Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lessons learned.

Today I finished putting everything back together after fixing a small coolant leak that was the result of not torquing down a nut well enough. 

Oh yeah, and I turned the steering wheel back to normal. It looks like I chose well because I went to the stops both ways and got no airbag message. Mostly that was luck.

I am not a mechanic. This is, by an overwhelming margin, the most ambitious mechanical repair I have ever tried. I'm not quite ready to call it a success yet, but it's close.

For those of you who might be tempted to try this type of repair yourself, I want to give you some lessons I learned.

Lesson 1:  Mechanics are awesome.  If you can afford a mechanic, pay one to do this. There were times during this process that I wanted to blow up the truck, the garage and anything associated with them. There were some extenuating circumstances in my case that made it a little more frustrating, but you'll have your own set of those too, don't worry.

There are times when you will need special tools, nimble monkey midget fingers and a little bit of magic to get that one bolt or nut on. Mechanics might not have midget monkey fingers, but they have lifts and space and assistants and special tools. Oh yeah, and experience.  Mechanics are awesome.

Lesson 2: You don't have enough tools. Unless you are a mechanic reading all of this for a good laugh, you probably don't have enough tools. If you are a car guy, this will be a great excuse. If you aren't, you will be buying some tools.  Perhaps you can get away with renting them, but that has its own problems. When you realize you need the tool it will be a very inconvenient time and cost you a good chunk of your day to get it. This will be very frustrating, especially if you are on a deadline. See Lesson 1.

Lesson 3:  Organization is key.  I didn't have the cash to fork out for the shop manual for this truck.  Yeah, $500 bucks seemed a little steep.  So, I had to organize carefully. For each part I took out, I tried to take a picture of how it went in, label it with white electrical tape and a sharpie, put the bolts in a labeled bin, and wrote it down in a notebook. Tear down took a long time. But, with this organization in place, rebuild went a lot faster. Still, the shop manual would have been nice. You know who would have had a shop manual? See Lesson 1.

Lesson 4:  Take lots of pictures. Even with careful organization, it's easy to get on a roll and forget to take a picture of something. Or label something or write it down. If you take lots of pictures, you might be able to see how it looked before in a picture of something else.  I spent some time studying the top right corner of a picture of one things in hopes that I could make out how something else went. See Lesson 1. 

Lesson 5: Read the forums and take their advice. Ask the question. I'll give you an example. The whole steering wheel clock spring thing. I thought that it was related to the thing that causes the wheel to swing back to center. I didn't know what a clock spring was or what it did. So, the idea of running the seat belt through the steering wheel seemed silly to me. I just made sure nobody was in the cab at all and nobody touched the wheel.  You know who would have known all about that?  See Lesson 1.

Lesson 6:  If you have read this far and still want to do this, screw Lesson 1.  You can do this. It will be frustrating, it will be hard, you will invent new curse words. You will also become more confident about your ability and more familiar with your vehicle. BE CAREFUL. Be organized and take lots of pictures. I am a nurse, not a mechanic. I managed. You can too.