Saturday, January 12, 2008

Back in business

Having three major repairs to do on the van, I tried to think of a way to split them up so I wouldn't have to do them all at once--it can get tiring working under a vehicle, lying on your back with your arms over your head, lightly coated in oil, transmission fluid, sawdust, etc. So I figured I'd do the brakes on Thursday night and the gaskets on Friday. As it turns out, that was a pretty good idea.

On Thursday, I dressed up in my "grubbies," an old set of jeans and a flannel shirt, and steeled myself for a brake job. Out in the garage, I flipped through my CDs and settled on Boys II Men II, popped it in the player, and got to work.

Can I take a time out to say that I am now totally sold on hydraulic jacks now? Up until this week, I had been using the puny scissor jacks to lift vehicles onto my jack stands. Those jacks are slow, tedious, semi-dangerous, and only barely able to lift the car high enough. In contrast, the 2-ton hydraulic jack I bought last week for $20 was quick, easy, as safe as lifting a car at home can be, and lifted plenty high. Next time, though, I might raise the jack on some 4x4s before jacking the car, in order to get the jack stands a little taller.

I started on the front driver's side and replaced the brake pads; it took me one full CD and one song. The front passenger's side took me the rest of that CD to replace the rotors and pads, but I worked for about another half-hour cleaning the rims, shining the tires, and checking the air pressure. I figured if I was down there fixing the brakes I might as well do a full-service job of it.

On Friday after dinner, I changed out of my work clothes, changed back into my grubbies, and steeled myself for a night under the van. In retrospect, it wasn't that bad although I don't know that I'd like to do it every day.

The first task was to change the automatic transaxle fluid (ATF) pan gasket. Fortunately, it was easy to find, easy to remove, and easy to reinstall, with one exception.... Now, I never claimed to be a math genius, but I can add and subtract just fine. I knew from reading my Haynes manual that it would take 4-5 quarts of ATF to refill the transmission, but for some reason it slipped my mind that if that much must go in, that much must come out. So it stands to reason that when I put one #10 can (holding maybe 1/2 gallon) under the AFT pan that it would overflow substantially., which it did. I ended up with a 6' x 3' ATF slick on my garage floor right where I needed to lay to complete the repairs. And ATF is slimy, sweet-but-plastic-smelling, and unpleasant to lay in as just about anything I could think of. Fortunately, my absentmindedness would come to the rescue.

In making my Adirondack chairs, I happened to generate a substantial amount of sawdust, which I collected in my shopvac. Fortunately, I forgot to empty it because I pulled great hands full of the stuff out and tossed it under the car to soak up the ATF. It worked like a charm, and later allowed Kara and me to sweep it up easily.

The oil pan gasket, on the other hand, was a headache in-the-making. It was easy enough to find and reach, and the bolts came off easily enough. It was the shield on the part next to it which slightly overlapped the edge of the oil pan that caused the problems. Removing the oil pan wasn't even too bad--it was replacing it while trying to hold the gasket in place that took about 1/2 an hour to finagle into place. In the future, I might consider getting into the ATF pan, but I don't know that I'm going to want to ever get back in that oil pan again! Sheesh!

But the bottom line is that I saved about $1000 by doing all that work myself. And while I was working, I replaced the spark plugs which would have been another couple hundred dollars, I'm sure.

1 comment:

Teric said...

Well I knew you could do it! Gosh, I think I probably would have gotten frustrated with the ATF spill and had to run around the block a few times to calm down. Great way to save money, though!