Thursday, November 6, 2014

Quantum Mechanics All Over the Place

There are plenty of large hardware stores in my general vicinity if I drive far enough to reach them, but naturally I frequent those few where informed people are available to help me find what I want, and to offer general advice, needed, or not.  I'll get back to this central topic later.

The other day I decided to adjust the shift tube coupler in my 911 - for the 350th time - in my eternal quest for the smoother shifting that I imagine must be obtainable if only I would adjust the coupler (and clutch cable, etc.) for the 351st time, thereby finding gear-change nirvana. It's elusive, but can I stop questing? The transmission has been rebuilt and the bushings renewed, so I don't think they are the issue, I hope. The published advice offered on this adjustment process flippantly dismisses the procedure as being a five minute job. I may be a little slow; it took me two days. . .

A shift coupler like mine. Web.
You see, the coupler tuning business itself can be done in five minutes if you have done it before, and remember how to do it; in fact, that's the easy part. If your car is assembled, with seats in it and all, you have to get into a contortion that would cause a yogi to go pale, so that you can adequately reach what you need to reach, and get apart everything that is in the way of the intended piece of work. 

A day or two later I figured out that I could skip the following process and adjust the coupler without what I describe in this paragraph. Never mind, you may want to know what you face if you want to actually change the coupler entirely, or rebuild it, so here goes: You will face tasks such as removing the two rubber boots that cover the coupler, one coming from the front and the other from the back. There is a stainless steel band that holds the two boots in place, thereby helping to keep dirt out of the coupler.  The boot from the rear fits over a flared collar that is found protruding from the lower part of the fire wall. The rubber of this boot turns back over itself, and one half of the resulting double layer is the part that goes over the collar. The front boot then stretches over the rear's rubber layer, and at the same time over the collar. The steel band next goes over the two layers of rubber in order to hold them in place. All of this is easier said than done because tight rubber doesn't slide over other rubber, but rather sticks to it, and it takes more time and effort than the actual 'five minute' adjustment; all of it is awkward to do as any yogi will tell you. Typical. This car isn't designed with ease of maintenance as a primary consideration.

In my car, at an earlier moment in its rebuild. The steel band is off of the boots and collar. Easy access here.

Although I didn't have this in mind when I bought my car, the elaborate servicing that it requires has become a therapeutic, calming, and cooling influence on me, never mind all of the cussing I do from under the car, and complaining that I spout once I'm back out from in or under it. A good and levelheaded mechanic works methodically, confident in his experience and training (I haven't bumped into a female mechanic yet, but a small number of them are out there somewhere), so that the tasks at hand are approached rationally and without apprehension, or confusion. I work in constant fear that my ignorance will result in disaster.

Rubber boots removed. Web.
So, after doing the 5 minute coupler movement 'improvement' exercise I got the rubber boots reinstalled, but the stainless steel band wouldn't fit because the end of it was broken off and it was too short. How I got it into place the last time is a complete mystery, but this time I certainly needed a new one. Basically, it's just a big, 100 mm hose clamp +/-. Naturally, I headed to the nearest large hardware store, where they unwittingly sell Porsche parts; I went to the plumbing department for a hose clamp. "Hi there! Can I help you?" said the informed-person lurking among the pipes and flush mechanisms, but this greeting was a big shock. I was in Quebec, and for a store clerk to greet me in the English language is an offense punishable by law. I'm not kidding; there are 'Language Police' here and they can levy serious fines, and worse. Quebec is a very special place in this regard, and there's more to it also, such as a recent proposal to require a certain dress code for large numbers of people that would prohibit any form of religious symbol. And recently a high official in the Quebec government said that he wished to entrench the status of the French language in Quebec, as if that had not already been achieved for 400 years now, duh . . .

"Quebec, all in French and in French only!"
Never mind that idiocy for the time being, I just wanted a hose clamp and the friendly greeter steered me in their direction.  "What size pipe are you using?" asked the clerk. I had the broken clamp in hand for comparison and finding a replacement didn't take long. "Well, actually it's for use in an old car I'm working on," I said. "Oh, are you adjusting the shift coupler in your Porsche?" said the clerk. Did I have this printed on my forehead!?  

I thought he looked vaguely familiar, but I didn't know why. "You can also adjust shifting by moving the shifter's top plate in the front," he added, "but it's fussier to do. Here's the clamp you want. Use an 8 mm nut driver on that, and don't forget to adjust the clutch cable so that you have about an inch (2.5 cm) of free play at the pedal." "Okay, thanks," I said. "I worked for a few years on those cars while I was a mechanic in Germany," he also added. I expressed appreciation for this information and we chatted briefly about valve adjustment and other routine servicing required for my car. He knew what model of Porsche I had, and I had no idea who he was.  There aren't many vintage Porsches in my extended neighbourhood; my car can't be that famous.

"Pasta" is not a French word. A small Italian restaurant got busted; for real. Web.
But, this kind of thing has happened in Vermont, USA, too. Another informed-greeter type of hardware store there carries a large selection of metric nuts and bolts, and other random fasteners useful in non-concours Porsche restoration. I needed some funny fasteners, so I went there, in the Porsche. This time I didn't even get into the store before I was accosted by one of the friendly, helpful staff.

"Lookin' good! What year is that Porsche? I used to be a mechanic working on those cars, but down in Connecticut some years back. Sounds as if you have one valve a little bit loose." "Thanks, and you're probably right," I said, "but I think I'm less worried about a slightly loose valve than one that is too tight. I'll get to it eventually." I didn't know this guy either. 

I'm going to drive a little farther to an additional informed-greeter hardware store to see if I can find another Porsche mechanic. I'll start some kind of club. Evidently there is an attractive quality about hardware stores if you are a former mechanic who worked on vintage Porsches, but I can't speculate about these guy's lives. However, my theory is that being there offers them an opportunity to practice creative, qualitative problem solving; just what is required when servicing an old Porsche. Porsche questions may address parts bigger than quarks, but then the whole realm can be just as confusing, almost like string theory.

By the way, after that 351st coupler adjustment my car shifts much more nicely than before. Success.         

No comments: