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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-19-2010, 10:31 AM Thread Starter
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Mystery problem

So I have a mysterious problem, and I'm not satisfied with the answers I've gotten so far. Maybe you all have some ideas.

I have a 1994 164LS automatic.

I was driving to Baltimore one day, and after about 30 minutes or so on the road, most of which was on the freeway, I was cruising at average freeway speeds, and when I tried to accelerate a little, it felt like the car didn't want to go any faster (which I know it does). I tried varying my speeds a little, and after a little while, it was back to normal and had good pick up.

A few days later, I was on the freeway again and felt the same thing. However, this time, the wheel suddenly started shaking back and forth and I began losing speed. I pulled over, and put it in park, then after a minute I put it back in drive and it seemed to be normal again.

When I described the incident to my mechanic, one guy at the shop thought something in the drivetrain was overheating and seizing up. I noted that the CV joint on the left side had the boot replaced and repacked without replacing the joint. Another guy at the shop doubted the problem was in the CV joint. After they looked at it, they said the sway bar bushing were torn and that was the problem. Now, I admit I'm a rank amateur at auto repair, but I find it hard to believe that torn sway bar bushings would cause the shaking and loss of speed described above (but I can believe they were torn during that incident).

Two other tidbits that might be related: A fan under the hood has recently developed a high pitch whine, and it may not be performing well. I think it is the fan for the transmission oil radiator.

Also, since I bought the car over a year ago, there has been a mysterious sound on the left side that has ranged from a small scrapping noise to a loud slam (hard enough to feel the vibration through the floorboard). The noise happens during sudden transition from acceleration and deceleration, either through braking or suddenly hitting the gas. Three different mechanics have looked at the suspension on that side and said there's nothing wrong with it, so I'm guessing it's something in the driveshaft.

My gut feeling is that the CV joint should have been replaced instead of repacked and covered with a fresh boot, but I've never encountered symptoms like this before. What do you all think?
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-19-2010, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Lee.Perna View Post
So I have a mysterious problem, and I'm not satisfied with the answers I've gotten so far. Maybe you all have some ideas.

I have a 1994 164LS automatic.

I was driving to Baltimore one day, and after about 30 minutes or so on the road, most of which was on the freeway, I was cruising at average freeway speeds, and when I tried to accelerate a little, it felt like the car didn't want to go any faster (which I know it does). I tried varying my speeds a little, and after a little while, it was back to normal and had good pick up.

A few days later, I was on the freeway again and felt the same thing. However, this time, the wheel suddenly started shaking back and forth and I began losing speed. I pulled over, and put it in park, then after a minute I put it back in drive and it seemed to be normal again.

When I described the incident to my mechanic, one guy at the shop thought something in the drivetrain was overheating and seizing up. I noted that the CV joint on the left side had the boot replaced and repacked without replacing the joint. Another guy at the shop doubted the problem was in the CV joint. After they looked at it, they said the sway bar bushing were torn and that was the problem. Now, I admit I'm a rank amateur at auto repair, but I find it hard to believe that torn sway bar bushings would cause the shaking and loss of speed described above (but I can believe they were torn during that incident).

Two other tidbits that might be related: A fan under the hood has recently developed a high pitch whine, and it may not be performing well. I think it is the fan for the transmission oil radiator.

Also, since I bought the car over a year ago, there has been a mysterious sound on the left side that has ranged from a small scrapping noise to a loud slam (hard enough to feel the vibration through the floorboard). The noise happens during sudden transition from acceleration and deceleration, either through braking or suddenly hitting the gas. Three different mechanics have looked at the suspension on that side and said there's nothing wrong with it, so I'm guessing it's something in the driveshaft.

My gut feeling is that the CV joint should have been replaced instead of repacked and covered with a fresh boot, but I've never encountered symptoms like this before. What do you all think?
I guess you mean steering wheel began to shake or left front wheel?

As for scrapping noise and loud slam on accel/decel is it the body mounted sway bar bushing or sway bar lollipop bushings at left lower suspension arm that is torn so you have metal sway bar to metal bushing clamp banging or lollipop washer clanking on lower suspension arm? Or maybe you have bad A/T shock strut mount (first picture). Sway bar bushing mount second picture and sway bar lollipop strut third picture.

Also inspect upper engine mount bushing at passenger side on rear head for lack of rubber bushing.

As for loss of speed I don't see a connection to vibration/shaking.

I would have to get engine cooling fan and A/T cooler fan running to determine which one is the whiner.
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-19-2010, 04:19 PM
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strange one

My thoughts

1. In order for the trans cooler fan to turn on, the trans fluid has to get very hot. I have NEVER had any of mine turn on ever, and the one time i jumpered the relay to see if it worked, it sounded like a 737 taxiing.

2. CV joints in these cars are robust. I can't see replacement being necessary unless the joint was dry, dirty and worn. If the boot was torn and it was slinging grease everywhere that meant that at some point it was not dry--- I have repacked/rebooted twice on my auto LS

3. I wonder if you have a master cylinder acting up. Next time this happens, put your hand near the wheels and see if one is hotter than the other. your symptoms on the 'dont want to accel' and 'wheel oscillation' might be consistent with master disaster.

4. A big SLAM going into drive or reverse might be CV joint tho.

Not sure if this helps or not---

let us know whats next--

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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-19-2010, 04:29 PM
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I'm not sure what's going on, but first thing I suggest is to check and top-up the automatic transmission fluid level. If that fan is coming on, my guess is that the level is low and the small amount of fluid is overworked and overheating, because I've never experienced that fan coming on in any operating condition (though I have only driven the older '91-'93 model).

I believe that to check auto fluid level, the engine should be running and the selector should be moved into each position in turn, pausing in each for a second to fill all the circuits, then you return it to Park and promptly use the dipstick to check what's left in the bottom (with engine still running). Sorry if this is obvious.

As for the CV joint, I have cleaned/regreased many CV joints over the years. I always inspect for wear - some will have terrible wear and even cracks from overheating (due to lack of grease), and some will be still like new (usually when the split in the boot is recent). I hope the person cleaning/repacking it made a good judgement. Of course, they may have just added a bit more grease and not cleaned/inspected it at all. If you have doubts about it, I suggest removing, cleaning, and redoing it just in case. It is possible that it is cracked or worn and binding up at certain angles, causing the shaking. I agree with you that sway bar (I call that 'antiroll bar') bushes are not the cause of shaking.

When you do things like this yourself, it does help in the long run as you know the judgement that you made. However, with CV joints, you get a LOT of green/grey/black grease under your fingernails.

-Alex

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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 07:36 PM Thread Starter
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The mystery continues

So the other day, I had been driving my 164LS down some back roads for close to an hour when I suddenly started loosing speed. At the time I was on a straight stretch of road going about 45 mph. I floored it and it downshifted, but I could not get the car over 30 mph. I pulled over, put it in park, then back in drive, and it seem to drive normally after than. It was a warm day and the engine was at full temp. Also, the whine in the steering was getting worse.

It was due for it's 160k service call, and I thought I'd take it to someone else to get another opinion. The steering was leaking fluid and this mechanic thinks it's basic shot. He recommends replacing it. Not sure if that was the cause of the violent shaking of the steering wheel, but a likely culprit. But it does not explain the power/speed loss.

The master cylinder had recently been replaced. We shot the brakes with a heat gun and found the left rear was 50 degrees hotter than the right rear, but both front wheels were the same and in between the rear brake readings. However, the mechanic did not believe this was the problem.

He thinks it's engine management. He thinks the computer is dying. His theory is that its developing an intermittent problem which is causing the engine to misfire or loose power. However, the check engine light is not coming on and it's not leaving any codes. I don't recall any change in the sound of the engine or sense that it was misfiring.

Now, the problem started right after replacing the master cylinder. The booster was not replaced. I curious what you all think. Given that this only seems to happens after driving for a while on a hot day, have you all ever seen a situation where the brakes will suddenly start grabbing? That might explain why the transmission fluid was getting hot enough to kick on the radiator fan. I could also explain some of the cavitation in the wheels, and it would certainly explain the loss of speed without leaving an engine code.

The problem is the minute I pull over and put the car in park, the problem goes away, so it's very hard to diagnose.
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 07:55 PM
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my 3 cents?

For whatever reason, I have seen the master cylinder cause single and double wheel 'drag' ; this has been seen once 'for sure' and once reported "likely cause". the key is the heat== when the issue happens, is one wheel 'hotter' than another -- if its hot enough to drag the car, I can promise you wont need an IR thermometer to confirm-- your hand on (near) the wheel would tell along with any smell

I cant see any way its the ECU. BUT -- I have been wrong before MANY TIMES!!!!!!

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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 11:31 PM
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If it's one side of the rear wheels, this usually means that the hand brake cable on that side is hanging up partly on, and heating up the brake. Had that happen a couple of times on the S. I was able to get it free by working the hand brake a few times from off to full on and off again. This was in the winter with very cold temps and ice everywhere. Otherwise it doesn't happen because I use the hand brake every time I park the car and this keeps it free.

I found that when the master cylinder acts wacky from the heat and in stop and go traffic, it is the front brakes that start to engage until everything cools back down and I can start moving down the highway at speed to cool everything. I think it is the brake fluid heating up and boiling rather than the master cylinder failing. I switched to the special very high temp brake fluid (ATE Blue?) and the problem has not returned in years now.

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previously owned since 1964:

62 Morris MiniMinor 850, 67 Austin 1275 Cooper S (Downton 3/4 race), 64 Giulia Sprint GT (1st red one made), 72 Fiat 128 Sedan, 75 Alfetta Sedan, 78 Alfetta Sedan, 78 GTV, 81 GTV6, 86 GTV6
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-11-2010, 01:57 PM Thread Starter
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Process of elimination

So, brake lines were bled and calipers adjusted. Took it on a long drive today in 97 degree weather. Thirty minutes on the freeway then 45 minutes back on secondary roads. No sign of problems.

However, the fan for the transmission oil came on again. It was really loud, but not as loud as a 737, so I guess that's normal. The max temp light for the transmission oil flash on for a moment the other day too. I'm thinking I should flush the transmission and replace the oil with higher grade stuff.

Turns out the power steering system is leaking and probably shot.

I'm suspecting the mystery problem was probably a combination of multiple smaller problems coming together at once. Thanks for all your help and advice.
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-11-2010, 09:47 PM
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Question Goats? Does he have a bad speedo pulse generator?

Greetings Goats. Lee believes he has this fixed but the "hot" transmission light turned on again briefly. And while an intermittent short in his speedo pulse generator probably just cut back in quickly, that dash indicator of "hot" transmission might have moved his eyes off the speedometer to check his speed. I suspect he only noticed he was slowing down and that he had to be going faster than the "limp home mode" cut out of 20 mph when the continuity was momentarily lost. Read all the posts and comment again, please.

How is the investigation into the defective pulse generator I sent you going? Have you checked to see if BMW (which uses the same ZF transmission and icu unit arrangement) might have a replacement for this "potted" unit made by the same company that "pots" those commonly failing temperature sending units?

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"], seriously Alfa diseased and ancient OLD Two Liter Lover, put together Seattle area's Northwest Alfa Romeo Club in 1965, and still feebly tries to tend a teeny sacred flame to his serpent mistress in the [B]ALFA G'RAJ MAHAL[/B], a home garage temple with more Alfa cars and parts than he dare list because of the disapproval of his shamed and chagrined family. (425) 641-2600.
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-12-2010, 08:44 AM
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Could be I suppose

a bad speedo sensor, but the description doesn;t seem to fit any failure modes that I know of. ((all this from interpretation of the manual, which is somewhat lacking in detail)

The speedo sensor is not part of the fuel management system when running in open loop (ie no cruise control). If Lee was stepping on the gas and the car was sluggish / going more slowly, it should be eaither something is dragging it, or, the mechanical / electrical connections pedal to throttle body to ECU is suffering.

Lee, if it happens again AND YOU CAN MANAGE IT SAFELY, try throwing the car in neutral for a second , watch the tach and give the gas a goose to see if the engire RPM will increase. Only try this if you can safely manage it otherwise donlt try it. The differential diagnosis is drag vs engine control at this point I guess -- if its dragging, the wheel will be hotter than you-know-what as it just builds and builds friction, the heat gets treasferred to the lines, the fluid boils and presses the brake even harder-- vicious cycle!

Jay, I am trying to find some solvent to remove the potting compound at the moment. I did some cleanup from the foil side of the board and finally figured out how to fixture the thing-- I get a constant 12 V on the signal line no matter how fast I spin the shaft, manual says about 5 volts when going 25 MPH ( not sure which shaft speed corresponds to 25 mph tho),

The design is as follows

A 4 bladed soft steel chopper wheel passes in front of a coil assembly with about a .035 or so gap. There is contradictory info in the manual as to the signal that is sent from the sensor-- one place shows a pulse train, the text says analog (which I infer means analog as a function of shaft rotation speed)

I think the circuit is set up such that coil is weakly engerized and the steel passing by induces a momentary small current. This current is amplified and used as gate current in a darlington pair arrangement to provide an analog voltage proportional to shaft speed.

I have not had enough time to do much research on alternative parts yet, and it looks like the rest of July and early Aug will be busy as well. Hopefully I can get some time when in NorCal next week to do some research.

bob

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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-12-2010, 10:36 AM
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Smile His "hot transmission" warning light came on!!!!!

Goats, thanks for the quick response. I would point out that the hot transmission failure picture on my dash was the only thing that suddenly happened when my transmission went out and I could not get the car to shift up from second. But I also could not get a speedometer reading. The failure picture on the dash was NOT just momentary like is was for LEE. Now did it occur at "freeway speed" as it did for him. Mine just never shifted up at all and went totally into "limp home" mode because I was just starting out from a stop. If he was already moving at top gear when the short happened, when the ECU unit suddenly lost the information as to speed input, wouldn't the transmission suddenly try to cut back. I have all the books too, just not your electrical ability. I HATE intermittent shorts because they can't always be traced. Sometimes the short is only momentary. Let's see if Lee has more trouble. I would like to be wrong. I wish I had taken that speedo pulse generator to a BMW repair place myself. My transmission clients redo ZF transmissions for all over the world. Some BMW cars use the identical transmission, but with slight mounting differences. That speedo pulse generator ought to be similar, and available from other than Alfa sources. Perhaps one might have to put a different end on the wires to connect to the system, but, once again, let's see what happens to Lee. Intermittent short in the unit is still what I suspect. But like you, I have been wrong many many times. And everybody has an opinion just like everybody has a nose. Some just have bigger ones or blow harder. If Lee has no further troubles, good. In this case I would like to be wrong.

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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-12-2010, 10:42 AM
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JAy maybe your xmission shop can help!

I can send you back the sensor or send it to the shop that you know, if they do a lot of trans they should at least be able to recognize the physical mounting?

Let me know, its no problem at all to send that sensor anywhere you want me to!

bob

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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-12-2010, 11:09 AM
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No, I'll get another one off a trans here

Goats, you are the only expert I would rely upon in trying to analyse what goes wrong with those things. Tear that one up and make us all smart. In the meanwhile I will determine what BMW uses and see if their repair manuals give better hints to the problem. Might be, as I said, only a matter of different connector type on the end of the wires if the transmission is identical. Both have Bosch brain boxes. I'll get back to you with my results or lack thereof. I hope readers realize THIS IS STRICTLY A PROBLEM FOR LS MODEL OF 164. ALFA also uses a different ZF on the other 164 automatic models, but the shifts there are NOT ECU controlled. I have one which was rebuilt for me by my clients. It used to work fine even though the pulse generator only made the speedometer show 2/3 of the actual speed or distance I traveled. At 40 mph on the speedometer I was actually doing 60, etc. When it showed I had gone 40 miles I had actually gone 60. But the transmission failed because I split a hose and dumped out all the fluid and burned it up. By chance the rebuild came complete with a good speedo pulse generator and now everything shows the right speed and distance. Lee has an LS. What slowed down his car was the transmission shifting down due to the ECU which had lost speedometer impulse. Any driver, I suspect, would immediately react by taking his foot off the gas. And perhaps that caused the connections to wiggle and the electrical impulse get to the ECU so it started working again. If he keeps having trouble I suspect the problem is going to be found in this little item of frustration already noticed by so many of us. The cost of having the Ferrari guy find this defective connection by sheer chance after exhausting all the usual checks of ECU connections was staggering. I probably should not have an LS because I hate to even touch them. Mechanical issues are one thing, electrical totally another. Jay

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"], seriously Alfa diseased and ancient OLD Two Liter Lover, put together Seattle area's Northwest Alfa Romeo Club in 1965, and still feebly tries to tend a teeny sacred flame to his serpent mistress in the [B]ALFA G'RAJ MAHAL[/B], a home garage temple with more Alfa cars and parts than he dare list because of the disapproval of his shamed and chagrined family. (425) 641-2600.
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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-12-2010, 04:05 PM
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Quote:
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I think the circuit is set up such that coil is weakly engerized and the steel passing by induces a momentary small current. This current is amplified and used as gate current in a darlington pair arrangement to provide an analog voltage proportional to shaft speed.
I think you mean 'base current', since 'gate current' would be for a FET. But that's not an important point
Agree with you about the high-gain Darlington pair arrangement but I think it's to produce a 50% duty cycle pulse of varying frequency, not an analog voltage. There are capacitors in there to shape the waveform. I had tapering pulses (not flat tops) that were caused by faulty caps. Dig 'em out and try changing them to see if the signal improves? Still, like Jay said, everyone has an opinion and some blow.

-Alex

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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-12-2010, 04:12 PM
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yep maybe you can help Alex

Yes I meant base current ; sucks to get old. I also tried to make the post understandable to our non EE readers; I guess I could have gotten more precise.

Do you have a schematic for the circuit or at least what you think is going on there? My problem is that the thing is completely potted and I cant really tell whats under there - sounds like you have some great ideas about the circuit-- can you draw up what you think it looks like to help me ?

The manual says that we will see a 5V DC signal at 25 mph. Hard to tell what that means. Are you thinking that its a 12V peak to peak square wave with various duty cycle, integrating to 5 VDC at the stated speed? Weird way to spec the output but then again it was translated from italian so perhaps some of the fine detail is lost!

thanks, bob

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