31 October 2004

NASCAR

At Atlanta today. This is the fastest track on the circuit and there's the potential for the 'Big One' here. Pre-race starts at noon EST on NBC.

27 October 2004

Gold-plated crap

Oh, I've had one of those days. Been doing a job that I really didn't want to do. Harry didn't want to take the damn thing in either, but we ended up with it. The car is a 10 year old Taurus with 125K on it. It was rode hard and put up wet too many times during its life. Thing is, it belongs to the Indian's uncle, and we've known him for a million years, and he's a stubborn old goat. He pestered the shit out of Harry for months until he finally caved in. A while back it was drug in on the hook.

So, I have this car and Unk wants an upper end rebuild (cam, lifters, pushrods, cylinder heads, valvesprings, timing chain and gears, etc). Did I mention it was overheated and both head gaskets blown? Did I mention we only have 2 bays in the shop so I'd have to do this outside whenever I found time. Well, I just put it back together over the last couple days.

Now, this couldn't be the standard Taurus, with the 3.0 liter V6. Oh no, it had to have the optional 3.8L. A lot wider across the valve covers and a lot less room to work around it. You DON'T want to do motor mounts in one.

So I get it all together, everything hooked up, old oil out, 5 quarts of Castrol GTX 10W-30 and a new Motorcraft filter in, new battery, belts and hoses, new antifreeze. I hop in, turn the key and the engine spins but no vroom.

I turn the key on and off a couple times, listening for the electric pump in the tank do its 3 second run. Fine. I hop out, pull the cap off the pressure port on the injector rail and depress the schrader valve. Gasoline shoots out about a foot in the air. Good fuel pressure. I walk back into the shop and get my spark checker and pop the coil wire off the distributor and put the checker between the wire and the cap. No spark. Fine.

I go back in and get a 'known good' coil out my 'you never know' drawer in my toolbox and plug it in place of the old coil. I crank the motor. Vrooom. Good. Now I have to contort my fingers into positions God never intended to remove the old coil from the bracket and re-mount the new one. Remember what I said about that fat 3.8L? An hour later, I can finally start it and let it warm up. Well . . . no.

As I run it up (the thermostat isn't even open yet) I see a green fountain squirting through the grille. Great. Old radiator is rotted through. I guess that's how they overheated it and the impeller breaking off the water pump was a symptom of the overheat instead of the cause. Fine. Drain the anti-freeze back out and call the radiator shop and have a new one sent. Did I mention this car was in a minor front end acciddent a while back? Did I mention it pushed the radiator support back about a quarter inch? Did I mention the 3.8L V6 is wider across than the 3.0L? You'd be surprised how much a quarter inch means when you're trying to wiggle the radiator out.

2 hours later, the rad is in and refilled with anti-freeze. I hop in, vroom again. I let it run up, everything's working fine, but wait . . . what's that drip drip drip of red fluid coming from under the radiator? Oh yes, it's the rusted to HOLY HELL transmission cooler lines that decided to become porus when I had to disconnect and reconnect them to the radiator(s). Fine, it's not a bad drip so I can let the motor run through a full heat up/cool down cycle.

As I'm doing this, Indian and Harry come out, all happy that the bitch is finally running and we can get Unk off our backs. Did I mention he's stubborn AND annoying AND impatient? So, Indian says 'why don't you jump in and see if you get transmission application?'

A good idea. It sat for a couple months. might as well get the fluid coursing through the pumps, solenoids, and valvebody. I jump in, put my foot on the brake, and the pedal falls to the floor. Story of my day. That's when I threw up my hands, shut the bitch off, and locked it up. I'll diagnose the brake problem tomorrow and figure out why the master cylinder was empty when it came in full. It was just one of those days. The Great God of Auto Repair did not want that car to leave. It's leaving tomorrow if I have to push it down to the marina and off the boat ramp.

If there's a moral to this it's that a 10 year old Taurus with a million miles on it ain't worth the money Unk is pouring into it. And when you let an old car sit, shit breaks all on its own.

Update:

And far be it for me to forget (short-term memory thing) when I did make it go vroom, the clutch on the A/C compressor was jingling and jangling like Santa's sleigh. Wish I would have known it was shot while I had the cylinder heads off. Would have been easier to work on, but this car hates me. By the way, we call the thing Unk's Junk.

25 October 2004

New Tires

I went to Costco in Reno today and got a set of tires for Mrs. G.'s pickup. The old ones had 40K on them, not worn all the way out, but too worn to do another winter. We get a lot of snow here and traction is essential for safety, for steering and braking as well as going straight ahead. There's a big storm due tonight, and besides I had a $60-off coupon that would have expired in a few days. No time like the present.

In case you're not familiar with Costco, it's a chain of membership wholesale stores. They sell things in bulk and the price is right. Let me put it this way: If you buy some creamed corn, for instance, you'd better be in the mood for creamed corn, 'cuz you're gonna get a lot of it. If you need one of anything, go to W**M**t. If you need ten, go to Costco. Their selection of items is limited, but extensive nonetheless. Baby clothes to caskets.

Did I mention that they sell tires? I've been getting good price and service there for a long time, and I don't even bother checking anywhere else any more. You get free flat repair, rotation, and re-balancing forever with purchase. Their adjustment policy is always in the customer's favor and handled with courtesy, the way it should be. I got there one minute after opening time and was tenth in line. By the time I got to the service desk, there were ten more behind me. They sell a LOT of tires.

Well, remembering Fixer's post on the subject of lugnuts, I decided to watch the tire guys and see if they had read it.

They put Dakota Sue (we name every member of the family) up on a 9000lb side post frame lift manufactured by Western Lifts. It had a picture of a rootin'-tootin' cowpoke on it. They removed the wheels. Duh.

This is where it starts to get good. One guy removed the old tires and mounted the new ones. He handed each one off to the balancer. The balancer took each tire as he finished it and hung it back on the wheel studs with one lugnut to hold it in place. Then, two guys with air wrenches, one on either side of the vehicle, lightly rattled the lugnuts down to center them.

Then they lowered the rig 'til it was about six inches off the floor. A different guy went around the truck with a wheel chock and a torque wrench and torqued the nuts in a cross-pattern. He left the torque wrench on the last lugnut, wheel chock under the tire, and hollered "fore"! I ducked, thinking I was gonna get a Topflite in the jibs any second!

Now, double-checking wheel installation is nothing new, but I've never seen this: Yet another guy came by and made sure the torque wrench clicked on every lugnut, again in a cross-pattern.

I think they have done this before.

I thanked them for torquing the lugnuts, mostly so they would know somebody noticed.

I headed for home with my new tires, happy as a clam. Tires wear slowly and you don't notice the deterioration of the ride quality until you get a new set. The truck rode like brand new. If you're interested, this is my second set of Michelin X Radial LT 235/75X15. All-season, mud & snow rated. Quiet and smooth. I like 'em!

Oh, yeah. I think the tire guys must be regular readers of TF&G. They knew what they were doing. Why go anyplace else?

Condolences

To the crews, family, and friends of Hendrick Motorsports from Gordon and me.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 24, 2004) - Hendrick Motorsports officials have confirmed that an airplane owned by the organization was reported missing and downed today. The craft was en route to Martinsville, Va., from Concord, N.C.

The following is a full list of passengers: Randy Dorton, Hendrick Motorsports engine director; John Hendrick, Hendrick Motorsports president; Jennifer Hendrick, daughter of John Hendrick; Kimberly Hendrick, daughter of John Hendrick; Ricky Hendrick, son of Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick and owner of two NASCAR teams; Joe Jackson, sponsor representative; Scott Lathram, employee of NASCAR driver Tony Stewart; Elizabeth Morrison, co-pilot; Richard Tracy, pilot; and Jeff Turner, Hendrick Motorsports general manager.

Hendrick Motorsports asks that those affected be kept in your thoughts and prayers, and respectfully requests that privacy be considered throughout this difficult time.


22 October 2004

Don't Just Stand There Like A Lox...

Guys like me n' Fixer take looking under the hood of our rigs for granted. It's a given. After all, since we have to fix anything that goes wrong ourselves, instead of just throwing money at it like most folks, we have a vested interest in catching problems while they are small. You do too. Read this article on MSN. It will give you the basics. If you are a granny, handicapped, or a pretty young girl who doesn't want to get out of the car because you forgot to dress this morning, the station attendant will be glad to help, or me n' Fixer, if we're there.

21 October 2004

Getting Started

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post. In it, I mentioned that my snowthrower wouldn't start. It was basically my own fault because I left it outside since the last time I used it and didn't do anything to prepare it for storage other than drain the gas out of it, which turned out to be the culprit. Cuttin' to the chase, it started, finally, but it wouldn't have without my years of experience as a mechanic, although, actually, any kid in Auto Shop class could have got it going. So I thought I'd share the story and maybe save you some grief and money in the process. Small engine mechanics will have a contract out on me in ten minutes, but I am fearless when it comes to educating the masses (all five of you).

Even after my power came back on, the machine still wouldn't start. Being a trained, experienced mechanic (I hate the word 'technician'. It took me years to become a mechanic and I am proud of that title) I knew, or at least suspected, that something was wrong. I went from being a guy with a snow removal problem to being a wrench in a twinkling and started in on it.

There are three requirements that need to be met before a four-stroke, internal combustion, gasoline engine will run. It makes no difference to the cosmos whether it's a 3hp Briggs & Stratton lawnmower mill or a 3000hp Pratt & Whitney Cyclone aircraft engine. Simplified a little bit, they are: Compression, spark, and fuel. It is best to check them in that order, but a lot of people don't. They are the ones who cause themselves a lot of extra work, which is OK unless they are charging you for it. When you find problems with any one of these, you must correct it before you move on to the next one.

Compression: Basically, the engine's ability to wad up the fuel-air mixture so it will burn rapidly. A useful by-product is keeping oil from running out of your tailpipe and $2.50 per gallon gas out of your crankcase. You can check it with fancy gadgets like a compression tester or a leak-down tester, but I used the fanciest gadget of all on my snowthrower: the same finger I am typing with right now. After unscrewing the spark plug , I did the first two checks simultaneously, being multi-tasking capable. I put my finger in the spark plug hole and hit the starter. Pfft! Blew my finger loose from the hole. Compression.

Spark: Ignites the now-compressed fuel, causing the whole mess to want to do it again. Again, you can use fancy gadgets but what works best is to put the plug wire on the plug, lay the plug on a good ground (not THE ground. That would take extra plug wire and wouldn't work anyway), hit the starter and see if the plug fires. On the snowthrower, it did not. The electrode end of the thing was dark and slightly wet, indicating a fouled plug. Cleaned the plug, re-tested. Spark. Goody!

Re-inserted plug. Still no start. Drat! On to step three.

Fuel: Gas, dummy. I just wanted to keep to my format. I knew it had new gas, as opposed to last years paint brush cleaner because I put it in myself. After removing a cover designed to keep snowballs and ice cubes out of the engine, I squirted some gas into the carburetor. The engine started and ran. It would only run for a second or two using this technique and I decided it would be too much trouble to keep doing this as I have a big driveway, so I kept looking for the problem.

It appeared as if no fuel was getting to the engine. Note: 'fuel' and 'gas' are words used interchangeably, but they are not the same: 'gas', more properly called 'gasoline', is the liquid component of 'fuel' which is the gas-air mixture that reaches the engine. The carburetor is the Mixmaster that accomplishes this miracle of chemistry.

But, but, but...the spark plug had been wet. What on Earth is going on here? Lights on in yer head, dipshit! Water!! Water will wet a plug just fine, but the engine won't run on it. Good thing, too, or the oceans would be vast wastelands and there'd be piles of salt everywhere. But I digress. It may have been condensation formed out of the air, or maybe it was rainwater from being parked under the eaves, but somehow a tiny bit of water had gotten into my float bowl. It doesn't take much. I drained the float bowl by means of a spring-loaded little drain whoozy (technical term) and Voila! the engine, she fire right up!

A little reassembly, a little fine tuning, and my machine was ready for the task at hand. Which was to see if the rest of the damn snowthrower worked, but that's another story.

Now, I know that I'm not the only guy whose snowthrower (aka Driveway Grooming Machine) didn't work yesterday and I also know that not everyone can fix it themselves and had to take it to the Small Engine Emporium. The job took me a lot less time than writing this post, probably thirty minutes if you don't count my looking around for stuff and brain fade, but it cost those guys a pile, probably $30-$50, maybe more, and you just know those mechanics are gonna find something else wrong in the process that will ultimately cost even more. Unless it was a Honda. Those things are insufferably reliable.

One of the reasons I learned to do this mechanical stuff was because I couldn't afford to pay somebody to do it for me. I still can't bear to pay for something I can do myself, and this has carried over into my prowess as a homeowner: Maybe I can't build a house or bike, but I can damn sure figure out how it works and fix it.

20 October 2004

Ready For Winter? NOT!

Last night, we got a foot of snow. I have lived in snow country for a quarter-century and know all about snow. Nothing could surprise me, and I am always ready for it, right? WRONG!

Mrs. G. got me up at seven. I figured I would have to go out and clear the snow off her car so she could go to work at the 'numbers mine'. Nothing unusual about that.

What was a little unusual is that it was very quiet. As the fog of sleep rose from my brain, I noticed that the TV news was not on, and that it was unusually dark in the house. When I stumbled to the living room, I noticed an array of battery-powered appliances in play. Lanterns and a portable radio. The radio was issuing warning of chain controls and road and school closures. The power was off. The wife poured me a cup of hot coffee out of a thermos. Thank God the power outage held off until the coffee was ready! And that Mrs. G., experienced mountain woman that she is, had the acumen to decant it to keep it warm. We've done this before.

I cleared a path to the pickup and pushed and pulled the snow off it with my 'Sno-Ho'. That's a gadget, not the hired help. Finished it up nice and neat with a snow brush.

Then my attention turned to the driveway. I poured fresh gas into my snowblower and plugged it in. It wouldn't start. Duh. It wouldn't start with the rope either, no doubt because I haven't run it all summer. Who does? I figured Mrs. G. could back down the driveway OK and I would clear it later.

The type of snow we had last night is called locally 'Sierra Cement'. It has an exceptionally high water content and weighs about fifty pounds a shovelful. Awful stuff, not the nice light powder seen in ski hill ads. It happens when it's just barely cold enough to snow (about 37 degrees F.).

Well, the pickup's tires wouldn't cut through the snow, but rather packed it up under the tires and rode up on it 'til it hit a soft spot and then sank in it. Mrs. G. put it in low range and punched it (on my advice, of course). The truck went about two feet backwards and then turned almost sideways in the driveway and stopped. She went in and called work to tell them she'd be late and I went for my trusty cordless snowthrower, aka snow shovel. It didn't take me long to clear the snow away from all four tires and a little patch (to gain momentum) behind it. By this time the power company guys were here and parked right across my driveway, so I tracked them down and asked them to move their truck, which they did. They owed me. They had to borrow MY ladder to see if I had voltage to my house so maybe it would be my fault the power was off all over the neighborhood and they wouldn't have to climb any poles. This time, I backed the truck out. 'Bye, honey, see ya later.

The wife was on her way and the power guys had found the problem a couple of doors away. They were up a pole in their cherry picker about 200 feet up, I say again, up, my neighbor's driveway. Bad fuse in a transformer.

I noticed my neighbor, Toni (short for Antoinette, not an Italian poufter boy), blocking the street with her Land Cruiser so I sauntered over to see if I could help. Dig one out, dig two out, what's the diff? The street had been packed down real good by traffic and was real slippery. I was a-slippin' an' a-slidin' but I finally made it over to her rig just as her idiot kid got out and put the other front hub in. Just as she pulled away, she told me that her aspen tree was bent over the power lines behind her house and would I tell the power guys. Sure, I would. So I schlepped up my neighbor's driveway, two steps forward and one step back on the packed snow, and told them. Then I damn near slid all the way back to the street on the snow that had been packed down by their big truck. It was fast, 'tho.

The power came on shortly and I made more coffee, re-educated all my appliances as to what time it was, fired up the 'puter and here I am. I still have to do the driveway and the plow just went by so I also have a nice berm in my driveway to remove. This kind of snow is so heavy that an 8hp machine will only blow it about three feet and won't even touch a berm, so I'll be well re-acquainted with my 'idiot stick', aka snow shovel, by the time I'm done. It's still snowing, too.

They say the Inuit people have 50 words for snow. So do I, and 49 of them aren't very nice.


19 October 2004

Kids & role models

Now, I don't have kids for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, I never thought I would have been a good dad. I was a wild man when I was younger and my job in the military was a dangerous one. I didn't expect to live long enough. When I met the Mrs, she was on a career track and she did not want to derail that by having children. Fine. Now, in our mid-forties, we're still having too much fun and we're set in our lifestyle. The dog does nicely.

Harry and the Indian don't have kids either. Dead Ed has a daughter. My point is that I've been thinking that my premise of not being a good role model was wrong. You see, we've always had a kid working at the shop up until Ed came to work there. Teenagers who we knew and who wanted to make a few extra bucks.

There have been five or six over the years and I've been thinking about how they turned out after Harry, Indian, and I have had such a big influence on their lives. Let's say that we're not the parenting type. All of those kids got an education working for us, and not one you could get in school. By the time they were 15, they could curse like sailors, had their first taste of beer, ditto on reefer, had been sexually harassed constantly, treated like niggas, and got every shit job in the shop. I was thinking about that and figured we could probably all be arrested for corrupting minors. And then I looked at where they are today.

Of the six I can remember off the top of my head:

  • One is a principal in a local school district.

  • Another has his own tree service/landscaping business in New Hampshire.

  • One is just entering the management ranks at the Long Island Rail Road.

  • One owns his own boat repair shop not far from our shop.

  • One owns his own auto repair shop in a town close by.

  • And one just made his first million as a software designer.


  • While they learned a bunch of vices from us, they also learned about honor, integrity, how to treat a woman with respect, and the value of a good education. They all stay in touch and they all agree that their experience working with the 'crazy old guys' taught them more about how the world works than anything they learned in school. All are successful. While to look at us, you wouldn't think of us as role models, but guess what, we are and we're good at it. I might not have kids of my own, but I'm proud of the things I've imparted to these young men. We might not have done it in the most PC way, but we helped shape a group of young men to become the next generation of community leaders.

    16 October 2004

    I hate Brooklyn & Queens

    Well, just driving in 'em. That's why I live out on Long Island. If I had to drive in the 5 Boroughs of NYC every day, I'd go Monster Garage with my Cowboy Cadillac and it would be outfitted with rocket launchers and 20mm miniguns. The Bar Mitzvah was a well done in a beautiful temple under the Brooklyn Bridge. A hearty mazeltov to Fred and Evelyn, you have a son you can be proud of, thank you for letting us share the day with you.

    Now to the good stuff. NASCAR under the lights at Charlotte on NBC at 7 ET. Night races are always good and Charlotte is a storied track.

    15 October 2004

    Plug It In, Plug It In

    There used to be a gadget you could get for your car that was guaranteed to ease the tension on those long drives, boring commutes, or in your driveway.

    It was called the 'Auto Suck". It was advertised in the back of men's magazines and I have never actually seen one in a store, so I guess it was 'mail order, delivered in a plain brown wrapper' only. It plugged into your car's cigarette lighter. I won't get too graphic about what it was supposed to do for you as Auto Shop classes all over the country read this blog for credit and we wouldn't want to warp young minds. They can do that for themselves like we did. Come to think of it, that's a pretty good description of what the 'Auto Suck' does.

    One word of caution: Don't plug it into an old MGB or anything with a 'positive ground' system. Reverse polarity, you know. Injury could occur. Don't ask me how I know this.

    13 October 2004

    More on Bonneville and Natural Gas

    This item appeared in today's Sierra Sun, my home town paper. In light of yesterday's post on The Salt and Fixer's post on blowing up a local car dealer (from inside the men's room, no doubt), I couldn't resist. Besides, it's fun.

    Kids, and especially boys, often have a fascination with speed and cars when they're young.

    If that's true, I hope I never get over being young.

    The current land speed record for a wheel-driven car was set in 2001 by Don Vesco. He drove his "Turbinator" car 458.44 mph over the course at Bonneville.

    On the salt flats this week, Lessman will run with a 600 horsepower CNG engine that he predicts will get him up to 300-plus mph. Eventually, for the record attempt, turbo chargers and a nitrous oxide system will bump that horsepower up to around 2,000, which he believes should allow him to better Vesco's mark of 458 mph.

    Slim Pickens' final ride in Dr. Strangelove comes to mind.

    "One of the things that's cool about it is you go out there and you do all this stuff and it's simply because you like to do it," he said. "There's no money in it. It's really the last true amateur auto race of significance in the world right now. All the other auto races - NASCAR, Indy cars, drag races - have become so commercialized that it's tough to be involved anymore because it costs millions of dollars. And this stuff you can still go out and it's strictly amateur: If you set a world record everybody comes around, buys you a beer, pats you on the back and gives you a $25 trophy."

    That's the spirit.

    Disclaimer

    Wasn't me:

    (New York-WABC, October 12, 2004) — A natural gas explosion caused the collapse of a car dealership on Long Island, injuring several people.

    [. . .]

    12 October 2004

    Yankees

    I'm not a Yankee fan, but the series with the Red Sox starts tonight. I root for the Yanks because my Mets ain't in it. (Duh.) Thing is, even the fucking Mets kicked Boston ass. The Curse will continue.

    Bonneville

    One of the best reasons to go to Utah. Go see some neat pictures posted by the Southern California Timing Association. Results and souvenirs, too. Click on "Bonneville" and "Speed Week 2004".

    11 October 2004

    Harry and firearms

    As you've read here, we at the shop are a little off kilter. And like anything else, it starts at the top. Harry's had a thing with firearms for as long as I can remember. Boy can throw a knife too. He'll stick any knife in anything at 30 feet, fucking amazing.

    Anyway, the point was firearms.

    One night, many moons ago, when we were all younger and crazier, Harry got himself a .357. Now, Indian used to have a little side business at the shop at nights, paitning. He'd generally do murals on vans, motorcycle tanks, shit like that. He kept all his supplies in the shop, in an explosion-proof UL and OSHA approved cabinet. Double wall, metal, lock, a good sturdy unit. Remember, safety is no accident.

    Well, we were hanging around this night and Harry brings the .357 in. Nice revolver, the barrel looked more like a fucking artillery piece. Anyway, Harry hadn't even fired the thing yet and the range in town was closed at that time of night.

    Well, we put our heads together and thought it was a good idea (Indian and I didn't need much coaxing) for Harry to fire it at the explosion-proof cabinet. Hey, it's explosion-proof, right? I mean, the slug would penetrate the outer wall, probably, and deform enough not to go through the inner wall of the cabinet. Makes sense, right? I mean shit, we watched a bunch of cop shows.

    So, we crowd to the far corner of the shop, about 40 feet from the cabinet. Harry takes aim and pulls the trigger. Well, the double wall theory didn't hold up in the real-world test. Slug went through the outer wall, laughed at us as it went through the inner wall, and laughed even harder when it hit the gallon can of laquer thinner just inside the cabinet.

    When the thinner blew, the locked doors of the cabinet contained the explosion, well the first one. When the quart cans of urethane paint, 6 of 'em followed like automatic weapons fire, went, the cabinet gave up the ghost. The doors blew apart and we hit the deck, pieces of the lock going through the wall above our heads, followed by unexploded cans of paint. Woof. Ain't doing that again.

    Another time, Harry got a new spear gun. Harry scuba dives, been on all the big wrecks. He brings it in and it's really cool. I ask him if he ever shot it at anything. He says no, it's brand new. As we're talking about it, Indian goes to the bathroom. While he's sitting in there, reading porn, Harry thinks the spear would stick into the bathroom door. Also a good way to fuck with the Indian. Hey, I'm game.

    So, while I'm standing there giggling my ass off, Harry takes aim at the door. Well, that theory didn't work out too well either. Spear went RIGHT through the door. Two seconds later, Indian opens the door, still sitting there with his pants around his ankles, the spear stuck in the wall, inches from his leg. Never seen an Injun turn so white. We don't play with firearms in the shop no more.

    Well, it's a good thing we can fix the shit out of cars.

    10 October 2004

    Kansas

    The NASCAR boys are in Kansas today. This should be a fast one. Qualifying at 178 mph.

    08 October 2004

    Evap Scam

    There's a new one going around and I figured I'd warn you.

    As you know, all cars available for purchase in the United States are controlled by computer. Using a bunch of sensors, the computers adjust the air/fuel mixture constantly to assure optimum performance and fuel economy. One of the systems monitored by the processor (in cars built after '96, earlier for those tree-huggers in California) is the low pressure side of the fuel system. Namely the fuel tank and the atmosphere in it above the surface of the fuel. The air in your fuel tank is concentrated with unburned hydrocarbons, basically evaporated gasoline.

    These hydrocarbons are pollutants, so the pressure of the air pocket in your fuel tank is measured and the vapors are recycled into the fuel system, to be burned in the engine instead of vented into the environment. In other words, the processor knows if your gas cap is loose or missing, or you got a hole in the tank.

    When the computer sees this condition, it records a trouble code and turns on the 'check engine' or 'service engine soon' light on the instrument cluster. You see the light and you come to me and say 'fix it'.

    It's first question I ask when regular customers pull in with the light burning and the car seems to run fine. "When was the last time you got gas?" Seems that some of the paper assholes who run ripoff shops have figured out a new scam. It generally happens at full-serve stations.

    You pull up to the pump and tell the nitwit what you want. "20 bucks regular, please." And dipishit fills you up, reinstalling the cap when he's done. But he doesn't tighten it all the way. Rat bastid leaves it a little loose and you drive away. You go a couple miles and ta-da, the light comes on. Where do you go? Back to the dipshit who sold you gas. He says, 'we can scan the computer and see what's wrong', and charge you $75 bucks for the scan. 'You can pick the car up later', he says.

    You come back at 5 o'clock and you get the bill for the scan and for a coolant sensor, or some other not-too-expensive one so you don't feel like you're getting ripped off too bad. All he did was tighten your gas cap as soon as you left and cleared the evap code from your computer. Boom, no light, you're happy, money well spent.

    You think you're getting a deal because what he's told you is PFM (Pure Fucking Magic) to you. He's got you thinking thousands and $125 doesn't seem so bad. So, heed my words, Lugnut.

    If your service engine light comes on within a couple hours of you getting gas, tighten the cap util you hear a few clicks. Something to listen for if you go full-serve when the spooge puts your gas cap back on. If it don't click, it ain't tight. Boy, that sounded Johnny Cochran-esque. The light should go out on its own in a few hours or over night. If not, have a guy you trust look at it.

    About a half dozen of our older customers have fallen for this from the same guy near us. Harry's debating paying him a visit and explaining the rules.

    06 October 2004

    Don't Step In The PC

    NASCAR is getting pussyfied just like the rest of the Nation. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was so happy to win Talladega (Look at that sonuvabitch GO!) that he said a second grade naughty. Here's the article in the Washington Post and excerpts.

    Stock-car racing built its fiercely loyal following on the backs of its drivers' domineering personalities: the raw grit and rough-hewn wiles of Junior Johnson; the dignity and determination of Richard Petty; and the heart and stubbornness of the late Dale Earnhardt. Now that the sport wants to reach a mass audience, longtime fans fear it's racing too fast to lose its vernacular -- shedding its past as if it were an embarrassing family secret.

    Yeah, like Junior Johnson never said "shit"! He plows barefoot behind a mule, fer chrissakes! Well, he used to. These days he wears shoes.

    Asked during his post-race news conference about the prospect of being sanctioned for his remark, Earnhardt said, "If anybody was offended by the four-letter word I said . . . I can't imagine why they would have tuned into the race in the first place."

    Hey, lookie here NASCAR, this ain't a gentleman's sport, and trying to make it so is like putting lipstick on a pig. A lot of fans are country folks who learned "shit" as their second word, right after "shovel". It IS barnyard language, and that's all it is. City guys like me an' Fixer musta learned it somewhere else, but we know what it means and how and where to use it. A racetrack is an appropriate venue given the context of Jr.'s use of it.

    Hell, I wouldn't wanta blurt out "shit" at the croquet play-offs, but I bet the players do it sometimes.

    Given the acts some of the stick-and-ball guys commit, Dale's utterance ain't (you should pardon the expression) shit, and those guys don't lose championship points. For rape and murder. Hell, they don't even have to WIN to get their money like racers do.

    Fining Dale and taking his points away for this dinky crap is turning a (unisexual) manly sport into a prissy TV game fit only for girlie-men. If that's the demographic you're after, you're on the right track, NASCAR.

    Lugnuts

    Yes lugnuts, Lugnut. You know, those little things that hold your wheels to your car that you never think about, until you get a flat. It's the only time you think about them and it's usually to curse me for putting them on too tight with my impact wrench. (That sounds pornographic for some reason.) If I didn't, you'd be the first one to sue my ass if you lost a wheel on the highway, so fuck you.

    First off, locking lugs. You don't need 'em, even if your rims are gold plated. If you're like most folks, you've lost the key already anyhow. Do you know how many I have to get off without the key? If I, or some nefarious character, want your wheels, we'll get 'em without much effort either way, locks or no.

    Second. When you have your tires replaced, have your guy replace the lugnuts too. It's a little extra on the price, but it's worth it for safety. Everybody in the business uses impact wrenches and eventually the threads in the lugnuts get stretched. A lot of shops don't give a shit, but if I notice this happening on a customer's car, I'll replace the nut and sometimes the stud too.

    Ideally, lugnuts should be torqued to a specific value. It's in every owner's manual. But (there's always a but), if I took the time to torque all your lugnuts (sounds like porn again) the labor on your new rubber would be more than the tires cost. Besides, I don't have the fucking time, neither does every other shop, so out comes the impact wrench. 50,000 miles later, you got stretched threads.

    Now, odds are, you'll never lose a wheel due to a single faulty lugnut. But just say another, or two more loosen up somehow. Now you run a real risk. There are reasons why the car makers put four or more lugs in a certain pattern. It's to distribute the stresses your wheel encounters over the largest area. When a couple lugnuts loosen, the incredible stresses take a real toll. Also, have your mechanic check the holes in the wheels that accept the lugs. If they're oblong, oversized, or egg-shaped, you're compromising your safety.

    And a final note. To all you nitwits who just have to have aftermarket wheels and don't want to spend the money for new ones, spend the bread to get the correct lugnuts for that wheel and for your car. I've seen too much stupid shit happen thanks to the wrong lugnuts for the application.

    Listen to me, Lugnut. Make sure your nuts are covered. Have your guy check yours at the next service. Which, by the way, should happen in less than 3000 miles, right?

    05 October 2004

    What'd I tell you?

    And what did Gordon tell you two weeks ago?

    Make sure you have -20deg. windshield washer fluid. Don't use water. It's a royal pain having to unbolt the reservoir and take it in the house to thaw out. Beer works, but it's a waste, and that cheap Vodka (you know, the kind you put in the Gray Goose bottle when company's coming) is too thick.

    Turn on the heater to make sure it works. You haven't used it all Summer and if it doesn't work, or dumps coolant all over the inside of the car, best to find out now.

    Check the wiper blades by squirting some w.w. fluid and see if they wipe it off. CAUTION: Don't turn them on without first peeling them loose from the windshield or you're liable to get to see them yank the little motors right out of the cowl!

    Get the Fixer to check your belts and hoses. When they get dry and worn and cracked, sometimes they'll freeze up and either break, or else yank all the teeth off the flywheel when you try to start the engine

    [. . .]


    Well hell, guess what? The weather got a little cool here in NY last night. Weather nitwit says we're gonna get our 1st frost tonight. I had 5 cars come in on the hook today for dead batteries alone. I've been bitching to our customers since August to have us do our 'winter service', just in case we have a cold snap. Not only will you shit when you get the towing charge (if you don't have AAA) but you might not get your car back today becasue I had to order a couple oddball batts we don't stock. If the Interstate (Interstate Batteries, in my humble opinion, are the best) guy gets to us today, they'll be driving. If not, they'll be getting a ride to work tomorrow. Before I left this afternoon, our appointment book was filled for the rest of this week and all of next week thanks to the cold snap. It ain't like I don't say this every year.

    Listen to us, Lugnut. Go get your car looked at, have the oil changed, and have everything checked out for winter. Besides, I HATE having to push your piece of shit around the yard once the wrecker drops it off.

    04 October 2004

    Thanks

    Thanks, Fixer, for adding my name to the masthead. That's a big deal and I'm moved by it.

    Fixer invited me to contribute to The Alternate Brain a little over a month ago, and to The Fixer more recently. Depending on whom you believe, he either tracked me down with dogs, or I was left on his doorstep in a basket.

    Like the fellow said after he jumped off the thirtieth floor of the building as he went by the fifteenth floor:

    "So far, so good!"

    Congratulations

    To all the folks involved with SpaceShipOne for their record breaking flight today. You guys are my heroes.

    You Tell Me Your Dreams And I'll Tell You Mine

    I was reading SouthKnoxBubba this morning and came across his post about the booming opium trade in Afghanistan and it reminded me of the time I smoked opium. I think the statute of limitations has run out, so I'll share it with you.

    It was on Christmas Eve, 1979. I was working at Harley-Davidson of Glendale in Southern California. I was working on a '57 Sportster that belonged to a guy named Barney who was a hillbilly from Southern Ohio. Nice guy. It was getting late, but I wanted to finish it before I went home.

    Now, Sportsters have a train of camshafts, four of them, one for each valve. They come in all sorts of configurations but generally they come in sets. Not on Barney's bike. He had three 'P' cams and one 'Q' cam. He had finally scored the fourth 'P' cam at a swap meet or something, and I was installing it. It was a big find for him because it was the one with the magneto drive on it. Sportsters had quit using magnetos years before.

    Since it was late, Barney was hanging out in the shop watching me work on his pride and joy, when, out of the blue, he asked me if I wanted to smoke some opium. I said, "Sure. I'm not doing anything important, just timing your cams and magneto." He said, "Oh, that's OK" and stuck a hot soldering iron (he may have wiped it off first) into his stash and stuck it up my nose.

    Well, I finished the job OK. I may have worked a little slower than usual. Came time to fire it up and Barney said to me, "You better let me do it. She's a little tricky to start", so I let him. I was a little afraid to try it anyway as older Sportsters tended to have weak mags and kickstarters and they can slip through and hyper-extend your knee in a heartbeat.

    I stood and watched. It took him twenty-seven kicks, due no doubt to a weak magneto. Barney turned to me with a big opium-eatin' grin and said, "Cool, man. You fixed it. Sure started easy. Merry Christmas!" and roared off into the night.

    It was indeed a Merry Christmas Eve. After about sixteen kicks, I thought he'd be mad at me, but he was delighted! Everybody sees things different, I guess.

    What was the opium like? I can't remember.

    03 October 2004

    NASCAR

    At Talladega today at 1:30 EDT on NBC. Should be good. There's always the potential for the Big One here, if you like seeing torn up equipment, but a few of 'em have been caution-free. As always, go Rusty!! (Even though he's a rich wingnut, as Gordon says.)

    02 October 2004

    So?

    So, whaddaya think? I changed the name 'cause Gordon carries a lot of water around here and it's only right. The colors and fonts are changed 'cause I'm trying to make it easier to read for us old folks. I'll be making a few little tweaks here and there. As I said below, comments welcome, good or bad, or suggestions. If you think telling me to go fuck myself is a novel suggestion? I've been told that more times than I can count.

    Just wondering, does the name make it sound like Gordon and I are a gay couple? Not that there's anything wrong with it.

    01 October 2004

    Don't be alarmed

    Trust me, I know what I'm doing. Well, maybe. But I'll be making some changes to the way this place looks over the weekend, hopefully for the better. Comments welcome when I'm done.