Thursday, July 5, 2007

In Which a Redneck Fails to Repair an Automobile

OK, here's the thing, see? I have four automobiles. This is not a good thing. We have two drivers and a "garage" that could conceivably hold two cars, if the roof weren't literally collapsing.

The only keeper is my wife's 2005 Ford Freestar. This thing has been a miracle for us; we bought it right before the pregnancy became pronounced. It's reliable, it has the cool remote-control doors, it has all the space we need for two kids and it actually gets better mileage than anything else we own. It also has an extended warranty, so we don't have to fix all those nifty little gadgets when, inevitably, they stop working.

My wife's other car is her 1995 Camaro. It's a Full Mullet Jacket model, red with t-tops and Z-28 wheels. It also has the universally despised 3.4L V6 that was replaced later that model year with the universally admired 3.8L V6. It has ridiculously little power, lousy brakes, mushy steering and suspension, uncomfortable seats, and ridiculously long doors that make it a chore to get in and out at all. But when we were first wedded, some seven years ago, La Luz de Mi Corazon had never been allowed to choose her own car. Her stepdad had chosen her turd-brown 1979 Malibu, followed by her 1989 Chevy Celebrity in classic "Blowoff Blue" paint. She, however, had always lusted after a red Camaro with t-tops, so we looked until we found one and that's what she By Gawd drove for the next 6 years.
It worked out well; nothing can help you accept that you don't have to have a little red pony car like trying to drive two kids around in it for years. We were the happiest minivan buyers anyone has ever seen.

I also inherited dad's old truck when he upgraded, so we have a red 1986 Chevy K10 pickup. It's a beast, a snarling, lumbering mix of noise and rust. I love it dearly. But it's not reliable and it sucks gas like a mysterious vortex between dimensions. Also like the mysterious vortex, it's never clear where all that gas goes, because this truck has a Chevy 305.
Worst. V8. Evar. Lousy mileage, lousy power, lousy torque--and that's when it was new. This truck would make a great project, and I have a 350 block on the stand in the garage, but the last thing I need is one more way to spend my time. Boredom is not really my problem.

Finally, I have the 1995 Buick Park Avenue--that's my daily driver. This is the car that will not die, at 243,000 miles and counting. It's rusty, the trunk and the taillights are smashed (rear-ended by an uninsured driver, despite the fact that they passed a law against that in Illinois) and the windshield wipers don't work. Also the rear suspension is . . . unconventional, and the power steering pump is making a disturbing clattering sound--it sounds like someone dropped a couple of nickels in there. I'm no botanist, but that can't be good. Oh, yeah, and for some reason it rarely cranks over the first time you turn the key--probably a problem at the cutout for the automatic transmission.

The plan is to sell those last three for whatever we can get and buy a 4-door sedan or possibly a small pickup truck for cash (I hate payments, but I love paid in full.) Then we can have two vehicles, two insurance payments, and the ability to mow our property without moving any cars.
To that end, I spent today replacing the wiper motor in the Buick so that the new owner doesn't die when it rains ('cause I'm a nice guy.) I spent literally hours sweating over this; the hood actually had to come off at one point. No kidding. The stupid motor is held in by three metric bolts that can be turned about 1/32nd of a turn at a time--IF you flip the wrench over between turns. Luckily, I was in the shade, where it only got up to about 93 degrees Fahrenheit. About 4:30 in the afternoon, I finally had the damn thing bolted in and wired. I turned on the key, turned on the wipers, and cussed with alarming and charming facility and agility for about a minute straight. Is there anything worse than seeing your project fail and knowing you still have maybe an hour of cleanup and repair to do anyway? Most of today was literally wasted.
Oh, and now I have no idea what's causing the wipers not to work. There's no sound from the wiper motor or the washer fluid pump, but the the fuse checks out and the motor is now brand new. I'm out of ideas unless it's the switch on the turn signal stalk.

So now you know Don's Shame. Defeated by the GrandpaMobile. Oh, the humanity. Oh, the ignominy.


Ambulance Driver said...

My Dad was a wizard with anything mechanical. When they started using electronic ignitions and computer modules in cars, his friends bitched about how it took an electronics genius to repair a car these days...and took it to Dad.

And he was such an impatient peckerwood with me when I was helping him do car repairs, that it became my lifelong ambition to earn enough money to pay someone to repair my cars for me - no matter how trivial the problem. I vowed I'd never work on another vehicle unless someone held a gun to my head.

Which probably explains why my new transfer case linkage for my Dakota is sitting in my glove compartment a year later, and my driver's rear window has been stuck in the down position for three months.

You know, cuz I still ain't rich enough to pay someone to fix it for me...;)

Brandon said...

Right out of high school, I bought a Mustang. Not a cool one, no; I had the late 80s, 4-cylinder "secretary's car". I experienced the singular joy of replacing the heater core on that car in the middle of the summer in my parents' non-shaded driveway, which was no small feat considering that the entire dash had to come out to gain access to the leaky PoS.

When I put it all back together again, my vents wouldn't change off the defrost setting. I'd pinched a vaccuum line when I put the dash back in, so I got to rip it all halfway out again so my freakin' vents would work.

My father and I had a saying - Ford has a better way. That was not a compliment, and was usually accompanied by some rather colorful language.

Today, I have two car notes. It ain't worth it. Never again.

Brandon said...

And I misspelled "vacuum". Err.

Larry said...

Yeah, a few years back I was stuck with and 86 Olds Omega. Yeah- end of the line, that f'n car.

Heater core started leaking into the cabin. On the passanger floor. Smelled like cat piss.

Of course, this is right after I came home broke-ass from overseas, and the only tool sI had were in a box I kept in the car, and I lived in an apt complex with no shade.

It took 11 hours to replace it, many f-words, and nearly degloved my right hand by the time you count up all the skin I lost.

The first 9 hours just to get the damned thing OUT, past the transverse-mounted engine. It had obviously been installed before the engine and front quarter panels, as the nuts and bolts and clamps were all at impossible angles to reach once the engine was mounted.

If I had been properly equipped, I literally would have pulled the engine out many hours earlier- it would have been easier.

I also grew up with my dad making me fetch tools and parts and often leaving me (a skinny little 13 year old) with herculean tasks to accomplish by the time he got home from work. (Try breaking loose lugnuts rusted into place by literally years of being abandoned, or taking the heads off an engine when you only weigh about 85 pounds). I hate working on cars.

I am fortunate now in that I only perform really easy regular maintenance on my own vehicles, and hire all the rest.

Don said...

I bought a power steering pump for the Buick and a new console for the Camaro last night on Ebay. I'll never learn.

Your Mustang story brought back memories. My first vehicle was a 1977 Bronco--the last year of the "real" Bronco before they became short F-150 and Ranger copies. Maybe I'll write a post about that one sometime; it's too much for a comment.

My second vehicle was a 1982 Mustang with the 302 V8 from that Bronco. Actually, there's a story there, too.

SpeakerTweaker said...

Brandon ain't kidding. Ford DID always have a "better" way. We used that phrase frequently. We all spent nauseating amounts of time under the hood of our respective F-word products.

Our Dad did a clutch in an 84 F-150, Brandon had the pleasure of the heater core in the Mustang, and I rebuilt the top end of an 86 Escort motor (a project whose completion lasted a grand total of six days before some @$$head blasted me in the left front quarterpanel and totalled it the first time).

Fords. Never again.

BTW, when I hawked parts for Delco, we sold alot more turn signal assemblies than wiper motors. After you curse my beard, I hope that helps!


FHB said...

Had a red 82 TA once. Loved the hell out of it. My dad didn't let me pick my own cars ether, till I started makin' the payments myself.