Monday, June 7, 2010

Update in my Automotive Drama

Over the weekend, I replaced a leaking power steering hose on my truck.  This is conceptually a simple operation.  Disconnect two hex connectors, put in the new hose, and tighten two identical hex connectors.  However, when trying to get my meathooks and 3/4" open wrench down the side of the engine to disconnect it, I found that the only way I could get enough leverage to break the connector open was to get my wrist to bend almost 90 degrees in the wrong direction and lock my elbow into a really unnatural position.  I was then able to use my body's weight to push against these joints and break the hose loose. 

Luckily I was smart enough to do this before I ran the engine up, so I didn't brand my forearms with the Dodge symbol from the side of the engine block.  I did not, however, think to power wash the engine before attempting this.  Did you know that power steering fluid that has been scorched on a hot engine block is more of a lubricant than graphite and will eat its way into any cracks in your skin, tattooing your hands and fingers with a series of black lines?

But eventually I was able to get the hose off and put the new one on.  It was during the installation of the new hose that I found that I had placed my drip bucket under the wrong part of the engine, and about a quart of power steering fluid was running down the driveway.  I grabbed a handful of paper towels and mopped up what I could. 

I then changed the oil, which thankfully was quick, easy, and only as messy as expected. 

I took the truck for a quick spin to check it out, and the steering was smooth as glass.  I was very overdue for changing the oil, so the engine ran noticably smoother.  

Got back and gave the section of driveway I had gotten power steering fluid and oil on, then parked the truck.  Overall, I'm quite happy with how my 2001 Ram is driving.  It's not perfect, but it's also 10 years old. 

I also wanted to change out the serpentine belt, because it looks like the truck has the one that was installed at the factory 100k miles ago.  But the guy at Autozone was unable to figure out exactly which of the 3 belts that are marked for my truck and it's engine I would need, so I'm going to try somewhere else.  The dealer wants $60 for a Mopar belt, so I'll see if I can do better at another parts store.

For those who are curious about the van, it still sits unmoving in my carport.  I got another starter motor for it, but even with a brand new starter it won't crank.  Which means I need to get it to a mechanic to have the flywheel checked out.   When I found out how much that would cost, I had about a reaction pretty much like this one:

So I'll continue to just drive the truck for now.  If I don't have it fixed by Christmas, I'll have it towed to my Ford dealer, ask him how much he wants to give me in trade, and get rid of it.  If it's running reliably by then, I may hold off for a while and enjoy not having a car payment.

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