A toast to auto mechanics--a long, frustrating rant about my auto repair endeavors
I read in a recent thread where Bark'n said he keeps his vehicles in tip-top shape, as I'm sure many others do with their vehicles also. Good common sense practice, for everyday life as well as SHTF scenarios.
Breaking down on the highway can lead to all sorts of bad situations. Some of those breakdowns can be prevented, but not all.
If one needs to travel as part of a bugout plan away from whatever threat, be it hurricane, chemical leak, etc., a good functioning vehicle can be a lifeline.
I know good maintenance is important, but at some point today (many times, actually), while repairing Mrs. grady's vehicle, I found myself saying "I'm getting too old for this :censored:."
I won't be exaggerating in this story at all. No need to. :frown: I sensed the ghost of Rodney Dangerfield all around me tonight.
Here's how it happened:
Worked with Geds today. Drove around 150 miles, did some work, headed home. Geds decides he wants a burger, so about 3 pm we stop for lunch at a burger joint.
We go inside, order, get our food, and pick out a nice cool table where we can watch our vehicle and enjoy our lunch.
I've got a burger, and Geds has a burger, fries, and a coke. He's celebrating for watching his diet for the last month or so. Me--first burger I've had in a long time.
To the best of my recollection, this is what he does: he removes the burger from the paper, spreads the burger wrapper out flat, and uses it to put lots of ketchup on it in a big, round splotch. LOTS of ketchup. He finishes opening up and emptying all the extra ketchup packets, thereby creating sort of an above-ground swimming pool of ketchup, ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy every last ketchup-drenched french fry.
My phone rings. It's Mrs. grady, and I can tell something is wrong by the tone of her voice. Then she says, "My van won't start."
Me: "Where are you?"
Mrs. grady: "At home. Can you pick up (little miss grady) at school in 20 minutes?"
Me: "I'm 100 miles away, but I'll pick her up as soon as I can." :(
So I tell Geds we gotta go.
Have you ever seen a man gingerly holding a flat piece of burger paper, with a cache of ketchup on it, juggling that, fries, and a burger, taking great pains not to tilt the paper and create a ketchup tsunami, all the while moving across the room quickly headed for the door? I believe the man has enough natural skills to be a professional dancer or an athlete. (He won't like the dancing reference, but it was intended as a compliment.)
I grab his coke since his hands are full, and we make our way to the vehicle. People stare. I'm used to it.
I apologize again once we get in the vehicle. He says, "That's okay. This is what we do." Meaning eating in the vehicle. He's right.
So I drive for an hour, let him off, and head on for St. Louis. About an hour later, I'm on I-270 headed north. The southbound lanes clog a lot, and sometimes the northbound also, but not usually all the lanes at one time.
Today, at a little past 5 p.m., I-270 N and S, at one point 10 lanes as far as I could see, was a parking lot. I do not remember ever seeing it that bad both ways.
I eventually get to the office, get my vehicle, and pick up little miss grady. We take the side roads to avoid I-270 (along with THOUSANDS of other drivers), get home, whereupon I start working on the van.
It drove fine today. Mrs. grady went out, and came home with no problems. Went to go out again, turned the key, got some lights, but that's all. No clicks from battery or starter.
This van has done the same thing many times. It eats batteries every 3 years or less. Same symptons: fine one drive, dead when you try to start it the next time. Totally dead. So I've been trying to replace the battery every 2 1/2-3 years. Thought maybe I let this one slip by me.
Nope. Battery only 1 1/2 years old. Took it to Walmart, they tested it, it was good. :gah: I was hoping it would be a bad battery under warranty.
Got home, commenced on removing the van starter. Hard to find. Googled it: one reference said it was at the rear of the motor, one reference said the front.
Got my pristine Craftsman 6-ton jack out of storage. Haven't used it in over 12 years, if ever.
It won't work. :( Some sticker on it says to bleed the air out before using the first time. So I start looking for the owners manual. Twenty minutes and 4 different locations of owner's manual stacks later, all in my basement, I finally find the manual I need. Sheesh, I'm so disorganized.
So I pop the plug on the jack to bleed the air out... and find no fluid. Then I see some of the missing fluid... on the garage floor. Okay, plan B.
I get the van jack out (Mrs. grady's suggestion--I was scratching my head trying to remember if I had any hydraulic fluid stashed anywhere) raise the van, put 3 jack stands under it, and finally find the elusive starter.
I've brought up a load of tools from the basement. I don't store them in the garage because of the increased risk of theft.
Bottom starter bolt takes a 15mm wrench. Okay, no problem. It came out okay. Then there is a bolt right next to it... it's not 15 mm. :( I confess to saying unpleasant things about the engineers who chose different bolt sizes for two bolts so near each other.
Okay, I get my metric socket set. It includes up to 17mm, and also 19mm.
Yep, I need 18mm. Which this set is missing. :(
Okay, I get my other metric socket set, the deepwell socket set. It includes up to 17mm, and also 19mm. No 18mm. :aargh4:
I go get my metric wrench set. It includes up to 17mm, and also 19mm. NO 18mm. :twak:
I call my nextdoor neighbor, who I've never borrowed anything from ever. He's not home. I'm standing in my darkened driveway leaving him a message, and he pulls in. Off he goes to search for an 18mm socket.
Ten minutes later he comes back, with a socket set... up to 17mm, and also 19mm. NO 18mm. :aargh4:
My other neighbor pulls in. I go over and ask him if he's got anything 18mm.
He looks for awhile, then pulls out an 18mm socket! :danceban:
I head back to my van, get on the floor and scoot under... the socket won't fit. It has to be a wrench. :(
I head for the nearby auto parts store. It's 9:02 pm as I pull in, but there are lots of cars in the parking lot, ALL the lights are on, and I see 2 employees in the store. Good signs that the place is open. I try the door. Locked. :(
I head to another nearby auto parts store, Midnight Auto, or something like that. It is aptly named because it is as DARK as MIDNIGHT. :(
I head across town to another auto parts store, hoping they are open. Yep :danceban: and I go straight to the tool area, pick out an 18mm wrench and socket (if I didn't get the socket, I'd need it later, probably tonight). Get a starter also.
Get home, prepare to use my new 18mm wrench... umm... uh... I humbly retract what I said about the vehicle engineers. The 18mm bolt is holding some part of a coughbracecough and not the starter. Oops.
I'd never have made it as a mechanic.
After considerable travail and many attempts, accompanied by a thorough review of almost all the curse words I learned in elementary school, junior high, high school, and the military, I eventually got the starter in. A couple times, actually. Once I thought I was almost done, but the LAST bolt suddenly became stiff. Yes, I could force it, but something didn't seem right.
I scooted back a bit, took a good look, and yep, it was starting to go crooked. :aargh4: Removed starter, saw a damaged thread on a bolt, ran both bolts all the way through to straighten/clean them, and reinstalled it.
Sheesh, I couldn't even see that top bolt. All by feel. Going in and out, with a socket and ratchet, I could get 1 click from the rachet at a stroke. Then take the slack out of the ratchet, and get 1 more click. That top bolt took about 7 minutes to remove, and about 5 to put back in EACH time.
If I was hired to work in an auto garage, I'd be fired before the first day was out... and they'd probably ask ME to pay THEM for the hours I worked.
So, about 5 hours after I started, which included hauling most of my wrenches and sockets upstairs, spending more time with 2 of my neighbors than I've spent with them in a long time, driving all over town looking for an 18mm wrench (which I DIDN'T NEED), installing a starter several times, finding out my barely-used or never-used 6-ton Craftsman jack doesn't work, I finally finished.
A couple gun references:
I found a new gun shop this week on Dorsett, just east of I-270. There are 2 gunshops in that area within a block of each other. Anyway, I purchased a paddle double-mag carrier, and I'd been carrying it to try it out. Once I started crawling on my garage floor, I took it off and put it in my vehicle's front seat. Later I came and covered it up, just to keep it concealed.
The last time anyone other than family has been in my garage was probably the bratty neighbor kid (who thankfully has moved) who came into my garage about 8 years ago. There was a salesman who stood at the open garage door a couple years ago, but he didn't come in. Yes, he's the one who left my house ranting and raving about how crazy and "jacked up" I was. Hehehe, haven't seen him since.
Anyway, when I borrowed the socket off the one neighbor, he followed me into my garage all the way up to the front of our vehicles, walking right by where I had my mags covered. I don't mind him coming into my garage, and it would have been harmful to the relationship to stop him, but fortunately I had covered my mags because I don't want him to know I'm armed.
See, sometimes it does pay to be paranoid. :)
The other gun issue was that after about 3 hours of rolling around on the floor, my .357 finally came out of my shallow front pocket. I was using a Superfly pocket holster, and I'd say it had pretty good retention for what I was putting it through.
Mrs. grady comes out toward the end, sees about 50 tools strung out across the front of the garage, sees my hands (and lots of other places) covered in grease, and she says, "No wonder the car repair shops charge so much." Yeh, thas right, I'm working hard. :smile:
So now I've got 2 18mm tools that apparently very few people ever need, since it seems tool sets come WITHOUT 18mm sockets and wrenches.
I thought about taking them back when I take the starter core back. Ha, that'd be tempting fate. That would GUARANTEE I'd need them in short order.
Nope, I'll be keeping the 18mm tools, if for nothing else than to require Murphy to come up with another way to harass me next time.
My apologies to those of you who have read this far and have lost a few minutes of your lives. I wanted and needed to vent.
However, if anyone feels frustrated by your own auto repair exploits, I want to let you know that somewhere there is someone (grady) whose auto repair exploits are probably more :censored: up than yours are.
A toast to those honest auto mechanics who fix our stuff so we don't have to, or when we are not able. When we have the money to use them, that is.
We have all had those days as well
drove my jeep to a friends house parked it, no problems. Came out nothing, tested battery pulled starter and had it bench tested, checked ignition and starter selnoid relays, started thinking it was something in the dash. Luckily it was a manual so I hill started it. worked fine for multiple days. After school dead buddy push trucked me and I drove it home. Started fine again and again. Tore though the harness looking for a bad connection. weeks of head ache and countless hours.
Bad $15 dollar neutral safety switch. Two bolts, 10 minutes, and a lot of shame. needless to say that moves up on the check list of why am I not starting, and I installed an over ride rocker switch in the cab as well.
we all have those days.