auto work in a post office parking space
Tuesday, September 5 2023
I woke up at the usual time I've been waking up since my layoff, which is around 9:00am. I then assembled the many tools I would need if I really wanted to attempt to replace the Forester's starter. These included metric wrenches (both socket and spanners) between 10 and 16 millimeters, socket wrench extenders, my impact driver, etc. When I got down to the car, I found it refused to open wirelessly from the key fob, meaning its battery had died. I must've left a light on somewhere (a problem cars were still to stupid to deal with as recently as 2015). So opened the door the old-school way, popped the hood, and got to work. The air box came off easily, though out of irritation I destroyed a plastic clip holding it in one spot, figuring I could replace that with a much more conventional nut-washer-and-bolt assembly. (I hate unconventional fasteners and replace them as much as possible after having to remove them.)
The top bolt was too hard to remove without a breaker bar, which I hadn't brought. But I'd also forgotten to bring the replacement starter. So back up Hurley Mountain I went. I did this a couple time to get various supplies, including a nearly-full five gallon bucket of water to splash on me whenever I was feeling too hot. The top bolt was easily removed with the help of the breaker bar. But the bottom was held by a nut on a stud, and that nut was a bitch to turn. I could get a wrench on it, but then there wasn't enough room to get a pipe on the handle of the wrench to give me the leverage I needed. But I found that by placing a pipe against the wrench handle and beating the pipe with a hammer, I eventually broke the nut loose and could remove it, along with the starter itself. When I went to install the new starter, I forgot to include the grounding bracket when I installed to top bolt, and when I put it in a second time it went very hard and I had to quit. Something about that second installation did damage to the bolt's threads, which I could see after I removed it. By then it was about 11:30am and Gretchen needed the Bolt for her prison education jobs at noon, so I drove back home.
Using a hand file, I fixed the threads on the long top bolt while talking to my brother Don down in Virginia. (The water had stopped working in the Creekside trailer, though Joy Tarder had found him a plumber to fix the problem. Meanwhile Don had taken to getting water from the neighbors.) When the bolt would easily turn into a matching nut, I figured I'd fixed it, though I was concerned about the state of the threads in the hole it was supposed to go into.
I took one of the eBikes the next time I rode down to the Old Hurley, since it was doubtful the bike could easily be carried by the Bolt as Gretchen was leaving for the day. On the way down, I decided to go off-road through the Farm Hub fields, which members of the public are strongly discouraged from doing. As I did so, I passed a group of people installing a solar-powered surveillance camera on a pole, perhaps to stop incursions of the sort I was making. But these people didn't pay me any special mind.
When I got to the Forester, there were a surprising number of cars parked at the post office. One person had actually parked her car on the other side of the Forester, as if there was an actual space there (which there sort of was due to the angle of the Forester in its lot). As I torqued the fixed upper bolt back into its hole, the woman who'd parked the car there (she was wearing a cheerful blue floral sundress) wished me good luck on my car and said that my angular parking job had actually provided her an additional spot to park in. (She knew the Forester was having car trouble because Gretchen had made a sign for me to put in its window for people like her to read.) Happily, the fixed bolt (which I'd sprayed with lubricating oil) allowed me to torque it all the way in for a snug fit. With that out of the way, I could focus on the nightmarish bottom nut. The stud it was supposed to go onto was something I could barely see or feel given the many rubber hoses and other things in my way, and once hand-tightened, getting a socket wrench on it in a way that allowed me to tighten it wasn't easy. Given the spacial constraints, I was just barely able to get that wrench into a position where I could move its handle a single ratchet click, but that proved to be enough, though it's doubtful I torqued it down as tightly as one is supposed to. At times I found it easiest for me to actually climb on top of the engine to access the cramped spaces my hands and tools had to work within. As I was plowing through these late stages of the installation, the woman in the cheerful floral blue sundress came by again and said she knew somebody who worked on cars and did I want his number? I told her thanks, but that I was almost done. She said okay, but I better not still be there in that post office parking lot when she came back again. All I had to do next was put the air box back in and use a marine battery that I'd brought to jump start the car (remember, its battery was dead and I'd been back and forth to home several times).
So you can imagine my horror when I went to start the car and all I could get it to do was making some clicking sounds it hadn't made before. I tried re-doing the jumper connections and had a brief moment where I heard the starter turn the engine, giving me some hope that I'd fixed the problem. But something about the marine battery and the jumper cables was keeping the Forester from getting all the juice it needed to start. So in desperation, I put the marine battery on top of the air box near the Forester's actual battery and then use short-but-fat fat ten-gauge wires (which I'd prepared for another jump test that I hadn't ended up doing) to make additional connnections between the marine battery and the car's semi-dead battery. This time when I went to turn the key, the car came alive! Eureka, I would be able to drive the fucker home. At about that time another good samaritan (and likely good ole boy) rolled up and asked if I needed any help. "I just got it!" I exclaimed as I pumped my fist. That seemed to delight the man. I then elaborated that I'd had to replace the starter right here where the car had died. "Here?" he asked in amazement. "Yep," I said, adding that it wasn't so ideal to be doing it on such a hot and sunny day. The man suggested I go home and get myself a nice cup of ice tea or a beer, because I'd earned it.
I dumped out the bucket of water, loaded everything (including the eBike) back into the Forester and drove home. I then left it idling for a long time so it could recharge its battery. But the I remembered that I have a 120v trickle charger, which is a much more efficient method of charging a battery. Confident in that, I turned the car off and tried starting it again, and it started right up. It actually sounded a little different when it did, as though the new starter was making another variety of hum as it did its magic.
Now that the Forester was working again, I thought I'd do a long-procrastinated task to make it a more pleasant vehicle to drive. A rattle had developed where a heat shield was coming into contact with an emissions pipe, something that had been fixed by a pipe clamp that had recently fallen off. Getting a new pipe clamp on there without jacking the car up was a messy, unpleasant job. But I got it done. I also added a little steel bolt (with washers and a nut) to the place where I'd destroyed a plastic clip holding down the air box in one spot.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in front of my computer while drinking Big Little Things to celebrate a couple days of work well done. At around 8:00pm, I took 150 mg of diphenhydramine, made myself a glass of scotch on the rocks, and climbed into the bathtub, where I ran fairly lukewarm water (due to the heat). Gretchen returned home at around 8:30pm, and I announced I was in the tub. Hours later she asked if I was alright, which woke me up from sleep. I said I was fine, that I'd fallen asleep. I then got out of the bathtub and had to put on warm clothes due to how cold Gretchen had made the bedroom using the air conditioning function of its split. At some point I realized that the distraction of working on that Forester had made me totally skip the part of my morning routine where I drink black tea, meaning I'd consumed no caffeine at all today (unless it is present in the vegan version of the Ben & Jerry's flavor "Americone Dream"). [REDACTED]
The old starter and the sign Gretchen had made for me to put in its window. (This replaced a smaller, pithier sign I'd made.)
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