October 09, 2005

I Love Being a Mechanic

So... I'm driving around town yesterday in my van, and suddenly I have no pressure on my brake pedal. I had to be really careful driving the thing home, as there wasd some brake pressure, but not enough to stop in any timely fashion. The worst part of it was the fact that I was out drinking most of the day, and I was really in no condition to be driving a disabled vehicle, but there it is. After I got home last night, I figured "why waste a good drunk on working on my car?", so I just kept "powering on" until it was nighty-night time. What can I say? I'm a dedicated drunk.

This morning (who'm I kidding? it was after noon before I finally got awake enough to do anything) I decided that I'd better scope things out. I found that my brake fluid was really low, so I went ahead and topped it up. Since I needed some cigarrettes, I headed on down to the local convenience store, as a test run to see if the fluid had corrected my problem. Nope. I got it back home, and broke out my shop manual. I still wasn't really in the mood to work on it, so I figured that I would check the book to see if there was any simple fix I could try. Unfortunately, all I got from it was getting scared that there was a problem in my ABS controller. All the book said in regards to the ABS system was "take it to a dealer". Great! I can't afford that.

I went on back outside, and moved the van from the yard into the driveway so I could see what was going on. I started checking each of the wheels to see if there was any signs of brake fluid leaking. Eureka! The passenger side rear wheel was literally dripping with brake fluid. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw that, as I knew that I could avoid a costly dealership visit.

Jack her up and pull the wheel. Remove the brake drum, and I see that the wheel cylinder is where all the damn fluid is coming from. For the uninnitiated: a wheel cylinder is a small hydraulic piston that forces the brake pads into the inside of the drum to provide the friction that stops your vehicle. See here for more info. I called up my local Advance Auto Parts store (There's one about a mile up the road from me) and found that they are out of stock of these for my vehicle. It's okay though, as the one that's five miles away has a couple in stock. Jenny drives me over there, and I proceed to procure the part.

Luckily for me I have had to replace a wheel cylinder on this van before, so I already had some specialty tools that I needed. You see, General Motors decided that in order to ensure that people bring their vehicle back to teh factory service shops, they would use a very strange style of bolt to hold the wheel cylinders in place. The best way for me to describe it is by telling you about a Torx (tm) head screw. You've all seen (unless you live in a cave or something) a normal "slotted screw". There is a single groove cut into the head of it, where you insert a flat blade screwdriver to either tighten or loosen it. Another type of screw is called the "phillp's head", and instead of having a single slot, there are two that are arranged in a "+" formation. With a Torx head, there is a six pinted star instaid into the head of the screw. same concept of the screw applies, but youhave to have different tools to deal with each one. The bolts that hold the part in are like a reverse Torx. Instead of having the six-pointed star inset into the head of the bolt, the entire bolt head is shaped like a six pointed star. (Essentially, you just take a Torx head, and pull it inside-out.) I can't remember how much the socket's that fit this type of bolt cost me, but the frustration of finding them the first time is literally seared into my head.

My Dad had driven me to the Auto parts store to get a new cylinder, and after the purchase was made, we came back to the Marina for me to fix the problem. I reached around there to figure out what size wrench I needed to get the thing off of there, and found the strange reverse Torx headed bolts. This was a Saturday night, and all I wanted to do was get home. Home is twenty five miles away, and the parts store is at least ten. It's well past dark, and I was extremely frustrated. Not to mention the fact that I was working in a parking lot. dad had to carry me back down the the parts store, and I was lucky to find that they had a socket set that fit these wierd things. It added around an hour to my toital repair time, and there's things I'd have rather been doing with my life at the time.

At any rate, this time was much better. I still had the right tools in my (several) tool box's, and was able to make the repair in no time flat. Half-hungover, not really motivated, and really wanting to take my Sunday as a "Lazy Day". All told, the total time I actually worked on the vehicle (This definately does not include the time I took grousing about the fact that I had to work on it. Otherwise the time would rise exponentially.) was less than an hour. The part cost me every bit of $12.88.

I can only imagine what kind of ordeal this would have been if I wasn't a mechanic. Minimum cost would have been in the $300 range. There's towing fee's, and $60 dolaar an hour mechanic's charges, and the 500% markup on parts to consider. Fuck you! I'll do it my damnself.

I Love being a mechanic. Even when I hate it.

Posted by Johnny - Oh at October 9, 2005 11:32 PM | TrackBack

You need to live closer to my house so I can hit you up for free repairs.

Well, not FREE... there'd be payment in alcohol :-)

Posted by: Harvey at October 10, 2005 09:53 AM

Yeah, but you'd go to the poorhouse in alchohol! ;^)

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at October 10, 2005 06:27 PM

True dat :-)

Posted by: Harvey at October 12, 2005 04:42 PM

u need 2 clam down

Posted by: mal at November 24, 2005 04:47 PM
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