Saturday, July 22, 2017

Whatever they pay mechanics...

It ain't enough.

Now, you may be somewhat take aback by this statement - especially if you just got a vast workshop bill for stuff that really is quite basic. It's even more surprising from me, as I tend to cling so hard to every last dollar as to rub the ink off on my fingers. But it's all relative.

To get the relativity on this one, you need to be in the same place I got this great epiphany. It struck me... well, not like a blinding light, but more like an oily vice-grip hitting me on the forehead as it cascaded down from my numb fingers, somewhere in greasy morass of pipes and cables and mysterious bits of sharp steel in the Blue Slug's engine.

To get the full impact, as it were, you have to be in very tight quarters under the blue slug, wrestling with the pipe for the heater - which when the stupid spring clamp and bit of rust-welding give way and a radiator full of ice cold water (there is still frost on the grass) comes to join you. Then when you leave this happy scene, amid the oil and puddle, to say nothing of the grit and mud to get the new pipe, you realize... you have to slither under there again. You see the engine was designed by engineers (for whom I hope there is special place in hell, just next door to the inventor of clam-shell packing) who worried about making it, not repairing it, once all the making was done. The pipe attaches to a flange unreachable by normal hands from above, because there are metal brake lines and other essentials in the way. Even my crayfish-out-of-'orrible holes hands struggled to get there, and getting it off had required me to shuffle between below and above and try and exert force in a place that had no room to move let alone add pull.

So when the new pipe goes on (replace pipe. 3 minutes work if it is not in impossible places or requires special tools. Knowing what you're doing also a major plus, and not one of my advantages) it requires a return to the ice cold oily puddle under the truck. That'll make a man of you... or at least cause shrivel-nipple. But it has to be done, because it's off now, and doing it myself saves money...

So back under I squirmed - one hand up though the steering rods and the other wishing for an extra joint or a tentacle to get up the other gap. Vice grip on spring clamp, dirt showering down onto my glasses (and somehow still getting in my eyes) and push... And then get out again, and do it all over again with the smaller vice-grip. Which I can't open wide enough in the small space. So back to the bigger one... that doesn't quite fit. Push. Wiggle. Push. repeat...

Ya gotta try harder boy. No leverage, hard to see. Hands squirmed into places where whole hands do not fit. And then epiphany. The choir of angels... well my digital watch, which is now keeping my wrist inside the engine for eternity has had some of it buttons pushed. It is going beep beep beeeep beeeep with a steady insistence - and there is no way I can get to it to shut it off - I can't even move my hand, as the watch strap has twisted and is attached to something and is now too tight to come out... At this point the vice-grip which is slightly too big for this job, comes off the spring, which zings into my fingers, and the vice-grip comes bouncing down through the engine to have a little meeting with my face. I try to dodge (fail but save glasses) and scratch my nose on a spilt-pin.

And as I lay there saying... hymns and praises, I'm sure -- I received this great revelation.

'It ain't enough.'

For the curious, I did get it all together. No lives where lost, and the 3 minute job was done in about 4 hours and a great deal of bad language, wet clothes sore fingers and eyes and hair full of oily dirt. Yes, it was cheap, compared to a mechanic, and yes, that's a necessity - we're not broke, but there are at least 10 places to put money with trying to build the new house. And yes, lack of experience and lack of the proper tools did make it harder. There is a satisfaction in doing this, but if I ever make my fortune that's one aspect of self-sufficiency I'd give up. Unfortunately that's not likely, so persevere. But doing 'orrible jobs is worth paying for, if you can. And appreciating not having to do.


  1. Engineers and architects should have to work for a year repairing the things they will be designing as part of the licensing process. Allegiant, (formerly a division of Ingersoll-Rand) which manufactures commercial door hardware, sends all of their new hires in engineering to the field to work as service techs prior to letting them work as designers, and it makes a huge difference in their products. I wish more people did that.

  2. If there's one thing Flinder's Island has it is land. Can you dig a trench where you can sit/stand and have sufficient space to work below a vehicle?

  3. I won't use a spring clamp unless it's in an extremely easy to get to area and I don't have a replacement handy. Worm gear clamps may be a few seconds slower on the assembly line, (That's a big deal) but if the engine is in an engine bay and I don't have the special pneumatic tool that lets them be installed in 1.4 seconds they are almost always a better choice.

    1. I hear you and agree - but this was a case of I thought I had the replacement in worm - but it was actually just too small. And out here it's a 25 minute drive to town, and town may well not have it (the island has a small population, and few shops, and stocking is erratic. A few weeks back I couldn't get brake fluid until the weekly ferry came in.)

  4. Ori, a proper pit is a long-term plan on my own land. The problem here is you can't just dig a hole 1)it would cave in 2)Where I am now on the flats, in winter, the water-table is pretty close to the surface (this part was all one massive swamp before they cut drainage. We end up with a moat around 3 sides of the house - and I'd have to wear a wetsuit at deeper than a foot :-)

  5. All to many vehicles these days require removing other things to remove a simple thing (such as removing a wheel to get to a battery), or at times, removing the complete engine (or close to it).
    I knew a fella with a Honda Prelude that had the water pump pulley come loose. He asked a mutual acquaintance to please fix said issue and he'd gladly pay. My buddy trying to fix this simple issue called me in to take a look. I didn't really like said fella much, so I didn't do my damnedest to fis it, but I was not seeing a simple solution.
    Fella finally gave in and took it to the dealer. He asked the service writer "Look, I had two guys who are pretty good mechanics look at this. How how you going to get this fixed?"
    The reply:
    "We unplug a few wires and unbolt the engine and transmission mounts then the cradle and drop the drivetrain about 6 inches."

    My blue slug (98 Nissan 4x4 Frontier) is about to need a clutch, and I need to futz with the pedal as well. Clutch only has 167,000+ miles (erm 288,000 kilometrs) on it. Waddyamean it's getting worn?
    I should aught fix that before winter.Riding the motorcycle to work in snow does not appeal much (the bike weighs 730 pounds wet), nor does lying in the snow and slush to do the work.

    1. Had a similar Prelude. Water pump ran off the cam timing belt which couldn't be changed without removing a motor mount and one wheel plus the inner fender and crank pulley. Recommendation was that if you change one, change both--you have already done 99% of the work anyhow.

    2. My '90 Accord was almost that way, but I changed the belt, seals, and water pump in an afternoon. It didn't need the mount removed to do it. This was an earlier 'Lude with a crank driven pump. So to change the water pump would require the same.

    3. I can understand your problems. My old Nissan G60 had the gasket go at the water pump/engine block. Went to the dealership for a new gasket.. Oh no, you have to buy the whole pump. Talked to the bloke, got him to photocopy the gasket for me, I went home cut one from a Kellogg’s cornflakes packet, put it back together, and it ran for years before I sold the old blue machine.