Wednesday, October 2, 2013

One of the Those Days

In a 24 hour period, the following has happened. Ringo became undriveable on the outer loop of the Baltimore beltway, Glinda failed an alignment check due to excessive play in the left front wheel bearing, the lovely Loriann was handed a $3200 estimate from a local mechanic to replace failed and failing items causing creaking and clunking in the front end of her PT Cruiser.

Around 1:30 yesterday, I got the call that I dread – the one that starts with, “Daddy, Ringo died and we’re sitting on the side of the road….” I had been warned by an early-morning text telling me he had been chugging during her twenty-mile morning drive. My hope was the issue would clear up. It didn’t. I left work, drove home, changed into grungies, loaded the tow-bar stuff, and drove to his location. In the meantime, Victoria had been nice and gave Ariel a ride to her next destination. Upon my arrival, I took a quick look under the engine lid – a lot of fluid in the right carburetor region.  Hmm; stuck needle-and-seat perhaps? I should be so lucky. I got him hooked up to the truck and we were parked back in front of our house by 3.

Loriann pulled up minutes later with a new grease gun and a cartridge of synthetic grease so I could finish lubricating the joints. The hand pumper seemed to do the job with a few strokes at each zerk fitting resulting in a small bit of grease peeking out of each rubber boot. Since Ariel was going to get to drive Glinda while I dealt with Ringo, I decided to keep the proven stock wheel and tire set on the car. Once off the jackstands, I took her for a spin around the neighborhood. No untoward twitching, no nasty noises – all must be good.

This morning the lovely Loriann drove Glinda to a 10 o’clock appointment at the local Goodyear shop. I had verified the appointment earlier and also verified there would be no charge. At 11:15, they finally drive Glinda onto the alignment rack. Ten minutes later, the technician backs her off the rack and announces the check can’t be made since the left front wheel is not tight. Hence the aforementioned loose bearing. Sadly, all it would have taken to tighten was a couple minutes for the guy to pull off the dust cover, remove the cotter pin, turn the nut, and replace the pin and cover. Irrrr. Now I get to take it back some other morning. I was VERY careful to mark the locations of the camber bolts, so I think everything is pretty darn close to where it needs to be anyway, but a free check is a free check.

Back to Ringo. With Glinda out of the driveway, I fired up Ringo’s engine and backed him to the entrance of the garage.  Yes, it was definitely chuggy, and worse still, it wasn’t gas around the right carb, it was oil. Additionally, there were signs of oil around the dipstick. These point to an excessive blow-by condition caused by piston rings failing to do their job. The chugging is probably is probably a few spark plugs that are too clogged with burnt oil to do their job. A compression check on all cylinders is the first step in diagnosing what’s causing the blow-by. Sadly, it was this same condition that prompted me to put in a rebuild in the first place. The problem, I’ll bet, is that I tried to re-use pistons and cylinders. Improper honing or too much clearance resulted in rings that never seated.

While the PT Cruiser isn’t part of the fleet, all the work I get to do on it will take me away from my ‘vair-time. I priced the parts and they came to about $600. I also went through the manual and none of the work looks like it’s beyond my skill level or will require expensive tools I don’t have. The question of the day is, “Where will I do the work?” TwoTone is Group Red (see sidebar) in the garage without front wheels, so rolling him out is problematic. Also, as long as Ringo’s out of commission, the family is one car short if I also take the PT Cruiser down for a few days.

Yep, it’s been one of those days.

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