USA Car Season End Event in Southern Estonia – Suburban Made It!

A week ago a nice event took place in Southern part of Estonia which is more than 200 kilometres away from the capital where we live. Ofcourse we wanted to go. However, the weather was not good enough to take the Corvette because I never drive it intentionally into rainy weather. And since it’s Autumn, you can NEVER know where some rain might show up and ruin your day. So, since we have only one more American car left in our “fleet”, the other option was the Suburban.

It wasn’t too easy to make it, though! The Suburban had been messing up the whole Summer and since we didn’t drive it very much and had a busy Summer by all means, we didn’t take it to repair. One of the big issues was starter and everything related – it often made terrible noise when cranking and the bendix didn’t want to retract automatically when engine started so that caused an even worse noise. I had the whole starting system fail on me several times during Summer and I fixed it by re-aligning the starter myself and retightening the bolts. I knew it was just a very temporary solution anyway.

The other thing was rear differential – I knew there was something wrong because it made gear noise when coming to a halt and especially in right turns. We first thought that a bearing could be worn, but that wasn’t it.

1997 Chevrolet Suburban in Repair ShopA week before the event I finally took the Suburban to repair. Pretty soon the problem with the starter was diagnosed – the flywheel was out of alignment and was therefore floating up and down by about 2 millimetres. That’s quite a lot. So, the transmission had to be removed and then they could figure out whether the flywheel itself was bad or perhaps the crankshaft out of center instead…

Once everything was apart, the fault was found to be in the flywheel. Since I already replaced that about one and a half years ago, it must have been simply a faulty part from the beginning and finally messed up the starter and ate its teeth so it couldn’t start properly anymore. The flywheel was sent to Finland for warranty and a new one was installed on the Suburban. That was fine, thank god. The bendix on the starter was also destroyed so a new one had to be installed as well. That pretty much concluded the starting system repairs. Everything was put back together and worked flawlessly.

Now the rear differential was much more painful. The differential case was somehow broken! Don’t ask how – the only heavier job I did with this truck was towing some slightly heavier than normal trailers but that could have only finished up an already messed up differential, not destroy a well working thing.1997 Chevrolet Suburban in Repair Shop Anyway, we had to find a new rear diff. Brand new GM parts are too expensive to order here and therefore we had to find a good used part. In fact, we found a rear end from a K1500 Tahoe which was a 4×4 and wanted to replace the whole rear end to eliminate any possibilities that my Suburban’s rear end could have been faulty somewhere. However, it just didn’t fit properly. Strange that the 4×4 rear end is just a tiny bit wider than the 2WD.  Fortunately, the differential itself was a perfect fit. The diff was found to be in good shape and therefore we replaced just that. The diff is a G80 with Auburn full locking system. Rear end was assembled back together and the oil with special LSD oil additive was poured in.

That repair really made a huge difference to this vehicle. The engine starts up like new, the drive is very smooth and there is no gear noise whatsoever. I’m very happy that it worked out like this.

1997 Chevrolet Suburban driving on Estonian roadSo, we got the car just a day before the Southern Estonia event and were able to drive it there the next day. The event was nice but I wouldn’t consider it anything too special. Just a lot of such cars we don’t see very often in Tallinn and ofcourse a nice long cruise on the hilly roads. The weather was nice, too. We stopped at a barn where one of the Estonian Cadillac Club members keeps his cars collection. It was quite a nice set of cars, really.

So, a nice day all in all and certainly well worth the money spent :)

Spring is HERE!

Hey all,

Winter was a very busy time for me and I didn’t have much time to write in my blog. I’m so sorry about this. It’s still good to see you’ve been visiting me and plenty of e-mails have popped in during this time despite the lack of new posts.

But finally, Spring is here! We are all just SO happy about this since this Winter was extremely painful. There was so much snow, a lot of cold and that means a lot of pain in the a** for just about everyone living here. Cars don’t work too well in such conditions, on newer cars it’s easy to break the bottom frame protection plastic with the snow and so on. Those of you who don’t see Winter very often and are jealous at us – don’t be! Really, it’s not as good as you might think. Yes, there is snow. I think I can still find it from somewhere and I can send it over to Abu Dhabi in a box if you wanna see it so much :) Everyone should experience snow in their life just to see what it’s like and experience the winter “pleasures” like skiing and such. But having all that junk for almost half a year is NO GOOD. Alright, enough of this snow talk.

So, how did our cars live through the Winter? Well, first of all the Vette was ofcourse in the garage so she didn’t really mind. It was cold, yes, but what harm does that really do… However, the Audi and also Suburban were in constant use (especially Audi) and these did experience a few issues.  I can remember that in the beginning of Winter Audi showed its battery light and after some while the systems began messing up and everything died quite suddenly. All the electronic systems inside began to switch off one by one like in a crashing jetliner (yea, it was night in my case, too!) and soon even the transmission and engine began acting real weird. They are completely electronically controlled so what else would you expect… Anyway, I recharged the 110 Amp battery and drove it to service the next day. I first thought that the battery had finally died down in the cold and the systems didn’t want to charge it anymore. However, it wasn’t the case. In fact, the alternator brushes were gone so they had to replace those.

We also cracked the bottom protection a bit and managed to hit an ice ball so hard that a bit of the front bumper paint came off from one place. Should have it fixed soon I guess…  Although that didn’t break anything, I once drove off the road into the snow on a street simply because it was a curve, suddenly such a huge cloud of snow came at night during snowstorm that it just blocked my view completely and since I saw lights of another car coming towards me, I decided to keep to the right and that’s when I hit the snow wall. And there was no help of the Quattro there! We were so stuck that I asked a plow truck driving by to pull us out and he broke his towing rope. Then soon a Dodge RAM passed by who was gladly willing to help us and pulled us out with no big effort. The next time (well, 20 minutes later) I got stuck while just driving in the middle of the country road. The snow had blowed onto the road so much that it got really tough there. Ofcourse I didn’t push the ESP OFF button soon enough so the traction control didn’t let me push gas anymore which brought the situation to a stuck end. There was absolutely no way to get out of there by ourselves since the Audi was sitting completely on its bottom. Soon enough a tractor drove by and although we didn’t have a rope, he drove to the next fuel station, bought a rope for us and came back to pull us out. There are some nice people left in this world, huh?

We didn’t get stuck much more but it was just a lot of pain all the time trying to live your life normally.

But anyway, the spring!!! It’s here, just like I said. As you see, I can’t be happy enough about this fact. It’s a very important milestone this year, I’d say :)

Corvette C3 Daytime Running Lights LED

The Corvette is out of the garage and just before I took it out, I installed the high quality LED daytime running light bars to the front. They are invisible when they are off and nicely glow under the grilles in the nose during the daytime. Although the law requires them to switch on and off automatically depending on the headlight switch setting, I decided to wire them through a separate switch in the “cockpit” so I can always decide myself when I want them on. Interestingly, there is a feature on these lights which automatically dims the lights by about 50% if you shoot 12 Volts to one of the additional wires. S

 

o, I decided to configure them in an interesting manner somewhat resembling the new Audis. Whenever the turn signal is blinking, the LED light dims to 50% while the turn signal lamp is glowing. It’s a really nice effect and probably also adds a lot to safety. I’ll try

to get a video of that for you in a short while.Corvette C3 Daytime Running Lights LED with Sidemarkers

The Vette passed the technical inspection without issues and we’ve been driving it around for a couple of weeks now. The radiator was leaking from last Autumn so I had that repaired and the driver’s side electrical window had lost the last teeth from the moving mechanism so it wouldn’t move totally up and instead made terrible noises. The teeth were repaired and now everything is OK. Ofcourse I’ve been also configuring the carburetor but seems like I can never get it perfect…

The Suburban decided to fail big time… Driving it a week ago we noticed there was something dripping to the asphalt all the way behind our route and I figured out it was coolant. Firstly I thought that it could be the rear heating system pipes since the leak seemed to be near that area. However, it happened to be the typical Vortec engine issue instead – the intake manifold gasket. G

ot it from the shop yesterday and now it’s OK.

A year ago I had the starter and flywheel replaced on the Chevy. However, where I had that job done the guys apparently didn’t know how to properly install the starter on this car and by now the flywheel looks a bit like an elderly grandma with not much left of her teeth anymore. That was found out yesterday in the shop, as well. I was really mad about this because now I need to replace the flywheel AGAIN. And probably from my own pocket. At least I won’t take any of my cars to that shop from now, that’s a FACT. It was close to my home so it was always comfortable to take the cars there, but their job quality is now beginning to show itself. When fixing the starter a year ago they also managed to mess up the distributor clamps which hold the distributor cap in place. They had fixed that with a pair of cable straints and called it done. Now the distributor housing probably needs replacing, too. How can someone work like this? And how could I be so stupid not to act on these things earlier? Should have complained about their distributor solution at least!

Anyway, a  couple of photos from weeks ago of the Vette with the new lights installed :)

Oh, and a little Winter memory from a couple of months ago…

Estonian Winter Road

Christmas Time! And Our Winter Adventures…

First of all, I wish a Merry Christmas and wonderful holidays to everyone reading my blog! It has been a real pleasure having you as my reader and I hope you all continue following this blog next year as well.

So, yesterday it was Christmas Eve and another snow storm began here in Estonia. Just like any other day, huh? Nop – this time I swear it’s worse than the one before. There’s already just so much snow that you wouldn’t believe. I don’t want to know right now what we’re gonna have by Spring. Anyway, we drove the Audi quite a lot yesterday and suddenly we noticed the red battery light had come on. Well, I didn’t think of anything too bad then since it could have been just a temporary sensor issue or whatever these computer-filled machines can come up with any day. So we arrived at our countryside and had our dinner etc. We had to take some guests to town and then the Audi started up nicely although the battery light came on again. The snow had already built up a nice layer over the little road we have there and we barely managed to get through. As soon as we got through the small road, the car began acting weird. Front lights went yellowish, ESP warning came, then ABS and suddenly all the dash went dark, then the exterior lights went out. We couldn’t see anything, just the engine was still running. We managed to drive it back through that horrible road and then the engine began acting up so we parked the Audi and shut it down. Now it’s sitting there waiting for a doctor. Will let you know how it goes…

Belarus JUMZ Tractor Excavator Escaping from SnowThis morning we woke up and found SO MUCH new snow that it was just hard to believe. Our little road was so full of snow that we didn’t even think of plowing it with our tractor since it would have been a huge mess. So we decided to plow a whole new road through the forest which ended up also on the same main road we use. That wasn’t very easy either. The Belarus Jumz russian tractor from the 1980’s is a real beast and it’s incredible how nicely it’s able to pull itself through everything. However, today we managed to get it stuck at least 3 times. The last time which was just some meters away from the main road, the tractor skidded a bit to the side and got so stuck that the only way to get it out was to use its excavator in the back. It took more than 30 minutes and in the middle of the process the engine died and it took a while to get it started again. Probably the fuel line got clogged somewhere.Belarus JUMZ Tractor Excavator Escaping from Snow

 

 

Once the road was open, I drove the Suburban out and it was pretty incredible how well it drove once you have gained some speed. Just a lot of throttle and through you go.

Here’s a picture of the larger motorway, pretty bad…

A Lot of Snow in Estonian Winter - Pärnu Motorway

My Blog Has a New Look!

Hey everyone,

Woohoo – I finally finished with the new look for my blog. I was just so tired of that white blog and decided that I needed a change. I hope you like what I have now. Yes, it is our Suburban in the background and this photo was taking this morning when we already had a bunch of snow. We really got into the winter overnight and we are having just huge snowfalls from last night and still going on. At the moment it’s so heavy that I’m really scared, but also curious to see what we will have on the ground the  next morning. The local time at this moment is 23:32 in the evening and watching out of the window it’s just a lot of snowflakes playing around behind the window and the visibility is pretty poor thanks to that.

Today’s photos for you to see first hand… Even our horses were having a lot of fun!

Winter Seen – Suburban on a Strike

Hey all of my readers,

First of all I’m so glad to report that the visit statistics to my blog have been rising since day one and it keeps going up each month. I’m very happy about it because this here is something that I created purely for my own fun and for your pleasure without any business ideas in mind unlike most of my projects that I start. But enough about this, I’m sure this is something you don’t want to hear very much about! Let’s show you some pictures, then:

Chevrolet Suburban in Snow

 

That’s what we had to cope with about a week ago… We had such snow basically out of nowhere because it was constantly around +7 C during daytime and no snow could survive on the ground with such temperature for long. That day the temperature stayed below zero even during daytime and it created some serious winter conditions on the roads. Since I drive the Audi A6 on daily basis now and the Suburban stays in the countryside, I decided to take the Chevy out and experience the “awesomeness” again that it so easily provides in slippery conditions. If you want some adrenaline, get a rear wheel drive Chevy with mid-aged M+S tires and have a ride in winter on roads which have not been plowed/melted. I guarantee you a lot of fun or your money back :) Driving the Suburban in such conditions is challenging to say the least. Especially if you come from a near perfectly engineered 4WD german automobile. The first thing you notice is that it’s really complicated to get going without spinning the rear wheels + having the rear end turning either left or right due to slightly banking road, differential behaviour or whatever else the physics can come up with. I’d say that if you try to accelerate to cruising speed at such throttle that you’re used to on a dry road, the steering experience will be similar to that of a speed-boat. Alright now, you’re at cruising speed on a straight road and everything seems alright. But there’s a curve, or even worse, a roundabout ahead! You brake aChevrolet Suburban Driving in Snownd it could easily be that nothing really happens except under your foot where the pedal begins vibrating thanks to ABS. You really need to plan the braking with this vehicle or you will cause trouble. I rear ended a guy last Winter in the morning on a little slope downhill. It had snowed all night and all the critical roads were not properly maintained yet. The speed was just around 15-20 km/h and I saw that there’s an Opel Zafira waiting on the stoplight ahead at the end of the slope. I began braking soon but there was just no chance of stopping in time. I heard a collision noise a million feet in front of me where the bumper guard happens to be :) I didn’t feel anything and once I stopped I had pushed the Zafira a couple of meters forward. His tail was nicely smashed in and the insurance paid a nice 1200 EUR fee to fix his car. I just caught some of his paint on my bumper guard. It ruined my color setup though since the bumper guard was supposed to be ALL BLACK and now it had purple on it!

It’s especially embarrassing with the Chevy here in Estonia during winter time since everybody thinks that it’s an offroad vehicle and is not supposed to get stuck. Last winter I was stuck absolutely everywhere you can possibly get stuck in a vehicle with more than 3 wheels. It was a nightmare. Every morning I had to go to work I woke up an hour earlier just to see what had happened outside over the night and to prepare for any contingency. We lived one period of winter in a flat with my girlfriend and you have to park the car outside. In addition to the fact that I had always taken the space of two normal cars, I often needed to shovel a hole somewhere in the snow for my Chevy and oh God it took time… Imagine that you work for at least an hour to make a spot for your car and the next day some idiot has parked his Corolla there. Oh you would have seen some swearing from my end these moments… I had thoughts from speeding into that spot “without noticing” the Corolla there to installing a CRIME SCENE tape around that spot or placing a sign saying “CHEVY PARKING ONLY – All others will be towed and sold for scrap”. I didn’t do any of that though since in the end I’ve still got a good person somewhere inside me.

So, the Suburban is a nice little car but lately it began causing problems to us. I don’t know why – it just has to mess with our minds periodically. Over the winter it’s just plain easy to get stuck in the snow with no big effort but right now when there’s not much chance for that yet, it has to find some other way to get on our nerves. One day I refueled it with 98 Octane instead of 95 which shouldn’t really cause any issues. But somehow it did. Right after that I got the Check Engine light and when starting up the engine next time, it started real rough. I put 95 on top of it and that then made things even worse. I’m not saying that there’s any connection between the refueling and engine issues but somehow they happened at the same time. A few days ago I wanted to have a ride in the Chevy and it didn’t start at all. There was like no ignition… The starter kept rotating very nicely but no chance of starting it. I finally managed to fire it up by removing the air filter, having my girlfriend crank the starter and me spraying some brake cleaner spray to the air intake at the same time. I can start it without doing this once the engine is warm although I really need to give some throttle with my foot and it shoots some black smoke out from the exhaust. It acts like an old diesel although it’s actually gasoline! Will see about this, don’t really have time to mess with it all my free time. I’m letting the Suburban feel a bit guilty before doing anything myself. Maybe that will help?