Stance, Slack Out, Picture, Press!

Last Saturday, I attended the Foundations in Shooting Sports class from Texas Defensive Firearms Training. I knew that I would get a lot of good information and coaching, but even expecting it, I was surprised how much of an immediate difference the instruction would make in my shooting skills.

Before I continue, I’d like to report that my 5.5 grain Power Pistol loads functioned completely without incident, not counting one weak hand fail to eject that was likely from limp wristing the pistol. I have done that weak hand shooting before.

fairmarksmanI am a fair marksman, particularly if given a little time, and I am always willing to learn more. I listen for pro-tips, whether directed to me or just given in my presence, I observe as best I can how the more advanced shooters I see at matches prepare and when someone gives me specific advice, I am quite likely to try it and to research it and maybe modify it. One such piece of advice that made a huge difference in my control of the pistol was when someone spent some time to help me establish the grip commonly called Thumbs Forward. I have big beefy hands that were allowing me to shoot OK, even with a poor grip, but a solid grip instantly improved my shooting.

Old habits are hard to break, though, and the slightly unnatural support hand position was easy to forget to do until I was missing targets then I’d suddenly remember, correct the grip, and be instantly rewarded with better shots. Also, I was pretty bad about failing to reestablish that grip after a magazine change, or other action that transitioned my grip. I am largely over that and tend to grip consistently now, or at least more consistently. It now seems unnatural to hold the pistol wrong 🙂

That grip had been, until last Saturday, probably the single best improvement I had made in shooting skills. Now I have a few new skills to add to that list. They all tie together, too, and much of it starts with a good grip.

A good grip conducts the energy of recoil through your body and skeleton and ultimately into the ground, minimizing the movement of the pistol, giving better control and faster target acquisition. A solid stance will conduct that energy to the ground better. A poor stance will dissipate that energy into you and as noted by Newton, some part of you will move. Chances are, whatever it is will not help your shooting.

As IDPA is an action shooting sport, the shooter moves around through a course of fire to solve problems in a defensive scenario. Scoring is by time and every movement costs time. It takes pretty much a half second to take a step, whether at a shuffle, a walk or a run. A good stance lets you be positioned such that you are moving with all steps, in any direction. Otherwise, you might need to take a step to set up to move, then a step to move and 1 second is now gone from your time.

You will rarely enjoy the perfect stance, since you are subject to movement that may be restricted by obstacles, but you can make a good stance second nature. A good stance starts with your feet separated, laterally and medially. They should be about as far apart laterally as your shoulders are wide and medially, the toes of the rearward foot should be about even with the heel of the forward foot. Which foot is best to have forward varies with the situation. You should be bent at the knees and waist, with your shoulders over your knees, which both lowers your center of gravity and gives you better flexibility on directions you can move.

I learned what I knew about trigger control largely from old literature and years of practice. Get your sight picture, hold steady and slowly squeeze the trigger. Turns out, there is a better way.

The trigger has a bit of slack in it, where it takes a small amount of force to move the trigger until it reaches a point near release, where it becomes stiffer. If you are shooting something besides a Glock, the exact experience may be slightly different, but they pretty much all do this to some degree. Even the 1911 trigger has play to take up, though sometimes a gunsmith shortened that play with a trigger job. If this slack is taken out while the pistol is in transition to the next target, then you are ready to release the projectile sooner upon acquisition of the sight picture, saving precious time. Since you aren’t moving your trigger finger as much while the sight picture is in place, you have less opportunity to move the pistol as it fires. It’s a simple concept that made a surprisingly big difference in my shooting, but it’s maybe up there with the grip in it’s single cause improvement.

We covered some tips on dealing with barriers, like using your walkthrough to mentally mark where the edge of the barrier and the zero zone of the target line up so you can actually have much of your sight picture and slack out done before you emerge from the barrier and take a rapid shot, saving precious time. Similarly, if you need to move to advance around a barrier to address multiple targets in tactical priority, you want to set up the positions for your feet so that you don’t have to take any non-productive steps, saving precious time. In your walkthrough, you mentally mark where your rearward foot should land to set up any such steps ahead of time.

We covered target transitions. Until this class, I transitioned from target to target much like a tank, turning head and pistol together until the sight picture rests upon the target. A better way is to take advantage of the much higher speed at which you can move your head or eyes. As you finish one target, turn your vision to the spot on the next target to aim for, letting your comparatively slower body move to catch up and move the sights into your field of view on the target you have already acquired visually. While the pistol is moving, you can be taking out the slack in the trigger so that it’s ready to fire immediately when complete sight picture is acquired, all saving precious time.

We also covered moving, while maintaining grip, stance and trigger control. I had done some of this fairly successfully, but now armed with a better stance for moving and better trigger control, I was able to put 7 or 8 out of 10 shots onto a 6 inch steel plate at 10 yards while moving laterally. It was extremely gratifying and definitely made the day worth the price of admission!

Now I have specific drills to work on with my SIRT pistol as well as dry fire and range practice with my G20.

As an aside, I noticed today that my current classifier has expired as of March 15. I’m still Marksman in three divisions, but without a current classifier, I wont be able to shoot in any sanctioned matches. I have none scheduled before the next classifier shoot in mid-April, so that’s probably ok.

Displacement / Time = Velocity

I spent a few minutes this afternoon setting up my chronograph so I could quantify the difference between the two loads I currently have.


The normal spot where I shoot is overgrown right now, so I set up to shoot at a low angle across the creek.


As a control, I shot 10 rounds of Remington UMC. It ranged from 976 to 1023 fps, averaging 1002 fps, for a muzzle energy (and thus, recoil energy) of 401 ft-lbs.

The 4.4 grain Power Pistol loads, the ones that don’t run the gun well, were, not surprisingly, significantly slower. They ranged from 677 to 743 fps, averaging 705 fps, energy 199 ft-lbs. Interestingly enough, the first shot was the lowest speed and it was the only one that didn’t cycle the pistol, but several of the empties literally rolled off my knuckles on ejection.

For the 5.5 grain loads, I shot 15 rounds instead of 10, partly because I wanted to give it more chance to fail to eject. The velocities ranged from 838 to 899 fps, averaging 869 fps, energy 302 ft-pounds. That is an energy increase of 50% over the 4.4 grain. They were definitely a little sharper, but more importantly, they worked the pistol really well.

I will split the difference in a future load, seeking the balance. In the mean time, I have a stack ready for the class.


While cleaning the pistol for the class tomorrow, I finally found and solved the issue where my magazines would rarely, if ever, drop free without being manually pulled out. I kept examining the magazines themselves, but it turns out to have been a roll/burr in the magazine well on the pistol itself. I neglected to take before pictures, but here is the repaired well.


All magazines I have drop freely now, so I can put the stock floor plates back on them, presuming I can find them. The big plates didn’t help anyway.




Running A Bit Lean

I had the first local IDPA match with ammo I loaded entirely on the Dillon press. I had several ammo malfunctions, but they were all pretty simple failure to eject the spent cartridge. I have a 13 pound spring in the pistol. I can order an 11 pound spring, and I may still, but in the mean time, I will just twiddle with the carb and richen the mixture a little.

The ammo I had is 4.4 grains of Power Pistol pushing a 180 grain plated RNFP. This load is actually below what’s shown on the chart in my Hornady book for 180 grain FMJ. The intent was to try to get something around 700 feet per second to meet 125 power factor with the softest recoil possible. Seems I may have met that last criteria a bit too well by not generating enough recoil to operate the pistol reliably. I’d say maybe 10 or 15 percent of them stovepiped or rechambered or otherwise failed to eject completely from the pistol. It was even worse on a stage shooting with weak hand while on the move.

The 11 pound spring may help, but the slide on the Glock 20 is still pretty heavy, designed to help absorb the significant recoil generated by the sometimes 700-800 ft-lbs muzzle energy from full tilt 10mm Auto, while keeping the stock 16 pound spring, versus operating on the paltry 200 ft-lbs or so that my soft shooting load is producing.

Because I need 300+ rounds of reliable ammunition *tomorrow*, I am bumping it up more than I would if I were just working up the final load. I’m going to try 5.5 grains of Power Pistol, which should run my 180 grain bullet at about 800-900 FPS.

Production Increase

Well, the extra bins definitely helped speed up production!

twobinsThe color difference is fairly apparent here. The bin in the foreground is the Akro-Mills native bin, the background is the Dillon version.

readytoloadThis arrangement with empty brass within easy reach definitely sped up the loading rate. I was able to get well over 150 rounds loaded in a little more than an hour, including some troubleshooting as detailed below. My QA fail rate is about the same, with most rounds dropping unrestricted into my gauge block, a few fitting well enough to probably work in the pistol, but I rejected them to the rework bin (since I now have enough bins to have a rework bin) and a couple that wouldn’t go in well at all. Historically, I can usually get most of those those back with the Bulge Buster, but it is not currently mounted on the bench.

I had two or three rounds where the bullet seating went badly. I probably need just a tiny bit more flare in the case mouth to address that. I set it intentionally close to help keep from overworking the brass, so I have some adjustment range. Cartridge OAL was well maintained in spot checks, 1.125″ to 1.130″ with most checked units at 1.127″.

The biggest problem was with primer feeding, mostly due to the spent primer catcher chute not pivoting freely on it’s somewhat damaged cotter pin. This chute is gravity operated. The down stroke of the ram opens the chute to allow the spent primer to fall out, but the chute would bind on the pin and not fall closed on the upstroke. The spent primer would fall into the works, frequently landing where it would prevent the slide assembly from returning forward to align the new primer with the shell plate. I reworked the pin a couple of times before I got the chute working reliably. I will add that pin to the list of minor parts I’d like to order from Dillon.

That left a much simpler issue wherein the slide itself needed cleaning and lubrication. Normally, the slide is operated by a carefully formed steel wire rod and rollers that push the slide out to pick up a new primer at the top of the upstroke. A spring pulls the slide back in, against the rollers and rod on the downstroke. It would on some occasions, snag for a fraction of a second and when the spring would overcome the friction, the slide would move suddenly, often unseating the primer from the punch assembly. This primer would most often land in the works somewhere, either stopping the slide from going all the way home, or landing where it would interfere with the shell plate platform. If by a some miracle of chaotic physics it landed clear of the works, then there was obviously no primer for the next case.

In the course of looking up the proper part names above, I did finally find the Dillon bins, for $2.95 each. 🙂


Neato Bin Ditto

Having only one bin on the Dillon press definitely slows production. I couldn’t find only the bins on Dillon’s website, but in perusing Amazon, I found the same physical bins, with even the same manufacturer’s part number (Akro-Mils 30220), offered in case quantities. I ordered 1 case of 24, about $50. They arrived today.

akro-binThough as depicted here, the color looks like Dillon blue, it’s a trick of my office lighting, for the actual color is more like Pantone 280C.

While I don’t think I really need 24 of these, it does seem as though several would be handy. I think that will make it easier to load a large batch of the same ammo without necessarily stopping to process the output bin.

They have a nice slot for a labeling card and they stack nicely.


The good thing is that they stack without reducing the volume of storage they provide. The bad thing is that they stack without reducing the volume of storage they require. Still, the whole case of them is 9″ x 17″ x 15″.



It’s About Time…

I finally got the Dillon RL-550B press all set up and loading ammo!


I reused my Lee Precision dies, partly because I had them already and partly because the Lee Factory Crimp die is highly recommended, even by many Dillon users.

On the Lee Pro-1000 press, there are three stations with dies, resize and deprime, flare and charge, seat and crimp. The Dillon is a four station press. I kept my Lee resize and deprime die on station 1 and used the Dillon flare and powder die.

For the bullet seating and crimping stations, I elected to keep my seat and crimp die, but adjusted it pretty high up so that it will only seat the bullet. I got a second die for crimping, with the bullet seating punch on it adjusted very high. This separates bullet seating and crimping operations. I may consider the Dillon seating die in the future, for it does have some interesting features, like the ability to disassemble it for cleaning without losing it’s setting. For now, I went with what I know.

I stopped using polycoated bullets, such as BBIs, because I was getting a ring of shaved material right at the case mouth, which was usually caught at the case gauge, but occasionally caused difficulties going all the way into battery. More case flare did not seem to address the issue, and I believe it was likely because the one step seat and crimp is still pushing the bullet down as the die is crimping the case. The harder copper plating on bullets like the Xtreme Bullets are just not as sensitive to it and are essentially just as inexpensive with frequently free shipping, minus BBI’s always included shipping. However, with these operations separated, perhaps I can revisit the poly ammo option.

Compared to the Lee, it is a substantially beefy press. It’s a bit more manual, though. My Lee has an automatic case feeder and the Dillon does not. The case feeder option for the Dillon is very nice, with a motorized unit up top to load loose brass into the press ready to process, whereas the Lee is really just a chute that you fill manually. With the case feeder in place on either press, one hand stays on the handle and the other handles placing bullets and, in the case of the Dillon, also indexing the shell plate.

There is much to recommend the simplicity of the Lee approach. It’s a fairly simple plastic turret with four clear tubes and a shallow funnel collator to simplify filling them, and a simple pusher to position the case into the shell plate during the upstroke of the handle. Each tube holds about 40 empty rounds of 40S&W. As each tube empties, you turn the turret assembly to bring a full tube into battery. Once empty, you reload the tubes all at once with the attached funnel and an agitation technique that causes the cases to drop, head first, into the tubes. It takes all of 20 seconds and you’re back to loading. It’s such a simple and inexpensive approach that it’s not really optional; the press ships with all the but the $12 funnel collator included.

The Dillon case feeder, however, is a large motorized contraption that costs more than the entire Lee press. Not saying I don’t want one, just thinking the $270-ish would buy a lot of reloading components right now. I wish there was an intermediate option, something between having no casefeeder and having the super-deluxe model.

No, for now I will get a few extra bins so that I can have empty brass at my right hand and and thus become the case feeder. 🙂 These trays from Amazon are the exact model provided by Dillon, though they are likely a different shade of blue and don’d have Dillon’s logo on their sides.

Since I have had some feeding problems with some ammo I made recently, particularly bullet setback while feeding, I am starting conservatively. I loaded 180gr RNFP over 4.4g of PowerPistol, 15 each with new brass and range brass. They are 1.125 OAL and crimped to 0.420, +/- 0.002. As I was setting the seating and crimping dies, I tested the crimp (with unprimed, uncharged brass) by compressing the finished round with pliers to verify that it takes substantial effort to move the crimped bullet.


If these feed and shoot correctly, I will see about having a bunch ready to go for a shooting class I am attending this weekend 🙂


The Kermitage

This weekend, particularly Sunday, I did quite a bit of work on Kermit, the green trike. The big thing is that the clutch master cylinder leaks down so fast that it’s pretty much undrivable. Certainly unsafe to drive.

Qualitat VW stocks a lot of parts that most shops have to order, so on Friday we went out there to get a rebuild kit of it. He didn’t have the rebuild kit for this size, the 5/8″ piston, but he did for 3/4″. We elected to get a new EMPI 3/4″ master cylinder, but also got a 3/4″ rebuild kit to be used for the brake cylinder. Someone thinking more clearly would have put the new cylinder on the brakes and rebuilt the old cylinder for the clutch. At least I can still do that if I decide to.


After reinstalling the pedal and bleeding the line to the clutch, I began working at trying to make the engine reliable. It’s been bad about getting into a mode where it wont keep running at an idle. It will typically restart without any appreciable difficulty, but it just won’t idle.

Having followed instructions on adjusting the carburetor several times before, I have never been able to get it to act as described.

The entire procedure involves setting everything except the carburetor first. The first two, setting the valves and points, are pretty easy. Well, easy enough to do 100% successfully. Step 3 is setting the timing.

Now, it seems as though setting the timing would be easy, but it’s adjusting the timing that’s easy. Actually setting it to a value that is agreed upon by all the documentation I can find is the tricky part.

Timing involves the distributor, duh. The trouble with setting the timing is that pretty much all the documented procedures are for fairly specific combinations of hardware that are in stock Beetles, running stock carburetors and stock distributors and stock exhaust. Almost none of that applies here.

As for setting the timing, the biggest thing seems to be the vacuum signal from the carburetor to the distributor. Yes, the PICT30/31 is a stock carburetor, and yes, the Bosch 034 is essentially a stock distributor, but the port on the carburetor that is supposed to connect to the distributor has almost no detectable vacuum, certainly not as much as is required to operate the dashpot on the distributor and connection anywhere else maintains a fairly high vacuum at all times and thus has essentially no effect. The distributor is a dual advance model, with both vacuum and centrifugal advance, so it basically ends up running like a 009 distributor.

With the timing running essentially centrifugal only, the problem now becomes adjusting the carburetor.

I did find something interesting while researching a bit on this blog post. Something that apparently happens with some regularity is the diaphragm in the dashpot on the distributor being damaged by connecting it to a vacuum source that is too powerful, particular under certain circumstances where there is a high engine rpm with a closed throttle. Since the dashpot did not seem to respond to the “proper” vacuum port, at one time it was connected to another port and now I wonder if in doing so, I burst that diaphragm. That could explain why advance doesn’t seem to work right and why adjusting the carburetor might be so hard, what with a vacuum leak through at bad advance diaphragm.

I found another related article about air leaking into the engine, generally.

  1. The car acts like it’s not getting enough fuel; i.e., running too lean. Yes…
  2. The car may run well at highway speeds, but the engine dies at idle and will only idle at higher than normal rpm (e.g., >1200 rpm). Yes…
  3. The engine hesitates and dies when you take your foot off the throttle, or hesitates when pulling out of corners at low rpm. Yes…
  4. Difficulty in properly tuning the carburetor (actually tuning will be impossible). Yes…
  5. Since the carburetor cannot be tuned correctly, the timing cannot be properly set. Yes…
  6. You may get engine “looping” (alternating between high and low rpm). Not really…
  7. The engine may backfire. Not really…

It is certainly worth investigating, particularly if the distributor diaphragm turns out to be damaged.

Sponge Bob EFI Checklist

I guess I’m looking sort of seriously at doing this…

Parts required, big things first.

  1. Throttle Body – eBay purchase history doesn’t go back far enough for me to see what I paid for it, and I don’t have any pictures of it, but I have the throttle body from a big ATV, a Kawasaki if I recall correctly, with a bore very similar to the 30/31 PICT carburetor and more importantly, a similar horsepower rating to a stock 1600. This should make it pretty easy to adapt and install to the stock manifold, so…   check!
  2. EFI controller – I have the MicroSquirt version of the MegaSquirt II controller. The original plan was to exchange the MicroSquirt for the MSII on the Dragon Trike and use that unit for Sponge Bob. That may still be a good plan. The MicroSquirt is a smaller, weathertight controller with some motorsport friendly features, like built-in hardware for either two-coil wasted spark ignition or even coil-on-plug for four cylinders, etc…  check!
  3. Fuel system modifications – EFI requires a high pressure fuel pump, a regulator and return to the fuel tank. Motorcycles, with their really short distance from the tank to the engine, can generally get away with the pump, regulator and return all being inside the tank, with a single regulated high pressure fuel line going to the throttle body. Because of the way Sponge Bob’s fuel tank is mounted directly above the engine and carburetor, that would work pretty well here, too. The tank, however, would need quite a bit of work to make that work. It is currently just a plain cylindrical tank with a little tap on the bottom of it. The question becomes, do I figure a way to use it as is, modify it or replace it? Replacement becomes a decent option because places like Pacific Customs make fuel tanks to order.
  4. Rebuilt engine – Admittedly a rather big item, but I don’t think it’s wise to expend all the effort required to install and tune EFI on an engine that needs rebuilding. This engine should be properly in tune and running perfectly on a carburetor before the switch to EFI begins. The current engine has a freakin’ welded on crank pulley and keeps only most of its oil between changes.



Sponge Bob Bit Rot

There is nothing major wrong with Sponge Bob Square Trike, but there sure are a lot of little things. As I am writing this, I feel the sudden need to make a list, but it will have to wait…

Last Sunday, we wanted to ride to the monthly club meeting, so I spent some time on Saturday resolving a couple of little things on Sponge Bob and troubleshooting a couple of others.

Sponge Bob has had a few issues with reliability. Seems that he never fails to start, but he sometimes doesn’t make it to the destination. Recently, inspection was due. In the short trip to the inspection station, it threw/broke the one and only belt. In sunlight, the alternator light is very easy to miss, so I was blissfully unaware. Upon arrival, about a 10 mile trip, the engine was seriously hot as the cooling fan is driven directly off the back of the alternator.

As luck would have it, the inspection station is next door to (and owned by) a tractor dealer, so I was able to peruse their selection of belts and find one that worked well enough. However, in the short ride home, the new belt was itself shredded. I think that I chose one that was a reasonably proper length but too wide.

Also, the crank pulley on this engine has had a hard life. At some point the distant past, I was going to change the pulley to dress up the engine. After much struggling, I discovered that it had been welded to the crankshaft, but not before I had bent it trying to remove it.


It’s tough enough to straighten a pulley enough to keep it in service on an engine, but try it when you have to do it in place on the engine.

If the distance between pulley faces is variable, it will definitely chew up a belt, which is probably exacerbated by the wrong width or wrong V angle, which seems likely with the tractor store belt. I put a proper stock belt on and rolled the engine manually to see where the wide spots were, where the belt sank deeper into the pulley than it should, then worked on narrowing those areas with a deadblow hammer. I was able to get it where I no longer saw any significant change in the belt depth.

The brakes do a slightly irritating thing wherein they sometimes hang partly engaged, particularly the right wheel. Sometimes, I have to come to a complete stop or even roll backward a bit to free it. In this mode, the trike pulls slightly to the right and you can tell it’s just not rolling right.

I spent far too long searching for but not finding my good jack and ended up using the motorcycle lift (which actually does a pretty good job as a rolling engine jack) to lift the right wheel for removal. There is an adapter plate to let me run Chevrolet wheels on the old four bolt VW hubs, then the big ol’ 36mm nut that holds the hub on the axle. I have on a couple of past occasions, on another trike, had to cut that nut off because it seized badly enough that I couldn’t break it loose. Even without being seized, it is normally torqued to 217 foot pounds. I am very happy I got an electric impact driver some time back. I needed it to change the blades on a BushHog mower, but for this, it made short work of removing and reinstalling the wheel hub.

Inside, I didn’t find anything obviously wrong, but there were two weird things. First, the spring looks like it used to have paint on it and the paint was now a gummy kind of coating. At first, it looked like it was solid and could possible prevent the spring from retracting, but upon closer examination, I don’t think it really would. I cleaned the spring and put a bright and shiny spring back in place. While I had the spring out, though, I found that the brake shoes rub pretty hard on the backing plate, which is in itself how it works, but they seemed to drag pretty badly. I removed them, cleaned the surface rust off the backing plate and reinstalled them. I’m not sure that was enough to address the issue, but regardless of the other difficulties Sunday (described below), the brakes didn’t hang. This will require continued monitoring. It is, afterall, only the brakes. 🙂

I also did a little looking at the speedometer. It’s a VDO speedometer and pickup coil, set to pick up 5 boltheads on the front wheel. It worked very well for a long time, but over the last few years, it became intermittent and finally doesn’t indicate at all. It powers up and does it’s power on self test, but it no longer indicates any speed, actual or imagined. I checked the pickup coil itself; it reads 750 ohms. I have thus far found documentation for the resistance reading for another line of coils, so I don’t know if this is the correct reading for *this* particular sensor, but it is neither open nor shorted. A good place to start. I will put the oscilloscope on it to verify whether or not it is generating a signal.

So, when Sunday came, we headed to Fort Worth. Trike ran great until we got on the highway and tried to go highway speeds. Then the engine would cut out like the switch was turned off. Just slowing down wasn’t enough to restore operation. It needed a minutes or two to “catch up”. That symptom usually indicates fuel starvation, but it hits so suddenly and completely that I don’t think it will turn out to be a fuel issue. Fuel starvation is usually a lean-out condition with backfiring and such.

Then again, I have been fooled before.

It happened multiple times. My first thought is the key switch. It is the stock switch from a Honda CX500, which is what the front forks on the trike came from. The switch energizes a couple of relays in the back of the trike for powering stuff, but to save a little back and forth wiring, I run a couple of things directly off it. I may have thus overloaded it, maybe burning the contacts and making it intermittent. Sometimes, I have to jiggle the switch a bit for the engine to start, which is why I thought bypassing it might help. We stopped once and I tried bypassing the key switch by using a jumper to directly energize the main relay, but the problem persisted. We were running late by then and elected to park the trike in a safe place and ride two-up on the Spyder to get to the meeting.

After the meeting, we met with people for lunch, including one of my trike gurus, and discussed this problem. In conversation, he was describing some of the wiring details on his trike and he said something that tripped a thought… he said his key switch doesn’t have any load on it except for a *continuous duty rated* relay and it occurred to me that the relay I am using is a standard 30A Bosch style relay, but I don’t recall it being “continuous” duty rated. Since I bypassed the key switch, but not the main relay, it could be the source of the problem.

Once we finished lunch and headed for home, we stopped at an auto parts place for some wire and a pair of pliers. How I got away from home without a pair of pliers eludes me, but I have another now. I decided to bypass all of the switched power to the ignition system with a wire directly from the battery to the coil. While finishing up that working, it occurred to me that I needed to include the fuel pump, so I did a little more rework to add a branch to it. I used a spare fuse holder as a “switch”. It looked promising for a few miles, but sure enough, the engine still cut out once got up to highway speeds.

Oh, and another fun note. While doing that work, I noticed that a weld between the body and one of its braces is broken. I thought I heard a noise back there.

As for the engine, I may still be reasonably sure it’s not a fuel problem, but I am beginning to have my doubts. It doesn’t cut out at a specific speed, but it lets you run at a decent speed for a while, then cuts in and out like a bouncing power lead, no matter how much that slows you down. Then you look at it (and stuff gets a chance to cool or otherwise reset; maybe refill the fuel bowl) and you get back underway and it’s fine for a while. The rest of the way home, we took a back roads path that let us run 60 or less and it made it without further incident. That does sound a little like a fuel pump that can’t keep up. As long as fuel consumption doesn’t empty the fuel bowl faster than the pump can maintain, it runs fine, then suddenly it starves for fuel. All of my bypassing *should* have eliminated anything on the positive side of the ignition chain, leaving only the grounding components, which could *still* be it.

I am finding mixed information as to whether or not a stock VW ignition system uses a ballast resistor, but I’d bet it does. The ballast resistor is there to reduce the voltage (well, technically, the current) supplied to the ignition coil primary through the contact points in the distributor. It’s absence in this case isn’t necessarily the knell of doom, but they *did* put them there for a reason. Though not specifically about the VW, this article describes the function of the ballast resistor very well.

You may (or may not) recall that I found badly burned points in the distributor once before, bad enough that I misdiagnosed it as a physical engine problem… scroll down a little to find the points story.

Sooooo… If I inspect the points now, when they have only a couple hundred miles on them and find them burned or worn more than just a little, then ignition system damage and malfunction resulting from this missing ballast resistor could be a factor what’s happening and may particularly to help explain why the wiring changes I made on the road would make zero difference.

Or it might be a fuel problem, regardless of my apparent reluctance to consider that… 🙂

Even if *this* problem turns out to be fuel, the electrical issues that I have mentioned still need to be addressed. The key switch needs to not require jiggling to start the engine. The main relay should be rated for continuous duty. There probably should be a ballast resistor in the ignition chain. And that crank pulley needs to go.

I promised a list of little deficiencies that need to be addressed. In no particular order, of course….

  1. Right brake release needs to be monitored.
  2. Verify that the key switch is not damaged then…
  3. Rewire the front of the trike to not draw power directly off the keyswitch.
  4. Speedometer fails intermittently (more like works intermittently) and …
  5. I have a matching tachometer to install, along with …
  6. Indicator lights on the dashboard for turn signals, transmission reverse, etc.
  7. Shifter needs rework or replacement.
  8. Need front fender; mostly notice when it is raining.
  9. Need rear fenders; mostly notice when driving through mud.

Of course, I could make list of bigger items, too…

  1. Replace front fork with springer or some other front end that doesn’t require impressive upper body strength to maneuver in a parking lot.
  2. EFI conversion.
  3. Body rebuild.

This last one would be a major undertaking, no doubt. So many things that are kind of little in certain ways, but major in others, could be fixed. For example, the actual shape of the storage boxes is best described as squarish. It’s not obvious until you look pretty close, then it’s almost whimsical how not square it is. There are gaps in the seams that are wide enough to see through and I have, in fact, used them for temporary wiring as described above. The storage boxes are also not water proof, though they are surprisingly rain resistant. You might have some dampness at the edges of the boxes if the trike is left out in the rain, but they will definitely get water in them if you drive in the rain. The body is supported by a nearly symetrical crisscross of square tubing braces, almost all of which are badly welded. There was no paint applied to the underside at all.

A new body for Sponge Bob should still be roughly the shape it is, just more refined. I don’t particularly like the diamond plate steel that was originally used. It does hide minor fabrication imperfections, by obscuring them in a veritable forest of intentional imperfections. Still, it has it’s charm.

The only big change I might do is to work fenders into the body, rather than the more common application of trailer fenders. Trailer fenders do have the advantage of being ready to use, however, and they would better done with axle mounted brackets rather than hard mounted to the body like the old ones were.

The EFI conversion begins to sound like the easier project. I think I would accomplish that by converting another engine and replacing this one. That would be one good way to at long last swap out that crank pulley.

This last sentence was to add thirty eight words for a total of 2300. 🙂

Harald Blaatand Comes To Visit

The good king Harald came bearing gifts.

The Yaesu BU-2 is a Bluetooth adapter for, amongst others, the FTM100DR. Other than the 10 screws required to get into the radio, it was very simple to install.

First, you need to get it out of the box. A tiny box.

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The box is full, just not with much electronics.

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All that paper can summarized thusly: Yaesu made this, it meets all kinds of standards, most of which have nothing to do with the device’s function, and detailed on one sheet, in 22 different languages, “don’t throw this away in your trashcan.”

The card itself is a little bigger than a quarter. Curiously, there is a tiny pushbutton on one edge of the card, but it’s not reachable without pulling the front over off and it is not mentioned in the directions. Shrug.

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The inside of the radio is nice and clean.

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The card plugs in near the front of the radio, where the plastic front wouldn’t shield the signal.

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Once installed, the settings (split into two menus for some reason) suddenly work. Defaults seem to work fairly well.

I paired it with my LG HBS-750 headset. I have others, but that one was handy. It paired quickly and easily.


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Operationally, the “answer” button on the headset serves to toggle transmit. Press to talk, press again to stop. Interestingly, the current menu option was “Momentary”. The other option, “Toggle”, made the transceiver stick in transmit. I suspect it’s just a difference of opinion between the radio and the headset. I will continue playing with it.