Monday, December 2, 2013

Rebuilding the Engine: the Triathlon.

So as you may lovingly recall, we had three days to repair the car by installing both valve cover gaskets. Which are located in the engine. Since day one and two were spent ordering parts and trying to fix the breaks on the truck the only thing we were able to do that evening was pull apart the top layer of shit under the hood, and unhook and label hoses and wires. So when the cold watery winters light crept back over my little farm on day three the clock began.

See, we had to be at work the next day. And when I say that, I mean there was no way we could miss this job. At all ever. It could not happen. But of course we can't drive the car all the way to the big city with it spewing oil all over the back half of the engine and the muffler.

So that morning we got up to be greeted by it being 30 degrees outside and snowing.

Because ha ha of course it was.

So we do our morning chores and gird our loins and I play that fine game called what's the warmest clothes I am willing to get covered in engine cleaner and motor oil and then we head outside into the arctic wasteland driveway pull the hood open and began.

The first thing we had to do was install the new gasket onto the piece we had pulled out and cleaned. This actually went pretty well, to lure us into a false sense of security. We pulled the old dry rotted gasket out and put in the new one, feeling like champions. Then of course, shit got real. Getting to the first gasket was easy, it was right in the front of the engine. All we had to do was unbolt the top plate thing and boom access.

Getting to the second gasket was a motherfucking adventure.

See each gasket lives in these metal rectangles that house the valves. So it get to the gaskets we had to take the cover/lid/whateverit'scalled off. The first one was right smack in front of the engine. That second one was in the very back of the engine under a whole bunch of crap. I mean like a shit ton of crap.

So we had to take off that big metal part on top of the engine that is the part that looks like an engine. Like, if I took a bunch of random parts from the car and laid them out in the driveway and asked you to pick which one went to the engine, you would pick this thing. Of course it had like eleventy billion wires going to it and hoses and bolts that connected it to shit.

So Scott who was labeling everything ever under that hood was busy taking wires and hoses off and writing on them and I took it upon myself to remove the bolts holding this Uber Engine piece to this bracket. Which sucked all the ass ever.

First off I was doing this because I have tiny girl hands* because there was almost no room behind the Uber Engine piece where the firewall is. And of course the firewall is a literal thing that separates you from everything under the hood so if the car explodes into a flaming ball your legs don't get melted off. So needless to say I can't damage the firewall.

Also since the high for the day was 35 motherfucking degrees there was the added adventure of not dropping bolts down into the black abyss that lives under the hood. Which is super fun when your fingers are aching and getting kinda numb.

So once we got this Uber Engine piece off and taped over the holes that do magic things to make the car run that were now exposed, we could then start on getting to that gasket. Which turned into a big shit fest. Since there was still a fuck ton of shit on top of the valve cover.

Okay, have you ever seen one of those movies where the camera speeds alone a tangled path and shows you, the viewer the whole route that the protagonist needs to traverse? So like, it starts with our intrepid heroes and then the camera pulls back and then you see they still need to get past the dark and creepy forest and over the ravine and then across the iron bridge and crawl into a storm drain to get into the castle?

This was just like that, except made out of auto parts.

So we proceeded to unhook a whole bunch of shit and then we tried to unhook the wiring harness and it just laughed at us and we kept having to run back into the house to watch how to repair videos. Which was kinda helpful except all the parts we were having trouble with came off in the video without a hitch while rays of golden light fell upon the mechanic and everything was perfect. Needless to say there was a lot of swearing.

So after what seemed like forever we were finally able to pull the damn valve thing out and clean it. Which of course was super fun because getting your hands covered in cleaning fluid when it is snowing sideways and you are working in your driveway on some sawhorses you are using as a table is just the greatest thing ever.

Of course at this point it was already like 3pm and we are starting to freak out a little because the car is like, really not together at all and it will be dark in like two hours. So we put in the new gasket and then try to shove the thing back into the car and back under the damn wiring harness and then it doesn't want to go and finally we manage to shove it back in there and then we have to take a break because it's fucking cold outside. Like, I walked into an eighty degree house mobile home and it didn't feel hot enough.

So we drank tea and looked at the clock and then grimly at each other and I wanted to yell something epic and moving and give an encouraging speech like that one from Braveheart but I was too damn tired and sore and cold so I just swore softly under my breath and then started to freak out a little bit.

Going back outside was like stepping straight into a freezer made out of car parts. So we get back up there and began to put the engine back together. This was a little easier for me because I had seen it come apart so I just stuck stuff back together based on the labels. However I did learn an important lesson called “it's totally possible to take the top half of an engine apart and put it back together without having any idea what the parts do or what they are called.

It's like the worst 3D puzzle ever, basically.

A puzzle that spits coolant and oil all over you.

Anyway by this point we are starting to act like the failure fairy has shown up and blessed us both with her wand of having shit go wrong because all those things we fought and swore and bloodied our hands up to get off now have to go back on and our fingers are freezing and it's still fucking snowing.

This part is what I lovingly referred to as the death march stage.

See at some point it dawned on me, while I was frantically putting bolts back on that everything in the engine compartment is vital to the car running. I realize to someone who knows cars that stating that sounds super stupid. You know like pointing out that the sky is blue and that you can heat food using a microwave. However this simple statement takes on a whole new meaning when you are staring down at the partially dismantled engine of your car and realize that if you don't reconnect everything just right the car will not run and you will be fucked.

So as the light leached out of a gray featureless sky we reconnected hoses and wires and put plates and brackets back on and then we had to pull out a work light and head lamps and it got really really ball shittingly cold and then at last, at long last there was nothing left to connect or clean and we stared back down at a complete engine compartment.

So then Scott got in the drivers seat and turned the key and the car STARTED and ran it was a the most beautiful thing in the world and then he got out and we stood there in the cold and dark with the snowflakes coming down and watched the car running and I felt like this was it, this was the moment I was going to savor that we had done something I thought we could not do, and that our crazy plan had worked and even though I was freezing cold I was going to take this moment right now and appreciate the shit out of that engine.

That is until all that coolant started burning off.

It was a smell, is what I am saying.

But in the end we made it to work, and that's what matters.

I'm probably sure I smelled just lovely when I got there.
*This is a lie.


  1. I would have had a better chance at building a teleporter out of LEGOs than replacing a gasket without royally fucking things up. Nicely done.

    1. If you do build a Lego teleporter let me know. I could use one.

  2. When you put in the last bolt, connect the last of the wires, and turn the key and it starts, best feeling ever! Remember that, it doesn't always happen.