Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Oh For Three

Yesterday was a little hectic. As I mentioned earlier, all three of our family vehicles developed mechanical problems Saturday. I spent most of Sunday fiddling around with them (taking some time off to watch that miserable excuse for a football game). Monday was a continuation. Here's the results.

My wife's minivan developed a coolant leak. At the same time she ran over a nail. After some time diagnosing the leak I had it narrowed down to the area where the upper radiator hose connects to the radiator. Of course, it wasn't the hose. That would be a quick and inexpensive fix. No, it was a pinhole where the hose slides over a fitting or neck that's part of the radiator. In the old days, back when car parts where made of metal, I would have just soldered the connection and moved on. Today, of course, the radiator is made of plastic. That means the whole thing has to be replaced.

Plastic radiators cost $800...

Also, given the 'advances' of automotive engineering, everything is shoehorned into a tiny space in which only people with very small arms and hands -- or highly trained monkeys -- can work. Plus you have to take out half the engine just to get to the radiator. Furthermore, a lot of the work must be done from underneath the vehicle. I don't fit under there as well as I used to, when I was mumble mumble pounds lighter.

I used to be a pretty fair shade tree mechanic, but that was mumble mumble years ago. Today I have neither the skills nor the inclination to do what I used to do. So we called a tow truck and off to the shop went the van.

Fortunately, our vehicle insurance policy includes a roadside assistance rider, so the towing cost was covered. The tire, however, wasn't.

My wife managed to run over the nail in such a way that it penetrated the sidewall of the tire. That can't be patched. Since radial tires should be replaced in pairs, that means double the pleasure, double the fun - another $400...

Moving on to our daughter's SUV, it started to shake and shimmy at highway speeds. A quick look at it revealed nothing obvious. I think she may have lost a wheel weight or two - just enough to throw one wheel out of balance at high speeds. She got a ride to school today with one of her friends and we took her car into the shop. Hopefully this one won't be serious.

While all this was going on my truck decided it (she?) wasn't getting enough attention. It's an old but up till now reliable 1995 F-150. Sunday the oil gauge (yes, that model still has real, honest-to-God gauges with needles, not those damn idiot lights that don't give you any advance warning of a problem) began to twitch and drop at low RPMs. The truck was full of oil and there weren't any leaks, which means one of three things: the gauge is faulty, the oil pressure sensor is faulty, or the oil pump is failing. Again, I don't have the tools or skills to make that diagnosis, and didn't want to play the replace-things-until-the-problem-goes-away game, so my truck is keeping our other vehicles company in the shop. I'm hoping the problem is the gauge or sensor, but the way things are going lately it's probably the much more expensive oil pump.

Getting it there was interesting. In order to keep the oil pressure up, whenever I came to a stop sign or red light I would slip the transmission into neutral and step on the gas to rev the engine to keep the RPMs from dropping. Then I'd pop it back into gear and drive on.

One of the benefits of living in a small town is the friendliness and accommodating nature of the merchants. When I dropped off the truck the local rental car company delivered a car to me at the mechanic's shop - no charge. Thank goodness for small favors.

So that's where we are today. Three vehicles in the shop, one rental car at home.

And three sets of fingers tightly crossed...


Well Seasoned Fool said...

I've found with radiators, epoxy is your friend.

Old NFO said...

Yeah, we are dinosaurs when it comes to working on these 'new' cars... I'm like you, solder, bubble gum an bailing wire and go on... NOT today!

Mel said...

WSF epoxy or bondo.

Old NFO Agreed not today.

CTT you might have the mechanic check the pickup screen for the oil pump and see if it was clogged. I removed the oil pan on my 1966 tractor to replace the oil pump and found the intake screen plugged. Best of luck to you.

CenTexTim said...

WSF and Mel - I toyed with the idea of using epoxy, but wasn't sure how well it would work. Since this was on my wife's vehicle, and she's less than diligent about monitoring fluid levels and the instrument cluster, I decided not to take any chances. But I'll keep your suggestion in mind. Thanks.

Mel - got a call this afternoon from the mechanic. Looks like the oil gauge sensor is bad. We'll know for sure tomorrow. I pulled the pan and replaced the screen and filters a few years back. They were in pretty good shape. I'm kind of anal about preventative maintenance.

NFO - don't forget duct tape... :-)