Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Class #7: tires, spark plugs

I think spark plugs are so cool!  I don't know why.  Maybe it's because they are such seemingly basic pieces, but they are so complex and important!
Well, it doesn't really matter how amazed I am by a spark plug, or that I would love to have one on a necklace or at least a key chain.  What matters is that, after all of these years of thinking, 'ah, spark plugs...I can change those, no problem!' I have discovered that, all this time, it's been true.
Here's what I took away from last night's class: my teacher has confidence in me and doesn't have a problem saying, 'well, go ahead and take out the spark plugs' and then walk away to show the boys how to do an oil change or brake job for the 3rd time.  I'm getting cocky...let's move on.

I did, in fact, work on my own last night.
I had the four tires off the Barracuda and jammed into the trunk/back seat of the Cav.  So, I, with the help of the guy who's been there 'for 10 years!' (according to the exclamation of Mr. Drys), began removing tires from rims.  We spun the rims on the balancer to get a better look at the shape they're in...we're gonna take the chance that they're still in good shape.  They are all round, in relation to each other, so unless they are all bent and mangled in exactly the same places, then I think we're good!  Next step: get new tires.  I have one last class, and Mr. D. is on board with mounting and balancing if I bring everything in next week!
I had to bring all the old tires home with me, free disposal.  They're going to make lovely little planters!
I don't know the technical term for these, but it's the air intake/release from the valve stem.
I had to cut the valve stems off, because...well, because I'm getting new ones anyway, so why waste effort trying to pry those bitches out!?  I kept the little do-hickies pictured above, because I think I actually will put them on a necklace (or maybe earrings)!  I think they are pretty cool looking.

After my work with the wheels, I cleaned up my mess.  Two of the boys had started the front brake job on the Saturn (yes...still working on Ricky's Saturn!).  Two of the boys were doing an oil change on Josh's truck.  And, that left me...already having done at least 3 oil changes, and my own do something else.  'You wanted to do tune-up stuff, right?'
 I sure did!
There happened to be a 2004 Chevy Cavalier, all lonely and sad.  'Go ahead and take the plugs out.'  He told me to check the computer for the location of the plugs, since I can't seem to find anything in this model of car.  Seriously, Chevy...why have you hidden everything??
Pulled up the specs on the computer, and we went over to the car and I said, 'is that it, there?'
Yep, go ahead and remove that cover and take 'em out.
He headed back over to the boys and I was on my way.  Now, here's how I know he has at least a little more confidence in me than the other 3...normally, his statement is followed by, 'you'll need [insert required socket sizes, tools, etc]'.  But not this time.  He just walked away.
And, here's how I know that I have more confidence in myself than I did 7-8 weeks ago...I took a look at the little bolts holding the cover on, went over to the wall and picked 2 sizes of sockets.  The first was what I thought I needed, the second was the next size down (just in case).  My first guess was right.  I'm so proud.

(starting to get wordy, again...let's try to reign it in a bit...)

So, I successfully pull out the plugs, look up the specs (plug size, gap, torque).  Before I even read the size I need, I can tell that I have 3 different types of spark plugs that I've taken from this car!  Of course, it's a donated, school/class car with no battery, so it's not like it's a big deal.  But I thought maybe it was a test...
'Did you get the plugs out?'
' is cracked and only 2 of them match.'
He laughed, checked my 'work', explained a few things to me, and said, 'okay...go ahead and put it back together.'

At that point, the boys were finishing up and we had about a half hour left.  So, we went to the Saturn wagon sitting there and I had to do it again.  This time, since the boys were starting to mill about around me, I asked if anyone else wanted to give it a go.  Nothing but a bunch of head-shakers!
I got to 'gap' the ones out of the Saturn, so that was new.
This picture is on the back cover of my Haynes manual.  Now it has a little more meaning.
All in all, I didn't do much last night.  And, I almost didn't go (if not for the tires, I wouldn't have).  But, even when I don't feel like I 'learned' much, I like the feeling of being in the garage, and the opportunity to learn.  Even if it's just the littlest is something I didn't know before I got there.

As I said, next week I'm hoping to get new tires on the old rims.  It's our last class.  I wasn't planning on going to the last class, for fear there would be a test and I would embarrass myself.  (There's also a bit of a time crunch next week, now since everything I was planning on doing this week has been moved to next week...and I was unable to plan time off next week.)
But, now I can't miss it.  So, you're gonna get just one more blog about class...and then, who knows!?
(actually, I know.  Brother Dan is coming out Sunday...leaf springs...yikes!)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


It's late in the day to be posting, I know.  My usual posts are first thing in the morning, but I slept in today!  I stayed up late last night.  I took advantage of not having class this week.  Pardon me, while I remind everyone that I'm a girl...Hubby was out playing poker, I had the house to myself, and I had ice cream for dinner while I watched Hell's Kitchen.  Picture perfect!

So, what to blog about...?

I actually planned to take some pictures of the car today and do a nice picture post.  Instead, I've been watching roller derby videos on YouTube, working out, and just enjoying my day off being lazy.

Instead, you get a lame post about my new toy.  Well, it's not really's my brother's.  When Dad passed away, of course the tools all went to the one son.  I'm fine with that.  He will definitely use them more over the span of the rest of our lives.

I had no idea they made electric versions of these!
I'm sure you all lost sleep when you heard about all the trouble I was having trying to get the tires off the Barracuda.  Well, Brother Dan brought Dad's old electric impact wrench to try.  He has left it with me in case I need it again.
I have to say that the best thing about this old car is how it has really brought me and my brother a little bit closer.  I can see that he is happy to be able to help me.
He said at one point that he thought it was great that I was taking this class.  I told him I was glad because now, if I had to call and ask about something, he could tell me over the phone and there was a better chance I'd actually know what he was talking about.  Then he remarked that it was just like when he would call Dad about something, 'just to make sure' that he was on the right track.  I could tell he would be happy if I called with a question.  I could tell that he is happy to be helping me.  I am happy knowing he can do the body work!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Yep, It's only Sunday

This past Friday marked a year since our dad passed away.  Steph and I got together for brunch with our brother at one of the local IHOP restaurants.  It was Dad's favorite place to go on the rare occasion we got together outside of his house.  He always treated, and it was no different this time!  I had found a bucket of change when we went through his things, and I still had it with some of his stuff in my basement.  We changed it in at the bank to use towards our meal...$43!!  Thanks for the food, Dad!  Cheers to your painless year.

While we were all together, I took the opportunity to pick my brother's brain.  He offered to come out to my house with his acetylene torch and his electric impact wrench to see if we could figure a way to get the tires off.  Either my wrench or the air compressor I was using or the combination just wasn't powerful enough, because the lug nuts came off lickety-split with his impact wrench.  No need for heat, after all!
Junky old car: great place to raise your spider family.
Now the car is up on 4 jack stands.  It was quite a task, too.  We started with the rear driver's side.  As the car raised up, it started to twist and slide to the other side.  The front wheel started to toe-in!
Rear driver's side leaf springs.
The old leaf springs are practically flat! As the car lifted, the leafs just suspension left here.  Luckily, it is one item Dad bought and still had in the trunk.  I'm all about not having to purchase those!!

So what's with the rusty suitcase on the ground?
Rusty old suitcase for the car's gasoline.
We dropped the gas tank out, while brother was here.  'There's probably still a little gas in there, we can drain it now, if you want.'  That bitch was FULL!!  Gas leaked all over him, me, the driveway...
We poured half of it into a 5 gallon bucket, and it's still nearly half full!!  It's almost as dark as French Onion Soup!  I have no where, really, to put all this old gas until either he comes back for it, or our town's next hazardous waste drop off day.  We'll see which comes first.

I am just glad to have the wheels off.  With 2 classes left, I can get the rims cleaned up and maybe even get new tires to mount and balance while I still have the equipment at my disposal!  Of course, my every day car, the Cavalier, is sucking down gas like no body's business and I'm not sure why!  Air filter? Spark plugs?  Hopefully not a gas leak!
If we get the mostly sunny weather we're supposed to have this week, maybe I will keep taking parts off the car!?
Just as a funny side note: the neighbors across the street look as if the girls are getting a lesson on how to change a tire...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Class #6: Tires from rims (not mine, though)

First thing's first...I love looking out the window at the 'Cuda after a rain storm, sans tarp, with no drops of rain on the inside of the windows!  At least it appears I did the seal replacement correctly!

Now, onto more frustrating matters....
Let's start with the most difficult problem: the wheels.  They seem to have become part of that car.  The 6 or so years it's been sitting out in the elements of the East Coast, on 4 flat tires, has put me in a bad place.
After several classes involving an impact wrench and the removal of tires, I thought I had this.

 I went out and got myself an impact wrench, a couple new jack stands, borrowed an air compressor from a friend, and I even got two of the most beautiful days we've seen out here since the summer.
All set up, ready to tear these wheels off!
Yet, even with all the stars aligning in my favor, I still could not get those damn lugs to budge!
I must be doing something wrong.  Now, to be fair to myself, I did try turning the lug nuts in the opposite direction, just to cover all my bases, but they would not move.
I got on facebook, like any normal person these days would do, to ask...BEG...for help.  I got lots of great advice, just nothing I hadn't tried already.  I had made an extra trip to AutoZone for some PB B'laster (the stuff we use all the time in class), and sprayed and waited.  Tried again.  Sprayed them again...waited overnight and got right back to it after work the next day.  NOTHING!
At this point, I had gotten a couple private messages from a friend of my Great Aunt out in Michigan.  She had shared my facebook plea for help.  This friend of hers said a car this age would probably have left-threaded bolts on the left side wheels.  So, now I was sure I had been tightening them the whole time.
Upon closer inspection, and now with cleaner bolts, due to all the stuff I had sprayed on them, I saw it.  The glaring proof that I have no idea what I'm doing!
The little 'L's should've been a tip-off, but I didn't notice them until I knew to look for them!
Unfortunately, even the other side gave me grief.  So, I didn't have my wheels to take to class.  I was hoping to use the equipment in class to get those tires free.  We did learn how to do that...and we used the tire balancer, too.  I'm not giving up.  As much as I want to.  That stupid car wants to live again...who am I to deny her that!?  If I can get the tires off, I still have two classes left, and I know how to use the machines now,'s still possible!

But class was not all tires, last night.  I also learned how to test and remove and replace a battery.  I'm not about to go out and buy a $500 hand-help computer to check my battery.  That is just info I have now...not really good for anything.  Although, now I'm confident that I can disconnect and reconnect a car battery without killing myself, so that's something.

Back to the beginning of class...
I, of course, because I am cursed with the need to be early for everything, was the first to class again.  I spoke with Dan about my dilemma and what I had done so far.  I told him I had tried everything except heat.  That I didn't have a torch, and that I was thinking of getting a nut splitter to just cut the damn things off.
He suggested I buy a cheap propane torch or ask a plumber friend to use his acetylene torch to heat the lug nuts.  Or, get a breaker bar (and possibly a longer pipe to add even more leverage) and try that before cutting the lug nuts.  
I think I have gotten to that point where I just want this part done.  I had discounted trying a breaker bar, simply because I figured that if an impact wrench couldn't get it done, how is my brute strength gonna do it.  It's all about leverage, I know.  I guess I should try to do things the right way, instead of resorting to destruction.

Other mildly annoying discoveries...there's no class next week, due to Spring Break or whatever.  That means I actually have 3 weeks until I'm done driving to Bourne.  That means my last class is now the day after my first roller derby practice.  That means I will be getting approximately 6 hours of sleep in a 60-65 hour stretch.  I may die.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Class #5: Let's try something else...

Before I start going on and on about what I did (or, rather, did not do) in class last night, I'd like to thank my friends for moving my car.  While I was out, Hubby hosted the weekly poker game.  Our kick ass friends came over a little early to push the beast from the front of the house, to the side of the house.  Now, I can get her up on jacks, take the wheels off, and bring them to class next week to clean the rims.  I may even bite the bullet and get new tires.  How much could I save just paying for tires and putting them on the rims myself!!?  Probably at least a little.
Finally where I wanted her!
Getting to the business at hand...
Last night's class

Class is turning into the on-going saga of the Saturn Vue.  I don't mind, really.  I get to learn some stuff without risking that 'one false move' on my own car!  
I've already had my bearings, back breaks, and oil changed recently.  Not long ago, I was also having some starting issues, so I have a fairly new starter and battery, as well.  As we know, I changed my front brakes in class last week.  So there's really nothing left to do on my car.  What I'm hoping to get out of class now is more of a 'car tour'.  I'd like to learn about the battery, the spark plugs, the belts and hoses.  Stuff that will come in handy when I open the hood of the Barracuda.  
But for now, we are also still trying to get this Saturn in order.  Maybe you remember the third class when we were attempting the passenger side bearing on the Saturn, and the back drum brakes on the F150.  Neither of those projects ended in success.  The truck drove home on iffy brakes...I drove the owner of the Saturn to where his mom could get him home, while his car stayed at school.
Last night, was a bit of a flashback.  Only this time, I was helping with the bearing and only catching bits of the U-joint replacement on the F150.  
So what's the big deal?  We had 3 hours to fix this, so why did it not get done again?
Well, I'll tell you...corrosion.
It was the issue with the first one, but this time we thought we were ready.  We were not.  Normally, to fix this bit, you take off the tire, the brake caliper/pads, and the rotor.  Then you take off the hub/bearing assembly.  Then, obviously, put it all back together in opposite order.  Done and done.
Well, if you can't get the hub assembly have to try a series of other procedures until you find the one that works.
First, we used some spray lube to try to free the bolts.  Then we tried an air chisel, in hopes that the vibrations would break up the rust.  Unfortunately we were going to have to take the whole steering knuckle/hub off to put some pressure on them to 'un-fuse' them. 
Easier said than done, as we've come to learn is how it works with this particular vehicle.
We could not get the pin out of the bolt holding the ball joint on.  We had already removed the assembly from the tie rod and the axle, but no matter what angle we went from, that damn pin wouldn't budge!

here's another little side note/conversation:  
Me: Oh, so that's the tie rod, right?
Ricky: What's a tie rod?
(My dad would be so proud!)

At any rate, we finally resorted to using a tiny drill bit to loosen the pin from the ball joint, and eventually got the hub/knuckle combo free from the car.  
T-Minus 30 minutes till the end of class!
Over to a machine I can't remember the name of to apply some pressure to get these two parts unstuck.  I believe we were at 8000 pounds of pressure when Dan calls the other teacher to let him know this car will still be there in the morning.  'Let me just apply a little more...' 
BANG! the hub hits the ground!
At this point we have 20 minutes of class left.  I'm putting tools away in the hopes that Dan will let us try to get this shit put back together.  But he thinks there's not enough time.  So there it sat.  All sad, with it's entire driver's side wheel bearing bits piled up in the rear storage, waiting for someone to put it back together in the morning.  Ricky on the phone, calling for a ride.

In hindsight, I wish I'd spent more time watching the truck repair.  I have seen quite a lot of 'what can go wrong' in this class.  But, as everyone keeps reminding me, this is part of the learning process, too.  I can only hope that these things will help me to remain calm when bits start falling apart in my hands when I get to the Barracuda.

For Reference Purposes
(here's a generic, exploded view of the bearing assembly)
Next week:  well, I think we're going to do what we were originally supposed to do this week...learn about batteries, belts, spark plugs, etc.  We'll see.  I'm also, again, hoping to start bringing in my rims/tires to get those ready!