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19 October 2008

October 2008 Photos

Time for some Fall photos...

Freshly detailed with Klasse (All-In-One & Sealer Glaze), Photos taken with a Canon G9, RAW, ISO 80.


11 October 2008

Fumoto Oil Drain Valve

The 2006 A3s like mine came with 45,000 miles of 'free' maintenance, including oil changes. That meant dealer-provided changes at 5k, 15k, 25k, 35k and 45k miles since Audi's maintenance schedule calls for a 10,000-mile oil-change interval (OCI). I wanted to maintain a 5000-mile OCI on my car, so I did the intermediate ones at 10k, 20k, 30k and 40k myself. As of 50,000 miles, I'll be doing them all myself from now on. Oil changes on this engine are a real pain, mostly because of the filter. The drain plug is annoying like all drain plugs are, and there's a very easy way to solve that.

From the very beginning I wanted to do a Fumoto valve but kept putting off ordering one. When I was going to do an oil change on my own I'd think about it, then decide to do it "next time". 10,000 miles later, I'd do the same thing....

Fumoto valves are great. They are well-made out of brass with a ball-valve mechanism, and they lock closed with a spring and a notch in the valve body. If you do your own oil changes I can only think of ONE reason not to use one, and that would be if your drain plug was vertical into the bottom of the oil pan, which would make the Fumoto valve stick down too low under the car. Fortunately, VW/Audi drain plugs are completely horizontal so there are no clearance issues at all.

The Fumoto valves come in two styles - one has a flat end where the oil drains, the other has a nipple where you could optionally stick a hose. I only use the latter style so I can make sure there is NO spillage of oil. Again, since the oil drain location is horizontal, there are no clearance issues with having the slightly longer valve.

If your oil pan has a protrusion (like on the 2.0T engine) or if the drain plug is completely recessed, you'll need to get one of their spacers to make the valve fit. A spacer is definitely needed on the 2.0T.

The valve with the correct threads (14mm - 1.5) and the nipple on the drain end is the F106N:

The adapter that is needed for it to fit is the ADP-106 (same threads as above, it just spaces it out from the oilpan):

The valve and the adapter as shipped, 2 separate pieces with soft crush washers:

A 19mm spanner fits the valve body for installation. Be careful to not overtighten! See the instructions on their website before installing. The spacer needs, I think, a 22mm tool. I forgot to note what size it was, but it's definitely larger than the 19mm that fits the valve:

Here are the valve and spacer assembled. The valve is closed. Note the valve lever is to the side, held into the locking notch by the spring:

To open the valve, you lift the lever out of the notch and rotate it forward:

Installation is trivial - Remove your drain plug to change your oil, let all of the oil drain, wipe the threads on the oil pan clean, and install the spacer & valve as if they were your drain plug. Finger-tighten, then 1/4-turn with the respective tools. You NEVER have to remove it, and it's completely painless to drop and replace the oil.

You can see the protruding part of the oil pan above the drain location that makes the spacer necessary.

Now if someone would just invent an oil-filter relocation kit so we can have the filter easily accessible from the top, instead of having to remove that plastic cover underneath every time....

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10 October 2008

CruiseCam Camera Mount

Earlier this year I got a CruiseCam mount for in-car photos. It works in any car with 2 exposed posts on the headrests (which excludes Volvos, or highback seats like the RX-8).

I had started to make a similar one with some aluminium square tube, but at the point where I tried to find a good, cheap adjustable camera mount for my project I finally admitted that it was actually cheaper & better to just buy the actual CruiseCam. This thing is very well designed and built. It attaches securely, is super easy to install/position/remove, and the camera mounting platform stays adjusted where you want it without vibrating out of place. It includes a safety strap if you feel the need to use it - I didn't, and removed it.

There's a heavy rubber guard that you have to slide out of the way to tighten down your camera, then slide it back into place for vibration dampening. My only complaint is that since the mounting platform is slightly textured metal, it could scratch the underside of my camera if I weren't careful. I solved that problem by putting a strip of masking tape (3M Blue Painter's Tape) on the mount.

On the A3, the front headrests always have a little bit of the posts exposed. In fact, it's just enough that the CruiseCam never touches the upholstery of the headrest at all, nor the seat since the plastic headrest fittings on the seat act as spacers. Absolutely no risk of damage to the car at all.

The slots in the back of the mount allow for whatever spacing your headrest posts have, and allow the mount to positioned side-to-side easily. You can also turn it around so the mount is on the right side of the passenger headrest, slide the seat back (and/or tilt the backrest slightly), open the right rear window, and adjust the mount so the camera is sticking out the side window. I would definitely use the safety strap if I did that! Of course, the mount also fits on the rear seat headrests if you want to mount it there (for example, for rearward-facing photos).

For some examples of it in use, see my first autocross article. All of the in-car shots were from my Canon G9 mounted on the CruiseCam.

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