atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#133: Adventures in Escort Repair 3

...and it was an adventure today!

I went to Harbor Freight and bought another pair of jack stands (I now have four for each car!) and a set of chisels and punches. And a nice compression tester.

The first task du jour was to inspect the brakes. The fronts came off first, and what I saw was approximately what I had expected; the fronts need repair. The disassembly was pretty much normal with no problems.

Strangely, however, the front rotors are virtually brand spanking new. They're rusty as hell, but they have never been cut, nor do they show any real signs of wear. What makes this really, really odd is the fact that the brake pads were worn down to the backing plates.

In other words, some moron spent $30-$50 on new front rotors and couldn't be bothered to spend $12 for new pads.

I inspected the rear brakes and put them back together--no repairs needed there.

I got new pads and hardware and took the rotors to be cut. Murray's Discount Auto Parts (where I got the pads and hardware) will turn rotors, but their lathe was broken, so I headed down the road to Lang's. The guy at Lang's told me I could just buy new rotors for about $0.90 more than it would cost me to have the old ones turned. So, what the hell, I bought new ones.

I had stopped at AutoZone for some things--a flex coupling to replace the broken one in the exhaust system, oil, filters, etc--and so when I got home, I set right to work on getting some chores done. The brakes I decided I would leave until tomorrow; I wanted to change the oil.

The drain plug bolt head was somewhat rounded off--hmm, well, get the 5/8" wrench! rrg pop! clang ding ding Stupid wrench.

Got another wrench, one of those new kinds which is designed to grab three sides of the nut at once. Put some muscle into it and promptly broke it. Oh well; I had only just observed that the thing was made of sheet metal, so what the hell. "Wow!" I said again.

After some more assorted fiddling (and saying "Wow!" several more times) I realized that there was probably no non-destructive way to remove that oil drain plug. I wondered if I was going to have to drop the oil pan and drill it out? But I remembered my shiny new chisel-and-punch set, so I grabbed that.

When you have a screw fastener which has been damaged such that you can't use the proper tool to remove said fastener, you can sometimes use a chisel to turn it. You place it on the edge, at an angle, and hit it with a hammer, so that it will loosen the fastener. It will cut a notch in it, but you'll probably be replacing it anyway, so that's not a big deal.

My first attempt neatly sheared off about a 1/8" chunk of the base of the bolt. "Wow!" I said. I tried again and sheared off more bolt. "Wow!" I said again. After three or four attempts, I went and got the propane torch. I heated the oil pan where the bolt screwed in, and then used a big punch and a big hammer on the canyon-sized notch in the bolt head...and it finally came out.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think that Gilgamesh must have been the person who changed the oil in that car. I am surprised (and very thankful) that the threads were not stripped! Either some dumbass used an impact wrench to put that plug in, or else he used a 10 foot cheater bar and did chin-ups on it. The damn lug nuts don't get put on that tightly!

I returned to AutoZone for a new oil drain plug. Price, $1.08 with tax, 3 month warranty. I could have gotten an oil drain plug with a lifetime warranty for only $2.99 before tax....

With the new drain plug installed, and tightened 1/8 turn past snug (ie the right frickin' way) I turned my attention to the oil filter.

...which would not so much as budge. I thought about an oil filter wrench, but I realized that my oil filter wrench was hanging on a nail in my garage in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I pay $70 per month to store some furniture and other stuff. I was not going to go buy one for the sake of removing this filter.

You see, here is the correct way to install an oil filter. You lubricate the gasket and the threads with some motor oil. You spin it onto the fitting it attaches to. Once the gasket is snug against the block, you then give it 1/4-1/2 of a turn. The oil filter is then on as tightly as it needs to be; if you have a leak, either the mount is damaged or there's a problem with the gasket.

With every car I have EVER owned, I have never needed to use an oil filter wrench to remove the oil filter. I have always been able just to grab the thing and unscrew it. Since I do a lot of my own oil changes I can usually see to it that the filter is on no tighter than it needs to be. But I bought this car used.

Finally I realized I would have to use the messiest method of removing an oil filter: spear the goddamned thing with a screwdriver and use it to get it unscrewed. I have never had to use this method before in my life; but I was not at all surprised to learn that it was just as messy as others had reported it to be. After fifteen bad minutes of puncturing, dripping, cursing, pushing, pulling, and turning, I had the oil filter off the car.

When I first looked at the oil filter, I thought the gasket had come off. I even checked the block for it--but no, it was on the filter; it had just been compressed to about 20% of its proper thickness.

I had no idea that Gilgamesh ran a full-service oil change shop. Here I had always thought that being the Iraqi equivalent of Hercules, being a legendary king, and just a general all-around heroic figure was enough of a career for him; I had no idea that he was also a mechanic.

...actually I would expect someone like Gilgamesh to be competent enough to recognize that one need not torque down an oil filter the same way one torques down the axle retaining nuts. You use an oil filter wrench to remove the oil filter, not install it.

Whoever did this oil change was an utter bonehead. Or the Incredible Hulk. I'm not sure which. Again, I am surprised and thankful that it didn't strip any threads.

The new oil filter went on without much fuss. I spun it on and tightened it 1/2 turn past snug. Started the car, no leaks at all.

The flex coupling which isolates most of the exhaust system from the movement of the engine is broken. Someone put a half-assed patch over it, some kind of cheap thing made of thin aluminum with a couple of radiator clamps riveted to it. All it really did was to hold the parts together; it didn't really seal the break all that well. With this out of the way, the car sounds kind of cool. When you rev it up and then let off the gas, it crackles a bit.

Anyway, I bought a $4 flex hose and a clamp; after the brake job, tomorrow, I'm going to cut out the old flex coupler and install the hose. But part of me wonders how the car would sound if I yanked out the muffler....

I still have other things to do. I have to finish installing the steering column. I have to change the other fluids. I have to get some fuel into the tank and dump a can of Seafoam in there. (Good stuff, Seafoam. It works as advertised. Well worth the $7 per can AutoZone charges.)

Overall I had a pretty good day's work. The severe over-tightening of the oil filter and drain plug were more amusing than anything else, although it would not have been funny at all if there had been damage to the threads. Other than that, there were no real surprises today.

And that, I like just fine.

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