Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. And sometimes you screw that up too.

Well, I didn't get a whole lot done over this last week. A few weeks ago, the power steering went out on my truck, and since I couldn't figure out if the power steering pump was bad, or if the steering rack had gone bad, I decided to replace both as well as the inner and outer tie rod ends. I didn't have the funds at the time, so I had to wait a couple weeks until I had all the funds together, and that wound up being last week into this week. That literally took me a week to get everything together and put it on the truck. I called around to every vAuto Zone in the area to see if anyone had the rack. I finally located one way on the other side of town. I headed that way in short order.
Day 1:
To start with, I had to special order the power steering pump and new pulley assembly. I requested that those parts be shipped to the vAuto Zone nearest me, as I was informed that the parts would be in by 1700 hours that day. When they brought the steering rack up to the counter, I noticed it had the wrong part number on it, but it was only off by one part number (i.e. the right part was 6115, the part number on the box was 6114), but it rang up as the right part number. A quick peek in the box revealed that it sure looked like the one on my truck, so I went ahead and paid for the rack, pump, pulley, outer tie rod ends, and some miscellaneous other things.
I got home with my parts and removed the rack, pump, and tie rods from my truck and tried in vain to remove the power steering pump pulley from the pump. After a few hours of jacking with it, I finally just cut the pulley off with a cut off wheel mounted in a grinder. I win.
I then found out that the steering rack I had just purchased was not the right one, the mounting holes weren't even close to correct and the hydraulic valve assembly was incorrectly placed. I had to head to work later in the evening, so I decided to stop by the store closest to me and see if my pump and pulley were in yet. The employees at that store didn't even know what I was talking about. I went ahead and dropped off my pump core (bad idea, more on that later). I tried to exchange the steering rack I had been sold in error, only to be told that I was S.O.L. That store refused to help me in any way. I was informed that since it was the wrong part in the box and was rang up as something else, I had no recourse. I left there pretty pissed off and headed to the store where I had bought everything.
I got to that store and told them what had happened. They accepted the return on the old rack and ordered a new one for me from their hub. I was then told they would call me the next day when the pump came in. So, the end of day 1 netted me a headache and an increase of blood pressure and not even half of the parts I had paid for.
Day 2:
Woke up to the parts store calling me and informing me that my new steering rack was in and ready for pick up. I had some other errands to run for the day, so I cleaned up and headed out the door. I stopped by the Auto Zone closest to me to see if my pump and pulley were in. They were, so I picked them up. I headed over to the other side of town to pick up the new rack. With the new rack mounting holes and valve assembly closely inspected, I tossed it in the trunk of the car and headed to work. I was beat but happy.
Day 3:
Went to the garage to put my new parts on and found out that there were parts on the old pump core that I needed but had neglected to remove. Crap. I hopped in the car and headed up to the store where I had taken the pump core for return hoping to salvage the parts I needed. I actually did not catch any hell from them when I asked to salvage the parts needed, so I pulled the parts and headed home. When I got home, I assembled the pump and pulley and the bracket that mounts on the motor that holds the pump. I wanted to get the rack installed before mounting the pump assembly so I could still access everything from the top side of the engine bay. I tried to screw the new outer tie rod ends on to the inner tie rod ends on the new rack, and the tie rod end in my hand literally slipped over the threads. No fit. They had sold me two different tie rod ends, but some quick measurements showed them to be identical parts and part numbers, but the overall appearance of them was different. I assumed that one tie rod end must be incorrect. To make sure, I tried threading both onto the other end of the rack. They both threaded on fine. Son of a........ Those ignorant sumbeeches put two different inner tie rod ends on the steering rack. Dammit.
Day 4:
Called around to the store I got the rack from and asked them to see who had another rack. Turns out one of the Auto Zones one town over had one, and they offered to ship it in and have it by 1700 hours that day. I held my temper and my tongue and simply informed them I would pick it up in person. I prefer to drive the 20 miles and personally inspect it instead of waiting on the invalids at one of the local stores to correct any more problems. 20 miles later, I went in, rack in hand, (plus one of the ball joints they sold me did not have a jam nut, so I was returning it as well.) and told the guy behind the counter what was going on. I had to explain to this guy (who was an assistant manager) two or three times what was going on, and finally had to show him the difference in the threads with the tie rod end I brought for exchange. Fifteen minutes later, he finally tried to correct the problem via his computer....
Which was out of service due to a poor connection.
The assistant manager finally just handed me the new parts (which were literally inspected with a digital caliper before accepting them) and I hit the road.
Upon returning home, all the parts were checked for fit and set up for installation the next day, as I had to head to work.
Day 5:
Parts were installed with little to no trouble and aside from needing an alignment, all was well.
I headed to work that afternoon and.......
The truck started overheating. Badly. I found a small water leak in a steel line that attaches to the water pump, and after having my girlfriend bring me a new part, I figured I was back in business.
After work I limped the truck home (as fixing the leak did not stop the overheating problem) and went in to beat my head against the wall before going to bed.
Day 6:
Got up, went through my daily coffee routine and went to look at the truck. The heater hadn't been blowing hot in a while, so I figured the heater core needed to be flushed. I took the hoses on the firewall off and hooked up a water hose to it and blew out a bunch of crap. I then switched the hose to the other heater core outlet and backflushed, removing more rust and crap. I switched back and forth for about five minutes before calling it good. A quick test drive later, and I still had an overheating truck. Bypass heater core, remove thermostat, backflush radiator, aaaaannnnnnddd....
it still overheats. Crap.
Off to work I go for the day, and to get some time to think.I finally decided that since the only things that were left in the cooling system were the water jackets in the block, the radiator cap, and the water pump (I had replaced the radiator 6 months ago), I would replace those the next day.
Day 7:
A quick jaunt back to the closest Auto Zone yielded a new water pump, thermostat (why not?), and some a radiator cap. Three hours later, the motor is back together, the water jackets were confirmed to not be clogged but were flushed out anyway, and everything is ready to be filled and tested. Upon reassembly, I find that the idler pulley bearing has gone out and is grinding like a son of a gun. Ok. Another trip to the parts store. Problem fixed. I then fill the radiator and take the truck for a test drive, wherein the truck begins to overheat slightly. I slow down so I can shut the truck down and let it cool off, and all of a sudden the throttle cable sticks wide open. I dropped it in neutral and turned the key off. Tapping the pedal a few times freed up the throttle cable. I restarted the truck, and apparently the thermostat finally decided to open. Truck starts to cool down and I head home, exhausted but satisfied. I pull in the driveway, pop the hood to top off the radiator overflow and check everything out when I hear a new noise.
The bearing on the belt tensioner is going bad and needs replacing.

Some days I have all the luck, and I swear it's all bad.


  1. Many years ago I made my living as an auto mechanic. Reading your story reminds me about just why I gave it up.

    Best of luck to you.

  2. Mad Jack,
    Several years ago my first job out of high school was as a mechanics' assistant,(meaning I did everything the mechanic did, but I did it for 6 bucks an hour instead of 20), and things like this were common no matter what parts supplier we used.
    I never regretted getting out of that job.
    Thanks for commenting.