Sunday, October 15, 2006

Law of Unintended Consequences, As Applied to Automobiles

Electrical problems are never the funnest thing to fix in a car, because there are so many things that can be the culprit. A month or so ago, my A/C stopped working. Its getting into fall here in KY, so the weather wasn't all that bad. However, knowing that winter would be here shortly, and also knowing that I didn't have a heater in addition to not having A/C, I decided I should set out to fix that problem.

I did a bit of research (in hindsight, I wonder about the validity of that, applied to this situation. More on that will be revealed shortly) and found that most of the time, these kinds of failures are due to relays. So, I dig out my repair manual (do yourself a favor and get the Chilton's manual; they're the best of the bunch. I don't recall who wrote mine, but it sucks), and find out that I have to use my owner's manual to figure out which relay it was. I replaced the A/C relay, which made no difference. About a week later, I got paid again, and looked up the other relay that was supposed to be the one. Installed it correctly, difference. That leaves the likely culprit to be the blower motor. I find out that the auto parts store down the street has 'em cheaper than I can get one on the Intarweb, so I'm stoked.

Now, according to my manual, all I have to do is unplug it, remove the screws to remove it from the firewall, and reverse the proceedure to reinstall. Seemed pretty simple. I start on the removal process, and find that there is a wire loom in the way. No problem; I trace the wires, mark the ones I need to mark to put 'em back in the right place, and I unplug some stuff. That gets the loom out of my way to get to the bolts.

I have large hands, so its a bit of a chore to get the bolts loose, but I do, without dropping a socket, socket wrench, screw, or inciting bleeding, which is a normal occurance when I work on a vee-hickle. Cool; the blower motor is loose now.

Let's take that thing out, then. Hmmmmm....that throttle body thing bolted to the fender well is in the way. Aight...what size bolt is that? Its a Mazda, its a mostly-metric Ford Ranger. Cool; I have that socket, and its only one bolt. I even manage to get that thing loose without loosing the bolt. Great! Back to the blower motor. I'll just pull it straight out, and...Dammit. The washer fluid/coolant overflow tank/bottle/reservoir thing is in the way. Now, these would have been two different pieces back in the day. Are they now? No! One big piece. Well, there's only two bolts, so all I gotta do is get a socket on an extension bar down in there and get it loose. Turns out that its a nut rather than a bolt, but that's no problem. I still haven't lost a socket, nut, or anything important yet. One nut loose, one to go...Dammit. The other nut is concealed under the edge of the air cleaner box. Now I'm looking at having to take apart the whole left side of my engine bay. Then the call comes.

A friend of mine that works in the showroom part time calls me, because I live very close to the shop. He had purchased a stripped AR15 lower receiver and lower parts kit while at work, and was going to build it at home. Turns out he had taken it out of the store in a stainless steel dish. The guys that closed up that Saturday were chatting in the parking lot, so he set that dish on top of his car. You know where this is going, don't you?

He gets home, which is about 15 minutes away, and finds its not in his rig. He calls me and asks me to drive up the street and see if I can find it. Well...I can walk it, which I did. Now, according to the BATF (who's bringing the chips?) a serial numbered part is a gun, regardless of what other parts are there or are not there. So when he told me he had lost the receiver, I heard "gun". I took off at that moment at a brisk pace.

Long walk short, I found the receiver and a couple of the lower parts. It was about a mile from home, so I got a nice two mile walk in the middle of my tear down of the left side of my truck. Two miles later, I'm back to work on the damn truck.

I can't find any mention of how the airbox is secured to the fender wall in the poopy manual. It appears to be stuck to the fender well through grommets, but its not coming loose, and I'm losing patience. So I do what any other red blooded American shade tree mechanic would do: I started forcing and man handling the reserviors to get 'em out of my way. I have to admit to being a little bit surprised that I didn't break anything in the process.

At this point, I've removed everything that I can get loose, and there still isn't quite enough room. However, through brute force I man handled the motor and fan free...which took about ten or fifteen minutes. Turns out the fun didn't end there! The new motor didn't have the fan on it; its just the motor. That wasn't too difficult to fix, it just took a bit of time.

Oddly, the motor popped back into the housing without too much difficulty; that was only a few minutes. Again, I managed to get everything back in without loosing any screws and only dropped a socket once. Luckily, once installed and power was applied, it worked like a champ. I know you were worried about that part.

The job that shoulda taken about half an hour or forty five minutes ended up being something like three and a half hours. With a two mile walk in the middle. But at least I have a heating and cooling system again. For now.

1 comment:

Josh said...

"So I do what any other red blooded American shade tree mechanic would do..."

Hehehe...sounds exactly like me trying to replace the solenoid in the liftgate on my Jeep. Of course, unlike your experience, my liftgate still doesn't work.