Zen Bastard (jimbojones) wrote,
Zen Bastard

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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.
Tags: vignette

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