April 25th, 2006

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01:05 am - Tom Sawyered again!
So, this is officially Finals Week, in which I disappear into a deep, dark Pit of Study, not to emerge until next Monday evening after the last of my finals.

Except, of course, that I just can't handle being nothing but bottled up all that time. So when Nate said something about getting out this afternoon, I was all for it. =)

(Warning: if hearing about working on cars bores the hell out of you, this may bore the hell out of you.)

Turns out I skipped out on studying to get put to work though... we rode around in his '79 (Jeep) CJ-7 for a little while, and got in a little dirt pit near his house and locked the hubs just to play around in it, but noticed it was running hot. Popped the hood and took a look, and holy FUCK pretty much all the hoses under the hood - fuel or heater - were beyond "dry-rotted" and well into "scabrous and/or leprous." The heater bypass hose was actually FLAKING OFF CHUNKS OF ITSELF as we watched. Amazing. So I said "man, those have got to go. And you should really go ahead and replace the thermostat while you're at it. Oh, hell, why don't we just go ahead and do that this afternoon?"

Ha ha ha. I didn't count on the wiles of the untamed AMC... in '79, the CJ-7 used an AMC engine. American Motor Company, in the late 70's, used that sort of charming, boyish American shade-tree ingenuity that worked pretty well, but was never going to win any awards for... you know... careful engineering. This shows in pretty much anything you get involved in under the hood - there's nothing really that you can't do yourself, but that's basically because they made damn sure to leave plenty of room to try to work around the total boyish clusterfucks they saddled you with because it was what they had on hand at the time. So, it's pretty much a car assembled out of spare parts... but lucky for you they knew they were going to make it out of spare parts. Or something.

So you run into things like a heater core that takes one size hose, but a fitting on the block that takes a different size hose - so in order to make it work, they stuck in a random little adapter that's 5/8" on one side and 3/4" on the other, needing two different hoses on either side of it. Also making things interesting, the fitting mounted to the block happens to point DIRECTLY into the alternator, so that it's damn near impossible to get the hose onto it at all. Not because there's no room around it to point it somewhere better, but because that's what Bob over in acquisitions managed to get 10,000 of AMAZINGLY cheap. We can make that work, right? Right! And since Steve across the office from Bob got 10,000 heater cores similarly cheaply, but they didn't happen to take the same size hose... well, an adapter jammed in the middle of two different size hoses will match 'em up! And that whole "running straight into the alternator" thing? Well fuck it, we left plenty of room AROUND that little clusterfuck, so... you can manage!

This "making the parts we have on hand all fit together, whether they're supposed to or not" approach is so prevalent that you actually need 10, count them 10 different hose clamps just to hook up two hoses. Wow.

But to be honest, I really do find this sort of slapdash approach kind of charming. I mean yeah, they really should have used a different fitting that 1. matched the one on the heater core and 2. didn't run straight into another part when there's plenty of room around it, but I frankly prefer that to the modern over-engineered "everything fits together so perfectly that you can't work on ANY of it without yanking the whole damn motor out of the car with a hoist" mentality... and 30 years later, you still see CJ-7's everywhere, which is certainly more than you'll likely be able to say for the Ford Focus (or the 2006 Cherokee!) in another 30 years.

But I digress. After three separate trips to the parts store, as we found more and more random little widgets needed to interconnect the CJ-7's various mismatched bits and pieces together, we were finally ready to fire it up and give it the requisite after-working-on-the-old-vehicle test drive... only to find out that it absolutely. Completely. Wouldn't start. Not even a whine or a grumble from it... just dead. So I poked and peered around, and it turns out that the wire from the ignition switch to the starter solenoid had just... corroded through. All the way. And was dangling free in the breeze. So I grabbed an alligator clip out of Nate's toolkit (that is normally used to clip the lead from a voltmeter onto something), clipped the bare wire end to the terminal, and said "fire it up!" and fire up she did. And I said "you know, we don't actually have to have the starter connected to drive," so I pulled the clip back off and stuck it in my pocket, and we piled in and rode around the block.

I hadn't done any work on cars in a long time... it was nice to see I still had it. And it felt pretty good to do it, skinned knuckles and good-natured cussing at AMC's good-natured cussedness or not. I really do miss the era where machines might have required a little more attention, but that you could fix them with a little determination and simple tools. It's hard to match that feeling of accomplishment.

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: AIM-y blings

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture] From: lindapendant
Date: April 25th, 2006 - 11:49 am
I was amazed when I looked under the hood of my 64 AMC Rambler. 'Is that it' ? was all I could think of to say. There's almost nothing under that hood. Whenever I had any work done, I stuck around and watched with fascination and both mechanics I used acted like it was a treat to fiddle with it. A hose needed to be changed and it wasn't easy to find one. I had to contact the Rambler Club to find original parts.

So, what did you do with that roach alligator clip anyway ?

[User Picture] From: jimbojones
Date: April 25th, 2006 - 02:24 pm
Ha, yeah, we couldn't find a replacement for the heater bypass hose. So I pointed out the fact that the store actually sold heater bypass CAPS - to completely cap off both of the heater bypass fittings - thereby reasoning "you know, if you can cap the fucking thing off COMPLETELY, a little crimp in the hose isn't going to hurt anything."

So we bypassed (ha!) the 1" ID horseshoe shaped fitted hose you're supposed to use and just stuck a small section of 1" ID regular hose there instead, complete with kinda nasty crimp in the middle because it has to bend so far.

And 1. the days of roach clips are behind me, and 2. if they WEREN'T I'd use the tweezers on my Swiss Army Knife, not the alligator clip from a voltmeter. =)

From: (Anonymous)
Date: April 25th, 2006 - 02:34 pm

[User Picture] From: jimbojones
Date: April 25th, 2006 - 02:35 pm
Dinner tonight is okay. =)

[User Picture] From: mtu_squirrel
Date: April 25th, 2006 - 09:47 pm
2006 Cherokee? No such thing.

They stopped making Cherokees in 2001. And DCX also got rid of the I6 in 2005, so now their running the V6's in the Wranglers, Liberties, and Grand Cherokees. (I don't count the Patriot, Compass, or Commander as anything yet)

Thankfully my I6 is still old enough there's some work I can do on it myself. But it does suffer from too much computer crap.

I like the old CJ-5's and CJ-7's. My best friend up here has a M38 that he and his dad are thinkin' of fixing up. Man, would I love to get ahold of that one...

You want to know how to keep a Jeep on the road? Take care of it (general maintenance) and it'll take care of you for a long arsed time.

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