Sunday, July 31, 2016

Transmission will not shift into reverse on Tremec T-56 transmission

Problem: Car suddenly and inexplicably won't shift into reverse.

The usual tricks do not work, including:
  • Shifting to first gear, then reverse
  • Shifting to fourth gear, then reverse
  • Rolling a bit forward
  • Letting car idle, stationary, with clutch out, before trying for reverse
  • Letting the clutch out a bit with the brakes on (to try and align transmission gears without moving forward)
  • Pumping clutch
  • Removing the floor mat to get an extra bit of clutch travel
  • Forcing the gear
  • Shifting into reverse with the engine is not running
If you have a reverse lockout solenoid, it may feel very much like the solenoid is preventing you from shifting.   This will seem to be "confirmed" on those few occasions when you can shift into reverse when the car is not running by overcoming the spring pressure of the solenoid/shifter mechanism, but this trick will (probably) not work consistently.

Unfortunately, this can be caused by a myriad of problems, ranging from trivial to expensive.  These include:
  • Low clutch fluid (refill clutch fluid)
  • Air in clutch lines (bleed clutch fluid)
  • Worn/low transmission fluid (change)
  • Broken reverse lockout solenoid (replace)
  • Worn master cylinder (replace)
  • Worn slave cylinder (replace)
  • Worn reverse synchro (replace)
  • Worn motor mounts (replace)
  • Worn shifter bushings (replace)
  • Worn clutch / flywheel (replace)
You will probably be convinced that you need a new reverse lockout solenoid because yours feels like it is stuck, and/or worried your clutch is about toast.

However, before you despair and resign yourself to another dealership visit for a new reverse solenoid, clutch or transmission service, check that tiny little hydraulic clutch reservoir under the hood.  In my case the reservoir was dry, meaning the clutch fluid was a touch low.  Topping up with less than 100 ml of DOT-4 brake fluid seems to have fixed the issue. 

Note that any DOT-4 will do.  If you add quite a bit, pump the clutch slowly 10-15 times after topping up.


A dry reservoir is a sign of a leak.  If you haven't had any shifting problems before, the leak may be new.  Keep an eye on it and repair as necesary.


Note: This obviously assumes you haven't done something dumb like accidentally install a CAGS eliminator on your reverse solenoid by mistake.  This can happen if you purchased the wrong CAGS for your vehicle.  This should be obvious, however, since the reverse gear will immediately stop behaving once the incorrect plug is installed, and come right back once it is removed. 

I'm not going to say which car I personally have, but the Tremec was used on several, including:

  • 1997-2007 Corvette
  • 2005-2007 Corvette Z51
  • 2001-2004 Corvette Z06
  • 1993-2002 Camaro
  • 2004-2006 Ram SRT-10
  • 1992-2007 Viper
  • 2000 Cobra R
  • 2003-2004 Cobra
  • 2004-2007 Cadillac CTS-V
 Happy reversing!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Installing the Oxford Anchor 14

So install was a pain.  Drilling concrete is never easy.

Besides a pencil/Sharpie, earplugs, a level (if wall mounted), pliers, gloves, glasses, etc, you will probably need to acquire:

-  A decent 1/2" hammer drill.  A rotary hammer is better, but expensive.  Consider renting one, it may make life easier.

-  Masonry bits in various sizes from 1/8" through 3/4". 

Why so many bits?  Several reasons:

-  You need the smaller sizes because nobody in their right mind will try to drill a 3/4" hole in concrete straight off.  Start with a very small pilot hole and work up slowly.

-  Masonry bits can wear out quickly.  You may need two or three of the smaller sizes to get four holes.

-  The bracket fasteners are 16mm.  They will not quite fit into a 5/8" hole, and DO NOT try and tap them in or they will deform and/or come apart.  They will fit and tighten in a 3/4" hole if you cannot find the requisite 16mm bit.

-  Many of the "all-in-one" drilling/driving sets have a few masonry bits.  But they probably go up only to 3/8".  Chances are you'll need to buy one or two of the 1/2", 5/8" and 3/4" sizes, respectively.  (I ended up going through a few small bits but only needed one 1/2", one 5/8" and one 3/4". for ten holes.)

-  A good masonry bit will bite and drill relatively easily.  If it is not biting, it is probably worn out.  Or maybe you've hit rock or rebar.

-  The bit bits are a little expensive at $10-$15 each.  I found them cheapest at Home Depot.

More details:

-  The commenters are right.  Drill ONE hole first.  Mount the bracket up, then mark & drill hole #2.  Repeat until you get all four.  Trying to mark and drill four at once is a recipe for at least one to be off-center.

-  If you're having trouble getting your initial hole on center, you can use a "regular" titanium or high-speed bit to get a dimple to center the masonry bit.

-  If you end up with bits that melt, flatten, pancake or mushroom - i.e. an  un-drillable hole - chances are you hit some rebar.  In which case you can spend $100 on a carbide rebar cutting bit, or move to a new location.  After melting nine bits (!) I eventually chose the latter, which is why I had ten holes and not eight.

-  If you miss or have to shift, you will have some leftover holes.  Fill these in with weatherproof grey silicone or similar.

-  ALWAYS completely thread the provided fasteners to ensure they thread cleanly.  I had two that were difficult to thread, and they could have caused problems if I'd inserted the anchors without clearing them.

-  I tightened mine with a torque wrench, but only because I had an inch-pound wrench lying about that I had inherited but never used.  You will need the right adapters, bits etc. to let you put a 6mm hex key on it.  I used the 3/8" torque wrench, a 3/8"-to-1/4" adapter and a deep 6mm 1/4" drive socket.  To make the 6mm hex bit I cut the long leg off of the L-shaped hex key that came with the bracket.

-  I have no idea how you're meant to hammer the ball bearings in to the bolt heads.  You'll need a punch, I guess?  I didn't try.  Will be easy if floor-mounted, but IMHO rather unnecessary.

-  Hammering the cover plugs into the bracket is hard.  Expect to miss and mark up your nice new bracket.  (Note mine were wall-mounted - floor-mounted might be easier to keep on target.  Maybe use a rod or something between the cap and hammer to avoid hitting the bracket itself.)

-  If you have difficulty removing a fastener and end up leaving parts inside the hole, you can fish them out with a magnet.  They are steel and not aluminum.

I had to make a cardboard & cloth pad to let me lean against the drill with my body, without crushing my hands or squashing myself too badly.  It takes a LOT of force to get the bit moving sometimes and I simply cannot deliver that with my arms alone.  Knee pads or a mat are also highly recommended.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

McAfee "Navigation to the webpage was cancelled" upon uninstall attempt

You know, it is no wonder people have such an ambivalent perspective of AV companies. 

On the one hand, they all provide free services to the benefit of everyone.  Every AV-protected PC is one fewer target.

On the other hand, they seem like pricks when they:

(a) accidentally bork thousands of PCs - which, to be fair - are highly-publicized but extremely rare occurrances, or

(b)  Seem to intentionally make it damn-near-impossible for the average Jane to remove their unwanted AV product - which often comes pre-installed - from their own PC that they paid good money for. 

Now, we all know they need to make money like everyone else, and AV is not an easy business. But try and lose more gracefully, people!

This is so pervasive that McAfee and others have resorted to creating "removal tools" specifically designed to uninstall their software.  Which makes them just about the ONLY companies in the world who cannot figure out how to accomplish this, without error, using the built-in Windows un/install tools that have been around since - well, Windows itself.

If you do get a mysterious, uninformative and seemingly unresolvable error - like, say "Navigation to the webpage was  cancelled" while trying to uninstall McAfee, it just raises more questions than answers.  It says you can "Refresh the webpage", but you seemingly can't - are you doing something wrong?  Did it uninstall or not?  Is it still working or not?  How do you check?  How can you know?

Anyway, the McAfee Removal Tool seems to take care of the issue by completely removing McAfee AV.  Just be sure you download it from a McAfee site, and not some sketchy file-sharing site that might have a Trojan horse nasty masquerading as the legitimate removal tool.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Example capacity of Polar Bear / AO Coolers 24-pack soft cooler

At the beer store today, I see this:

Hey, why not?

OK, so this is a pretty lousy "cooler", I admit.  But it has two great redeeming features:

1.  It's free.

2.  It's just about the same interior size as a "proper" 24-pack soft cooler.  Such as, the Polar Bear 24-pack soft cooler I've been eying as a means to take lunch to the park.

I was uncertain if the 24-pack was too small, too large, or just right for this.  This cheapie surrogate lets me try it out without spending $75 for the privilege.

Here's a sort-of pack for a hot dog / hamburger lunch for 4.  It's rough but it's just stuff I had lying about that I would probably take.  I would put the hot dogs or patties in a separate "hot box" cooler so they don't go in here.

Not-so-full house (yet)


The usual suspects

Obviously this is missing two major items: buns and ice.  However:

-  Taking out the granola bars leaves room for buns in a Tupperware container
-  I've fit full-size bottles and jars of condiments in there without difficulty, but I could obviously take smaller containers
-  Also fit three water bottles and two 1 liter boxes of juice, which could be pre-frozen to help things stay cool
-  There is still room for ice packs or loose ice

From this, I'm pretty sure the Polar Bear 24-pack is about right for my needs.  The Polar Bear or AO would obviously be a little bit different, but only an inch or so either way.


I sure know I don't want the 48-pack - just look at that beastie:

The car camping "fridge"
How would you even lift that?  No thank you!

I will note the Molson came with an entire 24-pack of beer inside of it - that was kind of the schtick in the store.  So it's obviously a 24-pack cooler!  (It did not have room for any ice or anything, making it a 24-pack in name only, but this is very typical for coolers.)  It is also obviously very thin material and of virtually no use as a cooler, but will do fine for plates, cups and stuff.

For comparison, here's the Molson "cooler" and case in my new Macwagon.  (It's just for size, I don't drink the stuff.)

Wagon ho


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Abus 92/80 lock and Oxford Anchor 14 chain capacities

One of the more difficult items to figure out from measurements alone is just how much chain a lock or anchor can accommodate. 

As some examples might shed some light, here are some pictures of the Oxford Anchor 14 and the Abus 92/80.


Our guests for the show

Note that this is not a review, as such.  I have absolutely no interest in debating the merits of these devices, and I don't even want to mention the word "p*ck*ig" for fear of getting this blog mixed up with all of those videos of yahoos people who want to show off their mad skillz hard-earned skills.  I just want to show what these devices physically can and cannot do.

Oxford Anchor 14

As previously mentioned, the Oxford Anchor 14 is - well, enormous.  Really. 

From the photos and measurements available on the 'net, I figured it was likely to accommodate a single loop of 7/16" security chain.  It turns out this was vastly underestimated.

In my defense, my primary reference was this photo from Chain Reaction Cycles:
Just does it






This certainly seems to show that it can hold one, or maybe two, loops of chain.  Given the anchor fits "all Oxford security chains", their largest is 1/2", and marketing people love to show off, it sure looks like a single loop of 1/2" chain might be the maximum capacity.

In reality, it can hold a ton more.  Here's the anchor compared to a length of 3/8" Grade 70 transport chain:

Big, meet bigger

And here it is holding no less than FOUR loops of that same chain - with room to spare for more.  I'd guess 6 or 7 loops would be no issue.  With a fabric chain sleeve, maybe you'd be down to 4 or 5, but I doubt it.

Big mouth


Obviously a single Anchor 14 will do for just about any practical purpose, regardless of chain size.  So you needn't worry about the anchor fitting your chain - you only need to worry about having a space big enough to mount it.

Abus 92/80

The Abus 92/80 was another question.  It's a damn big lock, and both measurements and reviews said it would accommodate two end loops of 3/8" or 7/16" chain without difficulty.  Sure enough, that was the case.

End game
Incidentally, it did not really sink it for me until I tested it that this lock also has a minimum chain size, as the locking hasp is relatively thick.  If the links are too small, the hasp simply will not fit through them. 

I had calculated all of this while selecting my lock, so I knew it should be OK.  But it didn't really come to the fore until I tried it out.  I'd say that anything much less than 3/8" chain would not work at all.

(For reference, a standard chain link is 6x the listed size in length, and 3.6x the listed size in width. From there you can calculate the minimum opening sizes.)

Of course, chains are rarely precisely the right length.  Since securing a chain tightly can help defeat those with bolt cutters, you often want to secure it in the middle somewhere. 

What I could not tell - except by test - is if the Abus would also fit an end link plus a middle link.  It turns out it will do so without a lot of difficulty.


Tight fit

This naturally led to the question of if the Abus could even accommodate securing two middle links.  Turns out it will even do that, but only just.

Playin' both middles against the ends


Despite the above, I would not recommend trying to use two middle links in any practical situation.  You can make it work, but it just barely fits.  This makes it quite difficult to actually secure the chain in the lock, especially if access is awkward in any way.  I was able to make it work on my bench, but real life applications rarely allow such freedom of movement.

If the chain is relatively loose and the lock is right in front of you, you may be able to make it work.  For most applications, though, I'd recommend using one end link and - at most - one middle link.

I do not know if two middle links of 7/16" or 1/2" chain will be worse or better than the 3/8" shown above.  The links are a bit fatter, but also longer, so possibly it will even out?  You'd have to try it out to be sure.



Practical security IRL


And no, I'm not planning to use the Grade 70 chain for my actual security needs.  Not that there is anything wrong with that - it's a damn good chain, IMHO, and will be enough to deter most thieves.

No, the Grade 70 was just the biggest chain that was available off-the-shelf in my area, and made for an excellent (and relatively cheap) surrogate for my preferred chain.  Which was extremely costly, 4 weeks away, and non-returnable.  Hence all the testing - I'm not dropping hundreds on a combination that will not work together!



Monday, June 20, 2016

Information on the Oxford Anchor 14 bike anchor

I recently purchased 2 of these to secure items outdoors.  I was rather surprised at some things when they showed up, so I thought this info might be useful to somebody.

I purchased the Anchor 14, and not the Anchor 10, because I was worried that the 10 might not fit my security chain.  My chain is 7/16" and I intend to put a sleeve over it, if I can.  I also wanted the 4-point mounting of the Anchor 14.

(I read someplace that some consider the 10 to be superior because the baseplate resists prying attacks better.  I can't fathom how this might work, so I didn't care.)

What I didn't appreciate from the product descriptions and photos was just how BIG this thing is!  It's HUGE!  In fact, it is so big I can stick my fist right through it!  I am admittedly a small guy, but still, that is impressive.

One of the reasons is that the bracket proper is fixed to two 10mm metal standoffs, which raise the bar further off of the mounting surface.  I'm not sure I quite got that from the photos I saw on the net.

In retrospect, my concerns about fitting a single loop of 7/16" chain through the Anchor 14 were kind of laughable.  This could probably fit three loops with room to spare.  If I'd known this, I might have purchased only one and used it to secure multiple items.

(I also think it pretty likely that the Oxford 10 - which is the baby brother bracket - would also fit one loop of the biggest chain you could hope to realistically get your hands on.  Though I still haven't seen one of those, so I'm not sure.)

Here's some pictures for reference.  I've tried to include some objects that might give you a sense of scale of the thing.  Click on the photos to get original resolution.

On a typical "Shop Towel" as sold in Canada

Those big standoffs

Small arm in big bracket (bracket IS still lying on the table)

Typical 500 ml bottle goes right under it
"Standard" 355 ml pop can juuuuuuust fits


Vertical height

Horizontal width

Another view of those big feet

That 750 ml bottle won't quite fit, but it's close

DVD, not Blu-Ray (but a classic either way, nyah)

That's one big-ass anchor.

For Canadians, the cheapest place I could find these was Chain Reaction Cycles, which is out of this wee town in Northern Ireland.  I was lucky, as they were on sale when I decided to buy, so they were only about $50 $CAD each and I got free shipping over $99.  Which in itself is impressive since the brackets weigh quite a lot.  They arrived promptly and - so far - without any brokerage or other untoward fees.

I recommend you pair something like this with this security chain from Peerless, which cannot be cut even with industrial-strength bolt cutters.  You can purchase this in Canada if you contact Campbell Mack in your city; otherwise, you can try E-Rigging for cross-border shipment.


Note: I paid for all of this stuff, so if it sucked, I would definitely say so.  I don't like getting ripped off any more than the next guy, and I'm not so lucky to get $15/foot chain for free.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Internal bed dimensions for Mac Sports Folding Wagon (Costco / Home Depot)

The Mac Sports wagon is extremely popular these days.  However, nobody lists what it can actually carry inside.

For anyone who is curious, the basket / bed dimensions of the wagon are:
-  30" long
-  17" wide
-  10" deep

Obviously you can put taller items in as well.  It will fit most kids to about 7 years old, but fitting two 4-year olds might be a little tight.

The weight limit is rated at 150 lbs.  For reference, a Coleman X5 Extreme cooler - 52 quart, I think - plus 5 bags of ice, 12 water bottles and 18 cans of pop is 82 lbs.

[However, note that the X5 will only hold 5 bags of ice in total - that is, the 5 bags will completely fill up the cooler with NO room left for anything else.  So 82 lbs weight is probably heavier than you will ever get in real life.  The X5 would also take up most, if not all, of the wagon.  I'd expect around 35 lbs max for a medium-size soft cooler with lots of stuff - maybe 40 for a 'wet' cooler filled to the brim with ice, water and drinks.]

In case it helps, I found the wagon in stock at Home Depot for $10 less than Costco.ca.

I'm curious to see if a Polar Bear 24-pack soft cooler will fit sideways in the wagon.  The wagon is 17", and the cooler is 18" - but it is soft, so who knows.   (AO Coolers are the other best buy recommendation, but are far too expensive in Western Canada.)  I'd think a 12-can model is too small for a family outing for 3 or 4 people.