Monday, September 19, 2011

Steve: Today’s Special Guest Blogger

Last week, I posted this series of Scary Steve Shots.


I asked you to guess what you thought he was doing and we were very entertained by the following guesses:
  • Margie: Maybe that was a car stethoscope & he's going to check the hearts of the cars!
  • Jenna: As to what Steve is doing, I have no clue. My best guess is he was smiling brightly while posing for a photo  of him fixing your vehicle. Then, without warning a gigantic bee flew on his leg, terrorizing him and causing him to shriek out and contort his face- just as you snapped the photo!
  • Deb: My guess is that they are air conditioning hoses for the car. That of course would explain the face, he was warm! 
  • Ann: Have no clue as to what Steve is getting ready to do. I do know whatever it was he did it well and correctly!  
I tried to write a brief description of his Car Repair Process behind the wacky pictures but I got bogged down after the first word or two.  Car Repair Processes are not something I am well versed in.  I finally asked Steve to write a paragraph or two about the story behind the pictures and that paragraph or two turned into “a paragraph or twenty!”  He had fun writing it and I know you all will have fun reading it. 

    The story behind the pictures, written by the one and only Steve Smith.

For the past year or so, the power steering pump on our Oldsmobile had been undergoing a slow, painful and leaky death and so I had to constantly check to make sure that the reservoir stayed full of fluid. Despite my best efforts though, sometimes it still left us in in some sticky situations like when it ran dry with Becky 125 miles from home.  (She wrote about this in one of her entries called the The Peach Angel.)

At first, the thing had to be topped off every few weeks; as time went on, however, it had to be topped off every week and then every few days.  It also left us with tasteful, decorative puddles in our driveway.

I finally bit the bullet and ordered a rebuilt power steering pump and belt.  Once the parts arrived, I rented a pulley puller/installer tool and set to work.The most interesting part of the job was heating the pulley to 400 degrees on the grill so that it could be pressed onto the pump shaft with the tool. My mechanical mentor, a German emigrant, used to heat things like this in an old popcorn popper filled with engine oil.

Once the pulley, the unit and the belt were installed, I bled the air from the power steering lines by turning the steering wheel back and forth several times with the engine running. It was then I noticed a generous helping of brand new fluid on the driveway.  Grrr.  I double checked the tightness of the fittings and everything seemed fine; however, it was still leaking.

I asked Sarah to sit in the car and turn the steering wheel while I watched the pump do what pumps do.

Lo and behold, the fluid it didst sprayeth not when the wheel wast held steadily, but the moment that she turneth the wheel, the fluid it did doth verily sprayeth out in a voluminous fashion from the high pressure line right wherein the crimped metal fitting meeteth the reinforced rubber hose thingy. (Sorry.  I felt the urge to get a little Shakespearean for a moment.)

When the fluid started its geyser-like activity, I leapt back.  I shouted excitedly, “Aha!”  And then I told Sarah to turn off the engine.

I went and did some research online about replacing the high pressure power steering line and found a comment from a shade tree mechanic who had done the repair; he described the job as ridiculous, difficult and frustrating.

Greatly encouraged, I hastened with haste to the local parts place and ordered said high pressure line.  It had to be special ordered. 

Of course.

The next day when I picked up the part, I saw that its appearance resembled some sort of genetic mutation of a deep sea worm.  I thought, “Surely GM didn’t really intend to make it this way.”  Ridiculous indeed.  

I got home and jacked the car up and surveyed the situation.  Not good.

I took a break.

Looked at it again.  Thoughtfully this time. 

I took another break.

Then I took a nap.

Looked at it again and finally took the car off the ramps.  Beaten!
I told Becky that it was a difficult fix and that I just didn’t feel like messing with it. I called a local repair shop and found out that they were booked up for two weeks. 
I slept on it.

I got up the next day and said, “By gum, (does anyone know what that means?) I am not gonna let this thing beat me!” 

So I mapped out my “strategery” (thanks for that one, “W”)  and got to work.
The job began by running the car up on ramps again.   I found the right socket, fetched my breaker bar and located my beloved six foot piece of pipe.  I wheeled under the car on the creeper and accompanied by manly grunts, I used the breaker bar and pipe to break loose four large, tight, important looking bolts. 

After placing a large hydraulic jack under the engine/transmission cradle to support its weight, I began slowly loosening the bolts to the end of their travel.  The cradle descended slowly.   I lowered the jack further and the cradle didn’t budge; it all just hung there on the forward engine mounts and axels. 
Ah, elbow room.  I had a glorious 1.5 inches in which to reach the steering box and high pressure line.

First, I removed the three hose mounts and then loosened the pipe fittings to the steering box, almost giving myself a hernia. My left arm had to thread through the left hand wheel well to get proper leverage on the box end wrench, and my right hand had to get in beside the steering box through the 1.5 inch gap. 

I broke the fitting loose and the top end with its flex hose came down from the pump easily.  It was grimy to say the least.   About half of this line is aluminum custom bent pipe which has limited flexibility before it crimps or cracks.  So I began to thread the thing out of the frame, around the exhaust pipe, around the engine mount and heat shield with the goal of encouraging it to migrate into the right hand wheel well.  The pump is on the upper passenger side of the engine.  

The line starts down to the engine cradle, then travels toward the front of the car for about 15 inches and then does a U-turn and heads right back only to make a 90 degree turn so that it can weave its way through cradle and around various tightly fitted components.

It got stuck several times and once it was finally loose, it took over a half an hour to remove. As you can probably imagine, I was thinking unkind things about whichever GM engineer had designed this particular part.

As the old line came out, I made careful mental notes so that I could attempt to install the new one in reverse.

Yeah, right.

The new one, while identical to the old one in every way, simply could not be cajoled into cooperation.   It refused to go in the way the old one came out.  So I started with the easy part near the pump and worked my way to the hard part.

Got stuck.

Took a break.

Tried again with a little more success.

Took another break.

Prayed. . . really.

Got back to it and began to ever so gingerly bend the rigid part of the line by small increments.  While working with my left arm threaded through the left wheel well and then through the sub frame, my right arm was threaded through every available inch of space as I wiggled, wedged and wound the line through the labyrinth of American ingenuity.  At last, it was in position. 

Except that the slightly bent line was no longer in perfect alignment with the rack pinion unit coupling.  So once again, I grunted and groaned as I re-bent the line so that it would thread into the steering box by hand. 

When that first tread began to bite, I gave a huge sigh of relief.   Smiled a grimy grin. Got it tightened up with the box end, bolted the engine/transmission cradle (sub frame) back into place and torqued the bolts with the handy breaker bar and pipe.

After checking everything, I filled the pump reservoir and fired the engine.
Success. No leaks. Hallelujah!

  • Total time invested: Four hours.  (Pretty good considering that I didn’t use pneumatic tools or a hoist.)
  • Filth factor:  Every square inch of my person.
  • Sweat Excreted:  Gallons.
  • Mosquito bites: Numerous.
  • Knuckles busted: Two.
  • Swear words: None. (This does not include the temptation to utter them, which is a different matter entirely.)
  • Money saved: At least $200.
  • Opinion of the job:  Ridiculous. 
  • Award for perseverance: Priceless.     

23 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

CJ said...

Well done! I looked it up out of curiosity on our program, and it said that job was a B skill level (A being easy, C being hard) normally a job like that, would leave a future customer calling for a tow right after they got the line off :)

Anonymous said...

A job well done Steve. I think now, after five months, I will be able too sleep this evening knowing that if I am ever in this predicament, that I could get under my car and complete the job, using your very detailed directions (I hate to admit that the words that would come out of my mouth would make a sailor blush). KNOCK KNOCK YAWN YAWN and now that I have returned to this planet, and my reality; I think I will take it to the Dealership where my dad is the Commercial Accounts Manager and have one of his buddies in the Service Department fix it for me. But again, WELL DONE, Steve!

Anonymous said...

Can I adopt this man?
Jan (Toledo)

Paige said...

Wow. I'm speechless! Hats off to you Steve. It sounded tedious and frustrating. Great job.

Anonymous said...

My conviction, which has been formed over years of observation, has been confirmed yet again: Steve can fix anything! I am so impressed--great job, Steve!

love deb

Anonymous said...

Tremendous job. What a sense of accomplishment you must feel. But I was just wondering---is it possible the power steering pump did not have to be replaced, but just that leaky, fluid spewing, pretzel shaped thing-a-ma-jig?

Anonymous said...

Hi Judy,

Great question. The old pump was definitely worn and the old hose was weak. When the old hose blew the leak was many times worse than before the pump was replaced and the new leak was in a different location. Thanks for reading my stuff.


Diane said...

Rolling in the floor laughing here in Apex at your detailed description of this work. We replaced the serpentine belt on our Dodge diesel truck (me helping hubby) and that's the second closest we've come to getting a divorce (the first was replacing the belt that makes the clothes dryer drum turn). I'm pretty sure there's a reason I never tried to be a mechanic and am VERY glad that we have a neighbor who we now can get help from.

Sharon Price said...

Well done Steve! Believe me, if this happened to our vehicle, dealership here we come.

Anonymous said...

Not even trying that. The earpiece broke off of my glasses and I tried to put an earpiece from an old pair on. Trying to get that tiny little screw in place and secured drove me over the edge. What you did? Would totally take me under! I am VErY impressed!

Jan said...

Dear Steve,

Portland Airport (PDX).

Any time.

Just call and I'll pick you up.

Short (but important) list.


Sue G said...

$200 would have fixed it by someone else?

And you spent hours working on it?

And you were hot and sweaty and dirty and mosquito bitten?

And you did it all like the pastor you are...without swearing once?

Heck, after the first hour I would have kicked the rolling thing that gets you under the car out from my husband...I would have spoken in a loud and very stern voice...I would have suggested (nicely, but with the implied threat of no dinner and impending divorce) that he take the car in to a shop where professionals have to get dirty, sweat, and fight off mosquitoes...and I would have given him a check to cover the cost.

You make me feel very wasteful.

Wanna take over our, if we had one?

Lisa from Georgia said...

I can definitely tell that you two have been married for a minute or two. Your writing styles are so similar that if not for the "mechanic-talk" I wouldn't have known that it wasn't Becky posting. I think it's cool how married people begin to share mannerisms, vocabulary, and sometimes even looks. Steve, you and Snowy are fine fella for giving Becky a blogging break! Enjoyed your post!

Anonymous said...

Steve, I AM SO GLAD YOU ARE HANDY THAT WAY; ANY time Kenneth saves %$50.00 per hour I give him a big smack on the lips and tell him how great he is...then I go figure out how I AM GOING TO UTILIZE (Spend) those savings...lololol


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