Completely mandatory Eagle accessories

March 17, 2017

This one is just me showing off.  All my life my dad has had a brass embellished american flag and eagle licence plate frame in the basement on a workbench.  Last year he picked up some model paints and touched it up, then surprised me by installing it on my 1957 Chevy 210 for me when I got home from work. I really like it and decided that I would like another one for my new AMC eagle.  It turns out that it’s made by a company called Baron LFI and originally came with a keychain, moneyclip, and pin.  He found me a new one on Amazon, but it just looks too shiny, almost cheap in the pictures.  Maybe I’ve been conditioned to think that new products are photographed like that and my experience has shown me most new products are crap.  I really gravitate toward the items on ebay that have one photograph taken of them that shows how they really look (I try not to buy things with stock photos).  I found one on ebay proclaiming to be from 1985 and compared them.  The older one has different slots at the top to bolt the plate to, that sealed it, I bought the old one.  I didn’t care about the slots  specifically, but that told me it wasn’t the same mold and therefore could be worse in ways I couldn’t see.  I think it looks pretty good and installing it reminded me I need to sandblast and paint that spring-loaded frame.

Lookin’ good.

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

Eco Plug (ESP8266) hack, finally!

March 16, 2017

This has been a very long time coming. I first heard about these outlets more than a year ago via reddit and was intrigued.  This is a very convenient form factor for an ESP, a power supply for it, and a relay to control something via mains.  This was before the prevelance of the sonoff (wiki) or electrodragon (wiki) modules that are now so cheap and with some digging I found out that these ‘generic’ modules that were being carried by Home Depot, Walmart, or wherever you don’t expect to buy ESP modules had power monitoring in them.  The actual manufacturer of these parts is KAB Enterprise Co., Ltd and through their website you can see all the different modules they make and some names that will help you google for sellers of them (even a wifi in-wall switch).  All of the wifi devices are basically an ESP with some other circuitry that you may have to reverse engineer or bypass (like I did).  You can find these at Walmart (or probably just their online store).  There are some deal sites that have found these for very cheap prices but even then you may want to just buy the sonoff POW to be sure you have power monitoring with no major modifications.

Chip to be bypassed still present, module removed

module back side (I toasted it)

Reset switch unpopulated (I added one and drilled a hole) and chip to be bypassed remoced

As the KAB website shows there is a difference between the CT-065W and the CT-065W (Advanced) in that only the advanced one has power monitoring capability.  This is apparent if you look at the other reddit thread and have people with modules that have additional components on them.  It was discovered that the power monitoring IC is the hlw8012 that was not terribly well known (to me) until the POW came out.  The extra hoop the CT-065W (Advanced) modules have is that they have an extra chip in there, labeled on the underside (discovered by the person who always saves my ass), called the 1588NAZ04 and there has been some efforts to reverse engineer it in the comments section here.  I took the pinout from here and tweaked it for how I modified my plugs, it is the same pin numbering as here.

2 Power 3v3
3 CHIP_EN reset sw
4 XPD_DCDC / GPIO16 PF HLW8012 CF power
5 MTMS / GPIO14 VS GPIO05 HLW8012 Sel output
6 MTD1 / GPIO12 VC HLW8012 CF1 voltage / current
7 MTCK / GPIO13 power sw
8 MTD0 / GPIO15 Y to main board , D8 (power)
9 GPIO2 D3 (wifi)

10 GPIO0
11 GPIO4
13 U0RXD
14 U0TXD
15 RST
16 GND
17 TOUT / No Connection?
18 GND

I decided that for my modules I was going to just outright remove the chip and use some of the many extra pins on the ESP module to talk to it (indicated in red above), this basically converts it into a POW with a different mapping.  My main motivation is because I have come to really like this firmware, partially because other people already use it and it’s very easy to configure.  With my use of these modules for OpenHAB I really needed these modules to be stable and flexible.  There are other firmwares that people have used on this device (or family of devices, really) but I have my favorite.

Flashing harness, I had to add an esp-12 because I toasted the original, this is not an upgrade, just a repair by me (look closely and you can see that I wired to the pads of the chip I removed)

For flashing these modules I used this other firmware‘s tutorial which worked flawlessly.  The modifications I made to the firmware to add my own hacked outlet module definition was quite easy, it just involved extending a couple tables in the sonoff_template.h file and giving my variant a list of pins and their uses.  I have included that section here:


// Supported hardware modules
enum module_t {


#define MAX_GPIO_PIN 17 // Number of supported GPIO

typedef struct MYIO {
uint8_t io[MAX_GPIO_PIN];
} myio;

typedef struct MYTMPLT {
char name[16];
myio gp;
} mytmplt;

// Default module settings
const mytmplt modules[MAXMODULE] PROGMEM = {
{ “Custom Outlet”, // modified eco outlet (ESP8266)
GPIO_USER, // GPIO00 Optional sensor
GPIO_USER, // GPIO01 Serial RXD and Optional sensor
GPIO_LED1_INV, // GPIO02 Blue Led (0 = On, 1 = Off)
GPIO_USER, // GPIO03 Serial TXD and Optional sensor
GPIO_USER, // GPIO04 Optional sensor
GPIO_USER, // GPIO05 Optional sensor
0, // GPIO06 (SD_CLK Flash)
0, // GPIO07 (SD_DATA0 Flash QIO/DIO/DOUT)
0, // GPIO08 (SD_DATA1 Flash QIO/DIO)
0, // GPIO09 (SD_DATA2 Flash QIO)
0, // GPIO10 (SD_DATA3 Flash QIO)
0, // GPIO11 (SD_CMD Flash)
GPIO_HLW_CF1, // GPIO12 HLW8012 CF1 voltage / current
GPIO_KEY1, // GPIO13 Button
GPIO_HLW_SEL, // GPIO14 HLW8012 Sel output
GPIO_REL1, // GPIO15 Red Led and Relay (0 = Off, 1 = On)
GPIO_HLW_CF, // GPIO16 HLW8012 CF power
{ “Sonoff Basic”, // Sonoff Basic (ESP8266)
GPIO_KEY1, // GPIO00 Button
GPIO_USER, // GPIO01 Serial RXD and Optional sensor
0, // GPIO02
GPIO_USER, // GPIO03 Serial TXD and Optional sensor
GPIO_USER, // GPIO04 Optional sensor
0, // GPIO05

For right now that’s it.  The configuration for this firmware is deep and takes some looking but I feel like I could implement any sensor I want in their framework with a small effort.

The rest of this series can be gotten through from the home page here.





Visibility regained

February 27, 2017

So, in the past I’ve been a proponent of “nope, I’m grandfathered in” as a response to why my car or my house have certain features.  The car I most recently adopted has a third brake light (or center brake light, or as a big faceless company calls it: the CHMSL, center high mounted stop lamp) that was added by a previous owner, and I kinda like it.  I’ve talked with people and even though it doesn’t legally need to have it I would feel more comfortable having one (most of them don’t know that older cars didn’t have one).  That being said the one I have right now obscures my visibility in a major way.

just hanging out there

This appears to be a standard aftermarket third brake light that would have been available for purchase to retrofit on your own car (maybe from some place like JC Whitney).  The color does not quite match the rest of the car but it’s perfectly acceptable.

actually mounted fairly well

I’m freeeee!

Even if I was ok with the location the part has seriously started to degrade.  The red plastic lens is slightly warped and the white plastic is absolutely crumbling.

dissected, that white plastic is the same crumbly crap the caps I replaced were made of

My fix is to use a 12v strip of red LEDs and a piece of aluminum c-channel to mount the LEDs pointing in the right direction and make it at least a bit directional.  I chose to mount this on the gate itself because that had a surface that could be easily mounted to.  My weapon of choice for this has been VHB tape because I hesitate to drill a bunch of holes into this car just yet.

replacement plan

I mounted the light to the gate and adhered it with zip ties, tape, and crimp connections.  This is entirely modular and does not require hauling the soldering iron out to the car to make part changes (boy do I have stories about doing that in the past).

VHB, for when you don’t want to break out the drill

I had a look side-by-side and they each put out about the same lumens but the original lamp is probably better lensed.  This light is not very visible in the day time, but it is perfectly acceptable at night.

I swear it looks plenty good at night, and even visible in the day too

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

I need my power back

February 27, 2017

Well, in a previous mod I removed the cigarette lighter and replaced it with a much more useful dual-USB port and voltmeter device.  I still maintain that this is a better use of center console space than the cigarette lighter, but now I really am lacking 12V stuff in the passenger compartment.  So much stuff you can buy at truck stops or gas stations plug into a cigarette lighter that it would be a major handicap not having one.  That being said I still don’t like that standard for connector so I picked a different one.  I particularly like the Anderson Powerpole connector standard(s).  They’re modular, expandable, and high-current.  I have a buddy that has done this, so I’m blatantly copying him because it has been really useful to have an inverter, ham radio, or whatever connected to it.  He saw me doing this and jokingly asked “Exactly how I did it? with no fuse?” and to be honest that’s what I was planning, but, well, the fuse holder isn’t that bad to install.

un-switched, straight from the battery (although I put a fuse)

I used the aftermarket gauge wiring to pull the power wire into the engine compartment.  The path to the battery was along the harness but I didn’t put an extraordinary effort to make the wire neat because it was cold out.

The routing’s kinda… obvious

In the passenger compartment I ran the wire behind the center console over the transmission hump and up under the radio.  This shelf is actually pretty perfect to have it resting on and the cigarette lighter adapter I made is in the glove compartment now (for compatibility reasons).

Anderson powerpole connector and cigarette lighter adapter

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

End caps for the wagon luggage cover

February 27, 2017

I was lucky enough to get a functioning and color correct luggage cover with my wagon.  I did notice, however, that the plastic caps on the ends of the bar that you pull were crumbling into dust.

old and busted

I suspect this has to do with a combination of UV and heat damage over 33 years.  I figured that the quickest way to replace them would be with heatshrink so I ended up putting four layers of the same size on the metal bar and I think it works well.  There’s a cushion so as not to scratch the plastic when extended and it looks better than a bare metal bar.  Another quick fix.

new hotness (I apologize for the quality)

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

Keys aplenty

February 27, 2017

I am coming to terms with the fact that I got three keys with this car.  I don’t like it, but there’s not a ton I can do about it right now.  I have one key for the ignition, one key for the doors and hatch, and one key for the locking gas cap (aftermarket, I think).  I plan to remove that, but for now it remains.  I found out that this car also has a lock on the ‘super secret compartment’ below the load floor that holds the jack and spare tire.  This lock is a regular cam lock but it fits my doors and hatch key.  It’s a shame that before I bought the car someone broke the casting on the lock.  If I’m honest I don’t even lock the car let alone the glove box or other interior parts.

Broken lock (my spare gas cap key can be seen above it, the original is round and says ‘gas’)

I removed the broken lock and don’t have any plans to replace it.  If I do it would be nice if it were also an old GM lock cylinder that I could get keyed to my car (I don’t want yet a fourth key!).  When I found out I had GM locks and ignition cylinders I was happy that I would be able to get a key cut locally (not another instance of ‘oh, we don’t carry AMC anymore’) but after I did there was a slight dilema.  The spare keys I got were both rectangular which made figuring out which was for the ignition and which was for the door a bit of trial and error.  The other problem is they didn’t say AMC.

blank, original, AMC copy, generic copy

I rather like my keys that show off the car brand so I took a peek on ebay and got four blanks (two round, two square) for just a hair over $11.  I then got one set cut for $2 a cut at the local hardware store and that was that.  I have retained a blank of each because I’m hoping to be able to find a locksmith to make me two new keys from scratch, without copying the old ones, just measuring them and cutting the new ones to the original specification.  This may sound un-necessary but the keys I have are a bit worn and I’d like a gold standard original.  In the mean time I will hold on to the blanks, and have given the generics to my dad for offsite backup.

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

When it rains, it pours (inside)

February 27, 2017

One of the last things I noticed on my initial trip home was that I had a small leak at the top of the A-pillar trim.  I noticed this because I had a drip onto my left leg (interesting how much this car tapers up as a trapezoid).  I took the trim off one night and had a loot around the windshield to find the potential culprit.

drip, drip

What I found was consistent spots with surface rust around the lip where the body meets the windshield sealant.  The spots themselves weren’t rust, but they were carried by the water and deposited on the surface for me to see.  I’m not sure if this is the original windshield and the original sealant but some of it has become hard and de-laminated from the body.  I know some was added because it’s not done very well and it covers the windshield clips gluing them to the car.


looks like the original stuff is still in there and some additional goop

I took off the stainless trim to clean out the old dirt, leaves, and shitty sealant before adding some of my own on top.  One day I’m sure I will break the windshield and then I’ll make sure it’s cleaned out well before applying the new sealant, but for now I’m just going to be adding my own.

WEAR GLOVES! (I didn’t)

The stuff I got is mean, it’s sticky as hell and even claims to be able to be applied in the wet.  I think I bought two tubes and ended up using half of one (better to not have to go back out) but it was worth it.  I was a little hesitant at re-installing all the windshield clips that were broken but they weren’t that broken and I ordered some new ones from ebay so when they come in I’ll reinstall the trim with those.

my new layer

Lucky for me about two hours after I get it all back together the sky absolutely erupts in a severe thunderstorm as the perfect way to check my work.  Not. A. Drop. I put the trim back and all is well now with the windshield.  Another little quirk fixed.

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

Begone old broken fog lights

February 20, 2017


This car came with very little aftermarket stuff, the most apparent are the fog lights.  There are two things I don’t like about them: the position, and the functionality.  I think they should be lower, like right below the bumper.  It would also be nice if they worked.  Putting them below the bumper would hang these particular lights a little low, however, losing me that valuable ground clearance I crave.  To get these off I had to remove the grill:

Seven screws to remove the grill (center bottom is longest and top two are flanged)

You will see on my fender there is some window screen material, I really like this as it keeps the radiator from getting clogged with leaves and crap.  The wires for the lights were run around an existing wiring harness and I had to remove the grill to get them unplugged.  Now we can have a look at the bulbs:


Rust inside the reflector

Holy shit, rust flakes galore

So, those are going away.  I could theoretically sandblast and paint them, but why? I don’t really like them very much.  These brackets, however…

really god damn sturdy brackets

I feel like I can re-use these for my under-bumper fog light.  This is the sort of custom work I like to see on a vehicle.  Now I have a cable coming out near the radiator that is controlled by a switch in the dash.  That is perfect for my new fog light.

Double bullet connector

Switch, actually works

That’s that! or so I thought.  While re-assembling the grill I broke off a bit.  I decided that since I didn’t have JB weld that some VHB and a chunk of aluminum angle would hold that tight enough.



There, that ends my removal of the old, broken, and very rusty fog lights.  The new one is planned to be a yellow LED strip on a bracket along the bottom of the bumper.

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

Who the hell smokes these days?

February 20, 2017

I have a cigarette lighter in my new car, but I don’t smoke.  I know, that has become the standard 12v connector in cars these days, but I’m not a big fan.  I could plug in a dual-USB charger but then I have to worry about it falling out and I’d rather have something more permanent in my car.  I decided to replace the cigarette lighter socket with a dual-USB charger and voltmeter from Amazon.

Screws (or nuts) to be removed are indicated here

Disassembly was not hard once you knew where to look, everything was phillips screws and isn’t it wonderful to not have little metal tabs to break, or plastic plugs to have to dig out?.  The “gotcha” with this removal is that the radio dials are screwed to the front panel and have to be removed.

The radio knobs have inner and outer threaded nipples on them, it’s really strange, as if the radio was designed with slimmer shafts and then they threaded thicker ones on it (left without nipple, right has it on)

I had a look at the cigarette lighter socket and it’s beautiful.  Not a scratch, no corrosion, pristine condition.  I don’t know if this is new or original, but I couldn’t throw it out.  It’s in a bin of 12v parts now.

Like new

With that out I had to make the whole a bit bigger.  This would have been a job for a step drill but I didn’t have one big enough.  I used a dremel and grinding wheel to very carefully open up the circle.  The wires going to the lighter socket were very small so I made an extension harness (it needed to adapt from the bullet (screw!) on the old positive terminal to the spade anyway).

Little jumper that makes pulling the control panel easier in the future (I may put a switch in this in the future, it’s on accessory power right now)

This is the part where I get to say “assembly is the reverse of removal” and be done with it.  I’m not sure this is of the highest quality, and it may not charge my phones as fast as I would like but I’ll see how well it does.  If there’s an issue there are many options to choose from, but I will have to sacrifice the volt meter and get another one somewhere else.

Installed and working

There you go, my first upgrade to this wonderful new car! Stay tuned for more fixes and tweaks coming up.

The home page for this project is here, it has a link to the album of pictures.

My new car!

February 20, 2017

New Car!

I bought a new car.  This car has (or can have) just about everything I want in a vehicle.  After working in the automotive industry since I got out of college I have become intimately familiar with the inner-workings of modern (and as of yet unreleased) vehicles.  I can personally attest to not liking them at all.  I like the cooled seats and heated steering wheel in the current production cars I have driven, and have never had them on a vehicle I owned.  I may be able to aftermarket them in, but I haven’t tried yet.  The things I like that I have had in my vehicles are: compass, bluetooth and aux input stereo, voltage meter, MPG meter, trip meter, I’m sure I’m forgetting things here but you get used to conveniences like that.  The things I want in a vehicle are very specific: 4wd, hitch, small (smaller than my 2000 explorer), very small A-pillars, and an always-on cigarette lighter.  The A-pillars in some modern cars are nearly a foot wide these days! They hold so many air bags… that wouldn’t need to deploy if I could see the road they’re blocking.  When my phone is dead and I go in to the store I should be able to come back and it has been charging (yes, I know it could drain my battery, but it’s my car so fuck you I do what I want).

It rides nice and high

The vehicle I have chosen to build out is a beautiful 1984 AMC Eagle wagon.  This car uses the legendary AMC straight-six engine that lived all the way through the mid nineties in Jeeps and is basically indestructible.  I wanted the wagon because it’s just cooler than those Jeep Cherokees, you don’t see them around basically at all and they’re nearly as capable.  The car I bought has been re-painted, sat for some time, had a strange third tail light installed, aftermarket fog lights, an exhaust leak, a broken driver’s seat belt buckle, and a bunch of other little things.  It did just get a new battery, four new tires, and a four-wheel alignment a month before I bought it.  There are some problems to be sure, but overall this car has been pretty well taken care of and I intend to do the same.

First repair

On the drive home I had a couple problems, first of which was that the car would have trouble with stalling when going into gear from park or neutral.  I gave it some extra gas and was able to get it to move, but this seemed like an issue that needed addressing.  When we opened the hood Matt was able to track the problem to some old cracked and broken hoses going to the carb.  I ave indicated the hoses here on this diagram:

Replaced hoses and clamps marked in red

 We popped by a convenient Advance Auto Parts and picked up a few feet of 3/8″ fuel line (which was what was already there and cracked).  We also got some nice clamps to replace the spring clamps that were on there and a pain to get off.  There was also this other… thing that broke off.  The rivets holding it to the intake seem to have sheared right off, so I reattached it with some gorilla tape and we were on our way again.

Under the tape is a vacuum actuator, if you know what it is please comment so I can read up on it

By the time we were done repairing all this stuff it was dark so I had to try the headlights.  The car was doing as woody said: “Reach for the skyyyyy”.  Not all that useful a position for headlights to be in.  A few shots with the Yankee and they were aimed down enough to drive by.  This lasted until we hit the park-n-ride at exit 11 on I75 in Michigan, after that for the next mile whenever I got the car above about 35 it would start to shake to the point where it was so violent at 45 I felt I had to get off the freeway and take a look.  All I did was let the car sit for a few minutes and drove it again, it was fine for the entire rest of the trip home after that.  The best explanation for that problem came from that week’s episode of Car Talk: Carburetor icing.  I will have to become familiar with these once common engine issues because the mechanics behind that were news to me.
I have plenty of entries in this series planned (and a few I’m going to write immediately after this one) so you can now keep up to date on the adventures of trying to daily-drive a 33 year old car.

Future mods/repairs:

Cigarette lighter to usb ports/voltmeter

Fog light removal

Windshield leak seal

Key replacement

Wagon cover end caps

Always-on 12v power

Third tail light upgrade


LED Headlights

Thermal radiator cap

LED marker lights

Electronic flashers for the LED turn signals

Vacuum actuator repair

LED License plate light

Replaced fuses with breakers



rear view camera

hood release cable

phone mount

always-on lighter power

speaker replacement

speaker grille

oil/fluid change and filter replacement (not Fram, maybe purolator pureone or wix)

fog light install

Door latch repair

fix fuel sender/gauge wiring

carb rebuild

seat belt buckle

Ham radio

Ham radio (take two)

Diagnostic harness

hose cleanup

brush guard

weatherstripping (everywhere, but mostly the trunk)



Valve Cover upgrade


power windows

power seats

hatch struts (strengthen/source replacement hinges first)

cruise control

rear window wiper/washer

front window washers?

rocker panel/rust remediation

make mirror controls more responsive

remote power locks

Pictures: here