So Where Has SD Been Lately?

Well, I’ll tell you. But know now, the end of the world could be near! This statement might make more sense by the time you get through this mini series drama.

My youngest son recently got his drivers license, and a job, within one day of getting his license. Well we have another brat that is working too, plus my wife works also and I’m the driver getting her to and fro.

We only had 2 road worthy vehicles and pretty much needed a third. I happen to have an old 1990 full size Chevy Blazer that pulled many a boat loaded down with shells, many a mile, but it has been sitting idle for several years after I bought a new truck. It needed tires, brakes, a new muffler/tailpipe and other minor things like wiper blades and a headlight, small stuff. So I took care of the tires and brakes, paid for the muffler guys to do the muffler work, and signed the truck over to our eldest son (still living with us.) Him needing a bit of reality (responsibility) in his life I signed the truck over so it was his baby. We took him off of our insurance, and now he pays for his own. After all we just had a brand new 16 year old driver come aboard and we aren’t the Rockefellers. So it was a twofer situation, we took the older brat off the insurance, rolled the younger brat into the vacated spot to save some $$, and at the same time put the older brat in charge of a vehicle with the added responsibility of paying his own insurance. I thought that worked out pretty well. And it did, for a while.

About two weeks ago he was driving down the road and the truck died. After being towed home by the younger brat (I was taking the wife to work at the time) it refused to start again. It would hit a few times like it wanted to start, but refused to comply. I know this truck is the boys to take care of now, but the truck being down also made it my problem as we desperately need 3 running vehicles.

So, being the gear head that I am, I went to trying to figure this out. I have done my own mechanic work since I had my first bicycle, and I’ve been the self employed type for as long as I can remember, which by nature necessitates having some basic mechanical skill, if you want to stay gainfully employed. My grandad was a renowned mechanic in his time, I guess perhaps I inherited the mechanic gene, if I did it has served me well.

Anyway I have had an issue similar to this in the past with an old Mercury Cougar, it was running fine, driving down the road and it just quit, and resulted in a no start condition. Turned out it was this little doo dad in the distributor called an Ignition Control Module (ICM). So that was my first suspect. The problem is I had put a new distributor in the truck not that long ago, as well as a new fuel pump. So I was fairly sure that neither of these were the problem (The ICM is in the distributor). But… I got the distributor from E-Bay and I did not know where the ICM came from. It could have been some el-cheapo made in who knows where part, so it was still suspect despite being new. So after doing some basic stuff like checking that the battery was fully charged, and the ground wires were freshly cleaned up and reseated to ensure we had a good power supply, I tried to start it. Nothing. Still a cranking- but no start condition.

So, after some thought on the matter I ordered all new AC Delco (recommended GM parts) ICM, a pickup coil (which lives inside the distributor and requires removing and disassembling the distributor to replace) and a new ignition coil. It more than likeley had to be one of the three and I figured rather than just replacing one part it would benefit the trucks future (and mine) by putting them all in at the same time.

So Amazon to the rescue. By the way if anyone does any kind of work on your own vehicles let me tell you a dirty little secret. It really pays to get your parts from the internet. You can save 50-60% on parts from E-Bay/Amazon/Rock Auto (They are all within a few dollars on most parts) versus buying the parts at your hometown Auto Zone or O’Reillys. Did you hear me? 50-60%! Now I don’t mind someone making a profit but this is a bit ridiculous. I still support my local auto parts stores IF they can sell me my part at or close to the price I can get it off the net. If it’s a few bucks more that’s fine considering I can get the part now and not have to wait or pay for for shipping. But I’m not paying 100% + markup from the net price. No way. No how. It pays to do your homework on auto parts, and boat motor parts for that matter.

Well the parts all arrived same day and in the same box which was nice. I got to work and pulled the distributor, disassembled the thing, put the new ICM and pickup coil in, and reinstalled. On a whim I decided to try and crank the engine. Nuttin. Well I was a little concerned at this point. I thought it was the ICM. So I looked at the coil, it was going to be a tough job getting it out, but I managed. But guess what? They rivet the brackets to the original coils! So I had to put the damn thing in a vise and grind off one side of the rivets, then punch the rivets through. I then dug around in my hardware drawer and found a couple of skinny bolts with washers/nuts that did a fine job of securing the new coil to the brackets. Well once it was put back in the truck, it fired right up! Still running well for now and hopefully with all new ignition parts, will stay that way for a while.

And then… I looked out across the front yard. The weather has been a little spring like recently (nevermind that right now we are looking at falling temps and it is snowing at the moment) and the wild onions were getting pretty tall. So I figured to crank up the riding mower and get the yard to looking a bit better. I delegated this task to one of the boys while I was raking up some fall leaves that I had not had the time or inclination to get to. Well the boy made maybe 2 passes through the front yard and the mower started smoking like a mosquito fogger on steroids. I knew this was not good. With my mechanical background I had a hunch the oil ring on the piston had given way and I was in for an overhaul. Well these days when it comes to mowers and you get to the point of an overhaul, the best decision is probably to just get a new mower. Lawn mower engines are not something I have ever torn down completely, I know my limitations and  hiring someone to do the job would probably cost close to 50% of the cost of a new mower, and I figure anytime you are looking at paying anywhere near 50% of the cost of a new anything, to repair the old, well that 50% goes a long damn way towards a down payment. So I spent the next few days looking at mowers. I went to Sears, found out my old Sears card had been shit canned because I hadn’t used it in years, and so reestablished my Sears card. I also looked at Wal Mart, didn’t like what I saw, and went to Lowes as well. I found a mower at Sears and one at Lowes that were very similar in the important to me categories and either one would cost right around 1500 bucks.

Then I figured since I just got my Sears card going again I’d probably go with the Sears (or Craftsman if you prefer) mower. Well I took a gander at my paperwork on the new card and I saw it was 26.5% interest!! Holy hell! No wonder I had quit using the darn thing…

Well I decided to stew on that for a few days before I made any decisions, maybe something would come up on sale somewhere, but I really needed to just take a couple of days and decide if I really wanted to pay that kind of interest or just go to my local banker and get a proper loan at a much lower rate. I mean sure, we could pay cash, but 1500 bucks will put a pretty good dent in your “Oh shit! Something Broke Again!” stash. I really prefer to leave that $$ alone and deal with problems any other way possible, unless that problem becomes an absolute gotts get it done right now scenario. So…I’m stewing on the matter and on a whim I did a Google search on “Briggs mower engine smoking really bad.”  Well, it turns out for a Briggs (Briggs&Stratton) engine, the terrible smoking, is a common, well known issue that is caused by a blown head gasket. Oh really?

Well I found the gasket kit I needed (off the internet) and ordered it. While I was waiting for the kit to show up I researched torque specs and valve adjustment specs for this engine. Also watched a youtube vid outlining the process. This was right down my alley, and certainly worth a 21 dollar roll of the dice for the gasket kit to see if it would fix the engine. Discovering that I would need an inch lb torque wrench, I rented one from Auto Zone. Now I’m ready.

The gasket kit showed up and I tore that engine down to the head gasket fairly quickly, it isn’t exactly rocket science, and the head gasket was clearly blown. No doubt about it. This gave me a bit of a lift, knowing if I did this job right I might be back in business for a grand total of 21 dollars.

It cranked right up, then sputtered and died. I was like “oh shit, I’ll be getting a new mower now!” Then I remembered that I had pressure washed the engine a few days back because I knew that when tearing an engine down you want as clean an environment you can get just to keep debris from being an issue when engine internals are exposed. And I realized that just maybe I got some water into the carburetor. After a few more attempts at cranking the engine it finally coughed through the water and started running great! Still a bit concerned things might fail in a spectacular fashion, I decided to cut some onions and take it slow. Well, it ran fine and still does, it is running better now than it has in a long time actually. Another small victory in a small world.

Well you might think this post is over now, but it’s not! You may recall that Dec. of last year a dumbass deer decided to run smack into our Nissan Altima, please note I did not hit the deer, the deer hit me, and totaled the car. Well we used my 3/4 ton truck to get around for a few months and finally decided to get a car out of self defense, as it ain’t cheap to keep a 3/4 ton truck in gasoline. So we got us a 2013 Ford Fusion from a Ford dealer. Well it didn’t take long after driving it a bit, but every so often I would notice a whiff of burnt oil when sitting at a light or a stop sign. I took it back to the Ford dealer and told them they did not tell me the car had an oil leak. So they looked all over the car engine but found no leak. They then put fluorescent dye in the engine oil and had me come back a week later to see if they could spot the leak. Nope. Then I did a Google search on the car and found out that this car was under a recall. Nobody told me there was a recall when we got the car. I was a little pissed. They explained that it was a coolant sensor thing and the parts to fix it weren’t available yet, but as soon as they were they would fix it. Well, ok, fine..I guess. But I drove home still not knowing where the damn oil was coming from. Typical of my usual luck. Any way this old world can find a way to give me a good screwing, it usually will. So I wrote it off for a while. The car is still a nice car, and it runs fine, I just every once in a while smell some burnt oil and none is really disappearing from the dipstick, and we aren’t seeing oil puddles on the ground, so it can’t be too much of an issue. I have to live my life every day and can’t spend too much of my time worrying about it.

Then a letter comes in the mail. It is from Ford. They have the parts available now to fix the recall issue. All I have to do is schedule an appointment, drop off the car and get it fixed. While I was dropping off the car I told them while they are under the hood, again try to see if they can find the oil leak. I talked to them on the phone the next day. They found the leak. The leak is from a cracked head. Well this conversation was going south fast, I felt like I’d just been punched in the gut, now I’m looking at having to put a new head on the car. But then the conversation took an unexpected turn. They informed me that if the head was cracked in a certain place, it was a known issue caused by the part that was under recall, and that this head WAS cracked in the right place, therefore it is covered under the recall.

Well whoopty doo! It isn’t going to cost me for a new head! Cool. So now we are waiting for Ford to get me a new head. I realized that if there was going to be a new head put on the engine that, if it was me, I’d replace the old timing belt and the water pump while the engine was torn down to that point. Neither of the guys at the service desk seemed to have thought of this and I got a couple of funny looks, and later one of the people at the desk informed me that they had confirmed with their mechanics that this would be a good idea… At that point I decided they needed mechanics working the service desk, but who am I to tell Ford how to run their business? Anyway I informed them that when they installed the new head to put a new timing belt and water pump on the engine, I’d pay for it. I also brought up the issue that I don’t have a car, and really need one, and this looks like it might take a while. They obliged by putting me in a loaner. 🙂

A week later they still don’t have a head, can’t get one, there doesn’t appear to be any. Well, crap… Oh wait! What? They are putting a NEW ENGINE in my car! I gotta tell you, I’m not real sure how to act right now. This does not compute. Given my past, vast, history of the world taking every opportunity it can to screw me over in some fashion, I feel like I’ve all of a sudden been transported to first class. But at the same time I know deep down there must be some kind of karmic error here, I don’t get first class, I get the shaft. There must be something wrong somewhere. Too many things have gone too well in a short period of time. I’ve been looking for other signs that the world may be coming to an end. The wife has been nice to me lately, and I actually saw my cat sleeping with the dog a couple days ago. I’m really getting worried!

I hope you guys and gals are doing well. If the world is coming to an end it has been really nice knowing ya. If it isn’t, I sure hope a bit of luck passes your way. 🙂