"Keep a Journal: How else are you going to get a good look at who you were?"

Sunday, February 01, 2004


Well, not really...

Been an innnnteresting week. The value of good friends and generous family has been proven to me IN SPADES. Herewith the tale:

Laurie has been scolding me about the car's brakes. The brakes are squeaking...the brakes are no good...the brakes don't stop the car worth a darn...etc, etc, etc...

Fact one: I removed the front wheel on the drivers side and inspected the brake pads, rotor, and caliper. They were all fine; a little worn to be sure, but fine. Laurie then insisted that I inspect the passenger side too, as "that's where all the noise is coming from"; previously, all the noise had been coming from the drivers side...ah me.

Fact two: This car weighs twice what the Tracker did. It's engine is rated for almost double the horsepower. It has very good acceleration compared to the Tracker, which was in serious need of an engine re-build. In short: the Dynasty has VERY DIFFERENT braking characteristics...you just CAN'T drive it like you did the tracker, honey...You have to anticipate farther ahead, and allow more time to slow down from high speed. The Dynasty also has very worn suspension, which has adverse affects on efficient braking.

Fact three: For the last few weeks, the Dynasty had been having some overheating problems, some electrical system glitches, and the steering was a little "heavy" at times. No concerns were raised, as these problems were minor and didn't seem to be getting any worse.

Last thursday night they all got MUCH worse. The car ran HOT, the electricals were under serious strain, and the steering went STIFF...

...and Friday morning I was FOOL enough to drive the car to work.

I went out at 2nd break to re-fill the radiator and check the fluid levels (car ran so hot I was surprised I didn't blow a rad hose). Sunny Renshi noticed something odd...

"Hey Brian, that drive belt is loose."

Good eye, that Sunni Renshi. The single serpentine belt that drives all the engine accessories on the Dynasty's big 3.3 litre V6 had fallen off the power steering pump pulley and was hanging loose on the front of the engine. Needless to say, none of the engine accessories were actually being driven by the drive belt.


...I borrowed some tools from Barry Kemp and convinced myself that I could put the belt back in place.

And I did put the belt back in place. Twice.

The belt tensioner pulley was broken...and from the look of the belt (severe fraying on one side), it had been broken for some time.

THAT was what all the squealing was from the passenger side...

By this time it was after 4:30. Taras, who accompanied me during the whole repair attempt (waiting to take delivery of the bicycle I had just overhauled for him) touched me on the shoulder and said, "maybe we should get it towed". In other words: "give up, it ain't gonna happen today"...

Taras has BCAA. He doesn't have a car, but he has an auto club membership...interesting, no?

I figured if we got the car towed to Taras' place, I could: 1.) give his bike back to him. 2.) get the car off of HBC's parking lot so I wouldn't have to worry about the gates being locked up for whenever it was ready to drive home 3.) be that much closer to a bus stop so I could get home myself.

Anyhow, the tow was free, the bus was a couple of bucks (Taras made a down payment on the bike repair) and I got home ok. Which reminds me, Taras still has Barry's tools...

I phoned around and got Grant to loan me a car, and Bob to get me the parts (yay BOB!) for cheap, and I got going on the job about 1PM. Four hours later, I was finished, and after some apres' repair purchases and fiddling I went home and dropped off all my tools and supplies and picked up Laurie and took her out to Richmond to pick up our car and we got the Hastings' car back to them by 7 PM.


The Repair:

Ya Know, Haynes Manuals are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Perhaps it's because cars are becoming more complex and manufacturers are keeping all that proprietary repair information copyrighted. When I fixed a troublesome vacuum leak in the tracker using the Haynes manual I bought for it, I had to really read between the lines to figure out what had gone wrong and how to fix it. The information was THERE...but it was in three different sections of the book, and NOT presented in such a way as the relation to the problem was clear. Only someone who had MEMORIZED the manual would have been able to pin the problem down; and not all that easily, either.

This was like that.

There is NO procedure in the Haynes manual for the Dynasty for replacing a belt tensioner. Heck, the procedure for replacing the belt itself isn't there either! Mebbe they figure we can 'muddle thru' somehow.

So I had to Wing It...

I got it done alright, but I started out trying to remove the alternator and steering pump together by removing the bracket that holds them to the front of the engine. By the time I had removed the Power Steering fluid resevoir and moved aside the fluid lines connected to it, I could already see that I was NOT going to be able to reach ALL the bolts on the mounting bracket. Did I mention the engine compartment is REALLY crowded? I may scan a picture from the manual to give y'all some idea...

Stymied from that direction, I next tried to get the alternator off; I didn't think I had enough room to actually remove it, but maybe I could get a better handle on the bracket bolts if I moved it aside. You see, I thought there wasn't enough room to actually move the alternator past the bracket and lift it out of the engine.

There was enough room.

I next removed the lower support strut from the rear of the engine and tried to reef the power steering lines out of the way to go after that next mounting bracket bolt, and one of the lines popped clean off the pump housing. FoooooooSHHHH; power steering fluid all over the back of the pump and the ground...arrrrrgh!!!

Then I noticed that I could see...and reach...the nut holding the tensioner pulley onto the bracket. I thought to myself, "you know, if I could get a skinny enough wrench behind there I could pull that thing off there NOW"

So I tried it.

And it worked.

I succeeded in pulling off the nut, but the tensioner itself was stuck; there simply wasn't enough room between the bracket and the fender wall to pull the bolt clear of the bracket. I got VERY frustrated at this point; here I thought I had a clear short-cut, and it wouldn't work!!! I actually thrust my hands down into the gap and took ahold of that pulley and twisted it rapidly back and forth while yelling (and cursing!) at it.

And it slipped out of the bracket and fell into my hand.

You have moments like that sometimes, a key moment in a personal struggle where something just 'lets go' and all of a sudden you just KNOW that everything will be alright from here on in. You still have battles to fight, but the campaign WILL be won.

I fitted the new pulley (vastly superior design to the original) and it slipped in with nary a hitch. I bumped, knocked, pulled, and twisted the power steering lines and resevoir back into place, and I got the alternator and associated supports in their proper locations. I left the top bolt for the alternator off, so I could pull the body of the alternator inboard to give some slack when I re-threaded the new drive belt.

And then I re-threaded the new drive belt. I pushed the alternator back into place and put in the...very...last...bolt.

Quick trip out to Wal Mart in Queensborogh to pick up some more Power Steering Fluid...

And we have a working car again.

Bye now.

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