Thursday, October 04, 2007

So I've been getting advice from this website on how to get my car in tip top shape. One of the guys on the site agreed to help me out so Ben and I drove to Dartmouth college last weekend where the guy SVOboy from the site futzed around with the car, cleaning this, poking that, prodding and probing and tweaking and more or less not accomplishing anything. But the drive was fun. We drove 75-80 the whole way there and back and averaged 44mpg. Respectable. About what the Prius manages at those speeds.

It's gotta be the EGR valve. Just plug the IACV and blow on the PCV or something.

Now we're getting somewhere.

Maye there's a vacuum leak

Just gotta clean out the IACV

In the end we got the idle to stay at 500RPM for about 2 minutes, but then the sticking idle and roaming idle returned. I brought it to the mechanic and after some head scratching and but crack scratching and whatever other scratching mechanics do while trying to figure out the problem, he decided to clean the throttle body out completely for $180 as well as replacing the fuse for my headlight. Problems solved. Another mechanic had offered to replace the throttle body for $200 so I guess I came out of it okay. Just need to get a cluster from the junkyard to fix the odometer and speedometer and the car will be in tip top shape. Love the little gas miser. But don't be under any illusions of the car's incapabilities. Ben and I did a 0-60mph sprint in 12.6 seconds. But that was with a very bad start and less that swift gear shifts.

1984 Ford Thunderbird (he wouldn't let me take a picture of his car so I found one on google that is what it looked like.)

So this mechanic I brought my car to. He's an interesting guy. I tell him there's still a hesitation problem while driving at low RPMs. He tells me cars aren't designed to be driven at 1100RPMs. After twice around the block down route 71 to demonstrate how I should be driving my car, his answer to the problem is to keep it above 1700RPM: "the car doesn't *like* to be at 1100RPM. Listen to the car, it will tell you what gear it wants to be in." I tried to explain to him that I like to get 60mpg from the car. He tells me no car was ever designed to get 60mpg except maybe hybrids. He then demonstrates how *his* car also doesn't like to be driven at low RPMs. This was quite an experience. His car is an old 1984 Ford Thundercrap or whatever, all modded out for bare bones performance. The car has been stripped down to a weight of 2200 pounds, just 100lbs more than mine. The rear seats have been taken out and the fronts replaced with bucket seats equipped with race seat belts that don't work. This, after lecturing me about how concerned he is about safety. (I had asked his opinion of coasting down hills in neutral, which he saw as a good recipe for getting killed.) He then demonstrated the RPMs his car likes to be driven at. So we're ambling along at a modest pace. We turn down route 71 and we're putting along and I'm waiting for him to do something, or say something... for something to happen. All of a sudden (but I was half expecting this) he let's the car rip. The already loud engine roars to life as the speedo and RPMs fly northward then southward as I feel myself get pushed back in my seat, the cabin noise increases, the engine starts to make a high pitched jet engine sound and just before take off I glance a look out the window to see the airport go whizzing passed when he slows down and asks... "feel the difference?" Yes... got it... car likes the high RPMs... won't soon forget it. At this point I feel like I am in one of those B horror movies from the late 70s or early 80s that never got made because I'm living it now, two and a half decades later.... He claims we just hit 130mph. I'm skeptical but don't say anything. I'm pretty sure his speedo is off by a good 15-20%, but maybe we hit 100mph. He claims 4000RPM in 4th gear is 130mph. (His speedo only goes up to 95.)

Well, maybe any other sane person would slowly walk away at this point and say thank you very much and never return again down that dirt road to the mechanic shop hidden from view (sorry, again, about that Dan) but I somehow like the guy and he offers to give me 1/2 hour of his time to look at my rear brakes which are making a clicking noise. We jack the car up, get the wheels off and he takes a look at the brakes and immediately starts doing the "oh jeez, do you guys have *any* idea what you were doing" routine about Ben and my brake job. He then asks me to look at the brakes and tell him what is wrong. I fail it. With some leading questions I finally see it. The backing plate has been bent. How did that happen!? All I can say is Oopss... He then goes round to the other side and points out some brake fluid that has leaked from the brake cylinder and some excessive brake pad shavings. Back to the left side he starts to disassemble the brakes. He discovers the clevis or adjuster has been worn down--all the way down to the threads. Will need to be replaced. While taking the brakes apart to fix the problem, the other cylinder starts leaking fluid badly. He then proceeds to lecture me on why you don't work on cars yourself when you're not a mechanic, especially something like brakes, and why there are professionals that charge what they do to do the job right and to *please* bring the car to a professional the next time it needs work. So I have no option now but to pay him to fix the brakes. The car isn't in any shape to drive. New brake cylinders need to be installed as well as new brake hardware and a new adjuster/clevis.

So I call Dan to get a ride but I don't take into consideration maybe he doesn't know where the place is. Like I said, you cannot see the shop from the road because it is down a little driveway and hidden. So I start to walk to Dan's house from town and keep expecting to see him on the way. About 1/2 mile from Dan's house, by the airport, I hear a car slow down behind me: poor Dan spent the last 45 minutes driving around town looking for this phantom mechanic shop and finally gave up. Moral of the story, if you want something done right, hire a professional.

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