Sunday, July 24, 2005

Redneck Engineering

I'm lazy and I am not ashamed to admit it. I rarely change my own oil in my vehicles because I don't like crawling around on the ground. But I'm also a cheapskate. I have a neighbor who occasionally gifts me with a case or two of motor oil in exchange for hunting privileges, so all I have to buy are filters, therefore I went back to changing my own oil. Note: I do change the oil and do regular maintenance on the tractors, but that's partly because I don't have to lay on the ground in the dirt to do it.

Anyhoo, Thursday evening I changed the oil in my truck, this task taking me, oh about two and a half hours. Two hours of which was spent searching for one of my (three!) oil filter wrenches, but I digress. Friday was the day from hell at the Salt Mines. We've been rather busy lately, but Friday was exceptional. I didn't get to go to lunch and ended up working over until nearly 1am Saturday morning.

I'm driving up the road, about three miles from the office and stop at a red light. Heard this pecking noise coming from what I thought was the car beside me. 'friad not, I looked down to see my oil pressure gauge jumping wildly and realized that it was my truck making the racket.

I pulled over at the first wide shoulder I could find and popped the hood. I immediately checked the oil, but I couldn't tell in the dark. I had talked to TC earlier in the evening and knew he was working late too, so I called him on the off chance he was still in town. He had just gotten home, but he volunteered to come back down and see what the problem was.

In the meantime, I rooted around in my truck and found my mag-lite was was able to ascertain that there wasn't any oil in the truck. So I crawled up under it (still in khakis and a tie mind you) and saw a steady drip-drip-drip from the oil plug. TC pulled up a few minutes later and after we had a short conference decided that the engine probably wasn't hurt. I didn't have any tools with me (which is unusual), but TC did, so I tried tightening the plug, which didn't seem to do any good. TC asked if I had lost the little gasket/seal/washer do-lolly that goes on the plug and I told him, quite honestly, that I'd never even noticed it having one. There was some debate on whether it was cross-threaded, but we finally decided it probably wasn't.

Sooo, I crawled back under there, pulled the plug and watched what little oil was left in the pan pour out. I would hazard a guess that it was less that a quart left in it. After examining the plug I could see what was left of a rubber washer on the plug, which had finally disintegrated from age.

Oh, and did I mention that the road shoulder seemed to be built entirely of broken beer bottles, rather than gravel? Not my first choice of a working environment, but you gotta play the hand you're dealt.

So off we went to the nearest Stop 'n Rob to buy six quarts of oil at outrageous prices (which really hurts since I have a couple of cases in the barn) and some STP (just in case).

Now we get to the engineering. I didn't have anything to make a new gasket out of, so TC took one of the oil bottles and laid it on its side and proceeded to fabricate me a new one out of the plastic oil bottle.

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I stayed under the truck and watched while he filled it up and it didn't leak a drop. I started the engine up and we listened to it for a minutes until the lifters quit pecking and then I drove up the road a ways to another Stop n' Rob and pulled up on some clean concrete to see if it was still holding. It was, so I went on home, again parking it on clean concrete. Next morning I did find a little puddle, about the size of silver dollar, but I think I can live with that until my next oil change. As I've said before, I've never seen a 302 that doesn't leak, so maybe this will be my only one.

I was very fortunate. Had I been more sleepy, I might not have noticed anything amiss until it was too late. That would be the saga of my Isuzu Trooper all over again (that's a story for another time).

I had terrible visions of having to buy a new engine on the heels of buying a new transmission for Sweeties truck earlier this week and I didn't like that idea at all.

So, that's the story of our grand feat of hillbilly engineering. It worked and got me (and my engine) home intact. Granted, it would've been better to use the right washer for it, but for some reason the parts stores don't stay open all night. This simply goes to prove the maxim "Nothing ever breaks down when the parts stores are open." Of course, had I not worked so late, I surely would've noticed the gigantic oil slick underneath my truck, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

This pretty well killed my weekend. I've been completely worthless until late this afternoon, when I went down the road to do battle with my Johnsongrass infestation. No idea how that's going to work out for a few days. I have to wait and see what the Roundup® does to it.