Take the Scenic Route

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Enlightened Self Interest... Or Zen and the Art of Car Maintenance

The day before I went in for surgery, I discovered that my Warrant of Phatness was due to expire. And although generally speaking, my car is not that phat, having a warrant is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, it failed for some relatively minor, but somewhat expensive issues. Like $100 part that cost over $500 to install (Most of the front subframe of the car had to be be removed to take it out, because the steering rack and intake manifold were preventing access from above.

There was also an apparent exhaust leak. I say apparent, because my mechanic had trouble locating it. That is, the 'leak' was signified by a small carbon deposit rather than escaping exhaust gas. He had a bit of a go with a welder, but when I got it back to the testing station last night, just after 5 o'clock, it turned out that he'd probably made an actual hole with the welder. Grrrr. And of course, everywhere was shutting up, and as I went round the few open places this morning, they were all busy. And I'm supposed to be going to the crib for the next couple of days.

So I came back home, and tried google, wikipedia, and a few other internet dark arts to find a home fix. At which point I thought, "Repco!". The people there are very helpful, which is to be commended. They once told me that I should use a screwdriver instead of an oil filter wrench. I couldn't work out how to use the screwdriver, as the oil filter is round and smooth, so went back and asked. "Just grab a hammer and bash the screwdriver throught it". You see, you just biff the old oil filter, so irreparably damaging it in the process of removing it is no big problem. Incidentally, it's quite sort of kinky. On my old car, you had to slide underneath it to get room to swing the hammer. And you have to run the car to make the oil hot (and hence more liquid) before you drain the oil and take the filter off. So as soon as you bash the screwdriver in, you have quite hot oil everywhere, especially running down the screwdriver, down the arm you're holding it with, and down your shirt.

But I digress. Helpful Repco person directed me to 'exhaust bandages'. It's fiberglass encased in some dodgy chemical that sets with heat, so basically you wrap it around the leak and then drive for a while to bake it on. Get home, jack car up, slide under, and can't even see the leak. Or any sign of welding. There was a bit that looked a bit black, so I decided that I'd 'fix' that, in case it was the leak, seeing as I had under an hour to get back to the testing station. The exhaust pipe was very hot, so I sprayed it with the mister I use for my seedlings to dry to cool it down. That seemed to work. For some odd reason, my exhaust pipe seems to be wrapped in some sort of shield, but the bolts look rusted on, so I decided not to remove them. Unfortunately, I figure this means that the bandage isn't going to seal properly, but am just like, "Ah, fuck it". And then accidentally smack my head on something for good measure. I do a tolerable job of wrapping it. It's quite hard, and quite hot, and there are a lot of crinkles, and I'm not too convinced it's sealed. Then you are supposed to secure it with wire (provided). Running out of time, so do a really half-arsed job.

There's a big queue at the testing station. The staff are clearly looking forward to going home. Seeing as mine only needs the one thing checked now, one of the staff comes out into the carpark, without putting the car over the pit. I'm not sure if he actually looked at/for the repair, but he definitely put a rag over the end of the pipe (if there is no leak, or only a very small hole, your hand gets pushed off by the pressure). It passes the rag test, so he decides it's fixed (without asking me what, if anything, I'd done to it). Phatness officially decreed. Aaaahhh, the joys of self interest...


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