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Pearl Bird 2012

Ramblings of my 1996 Ford Thunderbird ownership during the year 2012...

So I took the car out of storage on March 12th. Thanks to a good hibernation plan and a warmer-than-usual March, the car fired up and drove without a problem. I didn't even have to add air to the tires :-) The best things I can tell you is if you're planning on storing your car for the winter is to do the following:

OK, well since there were some projects I didn't get done back in 2011, this year will be the big year hopefully.

Gentex Auto-Dim Compass HomeLink Rearview Mirror Installation

Well I didn't write an installation article on this, but the first mod I did the day after getting Pearl Bird back home was to install an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror. I had done some research over the winter to see what mirrors would fit and what features I wanted.

The main reason I wanted a fancy rearview mirror was for the HomeLink function. I wanted to get rid of the clunky garage door remote that clips to the sun visor. I wanted a cleaner, fatcory look plus, the big opener leaves impressions on the visor... I found out that I needed a wedge mount mirror, and when I went searching I discovered on eBay that the wedge mount mirror type fits a wide variety of different makes and models, it's almost a generic type of mount.

After seeing the price of these mirrors new, I decided to check eBay and specifically used items. Long story short is I won an auction for a used Gentex HomeLink mirror with Compass that came out of a 2006 Nissan Sentra. The model on the back of the mirror states it's a Gentex 313 model. It has the auto-dim feature, the compass, and the HomeLink buttons. Fortunately this particular mirror also came with the wiring pigtail as that makes wiring this a whole lot easier. If I had to buy the wiring harness it would have been around $25. I got the mirror and harness for $85 with free shipping, so that was a significant savings over buying it new.

The installation was pretty straight-forward. There are 3 wires on the wiring pigtail, one ground, one battery (constant) 12V wire, and one switched (accessory) 12V wire. I connected the ground wire to a round crimp connector and grounded it to the visor mount clip where it screws up against the metal above the headliner. Then I tapped the 12V constant wire into the single green wire up above the headliner that powers the visor mirror lights (always on, plus it's already protected by a fuse!). Finally, I ran a single wire down to the fuse box and tapped into one of the switched fuses there, I forget which one exactly. I think the thing I used is called a "tap-a-fuse" or "add-a-fuse" or something like that. It's a small metal clip that goes down and slides into the fuse socket with a spade connector.

Anyway, I was a little nervous at first because I bought this used as-is and didn't know if it would even work. Well great news, it worked. I needed to calibrate the compass, which is super easy, and then I programmed the HomeLink buttons to operate my two garage doors. That was pretty easy too. Anyway, for $85 I'm REALLY happy with this mod. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

Gentex HomeLink Compass AutoDim Rearview Mirror

Front License Plate Bracket / Holder Removal

So just days after the successful Gentex mirror installation, I removed my front license plate holder (plastic bracket). I won't bore you with all the details again here because I wrote a how-to article on removing your front license plate holder. It's super easy and you just need a big drill bit and possibly some needle-nose pliers. Check out the license plate bracket removal article here.

License Bracket Removal

Tinting Rear Windows

Living in a small city has it's disadvantages. I had wanted to get my rear windows tinted last year but the only place in town couldn't do it because the installer was hurt. So in March I took it back to the place to get the windows tinted. Long story short is the installer tried 5 times to get that back window done right and just couldn't get it done well. He didn't charge me for the rear window at least, but he did leave his latest attempt in place... Really the middle of it turned out good but it wasn't very good on the bottom corners. I'm not sure yet if I'll bother having someone else try it from a bigger city or just live with it...


Spark Plug Change

Well on April 11 I decided it was time to change the spark plugs. The original plugs were still in the car, with 133,779km on them (that's about 83,000 miles). Ford's scheduled maintenance guide says you can go 100,000 miles (160,000 km) but after pulling my plugs out, I don't believe that.

The underhood decal and factory Ford service manual says the car needs AWSF-32PP double-platinum spark plugs as replacements, however those are no longer available. The part number changed up to Motorcraft # SP-432, or AGSF32FM. Basically, these plugs are a "finewire" plug which as far as I can see means the electrode is not as wide as regular plugs. According to Motorcraft, "the Finewire Platinum spark plug was designed to improve electrode wear beyond the capability of the Single Platinum spark plug. The quantity of platinum is 2 to 3 times greater than the Single Platinum plug and its thin cylindrical shape serve to reduce the required firing voltage. This results in diminished erosion of the platinum and robustness against fouling.".

The best tips I can give you is to make sure you use compressed air to blow out the spark plug area in the head before actually removing it. I assure you if you car is as old as mine there will be dirt in those holes. You don't want dirt or other debris falling down into the combustion chamber. I was able to remove the plugs & wires one at a time and had no problems. Make sure to gap your spark plugs before putting them in, in the case of the 4.6L engine, the gap should be between 0.052" and 0.056". Torque the new plugs down to 7.5-15 lb-ft. Use a torque wrench. I chose to not use anti-sieze because the factory service manual makes no mention of needing it. The old original plugs came out without a problem so I'm not sure anti-seize is necessary, but if you decide to use it, you need to be aware that anti-seize compound works to multiply the torque, so you will need to use less torque when tightening the plugs.

Here are the old plugs:

Old Motorcraft Ford spark plugs 4.6L

You may be able to see that the gap on the plugs that came out of the car was rather large. I only measured one but it was around 0.065". Some of the electrodes are rounded, but otherwise the plugs look in pretty good shape to me. The car doesn't start any better now, but it does seem to have more power when accelerating driving. Not bad for less than an hours' work and $31.94.

More Mods: Wish List

Well there are still lots of things I'd like to do to the car this year. I have the parts for the JMod. I have the parts to paint the brake calipers. And I have the body pieces to add the 94/5 SuperCoupe rear bumper and side skirts. I just need time and money now LOL.

I should have time later in April to get a bunch more of this stuff done. In addition to that, I'd like to put in 4.10 gears in the back. And if I do 4.10's, I'll also need an aluminum driveshaft and a rear lube mod for my 4R70W transmission. I know I can't install the gears myself but I think I can do the rear lube mod and driveshaft swap (I think).

Check out our other Thunderbird/Cougar articles: