atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#1792: More about the engine.

I realize that I was not doing an engine swap because this engine was a model of cleanliness and efficiency, but Jesus there was a lot of grease on the underside of that thing.

Just about everything beneath the level of the oil pan rail was covered in black dirty grease. The drive axles are coated with it. Well, the car's got 153,000 miles on it. What did I expect?

When I was finished, I rubbed Dawn dish detergent onto my greasy arms and hands, straight up, and when I rinsed the water ran black into the sink.

We had dinner; and after dinner--around six-ish--I realized I was not going to be able to stay awake, so I gave up fighting sleep and slept like a log for four hours. I woke up with a splitting headache and a cavern in my midsection; upon waking I realized that I'd only had most of a single bottle of Pepsi today, and the headache was largely due to caffiene withdrawal. Ibuprofen, a trip to McDonald's, and a jug of Pepsi later, I'm feeling pretty decent.

Nonetheless I used several muscles which have not been used in months at least--I haven't worked that hard since my last full shift at Target--and my hands feel well-tenderized. I find myself hoping it rains tomorrow so I can justify not doing anything mechanical; but tomorrow will be errand day anyway, so WTF.

Right after I finished removing the old engine, I could not comprehend the idea of starting work on installing the new one; it seemed like an impossible task to accomplish, and I had a brief panicked moment: oh, shit, what have I done? It's going to take a SHITLOAD of work to get this car drivable again!

...but laying in bed, falling asleep, I was thinking about the reinstallation, and I realized that it was, in fact, not really that big of a job. The hardest part is going to be getting the damn motor mounts to line up and go in correctly. The rest is simply going to be a matter of reattaching hoses and wires until I run out of things to connect, and I was careful to label things which weren't obvious in where they connected.

To keep rain out, I lay the hood on the car, where it goes, and let it latch at the front; it doesn't look great but it'll keep the rain off.

Then, on my trip to and from McDonald's, I thought about the job and mechanic work in general.

I'm proud of how I approached the task. My first action was to drill locating holes in the hood hinges and then remove the hood. That's the best way to maintain a body panel's alignment: you drill a 1/8th inch hole through the hinge and into the mounting surface of the hinge. When it comes time to reassemble, you use the 1/8th inch drill bit as a locating pin, and you will always, always, always get the panel back where it was.

Then I just started removing connections, and thanks to the previous Escort engine removal and subsequent work on the engine itself I knew what had to come off and how. It seemed like it took no time at all before I was ready to remove the engine; and in fact I stopped and double-checked everything because I thought, No, that can't be it, can it? What did I forget?

I broke a prybar trying to pop out the passenger-side axle. 3/16th inch tool steel and it just went snap! and a piece fell off. I had to use a crow bar ("goose-necked wrecking bar" is the correct name for the tool) on the driver's side and that's why I broke the CV joint: too much leverage applied at the wrong point.

Thinking about all this, I realized that's why I don't want to fix cars for a living: as it stands right now, working on cars is the one area of my life where I don't invariably feel inept and foolish, where I have confidence. I know that I can take something apart and put it together again and have it work properly. And I want that to be fun, too.

I used to love to tinker with computers. I didn't mind spending an afternoon fiddling with computer hardware--and I liked it so much it seemed natural to do it for money. In fact, the hardest part about my computer tech jobs was never fixing the machines; the hardest part was getting to work on time. Working on computers didn't seem like work; "work" was the other stuff, the driving, the paperwork, dealing with the asinine boss, getting to the office and getting home--that was work. Fixing computers wasn't.

But all the same, I don't want to tinker with computers any more; and about the time that my contract with Rockwell ended I realized that I no longer liked doing that stuff anyway. I don't know how, why, or when that happened; only that sometime around mid-1998 it had stopped being fun and started being a chore. Fixing computers had become work.

I was damned good at it; and in fact I still am a heck of a hardware technician. But I don't like it; when I have to open up my desktop machine, it's not fun. I now just want my computer to do things for me.

I don't want the same thing to happen to car work.

In just about every other area of my life I feel foolish and inept: career, social interaction, family; even a lot of the things I do for fun I am admittedly not all that damned good at (like drawing manga) and I am continually plagued with self-doubt. Every single aspect of my life--particularly over the past few years--makes me feel like I need adult supervision to help me handle anything.

Except when I'm working on a car.

Today I removed the engine from a good, working, usable car, and I approached the task without trepidation or any self-doubt whatsoever. This is not a job for the faint of heart; it requires tools and skills which most people don't have, and it is a lot of work. And in a few days I'll be putting another engine into the car, and I'm not worried about that, either: I know that, at the end of this, I'll have a car which runs and drives better than it did when I started.

I don't have that kind of self-confidence about anything else; I don't want to screw that up. I want car work to remain fun--and it won't if I make a career out of it.
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