Pushing your luck. I’m not sure exactly why that cliche is phrased like that, but it probably has something to do with someone named Murphy.
It’s been like that a lot lately, not that it has a thing to do with the whole downsizing routine. It’s just been like that. Murphy has been waving his or her magic wand and cackling like a hen who has laid one too many eggs too.
First, the van started having some issues with hoses, which isn’t usually a big deal. Hoses need replacing regularly, it’s one of those things we call maintenance. Then, it was as though everything that periodically needs replacing started dying as though it had been waiting for its own turn to come around, finally ending with the head gasket.
I had never had a head gasket “blow” in a vehicle I had owned before. Once upon a time, head gaskets only “blew” when the vehicle was being abused in some manner, which was certainly not the case with this van since we’d owned it. I was rather shocked, and a head gasket repair, as anyone who has had to have one done, is far from an “inexpensive” sort of repair. In this van, it was pushing $1500 for the parts & labor at a shop, because it is such a nightmarish job.
Now GM is not a mechanic, nor does he particularly LIKE mechanical work. But, he is also not known for his fondness for spending money unnecessarily. In fact, some have claimed that he is downright a cheap so and so.
The fact of the matter was we really could not afford a major repair shop bill like that right now. So, whether we’re going to say GM is cheap, determined…or foolhardy (considering he’d already learned that no repair goes the way it should on this van) GM decided to do the work himself with some help from family & friends in a temporary garage.
He was sure he’d have it done in a week.
Of course, nothing went right. Everything that COULD go wrong, did go wrong, right down to rain and wind doing their best with that temporary garage. GM saw it start to go airborne once, and it was anchored more firmly. Then, during a nighttime storm, enough rain pooled in the roof as it stretched into ever deeper pools, until finally…
It actually collapsed the poles, bending them and falling onto the van. The garage was straightened up as best as GM could manage, the roof tarps tightened and tied down more firmly to stakes surrounding the “garage”, and work kept right on.
A week later, another rain storm came, just as the work was nearly completed, and once again, we got up to discover that the garage was completely crushed under the weight of the rain water that had collected in the stretched tarp, and was lying like a broken thing on top of the van.
It gets better.
GM disassembles the crushed pole frame after emptying out all of the water and removing the tarps and tie down ropes. The work on the van is completed. We take it for its first trip in a month, and there is this ominous growling noise coming from the power steering pump, the likes of which we had never heard before. We told ourselves that it had sat for a month, and was complaining. It went from a growl to a roar as we turned a corner. Then, turning another corner, the growling stopped mid-roar. So did the power steering.
We limped poor Bessie home, and I started pricing power steering pumps for our shady lady. I was grumbling, it just didn’t seem fair, we should have at least had a week before something broke, right?
Later, looking to verify exactly what the pump looked like and what exactly had happened, we discovered that it was not the pump as we had assumed (dangerous thing that, right?) but rather that the hose had not been correctly routed, and it had been cut by the serpentine belt, causing us to lose all of our fluid. I was almost elated–surely a hose was no where near as expensive as the pump, and it should be much easier to get.
It seems car manufacturers no longer sell parts individually, but rather as package deals with much larger price tags. To replace this I had to buy the entire in/out pressure hose assembly, not just the rubber hose that had been cut, and it had a price to match. I was really confused because what I was seeing in these parts listings did not match what I was seeing in the van that needed to be replaced either. (two hoses and all of their fittings together look very different from the rubber hose).
GM started removing the hose, preparing to repair the damages, and blaming himself for not double checking the routing before we had started off on the maiden post-repair voyage. I wasn’t very good at consoling him about his self-blame either. As he is removing it, the plastic nipple attachment on the reservoir snaps…and now we need a reservoir.
I have no idea why, but this reservoir was higher priced than the pump itself, and all it does is sit there holding this fluid. We checked prices locally, and the hose/reservoir combination was over $100 and wouldn’t be in for a few days, leaving us stranded over the weekend…again.
My joy was dropping like flies in a blizzard. I did not want to spend that much for these parts, yet what options did we have.
GM is creative, ingenious even. He put some thought into it, and comes up with a solution. He would buy generic rubber hose of the correct size suitable for a pressure line, new clamps to replace those on the metal fitting, and a piece of brass tubing to use as an internal sleeve where the plastic nipple had snapped, then use JB Weld to seal the fracture with the sleeve in place, protecting the repaired area from the pressure of the fluid while the JB weld would keep the fracture sealed.
On Sunday, he got a ride to the auto parts store, bought the required items, and proceeded to do his repairs. Our daughter’s significant other also happened to find a similar van in the junk yard, and while we couldn’t get some of the pieces we needed to do the repairs we need to…he managed to get the mirrors, the power steering pump, and a dipstick tube…just in case.
The repair snapped the first time, and GM patiently proceeded to carefully repair it a second time, putting on two coats of the JB Weld. It sat overnight (it was the quick set version) and on Monday morning, he reassembled all of the parts for the power steering system with his make-shift repaired parts. He started it, tested it in the driveway, and it appeared to be fine with no obvious leaks. It didn’t appear the bearings had frozen in the pump (a worry since it had lost all of the fluid). There was obviously air in the system, which was natural after losing all of the fluid previously, so it would take time to work it all out.
Our maiden voyage was about ten miles, and it went from growling at each turn with a persistent whine continuously, to a faint whine continuously without a growl at all as we turned. There still were no obvious leaks, another plus.
On the downside, my favorite “camp” stove which burns white gas very efficiently had a minor accident over the weekend, producing a flare that scorched the flexible fuel line, resulting in a leak. I needed a new one fabricated, and I had been told a local company did that kind of work.
Unfortunately, not of the size I need. They did suggest another company in Mobile that might be able to fabricate the new lines I want, which is better news than I need to write to China (country of origin on this stove, and the directions were even written in Chinese) to see about obtaining a new fuel line. I’m afraid purchasing a 8mm flexible fuel line might turn out to be a bit difficult, so I hope that they can fabricate one for me, with the modifications I want (like a brass tube to replace the section that was covered with shrink wrap to protect it) and a bit more length to move the fuel tank further from the burner itself. Both ends need to have screw-on brass fittings, as this white gas is pressurized at the fuel tank by a pump, and I obviously do not want leaks of fuel. That little stove, which is actually a backpacking type of stove, is my favorite stove, and I use it almost daily, although only outside. I find the priming process a bit nervewracking with its impressive flame flare until the gas is vaporized properly (it uses combined pressure and heat to vaporize the fuel.) It’s also very cheap to operate–a gallon of white gas costs about $10 and lasts me 2-3 months. Compared to cooking on propane on the stove, it’s incredibly cheap. The fuel tank holds about 8 oz. and is enough fuel for me to cook 3-6 meals on, depending on what kind of cooking they require.
I keep telling myself that the fire on Saturday only damaged the fuel line, and that is a good thing. I’m also glad that I always situate the stove inside of an old teflon skillet to prevent any fuel spills, etc. from resulting in anything else being burned…which spared us of any other damages beyond the fuel line.
So, we are not going to push our luck. We are not going to aggravate anyone named Murphy either. We’re just going to thank our lucky stars and be grateful for what we have, because we are adept at doing the best we can with what we have.
We have enough, and that should always be enough, right?