I was elated at the completion of the Great Repair (replacing the head gasket). That particular repair, occurring over the holidays, seemed to last for an eternity. The cold weather made bicycle trips sometimes far less than fun too. Our initial test drive was just to and from the store, and everything seemed “okay” except for an unusual amount of squealing from the power steering. It was suggested that it was a case of having not been driven for a month, and to take the “wait and see” method with whether or not there was a problem.
We should not have adopted that outlook.
Then came trip 2, a 6.6 mile round trip to an appointment. The squealing was obviously more than “it hasn’t been driven in a month.” It was a whole lot more like something seriously was wrong with the power steering. Just as we turned into the parking lot, the power steering quit entirely, as did the horrible squealing/growling noise.
When we left from the appointment, about an hour and a half later, I noticed a small (about the size of a dollar bill) puddle of some liquid under the front of the van. Since it was near a known problem (a potentially leaking hose from radiator to overflow) I just mentally filed it away.
If you have ever needed to steer a vehicle that normally has power steering…without that power steering, you know. It’s tough. GM was driving and he wrestled with the steering wheel as we headed home, not deviating from our route at all. We did stop at a Waffle House for a cup of coffee, but it was right alongside the road we were on. At home, I began pricing new power steering pumps.
Later, GM investigated under the hood for a complete diagnosis. It turned out it was not (at least in the beginning) a problem with the pump, but rather that the pressure hose for the power steering had not been routed correctly, resulting in the serpentine belt pulling the hose into the belt and cutting it, causing the loss of the fluid and ultimate failure of the power steering system.
It’s still unknown whether the miles the van was driven with this occurring has resulted in the power steering pump freezing up. First, the other areas need repaired, which soon complicated further. It’s a 1998 Chevrolet Venture we’re talking about here, and no repair has EVER gone the way it was supposed to, from simple ones like replacing a hose to more complicated ones like the head gasket. This was no different. Instead of the damaged pressure hose coming off the way it should, the attachment to the reservoir for the power steering fluid broke. The damaged hose does not resemble the photographs of the replacement that is supposed to fit this engine/model/make either. In addition, the parts that need replaced are not in stock locally, and would cost $120 on up, depending on whether we need the pump or not, and then when they arrive…may or may not be the ones we need. (We have had parts mismatch occur regularly on this vehicle, even from the dealer.) Ordering them from Amazon.com is the cheapest route, but…the pressure hose photo doesn’t match AND although it is listed as “in stock” it also states “ships within 1 to 2 weeks.” Okay, do I want to depend on riding a bicycle and putting off our longer errands for another two to four weeks to save $100, or just fork out the extra money?
GM is a very cost-conscious person, and this repair is really getting his goat. It doesn’t matter to him who (it might have been him or one of his helpers) incorrectly routed that hose, there is very little room to work and few options. He doesn’t want to spend more than we need to. This hose is formed of two metal parts, a plastic tube, and some rubber hose that he says is “gas line.” The rubber pressure hose is shaped, however. His intention? To purchase the rubber hose portion that was cut, replace it, somehow route it to avoid the serpentine belt, and re-use the high pressure clamps that attach the rubber portion to the metal portions. The broken connector on the reservoir will be patched by inserting a small piece of slightly smaller metal tubing inside the broken plastic tube as a splint-like fixture, and clamping the outer sections together with some sort of sealant over the broken connection. I’m not so sure about this repair, but he is confident that it will work, allowing the van to be repaired this weekend, whereas the “proper” repair will require waiting one to three weeks to do. He is also confident it will work long term. What else can I do besides have confidence in his judgment? I’m clueless about this. Our exhaust is also connected with a tin can with heavy aluminum foil inside of it because the proper boot connector was not available.
Tomorrow, he’ll get the parts after helping another friend with disassembling a pump on his well. (Someone else has repair issues at home too.) Hopefully, he can find the pieces he wants, without needing to chase after other parts via bicycle. I am also hoping that the repairs go smoothly–we’re in need of drinking water and cat litter, two items that cannot be easily transported on a bicycle due to their bulk and weight.
Just once, I hope the muses of vehicle repairs smile upon his head as he works. It would be nice if something went according to plan, even if it is a plan b.
In the meantime, I’ll sigh long and hard, and cross my fingers.