Would-be Conservative leader Dr. Kellie Leitch’s latest kick is to legalize pepper spray for women to use for personal protection.

Around Forfar you never know how something will get used until it gets used, and this rule will probably apply to pepper spray, as well.

So I prepared a T-shirt to go with Leitch’s campaign.  The tangled syntax should fit well with statements made by Conservative cabinet ministers over the last decade.  I don’t know if Kellie will like it, but…




December 4, 2016


Every year about this time Mommy goes into what Dad calls “elf-mode.”  Yesterday she tried to fasten a wreath to the door of my house, but I put an end to that with a baleful glare.  Anyway, she’s cheerful in elf-mode, so there are lots of treats.



New CV boots for Ruby

December 2, 2016



When I switched to winter tires I was surprised to find a substantial deposit of grease inside the right front rim. The boot looked intact, but closer examination revealed a bit of cracking in one location, so axle disassembly seemed inevitable before I took the car on a sanded road.

The local auto parts supplier had access to the boots, but I had to resort to Amazon for a 32mm, 12 point impact socket for the axle bolt. Two days later the set of sockets appeared at the house, courtesy of  Canada Post.

There are no videos explaining how to perform this unglamorous repair to a Cayenne. I found one cryptic explanation on RennTech.org by a man named Whippet who popped one in to fill a need. Perhaps I’ll post an addendum to fill in a few gaps where I was left bewildered.



I removed the right front half-shaft successfully in pursuit of the cracked boot.  After a thorough bath in the parts washer, there wasn’t any apparent internal damage to the joints,  but now I have to figure out how to pop off one end or the other prior to re-lubing both cv’s and adding boots.  Major cleanup around the brakes is in order.  Fun, but messy.

At the moment I’m stuck until I find instructions on how to disassemble the half-shaft.  20161202_095255

Early Afternoon

I had to search VW sites to gain insight into how the half-shafts come apart.  Eventually I ran across a video where a guy separated one with a slide hammer, but he said that a flat board with a slot for the axle would work pretty well for removing the outer joint if you hit it sharply with a hammer, only his board broke.  Mine didn’t until the part which goes through the brake rotor had come apart.

I’m beginning to believe that the trick to working on a Porsche is to use a heavy enough hammer.  A light mallet had no effect on the axle, but a construction hammer’s effect was smooth and incremental. (Similarly, I have found an eight-pound sledge perfect for the disassembly of ball joints and wheel removal.)

The cleaning of the CV joints involved hosing down each in its turn in a stream of varsol over the parts washer.  Not bad at all, though I’ll need to buy more solvent.

Then came the battle-of-the-day with after-market clamps which came for the boots.  The two which fasten the narrow ends to the axle were perilously large for the job, but might work.  The others were too small.  After a long battle I managed to fit the outboard clamp (no other type of clamp will work in this position because of narrow clearances).  The clamp next to the front differential was 1/4″ short, so  after almost two hours of trying, I twisted on a 4″ plumbing clamp.  There’s no shortage of clearance in there.  I read somewhere that the pipe clamp’s a stronger alternative to the ubiquitous zip-tie on DIY boot-repair projects.

The Hint

A hint I read online eventually allowed the breakthrough on the outboard boot:  a contributor recommended drilling a small hole 1/4″ ahead of the other holes on the boot clamp.  He said this allows the use of needle-nose pliers to pull the clamp together enough for it to latch when other attempts are unsuccessful.

Surely enough, with the extra hole I was able to snug up the clamp enough that it would hold its place so that I could use the specialized crimping pliers purchased for the purpose.  I guess it’s hard to visualize the benefit of drilling a hole in a pipe clamp, but smooth pieces of stainless steel offer very little to hang onto, especially when one attempts to install them over a neoprene enclosure bursting with grease.



My day with the quarter-shaft was quite challenging.  What vexes me more than anything is that I spent a day trying to salvage one of the only inexpensive parts on this car:  rebuilt quarter shafts are very cheap on the gray market.  On the other hand, my labour is free.

Monday, 5 December, 2016  5:54 a.m.   

The axle went back into the car yesterday.  Everything went surprisingly well until it came time to torque the six studs to the differential.  I couldn’t keep the axle from turning, so I pressed Bet into service on the brake pedal.  After I wore out both her legs pumping the dead pedal, we concluded that the brakes wouldn’t hold sufficiently for me to put 60 lbs of torque onto the studs, so brake bleeding moved up in the schedule.

Careful not to damage the brake line or electronic feed from the ABS, I had removed and stored the calliper early in the process.  This left the line dripping brake fluid into a tray for two days.  Now I can’t get the brakes to bleed, I assume because there’s an air lock in the system.

Charlie told me at various times he had dealt with dry brake lines on his 968 during an extensive rebuild, and it took a while to get the fluid to flow. His old bleeding pump applied pressure at Ruby’s fluid reservoir*,  but to no effect.  I’m nervous about online reports of broken pump lines spraying paint-destroying brake fluid all over everywhere, so    I’ve been very tentative in my use of this unknown tool.

Ruby’s paint is still almost perfect.

Resetting of the two alignment-critical bolts and torquing of suspension and axle parts remains incomplete.

If anybody has any ideas on reviving brake fluid flow, please chip in.

*Number 1 rule:  Make SURE you’re pouring the brake fluid into the correct reservoir.

3:30 p.m., Monday, 5 December

Brakes now work.  Under a concealment panel I found the actual brake reservoir.  No amount of positive air pressure on the power steering reservoir would bleed the brakes.  So I siphoned  nearly 1/2 litre of Motul DOT 4 brake fluid out of it.  Then I refilled the reservoir with hydraulic oil (like it said on the reservoir, only for the Kubota).  Shall drain and refill the power steering system asap.  The unlabelled plastic tank was nearly empty when I opened it, expecting a brake reservoir, so I looked no further.


Bleeding the brakes was straightforward once I had located the right reservoir and put some brake fluid in it.  To its credit, the car’s sensors quit complaining as soon as the brakes worked.  Ruby didn’t hold my mistake against me.

When I told Bet she asked, “Are you going to tell Charlie?”  

I grinned:  “Sure.”
“He’ll have nightmares!”

Now all I have to do is torque everything.  The brake calipers are already at about 200 lb.  The torque wrench clicked at 140.  Then I added a 2’pipe to an old ratchet and tightened them up one lurch.  The axle nut goes to 340, but I’ll use my tractor wrench with a 4′ cheater pipe and take it easy:  for my rotary mower blades it calls for 540 foot pounds torque.  Immediately after it’s tightened, the nut is too hot to touch.  


I’ll have Bet hold the brake for the six axle screws which torque to 60 pounds.  And so on.  I’ll look up the suspension numbers. Then off for alignment again.  

Ruby’s all together now, though the steering wheel is turned about 10 degrees to the right. Next stop will be at the Hank’s Tires alignment rack.

This Barney and Clyde strip appeared November 29, 2016.  How it caused a few minutes’ anxiety for the service manager of a local Toyota dealership is a tale possibly worth recounting.

Barney and Clyde is one of my favourite Arcamax Publications online offerings.  The strip often sends me to Google to track down obscure facts and theories I wouldn’t otherwise encounter.

In this strip I had a good idea that Samsung owns the notoriety associated with the exploding Galaxy 7 Smartphone, but I had to look up Takata.

The horror story of the 17 year-old girl bleeding to death from a shrapnel cut from a prematurely detonating air bag in a Honda Civic definitely caught my attention.  Of course Google provided many references to track down the car models into which the potentially defective airbags had been installed.

On a US government site I ran through the family fleet.  My models of Porsche, Lexus, and Toyota do not have Takata airbags.  My mother’s 2008 Scion xB, a Florida purchase, was the only one which appeared on the list.  I plugged in the VIN.  Yep, it has the bad airbag.

Toyota/Lexus Canada is very good at maintaining contact with their owners, but this car came from a Florida auction to a local Honda dealer, and then was sold off his used car lot. I would need to register the car in Canada for the recall.

I called Kingston Toyota and spoke to the service manager.  Impressive acceleration there. Over the course of a few halting sentences of dialogue while he no doubt searched his computer, he went from zero knowledge on the subject to enough information to at least sound competent and book the car for a recall a month later.

The only evidence that he was scrambling to get his feet under him was the question:  “How did you hear about this?”

“It was in Barney and Clyde, a comic strip.”

Ten minutes later he called me back.  Toyota has no plans yet for a recall, though that may change in the next few weeks.  I responded that because I was essentially removing the family pool vehicle from service for a month, perhaps I should hold onto the appointment and confirm a day or two in advance of the date.  He agreed that that would be a good strategy.

I asked how big a risk the exploding ignitor on the airbag presents to occupants of the car, and if it would be better simply to disable the device.  He advised against that, but suggested that the car would be fine to drive in the interim as long as no one sits in the passenger seat.  An empty seat disables the airbag.

So I left it.

Then I called my sister who has been using the car to ferry Mom around.  She appeared uncharacteristically calm about my warning.  She also knew  considerably more about the Takata SNAFU than I did.

She owns a Honda Element.  Her recall notification caught up with her last January at her winter residence in Florida.  After many conversations with “a highly intelligent woman at the Honda hot-line over six months,” in early July her relieved Ottawa dealer gained access to an airbag and repaired her Honda Element.  “The problem at that time was that half the airbags in the world needed to be replaced, all at the same time, and all from the same company.  They were in short supply.  Perhaps they have the shortage under control by now, a year later.”  She further told me that she had simply shut off the airbag with the ignition key and gone about her business as usual.  She saw no reason not to do the same with the Scion.

I guess you can get used to anything if you have a bit of time to adjust to it.  That’s pretty much the central thesis of the Barney and Clyde comic strip, come to think of it.



Photographer Maggie Fleming of Newboro reported this morning that the ice is in.

First snow

November 21, 2016

This is admittedly click-bait, but first snow is a fairly big deal up here.  Let’s call it kitchen table journalism.



*To non-Canadian readers I apologize for a column which must look like inside baseball. Rather than load the piece up with parentheses and marginal notes, I’ll leave it to Google to provide explanations on demand.  After considerable thought I hope that I have found a context within which to respond to the recent U.S. election.

It’s a scifi world in politics now, where there is literally no such thing as bad press. The only losing strategy any more seems to be the pursuit of a quiet, principled and dignified campaign. Canada’s Dr. Kellie Leitch has caught onto this meme and decided to get herself some Trump in an effort to avoid irrelevance.

What galls me is the commodification of this package of negative attitudes as a prefabricated political strategy.

The question for Canadians is how can we sanction the McVetys, the Fords and the Leitches without simply inflaming the virus with the heat of publicity, which is all they seek?

The only immediate suggestion would be to lapse into autocracy — what Trudeau bluntly used to prevent the (Sam Oosterhoff-style) packing of nomination meetings in 2015 — but to do that is to allow the virus attacking democracy to advance as well.

So the old debate question emerges again: how can a democracy protect itself against attacks upon truth as the the informed news editor is supplanted by the writer of fake news?