New muffler for the 1998 Honda Civic EX

It has been sometime since my last post.  Its not that I have become bored of my blog, I actually started a full time contract that is more than full time.  Actually working 60 hours a week has cut into my hobbies, thankfully it is almost over and things should return to normal in another month or so.

Meanwhile the commuter car, the “mighty civic” had a muffler problem.  What started slowly as a slightly loud exhaust eventually turned into something that sounded like a bad lawn mower without a muffler.  I could hear it over the radio in the car.  One day I look under to see the muffler complete separated from pipe coming form the cat and hanging only by the rubber mounts.

What is one to do? Buy a new one and install it yourself of take it to a shop?  I went with the former. to the rescue, never thought I’d order from amazon but the parts were cheap and an exact fit.  The local places wanted to sell me multiple parts and pieces.  I didn’t want Honda dealer prices, its a muffler, how hard can it be to make.


The new muffler unwrapped from the bubble wrap.  I transferred the rubber mounts over. Come complete with heat shield.

I ordered a bolt and spring set as well.  When I removed the bolts I broke them both thinking, no bid deal the nuts will fall to the ground.  Nope, that didn’t happen.  Turns out they were welded to the cat pipe.

Plan B, remove whats left of the old bolts with vise grips from the back of the cat pipe flange.  This worked after a bit of penetrating oil.


The new versus the old.  Notice the springs are flat on the old.  This give that much needed little bit more room to install the bolts.  I used the old springs with the new bolts and all was good.


Ready with the new crush flange thing, order this separate along with the bolts.

Install was easy once I went with the original springs.  Maybe a c clamp would have helped but I was working on the street with one wheel up on the sidewalk and the wheels chocked.


All nicely connected.  Much quieter!!


Looks good.

New Headlights on the 2005 Jeep Wrangle LJ from Daniel Stern Lighting

Everyone who has driven a Jeep Wrangler TJ or LJ knows the headlights are terrible.  Having grown tired of not being able to see in the mountains or in town for that matter I decided to look into upgrading the stock headlights.  Turns out there is very little good information out there on how to properly upgrade your jeep headlights.  By properly I mean how to best light the road with minimal emptying  of the wallet and doing it safely.

Truck lites were an option, though I was told they don’t melt the snow and ice very well (a problem they are working on I have read) also I could not find much DOT info on them.    Well snow and ice melting is a top requirement as it snows in the mountains, truck lites were out.

There was a replacement sealed bulb out there that looked to be ok and around 150 I think a pair.  Not a bad solution but it seemed an incremental upgrade.

Most of the other crap by the online 4 wheel drive stores had me questioning the performance and safety.

Surfing one evening I came across a headlight thread that said to check out Daniel Stern.  Who is Daniel Stern?  He is apparently a automotive lighting consultant.  This sounds promising, someone who might actually know something about headlights other than “they look bright” or “I ordered from  so and so .com and bolted them on”.  After a few email exchanges we came up with a solution for my lights.

  • Cibie H4 units
  • Some bulbs to go with the lights
  • Relay kit to rewire for  the new lights

First off he has some great links that show the differences between different headlights and how the beam is directed at the road.  The light is only useful if it is on the road in front of you.  Stock lights , very little light makes it to the road and not enough to see like a newer car headlights can.  The light patttern for the Cibies was wider than the Hellas I was looking at.  Is this important, yes. More light on the road and not in oncoming drivers eyes is a primary headlight requirement.

Relay kit?  Why do I need a relay kit you say?  A new wiring setup to your headlights , even your stock headlights is beneficial.  The stock wiring is too small of a wire gauge and can’t handle the power requirements of the new headlights. There is a voltage drop and even the stock headlights do not get full power given the small gauge stock wiring.  The thicker gauge wire on the new setup eliminates the voltage drop and supports the higher amp draw of new headlights.  Now there is a perfectly good detailed writeup at Moab Jeeper on this very topic in detail with many pictures, so I will not add much more here.

Tools Needed:

  • Safety Glasses
  • Torx T15 for removing headlights and headlight bezel
  • Wire Cutters
  • Wire Strippers
  • Solder gun ( a high amp version as you are soldering 12 gauge stranded wire which sucks up a lot of heat)
  • Solder
  • Heat Shrink
  • Drill
  • Self tapping screws to attach relay boxes
  • zip ties

The kit does not come with wire.  It does come with relays, relay blocks, all the appropriate pins, fuses, plugs, and crimp connectors one needs for the installation. Could you get all this yourself?  Of course you can buy it all yourself, but probably not for less than Daniel’s price plus time lost searching down all the parts and pieces plus shipping. Daniel provides it all  in one shot and that time savings is worth it to me.


Now for wire I actually ordered the 12 gauge stranded from AutoZone in red and black 100 ft rolls each since I am most likely rewiring 3 jeeps.  I picked up the plastic wire wrap (1/2 and 3/8) for a few bucks to protect the cable at our local McGuckin Hardware. The 18 gauge for the relay connections I purchased at Home Depot.


Now the setup at Moab Jeeper is great and I followed it as my guide except I used the provided spring connectors for the headlights.  The springs are quite strong on the headlight connector and I have no concerns that they will fail.  So omitting the solder connections for the headlights,  my install was the close to the same. The spring connecter is below:


I chose to use the spot just above and to the right of the passenger side headlight to mount the relays. This gave plenty of room to remove the headlight connector without any issues. Beware the wires you are running are hot all the time to the relays from the battery.  With this in mind, wrap them with a plastic protective shield and be careful of the routing.  My fuses are near the battery so if they shorted it would not cause a huge problem except for lack of headlights.  I carry spare fuses in my glovebox in case they ever fail.  The relay on the left is for Low Beams, the relay on the right for High Beams.  It looks to be the same relay as the lockers in the relay box so if one ever failed I could swap in an emergency.


I chose to have the fuses near the battery so I spliced, soldered, and heat shrinked the fuse connectors to the ends of my cables at the battery.  I did use the crimp on connectors for the battery but then thinking these are for headlights, I’d hate for them to fail in the dark in the middle of the mountains.  I then soldered the crimp connectors after I crimped them for solid contact. The fuses you can see next to the battery handle on the left in the picture below.  Since I removed the battery connectors to do this installation it was also a good time to clean up any corrosion from the terminals and battery.



The protected cable comes in on the left side of the hood by the relay/fuse box.


The instructions for connecting the relays are on the Moab Jeeper link and cover it well.  The relay control though comes from your existing headlights.  Daniel includes a connector for this  in the kit.  This is step 19 on Moab Jeeper where they diverted and just solder tabs to the end to place into the headlight plug.  Soldered tabs or connector, I don’t see much  plus or minus to the build,  to each their own, both look to be solid.

Looking at the back of  the new connector one just needs to solder the left wire for highs,  the right wire set is for grounds to both relays, the top is for lows.  Connecting the relay ends to the signal and ground for the new relays as shown in the article.

All done and I tested the lights hooking up only the passenger side first.  The light was significantly better with just the wiring upgrade only.

The Cibie headlight swap was easy, remove the screws, pull the connector, reverse.

Aiming was pretty straight forward from Daniels site with a few caveats:

  • Requires a T15 Torx screwdriver
  • Requires a 25′ Measuring tape
  • Headlights are 32″ center to center on the LJ/TJ.
  • Use blue painters tape, easy to see at night and easy to remove
  • Best to aim with the bezel still off if you can
  • Level ground is critical for 25′  from jeep to wall/object you are aiming to
  • Careful adjusting the headlights as the unit is plastic!  There are three adjusting screws though the service manual says there are 3.
    • Driver side, top right, bottom right and bottom left
    • Passenger side, top left,  bottom left, bottom right
  • Beware the plastic housing for aiming is very fragile!  If you don’t adjust the third screw along with them you can over stress the plastic housing and break it.  These are about 12o bucks new, an expensive mistake.  I picked up a new on for my TJ that I was adjusting due to new tires for 86 plus shipping from  Note they are a different part number for each side of the vehicle.
  • There is a noticeable horizontal cutoff, way cool actually versus non focused stock lights.

Pictures don’t do justice as cameras and adjustments in lighting on laptops, etc vary.  All I can say is I am very happy with the setup.  Almost as much as the truck lites but I do not know the performance and safety of them and there is that ice melting issue.   I think the rewire would benefit any of the solutions one would go with.  Now to rewiring the TJ and maybe a JK.


So please check out Daniel Sterns’ Lighting site, he has responded by email and answered all my questions.

Also check out Moab Jeeper for the rewire.

Fixing auto upholstery in a 1998 Honda Civic EX

The mighty civic has been through a lot. Its been backed into three times just on the drivers side. It was hit twice on the passenger side. Still the might civic plods on! 36-42 mpg with its mighty v-tec and 5 speed manual. Yes it is a clown car for me as I am almost 6′ 3″ but it is a blast to drive.

So onto the upholstery. The front driver seat was torn between the side panel and the main seat panel. Well since I have that handy dandy Kingmax industrial sewing machine I might as well put it to use.

First, I gathered materials. Colorado Auto Trim and Supply in Denver has bought the end runs from all the manufacturers. Though this is a 1998 there was none left but being they had hundreds of samples we found a great match.WP_20130703_001

Now I remove the front seat, very easy to do in the civic. I remove the hog rings with a pair of pliers. Now make sure you have a pair of hog ring pliers if you ever work on older car seats , to put them back together or you will be making it a lot harder than it is. I was able to get the seat cover off without taking the seat apart. Note, this would be a great time to put in heated seats had I been thinking ahead. You see that little ring of metal in the middle of the picture.  That is a hog ring.  The pliers wrap that sucker in a circle around the embedded wire in the seat cushion/base.  Without these your seat will not be snug and will look like crap.  Don’t even try channel locks, order a pair of hog ring pliers from amazon if need be.  McGuckin Hardware had them in stock in Boulder.


When it is apart the seat looks like this:


I take the panel apart with a knife which I found to be easier than the seam ripper I tried and broke on the seam.

WP_20130703_009  WP_20130703_006

The seat was pretty worn out as it was the driver seat on 167K mile civic so I also decided to change the side panel as you can see its almost disintegrated on the back side of the panel.  You’ll notice some plastic supports to be sewn back in, this is not problem for the Kingmax but it is for a home machine.


I used the old panels as a template and sewed it up on the Kingmax with 69 bonded nylon. It didn’t take that long. A few seams, making sure to sew over the junctions and get it all back looking like a cover.


Time to stretch the cover back over the seat and re- hog ring it.  Then I installed the seat back in the car. Still working great to this day. Notice that fine toolset in the photo, on loan from Kristen.


Next up as we are doing well so why stop with the seat!  Onto the armrest.  It is toast, worn to the threads.


This is easy, no sewing machine involved.  Just 3M spray adhesive  77 and some fabric.  First we remove the covering.


That was quick, pulled right off.

Spray the fabric and spray the armrest, let dry. I use a mask and do this outside, I also use safety goggles no need to have a errant spray in the eyes.  Gloves are good as well as this stuff doesn’t like to come off.

Wrap that fabric slowly as this is contact cement and it holds well.  So work it from the middle out and we get the final product.



Screw back the various hinges and hardware and we are done.


This was early July 2013.