 2 door coupe. thule has a short roof adapter (sra) that is supposed to make it possible to use the the roof rack on a coupe but thule’s website says it won’t work with my roof rack because of the feet i have. i have the 480xtr feet. these were the higher end rack feet when i bought the rack but they have since released new model feet.

those of you who know me might be surprised that i bought the higher end foot pack but at the time they were actually cheaper than the lower end feet. why? well i bought a refurbished roof rack. don’t ask me how you refurbish a roof rack. i have no idea. all i know is that it was significantly less expensive than the lower end foot pack and they have worked great for three years.

so i contacted thule through their support website to ask if it was possible to make the sra work with the 480xtr feet. i received no response. i sent another request for information. again, there was no response. i sent a third request and this time i was told that the sra sure would work if i bought new feet. of course the answer completely ignored my real request so i sent a final request and was told that i should call an unlisted customer support phone number. i called, was placed on hold for 10 minutes, and then told by recording that office hours had ended. i called again the next day and was told by a rep that he wasn’t really sure why but his forms said the sra wouldn’t work with the 480xtr feet and asked if there was anything else he could help with.

this just didn’t seem right. i looked at the sra and my rack feet and The rack foot with the plastic coveri was sure they would work together or at least that i could make them work together. so i found a used short roof adapter on ebay for $40 and ordered it assuming that if it didn’t work i could resell it and get at least $40 back. here’s what i discovered. the only thing that keeps the sra from working with the 480xtr feet is the plastic cover of the xtr feet. this plastic cover is purely IMG_2114aesthetic (pictured right). i can’t believe that this plastic cover does anything for the operation or structural integrity of the 480xtr feet. the short roof adapter works by small hooks fitting into each foot (pictured left). these hooks are pull into the feet by a center “fit kit” holding onto the back edge of the door frame. the plastic hood of the xtr foot blocks the hook from being able to grab a hold of the foot. removing the plastic hood from the 480xtr feet enabled me to use the sra just as it was meant to be used. without the plastic hood the hooks fit perfectly. i installed the rack and everything works perfectly.

surely thule knows this. i can’t believe they wouldn’t tell me such a simple fix. removing the plastic hood doesn’t appear to change anything about the structural integrity or operation of the rack foot. it ticks me off that their support’s advice was simply to buy new feet. my rack works on fred for $40 plus $15 for a used sentra fit kit off ebay. thule’s advice would have cost me $360 (new feet, new short roof adapter, and new fit kit) just to enable me to use the roof rack that i bought from them 3 years ago.

the next step for the roof rack is taking a dremel to the plastic hood to make room for the sra’s hook. then i’ll have the pleasing look of the smooth hoods on my rack feet again. this will make me even more happy.

next step for fred is working on the the exhaust system. there is a front exhaust pipe that needs to be patched or replaced. btw does anyone know how to weld? i’ll need some welding to fix the rusted out body sections at each rear wheel well.

before  after

fred has new tires

for those of you keeping up with the development of fred the sentra today he received two new, balanced front tires and new windshield wipers. this means that fred is now able to handle highway speeds. previously the front tires were bald and unbalanced and it made for an interesting ride at 70 mph, especially in snow, which is why i had only taken him on the highway once. that one time was enough for me. as for the windshield wipers i am a fan of decent wipers and rain x. i can live with a car that might break down at any moment but i can’t handle one with terrible windshield wipers.

next is fixing the exhaust system which should happen this weekend.

SIDE NOTE – i found this forum post concerning the rebuild of a 92 sentra. it is a lot more than i want to do to fred but still has some useful in it.

help me put eric in his place :)

IMG_2029pam and i have pretty much always viewed cars as merely transportation. we take care of our autos and try drive them until they can’t reasonably be fixed any longer. we’ve done this to all but one of our cars – a 1998 ford explorer that was a lemon. my 1998 mazda 626’s transmission died recently and it was sent to salvage. the 626 was my car, which is basically the family beater. it was my “throw the canoe on top and go fishing” car. since the 626 died i needed to replace it because i have to continue fishing.

eric & natalie were nice enough to sell me their 1992 sentra which i hope to fix up. of course, eric said that i would probably be better off buying a different car considering the money he thinks i will need to put into the car to fix it up to the level i am considering. he thinks i will have to put $1,000 to $2,000 in the car. i on the other hand think i can fix it up to very respectable for less than a $1,000.

IMG_2006here’s the work that needs to be done to the vehicle

  • replace front exhaust tube (rusted out)
  • new tires for front and rear (basically bald)
  • replace power steering pump
  • general maintenance

and the work that i want to do to it is

  • body work (there are a couple of sections that have rusted out)
  • paint – both for protection and looks
  • add roof rack for my canoe – difficult because the car is a coupe
  • replace broken radio
  • add fog lights – i’m not sure why but i really like fog lights

now i wonder if any of you would like to help me prove eric wrong by helping out on the improvements. i.e. i have a thule 400xtr roof rack that doesn’t presently fit the sentra – do you know someone with a thule 400xt roof rack that would like to swap? or do you know someone who has ever painted a car (i’m considering painting my own car – its a beater after all but it still needs to be approved by pamela). or do you have a car stereo wasting away in your basement?

i’m viewing this as a challenge and i will definitely taunt eric when i succeed.