Little bit of maintenance…

It seems I have too many wheels on the ground.

“Wheels on the ground” is an old farming expression that refers to how much equipment the farm has. Basically, count the wheels. It’s a measure of assets and capability, as in, how much “stuff” you can do, but also a measure of liability, as in, ya gotta keep all that stuff running…I’ve some 32 wheels on the ground. And an extra house or building or two…

I try to do a lot in this world. I’m driven to build…to repair…to create. Add content. I’ve acquired things along the way that help me to do that. Skills. Tools. Machines. They enhance my capabilities, and often, my reach…my ability to accomplish more with less funds.

But each asset takes some time and money to manage. Insurance, maintenance, breakdowns. It’s a fine line. Am I keeping up? Am I moving forward?

Will the things fall apart faster than I can put them back together? Will we eventually achieve a balance where all my efforts are only to maintain instead of create?

Ah, entropy. If only it could be harnessed for something useful!

Anyway, some work this weekend.

Big Iron

The 97 Dodge v-10 4x4 pick-em-up-truck

Big Iron, the Texan’s requisite pick-em-up-truck

Soooo…a week ago Sunday I ran out to get some groceries. Took “Big Iron”…the Dodge…’cause, yanno, I don’t have enough bungee cords to tie down a full load of groceries on the Valk…and the wife was out of town.

I don’t need the truck often, but when I do, well…I do. Had to hunt around a bit to find the keys to the thing though. As I wrestled the dust-bunnies on the back corner of my dresser for the key ring I reflected that it was hard to believe I’ve had this thing 11 years (and it’s 17 years old)!

I get done shopping and as I’m loading the groceries in the truck a guy who saw me come in and *waited* for me to come out says, “Hey, right after you parked I smelled gasoline really strong from your truck.”

I told him thanks and that I’d check it out and he left. I figured nobody would wait to tell me something like that if he didn’t really think there was a problem. I was probably in the store 25 minutes! To that guy…well, thanks!

So, fired it up, opened the hood, ran it a bit, looked around…couldn’t really smell anything and didn’t see anything…

Ah well. I’ve ice-cream and other goodies melting in the truck so I headed home. Nothing to be done here anyway. Gunned it pulling away from a light and it stuttered…

“Uh oh.” The powerplant under the hood of this beastie is a 10 cylinder, 8 liter monster that has enough horsepower and torque that it is nothing if not smooth…under pretty much any condition you’d care to subject it to.

Pull away from a stoplight? Smooth.
Put it in 4×4 and light up all 4 tires? Smooth.
0-100 in the “speed of thought”? Smooth.
Hook up a chain and pull the gates of hell clean off? Smooth.
Give Atlas…and his burden a ride? Smooth.

It *never* stutters.

But it did.

Got home and parked…no explosion…definitely smelled gas now…opened the hood (still running, I live dangerously)…can’t see any issue…yanno…fuel injection… no carb…steel lines…all looks good… you’d think it would be spewing fuel all over the place if there was a problem.

Look sorta under the front…under the engine…nothing dripping…

Go back to look at the gas cap/etc…maybe sloshing? Heh…NOW the problem is obvious. Fuel is pouring off the top of the tank under the truck. Running out from under and down the alley. The fuel line from the tank must be cracked/rotted or something right where it attaches to the tank…fuel pump in tank is spewing it all out on the ground.

Stopped when I turned the truck off. Gad. Sadly, only liability insurance so I’m fortunate it didn’t explode…

So, Friday is “fix all the stuff” day.

First, I drop the fuel tank.

My specially made "gas-tank-dropping-jack" (motorcycle jack)

My specially made “gas-tank-dropping-jack” (motorcycle jack)

Kind of hard to get to…dropping the tank out of ‘Big Iron’ using my specially made gas-tank-dropping-jack (motorcycle jack).

I find this:

Cheap ass fuel fitting

Cheap ass fuel fitting

I have no idea how the thing even got any fuel at all. My machines DO tend to get me home though. Perhaps my policy of brutally dismembering any vehicle that strands me (and it’s not my fault) has some effect.

Dear Dodge:
Thanks for using cheaptastic nylon fittings on a pressurized fuel system. It gives me the opportunity to repair something that should never have needed service. Potential fireballs are fun!
Unwilling to be charcoal

It took a remarkable amount of time to run around and find the fitting/etc needed to replace this, but I got it done. Then came the minor task of jacking the mostly full tank (holds 35 gallons) back into place and strapping everything back together.


But only just begun.

Crunchbird (da Altima)

Did you know most newer model cars have an in-cabin air filter? Yeah, you should change those things every now and again.

I'm pretty sure I destroyed an entire civilization when I trashed this filter.

I’m pretty sure I destroyed an entire civilization when I trashed this filter.

This is out of ‘Crunchbird’, the wife’s Altima. Yuck.

Maybe we can breathe again.

Oooo…but I’m not done yet.

Sooo…a while back ‘Crunchbird’ throws an engine code. “Pre-catalyst”. Mechanic says gotta change the catalyst, which is part of the manifold so they have to change the entire exhaust manifold…and both O2 sensors. Cost? Around $1700 parts and labor.

Me, I check the internet. Nissan owners’ forum says that’s one of the o2 sensors failing and just change ’em both. 99.9% of the time, that’s the issue. The catalyst pretty much never fails. Except when it does.

So I do that. $120, parts and labor. Tada! Fixed!

It's dead Jim.

It’s dead Jim.

But wait, there’s more!

Just for good measure, I then repaired lawnmower #1 (the engine driven push kind), and mowed the yard in the suburban “blah” house. This was surprisingly difficult because we apparently didn’t notice the grass turning to iron. Ah. Well. Then I removed the blade on lawnmower #1 and sharpened it…and replaced the mulchy thingies (technical term), and THEN I could mow the lawn without it laughing hysterically at me.

Then I’m off to the Old Vic. It has a yard too. A big one. A big DEEP one. Gad! Where did all THIS come from! It seems traditional that I can’t mow a yard without repairing a lawnmower so I repair lawnmower #2 (the cheaptastic riding kind). I mow the Old Vic and just because I’m a glutton for punishment I mow my Mom’s yard down the street. Did I mention that she has an acre?

…annnd then entropy strikes again…

I moved the Left-handed Fargle-snorker to mow around it. And the brakes quit. Again. Again for the againth time. It’s a saga. Shouldn’t be hard to find the problem though. I’ve replaced nearly every brake part on the thing. That diagnosis next week!


And because it apparently hurts soooo good that I cannot stop…I ordered a few hundred bucks worth of suspension parts for Crunchbird. When I took it in for an oil change and tire rotation it was decided it needs struts (strut-pack), shocks, and tie-rod ends (inner AND outer), AND a couple new tires. Tune in next time for that change out!

As for today? It’s back to work for me (so I can get some rest!)

I’m almost afraid to touch anything here…

Sproing! “Oops.”

Daniel Meyer

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