Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

IconProjects, musings about guitar builds, guitar repairs, vintage tube amplifiers, old radios, travel, home renovation, and other stuff.

SAAB c900 Antenna Repair and Service, Pt. 2

In Part One, we got our broken antenna out of the car.

Now with the antenna removed from the car, we can service it on the bench.

Here it is in all of its glory.

As you'll see, it's pretty straightforward to service.

Just make sure you don't lose any of the internals in the process.

Remove the center nut on the spindle. I believe this is an 8mm, but I could be wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.

There's also a hose on the end you'll need to pop off. I believe this is a drain hose, although it just hangs down in the car's fender - it's not connected on the other end.

There is a wheel on the top where the cable spools up. I took this picture after I removed the wheel - you'll see it in later pictures.

To remove the main gear, remove the c-clip (aka circlip) on the shaft.

The main gear will now slide up off the shaft.

If yours is like mine, you'll see 25 years (or more) worth of old lube on all of the parts.

We'll clean all that up.

On the top right in the picture is the spool I mentioned. And you can see my problem - the cable broke. Pretty typical. It was still wound inside the spool.

Here we have the smaller gears identified. The white cover just comes right off the top of the case.

Note the old lube packed in near the gear shafts. I cleaned all of that out.

This is a shot of some of the old, dirty lube being cleaned out. Sort of disgusting, but I figure if you've gone to the trouble of opening the thing up, you should clean it up and use fresh lube.

Every time I do a job like this, I'm reminded of that quote from my old MG (British Motor Corporation era) service manual: "Dirt and grit are the enemies of mechanical devices."

This is the worm gear that makes the magic happen. It drives the idler gears which in turn drive the main gear, and the spool.

Here are all the parts ready to go back together. Nice and clean.

I sparingly lubricated everything with this silicone lube before I reassembled it. It's a light-bodied lube.

I was going to use lithium grease, but I wasn't sure how the plastic would react to it. Probably fine, but I wasn't sure, so silicone it was.

Most of the parts reinstalled.

This is how the spool goes on the top. There is a small spacer/washer that rides on the top of the shaft.

I found it difficult to put the cover back on with the spool in place - that spacer kept getting knocked off.

So I just held the spool (and spacer) in place and put that and the cover on in one shot.

Put the nut back on the shaft and reattach the hose.

Now back to the car.

Reattach the mounting bracket and connect the antenna and power leads.

Get your new antenna mast ready. I gave the drive a light shot of lube before I put it on.

Thread the toothed drive down into the antenna until you hear it make contact with the gears.

The teeth should face backward, but you'll find when you move to the next step, the drive will align itself.

Don't put the antenna nut on the shaft yet.

You can do the next part yourself, but it's easier with a helper.

Turn the radio on. The drive may move upward a bit.

Then turn the radio off - the drive will get pulled down into the antenna. It doesn't go fast; you're just guiding it at this point. Much easier to do than describe. You will be amazed at how easy this part is.

You'll probably need to turn the radio on and off one or two more times before the whole cable is pulled down and the mast fully retracts.

This was my antenna after the first on-off cycle. Not fully down yet, but aligned and almost there.

And here it is, fully retracted. I suggest testing it once or twice at this point to ensure it works properly.

Now we can put the trim piece back on and tighten the 17mm nut.

I cleaned up my trim piece before reinstalling it. Looks pretty good now.

Put your spare tire back in the trunk, put the carpet back in, and you're done!


SAAB c900 Antenna Repair and Service, Pt. 1

Here's something that's probably familiar to most SAAB c900 owners.

Your radio is off, your car is off, yet your power antenna is still up! You can hear the motor churning away as it normally does, but the antenna doesn't retract (or raise). Mine wasn't retracting.

This is a pretty common issue and it's easy to remedy, fortunately. This is the first time Greeny's antenna has stopped working. Grey Girl (see her down the hill) is on her third antenna I believe.

So let's fix it.

There are three possibilities with regards to the issue. First, the motor may not be working. I think this is relatively rare, but it's possible. You would know that right away - you won't hear the familiar whir of the motor when you turn the radio on or off.

Second, the plastic mast toothed gear drive could have stripped teeth. In that case, you will be able to inspect it when you remove the mast. And you can compare its length to a new mast to determine that it's not broken. If the drive is indeed stripped, you can replace the mast without removing the motor assembly.

The third reason for the antenna failing is that the toothed gear drive is broken. If that's the case, you'll need to remove the motor assembly.

For either of the last 2 problems, you'll need a new antenna mast - eEuroparts offers the cheaper clones and the genuine SAAB part. I sprung for the latter.

First thing to do is remove the 17mm nut that holds the mast in place.

Now the mast and the toothed gear track will come up out of the antenna body.

My gear track looks suspiciously short.

Not to panic. I'll need to remove the motor and take a closer look.

If you are working on a convertible, you'll need to remove the spare tire to get at the antenna.

Remove the 19mm bolt holding the wheel to the bracket on the car.

I'm glad I did this actually. Turns out my original temporary spare tire is shot. You can see the tread is separating from the carcass! I need a new one.

Or I can just hope I never get a flat.

Then we undo the 3 trim screws holding the carpet on the left side of the trunk in place.

You can see a bit of the trunk spring on the upper left in the picture. The carpet goes up under the spring - when you put it back you'll need to slide it up under there.

With the carpet pulled away, you'll be able to see the antenna and its bracket.

Undo the antenna lead connector.

And separate the power connector. You'll also see that the connector hangs on the clip just above it in the picture. Be sure to clip it back in place when you reassemble it, otherwise the connector might rattle around and make you crazy!

Remove the 2 T-20 Torx bolts holding the antenna bracket to the car.

The whole antenna assembly will now drop down and you can remove it.

In the next installment, we'll get it on the bench and take it apart.


Eastwood 'Ricky' Electric Mandolin Setup

I've been curious about the super cool Rickenbacker 5002V58 electric mandolin for quite some time. I'm not really a mandolin player, so I can't really justify the price of one. But that sort-of changed a few months ago when the Eastwood Custom Shop put its tribute model out for funding. The way it works is Eastwood offers an instrument, and if enough folks make a deposit, it goes into production. So I plunked down my deposit and held my breath.

It was delivered last week and I'm ticked to have it. I had been curious about Eastwood guitars for a while, and I agree with the consensus that they offer a lot of bang for the buck. And they're super cool and funky to boot.

Maybe it will motivate me to become a mandolin player!

As is the case with new instruments, it needed some minor adjustments to make it play really well. It was ok out of the box, but the action was a bit high, and there was a bit too much neck relief. Plus I needed to peel off the protective plastic on the pickguard and truss rod cover.

You can see the body shape bears a striking resemblance to the famous mando made in Santa Ana. One pickup, one volume and one tone control.

Note the aforementioned plastic on the pickguard.

I took the truss rod cover off to remove the plastic and to adjust the neck relief.

A 4mm allen wrench fits the rod.

The cavity is really short, and my wrench just cleared it.

I tend to like my necks adjusted with as little relief as possible. I set the neck to have about .003 inches of relief at the 7th fret.

You can see the straightedge I used, along with my feeler gauges. I would normally be holding the gauge rather than let it hang! But I needed one free hand for the camera. so there you have it.

At least you can see the method of measuring relief.

The string height at the nut was just a tad high, so I deepened the fret slots a bit. The nut is plastic, and really soft, so I did just 2 or 3 strokes with the nut files.

I find having the strings as low as possible at the nut - as low as possible to just clear the first fret without buzzing - makes a huge improvement in playability. A few thousandths of an inch makes a big difference.

I also like to knock the sharp corners off the nut. This makes it more comfortable when playing chords where part of your hand is actually over the nut - the nut won't dig into your hand.

Also lowered the string height substantially. It was about 6 or 7/64 of an inch on the bass side at the neck/body joint. It's now down to a touch under 4/64 on the bass side, and about 3/64 on the treble side. Plays super fast now with no buzzing at all.

Then I checked/set the intonation with my trusty Peterson Strobo Flip strobe tuner. (Not sure why it's reading "B" there - that low string pair is tuned to G, as any mando player knows :-) ).

And after all of the adjustments, we can take the plastic off the pickguard. Note that I took the knobs off - they just pull up off the shafts.

Here's the little mando ready to go.

It's super fun to play. The pickup is pretty hot, and it's really BRIGHT through an amp - have to roll off a lot of treble. I haven't touched the pickup adjustment just yet - I may be able to finesse the electric tone some.

It's nicely made, and it plays very easily and fast.

Here's the neck/body joint - nicely finished.

Strap button on the top bout.

It's just so adorable!

The business end. The body shape is really cool.

Vintage-style tuners are a nice touch.

The mandolin is now in regular production, and you can get one here.


CJ Guitar Tooling Bridge on Danelectro DC-2

You may recall that I put a fabulous CJ Guitar Tooling bridge on the Cancer Killer guitar I put together for my friend (and cancer survivor!).

And then I did some crazy mods to my own Danelectro DC-2. At the time I worked on mine, production of the CJ bridges was in a hiatus, so I settled for a stock 6-saddle bridge. Now CJ is back making bridges and I procured one! Which is a great thing, because I couldn't stand the Danelectro bridge. Too cheaply made, flexes under string tension, too hard to intonate, hard to adjust for string height, just bad.

But I'm going to fix that with my new CJ bridge.

Here's the last time you'll see that awful Danelectro bridge on my guitar.

Good riddance, I say.

You'll notice I went with brass saddles on the bridge - you can get those, or cold-rolled steel, or even rosewood when you order one.

The bridge plate now has five mounting screw holes instead of the stock three. Which means I'll be drilling two new mounting holes in the guitar.

Here I am drilling one of the new holes. You may notice that the hole I'm drilling is a bit large (bit? haha) for a simple wood screw you'd normally use on a Dano bridge.

That's because, in a fit of inspiration lunacy, I decided to use threaded inserts to mount the new bridge.

I figured it might give some added sustain.  And it definitely will be a very solid mount.

If you look closely at the hole in the center of the picture on the left, you may notice that you can see right through it to the inside of the control cavity.

That's because the hole is at the edge of the guitar's center block, and there's nothing there to drive a screw or an insert into.

(Note the test fit of an insert on the left).

What to do?

Easy fix. I glued two dowels into the new holes that I'll drive the inserts into.

Here I'm cutting the dowels flush with the top of the guitar.

One of the inserts was tending to rotate instead of staying put when driving a screw into it, so I used JB Weld epoxy on all of the insert external threads to ensure they'd be solid.

On our way to a super-solid mounting for the bridge plate. I'm using stainless steel screws to tighten it down.

The plate is thicker and much more solid than the Danelectro plate - huge improvement.

Plus it looks a whole lot better.

With the plate installed, we can now put the saddles on. The mounting is a variation on the classic Telecaster screw-and-spring arrangement.

The saddles are angled for improved intonation. And they come with a set of longer and shorter height screws so you can use whatever works best (I used the shorter screws).

CJ sells Telecaster bridges too.

I put the saddles up fairly high so I can just adjust them down when I do the final setup.

And here it is after setup. Looks great and sounds terrific. The intonation is on the money.

I had shimmed the neck on this guitar for the old Danelectro bridge, and I wound up making a new shim since this bridge plate is thicker and I needed more height. My new shim is about 0.70 inches at the body end - the old one was about 0.40.

Here it is from another angle. The bridge is a no-brainer and a steal for the money. You can get one here.